If there was one thing Naughtyfins prided herself on, it was her capacity for persuasion. Never mind her allies - she knew she'd never be as glib and genteel as Buzzcrave, darling Buzzcrave with his mastery over formal rhetoric, and couldn't even begin to think of being as slick and suave as Sonarchy, threading silver weaves of guile with his artful grandiloquence. But, she could get what she wanted - and that was what made her just as good, if not better than, her allies.
Her talents were especially useful in times like these.
'Pooch!♥ Oh, Pooch, yoo-hoo~!'
Naughtyfins jauntily bounced toward her companion in question, who wheeled around curtly to face her. Madfang Ragewolf mimicked her words in a derisive, lilting falsetto, flattening his ears close to his skull in apparent annoyance. Utterly unaffected by this display, Naughtyfins chimed a clipped, delicate peal of girlish laughter, halting in her hippety-hoppeting and absentmindedly gyrating her hips as she relaxed into her default stance (Ragewolf winced).
'Oh, sweetiepie,' she sang, 'is that any way to greet a pretty petite missus like myself?' She wagged an admonitory finger at him, all faux-naïf. 'You better mind those uncouth mannerisms, you absolute beast, a girl just might get the wrong idea--'
'Are you heading anywhere with this disingenuous banter?' Ragewolf cut in wearily, shaking off her coquetry as if it were a bad flu. 'Or should I sit down and wait for you to finish?'
She gave a prim little frown. Disingenuous? Looks like she was laying it on a little too thick. She dialled down the beguilement a few notches. 'You're simply no fun, businessman,' she teased, reforming her posture into something a bit more demure, 'but I've got something to ask of you!♥'
He didn't reply, so she assumed she'd hooked his attention (perhaps even his interest!). 'Well~ I was wondering,' she began innocently, tracing an arc upon the ground with the tip of her boot as she injected a silky purr of pleading into her voice, 'perhaps... you might want to join me tonight for a bit of partying?'
'Partying?' Ragewolf repeated with critical incredulity. 'And do just what, exactly?'
'Bask in the glow of one another's company,' Naughtyfins said, giggling, 'slow-dance, perhaps even dine over candlelight and a splash of chianti.'
Ragewolf bristled; she quickly back-tracked. If she wanted things to go her way, she'd need to push him to breaking point, not boiling point. 'Orrrr,' she said hastily, dropping her seductress' timbre, 'you could come to my little party, and see what we would be doing, dearie!'
'Nope!' Ragewolf flung his arms up. 'Nope, no, no way! There's a vanishingly small chance I'd ever be present at one of your idiot gatherings, so you can take your cutesy invitation and get it far away from me.'
Oof. 'But, Pooch--!♥'
'But nothing!' ('But Pooooooch!') I've got better things to do with my time than cater to your absurd, mincing whims,' he snapped, mouth wreathed by a churlish snarl, a snarl quite reminiscent of a steel-trap. 'Why not approach Covet-hiss for a bit of girl-to-girl quality time? Bet that twee snake would be over the moon to attend your stupid simpering shindigs.'
Naughtyfins pouted and drew herself up imperiously to her full height - which in all honesty wasn't very tall - but her haughty demeanour emanated enough authoritative chills to compensate for her vertical shortcomings. 'Fine,' she said, in attempted tones of withering contempt (the endeavour was an embarrassing failure - her voice instinctively dropped back to its usual wavy, singsong quality). Ragewolf stared at her flatly, palpably unimpressed. She winced.
'I'll be off, then!' Mid-turn, she was struck by a devious brainwave, and added sinisterly-sweetly, 'perhaps that handsome Uberhero might be so kind as to help a damsel in distress such as myself~!♥' And with another canorous gale of laughter, she pivoted on a dainty heel and cavorted away.
Quiet. Then, 'damn it, Naughtyfins!' When she kept walking, he growled. 'Wait!'
She glanced behind herself to see Ragewolf gloomily staring at her, hunched presumably in defeat. Tut tut! He could be a formidable warrior all he'd like, but even grizzled veterans were no match for a woman's wiles. Lips widening in a triumphant beam of utter delight, Naughtyfins kept it coyly contained and batted her eyelashes in exquisitely feigned confusion at him. He scowled. 'Don't,' he said, and sounded pained, hoarse, as though it took considerable effort in wrenching the words out, 'you know that bumbling fool is trouble, don't even consider him as your fallback. He's junk, ok? I'll -- I'll party with you, alright?!'
With coquettish theatricality, she clasped her hands together as though to catch a butterfly between them. 'Oh, will you?' she cried, as if he'd just agreed to save a pet stuck in a tree. He nodded grimly, and it took huge reserves of flinty resolve to suppress her grin. She did, however, allow herself enough leeway, and whooped. 'Thank you, darling, thank you! I'll think of some noble way to repay you~♥'
'Shut it,' he grumbled, grimacing, 'so long as that goddamned Uberhero doesn't show his face, that's good enough for me.'
Naughtyfins solemnly crossed her heart, and folded her hands behind her back. 'You have my sacred word,' she said, and Ragewolf nodded tersely. She smiled.
What the poor dear didn't know was that she'd crossed her fingers as well as her heart. Well, he'd figure that out soon. For now it was her little dirty secret.
Fast-forward a couple of hours, and Naughtyfins sat comfortably in the middle of her two most favourite people.
Uberhero (who'd assumed the indisputably adorable form of a Pyokorider for today) glared balefully and unblinkingly at Ragewolf, who glared back with as much rancorous intensity, hackles raised and teeth bared in a grotesque rictus of unmitigated scorn. The rabbit and the wolf! Naughtyfins, though amused by their bitter opposition, did grow a bit tired after a while.
'My loves,' she cooed, 'why not suspend the grudge for now--
'You said he wouldn't be coming!' they both roared, swivelling their heads in Naughtyfin's direction. It was the first thing they'd said since arrival, and she stepped on the lurching impulse in her belly to laugh at this act of perfect synchronization and unwitting solidarity, disassembling the twitch of her mouth corners into a flat, stoic line.
'Inside voices, boys,' she chirped, in a perfect imitation of a stern librarian. Uberhero slumped, sullen, whilst Ragewolf sprung upward. Well, clearly she now knew who was the disobedient one of the bunch!
'So long as he's here,' Ragewolf started venomously, making a brusque gesture toward he (who twitched his ears in annoyance), 'I'm not.'
Naughtyfins glowered at Ragewolf, and then at Uberhero when he muttered a relieved exclamation of good riddance, jerk. 'My darling doofuses,' Naughtyfins said, grabbing Ragewolf and tugging him back down onto his cushion, 'I have a game to propound to you both, a game that will commence the festivities for this evening. I know how much you boys like games! This one may or may not quell the conflict, and you are ab-sol-utely unallowed to eschew participation!'
They had resumed glaring at one another, but their stances had gone rigid, indicating their attention. This suited her purposes excellently. Picking up a cushion none of them occupied, Naughtyfins slammed it against the upside of Uberhero's head.
He squawked, unsuspecting, and Ragewolf jumped with alarm, staring at Naughtyfins as she laughed uproariously at the dazed champion. Cottoning on, a malevolent craggy-fanged grin split across Ragewolf's face, and he wrapped his hands around an especially plump pillow.
'Oh, you have no idea how long I've been waiting for this,' he said, a manic glint in his eyes, and as he raised the pillow aloft to pound Uberhero into the ground, who was frantically scrambling back up into a sitting position and trying to locate a means of defence, Ragewolf was struck across the face.
He heard the faint laughter of Naughtyfins overhead as he sprawled on a cluster of pillows, and bright coruscating stars and fireworks burst and popped in the sides of his vision. He blearily squinted, sitting up, and watched as a gleeful Naughtyfins was chased by a particularly indignant Uberhero, who had clamped a pillow between his legs in a risible facsimile of a noble steed.
Getting to his feet, Ragewolf re-equipped himself with his trusty enormity of a pillow, and muttered under his breath before he bolted toward them, 'no way you're gonna outshine me at this, Uberhero.'
10 minutes into the game, and already the two boys had managed to incorporate their vendetta into it.
Erecting tremendous pillow fortresses of superlative architecture on either side of the room, the respective rivals buzzed about their downy edifices readying armaments and manning stations, and the occasional pillow would be catapulted and flung through the air, hitting the opposing base and prompting much howls of grief and fury.
Naughtyfins sat in the midst of this antagonism, miffed by how hurriedly she had been cast aside by her boys in favour of combat. Huffing and puffing and idly squeezing a pillow to her chest, she glanced up as another pillow whizzed across the room, sandbagging against the façade of Ragewolf's fortress with a resonant fwump. He peeked his head over the ruined spillage of pillows that was once the front wall, opening his mouth to shout a Philippic of the dirtiest, most contemptuous words he could think of, when he spotted a very nettled looking Naughtyfins.
'Having fun, Pooch?♥' she asked, in syrupy accents, but Ragewolf perceived the undercurrent of resentment beneath the sultry front.
'You're definitely not,' he said, and he stubbornly stamped on the exhilarated flutter in his stomach, the horrible mawkish need to make nothing in this world ever make her unhappy, the fierce protectiveness that had long since graduated from fraternal to more-than-fraternal. 'Did we hit you with a pillow?'
'Only twice,' she laughed, and he was about to say something else when he spotted Uberhero surfacing from his bastion, haughty as a king.
'What's with the hold-up?' he complained, but brightened when he saw the havoc he had wrought on Ragewolf's fortification.
'I was speaking to Naughtyfins. Get lost, go smother yourself under a pillow or something,' Ragewolf replied gruffly. Turning back to his ally, he gestured to his fort. 'Come help me repair this damned wall, two heads are better than one.'
Before Naughtyfins could reply her assent or refusal, Uberhero piped up frostily, 'hey! Unfair. You can't recruit her, and moreover, you've got way more pillows than I have. I say she should side with me.'
Ragewolf snarled and hauled up a pillow, lobbing it toward his nemesis. Uberhero ducked. 'But I say she should side with me.'
'Yeah, well, I say--'
'Boys, boys!' They both snapped their heads to stare at Naughtyfins, who was positively glowing. 'Now if only I had detachable parts I'd let you both have me, but alas, my anatomy sadly betrays my desires!♥' Naughtyfins sighed, all faux-wistfulness. 'I suppose you'll have to settle it with an old-fashioned duel and battle it out for my affections~'
She elegantly ascended. 'Whoever manages to floor the most opponents will ultimately win,' she announced, and blew kisses at the two of them. 'Be as violent as you like~♥'
Ragewolf cracked his knuckles with a foreboding leer, rolling his shoulders with a satisfying crick. He was going to trounce the Uberhero.
Aforementioned Uberhero vanished into the depths of his soft stronghold, and re-emerged astride a pillow with all the gravitas of a ceremonial cavalryman, looking like the very epitome of dignity. The august presentation was let down by the lack of alabaster doves fanning out from behind him, and Naughtyfins chortled as Ragewolf stared disbelievingly.
'Isn't that a little impractical, idiot?' he grunted, snatching up a pillow from the cluster of them strewn around his ankles.
'Nah,' Uberhero replied breezily, 'tactically unimpeachable.' He waddled toward them, his steps tottering and ungainly from the unseemly wad of feathers wedged between his legs. Such grace, such merit.
'Gods' sake,' Ragewolf muttered.
Once the Dark Hero duo had graciously waited for Uberhero to readjust his pillow-back posture for optimum efficiency, Ragewolf struggled to not mobilize every ounce of disdain in his body toward lambasting him with biting criticism, and instead positioned himself thusly. He gripped his pillow and crouched into his favourite offensive stance.
'May the best hero win~!♥'
Ragewolf launched at Naughtyfins, who was already warding off a volley of hits from the Uberhero, who in turn was moving remarkably nimbly for someone with a pillow clenched between their legs. Ragewolf wasn't ganging up on her for the sake of being an uncourtly gentleman; no, he wasn't so unrefined like that. He was approaching this juvenile fight from a rational, tactical angle - dispatching his combatants in order of weakest to strongest.
It wasn't that he doubted Naughtyfin's capacity for combat, he'd simply ascertained that in a pillow-fight she was out of her depth - a fish out of water. She was a long-range fighter, and hence was clumsy and amateurish in a close quarters fight, inexperienced and maladroit with her methods. In hand-to-hand, she dealt blows with all the brutal, choppy imprecision of a butcher - handling strikes in staccato frequency, buffering from all angles with no technique, no pattern. She'd be easy to take down, but he had to be cautious - what she lacked in mȇlée she countered with an unerring knack for throwback - her arms would sway like graceful reeds and knock him half the length of the room if she so pleased. She also demonstrated a monolithic amount of balance, and her lissom gymnast's grace and fleet-foot saved her from teetering and falling on her arse many times.
With the Uberhero, he'd be a bit more hard to rally against; sure, his hits weren't the most coordinated with a pillow, but he had an aptitude for attacking with deftness and dexterity across an entire spectrum of fighting ranges and styles. Ragewolf had an advantage of speed, though, and if he could parry, block and evade Uberhero's attempts to stampede at him or corner him, he'd be able to offset the other's expertise decently.
The rain of blows was beginning to have an effect, at last. He'd been alternating between trying to floor Naughtyfins and deflecting Uberhero's attacks, and he noted that Naughtyfin's kittenish goading and other forms of verbal stimulus had ceased; she was too busy filtering her focus into shielding herself from the brunt of Ragewolf's rounds of pillow-pounds, and dancing limberly out of the way when Uberhero came a'knockin'; a battlefield ballerina. Ragewolf pummelled her side, and she buckled, but retaliated by sweeping up the pillow and belting him up the chin. He squared his jaw and hit back, and grinned, exultant - this was a fighter's high, a pugilistic rush, ichor rushing through his veins like molten gold, empowering him. Pillow or no, this was battle, and it was only in battle where he truly felt alive.
Naughtyfins didn't exhibit the similar shine of a gladiator's euphoria; she looked frustrated and weary, only showing glee when she landed a hit and laughing tunefully, or weaved out an arabesque manoeuvre with a look of pure mischief on her face. As he watched the Uberhero try to lunge forward and strike her, she bent in an unbelievable sinuous arch, laughing like a little kid all the meanwhile, and he loved her so much he wanted to die of it, loved them both, these stupid, smartass people.
After a very intensive battle they collapsed into a pile, snuggling up to one another on an untidy array of pillows and feathers. Naughtyfins wrapped her arms around both her boys, basking in the glow of their company. Sandwiched between them, she felt luckier than she had any right to be, happier than she had any business being. Here she was in a chaste cuddle with her two most favourite people in the entire universe, tucked between them like a jewel, and she pressed kisses to both their mouths and sighed, utterly contented. She loved them both, these awful, wonderful boys. Ragewolf sleepily reached over to bat at the Uberhero's face and yank at one of his elongated ears, and the Uberhero reached over her chest to grab Ragewolf's snout and pinch, and then they both intertwined fingers and held their hands over her heart, their pulses comingling into one steady metronome, and she was happy that they loved each other too.
'I suppose you both win,' she murmured, 'and I wouldn't have that victory any other way~'
They all go to sleep not as fighters, but as lovers.
The boys need to cool down, and she needs to warm up. By the time they all wake up their temperatures should be just right. She'd like that.