With a soft groan and still mostly asleep Brianna rolled over, entangled in the blankets haphazardly thrown over her naked body and yet inexplicably cold despite that. Frowning softly she reached out, almost blindly for her companions and the warmth of their bodies. However only an empty mattress greeted her and, frown deepening, she mumbled wordlessly in confusion before finally opening her eyes. It was still deep in the night and the room was nearly pitch black, lit only faintly by the glow of the alarm clock that cast a strange red tinge over everything. Reaching up to rub sleep from her eyes as she propped herself up on one hand, Brianna looked about the room. Across from her the blankets and sheets had been thrown back and indentations in the mattress confirmed that she had indeed not been alone when she went to sleep. Moreover, looking down at her arms revealed the faint lines of rope marks on her wrists and elbows, to say nothing of a lingering soreness between her legs from the rather… vigorous love-making of earlier, stood as proof positive that she hadn’t just been dreaming. While that confirmation brought a faint smile to her lips it still did not answer the question of why she was alone. More awake now, she rolled over to sit up in bed, allowing the blanket to pool around her waist and scanned the dark room more thoroughly. While it was difficult to see clearly, the floor was still strewn haphazardly with clothing, most of which was not her own, and the door was now wide open. Kiera and Murial likely had not gone far then if they were still naked, a thought which brought a small blush to Brianna’s face. Shaking her head she glanced at the alarm, bright red numbers flashing 2:00 AM. No more than a few hours since she had fallen asleep then. Odd that she wouldn’t have noticed her companions leaving though, to be fair, she had been fairly exhausted earlier.
Awake now, and more than a little curious, Brianna sighed and brushed her hair back as she rolled her shoulders to work some of the stiffness out of them. More than likely Kiera and Murial had simply gotten up to use the bathroom or get a drink or something and, given that her own throat was a bit scratchy from screaming earlier, that sounded like a pretty good idea. Throwing off the blankets and shakily climbing to her feet Brianna made her way to the doorway, wincing a bit, unprepared for just how sore she actually was. Even so, as she stepped out into the hallway and made her way to the kitchen Brianna could not help but smile a little at that fact. Today, or rather yesterday she supposed, had been one hell of a ride. From finally, finally, getting relief after days of being helplessly mummified and teased, to a long walk and picnic in bondage to, well, all the interesting revelations that had followed with the arrival of their guests. Honestly, when she thought about all that had happened in such a short period of time it almost made her head spin. And yet, for all the revelations, for all fear and self doubt she felt good, almost incredibly so. She could easily remember the feeling of her lovers and their soothing words as they embraced her tightly, calming her fears and once again helping her to understand herself in ways she had not imagined. And then there was the incredible night she had spent with Kiera and Murial and the all new revelations that had followed. Brianna shivered a bit at the memory of dominating the redhead, tying her down to the bed and teasing her until she begged. To say nothing of what had followed when Kiera had bound her tightly and taken her roughly. Biting her lip to stifle an involuntary moan, Brianna felt her smile widen. That was a memory she would cherish for the rest of her life.
Entering the kitchen and squinting a little Brianna took a moment to let her eyes adjust, a small light set over the sink casting a dim glow over the whole room and glinting softly off the numerous stainless steel surfaces. Once she had adapted, the blue-haired girl crossed quietly over to the counter and retrieved a glass from one of the overhead cabinets. Turning on the tap and half filling it with water, she brought the cup to her lips and drank greedily, letting out a soft sigh of contentment as the cool liquid soothed her sore throat. Taking another deep drink Brianna finally placed the glass in the sink and closed her eyes, enjoying the silence for a moment. As she was contemplating heading back to bed a sudden thought struck her, etching a small frown onto her face. Now that she was fully awake and no longer lost in thought Brianna could clearly remember that the bathroom had been dark and empty, its door yawning open to reveal that no one was within. Moreover, casting her gaze around the kitchen and attached living area revealed no signs of anyone, anywhere, not even nestled on the chairs or laying on the couch. If that was the case, where on earth had Kiera and Murial gone? Given that the pair had left their clothes behind they obviously hadn’t left, but at the same time the number of options for where they might have gone was rather limited. Outside maybe? She could think of no reason why they would venture out of the house in the middle of the night, stark naked no less, unless… Brianna felt a new blush cover her cheeks as she reminded herself of what exactly she had caught them doing earlier. They couldn’t be, could they? The pair could not possibly be that insatiable. And yet… and yet Brianna could not help but be curious and, despite the lingering soreness between her legs, just a bit excited.
Poking her head around the corner to look down the hallway Brianna could clearly see light spilling in through the back door. Either someone was out on the porch, or they had left the light on earlier. Either way Brianna figured that she might as well check it out. Kiera and Murial were guests after all and she should go make certain they were alright. And besides that if no one was there she should at the very least turn the light off. Nodding to herself, Brianna began to make her way quietly down the hall toward the door. Cracking it open gently, cool air washing over her body and the faint buzz of insects filling her ears, she peaked her head out. Her eyes were immediately drawn to one of the large, padded chairs scattered around the patio where Kiera sat, the dusky woman as naked as the day she was born. Murial was sitting in her lap clad only in an array of ropes that circled her chest and torso before running between her thighs. Her legs were also pinned together but, most noticeably, the ropes pulled her arms cruelly behind her back, elbow to elbow, so harshly that on a less limber woman Brianna feared that they would have dislocated her shoulders. The pale woman seemed not to mind, however, lounging comfortably across her mistress’ legs with her head pillowed on the dusky woman’s shoulder, wild red hair curtaining her face. No sooner had she taken in that scene, however, Brianna noticed that the pair were not alone. Standing but a few feet away, looking out over the railing with her back to the door, was Roxanna. Although clad in a robe, she could recognize those curves, that soft olive skin and those waves of dark hair anywhere. Brianna frowned a little at that, wondering just what in the world her mistress was doing here until the woman spoke, making it clear she had walked in on the middle of a conversation.
“You say that so easily.” Roxanna said, that familiar accented voice washing over Brianna as she listened, “but I am still rather cross with you.”
“I know.” Kiera answered, almost conversationally, but there was still something odd about her tone, “And I told you, I’m sorry for upsetting your girl and I can see why you’re so protective. She’s a sweet thing for sure,” the woman suddenly grinned, almost wickedly, “and absolutely amazing in bed.”
Roxanna’s posture shifted slightly, somewhere between amusement and annoyance, “I am aware.”
Kiera laughed softly, even as she stroked Murial’s hip making the pale woman squirm a little, “She loves you, you know.”
Roxanna turned enough to reveal the soft smile on her face, her voice wistful, “I am aware of that as well.”
“You’d better be.” Kiera warned, almost playfully, “But you haven’t told her the truth yet, have you?”
Roxanna seemed to bristle, “I fail to see how that is any of your business.”
“I guess it isn’t.” Kiera conceded, “But I can’t figure it out. I only talked to her once but I can tell that girl would eat fire for any of you, and I’m fairly sure you’d rip out the heart of anyone that tried to make her. She deserves to know.”
“I know that.” Roxanna said, harshly, before sighing and leaning against the railing, shoulders hunched, voice softening, “I know that. It is just… I wish to protect her.”
“Are you trying to protect her?” Kiera wondered, brow raised, “Or yourself?”
Roxanna almost seemed to flinch at the accusation before letting out a mirthless chuckle, “Perhaps I am just a coward.”
“You’re not a coward.” Kiera assured, “You’re one of the strongest people I know, but feelings are messy. It’s okay to have doubts.”
“It is not an easy thing to talk about,” Roxanna said softly, “it will change everything.”
“You don’t know that.” Kiera countered, “And besides, things might change for the better. You told that girl to follow her heart, right? To not be afraid?”
“I suppose I am a bit of a hypocrite.” Roxanna opined, voice brittle “I am afraid Kiera, so very afraid. I love her.”
“And you don’t want to lose her.” Kiera said and, though it wasn’t a question, Roxanna nodded nevertheless, “Waiting won’t make it any easier.”
“I know.” Roxanna admitted, “At first it didn’t seem relevant. Our relationship was tentative, casual almost, but as time went on…”
“Things got more serious.” Kiera finished, “And now you find yourself between a rock and a hard place.”
“It was so easy to love her.” Roxanna said, that same wistful and yet happy tone in her voice, “And such a joy to help her discover herself, but all the while there was a whole ocean of topics I refused to broach. I told myself at the time that it was not necessary, that there was no need to stress the poor girl when she was still learning how to be who she wished to be, and now… My head tells me she will understand, but my heart? My heart aches with the thought that she will not.”
“Look, I don’t know all the details, obviously,” Kiera answered, “but it seems to me your girl has a pretty good head on her shoulders and I’d bet that she’s picked up a few pieces by herself. It’ll be a lot easier if she hears it from you or Sofia. And, like I said, it’s obvious that she loves you, have faith in that.”
The conversation seemed to reach a lull then as Roxanna nodded and turned to stare out at the dark woods. Kiera shifted a little in her seat and wrapped an arm around Murial’s waist even as she continued to stroke the woman’s hip with her other hand, waiting for her friend to comment further. All the while, her body frozen stock still in the doorway, Brianna’s mind was racing. Even if she was missing a lot of pieces it was blatantly obvious that this conversation was about her and something, some secret that her mistresses were hiding. Something dangerous, something that Roxanna feared would fundamentally change their relationship, potentially not for the better even if Kiera seemed confident otherwise. That… what in the world could they be talking about? Brianna knew there were things her mistresses had not told her, details about their lives, their pasts, that were either too personal or too painful to share. She had never begrudged them that, it wasn’t like she had spilled her whole life story either, but even so she could not imagine what sort of secret either of the women she loved might have that would somehow change how she looked at them. They had spent so much time together, shared so much of themselves. She loved them, fiercely, and they loved her in turn, that was a truth that she had never questioned. And danger? Their lives were so peacefully, pleasantly mundane, what could she possibly need to be protected from? None of it made any sense.
Before she had a chance to wonder too much, however, a sudden shift of movement caught her eye and Brianna found her attention drawn back to Kiera as Murial stirred a little, lifting her head and tossing her hair back to reveal her face. Hazel eyes went wide then at the sight of blood on the redhead’s lips, a few drops running down her chin in stark scarlet lines against porcelain flesh. But what truly drew Brianna’s attention were the elongated canine teeth clearly visible in the woman’s open mouth and the pair of matching holes punched in the skin of Kiera’s throat, the tiny wounds weeping crimson droplets. Licking her lips with a look of pure ecstasy on her face Murial suddenly bent down again and ran her tongue across the wound, lapping up the last few precious drops of blood and, somehow, sealing the punctures as if they had never existed. Brianna gasped, loudly, at the sight even as she clamped a hand over her mouth to try and stay quiet. It was far too late, however, all eyes were now upon her. It was not the first time that Brianna had experienced that ‘deer in headlights’ feeling, of being locked in place and unable to look away even as every part of you screamed to move. However in the past that feeling had usually been brought on by the embarrassment of walking in on an intimate moment. This was different, fear and disbelief clenched her heart as she tried and failed to make sense of what she was looking at, blood pounding in her ears. Blood. Streaks of blood still ran down Murial’s chin but the woman’s eyes were glazed over as if she was intoxicated, barely aware of what was happening. Perhaps she was. In contrast Kiera wore a look of surprise and just a hint of confusion while Roxanna’s olive skin had paled several tones and, for a brief instant, the woman looked terrified. Still, no one dared to speak, the moment stretching out thinner and thinner like a thread of glass until, inevitably, it broke.
After what felt like an eternity caught in that moment Roxanna finally found her voice, “Korítsi, I… I did not notice you there.”
That acknowledgment of her presence was enough to snap Brianna out of her stupor and in an instant something primordial in her brain kicked in. She bolted from the door, running on pure instinct as she practically leapt down the stairs into the yard, barely noticing the feeling of cool grass under her feet and ignoring the voices calling out after her. Some rational part of herself knew this was a terrible idea. She was without clothes, or shoes, or supplies, running into the wilderness in the middle of the night with no idea where she was going and miles from anything remotely resembling civilization but that tiny voice screaming in her ear that she had to get away overrode everything else. Thankfully the forest was not particularly dense and the moon was bright and heavy in the sky that night, allowing her to more or less see where she was going. Even so, by the time Brianna finally stumbled to a halt, leaning up against the mossy trunk of some ancient tree, shivering and covered in sweat as she sucked in great gulps of air, her muscles burning from the exertion, she was well and truly lost. Practically collapsing onto an inviting patch of dirt and leaning back against the tree Brianna started out into the dark woods, the distant cry of insects and the soft sounds of the ocean her only company as she tried to wrap her mind around whatever it was she had just seen.
“Vampire.” she whispered, at last allowing herself to speak the word, voice soft and trembling as if afraid that saying it out loud would make it real somehow. And yet it was real, wasn’t it? Murial was a vampire.
Almost desperately Brianna shook her head. That was ridiculous, it couldn’t possibly be real. She must have just… misunderstood what she was looking at and panicked. She didn’t really know all of Kiera and Murial’s kinks, maybe they just had a thing for blood? It wasn’t exactly unheard of. Still, the image of those fangs was burned into her mind’s eye and Brianna knew for a fact that Murial’s teeth had been perfectly ordinary earlier, she’d had a pretty good look when gagging the woman after all. They might have been fake but even then Kiera shouldn’t have been sitting calmly and holding a conversation while her lover ripped her neck open with them. It had to be fake, but she knew in the very depths of her being that it wasn’t. A sudden, terrifying thought occurred to her then. Had Murial drunk her blood as well? Almost instinctively she reached up to check her throat for wounds before remembering that the redhead had, somehow, healed Kiera’s neck with a lap of her tongue. ‘There wouldn’t be any evidence.’ she realized, a shiver running up her spine. She could chase this thought in circles for hours and still be no closer to the truth. Was this what going crazy felt like? And then there was the conversation itself, the revelation that her mistress had some sort of deep, dark and dangerous secret that she was afraid to reveal. Could it be… Was it possible that Roxanna was a vampire as well? It would make a certain sort of sense, but too many things didn’t add up. She’d seen her mistress eat food and walk in the daylight many times, to say nothing of the way her breath hitched and her heart fluttered when they made love. As much as Brianna felt as if she were stumbling ten steps behind, totally ignorant of the rules of this strange new world she had apparently been part of for months, that didn’t make any sense. An almost hysterical giggle bubbled up inside of her at that thought. Sense? She was mentally debating whether or not her mistress, one of the women she loved intimately, was secretly a vampire and she simply hadn’t noticed! Sense had left the conversation some time ago.
A sudden gust of wind made the girl shiver and Brianna instinctively hugged herself to try and stay warm. Whatever was going on she couldn’t spend the night naked and alone in the woods, though that was complicated a little by the fact that she didn’t really know where she was and was, perhaps, just a bit lost. Still, she needed to do something, but what? As she tried to form some sort of plan a sudden rustling in the brush made her freeze. Had she been followed? Given her current circumstances she wasn’t sure if she was hoping the answer was yes or no. The tension drained out of her almost immediately when the rustling stopped and a fox of all things poked its head out from behind a bush, bright azure eyes looking at her curiously and pale coat gleaming in the moonlight. Although wary of any wild animal Brianna was fairly certain the small creature was no real threat unless it was rabid and, while she was no expert, it looked far too healthy for that. Besides that she could not help but smile softly at how adorable its gray and white face was, a welcome distraction from her earlier thoughts. The creature seemed to study her for a moment and she could only watch with a touch of amazement as it slowly padded up to her and brushed its soft body against her leg before curling up at her side. Entranced at how friendly it was, clearly used to humans, Brianna reached down to run her fingers through the fox’s stark white fur, marveling at the silky soft texture.
“You’re a friendly one, aren’t you?” Brianna whispered, softly, not wanting to spook her new companion.
In response the fox swatted her with its tail and made what she could only describe as a sort of chirping laugh.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Brianna said, with a smile, before sighing again as she gingerly petted the creature, “You know, I thought vacations were supposed to be relaxing? Feels like this one’s cursed.” she paused for a moment, “Oh jeez, what if it is?”
The fox just closed its eyes and huffed.
“You’re right,” Brianna agreed, “one crisis at a time.”
For a few more minutes nothing seemed to happen as Brianna lost herself in silence and the silken feel of fur beneath her fingers, contemplating everything and nothing. Yet try as she might, Brianna's mind was drawn back to the conversation between Kiera and Roxanna again and again. A particular detail lept out upon reflection, Kiera’s confidence that she had, in fact, picked up a few ‘details’ about whatever secret Roxanna so feared. At first glance she thought it more likely that the dusky woman had rather overestimated her skills of observation but, upon reflection, perhaps there had been a few out of the ordinary things, things she had dismissed or not considered at the time but might be more relevant now. Roxanna was almost anachronistically set in her ways, but was that simply a personal eccentricity or a sign that she was, in fact, older than she seemed? Sofia, in turn, was unusually strong, more so than one might expect from someone of her build despite her clear athleticism. Nothing unnatural, but Brianna still marveled at how easily the blonde could manhandle her though, truth be told, it was something of a turn on. A tiny blush, and an even tinier smile, painted her face at the memory. But, as she dug through those memories a few more oddities stuck out. First and foremost the way that sex, for lack of a better term, made her feel. Sated and happy and warm to be certain, but it was more than that. That warm and languid exhaustion was often underlined with a strange sort of energy as well, an inexplicable buzzing of vitality in the core of her being. Was that significant? She didn’t know, but it was definitely odd now that she thought about it.
Her train of thought came to a halt all of a sudden when her canine companion (Were foxes canines? She wasn’t sure.) cocked its ears, as if listening to some distant sound, before tilting its head back and screaming. Brianna jerked in surprise, shocked that a fox could make a sound like that to say nothing of just how loud the creature was.
Stilling her hand, she mock glared, “You just got a lot less cute.”
The fox just huffed again and curled up at her side, apparently finished screaming bloody murder at the sky and content to take another nap. Leaning back against the tree Brianna let out a sigh. This had truly been a strange night. The night got stranger still a few minutes later when the soft but clear sound of footsteps echoed through the dark, the rustle of branches marking the pace of someone moving quickly. Drawing herself up, tense and ready to bolt again if need be, Brianna watched the brush warily. Her companion seemed to agree, the fox climbing to its feet lazily before bounding over to a nearby log, keeping its own bright eyes trained on the woods as well. Just then Claudia of all people stumbled into the small clearing, her dark hair wildly disheveled and still wearing the same simple button-down shirt from earlier, though she had hastily donned a pair of pants and some sandals to go with it. Holding a bundle in her hands the tattooed girl’s eyes instantly shot to Brianna’s pale and naked form practically huddled against the old tree and her shoulders dropped in relief.
“Brianna? Are you alright?” Claudia's voice was pitched low, full of worry, “I heard screaming.”
“I…” Brianna started, relieved and yet wary and utterly confused, “Stay back.”
Claudia froze in place and spread her arms slightly, “Brianna, I know you’re probably confused…”
A mirthless laugh cut her off, “Confused? I was confused the first time I saw a girl naked and got turned on by it! Right now? Right now I’m confused, and terrified and… and I don’t know what to think!” A sob suddenly tore its way from her throat and Brianna hugged herself, voice strained, “Please Claudia, please tell me you’re human.”
“I’m as human as you are,” Claudia assured, “I promise.”
Brianna said nothing in response to that and, tentatively, Claudia began to approach slowly unfolding the blanket she had been carrying. When the blue-haired girl made no move to stop her, Claudia carefully set the blanket around her shoulders and slowly sat down at her side. Moving slowly so as not to spook her, the tattooed girl slipped an arm around Brianna’s shoulders and hugged her gently. In response the blue-haired girl leaned against her and pulled the blanket tight around her body.
After a long moment she spoke, “That was real, wasn’t it.”
It was not a question, but Claudia answered anyway, “Yeah.”
“You knew.” Again, it wasn’t a question
Claudia was quiet for a moment, “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” Brianna almost demanded, voice harsh but still quiet, “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“At first I thought you knew,” Claudia began with a sigh, running a hand through her hair, “But then? I know it’s a cliché, but they weren’t my secrets to share.”
Brianna was silent for a moment but seemed to accept that answer, “Then why didn’t they tell me? Do they not…” her voice grew strained, “don’t they trust me?”
Claudia seemed to ponder that for a moment, “Do you remember what it was like coming out?”
Brianna frowned slightly at the sudden change of topic, but she did remember, it had only been a couple of years ago, “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Telling your friends and family was a little nerve wracking, right?” Claudia continued, ignoring the question, “No matter how certain you were that everything would be fine, you couldn’t help but be a little afraid that it wouldn’t be, right?”
“This is a little bit different than being bisexual!” Brianna protested, even if she could grasp what the other girl was getting at.
Claudia just nodded, “You’re right, it is. But it’s the same kind of fear. Fear of being rejected by the people you care about. Fear that you won’t be accepted for who you are. And the more you care about someone? The more afraid you are of being rejected.”
The damnable thing was that Brianna could honestly sympathize with that, and could easily understand that sort of fear and hesitation. It took some of the sting out of the experience, but the confusion and uncertainty lingered, “I want to know everything.”
“A tall order, and I’m certainly no expert,” Claudia warned, “but I’ll answer as best I can. Although,” she glanced past Brianna, “you might as well stop eavesdropping.”
Later, no matter how many times she ran over the memory over in her mind, there was no warning as to what was about to happen. No flash of light, no sound, not even some kind of obvious transformation. One moment a pale fox had been perched on a fallen log to her left, the next Sofia was sitting in the exact same spot looking more somber and serious than she had ever seen the woman look before. Brianna blinked, then blinked again, as if momentarily unable to comprehend what she had just witnessed before her eyes went wide with realization.
Almost instinctively pressing herself into Claudia’s embrace she exclaimed, “You’re a werewolf!?”
“Not a wolf, no, devushka.” the woman said, briefly smiling, “And not a were-anything. Ms. Kiera is the only one among us to possess that title.”
Brianna blinked again, “Kiera? Really?”
“Indeed.” Sofia answered.
“Like full on, claws and fur and howling at the moon?” Brianna wondered, momentarily forgetting that, apparently, her mistress could transform into an animal.
“It’s a bit more complicated than that.” Claudia cautioned.
“Yes, despite what one might have read, lycanthropy is not some disease spread by a bite.” Sofia explained, “Rather one must be born with the potential and even then, only the most gifted can transform into the monsters of legend.”
“Huh.” Brianna wondered, glad to have a distraction from her earlier turmoil, but at the same time genuinely fascinated.
“From what I’ve been told there’s some sort of ritual involved to awaken the potential.” Claudia continued, “Real secretive stuff that involves drugs and the full moon and getting bitten. Kiera’s been through it, but wouldn’t share any details. I’ve never seen her go all out, but even as a woman she’s damned strong and ridiculously healthy.”
“Okay.” Brianna said, after a moment of contemplation, “So Kiera’s a werewolf, basically.”
“Pretty much.” Claudia agreed.
“And her girlfriend is a vampire?”
“True.” Sofia answered.
Brianna frowned a little and leaned forward, propping her chin up on one hand, “Television lied to me.” At that non-sequitur both of her lovers looked at her curiously and Brianna felt herself blush a little, “I mean, aren’t vampires and werewolves supposed to be mortal enemies or something?”
Claudia actually chuckled, “I don’t know, they do ‘wrestle’ an awful lot.”
“You must admit that dominance games would be an interesting way to solve conflicts.” Sofia added, “But no, I am not aware of any special enmity between the wolf-blooded and the undead, devushka.”
“Like I said, Murial really is just submissive despite the way she acts.” Claudia added, “I always figured that Kiera is one of the few people she’s met strong enough to really force her to submit.” she smiled a little, “Hot as hell, too.”
Brianna blushed a little, but could not help but agree, although she was still trying to wrap her mind around the fact that she’d had sex with a werewolf, although it did explain the golden cast of the woman’s eyes, to say nothing of her impressive physique and the almost predatory edge to her movements.
“Moreover, Ms. Brennan’s heightened healing no doubt makes her a very convenient source of blood.” Sofia added.
That brought back an earlier fear and, glancing at Claudia, Brianna asked quietly, “Do you think? Do you think she drank my blood?”
“No way to really know without asking.” Claudia answered, which wasn’t the most comforting response, “But you’d probably know if she had.”
“How?” Brianna wondered before taking in the odd look on Claudia’s face, “Wait, has she drunk from you?”
“I was curious.” Claudia defended, actually blushing a little, “And, let’s just say, it feels really, really good. Enough that you’d probably notice, even asleep.”
Brianna blinked a few times at that but, the more she thought about it the more it made an odd sort of sense. Claudia was something of a sensation junkie after all. But that also made her curious, “What does it feel like then?”
If anything the smaller girl’s blush actually deepened, “Hard to describe. Intense? Not like anything I ever felt before to be honest. I, uh,” looking away, her voice dropped low until she was practically mumbling “I came.”
Of all the responses, that was not one that Brianna had been expecting and, despite everything, she grinned at the girl, “Well, now I feel disappointed.”
Claudia playfully shoved her shoulder, but smiled back.
Glancing back over at Sofia, who was also smiling softly at the pair’s antics even as she was carefully keeping her distance, Brianna took a breath to steady herself. “So, ah,” she asked, trying to find a more polite way to phrase her question before giving that up as impossible, though she could not help but wince at the phrasing, “what are you?”
Sofia did not seem offended, “A good question, devushka. And a difficult one. Am I a woman who wanted to be a fox? Or am I a fox that dreamed of being a woman? In truth, I do not know.”
“You don’t know?” Brianna wondered.
“I did not lie, devushka.” Sofia explained, “I came from a very rural place and, like most, I have no real memory of my earliest years. But, as far as I can recall, I have always had this ability and I never told anyone. A secret just for myself.” she smiled a little, “Curiosity led me to wander and, well, the rest is history as they say.”
“And no one ever noticed?” Brianna wondered, “Or told you anything?”
“I have learned that there are ways to change one’s shape, but natural talents like myself are rare.” Sofia shrugged, “The how and why do not bother me. All I know for certain is that I am Sofia Petrovna, guardian and lover of Roxanna Kormou, mistress to Claudia Reed.” she smiled, almost sadly, “And, I hope, still the mistress of the wonderful young woman who was brave enough to share her feelings with me one hot summer afternoon.”
The earnestness of that hope, that quiet plea, touched Brianna’s heart and made her realize something. Despite everything, despite the whole world being turned on its head, she still loved these women and she still trusted them. They had done so much for her, freely given her so many things, not least of all the gift of self-discovery, and had held her and supported her through all of her doubts and fears. Maybe they were a touch more eccentric than she had realized, maybe some of those silly childhood stories were actually true, but she wasn’t about to give up all that she had gained without a fight. Rather than answering with words, Brianna slowly drew her legs under herself and stood, still clutching the blanket. Taking a step forward she opened her arms in silent invitation and in an instant Sofia was there, embracing her tightly, strong arms holding her close against that familiar body.
“I love you.” she whispered, softly, into that embrace.
“You are a treasure.” Sofia whispered back as she kissed the crown of Brianna’s head, “What do you say, devushka? It is late, you must be tired and cold. Let us go back.”
Closing her eyes and pressing herself even more tightly into Sofia’s firm curves Brianna took a deep breath, the woman’s familiar scent a comfort, and nodded, “Okay.”
Sofia on one side and Claudia on the other, holding her and supporting her, the trio slowly made their way back to the cabin, moving carefully to avoid stumbling in the dark. Understandably, Brianna hadn’t been paying much attention to how far she had actually run in her earlier, scrambled flight into the woods but it was still a bit of a surprise just how long it took to trek back. Even so, with the warmth of familiar bodies on either side of her and gentle arms draped across her shoulders and around her waist Brianna felt strangely comfortable. Anxiety still swirled deep in her stomach but she felt almost calm despite that. Maybe she was just tired but, somehow, Brianna knew that everything would be alright. Eventually, after what felt like hours of slowly walking through the dark, the lights of the cabin could be seen glittering through the steadily thinning forest. Within moments the group finally broke through the tree line and stepped back onto the well manicured yard. Only then did Brianna feel that sliver of anxiety grow. Despite her earlier optimism there were still so many questions and then there was Roxanna. Despite her earlier resolve to forgive, part of her could not help but feel a little betrayed by her mistress, although another part of her felt terribly guilty for running away like she had. She still wanted answers, but with Claudia’s word still echoing in her mind she could understand why this secret had been kept. Even now it seemed so unreal and, in a similar vein, she hadn’t exactly been eager to share the truth of her love life with her family. Perhaps there really were no easy answers but to push ahead, come what may. It wasn’t exactly a comforting thought, but it did strengthen her resolve.
By the time they had made it onto the porch and over to the back door Brianna’s feet were killing her and a sudden wave of exhaustion washed over her body, the events of the night finally catching up with her. But, as they stepped back inside she forced herself to stay awake, there was still something she had to do before even thinking about sleeping.
“Where’s Roxanna?” she asked, softly.
Sofia hesitated for the briefest of seconds before answering, “In the bedroom. She was terribly upset by what happened, I am certain she would be happy to see you, but if you wish to be alone…”
Brianna shook her head, firmly, “No, I… I want to see her.”
Neither of her lovers commented, just looked at each other for a moment and that silence spoke volumes. Still, neither objected either and with a small nod from Sofia they guided her down to the end of the hallway and the closed door of the master bedroom.
“Wait,” Brianna said as Claudia reached out for the doorknob, the girl’s hand freezing in place instantly, “I need to do this by myself.”
“Are you sure?” Claudia asked.
Brianna nodded, “I’m sure.”
“Call if you need us.” Sofia said, softly, with one final, comforting squeeze.
Brianna smiled in turn and, drawing the blanket tighter around herself, took a deep breath and pushed forward, slipping into the bedroom and closing the door behind her. She was only peripherally aware of the room, every bit of her attention focused on the woman sitting on the bed. Roxanna was curled up against the headboard, still dressed in the same loose fitting robe, with a pillow hugged to her chest and her dark brown eyes red and puffy, clear evidence that she had been crying. Looking up as soon as she heard the door close Roxanna froze in place, a myriad of emotions playing across her face as she caught sight of Brianna. Letting the pillow drop to her lap she reached out, almost instinctively, only to stop herself, eyes glistening. Feeling her own heart break just a little Brianna took a tentative step forward, then another and another until she was right at the edge of the bed. Heedless of the dirt and bits of moss clinging to Brianna’s disheveled form Roxanna practically lunged forward as best she could, wincing slightly as the sudden movement pulled on her scars but not letting that stop her as she pulled the girl into a tight embrace. Brianna responded in kind, wrapped her own arms around the olive-skinned woman, gently rubbing Roxanna’s back with faint circular motions as she felt the woman’s shoulders hitch with suppressed sobs.
“You are safe, oh korítsi, I…” Roxanna started, her normally rich voice shaky and hoarse with emotions as she tried and failed to speak, “Please… I, I did not… I am…”
“I forgive you.” Brianna interrupted, understanding well enough what the poor woman was trying to say.
Roxanna actually gasped, as if surprised, before her grasp tightened just a bit and her body incrementally relaxed. Although still shaking her voice calmed just enough to be heard, “I never meant to hurt you.”
“I know.” Brianna answered softly, “And I think I understand why, Claudia helped me with that.”
“Wise beyond her years, that one.” Roxanna commented softly, still clearly unwilling to let the blue-haired girl go, as if afraid she might disappear.
Brianna had to smile a little at that even as she continued to rub the other woman’s back, “But, no more secrets. Okay?”
“Okay.” Roxanna agreed, voice barely a whisper.
Each still refusing to let the other go, the pair somewhat awkwardly made their way onto the bed and huddled up together. They simply sat together for a long moment before Roxanna suddenly let out a tiny laugh, “I scarcely know where to begin.”
Part of Brianna wanted to say ‘at the beginning’ but, instead she settled on a simple question, “This had been bothering me since I saw…” she trailed off, there was no need to specify just what she had seen, “Are you a vampire?”
Roxanna actually chuckled a little, cutting some of the tension, “No, korítsi. Sunlight and vampires do not get along very well.”
Brianna nodded, that had matched with some of her own speculation but still didn’t answer many questions, “Then, I mean…”
Roxanna seemed to understand, “Many people use many different terms, but the one you would probably recognize easiest is witch.”
“Really?” Brianna asked, turning slightly to look Roxanna in the face, just a bit excited that the old stories were actually true, although she smirked just a bit, “I would have guessed mermaid.”
Roxanna looked confused, “Why would you think that, korítsi?”
Expression softening she shrugged, “It’s just, how easily you moved in the water? How happy being in the ocean made you look? It would make sense.”
“That is very kind of you.” Roxanna said, “But no, the ocean simply reminds me of old times, good times.”
With a statement like that she had to know, “And when you say old times…?”
Roxanna actually laughed, sounding much more like her old self, “I am not some crone hiding in a young body, korítsi. I am barely forty and, if I have aged more gracefully than most, no one needs to know that it is anything more than good genes.”
“I’m a little surprised I never noticed anything though.” Brianna confessed, “I mean, I spent months cleaning your house. I always thought your den was kind of magical, but more in a sort of charmingly eccentric kind of way.”
Roxanna seemed to find that description amusing, “Magic is a subtle thing. Wands and amulets and potions? Such things are used, but they are props to aid in focus and only rarely can one achieve obvious effects. What magic is, what magic truly is, is the imposition of one’s will upon the world. It is difficult to explain, but it tends toward small changes that can add up over time like building blocks. It is not as dramatic as, say, a lycanthropic transformation, but it is far more flexible.”
“I guess that makes sense.” Brianna said, before smiling again, “So what you’re saying is, you’ve never ridden a broom.”
“No.” Roxanna answered, smiling back, “If I need to fly, korítsi, I would much prefer the comfort of an airplane.”
“I’ve never flown anywhere.” Brianna commented, almost wistfully, “So, if you’re a witch does that mean you have a coven or something?” she grinned a little cheekily, “Do you gather and dance naked around a fire on the full moon?”
“Reality is scarcely as entertaining as fiction, korítsi.” Roxanna cautioned with a smile of her own, “Not that I have any objection to removing my clothes.”
“Damn.” Brianna lamented playfully, “Just crush a girl’s dreams.” she let out a breath, then asked earnestly, “But, I mean, is there any community or anything?”
“To a point.” Roxanna admitted, “I am something of a homebody, though much like my academic work I keep in touch with a few colleagues through correspondence. There are larger gatherings here and there, but even so there is a sort of understanding among the… mystically talented let us say, to keep to ourselves. Partly it is custom, but while there may be little to fear in the modern world,” Roxanna’s gaze trailed down toward her bare arms, “in old places, old fears linger.”
Not sure at first what she meant, Brianna followed that gaze down and realized that Roxanna was looking at her scars, in particular the thin scars that circled her wrists. In that instant it clicked into place in Brianna’s head and she realized what those scars in particular represented. Evidence of someone who had been restrained cruelly, marks left by a wire or cord that had bit deep. Brianna had known that someone had hurt her mistress in the past, but the realization that Roxanna had not merely been hurt, but that she had been tortured, made her heart break all over again.
Tears welling up in her eyes Brianna embraced the woman fiercely, “I’m sorry.”
Although welcoming the hug Roxanna frowned softly, “Sorry? You have nothing to be sorry for, korítsi.”
“No, I mean,” Brianna started, stumbling over her words and blinking to try and clear her vision, “I’m sorry you had to go through that. I know you said that someone hurt you, but I never realized, never even imagined…”
“That is because you have a good heart, korítsi.” Roxanna assured, interrupting her rambling, “Please do not cry, there is enough pain in the world.”
“But you’re so kind and caring and loving!” Brianna protested, “How could anyone even think to do something like that!?”
“Her name was Ianthe.” Roxanna said softly after a long pause, “She was beautiful with eyes like the sky and a laugh that I would have sworn could part the clouds. We had grown up together, and I loved her. I took a chance and confessed that love and was rewarded, but in our time together I discovered my abilities.” she paused then and closed her eyes for a moment, perhaps rallying her strength to continue, “Excited, I shared them with her, but as I said in places with old memories, old fears linger. It is simply to my great fortune that, in this day and age, ‘she is a witch’ is not a defense the police will accept.”
Brianna felt a moment of sheer incomprehension at that. Roxanna had been betrayed by her lover? How could anyone do that to someone they loved? She suddenly found herself hating this woman she had never known and probably never would know. Roxanna seemed to sense the shift in her mood and gently wove a hand into her hair to pull her close.
“Hate is a poison, korítsi.” she whispered into Brianna’s ear, “I know for I felt enough of it, but do not poison yourself to spite another, no one is worth that. Sofia taught me how to let go and live again. Claudia, and yourself, have helped me to reclaim a part of myself that I had thought lost. Our revenge will be to live well.”
It took a moment to parse that statement but when she did it made Brianna feel good to know that she had, knowingly or not, played a role in helping her mistress to recover. Bondage as therapy, who would have guessed? Still, even as she resolved to try and follow Roxanna’s advice so many things made sense now.
“No wonder you were afraid to tell me.” she whispered.
“I hurt you, korítsi.” Roxanna insisted, “You trusted me and I betrayed that trust. It does not matter why, there is no excuse. That you are willing to forgive me is a wondrous gift, one that I will strive to be worthy of, but please, let us not live in the past.” she smiled a little, carding her fingers through Brianna’s hair as she did so, “I am still the same woman you fell in love with, you now just know a few more things about me.”
Part of her suspected that would be easier said than done, that it was something Roxanna herself struggled with, but at the same time Brianna understood what her mistress was saying. She didn’t want to be weighed down, didn’t want to be pitied, she just wanted to live and did not want those she had welcomed into her life to think differently of her. Brianna could definitely understand that and, if nothing else, it made her feel just a little bit more special to know that, despite everything, this wonderful woman had been willing to let her in.
“Okay.” Brianna said, at last, before changing the subject, “Just to make sure I understand everything. Kiera is a werewolf.”
“A lycanthrope, yes.” Roxanna confirmed with a nod.
“And her girlfriend is a submissive vampire.”
Almost despite herself Roxanna’s lips quirked into a half smile, “Also correct.”
Returning that smile Brianna pressed on, “Sofia is a fox, in every sense of the word.”
That actually elicited a chuckle, “An excellent way to put it.”
Brianna nodded, “And Claudia and I are the boring humans caught in the middle.”
Roxanna looked away slightly, “Not… exactly.”
Brianna’s grin collapsed, “What do you mean?”
“Other than neither of your being boring?” Roxanna asked, perhaps trying to lighten the mood, “Claudia is mostly normal, though she has a certain sensitivity to magic. She can sense it’s presence subtly, which I suspect is part of the reason why our relationship deepened in the first place. I tried to teach her more, but she had no talent for it.”
“Oh,” Brianna said, nodding a little, “okay.”
“You, however?” Roxanna continued, “I am certain that you do indeed have the potential, korítsi.”
There was a moment of sheer, stunned silence, as if Brianna was having trouble understanding the words that her mistress had just spoken, but even so a bubble of excitement grew within her as well, swelling as she parsed those words. Her mistress thought she could do magic, that she could become a witch as well? It was an incredible thought, an impossible one, and yet she found herself wishing it was true with every fiber of her being.
“Really?” she asked, excitedly, practically bouncing in her mistress’ lap.
Smiling in return, and clearly sharing that excitement, Roxanna just nodded and loosely embraced the girl to hold her still, “There are no guarantees, but I am certain you have the ability and may have even used it subconsciously.”
“You think?” Brianna wondered, “When?”
“Allow me to share another secret with you, korítsi.” Roxanna leaned forward to whisper in her ear once again, voice soft and strangely sensual, “On that long ago night? When you saw us with Claudia and all of this began? The curtains were not open.”
It took a second to wrap her mind around what her mistress was saying but, when she did, Brianna was stunned. Thinking back she had thought Sofia reacted oddly to that particular confession but had mostly put it out of her mind. Never in a thousand years would she have guessed that this was the reason.
“Imposing your will on the world.” she whispered, still a little dazed.
“Indeed.” Roxanna agreed, “I have never heard of lust being the driving force of such, but the results seem to speak for themselves.”
Although she blushed a bit Brianna nodded, “A lot of times I feel weirdly energized after sex, but still tired too. I never thought much about it, but, maybe…”
“Perhaps.” Roxanna agreed, “It could merely be adrenaline but, it is possible that your power reacts best to certain emotions and acts. Something to think on. Though, be advised, the study of magic is more akin to a hobby than career. Most of us still need day jobs.”
Leaning back and pillowing her head on Roxanna’s breasts Brianna smirked again, “I don’t know, if I end up being a sex witch or a bondage witch or something weird like that I’m pretty sure I could make a career out of that.”
“True.” Roxanna agreed, halfway between playful and serious, “We shall have to see, I suppose.”
Her exhaustion finally hitting her Brianna closed her eyes and snuggled deeper into her mistress’ chest, “You will teach me, won’t you?”
“I promise, korítsi.” Roxanna answered.
Smiling a little Brianna yawned, “Can I sleep like this?”
“Of course, korítsi.” Roxanna agreed, softly, “Rest for as long as you like, I will be here in the morning.”
“Good night, mistress.” Brianna mumbled even as she drifted off, voice barely more than a whisper, “I love you.”
Leaning down to kiss the girl on the forehead Roxanna gently moved the blankets to cover them both and whispered back, “And I love you.”
Still smiling as sleep overtook her, the last of the tension she had been carrying finally released itself, Brianna found herself dreaming of the strange, wondrous and slightly terrifying world she had discovered. And yet, in the warmth of her mistress’ arms she knew that she had been correct after all. Everything would be alright.