Grace stood tall in a train. She clutched at the handle that hung from the ceiling with one hand, and at her chest with the other.
At the hole in her.
At that blasted hole.
She could hear him following. Dashing across the sides of buildings, leaping with grace unbecoming of his size from each to the next. He had fallen behind hours ago, and yet the sound of his pursuit refused to leave her mind.
Was she scared? No...at some level, she knew at her core he meant no harm. And yet...she fled. She fled from him, because she knew that she must.
The train stopped, in some American city she'd never been. She stumbled out, for she knew better than to push her luck. Bodies filtered out. Their inhabitants, mused a distant corner of her mind, each lead a life just as complex and fulfilling as her own. What were their stories? What enigmatic weight pulled at these strangers' shoulders, that she might lift from them given the chance? In other timelines, during alternative versions of this moment, how many doors might she open into how many lives?
It didn't matter. She knew that. As she walked out into the bleached gunmetal grey horizon of urban modernity, she was alone. More alone than she'd felt in years. The hole in her chest ached, it stung and burned and pulled in every waking moment at her mind.
How long did she have until he caught up to her? A day? Perhaps longer, if he didn't find her right away? Did it even matter how much time she had?
She stumbled across a few city blocks, hands stuffed in her pockets. She hadn't the money for a hotel room. She barely had enough to eat. But she had to do this. She had to flee. She couldn't stand it there. Trapped, in that suburban scape, with...them.
But she knew it was pointless. Run all she might, she couldn't escape the prison of her flesh. It didn't matter how hard she pounded at the earth, what beast of iron and fire whisked her away to whereabouts unknown...the hole in her chest would be there with her all the same. She allowed her free hand to drift up to her face. Her whiskers and jaw fuzz were in full force. No matter how she reminded herself that their soft red was inherited from her kind grandfather, the man who once fixed her broken toys when he came home from the factory, the waves of dysphoria struck at her all the same. She muttered an apology for something she couldn't help to a man too dead to hear her and choked back tears.
No, this wouldn't do.
She popped into a bar and sat down at a stool. If anywhere was safe to melt down, this place would be. She ordered a glass of soda and chuckled when the bartender rolled his eyes. She received a heavy glass mug and started to down its contents. Her world started to dwindle and diminish. Someone in full plate could knock into her at a brisk jog and she would only be aware that it had happened if she fell out of the stool or broke the mug in her hand.
"Hey, you look like someone I know. Funny, that." Someone sat next to her. She took another swig of the soft drink in her hand. It took a moment for the voice to register. It was older than her, but still full of a sort of youthful airy exuberance. Playful and light. A cute bubbly voice.
"Yeah, you sound like someone I know. Funny." She muttered under her breath with a sad smile. Out of curiosity she looked to her right. She saw a white-haired woman who was in her late twenties, who had white hair in a pixie cut and a tattoo of a rabbit on her collarbone, which was half-hidden beneath a low cut shirt. Oh, it was her. "O-oh. Hi, Alice."
"H-Hi," the woman's voice rose gleefully a bit before she seemed to catch herself, Mo-I mean, Grace." Both young women had a bit of a giggle over what Alice had almost said by instinct. "Wait, you-you live-what are you doing all the way out-" Grace cut her off with a firm shake of her head, but more than that...something had caught Alice's gaze. It took a moment for her to determine what.
"Oh, that's-" Grace covered the hole in her chest by instinct. Alice respectfully averted her gaze. "I-it's no big deal-"
"If you insist." Alice reached out gently to pat Grace's head. Grace went rigid on the outside and yet she melted into a hot slurry inside her mind. Tears welled violently in the sides of her eyeballs as a torrent of emotion came swinging out from within her. She gulped down all she could but it wasn't enough. Her mind collapsed and she sobbed.
Alice ordered some food, ate it quickly, and then made to lead Grace to the younger woman's hotel. It didn't take long to be given a confession: namely, that she had none.
"That's...irresponsible," muttered an annoyed Alice. "Well, I can hardly leave you. You could stay with me, if you like. Would you be open to that?" Grace, having now mostly recovered, wiped at her face with an arm. She took a moment to compose herself and then donned a face of bravery.
"Y-yeah. I'd like that...thank you."
"No problem~" Alice almost sang. "I've been kind of lonely lately. C'mon, sweetie." She took Grace's hand in her own. It was smooth, soft, and gentle. Grace found herself blushing as she followed Alice's long steps. It was a bit like she was following the white rabbit, a part of her mused to itself.
The walk wasn't long. They took a tram, Alice payed for both their tickets, they sat together. All the while they held hands. The despair seemed to recede from Grace's mind. It was like a warm familiar lamp illuminated part of her soul and she was rising, as a flower, to meet its glow head-on.
And yet, Grace couldn't resist her thoughts. They confronted her without style or mercy, and forcing them back was no easy task. She knew this was a temporary measure, but...right now, that's all she had. Grace had no choice but to cling desperately to it. She tried to distract herself by focusing on Alice instead, but she found little purchase there. The older woman seemed focused on something else.
The tram arrived at its stop. The distance from that point to Alice's apartment wasn't long, but they crossed it in silence so it felt much greater. A weighty cloud took shape in the confines of Grace's skull. When they finally entered Alice's space she robotically led the way to her room. There, at last, she relaxed. Smiled Grace's way.
"Sorry, I've been stressed."
"Uh...yeah." Alice blushed. She sat on the small matress in her room and scratched at her cheek a little. "I, ah...I had a dream. Told me that bar would be important. I don't usually put stock in that sort of thing, but…"
"Oh." Grace blushed as well. "Yeah, I...so did I. I had a dream I ran away and...well, the dream ended right after I found-"
"A white rabbit?" Grace nodded. There was a moment of silence as both pondered the possibly spiritual experience they'd unknowingly shared. "Haven't seen you in a while. And, you never took any selfies...you know…" Grace nodded and tried not to think about her beard.
"I've…" her mouth began to quake. She shook her head to dispel that and found limited success. "Anyways, you...you're beautiful as always, sweetie." Grace smiled gently. Alice seemed to melt a little bit-she averted her gaze with a quiet mewl.
"Thank you...Mommy." grace trilled a little bit. A familiar warmth blossomed in her chest. She moved towards Alice-
Her stomach growled.
"Hungry?" Asked Alice. Grace answered yes. Alice giggled and rose to her feet. "Let's see what I can do about that. Can't have mommy uncomfy on her first day back, can we?"
Back. The word seemed strange to use here. She'd never been here before in her life. There was a time she saw it regularly in the backgrounds of broadcasts, but that time was long since terminated. Even then, it had been a simple detail-nothing of substance. She had always felt strange seeing places, in video or photography, where she had physically been. Never before, though, had she felt this reversal of that sensation. It was something familiar, but expanded and rounded out in an unfamiliar fashion. A familiar ceiling hung above her for the first time; it hung above an unfamiliar floor in a place she knew but shadows of before.
But yet, that's not what Alice meant. Of course. It was obvious. They hadn't spoken in months, but before that…
No dramatic circumstance had forced them apart. No terrible schism had driven itself in between them, and yet…
Shadows twisted and snarled behind Grace's ear. Guilt? Obligation? Self-loathing? She couldn't tell. Her mind was weary, and so was her body. She sat on the mattress. Before long Alice came back. She tossed a cell phone on a desk.
"Ordered pizza." Grace nodded. Alice hopped up onto the bed with her. "You're a tiny thing aren't you?" Of course she was, both of them knew that. Grace stood five foot eleven and weighed less than a hundred fifty pounds. She was smaller than most. The two put their arms around each other. It didn't take long before Alice leaned away. "You...don't have a heartbeat, do you?"
Grace shook her head. She let her mouth hang open a little bit, and two of her canines slowly extended into fangs. Alice frowned a moment but then quickly regained her cheer.
"I always kinda wanted to rest my head on you and listen to your heartbeat, but...it would be selfish to lament such a thing. Don't feel shy about asking for my blood, kay?"
"Okay. I, uh...I hate doing it with...this." she gestured at her mouth, and the red fuzz that surrounded it.
"I see! Perhaps I can help you shave?"
"Yeah. I'd...like that." Both smiled. "I haven't put you under in a while, have I?"
"Even when we still talked...yeah, it had been a while. I...miss it a little bit."
"Wanna try now?"
"Yes, I'd...oh…" Grace's dull blue eyes became a dark, rich crimson. She locked Grace's gaze with her own and sealed the deal with a soft, caring smile.
"It's okay, Alice. Mommy is here." Her voice rose slightly in pitch, almost like a bird in song. Alice's entire body relaxed, proving her just as susceptible as always. It was like slipping one's favorite glove back on. "Good girl. Relax. It's okay." Grace shifted into Alice's lap. She petted the other girl, kissed her forehead. She felt at home, away from the gnawing chasm in her chest, if only for a little while. "I love you."
"I...love you too, Mommy~" Alice moaned, her voice saturated with gentle bliss. A soft red light ringed her eyes. It was the first time Grace had used this power, but it felt natural and...almost right.
"Tell me you're a good girl."
"I'm a good girl." Grace rewarded the subject of her affection by stroking her face with the back of her hand.
"You are a good girl. I love you soooo much."
The two gazed gently into one another's eyes. Alice limply and happily allowed the influence of the younger woman to spread in gentle sweet pulses through her mind. Moment by moment, more and more of her...self fell asleep. Self-love she was incapable of cultivated on her own formed a soft, warm blanket over the surface of her mind. She smiled a sweet, unreserved smile. The two held one another and exchanged nuzzles until, before long, the doorbell rang.
Alice didn't respond. Grace realized she hadn't checked if the payment was taken care of.
"Ah-ahhh, wake up! Up up up!" The red faded from both their eyes, but much more quickly from her own. It had to leave Alice bit by bit, flaking away in parts. "Food's here!"
"Ah." Alice giggled. Her energy seemed...younger, sweeter, gentler now. "Thanks. That was really nice."