Teacher’s Pet · Chapter 4

Cats and Rats

Arilin Thorferra

The giantess’s hands must have been to either side of the house, her knees in the front yard, legs no doubt blocking the street. She breathed hard, chest heaving behind her pale T-shirt, directly overhead. Jen only noticed how attractive that was as her second thought. Her first thought was how easily Arilin could crush the structure, and all of them, flat simply by lying down.

Soldier wolf stayed where he was, staring up, expressionless as ever, hand hovering over a side holster. The other two goons scrambled away toward the far wall. Rory, though, backed up slowly, breathing hard, looking between Arilin and Jen incredulously. “Holy shit. She’s really—your—holy shit.”

“Move back now.” The guttural undertone had left Arilin’s voice, replaced less by her professorial sternness than an icy steel.

“Relax.” Rory raised his hands over his head as if in surrender, expression wavering between bravado and nervousness. “Rat girl was on board with it. Or she would have been.”

Jen clenched her fists. “Fuck you.”

Arilin’s eyes narrowed at Rory. “Are you all right, Jen?”

She took a ragged breath, which made her wince from pain. “Yes.”

The giantess frowned, clearly having caught the wince. “Are you sure?”

“I think I’m just bruised. I’ll be fine. Now.” She smiled weakly.

Rory lowered his voice, as if Arilin wouldn’t be able to hear. “We’ll catch up and finish this later. I promise.” He motioned at the other wolves and turned away, heading toward the back, as if he wasn’t the least concerned about having an infuriated giantess looming overhead. The other wolves—other than camo boy, of course—looked a whole lot less confident, staring up at Arilin as they shuffled after their leader. Camo boy walked slowly, gaze locked onto the giantess.

“I didn’t say you could leave.”

Rory stopped in the entrance to the kitchen, the wall still standing even though the ceiling was gone, and stared up. “Or what?” His voice rose.

“Rory, c-c’mon,” one of the wolves by him muttered. “She just ripped the—”

“Shut up,” he snarled. “We’re going to walk out of this house and get in my car and leave, and she’s going to watch us.” He glared up at Arilin as he spoke. “Because she just admitted she’s fucking a student—or using her as a sex toy or something else massively screwed up—and she wants to keep her job. And there aren’t going to be any police, because she knows that’s never going to stick with me.”

Arilin lifted a hand and readjusted her glasses, focusing on the wolf and furrowing her brow. “Mr. Steadwell, let me clarify the balance of power between us at this moment. You have none of it and I have all of it. And I’m extraordinarily angry.”

The two henchmen by Rory lowered their ears and tails. Camo boy had his gun out, a hefty-looking pistol, pointed up at Arilin. “This gun can take out an elephant with one shot.” He backed slowly toward where Rory and the other wolves stood, gun locked on the giantess’s face.

Arilin’s attention focused on him. “I’m not sure you understand just how much bigger than an elephant I am.” The hand she’d lifted to her glasses curled into a car-sized fist. “Let’s both take our shots and see how it works out.”

The gunman swallowed hard, finger tightening on the trigger.

Rory growled. “She’s not going to—”

Arilin slammed her fist down. The sound of the gun firing nearly drowned out the wet, vivid crunch. Jen couldn’t tell if he’d hit her, but she’d sure as hell hit him, his legs twitching spasmodically to the sides of the giant hand. His head and torso were covered by the fist, and the fist lay nearly flat to the floor. The rat turned away quickly, bile rising in her throat.

“Jesus fuck!” Rory staggered backward. “Fuck fuck fuck—”

“I’m not going to what, Mr. Steadwell?” The cat’s voice easily carried over his obscene mantra. “Tell me what I’m not going to do.” She abruptly leaned down toward the three remaining wolves, baring her sword-sized teeth, and her flat voice became a full-on snarl. “Intimidate me.”

“Please,” one of the other wolves said, voice high-pitched. The third wolf looked—and smelled—like he’d peed himself. “We’ll just go. We won’t say anything to anyone!”

“What were they planning to do to you, Jen?” The giant eyes didn’t leave the three cowering wolves. “Did they tell you?”

Jen’s voice quavered. “Th-they were going to gang rape me. And I’m pretty sure kill me afterward.”

“She’s lying!” Rory burst out. “That fucking bitch—”

Arilin shoved two fingers forward against Rory’s chest, pinning him to a wall. “Speak out of turn again and I’ll gut you with a single claw.” She focused on the wolf who’d spoken before. “How many women do you know of that Mr. Steadwell has raped or killed?”

He shuddered. “I’ve…seen…a couple rapes. I told him not to, the first time. I really did.” He stared up, starting to cry. “But he told me about others. And he said he always took care of the ones he thought would talk.”

Jen stared at Rory. Jesus, he was a serial killer. His ears had flattened. He looked hateful rather than terrified, but he kept silent, other than a low growl.

“Thank you,” Arilin said to the wolf, voice and expression impassive. She straightened up, closing the hand around Rory. Her other hand reached for Jen. This time she didn’t ask for permission; she just picked the rat up, although more gently than she did the wolf.

“Can…can we go?” the wolf who’d peed himself finally got out in a hoarse squeak.

The Rha’s blank expression slowly changed to a smile. A broad, happy smile. It was absolutely terrifying. “Oh, yes. You can go as fast as you can.” She slowly rose to her full height, Rory and Jen still held in her hands.

The wolves stared up, even as she lifted a sandal over them. Then they bolted toward the front of the house, less than a second before she stepped down. The rear wall collapsed. She stepped forward.

Jen couldn’t see Rory, but she heard him make a choking gasp. He sounded as if it had finally sunk in that he wasn’t going to be able to talk or threaten his way out of this.

Arilin had started to purr, the vibration gently buzzing through the pads gripping Jen. Her foot came down, obliterating the living room just as the two burst through the front door onto the lawn, pee-wolf in the lead.

Jen glanced around the neighborhood nervously. She could see police lights in the distance, but they weren’t coming this way. If anyone watched the scene unfold, they were wise enough to do so from the safety of still-intact buildings.

Pee-wolf reached the car on the street—a black luxury sedan, naturally, decked out with gold rims and tinted windows—and scrambled in, the engine roaring to life. The other wolf reached the passenger side door, and started pounding on it. “Hey! Hey!”

The sedan screeched away. Arilin walked forward.

The abandoned wolf stared up, not even trying to run now. “Oh God oh God please don’t—”

“Once the angel of death stands before you, it’s too late to ask for forgiveness. But because you were truthful, I’ll make it quick.” Arilin leaned over, and added in a conspiratorial whisper, “Not like the other two.”

Jen could see the wolf’s pupils dilating for just a moment before Arilin straightened up and walked forward, sandal landing squarely on top of him. She didn’t even pause, although she did look back over her shoulder. Her purr increased in volume.

As the giantess’s pace picked up, her arms swung, and Jen’s cage of fingers became a roller coaster. She gripped one of the fingers holding her, squeezing her eyes shut again. God, she’d imagined giants behaving like this, she’d imagined this giant behaving like this, and she would chide herself for being as much thrilled as terrified. Now, in the reality, she still felt a little thrilled and a little terrified, but she felt a lot sick.

Should she say something? Should she tell Arilin to stop? If she did, though, wouldn’t that just mean Rory would come after her again, or come after other women? Wouldn’t he get his father to go after Arilin?

And if she told her to stop, would Arilin even listen?

Tires squealed ahead, drowning out Rory’s groans. Jen risked opening her eyes again. It was hard to follow the action in the street below, and it didn’t feel like Arilin was walking that fast. But she was closing in on the car, which had just taken a turn toward the—the west, she thought. They were deep into the DMZ now; other than the too-infrequent streetlight illuminating Arilin’s footpaws, they were almost in blackness.

The Rha abruptly turned after the car, making a shortcut by simply walking through the house on the corner. It looked like it was—had been—still habitable; she thought she heard a shriek behind her, but she didn’t have time to look.

Tires squealed again, and Arilin made a quick stomp motion with one foot. The next squeal was brakes, followed by a crash that Jen felt. Squirming up a bit, she could see Arilin had put her foot down right in front of the car, sandal lifted enough that the impact was against the sole.

“I’m afraid you’ve hit a dead end.” Arilin lifted that sandal up to set it on the car, completely covering the sedan.

The engine gunned, and Arilin’s foot jerked forward a little, but only a little. Otherwise, the car stayed in place, and smoke started pouring from the tires. Jen stared down in horrified fascination as the giantess rocked her weight forward, and the car began to creak.

The engine stopped revving. “No!” someone shouted from inside, clearly at the top of their lungs. “Please!”

The car made more warping, stressed noises as she increased the pressure, and the voice inside grew frantic. Then the vehicle collapsed in an explosive spray of shattered glass.

The Rha’s purring grew noticeably louder. Jen’s ears lowered and she looked up at her savior’s face; Arilin had closed her eyes momentarily, and her expression was…blissful.

Jen stifled another gag reflex. On the other side of the giantess, in her other hand, Rory made broken, hiccuping sobbing noises.

Arilin lifted the wolf in front of her face, dangling him upside down. “Mr. Steadwell—no, I think I should call you Rory in your last moments, don’t you? Rory, I’m usually very careful around the college with what criminals I take care of. But you…you’ve made me angry enough to be reckless.”

Jen sucked in her breath. “Uh…A-Arilin, are you saying, like, you…uh…?”

“I’m only saying that it’s interesting how the violent crime rate has dropped in this metro area over the last few years.” She licked her lips.

Rory stared dumbly at her. “L-let me go and I won’t…do…” He whimpered as Arilin focused her gaze on him again. “If anything happens to me my father—”

“Will be furious, and will suspect the college in general and me in particular. But you know better than most people that it’s hard to make a case when there’s no evidence, don’t you?”

His ears folded back against his head, tail curling down—up?—against his legs.

She smiled, far too brightly again, and that beautiful, ominous purr became louder as she lifted him higher into the air, opening her mouth. Rory began to kick and twist frantically, futilely.

Jen whimpered, feeling less nauseated by her tormentor’s impending fate than dizzy, weirdly…prickly. Part of her wanted to turn away, to curl into a ball and shut her eyes and ears until it was over. But she didn’t. She couldn’t look away. She had a near-perfect view of Arilin’s muzzle and neck from where she was held, out in front of the Rha at chest level, of the tip of her tongue and the huge white teeth and a single glistening strand of drool. She couldn’t turn her gaze away if her life depended on it.

“In a city with giants, you talked yourself into believing you were the untouchable, apex predator.” Arilin blew the struggling wolf a kiss, her voice growing tauntingly affectionate. “That was so very, very stupid.”

Rory gasped. “Please let me go I’ll leave the city I’ll go—”

“Tell Jen you’re sorry.”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Her purr grew thunderous. “Now just one last thing, Rory.”

A spark of hope lit in his bedraggled face, and he took a heaving breath. “Yes. Yes! Anything! Please!”

“Squirm on the way down,” she whispered.

He had just a moment to widen his eyes in renewed terror before she let go, and he began to fall down past her muzzle. Jen gasped, but the giantess snapped her jaws, head lowering, and caught Rory in her teeth.

He didn’t scream as much as howl, legs kicking and one arm waving. Arilin had caught him only a few yards over the rat’s head, and her jaws faced down; the rat could look straight up at the teeth, at the blood running down from where they sank into her prey’s torso, a trickle beginning to stain the giantess’s lower lip.

The jaws snapped again and the wolf was completely inside the giantess’s mouth. The howl grew more frantic as it became muffled.

Look away, Jen told herself. Don’t keep staring. But she watched fixedly as Arilin’s head tilted back again, more sharply this time, as her eyes closed, as she made a pleased noise that drowned out Rory’s cries for a moment.

And she kept watching, as the giant jaws finally clenched and Arilin swallowed. The plush white throat ruff rippled with what Jen couldn’t help but see as a wriggling wolf-shaped lump. The sound Arilin made as she swallowed wasn’t merely pleased. It was sexual.

Jen sagged in the giantess’s hand, trying to block out not just the purring but the giantess’s short, sharp breaths as she brought herself back under control. She felt her own stomach flutter.

When Arilin touched her with a finger of her other hand, Jen flinched back against the fingers holding her, yelping involuntarily.

The giantess sighed thinly, her ears lowering.

“S…sorry. Just k-kinda overwhelmed.” She tried to force a smile, but it didn’t work.

“You know you don’t have anything to fear from me.”

“No. No. I don’t think that. I mean, you saved my life. It’s just…” She closed her eyes, taking a deep breath in a shudder. “I didn’t know you were going to…”

She felt the giantess starting to move again, although she didn’t swing the arm holding Jen this time, keeping the rat in front of her. When Arilin finally spoke, her voice was gentle, no accusation or reproach. “I think you did.”

“But you’re not supposed to be a monster anymore!” Jen burst out. “And you enjoyed it!” God, was she starting to cry?

“I…” Arilin’s huge eyes grew distant behind her glasses, and she looked away. “I wasn’t as different from Rory as I’d like to believe I was. Maybe I was worse. But in one strange, unreal moment many years ago I lost everything, and I had to start depending on littles not so different from Liliren. From you. I couldn’t be a monster to them. So I pretended not to be. Pretending became easier. Finally it stopped being pretending.” She let out a slow sigh, and looked down to Jen. “But the monster is still there. It always will be. I just have to try to only let her out on other monsters.”

Jen swallowed, trying to process all that. “Maybe it’s okay to be a monster for good,” she finally said.


They fell silent as the giantess walked on toward campus. Jen risked a look back. She wasn’t leaving bloody footprints, at least. “Uh…how do you…do what you just did without attracting a lot of attention you don’t want?”

“By sticking to the area closest to the college, confining it to a very small area, and staying low to the ground.”

“You kinda missed two of those three tonight, didn’t you?”

“Yes. Hopefully there won’t be fallout.” They’d almost reached the college gates now.

Jen bit her lip. “Is he still squirming?”

“What?” Arilin stopped, looking at the rat squarely.

“Rory. In your stomach.”

“That’s a strangely curious question for someone concerned about me being a monster. But no, he isn’t. I felt him on the way down, but stomachs aren’t the calm wading pools of acid that cartoons show. Ten minutes in, it’d be more like—”

“No details, thanks!”

Arilin laughed, but it sounded surprisingly self-conscious. “I apologize.” She hesitated. “I’ll carry you to your dormitory if you’d like, or take you to my apartment if you need company for the night.”

“I…I appreciate it, but I think I want to lock myself in my room alone for a few days or something. And besides, if people see you carrying me around they might talk.”

“They might, yes,” Arilin said softly. She cradled the rat in her hand, then slowly knelt down.

“Wait.” Jen ran a hand through her hair. She didn’t know how she could feel simultaneously more frightened of and more sympathetic to Arilin than ever, but she did. The Rha had saved her life—and she’d only responded with shock. And a little morbid curiosity. She didn’t want to part on that note. And God, the woman was still beautiful, even after all that. She’d made swallowing someone whole alarmingly sexy. Jen would have to process that, too, later—hopefully without needing therapy. “Could I give you a kiss before you go?”

Arilin half-smiled. “You’re not frightened to be that close to my lips?”

Jen licked her own lips, finding her throat dry enough that her voice came out hoarse. “Honestly, kinda terrified. But I’ve dreamed about being that close to them too much not to ask.”

The giantess lifted the rat up to her muzzle, until Jen could reach out and touch the cat’s lower lip. She did, with both hands, the wet warmth under her fingers, breath like a hot wind coming out from the nose just overhead. Jen shuddered, getting that prickly feeling again. Jesus, this evening was emotional whiplash. She leaned forward and touched her lips to Arilin’s lower lip, holding the kiss as the giantess’s purr returned.

“Was that terrifying?” the Rha murmured when Jen drew back.

“In the best way.”

Arilin smiled, purring more softly, then gently set Jen down.

Jen’s eyes snapped open, and her hand went to her throat before she processed where she was. In bed, just where she should have expect with her last waking memory being one of going to bed.

Before she’d woken, she’d been back in some version of that house, with some version of Rory and his gang. She’d had this dream at least a half-dozen times in dreams over the last two months. Sometimes events unfolded almost exactly like they had in reality. Once Arilin didn’t get there in time. Once Arilin had crushed the entire house without rescuing Jen. The last dream, Arilin had lifted Jen up to her mouth, opening it wide, and as the cat had swallowed, the rat had sat bolt upright in bed with a scream.

But in this last dream, Jen had become the giantess. And she hadn’t been any more merciful to the little wolves than the Rha had. Lying here awake, staring at her dorm room’s stained ceiling, she could still remember the feel of Rory’s fragile little legs kicking frantically against the back of her tongue as she swallowed. And the tingling between her legs wasn’t just part of her dream.

She kicked off the sheets and sat up, rubbing her face. Thanks, subconscious, but this wasn’t part of Arilin’s psychology she wanted this level of insight into. She’d been accepted into Professor Snep’s transformation seminar next semester; from what she knew of the snow leopard, she’d have to justify her interest in size-shifting, and “I’m turned on by the thought of being a predatory vigilante” might not make the most defensible thesis statement.

Honestly, she wasn’t entirely sure how she even got into Snep’s class. It was a tough track to get into, especially a year early. She couldn’t help but suspect someone had pulled a string or two for her. If Arilin was behind it, though, she gave no sign. She’d said very little to Jen at all outside of class, beyond a short, awkward phone call a week after it all happened, asking how she was doing and if the Rha could do anything for her.

There probably wasn’t much Arilin could do, not without attracting unwanted attention. A small fire that destroyed a few abandoned houses hadn’t made much news—Jen wondered if Arilin had just gone back there with a giant cigarette lighter or something. Police had found Rory’s smashed car, though, and they’d determined the body in it wasn’t Rory’s. In this town, a car crushed nearly flat from above was hardly an unexplainable mystery. She didn’t know how the police investigated crimes where giants were obvious suspects, though. Did they have giant detectives? Did they deputize college staff?

As for Rory’s disappearance, she’d heard very little concrete. His father had appeared in the news, insisting the investigation start with the campus. Neither Jen nor Professor Thorferra had been mentioned to the press as “persons of interest,” but they’d questioned her, briefly, at the dorm, and they’d asked about her relationship with Arilin. She’d answered honestly: she’d made it up because Rory was hitting on her. The detectives had seemed satisfied with that answer; their other questions—ones she could, again honestly, say she had no answer for—were about what she might know of Rory’s other relationships. It felt like they were treating him less as a victim than a suspect. As much political pull as his family had, the police knew what kind of person he was. (Delicious? She grimaced at herself.)

After Jen got cleaned up and dressed, she headed outside. They’d entered the winter break, so the campus was comparatively empty. That was fine. She still got funny looks from students and strangers, sometimes; the “wet dyke” image was still out there, and always would be. But the short attention of the internet at large had moved on. She’d deleted her old Twitter account and gotten a new one, and since she hadn’t used a photo for her avatar, it hadn’t been swarmed by assholes. Eventually she’d put a photo back—when it could be one of her standing at eighty or ninety feet high.

She got out her phone to text Maddy; the cheetah wasn’t going back home for the holiday for another couple days. As she flipped through her contacts, though, she stopped at Arilin’s. Now that classes had ended, Jen was no longer her student.

The rat bit her lip. This wasn’t the way this all was supposed to have worked out. The way the story was supposed to have gone was that she’d get over that sense of the giantess being abstractly terrifying, that she’d go on that first tentative date, that there’d be a second one with dinner and wine, not just coffee. She’d be sitting at a table by Arilin’s plate. She’d feel less like a student than like a friend and a romantic interest and a pet all at once, and that would be kind of terrifying but also wonderful.

After a few seconds, she shook her head. Not yet. It was too soon after…everything. As crazy as the thought seemed, being seen socializing together might be dangerous for both Arilin and Jen right now, while the investigation was still open and fresh. It might not be that safe for them, politically speaking, for quite a while. Maybe not until Jen graduated.

Or at least maybe not until Jen learned the right spells. In a year or two, they’d have that coffee after all, but maybe they’d leave the shop hand in hand.

On way to SU, she texted Maddy. See u in 5?

The Lexington wasn’t crowded tonight. The Echo Lounge had better drinks and food, but she’d found she couldn’t take the atmosphere anymore. It might have been the more-townie crowd, it might have been the feeling of being out of place—the image thing Maddy had mentioned—or it might have just been bad memories. Not that her earlier experiences with the Lexington had been great, but it’d been just fine since she started coming back. She doubted it was the place that had changed, though; the crowd looked about the same. Maybe she carried herself differently now. Maybe she looked more like someone they didn’t want to mess with. She was okay with that.

The middle-aged gerbil woman behind the bar had a dour expression, but a friendly enough tone when Jen caught her attention. “What can I get you?”

“You have a beer that’s not too hoppy?”

“Ever tried an Acorn Brown?”

She shook her head.

The gerbil nodded. “Okay, give it a try.” She pulled out a glass and went back to the taps.

“Excuse me,” a voice said to Jen’s right. “I’ve seen you before, right? At the Echo Lounge?”

Her ear twitched. God, if the next thing she heard was anything about wet T-shirts, someone was getting punched in the face. She turned to find herself staring at a black halter barely hiding an ample chest. When she hurriedly pulled her gaze up, she met the amber-gold eyes of a silver vixen who might have stepped out of one of Jen’s teenage dreams. “I, uh—” Wait. She had seen her before. “Yeah. You were behind the bar. I ordered an, uh, something with whisky.”

“Yes. A Ninth Ward.” The vixen’s headfur remained short on one side, although not as short as Jen dimly remembered; her piercings caught the light behind the bar, making her ears and lower lip glitter.

Jen realized that the vixen had already taken a seat; she had close to a foot of height on the rat. She tried to keep her tail from twitching. “You have a hell of a memory.”

The vixen laughed. “As I remember you dumped the drink over some creeper’s head and stormed out. That’s pretty memorable.”

“Here you go.” The bartender interrupted by setting Jen’s beer down. “What can I get you, Tori?”

“Do you still have that apricot hefeweizen?”

“Yeah. Coming up.”

Jen tilted her head. “Tori?”

“Short for Ventura. Tori’s fine, though.”

“I like Tori, but Ventura is a really beautiful name.” She held out her hand. “I’m Jen.”

Ventura took her hand and didn’t shake it as much as just clasp it, her plush tail wagging a few times before she released it. “It’s nice to meet you. Are you going to the college?”

Her ears dipped a bit, and she lowered her voice. “Yeah.”

The vixen’s ears came up and she smiled again. “Hey, that’s fine. I’ve always been curious about the place, but I’ve never been on campus.”

“It’s safe. I mean, mostly. Giants aren’t that bad unless you make them angry.”

“How easy is it to make them angry?”

“Depends on the giant.” Jen grinned, and sipped her beer. It wasn’t what she expected, but it was good, roasted malt and toffee flavor. “This is almost a dessert beer.”

“Brown ale?” Ventura laughed. “You’ll probably think my hefeweizen is candy, then. But I’m not a big fan of IPAs and really heavy hop styles.”

The gerbil returned with a glass of pale, cloudy beer. “‘Oh, no, it’s a hop! I can taste a hop in there!’ You’re such girls.”

Ventura smirked, taking her glass. “You know you’re working at a lesbian bar, Frida, right?”

“Pfft.” The gerbil wandered to the other side of the bar for another order.

The vixen took a sip, then held out her glass to Jen. “Try it.”

The rat took it and sipped, too. “It is kinda like fruit candy, but it’s good.” She handed it back. “So do all the bartenders know each other or something?”

“A few of us. Frida and I are old friends, though. She keeps trying to fix me up with people.”

“What? You’re—uh—” She cleared her throat. “It’s, uh, really pretty hard to imagine you need help with that.”

Ventura’s ears colored, but she smiled. “Thanks. But it’s not always that easy to find dates. The queer community’s kind of small, and while I’m bi, most men I meet are kind of…” She trailed off.

“People you want to dump drinks over?”

She laughed, shaking her head. “No. Well, some. I mean that a lot of men—and a lot of women, honestly—get kind of intimidated by me.”


“That’s obvious, isn’t it?” The vixen’s expression grew more self-conscious. “You’re not put off by a woman a lot taller than you are?”

Jen choked on her beer, then started to giggle.