Tsubaki and Anon (Pt. 3)
The cold morning had made me thankful for remembering my jacket. Forgetting it would have lost me precious time as I raced back upstairs to grab it as quickly and quietly as possible. The early mornings were also the calmest the city got, with the night life having retreated and replaced with the first shift. Small pockets of groups moving from point to point or congregating to chat. Even still there was a bit of danger even in these sleepy first hours of the day...if you were a single man like I was. There were ways mamono could tell a man was single, it was like a sixth sense they and only they possessed. One that sometimes lead to bad situations.
As I waited at a crosswalk I felt a tap on the shoulder, "hello there~." said an alluring feminine voice from behind me. "Do you have a minute?"
Turning around I found myself coming face to face with a woman who oozed sexuality. Perky body, blonde hair that went down past her shoulders with blue eyes to go with. She looked like an elf with smaller ears and a pair of horns that cured around from the side of her head towards the front. The tips curling upwards giving the appearance of a headdress. A set of bat-like wings poked out from behind her lower back, both of them folded against her hips.
"Succubus," I groaned to myself as I looked her over. "Great...". I thought as my eyes narrowed.
As a sub-species of Mamono, Succubus were one of the most common. They were also one of the straightforward types typically. A mentality the for some reason grated on my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.
"Sorry," I yawned out. "I've gotta get to work."
"Oh please~." The succubus pleaded. " I need help, my glasses case skittered under the dumpster in that alleyway back there."
I groaned quietly to myself. "Look ...I...." my words fumbled as I looked for an excuse.
"Just say you have work and leave it at that." I tried telling myself.
Another side chimed in. "She needs help though, just see what it is."
It was only a quick request, how could it hurt? Afterall in this day and age things like "claiming" was a rarity, something you heard on the news maybe once every few years. Nowadays most couples were childhood sweethearts or fated encounters. I didn't see any danger and followed her into the alleyway. It was a dead end alley, the dumpster she brought me to situated about midway down and across from a locked back door to some storefront.
"Ok yeah, I see it." I said as I got low to the ground and looked under the dumpster. "It's all the way under there." I groaned.
It wasn't too bad, the case had skittered almost all the way under the dumpster. I moved over to the left side further into the alley and crouched down. It was still a ways underneath but at least it would be easier to grab from this angle. I stooped into a crouch and tried grabbing at the case, frowning when I realized the job would require me to get on my stomach and reach under. The ground itself wasn't too bad, I just would have rather not been on my stomach reaching under a dumpster.
"Almost..." I groaned as my fingers brushed against the case and tried pulling it towards me.
"Got it!" I thought to myself as I brought the case close enough to grab fully. "Easy" I said aloud.
Standing back up and turning around to hand the glasses case back my eyes were drawn to something. The front of the succubus' button up blouse had been unbuttoned, her breasts dangerously close to popping out. I wasn't given much time to process how this happened as I found myself in a thank you hug.
"Oh thanks so much sweetie~!" she said, pulling me into a very strong hug,
The oddly calming hug didn't set off alarm bells in my head, neither did it dawn on me that that act had pushed me almost square against the wall of the building behind me. I just stood there in a stupor as this strange woman held me. It wasn't anything bad after all I thought to myself, it was just a hug.
"That's it, just relax~." Said the succubus from somewhere.
I listened to her without a second thought, the hug felt great. Being embraced so gently and having my head stroked made me feel relaxed. No alarm bells rang as I stood there being embraced by this unknown succubus. Everything felt right in the world, especially when I felt the hand leave my head and begin rubbing and kneading my crotch through the fabric of my pants. I felt my breath getting heavier as I became aroused, but as my arousal rose so did something else. A singular alarm, one that shouted "WAIT STOP!" in my mind. The scream grew louder as the edges of my rational thought was being eaten by lust and arousal. I finally realized what was happening, I was being claimed.
Claiming was a worst case scenario in the modern era. You'd hear about it, some single guy would up and disappear. Either reappearing with some mamono around his arm and a kid in her stomach, or a special operations squad breaking down the door to some house and finding the guy having had his brains fucked out (figuratively). Trying to push her away wasn't working, I felt too calm even as my mind started to race. I didn't want to leave her embrace or touch. My need to stay there fought against the need to pull away and get away.
"No" I sighed. " I've got work... I can't be doing this."
"Don't worry about it sweetie~." Cooed the succubus, "relax and don't worry about anything~."
I squirmed and trashed weakly in her grasp. I was fighting not only her embrace but the calmness that was telling me to stay there and let it all play out. It didn't take long to free myself, one last twist of my body freeing me, but the movement caused me to stumble and hit my back against the wall of the building immediately behind me. Now free I finally got another look at the succubus, and was she getting shorter? Her hair definitely had, and gone from that vibrant yellow to pitch black. Everything about her had begun to swim and shift. A new panic entered as I realized that this wasn't a succubus.
"Just relax sweetie~" said the creature, as it reached back towards me. "I can be any woman you want~."
I shouted in surprise, "FUUCK." I exclaimed as the last of the calm was now replaced with an overwhelming desire to run and not stop running.
There was no complex plan, I ran away. Pushing past the shapeshifter and running out of the alleyway back onto the street. I didn't stop to look back, there was no point in my mind and if it was a shoggoth than a goopey tentacle would have dragged me back into the alley. I didn't stop to see if my bursting back onto the street from the alley had created a scene. Instead my focus was on getting to the relative safety of work, there it would be easier to hide from someone who could change their appearance on a whim. That was if I could keep myself within the warehouse for the entire shift.
I got to work about twenty minutes late. The main office was empty as most of the road crews had either gone out to their respective job sites or were loading over at the warehouse before leaving. This worked in my favor as it meant all the crews were already put together and I'd have a better chance at staying within the warehouse all day. The Warehouse itself was onsite, part of it had been covered loading bay. The floor space now filled with Warehouse shelving to hold things like tenting canvas panels and deployable plastic fencing. The dock area itself held tables and chairs, connected by a wooden ramp that allowed one to travel between the dock area and ground floor.
"Hey Eric." I called out. "Sorry for being late, but got a minute?"
Eric’s voice trailed as he kept focused on the paperwork. "Yeah just gimmie ooonnnnee minute." He said with back turned.
A man in his late 50s, Eric was more of a fit for this line of work than I was even at his age. More physically fit and with a tan that showed he spent a majority of his life outdoors. Even the company logo on his work shirt was faded from time and heavy use. It was thanks to him being an old family friend and my next door neighbor for most of my life that I had gotten this job despite my lack of strength.
"Big Anon," he said, looking over his shoulder at me. "What's up guy?"
"Is uhh there anyway I can stay off the road today?" I asked, trying to keep calm.
"I mean I can't make any promises Anon," he said, turning his attention back to the paperwork. "You might get pulled if they need extra hands to speed up a job."
"Look I NEED to stay off the road," I said feeling myself getting defensive. "I was almost claimed on my way to work." I said with a full scowl on my face.
"Waaait, What?!" Eric said wheeling around. "What happened?"
"I..." I hesitated. I wasn't quite sure how much would be 'acceptable' to talk about. "Look, long and short of it is I got baited by some sort of shape shifter and almost got claimed. I want to work Eric, but I don't want to be in public right now. Not feeling up to it."
"But you're alright?" Eric asked.
"Sorta." I hesitated, "still hard to hold a cohesive thought."
Eric waved a hand. "Alright," he said. "Just clean the chairs for that UMD Graduation. If the guys ask, I'll tell em you aren't feeling too good to be out there."
"Thanks Eric," I said before adding. "Thanks"
"Don't mention it guy."
I got right to work scrubbing stack after stack of lawn chairs. As my mind cleared and I focused on my task I felt myself looking over my shoulder. Paranoia had trickled in and made it difficult to work. Every time a truck stopped by I found myself ducking out into the bathroom. A white lie of a bad stomach as I limped away and shut myself in a stall. Not leaving until I was sure the trucks were gone. At my core I was afraid that one of the people on any of the roadcrew could be the shapeshifter looking for another pass. The multiple stacks of chairs that needed scrubbing was being cleared slower than I would normally output and that didn't go unnoticed.
"Anon," Called Eric from the work desk. "Can you come here?"
"Twelve seconds," I shouted back. "Finishing this last chair." I said as I flipped over the last chair and began scrubbing the backrest.
I finished the last chair, stacking and securing it with the rest of the stack. With that taken care of I bounded down the wooden ramp to the lower half of the warehouse and walked up to Eric who was once again looking over the order sheets.
I peeked over his shoulder at the upcoming order. "Yeah," I said "What's up?"
"Look Anon," Eric said, turning to me. "Clearly you're still jumpy over what happened this morning. I appreciate your work, I do, but guy you ain't keeping up and keep disappearing on me when even a different shadow shows up."
"Sorry," I said, gesturing with my palms up. "I can still work, I'll try to focus."
"Nah, you're way too jumpy." He said, before pointing to several stacks of chairs. "Plus we need 1200 for the UMD Graduation and you've only gotten through two stacks."
I kept looking at the stacks of unclean charis and sighed. As much as I didn't like hearing it Eric was right. On a normal day I would have pounded out this job and be halfway into setup of the third before lunch. The dipping into the bathroom and randomly asking Eric various questions about things only he would know about me had taken a big hit to my productivity.
"Look, 'Fredo will be back soon and I'll have him walk you home if you're still jumpy."
I shook my head no, "Nah." I said, "I'll take care of it." My attention and focus now off in space somewhere as I tried to think of a way to get home by myself.
I didn't immediately leave after punching out. I stood in one of the bay doors and stared out at the city and into space. Standing there I thought about all my options on how to get home. Running through each one bit by bit before discarding one plan and moving onto the next one. Only when I realized how long I was taking and how much time I had been standing there I stopped thinking. I opted to take a very basic plan, to run.
I ran most of the way back, only stopping from my out of shape body not wanting to be pushed as hard as the spirit wanted. By the time I got back to the apartments there was a stitch in my side. By the time I got up the stairs and onto the landing I felt like every part of me wanted to just up and die. I got through the door as quickly as I could, slamming and locking it behind me.
"Anon?" Tsubaki called from the living room. "Why are you home early?"
I could see Tsubaki half standing out of the computer chair looking over at me as I stood in the door. At first I didn't respond, instead keeping my eyes locked on Tsubaki as she left the living room. She stopped at the entryway between the living room and the rest of the apartment. As she came around the corner I saw Tsubaki was wearing the baggy sweater and flannel pajama pants I had given her and looking at me with a growing concern.
"Are you ok?" she asked. "Why do you look so out of breath?"
I kept my back to the door. "How did we meet?" I wheezed.
"What?" Tsubaki asked, giving me a look like I had two heads.
"Humor me," I demanded. "How did we meet?"
"I was digging out of a dumpster." She said before pausing. "Did something happen at work?"
"I honestly still don't know," I said feeling reassured at Tsubaki's answer. "Some sort of shape shifting emmgee tricked me into an alleyway and I think she tried to claim me?"
"What?!" Tsubaki said in horror, eyes growing wide. "Where did this happen? Did she manage to do anything to you? Are you ok?" she asked, each questioning coming out after the other.
"I'm ok," I said, trying to think. "It's still hard to really think super in-depth and the furthest she got was a bit of crotch rubbing."
Tsubaki practically ran up to me till she was at arm's reach. The look of concern on her face made it seemed like I had just been pulled from the wreck of a bad accident. She had even attempted to reach out towards me, pulling her hand back as she saw me flinch as it got close.
"Do you want to lie down?" She asked in a soft voice, still looking me over. "I'll make dinner tonight if you're not up for it."
"Yeah, sure." I said, side-stepping Tsubaki and kicking my shoes off. "I just gotta figure out what to do about tomorrow." I said staring off into space again.
That night was a bit more depressing than most nights. Tsubaki basically stayed away from the living room and gave me a wide berth for the rest of the night. Even taking dinner by herself at the kitchen counter as I ate watching the living room TV. Occasionally I caught glimpses of Tsubaki looking at me, asking how I was doing if she noticed I was looking back. We ended the night having barely made half a conversation to one another. Tsubaki retreating to the bedroom and me laying on the couch, eyes glued to the door for what felt like two hours. My exhaustion from the day's events won in the end though, and I rolled over and went to sleep.