"That's not how magic works!"


The woman in the office chair swiveled back to face Becca, rubbing at her head, leaving a smudge of Pentel blue on her temple. She already had some on her nose. At her desk in the cramped apartment, loose papers covered in incoherent scribbles crowded each other, sharing space with an oversized accounting calculator and a computer that had a Warcraft wallpaper copied across all three screens. The woman absent-mindedly tapped at the Clear-All button on her calculator with the end of her pen. "Don't you know anything about conservation of mass and energy? I thought you were some sort of business person. You went to school, didn't you?"


"Yes." Becca took her hand off the back of the chair to fold it through her other arm across her chest. She frowned, too - scowled, even - just to add to the effect. She'd taken the day off for this. "They don't teach a lot of magic in school, though. So I guess you can't do what I asked?"


The magician fixed Becca with her stare. If the other woman hadn't been half a head shorter, a year younger, and had that plain, beige-brown tint to her appearance, the look might have seemed more ominous, more momentous. But Becca knew all about appearances - she had to for her job. She wasn't the one wearing baggy sweats and an old tank top, even though she'd taken the day off. "Maybe. Maybe I can. But not the way you think. Here." Turning back to the desk, the magician pushed the papers aside until she found one that was half-blank, and began stabbing at buttons on the calculator and writing down figures in the empty space. At last she held the paper, with a big number circled at the bottom.


32,768


Becca stared at the paper for a long moment before she took it from the magician's wavering fingers. "What is this? A price?"


"Oh. Hah!" The magician snorted and pushed back her stringy hair. "That would be a good deal. For both of us, even. One pound per. But I suppose the pressures of supply and demand would push the price down, seeing as how that's thirty-two thousand, seven-hundred and sixty-seven more than you asked for. Of course, the price could be driven back up, considering that what I'm about to do could conceivably be thought of as contrary to the law, if there were laws that considered the possibilities of what I can do--"


"What does the number mean?!" Thirty-three thousand would have gone a long way toward clearing out Becca's discretionary savings account, but - really - when it came to driving the new BMW or nursing four more years out of the Audi and fulfilling a rather impossible fantasy she'd dreamt about since adolescence, the BMW could wait. There wasn't anything special about the new model anyway. But she wasn't going to volunteer that information to the magician. That would be bad business. "What does it mean, Abby?"


"That's how many of him there will be. Roughly. Plus or minus a few thousand, but that's what I'm aiming for. Look, you told me that he's roughly one-point-eight meters, right? And you wanted him to be about the size of your little finger, which I'm estimating as less than six centimeters. If we halve him - and that's by far the easiest way to do it - 15 times, we get a height of ...where was it... five-point-six centimeters."


Becca was no mathematician, but the figures didn't ring true in her head, and she said as much.


"Well, yes - you'd only have to divide him in half five times to make him five-point-whatever centimeters - if you wanted a pancake. Short, yes, but just as wide and round as before. You have to halve him in all three dimensions at the same time, so it's fifteen times - five times for each dimension - and that makes for thirty-two thousand, seven-hundred and sixty-eight little portions of this man. What has he done to you anyway that you would--? No... no, I don't want to know. The less I know, the better. But it is a man, isn't it? That's important. Women are different."


"Yes." Becca was still reeling from that number. The size was important. She'd... tested. She knew the size she wanted, but if he was just twice as big as she'd planned, that would reduce the number to an eighth as many. Four thousand instead of thirty-three thousand. She swallowed down the objections rising in her throat and nodded. "Yes, a man. And he hasn't done anything. Yet." The last word didn't have any special meaning, but it sounded ominous, and she was better at that than the magician. "How much will it cost?"


"That depends," the magician mused, nibbling on her fingernails. "Are you sure you really want him that small, still looking the same as before? He's going to be so fragile. His skin will be as thin as paper, and his bones like toothpicks. For a little bit more - it wouldn't be too hard, as it's a pretty common spell - I could do a little something to fix that. Or is that the point? Him being fragile enough to fall apart if you touch him?"


"No. That's definitely not the point. Not so fragile. Fine. A little bit more, then. How much will it cost?"


"And there's the matter of the source of the magic. And the delivery. I could be the source of the magic, of course - that's probably what you're expecting. But that's very expensive. We might be looking at that number as a price after all, in that case. After all, you'd be leaving me drained. Or you could power it directly from the environment, which is pretty cheap, but the effects take a while to build - sometimes weeks."


"That's not good," Becca frowned. She hadn't expected this to be so complicated. She'd expected to hand over money, and get back a potion or a magic bean or something. Or maybe she'd expected a good laugh that she'd ever thought any of this was real. This was like... buying a new car, and having to go through the hassle of all the options and fees and everything else that turns a simple, planned-for expense into something unexpectedly painful. "I need it today."


"Oh. Well, that does limit things. I was going to suggest... No, no matter, there's not time for that. I was actually going to use my magic tonight, for myself. Well, paying customers don't walk in every day, so I guess that will have to wait. Unless..." Suddenly excited, the magician reached across her desk for a plastic baggy, which held what looked like colored sugar. When her fingers dipped into the grains, they popped and fizzed and sparkled like little fireworks. It was the first bit of magic that Becca had actually seen here. Despite herself, she broke into a small, conservative grin. "Close your eyes," the magician continued. "Or this may sting."


Becca did, and the next moment her nose and cheeks were alight with a sensation of effervescence, as if the other woman had just splashed her face with soda. Cautiously she opened her eyes in time to see the Magician's hand still hovering there where she'd tossed the sugar. Little sparkles of light flashed and flew and twinkled on the other side of Becca's glasses; the magician's gaze flicked back and forth, as though she were counting them. A satisfied smile grew on her face.


"Oh, yes. This will do. You've got plenty. You must not have used any - no birthday wishes or relying on your luck for some time, hmmm? Yes, I think you have enough. You'll feel a little fatigued, maybe, but it will be quick and - well, since it's your magic, it will replenish eventually. Now all we've got to do is figure out a delivery method. Nothing so archaic as a wand. Some people charm their fingernails so they can deliver the magic with a scratch. Or I could teach you one of several gestures--"


Now grinning like a cat, Becca placed her hand on the other woman's shoulder. "I have an idea."


* * * * * * *


Less than half an hour later, Becca strode out of the ground floor of the building and toward the nearest Underground. It had hurt a little to write out a cheque for nine thousand pounds, but she couldn't have been happier. Behind her lips, her tongue slid delightedly over her teeth.



Michael: I can't believe you skipped my last day of work!


The text came through in the middle of her transit, while the train was stopped at Bond Street Station. Becca grinned and quickly thumbed her response into the phone. Becca: As if my life revolved around yours.


A barrage of responses followed, in waves that came each time the train passed through an area that gave her at least one bar of signal.


Michael: You'd think so.


After all the texts you've sent me the last two years.


And instant messages.


And emails.


'You know what would be really great, Michael? If you were the size of my finger. Then I could swallow you whole.'


'I wish I had a tiny person I could chew on like bubble gum. Want to volunteer?'


'Hey, I like your shirt. You know what you would look better in? My sandwich.'


Still grinning, and rocking with the movement of the train, Becca typed back. Becca: I don't think I was doing all the texting, Mr. 'What would you do if I showed up in your desk drawer right now, the size of your pen cap?'


Michael: Hah. Likely story, Ms. 'I want to the rule the world.'


Becca: I don't want to the rule the world. How boring. I just want to be in charge of everyone else around me. Get it straight.


Are you spending time with your mates at the office or spending the last day chatting with me?


You know we don't have to work in the same office to text each other.


Michael: Both!


Actually, we're knocking off early to go to the pub. Come join us!


Becca: No.


Michael: Please? I'll beg...


Becca: Go ahead.


Michael: Um... Pleaaase? :D


Becca: No.


=D


I have stuff to do.


Michael: You're so mean.


Becca: Mmhmm. =D


She really didn't have anything else she had to do, but joining a bunch of self-described smart guys to watch them be ridiculous all night wasn't her plan at all. She'd have to do something to waste time, actually - go for a walk in the park before it got too late, or go shopping maybe. It was a bit of a pain, but her plan was worth it. At the rate she was going, though, she could entertain herself just by sitting there and continuing to run her tongue over her teeth. When people shot her concerned sidelong glances, she grinned back.



All but one window of their flat was dark when Becca slipped the key into the door at the bottom of the stairs. She'd waited longer than she'd expected, but it was either stare at traffic from a park bench for an hour, or go catch something at the cinema. There was barely a difference, considering what was playing, but the cinema was air conditioned.


She tiptoed up the stairs, worked the deadbolt open on the door without a thunk, and closed the door just as quietly behind her before creeping up hallway, rolling her feet to avoid the creak. The door to Michael's 'office' sat ajar, spilling light into the hallway. Of course, after today, it actually would be his office, and without the air quotes. He was in his chair, at his 'battlestation' (that would always get quotes), surrounded by monitors with a headset on. He was obviously deep into the middle of a raid - she could tell, because instead of snarking or shouting into the microphone, he was completely silent, stiff, eyes wide as he feverishly clicked. She leaned against the doorway, watching, waiting. She was ready now - completely ready even before she entered the front door - but if she interrupted him now he'd be cranky, and she might as well throw the weekend away. Besides, she enjoyed watching him when he didn't know she was there. It was like stalking him.


Once he slapped down his hands on his desk and the screen changed, she took her first step into the room, where she knew it would creak. "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fu--"


"FUCK!" He jumped in his chair, nearly sending it spinning out from underneath him as he whirled, clutching his shirt. "Fuck me; I didn't know you were there." A moment later he cupped the microphone to his face. "No, idiot. I meant Becca. She's home. I gotta go." Lifting the mic boom up, his eyes focused on her again. "Dave asked if you want play. He said we need aggro."


But Becca shook her head and worked her tongue between her lips and her teeth. "Not with them, anyway. They already had you for the day. My turn. I'm not sharing."


Michael rushed a "Gotta go!" into the mic before ripping the headset off and tossing it back to the desk. By that point, Becca was looming over him, even taller than usual in the boots she'd worn out today. It forced him to lean back into his chair. "What was that? Fee fi fo fum?"


"I smell the blood of an Englishman," she continued, grinning for effect. She didn't part her lips far enough for him see her teeth yet, though. Not just yet.


"Jack and the Beanstalk?"


"Michael and Becca," she replied back smoothly. God, it was easy to smirk at him when she knew what was coming and he didn't.


"Well... Fine." He didn't seem to get it. He was smart, but sometimes he could be so dense. "Where the hell were you all day? Did you get dinner at least?"


She'd had a bag of popcorn at the cinema but most of the bag had been tossed in the rubbish. She'd wanted an edge to her appetite, not the sick feeling of too much greasy butter. Being legitimately hungry made it so much better. "I got you a present." Finally, then, her lips curled back. Her teeth parted to expose gleaming white fangs, stark against the deep shadow inside her mouth. They weren't big, obvious fangs as though she was wearing a Halloween costume, but Michael was quite familiar with what her mouth looked like, and he'd notice them anyway. Just to drive the point home, though, the tip of her tongue traced her teeth's new profile.


He definitely noticed. How could he not, with her face hovering over him? He stiffened, and his face went slack the way it did when she had his undivided attention. He nearly stammered before he said, "Those seem like more of present for you than for me."


She shrugged and twisted her hand in the collar of his shirt, pulling him out of the chair and into the hallway. "Maybe."


"What are they, caps? Porcelain?" He was trying to keep the conversation shallow. He didn't put up any resistance, not even complaining that she'd stretched out his shirt, but he was nervous.


Becca was pretty tall to begin with; in those heels and his bare feet, she could look down into his eyes. Her glare was more intimidating than he would ever admit - she knew because she practiced in the mirror. She held him there, in the middle of the hallway, almost close enough to kiss, before answering, "They're magic."


He barely had time for his "Hah!" before she shoved him into the bedroom they sometimes shared and followed him in to push him face down onto the mattress. He went down with a dramatic flop. "You know," he said into the sheets, pausing to heave out a lungful of air when she climbed up to kneel astride him, sitting on the small of his back. "Now that I'm working for myself, I set my own schedules. You could come home in the middle of the day for lunch. Or whatever. For me."


"I was thinking the same thing. Mostly lunch." Becca yanked his shirt up over his head, exposing the broad, pale expanse of his back. He still had a bit of a purple splotch where she'd bitten him on the upper arm earlier in the week, just above his tan line. She left it to him to pull his arms out of his sleeves - she was too busy leaning over to the night stand to pull out the ribbon they kept there for just this kind of thing. His hands met behind his head so she could wrap his entire forearms in ribbon and tie them off with a big bow. Even though the ribbon was a bit worn now and wrinkled in places, she liked the look of this one, and how strong it was. It had a lot of memories tied up in it. She shoved his hands forward again so they flopped in the pillow, then bent low to hover over his shoulder. Her breath washed over his skin while she made him wait, made him anticipate the moment, while his skin built up its sensitivity like a static charge. Once, her tongue flicked out, just a tap, leaving a dab of saliva behind - just gaging the distance. Just a quick taste. He was a little sweeter than neutral.


"You're really going to do this, aren't you?"


"You'll have to see." Her incisors grazed over his shoulder, just pinching a fold of flesh at the end.


His breath escaped as a nervous moan. "I mean, try to break the skin this time."


"Who knows?" She laughed, lips brushing his skin. "Are you scared?"


She didn't wait; she bit. Her teeth clenched on the meaty part of his shoulder and sank in. The pliant bulge of muscle between her teeth tightened as he strained against the pain. Beneath her he jerked and groaned and tried to be tougher than the pain, but he couldn't hold it in. "FUCK me! Shit shitshitshit! Shit, Becca!"


She didn't stop until she tasted blood.



After he stopped fighting her and just lay there, panting, Becca pushed off Michael. Her hand lingered on his ribs a moment longer while she watched him to see what would happen, but all she got was a disappointing lack of flashy magic. There were definitely no sparkles. He turned his head and glanced up at her from the middle of the pillow he was half-buried in, eyes questioning. She was used to seeing that expression when she bit him, the wondering if that would be all. She grinned back, like she usually did, and nibbled her lip. Usually, that little glance would be enough to make her want to bite him again, and again until he couldn't take it anymore, until he was begging her to stop and be nice to him, at which point she would. But this time she swung her feet down to the ground and left him there to totter off toward the bathroom. Again her tongue swiped behind her lips, feeling at her teeth.


In the bathroom she clicked on the light and curled her lips back in the mirror to stare at herself. She angled her head in five different directions, but it was no problem of parallax - the fangs she'd paid so much for were gone. They damned well better have been worth it, though. She could have gotten porcelain ones off Amazon for ten pounds, and they wouldn't have disappeared. Wrinkling her nose, she ran a thumb over the normally prominent canine teeth that remained. They were still a little fangy - a fact she appreciated - but she missed the look of the outright dangerous teeth, even if she'd really only had a chance to admire them in the shop windows she'd passed. At least she wouldn't have to bother explaining them to the people at work. If it wasn't for the big dent she was sure she would find in her bank account if she checked, they could have just been her imagination. But they really weren't what she'd paid for, anyway - just a nice bonus. How long was it going to take for Michael anyway?


A chorus of high-pitched shrieks from the bedroom answered her question. "BECCA!" The voices were in such tight sync with each other that it sounded like a computer effect.


She leaned back into the room to see, where Michael had been laying, a bunch of Michael-shaped figures. They weren't Michael-sized, though. She hurried back to the bedside to grab the loose, writhing pants; when she lifted them by the ankles to shake them out, a couple of infant-sized Michaels spilled out together to the wrinkled bedspread. There were another eight or so on the bed at least, but she couldn't get a good count, because whenever she looked again there were more, and smaller. They looked up at her in unison - or most of them did - to ask, "What's happening to me?"


"Magic," was the only answer she could offer, but it came out more like a question this time. It was one thing to pay a ridiculous amount for some chanting and patterns traced on her face in mineral water, but she realized as she looked down on what had become of Michael that she hadn't really believed it. She tossed his pants away, and threw his shoes and socks to the floor after them, but she had to pick up one of the Michaels to disentangle him from the ribbon that had originally held his wrists. While she worked the knot he split in her hands, squirming into two, then four separate smaller Michaels that tumbled out of her startled fingers and back to the covers. For a moment longer she stood there, hands hanging limply at her sides, watching pairs and foursomes and whole groups of little Michaels slowly desynchronize, stop moving in unison and glance at each other separately. She'd glance away, and when she looked back, they, too, had shrunk and split, at least once.


"When does it stop?" some of them asked, but their voices were staggered, and the inflections differed - it was more of lazy chorus now.


Still a bit hesitant, she put the flat of her arm down on the comforter and swiped it slowly to each side, clearing a place for her to sit among the Michaels. There were hundreds of them now - perhaps thousands already. They were impossible to count now - they were a sea of pale little bodies with tufts of shaggy brown hair and tiny glittering jewels for eyes. Picking one out at random while the others watched, she pinched his wrists together and lifted him up where all the others could see. "You know what size I like." She held up her smallest finger for comparison, but he was still as long as her entire hand, palm and fingers. "So you have a little way to go yet, I think?" While she was baring a toothy smile down at the rest of them, now beginning to adjust to the reality of the situation and the rush of excitement that came with that, a smaller Michael fell from her hand, leaving the one pinched in her fingers half the weight and slightly shorter. "Better," she teased, "but not good enough yet." She dropped the other Michael among his peers, flashed a grinned at them all, and bent over to unzip her boots.


When she was entirely naked - her preference at home anyway when she could get away with it, but now she had the excuse of being fair to all the little naked Michaels - she pulled her legs back up onto the bed and laid back slowly, wriggling her hands and feet beneath all the tiny bodies so she could support herself without crushing anyone. Michael was starting to get ahold of himself, to understand his new reality, and instead of rolling around and whining while he subdivided, the crowd of him behind her scattered, crawling or running to safety as quickly as they could. Still a dozen or so ended up trapped beneath her. She could feel them all squirming against, their skin clinging to hers. If she hadn't known exactly what they were, the movement might have felt a little creepy. When the last of them slipped free, though, Becca let her full weight fall back to the bed, then spread her arms wide to gather as many of the tiny Michaels as she could and pull them up onto her.


By now, most of them seemed to have reached their final size. There were thousands of them in her arms, no bigger than her fingers, and the bigger ones still squirmed occasionally when she wasn't looking right at them, falling apart into two smaller ones. She pulled them up onto her belly and left them there, then let her arms fall back among them, flattening the unlucky ones against the comforter. Like the ones before, they wiggled their way free without much difficulty. Just to be difficult, she rolled her arms to follow them, and when she realized they still were going to get free, she pressed down harder. They gave up quickly, like Michael always did when they wrestled, but as soon as she moved they darted away, apparently unhurt.


Becca lost her focus on the ones on her belly; when she glanced back, she realized she could feel them everywhere - scaling her legs, flopping down on her breasts, diving into her hair. She'd never really imagined this many tiny people before - when she'd dreamt of it, there hadn't been more than five or six climbing around at a time. She'd worried that would feel odd and unsettling, but this was more like laying in the basement of an infested house and let a horde of insects crawl over her. Except it wasn't like that at all. Every one of those little feet pattering over her skin, every pair of hands groping her breasts to try to be the first to scale one of her peaks, was a little Micheal. Each one was a tiny mirror image of him, acting just like he would, with his peculiarly awkward eagerness, the curls that fanned out his hair behind his ears, that strange way of studying her. Individually they were Michael, but the aggregate of them was him, too. They crowded around her breasts, fighting with each other to be king of the nipple. If she closed her eyes she could almost imagine it as his first, uncertain fumblings when she moved in and they'd had sex.


The laugh that was fighting to come out - held at bay because she didn't want to send them scattering across the bed - almost made her miss the envoy of Michaels that suddenly appeared on her chin, the first ones clambering up with a boost from below, the rest helped by the first. There were a good five of them there, fists planted on their hips, looking quite cross indeed. All at once they started talking and pointing fingers at her.


"One at a time!" The words sent them tumbling back to her neck, so she propped up her head with one arm, gathered up a handful of them on her chest to her collarbone. "Who wants to talk to me? Everyone else be quiet!"


She hadn't even realized how loud the little Michaels' murmuring had gotten until it faded away. Of the Michaels grouped in the hollow of her hand, one of them came forward, wordlessly nominated by the rest. "I can't believe you did this to me!"


Becca frowned at him for a second, then tapped him forward, sending him stumbling against her lips. She snapped, catching his head and shoulders in her mouth, then worked her tongue and jaw to pull him in. The others watched while his kicking legs disappeared into her mouth, then stared while she tucked him back into the pocket between her teeth and her cheek, pressing him into place until his struggles died. "Now," she announced to the remainders. "I only have room for one at a time in my mouth. So, think really carefully before you talk again, or I'll have to 'make room'. You know I'll do it, too. None of this should be a surprise to you. I told you a million times that if I had the chance, I was going to shrink someone down to the size of my finger and eat them. And preferably a you someone! And I haven't even eaten you. Yet. But you never complained before. And it seems like plenty of you are doing just fine-- Get out from there, you! At least ask first! Well, now I found a way, so here we are. Now's not the time to start complaining. Did it hurt? Breaking apart like that?" A few of them shook their heads and spoke over each other. She managed to get, 'Not after you bit me,' out of the murmuring before she held up a finger. "ONE at a time. So, what did you want to ask me?


Another tiny Michael was elected, but he stepped forward more slowly, eying her mouth. "What happens? Am I going to change back?"


Becca shrugged, then nodded. "Sure. Let's go with 'yes'. It sounded like it."


"What happens if I'm not all in the same place? What if you did eat one of me? Or squish one of me?"


Grinning, Becca tongued the tiny figure in her mouth out between her teeth, which pressed down just hard enough to pin him without hurting him. Still clenching her teeth, she answered, "Let's find out!"


The horror on their little faces was perfect - it was what she'd really wanted.


There was movement on the floor; Becca's gaze focused past herself to see hundreds of Michaels fleeing across the floor toward the door. "NO!" She spat out the one in her teeth into her hand and dropped him on the bed beside the others as she jumped to her feet to catch them before they reached the door.


Her bare feet came down hard on the floor. She felt them - the tiny little bodies beneath her. She rolled her toes as soon as she did, trying to shift her weight, and nearly turned her heel in the process. But she'd come down too hard, and crushed one directly beneath her heel.


"FUCK ME!"