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Zeta parties are, all things considered, pretty easy to crash.

Even if Bea wasn't who she is--contender for the top spot, hero of most of the students here, Poppy's rival--the "bouncers" are just frat guys who're pretty uninterested in popularity politics. They'll let you in if you ask nice, they won't stop you if you sneak past even if you trip on your ass, and if you're hot, they'll only stop you long enough to ask for your number.

For Bea and Zoey, they lift up the velvet rope--a new, pretentious addition--and wave them past. Zoey winks at someone Bea doesn't know.

"You just browsing or is there someone you aren't telling me about?" Bea asks just for the way Zoey rolls her eyes and shoves her.

"My standards are higher than the frats on campus, which you know ," Zoey says, and Bea laughs. "Also, I'm pretty busy with your meteoric rise to fame?"

"I know, I know," Bea says. "And you're the best for that, by the way."

"I know," Zoey says smugly, but it's not like she doesn't deserve to be smug, so Bea doesn't call her on it. "Anyway. Much as the Zetas are all awful to talk to, they do have fantastic caterers. I'll be by the buffet or with the hottest person here, don't call me unless you need me."

"Aw," Bea says. She'd sort of been looking forward to hanging out with Zoey--actual classwork's taken up a fair amount of her time these days, and they haven't had a good hang out that wasn't focused on the List in ages. "If you're sure. Also, hottest person here? Not that I'm not flattered, but--"

"Oh, shut up," Zoey says. "If I was hitting on you, you'd know."

"Ooh," Bea says. She may not be interested in Zoey that way, but that's a decent line. "Love you, see you later."

"Love you too," Zoey says, eyes already fixed on something Bea can't see on the other side of the room. When Zoey walks away, Bea twirls around a little. The outfit she's wearing is a little daring for this sort of party, but she wanted the chain to show. One, she looks great in it. Two, it'll definitely get a rise out of Poppy. What rise she's not exactly sure, but that's fine. A fight or...something else are both perfectly fun ways to spend the night (and get a bit more attention, as long as she holds her own).

She always holds her own.

Bea can't see Poppy anywhere, but she knows that doesn't mean much; Poppy's good at commanding a room and equally as good at hiding in a crowd if she wants to. If she thinks about it, she can practically feel Poppy's gaze on her from somewhere in the room. She knows that's bullshit--she does pay at least a little attention in her classes--but it's a nice thing to linger in. She stretches, knows she isn't imagining the way one of the newer Zeta girls snaps her gaze away like she doesn't want to be caught looking.

She heads over to the bar, already regretting the heels a bit. There's a ton of people clustered around, and she figures she'll wait, but one of the bartenders is ready for her order right away.

"Oh," Bea says, still unused to popularity. "Uh, sweet and highly alcoholic. Purple, if you can." The bartender looks at her with a look that clearly says ugh, rich people orders . Bea winces. "No rush, though, I see you're busy."

That helps a bit, but Bea's used-to-be-working-class guilt lingers until her drink is in her hand and she can tip the $100 she can so easily give away now. He doesn't seem to notice it, but at least she doesn't feel so guilty anymore.

There's a bunch of people dancing in the middle of the floor, but Bea wants to get good and tipsy before waltzing onto a dance floor of Zetas. Strategically, it might lead to a Carrie incident, because Poppy is definitely not above pouring a bunch of blood on her, but it'll be so much more fun.

Probably not pig blood, Bea thinks, sipping the drink. Despite how poetic it'd be, Poppy does care about animals; that wasn't faked. Bea trusts at least that much. The alcohol burns a bit in her throat, but she can't actually taste it as she's drinking, so she's having a great time with it. With alcohol, she's pretty simple. If she's drinking to get drunk , she's content with moonshine, probably-illegal, strong, and disgusting as hell. But if she gets plastered in public, she'll definitely embarrass herself with a gleeful Poppy's help, so.

Pretty, tasty drinks it is.

She catches a glimpse of Poppy on the dance floor and perks up a bit. It's dumb to pick a fight on her home turf, but well, Bea didn't get into this contest because of her patience. She's not sure where to put the empty glasses, so she puts it on one of the tiny tables near her and hopes she hasn't committed some faux-pas that only the ultra-wealthy know. It wouldn't be the first time, but it's a pain every time it happens.

The dance floor doesn't part for her like it does in movies, and she gets a little lost in the push and pull of people around her. She doesn't even see Poppy anymore. Ugh. 

Someone grabs her arm, and she turns with a tight smile until she sees Zoey and relaxes. "You scared me! What?"

"Just making sure you know Poppy's here," Zoey warns.

"This is literally her house," Bea says, repressing the urge to roll her eyes.

"I mean, on the dance floor, you ungrateful hag," Zoey says. Bea would squawk in protest if there weren't so many people around.

"Oh no," Bea says sarcastically. "Poppy. How terrifying."

Zoey shakes her head. "Look, I'm not saying you should be scared of her, but she is still higher on the list than you."

"I don't care," Bea says, leaning in so the music will hopefully cover up the sound of them talking. "Taking her down is more important to me than the list."

"I know," Zoey says. "You're really obsessed."

"No," Bea says, but she sounds unconvincing even to herself. "I'm just not scared of her. I've never been scared of her."

It's true, too. Even Bea's first day on campus, in a sweater and jeans, no idea about what the hell her life at this school would turn into, she looked at Poppy Min-Sinclair and thought, who the hell does this bitch think she is?

Might've thought some other, less-aggressive things, too, her gaze meeting Bea's, ice-cold and fiery all at once.

Zoey shrugs, says, "Alright, then. Do what--or who--you're gonna do."

Bea wants to push back against the judgment she can hear there, but Zoey's her best friend, and this is in public, and, well. It's not like she's wrong. Still, Poppy's not here right now, so she just dances. A few Zetas dance closer to her in a way she knows would piss Poppy off, so she pulls them closer,  hands on the hips of the person in front of her, murmuring something flirtatious in their ear.

Sure enough, it's not even a minute when later when she feels a hand with long nails grab her shoulder and yank her away. She lets go of her dance partner quickly so they won't get knocked down with her, but stumbles a bit, unable to keep her own balance on these heels , God. Bea only has a second to school her face into a look she wants--an innocent smile, a proud smirk?--but is pretty sure she just ends up looking frazzled based on the look on Poppy's face.

"Poppy!" Bea says. "Good to see you."

"You're dancing with my Zetas," Poppy says, expression cool and calm. It would've fooled Bea months and months ago, but now she knows how to read the tightness around her eyes, the whiteness around her knuckles, the smile not showing any teeth at all.

"Yeah," Bea says. "I'm happy to dance with any beautiful woman."

Poppy's eyes flash. "They should know better than to dance with you . Or let you in, for that matter."

"Haven't you heard?" Bea says, hand to her chest in the most insincere gesture she can muster. "I'm one of the top people in Belvoire. Who's going to keep me out from a party? Even here? "

Poppy doesn't scream or anything, but the flush on her cheeks feels like just as much of a victory. Bea isn't expecting Poppy to turn around, put a hand around her neck, and start pushing her...somewhere.

"Uh--"

"Quiet, Farmsville," Poppy hisses, and Bea isn't sure if she wants to push back or shut up and listen, see where this is going. Her rival's aggression ends up making the decision for her, propelling Bea forward so that she needs to walk or fall over. "I swear, you'd be tolerable if you learned your place here."

"Oh?" Bea says, and now it's easier because now the anger isn't entirely for her, it's a righteous indignation for everyone else who's suffered because of this dumb hierarchy. "And what is my place here, Pop ?"

Poppy shoots her a glare that Bea would shrink back from if she were anyone else. "Underneath me."

Bea would love to tell Zoey later that she got pissed, but instead she feels a twist of arousal in her gut. "Uh--"

Poppy smirks at her, and Bea is a bit taller than her but it certainly doesn't feel like it. "On the list, of course. You'd be a fine right hand. That's what you're thinking about, right?"

Bea's pretty sure lying would just result in embarrassing herself more, so she just says, "You know it's not."

Poppy looks annoyed that she doesn't get an opportunity to push Bea more, and Bea gets annoyed that Poppy won't just take her to some back corner somewhere now , already.  Come to think of it, Bea has no idea where they're going, where Poppy's leading her.

"Hey, where--"

"Don't ask questions," Poppy says firmly, looking at Bea's face with an expression she can't quite make out. It's angry, a little, but it's searching, too, calculating in the way she usually is around Bea, but--

Her eyes are warmer, maybe?

Bea's having trouble thinking; she didn't think commands were something she was into, especially from Poppy , but. Damn. 

"Okay," she says instead, because while Poppy might fuck her over in everything , she can at least enjoy it in this.

" Good girl," Poppy purrs, and Bea would like to be on a bed or in a closet right the fuck now. "You do enjoy that. You sure you don't want to stop fighting? I could treat you to anything you want, and the only person you'd have to listen to would be me. Clearly that's not an issue for you." She sounds like she might laugh. Bitch .

There's not any people around (where are they), but Bea feels a rush of embarrassment anyway, which is--also something she didn't realize she was into. Lot of discovery tonight. "Not on your life."

Poppy pushes her against the wall, and Bea can't help staring at her lips. God. Poppy leans in. Bea closes her eyes, but Poppy doesn't kiss her. Instead, she says, "Well, why don't I try to convince you?"

Then Bea falls flat on her ass, because Poppy's the worst and Bea was standing against her bedroom door. Bea's definitely still gonna sleep with her, but come on. Poppy does laugh then, and Bea's glare does not deter her in the slightest.

"Definitely my favorite look of yours," Poppy says. "At my feet."

"Fuck you," Bea says, kicking off her heels just to see Poppy's lip curl. It means that when she stands up, Poppy's got the slightest height advantage on her, but. Well, actually it's kind of working for her.

Poppy doesn't say what Bea would in this situation, which is "that's the plan". Instead, Poppy grabs her chin, tilts her head up like she's studying her. Bea can feel her face is as warm as it's ever been, but she doesn't pull away. Poppy takes a step forward, into Bea's space, and Bea takes a step back. Poppy makes a quiet, approving sound and keeps walking. Bea expects her to push her into the wall and have her wicked way with her, but she stops before Bea's back hits anything. She opens her mouth to ask, and Poppy shoves a finger in there like she was waiting for it, pushes down against her tongue.

Bea whines.

"You do want to do this?" Poppy asks. "I'm pretty sure I'm reading this right, but."

Bea nods as best she can with someone pushing her head down. 

"Good," Poppy says. "Do you know the stoplight system?"

Bea shakes her head.

Poppy sighs. "Should've expected that from you, Farmsville." Bea thinks idly about biting down. "Green for you're good, yellow if you want to slow down or talk about it, red if you want everything to stop. Understand?" Bea nods, and Poppy pulls her hand out of Bea's mouth. "Color?"

"Green," Bea says quickly. 

Poppy smiles, wide and genuine and mean in a way that is going to haunt Bea's dreams. "Good to know."

With that, she pulls Bea around in a quick gesture that she had to have practiced, holding Bea's arms behind her back, her front pressed all against Bea's back. Bea stares at herself in the mirror they're apparently standing in front of. She looks like a mess already, lipstick ruined, mouth slightly open, shoeless. In comparison, Poppy's back to looking like polished perfection.

Poppy leans in and rests her chin on Bea's shoulder. "Look at yourself. You're not half-bad, but you've no class at all. If you'd only let me...hm. Right hand doesn't seem like exactly the right word. You would be that, of course, but in here ..."

Poppy's gaze in the mirror leaves their reflection, looks around the room as much as she can without turning her head. "In here, you'd be my what ? My bitch? My pet?" Bea shivers at that, and Poppy looks back with a smug look. "My pet, then. Would you wear a collar?"

"For you? No," Bea says, though her voice shakes a little too much to be convincing.

"Hm," Poppy says. "Color?"

"Green," Bea says. It should feel like ceding ground, like losing, but Poppy looks even more pleased. It pisses Bea off. It gets her even wetter.

"Pet," Poppy says, making it sound like a title, like a term of endearment, and Bea is so fucked. "What do you want?"

"Thought the whole point of this was doing what you want," Bea says breathlessly.

"Not quite," Poppy says. "The point is that if you listen to me, we both get what we want. You should learn something."

"Whatever we do in here doesn't have shit to do with outside this room, Min-Sinclair," Bea hisses.

Poppy frowns, taps her hand against Bea's arm. "I'm calling yellow. I understand that, Farmsville. Do you get that we're playing right now?"

"Oh," Bea says, because she--had sort of forgotten again. "Uh. Yes. Green, now."

"Good," Poppy says. "What about after this?" Poppy grips Bea's hair and yanks back. Bea yelps, in pain but also feeling fantastic. "That was rude, pet. Are you sorry?"

Bea wants to hiss and claw at her, just a bit, but she can't deny that she's absolutely soaking her underwear right now. "No. Green."

Poppy tuts. "So disobedient. I was going to treat you, you know. Get you on my bed and make you cum a dozen times. Dress you up in finer clothes than this ." Her fingers catch at the chain and snap them against Bea's skin, just like last time, and Bea lets out a little embarrassing noise.

"You asked what I want," Bea says. "Gotta say, that sounds good."

"You're aggravating," Poppy growls right against Bea's neck. Bea wishes she would bite down, leave a bruise. "I only treat those who listen to me that way. You don't ."

"Yeah, but that's why you like me," Bea says.

"You're being very generous in your assumptions," Poppy says, annoyed, which Bea notes isn't a no . Abruptly, her hands slide to the bottom of Bea's dress and tug up. Startled, Bea lifts her arms to make removing it easier. She's just in her underwear and the chain now, Poppy fully clothed behind her. She can feel the brush of whatever fabric it is against her back. It feels divine , and she closes her eyes to focus on the sensation.

Poppy grabs her chin, and Bea's eyes snap open. "Keep watching. I don't have you in front of this mirror for no reason."

"Okay," Bea says, which doesn't seem like the right response, but she's sure as hell not calling her ma'am .

Poppy's fingers brush lightly up and down Bea's ribcage, and she shifts a bit, trying not to react too much. It's almost ticklish. Poppy moves her head back to Bea's neck, kissing there. Bea can see the mark of her pastel pink lipstick, barely visible against her skin, and shivers. The bruise will be much more obvious, if she'd just--

"You sure about that collar?" Poppy says smugly.

"Shut up," Bea says, if only so Poppy will pull her hair again. She seems happy to oblige, and Bea gasps as Poppy finally starts pressing bruising kisses against the arch of her neck. Poppy drags her teeth along Bea's neck, leaving a trail of goosebumps. Bea can't even see the mirror with her head back like this but she still doesn't close her eyes, focusing on the room as best she can with Poppy's free hand on her hip, one finger lightly brushing against the wet spot on her panties, her teeth against Bea's pulse point.

Poppy moves her hand from Bea's underwear, and Bea makes a noise of protest that she bites back when Poppy cups her breast through her bra.

"Look at this," Poppy says, pushing Bea's head back so she's staring at the mirror again. "It looks good even if the color doesn't quite suit you, I'll give your sidekick that--"

"--Zoey's not my sidekick--"

"I saw you with her," Poppy hisses, suddenly angry, and Bea has no idea what she's talking about. "When you walked in, on the dance floor. It's like you're trying to make me jealous."

"Please," Bea says with a little gasp when the hand in her hair tightens. "It's not like you have Bradley because you care . Be careful, a girl might start thinking you want my--"

Poppy pulls her from the mirror, twists her again and shoves her against the wall next to them, her face right in Bea's, one hand on her shoulder, one hand pulling aside her underwear to shove two fingers in all at once. It hurts a little, but she's wet enough that it feels incredible . "What I want from you is for you to shut up and listen . You still don't get how things are here, do you? That isn't about affection, it's not even about sex, it's about power."

"There's a Janelle Monae quote I could use here," Bea says, trying to ride Poppy's hand as best she can. Poppy moves her other hand from Bea's shoulder to her hip, pushing against her so she can't get any leverage.

"I think you would get it if you weren't so desperate ," Poppy says, and Bea wants to growl at her but she can only manage a little hiss. "Or are you going to tell me you kissed Carter because you cared about him?"

"I--"

"Be honest with me now," Poppy says, and it's the undercurrent of raw want in her voice that makes Bea inclined to listen.

"No," Bea admits. "Wanted to piss you off. Wanted--"

"You wanted this," Poppy says. "Shh, it's alright. You're not the first, though you are the most persistent in trying to hold my attention."

Bea hates her, just a bit, for taking everything Bea's done and making it about the hand between her legs and not the way the system genuinely hurts the people in it, the way it needs to change. But she also can't say she's misinterpreting things. She wants things to change. She wants the look on Poppy's face when Bea gets one over on her. She wants justice. She wants--

Well. This.

Poppy takes her hand out of Bea, puts her fingers against Bea's lips with a casual, lazy gesture. Face flushed, Bea takes them into her mouth, tastes herself. She doesn't even try and make it appealing, just tries to clean them as best as possible. Poppy looks down at her with a smirk, and as she pulls her hand away, Bea bites down on just the tips. It's gentle, not enough to break the skin, just enough to make Poppy's face flush pinker, piss her off that much more.

"Pet," she says, and this time it sounds like a slap to the face. Bea loves it. "Is the chain attached to your underwear?"

Bea blinks. "What?"

"Is the chain attached to your underwear? Either the bra or the panties."

"Uh, no--"

Poppy moves in then, finally kisses her, and Bea moans into her mouth. Poppy's hand scratches along Bea's back, raising marks that'll sting in the morning, pulling at the back of Bea's bra so aggressively that Bea pulls back.

"Careful, you'll rip it--"

"Then take it off ," Poppy snarls, and Bea moves her hands to her back, unclasps her bra in a quick, efficient, probably-unsexy motion. Once it's off, Poppy pulls the thing off her and tosses it aside, shoving Bea back against the wall with a leg between hers and her hands on Bea's chest.

"'You'll rip it,'" she mocks. "Garbage like that, you should be grateful . If you'd let me keep you--" Bea's hips jerk at that, and Poppy laughs. "You'd have much finer things."

"Shut up," Bea says, taking a hand and tangling it into Poppy's hair to yank her back in for a kiss. Poppy bites her lip hard enough to bruise, and Bea leans back against the wall, riding Poppy's thigh. She doesn't push up hard enough to get any real friction, but it's something.

Poppy moves one of her hands to scrape against Bea's stomach, snap the chain again. "I do love this chain," Poppy says. "Give Zoey my thanks."

Bea flushes again and starts to say something cutting when Poppy twists at Bea's nipple. She cries out, jerks forward into Poppy.

"Col--"

"Green, green, green," Bea says before Poppy can finish. "Come on --"

Poppy licks a stripe up Bea's neck before her lips seal over the spot, starting to suck a bruise. Bea whines again, trying to ride Poppy's leg, but she pulls back, because she's the worst, worst ever, definitely the worst, as Bea tries to remind herself even as her brain can't move on from the scrape of teeth on her pulse point. 

Her--whatever the hell Poppy is to her pulls back, breathes right against the mark she's made to make Bea shiver, and says, "I'm thinking we take this to the bed."

Bea nods, lets Poppy turn her around again, this time holding her close, one arm around her stomach in an almost-tender gesture, the other steadying on her back as she leads her backwards.

"Always knew you'd be like this," Poppy murmurs into her ear. She pushes Bea around so that her back lands onto Poppy's bed, crawling on top of her and brushing one hand oh-so-slowly down Bea's stomach. Bea tilts her hips up; she's been ready for awhile now, but Poppy doesn't seem in any sort of hurry. When her hand finally pushes back into Bea, Bea collapses back against the bed. Poppy laughs, happy and mean, in Bea's ear.

"Like what," Bea hisses, like she has any sort of position to stand on here, grinding against Poppy's hand.

"All bark out in public," Poppy says, twisting her hand to make Bea jerk. "And as soon as you get a hand on you, you turn into a whimpering mess . Are you going to deny it?"

"I'm not--I don't normally--" Bea gasps.

"So just for me," Poppy says, and Bea would've noticed the obvious trap if she hadn't been otherwise occupied. "I'd guessed as much, but I appreciate the confirmation."

"I hate you so fucking much," Bea says, and yanks her down for another kiss. 

It's heated and Bea isn't sure if she wants to bite her till she bleeds or let Poppy claim her like she seems intent on doing, hand locked around her wrists, other hand working inside her. She can feel herself getting closer and closer and closer to the edge, until she can tip right over if she just lets herself--

Poppy stills her hand then pulls it out entirely; Bea whines.

"This isn't a reward, Farmsville," Poppy says smugly, shifting so that she's lounging back against the pillows of her bed, looking entirely unbothered. "Do a good job with this and I'll consider letting you come."

Bea knows she could just shove her hand on herself once, maybe twice, and come anyway, but there's something about Poppy's smirk. Bea wants to impress her, knows it's futile, knows it's pathetic, shifts anyway so that her face is between the other woman's thighs. Her hands shake a bit, making it a little hard to get Poppy's dress up, but hey, she makes it work.

Her jaw starts to hurt pretty quickly, what with Poppy holding it open earlier, but Poppy's sighs and movement of her hips is doing it enough for her that she works through it, works her tongue. When she can feel Poppy's legs trembling on either side of her head, Bea looks up at Poppy, meeting her gaze from below, and sucks on her clit, hard and fast and hopefully enough for Poppy to return the favor.

Poppy doesn't come with a scream, but the way she relaxes back against the pillows and brushes Bea's hair back from her forehead when she pushes her head to get her to stop is almost as gratifying. Her hand shifts to Bea's cheek, runs a thumb over her lips and pushes in. Bea opens her mouth automatically.

"Good girl," Poppy says, almost tired. "Give me just a second."

Poppy shifts fully away, rummaging around in a drawer next to the nightstand until she pulls out a small silver vibrator. Bea could cheer, leaning back and giving Poppy the easiest access possible. 

"Oh, Bea," Poppy says, and the sound of her name in Poppy's mouth, fond like that, makes something far too warm spark in Bea's chest. "Not quite."

"Please," Bea says.

"You'll get to use this," Poppy says, twirling it in her fingers. "What you're going to do is this. Get dressed, go right home, and use this and think of me."

Bea frowns at her, sitting up. "What? Why would I do that?"

Poppy grins, leans closer until her face is right in Bea's. "Because the next time you come to my house, I want you tell me about that and every other time you've touched yourself and thought of me."

Bea shivers. 

"Or," Poppy says. "You can take care of yourself here while I go back to the party, and we won't do this again." She puts her hand against Bea's neck, gently brushes her thumb against the hollow of her throat. "If we ever end up in bed again, you'll have to make your way without my direction, if you can."

Bea grips the sheets with a white-knuckled grip. 

"Color?" Poppy asks.

"Green," Bea admits, and gets up to put her dress again.

Poppy, still mostly clothed, has barely any expression at all when she hands her the vibrator, but Bea can see the spark of mischief in her eyes. "Be seeing you," she says sweetly.

"You're the worst," Bea says, but shoves the vibrator into her clutch anyway. God, this walk home's gonna suck .

When Poppy closes the door behind Bea, it hits like a glass of cold water to the face.

Not in that it in any way stops or even lessens her arousal, because that would be a good thing, and she has to stop expecting good things to happen to her in Zeta house without a hell of a downside. But the rush of air outside the room, hot and loud and--busy, a shock like waking up and entirely unpleasant.

She suddenly wants to be out of this party as soon as humanly possible.

Poppy's busy in her room, so at least Bea knows she can pull her phone out and text Zoey a quick "hey, headed home, will get someone to walk me" so that her roommate doesn't have to leave or worry.

(Also so that she doesn't have to overhear Bea, because she does not think she'll be able to keep quiet.)

Zoey texts back a thumbs up, and Bea heads out. A few people smile at her on the way out, a few people glare, and she has absolutely no idea what expression she's giving back. No one pulls her aside and asks if she's okay, so she's probably fine. Zoey would stop her if she's doing some damage to her reputation, probably.

The walk home passes basically on autopilot, too aware of the now-uncomfortable wetness in her underwear to focus on anything else. Besides, she's walked home from Zeta enough to know this path even blackout drunk. Then it's making her way up the stairs, locking the door behind her, and getting into her bed with her clothes off as fast as physically possible. 

By the time she's naked in her bed, vibrator dragged out of her purse and struggling to turn it on with her fingers shaking so much, she's not quite as keyed up as she was in Poppy's bedroom, but she's hardly far from the edge.

She should take her time, luxuriate in this, but fuck, Poppy's teeth in her neck, her hands on Bea's chest, her tongue in Bea's mouth--

Bea puts the vibrator on its highest setting--not especially intense, it's not the fanciest--and puts it right against her clit, way too much stimulation and somehow not enough. Her hips jerk against it, half-riding it, not as good as Poppy's fingers inside her and her thumb on her clit, but if she tells her that, maybe she'll be nicer next time, maybe she'll--

She doesn't come with a scream, but she's extremely thankful Zoey's not here to hear the noise she does make.

Then she's in her bed, with sheets wet enough with her own slick that she probably needs to change them, holding a cheap vibrator that's belongs to her literal arch-rival and absolutely exhausted.

"Why," she says. Cutiepie yips from outside the door in response. Bea groans.

There's no way she's going to change her sheets today, but she at least gets her clothes all in the same place to take to be dry-cleaned, takes a shower, tells herself firmly that she won't do this again, that Poppy was a mistake she repeated twice. Twice is a coincidence, three times is a habit, or something.

She's got her classes to focus on anyway, TA duties (and, no matter how many times someone brings it up, nothing with Professor Kingsley), making sure she stays at the top of the list. Plenty of things to keep her busy.

Her dream isn't about Poppy or anything else so obvious. It's a memory of her first concert, a heavy metal band that she'd wanted to see for years, that was completely out of reach among the cornfields of Farmsville. Probably a stupid thing to spend her first thousands on, but flying across the country, wearing the fishnets and the leather she'd never been able to, getting lost in the sway of the crowd, remembering being there, knowing she could be there again, and thinking this could never have happened before .

As pleasant as the dream is, it ends abruptly when Zoey throws something at her and she shoots up in bed. "I'm up, I'm up, what's happening?"

"Who?" Zoey says with an open-mouth grin. "I mean, you definitely snuck away, you left everything a whole--"

"My clothes aren't even everywhere, okay, it's--"

"Laundry chair is still bad for you, babe," Zoey says, and Bea groans. "Who was it? Veronica? Chloe? Oh my God, not Professor--"

"Veronica's just fun to destroy stuff with, Chloe's an extremely reluctant ally, and for the last time, I have absolutely nothing with Professor Kingsley. I'm glad I didn't make a move at the bar, her being my professor is not fun sexy stuff, it could ruin both our lives!"

"So responsible," Zoey teases. "Who'd you let loose with, then?"

Bea takes a second to think, and Zoey's grin becomes a gasp.

"Never mind, you're insane! Completely irresponsible! Again? "

"I know," Bea says, head in her hands. "I just didn't think, I don't know! I was tipsy--"

Zoey's expression darkens. "You--"

"No, really just tipsy, I promise," Bea interrupts. "And I was on the dance floor and it's just--it's something , having her attention, you know?"

"I don't," Zoey says. "If I'm having hatesex, I'm at least picking Chloe. She's not quite as awful."

Bea arches a brow. "Oh? You know, I can text her--"

"I'll kill you," Zoey says, and the two of them laugh for a bit before Zoey sombers. "Jokes aside, I really do worry, you know? Poppy's--she's really not a good person."

"I know that," Bea says, but it feels a little hollow, even to her.

"Do you?" Zoey asks, and it'd be easier if it was angry or accusing her of something, but it's just genuine. "Because it feels like you don't even regret it."

Bea tries to say something, but what can she say? She doesn't regret it, she knows she should regret it, she knows she'll find herself in Poppy's bed as soon as she can make it happen without seeming completely desperate.

"Okay," Zoey says. "If you ever want to talk about it-- emotionally, I'm not asking for details about Poppy --I'm here. And if it all goes bad, I'll be here with champagne and a horror marathon."

"That sounds fun," Bea says, and then when Zoey turns to leave, Bea gets up and hugs her. "You're a good friend, Zo."

"I know," Zoey says. "Please tell me you've washed your hands."

"I have," Bea says, and Zoey's exaggerated sigh of relief has them both laughing again.


Bea's not a coward.

But.

It's different, whatever this is. She was never the type of person to risk anything social back in Farmsville, and even here in Belvoire, her rise up the rankings is driven by righteous anger. Putting herself in the public eye for other people? Simple and fine. Risking being laughed at by Poppy because she's protecting someone else? Easy. Because she's...what, horny? Absolutely not.

This is to say, she avoids Poppy like the plague. They were hardly getting together for coffee or anything before, but now she takes different paths to class as often as she can get away with without someone (Poppy) realizing what she's doing and telling The T , or without The T figuring out what she's doing so some people (Poppy) might figure it out, or someone else will figure it out and tell people (she really doesn't want Poppy to know). 

It's with the egocentrism of the rich that she reads Poppy's latest Picta post announcing a pool party and knows that no matter how many likes are on it, the post was written for her. Bea's pretty sure the clubhouse won't be able to host the size of party Zeta's used to hosting, but that seems to pale in comparison to the picture in front of her, showing Poppy in a pastel pink (of course) bikini, smiling like a viper that’s caught its prey.

Do you dare to come to Zeta’s latest party? Only the brave and bold need come, I’ve no time for quitters.

Bea’s a lot of things, but a quitter? Never.