The Dead And The Dancing - Chapter 63 - NotesFromTheChamber (2024)

Chapter Text

Enid insisted on carrying the pizzas back to the dorm because she also insisted on holding Wednesday’s hand, and Wednesday couldn’t balance such an awkward stack of boxes and still have a hand free to give. Galpin left with a comment about the fruit basket he’d received from Yoko, ‘kinda scary how well she read that room’, whatever that meant, and left them to their food haul. They passed the other two in the halls heading down to raid the kitchen for drinks, both claiming over the top of one another that no one could say no to a siren/Tanaka. Enid had passed off two of the boxes to Bianca to drop over to Pugsley and Eugene on the way past, and had almost defaulted to following along behind them when they carried on, Wednesday’s hand still tight in hers. Everyone was back together again like it was supposed to be and she was desperate to keep it that way. Wednesday had tugged her onward to the dorm.

“Big Dog is so hungry in there.” Enid stared at the pizza boxes on the mantelpiece beside them, a heap next to Wednesday after convincing her that it was totally super chill to get on Yoko’s bed. “Oh my god, she’s so hungry. Like— I don’t know if she knows there are other things, other than The Hungry. In the whole entire world. Never let her hibernate again.”

“It was only a few days.”

“Ever again.”

“No one would be angry if you ate your food now.”

Enid whined. She didn’t want to. Out of some sense of togetherness, she wanted to wait for everyone else to get back. All Wednesday could think to do was find a loophole, and if that meant stealing, how could it be her fault, really? Enid was hungry. She reached to the banana on the bedside and peeled it strip by strip, then broke a chunk from the end, holding it out like an offering. Enid’s eyes lit up and she rolled onto her front and crawled over the duvet and the pillows to get it, glee redoubling when Wednesday carefully fed it to her.

“Sometimes I feel as though I got a mate, sometimes, a stray puppy.”

Enid munched her banana piece happily. “Mnh, mn’it can be both.” She had not taken her eyes from the rest of the banana still in Wednesday’s hand.

“Sit.”

“Weds, I will strangle you with my bare hands.”

“…What’s the command for that?”

She rolled her eyes and leaned in, biting the next piece of banana from Wednesday’s thumb and forefinger whether she was ready to give it up or not.

“If Bee finds out you said that near her stuff, she’ll get you.”

Wednesday broke another piece of banana off. “She wouldn’t know how.”

“Mh,” Enid made eyes until Wednesday gave her the last of the banana and then sat back happily to eat it, eyes going to the door as it opened. “We’ll find out.”

“What are you guys doing? Is that my banana?”

“It was.”

“To be fair, you left it unattended near Enid.”

“Victim-blamer.”

Yoko and Bianca closed the door behind them with a hand each, their other hand both holding two drinks by the caps.

“Alright. So— what are we watching?”

“Not those two— stop!”

Enid grinned up at Bianca as Wednesday fed her the last of the banana, and Wednesday held the peel like a lollipop as she tried to figure out what to do with it.

“At least she broke it into chunks,” Enid said, taking the peel from Wednesday’s hand and over-arming it into the trash can Wednesday couldn’t see from where she was sitting. “It could've been way worse.”

“Stop making me think about it.”

Yoko sat between Bianca and Enid and sighed as she handed one of the drinks she was holding off to Enid.

“Are all of my children going to be like this?”

Bianca pulled a face, “how many were you planning on having?”

“How many do you think it would take to prank the Vatican?”

“I think your scary ass could do that by yourself.”

“Hm.”

“Here,” Bianca passed the pizza boxes over and Enid almost broke her neck lunging across Wednesday’s lap for them.

“Seriously, she needs house training.”

“I think she’s perfect.”

“Aw!”

“Ew.”

Enid lifted the lid and beamed. She fed the end of the first piece to Wednesday without so much as a sly look at Bianca, either because it wasn’t necessary or because, in the tunnel vision of the moment, she’d forgotten the other two were there. Mate first. Food for Wednesday. Even if Enid was the hungriest wolf of the dorm and Wednesday didn’t need food at all. Wednesday chewed and tried to look both grateful and dignified, which was hard with the way the soft cheese stretched. She wasn’t well acquainted with pizza but it wasn’t awful— she recognised the pesto.

“I got margherita so you guys wouldn’t tease me.”

“What?” Bianca bit into the end of her own slice, “we don’t tease you about the pineapple,” she said, “we bully you.”

Yoko took a slice too. “You bully her. I like pineapple.”

“You’re a sociopath, that’s just another point to me.”

Wednesday couldn’t put the two tastes together in her mind to guess either way, but, “I like pineapple.”

Two points to me.”

“Weds isn’t a sociopath! Unless— she wants to be— then she totally is, like, to the core.”

“Okay, okay, okay— not in front of my peppadews.”

Enid dragged her laptop out from the blankets by her feet, pizza slice in her free hand, and munched thoughtfully as she scrolled through Netflix options. Decidedly not horror, and Wednesday knew better than to ask for it after the time they’d had. Enid was probably sated for horror for the next few years at the very least.

She liked margherita. She hadn’t expected to like any food all that much, after tasting blood anew. And sure, it wasn’t B positive, but she wouldn’t throw it at the wall in outrage, either. She crunched at the crust as Enid began to point titles out.

“Seen it. Also seen it. Enid, you were there when we watched that one.”

Yoko cracked open her drink. “She slept through it.”

“She was still there. Seen it, and regret it.”

They settled on Mowgli, because Enid had shown a single ounce of hope upon seeing all the wolves and Wednesday had instantly turned a glare onto the others that had made Bee roll her eyes, and Yoko smile proudly. Enid had cuddled onto Wednesday in a sideways splay of limbs and pizza, munched her way through the rest of her slices with her eyes on the screen, and fallen asleep rumbling along with the sounds of the movie magic wolves howling and Wednesday’s conscious effort to breathe. To Wednesday’s surprise, Bianca had, too. She was flat out against Yoko’s shoulder.

Yoko put the laptop volume down by two taps, and then sighed sideways down at the top of Bianca’s head.

“Been a while since she’s done that,” she said, settling back against the pillows, and the wall behind. “Years.”

“Enid said Bianca used to be part of the wolf pile.”

“She did. But not since Xavier.”

Yoko looked at her, up then down, then smiled again. “How are your teeth?”

“They ache sometimes.”

“Mh. Sorry.”

“It’s nice.”

“Oh my god…”

“I’ve never had a toothache before. Not a real one.”

“What counts as a fake one?”

“Being punched.”

“Oh. Well. Been there.”

“Does being punched still hurt?”

“Yes.”

“A lot?”

“As much as a punch hurts. But not as much as it hurts the puncher.”

That was a good deal, and Wednesday felt a new sense of satisfaction settle. She dealt riposte damage now, sword or no sword. She cuddled her arms more around Enid and watched a well-scarred tiger fight a small child with a torch. Not long ago she’d have spent the entire movie wondering how the Normies had managers to train such a beast to act, before her slew of awful high schools had introduced her to computer and media classes. Not that she’d paid any willing attention to any of them. Quietly, she missed the untainted days where she’d have confused the trickery for a real tiger. When she would have assumed magic. Silly, it was naive.

“The Fangs introduced themselves before you got back. At dinner.”

That was a far better use of her mind, she’d been waiting for a good chance to bring the meeting up ever since. The light coming through the windows was getting stronger the lower the sun sank to be level with them, and Yoko had known just where to sit to be square in the middle of it. Her eyebrows lifted. “Really?”

“Her name was Abena.”

…Really?”

“Is that bad?”

Yoko blinked and adjusted how she was sitting and Wednesday could tell now, she was shrugging off the sun to think more clearly.

“No. But Abena isn’t a Fang. In that, she isn’t a student.”

“She was in our Botanical Studies.”

“She was in the greenhouse. She’s not really faculty either, but she’s been here longer than Weems; she makes all of the medicines. She’s… a little unpopular at the moment. With the clique that can’t stand me, anyway.”

“Did she kill people too?”

Yoko seemed to consider that very fairly. “Probably, who hasn’t— she fled Ghana a long time ago for something, but most of us have fled something. There isn’t anywhere in Africa where a blood market is legal. Our kind specifically aren’t welcome there. There are people— communities, even— who would be good to you, but there’s only so far that can take you. One slip up…” Yoko blew air from her cheeks. “Killing isn’t why she’s unpopular here, though— she was close with Marilyn.”

“…With Laurel?”

“I assume she didn’t know her as Laurel. But yes— Laurel was, as Miss Thornhill, tending and growing the plants Abena makes her Outcast tinctures from for the infirmary. The more you think about that, the scarier that gets.”

That was… concerning. Laurel had been making poisons, she’d poisoned Weems right there in front of her. Poisons from the plants Abena was growing, or poisons Abena had showed her how to grow herself?

“Laurel was using nightshade.”

“She was. The question afterwards became; who was teaching who? Was Laurel using Abena or did Abena know? Personally I think Laurel just knew how to play the game. Abena would have given her alchemical knowledge away for free, twice over for the sweet Normie teacher just trying to make a go of it.” She grinned. “She showed me all the plants that make the best aphrodisiacs, after all. I’m sure our dear dorm mom found her very useful while she plotted to kill us all.”

“She said she didn’t know you had a sister.”

Yoko shifted again, shoulder then elbow.

“I find that hard to believe— Lars knows. Markus knows, Charlotte knows. Abdul and Moira know and Abdul couldn’t keep his mouth closed walking through a mosquito swarm. Moira can, but she chooses not to.”

“If Abena lied about it, I’m going to kill her.”

“I am going to have to teach you some diplomacy.”

“Teach me to kill her.”

No. Little monster. You have a wife, and her 500lb lap dog— you can’t afford to go to jail.”

She could afford to. Wednesday pouted down at the top of Enid’s head. She supposed it was true though, Enid would never forage enough food for the two of them all on her own, not even with all the pineapple reserves in Jericho. She’d figure Abena out some other way. On her own. Or with Fester? He’d know things. Speaking of knowing—

“I thought most of the students didn’t remember what happened that night? Because of the siren song.”

“Most don’t. I don’t remember much— but you’re not the only vampire who was something else first. Nevermore has two other psychic Vampires.”

“And they remember?”

“Mhm.”

“So now they all know.”

“Most of them, I expect.”

“Why do they hate you?”

“Woah!” For a moment Yoko looked offended, but then her smile came back. “A select few hate me. All I really did when I got here was pick fights, it’s my own fault. When you don’t age, when there’s no intrinsic sense of time passing… holding onto a grudge can become pathological. The rest just keep their distance because they know the story— and— probably their blood families tell them to. It’s more important to them to seem respectable to the hand that feeds.”

“‘Blood families’ is confusing. Blood means biological.”

“I know.”

“Why not say ‘vampire family’?”

“I think because even in the Middle Ages, that sounded like a Sit-Com.”

“A situational comedy.”

“Wow, Enid’s making short work of you.”

“I’m not short.”

“That’s not—” Yoko smiled when Wednesday smiled. “Very good, you got me.”

Wednesday felt some satisfaction. All she had to do was imagine Pugsley completely missing the point of something she might say, and just like that, she could reverse engineer and make sense of it all. She could even make a passable joke. She’d tell mother. Enid stretched but didn’t wake up more than to yawn the ends of her hair into her mouth. Wednesday brushed them free.

“So their blood families tell them to stay away from you because of your tolerance?”

“It’s looked down upon to be so used to blood in a world where that blood mostly comes from the same people who provide it. No one wants to rock that boat— no one wants to disgust Papa Normie’s delicate sensibilities with their ungrateful appetite. Did you ever read Oliver Twist? ‘Please sir, can I have some more?— MORE??’ How dare we, now there’s no more for anyone, and extra beatings. Blood gets illegalised again to teach us our place. Smuggling and black marketeering for the privileged, killing for the rest. And then, oops, we’re all criminals to be rounded up— quite a neat little system they’ve got planned out.”

Wednesday began weaving a small braid into Enid’s hair as she listened, as if that alone were enough to make her feel less agitated. She hated how good a system it was. She hated that she couldn’t think of a way around it that wasn’t held together by spit and a dream. Yoko reached into the pillows behind her to check if her phone charger was connected, blindly patting until she found the trailing cable, then left it.

“The powers that be really like it when vampires delude themselves that the culture of shaming and starving is all our idea. There must be something very satisfying about getting a person who slew their enemies from horseback during the war of independence to sit nicely and bonk themselves over the head with a foam hammer for your amusem*nt. A genuine laugh to hear them insist to one another that things are better that way.”

“Why don’t the vampires… we—” Wednesday couldn’t find the word. She was thirsty again and her braiding was a mess with her concentration. Two of her teeth were aching so much after bringing it up that she didn’t want to find the words, she wanted to just luxuriate in the satisfying pain knowing she didn’t have to worry about some underlying problem. Just her teeth sharpening, no dentistry necessary. She gave up on finding the word and instead made a blunt hand gesture like two bookends coming together, some of Enid’s hair carding through her fingers. Yoko clicked her teeth.

“Why don’t the vampires unionize? Because we can’t agree on anything. We’re all from different times, no such thing as a generation, it’s hard to unionize a group when some members remember World War One, and others remember the Yuan Dynasty. One person will show up reasonably demanding blood prices be lowered, only to be elbowed aside by someone who demands all Normies submit themselves to their overlords. It’s why our kind is so spread out, we get on one another’s nerves— except our children, of course.”

Oh, god.

“Yoko?”

“Yes?”

“People keep telling me that I’m your baby now, and I can’t tell if they’re joking.”

She choked. “They’re joking, amai— was it Enid? When Lycans bite and make a Werewolf, traditionally, the structure of the relationship does become… parental? It’s an odd one, I’m not familiar enough with it. Pack is family.”

Oh. So Big Dog was just excited? Suddenly it didn’t feel so bad, Wednesday got the feeling she’d forgive Big Dog for leaking nuclear codes. Or was it just that Enid couldn’t help the lens she saw the world through? Wednesday understood that, too. She cuddled Enid closer through the blanket.

“Vampires don’t create family; we keep our biological families, whoever might still survive, or their descendents. Those we bite stay close but more like a clan. We can have one child, genetically. Two is an exceptional gift. I’m not sure three has ever happened.”

“Your mother had two.”

“She did. My father was so excited he screamed the house down, I thought she was finally black-widowing him.”

That sounded almost too familiar, sans the murderous sentiment. As far as she knew. Or wanted to know. If she ever found out that her parents role played, she’d throw herself in a vat of bleach and come out insane like the pretty character Pugsley never shut up about from his Bat films. She had no idea what they were about but he tried to make her watch them every so often, full of promises of criminal property damage, public chaos, and an asylum. But she could do her own criminal property damage, cause her own public chaos, and there were thousands of real asylums abandoned across the continental US and if she was going to indulge in any of those things, it wouldn’t be through a screen.

“Why only one?”

Yoko shrugged. “That’s all that’s left, the one that was there waiting when you were turned. After that, no more follow.”

“Except for… sometimes?”

“No, never. But sometimes, rarely, women accidentally have more than one egg sitting about. I wish I could give you exact science, I really do, but there’s very little to offer. We aren’t a very studied creature for how hated we are. Like most Outcasts.”

Wednesday scrunched her face up for a moment and tried to undo the word egg. She had a visceral dislike for that word in that context. Was that another one of the signs? Should she risk taking Enid’s phone to search ‘autism, egg’? No, she didn’t want to have to explain that when Enid asked, and Enid always asked. She always knew exactly what Wednesday had looked for on that little screen. Somehow. She rumbled in her sleep as if she knew Wednesday was thinking of her and Yoko watched her contentedly, then glanced again to where Bianca was sleeping against her other side.

“This is how you know it was a good day, at the end of it.”

“When everybody falls asleep?”

“When everybody falls asleep.”

Wednesday could remember falling asleep at the end of a lot of bad days, but perhaps she was missing some subtext.

“Not everyone fell asleep. We’re awake.”

“Well, yes. But someone has to be awake to keep watch.”

“And that’s us?”

“Sometimes. It’s not an obligation.”

“Why does everyone say you don’t sleep?”

Yoko’s head fell back against the wall and then angled sideways to look at her. For a moment she seemed like she might not say anything, and Wednesday worried it had been one of those questions she wasn’t supposed to ask.

“I used to. I haven’t, since being here.”

“America, or Nevermore?”

She snorted. “That’s one and the same, so far. I haven’t stepped foot outside of godforsaken Vermont since we entered it in 2002.”

“Vermont isn’t… terrible. There are worse places. Like Delaware.”

Wednesday couldn’t feel bad for Delaware catching stray bullets. It had scored low when she’d been and now, after Kinbott, she hated the place for reasons unfair to it as well. Yoko’s face creased as she tried not to laugh and wake someone up.

“Delaware is a pit, I agree. I’ve never been, but it’s a pit all the same— f*ck that man. But I suppose anywhere can be a pit if you’re trapped in it. America isn’t home, but that’s my own fault. I don’t sleep because I dream of Hana, and it’s not worth it when I wake up.”

“Nightmares?”

“Reality was the nightmare... No, they’re just dreams. Nice dreams— I find her in places, looking for me. The park behind the aquarium, our old home. Places like that. I pick her up and carry her back, or… it doesn’t matter. It’s not real. I’d rather stay awake.”

Enid shifted again against Wednesday’s chest and the rumble that escaped made Bianca stir in turn. Still, neither of them woke up. Wednesday didn’t feel tired at all, not even a cat-nap tempted her, but she had last night.

“I still feel tired when I don’t push it away. Does that fade?”

“No.”

“Ever?”

“Never ever. You’ll at least need a nap every other day, to stay sane.”

“But—”

“I’m insane, always.”

“Oh.” She assumed ‘insane’ was a stand-in for ‘tired’. A few moments ticked by. “Is that… really worth it?”

“I don’t know, honestly. Valerie didn’t think so. She thought I should try it again.”

Later, before bed when there was a good excuse to run away, Wednesday would give Yoko the ink splotch. Her eyes darted to the side and back without committing to really looking at Yoko’s face.

“She’s… always right.”

Yoko couldn’t hold the laugh in that time and Bianca woke up as if she’d heard a gunshot.

“Yeah, she is always right.”

“Hm—” Bianca sat upright slowly and groped behind her for her phone. “You guys talking about me behind my back again?”

Yoko snorted. “You wish— and you were facing us.”

“I was asleep.”

“Asleep, facing us.”

She rolled her eyes and squinted down at her phone screen. “When did I fall asleep?”

“Two minutes after Enid did.”

She looked up to see Wednesday’s silent, protective glaring from her wrap around Enid’s still sleeping shape, and held one hand up.

“Sorry,” she lowered her voice all the same. “God, I feel like crap.” It was too late.

“Hm? What’s crap?” Enid stretched and then beamed up at Wednesday when she registered her, tip of her nose almost touching her chin.

“Everything.”

Enid beamed wider and kissed Wednesday’s chin. “Not everything.” Wednesday kissed her forehead as politely as she could for the company but Bee still pulled a face.

“All those times I said ‘get a room’, this isn’t the one I meant.”

A phone pinged and from the muted tones it was Yoko’s, under the pillows. Enid stretched again, still balanced on Wednesday’s lap. “Oof— hard loss, Bee. Should’a been more specific.”

“Yeah.”

“Wh— why are you taking their side?!”

Yoko pulled a face like she was trying to decide. “For the gram? For… annoying you?”

“Oh my god, you’re team Wednesday now, and this is what it looks like. Is anyone out there team Bianca??”

“M’team Bianca…” Enid rubbed her eye with her sleeves and then crawled over Wednesday’s lap, across Yoko’s lap, and laid in a heap on Bianca. Bianca sighed, one arm trapped, head stuck to the side at an angle to accommodate.

“I’ll take it, only because the look on Wednesday’s face is priceless.”

Wednesday’s eyes flashed and she tried to reign in her pout— she hadn’t even been aware she was doing it. But she was Enid’s pillow, that was supposed to be her job— Yoko patted her shoulder.

“Fridge time. Bee, take care of your new best friend, we’ll be back in fifteen.”

Enid’s eyes opened into a peek at Wednesday and Wednesday resisted the urge to scoop her up and throw a fit about putting her back down. Why did she feel like this? Was she Big Dog now? Was she being indoctrinated? Apprentice Wolf wasn’t supposed to go quite so far.

“Isn’t there blood in there?” She pointed to the mini fridge.

“Yes there is, seven bags of B Positive. Of which I’m temporarily banning until you try other kinds.”

Enid’s head bobbed up in outrage, hair a mess.

“You can’t ban my blood type! It’s the best one!”

Bianca cheered a monotone, “team O positive.”

“There— O positive— we’ll try Bee.”

“Alright, you don’t have to say it like that.”

“Too late— come on, Wednesday. Off to try Bee-blood before you mold yourself into a fussy eater, which will ruin your life.”

She got to her feet and Wednesday followed suit. Bianca was pulling another face, and the tone of it was rich considering everyone there knew that she let Yoko bite her in situations. ‘Emergency’ situations.

“Universal donor type. Does that mean I get to bite you in emergencies now, too?”

“Shut up, Addams.” Bianca folded her arms and Yoko snickered with her back turned as she opened the door. Wednesday stepped into the hall and the last thing she heard as Yoko pulled it shut again was Enid saying, slightly too seriously, “Bee, I will kill you if you do that, I’m so serious.”

They stopped by the quad. Wednesday’s eyes had been dragging as they’d passed it, not questioning which of them Yoko was avoiding it for as they skirted the walls to the same runaround Enid had opted for the night before. She’d missed what Yoko had been saying to her and with a look there and back, Yoko bad asked if Wednesday wanted to go and see it. There was nothing there, but they could go and look anyway. If she wanted. She didn’t have to.

Wednesday stood still under the stone archway. The gravel seemed unremarkable but she could smell blood and something else, something off that reminded her of humidity and illness. Infection, perhaps. It was amplified just enough to make her unsure now, the pastel pallet of her sense of smell became psychedelic if she focused on it, lurid in the details. Saturated; that was a better term. She slid her hand under her shirt to her stomach as she tried to pick the scents apart in her head, the smell of blood wasn’t like the B Positive she’d rolled in. It was sweeter and harder-edged. Was it hers? Had she really died here? The birds muttered above them, it seemed so ordinary. Grey and placid. Even the fountain water was still as a millpond, not quite frozen but not one ripple. Nothing had happened here.

“It’ll take forever to get the smell of Gorgon blood out. I’ll have to find somewhere else to sit.”

Yoko was looking around the space with a much different air about her and it made Wednesday feel another notch disconnected. The quad was heavy on Yoko’s mind. Lagged in something she couldn't even look at without clearing her throat first, and even then, not in the eyes. To Wednesday, it felt light with the cold, crisp air. She liked it out here, Enid had given her the tour when they’d met and she’d gotten to sword fight a dead pilgrim. This hexagonal quad had given her quite the conversation starter, where she was from.

“Is that what that is?”

“It’s the top note. The rest is… I’d guess necrosis, but I’m not the expert you’d want, on that kind of death.”

It did smell like necrosis, when she could put enough mental space between her and it to be able to see it properly. Wednesday’s eyes swept back around the gravel as if she expected to see the corpse’s hand sticking up out, a prop zombie in the same Halloween store window as the ghost of her still lingered, for people to come, and stand, and look at. But she felt like the audience far more than the subject, this time. She reached her fingertips across to the scar left by Crackstone and gave herself away when she looked stupidly down at herself, bottom of her shirt lifted, pinned up to her ribs under her palm. Yoko glanced. The scar with both its twisting edges was gone. She let her shirt fall back down to check her palm. Clean.

“Sorry.”

It took Wednesday a moment to unstick her eyes from her skin, and pull them up to Yoko’s.

“It sounds nice on paper, but I know it’s a lot.”

“Are all of my scars gone?”

Yoko nodded. Wednesday looked back at her palm. She wouldn’t miss that one, and she wouldn’t really miss Crackstone’s stab wound– the vanished scar certainly added to the myth factor of the story. But she’d been peppered in scars from her childhood that were a part of her as much as her freckles, her iris’, her tan if she spent too long in the sun. All of her brother’s wins had been in those, and he’d had so few. He’d be devastated. She was… she put her palm down and tried to seem more composed. Maybe she was devastated. She couldn’t think of anything to say, and that was usually the first sign.

“Yoko?”

“Mm?”

“Did I really die out here?”

“Yes.”

“Did you really shoot Ajax?”

“Yes.”

“To death?”

“To death.”

“Is that my blood scent— the other blood?”

“Yes.”

Wednesday appreciated simple answers. There was a peace in them she couldn’t find in abstract places.

“Where?”

Yoko pointed to the base of the fountain on the side that faced them before she noticed Wednesday’s hand cupping the crook of her own neck and her arm faltered.

“Oh,” she moved to gesture to Wednesday instead, not a point but a confirmation, “yeah. Little lower. That way a bit. Yeah.”

Wednesday’s hand rested much more on her shoulder than her neck, a 70-30 split that surprised her. If her understanding of anatomy wasn’t failing her, that wasn’t a very productive place to bite.

“I don’t recommend it, if that’s what you’re thinking— aiming that far out. Not for blood anyway. At least, not for much.”

“Did you miss?”

She laughed. “No— thank you for the vote of confidence— I didn’t miss. But I wasn’t trying to take, and you didn’t have much left in you to play with, if I risked somewhere vital. It was safer. Believe me, the venom isn’t picky either way.”

“You said you were too young.” It hit her in a flash, not so much the sight or feel of it but the sound of it, Yoko’s panicked voice. A fraction of a second that she could just about sense Enid in the atmosphere of, but couldn’t make true sense of anything outside of the snippet of sound and the overwhelming confusion.

“You remember that?”

“Just now.”

“I did. I am. Far too young, actually. We aren’t really supposed to try those things until we’re in triple digits.”

“How wrong can it go?”

“Much more than it did.”

Wednesday twisted her hips rather than her neck to look at her, and Yoko quirked her brow.

“Morbid?”

“Always.”

She smiled and sighed loudly. “It can fail. And it can fail unpleasantly. Let’s not talk about it, some of us are more delicate than others.”

A leaf landed in the fountain and then blew in a stuttering pattern across the surface, and a bird followed. It shook itself, wings opening and closing, feathers thinning as the water stuck then fanning out as it shook again, a tiny spray surrounding it. Wednesday had weird worries. Weird, baseless worries. It wasn’t like her. Was Enid going to be okay? Would anyone believe her about all the times Pugsley had won at fencing if she couldn’t show the silvered nicks to her abdomen? She’d given Kinbott the win about the autism, been glad of it, when Pugsley had suddenly seemed so much more similar to her, but didn’t one beast usually follow the other? Was this the next thing?

“Could it have failed? Could I be… wrong, somehow?”

Yoko frowned at her. No, not like her at all. It was clear on her face, that’s not like you. She didn’t say it aloud but it bled into the edge of her tone just enough to straddle the line between reassurance and concern.

“It’s not a patient thing.” She said, looking back to the bird as another joined it, then another. “If something goes wrong, it goes wrong in the moment— it’s not subtle, either. You’re fine.”

“No surprises?”

“No surprises. Although— if anyone were going to find a way to surprise me, I’m sure it would be you.”

“I don’t try to surprise people.”

She made a sound at the back of her throat. “I think that’s why it works.”

A half hug was held out and with a fleeting hesitation, Wednesday stepped under it. Yoko’s arm was strong behind her grip. She’d assumed they were leaving, that the arm around her would be the shepherd's crook to bring her along whether she liked it or not, but they just stood there. It was… nice. It felt like the wake, and she felt like the widow. Could there be two widows at one service? A scene for Viper to investigate one day, maybe. She filed it away. The wind was getting up.

“Are your boots okay?”

Wednesday felt so short so close to Yoko’s side that a stubborn part of herself refused to crane her head all the way back to look up at her when she spoke. Instead she looked down, at the boots she’d be mortified to realise in the aftermath that she was emotionally attached to.

“Yes… Thank you.”

“They thought they were mine. We came in together, so our things were put in the same Satan-proof Tupperware.”

“They have that?”

“I’m sure they think they do.”

“Grandmama would be furious, she patented that in 1946.”

“I don’t know how Enid figures out when you’re joking.”

“It’s trial and error, as best I can tell.”

“All good things are.” She held the arm out that wasn’t around Wednesday’s shoulders toward the fridge. “Time to trial the O group.”

The fridge was occupied and it wasn’t Abena, or Weems, or anyone else Wednesday would have given a pass for intruding on what she was quickly taking as… nothing as gauche as quality time, but something close to quality time with Yoko. Not that they themselves weren’t the intruders, she supposed— the others had been there first. But these Fangs weren’t from Abena’s circle, or any other circle Wednesday had ever seen Yoko acknowledge. Which could only mean one thing.

“Yoko,” a tall boy with dark olive skin and shiny black hair like her own smiled as he jumped down from a shelf. He drawled through an Americanised accent of something else and every move he made was slow motion in a way Wednesday found irrationally antagonistic. His red eyes slung lazily over to her with nothing less than disdain, before he’d had time to notice she was already there with her own. “Down here, to our humble bags? Good to know the Tanaka line is cleaning itself up, come to show her the ropes?”

“I’ll show you a rope.” Wednesday’s eyes were black. It was out of her mouth in an instant, Yoko couldn’t have taught her enough diplomacy in the entire time they’d known one another to be able to catch it. Every fiber in her body knew that these were the ones who had conspired about the A Negative blood type, even if it was only a couple of them.

A red headed girl sitting loosely cross-legged on the floor grinned sloppily around the straw in her pack, back leaned up against the white plastic wall as she took in Wednesday’s demeanour. She was gleeful to see the hostility— or the slip up. Perhaps the blunt hostility was a checker on a chessboard to them. The clarification wouldn’t do any good, Wednesday’s blood burned so hot she couldn’t help but wonder if this was new or not. She’d always been a short fuse about some things, but she didn’t usually feel so defensive, and about what?

“Oop, looks like filth after all,” the girl on the floor said. “Makes sense. Take some f*ckin’ moppin’ up, after all.”

Yoko grabbed a bag from the nearest shelf and tore the corner, the corner of her mouth moving like a mirror to it. She didn’t seem very threatened, and she didn’t seem too put out that Wednesday had snapped, either.

“Wednesday, this is Abdul, and this is Moria. Moria dyes her hair red to look the Irish half she isn’t, and Abdul’s mother is a cheap whor*.”

Moria waved her hand dismissively. “Ah, f*ck you, Ishikawa.”

Abdul’s political face had turned sour, the paper-thin smile torn through.

“How would you know?”

The fridge groaned a few times as it revved up the cooling processes to make up for the door they'd left open. Yoko sipped from the corner of her bag and put an arm back around Wednesday's shoulders to guide her towards the shelf before she could jump on him.

“Because she didn’t charge me much.”

“How would you know, because they don’t let you out of here—

“Stick around and find out why—” she talked loudly over him and Wednesday struggled against her instincts old and new to turn her back to them all, even for the short time it took to reach into the neatly stacked trays. “Take your Setter with you.”

“Woof.”

The girl on the floor did look like a Red Setter. Wednesday had only seen one once, being walked in a park back at home— the dog’s hair hadn’t been dye-damaged, though. She spoke again and the Irish accent really was cloying, if it was fake.

“Passing down generational trauma’s no good for you, y’know. You should let someone else have a go at that one.” She gestured to Wednesday.

Maybe it said something that the air only stilled when Yoko did. Wednesday watched her from her peripherals as she picked a bag out, O Negative. Female. Why were so many of them female? It felt like every slight movement, every aspect of what she was doing was being judged in ways she couldn’t begin to chart. Like Abdul’s, like Yoko’s, Moira’s eyes were red, too and for the first time ever as she turned back around, Wednesday felt self-conscious about the way hers weren’t. It was a class thing, after all, she could feel it– she'd felt this way around Normies growing up but she’d never felt it among Outcasts.

“My trauma isn’t generational,” Yoko said coldly, not drinking, not moving at all. “And the next person to have a go a Wednesday will get the same as the last person did.”

Wednesday’s hands were shaking she was so angry, but she couldn't for the life of her work out what exactly she was angry about. Being called filth? She got that on the sidewalk.

Abdul snorted. “Does that threat ever get you anywhere outside of Seal Team Dogfish?”

It processed in an instant that he meant Enid and Bianca, and Wednesday didn’t know how to stop. All she did know was that Yoko wasn’t stopping her, and whether it was the false sense of security she’d lulled him into with her checker-chess or just luck, Wednesday managed to explode the blood bag she’d picked across his face in a loud slap that painted the wall behind him. Moira got to her feet, Yoko kicked her in the face on the way up, and then Wednesday was out of the fridge and rolling in the grass with a hand around a neck she couldn’t even choke. Abdul swung at her on the way down and missed. She had no idea how to adjust, how exactly she was supposed to fight now. What did she go for? Choke holds wouldn't work and she wasn't heavy enough to pin someone that could lift a car. Moria sailed out through the fridge doors and landed on the grass beside her, her back covered in a wiping of residual blood, the baggie she’d been working on still clutched in her off hand. Yoko stepped out into the sun and Wednesday rolled again, grappling with the hands on her to try and jolt some recognition into her muscle memory and fight like an artist instead of an urchin. He tried to backhand her and missed again, too invested in protecting his balls to commit to anything else for more than a second. So that never went away.

A different hand grabbed her hair and was gone again before it got a real grip. Moira made enough noise for two as Yoko restrained then crushed her down into the grass in focused silence. Another swing went wide. Abdul fought poorly enough that he might actually have been a grandpa— it occurred to Wednesday that he could be, she had no way to know— she struggled more with the slippery quality of the blood on her hands than with his brute swings. More so with the fact that she could fight just fine, but how was she supposed to end it? She stole desperate glances at Yoko through hair and hands but Yoko seemed to be quite happy to fight for sport and win later. That was her example, so— Wednesday grinned and put all of her energy into fighting for the sake of fighting. It had been too long, and she couldn’t remember if she’d fought Ajax, and the blows that landed still hurt like hell but that was more of a relief than the rest of it clubbed together. What fun was she going to find in life if nothing hurt? She fought him onto his front and dodged his elbows jabs until he found a way to shrug her off, took a couple of fake shots at his groin just to scare him. He threw her off every time she got close, apparently he at least had the sense not to let her get a grip. She was light— too light, against such strong opponents— but she was still quick, and if her grip had been iron before, it was tungsten now. Some sleet blew in the wind.

Moria was yelling a bloody murder of insults despite seeming far more capable than her friend and Wednesday listened to her scuffling in Yoko's grip ready to sing with joy. She was about to start yelling up at the boy’s dorm windows for Pugsley to jump down and join in, when Abdul was dragged off of her and the white-blue sky was left rolling past in his place as her own momentum pushed her onto her hip, palms in the damp grass. She looked up to see Enid throw him like a sack of flour through the glass of a first floor window, tears streaked down her cheeks, panicked. She scuffed down onto her knees in the grass beside her and Wednesday tried so hard to wipe the enjoyment from her face before Enid could see it and be angry.

“Weds! Holy sh*t, are you okay?”

Yoko threw Moira similarly in through the gaping hole Abdul had left and it was the first time Wednesday heard anything from her over the crashing sound of her landing, one low laugh. She wiped her hands on her jeans.

“That’s the study hall. We’re gonna get a talking to.”

Wednesday couldn’t contain her drunken smile any longer. She leaned up and kissed Enid’s lips to make up for it and Enid huffed through her nose and kissed her back like she’d considered maybe refusing to.

“H’m’igod, Weds. You took forever and then– I thought you were in trouble.”

“I think we are.”

Enid pulled back and stared down at her sternly. “For real.”

“They called me filth— I don’t know why I got so furious.”

Enid glared over her shoulder at the window hole and then pulled Wednesday upright into her arms. She didn’t let go for a long minute. Yoko dropped down beside them and if they made eye contact, they’d giggle. Wednesday kept her eyes pinned down on the grass and tried to feel like a repentant shape to hug.

“It gets like that. Another reason we don’t live in clumps.”

“Oh.” Enid sniffed and let Wednesday go, a shoddily concealed full-body check still underway from the frantic eye movements. “I guess Vampires do do that.”

“We do.”

“What do… we?”

“Aw!”

Wednesday blinked. “What?”

“Furs do that, too! We have another thing in common, now!”

“Do what?”

Yoko lay on her back with her arms out. “Pack aggression. Our side doesn’t really have a name for it.”

Body check over, Enid smoothed Wednesday’s hair down in all the places Abdul had caught a fistfull. “We all get mad at the same time when we’re in big groups. Like the co-ordinated staring? It’s not actually co-ordinated, more like dominos. One starts, and we all do. Can't help it.”

“It’s easier for us.” Yoko picked up the blood bag Moira had dropped and threw the straw out of it, drinking it laying down with her other arm back out against the grass. So it could be done— was there a technique? Wednesday watched her, trying to figure out how she wasn’t just pouring it all over herself.

“Yeah, it super is, cause it’s only between bite buddies—”

“Please don’t call it that—”

“Remember that guy you—”

“Yes. I do.”

“Did you ever say sorry to him?”

“I sent him a fruit basket.”

Wednesday leaned her head into Enid’s fussing when the ends pulled at the roots. “Did you really send Galpin a fruit basket?”

“Kind of.”

“He said you did.”

“I sent him a lot of good cider.”

“Oh. He’d like that more.”

“I guessed.”

“Girls, for Christ’s sake!”

Yoko closed her eyes as she drank and a giggle left her that was far more carefree than anything she usually let show when Weems was around. Enid looked over her shoulder guiltily as the woman approached and Wednesday tried to gauge how much blood she was covered in. Again. Surprisingly little.

“It’s December.”

“Happy holidays, Larissa.”

“Happy double glazing, Yoko Tanaka, you will replace that window— and apologise to Mickey Govans. Moira landed on him.”

“Where did Abdul land?”

Weems half turned to one side to show the blood smeared down one side of her white skirt and Yoko laughed so much she choked on the blood she’d been doing so well with, laughed so hard she had to roll onto her front and push herself up on one forearm to cope. Enid laughed a little, unable to fight the contagion. Wednesday smiled.

“If you retired, who would we aim for?”

The Dead And The Dancing - Chapter 63 - NotesFromTheChamber (2024)

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