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"Back off, bitch. We all know you just want his cock. You don't give half a damn about how well he plays."

"Oh, and you're some celibate fucking nun, is that it? Last night you literally asked him about how often he jerked off! Bet you had your hands wrist-deep in your snatch the whole time, skank."

"I was just joking around! Don't blame me because you're too braindead to understand humor!"

The catfighting continued as Benjamin took off his headphones, head in his hands. The tinny sound of screaming still came from the speakers. He could feel the beginnings of a headache coming on.

It always ended like this. He just wanted people to play games with, and yet every single group he joined always devolved into catfights, aggressive flirting, and demands that he send compromising pictures. Benjamin hadn't been in this group for even a week before it had devolved into yelling; the sad part was that that week was actually the longest run he had gone without things falling apart. The shortest one, a group of beast-ladies with a penchant for fighting games, had collapsed in the span of an afternoon.

It was starting to weigh on his conscience. There were some times where the fighting due to his presence in a voice channel was so intense that he couldn't help but wonder if he had inadvertently done permanent damage to these girls' friendships. 

This latest group seemed to have their stuff together at first- nobody batted an eye at him being a man, and they were content to play games and shoot the shit without involving or mentioning his genitals in any way.

Then it went downhill- the jeering and joking started becoming more personal. The girls got territorial over which voice channel he was in, everyone rushing to join him the moment he came online. Eventually the subtle innuendos became overt come-ons or straight up questions about his sexual habits. The girls became more and more standoffish with each other, often choosing to send him private messages instead of tagging him in the main channel. The end result was the screaming match still blaring from his headphones on the desk.

Benjamin sighed, looking upwards so he could leave the channel. The shouting cut out immediately. Just how was he supposed to find a group that didn’t lose their shit whenever they heard a man open his mouth? 

Maybe it was overly self-pitying to have women be too into him, but all he wanted was someone to watch his six in Battlefuck 2069. His friends- that is, his male friends from school or work- were mostly married and too busy getting busy with their wives to spend much time gaming at all. Was that just how life went? The thought of losing some of the drive to pursue his hobbies just to have sex was pretty disheartening. 

Well, fuck that. He’d do what he wanted for as long as he was able. If only he didn’t have to break up friendships to find people to do that with.

Benjamin stood up and stretched his sore legs. He didn’t feel like gaming or socialising any more tonight. 

 

---

 

The sound of sporadic gunfire and explosive detonations came through his headphones. Benjamin had his (character’s) ass parked behind a low wall, ready for anyone entering his field of view.

“There’s one on the ridge. No, over there. Huck a grenade behind that metal box," came a female voice over the ingame voice chat.

“That’s a car, babe.”

“Just shut up and throw it, ‘babe’.”

He chuckled a little at his teammates’ banter. The two of them were married- he had gathered that much from the pet names and flirting in between rounds. They weren’t bad shots, either, even if the male one had a tendency to choose the dumbest weapons possible for a given situation. Seriously- why would you buy a shotgun for a round where you were trying to hold down long sight lines, or the most expensive machine gun in the game when they were trying to save money? At least his wife gave him shit for it. That was fun to hear.

“FRAG OUT!”

“Do you really have to yell that every time you-”

“Yes. You know that.”

A second later the grenade went off, and the killfeed jumped up with two eliminations from the explosion. That might have won them the round, right there.

“God, I’m so fucking good at this game.”

“I literally told you where to throw it!”

“Shhhh. You should know not to speak in the presence of a god.”

That one got a proper laugh out of Benjamin. While he was giggling, the wife of the grenade-thrower expressed her frustration by plugging a single, fatal rifle round into the back of her husband’s head. The casualness with which she teamkilled her own spouse had Benjamin laughing even harder.

"There's- there's another on the catwalk," Benjamin managed to say while he was doubled over from laughing.

"Got it. Also, my husband seems to have gone and got himself killed."

"You shot me in the fuckin' head!"

"Sorry about him being so shit at this game. I try to teach him but he's so stubborn, you understand," she said, moving to support Benjamin given that he was still incapacitated from laughing so hard. Her husband continued to bitch, only making the situation funnier.

He was glad that these two were married; not having to worry about flirty and thirsty girls yelling in his ear while he played was always convenient. The last enemy on the other team caught a bullet from one of his other teammates, ending the round and sending them back to the buying screen.

“You guys are...oh, that was funny.”

"She's just jealous of my skills. I could be in Diamond already if I didn't have to drag her kicking and screaming through every rank before it."

"Oh, you're the hard carry, huh?" Benjamin asked, hoping to egg on their argument.

"He's not a carry when I've got a higher rank than him. And K/D, too."

"Oh, really? Here's what I think about your K/D," the husband said, his character throwing something against the wall in front of his wife. A second later Benjamin's screen was entirely white, the only sound through his headphones being a buzzing white noise. The guy had thrown a stun grenade right in front of them.

"Oh my- well, you know what? That's probably on par with all the other flashbangs you throw."

"I'll flash and bang you, hehehe…"

These two were real clowns, but damn if they weren't entertaining. Benjamin keyed the push-to-talk again.

"Hey, are you guys gonna do another game after this? You're more fun than solo queuing."

"Sure. Actually, we were gonna have two of our friends get on for a four-man, so with you there we'd have a full five," the man said, now choosing to actually play the game properly after blinding and deafening his own teammates.

"Yeah, that sounds good to me too. Not like you can be any worse than this dolt."

"Thanks," Benjamin said. He could only hope the extra pair that the guy had mentioned were, well, a pair- that they were married. Maybe, just maybe, he had found a group that he could actually be a part of without it falling apart around him.

 

---

 

"HOW DO YOU MISS THAT?!?!?"

"That was likely the easiest shot the game could have presented you with. Are you clinically braindead?"

"That was pretty garbage, to be honest," Benjamin agreed.

"There was a fly in my room! I was trying to swat it!"

They were damn good fun, Benjamin decided. It turned out the extra two teammates were indeed a couple- a man and an automaton, if her voice was any clue. The whole 'robot playing a video game' thing was kind of interesting, as well as the butt of more than a few jokes, but the chemistry of the whole group was solid. The fact that everyone was communicating also meant they were winning more rounds than they were losing.

"Hey, new guy, what's your name?" 

The husband of the automaton was the one who had spoken. Benjamin took his question as a good sign.

"Uh, Benjamin."

"Cool. You want to join our server? You seem fun to hang out with. And you don't miss stupid shots like that.”

“Sure! I mean, you guys are more fun than most of the other people I come across in this game." 

Benjamin smiled despite there being nobody in the room to see it. Finally- people he could hang out with.

"Do you have GandharvaMod? We tend to screw around a lot on that when we're not playing this."

"Yep. I'm down to play whatever," he replied. Truthfully, he was starting to get a bit burned out on Cunter Strike anyway. Something more laid back was just fine.

He settled back into his chair, the grin still on his face.

 

---

 

It was strange, being able to interact with people that could actually handle him being there without losing it. Whereas before Benjamin almost dreaded entering into a server’s voice channel for fear of turning it into a shouting match, now he was practically giddy until he was home and talking to his newfound friends. He’d been introduced to some of the other members over the course of the last few days, and was pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of them were married; the few that weren’t also had enough restraint not to hop into the voice channel every time he was online.

Right now he was playing GadharvaMod with a few of the more familiar faces he knew. They were just screwing around, flinging props and randomly killing each other, instead of doing anything productive. It was more just something to do while they talked than their main source of entertainment.

“...and that’s when he said, ‘Looks like someone been puffin’ on somethin’,’ so now it’s just kind of, you know, its own thing. You know how stupid stuff like that turns into inside jokes. And how telling it a second time never really gets the same laughs.”

“Yeah, I get it. Well, at least now I know where it came from,” Benjamin replied. One of his new friends had been explaining some kind of in-joke from before he came along that the few of them commonly referenced.

The telltale ‘bloop’ sound effect came over his headset- the notification that someone had joined the channel. A quick glance up to the top left of the screen saw that the newcomer wasn’t one he recognized. Their handle wasn’t one he recognized- ‘ SPL\T’. In a server where almost everyone had some stupid meme name meant to get a laugh, that name sounded more like a teenager’s attempt to be edgy.

“Oh, hey, Iva.”

“Hey, girl. Who’s holding the reins tonight?” asked one of the husbands he’d been playing with. A strange question, Benjamin thought. Must be another inside joke he wasn’t aware of. A smooth, confident female voice answered the question soon enough.

“I told you not to use such foolish metaphors. We’re playing video games, not writing a fantasy novel.”

“Ahh. That would be the ice queen, then. How’re you doing tonight?”

Benjamin furrowed his brow. He was getting more lost by the second.

“Well enough. Another day done. It seems to me like we have a newcomer, though.”

That must be him. He winced. She sounded single- once he’d spent enough time around mamono both married and unpartnered, he had started to be able to recognize such things.

“Uh, yeah. Hi. I’m Benjamin. I ran into these guys playing Cunter Strike a while ago, and thought they were cool. Soooo...here I am. Iva, right?”

The silence lasted just long enough to strain the friendly atmosphere. When ‘Iva’ spoke again her voice had lost none of its confidence, but had a more impersonal tone than she had first used.

“Benjamin, hmm? I wasn't aware we were looking for another member. And yes, my name is Ivalorina.”

“I’m surprised you two hadn’t met yet. Iva comes on… well, seems like every day. Guess your schedules just never lined up before.”

“What was that you were talking about before? About reins and an 'ice queen' or something?” Benjamin asked, trying to sound as confident as their new guest so as to not appear weak. 

“I am a chimera. A different personality takes hold from time to time. The ‘ice queen’ is just these fools’ name for one of them.”

“Huh,” he grunted. He’d never met a chimera before, or anyone with split personalities for that matter. Glancing at her username made a thought pop into his head. “‘SPL\T’, hmm? I guess I know where your name comes from.”

“Oh, that. A childish name I created when I was a preteen. I haven’t thought of anything better to change it to.”

“Yeah, it is pretty cringe,” one of the others in the call said.

“Hmm. And I hope you can pull your own weight in Cunter Strike, Benjamin. I won't be carrying you," she said, her voice perhaps a bit aloof. "Are you all playing something?"

"We're on GandharvaMod, but to be honest, it's just background noise. Mainly we're just talking."

"Hmm. I suppose I'll start it up anyway. I'm going to go get some refreshments while it loads."

She evidently then removed her headset and left them alone again. Benjamin found the new guest to be somewhat incongruent with the rest of the group; he didn't want to use the word 'haughty' to describe her, but he couldn't think of anything more accurate.

"You really never met Iva before, Ben?" The question came from one of the wives- the one currently shooting saw blades at her husband with the gravity gun out of boredom.

"Uh, no. Can't say I have. So her personality shifts, huh?"

"Yeah. I know she might seem a little...uptight, but she can be a sweet girl no matter what side of her is at the helm. Though from what I understand, she seems to have less control over that than most chimeras."

The thought of unwillingly being dragged into an entirely different personality sounded pretty unpleasant to Benjamin. Hopefully Iva didn't mind too much.

"If it's not a personal question, how many, uh… 'sides' of her are there?" He asked, hoping that asking such a thing behind Iva's back wouldn't be considered rude.

"Well...there's that one. The ice queen.  Probably the coldest, if you can forgive the pun."

"And then there's the friendly, happy-go-lucky one. She's always fun, especially if you get her drunk."

"Yeah, we call that one the satyros. Then there's the quiet, nerdy one that can kick all our asses at strategy games. We just call that one the NEET."

"Isn't the cheshire one of them, too?"

"Nah, that was just a joke after she had us all dying of laughter during a Cunter Strike game. Remember? The one where she kept walking in front of us and getting teamkilled?"

"Oh, yeah. That was funny."

"So that's it? Just the three?" Benjamin asked. Three personalities wasn't too many to keep track of.

"I think so. Right? Am I forgetting one?"

"Well...there was that one time," someone responded. He sounded...apprehensive.

"What are you- oh, you mean when she got all…"

She trailed off, clearly unwilling to discuss whatever the fourth 'side' of Iva might be. Before Benjamin could interrogate them further, though, he heard the shuffling noise of someone putting their headphones back on.

"There we go. Got me a few cans of good ol' Heinekakuen and a bag of Atlach Nachos to go with 'em."

"And a better attitude, too," someone responded. Benjamin had to agree- the change in her personality was apparent through her voice alone, to say nothing of her words. The warmer, more relaxed tone suggested that the 'satyros' was the one in control now.

"Ach. Yeah, sorry about that, new guy. Kind of wish I could lock that part of me away in a cupboard somewhere. I didn't mean to be a bitch," she said, genuinely apologetic. Benjamin couldn't help but be drawn in by her new attitude; this was certainly someone he could get to know.

"Oh, no problem. I'd bet having to deal with that whole personality thing is a real pain in the ass."

"Eh, it's not too bad," she said. The sound of her cracking open a can of beer came over the mic. "Just have to apologize for the other sides of me a bit more often than I'd like."

"Don't sweat it, girl. We know you always mean well," one of the other guys reassured her.

"Aww. Thanks. Keep talking like that once I get a few more of these beers in me and I might just get all weepy," Iva said.

Benjamin smiled again. He could hardly help himself. This girl was too warm to worry about her earlier personality's brusqueness.

"Alright, what're we doin'? Just flinging shit at each other? Always fun," she said after having loaded into the map, just before spawning a dumpster and slamming Benjamin into a wall with it. He couldn't help but chuckle.

 

---

 

Iva was...well, Benjamin struggled to find a single word to define her. How could he, when the entire gist of her species was having multifaceted personalities? There were similarities between her 'sides', sure- she had a sense of humor no matter what side was in control. But the way she expressed that differed almost by the hour. She would be heartily joking and guffawing one moment, then making dry, icy remarks the next, or perhaps quietly mumbling out little quips she thought of when that side took hold.

It was easy enough to like her, but hard as hell to pin her down. 

The fickle nature of her personality seemed to extend to her taste in games as well. The ice queen part thrived in hypercompetitive shooters, while the oft-intoxicated satyros part enjoyed more laid-back and entertaining media. 

The 'NEET', though… Benjamin was currently learning the hard way that what she lacked in sociability, she more than made up for in the ruthless intellect she displayed in strategy games.

They were playing Civilizacum V, and Iva was dominating. She had reached the industrial age much earlier than anyone else and was currently gearing up for a cold war with virtually every other player in the match. Benjamin's only saving grace was the fact that he was on an entirely different continent than the one-woman-army currently carving up all of her AI neighbors.

"Fuckin'... God, I hate barbarians so much," someone else bitched. A glance at the map saw that one of his allies' workers had been captured by said enemies.

"It's not them you should be worried about. Look at Iva over there, building destroyers. What are you gonna do with those? Huh, girl?"

"Just watching out for pirates," came the predictably subdued response from the chimera.

"Right. Of course. Nothing else, I'm sure…"

Still- as adept as she was at the game, Benjamin was reasonably sure she couldn't take on every other person in the match and come out victorious. Riflemamono were good, but when they were outnumbered ten-to-one by muskets and cavalry, they'd get picked apart quickly enough.

Hmm. Maybe he could use this as an opportunity to make nice with this facet of Iva. All he had to do was be a conniving backstabber.

He opened up the server overlay and opened up the personal chat between himself and Iva. The last thing he wanted was for his 'teammates' to catch onto his betrayal by talking about it on the voice channel.

'looking a little lonely over there. think you could use a friend?'

She responded almost immediately- in text form, of course. She kept silent on the mic.

'?'

'i'll tell you what these guys are up to over here. and help you when you want to start beating their asses.''

'what's in it for you?'

Hmm. A good question.

'shits and giggles lol'

She snorted amusedly over the mic, drawing the attention of everyone else in the call.

"What're you giggling at?"

"Nothing," Iva remarked. A new message appeared in the private chat.

'deal.'

-

"Goddamnit, Ben. Just when I was starting to like you."

He had to laugh at that- the self-satisfied guffaws of a man who'd just betrayed his fellows. 

Iva had done it- she had turned their 100-turn-long cold war into a hot one, using all the information Benjamin had been feeding her to position her units in the best possible locations. The preemptive strike everyone else had been planning faltered as soon as it got started, smashed to pieces as it was by barrages from multiple artillery units. That might have something to do with Benjamin relaying their positions to Iva the whole time.

And now that all of their troops were off trying to fight her, their cities and territory were largely undefended. None of the other players had questioned why Benjamin's own units were almost entirely absent from the war effort and instead arrayed in neat lines on his borders. Only when they started pillaging and capturing did everyone finally realize that they had been betrayed. Some of them were good sports about it. Some...were a bit more expressive.

"Dirty, conniving little shit. I’m gonna find you, Benjamin. Where you live. Gonna post your address on that dark elf basket weaving forum so they can shove a demon silver knife up your ass."

"I think that's a little extreme. Maybe you should take a walk, clear your head a little," Benjamin suggested. The guy didn't sound genuinely angry, though the thought of having a bunch of knife-eared dominatrixes knocking on his door made him shudder a bit.

"Actually, I think you already know where he lives. Zapchat has that map that shows where people are, remember?"

"Oh, yeah! Let's take a peek!"

Shit, shit, shit- he had added some of his new friends on Zapchat to shit-talk each other when he was away from the computer. He had completely forgotten about that damn map part of the app. This was why he should have turned the damn thing off! His phone was in his hand in a heartbeat, Benjamin scrambling to unlock it and open the app.

"Ooooh. So that's where he is! You know, there's an unmarried mucus toad that I work with who has family around there, I think. Maybe she would appreciate a little meet-and-greet. Interested, Ben?"

"No! Ahem- not that I have anything against frogs, but I think I'm fine, thank you," he said. The icon of Zapchat, a flashing cartoonish raiju with an O-face, came up on his phone. It stayed there for a few seconds as the app loaded.

"You live pretty close to me," said Iva. Her voice was still quiet, but she sounded surprised. She hadn't been talking nearly as much as she did when the other two personalities were in control, so her sudden interjection caught him off guard.

He finally got the app open. Instead of rushing to the settings to protect his privacy, though, he instead opened the same map Iva was looking at. Sure enough, their little avatars were quite close to each other. He tried to get an idea of the distance between them from the map. It couldn't be more than forty miles. Thirty, even.

"Huh. I guess so. What are the chances of that?”

The previously-mentioned threats of his location being handed over to dark elves left his mind. Who could’ve guessed that he and Iva lived so close to each other? The rest of their group were scattered all around the country, having met entirely online and never actually interacted in person, but the multi-faced lady who Benjamin had just conspired to win the game with was within a day’s driving distance from him at this very moment.

The thought made him feel anxious, though not because he feared Iva was about to come over and assault him. He had interacted enough with her to confidently say that none of her personalities were quite so brash as to do something like that. No, he wasn’t afraid, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly why her being so close had his heart beating a little faster, either.

"Drive over there and beat his ass then, Iva."

His own laughter drew him out of his thoughts. At last, the endgame screen appeared; Iva was, of course, the victor, with Benjamin in a somewhat close second place. Everyone else deserved a participation trophy and not much else.

"Oh, man. That was a good game," he said.

"Fuck yourself."

"Shut your mouth."

"Smug bastard!"

"It was a good one," Iva agreed, sneaking as much smug indulgence into her voice as he had. That seemed to be this personality's sense of humor- sneaking in quiet little one-liners that riled everyone up.

"Ugh. You two are absolutely perfect for each other."

The remark stopped his laughing. Iva awkwardly cleared her throat. He didn't want things to turn out like they had in all the other groups he'd joined, with the ladies' desire to fuck him undoing it all. But at the same time, he couldn't say that his friend's little joke didn't excite him a little. Him and Iva did get along awfully well, regardless of what personality she had at the time.

"Haha. Well, ah, thanks for playing with me, guys," Benjamin said quickly. Hopefully he could clear the air a bit. "It really was nice stabbing you all in the back."

"I bet it was. Cunt," one of them grumbled. 

"Alright. Talk to you later. Hopefully some of you will have simmered down a little bit."

"Yeah, yeah. See you later, man."

"Bye," Iva said, her voice barely loud enough to be picked up by the mic. He smiled at the warm, amicable tone that she used increasingly often nowadays. 

Despite his own misgivings, he couldn't help but continue thinking about that joke- 'perfect for each other'.

---

His phone vibrated on the kitchen counter- a short, droning buzz that was irritating enough to make Benjamin walk over and grab it. He had been attempting to cook something new- an exotic Zipangunese dish- though if the foul smell was any indication, he had probably botched it.

It was a message from Iva. She hadn't communicated privately with him since the Civilizacum game, to his mild disappointment.

'yo. benjrmn'

That level of spelling meant one thing- that the satyros was the one driving. She was doubtless already lost in the sauce.

'hey iva. whats up?'

'i wanrrrrre'

He raised an eyebrow. It was a few seconds before something actually intelligible appeared on the screen.

'wanted ti know if u want ti met up'

'like inrell ide'

'real lidfe'

'idk like to get cofee or somthjnh'

Benjamin blinked at the phone a few times. This was what he had wanted, even if hadn't yet found the courage to admit it to himself. He wanted to actually hang out with her in person. And she was the one taking the initiative! All he could do was pray that this wasn't coming from the alcohol she'd drunk.

'if thast not to weird lol'

'ju st like if were this close to eacg other why notttt'

Iva continued to fumble out messages. He could see her in his mind's eye, half-draped over the keyboard with one hand trying to type out messages and the other clutching a tall can of beer.

Except he couldn't picture her at all, really, because didn't have the first idea of what she truly looked like. The closest he'd come was just looking up images of chimeras on the internet, but given how varied they were by definition, doing that was little help. He wasn't about to ask her for a picture, either.

But he had let her embarrass herself enough. 

'Yeah! that sounds nice. did you have a place in mind? Or when?'

'ASWOME'

'im a lirrle drunk rihgt now so lets say just well do it this saterday and figger out the detales later'

'if thats okie'

'Yeah that's fine. just dont drink too much okay?'

The time it took her to respond didn't inspire confidence.

'no such thimg as to much'

'see you l8er sk8ter boi'

She really was funny when she was drunk. He had to give her that.

'talk to you later Iva.'

Benjamin set the phone back down and released a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. The idea of actually doing something with Iva was both a weight off his chest and a fresh source of anxiety. 

He was glad she had asked, though. He could say that much.

---

"So...you hear that Iva asked Ben out?"

"No shit? Good for her, then. Good for both of them."

"Well, I heard it wasn't really 'asking out', so to speak. More just a little meetup. They're not calling it a date. Not yet, anyway."

"Still, I'm glad. Pretty weird coincidence that they happen to live so close but I say they ought to take advantage of it. Do you know where they're going?"

"Nope. Probably depends on who's in charge when Iva picks him up. Maybe they'll go to a bar and get hammered, or do some nerd stuff if she's in NEET mode. I dunno what they'd do if the ice queen's driving."

"Go to a skating rink or something, probably."

"Pfffff. Idiot."

"You know, though, there is one thing that, ah...concerns me."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well, it's just... we never told Ben the full story, did we?"

"The full story? What do- oooohhh, shit. You're right. We didn't get to tell him about the fourth...side. The fourth thing."

"Yeah. I'm just a little worried about that. That it'll come out when they're having their little date or whatever."

"Well, we've only ever seen her like that once, right? I figure the chances of her just happening to switch to that personality when she's with Ben are probably pretty slim."

"I hope so. God, do I hope so. Being stuck on a date with the ice queen probably wouldn't be too bad, but…may the demon lord save that boy if he meets the Jubjub."

---

It was Saturday morning, and Benjamin still hadn't heard a peep from Iva. Knowing her, he wouldn't have been surprised if she was sleeping off last night's drinking binge. Then again, she had drunkenly slurred to him a few nights ago that mamono were resistant to most hangovers. Damn monster women. A drink should be earned- paid for in misery the day after! 

Or maybe he was just a little jealous.

His phone started buzzing- not the short burst of a message, but a proper call. He picked up.

"Benjamin. This is Ivalorina."

Oh, boy. He appreciated her in all her 'forms', but some were...more easy to deal with. He had hoped this date wouldn't be with the more frigid part of her personality.

"Iva! It's good to hear from you. Did you drink too much last night or something?"

"That...is not relevant. I have decided on a location for us to meet."

"Oh, cool. Where?" Not like his input mattered or anything, noooo…

"There's a diner off Exit 42 on the interstate. By the lake."

"Oh, Waterfront! I love that place- go there almost every time I'm on the highway!"

"Mmhmm. At least you have some modicum of taste. I will be there in half an hour. Arrive on time or not at all."

Before he could say anything else, the line went dead. She had hung up on him.

Benjamin didn't really buy that she would so easily dismiss him for being a little late, but he still had no intention of testing that hypothesis. Waterfront was about twenty-five minutes away in light traffic, and he didn't even have his pants on yet. 

-

According to the clock in his car as he pulled into the gravel parking lot, Benjamin had approximately a minute and two seconds to get his ass in through the door. 

He was just a little winded when he finally opened the door, the little bell chiming out above him. They staff were switching over to the lunch menu, he knew, which explained the unique combination of smells that reached his nose- the fading scent of maple syrup, bacon, and eggs being overshadowed by that of fries, burgers, and hot dogs. Oh, how he loved this place.

But for once, the food wasn't the main attraction. Benjamin searched the restaurant for the person who had actually brought him here. There were a few other patrons. Some of the faces were new, while others he recognized from previous visits even if he didn't quite know their names. Where was the one he did know, though?

He laid eyes on her on his second look-through of the diner. That it was Iva was obvious; her hair, ears, other body characteristics and were all mismatched in color or complexity to some degree. It wasn't quite as extreme as some of the other pictures of chimeras he'd seen, but the fractured nature of her personality was perfectly evidenced by her body. One horn, smooth and glossy, curled seductively behind her head. She had paws and hooves like a satyros, but the fur leading to both was pale white- the influence of the 'ice queen', maybe.

The only reason he hadn't seen her on the first look-through of the diner was the fact that she was stock-still, sitting at one of the corner tables with both eyes closed. Her hands were clasped together on the table, and the expression on her face was one of mild irritation.

Damn. He had hoped the ice queen wouldn't be in charge anymore by the time he got here, but that wasn't apparently the case. Oh, well.

"Iva?"

Her eyes opened- one a cold blue, the other a dark, warm red. A previously-unseen tail, thick and furry, flicked back and forth between the legs of her chair. Benjamin hurried over with a smile on his face, hoping a nice attitude would excuse almost being late.

"Benjamin. You made it," she said. Of course he'd heard her voice before, but without the mild distortion from a microphone he could more clearly make out the rather impersonal tone of her voice. If this was just a chimera's 'interpretation' of an ice queen, he had to wonder what the genuine article was like.

"Yup! May have broken the speed limit to get here on time, but here I am."

"You...ugh. Of course you would be foolish enough to risk your life to get to a diner."

"Hey, you gave me thirty minutes! And it was just a few miles over the limit. Cut me some slack," he said, pulling out the chair opposite from Ivalorina and taking a seat. A pair of plastic-lined menus sat on the table.

She looked at him for a moment. He raised an eyebrow, wondering if she was actually doing anything or if she was just trying to think of something to say.

"Hmph. Yes, you are about what I expected you to be," she said finally, refusing to elaborate. Without knowing whether or not that was supposed to be a compliment or something else, Benjamin decided to give her one of his own- he knew from experience that the ice queen tended to get real quiet if he complimented her while they were online together.

"Well, I can say you're even more than I expected. You really do know how to rock the half-and-half look."

It was a pretty tame and unremarkable comment, but it was enough to bring a flush to Iva's cheeks. She cleared her voice and looked down at the table.

"I am a chimera. Duality is part of me. It should not surprise you that I embrace it," she mumbled, still avoiding eye contact.

Benjamin would have responded, but apparently a waitress had noticed the two of them at an empty table. The holstaur had a friendly smile on her face, and judging from the gratuitous amount of meat on her, it seemed a fair guess that she wasn't averse to taking more than a bit of what came out of the kitchen for herself.

Her colossal breasts nearly collided with Benjamin's head as she leaned down over the table. That drew Iva's attention- despite having a sizable chest herself, there were very few who could compete with a holstaur in that arena. The chimera sent her a sidelong glare.

"Why, hello, dearies! Are the two of you havin' a sweet little date? Oh, you both look adorable!" The waitress asked, oblivious to Iva's ire. Both her and Benjamin were blushing now.

"Ah, we...well, you know, we're just…" he started, trying to find the words to avoid calling this a date without definitively saying it wasn't a date.

"Oh, I'm sorry, dearies. Not calling it a date yet, hmm? That's fine! Why don't you just tell me what you'd like to order instead?"

Thoroughly embarrassed and red-faced, Benjamin looked down at the menu more to hide his cheeks than to see what food to get- hell, he could probably recite the menu by memory. He really did love this place.

"Umm, I think I'll just go with some fries and a reuben. Oh, and just water to drink."

"Ah, I'll…I'll have a bacon cheeseburger, please. Water as well," Iva said.

The holstaur nodded, writing their orders down on her little notepad.

"Alrighty then, dears. Shouldn't be but a few minutes. Try not to get too frisky before it's ready!"

With that, she trotted off towards the kitchen and left the two of them alone. Ignoring her cheeky remarks, Benjamin looked back up at Iva.

"A bacon cheeseburger, huh? Surely a lady like yourself would order something more refined," he joked. Iva scoffed.

"I'm not some wine-supping royal. Just because I act-"

Iva stopped mid-sentence, her eyes focusing on the wall behind him. She blinked once, then twice, then took in a sharp breath. It almost looked like she was twitching, too- her eyes, her face, her entire body.

"...uh, Iva? Are you okay?"

"Y-yes," she said, standing up shakily from her chair. "I just...need some air. Some fresh air. Please excuse me for a minute or two."

"Is this, you know- your personalities changing?" Benjamin asked, holding the edge of his chair in concern. Iva staggered over towards the door while holding her forehead with one hand.

"Yes. I...oh, not now, not now of all the times, not that one…"

"Iva?"

He was half-standing now, ready to follow her. The words falling from her mouth were half-formed and almost too rapid to hear.

"No, just stay here. I'll be fine. A minute. Need a minute outside. Stay. Stay here. Please...haah…"

Benjamin slowly lowered himself back down into the seat and watched as Iva wandered out of the door. As much as he wanted to follow her, she seemed pretty insistent. Was this really what she went through whenever she changed personalities? He had never been listening the moment it happened- in the past, she always seemed to step away from the computer and microphone. She'd leave as one personality, and come back with another a few minutes later.

Left by his lonesome, Benjamin didn't quite know what to do. He fiddled with his phone, looked at the other patrons, and worried about Iva. He couldn't see where she'd gone from the window. To her car, maybe, though he had no clue which one out of the fifteen or so in the parking lot might be hers. 

The minutes ticked by with no sign from his 'date'. He was willing to admit to himself, at least, that a date was what this was. The waitress's teasing was embarrassing, but also encouraging in a way. If she thought the two of them would be good for each other, well…

The door to the diner swung open again, the bell above chiming as it had when they had first come in. In the doorway stood Iva, though not the same Iva that he had met minutes ago.

In contrast to her earlier, proper demeanor, the chimera was now slouched and uncomposed. She leaned on the doorframe, breaths heaving in and out of her like she had just run a marathon. Eyes wide and unfocused, cheeks redder than ever, tail spasming hard enough to slap against her own legs and thighs- she was unrecognizable as the woman that had left the diner. Her mouth even hung open; as he looked a fat trail of drool slipped from the corner of her mouth and onto the floor.

Who was this? It wasn't the ice queen, that much was obvious, but she didn't look like the other two personalities he knew of, either. Did the beer-goat take control and slam a bottle of liquor from her car before she came back in? 

Her eyes snapped up to him, and in a moment her entire attitude changed from that of a drunkard to that of a predator. The slouch became a hunched hunting posture. Her tail hung still in the air. 

"Iva?"

She was upon Benjamin almost before he had even seen movement, climbing on the empty table and grabbing at him. In an astounding display of strength she hauled him onto the table with a single paw, laying him flat on his back.

"Iva! What are-"

"Cooooooooohck…"

It was more of a sound than a word- a needy, animal moan instead of language. 

"Are you-"

"Ssssseeeex! Fffuuuck! Cum!"

With a roar, she grabbed his shirt with both paws and pulled in separate directions. The garment ripped like tissue paper, little scraps of fabric flying out and fluttering to the ground. One of the onlooking patrons gasped. Another chuckled.

Her claws made short work of his pants as well, the razor-sharp digits tearing them to ribbons while leaving his skin un-ripped. Her claws must not have been able to hurt him- there was no way she had the self control not to cut him right now. 

Left in just his briefs and socks, Benjamin started to kick and flail under the chimera. It had taken a while for his brain to get what was happening, but now that he realized it, he wanted out.

"No! Iva, not here, not in front of everyone!"

With no ceremony or petting beforehand, Benjamin's briefs were torn to pieces just like his pants. He couldn't help himself- the knowledge of what was inevitably about to happen, along with the arousing shame of it happening in front of others, had him at full mast before Iva had even laid a finger on him.

"Cooock," she whispered, staring down as if hypnotized by his erection. Another string of drool plopped down onto his stomach.

"Iva," he begged one more time. She glanced up at his face, her slack-jawed expression turning into a genuine, sweet smile. Her face leaned down and nuzzled into his neck, the single horn bumping against his head.

"Mmm. Ben…"

Her clothes were off. Whether she had removed them while tearing up his own or at some other time wasn't really relevant to him at this point. 

With the same lack of ceremony she showed when stripping him, Iva lowered herself onto him. This was it- he was being fucked on top of a table in a diner, in plain view of the public.

Iva's rhythmic bouncing prevented him from being too concerned about that. The word foreplay seemed to have no meaning to her- she fell onto him over and over and over, moaning and mumbling not-words above him. She was almost like a zombie in the way she groaned and panted, as if she had no thoughts in her head besides moving up and down, up and down. His orgasm reached him almost immediately- with no warmup or gentle introductions, he was ashamed to last just a minute or two. 

Iva simply did not care. She moaned in satisfaction at receiving a dose of spirit energy, but evidently it was nowhere near enough for her; if anything she only slapped down onto him harder and harder.

"Iva…" Ben said, but his urgency was stolen by the overstimulation of his nethers. It was too much, too quick- he needed a minute or two to just recharge, but every time she slammed back downwards it blew the breath from his lungs. He could barely speak; when his second orgasm came a few minutes later, he was only more drained.

"Ben...big. Hard. Cum!"

The words coming from Iva's mouth were largely nonsensical- just whatever sex-related grunts came to her animalistic mind at a given moment. The noises coming from her mouth gradually dissolved into the same background sounds of sex- slapping flesh and wet shlicking. He was growing faint.

Another orgasm hit him. The pleasure had become an all-body numbness that shielded him from the pounding his pelvis was taking He had to be close to shooting blanks now…

"Iv...Ivaaaa…"

"Mmm, Ben! Benbenben!"

Iva seemed to think he was just saying her name to be affectionate; in reality, he wanted to beg her to stop one last time. His vision was growing dark- he felt like his consciousness was being drained into his groin so he could keep giving Iva what she wanted.

One more orgasm. The overhead lights of the diner were all he could make out through his hazy vision now. That reminded him- he was probably being watched or even recorded right now.

Whatever. He was too exhausted to care.

Benjamin closed his eyes and passed out with Iva still fucking him.

 

---

 

Soft.

That was Benjamin's first thought- he was in an awfully comfortable bed. Comfortable enough to recognize that it wasn't his own.

He cracked his eyes open, blinking a few times until things became clear. The room was mostly dark, with just a small lamp of the bedside table to provide light. A glance out of the window saw that it was nighttime.

The room was foreign. An eclectic assortment of decorations and furniture littered the room- video game and movie posters, a mini-fridge, a computer desk...

Where the hell was he?

The moment Benjamin tried to sit up, the aching soreness around his waist and pelvis had him groaning and lowering himself back down. God, everything below the belt felt like either tenderized meat or completely numb. He flung the blanket off to find two things: the first, that he was entirely naked, and the second, that the majority of the skin around his groin was black and blue. 

He tentatively prodded his own flesh down there. The debilitating pain that resulted proved that it was, in fact, a bruise.

"Guuuh, fuck…" he groaned. How did he get here? He started the day, took a shower, got dressed and everything- oh. Now it was coming back to him. Hauling ass to the diner, Ivalorina doing the ice queen thing, and then...

Before he could take a second to contemplate just what the fuck had happened between the two of them, the door to the bedroom opened. In stepped the very same person he had been thinking about.

Benjamin backed up on the bed a little, sliding closer to the headboard as quickly as his bruised skin and abused muscles would allow. He felt as though going through what he just had, for a second time, might actually kill him.

"Ben?"

Her voice was quiet and pleading, unlike the animal grunts she had exhibited earlier in the diner. If he had to guess, this was probably the NEET he was dealing with.

"Ben, are you awake?"

"Uh, yeah. Y-yeah, I'm awake. You're not going to…?"

"No! No, I won't do that again, I promise!" She exclaimed, rushing forward and throwing herself onto the bed with him. Benjamin praised whatever gods may be that she only landed next to his pelvis and not on top of it.

"I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm so…"

Iva buried her head under the side of her chest and let the tears flow. She sobbed and hiccupped against him in such a pathetic display that he had no choice but to wrap a hand around her head to comfort her.

"Hey, hey, Iva, it's fine-"

"No, it's not! W-we were having a nice time, a-a-and then…"

More crying. He squeezed her a little tighter as Iva's thick tail wrapped its way around his arm.

"Did you choose to change to...whatever personality that was?"

"No, b-but-!"

"Then I don't think you have anything to apologize for, Iva," he said, using his other arm to hug her. His pelvis hurt quite a bit; seeing and hearing Iva cry hurt a hell of a lot more.

"...I didn't mean for...I'm sorry. Of course that stupid part of me had to come out at the worst possible time…"

She was pouting now, and Benjamin could still feel her hot tears on his skin, but she wasn't actively wailing anymore. He gave her another squeeze.

"What, ummm... what was that part, exactly? And how did I end up here? Is this your place?"

Iva took a deep, shaky breath. When she spoke, her breath still seemed to be teetering on the edge of crying.

"It hasn't, you know… come out that often. When it does, I just get really, really hot," she started. She seemed eager to get away from talking about that bit of her personality. "You passed out in the middle of it. We kept going for...well, I just know that it was already dark outside when I switched back. The poor waitress was yelling at me that she had to close up. I kind of just...scooped you up, threw you in the car, and brought you here."

Still no tears. That was something, at least. Benjamin processed her words as quickly as he could having just woken up.

"Ben?"

She wasn't looking at him. Her entire face was still pressed into the skin of his side.

"Do you...you don't...hate me, right?"

His eyes widened in alarm. Even bruised and exhausted, that was the last thing he wanted Iva to think.

"No! No, no, no. I was having a really good time, Iva! And what came after you changed, well, that wasn't...too bad…" he said awkwardly. It felt good while it was happening, that was the truth, but it sure as hell didn't feel good now. Hopefully his body would be able to withstand that kind of punishment better when he was an incubus.

"O-okay. That's good. I'm still really, really, really sorry," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes with a white-furred paw. "Is… is there anything I can do to apologize?"

She finally looked up at him, her two wide, heterochromatic eyes staring right into his own. He thought for a moment that Iva was asking if he wanted to go again, but he didn't see much in the way of lust in her eyes- guilt, sure, but she didn't seem to want a repeat of earlier. Not yet, at least.

"Umm… do you think you could get me some water? And maybe an icepack? I'm really sore…"

Iva glanced down at the bruised and reddened skin of his pelvis. The look on her face when she saw what she had done to him suggested she might start crying all over again, but thankfully her sense of duty in tending to him won out over her guilt.

"Yeah! I'll go get some painkillers, too," she said, quickly sitting up on the bed. 

"Iva."

Before she could fully stand up, Benjamin grabbed her arm and lightly pulled her back down. The hand that had been patting her head now drew her in close enough for him to kiss her. It wasn't anything grand or sexual- just his lips against hers for a second or two- but he didn't remember having been kissed at all during the entire fiasco at the diner.

He smiled at her after pulling away, but Iva just kept looking at him, dumbfounded.

"Okay. Now can you get the painkillers? This actually really hurts."

"Yeah! Sorry, sorry!" She rushed out of the bedroom. Left with too much to think about and too many aches and pains to think about anything too clearly, Benjamin let his head fall back down onto the pillow.