“Kiara!” Pin hollered. “What?” The hellhound looked back at her gremlin friend who was busy driving. “Get your damn head back inside before you lose it!” Pin pulled Kiara back into her seat. As their truck rounded a bend, Kiara clutched the bag she brought with her. The short hellhound’s eye flames burned bright with excitement. She wore her usual getup of a blue and white striped Argentina soccer jersey with skin-tight black spandex shorts. Her black hair fell on her shoulders in messy locks, “How much further?” Pin sighed in the driver’s seat, “We’re almost there. You keep asking, dammit,” She smirked. The gremlin’s seat, pedals, and wheel were all specially adjusted for her to drive. It was a 1973 El Camino in metallic green with GREMTECH plastered on the sides in big black letters over a golden gear with a pair of big fluffy gremlin ears. The gremlin wore jeans, a Gremtech shirt, and her long green hair was pulled back into a ponytail. The bed of the El Camino was full of tech. “Right, right,” The hellhound sighed, “I’ve just never been to ShortCon before. I guess I’m allowed now since the world all kinda grew around me.” “Huh– Oh, yeah. It’s like some sabbath spell went haywire,” Pin replied, “I’m glad you’re coming with me this year. I’ve never been a real seller at an event like this. I don’t know who else I would have brought.” “Why not Jack?” “I’m always worried about losing it if some sabbath bitch starts hitting on him,” The gremlin admitted, “Nothing to worry about with you here.” “Right,” The minute hellhound nodded, “I get it. Think the boys will be alright without us for a day or two?” “Yeah, they’re just gonna rewatch Gundam or something. Hey, there’s the expo hall,” Pin gestured to a large collection of buildings. The duo had driven three towns over to the convention for a weekend. “Finally!” Kiara breathed a sigh of relief, “I’m tired of being cooped up in this car.” “Hey!” With a huff, Pin got off the interstate, “The Gremobile is cozy…” “It is, you two did a good job fixing it up, but I just hate sitting in a car for hours.” “Right, right… Well, get ready to stretch your legs, I’m gonna need a hand getting set up.” Kiara slipped a blue Gremtech shirt over her jersey before putting the remainder of the shirts on the snap together shelves at the back of the booth. A giant banner with the Gremtech logo hung at the back of the booth, a table with shirts and various tech sat at the front where Pin stood on a little stool. A small TV played commercial-like demos of various tools the gremlin had designed to help the shorter monsters live comfortably during everyday life in a big world. “Done,” Kiara announced as she joined Pin at the front. “Thanks,” The gremlin sighed, trying to get all the nervousness out of her small body, “Only thing left to do is wait for the doors to open.” Kiara looked up and down their aisle. Across from them was a larger booth focused on selling dresses to shorter women. To the left was a product called the “Hubby Harness.” There was a man with a backpack on which had a platform placed on the middle of his back, some handles on the shoulders, and a place to attach a rope in case you fall. The hellhound, totally enamored, watched a little gnomish woman climb up on the step as the man knelt down and grabbed onto the handles. Using a mock shelf, she showed how easily she could grab things off tall shelves and even kiss her husband’s scalp. There was a second man with a harness on the front. There was a goblin tied up in the harness, her feet bound over her head and arms bound together. Had the two been naked, Kiara was sure they would be having sex. The goblin, most likely thinking this, was flush in the face and panting heavily. Kiara looked away and down to the next booth. At the far end there was a massive banner practically screaming “THE BIGGER AGENDA,” and “Meet Alexia Jonesis!” There was a single greasy and busty goblin in a two piece suit sitting with copies of a book all around her. On the other side was a booth with a familiar, a gremlin, and a witch unloading boxes full of what seemed to be bras. Kiara peered at a nearby sign, “B.O.O.B.S.? Enhance your game with our patented biosynthetic optical onii-chan bewitching stimulant?” “Don’t give those flatties any attention,” Pin seethed, “Fake ass boob wearers. I hate these Heretech ladies. Look,” She pointed as one of them put the bra over their clothes. With the press of a button, the breasts expanded, “Lying shits. But I guess the sabbath would have to lie to pull their precious onii-chans, huh?” The gremlin chuckled to herself. “I guess I can understand the boob issue, but what about their butts?” “Exactly! You know what our husbands say, right?” “Uh, big boob fills your hands, while a big butt fills your heart?” Kiara guessed. Pin paused then nodded, “Well, yeah, but Bob says that one. No, the thing where a girl can have a big butt and no boobs and look good, but a girl can’t look good with no butt and big boobs.” “Ah, right,” She changed topics quickly “So what are we selling?” “So, we’ve got these self-folding and rising stools,” She set out the step ladder, “Press here and it raises up,” Just like the gremlin said, the ladder got three feet taller, “Small and compact. Easy to take with you. Just like a shortstack,” She joked, “Over here, we’ve got these grabby arm things.” Kiara picked one up. It had a rectangular handle with a trigger and a robotic hand attached to a small metal pole. The hellhound pointed it at the sabbath booth next to them and pulled the trigger. The arm shot out, the pole part extending impossibly long and grabbed one of the B.O.O.B.S. units before it collapsed the pole on itself and brought the product back to them, “Sorry!” Kiara called as she pulled the trigger again and dumped the device on their table, “Uh, handy.” “These very fashionable ties too,” She put one on and yanked on it, “You can have your man wear it and you can tug and yank on it to bring him down to your level for a smooch without strangling him. And, if you’d rather be brought to his level, I have these plates,” She pointed to the ceiling where they hand hung a smooth blue mana salt marbled panel. Pin put on a dark leather harness and pressed a button. A magical blue rope stretched down from the ceiling and hooked onto the harness. With another button, she was raised five feet into the air, “And then you can kiss or bully him. I know I do both to Jack. Flusters the shit outta him.” Kiara took a turn putting the harness on and lifting herself, “I like it. I didn’t see this the last time I was over, did you just invent it?” Pin nodded, “Yeah. Like, it went into production stage last month. I use similar magic to move heavy equipment, like parts for your plane. There are a few other things, but these are the main ones for our fellow shorties. Like I’m selling those hand warmers and a few bottomless bags.” The ringing of a bell made the hellhound’s ears twitch. A cart was making the rounds through the aisles. A logo on the side said, ‘Shorty’s shortcakes (and other baked treats.)’ The woman pushing the cart was a chubby halfling dressed like a chef looking for buyers for her delicious smelling sweets. Kiara waved her down, “I’ll take two,” She said, handing over some copper coins for it. The two short cakes were covered in strawberries and cream. Kiara was quick to dig in, eating half of the delicious morsel in just a few moments as Pin put hers in her lunch box for later. The gremlin sipped a mimosa from one of a few flasks she kept in her bag. SKRRRPT! </I> A tearing noise made Pin perk up quickly. The Gremtech shirt that Kiara was wearing was tearing at the seams on the sides, “K-Kiara?” She stammered. The hellhound turned to her friend after downing some water, “Huh? Are you… shrinking?” She peered closely. She knew she was about a foot taller than the gremlin, but she felt nearly two feet taller. “No! Kiara–” Pin kept her voice down, trying to not draw any attention, “Shit, I think it's wearing off. Gah, why couldn’t Gordon have shelled out a little more!?” “What’s Gordon got to do with this?” The shirt tore off the hellhound. Thankfully, her Argentina jersey and spats grew with her. Kiara glanced around, “Everything </i> is shrinking!” Pin saw the sabbath heretech group glance over and start talking amongst themselves. The gremlin started to sweat before grabbing Kiara’s hand, “Come on!” She dragged the hellhound off to the side and into a door. An empty tiled bathroom with buzzing lights was a good place to hide, the gremlin thought. She pushed Kiara into a stall, “Just sit tight.” “Pin?” The hellhound had grown to her original six and a half foot height. She felt huge, maybe a little fat too. She fully filled out her clothes as she sat on the toilet lid, “What’s going on?” She whined. The gremlin shuddered, “Well…” She dug through her bag, pulling out an L shaped gadget with a trigger and a nozzle on the business end and a few dials on the top. “Don’t lie to me, Pin. I want you to tell me the truth. Gordon told me it happened the first time due to some research he helped you and Jack with that somehow rubbed off on me, and that stuff made it so I didn’t shrink when everything else did. What really happened? What does Gordon have to do with this?” Pin sighed and leaned against the locked door, “Men are weird, ya know?” “Pin, don’t dodge the question.” “I– Right. Well, I don’t know what was going through his head, but he wanted to help his mana along. You were already shrinking in height really slowly, and he wanted my help speeding it up. I dabble in magic, you know that, but I got my hands on a sabbath spell book. The only thing I was after was a shrinking spell. You don’t know how hard it was to find one that’d keep your assets.” “Did he pay you for this?” “Yeah. We had a deal. Some payment, some trade,” She admitted quietly. Kiara and Pin were both silent for a time, “Why would Gordon lie to me? Why did he want me short?” “He loves you a lot, Kiara,” Pin reminded her, “Everything he gets up to with you he does out of love, I’m sure. Remember when the two of you stole that ice cream truck? Or when he played along after you put him in the hospital and impersonated a doctor? All those times he bailed you out? Men are weird,” She reiterated, “Like, Jack wants to hold me, have me sit in his lap, tease me, man handle me. Then other days I’ve got him tied to the bed and I’m dressing up like a witch. Maybe Gordon just wanted to do the holding for a while?” “I just don’t know why he’d keep it a secret from me,” Kiara sighed. “Maybe he didn’t want to make you mad? Do you… want me to change you back?” Pin loaded a long aether crystal into the nozzle of her gadget, “I can sneak you out and get you a ride home if you don’t.” The hellhound looked down at her big fluffy paws before pulling off the torn up Gremtech shirt. She thought about being big, like when she met Gordon for the first time at that cookout. She could remember man handling him, picking him up, throwing him around, and overpowering him pretty easily. While she remembered enjoying it a lot, she could remember the feeling of frustration from her husband being unable to take charge. While being small, the tables had mostly turned. Gordon would pick her up and carry her around, which she definitely loved. While still stronger, with his size, her husband could overpower her sometimes. She felt like it was fair how it was now. Not to mention how much she liked being held. Kiara nodded, “Do it.” “R-really?” Pin perked up. “Yeah, change me back,” The hellhound decided, “If he wants it, then I want it. Gordon is a knucklehead, but holy hell do I love him.” “More than Argentina?” “Jeez, don’t make me pick… Yes, I love him more than Argentina,” She decided with a little smile. Pin nodded, “Got it. Close your eyes. You’ll be back to your short self soon.” “Thanks, Pin,” Like the gremlin said, after a few moments, the hellhound was back to her shorter form. Kiara stretched, “There we go… We better get back out there, huh?” Pin nodded, “Well, here. Take it,” She offered the hellhound the device. The gadget hummed as the aether crystal glowed a bright red, “If you want to change back, please use this.” Kiara nodded, looking over the knobs and dials as the two made their way back to their booth. When they got there, a few security guards were snooping around their booth as a familiar and baphomet from the Heretech booth stood by, “Excuse me,” Pin growled, “What do you think you’re doing?” “We had reports of a bigger on the premises. Do you two know anything?” The dwarven woman asked. Pin swore at her in dwarvish, “You think I’m harboring the leader of the Mootriarchy here? I’m not a damn bigger lover! Leave us in peace!” While her friend and the guards argued in dwarvish, Kiara leveled the device towards the all too smug baphomet and pressed the trigger in. With a mock gasp, Kiara shouted, “We’ve got a bigger here!” Pointing to the now five foot eight and curvy baphomet. An improvement in her eyes, but not to the legion of shorties now yelling at her and one another as the Heretech sabbath tried to defend themselves. Pin and Kiara watched the chaos together as the opening of the expo hall neared, “You didn’t have to do that, Kiara.” “If my husband wants me tall again, I’ll become tall. But until then, I’m happy,” She smiled softly, “And besides, anything to piss off the sabbath.” “Hell yeah, sister,” The two fist bumps and went back to preparing the booth.
“This morning, the town woke up to the burnt remains of the beloved, yearly Christmas tree. We now go live to the city center where the story is developing. Molly?” “Thanks, Steve,” An elf woman smiled into the camera before gesturing behind her, “As you can see, I am downtown by the city center. The giant christmas tree that goes up every year has been burnt to a crisp! The reason? Unknown for now! Maybe the Grinch paid us a destructive visit?” The camera man followed the elf as she started up the steps toward where the tree stood. She stopped at the police tape where a few officers were poking around in the snow. A mass of ash and partially burnt branches sat on the pedestal where the tree had been just hours before, “As you can see from all this ash and the burnt remains, it seems like the tree has been burnt down. Was it on purpose? Or a freak accident? Now, the police have not revealed much information as of now, but they did tell me they have spoken to some of the suspects. No arrests have been made. Once we have more information, we will let you know, Steve.” “Thanks, Molly. Such a shame this happened so close to Christmas…” The screen went dark as Kiara pressed the power button. The hellhound’s eye fire went low as her frown deepened. She had seen that tree last night while out shopping with her friends. They even took a picture in front of it. Kiara pulled up the group chat to see the picture they had taken. Pin, a gremlin and her best friend, was in the front holding up two peace signs on her hands. Kiara was behind her with her hands on her shorter friend’s shoulders. Next was Wiktoria, the dark skinned pyrow with glowing piercings and short white hair. Then was Camellia, a taller yeti in a big fluffy coat. Lastly was Angie, a massive minotaur in a plaid coat with her black and cream hair pulled back. The five were all standing in a line from shortest to tallest. “Kiara?” Her husband called, rousing her from the stupor and depression. “Yes?” The hellhound’s tail wagged slowly as she got up, quickly going in for a hug with her man. Gordon froze as the hellhound appeared from the couch and nearly tackled him to the ground. Her big fluffy, and surprisingly strong, hands pulled him close. The shorter hellhound, standing at about four-foot-eight inches, buried her face in his chest. Gordon hugged her with one hand and ran the other across her scalp and down the back of her head slowly, “Good morning to you too,” He chuckled, “Everything okay?” “Something happened to the big tree…” The hound whined, “The one by the mall.” “Ah,” Gordon sighed, “I saw that this morning. Are you sure your friends didn’t have anything to do with it?” He joked. Kiara released him and put her hands on her hips, “They would never burn that tree down!” “Not even Pin or Wiktoria?” “Pin would never do that! She’s too nice for that!” Gordon did his best to hide the grimace he made, “And Wik put her cigarettes out responsibly. At least when I was looking. But there’s no way she’d commit arson on this scale.” “Well…” Gordon gave her a sheepish glance before stepping over to the kitchen to put a pan of milk on the stove and turn it on. “What?” “Jack and Bob both told me that the police arrived at their houses…” Gordon frowned. “What!?” Kiara gasped, “They really can’t think they did it, can they?” Gordon grabbed a couple of mugs and some coco mix, “I don’t know. Jack didn’t say much, but Wiktoria was allegedly involved in that fire a few months back.” “That was never proven!” “Plus you all were there last night and I’m sure they saw you on CCTV.” Kiara, without really thinking about it, grabbed the kettle as it began to whistle. She poured some heavy cream into the milk along with some vanilla extract and brown sugar. Next was the hot chocolate mix that she began to whisk together, “I need to go see my friends today. I know you said you wanted to do a bit of grocery shopping together, but you can handle it, right?” “Mmm…” Gordon didn’t let his disappointment show on his face, “I can.” “I’ll make it up to you tonight, I promise,” The hellhound gave her husband a big smile before pouring the hot chocolate into two travel mugs and topped them with shredded chocolate and marshmallows. She stood on her tippy toes, her claws digging into the wooden floor before kissing her man on his beard-covered cheeks, “See you tonight,” Kiara scooped up a few little boxes she decorated herself and threw them in a bag before grabbing her drink and her keys. After throwing her coat on, she was out the door. Kiara’s pickup truck coasted down the snowy road. Her short trip through the suburbs and past the houses and playing children felt a little more gray than usual. To the hellhound, it felt like the whole town’s Christmas spirit was down from the disappearance of the big tree. The sight of that pile of ashes wouldn’t leave her mind. She needed to get to the bottom of all this, for her own sake. The drive concluded in front of a snow covered home. Snow caked the driveway and path up to the door. The garage door was open past a frozen over little car. Kiara parked next to the sidewalk on the street and hopped out, hot coco in one hand and a little present in the other. The sounds of heavy metal came from the open garage. A slapped together, mishmash of speakers attached to an old sound system played classic metal. A torn up leather sofa sat at the back of the garage with a workbench and some storage boxes nearby. The hellound’s nose scrunched up as the scent of cigarette smoke hit her nose, “Wiktoria?” The ashen skinned hound woman called. A pyrow stood in the garage, wiping a microfiber cloth across the glossy black and blue-flame painted body of an old Harley Motorcycle. Her blue-flaming tail flicked back and forth with her black and blue wings tucked behind her back. She wore a torn up bomber jacket-- olive green over a tight black hoodie. A lit cigarette hung from her lips, the orange glow of the tip matching her hot orange glowing facial piercings. She ran her fingers through her white, blue striped hair, “Huh? Oh! Kiara, what’aya doin’ in my neck a’ tha woods?” “Firstly, Merry Christmas,” She offered the pyrow the present. “A gift for me? Ya shouldn’t have!” Wiktoria grinned as she put it on the work bench, “Some a’ya famous bakin’?” “Yup!” Kiara’s tail wagged happily, “A nice batch of cookies for you and Bob. Speaking of, where is the guy?” “Eh, well… rode hard an’ put away wet, let’s say,” The pyrow grinned mischievously after blowing a puff of smoke in the shape of a heart, “I can get ‘im if ya want. He should be decent enough.” Kiara shook her head, “No, I just needed to talk to you. Um, Gordon told me you had a visit…” “From the coppers. Yeah,” The pyrow sighed as she collapsed onto her couch. The old leather crunched beneath her, “Look, I got a little excited last America day and set off our own, private firework show at Pin’s place. Look, that old vineyard needed to be burnt down. Shit was an eyesore. We put it out anyway, I know. But now I’m suspect number one every time there's a fire. Ya know, ignore the actual fire spirit who lives across town.” Kiara paused for a few moments, mulling it over as Wiktoria grabbed a black electric guitar with a scratched up blue pickguard covered in band stickers. The pyrow played along with the song blaring from the speakers, “Well, I don’t think you did it,” The hellhound decided, “I doubt Pin did either, but I should go talk to her.” “Trying to figure out who dunnit?” “I don’t know… I just want peace of mind, I guess,” The hound’s eyes burned dimly, almost merely a tiny, smoldering flame, “Did you see anything weird when we were at the tree?” “Not really. I was too busy horsing around with Angie,” Wiktoria fiddled with the knobs on her guitar before setting it on the couch, “Lemme come with ya. I need somethin’ to do today and I wanna check on that engine I left Pin.” Kiara shrugged, “Alright, come on then.” Wiktoria fiddled with her box of cigarettes. She flipped the top open and held one between her fingers before sliding the box back into her breast pocket, “You know I don’t like that stink. Especially not in my truck,” The hellhound warned with a stern look. “Sheesh, I know, lil’ doggy,” She gave the hound an eye roll, “Just gotta hold somethin’ between my fingers. Dunno whatta do with my hands.” “Don’t know what to do without your man’s bone to hold, eh?” Both girls chuckled at the crass joke. Their drive took them to the countryside past rolling white hills and snow covered trees. Farms, orchards, and the aforementioned vineyard all passed by in the windows. Wiktoria spun the cigarette between her fingers idly as Kiara’s tail thumped along to the pop music that softly played through the radio. Wiktoria didn’t really get pop music. A lot of it sounded the same to her. She missed the blaring metal in her garage. Kiara turned off the road and onto a cleared gravel driveway. The pickup rumbled as it drove across the rough stones before coming to a stop next to a house. It was a small, one floor house, at least smaller than the ones Kiara and Wiktoria lived in. To make up for that size, a large, snow covered airplane hangar dominated the field behind the home, “Ugh, what an eyesore,” Wiktoria grumbled, “Ya think Pin is compensating?” “You know that hangar is full right? That’s why all these tractors are outside,” Kiara smirked as she pulled up next to another pickup truck. “Looks like Angie’s truck,” Wiktoria pointed out as she stepped out of the vehicle, “How the hell do they remove so much snow?” She saw a path cleared from the house’s back door to the hangar along with some area in front of the hangar’s big door. A man weilding a shovel with a big metal tube strapped to it with a glowing box by the handle glanced around the grounds. With a nod, he scooped up a pile of snow which caused a bright stream of flames to shoot from the tube. The man continued to melt snow with the shovel-flamethrower combo as the two girls watched in shock, “Now we’re talkin’!” Wiktoria cheered before dashing over to him, “Mornin’ Jack.” “Hm?” He pulled his hood and welding goggled off to reveal short black hair and a stubble covered chin, “Oh, hey you two. No one told me you’d be coming over.” “It’s kind of an impromptu visit,” Wiktoria snatched the shovel from him as his guard was lowered. He opened his mouth to speak but just shook his head as she used the pilot flame to light a cigarette. “Good morning, Jack,” Kiara came at the man from behind and gave him a quick hug, “Sorry for dropping in on you.” “Not a problem. I’m sure you can guess where Pin is,” He jabbed a thumb over at the hangar, “Working all day even when it's almost Christmas time.” “She’s a workaholic. You knew that when you got into this,” The hellhound snickered as she made her way over to the workshop. “I was more worried about her rampant dwarven alcoholism.” “So what’s with the flamethrower, man?” Wiktoria nudged Jack a little too hard in the ribs. He grunted, “Pin built it since we can’t be assed to shovel all this white bullshit,” He snatched it back from her, “Check it out,” He put the shovel in front of him and began to walk, the head of the shovel scraping along the ground. As the head of the shovel hit the snow, the flames shot out and Jack was able to melt a line of snow in front of him as he went, “Pretty simple, really.” “I gotta get my hands on one of those,” Wiktoria decided with a grin as she puffed on her cigarette. Jack held it defensibly now, “Go talk to the wife,” He led the two into the hangar, still clutching the shovel. The scent of oil, salt, booze, and smoke all hung in the air. There were work benches covered in projects, each in various states of completion. A mint green jeep sat nearby, past that was a red tractor, and a long looking vehicle covered in a tarp. Beyond those were parts and pieces of Pin’s life's work, a fully completed head of a large mech design she had fallen in love with. Near it was the beginning of a body hung up on the ceiling along with a foot and hand. The dim mono-eye of the mech made Wiktoria shudder. In the main staging area of the work stop was a white van, the hood was up and a chain held a mana reactor engine above it. Sparks and lights flew from beneath the vehicle. On the side of it was a logo: Happy Holistaur, it read. Above the simple all black bold lettering was a simple depiction of a cartoon minotaur or holstaur hugging a man overlaid on a bottle. Angie, wearing a ribbed white sweater and dark shorts, sat on a stool that looked way too small for her. “Hi, Angie!” Kiara greeted. “Hello, friends,” The minotaur smiled softly at them. She looked exhausted. Wiktoria puffed her cigarette, “Doin’ alright, moo tits?” Angie sighed, “I’ve barely slept since my van broke down after we hung out downtown. Been worried sick about the business. The mechanic was going to take way too long so I brought it here. Pushed it the whole way.” “Best mechanic in town,” Jack chuckled before slamming a hand on the van, “Pin! Guests!” The gremlin slid out from underneath the van, a welding torch in one hand, goggles on her face, and a scarf wrapped around her head. She pulled the goggles and scarf off before setting the welder down on the skateboard she had been laying on, “You should have given me a bit more warning, Jack,” She grunted. Standing at a whopping three and a half feet, the fierce, long, green, and messy-haired gremlin stood with her hands on her hips, glaring at her friends, “I’m not much to look at right now,” Her apron and jumpsuit were both covered in oil stains and burns, “Put that damn cig out, Wik.” “Whatever you say, short round,” She dropped it outside in the snow before stepping on it. Pin took a deep breath, “Alright. What’s goin’ on?” She pulled her gloves off and dumped them on the board. “Firstly, Merry Christmas, bestie,” With a fast wagging tail, Kiara gave the gremlin a little box, “And for you, Angie.” “Thanks,” The cow’s tail flicked as her tired smile got a little wider. Jack looked over Pin’s shoulder as she tore the box open, “Oh! Cookies!” The gremlin exclaimed. “Yup! Enough for the both of you!” “You know we never can get enough of your work,” Jack’s eyes went wide as he looked at the cookies. The gremlin picked one up. Gingerbread cookies, each one with a smile, a post stamp mustache, a comb over, and a fancy looking military uniform, all painted on with dull colored frosting. Jack couldn’t help but notice one of the arms was raised in a very particular salute, “Is that…” “It’s Great Grandpapa Adolf!” The argentinian hound looked completely genuine with a smile on her face, “My hubby calls them ‘Hitlerbreadmen.’” Pin shrugged as she bit off the arm, “So why’d you guys come here? Not exactly down the street from you.” “Did ya burn down the big ol’ tree downtown?” Wiktoria asked as she examined the van’s engine. “Pfft,” Pin scoffed, “Hell no I didn’t! They think I’m involved because they found one of these by the tree!” Pin gave the box over to her man and went to a workbench. She snatched up a device familiar to everyone in the room. A brass disk with the Grem Tech logo in the center. The device was split into five parts. A center square with the logo of a wrench and shotgun crossed with the wording over them. The other four parts were near identical half circles. Turning the top one activated the device, making the left and right portions heat up, easily gripped in two hands. The bottom piece could adjust the heat, “Someone discarded it there. They think it might have been the cause but everyone in this county has bought at least one of them! It’s bullshit!” She grabbed a flask from her apron and drank a big swig of the liquor contained. “I get a lot of use out of mine,” Angie piped up as she pulled hers from her pocket. Her hand warmer was a larger, custom size, “Nice and toasty, every time I need it.” “I think I was using mine to light cigs,” Wiktoria smirked, “Did they ask you about it, Angie?” She moved to a dark workbench and flicked on a light to examine a motorcycle sized mana engine. She nodded in satisfaction at the gremlin’s dwarven design. Angular and efficient, just the design she had in mind for the bike. She gave the pyrow a look, “Yes. They did.” “What? You?” Pin scoffed, “What reason could they have? This town loves you.” “No idea,” Angie shrugged, “The feds could not link me to the second Great Chicago Fire four years ago or pnning me as the udderboss of Tortelini Crime Family. But they still think it was me.” Jack nodded slowly, “Ah…” “What’re ya up to, Kiara?’ Wiktoria asked as she joined the hound. The woman pulled the blue tarp off of the far vehicle revealing an old airplane. “Just checking in on my Focke-Wulf,” She replied. “Gordon shit himself when that was dropped off on your lawn,” Jack recalled. The German World War Two fighter was dark gray with a black iron cross painted on it. The propeller had been replaced, the engine swapped with a mana powered one, and the interior reupholstered. The machine guns, unfortunately, had to be removed, but Kiara had put her own flair on it with Hell’s Hound now painted on one of the wings. “When the fuck did you guys get a goddamn plane!?” Wiktoria was awestruck at the sight of it. Kiara’s tail wagged, “A gift from Great Grandpapa Adolf. I think.” “How could you be related to him? You’re not even German. We’re all from the old world.” The hellhound gasped as if deeply offended, “Uh, excuse me,” She opened up her coat and lifted her sweater to reveal the Argentinian jersey beneath, “I am PROUDLY Argentinian.” “That’s not Germany!” “Wik,” Jack shook his head, “Argentina has a huge German population.” “And ‘Grandpa Adolf’ probably fled there,” Pin added, “Just drop it. Cover that back up, Kiara. Gotta keep it dry.” “Alright…” Her tail and flames drooped before replacing the tarp over the remodeled fighter plane. Angie looked at the group of much smaller monster girls and the one man, “Now what? Keep looking and trying to figure out who did it?” “That’s too hard,” Pin shrugged as she put her gloves back on, “If the cops can’t figure it out how can we? And don’t say magic, any of you. I’m the only one that can do some, and it doesn’t apply to shit like this. Big guy, can you go get me another drink?” “Sure, sure,” Jack nodded, “Water?” “Rum and Coke.” “Right… You’re lucky you can magic away kidney stones, Pin.” “Yeah, whatever,” The gremlin gave him a little smile, “What do you want to do, Kiara?” “I wanna save Christmas,” She said, her mind quickly made up, “This town has been so much more miserable and gray since the tree burnt down yesterday.” “Has it?” Pin mumbled, completely oblivious to the world outside her little building. “How do ya plan to do that?” Wiktoria slapped the head of a wrench into her palm before pointing it at the hellhound. “I don’t think we can find a new tree that big…” Angie chimed in, “Or the lights and garnish for it.” “Well… I’ll ask Santa. He should be able to help. I’m sure his place is loaded with Christmas trees!” “Oh come on, do we really…” Wiktoria shut up and cleared her throat as she saw Pin and Angie nodding in agreement, “How ya gonna get there? North pole is a ways away.” “The Focke-Wulf, of course. It should make it with the mana reactor engine, right, Pin?” The gremlin returned to the plane and tore the tarp back off, “Well. I can install a gravity dampener so we can load another mana reactor on the back and put in a second chair so I can work some machinery. Its a good thing that your man wanted that Short Stackifier device, otherwise we wouldn’t fit,” She continued to ramble and mark down changes that were needed. "The what?" Asked Kiara. "Nothing, just some technical jargon you wouldn't get." Pin dismissed. “Why do you need to go?” Angie huffed, “I could go.” “You don’t know how to navigate or use a device that’ll let you past their forcefield,” Pin reminded her as she started to grab a few aetheric crystals and wiring them to a strange brass satellite dish, "Plus I'd have to short stackify ya," The cow woman shuddered at the thought. “You’re telling me ya know where Santa is and know he has a big shield to protect his workshop?” Wiktoria scoffed at them as she fiddled with a power drill. “Of course. You know Maxine, right?” Pin asked as she put the satellite dish in a housing container before throwing it on a cart. She moved on to a set of two smaller chairs and had Kiara help her load it onto the cart. Next was a few panels of nobs, switches, and screens, “Well, Maxine got contracted to help set up the forcefield. And I was subcontracted to build a system to keep it running. Mister and Missus Claus have access to a very special mana that we all call ‘Christmas Spirit’ which we can channel into their generators. It’s also how all of Santa’s helpers can fly and deliver gifts at a crazy fast rate.” The three girls stared at Pin in shock, “How did you never tell me this!?” The hellhound demanded as she stomped a foot. “It's supposed to be a secret. So no telling.” “Weird to think about you getting a contract like that,” Angie whistled. “I’ve worked with Maxine before. She knows I’m more reliable than other goblinoids. It was mostly her design, to be honest, but I built the physical devices,” Pin loaded a few more devices onto the cart and wheeled it over, “Better finish your van first, Angie.” A sigh of relief escaped Angie’s lips, “Thank you. I didn’t want to say anything about it.” “Kiara, I’ll let you know when we’re ready. Oh, and be ready to pack some sandwiches.” “Got it. Hopefully we can get this done before Christmas.” “Sheesh, ya two don’t have much time then,” Wiktoria noted as she picked up a half finished device, the pipes steaming and gears slowly rotating. She decided better than to press a button or pull a trigger. “Put that the hell down,” Pin ordered as her husband reappeared, “Hey, thanks, big guy. Do me another favor and get the runway cleared. Take a line of heaters out.” Jack sighed and wheeled out a modified golf cart. On the back, he put two massive spools of small, aether crystal devices on holders, “Is that all, my compact queen? Or do you need me to feed your rat’s cage too?” He asked as he fed the devices into a robotic hand that moved to place it on the ground. “You know Tilde does that,” She grabbed his arm and pulled him down onto one knee. She kissed his cheek, nose, and softly placed one on his lips, “Thank you.” “No problem,” He gave a little smile before climbing into the cart and driving it out of the front. He pulled a lever as he went, causing the metal hand to place the small heating devices in neat rows up and down the runway. “Good for planting, and good for this,” Pin admired her own handywork, “Alright. Back to work. Feel free to hang out, girls. But I’ll have this van done before dinner.” “Thank you,” Angie smiled softly before sitting back down on the stool and fiddling with a phone that looked much too small for her. “We’d better go,” Wiktoria nudged Kiara, “I gotta make sure Bob wakes up and does his chores.” “And I gotta get cookin’ for Gordon,” Kiara nodded, “Have a good day you two, I’ll talk to you soon, Pin.” “See ya!” Pin was quickly back under the van and working on the bottom of it. Christmas Eve. Gordon drove his truck out to his best friend’s house. Kiara was bundled up in three coats, a scarf, and a hat to keep her dog ears warm, “You’re really going through with this?” The man asked. “I get to fly my plane and meet Santa. Why wouldn’t I?” She glanced back out at the warm looking morning sunshine. “I’m just worried you won’t make it back,” Gordon admitted with a sad whimper. The look in his eyes behind his glasses told Kiara just how worried he was, despite his attempts to hide it. Kiara gently took her husband’s hand in hers, “I have the hopes and dreams of this town on my side. And Christmas Spirit, German and dwarven engineering too! Just give me your faith, hubby.” “Alright, I’ll be praying for your safe return. We’re here,” Gordon’s tone was still full of doom and gloom as he pulled into the cleared driveway. He pulled up along the runway where Jack and Tilde, the automaton, were pushing the plane into position. Pin had a clipboard in hand, checking off tasks with a green pen, “Food, water, some tunes…” She mumbled to herself, “A quick smooch,” She grabbed her husband’s hand and pulled him in for a kiss, “Should be everything.” With a sigh, Jack folded his arms, “Are you sure?” “She has quadruple checked now. Including four kisses,” Tilde interjected as she moved the boarding staircase into position. The long runway was littered with brass devices that glowed in the morning sun. It was a good day for flying without any clouds in the sky. Jack relented, “Right. Your co-pilot is here.” “Pin!” Kiara hurried over, wearing a wool laced coat and carrying a shoulder bag, “How’d the conversion go?” “Well,” The over confident smirk on the gremlin’s face said it all, “I had to expand the cockpit a little, but we had the space. Most of the internals were gutted and swapped for lighter, smaller parts to allow for two larger mana engines. It’ll take us wherever we want to go and has the tech to get us there. Cloaking from radar, communications array, the works. Did you bring your part?” “It's not nearly as much as all the work you did, but yes, I did bring food as you requested. Freshly made this morning,” She proudly pat her shoulder bag, “Jerky to snack on, some biscuits with jam for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and, if we don’t make it by dinner… more sandwiches.” “I wish I could eat that well today,” Jack jested as he handed Pin her flight jacket embroidered with ‘CYCLOPS SQUAD’ on the back, “Let’s get you two in the air, gotta make it before nightfall.” “Right,” Pin put on a warm, wool hat that her ears stuck through the flaps of. With Tilde’s help, she climbed into the rear facing seat and turned on the engines. Kiara was next. Tilde held her arm as the hellhound climbed the short staircase. She got into the pilot’s seat, feeling herself sink a little into the plush leather. She set her bag aside and looked back at Pin, watching her tie a flask of liquor with an elastic cable to the top glass, “Ready?” “Checking temps…” The gremlin mumbled, “Low, nominal, our radar jammer is running a little hot, but we should have that cooled when we get in the air. Energy is high, nearly at the max. Emergency las-cannon is also looking fine, as is our radio comms.” “We do have a weapon?” “It’s only got three shots, but you never know if a dragon will think our plane looks like a good treasure to take back to her lover,” Pin’s words rang with venom, “We won’t have my AA’s to scare her off.” “Uh, got it,” Kiara flipped on the propeller and checked her own systems, “Ready?” Pin looked out the window and waved at Jack and Tilde, “Yup. Let’s fly.” “On it,” The hellhound gave her husband a salute before easing the throttle. The plane took off down the runway, rumbling on its wheels. Kiara pulled back as the plane picked up enough speed. In a surprisingly smooth motion, the plane took to the air, easily turning north as it climbed higher and higher. Kiara put on a pair of sunglasses as the sun made the snow below brightly glow. Pin flipped on the jammer, causing magical energies that coalesced into a shimmering, clear sphere around the plane. With a satisfied nod, she leaned back, keeping an eye on her gauges and trackers, “We should be high enough to throw autopilot on. I’ll keep the jammer on until we clear town.” “Gotcha,” Kiara sighed, trying to pop her ears with a fake yawn as she flicked a switch on her left. She could feel the plane list gently to the right, “Is the autopilot working?” “Should be–” Pin gently rotated a knob and pulled a lever down, “The sensor for tilt is a little off, I’ll fix it,” After pulling off the panel in front of her, she fiddled with a few unmarked wires, suddenly causing the plane to adjust its tilt, “Good to go.” “Thanks,” Kiara put her hands in her lap, staring out at the morning horizon, “Breakfast time?” “Please,” Pin gladly took her share of food before settling in for a long trip, “I’ve got some cheese, craisins, and cashews if you want some.” “Glad to hear you eat just like your ‘big guy,’” Kiara teased, “I swear, you two need to pay for a chef or at least those meal delivery kits.” “Or put that chef utility into Tilde. She hasn’t been able to cook since we fixed her up. Her OS has crashed trying to cook. It's like that function is separate from everything else and just needs to be swapped,” Pin sighed before deciding to change topics, “Do you think they’ll find who burned that tree down?” “Who knows,” Kiara laid a napkin out on her lap before taking a bite of her food, “You sound like you’re ready to make a wild accusation.” “You know me so well,” The gremlin smirked, “I’m gonna accuse Angie’s husband of it this time.” “Just like every other time.” “He’s always out to get me in his short hating ways. He could have left that hand warmer there, easily. He knew we were out, he definitely had at least one of those, and their van broke down soon after. He could have done it, easily!” Pin explained. “Yeah,” Kiara shook her head with a sigh, and set down her food, “The only problem was that he was at a work party for Münder. Remember? Angie was talking about it when we were hanging out.” “Ah,” Pin folded her arms and stared at a monitor for a few moments, “Was that company anywhere near there?” “Pin,” The hellhound’s eye flames diminished as she groaned, “Just drop it. I don’t care who did it. I’m just gonna fix this. For all I know, one of us could have done it by accident.” Pin slouched, “Yeah…” The two went quiet for a time before Kiara turned on their radio. Through the static, she could hear some pop music and began fiddling with the dials. Soon, a song by some gravelly voiced goblin came on full of thinly veiled innuendos about getting picked up and plowed on every surface by a husband twice her height. Kiara mumbled along to the music, slightly shaking to and fro with the beat, “Jerky?” “Yeah, gimmie a few,” Pin reached back, also slowly getting into the fast beat of the music, “By Harrak’s holy beard, I can’t listen to this without thinking of my man.” “Pin,” Kiara put her head in her hands, “I really don’t need to hear about your wedding night. Again.” “Fine. Keep us on course, I’ll make sure everything’s good,” She frowned, “Jammer is still hot. I really hope I don’t need to drop it or something. Nothing to worry about now.” “Alright. Thanks,” Kiara brought the plane a little higher and turned the plane slightly, “Should be a direct course. I’ll re-route when we are near that airport to the north.” Pin nodded and fiddled with buttons and switches, “Good call. Last thing I want is for us to get noticed.” The flight continued with little issue. The clouds had rolled in over some of the most northern parts of the world. Darkness was here, the sun was hidden away this time of year, and a light snowfall fell upon the plane. The radio was off, only static came through when it was on. Kiara’s heart pounded, she felt like she was flying blind, but the screen told her to keep on going. Pin had headphones on as she fiddled with dials, “What happens if we hit this barrier?” The hound woman called back. “Well, the mana reactors die temporarily, we pass out, and we would hopefully be rescued from a fiery crash by the North Pole staff,” The nonchalance in the gremlin’s tone made Kiara nervous. “So how do we not hit it!?” “I’m working on it!” Pin hollered over the howling wind, “Where is it… we should be– aha! I can see the generators on this side.” Kiara saw the dome appear on her display. Through the darkness, the hound swore she could see something, “Two minutes till we hit it. Pin nodded, “Damn snow, blocking my comms. Shit,” She flicked a switch and Kiara saw a radar dish open up on the right wing, “Alright, gonna try to get on the same wavelength as it. Cloaking is off.” Kiara could feel herself clench up as her heart started to pound, “Minute and a half…” “I know, I know,” The gremlin fiddled with a dial, “Ugh, Holiday Spirit is on a weird wavelength. Working on it.” The hound’s eye flames started to die as she swallowed nervously, “Pin…” “I’m workin’ on it!” “Pin!” Kiara hollered as the lines on her display got closer and closer. “I know!” She cried back as she fiddled with the knob, “There! Press the button! The red one!” “The red one!?” Kiara gazed around the cabin in a panic before seeing a red button on the right light up with the words ‘PRESS ME’ on it. Kiara smashed it with her fist and recoiled as the dish shot out a green ray that struck the dome. As a hole was torn in it, the lights on the ground became visible in that section of shimmering air. A whole Christmas village and air strips glowed in red and green. “Hurry!” Pin shouted, halting Kiara’s awe filled stare, “The hole won’t stay open long!” She began to flip switches and the static of the radio came back on. Kiara gripped the flight controls with her fluffy digits and pushed them forward, urging the plane to go faster. The engines groaned, pushed to their limits as the wind made the wings shudder. The two held on for dear life as the plane sped up, the turbulence becoming uncomfortable, and the wind howling around them. Kiara tilted the plane as she saw the magical shield start to close, snaking her plane through the barrier and into the airspace above the North Pole. She sighed with relief, “Now what? Can we land?” “Working on it,” Pin grunted, “Access code, H-C-One-Two-Two-Five. Over.” A voice came through the radio, “Copy. Code accepted, but who are you? We don’t have anyone on the ledger for today.” “And how did you get past the shield?” Another voice barked. The gremlin cleared her throat, “Pin Ironstone and Kiara Boga. Sorry–” “We need to speak to Santa! Or Missus Clause? Or anyone else who can help!” Kiara chimed in, “Please!” The more harsh voice sighed, “I see…” She paused, “Pin, right? You worked on our security system. No wonder you managed to get in. Let me– You’ve been cleared. Please land on strip B, north or south.” Kiara looked down and saw a long runway light up bright green and red. With surprising skill, she easily circled around and brought the plane down gently, landing on the runway with the tires screeching as the plane slowly came to a stop near a set of long hangars. A few short elves came out of the open door, running past rows upon rows of red sleighs. The two women used red, glowing lights to direct them off the runway and onto a little patch of concrete. Kiara slid the glass of the plane off and looked around as a little set of stairs was brought over by a centaur. Like Kiara had seen from the air, there was a big village of cabins and even a grocery store off to the east side of the area. In the center was a giant workshop, covered in cheery Christmas lights. Then on the west side, dominating a large part of the grounds, was a surprisingly large airport. There were four hangars, the biggest of the four housed a 747, and the other ones had numerous red sleighs that were being checked and double checked by Santa’s engineers. The two elves looked over Kiara’s plane as the hellhound and gremlin disembarked, very glad to be able to stretch their legs, “We’ll take good care of her,” The elves said as they and the centaur began to push it towards the hangar. “Over here!” A gruff woman called. A tall salamander woman with long crimson hair and tanned skin in three layers of coats waved the girls over, “The boss wants to talk to you.” “The boss?” Pin cocked her head. “The boss!” Kiara gasped excitedly, “Santa!” “Don’t look too excited,” The sword carrying salamander smirked, “The big man himself is real busy. Always is. Missus Claus is our admin. Come on,” Kiara nodded and quickly followed the woman. Pin glanced over her shoulder at their plane then dashed to catch up, “I’m Noel, captain of the guard here. I know the gremlin is Pin, so you must be Kiara.” “Yes I am,” Kiara was beaming, “You really work at the North Pole? Does everyone here?” “I work here year round in my security duties. You would not believe how many people try to come here. Thankfully the shield your friend made knocks them out and we can place them somewhere else. And before you ask, no, not everyone here works here year round. Various contractors like aviators and centaur-like girls to pilot the sleighs, we have various builders come in to help with whatever the elves here can’t build, magically inclined girls to help channel Christmas Spirit, and various other ones. There’s a lot more that goes into this operation than you know,” Noel explained as she shivered from the biting cold. Despite how cold she seemed, there were tall metal heaters dotted around, each one making the arctic weather much more tolerable to Kiara, “I have to ask, why did you two make the trek out here in that old plane? The reason has got to be pretty important, doesn't it?” “I’m here to save Christmas for my town,” She announced, “The Spirit of Christmas is dying after someone burnt down the town’s tree.” “Ah. Arson. We’d have someone’s head for doing that here,” Noel scowled, “Not that we have a lack of festive trees.” Just like she said, the three were surrounded by an abundance of evergreens lit up brightly with festive lights. Each one had its own personality, from different lights, whether they be red, green, gold, silver, or any combination and flashing or not, to the garlands and baubles and ornaments covering them from tip to trunk, “Any one of these would do…” Kiara scrunched her brow as she looked them over with deep scrutiny. “Why not just grab one with that hellhound strength?” Pin jested. Before Kiara could reply, Noel cleared her throat, “We’re here, ladies,” The hellhound and gremlin both stared up at an all wooden building positively glowing with Christmas lights. An elf came out the front of the building through a set of red double doors, “Kiara? Pin? You’re a little late but we can still squeeze you both in, come on, hurry up!” She started barking at the two as she pushed the glasses back up her pointy nose. Her pointed ears were flushed red, her business attire was a red suit jacket, a green tie, and a green skirt, both covered in candy cane print. The elf was somewhere between the height of Pin and Kiara, standing at about four-foot-four. Inside the building was a surprisingly modern waiting room with a small tree in the corner and a reception desk with an elf sorting mail. “Uh,” Kiara felt like she was rushing to keep up with the elf’s long strides. Pin was actually jogging to keep up, swearing under her breath. The elf grabbed a cup of coffee off the receptionist’s desk and led the two to an elevator, “In! In!” She barked. The two women hurried up and stepped in before the elf hit the top button, “What were you saying?” She gave Kiara a stern look as she impatiently tapped her foot. The elevator rumbled as it started to move up. “This is where you work?” Kiara mindlessly said, just trying to fill the air now. “No,” The elf rolled her eyes, “It's just a prop we bring in for visitors. Yes we work here. Do you have a problem with that?” “N-no. Of course not,” The hellhound folded her arms defensibly, “Um, what’s your name?” Kiara asked, trying to be polite. Pin smirked as she leaned against the side of the elevator. The elf slowly sipped her coffee, “Jaqueline. Jacky. Doesn’t matter. If you want to know what I do, I’m one of the assistants of our bosses here. Missus Claus, mostly,” Jacky drank more, “You’d be surprised how calm this side of the operation is this time of year. It’s all on the workshop and Santa now. We’re here,” Jacky took a deep breath before adjusting her outfit. Almost right after, the elevator dinged and the door slid open. The elf stepped out as soon as the opening was wide enough for her to get out. Kiara and Pin were right behind her. They stepped into a waiting room devoid of people, but there were plenty of plush red couches and oak chairs. A single set of double doors was the only other way out of the room. Jacky scurried over on her pumps and pushed one of the doors open on silent hinges, “Enter. She’s waiting.” “R-right,” Kiara suddenly felt her tail between her legs and the pounding of her heart in her ears. Pin nudged her, “Kiara? Come on, we’ve come this far,” The gremlin was obviously rather nervous as well. “Well?” Jackie tapped her foot impatiently, the sound echoing through the large room, “She does not have all night.” “Calm down, Jaqueline,” A kind, older woman scolded gently from within the room, “Come here, dears. I am sure you wish to return home before morning.” Kiara felt a surge of confidence course through her. The two stepped across the middle of the room, out of the dim entry room and into a brightly lit office. It was surprisingly large with a massive, dark wooden desk in the middle, an elderly white horn sitting behind it. The woman wore a festive red coat with white fluff trim. She brushed her long, white hair over her shoulders and pushed her reading glasses up the bridge of her nose, “No need to look like wee babs being handed to a mall santa for the first time,” She chuckled, “Kiara, Pin, how good to finally see you in person,” Kiara quickly looked around. In the corner was a Christmas tree covered in baubles, a dusty ping pong table folded up and pushed into a corner, a fully stocked book shelf, rows upon rows of file cabinets, and a big, framed painting of Mister Claus and this white horn together on the wall. “It's… nice to see you too,” Kiara approached the desk and climbed onto one of the matching stools with a red pillow atop it. Pin did the same, “Missus Claus, right?” “How rude of me,” The white horn’s smile was infectious, making Kiara feel at ease almost instantly, “Yes, I am Missus Claus, wife of Santa Claus. Now then, how can I help you both? It must be important for you to fly all the way here.” The hellhound glanced at her gremlin friend. Pin glanced back and nodded quickly. Despite feeling somewhat at ease, she found it a little hard to find the words, “Well… I wanted to try and save Christmas for my town. We had a big tree in the middle of town, a Christmas tree. It completely burnt down a few days ago, and it was never replaced. I feel like there is a cloud of gloom over the town and I really want to fix it.” “Ah,” Missus Claus nodded and rubbed her chin. She took her glasses off and stood, “I know the gloom you must be feeling all too well. I think this may be an easy fix. Is there anything else you need? Or is that really all you two came out here for?” Kiara scratched her ear, “Um, that was it for me… Pin?” The gremlin shrugged, “Some toys for my pet rat? An electric blanket for my husband? Cat food?” She sighed, “I can’t think of anything as selfless as Kiara’s wish here. I guess a request to not put us on the naughty list.” Missus Claus chuckled to herself, “Is that all? You could have called for all these requests, especially yours, Kiara,” The white horn stood and stretched her legs, “How about we send you two home? It's close to Christmas day and you have family to return to.” “Agreed, you need to rest, Missus Claus,” Jackie piped up from where she stood by the door, “You’re much too busy to have uninvited visitors like this.” “Enough, Jackie,” The older woman smiled, “I love guests. Hopefully the next time we have enough time to sit down for tea and cookies. But the day is late. Come along,” Missus Claus gestured for the three to follow. Through the waiting room and down the elevator they went. Through the reception area and back out into the snow. The precipitation had lessened, making it easier to trek across the freshly cleared grounds to the hangar. Sitting out on runway B was the girls’ plane, now decorated in sparkling Christmas lights. A pair of elves gave Missus Claus a thumbs up before hurrying back to the hangars, “Ah, here they come,” Missus Claus turned as she saw another, much younger white horn with a shining red nose. The white horn carried a brown burlap sack over and gently placed it next to the plane. “Rudolph,” Kiara whispered to Pin excitedly. “Yeah, I’ve seen the movie, dummy,” The gremlin rolled her eyes. “Here, dears,” Missus Claus offered them the sack, “Take this. Save our workers two stops. And this,” Jackie offered the duo a small cube shaped present wrapped in green wrapping paper covered with printed on red baubles, “Open it when you get to the remnants of your tree. But get there before Christmas day or it will be too late.” “Before–” Pin sputtered, “That only leaves us five hours! We’ll never make it!” Kiara saw the sparkle in the white horn’s eyes, “We can make it,” She said confidently, “Come on!” The hellhound took the small sack with her and climbed into the plane. Pin took the smaller present and followed her in. “Thanks for visiting!” Missus Claus waved to the two, “Make sure you give us a call before you visit next time!” “Got it!” Kiara buckled herself in. She looked around, seeing that the interior looked the same except for one, peppermint candy colored button. Pin scrunched her brow at a new gauge. ‘SPIRIT’ was all it said. When the plane rumbled to life, the gauge was fully on ‘F’ for full, “Looks like we’re good to go!” Pin hollered over the engine. Kiara eyed the new button, “Good here too! Taking off! Thanks again!” “Bye girls!” Missus Claus waved again as the plane began to speed down the runway. Kiara eased up the controls, making the plane lift off. A hole in the shielding opened up to let them through. Soon after, a fleet of red sleighs each pulled by a single centaur, white horn, or similar mamano followed in behind the plane and fell into an arrow formation. Pin didn’t understand this magic much, but it was breathtaking to see the lit up sleighs next to them. Kiara saw the pilot of one of the sleighs make a hand sign pointing forward before grinning. She reached forward and pressed a button that made the sleigh speed off at breakneck speeds. One by one, the other sleighs did the same. The hellhound leaned forward, finger hovering over the button, “I hope this old girl holds up,” She muttered. “What?” Pin took hold of the previously empty flask as she heard a sloshing from it. Without another thought, she took a sip of the flask above her. She raised an eyebrow at the peppermint schnapps and nodded, “Good shit… We’ll make it, Kiara. Just keep it steady. Not like we can go as fast as them.” “I think we can!” With her claw, she carefully pressed the button. The plane rumbled for a few moments, “What did you do?” The gremlin shouted. “Uh… Christmas something something?” “You–” Pin was interrupted as the plane lurched forward. The machine groaned as it sped up, much higher than its usual top speeds. Kiara felt herself sink into her seat as a grin spread across her lips. Pin was thankful she had her seatbelt on as she was nearly thrown from her seat. With a grumble, she had more of the schnapps and just held on for the ride. It felt like no time at all before Kiara had returned to the airfield they had taken off from. With the second pressing of the button, the plane slowly returned to its usual speed. With Pin’s guidance, Kiara easily landed the plane, only bouncing off the runway a few times. The plane was hastily parked in the hangar before the two girls ran to Pin’s home. The gremlin burst in through the back door, “JACK!” She yelled. “What?” He groggily called back from the living room. A game on the TV was paused and a few empty bags of chips were strewn across the floor. The fat rat slept on a pile of chip bags while the two cats slept in Jack’s lap. Gordon was laid out on the couch and Jack was on the recliner, “Come on! Get up!” Kiara shook her husband awake, “We only have an hour!” “For what?” Gordon grumbled as he slowly sat up. “The tree! We have to go see the tree! Missus Claus said so!” Kiara frantically tried to get him up. Pin quickly moved both cats to their tall cat tower, “Jack! Get your car heated up!” Jack and Gordon gave one another looks. Despite their weariness, they knew better than to say no, “Glad I didn’t drink, huh?” Jack smirked as he stretched, “Get my keys and coat, Pin,” The gremlin dashed to the master bedroom and quickly returned with a thick coat and the keys. “Come on!” Kiara barked, her tail wagging at rapid speeds as her eyes burned with determination. Kiara carried both the burlap sack and the small present from Missus Claus outside as Pin led the way to her husband’s red car. The two girls climbed into the back seat as the men got up front. Jack quickly left their home and started down the road towards town. The roads were empty and thankfully clear of snow. The bends and long straights were only lit up by the speeding car’s brights. Gordon glanced at his wife in the back seat, “So you two made it? Did you meet Santa?” “We got to meet Missus Claus,” Kiara replied, “And Rudolph too! I wish we could have stayed longer, but we have a mission now, right from Missus Claus.” “Oh!” Pin grabbed the burlap sack, “What did she put in here…?” Pin looked the small bag over, “Magical of course, a bottomless bag for sure,” She determined with a quick examination, “Let’s see,” As she reached her hand in, she raised an eyebrow and pulled a present out. The shining red box was wrapped with a gold ribbon. The sticker on it read ‘KIARA.’ The gremlin dug through the rest, finding one for her, the two men, and even for her pet rat. Pin could tell by the sloshing of her gift that it had to be liquor. Though she wanted to tear it open, she put it back with a sigh, “Guess that’s what she meant by saving them a trip.” “And what’s in that other gift?” Jack asked as he looked at the one in Kiara’s hands through his rearview window. The hellhound’s clawed thumb tore a small line of the wrapping paper, “I don’t know. She said to open it when the time was right.” “My heart is racing,” Pin admitted, “This might be the most excited I’ve ever been for a gift. Think they stuffed a whole tree in there?” “Could be…” Kiara turned the box over in her hands. She could feel something shift inside as she moved it, “I don’t know much about magic.” The passengers all got quiet as the car rolled past the sushi joint on the edge of town, then down the overpass, the gas station, and then into the town proper. Taller buildings flanked both sides of the road, street lights cast the glow of yellow lights upon the street, and small banks of snow were piled on the sides of the road. Disregarding the ‘no parking’ sign, Jack pulled up next to the sidewalk and Kiara quickly disembarked from the warm car and into the freezing cold of the Christmas Eve night. Gordon, Jack, and Pin were right behind her, “We don’t have much time, Kiara.” The police tape was still there and was easily slashed through with Kiara’s claws. The black, charred tree still stood, slowly waving in the breeze. Kiara tore the present open, revealing a small cardboard box. Gordon leaned over and picked up the discarded wrapping, “Something wrong?” “Just… nervous,” The hellhound took a deep breath and grabbed the flap. As it opened, golden light streamed from the package. She reached in and brought out a golden, shimmering star. She turned it in her hands, “It's a tree topper. Gordon, get me up there, please!” “Uh,” Gordon looked at the tree, it wasn’t too high but he wasn’t sure how to do it, “Jack?” “I think the two of us can lift her high enough,” He nodded, “Just like cheerleading, right? Or gymnastics?” The hellhound smiled, “Too bad none of us have done those. Let’s do it.” Gordon and Jack knelt down, hands near the ground. Kiara clutched the shining star and looked around, thankful that the streets were empty. Pin stood nearby, arms folded with an amused expression on her face. The hellhound took a deep breath and nodded before stepping onto the hands, “Ready?” Gordon asked. Jack and Kiara nodded, “One, two, three!” With relative ease, Gordon and Jack lifted the hellhound up. One hand beneath her feet, lift and the other holding a fluffy ankle. Kiara stood on her tip toes and reached to the top of the tree, just missing the top of it and unable to reach it, “Dang it,” She whispered. The star shook, jumping out of her hands and leaping the final few inches onto the tree. The whole tree lit up in a blinding gold light that nearly knocked the three over. They quickly put Kaira down and stepped back, watching the tree’s transformation. First the wood returned to its natural state, the bark growing back in mere seconds, then the limbs and needles returned, shooting out like party streamers. The tree grew taller before numerous glimmering baubles of reds, greens, and gold grew on the limbs of the tree like fruit. Lastly, Christmas lights started snaking down the tree starting from the top. The lights glowed gold just like the star at the top. Kiara leaned against her husband, gripping his cold hand as she stared at the newly fixed tree. Just then, the town hall’s bell tolled as it ticked over to midnight, “Merry Christmas, hubby.” “A Merry Christmas to you too,” Gordon replied with a relieved sigh. “Ooop!” Pin squealed as Jack scooped her up into a princess carry. He rested his head on her and sighed wearily, “Yeah, yeah. I know you’re tired. It's way past your bedtime, big guy. Merry Christmas anyways, you big dummy.” “Merry Christmas,” He mumbled back before a yawn. Kiara giggled at the two, “Maybe we should hurry home, Pin.” “Agreed,” Pin sighed. “And now we go live to downtown, where the story of the Yuletide caper has taken a surprising turn. Molly?” “Thanks Steve,” The image on the TV showed a smiling elf in front of the glowing Christmas tree, “Like you said, this story has taken a very unexpected turn. It seems like someone, a good samaritan or a guilty arsonist, brought a new tree here last night. While footprints in the snow were found this morning, all cameras facing this public area mysteriously shut off around ten PM and didn’t turn back on until one AM. While the arson case has gone cold, the police will not be investigating this Christmas miracle. Back to you, Steve.” Pin changed channels before resting her head on her husband’s chest again. Discarded wrapping paper littered the floor. Two cats played with the discarded ribbon and a fat rat chewed on his new set of wooden blocks that Pin had built into a little house. The duo laid out on the couch, sipping peppermint schnapps, the stuff Santa had sent in her present, together and basking in the warmth of a lit fireplace. Jack played on his phone, eyeing the new model kits that both Santa and Pin had gotten him. Tilde sat nearby, playing with the cats. She had wanted more toys for them and she had gotten some from old Jolly Saint Nick. Angie sipped hot coco along with her husband, Max. The news had been cheerful and uplifting for once and Max wasn’t quoting short woman crime statistics. Angie had gotten a new crock pot from Santa and a few cases of 700 nitro express from her husband. The man had been given a nice fluffy wool sweater covered in cow print from his cow wife and some new pants from Santa. Bob rolled his eyes as Wiktoria strummed loudly on the new guitar he had gotten her. He turned off the news on account of not being able to hear it anyways. In his hands, he held a ‘Your Bitch for a Day’ coupon. His mind raced with the possibilities. Along with that, he had gotten some good liquor from Santa. Wiktoria had thrown the coal she had gotten into the fireplace already. Kiara and Gordon lounged on the couch in matching red and green pajamas. Both had hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls. Gordon had a new Argentina jersey laying across his legs, courtesy of his Argentinian hound wife. Kiara had gotten a thick cookbook from Santa, and a new assortment of spats from her husband in all kinds of patterns and colors, including Argentina colors, “Merry Christmas,” Kiara whispered as she set her drink and food aside and cuddled up to her husband. “Merry Christmas,” Gordon replied. In his hand he held a positive pregnancy test that he set aside to hold the hellhound in a snug hug.
It was the end of October, the night of Halloween. The dark of evening was soon descending. The sounds of children going out trick-or-treating would soon fill the air along with house parties and delinquents pulling pranks. Candy, monsters, and terror would be in full force. Mamano loved Halloween. Whether they found it endearing that humans would dress up like them and still did or they found it a good excuse to dress up for fun, especially in the bedroom, most had a fun time with it– even the most cold-hearted of undead were enjoying themselves. It had even become such a big deal that most got the first of November off so people could stay up late. In a nice house on the west end of town, a little north of the river and that one weird store you always pass or see next to the pizza place you like, a few small machines were whirring on the floor of a living room. A gremlin stood over it with a tablet in her hands, the machine was automatically carving a face she had drawn into the pumpkin. Newspapers covered the floor to keep the carpet clean of pumpkin guts. The green haired gremlin’s ears twitched under her mauve witch hat as she smiled with delight, “Looks like it's working, just like I knew it would!” Pin was dressed up as a mauve-colored witch, the robes tightly fitting her small, plump body. The witch hat on her head had a wide brim and was almost comically too big for her. The automaton standing over her nodded, “Thankfully. You shipped the latest model with very little testing,” The automaton’s body was ivory white, her green eyes glowed, and she wore a black leotard with fake, black cat ears in her white hair, drawn on whiskers, and a black cat tail. “That’s because Jack was working on it, Tilde,” Pin smugly replied. She passed off the tablet to the robot, “Speaking of, where is my husband?” “Out to grab drinks for you and to grab his costume, remember?” The owner of the house, Gordon, reminded her. He was wearing a set of platemail with the helmet removed and a tabard in the colors of the argentina flag with the sun on the front, “Should be back soon.” “Right. You guys got that fruit punch, right?” The gremlin asked as she moved to the kitchen with the knight. “I think so. Kiara?” He called. The short hellhound standing on a stool turned. She had ‘spooky’ music playing from a phone nearby and was covered in loose wrappings like a mummy, “The juice?” She nodded, “In the garage fridge. Go get it, Gordon.” "Somethin’ smells good~” Pin sang as she climbed up on a chair nearby. A massive plastic tub had been set out for her. “Thanks! The horderves are coming’ along well. I’ll get some burgers and hotdogs going as soon as people start showing up!” The front door opened and closed as a man in a forest green cloak, an obviously fake and long, white beard, wig, and sunglasses walked in carrying four paper bags, “Got what you wanted,” He grunted, “You should have seen the looks the guy at the liquor store gave me. I thought he was gonna call the police.” At the same time, the knight returned loaded down with boxes of juice and soda, “A wizard again, Jack?” “Am I insulting your culture, old man?” He teased. “You know I’m not a wizard anymore,” Gordon frowned, “Kiara made sure of that.” “Pin never gave me the chance,” Jack snorted, “You her white knight?” “Stop fighting!” Kiara hollered from the kitchen, the flames in her dark eyes increasing as she glared around the corner, “Hubby, help me out over here.” “You too. Give me a hand, big guy,” Pin ordered as she opened a bottle of rum and poured it in the tub. Jack nodded and took his fake beard and wig off before cracking open the fruit punch and soda. "What time is everyone getting here?" Asked Gordon as he handed Jack another two-liter of soda. "Should be soon, it's quarter-til!" Kiara smiled widely, putting her finishing touches on the horderves, little 'halloweenies' her own take on pigs-in-a-blanket with spicy sausages made to look like ghosts with ketchup 'blood' on their lower halves. She finished poking eyes and slicing a mouth on the last one when the doorbell rang. “Oh!” Tilde leapt up from where she sat and grabbed the bowl of candy by the door. As she threw the door open, she expected ‘trick or treat’ but was faced with two awkward looking twenty-somethings. One was a rather tall man, while the other was a gargoyle about the same height as Tilde. Her athletic build was contrasted by the two enormous wing arms, whose large, clawed hands rested on her shoulders like a cape. The gargoyle, dressed like a classic vampire, cleared her throat, “Is Kiara here?” “Is that my girl I hear!?” The hellhound’s tail started wagging at mach speeds as she scurried to the door. Tilde stepped aside, allowing the two to enter as Kiara greeted them at the doorway, “Cathy!” Kiara hollered, almost leaping at her as she went in for a hug, “Look how big you are!” “I’ve been this big for four years, Kiara,” Cathy chuckled, “But it's good to see you. Is Gordon here?” “Of course I am,” He smiled as he stomped into the entryway, his armor clinking and clanking as he went, “I’d hug ya since it’s been a while since you went off to become a movie star, but I doubt I’d be good at it while wearing this shit." "Oh, I don't care, c'mere!" Cathy wrapped her arms around the knight with a smile. Gordon looked at her man beside them, "Hey, Owen. Keepin' her out of trouble?” He extended a gauntleted hand. “Evenin,’ Gordon, Kiara, as much as I can,” Owen shook Gordon's hand firmly but briefly. He was dressed as Frankenstein in a purple suit. He hadn’t shaved his bushy brown beard for the costume and his muscular arms were barely contained by the suit. It was apparent that Cathy had picked his outfit for him, “Nice place ya got here.” “Thank you, Owen. Come in, come in! Oh, that’s Tilde. She’s…” Kiara trailed off. “Fully autonomous, mana reactor powered, fully automatic daughter and weapons platform for companionship, protection, and emotional support. Tilde, automaton model eight,” The automaton bowed, “I am also a great dance partner.” “I… see,” Owen made a confused face before Cathy nudged him with her elbow. “Pin and Jack’s daughter,” Gordon added, “Well, kinda.” “Oh, they’re here already?” Cathy inquired as she removed her shoes and moved to the living room. She stood awestruck at the five machines automatically carving pumpkins. Owen nodded, “That’s where all those pumpkins out front came from. Doesn’t this kinda kill the point of it? Automatin’ it and all?” "Nonsense, just imagine how many kids'll be able to carve their perfect jack-o-lanterns!" Pin called from the kitchen. "Ya still gotta draw what ya want on it, so it isn't fully automated." Gordon explained. “And you can set them to randomize designs that you’ve entered into it, so you can still get slightly different pumpkins,” Jack explained further. "Pin!" Cathy cheered, heading further inside. Owen, Kiara and Gordon exchanged nods and followed the vampgoyle while Tilde went back to manning the candy bowl for any would-be trick-or-treaters. In the kitchen Jack and Pin were still mixing up the punch, Pin ladling up a sip every now and then before adding a little more alcohol, "Easy, Pin, there's a couple light-weights here." Jack warned with a smile. "I'm not that much of a light-weight!" Cathy protested. "I meant Gordon," Jack chuckled. "Yeah somehow the fattest guy in the room is the light-weight," Gordon grumbled, "It's like divine comedy." "Oh, quit your whining, not like you drink that much anyway," Kiara teased. Gordon nodded, "True. Just letting you know, Cathy, you get drunk and we'll never let you live it down." “I’ll keep that in mind. Good to see you, Pin,” Cathy gave the gremlin a wave, “And you’re Jack?” “Yes, ma’am. Gotta say, I’m a little star struck,” The robed man gave her a smile, “Is it true? About the last movie?” Cathy and Owen shot looks at one another, “Those first movies cost a helluva lot of money. Studio was over budget and as soon as they realized we might not get to make the third movie, the director vanished.” “That producer lady was probably borrowing money from a real life Junko family,” Cathy joked and nudged her husband with her elbow. “So what was gonna happen, anyways? I’m dying to know,” Jack inquired. “Only if you tell me what was going to happen with that abandoned book of yours, Jack,” Cathy challenged, making his face turn tomato red, “I was reading it between takes after Gordon here sent it to me when I was desperate for reading material. I can’t tell you how bored I was when that writer’s strike happened.” “Ah, Jesus,” Jack rubbed his face before moving to a cutting board, “Well, I assume you mean Stranger in a Strange Land, yeah?” He started slicing up citrus fruit and dumping it in the vat of alcohol. He glanced at Pin. “C’mon. Might as well empty your mind vault, big guy,” The gremlin encouraged as she opened the freezer and pulled out a bag of ice. Gordon nodded, “You and I can’t be the only two to know forever.” “Fine, fine,” Jack sighed, “Where did I stop? Tilde was fixed, the gang was looking for the big villain of the Black Hand group, right? They were headed to the dwarven keep. The keep was going to be overrun by those rat men, the gang would commandeer a steam tank or two and blast their way through. They’d meet up with one of Pin’s adoptive fathers, and activate a defense system using the box Pin was given by the sailor dwarf.” “So that box was important! I knew it!” Cathy pointed at Owen who rolled his eyes, clearly having heard many fan theories from the gargoyle. Gordon nodded, “I think after that it gets kinda fuzzy, right?” Jack shrugged and scooped up some jungle juice, making sure to get some lime slices in his cup, “Curtis maybe would have been able to call home through being on top of the mountain or whatever, had a heartfelt moment with his mom or what have you." "What happens to the dwarves?" Cathy asked. "They fight off the rat men with everyone's help, then they turn on the big plot device magic device. Curtis would then use it to find the key to the Maou’s prison. While the device is powering down, the bard would hop into the machine and find his mom using it. On the way to the keys location, they rescue her since shes being held as a slave in some high class human bar since she’s a musician. I think the reveal with her was that she had gotten a wish at some point and used it to wish to have a son." “And then?” Owen grunted as he got a drink for himself and his wife. He paused for a moment to eat one of the little hot dogs that Kiara prepared. “That’s really all I thought of,” Jack shrugged and hung his head, “Either the Black Hand was located under the human capital and they had to break in or something, or they had a compound they all broke into. A long running idea was Curtis would have to go alone and either shoot the villian in some kind of ‘oh, you’re no better’ ending, but I think Gordon told me to drop that crap. I can’t even recall what everyone would have asked for after they did save the Maou. Pin wanted money for her workshop, Joan wants to marry Eric, Rael gets healed, Rose gets her man, etcetera, etcetera,” Jack sighed and leaned against the counter, “Maybe would have cut when it came to Curtis to decide what he wanted. Sorry to disappoint you.” “No, I’m not disappointed,” Cathy smiled, “Thank you for sharing anyways. What are you and Gordon doing now, again? I haven’t had time to catch up.” Gordon’s eyes gleamed, “Just a little novel together.” “Oh yeah, having a pretty good time with it, to be honest,” Jack agreed, "Maybe we'll send you our first draft when it's finished, see what you think." "Oooh, now I can't wait!" The gargoyle cheered. "What about you? Gonna tell me how the last movie was supposed to go?" Jack asked the gargoyle. "Well, I did manage to speak to the screenwriter quite a bit about it, but it was always up in the air for how the director would… 'translate' it to his vision," She explained with a sigh, "Sometimes they'd disagree on things but ultimately the director would get his way. Did you know I was supposed to have a love interest in the first movie?" "You mean Alex Bones?" Pin wondered. "No, there was another one!" Jack snorted, "What? That's ridiculous!" "That's what the director said, 'Cathy shouldn't have a love interest! She should feel available for the lonely guy watching!' But eventually I managed to convince him to let Owen be my love interest. I didn't like the idea of being thought of as 'available,' not when I only just got married," Cathy smiled at her husband, "Had to talk him up quite a bit to allow it, but the other mamano put the pressure on and eventually it was allowed." Tilde grinned as wide as an automaton could, "Well that's great! How long have you been married?" "Oh, two or three years," The gargoyle smirked playfully. "Give or take," Owen added. "Well anyway, we had just finished shooting the scenes where Cathy defeated the nightgaunt when we ran out of money… I was supposed to have a big fight with Amber, or Amber's ghost, however you wanna look at it. Grandma Catherine would show up, help me one last time and get struck down by Amber for good!" "WHAT?! CATHERINE DIES?!" Jack hollered. "Not so loud!" Pin barked back. "Yeah, dude, spoilers!" Gordon jeered. "Sorry," Jack quickly quieted down. Cathy's smile widened as she thought of what was next. "So then that other wonderlander would have shown up to help me, oh, what was her name…?" "Fayette Alban Hopstead," Gordon answered, to Jack, Pin and Cathy's surprise. Kiara didn't seem the least bit shocked, "What? I liked the movies, too!" Cathy laughed, "Right, right. So, after I managed to kill Amber for good, the audience would have seen a bunch of flashbacks to her past with Jade and some other stuff, like I was reliving her life in a flash, in her final moments. I think I was supposed to have a conversation with her as well. The idea was that the nightgaunt and Amber's deal had backfired and I had actually absorbed Amber into my… consciousness or something like that." "That all sounds very… cerebral." Jack replied. "Yeah, the director seemed to have his cerebral all the way up his rectum," Gordon added before snorting at his own joke. "Ha, you have no idea," Cathy giggled, "Anyway, after that we got to Japan, the gang met up with Migi Junko and I was pitted to fight against other mamano in an underground wrestling deathmatch kinda deal. The idea was that Migi was going to prove that my genetics were superior, or some such nonsense by having me throttle the competition. It was kind of a crossover with that other movie the director did about wrestling." "Oh, Monster Mania?" Asked Gordon, this time no one was surprised. "Yeah, that's the one, I was fighting one of the main actresses for that one but we'd become friends, and the match ended in disaster when we refused to fight any longer. I was taken up to meet the true head of Junko where Migi was going to show off her other project. She was supposed to flaunt that weird portal machine she was working on. The story was gonna tie that loose end with the shoggoth baby being used as some kind of battery to power the thing, and when it opened it summoned… well, the mommy shog.” “Uh oh,” Was the unanimous response. “Yeah. So somehow I was supposed to banish it, or something with the machine would malfunction, or the entire Junko family was going to get sucked in, or all of the above. The director and the screenwriter couldn’t even decide on an ending before the movie got canned…” “Man… that would have been so cool,” Jack sighed, “I wish it could have happened. At least I know now.” “Horderves?” Kiara asked, changing subjects as she plated up the little hot dogs, “There’s soda in the fridge, grown up juice in that massive tub– Pin why couldn’t we drink beer or something normal?” “Beer is for chumps,” The gremlin grinned as she poured a mystery liquid from a rune covered flask into her cup of alcohol. Dwarvish hard liquor, Jack assumed, “And sports. Besides, this is a great party drink!” Kiara sighed as she started to plate up more snacks. A variety of chips were dumped into a few bowls, candy corn into another, and mixed candy into a massive one, “Well. The other guests should hopefully arrive soon. I’ll start hotdogs and burgers," Kiara said, pulling the patties out of the fridge first. "Here, let me help," Gordon offered, putting his gauntlets aside and taking the packages of meat off of the hellhound's hands. Kiara smiled and led him out to the backyard porch where the grill was, Owen deciding to follow after, leaving Cathy to mingle. The doorbell rang as soon as the grill had charcoal dumped in. Tilde grabbed the candy bowl again and hurried over. She opened the door and was face to face with a tall woman in a dark blue boiler suit and a hockey mask stained with fake blood, “Hi, Tilde,” The horned woman smiled behind the mask and spoke in a friendly voice. “Hello, Angie, please come in. Is your husband with you?” The cow-woman put her mask up on the top of her head and nodded. Her eight-foot tall stature forced her to duck down to come inside, being careful of her horns so they could clear the door frame, “Right behind me.” A much shorter man was quick to follow her in, being dragged along by the hand, “Hey,” He greeted, wearing a white jacket with a yellow scorpion on the back. “Hello, Max. You are welcome as well. May I ask what your costume is?” “Costume?” Max gave her a confused look. Tilde looked to Angie who shook her head, so the automaton decided not to press further. Pin was already on her second cup of jungle juice when she saw who had arrived. She nodded at Angie as the others exchanged greetings. As she saw Max, she poured an extra shot of her dwarven whisky into her juice, “Don’t start anything,” Jack whispered as she dumped a little into his cup. “Whaaaat? Me? Start anything with the self described sizeist?” The gremlin put on a fake smile before scowling, “He’s the one who makes allusions to pancakes as short stacks in my presence," She explained to Cathy who nodded, recognizing him from the few stories Pin had shared with her, "Why are you friends with this asshole?” The gremlin asked her man. Jack shrugged, “He’s based and his wife sends us free cheese wheels and butter,” Prompting Pin to shrug and nod in resignation. “Oh! Angie and Max are here!” Kiara practically sang as she spied her friends. She grabbed bags of buns and her husband grabbed condiments, “I forget, do you, uh, eat… beef? Is that weird?” Angie smiled as if she had heard this a million times, “I’ll take two burgers with extra cheese, please.” “Comin’ right up! Can you chop up some veggies, Jack? I think I know what everyone else wants,” The hellhound checked a paper in her pocket while Jack gave a thumbs up. The door opened again after a knock. A yeti covered in snow white fluff– more than usual at least, and a dark-skinned man dressed like a mountaineer with a big, fake orange beard both waved, “Looking a little out of season, you two,” Angie joked as she got herself a cup to drink. “I’m the adorable snow-woman from my favorite movie!” The yeti, Camellia explained. “She makes me watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in July…” The man sighed, “The Abominable Snowman and I’m Yukon Cornelius.” "Oh, I love that movie!" Cathy cheered, coming from the kitchen to meet new faces. “How are you not melting in that, Mark?” Gordon scoffed as he headed back to the backyard. “I could say the same to you, Gordon.” “Cooling runes, thanks to yours truly. In both cases,” Pin proudly explained, “Helps Camellia stay cool when she comes down from the mountains too. Is that bed heater working well?” “Almost too well,” Mark plopped down on the couch with his ever cuddly and fluffy wife. The yeti grinned, “It keeps us nice and toasty when we can’t use the heaters!” “Good!” The gremlin nodded, “Who else is comin,’ Gordon?” “Bob and Wik, I think,” The armored man rubbed his chin. “No Liana and Barth? I already knew Boom and Meiya couldn’t…” Kiara’s tail drooped and the flames in her eyes turned to smoke plumes of disappointment. Max shrugged, “Dude’s got three or four kids. I’m sure they’re going trick-or-treating as a family.” “I hope they swing by. Their children are fun to babysit,” Tilde smiled, “What about that… Spider, you three talk to? Is he coming?” Gordon, Jack, and Max all exchanged looks, “He’s uh,” Gordon scratched his head. “Too secretive,” Jack continued as he found the words. “I don’t think any of us know his name and he won’t confirm nor deny if he’s married,” Max finished with a shrug. “I hope he has a good holiday anyway,” Angie smiled with Kiara, Tilde, and Camellia nodding in agreement. The automaton hurried back to the door as she heard a knock. Finally, the trick-or-treaters were out. Mamano and human children were all going door to door in search of free candy. Kiara quickly finished up more than enough burgers and hotdogs for everyone. Most sat around their big dining table or at chairs at the kitchen counter. Everyone was also quickly introduced to Cathy and Owen as well. Shortly after, the final group of guests arrived with the smell of smoke. Crowding with the others into the kitchen was Wiktoria dressed in a pretty revealing nun outfit covered in crosses with a miniskirt and thigh highs alongside her husband, Bob, in a black trench coat, matching black cowboy hat, brown pants and an off white button up, “Hey, all,” Wiktoria smirked. “Late as always,” Kiara offered them plates, “Snacks on the counter and non alcoholic drinks in the fridge. Help yourself to some dinner.” “Thanks,” Bob smiled, “Sorry we’re a bit late. She wouldn’t let me leave on time.” “What’s the fun in arriving on time? Besides, I needed a few more cigs since hosts don’t like smoking,” Wiktora gave a sly grin as she got herself a cup of jungle juice. “Have you met Cathy?” Jack asked. Bob shook his head, “Cathy, huh? Wait… you’re the Cathy!?” “The one and only!” Cathy proudly flexed her wing arms, “Nice to meet ya.” “Likewise. Wik, don’t drink too much of that,” Bob pleaded when he noticed her getting a full plastic cup of jungle juice, “I’m sure Pin mixed it.” “Pssh, chill out,” Wiktoria gave him a grin as she took a sip. Gordon frowned at the tanned demon’s attire, “A nun? Well, I shouldn’t even call it that.” “Oh? You upset over it, Gordon? Afraid I’m gonna turn Bobby-boy into some kinda devil worshiper?” The demon’s piercings seemed to glow even hotter as she got smug. Mark, without smirking, retorted, “He already is. You’ve got him worshiping your ass nightly, I’m sure.” “Mark!” Camellia hollered at her husband. Wiktora’s smug smirk just got even more smug. “We just want you to go church more, dear,” Kiara explained softly, “Anywho, it's movie night, isn’t it?” “Oh, what are we watching?” Owen asked as the group grabbed another drink or snack before heading to the living room. “Can we watch War in the Pocket?” Pin quickly asked as she excitedly went for her bottomless bag. “Oh, god, not more Gundam,” Max groaned, “I deal with that enough online with you nerds,” Mark nodded in agreement. “Gundam?” Cathy echoed with a confused look on her face. Gordon shook his head, “Don’t worry about it, Cathy. It's more of a Christmas movie.” “Christmas movie!?” Camellia perked up instantly as she sat on the floor. Mark put a hand on her shoulder, “Not tonight.” “It’s a Christmas movie like Die Hard is a Christmas movie…” Jack explained, "It's also six episodes long, not really movie length. “Ghostbusters?” Bob asked. “Not much a Halloween movie, but I’d watch it,” Wiktoria agreed. Angie shook her head, “Pass.” “Alright…” Gordon rubbed his chin. It didn’t feel late enough to put on a straight horror movie. He looked to his wife as he tried to think of something else. “How about this?” Kiara pulled a movie off the shelf. Cathy. The first movie in the unfinished story, “We can watch what movies we have and the lead actress herself can regale us in how it was supposed to end.” Eyes turned to Cathy, hopeful and excited. She turned to Owen, “Only if ya guys want actor’s commentary,” The man jested, “Though I don’t have much for the first movie.” “I know Cathy has a lot to say,” Gordon replied, “Got that right when she came home!” “Any objections?” Kiara asked. None raised their voice, “That settles it,” Quickly, the movie started up as everyone settled in. The night had wound down. Most had gone home, but Cathy was falling asleep leaning on her husband. Max and Angie had to leave after the first movie, Mark and Camellia were next, and Bob and Wiktoria had managed to the end of the Cathy movies. With weary eyes, the two had left with Bob almost dragging his totally sloshed wife out of the home leaving Kiara, Gordon, Cathy, Owen, Tilde, Pin, and Jack to watch Gordon’s Halloween favorite: The Thing. Without work the next day, the group decided to put on one last movie, Young Frankenstein to wind down. Cathy looked around, Owen was mostly attentively watching the movie and drinking the last of the jungle juice. Pin was passed out on Jack’s lap with his cloak wrapped around her. Tilde was in low power mode next to them, resting her head on his shoulder. Kiara and Gordon were awake with the man finishing up the last of his wife’s cooking. Cathy stretched and yawned, “Sleepy?” The hellhound chuckled. “A little… I don’t know if we’re good to drive,” The gargoyle admitted. “Take the guest bed,” Gordon offered, “It's still the same as last time you stayed over.” “What about them?” Owen grumbled. Jack’s head rose and he yawned, “No worries. We’re good here.” Kiara passed them a blanket and pillow from a chest in the corner, “Go on then, off to bed.” “Thanks Kiara,” Cathy stretched again as she stood. “Any time. You’re family here, Cathy. I’ll make something wonderful that’ll get rid of the hangover in the morning,” Kiara promised. Owen nodded, “Gonna need that…” He grumbled. The two headed to bed after seeing Jack put his head on Tilde’s lap with Pin still laying atop him. Owen was quick to strip and get in bed, snoring almost instantly as the weariness of a long night overtook him. Cathy had a bit more time as she climbed under the sheets, her mind wandering slowly. She was happy to be home, especially since seeing her family friends. Gordon was a long time friend, even helping her land her lead role. Kiara, as long as she had been with Gordon, was like a second mom. Honestly, she was like a mom for everyone. The gargoyle sighed, thinking about the unfinished third movie. Even if she had taken the time to explain it, she did feel a little unfulfilled. At least it now meant she had time to focus on family and friends, both new and old. As she started to sleep, she began to daydream about playing a role in a movie based on a book that Gordon and Jack had written.
Commission for Anon! Thank you so much for commissioning me!
The roar of the waiting crowd made Garmra’s canine ears twitch. Anticipation made her heart pound. She sat in a dark room, only dimly lit by a lantern in the corner that cast an orange glow. The weapons racks, armor stands, benches and tables all cast long shadows across the walls. In the corner of the room, Garmra was putting a leather shirt over her light ashen skin. She next put a chain shirt over that leather. To contrast her black, natural hellhound fur that adorned her forearm, hands, ankles and feet, she draped a white wolf fur cape over herself. Garmra turned to a small, wall mounted mirror and picked up a little wooden bowl, being careful not to spill the light blue paint it held. She used a smoothed wooden stick and applied the paint to her face. Little blue dots under her eyebrows, lines down her cheeks, large streaks across her forehead in a V shape, and lastly a line from one cheek bone to the other across her nose. She took a deep breath as she looked at herself in the mirror. Was she showing enough skin? She wondered as she adjusted her shirt to reveal a little more of her cleavage. Her rear was covered up by the cape as was her anxiously wagging tail. “What a glorious showing!” The announcer hollered over the roaring crowd, “Let’s hear it for our victor, Lina!” The crowd of canine monster girls howled in unison and shook the building as they stomped their feet. Garmra panted as her heart pounded. It was almost painful as the pre battle anxiety continued to wrack her. Minutes were passing as the current fighters left the arena. She stood as the roaring of the crowd quieted down, the anticipation was killing her. The thirst for combat was too great to resist as she went to the weapons rack and picked up her demon silver axe. Her tail wagged faster, the fire in her eyes burned brightly, and the chainmail on her helmet clinked as she put it on. Garmra’s ears twitched as she started to stomp to the gate, eagerly waiting for it to be lowered for her. She put her hands on the bars, shaking them as she looked into the sand covered arena. No blood was splattered on it today, a good sign for the battles to come. Blood being spilt in their ‘for fun’ fighting arena was generally considered an ill omen. “IIIIIIIIIIIn this corner!” The white haired queen of the arena shouted, her tail furiously wagging with excitement, she waved one hand in the direction of her opponent as their gate slowly rose, “Hailing from the sandy lands of Egypt! Looking to prove herself to her new peers! Jomanaaaaaaa!” The crowd roared as a dark, tanned anubis in chainmail with light-weight golden plating and a gold helmet strutted out onto the sands, waving one hand at the crowd before drawing her black and gold painted demon silver khopesh. As a show to hype herself and the crowd up she slammed it against her tall shield adorned with scarabs. “AAAAAAAAAnd in this corrrrrner!” The queen shouted again, hardly audible over the rising excitement of the crowd, “A returning fighter, looking to show off to her future hubby!” A few giggles rose from the crowd, “Garmraaaaaaaa!” The queen hollered, the gate quickly lowering and letting the mad hellhound out into the arena. Howls rang out from her fans, boos from her nay sayers, and a general cheering excitement from the others. The arena was roughly 300 feet long and 160 wide, the size of a football field and was oval in shape. At one time this had been a football field but had been converted for the bloody games. The ground was covered in sand that was no more than an inch deep with a few stones scattered about. The walls were stone, leading up into the plush seats that the excited crowd sat in. Mainly dog girls, along with their men, and a few ‘honorary canines’ made up the crowd. In the middle of them all, high up the steps on a stone platform was where the queen of the arena, Sarah sat with her husband on a long, velvet couch. He looked tired, just like he always did around this time. The queen was keeping him attentive to the action at least while demanding he feed her grapes as two kobolds fanned them. Even if the new arena had some air conditioning, she loved the feeling of power and regality it gave her, like the Roman emperors they had so much fun aping. Garmra raised her axe above her head, howling along with her fans as she took her place, slamming the butt of her axe on the floor. The two fighters approached one another as the queen nodded approvingly, the crowd went pretty quiet as the two warriors stared one another down, sweat pouring down their bodies as they walked, looking to the queen of the arena as she looked the combatants up and down when they stopped next to one another. The queen wore a toga that was as snow white as her hair and tail, and it whipped in the wind of her servant's fans as she stood up on her platform still as a statue. She nodded with satisfaction after looking at her husband at her side, “Warriors! Fighters! Gladiator dogs!” She cried. The two fighters crossed blades, giving Garmra a moment to size up her opponent. The anubis was quite tall, her jackal ears giving her the extra height to match the hellhound’s. The friendly gesture ended before the two started hurrying back to their sides, putting about fifty or so feet between them. Both gripped their weapons, eager to begin as both dropped down into running forms. The queen held one hand in the air as the crowd stared at her. She glanced at the crowds and the fighters, letting their tensions and anticipation rise. Garmra and Jomana shuddered, sweat pouring down their muscles. The queen smirked and brought her arm down, horns blared and the crowd started to cheer as Garmra and Jomana rushed one another. The hellhound brought her two handed axe down and swung up as the anubis got close. Her big shield blocked it, spraying sparks as they collided, but made her stumble as she wasn’t prepared for the force behind it. The crowd was already starting to yell and holler. Garmra bellowed a war cry, following up with another horizontal swing, forcing Jomana to go under it. The anubis swiftly swung with her khopesh, striking the hellhound on the side. She grunted in pain as the crowd cheered, retaliating with a punch to Jomana’s stomach, winding her as she pulled back and panted, catching her breath. The crowd was howling at Garmra to finish off the anubis. She pressed her advantage, bringing her axe up, and slamming it down on the anubis’s shield. She made a grunt as the axe dented the shield, nearly breaking through it as she reared back for another swing. The anubis brought up her shield but wasn’t prepared for the hellhound to use the butt of her axe like a spear which she drove into the tanned woman’s bosom. Swiftly, she tried to recover, but the hellhound was still on the offensive, dropping her axe and rushing in. Jomana swung her khopesh, getting Garmra in the arm then attempted to bash with her shield. The hellhound shoved the shield aside and grabbed the jackal in a bear hug and lifted her into the air with a grunt as the anubis flailed her shield and sword against the hellhound’s armor. The crowd went wild as Garmra brought the anubis down, slamming her on her back. What little air she had was expelled from her lungs as the sword and shield fell from her hands. Garmra huffed as the crowd howled, screamed, and cheered while the hellhound went for the axe she had dropped. She jabbed the butt of it into the anubis’s chest as she painfully tried to get back up. The hellhound looked to the queen of the arena. A little smile spread across the white haired canine woman’s lips before she held out her hand, a thumb pointed to the side as the crowd quieted down, waiting for the queen to pass judgment. Everyone knew the outcome, but it was tradition at this point. She smiled and raised her thumb up, sparing the defeated combatant. Garmra removed her axe and pulled Jomana to her feet, “You alright?” The hellhound asked as she brushed the sand off the anubis’s helmet. “You didn’t have to punch me so hard,” She chuckled, finally catching her breath. “Sorry, I got a little too into it,” She laughed back as the two shook hands then went into a friendly hug to show there were no hard feelings between them. Jomana grabbed Garmra’s wrist and held the victor’s hand into the air, “GARMRA! GARMRA! GARMRA!” The crowd chanted the hellhound’s name, her tail was wagging at dangerous speeds now. She lived for the glory and honor of it. “Dedicating this win to anyone?” Jomana wondered as the two picked up their gear. “My boyfriend, of course!” She grinned, looking off into the crowd where she had been sitting less than half an hour before. A young man sat alone, a seat open next to him. He smiled at her, his elbows resting on the guard rail of the stands. Garmra kissed her palm and blew it at him, making him jokingly catch it and hold it to his heart, swooning for her in a silly, overblown fashion. “Let’s hear it for our combatants!” The queen hollered over the noise of the crowd. The gladiator dogs in the crowd howled and stomped their feet as the warriors on the field waved to the crowd before the two of them walked out of the arena, “That’s it for tonight! Thanks for coming out, everyone!” The queen shouted and got claps and cheers in response, “Come back next week for our special event! Simulated naval combat where we will fill this arena with water!” Garmra felt nothing but dread as she reached the changing room with Jomana, “You okay?” The anubis asked as she started to doff her armor. “Hm? Yeah, yeah,” The visions of boats, hollering warriors, and combat with unsteady footing entered her mind. But beneath that… the churning, black water, roiling under the overhead storm. Waves crashed against the boats, nearly capsizing them as the combatants struggled to maintain their footing. The wind howled, and the rain poured as a warrior got hit with a blunt weapon, sending him careening into the dark waters, flailing for his life before– “Garmra?” A voice said her name, a soothing and kind voice full of concern, “You’ve been staring at the wall for five minutes. Daydreaming again?” The hellhound spun around in surprise, “Oh, Kelvin,” She sighed, “Yeah, just thinking.” Kelvin ran his fingers through his long blonde hair, “You are always overthinking things,” He chuckled, “What is it this time? Come on, let’s get this armor off while you talk.” The hellhound started undoing the straps of her armor as her boyfriend started to wipe her down with a rough, wet cloth, “I’m thinking about that boat battle that the queen wants to do.” “I see,” Kelvin sighed, “That bruise looks pretty gnarly…” “It’ll be fine, I’m fine,” Garmra huffed, trying to sound tough. With the slightest bit of pressure on it, she started to whimper quietly. “You don’t need to act tough with me,” Kelvin whispered. Even if they were the only two in the dim locker room, he knew how precious her image was in the face of her peers. The hellhound growled and grabbed him in a big bear hug as he tried to wipe the paint off her face, “I am tough!” She bellowed as she started to rough house with him, flipping him around so she could put him in a headlock. “Okay! Okay, you are!” He laughed as she put him down. She quickly put on a pair of gym shorts and a tight fitting shirt, still revealing her well toned stomach. She looked her boyfriend up and down before ruffling his long, blonde hair. Kelvin pushed her hand off and picked up her bag, “C’mon,” He led her out of the locker room where a group was waiting. “Garmra!” The first, a lanky, black furred werewolf greeted, “You did great, girl!” “Yeah!” The second was an unusually strong looking kitsune with orange hair and white tails, “It was amazing!” “We’re gonna destroy them in the naval battles!” The last, a stout kobold hollered. “Yes, my mother is going to be sponsoring us. All we have to do is put her company’s brand on the side,” The kitsune proudly explained. “Yup!” The werewolf excitedly nodded, “I’ve been practicing my doggy paddle and everything. What about you, Garmra? Are you prepared?” “I… yeah…” The hellhound’s mind was still fixated on the visions of deep, black ocean and the raging storm. “Garmra?” The kobold whimpered. “I think she’s just tired out,” Kelvin explained as he shook her, “I need to get her home.” “Right, well, we should practice soon, Garmra,” The kitsune said with a smile, “Have a wonderful night, you two.” “Garmra,” Kelvin tapped the steering wheel of his little car as the hellhound sat staring out the window in the passenger seat. The foggy, cold night was devoid of cars and horse drawn carriages. No pedestrians were out and walking the streets, leaving the couple alone in their own thoughts. Garmra was watching the street lights go by, the yellow glow blinding her as they passed each pole, “Garmra…” Kelvin repeated with a frown on his face, “Hey, come on. What’s wrong?” He reached over, past the middle arm rest and gently shook the hellhound. She shook herself and looked over at her boyfriend, “Huh? What is it?” “You’ve been unresponsive since your fight. What happened?” “I’m fine. I’m telling you I’m fine,” The hellhound grumbled. Kelvin grumbled in Danish to himself, the language of their home country, “I have known you since birth. You can’t lie to me about this, Garmra!” He cried, turning and frowning as he stopped at a red light, “You were fine right after the fight, then in the locker room you were spacing out. Even in front of your team you were acting weird.” The hellhound folded her arms and sat back in her seat, “I… I’m thinking about that naval combat the queen was talking about.” “The Gladiator Dogs don’t do that very often,” Kelvin muttered. He rubbed his chin and looked over to see Garmra sweating and shaking. The fire in her eyes had nearly gone completely out, “You’re thinking about the water.” “Well…” “Garmra, I know how you feel about water.” “I-its just water. There’s n-nothing wrong with it. Nothing to w-worry about,” Her lower lip was trembling and she was whining quietly like a scared dog. Kelvin shook his head, “Come on. I’ve known you forever. I know you’re afraid of the–” “I AM NOT AFRAID!” She shouted, slamming a hand on the dashboard in front of her, “I’m not afraid of anything! I fear nothing in this world! Nothing from the old world!” She panted and sweat, staring out the window of the truck as it barreled down the lonely country road. They had left behind the overhead street lights, sidewalks and businesses. Kelvin put his hand on the hellhound’s wrist, running his fingers gently through the fur as he waited for her to calm down, “It’s that overactive imagination again, isn’t it?” “It’s not just my imagination. Those visions of the vikings on the sea, chanting and rowing as they went are real visions from my ancestors!” She insisted, “That feeling I get when I look down into the deep, black sea and when I feel the howling wind on my skin, and smell the salt from the waves spraying me as they crash against the side of my boat… it’s too vivid not to be real.” She took a turn putting her hand on his wrist and gently running her claws over the pale skin, “I know your dad has Norse ancestry, but your mom is from the old world. Same as my parents,” Kelvin said as he slowly took a sharp turn, “Maybe it is that latent mamano magic that lets you feel your ancestors, but I don’t know. If you’re afraid–” “It is not fear,” She corrected him quickly, “I’m just… anxious.” “Anxious? The great and powerful Garmra is anxious about water but not afraid of it?” “Shut up!” She groaned and folded her arms, “I just don’t like getting wet. I smoke and I stink when I get drenched in the rain. I’m anxious that you’ll think I’m gross,” She quickly redirected, “I’m not afraid nor anxious of stupid water, I just hate it, dummy.” “Uh huh,” He gave her an incredulous look as he blew raspberries, “Whatever you say. We’re almost to your place,” He announced as he took another corner, “You’ve got class tomorrow, right?” “Well, yeah, it’s Monday tomorrow,” She groaned, but was very glad to be off the topic of water. Kelvin smirked, “Yeah I’ll be there too. Class and swim team practice.” “Ugh, you know how much I hate you being on the swim team,” She huffed as Kelvin turned down a gravel road, “You could AT LEAST be on water polo and play for glory, but now you’re just trying to go fast? I don’t see the sport in it at all.” “Do you know how big the mamano on the polo team are?!” Kelvin cried, “I’d get slaughtered! Human girls and smaller mamano get their own league, but men and big girls are in the same league! They’re so much stronger than us. You’d be good at it.” She froze, a chill running down her spine as she even imagined stepping down into the pool, “I, uh, I don’t think so. I don’t know. I’m not doing that.” “It was a joke, Garmra,” Kelvin sighed, “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” “Text me when you get home,” Garmra leaned over, hugging her boyfriend with one arm and ruffling his hair with the other, “Good night.” “Yeah, night,” He gave her a thumbs up as she climbed out of the car and closed it, staring in through the window at her boyfriend as he shifted into drive. He gave another wave and a smile before slowly driving off, leaving Garmra alone in the cool evening air. She shoved her hands in her pockets and looked up at the stars then down at her parent’s farm house. She missed the frigid snows of home, only getting really cold air three of four months out of the year. She shook her head as she stared at the porch light that was always left on for her when she went out with Kelvin like this. She kicked a rock in the gravel as she went, wishing she could drive herself and not have to rely on her parents or childhood friend. She pushed the thoughts from her mind and went inside, ready to rest her weary body, turning off the porch light as she went. Garmra trudged down the busy halls of community college. The night had been sleepless, the nightmares had continued to wrack her in her sleep. Along with that, she had tossed and turned all night thinking about the potential of her boyfriend and childhood friend drowning. What if he fell off a boat? What if he was under the water for too long? The hellhound found herself shaking and sweating as she thought about it, struggling to keep her mouth closed as her body heated up to an uncomfortable level. She didn’t like to pant in public and the sweating hardly helped. Her flaming eyes had turned to smoke, and her body shuddered. The hellhound looked around as most students entered their classrooms, leaving her nearly alone in the long, off white hallway. She sighed, she was done with classes and desperately wanted to see her boyfriend and she needed to be sure he hadn’t drowned himself. It was a short jaunt to the college’s gym– especially for Garmra with her long, athletic legs. The claws on the end of her paw-like feet clacked against the tiled floor as she walked through the halls. The visions kept playing in her head. Stormy oceans, rocking boats, the cries of combat. She managed to distract herself before the visions of falling into the water would wrack her. She could stop the shuddering for a time, but if she kept thinking about it, she was going to start ruining her clothes with sweat. She started to jog. She needed to see Kelvin soon. Garmra walked through the gym after scanning her student ID card, past the workout machines, weight racks, and numerous cardio machines that she was intimately familiar with. The further she went, the less she knew what she was getting into. A gym where a few students played basketball, and an open room where a handful of students participated in yoga led by a tall ogre who contorted her body in strange ways. As she turned a corner by a wall ball court, the scent of chlorine assaulted her senses. She nearly gagged as her nostrils flared and her eyes water. She was tempted to turn around, to leave the building and get some fresh air away from the stench of chemicals, but the splashing she heard in her ears… it sounded frantic and desperate. All she had to do was step through the double doors at the end of the hall and she would be at the pool, and that’s where Kelvin was. Against her better judgment, Garmra started to slowly walk down the hallway, the dread and anxiety she felt was akin to that of an inmate on death row marching toward their death. Or, in a more modern sense, on their way to have their mind ‘changed’ by a mindflayer. Or a human woman who was to be forcibly monsterized. At least it's what the young woman imagined either of those felt like. An inevitable end of who you are. Death– or some kind of ego death. Was she being too dramatic? Probably. She pushed the double door open as she realized how silly she was being. The scent of chlorine made her feel sick, but she managed to walk into the room and look around. All leagues of the swim team were present. Young men, monsters and even human women did laps or sat at the edge of the pool, watching others. It was an olympic sized pool, long with ropes separating each lane. As the last of the swimmers stopped, a few girls from the aquatic mamano team, everyone politely clapped, then started to get out of the pool. The captain of the swim team, a lithe nereid in a one piece swimsuit cleared her throat, “That’s enough for today everyone! Go shower up and head home.” Garmra scanned the area, looking for Kelvin which was surprisingly difficult. Numerous men in little more than shorts and maybe a swim cap were all around. Almost every one of them was getting chatted up by a monster girl. The hellhound scowled, even forgetting about the terrifying blue pool for a moment as she looked more, still refusing to stray from the double doors. “Isn’t that your girlfriend?” Someone asked, hardly audible over the others. “Huh?” After removing his goggles and swim cap, Garmra could easily recognize him. Her tail started to wag as relief washed over her, “Yeah, that is her. I’ll catch up with you later,” Kelvin walked around the pool to her, “What are you doing here?” “I, uh, was just thinking about you. And I wanted to see you,” She quickly explained in an entirely unconvincing fashion. She did like seeing him shirtless, gazing upon his muscular, shirtless form was some wonderful eye candy to her. Kelvin put his hands on his hips and gave an incredulous look, “I see,” The two moved to a bench across from the pool as most people left, “I’m surprised you actually came in here.” “Why’s that? I can walk into a room…” She glanced at the deep pool and started to sweat again, “Even if there’s a big, blue, deep… long… wet, pool,” Her voice cracked and she gripped Kelvin’s arm. The man leaned towards his hellhound girlfriend before gently putting a hand on her arm, “Garmra. You can tell me if you’re worried about something. What’s on your mind.” “I… I… You can swim well, right?” “Yeah, I’m not the best in my league but I’m good at it,” He chuckled. “C-could you… teach me?” She whimpered. “Teach you to swim?” Her hand covered his mouth, “Not so loud!” She hissed as a few swimmers walked by, not paying the two any mind, “I don’t want people to know I can’t.” “Okay, okay,” Kelvin chuckled at his girlfriend, “Are you sc– nervous?” “Yes! I am!” She growled, her face turning dark red. “I’ll keep you safe,” He assured her, taking her hand gently, “Hey! Captain!” He called out to the nereid who walked over to the pair, “No one has the pool reserved after us, right?” She shook her head, “Nope. Are you two gonna do some swimming together?” “Garmra here needs some practice,” He explained, “It’ll be better if it's just the two of us. She’s a little nervous.” “I’ll lock it behind us and put a note that it's reserved for the rest of the evening,” The captain grinned, “Remember, no skinny dipping!” She joked as the last of the swimmers got ready to leave. “Hey, Paula, can Garmra borrow an extra swimsuit?” A big oni looked over, looking the hellhound up and down, “Yeah, sure,” She tossed them a key, “Locker 231. I’ll get the key back from ya in chemistry tomorrow, Kelvin. Take the silver one. Just wash the suit before ya return it.” “Thanks!” He handed the key over to Garmra, “Go get changed and rinse off. I’ll take care of you when you’re ready.” Garmra swallowed nervously, “Okay…” She got up and went to the locker room alone, trembling nervously as she walked by the pool. After a short while, Garmra reappeared from the locker room dressed in a silver one piece swimsuit. It was a little loose, but would cover her body. Kelvin was in the shallow end near her, gesturing for her to come in, “It’s warm, come on!” “O-okay…” The hellhound stood at the ladder to get into the pool. Her boyfriend stood in the shallows, hand out to take hers. She reached down, firmly grasping the man’s hand. He could tell she was trembling as her claws started to dig into his hand. The fear was obvious on her face. Her eyes were dilated and there was no fire or smoke in her eyes. Her tail was tucked between her legs. The two stood there, hand in hand for what felt like hours– especially for Garmra. “Garmra?” Kelvin squeezed her hand, despite the crushing of his hand, he was more focused on her, giving her a little tug to join him. She let go, scrambling to the wall, “I, uh, I ate recently. My stomach is gonna hurt.” Kelvin started getting out of the pool, “Garmra–” “I’m gonna stink like a wet dog if I get in!” She shouted. He approached her, “Come on–” “I’m going to drown if I get in!” She wailed, falling to her knees, “Just like my ancestors!” Kelvin knelt down gently running his fingers through her hair, “Garmra. This isn’t the ocean. It’s four feet deep.” “But… can I even learn to swim?” She whimpered. “You know I teach people how to swim, right? Like, as my job?” The hellhound’s ears flattened against her head, “Well… yeah, but I’m not a kid.” “I taught a teen aged oni just a few days ago. I’ll lead you in, this will be a lot less awkward than that situation,” He joked, “I won’t let you drown. You trust me, don’t you?” “Well, yeah, but…” “Garmra,” His voice got stern as he changed tactics, “I will call Sarah right now and have you barred from fighting this week. I’m not letting you drown there in front of everyone. Get in the pool,” The hellhound whimpered as she was pulled to her feet, “If not for your team, for me.” Garmra swallowed nervously. Her mouth was dry and her heart was racing. She looked past her boyfriend at the water then back at him, “Okay. I-I’ll do it.” “Good. I’m gonna get in, then you get in after me, alright?” “Y-yeah.” The hellhound watched her boyfriend jump into the pool then hold his arms out for her. She found herself frozen with fear once more. She squeezed her eyes tight and began slowly walking toward the pool. Just looking at the water would be enough to throw her into a panic. But was not looking at it any better? She was nearly hyperventilating, but she was carefully and slowly approaching, “Garmra?” “I–” She fell face first into the pool, quickly being covered in warm water as she started to thrash, panicking as she desperately tried to get above water. A pair of arms grabbed her around the stomach and lifted her up, “Garmra! Stop flailing!” “Huh?” The drenched hound wiped her face. She was in the pool. Gently, she was put down so her feet were on the bottom of the pool, “I’m… I’m in the water!” "Yeah, you are!" Kelvin cheered for her and gave her a tight hug. The hellhound squeezed him, “Now what!?” “Here, let’s have you try floating in the water. Once you learn to do that everything else will be easy." “O-okay,” The hellhound looked down at the water, seeing her feet distorted in the semi-reflective liquid. She put up no fight as Kelvin gently gripped her larger form, easing her back into the water. He could feel her pulse rising as she squeezed her eyes shut again, “Just stay still,” He ordered as he helped her lay flat on the water, “You won’t go under if you relax. Don’t tense up.” Despite her trembling, the hellhound did as she was told, nodding silently even as she felt the water around her neck and torso. She whimpered, gripping her boyfriend’s upper arm as she tried to relax, “Am I doing it right?” “Put your limbs out like a star,” He ordered, both hands on her back to keep her afloat. He wondered for a moment how buoyant her muscles were before gently letting her go. She floated on the water, still squeezing her eyes shut, “You’re doing good! Keep like that for a bit!” He reached over and scratched her belly, making her tail slowly wag as she felt a wave of happiness. Garmra's ears were full of water and the small waves were crashing against her face. Even with her mind wandering, the overimagination was giving her visions of a calm, sunny ocean. She was floating on a pool ring, bathing in the sunshine in a two piece swimsuit. To the left was more ocean and to the right was a sandy beach where Kelvin sat on a lawn chair with a sun umbrella over him. She felt nothing but bliss, “Kelvin?” “Hm? What's up?” He helped her stand up in the pool. She lurched forward and hugged him around the neck, “I love you.” “I– I love you too,” He replied, unable to fight back as the hellhound grabbed his face and brought it to hers, kissing him passionately on the lips for a long moment. The hellhound’s eye flames had returned, “What’s next?” “The– the doggy paddle,” Kelvin took a moment, shaking the shock from him, “Uh, after that we can try freestyle.” “Alright! Come on, help me do it!” He nodded, “I’ll show you first. You won’t swim like Michael Phelps in a week, but you’ll survive your fight!” “Row, dammit!” The kobold shouted at the crew. The crowd howled as the viking boat rocked and slowly made its way toward the roman styled ship at the opposite side of the arena. The water was eight feet deep and Garmra, the kitsune, the werewolf, and the kobold all rowed their boat straight at them, their fox shaped ram on the bow of the ship aimed right at their opponents. The roman hounds all panicked as the ‘Fox-Mart’ branded long boat rushed toward them. The logo was on the sail that was only raised for looks, on the side of the boat and on all the shields strapped to the sides. It must have been somehow worth it to her kitsune team member’s mother to buy them this vessel and Garmra just hoped she would make her money back from all this, “How are you feeling, Garmra?” The kitsune asked as she adjusted her ‘Fox-Mart’ branded samurai armor. “I feel good!” The hellhound laughed, as she helped with a powerful row. Her tail wagged and flames billowed from her eyes as the thrill of combat neared. “I can’t believe you never told us you couldn’t swim!” The werewolf huffed, her tabard was also sponsored by the kitsune’s mother’s store. Underneath that, her light chainmail clinked. The kobold shook her head, wearing her own gambeson with a hood with her canine ears sticking out, “Good think your boyfriend is part fish, huh?” “What? His mom is a manticore, not a mermaid or sea bishop,” Garmra gave her an incredulous look and tilted her head. “I was– never mind,” The kobold sighed, “We’re getting close.” “Incoming!” The kitsune shouted as she dove to the floor, a volley of spears struck the deck of their longship, narrowly missing the kobold who turned pale, glad she wasn’t skewered. “Row faster!” The werewolf barked. The crowd kept yelling and shouting, their excitement increasing exponentially as the boats got closer and closer. The roman vessel was trying to avoid them now, struggling to get their ship to move quickly enough. “Oh, these morons,” The kobold laughed as the enemy exposed the side of their boat, “Brace yourselves!” “Get ready to board!” The hellhound shouted. As the boat splintered and groaned, the crowd went nuts. Howling, cheering, stomping, screaming, and clapping all rang out in a deafening uproar. Garmra was on the enemy ship before they could recover. It was her four against their six, but after she cut one down in a single swing of her axe, a smaller kobold, they were down to five. The demon silver put the kobold down as her energy swiftly left her body. Garmra’s allies boarded too, each one engaging in single combat on the rocking ship. Garma went toe to toe with two combatants, a werewolf and a smaller shiba inu looking dog girl. They came at her with demon silver gladiuses and shields. Garmra smirked, she liked a challenge. She kept her footing as the boat lurched again as it collided with the arena wall by digging her claws into the deck of the roman boat. The werewolf stumbled, getting an axe blade to her side and falling to the boat floor. The smaller dog woman yelped loudly as she fell overboard into the water, splashing as she went under. The woman was obviously weighed down too much by her armor from the desperate flailing she was doing. Garmra took her helmet off and dropped her axe before cannon balling in after her. The hellhound felt the weightlessness of being underwater for a short time as she recalled Kelvin’s instructions. Due to her armor, she sank like a rock as expected. She exhaled slowly as she began to take long strides across the sandy arena floor. With one of her strong arms, she grabbed the kobold who had just gone under before bending her knees, jumping up and launching herself to the surface of the water where she dug her claws into the side of the roman boat, making it lurch to that side as she kicked her legs to help her stay afloat. Her kitsune ally dropped a rope over the side and fastened it before Garmra carefully climbed out of the water, the coughing dog girl slumped over her shoulder. She dumped the woman on the ground after they reached the deck, totally sopping wet, who started to cough and sputter as the crowd cheered. Garmra’s kobold team mate was laying on the ground, defeated, but the kitsune and werewolf hadn’t taken much damage. One of their enemies was climbing out of the water in shame, having lost. Garmra and her allies raised their hands in the air in victory. The hellhound looked to the crowd to her usual spot. Kelvin was sitting there with a big smile on his face. He made a heart with his hands and winked. Garmra blushed and smiled back. She was looking forward to going to his place tonight for ice cream. If she was feeling adventurous, maybe some cuddles too. It was probably a bit of a stretch to expect it, but a girl could dream, couldn’t she?
Everything I write about people’s waifus instantly becomes cannon. You cannot stop me.
A little something I wrote for IfTheArtistConsents for fun.
“You want me to be your plus one?” Gordon asked as he suppressed a groan into his phone. “Well yeah,” His friend Jack answered with a grunt, “Who else am I going to ask?” “Maybe your wife?” “She’s already going! Besides, you need to get out more.” Gordon’s face contorted into a grimace as he gripped his chubby stomach, “Yeah, I know.” “And you need to find a wife to get those lolibabas off your back!” Gordon would have grimaced more if he could, countless high pitched “ay papis”s ran through his head, “What makes you think I’m gonna find one at a barbeque?” “I dunno, but I’ve got a good feeling about this!” Jack assured him, “And some of these ladies can cook. The foods free, anyways so no harm in it, right?” “...Right. I’ll go.” “Great! I’ll pick you up at eleven.” “You want me to cook?” Kiara asked. Her older, taller sister nodded with a wagging tail and brightly burning eyes, “Yes! You’re the best cook I know! Please, little sis? Please!?” The younger hellhound stood up and adjusted her Argentina football (The European football, not handegg.) jersey. Her older sister was wearing the same, “You land a new job and all the sudden you have to bring food?” “Well I offered before thinking about it. Plus I can bring a plus one so I wanted to bring you anyways and I forgot I’m not a really good cook... Please, I’ll be in your debt! Those ribs you make are to die for!” Kiara sighed but nodded and relented. She was husbandless and any reason to leave the home was probably a good reason, “Fine. But you’re paying for everything!” Gordon idly tapped his fingers on the picnic table he sat at with six others. His friend Jack and his gremlin wife, a friend of Jack’s who had a yeti wife who looked much too hot, and a succubi with facial piercings who was smoking with her husband who she kept blowing smoke at. No one was sure if he was enjoying it or not but he said nothing. Most everyone at the little get together was from either Grem Tech or MonOptics. The former was the massive gremlin run tech conglomerate and the latter was the much smaller cyclops made precision weapon company. There had been an acquisition of MonOptics by Grem Tech and MonOptics had decided to throw this little lunch gathering with Grem Tech’s local branch which happened to be one of the biggest. Even the local owner, Jack’s wife, wasn’t really into it and had taken to tinkering with something rather than socializing. Off to the side, a handful of cooks were preparing food. A cyclops had a massive automated grill flipping burgers, a gremlin was making corn on the cob and salad, as well as a few other big machines to easily make massive quantities of food. A little closer to where Gordon and Jack were sitting was a group of three hellhounds with the shortest of the three grilling up some ribs. The two taller hounds wandered off leaving the shortest alone with the grill. Gordon stared at her, she was one of the thickest and shortest hellhounds he had ever seen. He couldn’t help it as he watched her idly attend to the meat she cooked. Gordon wasn’t sure if he wanted her or the meat more. “You gonna go talk to her?” The gremlin at the table teased. “She looks like she’s your type~” The yeti concurred. Gordon shifted uncomfortably, “Should I?” “Yeah, she’s right about that hound being your type. She’s got nothing on under those spats,” Jack smirked, “Just go talk to her. I know you want those ribs too.” Gordon swallowed nervously, feeling how dry his mouth was, “Fine,” The man stood and made his way to the lonely hellhound. Most other lunch goers were busy with the impressive machines that were automating food prep. As soon as Kiara noticed the man actually approaching her, her tail started to wag. That guy had been staring, not that she minded, she thought glasses were cute, “Hey there,” She gave a little wave with her furry hand. “H-hey,” The man gave a weak smile, “What’s uh, your name?” “Kiara. Yours?” “Gordon.” “I like your glasses,” Kiara smiled. Gordon started to sweat and desperately looked for something to comment on, “I like your, uh, bike shorts.” “Really? Aren’t they great? So breathable and skin tight! Super easy to wear!” She turned around, showing her plump rear to the man. Gordon began to sweat even more. His heart was pounding, knees weak, palms sweaty, ready to drop his pocket spaghetti,“So uh, I kinda expected a hellhound to bring fried chicken,” Gordon snickered at the hellhound as he glanced down hungrily at the ribs she was making. “Why’s that?” Kiara wondered. “Y’know, uh, fifteen but also half?” His little joke got nothing but a blank look, “I’m making a joke about you being black,” He weakly explained. “Black? Gordon,” She gestured to her shirt proudly. “What?” Now it was his turn to be confused. She smiled, “I’m Argentinian.” “What does that have to do with anything? How can you be Argentinian if the portal event was only three years ago?” Kiara scoffed, chuckled, shook her head, and gave Gordon an incredulous look, “First of all, Argentina is white. And for your second question, being from Argentina even if I’m from the Old World, well that’s not something a human would really get, I guess. Who knows, I might even be related to that Adolf guy that the cheshires keep telling me about!” “Uh. I guess it's possible,” Gordon looked back down at the meat, “Do you think it's almost done?” “Yeah, I think so. Do you want some?” Her tail wagged due to someone being so interested in her cooking, the first of the day! “Of course I do. I-I hope I didn’t offend you or anything,” He nervously chuckled at the short hellhound. “Of course not! Anyone who eats my cooking is a friend of mine. I just gotta leave some for my sisters,” She smiled at the man and winked. Soon Gordon was plated up with a massive stack of BBQ ribs. He was salivating as the proud chef– who was also salivating– watched eagerly for him to eat it. Slowly, Gordon tucked a napkin into the collar of his shirt before picking up a piece of the ribs in his bare hands. He licked his lips before digging into the masterfully cooked cut of meat. He took bite after bite of the BBQ sauce covered meat and chewed each one in total bliss. Kiara’s tail was wagging at mach speeds. She was hungry for meat of a different kind as Gordon chowed down, the most ravenously the hellhound had ever seen anyone eat her cooking. As the flames in her eyes turned the brightest they ever had, she turned to her two sisters, “I need that man,” Her voice was shuddering. Her two sisters held her back as the hellhound lurched forward, “No! Kiara! Not in front of my coworkers!” Kiara fought against her bigger sisters who struggled to hold her back due to her low center of mass, “LET ME GO!” She screamed, her flaming eyes fixed on Gordon. Jack looked at her as the rest of the table glanced and went back to her food. His gaze slid over to Gordon, “I think she likes you!” Gordon looked at her, his mouth covered in delicious BBQ sauce and mouth full of wonderful meat, “If she’s gonna cook like that for me, she can do whatever she wants to me,” He decided as he stood up, arms out for the hellhound who wrenched her arms from her sisters and ran, diving over the table and tackling the man, licking the sauce off his face and passionately kissing him as he ruffled her hair, in total bliss. No one at the event bat an eye at this as at least six other forever marriages were created in just a few hours. . . . “Honey! It's 3 PM, time for your spats session!” Kiara called as she lay out on the office floor, rear proudly in the air, and her tail wagging violently. “Yes, dear,” Gordon replied diligently as he stood from his latest drawing where he made a race mixing joke and called a hellhound black just to upset people. Cheshires seethed and anons divorced their wives at the mere sight of his shit posting prowess. This is what gave him that power. His hands were laid upon the smug hellhound’s rear, feeling the smooth, slick spats and plump buns. It was heavenly. He would have nodded, but his neck was in a brace due to Kiara using his neck as a stripper pole the other night after Argentina won the big game. Years ago he thought how strange it was just how many hellhounds played on that team. Nowadays it was more entertaining to see the feud between the Argentinian hellhounds and the Egyptian ones. “How is it? I’ve been doing squats!” Kiara boasted as the man pulled away, she stood to her feet and hugged him, “I’m loving this new house, Gordon.” “I’m glad to hear that,” He felt a bit of relief, “Especially since you blew the back wall off the last one with that level three super.” Kiara swooned as her flames burned bright, “Oh, and the mailman roleplay that burned down the one before last? I could do that again.” “Come on, give me a little break,” Gordon groaned, his entire body felt sore just thinking about a rough night with his wife. Kiara grinned, “Doesn’t your cast come off soon? I’ve been practicing my secret technique!” She climbed up on a sturdy desk, “Surra de Hounda!” She cried, throwing her ass out, “Guaranteed to blow your mind!” “And break my bones, huh?” He held out his arms, letting the hellhound jump into them. She was a little hefty due to her fat tits and big ass, but Gordon had been training for this, “I can’t wait to see it.” “Good. How about some ribs?” “Only if you’ll kiss me to clean up my face,” He chuckled as he sat back in his chair with Kiara curled up on his lap, facing him and hugging. The two gently kissed one another, their minds running wild as they imagined what they’d do to one another after dinner. “Love ya, champ,” She yawned. “Love you too.”
Commission for Iphidiris! Thanks again!
The blaring of my alarm roused me from my slumber. Slowly, I rolled over and hit the snooze button to shut it off. With a stretch, I tried to push the grogginess from my mind. I sighed and stared at the ceiling with what little time I had before I needed to get ready for work. It was much too early to be forced to wake up to go to work. The sun was hardly up at this time and it wouldn’t be for another few hours. My bed felt cold and lonely like it did every morning. All I could do was pile on more blankets when that happened. With another yawn and a stretch, I finally got out of bed. In the dimness of the room, only illuminated by what little sunlight peeked through my windows, I could see my meager living space staring back at me. Twin sized bed, a simple desk with a comfy chair and a computer, a few posters on the walls, a tv, a couch and a kitchenette all had their places in my tiny, overpriced studio apartment. The only two doors were the bathroom and the exit to my little living space. I stripped down and slowly stepped to the shower as I tried to fully wake up and get my day going. After a quick and hot shower, I had a small breakfast and checked my phone. Social media was slow as it always was, my email box was nearly empty other than the obvious scams, and I had only received a single text from my landlord reminding me that rent was due in a week. With a sigh, I finished my cereal and completed my morning ritual by getting dressed, shaving and putting on deodorant. I stepped from my car and pulled my jacket around me as I felt a cold wind blow down my neck. The light rain splashed against the concrete and my car, the sky threatening to unleash a torrent of rain. I quickly stepped to the front door of the pharmacy as I was eager to get out of the rain. I had been working in my grandfather’s pharmacy for years now. It was usually just me and him, but he had hired on two part timers to help out. Unfortunately I would be alone in the shop for most of the morning, but thankfully in such a small town there wasn’t much traffic at the start of the day. Really what I mostly hated was the boredom after I had finished my morning duties. Unlocking the front door, turning on the lights, cleaning up the storefront and putting the shopping carts outside were only a few things on the list of my oh so exciting opening routine. I had a few customers come in in the morning, regulars mostly. An old kitsune with thick glasses and graying tails was one of the sweetest women in town. She always came in every other week to pick up some medicine for her husband and some pills that were supposed to help her keep her tails fluffy, “Thank you, dear,” She smiled as I rang her up. “You are very welcome, ma’am,” I replied with a small smile. I started to bag up her things in a little paper bag. “Did you ever find yourself a sweetheart, dear?” She asked with a frown. “I’m… Working on it, ma’am,” I replied as I tried to keep up my already fake happy exterior, “Just looking for the right lady, you know?” “You will find her, sweet heart,” The kitsune assured me, “My hubby sure as shit took his time finding me!” She laughed at her own joke. I grinned back as I pushed the pain down, “Hopefully I won’t take that long!” “I simply cannot wait to see what kind of lucky girl you wind up with, dear. Anyways, I should be off. My hubby is waiting patiently in the car for me. Ta-ta!” She turned away, her silvery tails swaying behind her. My interactions with the regulars were all about the same. Pleasantries were exchanged, I’d get their prescriptions and maybe the old women would give me a hollow compliment or two. Eventually, someone else stepped into my little store. I knew instantly that she wasn’t a regular. I put down what little was left of my coffee and watched her wander about the store. She seemed to be about my age, a mouse girl. She had brown hair and big brown ears. She slouched as she sleepily walked. Her long, thin and pink tail dragged on the floor. She uttered an exhausted groan as she grabbed some vitamins, chips, candy, and two energy drinks from the cooler. She stomped to the front and put everything in front of me as she stared with dead, tired eyes. “G-good morning,” I stammered. I struggled to keep eye contact with the cute girl. With half closed eyes, she merely blinked at me, “Enjoying the rain?” “Eh,” She grunted. “Y-yeah, me neither,” I chuckled as I finished checking out her things. I gave her the price and she put a credit card into the card reader, “Here’s your things. Have a good day,” I gave her a smile. “Yeah,” She merely huffed before trudging back out of the store. I sighed and got back to work. I knew my grandpa would be coming into the store in only a few hours and then I’ll get to go on lunch. I hoped that the day would pick up at that point. I walked through the sparsely populated streets with my bag slung over my shoulder. I only had a bottle of water and my lunch with me. Work was rough, but at this point I was more than halfway done with my shift. I walked by monster girls on the street and just like every other time I was simply ignored. I wasn’t really sure if I preferred this or not. Just like any other man, I desired the companionship of a woman, but I wasn’t sure if I would ever find it. With monster girls around, most found it much easier to wind up with a partner but for whatever reason I struggled just as much as when they were merely a fantasy of the lonely people of this world. I shrugged and kept walking to the local park. The sun beat down and staved off most of the cold from the remnants of winter, but still I found nothing but a chill running through my body. Spring was here and with it came sun and rain. For now the rain from this morning had subsided giving way to a warm and sunny day. Not warm enough for shorts, but warm enough to sweat a little when wearing a coat. I basked in what little sunshine was out for as long as I could on my little lunch break. Soon I would have to return to work at the pharmacy. At least my grandfather was in now and I’d have someone to chat with during the lulls in activity. With long and quick strides I walked into the park. There were a few people around, I spotted a dad with his three golden yellow colored kobold daughters playing catch with a frisbee. I watched for a few moments as the tallest pushed her two sisters out of the way and dove for a low flying throw. The family all giggled as the younger two tackled the older one. I quickly looked away as some weird deep buried instincts started to rear their heads. It was what I imagined what single or childless women would go through when looking at other women with their own babies and children. I had heard it referred to as the woman’s maternal instincts going wild or them ‘going baby crazy’ for one reason or another. I had always wanted a family of my own to raise and love. A loving wife, a boy and a girl, that’s what I wanted. I desperately wanted them now. It was hard to find human women at this point so they were out. Monster girls were my only option but I was having issues with them. All I could do was bide my time and wait. I stepped across the soft, damp grass as I tried to push my own baby crazy emotions out of my head. I had better things to focus on like the model kit I was in the middle of back home and my exercises. I was proud of the gains I was getting no matter how minor they were compared to what some other people were getting. I was just glad I had the little gym at the apartment complex all to myself. As I walked toward my usual seat, I saw a couple having lunch together on a bench and the feeling came back. The man sat on the bench and pulled bits off of a sandwich and fed the white colored cockatoo harpy that perched on the back of the bench by hand. She would squawk, chirp, and sing happily before demanding more in her sing-songy voice. The man would chuckle and give her some crackers or fruit. “I’m not lonely,” I lied to myself, “Just gotta keep working on me,” I said quietly as I tried to keep myself in high spirits. Trying to keep myself busy, I walked a little further than normal and found an empty bench on the edge of the park facing the street. Past that street was a quiet neighborhood that I drove past on my way to the pharmacy. It had some smaller houses, probably something perfect to move into if I had a wife and maybe a kid or our second kid on the way. I went for my lunch. Mustard, lettuce, cheese and thin slices of lunch meat turkey on two slices of nice and soft wheat bread, “Everything is fine,” I grunted as I chomped down on my delicious homemade sandwich. My mind began to wander. I first thought about the shows I was currently watching that I wanted to finish binging. Monster girls made some pretty good shows in nearly every genre. The only one I found lacking was action movies, they had to inject way too much romance for my taste. Not that I didn’t enjoy romance, it just… made me feel a little lonely when it was shoved in my face all the time. I sighed and let my mind wander further. It went away from movies, shows and anime and turned to romance again. I had to shake off the feelings of loneliness again. It, unfortunately, dominated my thoughts when I got on it. All I could do was finish eating and wait for the next thing to occupy my mind. “When is someone gonna cut me a break?” I asked the world as I desperately tried to think of something else to focus on. I stretched and moved onto my little bag of chips. Salty, crunchy, barbeque flavored chips. I grunted and looked around, watching the cars drive by as I idly munched on them. I blinked as I looked down at the grass under my feet. I saw something small and red dart across the grass out of my vision. I frowned and wondered if that had been a lady bug or something else. I shrugged, I didn’t care much for bugs anyways. I looked down as I went for more chips and saw the red thing again. It was a dot, a laser dot and it was trained right at my chest. My heart started to pound but I didn’t dare move. My mind raced as I tried to find somewhere to hide. There were a few trees but the treeline was too sparse. My next thought was that I was just over reacting, who on earth would wanna whack me? I haven’t really done anything to anyone, have I? What if-- CLACK! I jumped as I felt something strike my chest. I threw my chips aside as I gripped my chest. I had expected to look down and see warm and crimson blood on my hands but I didn’t see any. I sighed with relief and wondered if some dumb kid has just shot me with some over powered nerf gun with a laser on it. I looked down and saw a little black thing sticking into my chest. With my heart still pounding, I grabbed it and pulled it out. It was a dart with a black needle on it and a black plastic body. It was a cylinder that was about an inch long and maybe an inch wide with the needle protruding out of one of the flat ends. There was a decal on the black plastic, a pink heart with a silver arrow through it. I frowned as I turned it over in my hand. It hadn’t drawn blood nor had it even left a little hole in my coat. “Confirmed hit, over!” I heard a woman call with a bright and cheery voice. I shot up in my seat and looked around. A woman with large, pink, feathery wings landed in front of me with a proud look on her face and smiling pink eyes. She was wearing a pink digital camo uniform, a pink beret, and had an old looking bolt action rifle on her back that the wood had been spray painted pink on. I stared blankly at her. A garbled voice came through the radio, “Alright, I’ll make sure he’s fine, over,” She groaned, “Are you alright? Did the injection work?” “W-what?” I was taken aback, “Did you shoot me?” “You don’t know what the Cupid Corps are? Have you been living under a rock!?” She scoffed at me, “Our goal is to spread love in any way possible!” She struck a cheesy pose for me as she brandished her pink gold badge. I perked up, “Spreading love? I’m all for that! So what did you do to me?” Her eyes sparkled, “Good!” She grinned, “I shot you with the pink dart and now I just have to find someone else…” She quickly glanced around the park with a pair of pink binoculars. “Uh,” I held the dart up for her, “I got hit with this one.” She put the binoculars down and turned to me, “Th-that’s the… lead dart,” Her cheerful demeanor quickly faded away, “Oh no. Sweet Eros, its my first day and I already messed it up!” She put her head in her hands, “Uh-- uh,” She grabbed her also pink radio and turned away from me, “C-come in base this is arrow seven!” The radio gargled back at her, “H-he got hit with the lead dart, what do I do!? Uh, over!” I still could not hear the radio despite them getting louder. It sounded like this cupid was getting reprimanded. I felt a little bad since it was her first day and all, but I was also terrified as to what she did to me, “O-okay, I’ll tell him. Over. Listen, guy,” She turned to me, her face pale, “I-I gotta go back to base and get the cure. J-just stay here!” She was obviously starting to panic. The fear quickly spread to me, “W-what did you shoot me with? Am I gonna die?” “N-no! Of course not!” She assured me in a way that did not inspire much confidence, “I-I’ll be back! Just stay here!” With the powerful flapping of her wings, she took flight. I quickly lost sight of her as she awkwardly flew away with all of her heavy gear. “Just my luck, huh?” I mumbled to myself. I sat around and tried to finish my lunch but found myself sluggish and just not hungry. Having had nothing before lunch other than some coffee, I should have been starving still. I frowned and checked my phone. I only had a little bit of time left before I needed to be back at work. I sighed, unable to get away from my sadness and loneliness as I tried to think of something else. I wanted to wait for her to come back, but I couldn’t stay, I needed to continue to be reliable for my elderly grandfather. I frowned, got up, and headed back to the pharmacy. After another three hours of work I was about to head home. My body felt heavy, my heart felt cold and I was completely unable to shake the feeling of loneliness from my heart and mind. I had spent that last three hours hardly able to communicate with anyone and nearly unable to simply operate the register. My grandfather wasn’t picking up on my emotional state either which didn’t help, “You found any cute girls yet?” He had asked just like he did every day while he was refilling prescriptions. “No, grandpa. But you know I’m looking,” I could only smile weakly at him which he didn’t pick up on either. “I am sure you will find someone. We can’t all find our special someone so quickly. The longer you wait, the more special it will be,” He smiled warmly before returning to work. “Yeah, thanks grandpa,” I turned away from him and tried to occupy myself by stocking the shelves. The drive home was short and without much of note happening. I pulled into my usual parking space and quickly scanned the parking lot for people. As I saw that the coast was clear, I stepped out of the car and hurried inside. The side entrance I usually took brought me inside and next to a scarcely used stair well. Sluggishly, I took light steps up the stairs as I desperately tried to get to my room and hide away from the outside world. I felt cold and depressed now. It wasn’t exactly new, but it felt worse than before, maybe the worst it's ever been. While wondering if that dart I had been shot by was doing this to me, I stepped into my apartment and locked the bolt behind me as I shuddered from a chill. I groaned and collapsed onto my bed in an exhausted fashion. I groaned and curled up before grabbing a blanket and encasing myself in it as I tried to warm up. I shivered as the chill ran to my core. The skin deep warmth that it provided hardly helped at all and I found myself wondering if I would be able to sleep tonight. I closed my eyes, hoping that I could in fact sleep the cold away. I could only hope it was some kind of overnight flu. I stared at my dark room. I felt miserable and groggy, though I had at least stopped shivering somewhat. I hadn’t slept a wink and it was now past seven. I was wide awake and restless despite how I felt. I sat up in bed, letting the blanket fall off of myself as I slid over to the edge. With or without the blankets, I felt the same, cold. My heart still felt like it had been replaced by a block of solid ice. Even if I wasn’t hungry at all, I knew I needed to have something. I grabbed some turkey lunch meat and ate it with a banana. My stomach felt a little bit better but I still felt frozen. I glanced at the bathroom and considered just taking a long hot shower, but today was supposed to be arm day, I couldn’t just skip it. I trudged around sluggishly as I changed out of my clean work polo into a plain short sleeve shirt, after that I slinked over to my dresser and grabbed a pair of sweats before dragging them up to my waist, tying them on and folding over the hem as I was still a little too thin for them. Lastly was my pair of old running shoes with fading colors. Without checking the hallway, I stomped out of my apartment and made my way back to the disused staircase. From there I trudged down one of the back halls. There were two public areas set aside for use by people who lived in the small apartment complex. One was a little gathering area with a TV, some comfortable but old seats, an ancient pre monster girl era arcade cabinet and a big table that some of the older women in the apartment complex would play mahjong and card games at. Next to it was the mostly disused gym that I generally had to myself. To my surprise, there was someone else there. A well built monster woman sat on one of the benches doing bicep curls with massive weights. The first thing I noticed about her were her eyes, they were black as night with fiery red and orange pupils, coming out of the corner of her eyes were jets of flame that petered out a ways above her head. Those fetching and intense eyes stared down at the weight in her hands. With each curl she did, more fire spat out from her eyes. What I at first thought was a trick of the light making her skin look darker, turned out to be a real thing as she had an ashen complexion across her rippling muscles. Her features suggested some form of canine, arms and legs covered in a thick and black coat of fur; her hands and feet were more bestial than other monsters, more like paws though still shaped like the extremities of a human. To finish the look off, she had matching dog ears that stood straight up atop her head and a sleek tail that hung off the bench, wagging slightly. I found myself staring at her face. There was something enchanting about her, despite being at least ten times as strong as me she had real feminine charm: long lashes, a cute nose, full lips and a slender face. The way her hair gracefully fell on her shoulders despite being mid work out, her muscles shaping her into one of the finest female forms I had ever seen with my own eyes. It was like someone had expertly carved her from marble in a way to compete with the sculptures of Michelangelo himself. Suddenly, the hound woman put down the dumbbell with a grunt. She looked up at me, making eye contact before smirking and folding her arms, which made me quickly and nervously turn away. My once cold heart started to beat a little faster. I hastily assumed it was because she had suddenly startled me. I tried as hard as I could to push her from my mind, she would just ignore me like all the other girls did and I wasn’t sure if I could go through that pain again, especially with how cold my heart was already. I started on my workout, I grabbed some dumbbells and started on my seated shoulder presses. The gym was mostly free weights with a few treadmills so I did what I could. As I got into the zone, doing my reps with little rest in between, I closed my eyes and focused on my aching muscles. I grunted and carefully put the weights down as my reps ended. A sigh escaped my lips and I stretched before opening my eyes, “Good form, guy,” A resonant and captivating voice praised me. I shuddered and opened my eyes to see the hound woman staring down at me. She stood a foot or two from me with her hands on her hips. A smirk spread across her lips in a somewhat sultry fashion, “Looks like you know what you’re doing.” “Oh, thanks,” I squeaked in reply and looked away from her nervously. The woman stood at about seven feet tall with shapely, womanly curves that drew in my eyes against my will. She was wearing yoga pants that clung to those curves and a shirt that was much too small for her and revealed her toned midriff. “Think you could spot for me?” She gestured to the bench where she had a bar set up with some heavy weights. She had a presence about her, intimidating but also warm. I found myself unable to say no to her, “Uh, sure,” I nodded as my heart started to pound a bit harder and feel a little warmer. She smiled, showing me her sharp, pearly white fangs. I watched her saunter back to her bench, her tail wagging behind her shapely rear before she got down on the bench, laying on her back. It took me a moment to gather myself and follow her over. I stood near her head and watched as she gripped the bar and started her work out. I found my mind wandering as I stood by, ready to help her with what meager strength I had. My mind very quickly returned to her curves and shapely body. Her breasts seemed a little small but I had to assume she was wearing some kind of sports bra that compressed it for easier lifting. “Damn, dude,” I heard her say, “You fuck with that dick, or what?” I shook myself out of my daydreaming and blinked at her, “E-excuse me?” “You’re poppin’ a boner, dude,” She giggled as she put the dumbbar aside and sat up. I stepped away as I looked down. Even in my loose shorts I hadn’t felt… that. I blushed and turned away, trying to hide it even after the fact. It was way too late, she had already seen it and the embarrassment was killing me, “Don’t be so embarrassed. I’m not mad or anything. Besides, nothin’ wrong with liking what you see,” She got up and posed for me, turning her rear to me and flexing one arm as she peered at me over her shoulder, “These pants look great on my ass, huh?” “I-I… yeah,” I admitted sheepishly as I took a peek at her. She laughed, turning back to me, “See? You just gotta be honest with yourself. What’s your name, guy?” “It’s Anon,” I answered as I turned to face her. Both of us sat on benches across from one another. I felt kind of warm and cozy as I listened to her comforting words and surprisingly soft voice. She smirked, “Mine’s Tiffany. You got a cute name. Almost as cute as your face.” “A-are you flirting with me?” I asked, completely bewildered. “Hell yeah I am. Takes a lot of guts to put a boner in the face of a hellhound you’ve just met,” She put on a more serious face for a few moments, “Besides, you’ve got this look about you.” “W-what kind of look?” “Like you need my help! Here, lemme help you finish your reps,” Once again Tiffany didn’t even give me a chance to say no. “...and twenty! Good!” Tiffany pat me on the back before helping me put the weights back up on the rack, “I knew you could handle it!” “T-thanks,” I stammered, a little awkward about being coached, “My arms are starting to give out,” I whined. She laughed, “Alright, I’ll let up a bit. Let’s do some stretches,” She grabbed two yoga mats and dropped them on the floor next to one another. Quickly, she started leading me through some rigorous stretches, sometimes helping me to contort my body a little further than I could do myself, “There you go,” She smirked as I grunted, “How long have you been living around here? I moved in just a few days ago.” “I think I’ve been here for a little over a year,” I answered. “What do you do for work? I do some construction work but things have been a little slow right now. I had to move down here for more work,” She explained. My back popped as she pushed me a little further into the stretch, “I work for my grandfather as a pharmacist.” She nodded and let up before helping me rise to my feet, “Sounds neat. Wanna hang out at my place?” “Uh…” I was a little shocked that she wanted to spend any more of her time with me, especially since we had only just met. Was this how monstergirls were normally? Tiffany smiled, “Woah, hey. I get it, you’re nervous. We can hang at your place, I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable there. C’mon,” She took my wrist and led me out of the gym, “Where’s your room at?” She switched to wrapping her arm around my shoulders as we walked. I gave her my room number without resistance. Getting close to her now, I felt her body heat, which could have thawed my frozen heart alone, I wagered. Even if she had just been working out pretty hard, she didn’t smell at all, or rather she smelled amazing like the smoke of freshly burnt wood at a campfire. Soon, we were at my apartment and I unlocked the door for the two of us. Stepping in first, I turned the lights on with the hound woman right behind me, “Damn, nice place, Anon.” “Thanks,” I nodded. She plopped down on the couch, “Real cozy. I don’t even have this much furniture,” I stood around nervously behind her, “Hey, quit looking like that and come sit down!” “A-are you sure? I’m kinda sweaty.” With a smirk, her long arms quickly grabbed me and held me at arm’s length. Tiffany silently stared at my face for a few moments and I found myself only able to stare at her with wide eyes. Her mischievous grin slowly turned into a frown, “You’ve got that look in your eyes. You’re cold aren’t you? Lonely too?” “How did you--?” “Anyone with eyes could see it. You’ve got that look in your eyes like you desperately need some lovin’. C’mere, I’ll warm you up,” Before I could protest, I was yanked towards her and forced into a tight, hot and comforting bear hug, “Feel better?” With a nod, my head ended up in her breasts, resting between them and just breathing her in, “Sheesh, you need more help than I thought. Couch time,” She wrapped her arms under mine and lifted me up before carrying me to the couch. She put me down first before sitting next to me and forcing her weight on me, “Put on a movie, would ya?” I nodded and grabbed the TV remote to put something on. It didn't matter what it was, I was starting to feel something besides dead cold. My eyelids were heavy as my heart finally thawed. Tiffany had put my head on her lap some time ago and had been silently stroking my hair, “Never seen a guy this happy just to get some attention. Seems like you really needed it,” She had a big smile on her face as if she was enjoying this just as much as I was. “Yeah, I did,” I gave her a smile. She stretched for a moment before returning to providing me with her warmth, “Did something happen recently? Or were you born like this? Mom used to say that dad was always lonely.” “Well…” I trailed off, “A little bit of both I think. Some crazy chick dressed in pink accidentally shot me with a dart earlier today. She left and never came back with an antidote?” “Was it a pink or black dart?” “Black?” There was a sudden, rythmic thumping as Tiffany’s tail started to wag harder, “A black dart, huh? There’s only one cure for that!” As she manhandled me again, I was sat on her lap facing away from her. “What is it?” I asked, completely clueless. “I’m gonna have to get well acquainted with something you shoved in my face earlier,” I felt her big warm hand grab my crotch. “Woah, woah, woah! We just met!” I half heartedly protested. With a chuckle, her grip got firmer, “Back in the old days, monster girls would see a man and just know if they were the one. I’ve been looking for YEARS, Anon,” She started to pant as she felt me start to get stiff, “And I’ve found the one. I’ve got him in my arms and I’m not letting him get away.” “B-but--” “You don’t have to be cold and lonely, Anon. I’ll be right by your side to keep you warm and happy. Don’t you want that? All you gotta do is say yes.” I could feel her hot breath on my neck. It gave me goosebumps to think about her and I could only imagine finally having that family I always wanted, “I’ve been looking just as long as you have for my special someone,” I said with confidence in my voice. "and I can’t see myself with anyone else now, Tiffany. So yeah, I want this." "YES! LET'S DO THIS!" Tiffany had me on the carpeted floor in seconds. With ravenous hunger, my clothes came off in a flash of torn fabric. Next, her lips were pressed to mine as she lapped at my lips before forcing herself on me. Her clothes came off just as fast and her beautiful ashen body was laid bare before my eyes. I could see nothing but pure joy--and a bit of hunger-- in her eyes, “I’m so happy,” She told me in between barrages of warm kisses, "I want to make you happy, too. Let me show you my feelings for you," She breathed heavily before straddling me. She rubbed her hot and wet pussy against my already throbbing member, licking her lips in anticipation. I found myself getting excited as well, even if I instinctively covered my face in embarrassment. "No way," She pretended to chide me before grabbing my hands and placing them on her thighs, "I wanna see that handsome face on display,” I did as I was told and watched her rise up, hover over my member for half a second before taking the plunge, piercing herself on me with a triumphant cry. Her hips began to rock, making the floor creak as she rose up and slammed back down. She was completely in control of our pleasure, and soon she was leaning over me, her shapely breasts pressed against my face. "Come on, Anon, haven't you ever wanted to tease a girl's nipples?" I grunted and rolled my head between her breasts in search of them, taking one of her nipples in my mouth and gently licking and sucking it, “Good boy,” She cooed between her pants for air, "Just like that. Don't forget the other one…" I grunted at her between her heavenly, smokey smelling breasts before searching for the other one. Once I had my lips around it I bit down gently. Tiffany squeaked excitedly before getting more assertive with her movements. She slammed down against me with force, making the floor shake slightly, “You’re doing great!” She praised before raising herself up to stare into my face. One of her hands caressed my face before grabbing my chin and forcing my head up so she could kiss me. Again I couldn't help but notice how warm her lips were before she parted them and forced her hot tongue onto mine. As I reciprocated her kisses, I only seemed to excite her further. She pulled away, leaving a trail of saliva between us before she positioned herself over me with a grin, either of her hands beside my head, "Alright, buddy, your turn, gimme some thrusts." “Yeah,” I said weakly. I firmly grasped her waist and pushed my hips up into hers, making her moan as I pierced her. "That's it, you're doing it,” Tiffany continued to encourage me as she pet my hair, “Just like that. You're… almost… THERE!" She grunted loudly and grabbed my wrists, forcing them over my head, “I’ll tell you when,” She instructed. She had been going easy on me until now, that much was evident. She roughly started to ride me, slamming herself down like a piston. I could feel her powerful legs start to buckle. The pressure in my loins had built to the boiling point and I was struggling to hold it in, "Just a… little bit… more!" She shouted, her panting blowing smoke down onto me. Her panting was turning into cries which became a howl as she shoved herself down to the hilt of my member, “Now!” She howled in pleasure. Her pussy clamped on my cock like a vice as she began to orgasm, her entire body shuddered and her back arched as my throbbing penis was forced to cum inside her. I couldn’t stifle my cries as I shouted her name, "TIFFANY!" “ANON!” She shouted back as she gripped my wrists tightly and leaned over me, her violent orgasm slowly subsiding as mine followed suit. I groaned at the residual pleasure as I basked in Tiffany's heat, both of us panting while we laid on the floor, “Good boy,” She ruffled my hair as her tail wagged violently, “How are you feeling?” “Warm and happy,” I replied with a smile. “Good!” She kissed my face before getting up and pulling me up as well. She cradled my smaller frame and carried me over to the bed where she roughly tossed me into the mess of pillows and sheets. She got in after me and continued assaulting me with kisses and grabbing my crotch again. My eyes got heavy again as I snuggled up against her. "Don’t you fall asleep just yet, we're only gettin' started, Anon!” She grinned before straddling me again, “I’ll go easy on you this time, think of it as a cool down before going hard again!” Despite my weak groan of protest, I was more than happy to continue into the night. I dutifully performed my opening tasks at the pharmacy like I did every day. I refilled everything I could out on the floor and checked in the two small deliveries I had that day. Despite my thoughts being on my hellhound wife, Tiffany, I found all of my duties were going by incredibly quickly. I felt warm, almost hot as I had a little smile on my face remembering the kiss we shared this morning as we went our separate ways for work. We were going to share a lunch together later today at the park. She had wanted to go to a restaurant but neither of us had the time that would take. Instead, we’d save that for a nice date this weekend that I had promised for her. She made a few of her own promises for this weekend for 'dessert.' I spent the morning cheerfully chatting with the regulars, the old kitsune and her husband, the young, eternally tired mouse girl, and a few others. Some of them, like the old silver kitsune, noted how much happier I looked, and even guessed that I had found myself a girl. Most of them wanted to meet her and I told them I’d have her come in with me a morning or two when she got some time off so they could say hello to her. After about five hours of work, my grandfather came in so I could be relieved from my post for lunch. “Ready to go on your lunch, Anon?” My grandfather asked as he hung up his coat. I shook my head, “Gotta wait on someone today.” “Oh? Going on a date?” My grandfather teased. I shrugged, “Something a little like that,” I said coyly with a smirk. “You’re meeting with Tiffany aren’t ya?” My grandpa took a pretty obvious guess. “Nothing ever gets passed you, huh?” I joked, acting a bit like an ass. My grandfather chuckled, “She’s definitely put you in a much better mood, Anon,” He commented before going to fill a few prescriptions. “Hey. I just need this,” A gruff voice told me. I turned back to the counter, “One second-- Oh! Hey, Tiffany,” I greeted the hellhound. She giggled and switched to her normal voice, “Are my dumb impressions that obvious?” She grinned. She had a button up shirt and jeans on. There were a few stains on her shirt from work, but I didn't care, she made it work for her. “Nah, you had me going this time,” I chuckled back. I looked at the stuff she had brought up to the counter, “Tiffany, we talked about this,” I frowned as I grabbed one of the three energy drinks she had brought to the front. “What, come on! I just like how they taste!” She complained as I set them aside. “You’re gonna give yourself a damn heart attack,” I scolded as I looked back at the rest, “Are we really out of zinc pills?” "We're gonna need them this weekend for all those protein shakes," Her grin widened as she spoke quietly, “Plus for all those after workout ones I get.” “Hello, Tiffany,” My grandfather called from where he worked. “How’s it goin,’ old man?” She greeted back with a wave. He smiled, “Quite well, thank you. You two go have fun on your little date. I’ll see you back here in an hour.” “Thanks, gramps!” Tiffany called, “Come on, finish checking me out, Anon! I’m hungry!” “Alright, hold your horses,” I scanned the candy, soda and pills that she had brought up. After another minute I handed her everything in a bag and her receipt. I grabbed our bagged lunch from the fridge in the back and punched out for lunch. Soon the two of us were headed toward the park, walking hand in hand as we went. The sun beat down, and only a few large and fluffy looking clouds were in the sky. “Wanna know something?” Tiffany grinned at me. “Is it that you love me?” With a pout, she nodded, “I do love you.” “Yeah I love you too,” I chuckled and kissed her on the cheek.
Commission for Zarama. Thanks again!
“Friday,” I said to myself with a little smile, “The best day for the working man!” I stepped through the city streets as I made my way home. My mind wasn’t on work anymore, I had an entire weekend to enjoy! All I had to do was not wander into the monster girl part of town and everything would be alright. I started to text my friends, looking for a wingman for tonight. I didn’t mind being a wingman either, just getting to see my friends was enough but pretty much all of them were already dating or married, most of them to monster girls. I didn’t hate monster girls or anything, I just found them intimidating was all. I very quickly received a slew of ‘busy tonight’ or ‘going on a date’ texts from the more honest of my friends. A few ghosted me, but that was expected too. I shrugged, I didn’t need them. My own two legs could carry me bar hopping on my own! I would find myself a girlfriend one way or another! My glass hit the bar counter with a loud clunk. I wiped my mouth before sighing as the bitter liquid slid down my throat. I was more lonely than I thought I would be. I was only in my first bar of the night and I was already depressed. Usually I only got this down in the dumps when I had gone to my second or third bar but it was hitting me fast tonight. None of my friends had time to hang out anymore. I didn’t resent them or their wives or anything like that, I just missed my friends. “Any other drinks for ya?” The barkeep, Chuck, asked as he wiped down a glass. He was a friendly man with a big mustache and without a hair on that almost sparkling bald scalp of his. If I wasn’t one of the people helping keep his little pub afloat, we might have been friends. He would always put in some effort in chatting with me no matter how busy his pub got. “Yeah,” I grumbled sadly. “Not even drunk yet and yer already sad, eh, Anon?” He commented, “No friends here either. Here, your regular, on the house,” He quickly and expertly mixed rum and Coke. He slid the glass down the bar to me. “Thanks, Chuck,” I gave him a little smile as I caught the drink, “Always taking care of your regulars, huh? “It’s just good business, friend. So, what’s on yer mind? Friend problems?” He paused for a moment before giving me a toothy smile, “Girl trouble?” “Little of column A and B,” I sighed, “Mostly A. You know I’ve never had luck with girls.” “True,” He offered me little more than a shrug, “I was just hoping yer luck had turned around recently.” “Well--” I sat up straight as I heard loud, boisterous laughter. A small pack of people pushed their way into the bar, joking and hollering at one another. They got up in one of the patron’s faces and started barking at him, demanding to know if he was dating a monster girl. “Ugh,” Chuck grumbled, “Damn trouble makers. Prowling around and looking for fights.” Each person was wearing light armor with a tabard over it and had a weapon on their hip or back. Usually swords but one carried a mace. I easily recognize the iconography on their tabards as the sigil of The Order. A group of monster girl haters that had set up in this city a while ago for one reason or another. There was a total of five, three women and two dudes. It was quickly obvious to me that four of them were paired together and the fifth, a muscular woman with long auburn hair and a cute face seemed to be alone, “Give me that shot of that liquid luck stuff, Chuck,” I demanded as the five settled into a table in the back. “Ya want ta...” He trailed off as he stared at me in disbelief. “You always said you’d give me the last of that stuff. I’m ready.” “Alright,” He sighed, “I won’t question your taste in girls. Ya’ve always had weird taste.” I shrugged as he grabbed a bottle from a high shelf. An old bottle of irish whisky with a cartoon caricature leprechaun on the bottle. Chuck was a superstitious man and he always claimed that bottle carried magic with it, even before monster girls showed up in this world. He believed that whoever drank a shot of that stuff would get whatever their greatest desire was within the week. He had seen people win the lottery, find the girl of their dreams, ace a test and score jobs after downing it. Hell, he said he got the bar after drinking some himself. And right now, my desire was a girl. A strong one. My heart thumped as I watched him pour it for me into a special gold inlaid glass. He muttered to himself as he slid the glass to me. I gripped the glass with a strange reverence. I wasn’t a firm believer in all that stuff, but I needed all the help I could get. “Oi, barkeep,” A woman growled at him. It was the woman I had my eyes on. The luck was already working and I had only picked up the glass. I quickly downed it eager to feel its effect, “Three beers, and not the watered down shit, a margarita, vanilla lemon drop and five shots of tequila,” She barked. Chuck nodded silently before beginning to prepare the drinks. The lady knight’s gaze turned to me, “What are you staring at?” She hissed. “Uh, your eyes. I don’t see a lot of girls with such pretty emerald eyes,” I did my best to compliment her, “Those muscles too. Damn girl you put in work for those,” I chuckled nervously. A range of emotions flashed across her face in quick succession. First her lips curled back into a snarl, then disgust, then a big smile. My heart thumped as I thought she was about to flirt back, “Oh, my god!” She laughed, “YOU are trying to flirt with ME!?” She laughed in my face, “Hey, guys! Look at this scrawny loser trying to flirt with me!” She laughed again. The smile on my face fell away again as depression once again took hold, “You are so damn lucky I’m in a good mood,” Her voice turned threatening, “Get out of here loser. Or I’ll kick your shit in.” “O-okay,” I stammered, “Chuck can I get my tab?” “Just go,” He shook his head, “Come back and pay whenever you can.” “Thanks. I guess the luck ran out some time ago, huh?” I sighed again and left the bar, listening to that lady knight laughing at me with her friends. I stepped slowly and sadly down the street under the light of the moon and the dim street lamps. I considered going home, but now I just wanted to drown my depression in more liquor. I frowned, I didn’t want to risk running into those five again. I quickly decided that I’d walk across town. I wasn’t against taking a cab back to this side of town, the side where I lived. I was just a little buzzed as I stepped through the quiet streets. I gave myself a little smile, deciding that I would turn this night around, or at least try to. I looked at the bright lights on this side of town. Some theaters, restaurants, offices and apartments lined the streets. I didn’t wander down this way much, but I just needed a pub to wet my throat. I saw a few couples out, walking hand in hand through the streets as they went about their business, usually coming and going to various restaurants. If I had a girlfriend, I’d probably bring her here. These looked nice. Eventually, nestled between two somewhat classy restaurants I noticed what seemed to be a bar, ‘Money Shots.’ I frowned at the name, afraid I was about to walk into a porno theater but I did see a sign for friday night drinks. I sighed and stepped through the front door. I was only three steps into the building before a big hand was put on my shoulder, “Hold up, pal,” A gruff voice told me, pushing me back towards the door, “ID,” She demanded curtly. She was a tall woman. Definitely a monster girl based on that ashen skin and tall dog ears on the top of her head. She wore a tight black t-shirt that showed off her arms and revealed her toned stomach. She folded them, which made her arms appear even more muscular and intimidating. The most striking thing about her was her eyes which were black but for the blazing red irises and fire billowing from her eyelashes, “Yeah, yeah,” I grabbed my wallet and put my ID in her black furred hand. Looking at her, she was a hellhound head to toe, without a doubt. She eyed it and turned it over in her hand, before she nodded slowly, “Alright, you’re good. I’ll be keeping an eye on you, don’t cause any trouble, Anon,” She grunted at me. I simply nodded at her and headed in. The pub was small but quite comfortable. I quickly found a seat at the bar after being distracted by all the colorful framed movie posters on the walls. I put my elbows on the table and put my hands under my chin to hold it up, “Rough night, hun’?” A very kind and noticeably older voice asked. I looked over my hands to see a woman standing before me. She had brown hair with small, round, and very soft looking animal ears on the top of her head that immediately tipped me off to her being a monster girl. She wore a bowtie with a nice dress shirt that clung to her body, making her breasts look quite large. She had a drink mixer in her hands that she idly shook before pouring the blue liquid into a martini glass and passing it to a waiting kitsune with a black tail. I glanced at her and she winked at me with her crimson eyes. “You could say that again,” I grumbled. “Rough night, hun’?” She repeated with a snicker, “Anyway. Can I get you anything?” “Ehh, how about something light and kinda fruity?” “Right away, hun’,” The woman turned around, showing off her ringed and quite fluffy tail. She mixed me something with lemonade and slid it across the bar for me. She put her elbows on the bar and stared at me, “What’s your name, hun’?” “Me? Anon,” I sipped on the drink. It was surprisingly tasty. “Anon, huh? Cute name for a cute face,” She giggled, “Much too young for my taste, though. Lots of younger, single girls in here though,” She gestured to the rest of the pub. I looked behind me. There were a handful of monster girls in the bar either by themselves or with other girls. Most were eyeing me. Other than them there were a handful of couples and a group of all dudes in the corner. The hellhound bouncer was still eyeing me. I turned back to the woman behind the bar, “We don’t see too many single men in here. Don’t let the girls’ hungry eyes bother you too much. All the regulars are nice,” She smiled, “My name is Jess, by the way. Let me know if you want any more drinks.” “Look, no offense but I was just looking to get hammered tonight and drown my sorrows in booze. I didn’t mean to wander to this part of town. Any way you can keep these girls off my back?” I asked, nearly begging her to save me. I wasn’t gonna make it out that door without at least three girls stalking me home. “Me? Oh, heavens no! I can’t do much for you, Anon,” The danuki giggled, “You’re at their mercy now.” I turned back and scanned the room looking for some way out. Most girls looked at me with the hungry eyes that Jess had warned me about. Most single girls seemed interested except for one. The hellhound bouncer by the door. She leaned against the wall by the door as she stared at the hard wood and checked her watch. I got up and walked straight over to her. She didn’t look up until I was right in front of her, “Need somethin’ slim?” I felt a pang of pain as I recalled that the knight had called me something similar, “Look,” I started, confidence swelling in my voice as I stopped giving a damn, “I’m having a really bad night and I just wanna drown myself in liquor. Can you make sure no one bothers me?” Her eyes widened as more fire than before started to spray from her eyes, “W-wait, are you asking for protection? From me?” “Yeah, I guess you could say that,” I shrugged, “Maybe I can buy you a drink or something, too, as payment.” Her tail started to wag, “Well, if you insist. I’ll make sure those other girls keep their grubby little hands off of you!” She grinned. She turned and grabbed one of the nearby tables and dragged it near where she stood, “You have to sit here. By me.” I nodded and put my ass in one of the chairs she offered. I sighed with relief as I leaned back, the last of my lemony drink in my hand. I was amazed that the hellhound had agreed, maybe there was still a bit of that liquid luck in me after all. I glanced up at my new guardian or guard dog. She looked as pleased as a cheshire on catnip. The fires in her eyes burned brightly and her tail wagged violently as she folded her arms in a smug manner. I glanced around at the bar and noticed all the girls chatting quietly to one another while glancing over at me. There were a few giggles exchanged but I had stopped caring a long time ago. I finished my drink and got up to get another one but the hellhound put a hand on my shoulder and forced me back into my chair, “Stay here. I’ll get you something.” I shrugged, “Whatever you say, lady,” I gave her my glass which she hurriedly took to the bar. I watched her excitedly chatter with Jess for a minute or two as the watchful danuki began to mix another drink. It looked like a simple greyhound, some grapefruit and vodka. I could only wonder if this was some kind of joke. The hellhound strut over to me and placed the drink before me, “Here you go, slim,” She didn’t make the slim nickname sound demeaning or belittling this time, thankfully. “Thank you, uh…” I trialed off as I realised I didn’t even know her name. “Maddie.” “Yeah. Thanks Maddie,” I sighed as I gripped the glass, retreating into my depressing thoughts for a few moments. The earth shook as Maddie sat down in the chair next to me, “You haven’t drank any of the drink I bought you yet,” She pointed out, “Or do you just like the cold on your hands?” “You bought it for me? You didn’t need to do that,” I grumbled, my sad frown staining my face. “I get a free drink a day. You can have it you sad sack. Greyhound is one of my favorites, so I thought you might like it.” “Hmph,” I made a noise before bringing it to my lips and drinking some, “Yeah, it’s good.” Maddie wrapped an arm around my shoulders, “Hey, you could at least smile when you say it!” She laughed loudly. I chuckled nervously, wondering why she was suddenly acting like this. My brain snapped out of its depressed stupor for a few moments to try and calculate things. The friendly nicknames, the way she got flustered when I asked her to protect me, how happy she suddenly was… my eyes grew wide as I stared into my drink. I knew I had just royally screwed up or screwed the pooch or soon to be screwing, whatever... I had to get out of that pub and fast, “W-would you look at the time?” I chuckled to myself, “I’ve uh, gotta get going. My mom is gonna be worried about me a-and--” I tried to get up but I was quickly pulled back into my chair by the powerful hellhound. “Hey, you wanted me to protect you, didn’t you? Your own personal guard dog? If your mommy is gonna worry about you just tell her your in the care of the best bouncer on this side of town!” She laughed as she snuggled against me, “Gotta make sure you’re warm too. Come on! Drink! I’ll make sure you have a good time tonight,” She grinned earnestly at me. I liked how warm her half hug made me. It was almost as if she was thawing my ice cold and depressed heart with her fiery spirit. My nervousness was still getting the best of me however, “W-what are you gonna do to me?” I asked quietly. She leaned in close, “I’m not gonna hurt ya if that’s what you’re thinking,” She assured me quietly as her other hand caressed my chest, “My bark is way worse than my bite, especially for such a cutie. You don’t look assured yet. Here, lemme give you a little taste of what I’m gonna do to you,” She gave me a kiss on the cheek that made my heart pound with life and warmth. “Oh, haha...” I chuckled nervously. I knew I was boned now. She leaned in and flicked her tongue across my lips before forcing me into a deep passionate kiss. She was surprisingly gentle as she assaulted me with kisses. She pressed her lips to mine again and used her tongue to push my lips apart. Her much larger tongue entered my mouth and began to wrestle with my own. I didn’t fight back against her, there was no hope in that and I really didn’t want to set her off. Or maybe that was an excuse my alcohol raddled brain came up with. Eventually, she released me, licking her lips as she smiled at me, “I wanna drink shots outta your mouth,” She laughed to herself. Maddie stared at my still doubt filled expression before touching my face, “Something wrong? You don’t like monsters or something?” “No… It’s not that. You said it yourself, calling me slim. I’m just some scrawny loser, why would a gorgeous and absolutely shredded hellhound want me?” I grumbled. “Who the hell called you a scrawny loser!? I’ll kick the shit out of them!” The hellhound suddenly growled. “D-don’t worry about it. I’ve just had a lot of bad luck with a lot of things recently, Maddie. Especially girls. I don’t want you to get invested in me and realise you’ve made a huge mistake,” I explained. Her concerned look gave way to a big grin, “Look, slim. Should I stop calling you that?” I shook my head, I kinda liked it, “Well, Anon. First off, I’m not some human harlot running around and playing the cock carousel. I know what I like and what I want,” She jabbed a clawed finger into my chest, “Second, I have never had a guy come up to me and just talk to me so damn confidently and tell me exactly what he wants from me. It… was pretty hot, Anon.” “R-really?” I stammered, staring into her fiery eyes. “Mhm,” Maddie smirked, “I want you to be mine, slim. I’ll keep you safe, don’t you worry your handsome head about it.” “You two seem to be getting along!” Jess practically sang, “I’m glad to see you’re doing something other than kicking out the rabble rousers, Madeline!” “B-boss, don’t embarrass me in front of Anon,” The hellhound whimpered. The danuki laughed to herself, “A little something on the house for you two,” She placed a tall margarita with two straws on the table and slid it over to us, “You two enjoy yourselves~” She smiled before returning to the bar. Maddie kissed me again on the cheek, “What do you say, slim? Want to drink with me?” I sighed but gave in as she pulled me firmly against her, “Sure. Why not. I’m sick of drinking alone anyways,” I shrugged. “That’s the spirit!” She grinned at me before planting another deep kiss on my lips. Hours passed. Maddie kept mackin on me, kissing my cheeks and lips as she pleased, even making me drink liquor then making out with me to get some of it, “Yous gots a reeeeeeaaaaally cute face, you know that slim? Yous just a big ol’ cutie patootie!” Her slurred speech told me she was getting pretty tipsy. She was getting handsy too, her big fluffy hands rubbed my thighs, stomach and even ventured pretty close to my crotch. “Yeah, you keep telling me that,” I smirked, I was still quiet and unsure, but I was warming up to her. “You knows what, slim? I thinks I like that abouts ya! You agree with me all the time! It’s great! I’ll just have to fuck some of that confidence back into yous and then you’ll be fine!” She laughed to herself before bringing the two straws up to our lips and making me down the icey, fruity drink with her, “Not that yous not already fine,” She laughed, “But I wanna see that confidence again,” With a grin, she smooched me again. I smiled back at her, “W-well, m-maybe it’ll come back.” “I hope so! Lemme gets yous another drink, slim,” Maddie decided before getting up and stomping over to the bar. She glanced back at me and gave me a little smirk as she waited for the danuki to be done serving a couple that had come in recently. I slouched and smiled back. Maddie’s tail had been wagging since I had asked her to protect me. That tail came out of a little opening in her tight and torn up jeans. I found it pretty cute. The hellhound herself was pretty hot. I still wasn’t entirely sure if it was good luck or bad luck running into her. I stretched and sipped on my drink. I was trying to stay as sober as I could as to keep my wits about me. I watched as the tipsy and excited hellhound chatted with the smiling danuki. I glanced over as I heard the jingle of the pub’s door opening. My heart sank as I saw a familiar set of light armor stomp into the bar. Order Knights, five of them to be exact. I felt even more dread creep into my heart as I realized I recognized the off duty knights from earlier. The ones that had come into Chuck’s bar. I saw Jess scowl at them from behind the counter, “What do you Order goons want?” The danuki demanded. “Don’t get your tail ruffled, ring tail,” One of the men grunted, “We’re off duty.” “Just bar hopping, lady,” The other man growled. “But if we see anything off, we won’t hesitate to report it,” One of the women huffed. “You Order Punks don’t hold any authority in this town,” Jess redminded them, “So quit your games and buy some drinks, or you can go on and get,” Most everyone in the bar glared at the human supremacists except for Maddie who still has her eyes on the bottles behind Jess. Her tail had stopped wagging. I tried to keep my head down as some of the knights went to grab a table in the middle of the bar. Most of the monster girls uneasily returned to their conversations, “Wait a second…” I heard a familiar voice hiss, “I recognize you,” The same lady knight as earlier turned to me, “You’re that scrawny loser from earlier!” She cackled evilly, “What, no luck with real women so you had to come down here for the easy stuff?” She and her posse of knights laughed at my expense, “Pathetic!” Maddie slammed her first on the counter making every glass in the bar rattle. She turned to face the knight that was making fun of me with a completely blank face as she tried to maintain her composure, “I’m gonna have to ask you to leave,” The hellhound requested calmly. She had completely sobered up in a few short moments. “You can’t tell me what to do, hound,” The knight barked. “She IS the security,” Jess shrugged, “So she can.” “You’re gonna kick me out for HIM?” “I’d kick you out for making fun of anyone’s date, not just mine. But I’m extra pissed since you already laughed at him today and he doesn’t deserve your shit,” Maddie stomped past her and stood near me and the door with her muscular arms folded, “I can’t stand you Order tramps that think they’re better than us,” I put on a little cocky smile, feeling totally safe next to the hellhound. I hardly had time to react as the pissed off knight tried to throw a punch at me. Even faster was Maddie’s hand which grabbed my attacker’s wrist and counter attacked with an open palmed slap to the knight’s face, “Y-you--” The knight’s eyes started to water as the pain and shame set it. Bested and disrespected by a monster, her honor was tarnished, “I-I am an Order Knight! I-I will not be slapped around by--” Maddie shut her up by slapping her other cheek. Every monster loving patron in the bar laughed at the woman’s slapping. The rest of her team stood up to back her up which made every other patron in the bar stand up. They had their hands on their own weapons in response to the knights going for their swords. Jess put a magazine in the uzi she kept stashed behind the bar and glared at the knights. Even the other humans in the bar were cracking their knuckles menacingly, “Leave. I won’t ask again,” Maddie demanded slowly. Wholly humiliated and in tears, the puffy cheeked Order Knight ran out of the bar, “The rest of you get too!” Jess hissed from behind the bar. Not wanting to upset the danuki with a gun, the four of them quickly filed out, “Don’t let me catch you on this side of town again!” The patrons all laughed and clinked glasses with one another before sitting back in their seats, the lively and friendly feel of the bar quickly returned. The hellhound leaned down and kissed me on the lips, “Sorry, slim. I didn’t want you to see me get violent.” I gave her a big smile, “Hey, it's fine. You kept me safe like you promised, thank you.” “Madeline! Anon!” Jess called as she put the uzi away, “I think there’s been enough excitement for one evening. Take your man and head on home, Madeline. Don’t worry about those goons coming back, their armor blocks claws, not bullets. I can keep the bar safe for an hour.” “Alright boss,” Maddie nodded, “I… I think I’m ready for that bonus you promised me. I’ve had a good time tonight and I’m not letting this guy slip through my fingers,” The danuki’s eyes shined before she nodded quickly. She rummaged around under the counter and retrieved a little case and opened it. The hellhound quickly snatched something from the case and offered it to me. A little silver ring, “You, uh, wanna make me the happiest hound on earth and let me keep you safe forever?” I smiled at her, “I don’t know how I can refuse. I guess that shot really did make me the luckiest guy on earth,” I chuckled to myself as I let her put the ring on my finger. She put a collar in my hands and instructed me on putting it on her as the whole bar clapped and cheered for her. Maddie made out with me again before staring into my eyes with heart shaped pupils. Before I could say anything, she scooped me up in a reverse bridal carry. “Have fun you two~!” Jess called as the excited hellhound carried me out of the bar. “S-so now what?” I asked coyly as Maddie dumped me on her bed. I knew exactly what was to come. She ran her hands up and down my body with a big smile on her face, “We consummate our marriage. You’re mine tonight.” I nodded, “I would be upset if that wasn’t what you wanted to do.” The hellhound smirked, “You could at least pretend to be resistant to it.” “Make me,” I challenged. The fires in her eyes burned brightly, “Oh, you’re so gonna get it!” She pushed me down on the bed then began to kiss me, quickly forcing her tongue into my mouth. She started to dry hump me like a horny dog, getting us both hot and bothered as we started to grope one another. I touched her breasts and she grabbed my ass and rubbed my crotch with her own. She pulled her shirt off letting me take in the sight of the muscular body before removing her pants as well, “Touch it,” She growled as she forced my hands to her stomach. I ran my fingers over her washboard abs. They were hot to the touch and surprisingly soft. That is until she flexed, showing me how tough they really were. She grabbed the back of my head and forced me against her stomach. She was panting as I kissed her abs. I could feel them twitch in response as my stubble brushed against them. The hellhound ran her fingers through my hair before lifting me up and kissing me on the lips again. My hands moved to her biceps which she flexed instinctively, “You like that, huh, slim?” She smirked before forcing me to kiss both of her arms. I nodded before she shoved me down on the bed. My clothes were off next. Maddie stroked my already hard shaft before shoving herself down on it, taking me to the hilt forcefully. She howled and I moaned as we began the act of love making. My hands went to her hips but were immediately forced over my head as the hellhound began to mercilessly impale herself on me repeatedly. I started to struggle against her grip as the tremendous amount of pleasure was getting to be too much for me to bear. My moaning and shifting beneath her powerful body only excited her further as she forcibly used my body to please herself. I struggled to hold it in as her powerful thighs rocked my body. Every little twitch or throb of my member made her gasp or moan, “Come on, slim,” She challenged, “Give in to me.” I gasped, “Dammit.” She took me to the hilt again and rocked herself back and forth that pushed me over the edge. Maddie howled as I started to orgasm, shooting my cum in her womb, which in turn caused her to climax. Both of our bodies were shaking as she continued to slam her hips against mine. She came to a stop slowly as both of our climaxes faded. My body felt weak and my chest began to heave as I tried to recover a bit of my strength, “Done so soon?” Maddie snickered, “I’ve got you all night, slim, so don’t think I’m letting you off that easy,” She kissed me on the lips again before her hips began to rock, shaking the bed and my world as she fucked me to her heart's content. I once again wondered if I really was all that lucky after that shot...
Commission for MinutemanFMJ. Thanks again!
“Private Oliver Woods,” I quietly introduced myself to my new squad while we sat on boxes of supplies in a foxhole. “What happened to the rest of your team?” Another private asked me as he loaded long brass bullets into his Lee-Einfield magazines. “Shelled to hell and back,” I sighed. “How did you make it?” Another asked as he thumbed through his journal. “I tripped and crawled back after I watched them get obliterated,” I explained sheepishly as I flipped my metal helmet in my hands. One of the straps had broken and I had hastily repaired it with some string and a needle I had bummed off of another private. I wondered how he was doing. I prayed he had not gotten his skull blown open by some german sitting God knows how many meters away, or gotten blown to bits by artillery, or coughed his lungs out in the trenches from that damned gas. I did not want to be here. I was a damned farmer, I missed my ma and pa and the farm, “Britain’s finest... bah,” I muttered to myself. “Don’t let the captain hear you say that, Woods,” The man next to me nudged me. His uniform was much dirtier than mine. His leg looked like it had been bandaged up from a grazing hit to his thigh, “Massif’ British nationalist. What did ya’ do before ya’ came ‘ere?” He picked up his rifle and fiddled with the bolt, opening and closing it, making sure that it was working. “Farmer. I miss it. Used to dread getting up early to milk cows, but I keep hoping I’ll wake up and be back in that bed,” A frown crossed my lips as I thought about it, “You?” “Worked in the factories. Started makin’ guns before gettin’ drafted. Dreadful here, kid. These trenches. I’ve been here too long.” “I miss green grass and blue skies,” I sighed as I tried to clean my uniform a little bit. The caked on mud wouldn’t come out of my already somewhat brown uniform, “Dreary greys are all we get here. The sky, the ground after havin’ been hit with artillery, even the dirt here looks grey. The only splash of color we see is the orange of the explosions and the flash of gun fire. Sometimes the red of blood before it mixes into the mud.” “Ya sound like a painter,” The other guy ribbed me, “I hope ya make it outta here alive, Woods.” “We are already in hell, friend. Just a matter of time before we get to see the Devil.” “If I had any liquor, I would drink to that, Woods,” He downed a pretty big swig of water instead. I shuddered as I heard a loud whistle, “Damn it all,” I shook myself, trying to prepare myself to charge over the trench. I threw my hat on and quickly did the chin strap. “Come on, lads!” The captain called into the fox hole, “For Britain!” “What’d I tell ya?” The man I spoke with earlier snickered, “Bleedin’ heart nationalist. Up and over, shoulder to shoulder.” I grabbed my rifle and loaded it, ready to go over. Ready to get this over with. I swallowed nervously, standing side by side with the people I had just met. Another whistle blew. I climbed up along with everyone else, leaning my head down as I stomped across the muddy, war torn earth. There was silence for a few moments before the cry of machine gun fire started to ring and the screams of bombs began to hail from the sky. The unmistaken sound of far off artillery, launching mortars through long tubes with a dull fwump before crying through the air and exploding into a hail of fire. I watched men get shredded by machine gun fire and get blown up by artillery. I shook in my boots, praying that my turn wouldn’t come next. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see the pearly gates, “Incoming!” Someone cried. I looked up just in time to see something hurtling towards us, crying as it flew through the air. I didn’t even have the chance to scream before it hit us. I felt... Warm. I felt something ticklish and cool between my fingers. My eyes shot open, staring at the blue sky for a second before I started to squint. I sat up and looked around. My hands furiously pat my own body, making sure all of my limbs were intact as well as my body. All my limbs and head were still on. I didn’t seem to have so much as a hair out of place. I got up and took my helmet off, letting the sunshine hit my skin. I breathed a sigh of relief as the ringing in my ears subsided. Had I blown up? Had I died? It didn’t really matter to me at that moment. I took a quick look around. I was standing in a wooded area. There was grass beneath my boots and flourishing trees all around. Flowers of red, yellow and pink all swayed lazily in the breeze. I leaned down and picked a flower, smelling it, making sure it was real. The land was picturesque, something I could really only pull from my imagination in recent times. I looked at the ground, amazingly, my gear was here too. My rifle, my shovel, canteen, all my things. I grabbed it all and threw it on my body. Although I was happy to not be in the trenches, I still needed to figure out where I was. I waited for the signal to start marching. It took me a bit longer than I would like to admit to realise I had to start walking on my own. There was not a soul around to give me orders. I was my own man for what felt like the first time in my entire life. With a shudder, I started walking. I had my helmet in one hand and a single flower I had picked up in the other. I felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me. It was dusk now, the once blue sky was now shades of bright orange and deep purples as the moon prepared to show its gorgeous face. I missed seeing the moons and stars just as much as I had missed the blue sky, the green foliage and the warm sun. The constant clouds and smoke of war had continually obscured them. I jumped again as I heard some rustling behind me. I turned around and could have sworn I saw something big leap out of sight just as I moved. I kept walking, praying I was just imagining things as the isolation and fear creeping into my mind was getting to me. As I marched along, in a line of one, I looked up to the trees. I froze as I saw a massive bird, it looked down at me, wings outstretched. I could only see its freakishly humanoid shape and the glow of its yellow eyes. I picked up the pace, nearly jogging as I kept looking for some sign of civilization. Another noise behind me made me turn around, I caught the form of whatever had been tailing me for an hour, maybe more now. Vaguely human in shape with slim, wiry limbs. I hurried along, trying to find somewhere to hide now. These bushes would do nothing for me, the one trailing me would spot me for sure. There! On the branches was the form of that massive bird again. What were these? I asked myself as my heart began to pound. Demons? I pondered silently. To the left, I saw some flames in the darkness that quickly vanished. To the right, I heard a low growl. I started running, desperate for some respite from the demons that haunted me. What had that light been? I wondered silently. It was almost like a fire trailing me, maybe two little streaks of fire showing their faces to me every so often. I suspected it was the Devil, who else would have any power over fire? I could only wonder if this was some kind of test like the Bible mentioned Jesus going through. I glanced up as I saw the bird-like form swooping at me. I wasn’t fast enough to duck out of the way before it crashed into me. I landed on my back with the beast straddling me, sitting on my stomach. I held up my arms to defend myself, but didn’t find myself getting clawed at or my eyes being pecked at. I slowly removed my arms as I heard giggling. I looked up into the face of a woman. A cute one. A very cute woman. She was young and had a thin face, her chest was bare save for feathers that were affixed to her skin. She leaned down and put her cute glowing eyes near my face, “Oooooh,” She blew sweet smelling breath onto my face with her noise, “Aren’t you a cute one!” She flapped her arms-- wings. Her arms were wings that flapped and blew cool air into my face, “I’ll take you back to my nest! And we’ll make a lot of babies! And--” The bird woman cried out as another form tackled her. I sat up and watched the bird fight with another woman. She was much larger but still thin. It had to be the thing that was trailing me, “I found him first!” This second woman hissed as she pinned the bird. She glanced at me with eyes that shot fear through me. While the bird’s eyes had been human, this was a woman with brown soft looking fur on her limbs and eyes like that of a cat. Narrow slits that pierced my body and stared into my soul. Other than the strange animal-like features, she was quite beautiful with her soft features. “He’s mine! I touched him first!” The bird woman shrieked. “Shut your mouth before I lose my patience,” The cat woman hissed as the pointy ears on top of her head twitched. “Off me, hag!” “No, you harlot!” I climbed to my feet, eager to get away. I turned away from them, ready to walk in the other direction. I took two steps, not looking where I was going, before my head collided with something squishy and warm. I looked up, terrified of what I was going to see. A woman with round ears on the top of her head, a warm smile on her lips, and arms that ended in furred claws looked down at me. She was quite pretty as well. I ducked out of the way as she tried to wrap me in a bear hug, “Where are you going?” She asked, genuinely sounding sad. The cat and bird leapt up, “You skank! I saw him first!” The bird cried. “No! I did! But I’m still gonna kick your ass, grizzly!” The cat hissed. The grizzly frowned and faced her two attackers as they leapt at her. All three girls fought in the grass, none gaining the upper hand or really injuring the others. I watched them, caught in a stupor, confused as to what I was seeing. A howl filled the air. A hellish cry to the moon overhead. The three girls fighting on the ground all shuddered and leapt to their feet. Each one scurried away, the fear obvious on their faces. I grabbed my rifle and pulled the bolt back, ejecting a single unused round and putting another one into the barrel. I picked up the unused bullet and started to slowly trudge through the woods again. I had my finger off the trigger and the safety on as I walked, terrified of what could have scared off those powerful looking girls. It was definitely not a man, most likely some manner of beast that stalked these woods. As I walked through the dark, my heart pounded. I needed to rest, but I didn’t feel safe anywhere I went. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I wandered through the woods. I had to be going in circles. These trees all looked the same and the grass didn’t keep my boot marks. The light of the moon was hardly enough to guide me. I hadn’t seen any of those three girls again and I was unsure if that was something to celebrate or not. I swallowed nervously, the rifle was feeling heavy in my hands and my gear was digging into my shoulders. I needed to rest but I felt like I couldn’t stop now. I paused for a moment, putting the rifle down, propping it up against a tree. I panted as I caught my breath and took a sip from my canteen. I was out of water. I was starving too. I groaned and leaned against the tree. I glanced behind me. I could see that fire again. It was moving towards me, definitely. I picked up the rifle, aiming it and flipping the safety off, ready to shoot. I swallowed nervously, my mouth completely dry. I waited till I saw the whites of its eyes but I hesitated as the being came into view. Definitely a woman, but her skin was ashen. Similar to the bear and cat ladies from before, her legs past her knees were covered in a thick coat of fur. Her arms from the elbows down were the same. Both ended in sharp claws. Her chest and loins were covered by some cloth, but her muscular abs were still visible. She stared at me with quite literally fiery eyes. A jet of fire shot from the corner of both eyes. Neither eye had whites, the sclera was black surrounding bright red eyes. She sauntered towards me, standing at way over two meters tall, not counting the dog-like ears on the top of her head. She grinned at me with pearly white and sharp teeth, “How you doin’?” She called at me. I shook in my boots, pointing my rifle at her, “I-- Uh--” I stammered. She laughed, stopping about four meters away from me. Her tail wagged rapidly, “Put that toy down, boy,” I shook my head, “Stay-Stay away from me!” I squeaked. She laughed even more boisterously, “Oh? A fighter?” She stepped towards me, grinning wildly, obviously excited. I pulled the trigger, my heart dropping as I only heard a loud click. In a panic, I pulled the bolt open and closed it again, chambering a new round. Another click with no bang. the hound woman stood near me, watching me panic with a smile on her face. I grabbed my bayonet and affixed it to my rifle. I thrust it at the woman with a wild cry. I watched as my blade merely slid off of her skin, leaving the smallest scratch. She laughed at me, “B-back! Back Lucifer! My faith in the Lord protects me!” I cried as I threw down my rifle. She looked confused, “Lucy-fur? I kinda like that,” She shook herself, “Well, since you’ve been so much fun. I’ll give you a head start. Five...” I took a few steps away from her as she leaned down and picked up the rifle, “Four,” I turned and ran, leaving some of my gear behind as I tried to escape the demon, “Three,” She shouted. I couldn’t hear her until I heard a loud howl that sent a shiver down my spine. I turned back, looking for her. I could see the fire charging right for me. I kept stepping backwards, my mind racing on what to do. I took a step, losing my footing as I fell back, hitting my head on something hard. I could feel the air leaving my lungs as I started to faint. My lungs emptied with a moan of pain as I watched the woman run towards me, a look of fear on her face as she carefully started to pick me up. I blacked out as she carefully cradled me in her arms. I groaned in pain as I woke up. My eyes slowly fluttered open, revealing the stone ceiling above me. I rolled to my side, I was in a decently large cave towards the back laying on a sort of makeshift bed. A tiny fire crackled, illuminating the area and providing heat as it roasted some meat sitting above it. Rain poured outside the cave. I sat up, my head ringing and hurting making me clutch my head in my hands, “Take it slow,” I heard a woman order somewhat softly as she plopped down next to me. It was the hound woman. She stared at me with concern in her eyes as she wrapped her arm around me, rubbing my shoulder with her big hand, “You took a bad fall, boy. Drink,” She ordered as she put a bowl in my hands. I stared down into the clear water for only a moment before downing it. My fear of this woman had been replaced with a feeling of comfort as she tried to take care of me. I sighed with relief as the cool water slid down my throat, “Good boy,” She cooed as she ruffled my hair. I set the bowl down in front of me as I tried to gather my bearings. She had stripped me of my dirty clothes and left me in my underwear and tank top. I touched my neck, feeling a leather thing applying pressure to it. A collar? I tried to remove it, “Leave that,” She growled and bared her teeth. With lightning speed, I took my hands off of my neck, “Good boy,” She praised again, gently forcing me onto my back, “Good boys follow orders, hm?” She grinned as she stroked my hair and scratched me under the chin. “Wh-who... What are you?” I squeaked. “Do you really wanna know?” She had a sly smile on her face, “It’ll cost ya,” Without a second thought, I nodded, “You’ll be calling me Lucy. I like that name a lot. As for what, hellhound,” I stared at her blankly as she stood, “Name?” She demanded. “Private Oliver Woods,” I answered immediately, too worried as to what would happen if I didn’t. “Private? That's a cute name. You cut me pretty bad last night and it needs some kisses to feel better,” She declared in a mocking tone, “On your knees Private,” She barked, grinning. Her grin started to turn into an angry scowl as I hesitated. With a whimper I got on my knees. I closed my eyes, terrified as to what she would do to me. Her large paw hand pet my hair and held me still as she forced me against her hard and warm abs. She smelled of campfire and meat, “Lick and kiss,” she ordered. I rapidly started licking, “SLOWLY!” She barked. I whimpered again before slowing down, running my tongue across her hot abs. Her hand released me and started petting me again, “Good boy,” She muttered repeatedly through excited gasps. Was she getting off to this? I asked myself. Another smell reached my nostrils, the scent of sex. She reached down and tore off the makeshift skirt she was wearing. I could see the pink of her pussy now leaking with thick love fluids. I didn’t dare stop kissing and licking her abs. She grabbed the collar around my neck and pulled me away, “Such a good and eager boy,” She leaned down and put her hands under my chin, cupping my face before kissing me on the lips, “Good boys get treats,” She pushed me onto my back again with force. As I tried to recover, she put something in my mouth and strapped it to my head. A gag. She grabbed my crotch with one hand and squeezed. I didn’t know if the tent I was pitching was because of fear or arousal as I stared at her massive, shapely breasts. She petted me roughly, “Is Private ready for his treat?” I nodded, eager now. She pulled my underwear off and started to stroke me before lining it up with her pussy. She gently slid me into her, gasping as her back arched. I tried to cry out, but my voice was caught in the gag. Her tight, wet and almost burning hot pussy was too much for me to bear. She grinned as she grabbed my wrists, holding them over my head. She lifted herself up and brought her hips crashing down into mine. I shouted, half in pain, half in pleasure as her massive ashen rear settled into me. She grinned at me, “Oh, Private. You feel so good,” She sighed and leaned in close to me, settling in as her arms wrapped around my head. Her hips rose and came back down again and again as she mercilessly fucked me. The fire in her eyes roared as she used my member to pleasure herself. There was a steady plap, plap, plap noise as the hound woman howled in pleasure. Lucy was drooling now, staring down at me as she let loose, losing herself in the feeling. Pleasure shot through my body as a feeling started in my loins. It quickly started to build, turning into a pressure forming right behind my cock. I started to cry out again as I struggled to hold it in, “Hm? You gonna cum, Private?” She grinned, “Ya gonna cum for me?” She asked. She was even more voracious at the promise of my love fluids, “Do it,” She barked loudly, “Cum in me!” She took the gag out of my mouth as I started to shout with pleasure. She grinned as she listened to me cum inside of her, howling my lungs out as I put my baby batter right into her womb, “Good boy, Private. Such a good boy. My little good boy,” She cooed as I turned into a quivering, whimpering mess, exhausted from emptying myself into her. “Drink,” She ordered again as she pressed the bowl to my lips. I drank from it greedily, a few little streams of water running down my cheeks. She pulled it away and wiped my face, “Hope you liked your treat, boy. Now its time for me to get my fill,” She licked her lips and put my gag back on. She grinned at my tired whimpering as she started to fuck me again. Even if my body was exhausted, my member was not, with the last of my remaining strength, it stood at full length for her as she repeatedly pierced herself on it. Again and again she slammed against me, howling and shouting my name as she rode me like a stolen horse. The pressure built once more, I was nearing another orgasm, “Cum!” Lucy ordered as her pounding became even more ferocious, “Now! Hurry!” She cried as her back arched and her body shook. I felt her pussy quiver and firmly grip my member. It easily coaxed an orgasm out of me, making me cry out as I came inside of her again. She howled, shaking me with the strength of her cry. Lucy collapsed on me, her powerful pussy still held my penis with its powerful grip, “Good boy. I’m gonna have lots of fun with you,” She giggled as she pet my hair. The hellhound took the gag out of my mouth and sat me up against the cave wall. She grabbed the meat that was cooking on the fire and brought it over to me. Grabbing my body, she pulled me into her lap and held me against her, my head resting between her breasts. With powerful claws she tore up the meat, easily dropping it from the bone and setting it on a plate for us to share, “Eat, Private. You’ll need your strength for our next round of baby making,” She kissed me on the cheek before chowing down on a big chunk of meat. I picked up some meat for myself and took a bite of it. It was a little charred and needed some spices, but it was the best thing I had eaten in some time. I let myself lean into her hot body as she pet my hair. I stifled a laugh as I smiled back at her, I never would have thought that being in the clutches of a hound from hell would have been so nice.
While not completely required, I do recommend reading the following stories before this one for a bit of context on some events mentioned.
Bridgett Means Fire and Little Dragon Girl
The Black Cat
The Striped Samurai
Man’s Best Friend + Kobold’s Best Friend
My Friend From Hell
I hope you enjoy, and Merry Christmas or whatever it is you celebrate!]
Ruth set down her beer as she stood and peered out the window into the blackness of the night. Her softly flaming and flickering red eyes with black sclera reflected back at her. The lights around the Hamilton manor reflected the small layer of snow that was falling around the grounds. “Ruth!” Daisy, the small kobold called before joining her at the tall floor to ceiling window, “Is something wrong?” The kobold ran her fingers through her long light brown hair that matched the short fur on her arms and legs. Her bright blue eyes blinked at the hellhound, “Or are you just staring out at the snow?” She adjusted the bright red collar around her neck, a thick hoodie that belongs to her husband Jackson hung loose on her torso and some loose sweat pants that might have been his at one time hardly stayed up around her waist despite it being folded over twice. “Never seen the snow before,” Ruth grunted with bewilderment. The hellhound was recently married and had become the sixth member of their little club that got together quite often. Usually the girls would drink and chat while their husbands played their pen and paper games together, but with about half of the group being pregnant, only one or two could drink. Ruth shook her dark leather jacket and ran her claws through her black onyx or brimstone hair. Her torn and hole covered dark jeans hardly contained the thick fur on her legs and revealed some of her ashen colored skin, “I grew up somewhere pretty tropical.” “You will get used to it,” Kimiko grunted from her seat. The massive jinko samurai assured the hellhound, “I do not believe the winters will be as harsh here as they were back home, thankfully,” Kimiko spoke with a heavy Zipangese accent and wore her usual kimono that matched it. She adjusted the eyepatch on her face with a hand covered in thick, black striped orange and white fur. Her other other hand held a glass of sake near her two katanas. Anyone could easily guess she carried a short tanto or two beneath the clothes. She worked as Maxine Hamilton’s body guard, the second daughter of a wealthy business woman. “We did not have electric heaters back home!” Gwen, the fluffy weresheep laughed. Her thick wool was a nice cream color and she wore a thick purple knitted sweater. Her daughter, Bridgett, a large green scaled dragon girl of about eight years of age, slept with her head on the weresheep’s lap. Gwen gently ran her fingers through the little girl’s black hair, “Last year was quite cozy, but I am glad we have been gifted with snow this year. Its your first Christmas with Gabe isn’t it, Ruth?” The hellhound nodded and picked up her drink again before settling in on one of the luxurious couches scattered about the lounge room, “Yeah. I’m pretty worried about what to get him, too.” “Do not worry too much about it,” Maxine, the black haired cat witch smiled from where she sat, “But I do understand fretting over your husband. My first Christmas with mine last year was quite stressful. All the money in the world couldn’t buy my hubby the perfect Christmas gift,” The young witch sighed as she carefully adjusted herself. Her pregnant belly made it a little hard for her to sit comfortably. She wore a loose fitting witch’s robe of a dark black color with a matching wide brimmed conical hat that folded over a little at the top. Her bright emerald colored eyes smiled at the hellhound. “With your fortune, I am sure you could purchase whatever you wanted for him,” The kikimora, Svetlana, said to her best friend, ribbing her playfully. While she usually wore a black and white traditional maid’s uniform, the now eight months pregnant, feathery brown haired kikimora wore loose exercise clothes and a thick coat. “Svetlana’s right!” Daisy laughed, sitting down carefully herself, also pregnant, “I’m hoping I give birth before Christmas. A little gift for both of us,” Svetlana nodded in agreement, but she knew she was still a month or two away from her first childbirth. “I hope so too,” Kimiko grinned, “My triplets are going to need playmates more durable than Maxine’s first born and Gwen’s little sheep.” “Just keep them off of her little Ross,” Maxine frowned, “My precious Sophia already has her eyes on him! She can sense the magical abilities he will have in the future.” “Whatever you say, Maxine,” Gwen shook her head. She never really understood what the cat was on about when she said that. She had been saying that since the two infants first interacted. “Heh, maybe I’ll have kids soon,” Ruth grinned, it was mostly wishful thinking on her part. Mamano already had a lower fertility rate, but girls like hellhounds, manticores and other more powerful and aggressive girls have even lower pregnancy rates. She had been trying for months now, “Even if they’re younger, I’m sure they’ll keep up.” “Have three boys, would you? It would make it easier on both of us,” The jinko grinned, “Or at least one for them to fight over.” “I hope I have a strong baby,” Svetlana smiled sweetly as she rubbed her swollen belly, “Maybe they’ll be tall like my husband too,” She checked her phone, hoping her husband was done with his game. Gwen and Ruth checked their phones as well. Gwen wanted to get her daughter home. She was sure the babysitter they had hired to watch the twins was eager to get home as well. Ruth was worried near constantly about her husband, Gabe was a timid and nervous creature that she doted on constantly. He got along with the other girl’s husbands, or at least he said he did. Both girls frowned when they saw no texts from their respective husbands, “They’re running late,” Ruth growled quietly. “Indeed they are,” Maxine sighed, “Christmas night is in a few days. Do you think the Claus family will be bringing you anything wonderful this year?” “This again?” Gwen sighed, “Maxine, you’re in your twenties, you should not be talking about such fairy tales!” Maxine was taken aback, “I can assure you that their magic is very much real! I can feel it in the air this year! I felt it last year too! I received a gift from Santa last year!” “It was your husband, he merely wrote Santa on the tag,” Gwen hissed back, not wanting to put up with her friend’s nonsense. Her daughter stirred, pulling the old wool lined jacket around her. It had two large holes on the back that were torn to allow wings to poke through. It belonged to an older dragon at one time. “B-but--” “Will you two stop fighting!?” Daisy barked, “Who cares if Santa is real or not!? Gwen, would you tell HER that Santa isn’t real and kill the magic?” She pointed an accusatory finger at the peacefully sleeping dragon. “Of course not!” Gwen clutched her daughter’s head protectively. “Santa’s real to whoever believes in it. Just because Christmas is dead to you, doesn’t mean it has to be for lil’ Bridg’ or the cat,” The assertive kobold folded her arms, pouting, “O-or me...” Even if Gwen felt a little hurt by Daisy’s words, she knew she was right. But on the other hand, the weresheep mused about being surrounded by children. Magic may be real, but tall tales still existed, “Kimiko, Ruth, Svetlana? Do you two have anything to say on this matter?” The jinko shrugged then used her claws to scratch her scarred face, “My homeland has different myths but none that deliver gifts on a specific night. This ‘Santa’ myth might be one of my favorites this land has to offer. An excuse to be charitable and kind as the ground cools and snow covers the land. And the whole nice and naughty lists will be terrific incentives to keep my children in line.” “Its wonderful for the children. I remember a certain childlike wonder I had when I first learned of Santa,” Svetlana grinned as she recalled it. Ruth snickered, “I think a certain lamb might be on the naughty list.” Gwen snapped, “I am not--!” She stopped herself, “Very funny Ruth,” She checked her phone as it buzzed. Theodore was finally out of his little game with his friends, “Looks like the boys are finally done,” She struggled to lift her large daughter to go find her husband. “Allow me,” Kimiko grunted, picking the dragon off of her lap. Bridgett nestled into her fluffy paws, still asleep, “Allow me to carry her to your car.” “Thank you, Kimiko,” Gwen sighed as she stood up, leading the jinko to find her husband. “D-do you really believe Santa is real?” Daisy asked the witch quietly, praying that Gwen wouldn’t hear. “I know it!” Maxine snaped, “I will prove it to Gwen too!” “Of course you will, Maxine,” Svetlana laughed. Maxine pouted at her. “Yeah, and make sure she’s not on the naughty list,” Ruth giggled as she finished her drink, “C’mon, Daisy. I need a hug from my man.” Daisy nodded and carefully got up to follow the hellhound, her baby gently kicking her stomach. Maxine and Svetlana followed them, ready to see them out. Gwen had already collected Theodore and was on her way out the front door after the two of them had said their goodbyes, “Were we still planning on that white elephant gift exchange?” She inquired. “Two gifts, twenty dollar limit?” Theodore asked as he took Bridgett from Kimiko, “I’ll bring two things for Bridgett so she can play along.” “That sounds wonderful,” Maxine smiled, “You two have a wonderful night.” “Hey--” Gabe was cut short as Ruth wrapped her arms under his and picked him up in a big hug. Daisy started to gently berate her husband for taking so long, “Honey, put me down,” Gabe laughed nervously. “Night, all!” Svetlana called as she and her husband, Corey both slipped away to their abode behind the Hamilton manor. Kimiko was itching to do the same thing, “Maxine?” She grunted quietly at her employer, waiting to be dismissed. “Hm? Oh, yes, of course. Calvin, please make sure my employee gets enough sleep,” She joked to the man with a little smile. He nodded, adjusting his own katana on his hip, “You got it, boss. Kimiko, let’s grab the kids and head to bed,” He seemed just as exhausted as her. “Agreed,” She grunted as she led her husband by the hand to the nursery where her children slept. “Night!” Daisy called as she took Jackson by the hand and started to pull him outside to their car. Jackson quickly thanked Richard for hosting again, “C’mon Ruth! Gabe!” The kobold called to their carpool buddies. “Yeah, yeah,” Ruth sighed as she wrapped her arm around her husband’s shoulders, “Maxine... Uh, good luck with proving Santa’s real.” “What?” Gabe asked but was pulled away before he got an answer from either of them. “What was she on about?” Richard asked as he did some stretches. Maxine shook her head, “No need to worry about it, my dear. Let us be off to bed. I am quite exhausted from the day’s festivities.” “Theodore,” Gwen put her hands on her husband’s shoulders from behind the couch. He straightened up as her hands firmly rubbed his sore muscles, “I am going to take Bridgett to the park before all this snow freezes over.” He nodded, “You got it, dear. Are the babies napping?” Gwen shook her head, “Should be soon, at least,” She handed him the baby monitor, “Be back in a few hours, darling,” She kissed him on the cheek before picking up her warm coat. Bridgett was already ready to go. She wore a wool lined hoodie and shorts. Her natural fiery magic would keep her warm enough. The weresheep took her daughter’s hand and led her down the sidewalk of their little quiet neighborhood. The streets had been plowed and the snow had been shoved aside. The air was too cold for it to melt any time soon, apparently. At least the news had said so. Bridgett picked up a mass of snow in her claws and spewed fire into it, “Look, mom!” She cried as the melting snow slipped between her fingers. “Very nice dear. Just don’t burn down any other children’s snowmen, okay?” Gwen smiled, happy that her daughter would be able to enjoy the snow for once. It was a few days since Gwen had last seen Maxine, Ruth and the others. While she enjoyed her friends’ company, she was still a little peeved over the whole Santa conversation. She tried her best to push it from her mind, not wanting to be upset with her friends over something she considered so childish and silly. The Santa mythos was something for children, she told herself, just like Kimiko said. An old world myth that some magical mamano now clung to for some reason. The few casters that Gwen had known all her life stoody by the strangest ideas! Soon, the two arrived at the park. There were a few other children playing in the field of four inch deep snow, building igloos and snowmen. Gwen made herself comfortable on a bench that some other park goer had dried off before she had arrived. Using the tablet that her husband had given her for her birthday, she began reading a book that had piqued her interests lately. An old science fiction book about a sand planet, giant worms and something called Spice. Although her friends liked to tease her over it, she fully accepted that she was sort of a nerd just like her husband. Ruth held Gabe in her arms as they rested in their little home. He nestled against her warm fur as she breathed hot air onto his neck, “More coco?” He asked quietly as he reached for his own glass of the hot chocolate beverage. She shook her head and squeezed him tight, her head landing on his shoulder as she grumbled to herself, “Wh-what’s gotten into you?” “I’m stressed out,” Ruth suppressed a low growl as she smelled the anxiety of her husband, “Hey, don’t worry about me. I just want this to be your best Christmas yet.” He sighed, “I’ve got you. That’s all I need.” Ruth dropped her arms off of him, “But I want to do more for you.” Gabe carefully slid off of her lap. Gently, he ran his finger tips under her chin, one of her favorite spots to be scratched. A small smile spread across her lips slowly and her ears flattened against her head. She leaned gently and reflexively into his hand, trying to get more chin scratches, “If you want to get me something, I won’t stop you. But I can’t think of anything else I want or need.” “I want it to be a good gift,” She grumbled quietly. Her husband’s hands moved to the top of her head, scratching her behind the ears now. Her fluffy ears twitched and wiggled as her little smile turned into a happy grin. She grabbed his shoulders and forced him onto his back, his head resting on the couch’s leather armrest. He always smelled a little nervous when she manhandled him, but he did his best not to show it. She gripped his head in her large paw hands and forced him to stare her in the eyes, increasing his anxiety a little bit, “I want this to be as special as I can make it. We have the tree, gifts under the tree, decorations on the tree... I feel the need to do more.” “D-do--” He stammered, shut up as Ruth lowered herself onto him, covering him in her body heat, “Do whatever you think would make this special,” He smiled, running his fingers through her hair. Ruth didn’t respond, instead she lay still, absorbed by her thoughts as she pondered what to do. Gwen glanced up from her reading as she heard Bridgett start to argue with someone. Three older kids, all hardly taller than her, told her something that seemed to upset her. The little dragon girl slumped over and with her head hanging, walked to her mother, abandoning her impressive snowman, “Bridgett? What is the matter?” Gwen asked as Bridgett sat next to her on the bench. “Christmas is cancelled,” The dragon grumbled with a sad look on her face. “What happened?” “I’m cancelling Christmas, mom,” She pouted, “No more Christmas.” “Bridgett!” Gwen grabbed her daughter’s shoulder and put her tablet away, “What is it?” “Santas not real. What's the point of it all if Santa isn’t real?” Bridgett demanded angrily, spewing smoke out of her mouth as she usually did when upset. “Bridgett...” Gwen sighed, “Come on. Let’s go home. I think your father is making your favorite for lunch,” She tried to entice the dragon. Still pouting and with her arms folded, Bridgett nodded and offered her claw to her mother, letting her lead her home. Daisy opened her door as the rapping came, “Merry Christmas!” She cheerfully called as she threw the door open. Her large hellhound friend stood in her doorway, “Ruth! Come in! Come in!” Daisy gestured for her to enter, “Jackson’s not home. Went grocery shopping solo. Lemme uh--” Her heart skipped a beat as she saw all the Fuckman comics she had left out. She quickly snatched them up and tried to hide them. Ruth picked up one that she had dropped, “Oh man, issue seven of Fuckman Versus the Loli Menace!” She thumbed through the pages, “Oh, this one’s good. I only read it online. You’ve got quite the collection.” Daisy calmed down slightly as Ruth calmly looked through the raunchy comics, “Heh... Yeah... Jackson thinks they’re funny. But, I uh...” “Y’know they say these are based on true stories?” The hellhound changed the topic. “Of course I do! The in-universe joke is that whoever is making the masks is using these comic book sales to fund their operations against evil!” Ruth emitted a howling laughter, “Oh, god. Don’t tell me you believe in that stuff!” “We’ve BOTH been involved in a shadowy organisation! Our husbands too, to varying degrees!” Daisy snapped, “There’s weird shit in this world!” Ruth giggled some more and shook her head at the snappy kobold, “I know there is. But... Its a little much for me to believe.” “Whatever you say,” She quickly put her comic books away and turned back to her friend, “What’s up? Lookin’ to go on a walk together?” “I need help,” Ruth quickly admitted, “Its about Gabe.” Daisy turned pale, “What is it? What happened? Sit, sit!” She demanded as she plopped down on the couch. The hellhound did the same, “Nothing’s wrong,” She quickly stated as she smelled the kobold’s fear, “I want to do everything in my power to make this Christmas great, but I have no idea what to do.” “Well...” Daisy trailed off, “Um...” “He’s so sweet, I just want to smother him with love and affection.” “Then do that!” “I do that EVERY day! I want to do it every day! But I want-- Need to go above and beyond for this!” Daisy sighed, “How about we go down town? We can window shop I guess. He likes games, right? We can find him some games or something.” “Maybe...” Ruth scratched her chin. “Material goods are how I show my man I love him!” “I thought the blowjobs were,” Ruth grinned as she hurried to the door before Daisy could start to bark at her. “Did something happen?” Theodore asked, setting his things aside as a pouting Bridgett and concerned Gwen stomped inside. “W-well...” Gwen trailed off, unsure how to explain it to her husband as she stripped her down jacket from her body, “Bridgett?” The little dragon stood in the entryway, snow gently falling off her horns and jacket as she stared at the floor with her sad expression. Theodore knelt down in front of her, leaving the babies in their little bouncy seats. He helped his daughter remove her jacket by unzipping it for her, “Princess?” He quietly said her nickname, trying to get her to at least look at him. “You lied,” She growled sadly. “Huh? A-about what?” “Santa! He’s not real! You’ve lied to me all my life!” She sobbed, tears welling in her eyes. She quickly tore off her coat and ran upstairs, slamming the door to her room. Wordlessly, Theodore picked up the coat and took it to the entryway closet, “T-Theodore,” Gwen stammered. She knew that look on her husband’s face all too well. When he had those visions of Emily, when their daughter ran away, when the nightmares wracked him. Gwen gently placed her hands on his shoulders, “I’m right here for you,” She pressed her head against his back, forehead to his neck, before wrapping her arms around him firmly. “Gwen,” He sighed. “Hm?” “She doesn’t hate me, r-right?” “Of course not. She’s a child! She’s overreacting, is all. It-Its a--” She stopped herself from saying ‘phase.’ She knew what happened last time, “Give her some time to cool off. I will talk to her first.” “Thanks. I-I’m gonna go sit down. I think Richard should be calling soon about our dumb game. Foods in the kitchen whenever you wanna eat,” He turned and hugged his wife before moving to the couch, drinking a cold beverage as calmly as he could. With a sigh, Gwen sat with him to keep him company, the only sound in the room was the sound of the twins bouncing in their little rockers. Theodore used Gwen’s shoulder as a pillow, letting her run her hands through his dark hair. “Yo! Theodore!” Richard hollered into his phone as he folded one leg over the other, opening one of the large tomes containing the rules to their pen and paper game. He wasn’t sure what old world game to really compare it to. Dungeons and Dragons wasn’t very close, but it did use a full set of polyhedral dice like good old ‘Dund’ did. It was the most popular pen and paper right now since there were rules to play as nearly any race of mamano. Though only one of the five players, Richard being the Game Master, was playing as a mamano, it was still a good system. Gabe was playing as a hellhound that was definitely derivative of his wife. Maxine sat next to her husband as she idly prepared spells within her tome. “Hey,” Theodore grunted into his phone. Maxine’s ears perked up as she heard his sad tone through her husband’s phone. “Have you been reading through your options? I’ve only talked to Gabe so far and it sounds like he’s picked up some fire based spell casting. Are you still considering more points in lock picking?” “Maybe...” He sighed quietly, completely distracted. “Well--” Maxine hissed in a whisper, “Ask him if he’s okay!” Richard blinked, “Huh? Uh, alright. You doing alright, man?” “Eh,” He mumbled into the phone, “Bridgett’s upset at me. Some older kids at the park told her that Santa isn’t real. She’s mad I’ve been ‘lying’ to her all this time,” Theodore explained quietly. He glanced up from the RPG book at Bridgett who sat in the living room near her sibling’s playpen, playing with little cars, running them into blocks. She had been sulking since she had returned from the park, not even speaking at the table, “She wants us to take the tree and all the decorations down, acting like there's no point to any of it.” “But Santa IS real!” Maxine cried in frustration, “I’ll bet Gwen had something to do with this.” “Gwen wouldn’t do that,” Richard calmly explained to his wife. “She wouldn’t,” Theodore agreed, “I just don’t know what to do.” Maxine leapt up from the couch, new determination flowing through her, “Where are you going?” Richard asked as she started to dash from the room. “I have to prepare for something!” “Prepare...?” Richard was left to wonder what she meant, but he didn’t dare stop her. Not even the magical ink in his skin would give him the power to do that. Ruth huffed, “Nothing good,” She picked up another game and put it back down, “I have no idea what he likes either,” She growled at herself. She was in a small game store with Daisy trailing her as she wandered the shelves. Every nerd in the store hid from the hellhound, terrified for their pelvises. Ruth ignored them, too focused on the task at hand. “Just pick out a good looking one or three,” Daisy sighed, exhausted already. She rubbed her swollen belly through her thick jacket. “But what if he doesn’t like it!? Or he already has it!?” She snapped at her friend. Daisy bared her sharp teeth in frustration, “Then he can return it! Exchange it! Who gives a single shit!” She barked. Ruth was unphased, “I give one! You think I WANT to make him do that!?” Daisy glared at the hellhound, “I’m going home. I didn’t come here to be yelled at by you.” “Daisy,” Ruth sighed, dropping everything she was carrying on a shelf and following her best friend outside, “Daisy!” She called, grabbing the stomping kobold’s shoulder. Daisy swung around. She had tears in her eyes, a few gliding down her red rosy cheeks, “I want this to be a good Christmas too! But everyone is fighting and no one’s in the spirit! I want a happy holiday!” She started to cry in the middle of the dimly lit sidewalk. The two of them had been out almost all day. Ruth frowned and wrapped her arms around the kobold, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been a very good friend today. I keep snapping at you. I’m just so... Damn stressed.” Daisy hugged her back, “I know you are. Come on. We should go home. You’ve got a few more days till Christmas anyways.” “At least I got some other shopping done,” Ruth figured with a long, defeated sigh. “Get anything good for lil’ Bridge!?” Daisy excitedly asked, quite proud of the gift she had gotten for her. “Eh, just one of those foam dart guns,” Ruth shrugged, “It’s what she told me she wants.” “She told me she wanted Legos!” Daisy laughed, finally in a good mood, “How about we get Gabe and bring him to my place? I’ll make you both a nice pre Christmas dinner! I made rolls just yesterday!” “I’d like that,” Ruth smiled, glad that she had moved into the same neighborhood as her friend a few months back. “I pray you are not serious,” Kimiko growled at Maxine, “You really plan on showing our friends that Santa is real?” “I am very much serious and I do,” The witch replied, lounging in the barber seat as the green scaled lamia, Morrigan, carefully cut her hair with a pair of scissors, “Bridgett, Gwen, Daisy, Svetlana, Ruth... You. All of you need more Christmas joy in your lives.” “I am exhibiting enough Christmas joy,” Kimiko grunted. “You are not even wearing a Christmas sweater!” Morrigan laughed. She wore a thick ‘ugly’ sweater underneath her apron. “My kimono is festive enough,” It was red and white imprinted with a floral pattern and held together with a bright green sash, “Do I need to find a sword with a red blade and green hilt as well?” “Why are you so resistant to this?” Maxine asked with a sigh. “The cunt probably thinks she’s on the goddamn naughty list!” A small voice cried. A small fairy with orange hair and a green and red striped dress flew into view. “Fíon!” Morrigan smiled, “I didn’t hear you come in. Please, make yourself comfortable. I should be done soon.” “It is not that, you foul-mouthed fairy,” Kimiko calmly explained. “Then what is it, bitch? Hm? I fucking love Christmas!” Fíon twirled in the air, leaving a trail of sparkling Christmas colored fairy dust behind her, “This shit is the best! Except the fact that the cold can freeze my wings.” Kimiko groaned, wanting to just ignore the fairy, “Kimiko?” Maxine asked as her hair cut was finished, Morrigan had shortened it up so it was ready once more for her trademark short and messy appearance. For now it was at least somewhat styled. “Yes, ma’am,” The jinko responded, standing up straight as Morrigan vacuumed all the loose hair from the witch’s clothes. For once, she was in a loose shirt and jeans that she easily filled out. She gave the samurai an expectant look, “You wish to know? Hm?” Kimiko uttered quietly, “I will tell you in private,” She gave both Fíon and Morrigan shifty looks. “Bah humbug!” Fíon mocked her in her best Scrooge voice making both Morrigan and Maxine giggle. Kimiko said nothing, easily maintaining her composure. “Ah, Morrigan, before I forget,” Maxine reached into her pockets and produced a small wrapped package that was much too large to have been actually in her tiny pockets. She quickly handed it to the snake woman. “Oh, Maxine,” She graciously took it, “You didn’t have to!” “None of that!” Maxine laughed, “Just doing my part to spread a bit of cheer. Fíon, before you complain, this is for you,” She grabbed something else within her magical deep pockets. A nice bottle of bourbon sealed with red wax. The bottle was much larger than the fairy. Fíon snatched it up quickly, “Oh! You shouldn’t have!” The fairy laughed, “Well, I shouldn’t say that. Because you absolutely fucking should have! Consider me officially infected with the Christmas cheer!” “Good! Both of you have a wonderful day and a merry Christmas,” Maxine bowed slightly in a polite way before grabbing her thick coat and walking out of the little barber shop and into the snowy streets. Kimiko was right behind her, tugging her somewhat loose kimono around herself. Through years of diligent training, her body was immune to all but the most extreme conditions. She grabbed the door to the horse drawn carriage that would ferry them back to her estate and pulled it open for the witch, “Thank you, Kimiko.” “Of course, ma’am,” Kimiko grunted as she climbed in after her. The carriage driver cracked the whip, signaling the horses to start moving. Kimiko was forced to hunch over due to her size, resting her arms on her knees as she sat across from her employer. “So?” Maxine pressed gently, trying to get an answer out of Kimiko. Her curiosity was killing her. Kimiko sighed, “I do not believe in Santa, Maxine. While I do enjoy the mythos like I said a few days ago, I do not and cannot believe that he is real.” “Why not!?” Maxine demanded, broken hearted to hear another of her friends was a Santa denier. She grumbled, “Last year I received nothing from Jolly Saint Nick. No coal even.” “No...” Maxine slouched in her seat as she stared into her friend’s sad face, “H-he has to be. I got something from him and I know it wasn’t given to me by my husband. He brought my husband something too.” “Maxine,” Kimiko sighed, “I do not know what to tell you.” “I just have to prove it to you too!” Maxine decided, “I need to make some calls. I need materials and gear.” “Good luck with your mission, ma’am,” Kimiko sank in her seat, unsure if she was really feeling the holiday spirit any more. “Good luck?” Maxine scoffed before beginning to cackle, “Why, you’re coming with me, of course!” Kimiko looked at her employer. Knowing she didn’t have a choice, she merely nodded. Ruth jogged down the street. Hundreds of thoughts in her head were drowned out by the music being blasted into her ears. All of her worries and fears were starting to get overwhelming. Daisy was no help. To make it worse, she was starting to feel sick and was putting on a bit of weight. It must have been all the stress. These morning jogs were hopefully going to keep that away. She stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the walk signal. Cars and carriages slowly coasted through the lights. Keeping her momentum, Ruth did some stretches, bringing one of her ankles up to her butt behind her and holding it there. Her athletic pants clung to her legs as did her track jacket to her torso. The cold snow didn’t bother her much, even if she was almost barefoot. She only wore thin sandals just to keep her feet clean. As her legs stopped moving, her brain started thinking. No matter what she started thinking about, it always turned back to her husband. Usually, she worried about Gabe, and she still did, but on top of that she was also worried about Christmas. To make matters worse, she only had three days to pick something out. She had already gotten him numerous things that he had deliberately told her that he wanted, but she still felt a profound need to do more. Something unexpected. Everything else was something he asked for. A very pleasant surprise! That's what she wanted to do! Ruth was so entrapped in thought that she didn’t notice that the signal to walk had changed. She still needed guidance, she decided silently, maybe someone wiser than Daisy could help me? The oldest of the friend group. She had to have some kind of guidance. Gwen sat up straight as a loud knock came from the door, “Bridgett, would you get that, dear?” Bridgett solemnly nodded before quietly stepping towards the door. Gwen was trying to enjoy her time off of work, but with her husband and her daughter both in horrible moods, Christmas cheer was hard to come by. Bridgett was still mad and didn’t want anything to do with Christmas now. Theodore was almost non responsive now, merely nodding and shaking his head when questioned. “Hey kiddo,” Gwen heard as the door opened, “Gwen around?” The husky voice asked. “Mom’s in the living room...” Bridgett grumbled before walking away from the front door. “Uh... Alright.” “I am in here, Ruth!” Gwen called from the couch she sat on. Ruth carefully stepped into the room, slipping off her sandals in the entryway, “What brings you here, Ruth? Is everything alright?” “Oh... Just on a jog, ya’ know? Thought I’d swing by and see the kids,” She knelt down by the twin’s playpen and where Bridgett was playing with cars and blocks. She stared at the babies and they stared back with big goofy smiles on their faces as they chewed on their toys. She was filled with an intense desire to have her own children, just like every time she interacted with her friends’ children. Ruth turned to Bridgett to try and cheer her up a little bit by playing blocks with her, “Which car’s your favorite?” The hellhound asked. “Uhm...” She perked up a little bit. She picked up a red truck with a few scratches in the paint, “This one goes fast. Dad says its because its really heavy. It used to be his.” “That’s really cool! How about this one?” Ruth picked up a new looking, sleek black car and dragged it across the floor. Bridgett gave her a look like she was an idiot, “Its not fast. Its no good.” “O-oh.” Gwen stifled her laughter, “You cannot have come here just to play with Bridgett, Ruth. What is it you and Daisy call her? Lil’ Bridg’?” The dragon girl started to angrily spew smoke from her mouth at the mention of her lovingly given nickname. “W-what?” Ruth tried to shrug it off, “Only Daisy calls her that! Where’s the man of the house, Ted?” “Theodore is getting some work done, he has been a bit behind recently. Are you trying to change topics on me?” Gwen asked slowly, “Ruth, what is wrong?” “W-well...” Ruth trailed off, “I guess I need a little help. Its about Gabe.” “Oh dear,” The weresheep frowned, “Come sit with me. Bridgett, be a dear and get her some water, please.” “Okay,” Bridgett was quick to move to the kitchen to find a cup. “She’s so big,” Ruth mumbled, “She’s gonna get bigger than me!” She chuckled. “Bigger than you?” Gwen pondered for a moment, “I do not know. You are quite large for a hellhound already, but--” She turned to the hellhound, a half glare staining her face, “Ruth. Tell me what is wrong.” “Well...” “Out with it.” “Okay, okay!” She looked down at her hands, “I-I’m stressing out over what I should do for my husband for Christmas. Daisy’s been teaching me some good recipes for the day of, I’ve gotten him a bunch of stuff from his list, but I just want to do something extra!” “Ruth, I think you are overthinking this.” “He means the world to me, Gwen!” She snapped. She saw the hurt in the weresheep’s eyes, “I’m sorry. I’ve been having these mood swings, I-I-I’m so stressed, a-and I haven’t been sleeping well, and I feel sick all the time...” “Ruth, its okay,” Gwen put a hand on her shoulder gently. “I just want to make him happy,” Ruth held back her tears as all of her stress and anxiety came to a head. She wanted to cry, vomit and scream all at the same time. Gwen wanted to offer her physical comfort, but wasn’t sure if she should pet her ears or what. Instead, she gripped the hellhound’s shoulder tightly, “I know why you are stressed. I had similar issues when I first married Theodore. But I know both of you, Gabe loves you. Whatever you get him will make him happy, I am sure of it.” “B-but what if I mess it up?” “Give him lots of hugs and kisses,” Bridgett chimed in, “Mom and dad do that a lot and it makes them happy,” Ruth took the water from her and sipped on it slowly, “You can call it Christmas kisses and--” Bridgett’s jolly mood instantly died at the mention of the holiday. Ruth’s need to protect started to overwhelm her own worries, “What’s got ya down, kid?” “Christmas is cancelled,” Bridgett put simply before storming away to her room. “Poor girl,” Ruth frowned, “Christmas seems to be dead for everyone but Maxine.” “Even she seems worn down by the rest of us,” Gwen grumbled, “I just wanted a happy holiday for my family and friends. I feel as though I’ve caused this. I’ve ruined the holidays for everyone.” “Its just a bad year for all of us. Those revolts in other parts of the world... War is looming--” “No! There will be no utterances of such things!” Gwen demanded, “I am terrified my little girl is going to be caught up in it.” “Hey,” Ruth put a hand on her friend’s shoulder, “Trust in the Maou’s strength. That’s the most you and I can do. I should get going. I’ve been enough of a downer on you for one day.” “You put a smile on my daughter’s face. I had not seen that for some time, Ruth. Thank you for that. Get home safe, would you?” Gwen asked as she saw the hellhound out. “Of course I will. No one would dare tangle with a hellhound, ya know?” Ruth chuckled. Daisy panted, struggling as she tried to cook. She felt heavy. Her stomach was quite large and she felt like she could burst any day now. She wiped her flour covered hands off on the shirt she wore. Although it belonged to her husband, it was a bit fitting on her now thanks to her now shapely body and swollen stomach. She grunted, almost in pain as she tried to mix the dough by hand. She would have been sweating if she could, but dog girls like her and Ruth lacked that ability. Luckily panting usually got the job done. As of now, her body was so taxed that she always felt hot. Only the cold of the winter air could help her at this time. She put the mixer down, “Jackson!” She called her husband as she plopped down into a chair, “Jackson!” She hollered again. Jackson left his tools out as he dashed from his reloading table. He slammed the door as he exited the garage and ran into the kitchen, “What!?” He knelt down next to where she sat, one hand going to her belly and the other to the top of her head, scratching her behind the ears in an effort to calm her down. “I love you,” Daisy smiled weakly. Jackson sighed, his wildly beating heart slowly calming down, “I love you too, Daisy,” He smiled as he scratched her under the chin, “I’ll finish the bread. You need to rest.” “N-no... I--” “If not for your sake, then the baby’s.” “For the baby’s sake?” Daisy laughed, “I...” She grunted as she felt a powerful kick, “O-okay... I’ll take a break. But I want you to take a break when you’re done.” “I will, dear. I’ll finish up that order for .45 tomorrow,” Jackson picked her up in a bridal carry and took her to the couch as her tail wagged and she stared at him lovingly. He slowly bundled her in a thick blanket and put the TV remote in her hand, “Rest. Please,” He begged. “Think I’ll give birth soon?” “You’re so excited for that, huh?” Jackson chuckled as he returned to the kitchen. He couldn't let Daisy know his worry and stress over it, “I’m sure you will. You’ve been pregnant for a while now,” He mused as he stripped himself of his dirty apron and gloves. He cleaned himself and got to work on the dough. “My little Christmas baby... I think its gonna be a boy, my stomach is so big.” “What are you planning for him? Think he’ll take up the sword like Kimiko’s children? A spellbook like Maxine’s?” “Maybe he can have what you might consider a normal life?” “An office job?” Jackson spat, “No son of mine is going to waste away in a nine to five like that. I’ve worked too hard for him to have to do that. He’ll work at the range or pick up a trade. I’ve been meaning to get into gunsmithing. Maybe he could take it up after me.” Daisy frowned, “I just want him to be safe.” “You’re afraid of him ending up like Calvin. A man trapped between two lives. Grueling office work and the blade.” “O-or Gabe. I love that man, he’s so kind, but he wastes away doing almost nothing all day.” “Daisy. He has numerous hobbies. He’s not doing nothing all day.” Daisy grumbled and settled into the couch, “Ruth coddles him too much.” “And I coddle YOU too much!” Jackson teased as he put the dough in the fridge to rise. Daisy turned on the TV to drown out his teasing. “A pinch of this,” Maxine murmured to herself as she toiled over a pestle and mortar. Her crystal ball shimmered nearby, idly showing her visions of those she usually spied-- checked in on. Ruth jogging, Gwen in a bad mood, Daisy lounging with her husband. Maxine paid it no mind as she focused on her spells. She needed a way to the North Pole. A helicopter or plane wouldn’t do, but she was struggling for once. She hadn’t struggled like this since she first devised the spell that would transport her from her homeworld to this one, “A little bit of that,” She whispered as she poured a handful of mana infused salts into the stone bowl. Svetlana stood near the wall of the basement, watching her friend work as she prepared to help any way she could. She silently refilled the witch’s cup of tea so that she could wet her hoarse throat. The large basement that Maxine stewed and toiled in once served as her bedroom, but was now only her personal workspace and library full of books in script that few could read and fewer could write. The windows were all closed and the curtains were pulled. The only light cast upon the room was from the magical candle sticks that blazed colors of green and red. Kimiko sat on the floor, legs crossed as she took the time offered to her to meditate. Her sword lay on her lap, not in its sheath, as she ran through mental exercises. She found herself wondering again if she had the strength and diligence to keep up with Maxine’s antics. As both Maxine’s mother and the demon known ‘Mother’ that had mothered Gwen had decided, Kimiko was the best fit for the job of watching over Maxine. Her diligent training all of her life allowed her to push most of her personal needs away and all of her wants. Her focus was on those around her that needed her aid. She had given Calvin her aid first and now she was tasked with guarding the witch, not to mention her own children. She smirked, remembering that she had to trick Calvin into becoming hers. “Ah!” Maxine yelped as the potent ingredients exploded. Svetlana and Kimiko both leapt to her side, “Maxine!?” Svetlana shouted loudly as worry coursed through her heart. Maxine merely laughed it off as she wiped her soot covered face with her scarred hand, “Oh, what a rush!” She cried as she cackled again. Svetlana sighed and used a damp cloth to wipe the soot from her friend’s face while Kimiko brushed the soot from the witch’s robes, “It is quite strange. I have not had such trouble with a spell for a long time,” Maxine mused aloud as the two women cleaned her. She pulled away from them before either finished dusting her off. Streaks of soot still lined her face as she began to write with her own script in a leather bound book, “It is as if the north is shrouded in a veil. My powerful scrys cannot pierce the snowy blizzards. Even my master and hers would struggle to view it.” “What does that mean?” Svetlana timidly asked, “Can you pierce it as you once pierced through worlds?” “Mayhaps. I only have a few days until Christmas, afterall.” “We have little time, Maxine,” Kimiko grunted, “What can I do to help?” “I have few favors left to my name. But I suppose I must call most of them in. There are terrible magics afoot, my friends.” “Evil? Or terribly strong?” Kimiko pondered aloud. “Both. Something like this, a coven of baphomets and witches may be involved.” “Then you are in luck. I am trained against all things evil and the ability to ward it off,” Kimiko rubbed her chin, “Perhaps I have some friends that could aid us. Or my husband’s friends, more precisely.” “Rest a bit, please, Maxine. I’ve seen you push yourself too hard too many times,” Svetlana pleaded with her friend. Maxine scoffed, “Fine. I will rest. Tomorrow morning I will call upon whomever I can to aid me.” “We also have that white elephant exchange tomorrow,” The kikimora reminded her. “Everyone is so down. I wonder if we should postpone,” Kimiko proposed, “Wait until we all feel the spirit.” Maxine rubbed her chin, “Can’t delay ‘till Christmas eve. Most of us are seeing family that day. I think we’re going to be skipping it, girls.” “I’m sure mom will understand,” Svetlana shrugged. “Oh, thank the Maou. This is the first time I have been happy to be caught up in your schemes!” Kimiko laughed. “No love for Calvin’s parents?” “Of course I love them. But they can be a little long winded. It will save me the headache.” “Both of you, our preparations should be complete in two days. Be ready for transport then,” Maxine ordered, dismissing both with a handwave. “Hopefully we can make it home in time for Christmas morning,” Svetlana murmured to herself as she stepped from the room. “Are you sure it is wise to bring her?” Kimiko asked quietly. “Of course!” Maxine nodded, “What dangers will there be in Santa’s workshop?” “Fair enough. Good night, ma’am.” Ruth lay in bed, wrapped in blankets, “Sick on Christmas Eve,” She whimpered, feeling bad for herself. Gabe had demanded she rest this morning due to her nausea. At least Maxine, Svetlana and Kimiko had needed to reschedule, so she didn’t feel bad about having to cancel on the white elephant exchange. Gabe returned to the bedroom, a disposable mask over his face at the hellhound’s request, “Here’s your soup,” He smiled as he put the bed tray on her hips, “Some crackers too.” “I don’t want to make a mess in bed,” She whined in response as she picked up one of the Saltines. “I-I can wash the sheets. Just eat, please.” Ruth started to grumble again but quickly began to eat the food that had been prepared for her, “I’m sorry,” The hellhound whimpered quietly, “This has to all be really disappointing for you. Our first Christmas together and I’m sick.” Gabe smiled, “I’m not mad, Ruth. A-As long as you don’t die, I’m sure we’ll still have a good time.” Ruth could smell the anxiety on her husband. He was good at not showing his emotions on his face, but he could not completely hide how he felt from the hellhound. She could only guess what had him so worried. Her sickness, perhaps? Maybe he was just as worried about Christmas day as she was. He stood at the bedside prepared to aid Ruth however he could. She downed the broth after eating all of the noodles, “Thanks,” She grumbled quietly, passing the dishes back to her husband. He dutifully took them and left the room, quickly headed to the kitchen. Ruth sat up, pulling the once loose sweats she wore up on her hips. She felt like she was getting wider as the sweats were getting tighter. She wondered if she was getting fat, “Tell me the truth, am I getting fat?” She asked Gabe as soon as he returned. “I know your boobs have gotten a lot bigger. A-and those hips... I-I mean...” He stammered as the anxiety emanated from his body, “Those are child birthing hips, Ruth.” Ruth started to glare, “So I am fat!?” She shouted as her mood shifted violently. “No! That's not what I’m saying!” He tried to plead with her. Ruth felt a surge of emotions, guilt for snapping at the man that loves her the most, great sadness that she would get angry with him over this, and a mountain of anger towards herself for never finding a gift for her husband. Ruth suddenly had a massive surge of energy and a flash heat, “I-I-I need to run. I need to go outside. I-I’m suffocating in here. I’ll be back,” She stammered as she frantically got out of bed. “Ruth!” Gabe jumped in front of the doorway, blocking her, “What’s going on? Have I done something wrong!? Just tell me, please!” He begged with tears in his eyes. Ruth put her arms under his and picked him up in a big firm hug. She turned, removing him from the doorway and gently putting him down, “I-I just need a bit to myself,” Gabe was silent, his worry taking hold and keeping him from speaking his mind. He walked with her to the front door, staring at his feet the whole time. After putting her sandals on, Ruth gently grabbed her husband’s chin and planted a kiss on his forehead, “Don’t worry so much, please,” Ruth whispered before stepping out the door. “It is done!” Maxine shouted as she brought the stone bowl to her nose. She took a whiff of the foul mixture and scrunched up her face. “Maxine!” Svetlana cried as the witch shook herself. She merely cackled in response, “Be more careful!” “Bah!” “Svetlana is right, ma’am,” Kimiko scolded, “Should you spill the mixture, we shall not make it in time.” “This mixture has been too costly to make. I would not spill it!” Maxine moved the components to two containers made of vellum from a calf. She had two uses of it, enough to send them to the north pole and return them home. Its creation had been the joint effort of many. Kimiko had proposed the usage of a certain magical plant from Zipangu which helped crack through a layer of the protection that the aid of her sabbath friends had not been able to. Maxine’s master had given her some potent herbs for the mixture as had her own master. A few other helpful witches and wizards gave what little guidance and aid they could to the young cat witch, “Come along,” She ordered as they made for the garden. The samurai and the maid both followed. Kimiko wore her usual winter garb, merely a thick kimono with her swords at the ready. This one was green with white trim and a white sash around her waist. “Kimiko, here!” Svetlana giddily and without warning wrapped a thick red scarf around the jinko’s neck, “You look so festive in those colors!” The kikimora wore a thick coat with an ugly christmas sweater with a depicting cartoon Santa over it. Her pants were thick too, forcing her to waddle as she moved about. The maid had a massive smile on her face as she followed Maxine outside. She felt only excitement as she walked into the garden. Maxine ran her hands over her black robes. It was enchanted with a light heating spell which went well with her warm sweater that she wore under them, “What do you both expect when we get there?” She excitedly asked as she stepped through her mother’s well kept garden. There was no snow in the garden as it was protected by Maxine’s magic. A place where flowers, strawberries, pumpkins and various other plants grew year round, unaffected by the cold or winds that would kill most plants this time of year. “The cold,” Kimiko put bluntly. “Festive lights! Oh! I hope we see the Aurora Borealis!” Svetlana chirped excitedly. “Maxine!” A man cried as he came running out of the house. “Richard...” Maxine trailed off as she faced her husband, “Do not try to stop me! My mind is already made up.” “No, I’m not trying to stop you,” He grunted, “Just... Stay safe. Okay? We don’t know what's really up there.” “Trust in my blade, Young Lord Hamilton,” Kimiko bowed, “I shall keep the Young Lady safe.” “I pray for your sake that you plan on protecting Svetlana as well. Corey will have your head if she gets hurt,” Richard grunted. “I trust in her blade!” The maid pouted, “We will be fine, Richard!” “I hope you’re right. Its not like Santa would attack you,” He rubbed his forehead, “Alright, alright,” He gripped Maxine’s shoulders and gently kissed her forehead, “Good luck, Maxy.” “Thank you, my dear. Let you be at ease until my return,” Maxine grinned at him and caressed his cheek, “Our return, I mean.” “I’ll rest and try to keep myself busy. I’ll go help Corey and his mother-in-law prepare for tomorrow’s feast,” Richard slowly left, leaving the three girls to their magic. “Maxine, now is the time,” Kimiko warned, “We do not have the time to delay much longer.” Maxine nodded and moved to the stone tiled pavilion where she usually teleported from. The magical runes encircling the area glowed gently at their master’s approach. Their power served to bolster Maxine’s teleportation magic and act as a place to more easily teleport to. Maxine placed one bag of components within a large stone bowl atop a small ornate pillar, “Are you both prepared?” Svetlana nodded excitedly and Kimiko nodded with a bit of nervousness in her heart. Maxine tapped her staff on the ground, igniting the aether crystal on the top. She touched the magic crystal to the magical ingredients and began to utter the magic words. Her clothes and that of her allies billowed in the wind as the aetheric winds of magic began to blow. Gwen sat alone on the couch. The only joy in the house seemed to be from the two little babbling babies. Despite the red, green and silver decorations and numerous lights, she felt very little cheer for the holidays. Theodore silently tapped away on his tablet, even if it was Christmas eve he kept doing his work silently. Gwen was just glad he was finally speaking to her. Bridgett wouldn’t speak to either of them, still mad about ‘being lied to’ about Santa. Both Gwen and Theodore had tried to explain to her that the Santa myth was just supposed to be something fun but she refused to listen to either of them. All three snapped to attention as the doorbell rang, “Bridgett? Would you please?” The little dragon nodded solemnly, paused her game and trudged to the front door. As she opened it, she heard a startling cry, “Merry Christmas!” A group shouted as the door opened. Gwen leapt up and hurried to the door. Bridgett growled before she could get there, “Christmas is cancelled!” She shouted and tried to slam the door. The weresheep grabbed it, “Bridgett! I have told you many times how rude it is to slam the door on someone,” Bridgett stormed off, stomping on the hardwood floors and spewing a trail of smoke from her mouth, “I am so sorry,” Gwen sighed as she looked out the door. She was amazed to see eight people on her doorstep and that she recognized most of them. Her hairdresser, Morrigan, a lamia that also cut Maxine and Daisy’s hair and her husband. The loud and foulmouthed fairy, Fíon who worked for Gwen as well as the fairy’s husband. A harpy named Eve that was friends with Daisy. Eve’s husband was desperately trying to keep her from crying. Two others stood with them, a gargoyle and a medusa with green scales. Each person was bundled up, double so for the two snake ladies, and each person held sheet music in their hands. “I don’t want Christmas-Holiday to be cancelled!” Eve sobbed loudly. One of her wings was in a sling like it usually was. She hadn’t broken her wing in a long time, but felt a need to wear it to keep herself from flying. “Christmas isn’t cancelled!” Her husband insisted. “Eve, Bridgett is just in a bad mood,” Gwen explained as Theodore slowly walked to her side, “She’s not in the spirit this year. Christmas is not cancelled. It never will be.” “Oh!” Eve instantly calmed down and wiped her face on her husband’s coat, “Christmas-Holiday is back on!” “Sheesh,” Fíon grunted quietly, “I thought Kimiko was a damn grouch, but...” “Poor thing,” Morrigan sighed sadly, “I hope you two are doing well at least.” Theodore shrugged, “The only joy in this house is my two babies. Its been kinda rough. I don’t think I know you two,” He glanced at the medusa and gargoyle. Fíon cleared her throat, “This bitch is Cleo,” She pointed at the sad looking medusa, “and that bitch is Tera,” She gestured to the gargoyle, “Some of mine and Morrigan’s drinking buddies.” “Fíon talks a lot about ya, Gwen,” Tera grinned then both she and Cleo started to snicker knowingly. The fairy’s cheeks turned red with embarrassment. “I am glad to see that someone is still out trying to give out Christmas cheer this year,” Gwen sighed sadly, “Hopefully you are having luck.” Cleo nodded, her snakes coiling tight to her head underneath the wool beanie she wore, “Its been a lot of fun! Not meeting any boys like Fíon said we would, but no one has slammed the door on us! ...Except for your daughter.” “Sorry about that,” Theodore smiled weakly. “Can we do the... uh... Singing-caroling now?” Eve asked excitedly. “Yes, please,” Gwen smiled, “We need a bit of cheer today.” Kimiko’s hand tightly gripped the hilt of her sword as the air was forcefully torn from her lungs by the teleportation process. She always hated teleporting, but she was somewhat used to the stretching and squashing that was involved in the process. She shuddered as the cold bit her skin. She was expecting a blizzard like Maxine had kept viewing through her scrying, but thankfully, the air was calm, “Grr,” The samurai grunted as she steeled her nerves and pushed the cold from her mind. “Look!” Maxine shouted, “Is that...” She peered through the dark of night, “A warehouse?” “That doesn’t look very Christmas-y,” Svetlana complained, “What is that?” Kimiko identified it with a glance, “An airfield. With numerous hangers. Big trucks seem to be moving something to them. Perhaps there are planes in there? Maybe they are transporting something from these warehouses. Maxine, please do not tell me you have teleported us into a secret government base.” “No, no, no, that cannot be!” Maxine stomped her foot in the deep snow, “This has to be it! Come on! I am NOT leaving until we find Santa!” Svetlana quickly started to waddle after Maxine as she stormed towards the warehouse. Kimiko’s eyes and senses were peeled, scanning the area for any signs of danger. She was not too concerned for Maxine’s safety. There had been a few times where kidnappers had attempted to abscond with Maxine, and the witch would easily defend herself with her spells and tricks. She was only a little slowed down by her pregnancy. She was worried about the maid, at least. Although she was not a high value person, Svetlana would need protecting, especially because of her swollen belly “Hmph,” The samurai grunted as she stopped to shake off her wooden sandals during each of her long strides. The three girls stomped to one of the doors. The kikimora tried it, “Locked!” She whined, “I want out of this cold!” “Step aside,” Maxine uttered some magic words and touched the door, “Try now.” Svetlana pulled it open, “Yes!” She tripped as she tried to step onto the concrete floor and out of the snow. She managed to catch herself, but struggled to rise thanks to her swollen belly. Kimiko looked around once more. She spotted a spot or two that seemed like someone had been standing in for some time. She stepped inside after Maxine and picked the maid up off the floor, “I do not like this, Maxine,” She warned quietly. “You are being too worrisome!” Maxine looked around the dim warehouse, “Wooooooow!” She looked at the mountains of colorfully wrapped presents. There was an uncountable number of them. Maxine dashed over to a pile and looked at some of the name tags, “These HAVE to be the gifts Santa will deliver all over the world tonight!” “No way!” Svetlana ran to join her, “Where’s mine!? I want to shake it! I have to know!” “Svetlana! Don’t!” Maxine’s warning came too late. The kikimora grabbed a random box. A few presents from the top of the pile rolled down. She tried to put it back, which only made it worse. The pile rumbled as colorful boxes slowly tumbled down towards the two girls. Kimiko grabbed the back of their clothes and pulled them away from the impending avalanche of presents. The witch pulled the brim of her hat over her eyes, unable to watch as the gifts tumbled down in a loud crash. Kimiko sighed, “Be more careful! What if someone had heard that!” Svetlana sniffled, “I’m sorry!” She sobbed as she fell to her knees. “There!” A voice growled from the other side of the warehouse. Numerous people ran down a path between the piles of gifts. “Intruders!” They formed a half circle quickly, trapping Maxine, Svetlana and Kimiko between them and the wall. A larger girl with a flaming lizard tail stood at the center of the half circle, “Surrender yourselves peacefully,” She ordered with a growl as she drew her long sword. Kimiko glanced back at Maxine. The witch helped her friend up and gave a stern look to the samurai. She simply nodded, giving her the order. With a sigh, the jinko drew her katana and pointed it at the salamander, “I can assure you,” She resheathed her sword and took a low stance, gripping the hilt of her sword as her tail flicked from side to side, “We will not go peacefully.” Jackson set a big plate on the coffee table in front of Daisy. She grunted and whined as she frantically went for the cut up apples, cheese, peanut butter and crackers that her husband had laid out on the table for her. Jackson merely watched as his wife devoured the food that she had desperately craved. Cheese and peanut butter on top of a salty cracker with a bitter slice of apple following behind it. She groaned as she chewed, “So good!” She shouted before downing some grape juice. “P-please don’t choke,” Jackson stammered at her, “I’m too scared to perform the heimlich maneuver on you. What if I hurt the baby?” Daisy ignored him, “Rub my belly,” She growled, “Now!” Jackson quickly sat next to her, rubbing her stomach with one hand as she lay back, content and with a full belly. Her tail wagged as she leaned on her husband, “You’re so sweet, rubbing my tummy on command,” She grinned, “I love my husband~” “He loves you back,” Jackson sighed, “We should get you to bed. You can watch TV there.” “I don’t wannaaaaaaa!” Daisy whined as she rolled away from him. “Daisy, come on. Stop being a baby.” “But what about my baby? I have to eat more peanut butter for him!” “Okay,” He pinched the bridge of his nose, “But afterwards, a warm bath and a nice warm bed. Then, we can open presents together tomorrow,” He gently pet Daisy’s head, “And we’ll see your parents tomorrow, right?” “Jackson...” Daisy was panting, “S-somethings wrong...” “Huh?” He glanced down at her sweats. They were soaked, “Oh, shit! Did your water break!?” He tried and failed to stay calm, “How do you feel!?” “Uuuugh,” Daisy groaned as she grabbed her stomach, “It hurts... T-the contractions...” “I’m taking you to the doctor,” Jackson decided as he ran his hand over her head, “You’ll be alright, Daisy,” She cried out in pain as she felt more contractions. Without another word, Jackson picked her up in his arms and carefully dashed to the car. He loaded her in the front seat and buckled her in before jumping into the driver seat and pulling out of the garage, “Just hold it in, Daisy. I’ll hurry.” “Call Ruth! My best friend has to knowwwww!” Daisy demanded before crying out in pain again at the contractions, “Call mom too! Call my sisters! Oh, fuck, just call EVERYONE!” Jackson nodded and sped down the street, “You’ll be okay sweetie, just stay calm,” He was just as scared as she was. He was at least thankful that not many people were out at this time. He glanced at her, “J-just hold it?” He pleaded, looking back to the road just in time to swerve as a slow carriage inching out into the road, “Son of a bitch!” He sneered, holding himself back from honking at the careless driver. “Jaaaaacksoooon!” Daisy cried while grabbing at his arm. He idly gave her his hand as he ran a yellow light, seconds before it turned red, “Oh, Jackson,” She gripped his hand. He wheezed as she nearly crushed his bones. He grit his teeth and endured the pain for her. She cried out again, “I can feel the baby! He wants out!” “Hang on!” Jackson grunted as he hardly slowed down at a stop sign, “Fucking bikers in the road!” He growled, half because his wife was breaking his hand and half out of frustration as he swerved around two lovers on a tandem bicycle. Daisy started to laugh, “You’re really funny when you’re mad!” “There! The hospital!” He shouted as he ran a red. Within moments, he sloppily pulled into a parking space and hopped out. He pushed the pain in his own hand out of his mind and grabbed Daisy before running inside. She cried out again as the contractions made her body shudder once more. Kimiko sneered as she deflected two blows, one from each of her assailants. Lizard women, minotaurs, amazonians and men lay at the jinko’s feet, “Is that the best you can do?” She cracked a small, cocky smile as she sheathed her sword and stepped away. The two guards, a man and a lizard woman, glanced at one another and charged at once, both shouting a war cry as they prepared to cut into the samurai’s flesh. Kimiko dropped low and swung her sword wide as the two got close. Kimiko’s superior Zipangese steel folded hundreds of times sliced through the guards’ light leather armor and warm coats. They dropped their weapons and fell to the floor. The people on the ground groaned at their demon silver cuts as their energy flowed from their bodies. Men and mamano of various species. All garbed in red and green armor and coats, “Is this really the best the north has to offer?” “I will make you choke on those words,” The salamander hissed as she stepped forward, sword in hand. It wasn’t about defending the workshop anymore. This was for honor. The salamander started taking slow, careful steps forwards. “Oh? You wish to fall with your comrades?” Kimiko chuckled, “Very well. I will grant you your wish. You shall join them shortly,” She dropped low and prepared herself for another fight. She saw the rage in the salamander’s eyes. She had the captain exactly where she wanted her, she seemed like the type to get sloppy when aggravated and she was already quite furious. “I’ll take your other eye,” She hissed through grit teeth. “I will take the flame from your tail. Maybe your tail as well. Perhaps it will taste good cooked?” “Oh oh ho... I am going to kick your ass, mother fucker!” The salamander snarled. She instantly stopped and put her clawed hand over her mouth, “Oh no,” She dropped her sword with a metallic clang. Kimiko stepped away, completely confused by this new tactic. Maxine felt the ground shake as a door was slammed open on the other side of the warehouse. Svetlana yelped and cowered as she heard two pairs of cloven hooves on the hard floor, “Noel!” A voice boomed. “Y-yes my lady?” The salamander dropped to one knee facing towards the woman who was approaching. Maxine stepped in front of Svetlana, prepared to protect her. Kimiko stood in front of both of them, ready to defend them with her blade, “I have told you many times, Noel,” The voice scolded, “No swearing in the buildings,” She told the salamander with a deeply disappointed tone. “Y-yes ma’am. I-I was set off by these... Intruders,” The salamander slowly stood up and gestured at the three girls. Maxine peered into the darkness and stared at the four legged woman. She was definitely some kind of centaur, a white horn, it seemed. She had long white hair on her head and a tiny pair of glasses resting on her nose. Her thick coat was red and lined with white cotton. She pushed the glasses up to her eyes, “Hm? Oh! Visitors!” “V-visitors? Ma’am these three--” “Noel,” The whitehorn smiled sweetly, “These three are not here to destroy Christmas. Collect your guard and I will handle this,” Grumbling, Noel quickly gathered her slowly awakening team before all of them left the warehouse, “Oh, what a mess,” The white horn sighed as she gazed upon the scattered presents. “I-I’m so sorry, ma’am,” Svetlana stepped forwards and bowed her head, “I-It was an accident,” She sniffled quietly, trying to get a hold of her emotions. “Oh, do not look so sad, Svetlana. Here,” The white horn produced a wand. She uttered some magical words in her own tongue that sounded a little bit like a Christmas carol. The spilt gifts were swept up on the aetheric winds and placed precariously back into their piles. “That magic,” Maxine whispered in awe, “Wait. How did you know my friend’s name?” “I know your name as well Maxine, and yours, Kimiko. I also know all three of you are on the nice list this year,” The woman chuckled, “This way please. Let us get out of this drafty warehouse. I am sure you travelled here for a reason.” “Excuse me,” Maxine stopped her as she turned to lead them somewhere else, “Just who are you, ma’am?” “Oh, how rude of me,” She smiled warmly, “You may call me Missus Claus.” Ruth sat alone in a dark park. The snow fell gently around her as she stared into her hands. She watched the snowflakes gently fall into her hands with almost no flames in her eyes. The snowflakes melted and the water soaked into her fur. She leaned back on the bench and glanced around. It was the usual park that she took walks to with her husband. But now she felt cold and lonely. She wanted the warmth and happiness that the season usually brought her, even back in the old world, the winter months were full of the warmth of family. Now she had pushed her only closeby family away. She had been at a horrible low in her life when all of her sisters had moved away, but she now felt like this was the lowest she had been in her entire life. Feeling ill and sad. She felt as if she had nothing now. Nothing but her own misery. She couldn’t go home yet. She still had yet to find a gift for her husband. She scooped up a snowball and angrily threw it at a tree, shattering the loose clump of snow with a less than satisfying, wet noise. An unintelligible cry of frustration and anger bellowed from the bottom of the hellhound’s lungs. She kicked at a snow structure that had been left behind by whoever had been at the park when the sun was out. Her foot easily obliterated the cluster of small snowmen. She howled again before running at a larger snowman and drop kicking it with blind fury. Ruth lay on her back, staring up at the dark sky as bits of snow began to cover her face. She felt tears fill her eyes and then spill over the sides of her head, running down her temples. She took handfuls of the cold powder and tossed them aside as her anger dissipated. It made way for deep sadness and guilt. With another cry, one without anger but full of grief. She had only wanted to do one thing this winter, and that was make her husband happy with a nice surprise. She curled into a ball as she told herself she had failed to do even that. She hugged her legs to her chest as she continued to cry in the cold snow. She desperately needed a sign, something to tell her what to do. She wished her mother were alive, even if she was hard on Ruth and her sisters, she always knew what to do. She started to calm down slowly. Whimpering and mewling as she lay in the snow. She grabbed her phone where it lay in her pocket. She wanted to speak to someone. She needed to, but who else was there? She quickly considered and discarded Maxine. While she was a witch, and Ruth respected her, she was much too brash to be of much help. She really only had one last option left. “So... You’re married to the big guy?” Svetlana asked as she picked up the cup that Missus Claus had filled for her with warm tea. “Yes I am,” The white horn nodded, “I am quite sorry that you will be unable to see the man this visit. He is quite busy. Christmas eve, afterall,” Maxine merely stared at her in awe, basking in her magical Christmas joy filled aura. She found it quite infectious. “I still find this hard to believe,” Kimiko grunted, “How does one man manage to bring presents to everyone on this earth? It does not seem logistically feasible.” Missus Claus chuckled, “Oh, my dear. It is more than one man’s burden to deliver the gifts. Numerous people ride along in magical carriages, pulled by equally magical beasts. My husband is one of those riders as well as the boss around here.” “And what of the Santas that we spy in the malls?” Svetlana inquired excitedly. “More servants of my husband. And before you ask, no we do not make all of the gifts here. We do outsource a lot of gifts, especially electronics and magical things. We work closely with a sabbath or three and a few gremlin and gargoyle groups. Maxine leaned forward, “How did Santa come to exist? All records before mamano kind came to this new world point to the fact that he was little more than a myth!” “Well,” Missus Claus giggled, “He was. I was!” She broke out into a laugh as Maxine gave her a wonder filled grin, “The combined beliefs of those of earth made him and I real. Once infected with mamano mana, I turned into this. Not too bad, if I do say so myself.” “Will we ever see a Claus junior!?” Svetlana asked excitedly. “Well... I am sure you know their names. You know Dasher, and Prancer. And Comet and Vixen. Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen. But do you know my youngest daughter, Rudolph?” “Yes! Of course!” Maxine laughed, “My husband loves that movie!” “I-I hope Rudolph didn’t get bullied like she did in the movie,” Svetlana frowned. Missus Claus laughed, “Of course not! Even if she is the youngest--” Everyone jumped as a phone’s ringtone began to play loudly. Kimiko’s hands dashed to her little pouch under her kimono. She pulled out the phone, amazed that she got reception out here, “Ruth?” She tilted her head to the side, “Kimiko speaking,” She said as she answered. Ruth answered weakly and sadly, “H-hey, Kimiko... You busy?” “My friend, you have been crying,” She easily picked up from the tone of her friend’s voice, “What is the matter?” “Put her on speaker, if you would, my dear,” Missus Claus requested quietly. Kimiko nodded and did as told. It took her a few moments to figure it out. “Oh... Ya’ know,” Ruth sniffled, still trying to sound tough, “Laying in the snow. Crying my eyes out,” She chuckled, “Kimi, I don’t know what I’m doing,” She grabbed a handful of snow and tossed it aside. “You are still hung up on what to give him?” Maxine asked. “Maxine? Svetlana around too?” Ruth sounded a little disappointed. “Missus Claus too!” Svetlana excitedly announced. “Uh...” “You fear your husband’s wrath, my dear?” Missus Claus mused. Ruth sat up, feeling at ease as she heard the sound of wisdom she had not heard in years, “Who...?” “Your friend just introduced us, did she not, my dear?” Missus Claus chuckled again, “Do you believe there is really an ounce of rage within Gabe’s heart?” “N-no... I just... I just want to make him happy. I can’t get this wrong. I can’t.” “If you’re out crying in the snow, you might have already messed it up,” Maxine grunted. Svetlana, Kimiko and Missus Claus all glared at her. Maxine merely shrugged sheepishly. Missus Claus sighed, “Ruth, dear, if you want a perfect gift for him. Give him something that only you can. Something from within you. I am sure the hint you need will come soon.” “Well... Within me?” Ruth swallowed nervously, “Alright. Thanks, uh, Missus Claus.” “Of course, dear. Please write next year, we do love receiving letters.” Ruth stood still as she listened to the tone of her cellphone. Kimiko and friends had hung up. She glanced down at her phone again. A bunch of missed texts from Daisy and a few from Gabe. Gabe’s message was simple, ‘Please come home soon.’ Daisy was screaming in her texts about going into labor. Ruth pushed a few buttons and soon her phone rang, calling Daisy, “Ruth! Ruth!” Daisy cried as she picked up almost immediately. She cried out in pain as a contraction wracked her, “Its happening! My baby is coming!” “I-I’m happy for you, Daisy,” Ruth smiled as she stood, shaking the snow off of herself. “I’ve been trying to get a hold of you! Where have you been!?” Daisy stifled a pained shout. Ruth started to trudge out of the snowy field, “Been... Soul searching? Crying... but I talked to Missus Claus. That was kinda cool.” “What!?” “D-don’t worry about it. She told me to give Gabe something from inside me.” “That sounds kinda weird,” Daisy laughed, “Any idea what she meant?” “I--” Ruth froze as she slowly figured this was the clue she needed, “When you got pregnant, like at the beginning of it, how did you feel?” “Oh, super nauseous. Mood swings. Just totally awful. I was really happy--” She grunted loudly. Ruth could hear Jackson grunt in pain as well as if Daisy was gripping his hand incredibly tightly, “But then I was really damn happy!” “Thanks, Daisy,” Ruth grunted and hung up the phone. She headed to the one place that would be open this late. There was something she needed to get her hands on. “If I may ask,” Missus Claus gave the three girls a confused look, “What brings you to this domain? You must have been quite determined to come here. It is not easy to get to the North Pole. I know you have magic, Maxine, but how did you manage it?” Maxine huffed haughtily and smugly, “You used sabbath coven magic to conceal yourselves. While it is powerful, most sabbath covens only have one trick up their sleeves when it comes to this sort of magic. Although it wasn’t the first trick we assumed it was, it was the second. Do not worry, no one else should know my technique. All that other sabbath knows is that we were trying to get past an anti scry and teleport zone,” She quickly explained, still purring in satisfaction. “Hmm... I see,” Missus Claus huffed, “Perhaps I need to upgrade the security.” “Well, I am available for consultations. I...” Maxine pat her cloak searching for something, “Here it is!” She revealed a black card with golden text and offered it to the white horn. She gladly took the card, “As for why we are here. I am afraid I bring grave tidings,” Kimiko rolled her eyes at how melodramatic Maxine was acting, “It is about my close friends. I fear the Christmas spirit has left each of them. Especially Gwen, Theodore and Bridgett. You already heard on the phone that Ruth and Gabe could use some as well. I came here so that I may take some joy back for them and to prove to Kimiko that you and your husband exist. I also wanted to check if Gwen was on the naughty list.” “A noble cause,” Missus Claus nodded gravely, “It is nearly time for us to fly and bring presents to the world,” She stood and walked to the window of the little cabin, “You will be happy to know that Gwen is not on the list,” Maxine and Svetlana sighed with relief, “As for your friends. Perhaps we can save Christmas for all of them. But... Kimiko, why did you not believe?” “To tell you the truth, ma’am,” Kimiko sighed, “I received nothing from Santa last year.” Missus Claus chuckled as she grabbed a thicker coat, “Perhaps if you allowed yourself to want anything, we could have brought you something.” “What do you mean?” “How are we supposed to bring you a gift when your heart wants for nothing? Nothing but the safety for others that you so easily provide!” She laughed, “Kimiko, tell me before we leave, what is it you desire? Something for yourself.” “I... Want...” Kimiko echoed quietly and without any ounce of confidence, realising she was facing her toughest challenge yet: putting herself first for once, “A...” “I never expected Kimiko to find anything difficult,” Maxine smirked. “Hush!” Svetlana hissed at her. Kimiko wracked her mind, trying to come up with something as the other three sat patiently. She couldn’t recall anything that she herself needed. Maybe a better version of something she already had would suffice? That throw blanket, she pondered silently, “A-a new blanket. A soft and warm one,” She went one step further, indulging herself in a feeling she had never really had before, “A-and a pillow. One large and firm.” “A wonderful and practical choice,” Missus Claus chuckled, “Come now, ladies. We have a sleigh to prepare.” She led the three outside into the cold snow along a paved path from the cabin down to the runways. Maxine glanced around as mamano of various races along with a few men loaded large burlap bags into red sleighs. Each was pulled by a reindeer or a white horn, though Maxine did spy one pulled by a massive centaur. Each sleigh was manned by a man or woman in festive garb. None paid too much mind to them as they walked to a far hanger, a few took off headed south to various towns and cities around the world. “Amazing,” Svetlana mumbled in awe as she watched the operation seamlessly go off. “Isn’t it?” Missus Claus chuckled, “I am quite proud of them. Here we are,” She grabbed the red doors of a wooden shed and threw them open to reveal a sleek red sleigh, “This is the one my husband used to use. Although I usually do not fly, I will make a special exception this year. Kimiko, if you would bring the sleigh out,” Kimiko grunted and easily moved it out into the snow. An elven woman hurried over with a somewhat smaller burlap sack and loaded it into the back of the sleigh, “Well, girls,” The white horn smiled, “I suppose you had better hop in, hm?” “Oh my god,” Maxine mumbled as she ran a hand along the frame of the sleigh, “T-this is practically a magical artifact... A Christmas artifact!” “Maxine! Come on!” Svetlana called from the front row. Kimiko sat in the back with the bag of gifts. Maxine scrambled to climb in and had to be helped by Kimiko. She easily grabbed the back of the witch’s cloak and lifted her in. “There's our cue,” Missus Claus mused quietly as a goblin down the runway waved her into the runway with her light sticks, “Hang on, girls!” She cried as she started down the runway. Her brisk trot turned into a jog, then into a sprint before the sleigh left the ground with the white horn easily pulling it along. Soon, the girls were lifted above the clouds. Svetlana reached out to the pillowy and fluffy looking things, expecting a handful of something akin to cotton candy, instead, she only got wet. She frowned with disappointment. “Odd,” Maxine grumbled, “I do not recognize the magic I am picking up. No navigation system on this either.” “It runs on pure Christmas spirit! One of the most potent magics of all!” Missus Claus laughed, “Do you really think I need a navigation system? I have been doing this for ages!” “Where are we headed first?” Svetlana asked excitedly. “To spread a little Christmas joy, then get you all home.” Gwen’s eyes flew open. She could hear noises downstairs. Mumbles and heavy footsteps. Someone had to be in the house! What a perfect way to end this awful holiday season, Gwen told herself, “Theodore,” She shook her husband awake, “I think someone is in the house!” The man looked at his wife and blinked softly, “You’re just hearing things. If there is someone, its probably Maxine looking for eggs again.” “Darling, please. I am scared.” “Fine. I’ll go look,” He rolled out of bed, grabbed a shirt he had discarded the night before then grabbed one of the battle axes he kept on the wall. Usually it was just decorative, but the battle axes were sharpened and ready for use at a moment’s notice. He grunted at his wife’s fear filled face then started to stomp down the stairs. Strange, he thought he had turned off all the lights when he turned in for the night. He definitely heard the voices now, “You dummy!” One cried softly, “It is a bottomless bag! Just think of what you want to pull out of it!” “Y-you do it! I cannot figure it out!” “Here, dear, allow me,” A kind old voice chuckled. Theodore stepped from where he was hiding as he sensed no danger, “Uh,” Was all he could utter as he looked at the four girls standing in his living room standing around his brightly lit Christmas tree. Maxine and Svetlana watched the old white horn carefully as she expertly produced wrapped gifts from a burlap bag. “Merry Christmas, Theodore,” Kimiko grunted as she quickly spotted him, “Nice axe.” “Theodore!” Maxine whispered urgently, “Quickly, collect Gwen and Bridgett! We do not have much time!” “Uhm,” Theodore glanced at the kind looking whitehorn and nodded, “Alright. Hold on,” He stomped back up the stairs and into his room where he set the axe down, “Go downstairs,” He grunted at her, “I gotta grab Bridgett,” Gwen didn’t argue, instead she hurried down the stairs, curious as to what was going on. Gwen gasped as she gazed upon her three friends and the white horn, “Maxine? What is going on?” “Merry Christmas, my friend!” Maxine cackled somewhat quietly, “We have come bearing Christmas joy! We all know that you need it.” “W-who...?” She trailed off looking at the white horn. “Why, Missus Claus of course!” Svetlana grinned, “We went to the North Pole! We did not get to see Santa, unfortunately, but he must be quite busy tonight.” “Gwen, hm?” Missus Claus mused, “I believe I have something for you in here...” She dug through the sack and produced a red and green wrapped gift, “Here you go, my dear.” “Th-thank you,” Gwen stammered as she felt the heft of the gift. “Wooooow...” Bridgett was astonished by what she saw, “A-are you...?” She asked the white horn. “Yes, my dear, Missus Claus. You have been quite good this year, have you not, Bridgett?” The white horn asked. Bridgett nodded, still in awe, “Here, I brought this for you, and take your father’s as well,” Bridgett looked at her gift greedily, “In the morning, dear.” The dragon nodded and put both under the tree then stomped over to her father, “I’m sorry, dad,” She whimpered as she hugged his legs, “You didn’t lie to me.” “Of course I didn’t,” He grunted as he dropped to his knees to hug his daughter tight, “Why would I lie to you?” Bridgett started to cry as she felt horribly guilty. Gwen got on her knees as well and hugged the two of them, “No crying, honey. Everything is fine,” She cooed, “That goes for you as well,” She smiled at her husband. He had tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, “To bed, both of you,” She ordered. She finally felt some warmth and happiness for the holidays. Theodore nodded and lifted the little dragon girl with a grunt, carrying her to bed. “We must be off. We have a few more long stops to make,” Missus Claus smiled before taking a few bites of the cookies that had been left out for her, “Please, have a wonderful Christmas day, Gwen. Oh, and do not pack the stockings so tightly next year. I can hardly put any candy in them like this!” She stepped through the red and green portal that was placed by the fireplace, followed by Svetlana and Kimiko. Gwen grabbed Maxine’s hand before she could walk through, “Thank you, Maxine,” Gwen was holding back tears of joy, “You’ve saved Christmas for my family,” She squeezed the witch around the neck in a tight hug. “Heh,” Maxine smiled, “What are friends for if not for proving the existence of mythical beings to their friends to make their daughter happy?” Gwen laughed and let her go, “Again thank you, and merry Christmas, Maxine.” “Same to you, friend. I will speak to you soon,” Maxine turned and walked into the portal. Ruth quietly unlocked the front door of her home and stepped inside. She glanced at the sad looking, glowing tree and few wrapped presents underneath it. She sighed as she spotted her husband curled up on the couch, thankfully he was asleep. Ruth picked up one of the cookies that she and Gabe had put out earlier and bit into it. She wondered if that was a bad idea because Santa might actually come to her home. She shrugged and hurried to the bathroom, wanting to check something before waking her husband. Ruth held the plastic device to her face in the dim light. Her heart pounded as she saw the results. She sighed, unsure whether to be happy or afraid. She cleaned herself off before making her way to the couch and gently picking up her husband and dumping him on her lap, “Ruth?” He whimpered. “Sssh,” She whispered, “Why are you sleeping out here?” “I was waiting for you to come home,” He snuggled against her, “Where did you go? What did I do?” “You didn’t do anything,” Ruth assured him quietly, “I-I’m sorry. It was me.” “What’s wrong?” “Well... Its Christmas now, isn’t it? Merry... Christmas, Gabe. Sorry I didn’t wrap it,” Ruth carefully put a little plastic device in his hand. “Ruth... You’re pregnant?” He asked as he examined the pregnancy test. Ruth nodded, her eyes blurring as tears of joy filled her eyes and her husband’s, “I-I-I’m really scared, Gabe. W-what if I’m not a good mom?” “You’ll do great!” Gabe grinned as he wrapped his arms around her neck, “We both will, won’t we?” The two hugged, giggling at one another as they pressed their lips together. Ruth put Gabe on his back as she moved her lips to his neck. The fire in her eyes came back as she licked her lips. She grabbed his shirt and prepared to rip it off of him. “Should we come back later?” Ruth jumped up as Svetlana chuckled at her. Maxine and Kimiko were there too and the jinko’s face was as red as a tomato. They had all just walked out of a red and green portal that had just appeared by the fireplace. “H-how--” Ruth growled, “I should--” She stopped as another woman joined them, “Ah! Ruth and Gabe. I think I have something for both of you in here.” “Missus Claus,” Maxine explained gesturing to the white horn. “Uh huh,” Ruth folded her arms and glanced at all four of them, a little upset that they were interrupting her time with her man. Missus Claus pulled two gifts from her bag and put both under the tree for them, “I can see you two have some plans for the night,” She giggled, “Come, ladies, we must be off.” “Merry Christmas!” Svetlana cried before dashing back through the portal. “Yeah, yeah. Merry Christmas,” Ruth grunted as she watched Missus Claus grab a cookie and go through the portal followed by Maxine and Kimiko, “Ugh. C’mon, bed time,” She picked up her husband in a bridal carry and took him to bed, her tail wagging the entire time. “It seems like this is where we part ways,” Maxine bowed to Missus Claus. All four stood around Maxine's family's Christmas tree. Kimiko held the gifts for her family and Svetlana did the same for hers. “Aye. It is,” The white horn nodded, “I have a few more stops to make tonight. I pray you all will have a good remainder of the evening and a merry Christmas.” “Same to you, Missus Claus. Thank you for everything,” Maxine bowed again slightly, “Perhaps I will see you again next year?” “We will see. Merry Christmas, Maxine, Svetlana and Kimiko. And to all a good night.” “Hmph. I wonder if you are going to prove the existence of the Easter Bunny come April,” Kimiko chuckled. She frowned when she got knowing looks from both Maxine and Missus Claus, “Well. I am off to bed. Good night all.” Maxine waited for Missus Claus to leave before walking her two friends out, “What a wonderful night,” Svetlana sighed dreamily. “Aye. Just wish we could have seen Daisy,” Kimiko frowned, “Though Missus Claus did say they were receiving a wondrous gift.” “A baby!” Svetlana excitedly finished Kimiko’s thought. “We will see her tomorrow. I’m sure she’ll have her baby with her too,” Maxine declared, “You two should head to bed. Good night. Speak to you in the morning.” “Night!” Svetlana called as Kimiko silently did the same with a polite nod. Maxine was left alone, a smile on her face. She took a brief moment on the way to her own bedroom to check on her little girl. Sophia was sound asleep, thankfully. Maxine leaned down, kissed her forehead and pet her locks of white hair, a little regretful that she was not there to tuck her in that night. She left the room as silently as she came and returned to her bedroom. She froze as she saw the bedside lamp on and her husband still awake, “Why are you not asleep?” She asked quietly as she began removing her winter clothing. “I was putting up the stockings and stuff. Where were you?” Richard asked as he put his book down. Maxine huffed smugly, “The North Pole. Missus Claus gave me a ride home. We made some stops at our friend’s houses to drop off some Christmas joy!” Richard stared at her, disbelief obvious on his face, “Did you, like, get a picture or anything?” “N-no...” Maxine frowned as she climbed into bed with her husband. She ran her hand over his chest, the magical tattoos on his chest around the scar he got from a sword glowed slightly at Maxine’s touch, “Ask Kimiko, Svetlana, Ruth, Gabe, Gwen, Theodore or Bridgett when you see them!” He looked skeptical again but just nodded his head, “Fine. I’ll ask,” He said a bit sarcastically, “Get in bed and let's get some sleep, okay? Your mom is gonna want us to take a lot of photos tomorrow.” Maxine started to pout but got into the soft fluffy bed, facing away from her husband. He wrapped his arms around her hips and pulled her into him. He gently kissed one of her ears, making her blush, “Merry Christmas, darling.” “Merry Christmas.” “Your turn, Ruth,” Daisy informed the hellhound. All of them sat in Maxine’s lounge. The sky was dim, a feast had been had, and personal gifts had been exchanged. Each couple tried to give every other couple a gift no matter how small. Now, everyone was taking part in a white elephant exchange. Gabe was a little disappointed no one had put any funny gag gifts in. Everything was useful like tools, knives, liquor, blankets and food. Ruth peeked one eye open as she continued snuggling up against her husband. She still felt the love and joy from learning she was pregnant and hadn’t let him go since, “Bridgett,” She mumbled, “Grab that small one for me,” Ruth ordered. She had brought it, but she wanted the gift card it contained to her favorite barbeque place. “Okay!” The dragon girl leapt up and scurried over to the pile of white elephant gifts. “Honey,” Gabe mumbled, “Why not steal the jerky? You love that stuff,” He gestured over to Gwen, “I’m not even sure she eats meat,” Ruth didn’t respond. She merely kissed him on the cheek and took the present as Bridgett offered it to her. Gabe sighed, “I-I’m sure she’ll trade you for it, Gwen.” “I would appreciate that,” She chuckled, “Maxine, how was your Christmas morning? You have been quite quiet.” Maxine looked up from the children she was watching. She desperately wanted Ross and her Sophia to make some kind of connection early on in life, “Oh... It was fine.” Richard could hardly stifle his chuckling, “Maxine. Tell her.” She glared at her husband but ultimately gave in, “Fine. I got coal from Santa. APPARENTLY organizing a team to go to the North Pole and slipping into their warehouses and factories is naughty list worthy,” She hissed, “Despite the fact that I saved Christmas for all of my friends!” “I kinda wish I got to go with,” Jackson smirked, “Sounds like you guys had fun,” He was icing his hand. It was still bruised from when Daisy was in labor. Svetlana turned to Kimiko, “Did you get what you asked for?” She nodded, “A nice blanket and a new pillow.” “That blanket is really nice. She won’t share it,” Calvin grunted, “I want one of those.” “Maxine?” Gwen frowned as she looked at the present that she had given to Ross. It was a picture of Ross and Sophia sitting together on a blanket in a picturesque field, “I... Don’t remember being there when this picture was taken.” “Oh,” Maxine forced herself to not sweat, “We got a picture like that taken, remember? I merely had that background, what do you call it? Shopped? I had it shopped in, the background I mean,” She lied. She couldn’t let her friend know she kidnapped her son for a photoshoot. “I suppose that makes sense,” Gwen nodded. “What are we going to do next year for Christmas?” Daisy asked, “I think this has been a wonderful Christmas overall!” “I want next Christmas to go exactly the same!” Bridgett declared. Gwen, Theodore, Ruth, Gabe, Jackson and Kimiko’s heart rates all spiked at the thought of another year like this, “No,” Ruth grit her teeth. “But you can have the Christmas baby next year!” Bridgett whined, spewing smoke from her mouth. Ruth was weak to Bridgett’s puppy dog, pleading eyes, “W-we will see,” She smiled weakly as her small amounts of flames in her eyes turned into smoke. “I had fun this year!” Svetlana smiled, “But I do understand that it was quite stressful for most of you. I got to go to the North Pole!” “I need to go!” Bridgett shouted, “I really want to go!” “You better take her with you next time, hon,” Corey told the kikimora, “And take pictures.” “Please do not take my daughter to the Arctic,” Gwen pleaded with Maxine. “I am already on the naughty list, Gwen,” The witch grinned, “But, as you have asked, I will not. Also, Missus Claus might come to me as the North Pole’s magical defence consultant. If she does, I will take Bridgett with me if I ever have to make a trip there.” “Mom!? Please!?” Bridgett begged. Gwen looked to Theodore who nodded, “Fine. You may go. But only under those circumstances. I do not want my daughter crying if she happens to receive coal because of your antics.” Bridgett ran over to Maxine and started rapid-firing questions about the North Pole. The witch could hardly keep up. Kimiko gave an amused smile as she helped her babies sit up. Calvin helped her get a photo of each of them. Daisy handed her baby to Jackson as she stole the jerky from Gwen. The weresheep sighed with relief and then stole an electric blanket from Svetlana, locking it in. The kikimora glared at her and went for another gift. Ruth set down her soda as she stood and peered out the window into the blackness of the night. Her softly flaming and flickering red eyes with black sclera reflected back at her. The lights around the Hamilton manor reflected the small layer of snow that was falling around the grounds, “Ruth!” Daisy called before joining her at the tall floor to ceiling window, “Is something wrong?” She blinked at the Hellhound, “Or are you just staring out at the snow again?” The hellhound shook her head, “No. Honestly, I’m just thinking about what a wonderful Christmas this has been,” She smiled at her friend, “I love my friends.” She smiled back, “We love you too. But uh, I don’t think you’re going to love all of us anymore. I think Kimiko stole that gift card from you.” “WHAT!?” Ruth shouted, “Gabe! Help me steal it back!” She cried in desperation, the cold winter night filled with the laughter of her friends.