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Mab whips her steed with a jagged cricket’s leg and it buzzes into a long vertical loop (the g-force is negligible at their size). Her pack circles in apparently random paths which, if watched long enough, resolve a fractal coverage pattern.

They catch the aromatic trail at last and lunge after it: the perfect philotic communion of the insect hunt. “Tally-ho!” Mab screams, eyes alight. “When we catch the little bastard, we’ll show him what nightmares are made OH SH–”

Monique hacks and spits and slows down to try and scrape them out of her throat. Goddammit. Fucking gnats.


“You could just use the treadmill,” Royal says.

“Not even… remotely the same.” Monique shakes her head, still a little breathless. The skin of her forearms and under her eyes is flushed; the rest of her is pale.

“I think you know that there’s good running and bad running.” His words are careful.

“I know the difference.”

“Do you?”

“Good running is hurting yourself just enough so it’s worth it.” She straightens and plods into the bathroom.

“And bad running…”

“Bad running is hurting yourself as much as you want.”

Royal wants to say something, but she’s already shut the door.