How the Phoenix Learned to Fly

I was laid out on the couch, my head in Lady’s lap so it would be easier for them to absently stroke my hair with one hand while they wrote in their journal with the other. I was feeling needy but not needy enough to break Lady’s focus.

Ah, before we get too far into this story, let me clear something up for you. Don’t let Lady’s name fool you into making assumptions about the kind of character they are. There’s very little “lady”-likeness about them. They’ve been around for far too long to subscribe to such human limitations as the silly binaries we’ve recently placed on ourselves.

Lady told me that, when they first got to this house, they decided they wanted to shed the name that belonged to the last life that they had tried on. They’d found a Lenormand deck the day the coven moved in; the Lady was the card they drew. The name stuck.

Lady didn’t look at me when their hand stopped moving. “What’s that?” they asked.

“Huh, what?” I looked up at them in an attempt to connect.

They tapped their fingers twice, near my temple. “Right here. There’s a niggling.”

The light scratching of their pen continued just beyond my field of vision as I traced their ever-more familiar lines with my gaze. The short, pointed nose and harsh jawline. Long black hair runs in parallel wisps to frame their long neck. Protruding collar bones at the top of the almost indiscernible rise and fall of their chest.

I resumed my original position, staring blankly at the ceiling, and sighed. “Nothing.”

“Mmhmm,” Lady hummed through their nose, unconvinced.

I heaved another, bigger sigh and sat up, huffing as I rolled over onto my front and propped myself up onto my elbows. I rested my chin in my palms and scrunched my nose at them. “I don’t know why you always pretend to not know.”

“I don’t pretend,” they said. Their tone is so blunt, with softly scalloped edges. “You know I don’t pry without permission or just cause.”

Their free hand was floating, waiting for me to settle somewhere. I nuzzled my cheek into their palm. “Maybe it would be easier if you did,” I grumbled.

With their eyes still on their page, the corner of Lady’s mouth quirked. They ran their fingers through my hair and gently scratched my scalp.

“Oh, pet. But then you’d never learn to teach yourself to grow.”

“Oof.” I winced. That was one of Lady’s superpowers — the simplicity of their wisdom could be staggering. “Break down my defenses with cute names and head scratches and then drop truth bombs on me, huh? Is that really how you’re going to treat the birthday girl today?”

“It’s not really a birthday so trivial human rules need not apply.”

“What’s the point of celebrating then?”

Lady didn’t humor my petulance. They dotted the end of their sentence, put the cap on their pen, folded the journal shut, and looked right at me. And they waited as if to say: Let’s try this again.

“I got weird around my birthday when I was alive too,” I confessed.

“Interesting,” they said without a hint of irony. They loved to analyze the human in me that clung to life as well as a zombie. ”And why’s that?”

“Because…” My irritation escaped me as some cross between a scoff and a grunt. “I don’t like anyone making such a big deal out of it. What is there to celebrate? I didn’t do anything. In fact, in this case, I did the most nothing. I just died. I was walking along, thinking about texting some asshole who did not deserve any more of my attention, got mugged by a fuckboy vampire, and died.”

[I know that’s a lot to dump on your without context but it’s a long story and that’s not the one I’m telling today. And frankly, we don’t need to give either of those guys any more of my time, so you’ll just have to be okay with this.]

Having heard this lament too many times to count already, Lady just glossed over most of what I said to get back to the main point. “We do this for everyone on their first Blood Moon with the coven. We want to honor your rebirth and celebrate your current existence as part of our family now. Because we love you.”

“I know, but…” I blew the air out from between pouted lips. “It’s complicated.”

“Does it have something to do with how it reminds you that you were once human?” I pulled away from them and sat upright on the sofa. “And how you still let your irrational, might I add inferior, human habits have the driver’s seat?”

I crossed my arms and averted my gaze. “Maybe.”

It had seemed I’d reached the unruly teen stage of my undead development. I don’t remember ever being this much of a brat as a human, but this whole process was teaching me a lot about parts of me that had always been there but didn’t get to shine in the land of the living. And not all of them were admirable.

“Hmm.” Lady guided my chin with one hand to look back at them, so they might better scrutinize my face. “What is it really, though?”

“I don’t know… Like, I honestly just don’t know what’s wrong. Because I definitely don’t miss being human,” I added quickly. Which was true. I could make up some shit about how things were more beautiful when they were fleeting, but that just wouldn’t be accurate at all. I’ve never felt more alive than I have since the night I died.

“Oh, never mind. I’m making a big deal out of nothing. I’m just so… stuck. In my thoughts. All the time. They’re so jumbled with everything that’s been going on - in the world, in my head - that they don’t make sense anymore. I’m sorry. I know this is completely irrational. I feel like I’m going crazy. Everything is just so intense and I don’t know what to do with all this… extra frenetic energy.”

“Mmm… Of course,” Lady said, blunt and understanding. “What do you need, Ash?”

“I need…” I started to answer before I realized I didn’t have one. “Fuck, I don’t know what I need.”

“What do you want then?”

I growled. I was getting more and more frustrated with every question they posed. Lady just looked at me. Generally, I appreciated how collected they remained no matter how much I flailed and wavered. But when I was in the thick of an episode, it enraged me even further.

“Argh, I don’t have a fucking answer, okay? I don’t want to have to make any decisions right now. I’m so tired of spiraling in these same thought cyclones over and over… What the fuck is the point of being immortal if it just exacerbates the shit that sucked when we were human? I just… I just want to let go. All of it. I want to let… all of it go. For good, already.”

“I can do that for you.”

I snapped my head and shot them a look of confused disgust. “What?”

“I can do that for you.” “Yeah, I heard you,” I spat in a way I immediately regretted. “I don’t know what you could possibly mean by that though. How can you let go of my neuroses for me.”

“Well, you have to do that part,” they said, calm as ever. “Give yourself permission to let go and let me do the rest.”

At this point in our relationship, despite how new it really was, a deep trust bond had already formed between Lady and me, with several connection points. I’d never called them my partner, but I supposed that’s what they were. A protector, a guide, a caregiver, a lover, and an unwavering beacon of support through a wildly tumultuous time, especially in those early days of my new so-called life.

The physical element of our relationship was as fluid as they were. Sometimes it was soft, slow, teasing; hours of edging. Everything had heightened for me as if mortal doom was all my nerves needed to truly awaken. And my Lady had the patience of a primordial god who’d seen it all. They could also be as ruthless as one. The other side of the coin was rough and ragged, an almost violent dismantling of each other that brought us both to blood and sweat and tears, which required safeguards like stop signals and aftercare plans, just in case.

My point is that, although what Lady was offering me on this day was new for us, the foundations had been laid for us to be able to go there.

That was how I ended up there, in the middle of the living room, in nothing but my tank top and underwear, kneeling on the hardwood waiting for Lady to return.

“Stay exactly as you are,” they’d said as they bound my wrists behind my back with their belt. “And do not move. I will be right back.”

This was not entirely true. Lady did not make any hurry to return. I sat there until time lost its meaning. It could have been three minutes or thirty.

I caught myself fidgeting and wondered if that was against the rules. I wanted to do a good job, to impress Lady by how well I could follow their rules when they were laid out — when I felt their pride for how well I obeyed, it brought my ego an indescribable amount of joy.

But they weren’t making it easy today. Which I supposed — as I wriggled my nose in a sad attempt to satisfy an itch on my right nostril — was the point. I also knew by then not to question Lady’s methods. Even though I couldn’t see how it was all going to come together didn’t mean that they didn’t have everything worked out to the last detail in their mind. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have proposed it.

My knees were starting to ache. I was itchy everywhere now and could do nothing in my restrained state to scratch. The anticipatory silence was like a cloud of smoke, snaking into my ears and down my throat; I coughed to no avail. The agitation was ballooning inside me without bursting until I heard Lady's voice trail in. From a memory? From down the hall? “Breathe into the discomfort, pet,” they sang.

I scowled, all pursed lips and knit brows, and snorted through my nostrils. But when I inhaled again, I did so more slowly as directed and became a little more aware of how it heated and cooled my upper lip. It took me a few breaths to realize that I’d forgotten how itchy I was.

Lady came back dressed in an all-black catsuit. Somehow both erasing and accentuating the lines and curves of their form. The slight dip at their waist. The ledge of their hips. The reach of their collar bones. The strength in their frame from crown to claw. Their long black hair was tied up in a neat little bundle at the base of their skull now too.

Their boots tapped softly as they approached and squat down in front of me. I noticed then that a coil of black rope was slung over their shoulder. Nose to nose, Lady stared so deep into me, they could have seen their reflection if they had one.

They stroked the side of my face with the back of one short fingernail. Then took my chin between thumb and forefinger and raised my gaze to meet theirs. “When you are ready, I need you to say ‘I am open to receive’ and we can begin.”

“I—” I choked on the letter.

“When you’re ready,” they repeated softly.

They held me there as I breathed slowly and deeply into myself. I melted into the pincer grip on my chin and said, “I am open to receiving.”

“Thank you.” They wrapped my collar around my neck. “For allowing me to enter your space with you.”

As they toured around behind me, they told me that I was to answer their questions as concisely as possible. “Yes or no is preferable. If you need to say any more than that, you may ask permission, but I may not grant it. You’re not supposed to be thinking today; I will use my discretion with that liberally. Understood?”


I started when their hand found the flesh of my wrist again. Not because I was afraid, just so piqued, and both nervous and excited about how I had no idea when or where they’d touch me next.

They loosened the belt binding my wrists, tossing it aside. “Are you still here with me?” they cooed into the shell of my ear.


“If at any point it goes beyond your discomfort zone, you remember your signal, right?”


“Demonstrate to me that you know. Say the word.”

“Black.” ‘Red’ had been fine when I was human but seemed a little on the nose now.

“Good,” they say, squatting back down in front of me. “Do you trust me?”

I felt one of the knots of tension in my chest loosen in response. A deeper breath crept into my lungs and my face softened. I smiled and said, “More than I’ve ever trusted anyone.”

“Good,” Lady smirked right before they slapped me across the face. “But that was more words than I asked for.”

No matter how much I tried to anticipate when and how Lady’s delivery of shock and awe would show up in a scene, I was never quite prepared for it. Like that jump scare you know is coming but still sends you flying out of your seat when it happens. Perfectly executed.

The sting in my cheek was jarring and cleansing all at once. I shivered when Lady kissed the length of my neck, grazing the scar there with their teeth, and began to wrap the rope behind me. They held me in close, compressing me with warmth, leaving a space to cool as they pulled away to pass the black cord across my chest.

With every wrap, I was lulled into a deeper sense of safety and anticipation, held ever tighter by this extension of Lady’s gentle, harsh embrace. They wound a cage of security around my chest. With my elbows tied snug at my sides, my palms up and facing away from me, wrists at the level of my nipples, it was as if I had grown wings, spread for flight, and bound there to open my chest wider than I ever could on my own.

Then they gently lowered me to the floor, my front flush with the earth. The wood was cool on my cheek as Lady hogtied me, like a winged scorpion, my feet a tail curling back up towards the crown of my head. They tied around the length of my ponytail and looped that into the bundle of knots gathered at my lower back.

So when Lady stood over my face, I had no choice but to look up at them. “My beautiful little phoenix baby…” they said. “You’re almost ready to fly now.”

They crouched down once more, nuzzling into me. Their aroma was unplaceable, otherworldly. I used words like void dust and star shadow because Lady gave clarity to nonsense.

“But you won’t ever catch air as long as you let these dead shadows weigh you down.”

They slapped my face with an open palm again and I gasped.

“These thoughts and insecurities preoccupying you right now are not who you are.”


“You brought with you, into this new life, everything you need to be free of what once bound you.” Their soft, growling tone racked my body and shook the floor beneath us. “These things that don’t serve you, these uninvited guests living rent-free in your mind. These broken tools that someone else tossed into the trunk of your car, that you’ve been driving around with all this time…”


“You don’t need them.”


“You never did.”

I whimpered with every stunning strike and the heat radiated from my cheeks through the strain in my limbs, fused with the knots riddling my body. They grabbed the knot at my ponytail and bent me back even deeper. A flood of sparks ignited across my chest. And again, they struck me.

“And now, in your death, you're born anew. Baptized by hellfire. You are as much divine flame as you are Ash. Can you feel it?”

I gulped hard and my breath caught on the sobbing inhale. The prickle of Lady’s truth-spewing made my throat tighten and more tears swell behind my eyes. But I did. I knew it inherently. Not cerebrally — my thoughts were muddled as they evacuated me. I felt it on a level much more visceral.

“Yes,” I said with inexplicable certainty.

Lady released their grip on my ponytail, allowing me to surrender the weight of myself back into the grip of the rope. My eyes lolled shut and I felt like I was floating away.

“It’s okay to leave those dead things behind and not look back, Ash. They are useless. They were useless when you were human too. And they’re cluttering up your potential for living this best existence now. These ropes,” Lady continued, plucking at the knots, “hold you only because they are anchored to you. You are all the support you need, all you’ve ever needed. Feel into your truth and fly pet.”

I didn’t realize that I was truly hovering above the floor until I felt Lady’s cheek brush my inner thigh. I opened my eyes to find that Lady, with their graceful, inhuman strength, had flipped me over. With one length of rope snugged just below my rib line along the bend of my lower back, and another lifting from my chest. My feet, though still bent back, dangled behind, or below me. Head and tail drooping down towards the floor; heart shining up to the ceiling.

Lady stroked and rubbed along the inner seams of my thighs. When they paused over my underwear, I thought I might snap in half — I’d lost track of how turned on I was until that moment. Now I was acutely aware of the blood boiling at every surface, swelling anywhere it could.

As they breathed over my clit, they dug their nails into the meat of my thigh on either side of their head. Smiling all the while, I winced and squirmed in my bindings, the ropes rubbing on my skin, hugging even closer and sending the blood right back towards Lady’s generous mouth.

They tugged the crotch of my panties to the side and snaked their tongue through my folds. The coolness of the air licking me when they pulled away was almost as delicious as the scorching smack they delivered to my swollen cunt with the flats of their fingers. I cried out and almost immediately started laughing. The headiness of these mixed sensations had me approaching delirium.

Lady slid one finger, then two inside me with ease.

“My dark lord, pet… It’s wild how wet you get when you stop flirting so hard with that humanity of yours.”

I giggled even harder— until I was silenced by Lady’s growl rocking through me and them tearing the fabric of my underwear away. They resumed unhindered now with slow and torturous thrusts, three fingers, now all four, reaching and stretching into me, gradually building in speed and intensity to that rhythm they knew would ruin me.

It was a diligent, hard four-finger-fucking that threatened to cave me in on myself. I heard the cracks along my spine as everything opened up, stretching and contracting to create a little more space before the inevitable collapse.

Lady didn’t waver. They bit down hard into my thigh as they keep thrusting up into me. I wailed at the sharp delight of their teeth puncturing my skin and beginning to disintegrate. I screamed and sobbed as I burst all over Lady’s hand, blood and come and a steady stream of salty tears trailing down my cheeks. Lady didn’t wipe any of it away. They think it’s sacrilegious to interfere with the flow.

Everything that I ever was trickled to the floor, into the expansive nothingness suspending me, embracing me. With every impossibly deepening breath, my dissociated self gradually came back into the room, but my thoughts stayed quiet. As if Lady could read the blankness on my mind, they carefully brought me back down to earth and helped unravel me as delicately as possible.

I was an amorphous blob, gelatine without form, oozing further with every unwinding pass.

I didn’t register anything else until I shivered while Lady was carrying my limp jello ass back to the couch. They wrapped me in a blanket and held me close, nestling my head in their lap. Right back to where we started from but so far from where I’d been.

“You are not your demons, Ash.” Lady stroked my hair as they spoke so softly yet stern as ever. “You are the demon. And you are stronger than any of them.”

“I… flew,” I gurgled in what I’m not sure were words.

“Yes, pet.” A rare laugh escaped them. “Beautifully, too. Welcome to your most authentic rebirth yet.”

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