The soles of Tabbie's feet felt like someone had spent the whole day pounding them with hammers, and her eyes were bleary and exhausted by the time she finally got on the crowded bus and grabbed for a handhold to keep herself from falling over. She almost laughed, looking at the window of the bus and seeing herself reflected back by the fluorescent light; a year ago, during the height of the pandemic, she had been unable to imagine ever getting a waitressing job again. Now she was working double shifts every day of the week. It showed, too; her vibrant topaz complexion had become wan and ashen from lack of sunlight, and her long dark hair hung lank and greasy against her scalp. "Girl, you need a vacation," she muttered softly to herself, knowing she'd never take one.
The bus stopped a few more times, adding people until Tabbie was squeezed on all sides and she could no longer see herself in the window. She didn't mind. She still wasn't a big fan of her own reflection, not with a lengthy gap in her hormone replacement therapy thanks to shitty insurance and unemployment. She'd managed to survive thanks to her girlfriend's savings, but a lot of things Tabbie once thought of as necessities had to go by the wayside. Like everyone else, she was just beginning to get her life back. It didn't take much to remind her of the bad old days right now.
The crush of people slowly eased over the next dozen stops, although not until Tabbie collected a grope or two from some asshole who kept pretending it was an accident that his hand went to her butt every time the bus took a corner. She was glad as hell when she finally managed to slip into a seat and remove his temptation while easing her sore feet at the same time. She was gladder still when he got out long before she did. The last thing she needed tonight was a fucking walk home with a stalker on top of everything else.
It was nearly midnight by the time she got to her stop, and Tabbie had caught herself nodding off three times during the long ride out to Humboldt Park. She rose to her aching feet, forcing herself to walk out the cramps in her calves, and began the four block trudge to the tiny efficiency apartment she shared with Riko. Despite her exhaustion, despite the pain, despite the gropey asshole and the table of eight that tipped five percent, she began to walk a little bit faster as she got closer to home. She was going to see her girlfriend soon. It was hard to stay mad when she had that tucked into the back of her mind.
Tabbie pulled open the broken security door, stepped around the small conversation that had spilled out of the downstairs neighbor's party, and walked up two flights of stairs to her apartment. She already knew even before she opened the door that Riko would be waiting for her; any time Tabbie came home after dark, she could expect her lover to watch for her out the window. Tabbie never looked up to check; when Riko asked about it once, Tabbie just smiled and said, "I don't need to see you to know you're looking out for me."
And sure enough, Riko was waiting just inside the doorway, her long white hair pulled back in a ponytail and a glass of thick green liquid held out in one pale hand. "Kale smoothie," she said, pressing it into Tabbie's unresisting fingers and leading her over to the couch. "With some greek yogurt in it. Drink it up and sit your ass down while I make you dinner, you look like you got under the bus instead of on it."
"Yes, Mistress." A rueful smile on her face, Tabbie kicked off her shoes and flopped down onto the worn-out old sofa. They'd talked about replacing it, but privately Tabbie was kind of glad every time something else took precedence over new furniture in their carefully-managed budget. The sagging cushions remembered every time Tabbie had snuggled up to Riko after a long hard day, and every time they'd fallen asleep there together even though the bed was barely ten feet away. It was something they shared, and it was every bit as hard for Tabbie to let go of the signifiers of her life with Riko as it was easy for her to get rid of the trappings of the time before she discovered herself.
She reached out and turned on the television, flipping channels until she came to a late-night horror movie about a small town getting overrun by vampires. "Hey honey, you're on television!" she called out to the tiny kitchenette where Riko was making her a hamburger on the stove, and Riko flipped her the bird without looking. But it was an affectionate middle finger, and they both knew it.
"I was watching it earlier," she said, sprinkling a little salt into her hands and counting each grain before tossing it into the frying pan. "Bunch of bullshit, that's what I call it. Stephen King should be fucking ashamed of himself. Like I've got the money to go buy a house in Maine? It's all the same with these movies and TV shows. They all assume that the first thing you do after rising from the grave is go out and get a fucking investment banker or something." Wincing, she grabbed the garlic powder and turned her head to the side before tapping it over the sizzling meat.
Tabbie was willing to make a lot of concessions when it came to dating a vampire, but giving up garlic wasn't one of them.
Riko sliced a bun in half and put it in the toaster, then turned to watch the movie with a scowl on her face. "See that?" she said, gesturing with a spatula at the screen where a small child floated through the window to reveal razor-sharp fangs. "That's the kind of shit I'm talking about. How am I even gonna talk with all that crap crammed inside my mouth? And I'm not even going to get into the fucking vampire king or whatever the fuck they call him. Fucking blue-ass Nosferatu wannabe motherfucker. We don't fucking look like that!"
Tabbie watched Riko watching the movie, trying hard to suppress her giggles. She knew full well that one of the most adorable things in the world was seeing Riko get onto a good-natured rant about the portrayal of 'my people' in popular culture; the five thousand year old Japanese vampire was more than used to folklore getting everything wrong about her by now, but that didn't stop her from giving a running commentary on everything from 'The Lost Boys' to Jack Palance's portrayal of Dracula.
"Good lord, he's gonna drink another one?" she said, as Barlow confronted the local priest on the antique cathode tube screen. "What a fucking glutton! Guy like that, Tabbie, a guy like that is what we used to call a greedy motherfucker back in the day. Anyone who thought they needed a whole person to get them through the night, we'd stake him ourselves and stick his head under a crossroads for the worms. The last thing we need is some asshole giving us an even worse name than we already have."
The buns popped up, and Riko snatched them out of the toaster and dropped them onto a plate before adding the patty to the burger and squeezing a dollop of ketchup on top. "You almost finished with that smoothie, pretty girl?" she asked, adding a handful of potato chips on the side. "Because dinner is served, and I know my good girl is going to drink her healthy veggies before she even thinks about having a beer, isn't she?"
Tabbie looked meekly down at the floor before taking a long swig of her kale smoothie. "Yes Mistress," she said softly, licking away the thick, bittersweet liquid from her lips. After four years together as a couple, the honorific came as naturally to Tabbie as the act of submission itself; when your lover had several millennia of life experience on you, a hypnotic gaze that could strip away your will, and the strength and speed to pick up a rhinoceros mid-charge, a certain amount of power exchange crept into the relationship pretty much automatically. And after a pre-Tabbie life she tried very hard not to think about, the young Latina woman liked being taken care of a little.
"Good girl," Riko cooed, reaching down and cupping Tabbie's cheek with her long, cold fingers. "Now eat up. You're going back to that fucking hellhole in the morning, and you need rest and food and a good hard mindfuck. And you're not going to get any of that sitting there and watching some raddled-ass motherfucker who can't even close his fucking mouth over those goddamn teeth of his." She didn't turn off the television before she sat down on the couch, though. Tabbie hid her grin behind her burger and watched her girlfriend kvetch.
"So this Straker guy, do you think he's got the hots for Barlow? Or do you just think he's one of those creepy dudes who follows vampires around asking if he can join the club?" Tabbie knew that was a particular sore spot with Riko; she'd had some nasty break-ups with other lovers after confessing that she had no idea at all how she became one of the undead, let alone how to induce vampirism in others. 'It was five thousand years ago!' she once said, sounding more than a touch defensive. 'Do you even remember what you did in kindergarten?'
Fortunately, it hadn't been an issue with Tabbie. The young woman still had a lot she wanted to do as a living woman, and frankly she was always a little bit worried that being turned would make her immune to Riko's hypnotic stare. She couldn't imagine going even a day without the bliss of gazing into those wine-red eyes and slipping away into helpless, foggy obedience to her lover's inexorable will. Tabbie wolfed down her burger and gulped down her smoothie in eager anticipation, her mind already turning to the pleasures to come.
Riko turned off the movie before Barlow got staked ("he's an asshole, but I can't stand watching a vampire get killed by a guy with a hairstyle like that") and generously allowed Tabbie to have a beer while she rubbed the soreness out of the young woman's feet. The whole time, Tabbie couldn't stop sneaking glances at those beautiful eyes, already gleaming with excitement. They both knew what was coming. And both of them loved the promise as much as the fulfillment.
Finally, when the cat clock on the wall chimed one, Riko said, "Okay, pretty girl. I think that's about enough for one night. Someone's got to open tomorrow, and if you're bound and determined to kill yourself for the sake of some assholes who don't know how to staff properly, I'm going to at least make sure you sleep like a motherfucking rock." She scooped Tabbie up in her arms as though the 6'2" woman was a fussy infant and carried her over to the bed.
"Oh, but I'm not sleepy, Mistress," Tabbie purred, a mischievous smile on her face as she said the same words she said every night. It was absolutely a lie; she was so exhausted that she would probably pass out in a matter of minutes even without Riko's help. But she always pretended she could stay up until the dawn with her lover, just to experience the tiny submissive thrill of being corrected in her wayward belief.
Sure enough, Riko reached out with her long bony fingers and held Tabbie's chin with an effortless strength. "You aren't, hmm?" she said, her eyes glowing faintly as her stare bored into Tabbie's helpless gaze. "I think I know how to fix that. Sleep for me, pretty girl." And just like that, the tiny spark of deep red in the center of Riko's pupil blazed into a mesmerizing flame that captured Tabbie's mind in the span of an instant.
"ohhhhhh..." Tabbie sighed, her muscles slumping into drowsy lethargy as the vampire's spell caught her and melted her thoughts into vacant bliss. It always surprised her every single time, even though she knew what Riko was capable of and knew how good it felt to sink into obedience for her Mistress. There was an extra depth to the sensation of euphoric rapture that she experienced within the depths of those warm red eyes, a layer of ecstasy that she could only truly understand when she was captivated by that powerful stare. Every time she was hypnotized, she rediscovered the pleasure all over again and found a new measure of adoration for her wonderful, immortal lover inside it.
"That's right, pretty girl," Riko said, her voice echoing inside Tabbie's mind with inescapable power. "Deeper into my eyes now, deeper into the pleasure. You've been such a good girl, working so hard to make me happy, and I'm very proud of you. And now all the hard work is over for the night, and it's time to rest for me. Time to rest that drowsy, sleepy mind in my will and give yourself to Mistress." Riko's fingers moved, bobbing Tabbie's head up and down in a nod that she entirely forgot wasn't her own.
A wave of soft, sensual pleasure washed through the hypnotized woman as she mumbled out, "...give myself... to Mistress...." It didn't feel like sex, exactly; it felt almost like there was a clit inside Tabbie's mind, and Riko's power was gently stroking it until Tabbie resonated with bliss at a deafening pitch. Tabbie didn't need sex, not when she had pleasure like that pulsing away inside her head. The spironolactone always fucked with her libido anyway. She'd let other people have their physical lovemaking, and enjoy her joyously submissive mindfucks with Riko.
Not that physical pleasure didn't enhance the experience, but it took so little when Tabbie's mind was so deep in the fog of bliss like this. The vampire stroked lightly down the tawny skin of Tabbie's arm, raising a trail of goosebumps behind it that made Tabbie shiver with delight. "You understand, dearest," she said, pouring ecstasy straight into the helpless woman's blank, thoughtless mind with her gaze. "You understand perfectly. There's so much joy in giving yourself to Mistress, isn't there?" Drool gathered at the corner of Tabbie's mouth as she gave another puppeteered nod. She didn't reply. She'd already forgotten how.
"And the deeper you go and the drowsier you become, the more that feeling increases." Tabbie's breath escaped her lungs in a tiny whimper, squirming helplessly as the pleasure built toward something indescribable. The resonance inside her brain increased in pitch, coming closer and closer to a note of pure and perfect ecstasy as she sank further and further into thoughtless, foggy lethargy; Tabbie knew she wasn't going to be able to stay awake much longer, and the thought of slipping all the way into her lover's hypnotic power only increased the rapture that consumed her. She wanted to be controlled. She wanted to be owned. She wanted to be an obedient slave to her vampire lover.
"Good girl," Riko whispered, her eyes twin stars of mesmerizing crimson that pounded Tabbie's mind with overwhelming pleasure. They were so strong now, so powerful that Tabbie couldn't imagine looking away, and she gasped sharply as that same hypnotic energy reached down into her very soul and pushed her to a level of sheer joy that transcended anything a mere physical orgasm could provide. She shuddered once, twice, and then sagged back onto the pillow in a haze of mindless rapture.
Tabbie didn't remember when her eyes closed. She didn't know if it happened at all, or if she simply reached a depth of trance so profound and perfect that she slept with her eyes open, seeing only the hypnotic gaze that endlessly fascinated her drowsy brain. The only thing she remembered about the rest of the night beyond the unceasing pleasure was the moment when Riko lifted her arm and gave her the tiniest nip on the wrist. A few drops, that was all. Just a little bit of blood to sustain her girlfriend for another night.
Even that made her shiver with bliss. Riko took such good care of Tabbie, after all; she was happy to know that in at least one way, she could give something back to the woman she loved.