Teacher’s Pet · Chapter 3

Bars and Ruins

Arilin Thorferra

Just ignore them. Everybody gets a little abuse. That’s what everyone says, right? God, she’d said that. She’d just treated online harassment as something you can walk away from. Just like not playing team games.

But this wasn’t a few people shitposting. This was promise after promise of personal violation from people who had her real picture and real name. Sure, most of the fucking egg-people didn’t know where she lived. But it only took one with the dedication to find out. Hell, Rory knew, at least to an approximation, and he had to have a lot of local followers. If she went out and got spotted by any of his pack of sycophants—or just any locals who saw that photo, because God knew how far it’d spread by morning—she’d be the wet dyke girl.

And maybe it’d just be all talk. But she couldn’t know. At best this ruined Twitter for her; at worst…God. Maybe she should just never use the internet and never leave campus.

Jen sat up, groaning, and rubbed her face. Then she looked at the phone, biting her lip, and picked it up again, opening it to the contacts app. It took another ten seconds of staring at one contact before she worked up the courage to tap it and hold the phone up to her head.

On the third ring, she nearly hit the cancel button, but too late. “Hello?” Over the phone’s tiny speaker, with its narrow band of frequency response, the voice sounded normal. If she didn’t know who she’d called, she’d never be able to tell it belonged to a giantess.

“Hi. Uh, this is Jen.” She managed to keep her voice from squeaking, but she was pretty sure she sounded like she might burst into tears at any second. Nothing to be done for that. She just might.

“Jen? What’s wrong?”

She took a deep breath, and launched into the story of her encounter with Rory. The ice water, the photo, the threats of worse yet to come. And what happened after he tweeted the photo. “I’m afraid to go outside. I hate this.”

“Oh, Jen.” Arilin sounded more than sympathetic, almost heartbroken herself, a warmth in her voice the rat hadn’t heard before. “You can’t let them—let him—drive you underground.”

“I don’t know what to do. What if some crazy person comes after me? What if Rory’s really planning something? You…do you really think he’s killed people?” She dropped her voice to a whisper.

“I…” Arilin trailed off into a painful silence. “I know another monster when I see one.”

“God.” Jen rubbed tears away from her face. “Do I go to the police? They never take internet threats seriously. But even if they did, I can’t get a restraining order against, like, everyone who knows Rory.”

“I don’t think you have much to fear from his gang on their own. They follow his lead. The attention from the brigade online isn’t likely to last, although you might need to create a second Twitter account that stays private.”

“But if they follow his lead and he wants to keep going after me, what do I do? I don’t know if he’s ever going to stop, not until I’m dead!” Her voice rose in pitch and volume. “Or raped or both or…” She dissolved into frantic squeaking.

“Jen. Take a deep breath.” From Arilin’s breathing it sounded like she was advising herself, too. “We’re going to stop him.”


“I can be persuasive.”

In spite of herself, Jen laughed nervously. “Y-yeah, I know. But if you get involved and he goes whining off to his father again, then doesn’t that kinda fuck you?” She clapped a hand over her mouth. “God, I’m sorry, Ms.—uh…”

Arilin laughed. “We’re not in class. But no, you’re right. We’ve got to keep him from going back to his father, too.”

“How do we do that?”

“Be extremely persuasive.” A characteristic dryness had returned to the giantess’s tone, but with no underlying warmth. “I know Rory’s not someone you spend any time with, but do you know where he likes to go when he’s off campus?”

“No. I mean, I guess he goes to Echo Lounge, since that’s where he went after me. But I’m pretty sure he lives off campus.”

“With his family?”

“Maybe. I don’t know.” She rubbed her forehead. “Uh, if you go anywhere in town, isn’t that going to be…incredibly obvious?”

“I’m just considering all my options. It’d certainly be better to get him somewhere else.”

“It’s starting to sound like you want to lure him into a back alley or something.”

“Honestly, if I could find a back alley I would fit into?” Arilin sighed. “I’ll see if I can find out any details that will help me catch him somewhere.”

“Uh, you mean, like, talking to him, right? Giving him a scare?”

The line went quiet again for several seconds. “If he walks away from our meeting, it needs to be with a guarantee he not only won’t come after you but won’t use his family connections to retaliate against me.”

“‘If’ he walks away? I, uh, I understand what you’re saying, but—”

“I—we—have to find a way to protect not just you from Rory, but other women in the future. There’s been…discussion of the matter in some of my circles.”

What did that mean? A cabal of giants deciding what to do when the little authorities couldn’t or wouldn’t act? That sounded crazy, but not quite crazy enough for her to make a joke about it. Just how close to “its own nation” was the college?

When Jen didn’t say anything for a few seconds, Arilin continued. “It’s likely best if you keep a low profile for a few days. Stick to campus. Maybe order food in tonight and tomorrow, and let the RA—or me—know if you have any problems around the dorm.”

“Okay.” She closed her eyes. “I’m sorry.”

“For what? There’s not a thing you’ve done wrong.”

Jen took in a shaky breath, feeling tears welling up again. “Other than involve you in this just because I have a stupid teacher-student crush. Jesus.”

Arilin laughed softly. “I shouldn’t tell you I’m flattered by that, then. Take care, Jen.”

After they hung up, Jen dropped back onto the bed and covered her face again. Had she just taken out a hit on Rory? She couldn’t shake the image of the giantess raising one sandaled paw over the wolf. God, maybe she didn’t want to shake it. Abstractly, the thought of what would happen if Arilin simply stepped down in that situation horrified her, but not nearly as much as it should.

Yeah, okay, the thrill was less the thought of the giantess stepping on someone as much as stepping on that particular someone. Frankly, if she was a giantess herself, she’d be sorely tempted to subtract one of his three dimensions.

She rolled onto her side and eyed the notification badge on the phone’s Twitter app. In the three digits, and still going up. Jen set the phone down on the nightstand, then screamed into her pillow.

The next week was Jen’s worst since she’d started school. When people she didn’t know gave her a long look, The Questions leapt into her head. Had they seen the photo? Were they Rory’s friends? Were they self-appointed anti-feminist crusaders? Were they just garden variety homophobes?

Objectively, it had to be as much paranoia as reality. She knew that. Unless it was followed by saying something, by doing something—a rude whistle here, a muttered feminazi there—a look was just a look.

But there were so many more looks.

She’d spent the first two days after the call with Arilin in her dorm room, only leaving to go to class. The third day she’d dashed to the Union’s convenience store to stock up on microwave dinners, showing up at their ungodly early opening hour so she met as few other students as possible. Three days after that she let Maddy convince her to go back to the Union for lunch, sticking to the lower level, sitting in the back corners.

So she knew heading off campus this evening wasn’t the wisest idea she could have had. But she couldn’t take it anymore. She was miles past stir-crazy, and she hadn’t seen so much as a tuft of fur from Rory and his goons.

When she got to the DMZ between the college and Parkcrest, the decay and trash seemed ironically welcoming, almost comfortable. Adrift on a sea of urban flotsam, she became just one more anonymous castoff. When someone flicked their gaze across her, they didn’t spare a second glance. They had their own problems.

She paused a block west of Gordon Avenue. If she kept going, she’d hit Parkcrest. Would that be safe? She’d have a higher chance of running into people who’d seen that goddamn viral photo, but they’d be more likely to be sympathetic, wouldn’t they? Maybe. Maybe not. Just because somebody shared your marginalized group didn’t mean they’d developed any empathy.

Okay, tonight she’d switch it up. While Jen walked through this neighborhood often enough, she hadn’t gone anywhere in it for at least six months. There had to be some place interesting but anonymous. And still in business. She’d passed by a couple liquor stores, a fur salon and a donut shop that looked like it might still open in the mornings, but just about all the other storefronts had FOR RENT signs or broken windows. She turned south.

Down this block, the businesses were clearly doing better, but it felt like she’d stepped around the corner and zapped back thirty years: a sewing machine repair shop, a leather goods store (the wallet-and-belt kind, although she bet she could find a nice collar in there), a used record dealer. And was that an actual, honest-to-God video rental place across the street by the pawn shop? She guessed the rent in the neighborhood was so low these places could still hang on.

Neon light spilled out of a dark doorway ahead. Jen paused, looking in. As she’d expected, it was a dive bar straight from an old movie: wooden bar, concrete floor, jaundiced pale lights barely brightening the brown and grey gloom. Even from out here, the air reeked of stale beer and bourbon. Maybe a half-dozen weathered customers sat around, all but two at the bar, all of them men, all but the bartender a carnivore, and all of them at least twice her age. She wondered how many had been regulars there for longer than she’d been alive.

A wolf sitting at the bar turned to glance at her. Three other patrons turned to see what he was looking at. A jackal raised his brows and snorted, but no one else even reacted before turning back to their drinks. She suspected none of these people saw any internet memes other than crackpot political GIFs family members forwarded them in email.

Okay, this was definitely not her kind of place. But if she turned around now, it’d be like backing out of a challenge, and the chances of turning the next corner and finding a punk-friendly craft cocktail bar seemed pretty fucking low. So by God, she was going to stick with this.

She took a seat at the end of the bar, closest to the front door, and waited for the bartender. Despite the prominent “No Smoking” signs, she smelled musty tobacco. Maybe it had just seeped into the walls over the years.

The huge rabbit behind the bar—he had to be as big as that tiger football guy in the sports drink ads—didn’t acknowledge her at first, busy drying debatably clean pint glasses with a debatably clean dish rag. After two glasses, he nodded to her, but picked up another glass, drying it with an especially critical eye before heading over. “What can I get you?”

Jen had already glanced at the short “On Tap” menu painted on the back wall. All big commercial brands. She knew the ones popular with other students—they were popular because they were cheap, not because they were good. She wasn’t much of a beer drinker anyway, but she’d found a few she could tolerate. “Steam Engine Lager.”

He nodded again, heading back to the beer taps. In a minute a pint glass sat in front of her, foam dribbling over the sides to add to the bar’s mottled patina. “Four twenty-five.” She set down a fiver, which disappeared into his paw with another nod.

She’d gotten halfway through the beer when people turned to look toward the door again—a repeat of her entrance, complete with the same snorting jackal. When she turned her head, though, no one was stepping inside. She caught a glimpse of a wolf tail disappearing. Not Rory’s, but it still looked familiar.

“Who was that?”

The bartender shrugged. “Nobody I seen before. Some soldier wannabe pup.”

Shit. Rory’s thug friend? The one who’d stared dead at her and drawn a finger across his neck? She couldn’t imagine him in this part of town.

Well, no. She couldn’t imagine Rory in this part of town. The run-in with him had been on campus, but “soldier wannabe pup” might live in town. Even so, having him walk past this dive bar the first night she’d ever even gone down this road would be one hell of a coincidence.

No. If that was him, he’d seen her earlier and followed her. Maybe she’d been watched all this time. Just because she hadn’t seen Rory’s friends didn’t mean they hadn’t seen her. They might have been leaving her alone while she was on campus, just waiting for her to leave. Now she was in about the most lawless part of the town, if not the whole damn country.

“You okay?”

She snapped her gaze back up to the bartender. “Huh?”

The rabbit had paused, towel in one hand and glass in the other. “It looked like all the blood drained out of your ears in the last coupla seconds.”

“I, uh, yeah. It’s nothing.”

He grunted, looking skeptical, and went back to glass-wiping.

Jen took a big drink of the beer, finishing as much as she could stomach. Then she slid off the stool. With another glance at the front door, she headed toward the bar’s back.

The light level dimmed further in the short hallway, just bright enough to highlight the graffiti carved along every open inch of the wooden walls and the door of the single restroom. Straight ahead, a red and white sign peeling from the back door threatened EMERGENCY EXIT, ALARM WILL SOUND, a warning belied by the bucket propping the door open.

She peered through the opening. An alley, about a lane and a half wide. Given the acrid, rotting scent, it had to be for garbage trucks. While she didn’t see anyone or hear anything outside, the smell made her uncomfortably nose-blind.

Leaning over the bucket, she looked down the alley both ways. Still nothing. Okay. Which way to go? She’d risk getting lost if she headed deeper into this neighborhood, but she’d be less likely to be seen by anyone she knew. And she didn’t think she could get too lost; she had a good sense of direction, and the streets mostly stuck to a grid.

The alley ended at a side street. Whatever businesses that still existed on this block had closed for the evening, or maybe forever. The sun hadn’t set yet, but the street was deserted. Maybe this was good, maybe it wasn’t. If she’d gone into Parkcrest, at least she’d be able to lose herself in a crowd. So could anyone following her, but it’d be harder to drag her off out of sight. Here, everything was out of sight.

Turning right, she hurried along the sidewalk, hopping over garbage and stains she didn’t care to identify. Heading west would take her through the DMZ’s worst parts without the marginal safety of being on the one major street, but it would also take her back toward the campus. A couple blocks more, then she’d cut to the right—

The fur on the back of her neck prickled a moment before she heard the howl behind her. Not close, but not nearly far enough away. A response howl sounded from the north. The echoes made it hard to pinpoint, but if anything, that one was closer.

Goddamn wolves acting like they were hunting in a wild pack to scare her. She hated that kind of posturing. She hated even more that it worked.

She darted across the street. The south side was residential rather than business—at least, it had been. None of the houses looked livable, let alone legally occupied, and half the lots had been fenced off.

Pounding footsteps from ahead and a tire squeal from behind dispelled the fleeting hope the pursuit was all in her head, that she’d been hearing noises that had nothing to do with her. She ran at the chainlink fence, hurdling over it, tumbling down onto the dying grass and windblown trash. Being back here might limit where she could run, but it might also give her more cover.

The lot she’d leapt onto had been razed, but the house next door still stood, a foreboding concrete block box with bars over broken windows. She didn’t bother checking if the front door was open—she didn’t want to stay in sight of the street. The back “yard” was a concrete pad with old, soaked-in oil stains from cars gone by; used syringes glinted in the grass by the steps. Hopefully the friendly neighborhood meth dealer wouldn’t be waiting inside.

The sound of a car door opening came from the front, followed by more footsteps. She jiggling the doorknob as quietly as she could. Locked? No, jammed. She braced herself with a foot, and forced it open with a too-loud scrape. Throwing herself inside, she yanked the door shut behind her, then tried to lock it. The deadbolt spun uselessly. Awesome.

More trash filled the kitchen. The fading twilight outside barely reached the house’s interior; shadows deepened as she stepped toward the living room. The still air stank of booze, smoke and urine. She could make out a ripped-up couch and recliner, a coffee table, and the stand where a television had been. And more syringes.

The front door rattled, the knob jiggling. Apparently it was still locked. Small favors, but very small.

“Come on, punk girl.” Rory’s voice came from the back, still outside. “Time for our date.”

They were making sure Jen didn’t have any obvious exits. She retreated into the bedroom. More shit on the floor—from the scent, that might be literal—and no furniture except a ripped mattress. One window, with bars outside. She was so fucked.

She heard the back door open.

Pulling out her phone and opening the location-sending app she’d used with Maddy, she tapped Arilin’s contact, then hesitated a moment. Was this really a good idea? No, but Jen didn’t have time to actually call anyone, even emergency services. And she didn’t want to speak out loud. She flipped the phone to silent, then stabbed the send button.

“Jesus, this place is a shithouse.” Rory’s voice came from the kitchen, but it sounded like he was walking to the front. The lock on the front door turned. “You didn’t see her out there?”

“No.” Sounded like the third guy.

“Then you’re in here somewhere, aren’t you?” The wolf’s voice became sing-song. “Don’t play hard to get.”

She slid the phone back in her pocket, edging toward the hallway again. Maybe she could get out through the kitchen again while they were occupied—

As she stepped past the edge of the wall, Rory’s eyes met hers from about six feet away, shining gold-red in the dimness. “Sweet.” As he grinned, the exposed teeth didn’t literally glint, but they might as well have. “Already waiting in the bedroom.”

Jen turned and sprinted for the front door. She managed to fling it open before one of the wolves—not Rory—smacked into her from behind, pinning her against the doorframe with his weight hard enough to knock the breath out of her. Jesus, it felt like he might have cracked her sternum or a rib.

He spun her around, keeping her pressed against the wall. Soldier pup, decked out in a tight camo tee. Even though spots danced across her vision, she could see four pairs of eyes glittering back at her, not three. Rory and three thugs, not two. That might not make what was about to happen materially worse, but it sure as shit wouldn’t make it better.

“Most dykes aren’t sexy.” Rory stepped forward, tilting her chin up in a hand. “You are. Butch, but still damn hot. Are you sure you really haven’t been with a guy?”

Fuck you, she wanted to get out. She still didn’t have the breath. She just made a strangled “fffff—” noise.

He laughed. “Like I said, maybe you just haven’t been with the right guy. This is your lucky night. You’re gonna be with four.”

A burst of adrenaline-fueled panic gave her enough strength to wrest an arm from soldier wolf, but another one of the pack grabbed it, twisting it behind her. She wriggled, but she could barely keep her balance, back unwillingly arched.

Rory stepped right up to her, grabbed her head in his hands and pressed her muzzle to his, forcing the kiss that he’d tried to take at the bar last week. This time she couldn’t move away as he forced his tongue into her mouth.

She bit down.

The wolf jerked his head back, yowling, and spat blood to the side. When he turned back to look at her, even the traces of fake humor had fallen away from his expression. “Give me her hand.”

Her ears lowered and she struggled more, but the soldier wannabe who’d first grabbed her used both of his hands to pull her left hand in front of her.

Rory wrapped his fingers around one of hers and started to bend it the wrong way until Jen choked out a scream.

“I don’t have to hurt you, Jen. But if you make me hurt you?” He stepped even closer, pressure still painful on her hand, and brought his muzzle against her ear for a whisper. “I might enjoy it even more.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her body tremble, unable to still it. They weren’t going to let her live, were they? They were going to take turns at her until she broke—maybe literally—and then finish her off.

Rory kissed her again, and this time she didn’t bite, even when she nearly gagged. She managed not to whimper—fucking hell, she’d give them as little satisfaction as she could—but the pounding of her heart felt like tremors. They grew stronger as he wrapped one arm behind her, his other gripping the front of her shorts.

The kiss abruptly broke and Rory let her go, and she heard him taking a step back, then another. Jen cracked her eyes open.

All the wolves—other than the one still holding her, now not the soldier—were looking around uncertainly. The tremors weren’t just her heart. The ground shook in pulses, each one getting harder, until the last few pulses rattled the walls.

Everything stopped, going utterly silent, even the background sounds of insects stilled.

“What’s going on?” the wolf holding her growled, yanking on the arm he still held. She shook her head sharply.

Something hit the side of the building, with a sound Jen couldn’t put a name to. Loud, sharp, less the report of a rifle than a jackhammer making two or three quick smashing punches. The sound deepened for a second, cracking, tearing. All at once fissures appeared near the ceiling.

Then the roof ripped off.

It flew to the side, lifting away and crumbling and shattering all at once, plaster and insulation raining down, cables and ducts shearing away. Jen screamed, covering her head. At least two of the wolves screamed, too.

Arilin crouched over the ruins. She didn’t block the sky; she had become the sky. And her growl was the low warning of approaching thunder. “Get. Away. From her.”