I promised, didn't I?
|"She's cheating," The werewolf complained.
His furry snout wrinkled as he shot a glare at the unfazed vampiress yawning behind the tennis net. It was the third game and Fenrir Von Lobo was losing quite badly.
Tennis was never kind to a species that instinctively catches bite-sized projectiles in their fangs. That was an immediate fault. Amadora knew this weakness, making sure to lob the ball right in front of his nose each time he volleyed it back. Last game, she even turned into a leathery cloud of bats. The flying rodents managed to hold the racket and hover around, squeaking victoriously each time they returned his serve.
Fenrir was adamant that must be some sort of violation. He turned back to his spectral coach, who was currently was rubbing a transparent face.
"Look," The ghost sighed. "I told ya it's an exhibition match, not a professional one. They don't really care ‘bout using monstrous abilities cuz it makes for exciting TV. Once you get through this, it'll be the real deal, man. Don't let her flashy style get in your head. Aight?"
"Well, it's working," Fenrir growled. His hackles rose as she blew a kiss over the net.
The evening breeze rustled the short burgundy hair tumbling around her bloodless face. Violet eyes glistened, observing the hunched werewolf coolly, as though he were nothing more than a passing amusement.
In the cloudy sky above, a crescent moon peeked through the grey shroud. Fenrir glanced at it wistfully. If only it happened to be full, a time when he was able to harness the entire extent of his feral nature. Then again, it would be increasingly difficult to make rational decisions. He'd probably just end up breaking his racket or start a heated fight with that smug vampiress.
No, he needed to maintain control over his temper. Remember the training. Just breathe deeply. Inhale, exhale.
"Are we going to finish sometime tonight? I'd like to retire to the bar for a victory drink. My throat is positively parched." She smiled sweetly, a pair of dainty fangs poking out from her ruby lips.
Fenrir twitched, baring yellowed teeth.
"Ignore her," Paul warned and tried to place a hand on his protege's shoulder. It slipped through the fur, passing without resistance. The ghost glared at his ethereal limb while mumbling a few curses. "Three decades as a lingering spirit and you'd think I'd get the hang of the afterlife..."
The zombie referee groaned and raised a rotted stump.
Glancing back, Fenrir watched his coach reluctantly retreat as the game resumed. He gripped his racket in a massive paw. It was her serve.
Amadora tossed the vibrant sphere in the air with a smooth motion, pirouetting gracefully as her crimson cloak swirled. She spun twice before striking the tennis ball. The racket connected, making a soft twang.
He watched the ball whiz over the net, little more than a fluorescent blur. Scarcely had it brushed the ground when Fenrir lunged for it, swiping his flimsy metal equipment and successfully returning the serve.
Before he could acknowledge it was over the net, Amadora vanished. One second, she was standing never the edge of the court. When he blinked, the vampire was almost touching the fabric barrier.
A pale arm flashed. The ball ricocheted off her racket, a clean spike.
Fenrir couldn’t react in time. All he could do was watch helplessly as the fuzzy object bounced out of reach, nearly beheading the zombified referee.
The corpse flinched comically late. It peered around with a single eye and straightened, brushing nonexistent dirt from the striped uniform with a nonchalant grunt.
Back at the net, Fenrir was locked in a death glare. Amadora cocked her head and stared back at him, relishing the animosity.
“What’s the matter, wolfman? Bat got your tongue?” She giggled.
He shook a shaggy head, hateful golden eyes fixated on the smirking woman. “I hope you forget about daylight savings time. Would be a shame if you woke up early and got a nice little suntan.”
She laughed as her slender fingers brushed glossy locks away from sparkling amethyst eyes.
“Good one. Haven’t heard that before. But if I were you, I’d use my energy to score a few points instead of making clever insults.”
He nodded, never breaking his burning gaze. “I’m not going easy on you from now on.”
“Oooh, I’m scared. Let’s see what you got, tough guy.” She grinned, flashing petite fangs.
When the serve came again, Fenrir was ready. He sent it across, instantly rushing the net to prevent another spike.
Amadora kept her distance this time, yawning as she clipped the ball and curved it towards the back corner.
Spotting his demise, Fenrir yelped and pounced towards the spinning object, growing closer, witnessing the arc descend in slow motion. Would his racket reach it?
A claw brushed the pavement. He propelled himself forward another foot. He unleashed a bark of desperation.
A mere inch before the ball struck the ground, powerful jaws snapped, catching the sphere in his snout.
Jumping to his feet, he wagged his tail and panted happily. “Hahg hahg, I gob it.”
The ref raised a whistle to his rotted lips and blew a sputtering raspberry. Fault.
"40, Love. Game point!" Amadora winked coquettishly.
Fenrir opened his mouth and let the drool-covered ball plop to the court. “Son of a flea-ridden bitch.” He sagged and howled mournfully.
A minute later, Amadora cracked another serve but Fenrir didn’t even move to stop it. His spirit was broken, crushed by the realization that he was hopelessly, utterly outmatched by her. What good did it do to keep playing? The outcome would be the same.
“Handing me an ace after all that shit-talking? Where’s your pride?” The vampire frowned.
“Erd ame oo M’dura” The referee moaned.
The stadium cheered, onlookers waving purple foam bats which matched her eyes. On the left side, a crowd of werewolves sulked. Fenrir didn’t have the guts to face the pack leader, knowing that scarred snout would be curled with disappointment.
His tail sagged unconsciously. If he wasn’t in the public eye, a low whine would begin to rumble in his chest. Maybe he should just resign now. Might as well give up and acknowledge defeat instead of drawing out this painful match.
But something inside refused to lay down and show a soft belly to that arrogant countess. Was it pride? Or a primal urge to fight tooth and nail against his sworn enemy?
Whatever it was, it forced Fenrir to turn away and pad back to the starting position. His serve, now. Not that it mattered any.
A figure drew his attention, dancing around. Paul was waving frantically from the sidelines, looking like a fool. “Oi! Fenrir! Get your hind parts over here!”
Sighing, the werewolf slunk over to see what the fuss was about.
“I know, I know,” He huffed. “My head isn’t in the game. You can chew me out later.”
“No - well, yeah but that’s not what I called you here for. Dude, I thought of the best way to stop your bad habit from biting you in the ass.”
The ghost lit up, beaming with spectral delight as he whispered the plan in Fenrir’s perked ears.
“Think it’ll work?” The werewolf scratched his head. “Never really tried that, to be honest.”
Paul rolled his eyes. “It’ll get you a few points on the scoreboard at least. My name ain’t Paul T. Geist for nothing! Give me some credit, dawg. I’ve been coming up with winning strategies since you were just a pup.”
He waved his pupil away, grinning nervously.“If it doesn’t work, I might as well just pass on I guess.”
Shrugging, Fenrir grasped the racket and placed it in his jaws. What the hell, might as well try anything at this rate.
Tossing the ball in the air, he whipped his head to the side and smacked it over the net. Damn, it was easier than he expected.
Amadora immediately returned the serve, putting a little extra pepper on it.
Crouching on all fours, Fenrir scrambled over and leaped headfirst into the oncoming missile. Against all odds, the racket vibrated.
He winced as the metal clattered against his teeth, but it worked. The ball soared upwards into the evening sky. Silence fell over the murmuring crowd, eyes peering at the vanishing green object.
Unimpressed by the display, Amadora strolled over to the middle of the court and calmly checked her nails.
The ball plummeted back downward. She twisted, hitting it with a backhand.
Fenrir backflipped and tilted the racket in midair, sending another volley that made his fangs ache.
Both opponents began a frenzied dance around the court as thousands of fans witnessed the exchange with bated breath. Somehow, the werewolf was going toe to toe with a vampire that he hadn’t scored a single point on after three games: an unthinkable comeback, completely unprecedented in the entire history of Monster Tennis.
Amadora laughed musically. A faint tinge of color rose in her bloodless cheeks as the pace began moving faster. It was clear she was genuinely starting to have fun.
Sweat trickled into Fenrir’s eyes. He squinted, nearly missing the ball. All of his skills were being pushed to their absolute limit, but he refused to think. Relying solely on instincts and smell, he tracked the speeding object and struck it over and over again.
His tail began wagging despite himself.
So what if this was the final game? So what if she’d probably beat him and claim both set and match? This was what he lived for. The sensation of hot blood pumping in canine veins, the thrill of the chase, the satisfaction of embracing each moment his racket hit home.
Leaping up, he corkscrewed to return her slice and then-
A crack echoed over the stadium. His racket snapped in half, clattering to the ground.
The ball bounced off the very edge of the line, speeding off into the sidelines and pulverizing a water cooler. Mist sprayed into the air.
Fenrir sank to his knees as the zombie blew a strangled tweet. The exhibition match was over. Amadora’s fans clapped and whistled, but she didn’t bask in the glory.
A strange look crept over her elven features. Biting her lip, she gave the slouched werewolf a lingering glance before striding off the court with a caped flourish.
Paul floated over to Fenrir, an apologetic smile hanging awkwardly on his transparent face. “Sorry I didn’t think of it sooner, old boy. Damn fine playing out there, though. I’ve never even seen some of those moves.”
“All for what? Didn’t even get a single point on her.” Fenrir lamented, holding his head.
“Hey, at least we found what your strength is. Don’t take this as a loss, take it as a learning experience. There’ll be more chances for a rematch in the future.”
Fenrir snorted. “Yeah, I can guess how those will go.”
The coach waved his glum comments away. "Do me a favor, go get a drink. Take a breather. This was a good thing, don’t beat yourself up, man.”
Paul usually had good advice. As it turns out, a stiff drink was exactly the sort of thing a losing wolf needed.
Foam rose around the rim of the pint glass, bubbles gently popping as soft jazz oozed from the bar speakers. Fenrir inspected the amber contents, two beers deep and morosely contemplating the merits of pursuing this tennis career.
Werewolves never lasted very long. Maybe he should have listened to his pack leader and chosen a different sport. Supernatural Frisbee was something he could always fall back on, but it never interested him despite his species having a knack for it. Just didn’t sit well playing glorified fetch.
He lifted the beverage and sighed deeply. Once he went back home, the inevitable ‘told-you-so’ was going to sting. Time to get drunk and forget about it all.
A familiar voice rose over the warbling tunes.
“Bloodtini please, shaken not stirred.”
Glancing in the mirrored wall revealed a floating credit card, which the bartender’s reflection took with a nod. Fenrir frowned and turned to his left.
Amadora sat a few stools away, clad in a lacy spiderweb dress decorated with diamond arachnids. She arched an eyebrow at his face.
“What? Too good to share a bar with a fanger like me?”
He shrugged and returned to his drink. Figured she’d show up. Probably here to gloat about shutting him out and effortlessly at that. His shoulders tensed, bracing for the snarky comments.
“You know,” She began. “I haven’t enjoyed a game like that in quite some time. You surprised me out there, Fenrir.”
“Uh-huh,” The werewolf grunted. “Where’s the punchline?”
Amadora smiled faintly. “Not good at taking compliments, are you?”
“You have a funny way of dishing out praise, saying it was enjoyable to absolutely crush me.”He growled around the glass. Gulping the beer down, Fenrir slammed it on the table and gestured for another Blue Moon.
Sighing, Amadora grabbed the bloodtini and slid onto the stool beside him. “I think you interpreted that wrong. What I mean is that I’m not used to going all out like that. Our last spar was really something. You should try a stronger racket next time.”
“Don’t lie. You’re just trying to make me feel better.”
Exasperated, she shook her burgundy curls and held out her palm. Fenrir glanced down suspiciously.
The ivory skin was deeply grooved, backward lettering lining her otherwise flawless hand.
“That’s from the handle. I nearly crushed my racket, you see. Turns out, you’re quite cunning and more agile than my last opponents. And I’m used to playing vampires.”
“Doesn’t mean anything. Probably happens every time.”
“Are all werewolves this adverse to friendly recognition from fellow players?”
“Only losing ones, I guess.”
She muttered something in Romanian under her breath and sighed. Silence fell between them.
The song ended, a new one began to fill the room with an upbeat tune. Amethyst eyes lit up. Fingernails tapped on the wooden bar to the music.
“Ah, Children of the Night! How beautiful they croon.” Amadora breathed and began singing quietly.
“Harvest moon glowin’,
Cold wind hissin’
Wolves prowl round
Haunted woods a-watchin’…”
Fenrir blinked in shock, aghast that she knew the lyrics. “This is- this is a classic were-band. You’re telling me you’re a fan?!”
Nodding with an enigmatic grin, she continued on.
“Don’t stray outside when the howls arise, our pack’s cruisin’ for prey, oooooo we’re out to play…”
After the guitar solo began, she took a deep sip and wiped her crimson lips.
“Big-time fan. I saw them live on stage at Undeadfest almost a century back. They were so young, but I knew they’d become a hit. It was… electric.”
“Wow,” Fenrir whistled appreciatively. “I’d give my left incisor to see them. They were before my time, sadly.” He began looking at her in a different light, trying to wrap his mind around the idea of a vampire fangirling for a were-rock band.
Maybe they had more in common than he realized. This day was getting more and more surreal. Was he secretly wasted and imagining all this?
Amadora was surprisingly easy to talk to, unveiling her love for his species' music had opened up new and interesting topics of conversation. It seemed like a few minutes had passed, and yet the alarm for dawn began blaring.
“Ah,” She sighed reluctantly. “That’s my cue to hit the coffin.”
Fenrir was surprised to find himself regretting their parting as well. “Thanks for the chat. I… really learned a lot tonight. You gave me quite a bit of perspective I didn’t know I needed.”
“You know,” Amadora chuckled. “I’m leaving for Transylvania at first dusk. I have another game lined up against some particularly fierce ghouls.”
“Sounds like fun. I’m sure you won’t have any troubles, I’m still a bit sore from our bout.”
“It’s a doubles match if you can stomach me as a partner. Think of it as a trial run.”
“Me? Playing alongside you?”
“Well I’m not exactly asking the barkeep, am I?”
Fenrir's mind raced as the vampire edged closer to the door. She waited for an answer, eyeing the horizon nervously. Her foot began tapping.
Amadora rolled her eyes in frustration. “Cutting it close, but fine. Make it quick!”
He grinned. “I get to pick our team name.”
“Done. Meet me at the airport by sundown. And don’t be late!” She flew off, leaving behind the scent of blood oranges and O Negative.
Fenrir wagged his tail, wondering what the future held for him. Maybe Paul was right. His career was just in the beginning phase, slowly growing full like the sacred moon which ruled over his kind.