• Published 29th May 2019
  • 9,311 Views, 408 Comments

And when the darkness comes around - Cackling Moron



Local human encounters nocturnal pony, provides sustenance

  • ...
14
 408
 9,311

One unit, whole blood

Author's Note:

I finally got called out on my bullshit

Hope nobody looks further down the story page...eep

What woke Eric up was more knocking at his door.

“Christ, everyone wants a piece of Eric,” he groaned, trying to sit up and failing because he had someone asleep on top of him.

That gave him pause.

Blinking and trying to focus he looked at the fluffy, snoozing lump curled on his chest and then remembered the series of decisions that had led to his present set of circumstances. He touched his neck again and winced, but only slightly. A tiny bit tender.

“Right, that,” he said, wincing again as the knocking at the door got more insistent.

“Bleeding Nora, keep your hair on. Come on, Lamia, let’s just - that’s it.”

With delicacy did Eric scoop the sleeping batpony up with both hands, shuffle out from underneath her and then replace her on the sofa. She slept through all of this, curling up perhaps a little tighter once her primary source of warmth had left.

It was an effort but Eric managed to tear himself away from just staring at this frankly unfair display of adorableness and instead lumbered groggily over to the door, which he opened. The pont on the other side had a hoof raised, poised for further knocking, and was obviously taken aback by Eric’s sudden appearance.

“I’m awake, I’m awake. How can I - oh, hello, you’re here earlier than I expected,” Eric said, squinting in the brightness at his visitor.

He recognised them, in a business capacity. A customer. They were here, he realised, to pick up a sign that he’d painted for them. They were ludicrously early, true, but still. That’d be Eric’s fault for not specifying a pickup time.

The pony lowered their hoof and looked up at Eric, whereupon they went a little pale.

“Uh, Eric, you’ve got, ah, blood just - just there,” they said, pointing to their own neck.

Eric blinked at them, then remembered.

“Oh right, that, uh…”

Still not having woken up anywhere near enough to properly lay out what had happened the previous night Eric, yawning, went with:

“Cut myself shaving. Yeah.”

The pony on the other side of the door looked up and took a moment to fully appreciate the abundance of evidence that Eric had not shaved anything in a fair while now. That, and another moment to try and imagine in what world two distinct puncture marks could in any way be mistaken for a shaving injury.

They then decided not to press the issue. Life was too short.

“I know I’m early but I was passing so just thought I’d check to see if the sign was ready…?”

Eric yawned again, hand to his face.

“Fair play, fair play, yep yep it’s all done just round back, come on,” he said, moving past the pony and beginning to head around the back of his house, beckoning to be followed.

Around the back of the house was the outbuilding in which Eric did whatever painting he did not do on-site. In this outbuilding was the sign that he’d been commissioned to paint. The pony had revamped their shop, apparently, and this was part of it.

Shop sold plates. Or general kitchen supplies, Eric wasn’t sure. He’d just done what the brief had told him to do.

“Ta-da,” he said, whipping the sheet off the sign.

“Ooh,” said the customer, stepping up for a better look. “Ah, wonderful! It’s come out even better than I’d hoped!”

“I aim to please.”

For the following minute or two the customer continued to admire the sign while Eric stood off to the side, rubbing his eyes. At length, the customer seemed satisfied and stepped back, turning around to the human again.

“Wonderful! It’s important to be eye-catching in the ceramics industry,” they said before beginning to rummage about their saddlebags.

“I’ll take your word for that one,” Eric said, extending a hand a moment later to receive a modestly jingling pouch, which he pocketed.

“Not going to count it?” The customer asked, eyebrow arched. Eric shrugged.

“You have an honest face. And if you short-changed me I’ll sneak around your shop at night and paint something obscene on your sign.”

Eric wasn’t wholly sure on what ponies might find obscene as his frames of reference were still a little off, but he felt sure he could rise to the occasion should the occasion call for it. The customer made to say something, stopped, thought better of it and instead went with:

“Ah. Lucky for me I counted that out twice to be sure.”

“Everyone wins,” Eric said.

He then pulled the sheet back over the sign before hefting it into a small wagon he had around for the specific purpose of letting customers haul back their bulkier purchases.

“There you go. You can bring the wagon back whenever, it’s all good,” he said.

“S’vhery khind,” the customer said around the handle of the wagon, which they’d already picked up.

And off they trotted, sign in tow.

“The most rewarding part was when they gave me my money,” Eric said, watching them turn a corner and disappear from view. He then cast his eye to the rear of his house.

Back to the task at hand.

Going back into his lounge he found his guest had not moved. Or rather, she had, but only to bury herself even deeper into his sofa, sticking her face halfway beneath one of the cushions, wings hanging limply down the floor.

Eric, who likely shouldn’t have expected much better, shook his head and took a knee beside her.

“Come on Lamia, rise and shine,” he said, poking her in the side. So fluffy.

She snuffled, grumbled and rolled over away from him, none of which got her any closer to waking up or going away. Eric had to resist the sudden urge to devour her, such was her overwhelming cuteness. Instead, he put a nearby blanket on her. It seemed a better option.

“Bat. Nocturnal. Daytime. Yeah, this is how it goes, alright.”

This altered his plans, though not a huge amount. He had no real reluctance about letting a strange pony hang around his house during the day because ponies were pushovers. Mostly he was concerned about poor Lamia just waking up alone somewhere unfamiliar.

His solution to this problem was to write her a note he could leave on the nearby table, for her to read on awakening.

“Dear Lahmia (hope I got your name right), as and when you wake up, if I’m not here, it’s because I’m at work. Make yourself at home. Your associate and dinner, Eric,” read the note in his mostly-legible scrawl.

How a man who painted for a living could such appalling handwriting was a mystery, but Eric had always insisted it was perfectly possible. He was living proof!

The note, he felt, should get the point across. The point being that he was going to be at work and she should make herself at home. Pretty direct stuff.

With that sorted Eric washed, changed into some clothes he hadn’t slept in, ate some toast, drank some tea and was then out the door to go do some stuff. Lamia slept through all of this, though she did - in her own sleepy way - very much appreciate Eric making sure the curtains were closed before he left.

-

Eric’s day of work was not packed, which suited him down to the ground.

Firstly and primarily he was continuing the painting of a mural in a nursery across town. The customers, expectant parents, had asked him to do a big wrap-around-the-room affair depicting a fairly standard lush, rolling countryside scene - farmland, fences, sunshine etcetera.

Their choice of a rural scene seemed a little redundant to Eric, given where they lived, but he wasn’t going to start questioning customer’s decisions. They wanted rural, he could do rural. Hell, he could do rustic, pastoral or even Arcadian if they’d asked him to - he was flexible.

Personally, had he been given free rein, he probably would have done something timeless. Like bronzed, muscled, oiled men and women in scanty rags firing bows and arrows at attacking dinosaurs. Something a child could be inspired by. Maybe a spaceship, if he was feeling spicy.

But Eric would be the first to admit his tastes were not everybody’s tastes.

Once he’d put sufficient time in on that - he informed them it’d likely be finished up by tomorrow - he had some lunch and wandered over to this engagement, which was painting a treehouse.

This was a much more straightforward affair, as he was not doing anything fancy with the paint, he was just being charged with putting it onto the outside of the treehouse. Three local lasses - kids, really - had approached him about it, apparently deciding that he’d be better doing it than they would be, given his apparent affinity for paint..

He was happy to help. They’d even provided the paint! Couldn’t be easier than that.

The three girls - there was a bow-one, a short-haired one and a unicorn one - made nuisances of themselves while he was getting on with it, which was fine. They assailed him with various questions about humans and where they came from, hassled him with drinks of water (which was welcomed) and remarked repeatedly on how boring painting was.

Eric, being a soft touch, find it out all very endearing. Very cute kids.

The treehouse was not especially large and so he managed to finish up while it was still light out, being ushered inside afterwards and being led to a seat at a table within. The table and chair were both ridiculously out of proportion for him and he ended up with his knees up below his chin, but it wasn’t so bad - he was glad of the sit down.

The three girls took position on the opposite side of the table and engaged in a hushed discussion and rummage. Eric, relaxing, let them at it.

A single bit was then pushed his way, accompanied by a quite-frankly alarming amount of fuzz and generalised lint. The sheer profusion of the stuff was enough to briefly distract Eric from noticing that they were trying to pay him. Only briefly, though.

“Nah nah nah, none of that, this is gratis,” he said, pushing the single bit and attendant debris back towards them. The kids were confused.

“Huh?”

“Free, it’s free. You can take this back,” he said, tapping the coin with a finger then flipping it the rest of the way across the table at them. The unicorn-one fumbled to catch it and toppled over, taking the short-haired one with her. Bow-one, the only one left standing, looked flummoxed.

“But-” She started, but Eric held his hands up.

“No no, no buts. You guys even provided paint. You can probably use that for something important, it’s fine, honest.”

By now the other two had managed to scramble back upright again so all three were able to chorus:

“But-!”

Eric remained unyielding in the face of this. He even folded his arms.

“You keep arguing about this and I’m going to start paying you,”

As far as threats went this one was kind of out of left field, and the kids were knocked for six.

This was not the way to run a successful business but then that wasn’t Eric’s intention. He wanted to have a fun, chilled time of things and enjoy his life. So far he was doing pretty well in this.

He took the girl’s baffled silence as a sign of victory.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought. You three take that back and do something for yourselves with it. If you really want to compensate me, though, I wouldn’t say no to a cup of tea.”

Painting - in the sense of applying paint over a wide area - was the sort of thing you needed a sit down and tea after, as it was a ballache. Since Eric was already sitting he was halfway there, the tea would simply complete it.

The three kids took this information on board silently and then, quite without warning, all dashed to exit the treehouse at speed, scrambling over one another in the process. Somehow, in their heads, they had all silently and mutually reached the conclusion that repaying Eric with tea was a matter of prestige and that being the one to do it was important.

How they’d reached this conclusion was unclear, but reach it they had, and off they raced.

“It’s not a contest!” Eric called out after to them, to no avail.

Some time later - more time than one might have expected a cup of tea to take, all things considered - they returned, only slightly scuffed. It seemed that in the interim they had settled the issue on who was to provide tea by handing the cup over as one. An awkward compromise, but such was life.

“Much obliged, girls,” Eric said, lifting the cup and saucer from their three supporting hooves and taking an experimental sip. First impressions were positive, and all was well.

And it was while Eric was quietly enjoying his tea that they finally noticed something on his person that they had up until this point failed to do so, mostly on account of his height.

“What’s that?” The bow-one asked, being the quickest off the draw, looking at him intently. Eric, midway through sipping, stopped sipping and looked behind him, assuming that was where she was looking, seeing nothing to warrant her asking anything at all. He then turned back to her.

“What’s what?” He asked.

“That!”

This did not narrow things down much.

Huffing in annoyance at Eric’s continued failure to get the message she moved around, clambered up onto the table, reared up on the table, wobbled, stuck one hoof out onto his knee for balance and then with the other pointed directly to his neck.

“That!” She declared again, louder this time.

Eric twigged it, hand coming up and clapping over the puncture marks he finally remembered were there.

“Oh yeah, that,” he said, sheepishly. “That was, ah, batpony. Showed up on my doorstep last night. Nice lass. But yeah, that’s what it is.”

To his surprise the girls reacted to this revelation with what appeared to be horror, the short-haired one and the unicorn one promptly hiding halfway beneath the table while the bow-one very nearly fell to the floor, Eric having to catch her one-handed.

“Hey whoa, steady on,” he said, delicately picking her up and putting her down whereupon she joined her friends in hiding. This seemed a bit much to Eric.

“You l-let a batpony suck your blood?” The bow-one asked.

This much should have been self-evident.

“Yes. She was hungry and she asked me nicely. Wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be, actually. Weird, yeah, but not bad.”

Eric was rubbing his neck again idly and took a second to notice the three girls were still looking at him, horrified.

“You alright there?”

“Can’t believe you let a batpony feed on you…” came a murmur which could have come from any one of them, or all three, it was hard to tell. Eric had a feeling he was missing some sort of baggage here that would let him fully appreciate their opinions on the matter. To him, it did not seem a big deal. To them, it plainly was.

“She was perfectly pleasant to me,” he said, grumbling.

“But they drink blood!” The unicorn-one said, turning a rather sickly shade of green. The others stuck their tongues out in sympathetic disgust.

“We all have our vices,” Eric chuckled, but then saw that they clearly felt it was no laughing matter. Sniffing, he sat up straighter and got more serious: “Hey, kids, that’s not exactly their fault, you know? Just the way things are. Can’t really blame them for that, not like they chose it. And besides, look at me. I got my blood sucked and I’m fine, eh?”

“Except for the two holes in your neck…” The short-haired one muttered. Eric blew a raspberry of the most dismissive sort.

“Oh that’ll heal. I’ve had worse! And the worse I’ve had didn’t feed someone.”

Eric wasn’t entirely sure why he was so willing to go to the mat so vigorously to defend someone he’d met literally yesterday, but it had just boiled forth. He had not seen anything in Lamia for her to warrant such behind-the-back treatment.

Sure, maybe he was being taken for a ride, but if that turned out to be the case he could eat crow later! For now, defend fluffy girl! She did nothing wrong! Just had dinner!

He could also tell he wasn’t really winning the kids over. Time to change tack.

“How come I’d never heard about them before anyway? Think they’d be the sort of thing someone might mention to me. My welcome package didn’t say anything about them!”

This was true, it hadn’t.

“They’re rare,” said the bow-one. They were slowly beginning to emerge now from behind the table, which was something.

“And they drink blood!” The unicorn one squeaked. Even Eric’s nigh-limitless patience was being tried, now.

“Do they now? News to me. Sorry,” he said, feeling he’d perhaps been sharp. He had some tea to steady his nerves and collect his thoughts. This led to him confronting the fact that he wasn’t entirely clear on his thoughts. So he just made something up on the fly:

“Look kids, I don’t know what to tell you. She was the very model and picture of courtesy and I’m none the worse for wear. And imagine how it’d feel if everyone you bumped into thought you were a monster just because of the way your biology had shaken out. That’s not a matter of choice now, is it? Hardly seems fair to hold someone up for something entirely outside their control. Least not in my book. That’s no fun at all. Thanks for the tea, by the way.”

He’d finished the tea.

“It’s just...they’re creepy,” the short-haired one said to nods of agreement.

Tsch, kids. Eric frowned lightly.

“Ever met one?” He asked.

A simple question, but sufficient to catch them off-guard.

“...no.”

Eric had suspected as much.

“Well neither had I. Turns out this one at least is very nice indeed. I can see why the bloodsucking might freak some people out but that’s fine. Lucky she got me, bloodbag deluxe.”

Really, if you thought about it, Eric was probably one of the best things you could run into if you needed to suck blood. He was very relaxed and he was also bigger by far than most all ponies. Blood for days!

Eric rose to his feet, having to stoop to keep from hitting his head.

“Alright, well, I should probably be getting going. Uh, don’t touch the paint for a while if you can help it, it’ll need a few hours to dry.”

The girls acknowledged this and Eric climbed back down to ground level and went on his way.

By the time he arrived back home it was properly dark, and Lamia was gone.

-

Lamia did not reappear the next night, nor the night after that. Eric was waiting up just in case though, an eye on the window, an ear out for the door.

Why, though? He certainly wasn’t in a hurry to get his blood sucked again.

He put it down to concern, mixed with his enormous soft spot for ponies. Most of the ponies he knew were happy enough and settled, whereas poor Lamia had just looked so downtrodden. Never assured of a meal, ostracised through no fault of her own just because of what she was - it just seemed so unfair to him.

So he was concerned for her wellbeing, and hoped she was doing alright.

Not that she showed up.

After a week Eric stopped loitering around the lounge at late hours. After a fortnight he figured that it had just been a one-off, just one of those things.

Predictably, it was after this that there came a late-night knock at the door.

Eric, who had been about to turn in, did an abrupt-about face and very-nearly fell down the stairs, managing not to by inches and instead taking a bump against the wall at the bottom instead. Dazed, he opened the door and found Lamia, downcast, sat on her rump on his front step.

“Lamia!” He declared, delighted to see her in one piece, if as miserable as ever.

“H-hi,” she said, playing with her hair with both hooves and not meeting his eye. Eric put his hands on his hips.

“I was beginning to worry about you, you know! But I guess you can look after yourself.”

Her ears pricked at that and she looked up, one big ol’ eye fixed on his face, the other hidden behind her mane, with which she was still fiddling.

“You were?” She asked.

“Well yeah. You kind of just disappeared. I’m a worrier.”

Eric was not a worrier. His experience of worry that week had been an outlier. But Lamia didn’t really need to know that. She was, again, just trying to work out if he was joking, but again he seemed not to be.

“Can I come in?” She asked, with more surety this time. This Eric had sort of been waiting for, and he immediately stood to one side.

“By all means.”

There was less hesitation in her entering, though still some linger tentativeness, as though afraid this was perhaps some long-form prank that was due to payoff any moment. Purely because of its familiarity she made a beeline for the little seating area that Eric had. He went there, too, and sat in his spot.

This time Lamia hopped up on the sofa with him, though sat a respectable distance away, staring directly ahead.

“Sorry for falling asleep. You should have woken me up and told me to go,” she said after a quiet moment or three. Eric was appalled by the mere suggestion of such discourtesy.

“Ah, pffbt, s’fine. I imagine you’d had a rough night. Far too adorable to wake up as well.”

Lamia went a little pink and hid behind her mane even more, and said nothing.

Eric drummed briefly on his legs, looked around the room, waited a little longer for Lamia to reply, guessed she wasn’t going to and so instead carried on himself:

“Another lean night for you, then?”

She looked questioningly, not getting where he was coming from.

“Coming here I mean. Just assumed you hadn’t been able to find any other sources of, ah, sustenance tonight,” he said, waving his hands.

“I don’t need to feed every day,” she said.

“No?”

The way she’d outlined the process it kind of sounded like she did, but that was probably just Eric’s fault for making assumptions. No harm done. Learn something new with every breath.

“No. And after you - after y-you let me feed I wasn’t hungry for a long time.”

“Happy to be of service. It’s the high-quality you get from me, you see.”

This was a joke. Lamia did not get it. Eric cleared his throat.

“But, uh, you’re hungry now, I take it? Has been a couple weeks now, after all. Hence the visit?” He ventured. His neck had got better by now, mostly. Healed up right quick.

Batpony spit? Magic? His natural, manly resilience? All of the above?

Lamia was doing the nervous thing with her hooves again.

“Little bit. M-mostly I - mostly I...kind of m-missed you…” she said, starting out quiet and unsure and ending up barely audible. Eric clapped a hand to his ear and leant in towards her. Going deaf in his dotage, plainly.

“Sorry could you run that by me again?”

“I am - I was feeling lonely just being in my cave so I thought I’d...see you again…”

Took Eric a second to process that, though one detail did leap out above the others.

“You live in a cave?” He asked.

Lamia squirmed with every appearance of embarrassment.

“...yeah.”

This didn’t sound great to Eric, but maybe that was presumptuous. Maybe batponies were down for living in caves. Maybe they thought it was fucking great, he had no idea. So, tentatively, he asked:

“Do you like living in a cave?”

“...no.”

“Oh.”

Well that settled that, then.

Lamia, still keeping her head down and still alternating between nervously fiddling with her mane or nervously fiddling with her hooves, shuffled perhaps an inch along the sofa, closer to Eric.

“It’s cold. And lonely,” she said.

“You did mention that.”

Another shuffled inch.

“No-one here’s ever been nice to me like you were,” she said. “M-mostly when they say yes and let me feed it’s because they’re scared I’ll h-hurt them otherwise. I’d never hurt anypony.”

Eric scowled. Very poor form, such conduct.

“That’s damn rotten, that is. Hurt them indeed. Foul assumption to make about you! Not even knowing you. For shame,” he said.

And quite without thinking about it he brought his hand up and started to absent-mindedly scratch her behind the ears. This was a habit of Eric’s and was generally well-received, though he did try to make an effort to ask first. Sometimes he just forgot though, like just then.

Lamia went completely rigid and emitted a single sound that was rather like ‘meep’. Then, as the scratching continued, she began to relax, the look of shock on her face being replaced first with one of confusion, then with one of mounting bliss.

Eric then noticed what he was doing and pulled his hand back at once.

“Oh! Sorry about that Lamia, I really should have-”

“Don’t stop!” She whined, grabbing his wrist with both hooves and yanking his hand back onto her fluffy head.

“...rightyo then.”

The scratching resumed and a noticeable shiver ran down Lamia’s spine. The shuffling towards Eric was less restrained now. Indeed, it was blatant, Lamia schooching across the remaining distance so she would just put her weight against his side.

Eric looked around the room to see if someone had set this up. No-one had, and scratching continued, Lamia’s eyes now half-lidded.

This sort of thing happened with ponies sometimes, he just hadn’t expected it from Lamia. The one-eighty from how morose she’d seemed before was startling, though welcome. By degrees she kept on relaxing, veritably melting until she was sprawled across Eric, her head resting chin-down on his leg.

“Oh…” she sighed happily, one wing twitching while Eric disregarded the bizarre swiftness of the situation and just embrace it for what it was. Life was, as ever, too short.

“Your bad rap is thoroughly undeserved,” he said, graduating up to using two hands, much to Lamia’s immediate and vocal approval. She moved again, but then stopped, seemingly having found some spot on Eric’s leg that was of interest to her.

“You alright there?” He asked, watching her press her muzzle into his thigh, perhaps a little higher up than he felt comfortable with. Lamia was concentrating too much to respond though, really intent on whatever it was she’d found.

Wasn’t there some kind of important artery in the leg?

All at once Lamia scrambled up into his lap, balancing there, forehooves on his shoulders, muzzle inches from his nose.

“Can I - hnh - feed again? Please?”

There was a look in her eye that made Eric very impressed she still had the presence of mind to ask politely.

“Uh, sure,” he said, yelping a moment later as she leapt on him in a heartbeat, knocking him back against the arm of the sofa and clamping her mouth to his neck. There then came that weird, numb feeling again.

While she slurped away Eric stared at the ceiling, considering his life choices.

“Guess this is something that happens now,” he said, hands on his belly.

Lamia pulled back briefly, a single drop of blood just running down her chin. This was a little unsettling to see, but could have been worse.

“Did you say something?” She said, panting.

“Just an observation.”

She made to move in again but stopped herself at the last moment.

“Do you want me to stop?” She asked, obviously concerned. Eric gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile and a pat on the back.

“You do you, Lamia. Maybe just don’t go overboard this time.”

She bit her lip, which was a very pronounced gesture for someone with fangs.

“O-okay, I’ll try.”

Then she got right back to it, slurping now with much more obvious restraint and control than she had been before. Eric brought his hands up to support her barrel as she crawled up a little for a better position. This continued until, some minutes later, she stopped again and properly this time, shuffling back and wiping her mouth on the back of a hoof.

“Done,” she said, licking her lips.

Eric touched his neck again, again feeling that numbness. She’d gone for the same side as last time. If this kept up he’d start looking pretty rough. Maybe next time - he had a feeling there would be a next time - he insist she start alternating sides.

“Feel better?” He asked, sitting up again as Lami hopped off his lap.

“Much. Thank you. Sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?”

She shrugged, sliding rapidly back into the doleful now that the heat of the moment had passed. Once more she was hiding behind her mane, on which she tugged.

“Just - with the scratching a-and I could feel the blood and - I got a bit carried away...sorry…”

“Hey,” Eric said, putting a hand lightly onto her neck, making her jump only to relax. “It’s alright. I said yes, remember? Kind of a weird arrangement but no-one’s getting hurt. Well, my neck looks kind of rough right now but, you know, worse things have happened. You’re alright.”

“But you’re too nice to be food…” she sniffled.

Eric had no real idea of how to handle this sort of problem. Lacking better ideas he just pulled an unresisting Lamia against his side once more, and put his arm around her.

“Oh I ain’t that nice. My advice to you, Lamia, is just to do whatever works for you. Keep up with what you’ve got going already, or just come see me when you get peckish - it’s all good. I’ll back you up, alright?”

“Why though?”

That question again. Eric just shrugged.

“It’s the nice thing to do. I can do it, I can help someone out, why not? No skin off my back. Just, heh, some holes in my neck. And that heals up pretty nicely. Though, uh, maybe switch sides in future? One then the other? Symmetry is important.”

He’d managed to get that in sooner than he’d expected.

And Lamia actually laughed! Kind of halfway point between a laugh and a strangulated sob, but still! A start! She cuddled into his side, wings tucked in, face pressed to him.

In all honesty this was still kind of an odd situation, at least by Eric’s standards. His neck was still bleeding and he was there vowing to step into the breach as someone’s dinner anytime they felt the need. Was that normal?

Was anything normal, here?

Ah, who cared.

“You know, if you’re ever sick of hanging around your cave I have a box room upstairs I could clear out - not really using it for much right now,” he said, after a little period of companionable silence. Lamia jolted, wriggling around to look up at him in amazement.

“You - you mean - I could - ?”

Eric shrugged some more.

“If you wanted. Don’t feel pressured. Just saying. No need to go back to a cold cave if you don’t have to, right? What are friends for?”

She blinked at him slowly, eyes so very huge, ears so very fluffy.

“We’re friends?” She asked.

“Let’s go with yes,” Eric said.

He thought most everyone he met was his friend, really, but then Eric had some odd opinions. Lamia, by contrast, hadn’t ever had a friend, not really. The mere thought that she might now have one - the mere possibility! - was enough to push her to the edge of tears.

“Thank you!” She wailed, latching onto him.

Eric, for want of anything better to do, started working the ears again.

The universal language, after all.