Getting the Snip
Kitty Ryan, 2005.
Rating: PG-13, for implications and imagery and whatnot.
Inspired by Hyel's sinfully good Monstrous Regiment website, and by my girlfriend, who unwittingly inspires many things.
The sergeant who sat at his makeshift desk in an anonymous inn, the sort of place that required either an escort or a truly desperate need for sleep that bordered upon hysteria in order to be found, appeared to be a perfectly ordinary member of the species, except that he wasn't.
This was, for the most part, hard to pick. The slouch was typical, the night shirt, although clean, was more so, being worn to threads in places and irregularly stained with yellowish grey despite the sergeant only having bought it the week before. (i) There was scowling, and paperwork kept in comprehensive disorder, which, again, fitted. In fact, everything about this sergeant radiated 'Sarge', even though there wasn't a fag end or cowering private in sight. It was something to do with the way space sat around him.
Well, the space sat around a 'her', if you wanted to get technical. The only thing that made this apparent to your average observer (ii) was the decidedly 'vexed' expression on the sergeant's face as she tugged at a golden curl of hair. 'Vexed' fits women like 'fracas' fits newspapers and metaphor. There was also the determined, rather frightening way she was holding a large pair of scissors, the gleam in her eye. (iii)
Rusting blades scraped together, as Sergeant Polly Perks set them down. Slowly, she turned in her seat, raising pale eyebrows at the apparition in her doorway, shadowless in the shadows. "Was that an order, Corporal?"
"Only if you want it to be, Sarge. Otherwise, it's the economical way of saying, 'Polly! In the name of insert-divinity-here, please, I must respectfully give remonstrance, in that I both beg and implore you to lay down what will become monstrous implements of torture in your otherwise capable hands and do not touch your hair.'" The corporal, tall, elegant and disgustingly confident in a young woman's bedroom as only a vampire could be, was now standing behind Sergeant Perks and taking up the scissors, breathless (iv). Noting the silence, he inserted an addendum, with a salute. "If you please, Sarge."
Polly, in spite of herself, smirked. "Beg and implore?"
The vampire groaned, one long hand covering her eyes. "You've been spending too much time with me, fair sergeant."
"Possibly. Now, this is all a bit histrionic for you, isn't it, Mal?"
"The thought of you attempting anything with those things would make Jackrum histrionic."
"You know, it has actually been established that Jackrum is in the possession of a uterus," Polly said mildly. "You, on the other hand—"
There was nothing else to say at this juncture except, "er…."
Teeth flashed in the gloom. "I win. That was priceless." Maladicta, enjoying the way Polly's blush was reaching her ears, laughed aloud, low in her throat.
A splutter from the sergeant. "How was I supposed to…I thought it was a-a vampire thing."
"So, now it's the teeth, the bloodlust, the ears, bat complex and…multiple reproductive organs?"
"You are eyeballing me, Corporal."
Mal saluted. "Yes, Sarge!"
"I might hazard to ask 'why', Corporal."
"General amusement, Sarge! Also, trying to work out what to do with your hair, Sarge!"
Trying to work out…I was just going to cut it all off, Mal." Polly ran her hands through the offending tresses, her back to the vampire who could never quite manage offensive, for reasons Polly could not fathom.
"I know you were, Polly, but there are ways and means—styles."
"Styles?" Polly laughed, rolling her eyes. "I can't pull off a widow's peak, you know."
"I would never even contemplate it," said Maladicta. "But, for anyone's sake, if you have to have short hair that doesn't do you any favours; at least let me cut it. I am going to have to put up with it for a while."
"So," said Polly. "By 'anyone's sake', you really mean 'yours.'
"Rosemary's definitely fashion-conscious—did you see her wince at that Zlobenian's uniform, blue and puce horizontal stripes (v), don't you remember?—but, basically, yes."
"The Zlobenian," said Polly, "was aiming a crossbow. And sergeants don't pretty-up for their privates—or their corporals."
A wide, disconcerting smile from Mal. "I was thinking more along the lines of dashing. Pretty doesn't suit you."
"I should be offended."
"Except that you're not."
"No thanks to you."
Maladicta ran a hand through Polly's hair, wincing at the snarls. "You should condition. Give in?"
Polly sighed, slumping deeper into her chair. "Just get it over with, woma—Corporal."
The vampire closed in, scissors open and in hand. Polly shuddered at the touch of a cool palm at the back of her neck.
Snip. The first curl fell, and then another, and another, Maladicta tilting the sergeant's head this way and that to see the effect. "What did you last cut this with? A hacksaw? Someone's teeth? Not mine, obviously. At least then you'd have a clean edge…." Snip.
For a time, there was silence, scissors snickering as hair fell.
Then, "So, Poll, how was your day?" Snip.
Polly turned her head to stare at the vampire. "What sort of question is tha—ouch!" She rubbed her shoulder, recently pinched. "What was that for?"
"You moved." Snip. "And hairdressers always ask that question. It's a fact of the multiverse." Maladicta smirked. "Not that I need to see hairdressers." Snip.
Polly could feel Mal's fingers at her jaw and the side of her neck, then on her throat, and she wondered how anything so cold could make her feel like she had interrupted Tilda playing with matches. Nails pressed lightly against her skin.
"Head back, please," Mal murmured; with such intense concentration that Polly suddenly wondered if she had had enough of her before-bed coffee.
"You said I couldn't move," Polly choked out, smiling a little.
"Contrary…" the fingers pressed harder, urging, one against her rapidly beating pulse-point.
Slowly, feeling vindicated somehow, Polly let her head tilt back until the back of the chair made her neck ache and she could see Mal. "You're shaking," she said, surprised.
"No, you are."
Polly flushed. "I am not, even though I ought to be, your…you have had enough coffee, haven't you?"
"Just…keep going and end it, please." Jackrum would have been proud, she thought wildly. That was a lovely adolescent-male impression.
Snip. "Patience, Sarge."
Snip. It was definitely a vampire thing, the hands. It was the night. A bedroom and crescent moon through dingy lace curtains. Exposed necks and nightdresses, even if she wasn't technically wearing a nightdress, as it were…but there had to be a reason for the sure, sensuous way Maladicta's hands moved at her neck, even when in the process of cutting slightly oily hair. Snip. The only other things needed—snip—was for Mal tobe a proper Maladict, without the ribbon, and for Polly to have a name like Collette or Lucinda, with lots of ribbons. Then things would be textbook. Folkloric, even, and possibly folksong worthy at the pub at two in the morning.
Snip. Of course, Mal couldn't help it. It wasn't deliberate. It was a vampire thing.
"Heads up, Sarge."
Hands feather light around her face, Mal cut like a barber with something to prove and four-part harmony in the background. She pulled, and pursed her lips and tugged at things. Hair flew, getting into Polly's eyes and making then tear up. Snip, snip, snip.
"What are you doing to me?"
"Sinfully good things, I hope."
Polly laughed, faint. "Someone's cocky."
"That," Mal swatted Polly's cheek, groaning, "was a nauseatingly overt double entendre."
The sergeant closed her eyes, bewildered. "Really? I had no idea."
"Sometimes," Mal said softly, "I believe you." Snip. "Open those eyes and find a mirror, Polly. I've worked my magic."
Shaking her head, Polly stood, pushing her chair back into Maladicta. "Vampires don't have magic."
"Look at me, please," said the vampire, calmly rubbing her shin.
Polly looked, starting back slightly as the taller corporal's hands rested on her shoulders. In the end, she had to lower her eyes.
"Beautiful!" Stepping away with an extravagant flourish, Mal kissed her own hand as if in awe and then briefly cupped Polly's cheek, feeling the heat there and raising an eyebrow. Slowly, she drew her hand down, and then away, before ruffling her sergeant's hair. "It is imperative that you find a mirror," she declared.
Maladicta withdrew with a salute and a curl up her sleeve, leaving Polly Perks alone in her room, hair soft under her feet and moisture on her cheek.
It had to be a vampire thing.
(i) Men, even the sort that might be called 'interchangeable', do frightening things to all that is connected to boring white clothing, including but not exclusive to, the one white t-shirt kept in the back of the wardrobe because it's 'comfortable', and, of course, unfortunate sleepwear.
(ii) Of course, this gives the average observer far too much credit. The average observer is the sort seen running (well, limping, fast) from the Unseen University's library, the word 'monkey' only just fading from their bloodied lips.
(iii) This pose, and the associated expression, will be familiar to anyone who suffered a haircut from their mother around the age of eight. Go on, you know the one.
(iv) In most senses of the word.
(v) double-emphasis, like uniforms of blue and puce done in horizontal stripes, is a worrying thing.