Beca Mitchell walked across the night-dark Barden University campus with a troubled heart. She was on her way home from her girlfriend's apartment, where they had spent most of the afternoon and evening snuggling and having sex. Which should've been just plain awesome. All through high school she'd made a habit of keeping her taste for women secret. To, at best, get some stealthy making out with one of the few other gay or bi girls she knew. Now, instead, she had a girlfriend who had no problem being open about her bisexuality. Someone who was kind, caring and gorgeous. Beca felt herself swoon a little just by thinking of Chloe's red hair and eyes so blue that they sometimes seemed to actually glow. And as if that wasn't enough, sex with Chloe was awesome. Out-of-this-world brain-meltingly fantastic.
Which was, strangely, the source of Beca's unease.
Sex with Chloe was too good. Like, unnaturally good. Granted, Beca had only had sex with two other women, and one embarrassing attempt with a boy, before Chloe, so her basis for comparison was admittedly limited. She had read that sex with someone you really loved was supposed to be better than with someone else. She tended to believe that, actually. Just before her first time with Chloe, she'd been more excited than ever before. But then Chloe started touching her and oh my God.
Beca had accepted that she was gay after first having the uncomfortable and mostly icky experience with that football-player whose name she couldn't even remember, and then a really nice one with a cheerleader named Claire. She'd tried making out with a couple more guys after that, just to make sure, but it quickly became obvious that it was women who got her juices flowing. The difference in her own reactions was just too big to ignore. Boys, nothing or mild disgust. Girls, oh yeah. With individual variations, of course. Some girls managed to reach the "mild disgust" level by sheer force of personality, like Aubrey. Some gave a much more physical than emotional reaction, like Stacie. And Chloe got her going full blast in every way possible just by touching her hand. The difference in her reaction to Chloe from that of even very attractive other women was huge. Bigger, actually, than the difference between her reactions to men and women.
The short of it was that Chloe turned her on to a degree that actually disturbed her. She also always got really exhausted after having made love to Chloe, but that felt less strange considering the mind-blowing power of the experience. It would've been nice, actually, if not for Chloe's refusal to let her sleep over. Beca had tried to argue, even beg, but all Chloe had to do to end the argument was kiss her. That was usually quite enough to make Beca forget what day of the week it was, and sometimes her own name.
It wasn't until she was halfway across campus that her head cleared and it started bothering her again. Like now. Beca sighed. She needed to talk to someone about this. Not to complain, really, and definitely not with an aim to have something done about it, but just to get the worries out of her head. She mentally went through everyone she knew well enough to have that kind of talk with, ranked them by likelihood to be at home and awake, and then headed for Stacie and Cynthia Rose's room.
From quite far down the corridor, Beca could see light leak out under the door to the room Stacie and Cynthia Rose shared. Their room was for some reason in a building a bit off to the side, where nobody else Beca knew lived. She hadn't visited them very often, but on the occasions when she had it had seemed like only girls lived there. Which was a bit odd.
When she came closer, she heard voices from inside the room. One of which was a deep male one. She frowned and stopped walking. Stacie's latest boytoy, perhaps?
"There is backup on the way," the male voice said. "But it won't arrive for another 24 hours. Until then you're on your own."
Ok, scratch the boytoy hypothesis. Beca frowned. Video game? Yeah, that could be a video game.
"We understand, sir," Cynthia Rose said. "Do we have any intel on the threat?"
A video game you talked back to. Some online thing? Sometimes's when Beca was visiting Chloe, Aubrey would be glued in front of her computer playing some space game called EVE, and she sometimes talked to other players over a headset.
"Nothing certain," the male voice said. "But there is a ninety percent probability that it is Lucy Diamond, with a seventy-two percent chance that she's accompanied by ex-agent Amy Bradshaw."
"Lucy the Seductress?" Stacie said. "Oh, I've been hoping to go up against her!"
"It will indeed be interesting to see what happens when two people who both scored perfectly in seduction and manipulation engage each other," the male voice said. "We believe that Lucy and Amy are unaware of the presence of DEBS at Barden University, so you do have the advantage of surprise. We suggest that agent Stacie engage the two and try to seduce Amy Bradshaw, while agent Cynthia Rose stays hidden to provide backup if necessary."
"What's our objective here, sir?" Cynthia Rose said. "Intel? Capture?"
"Stall them until reinforcements arrive," the male voice said.
The more they spoke, the harder it got for Beca to believe that it was a game. They really sounded like some sort of secret agents!
"The files on Diamond and Bradshaw indicate that they both prefer curvy women," Stacie said. "Yet neither of them are. It may be possible to exploit that, and pull them into a threesome. If it works, I should be able to delay them for twelve to eighteen hours."
"And after a marathon shagging like that," Cynthia Rose said. "They'll be pretty tired."
"You're the agents on the ground," the male voice said. "Just be careful, and don't jeopardize your covers."
"No problem," Stacie said. "I've been presenting as a not very bright sex maniac, so a round-the-clock threesome is quite in character. Aubrey will be pissed when I don't show up for rehearsal, but there is no risk of blowing cover."
Beca's jaw dropped. That was certainly not gaming talk!
"Good," the male voice said. "I'll leave you to it. Good luck, both of you."
"Thank you, sir," Cynthia Rose and Stacie said in unison.
Should she leave? Or ignore what she'd heard, knock and see if she could have the talk she came for? Did she still want to talk to them? It felt like she suddenly had no idea who her friends really were. She was still dithering, standing there with her hand raised to knock, when the door was suddenly opened and Beca found herself face to face with Cynthia Rose.
A Cynthia Rose dressed in white blouse, a short tartan skirt, a tie that matched the skirt, knee-high white socks and sensible boots. Behind her, Stacie was dressed exactly the same.
"Er, hi," Beca said.
"Beca?" Cynthia Rose said. "Have you been here long?"
"No," Beca lied. "I was just about to knock. Why are you guys dressed like Catholic school girls?"
For a moment, Cynthia Rose got an oh-shit look on her face.
"We're secret Catholics," Stacie said.
Both Beca and Cynthia Rose stared at her.
"Secret Catholics?" Beca said. "What's that?"
"Secret, duh!" Stacie said. "Did you want something urgent? 'Cause we're kinda on our way to mass."
"It's almost midnight," Beca said. "And it's Thursday."
"Well, that's when secret Catholics have mass," Cynthia Rose said.
Beca looked at them. They looked back.
"It can wait," Beca said.
"Ok," Stacie said.
She squeezed out the door past Cynthia Rose and Beca, giving Beca a faceful of cleavage on the way.
"See you at rehearsal," Cynthia Rose said as she hurried after Stacie down the corridor.
Beca stood staring after them.
Amy, Beca thought. She could talk to Amy. Amy might have a rough sense of humor, but she was basically friendly and helpful. She was also on some sort of scholarship that she'd never properly explained, but that involved her getting an apartment just outside the campus. Just outside and on the other side from where Stacie and Cynthia Rose lived, of course. But whatever, it was a fairly nice night. Beca didn't mind the walk. It'd give her time to ponder exactly what she was going to say, once she got to Amy. Getting through the inevitable innuendo wasn't going to be easy, so she might as well plan ahead.
Beca got so deep in thought while walking that it wasn't until the fourth or fifth time there was a noise behind her that she noted it consciously. She threw a look over her shoulder. There was someone there, sneaking along the hedge that lined the walkway. She felt her heart speed up. It wasn't that she was afraid, exactly, but...
The person stepped out onto the walkway. It was a guy, easily a full foot taller than Beca and at least twice as heavy.
"Hello," he said.
"Hi," Beca said. "Can I help you?"
"I'm not sure if it counts as help," the guy said.
He walked closer. Beca took a couple of steps back, without really meaning to.
"But you are going to make me a lot less hungry," he said.
His face twisted and flowed for a second. When it stilled, he had a much more pronounced forehead and cheekbones, and she could see fangs protrude past his lips.
She turned and ran. He was bigger, so he should be less maneuverable. She went off the walkway, in among the trees where she could more easily weave and dodge as she ran along. Theoretically it also meant she had less chance of finding help, but nobody would be out this time of night, so that chance would've been slim to none in any case.
He came closer fast, and Beca started getting really scared. She wasn't sure what he'd meant by her making him less hungry, or even what the Hell he was, but she was sure it wouldn't be pleasant if he caught her. Her lungs soon started burning, and not long after her legs started to feel wobbly. Sure, her Bellas dance training had gotten her into far better shape than she'd been at the start of the year, but it still wasn't all that much to write home about. Plus, she had much shorter legs than the strange guy.
Something ran past her so fast she only saw a shadow and felt the air gust. There was a loud thud and a grunt behind her, and the running steps stopped. Gratefully, Beca did the same. Her knees buckled from exhaustion, and she sank to the grass. There were sounds of fighting behind her. She turned her head and looked.
A small, slender figure not much bigger than Beca herself was standing in front of the scary guy. As she watched, the newcomer dodged two quick blows and a kick, then made an acrobatic move and kicked the guy with both feet in the center of the chest. There was an audible cracking sound, and the guy flew maybe twenty feet back before he landed in a heap.
"Shit!" Beca said.
The figure turned and looked at her. A ray from a distant streetlight briefly illuminated her face. Beca sat up straighter.
"Lilly?" she said.
The large scary guy came running at Lilly before she could respond. She dodged to the side and struck at him, moving too fast for Beca to follow the motions. Whatever Lilly had done, the guy disintegrated. He was coming toward Beca, and suddenly he turned gray and dissolved. For a moment or two, she could see a skeleton fly through the air, then that too turned to dust.
"Lilly!" a new voice shouted.
Another person came running. A girl, tall with long, dark hair.
"I told you not to run off like that!" the girl said.
She sounded annoyed rather than nervous or upset.
"As your Watcher, I need to see you in action," she said after she'd stopped. "I can't help you get better if I don't know where you're at now."
"It almost got Beca," Lilly said.
She sounded calm. And, bizarrely, she spoke perfectly audibly.
"Beca?" the dark-haired girl said.
She looked around, and suddenly noticed Beca in the grass.
"Oh!" she said. "Are you all right?"
Beca scrambled to her feet.
"I'm fine," she said. "What the Hell is going on?"
The girl held out a hand to Beca.
"I'm Dawn Summers," she said. "I take it you're Lilly's friend Beca?"
Beca shook her hand. Dawn's grip was firm, and her hand was on the rough side.
"Yeah," Beca said. "That guy turned to dust."
"Oh, that," Dawn said. "It was just a special effect."
"Special effect?" Beca said.
"Lilly and I are participating in a live-action roleplaying game," she said. "Which uses special effects for the monsters."
Beca didn't believe that for a moment. Except that she didn't exactly have an alternative hypothesis.
"And Lilly running past me like she'd be ticketed for speeding on the highway?" she said.
"Isn't it amazing what they can do with effects these days?" Dawn said.
"Yeah," Beca said. "How, exactly, do they do that?"
"Oh, I wouldn't know," Dawn said. "I'm just a stupid girl who don't understand difficult things."
Beca didn't believe that either. She looked at Lilly. Lilly was standing a few yards away. She was holding what for all the world looked like a sharpened wooden chair leg.
"We should be going," Dawn said. "Lilly?"
"It's safe," Lilly said.
"Great!" Dawn said.
She smiled at Beca.
"It's been so nice to meet you," she said. "Have a nice night, and go straight wherever it is you're going, ok?"
Lilly waved at her with the chair leg, and the two women vanished into the darkness between the trees.
Beca stood staring after them for almost a minute. She shook her head, trying to clear it.
She must be more tired than she'd thought.
The house where Amy lived had its back yard toward the BU campus. Normally, one was supposed to follow the walkway around the house to the front entrance. But since it was in the middle of the night, and Beca didn't feel like being outdoors longer than necessary, she took the shortcut and climbed over the rear gate. Amy's apartment was on the ground floor and had a large window facing the back yard, large enough and low enough that it could be quite easily climbed in through. Knocking on it and entering that way was no more hassle than using the proper entrance, so that was where Beca headed.
When she came closer, she saw that the window was open and the flickering light of a fire was shining through it. The room inside had a fireplace, Beca knew, so there was no reason to call for help, but it was a bit odd to have a fire going on a warm night. But then, Amy wasn't exactly the least odd of the Bellas.
When she came close enough, Beca saw Amy standing in front of the fireplace. She was just about to call out to her when she happened to glance at the fire itself. Where the flames were shaping themselves into two human heads. One moment, it was a perfectly normal fire. The next, the flames formed heads. One male, one female.
"Hiya, mom, dad," Amy said. "How's it going?"
"Hello, dear," Beca heard a woman's voice saying. The lips of the female head-shape in the fire moved its lips in synch with the speech.
"Good day, daughter!" the male head said. Amy's dad, presumably. Somehow.
"It's the middle of the night here, dad," Amy said.
"Oh, right," Amy's dad said. "I always forget!"
"How are your studies doing, dear?" Amy's mom said. "Are you learning plenty of fancy Muggle things?"
"I am," Amy said. "It's not like I have a choice, is it? There's nothing but Muggle stuff to learn here."
"It will be useful, Amy," her mom said. "Did you take the courses for those thinking machines they're supposed to have?"
"They don't exactly think," Amy said. "But, yes, I am taking computer science."
"Excellent!" Amy's dad said. "Your sister sends her love, of course."
"I trust she's well?" Amy said. "Over there at Hogwarts. Learning real, useful magic instead of pointless Muggle crap."
"Don't be like that, Amy," her mom said. "We've already talked about this. When Katie started going there, we didn't know there was going to be a war. If we had, she'd be in Ammarricka too."
"America," Amy said. "You could at least learn the name of the place you sent me to!"
Beca slowly backed away into the darkness, all thoughts of knocking gone. Hogwarts? Muggle? Wasn't that stuff from those fantasy movies about some wizard? It couldn't be real. But if it wasn't, what was it? The weirdest practical joke ever? And if it was, how had Amy done that stuff with the fire? The lips on the heads really had been moving along with the words they spoke!
Maybe there'd been something bad in the sandwich she'd had for lunch. It had been rye bread. Rye could get fungus infections that left behind hallucinogenic poisons, Beca knew. Sure, it was supposed to be scanned for in modern food production. But since when is that sort of thing foolproof?
Not the least bit convinced that she was hallucinating, Beca headed back onto campus.
Without actually making a conscious decision to, Beca found herself jogging back to Chloe and Aubrey's apartment. Crazy as it would normally be, she actually wanted to talk to Aubrey. The uptight blonde disliked her enough that she could be trusted to tell the truth if Beca truly was going insane. Unless she, too, had some weird secret. Maybe it was all some insanely elaborate practical joke set up by all the other Bellas. She couldn't imagine why they'd do that, nor how. Quite a few things she'd seen during the night were plain physically impossible. But then, stage magic often looked impossible too.
It was closing in on two in the morning when she got to the building where Aubrey and Chloe lived. She'd been steeling herself for the inevitable shouting from Aubrey when she rang the doorbell at that time of the morning, so when she literally ran into Aubrey at the front door it took some time for her to mentally readjust.
"Ouch!" Aubrey said. "Look where you're going!"
She looked down.
"Beca?" she said. "Chloe's not here. Is something wrong?"
"Um," Beca said. "Sort of. Maybe. Can we talk?"
Aubrey was suddenly more or less shoved aside, and a dorky guy came into view. He was wearing a brown tweed jacket, a bow tie and a fez. He held out his hand to Beca.
"Hello!" he said. "I'm the Doctor, and this is Amy Pond."
He waved in the direction of a tall slender redhead standing next to him.
"Hi," she said.
"Um, hi," Beca said. "Are you friends of Aubrey?"
The guy smiled. He had a very friendly and inviting, although slightly manic, smile.
"Yes!" he said. "Of course we are! We're old, old friends! Go way, way back, we do."
"He does," the redhead said. "I don't. I'm new. Ish."
The guy was enthusiastically shaking Beca's hand and showed no sign of stopping.
"Aubrey?" Beca said. "Who are these people?"
She tried pulling her hand free, and succeeded at the third try.
The guy took something out of an inside pocket. It looked like a flashlight that had had a bad accident, or a really unfortunate novelty vibrator. He pushed buttons on it, and looked at it as if it had a display.
"Problems, you say?" he said. "Did these problems by any chance look like oversize pepper shakers?"
"Just go with it," Aubrey said.
"No," Beca said. "No pepper shakers."
"Really?" the guy said. "That's odd."
"That is odd?" Beca said.
"Maybe we should let her tell us what's wrong," Amy Pond said.
She had a lovely Scottish accent. As well as gorgeous red hair and really great legs. If she hadn't been so freakishly tall, she might have given Chloe a run for her money when it came to good looks in the eyes of Beca. As it was, Beca had her eyes at about the height of Pond's boobs, and that was just weird.
Suddenly, all three of them were looking at Beca. And all three of them were considerably taller than her.
"Um," Beca said. "It was just some friends who behaved a little odd. It can wait. I'm probably just being..."
She was going to say "silly", but right at that moment three five-foot-high pepper shakers flew past them, going down the street in the direction of the BU campus. They held an altitude of ten feet or so, with no visible means of support whatsoever. As they flew, they were steadily shouting "Exterminate!" in raspy metallic voices.
"Ah, there they are!" the Doctor said.
He put his unfortunate vibrator back in its pocket.
"If you'll excuse me," he said.
He took off running down the street after the flying pepper shakers, holding his fez in place with his hand.
Beca stared after him, mouth gaping open.
"Aubrey," she said after a while.
"Yes?" Aubrey said.
"Where's the nearest psych ward?"
"A few miles away, I think," Aubrey said. "How so?"
"I think I've gone insane," Beca said.
"Nah, you're fine," Pond said. "He just takes some getting used to."
Beca looked up at her. While she'd been staring after the Doctor and the pepper shakers, Pond had sidled up close to Aubrey and put her arm around Aubrey's waist. In exactly the kind of way Chloe used to do with Beca.
"Um, did you want to talk?" Aubrey said. "We can, if you need to."
Beca shook her head.
"No, it's fine," she said. "Although you said Chloe's not here? Where is she?"
"She said she was going for a walk," Aubrey said. "She does almost every night. Usually, she goes up to the park that way."
Aubrey pointed in the opposite direction of campus.
"Thanks," Beca said. "I'll see if I can find her."
Aubrey's hand was solidly planted on Pond's ass, she saw.
"You two have a fun night," she said and walked away.
The park was, well, a park. It had lawns and trees and bushes and walkways between them. It was also, somewhat surprisingly, open at night. Beca walked into it, keeping to the well-lit walkways. She wasn't sure if that was any safer than anywhere else, but she felt better when she could see around her. The park was, as one would expect at three o'clock on a Friday morning, quite deserted. It was as quiet as the city ever got, although occasionally she heard a metallic cry of "Exterminate!" in the distance. It was all quite soothing.
Until she walked around a large bush and saw Chloe kissing a man.
She recognized Chloe instantly, of course. She saw the two of them from the side on, and there was no way on Earth she'd fail to know her own girlfriend from a distance of maybe ten yards. The guy she had no idea who he was, but it didn't matter. Beca felt like she'd been stabbed through the heart. Not only had Chloe sent her home after they'd made love for hours and hours, after Beca had left she'd gone out with somebody else. Somebody she was now kissing in a park.
There was glowing blue mist coming out of the guy. Flickering streamers of it, coming out of his eyes, ears and even patches of skin. All of them went toward Chloe, and were sucked into her. Beca blinked. What the hell?
"Chloe?" she said.
She could hear herself how weak and wounded her voice sounded.
Chloe's head snapped around to look at Beca. Her eyes were glowing bright blue, so bright that they made it hard to see the face around them. As soon as the kiss broke all the blue mist vanished, and the guy dropped to the ground with all the grace of a sack of potatoes.
"Beca?" Chloe said. "What...? Why...?"
She sounded every bit as shocked as Beca felt.
"Sweetie," she said. "It's not what it looks like!"
There was fear in her voice. That was strange enough that Beca managed to suppress her impulse to run away. Also, why had the guy collapsed like that? From the way his head had bounced when it hit the ground, he sure wasn't faking being unconscious.
"What's going on?" Beca said, voice wavering. "What was that blue mist?"
The intensity of Chloe's eyes had faded, until they were only an unnaturally bright blue. Her shoulders sagged.
"I guess you had to find out sooner or later," she said. "Can we go sit down somewhere? If it's ok with you, I'd really like to explain before you leave me."
"Um, sure," Beca said.
She felt numb. There had been too many shocks in too little time. She just didn't have the emotional energy left to be as upset as she ought to be.
"Thank you," Chloe said.
She sounded genuinely grateful.
"There's a bench over there," she said, nodding.
They started walking.
"I don't even know where to start," Chloe mumbled.
Beca drew a deep breath.
"OK," she said. "You said it wasn't what it looked like. It looked like you were making out with some dude I've never seen before. If that's not what it was, what was it?"
"It was me feeding," Chloe said.
They walked several steps in silence.
"What?" Beca finally said, after she'd given up on making sense of it.
Chloe drew a deep breath and visibly collected herself.
"First," she said, "I want to say that I love you. A lot. I want to be with you all the time. I understand if you can't believe that right now, but it's the truth."
The weird thing was that Beca did believe it.
"Well, I'm not running away," she said. "So go on."
Chloe smiled a little and reached out to take her hand. But she checked herself before she finished the movement, and the smile faltered.
"Thank you," she said.
They reached the bench, and Chloe sat down. Beca sat down next to her. She was painfully aware of the space between them. Chloe turned her head and looked her in the eyes.
"I'm not human," she blurted out.
"You look like one," Beca said.
"At least as long as your eyes don't glow like that," she added after a moment's thought.
"That blue mist you saw," Chloe said. "That was concentrated life force. I was pulling it out of him and into myself."
"So what are you?" Beca said. "Some kind of vampire? I have seen you out in sunlight. You didn't sparkle."
Chloe shook her head.
"Not a vampire," she said. "Vampires are disgusting. I'm a succubus."
"You're a demon who seduces monks?" she said.
"I guess some of my ancestors did, back in the middle ages," Chloe said. "Basically, I can rouse sexual feelings in humans and then feed off the life energy that releases."
Beca sank back against the bench's backrest.
"You know," she said, "that actually explains things."
"It does?" Chloe said.
"How you're so crazy good in bed, for example," Beca said. "Or how you can get me so wet I'm practically dripping just by touching my shoulder."
"I'm sorry," she said, sounding small. "I have a hard time controlling myself around you."
"You feed off me too, don't you?" Beca asked. "That's why I feel so tired after we've made love?"
"It's nearly impossible for me not to," she said.
"So why the guy? Or, I guess, guys?"
Chloe's expression took a turn for the sad.
"That's the part I don't know if you can live with," she said.
"What?" Beca said. "You have to do guys?"
Chloe shook her head.
"No, not that," she said. "But... You said you feel tired after we make love?"
"That's from me kind of... nibbling," Chloe said. "Just taking as little as I can. You saw that guy up there, how he dropped like a brick? That was me actually feeding. And even that takes a lot of willpower. If I were to simply let go, feed as much as I wanted to... that'd kill the human I was feeding from."
"That's pretty creepy," Beca said.
"I'm a predator, Beca," Chloe said. "Humans are my prey. And here's the thing."
She took a deep breath.
"One human isn't enough to keep me fed," she said. "No matter how much I'd like to be faithful to you, I can't. I'd starve, and sooner or later my hunger would get bad enough that I'd lose control. And you'd end up dead."
She looked so sad it made Beca ache inside. She reached out and pulled her into a hug.
"It sounds to me like you've been doing the best you can," she said. "Am I right in thinking that the guy up there was more like a guilty midnight run to a crappy fast food place than fine dining?"
"Just something to keep the hunger away," she said. "You... you're delicious."
"Thanks," Beca said. "I guess."
She stroked Chloe's hair and sat up straight.
"I've had a really weird night," she said. "I'm crazy tired, and not thinking straight. But here's what I'm thinking now."
Chloe looked expectantly at her.
"First, now that I know about this, can I stay over at your place? I'd really like waking up next to you."
"Yes," Chloe said. "I'd really like that too."
"Second, I don't think faithful has to mean only ever sleeping with one person. I think it could mean not breaking whatever promises we've made to each other. If you have to sleep with others to stay alive, you'll just have to show some other way that I'm important to you."
"You think you could live with that?" Chloe said.
"Yes," Beca said. "I do."
She got up from the bench.
"I'm about ready to fall over and sleep right here," she said. "I'd like to make it to your bed first, if you don't mind. We can talk about this in the morning, right? If I promise right now that I really, really don't want to leave you?"
Chloe got up, smiling widely.
"Thank you," she said. "You're the best girlfriend ever."
"And don't you forget it."
Hand in hand, they walked home.