The day before our next meet, I snagged a pen off my professor’s desk when I stayed behind to talk to him. It was just some crappy generic thing he probably had another dozen of at home, but I still felt guilty. For all I knew, that was his last pen for the day, and I’d just triggered some nervous pen-related breakdown.
Lame, I know, but I’ve always been kind of a bleeding heart.
When I got to the bar, some guy playing a guitar and crooning into the microphone sat on the stage I hadn’t even realized was there. The lyrics were awful – something about lost love and head trips and unhealthy relationships – but the actual music wasn’t too bad if I tuned out the words.
A lot of people would have done something when they spotted me – waved, called my name, something – but Predator wasn’t a lot of people. When I turned away from the stage to look at the rest of the bar, her gaze was on mine, and a jolt ran through me.
I didn’t see Flare, but I did see an empty seat next to Predator (and a drink in front of that seat that looked suspiciously like what I’d been drinking the night before). I took the seat and the drink both, perching on the stool without a word to the woman next to me.
“So what’ve you got for me?” Predator drawled when I’d gotten through a glass and she’d made her way through a beer and a half. The silence had been nice, actually. At some point she’d shifted so her thigh pressed against mine, and when I stole a glance toward her, her eyes had burned into mine, but it was the nice kind of sexual tension, the kind where you knew it was mutual and didn’t spend half the time second-guessing yourself.
I pulled out the pen, wrapped in a thick padding of paper towels and stuffed into my jacket. I didn’t know exactly how much handling was ‘too much’, so I’d entombed the thing as soon as I got back to my house, and I hadn’t touched it with my bare hands since.
Predator snorted when she took it, but didn’t comment. She shotgunned her beer, then ran her fingers over the pen, her eyes going glassy and unfocused.
I watched, curious, as she touched every part of the outer casing, then took apart the pen as quickly and easily as if she’d built it herself. She tapped the open end of the plastic tube of ink on the napkin to get a little bit of ink onto the paper, then dipped one of her fingers in it. Rubbing her thumb over the tip of her finger, she brought her hand up to her face and inhaled, then lifted the disassembled pen and inhaled again. I straight up stared when she touched her tongue to the upper part of the pen casing, not that she seemed to notice.
I was starting to have third and fourth thoughts about the whole thing when she abruptly wrapped the pen back up in the paper towel, shoved it in her pocket, and stood. She threw a bill onto the bar to pay for our drinks, and started to head toward the door.
“C’mon,” she commanded, eyes still vacant, “I got it.”
“Right now?” I protested, slipping my jacket on anyway. “I didn’t think we were going to do this tonight, I’ve got-“
“Right now,” Predator said, and stalked out of the bar.
It turned out she had driven to the bar. I’d taken the train; one of the few expenses my parents actually paid for was my train fare.
Predator was either one of those insanely babied rich kids, or she had a really good job. Her car wasn’t so nice she couldn’t have driven it into some of the borderline-shady parts of the city, but neither was it something I could see myself being able to afford it within the next five years.
I hesitated to get into the car with her, then decided that screw it, I’d already come this far. She gave off some unsavory vibes sometimes, but I didn’t think she’d do anything violent or touch me without my consent. She reminded me, overall, of some of the guys I’d gone to high school with: arrogant almost beyond belief, with an ego that demanded she wait until I came onto her.
“Nice car,” I commented when I was inside and realized the car was a lot nicer on the inside than it looked at a casual glance. It was definitely real leather I was sitting on, and the stereo face she took out of her pocket and fitted to the console looked like it could have paid my phone bill for months.
Predator grunted absently in reply, and turned the car on, shifting into reverse and driving away from the bar.
I tried to make small talk on the way to wherever we were going, but she responded only with monosyllabic answers or grunts. Her eyes stayed unfocused, and she occasionally took the pen out of her pocket to get a good sniff.
I figured it was a Name thing, that she had to focus on her ‘hunt’ in order for it to work. My mirror-thing didn’t space me out like that, but then, mine was done in an instant. Flare hadn’t talked during his demonstration, either; maybe sustained stuff needed too much concentration for them to make conversation.
We parked around the back of a convenience store, and Predator got out, locking the doors with a remote when I followed her lead. She started walking toward one of the houses in the area, and I bit my lip.
“We don’t really need to go up there, do we?” I balked, “I mean, I believe you.”
Predator doubled back and stood in front of me. “No, you don’t,” she replied, words staccato and eyes narrowed as she forced them out, “always gonna wonder… if I don’t prove it.”
As uncomfortable as the whole situation made me, I couldn’t say she was wrong. If I backed out now, I’d spend my nights wondering if maybe she’d just put on an act and driven somewhere out in the middle of nowhere to try to convince me. I’d find a way to doubt it even if we saw my professor in-person tonight, but the doubts would be a lot weaker.
I sighed and started forward. Predator reached for my wrist and wrapped her fingers around it carefully, as if she wanted to keep a hold on me, but didn’t have the mental computing power to casually grab me without possibly making it hurt. I flushed, but let her lead me without complaint.
(I’ll be honest; her leading me gave me a good excuse to check out her ass, and it was a nice ass.)
The house she led me to was pretty typical for the area: two floors, garage, a fence that wasn’t good for much besides letting people know where the property started and ended. Painted in some drab adobe color, the grass cut the exact same length as the neighbors’, it screamed suburbia even though it sat in the middle of the city.
Predator led me to a little secluded spot in the garden of the house next to the target house. It had a lattice that didn’t look sturdy enough to hold one person, let alone two, but Predator climbed it without fear, and when I hesitantly followed, the wooden structure didn’t even groan, much less collapse.
Just as soon as we got settled, she grabbed my arm again, lifting it to her face. She inhaled, eyes snapping up to meet mine.
For a single second, I was afraid. I’d never noticed just how wolfish she looked, the sharp slants to her face and her too-straight, too-white teeth. The look in her eyes wouldn’t have been out of place on a hunting dog, on a jackal, something that had found me and wasn’t going to let me go anywhere without sinking teeth into my flesh and tearing—
Then the look vanished, and Predator went back to the wild but not outright dangerous woman I’d met not too long ago. She smirked, further dispelling the mental image, and then nodded to the window we had a direct view of.
On the other side- well. It was definitely my professor, sweaty and flushed and naked, with a woman I doubted was his wife. I knew he couldn’t see us – it was dark, he was busy, and it was a bad angle from his end – but I still flushed and started to scramble down the lattice.
Predator’s laughter followed me, and she jumped down when I got to the ground, landing lightly on her feet.
“I wouldn’t’ve pegged you for a prude,” she smirked, folding her arms over her chest. “Or do you just not like that guy’s pasty white ass?”
“I-” I flushed again, harder, “that’s my organic chemistry professor,” I hissed, trying to keep my voice down, “I don’t want to see him cheating on his wife! Or naked!”
“Calm down,” Predator laughed, reaching out to cup my face with her hands. She smiled, a gentler thing than her usual smirk, brushing her thumb over my cheekbone. “I didn’t know we’d be getting live-action porn when I tracked the guy.”
For a few moments, we studied one another. She stood close, so close I could feel her body heat. Her hands were warm against my skin, and I could smell whatever perfume – cologne, more likely – she used, something that smelled dark and earthy.
“Do you believe me, now?” Her voice was soft, face open.
I wanted to lean forward, to kiss her, but the hands on my face stopped me. “Yeah,” I said instead, “I believe you.”
There was a moment – a long moment – where she could have kissed me. If I’m being honest, it wouldn’t have taken much for her to convince me to have sex right there, in some stranger’s garden, while my ochem professor cheated on his wife in the next house over.
Then she let her hands drop, and the moment passed.
“Let’s get you home,” she said, face unreadable.
The drive back was less tense than the drive there. Predator put some hip-hop radio station on low, and we made actual small talk. I found out she was a private investigator, sometimes using her Name to facilitate, but more often just digging everyone’s private business up by hand. She asked about my classes and actually seemed to listen to the answers, though she readily admitted that she didn’t have any education past high school or any interest in ever going to college.
She was vague about her age, but I put together that she was at least twenty-one, probably closer to twenty-three or twenty-four. It might have bothered some people in my position, but I had long since come to terms with age just being a number. We were roughly at the same maturity level, both consenting adults, and that was the important part, to me.
When we arrived, she walked me to the door of my apartment. I jiggled my keys in my hands, eyes downcast and lip between my teeth.
“This was… weird, but it turned out okay,” I said hesitantly, feeling a flush rise unbidden to my cheeks when Predator just smirked.
She reached forward, hooking her fingers in my belt loops and pulling me toward her. Her eyes bored into me, stripped me naked, told me exactly what she’d like to be doing to me right now. I shivered despite the heat of her against me, and clutched my keys tight.
Her hands came up, sliding under my jacket and shirt to rest on the skin of my back. I bit the inside of my cheek, feeling my breath quicken and heart race.
“Well?” She asked, breath ghosting across my lips, “aren’t you going to invite me up?”
I invited her up.