Teacher’s Pet · Chapter 2
Fangirls and Stalkers
“So since you have a research question—hopefully a solid one, after today’s discussion—you should know what you need to do by next session.” Ms. Thorferra paused, looking around the class.
A mouse woman in the back of the giant section, not too far from Jen and Maddy’s overlook, shifted in her seat. “Uh, write an answer?” she called back hesitantly.
“Write an answer. That answer is your thesis statement—and remember, while your main point here is to construct an argument that supports that thesis, your secondary point is to make an interesting argument. Be a little challenging, a little unexpected.”
“Fragile things dropped from great heights make cool noises,” a coyote giant in the front of the class said.
“Thank you for an excellent example of a bad thesis statement.” The Rha waved a hand, smiling wryly, and spoke over a ripple of laughter from the students. “While your subject choice isn’t the point of this exercise, your grade won’t be improved by boring me, and if you think you have something new and novel to say about how either size or species dictates behavior,” she dropped her voice to a mock whisper, “you might want to reconsider.”
Jen gave the cheetah a meaningful smirk; Maddy rolled her eyes. The rat had talked her out of a research question about how being giant-sized was an evolutionary disadvantage.
The professor looked at her wristwatch. “We have another ninety seconds, but let’s call it a class. I’ll see you all again in four days.”
Everyone stood. This time Jen didn’t let herself be distracted by the giantess, or the clack of her shoes. When Maddy headed toward the exit, she trailed close after.
Jen looked up, startled. Ms. Thorferra had moved to stand right by the observation deck, only a few feet from the rat. Without amplification, her voice only became more arresting, resonant in a way speakers couldn’t capture.
The Rha hadn’t been this physically close to Jen since the start of the semester. When a giant got close enough for you feel her body heat, close enough you had to tilt your head back sharply and realize that even though you were four stories off the ground you had to look up another four stories to meet eyes bigger than your body, it was damn hard to think straight. Especially when those eyes were focused directly on you. Jen swallowed nervously. “Yes, ma’am?”
“Come by my office after class.”
Her eyes widened. “You mean n-now?”
“Yes. I’ll meet you there.” The giantess turned and headed back toward her desk.
Maddy looked at Jen wide-eyed. “What did you do?”
Jen tried to keep her voice casual, but her whole body shook. “Nothing.” She picked up her pace toward the room’s exit.
“What does she want to see you about?”
“I don’t know.” Her research question hadn’t been that bad, had it? She knew she wasn’t a great student, but she got all—well, most of—her work in on time and got good marks.
Maddy patted her shoulder. “Let me know what happened later, assuming she doesn’t eat you.”
“Ha ha.” If it wasn’t academics, what could it be? A couple daydreams about Ms. Thorferra had started this way, but she strongly doubted she could be that lucky.
When she got to the subway, Jen stopped by the wall map. How did she get through the warrens to the humanities building where Ms. Thorferra’s office was? Ah, there. It looked like a good fifteen-minute walk. Maybe she should have asked the giantess to carry her. She’d seen other professors do that with students sometimes. The thought made her blush again, and she hurried into a wider underground thoroughfare that had its own bus line. It looked like she’d just missed the bus, though. Sighing, she picked up her pace, finally reaching the turnoff she needed, a smaller hall gently sloping upward.
The office building—small by giant standards—had no catwalks, just tunnels. Normal-sized professors had offices down here; if you were there to see a giant, you walked up a staircase specific to that the professor’s office. It emptied you out into what was pretty much a wire cage to one side of the huge, real hallway. A normal-sized office door stood right by the giant-sized office door the professor and bigger students used.
Jen glanced around. No classes in this building, so not much traffic in the giant hallway. Steeling herself, she faced the frosted glass door with ARILIN THORFERRA painted on it, and rang the bell.
The door buzzed and unlocked. She pushed it open and walked in.
Other than being a touch less cluttered, the room nailed the stereotype of a professor’s office: floor-to-ceiling bookshelf on one wall, filing cabinet against another, desk too big for the room. To Ms. Thorferra, it must have been barely bigger than a walk-in closet. Jen, though, had the viewpoint of a literal, non-anthropomorphic mouse. Despite the giant—well, the giant everything she’d seen over the last year and a half, she’d somehow never felt smaller. Even the smallest book would have towered over her, and there were hundreds. A filing cabinet drawer could have been retrofitted into a nice two-bedroom apartment. The desk looked like a wooden warehouse supported on huge square pillars. She could see the giantess’s sandals and her furred feet, but the angle made it impossible to see the rest of her.
Until she stood up and started walking toward her little student.
Jen went perfectly still, feeling her heart pound. This wasn’t the first time a giant had walked toward her—it was part of college orientation to have the entire incoming class at ground level with a dozen professors walking a tight circle around them. Nobody said it was a test to see who went wack jack, but it totally was, and more than one student totally did. Jen had kept her cool, although when the hundred-foot tiger guy crouched in front of her to ask a few inconsequential questions it was damn tough to get any words out.
But this was the first time Jen had this view of her.
She was still beautiful, but if seeing Ms. Thorferra stand by the railing was intimidating, this was…she didn’t have words. As the cat woman’s right foot came down within barely two yards, Jen tilted her head back, her gaze traveling up a shapely white-furred leg and up and up and up and ohmygod I’m looking up her dress. But no, the professor’s wrap skirt fit tight enough around her legs that anyone around her feet didn’t get a truly risqué view. Even so, she snapped her attention back to the sandal directly in front of her, a wooden platform you could easily fit a minivan on.
The dress rustled as the giantess lowered herself into a crouch. Tracking movements on that scale became impossible this close up; there was simply too much to take in to process. “Come up to my desk.” The giantess’s alto voice had the same natural, ineffable deepness Jen had heard back in the classroom fifteen minutes ago, distracting her from whatever huge thing had just been set down in front of her, a bumpy plush pink cushion thicker and bigger than a mattress—it—oh. It was her hand.
Jen bit her lip, trying not to stare. God, what was the protocol for this? Stand on her palm? That seemed both dangerous and disrespectful. Sit or kneel or…something. She crouched, putting her hands on the giantess’s paw pad, and awkwardly climbed on. The surface felt like velvet, cool at first and then warm. She sat down, hoping her ears weren’t turning pink. She’d touched giant students before—extending a finger to “shake,” for the normal-sized student to momentarily grasp with both hands, was common. She’d even been picked up by a classmate before. Just not a classmate she had a serious crush on.
“Don’t just sit, hang on,” Ms. Thorferra instructed, wiggling one finger.
Jen swallowed, wrapping an arm around it. The hand started moving up, faster as the giantess stood, coming to a rest at about waist level as she walked back to her desk. Ms. Thorferra’s movements demonstrated many years of practice carrying tiny people, but the natural motions of walking made the “platform” of her hand wobbly. Jen held her own free hand out in front of and looked at it. Keeping the palm flat and perfectly level was difficult, wasn’t it? The closer she brought her hand in toward herself, the harder it became, the more she had to twist her wrist.
The hand lowered to the desk’s surface, and Jen cleared her throat and climbed off onto the wooden “floor.” A honest to God fountain pen rested nearby, its point looking disturbingly like an ink-stained medieval weapon of some kind. Most of the room, she realized, had an archaic look to it, reflecting a jumble of past eras. The ceiling lamp, far overhead, had the dim orange glow of a bulb from the turn of the last century. That thing on a credenza behind Ms. Thorferra must be a coffeemaker, but it looked like a huge, hourglass-shaped flask with a wooden collar. And, while no huge desktop computer took up space on the desk, there was a tablet computer on a stand, with a wireless keyboard in front of it. The screen had to be, what, twelve feet diagonally? Maybe Jen could type on it by hopscotching from key to key.
The professor slid the tablet and keyboard to the side, motioning to a normal-sized sofa on the desk. “I would have simply carried you here rather than making you walk, but I didn’t want to fuel the rumors.”
Jen paused, hand on the couch, and looked up at the feline face towering above. Ms. Thorferra had a slight, wry smile on her face, but the rat couldn’t tell if that was a good sign. “Uh…rumors?”
Readjusting her glasses, the giantess leaned forward, resting her arms on the desk, so her huge blue eyes looked straight down at the rat. “The rumors that you and I are dating.”
The blood drained from Jen’s head fast enough she became dizzy. She dropped onto the couch hard. “I…uh…wh-who said that?”
“I was asked about it by one of the college trustees, Mr. Steadwell, and in a rather accusatory fashion. His son had come to him with this supposed news—which, as I understand it, he claims he’d heard from you.”
“Oh.” Jen squeaked the word out so softly she wasn’t sure Ms. Thorferra would even be able to hear. She kept her own gaze fixed on the desk.
“Did you give him that impression?”
Oh, God. Thinking about dating the giant professor had been crazy from the start and now she’d gone from no chance to less than zero and she was probably going to get kicked out of Ms. Thorferra’s class if not the whole school and—
“Jen.” The giantess’s voice was soft, sympathetic rather than stern. “Tell me what happened.”
The rat lifted her muzzle. She didn’t know she’d started crying until she realized everything was blurry. Wiping her face, she took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. Rory was, he was hitting on me and he was starting to make me really scared.” That sounded so stupid. “I-I mean, I told him I wasn’t interested, and then I told him I wasn’t even interested in guys, and that just made him push harder. It’s like ‘turning me straight’ would be some kind of, uh, conquest thing. And I just—I just wanted to make him leave me alone. I’m so sorry, Ms. Thorferra.”
The giantess sighed thinly, looking off into space over Jen’s head, and remained silent for several seconds. “Did it work?”
Jen blinked up in confusion. “Uh…what?”
Ms. Thorferra looked down again, huge head tilting to the side. “Did he leave you alone?”
“Oh. Uh…” She deflated again when she realized the answer. “Not until I dumped my drink over his head.”
A slight smile spread over the feline muzzle, but she sighed, leaning back and folding her arms under her chest. “Rory Steadwell is…known to some of the staff as someone we may need to take action against soon.”
“That’s kinda ominous.”
“It is.” She fixed her gaze on the rat. “But we suspect he’s genuinely dangerous, and too well protected by his family connections.”
Jen’s ears skewed. “Like, how dangerous?”
“Women he’s gone after have shown up as assault victims more than once. And dead, more than once.” She curled her lip, showing sword-like fangs. “His father’s made sure past investigations haven’t gone anywhere.”
“This is making me more nervous than I already was.”
The cat sighed. “It’s making me nervous, also.” She readjusted her glasses and looked straight at Jen again. “I told Mr. Steadwell the truth, which is that I’d never date one of my students. But this leaves both of us in a bind. If he doesn’t believe me, I could face sanctions from the college. If he does believe me, Rory’s very likely to target you.”
Jen swallowed. “I’m sorry I got you involved with this, Ms. Thorferra. I just—uh, your name was, like, the first I came up with, and…I mean…you’ve got a kind of intimidating rep…” She trailed off, suspecting she was just digging in deeper.
The giantess laughed. “As a former murderous sociopath no one is quite sure is truly safe to be around.”
“Do you have a crush on me despite that, or because of it?”
Jen made a choking noise and snapped her gaze back up to the Rha’s face. Her expression was the wry smile again; at least it wasn’t angry. “I don’t—I mean—oh, God.”
“I’m not the most observant cat in the world, but I’ve noticed the way you look at me.”
“Everybody looks at you that way,” Jen mumbled.
“No, they don’t. I’m an irascible middle-aged giant predator. Everybody looks at me like they’re afraid they’ll go on the menu if they miss one too many classes. Granted, letting people worry about that keeps attendance high.”
Jen smiled weakly, then sighed, looking down again. “I know you couldn’t date a student and probably couldn’t date someone my size anyway. A little. It’d be…like…I was a pet or something. I don’t know.”
“It would be like a Rha dating a Liliren.”
“A what?” She looked up.
“Where I grew up, there were only two races, Rha and Liliren. Liliren were…mice, more or less, about your size.”
“Did…uh…Rha ever date Liliren?”
The giantess laughed. “Not that I ever heard. Honestly, we didn’t think of them as quite people. More than animals, we knew. But we couldn’t get past the size difference.” She smiled more lopsidedly, looking away herself. “And the rumors you’ve heard about my past that created that ‘intimidating rep’ more than likely came from the way I treated them.”
“But you’re not like that now!” Jen said it with the same sharpness she’d used with Maddy the week before, despite flinching internally.
“No.” Her tone implied a but, but she left it unspoken, finally taking a deep breath and letting it out again in a slow sigh. “But back to Rory Steadwell. He’s dangerous not just because he’s a sociopath, but because he feels protected from any consequences. I want you to be on your guard for now. And I want you to have my phone number.”
Jen’s eyes widened and she stared up, open-mouthed.
Ms. Thorferra blinked at the rat’s expression and covered a small laugh. “In case you do run into any trouble, or need to talk about this. Get out your phone.”
She fumbled in her purse for it, then took the number as the giantess gave her each digit. “I…uh. Okay. Wow. Thank you, Ms. Thorferra.”
“We’re not in class, Jen. You can call me Arilin.”
“Okay, A-Arilin,” Jen breathed, trying not to squeak.
Ms. Thorferra—Arilin—chuckled softly. “Understand that’s not an invitation to call me for a date. You’re still my student.” She held her hand out by the rat again, palm up.
“I know, I know.” She laughed, the sound more high-pitched and nervous than casual, but she couldn’t help it. As she climbed back onto the plush pad, she felt a little dizzy.
Arilin walked back to the normal-sized door, crouched again, and set Jen down. The rat stepped back, trying to watch all of the giantess as she stood back up again, but once again the perspective made that impossible. “I’ll see you in class next week, Jen.”
Jen waved up, then paused. You’re still my student. She shouldn’t read too much into that. She definitely shouldn’t ask about it. She was a bold rat, but not that bold.
“Arilin?” She blurted out the giantess’s name before she had time to think better of it.
The giantess had already turned away, but she paused, looking down at the rat over her shoulder.
Arilin arched a brow and remained still, other than her slowly moving tail, for several long seconds. Then she smiled. “Yes.” She walked back toward her desk.
Jen smiled fixedly, stepped through the door and took the staircase back down to the subway. Then she squealed like a teenage fangirl at her first concert.
Jen swept her gaze around the Student Union’s upper atrium level. She’d gotten a text from Maddy—well, a text from an app on Maddy’s phone that just sent the message I am at [location] to a favorite contact. It was a great shortcut, but I am at the Student Union Building didn’t narrow things down; the building was physically bigger than some flyover country towns. Fortunately, only a small subset of the space was set aside for littles, and only a couple of those levels were great meeting areas. And knowing Maddy, she bet—
Yep. There she was, by the railing, waiting with one coffee in each hand. The rat waved and sauntered over.
Maddy handed one cup to her. “Okay, so talk.”
Jen took a seat at a two-chair table; the cheetah sat down across from her, looking expectant. The upper level was least a hundred feet up from the true floor, letting the “littles” look down on the giants. Normally she stuck to the lower balcony level, around fifty feet up, where giant and little students mingled the most freely—not that Jen did a whole lot of mingling, if she were honest about it. “I told you about running into Rory at Echo.”
“Well, that’s what it was about.” She sighed, and sketched out the story for Maddy. The cheetah sat attentively but silent, until the rat got to the end of the story.
“You asked her out for coffee?”
Jen shifted in her seat, feeling self-conscious about having mentioned it. “I just asked her if I could ask her out for coffee.”
“And she said yes?”
She trusted the cheetah not to go around blabbing about it, both to avoid pissing off Jen and, worse, to avoid pissing off the giantess, but it had started to feel like she’d said it just to brag. Maybe she had. “Uh, yeah. But who knows if anything’ll come of it. I mean, I can’t call her until the semester’s over anyway, even if I get up the nerve to try.”
The cheetah shook her head, slurping her coffee (half-caf black, which seemed singularly pointless to Jen, but Maddy said giving cheetahs caffeine and sugar was a bad idea). “Honey, you are not short on nerve. Common sense, maybe, but not nerve. You hadn’t been, like, drinking before you asked, right?”
“I went there right after class, remember?” She snorted. “I was sure as shit drinking after I asked, though.”
Maddy laughed. “I bet. So do you think you’re….” She trailed off, looking over Jen’s shoulder.
“What?” The rat started to turn.
“Don’t look.” Maddy dropped her eyes to her drink. “Rory, and a couple friends.”
Jen sank down in her seat. “I never see him at the Union,” she muttered. “I thought he was too cool for it.”
“It’s the best place to troll for co-eds. Maybe he hasn’t seen us. They’re not heading this way.”
“I can’t keep avoiding him forever. The campus is pretty small. Well, I mean the student body is…fuck, I mean there’s not many students.”
“Mmm hmm. I’d keep avoiding him until he forgets about you dumping your drink over his head.”
“How long do you think that’ll be?”
Jen straightened up. “That’s what I figured.” She finished her own coffee, the polar opposite of Maddy’s: so much sugar and half-and-half it might as well be melted coffee ice cream. “I should probably get going. I have a history exam coming up I haven’t studied for.”
“Good planning.” Maddy picked up her own coffee, still about a third left. “I’ll catch you later.”
“It’s what cheetahs do.”
Maddy grinned widely and headed off toward the snack bar. That was also what cheetahs did, or at least that cheetah: with her metabolism, she’d pretty much have to have an all donut, all the time diet to get fat.
Jen headed to the recycle bin to toss her cup, then toward the south-facing exit. This took her down a wide spiral staircase that worked out to five floors; the Union building was set into a hillside, and “little” students entered at the lower balcony level. The dorms for students Jen’s size lay in that direction, too.
She made it three steps outside before someone grabbed her from the side and spun her around.
Squeaking in alarm, she tried to pull back, but got slammed against the building’s side by a wolf. Not Rory, but one of the ones who’d been with him a couple minutes ago. “Let me go!”
He ignored her, turning to the side and whistling.
“I swear to God, if you don’t let me go—”
Ice water poured down on her. First her head, then her front.
She chittered reflexively. Jesus Christ that was cold. As she tried to cover herself, the wolf yanked her arms behind her, spinning her to face Rory, holding the now-empty cup. His other wolf friend stood a few steps behind, expressionless. If the one who’d grabbed her looked like a stereotypical hanger-on, that one looked like he’d stepped out of Soldier of Fortune.
“You look great wet, dyke.” Rory grinned, dropping the cup and pulling his phone out.
Her ears folded back and she pulled hard on her arms, trying to break free. Her T-shirt clung to her soaked fur, nipples outlined clearly under the cloth.
Click. Click. Click. Rory made a show of paging through the photographs he’d just taken, turning the phone around to show her one, taken when her back had been arched the most in the squirming. Her pose looked simultaneously lewd and frightened.
She yanked on her arms hard enough to unbalance the wolf behind her, ears flat. When he let go, she staggered. “Fine. We’re even, asshole.”
Rory put his phone away and looked her dead in the eye, not even bothering with one of his fake smiles. “Oh, we’re not close to even, dyke.” He turned away. The other wolves followed, but the soldier wannabe looked at her and drew a finger across his throat before striding after his leader.
Jen stared. Had he just threatened to kill her?
Women he’s gone after have shown up as assault victims more than once. And dead, more than once.
She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, then another. It’s a mindfuck. Don’t let them get to you. Okay. A third deep breath, and she resumed walking back toward her dorm, willing herself not to constantly look over her shoulder.
She’d just made it through the front door when her phone chimed. And chimed again, even as she pulled it out of her pocket.
Twitter notifications. What—oh, for fuck’s sake. Rory had tweeted the picture of her. I even make dykes wet! @Jen_Ratpunk #tits #dyke #feminismisawful
Crap. His asshole friends were starting to reply. And retweet. And, of course, he’d included her username, so she got every notification. Goddammit. Conversations were starting about her. Her looks and her orientation and her “feminism.”
She set the phone to silent and stalked down the hall, ears set back. A couple buzzes betrayed more activity, but it seemed to be quieting down.
When Jen reached her room—a single, albeit barely bigger than a walk-in closet—she tossed the phone on the bed and stripped out of the still-wet shirt, throwing it into the clothes hamper and toweling off. At least it was just water. Sitting down at the desk set into the wall, she turned on her computer and waited for it to boot up.
Once it finally finished, she opened her history notes, and alternated between poking at the web sites she was supposed to be looking at and cruising TV Tropes. Occasionally the phone vibrated on the bed, but she ignored it.
She’d been clicking around TVT for nearly an hour when the phone started vibrating so much it started to slide toward the mattress edge under its own power. What the hell? Jen dove for it and flipped to the notification screen, then blanched under her fur.
Rory’s tweet had crossed some magical line into virality—at least with the anti-feminists he’d whistled to with his fucking hashtag. Instead of a handful of retweets, it was dozens. Now the replies were coming faster, and what they were saying wasn’t just not funny, it was cruel. Or worse. Telling her to strip the rest of the way. Telling her she was ugly. Telling her she was a dyke because she couldn’t get a guy if she wanted to. Telling her to kill herself because she was a feminist. Telling her they would kill her because she was a feminist.
Feminism in a nutshell: hates men but dresses like a slut. Tap on the user, tap on the block button, tap OK.
If you killed yourself, I wouldn’t even fuck the corpse. Tap on the user, tap on the block button, tap OK.
Nobody will care when you die. I hope you enjoy your last moments alive on this earth.
Half her harassers sported Twitter’s default egg icon. She looked at one of their streams: every single tweet was a reply piling on a woman some asshole had decided sounded too uppity.
She stabbed at the block button and missed, eyes blurred with tears, then hit it on the second try.
I hope whoever rapes you gets a POV video of it.
“Fuck you,” she said aloud, voice trembling. She punched the phone’s home button, closing Twitter, and fought to turn off notifications even as more streamed in. “Fuck you.”
It took conscious effort to set the phone down on the desk rather than throwing it against the wall. Instead, she threw herself back on the bed, staring at the ceiling.