AnimeCon Harem pt. 03

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Hey r u in the same hotel as last year?? Chloe thumbed into her phone, staring impassively at the steadily blinking cursor for a moment before sending the message. Brian never responded to the text she’d sent yesterday, that simple we need to talk, and that was rather infuriating. He’s not ignoring me… he wouldn’t dare. He’s probably obsessing over the right words, agonizing over figuring out just the perfect reply. Torn between that unfathomable guy need to seem all strong and stoic, and actually being honest with his own shortcomings and inadequacies. Brian… you’re such a petulant little manchild.

Sliding a pair of oversized sunglasses down from her forehead, she glanced up from her phone towards the enormous AnimeCon banner strung up in the crisp morning air. It was just after daybreak, and drivers were already struggling to navigate the busy streets, searching for parking areas with a rare empty space. The sidewalks were flooded with foot traffic by now, anime fans and cosplayers moving in a steady stream around Chloe and her trailing companion, flowing towards the convention center’s entranceways.

A ruffled beige halter top showed off Chloe’s delicate shoulders, and a tiny pair of denim cutoffs, fluffy-white at the edges with frayed ends, drew ample attention to her long legs. Her dark brown hair was carefully styled into a messy ponytail that draped down across one shoulder, while an overstuffed drawstring bag was slung over the other. Overall, her figure made a rather remarkable, almost picturesque impression. She would have been a beauty without compare… if not for the contemptuous sneer that puckered her upper lip.

She was here for a reason, of course. It wasn’t by accident that her breakup with Brian had occurred right before AnimeCon—which Brian looked forward to all year—and it was also no coincidence that the usual group of friends they attended with were nowhere to be found this time around. Her goal hadn’t actually been to break up with Brian at all; there was no reason to throw away all the effort she’d put into shaping the course of the relationship to her needs. The plan was, rather simply, to break Brian.

A proper baptism, Chloe thought with a malicious smile. Back when Brian had begun working longer shifts, she’d taken advantage of his every absence in their social group to sow subtle seeds of discord. I’m his girlfriend, after all. I’m entitled to speak for him on his behalf. She’d casually dropped comments that Brian was fed up with someone, or sick of the way a certain somebody acted, discreetly driving wedges between each of them and her boyfriend. After months of carefully unravelling and disassociating, she managed to isolate him from his friends with a clever divide of misdirection, fabricated excuses, and outright lies. When he was finally alone, backed into a corner, and pushed to the limits of frustration and loneliness he could endure, she would arrive to save him, to reshape him into the man he needed to be.

All he needs is to learn his place… to accept a pair of firm and intelligent hands at the reins, Chloe decided with a chuckle. He won’t stress that little head of his guessing what might make me happiest, until by some chance he accidentally gets it right. From now on, what I say is what goes, with no room for doubt or arguments. Things will be so much easier. For both of us. Cramming her phone into the back pocket of her cutoffs, she turned to regard her companion for the morning as he finally caught up to her.

“Ok[/i]aaay[/i]—what’s so funny?” Ryan’s voice had an expressive feminine lilt, emphasizing his words with changes in pitch rather than volume. He was that bisexual coffeeshop-boy, the hipster mister with pretty-boy features. He wore blue flannel and skinny jeans, had big, pouty lips, and clear blue eyes. This week, he sported a stylish crop of bleached-blond hair, still tinged with the faded remnants of multiple pastel colors, and the gauged earrings stretching his earlobes featured iconic Hello Bunny motifs.

“You, that’s what,” Chloe replied in her best cutesy-voice, that nauseating kind of intimate dialogue she knew couples used with one another. “We’re finally here! I thought you’d be more excited, sleepyhead.” She’d weaned Brian off of this kind of treatment early on in their relationship, lest he think it was acceptable for him to reciprocate, but some insipid endearment now was tolerable… a necessary sacrifice. She wouldn’t be using Ryan for much longer anyways. This was fine.

“How do anime conventions even start so early? Six-thirty in the morning?? Like, how do they even?” Ryan muttered in bleary disbelief, reverently lifting the coffee cup to his boyish face and taking another sip. “I can’t wrap my head around people getting up this early if they’re not getting paid for it. Like, this is a choice. All these people right now made a choice to be awake for this. Oh my God, this coffee though… this coffee is my life right now.”

Yeah, well—you’re just lucky that I hate driving through city traffic, Chloe thought to herself, or you wouldn’t be that necessary here after all. At best, the only other real purpose Ryan even had was inspiring fear and jealousy, showing Brian just how easily replaceable he was… just how little individual value males held. However, at the rate her patience with Ryan was thinning, he might never even make it that far.

“Aw, poor baby,” Chloe instead cooed in a saccharine, sing-song voice, before allowing an inkling of impatience to seep into her tone. “But hurry up a little, please? All of these people in front of us are going to be getting into the line for badges ahead of us. The line on Saturday gets to be hundreds of people long… okay?”

“My bad, my bad, geez,” Ryan laughed. “I mean we’re not even inside the convention yet, and my legs are already tired. We just did like, nine city blocks.”

“We wouldn’t be walking so far if you’d parked closer,” Chloe reminded him, struggling to keep frustration out of her voice. Even that idiot Brian was more thoughtful and accommodating than this.

“And pay fourteen dollars for day parking?! Uh, nuh-uh. That’s insane. Insaaane,” Ryan grumbled, shaking his head. “This is all crazy, really. I mean, not the anime fandom thing, I’m totally about that life. But the traffic, the costumes, the crowds, getting up this early for it, dropping all that money on parking and badges and whatnot… it’s dedication. It’s dedication and I’m impressed. My hat is officially off to all of you people. Aw fudge, I left my hat in the car…”

Chloe rolled her eyes, and considered increasing her stride and leaving him behind then and there. Brian may have been the typical misogynistic sub-human male, but at least he wasn’t also a melodramatic clown like Ryan here. I thought it’d be fun hanging out with a bisexual guy, but no, it’s literally the worst.

The effeminate way Ryan acted seemed unnatural, exaggerated to her, as though he were actually mocking women, and over the course of their trip she’d gradually grown more and more irritated with him. When gay or bisexual guys emulate the mannerisms of the fairer sex, is it cultural appropriation? I think I may have just found the perfect title for my next big Nibbler rant.

Saturday was the convention’s biggest day in terms of both events and attendees, and as ever, the turnout was staggeringly impressive. Many were dressed in casual geek attire—simple T-shirts or hoodies emblazoned with anime logos—but there was an abundance of cosplayers as well. Some came wielding enormous prop weapons, others were making last-minute adjustments to brightly-colored wigs, and still more jockeyed for position in group photos in front of the convention’s gigantic banner. There was everything from flocks of simple schoolgirls to lone dragon knights in intricately-detailed armor, and the crowds pouring through the entranceways and into AnimeCon formed a discordant mess as anime fans arrived from all over the entire coast.

The pavilion hosting the convention was bright and open; the interior was several stories tall, with an artfully designed lattice of skylights and steel girders forming the roof high overhead. The grandiose arrangement of the concourses between the convention halls, and the enormity of AnimeCon’s main lobby itself would have seemed excessive—if not for the fact that many areas were already filling to capacity.

The convention was positively teeming with activity, and as they worked their way throughout the mob and inside towards the ominous sight of the registration line, Chloe was disgusted to notice that the trend towards skimpy outfits had certainly continued. Walking just ahead of them was a young woman cosplaying the Sweet Fairy from Labyrinth Chef, and she was wearing a sparkling bodysuit fitted so tightly to every contour of her asscrack that nothing was left to the imagination. A trio of western superheroines in daringly high-cut spandex were strutting and striking sexy poses for cameras, and over there was an airheaded-looking girl dressed as Akane Kurokawa chatting with a group of nerds—seemingly oblivious to the fact that her tits were nearly spilling out of her loose yukata every time she laughed.

Used goods whores trying to out-slut each other for attention, same as last year, Chloe thought, making a noise of disgust deep in her throat.

“Okay yeah, damn,” Ryan mouthed dramatically as he squinting towards the banners above the registration tables across the convention hall. They were tiny, barely-visible blips in the distance past the crowds. The row of fans and cosplayers queuing up there for their convention badges was comically long, stretching several thousand people and encompassing the full length of the enormous lobby. “Are we gonna be waiting to get our badges for hours? This is insane.”

“Usually I’d have my pass pre-ordered,” Chloe griped, glancing about as they shuffled into the ranks of the line. “My ex was all nitpicky and meticulous about that kind of stuff. So I mean… yeah, I guess we have to wait this time.”

“Bet you’re relieved to be all free and single now, though, huh?” Ryan asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh my god, you have no idea,” Chloe whined, rolling her eyes. “Everything always turned into such an argument with him. It’s like, hello? I have feminist studies and statistics that scientifically prove that I’m right. In fact, if you’re trying to argue with me instead of listening obediently until I’ve finished, and then asking if I’d even like to hear your stupid, unwarranted, sexist opinion… you’re already wrong.”

“Oh hey look, isn’t she that one guy from Shinobi Souls?” Ryan asked distractedly, pointing over towards a girl wearing bushy false eyebrows, a fake beard, and scale-mail armor fashioned out of throwing stars laced together. “ How long do you think it took her to make that, huh? That’s freakin’ amazing. She’s supposed to be, uh… Saburo, right?”

“Yeah, Saburo,” Chloe judged, not giving the girl more than an indifferent glance. I’ve seen better.

“Hey, are you gonna be cosplaying too?” Ryan asked, gesturing with his cup towards her bulging drawstring bag.

“Ehh, no, not this year,” Chloe lied, shifting the bag further behind her. “Last year, I was Hera, though. Hera from HellState?”

“Is that the one where it’s like, religions versus government?” Ryan wondered aloud as he scanned the crowds for more cosplays he might recognize. “But like, they’re actually fighting it out with guns and stuff?”

“Yeah, sorta. Guns and magic. Hera’s the one that—”

“Uh, wow, toxic masculinity much?” Ryan scoffed, nodding towards an enormously muscled bodybuilder wearing a horned helm and a leather kilt. The giant man was walking parallel to the line, heckling the attendees in an obnoxiously overdone Austrian accent.

Just gonna interrupt me and talk over me, huh? Yeah, cool. I’m just a woman, feel free to stifle my right to speak up, Chloe glowered, giving Ryan yet another red mark in her head.

“I hear people ask, Brick-cloud, how I become great like you?” The barbarian in the horned helm called out as he passed their part of the line. “I tell you how you become great like me. You preorder convention pass and walk proud instead of stand in line like wimpy cabbage-eater.”

Aw, Chloe thought as she watched Ryan’s scowl in amusement. Is the scrawny little boy feeling all jealous and insecure when he sees a muscular manly man? Pathetic…

“Ugh, he’s right, too. If only I’d known to preorder…” Ryan grumbled. “Next year for sure, though…”

“Well anyways, speaking of toxic masculinity, get this,” Chloe began, toying with her hair. “My ex, that Brian, I found out a few months ago that he was still standing up to pee. Yeah. In this day and age.”

“…Standing up when he pees? Is that…?”

“Yeah. Instead of sitting down to pee like a normal human being, he’s apparently been just like, standing there, spraying piss through the air, like an animal. And just hoping some of it winds up in the toilet, I guess. Uh, hello? We all have to breathe this same air you’re pissing through? It’s unhygienic. It’s so unhygienic, there’ve been studies. I mean, you don’t try to pee while you’re standing up, do you?”

“Uhhh, well yeah that’s one thing, but I’m not sure that’s really toxic masculinity,” Ryan deflected, sipping his coffee. “Toxic masculinity is like, gender attitudes that—”

“That’s not the point,” Chloe snapped. “And you don’t get to decide how to define toxic masculinity. Men don’t—”

“Toootally do,” Ryan disagreed. “English major! BA-zing! Deciding how best to define things is like, my life.”

“Yeah, well… whatever, then,” Chloe frowned, crossing her arms. What machismo bullshit. His first reaction isn’t to support me, to complement my words and ideas. Or even to just listen quietly, fucking appreciate what he could learn from the valuable new perspective I present. No, just like Brian, instead he ’considers things objectively’, which is nonsense. ’Considering things objectively’ is just that man-splaining way of saying that their narrow, pre-programmed, male worldviews are too tiny to be challenged by progressive new ideas.

And to think… I’d hoped you were going to be different somehow, Chloe sighed, looking at Ryan again and realizing he really didn’t seem nearly as handsome or progressive anymore now that he’d just about outlived his usefulness. But, on the other hand, maybe that’s really the one saving grace males actually do contribute to society… the fact that they’re so expendable. Sorry, Ryan. As a single-use, disposable boyfriend… you’ve served out your purpose, and that’s that. Sorry… no, not sorry.

“Hey… yeah, um, I’m just gonna freshen up rea—lly quick,” Chloe laughed, abruptly excusing herself. “Keep this spot in line for me, ‘kay?”

“Uh yeah, cool. I’ll probs still be right here at the rate this line’s moving. Hurry up, though! I need someone to talk to, or it’s weird,” Ryan called, his voice already fading as she darted away through the massive gathering of people.

As if I’m going to wait with you in line for an hour like a moron, Chloe strode on, rolling her eyes. I have a badge already, a three-day pass. Brian is just… well, he’s holding onto it for me. Would’ve still had the damned thing if not for that little goblin’s meddling.

Brian’ll already be back in my arms by the time you get here, Emily. Aww, too bad. Can’t wait to see the look on your face when you realize that he’s still mine. This time, I’ll have broken and tamed him, and then he’ll always be mine. You never had a chance. What’d you think, that you could just swoop in and pick up the pieces?

He’d never have any feelings for a weird little girl like you anyways, Chloe decided, smiling to herself. She’d always thought Emily’s little crush on Brian was cute, in a rather pathetic way. After all, if Brian had ever shown any real interest in that little girl, Chloe would’ve called the police and reported him as a pedophile, or some kind of child predator. So what if Emily’s twenty-three now? She’s five-foot-one and barely has an A-cup, so hello? She practically has the body of a thirteen-year-old, and that would basically still make it a crime.

Fuck, Chloe gritted her teeth as she arrived at the nearest restroom. Too crowded. A dozen girls, in staggered groups of ones and twos, were entering the ladies’ room, while another seven or so were coming out. She’d hoped arriving so early would give her some space and privacy at a mirror to get into her cosplay, but chances of that now looked slim. Chloe was, of course, anxious to get dressed, because now her costume would be just as much a disguise; she’d look nothing like she did when she waltzed into the convention this morning, rendering her safely anonymous and preemptively avoiding any more awkward encounters with Ryan.

How long will it be before that queer even realizes he’s been ditched? Chloe wondered. She turned on her heel and headed away from everyone, a long trek down the convention center’s concourse all the way from AnimeCon in convention hall D towards the next one over, hall C. Last year, when AnimeCon had been adjacent to a national cheerleading tournament, this area had been a sea of already-stuck-up-looking teens and tweens in uniforms being ushered about by coaches and parents. The horrified, shocked looks they’d given the anime geeks had been oddly satisfying, but it looked like there was no tournament here this year.

Chloe smirked, letting her mind wander back toward Brian. Her plan was going off without a hitch. She was going to accidentally run into him somewhere at the convention today, and he was going to be a miserable, despondent mess. How couldn’t he be? The love of his life packed up her things and left without saying a word. Except for that one stunted little sycophant, just about all his friends are now estranged and distant. His eagerly-anticipated little AnimeCon event has instead become a live-fire exercise in depression and loneliness.

But darling… now I’m here, Chloe mocked in her head. The textbook carrot and stick approach; I’ll be the one to comfort him, to end this farce of a break-up and accept him back when he has nothing, no one else to depend on. At just the right moment, of course; when he’s at his absolute lowest. Emily may have planned to show up, to be there for him on Sunday, but by then it will be too late. Brian will have already desperately grabbed onto this one last lifeline I offer him. He’ll cave, he’ll capitulate, he’ll completely submit himself to my rule.

Most of their local convention group had been goaded into believing that Brian had issues, so dissuading each of them from the trip this year hadn’t taken much work. She’d taken special care to mention to everyone that Brian had pretty much lost interest in attending AnimeCon with their local group, even hinting that he was too embarrassed to cosplay anymore since he’d put on weight and was too pudgy to fit into his old costumes now.

Hah, as if. He wastes an hour every morning jogging, and spent hours every weekend trying to work on his new costumes. How retarded is that?

But regardless, everybody bought it. Everyone except Emily, that wretched little goblin, Chloe remembered, scowling. However, with word going around that their convention plans had fallen through this year—and more importantly Chloe deleting Emily’s insistent pestering asking him about it from Brian’s messages—the obnoxious little runt had finally seemed to concede and let the matter drop.

Mike and Will, Brian’s awful, misogynistic ‘guy’ friends, were disappointed that the annual group outing wasn’t happening, but just as quickly made new plans for that weekend, out riding drakes, which from their posts on social media had something to do with dirtbiking through the woods and coming out scratched and bloody. Idiots. Of course, if Michael wasn’t going, then his girlfriend Tanya had no reason to call off work so that she could tag along.

Mark actually was still going to AnimeCon, but if previous years were any indication, his support or interference would be a non-issue. He wouldn’t leave the confines of the gaming room where the Mana: the Mastery game tournaments were being held, trapped by his own obsession with those stupid cards.

Of the three Beccas, Becky had disappeared off with a new boyfriend, while Hipster Becca had gotten herself involved in an artsy summer film project. Only the weird one, Rebecca, had been too socially removed to not take the hints, but even then she was probably only attending Sunday because Emily needed a ride.

Next year, it’ll only be [i]my friends coming with us to the convention. Monique and Tom. Britta, myself, and Brian. Maybe Amy?[/i] She pondered for a moment before mentally excluding Amy. No, not Amy. Can’t have too many white girls in our group, or we won’t look very diverse.

This year, hall C appeared to be in the process of setting up for some kind of business expo, but there were only a handful of people in suits around, and none accosted her as she made her way to their nearest restroom.

“Alright. Time to transform!” Chloe exclaimed upon entering the empty restroom, unable to stop herself from striking a dramatic pose for a pre-costume selfie. There was, however, no following whimsical makeover montage of colored light and sparkles. Instead, she wrenched open the mouth of her drawstring bag and squeezed and pushed that bulging bag inside-out until it vomited its contents out upon the faux-marble of the sink’s vanity.

Unrolling her costume and separating her wig pieces from a cute anime handbag and her makeup case, she began to change. Her comfy flats came off, followed by her halter top, and with a practiced flick of her thumbs her brief denim cutoffs dropped down her lovely legs to the tile. Practicing a demure smile in the mirror for a moment, Chloe proudly admired the graceful lines of her body. Rather than underwear, she wore her camisole-style gymnastics leotard from dance class, which perfectly accentuated her lithe figure. Besides, it was in a nude-colored beige that would be unnoticeable under her costume.

She then stepped into a pair of buruma pantsu, which turned out to be a rather plain pair of Japanese sport panties, and pulled them up to a snug fit with a satisfying snap of elastic. After that, she pulled her sailor fuku on over her head. It was a stylized version of the naval-style Japanese school uniform; the blouse had a traditional blue sailor collar that tied into a bow, and for the sake of simplicity, the accompanying pleated blue skirt was directly affixed to the bottom hem with a line of stitches. Her costume shoes were blue ballet slippers with ribbons that wrapped about her ankles and then laced up into decorative bows.

Leaning in close to her reflection, she began sectioning off her dark hair into ring curls; twirling lengths of hair around her finger, then quickly rolling them up and pinning them close to her scalp with bobby-pins. In this way her untidy mane of hair disappeared, portion by portion, into tight little bundles about her head, and she had the whole mess fitted securely under a wig cap in no time at all.

Then she donned the most complex part of her outfit; her monstrous three-part wig. The main part was a short blonde hairpiece, front bangs pre-styled with spray, while the weave of strands in the back were pulled tight towards two clip points. There she would attach her pair of twin-tail wig pieces, her ‘drills’, which were basically elaborate extensions, big and exaggerated fluffy ringlet spirals of blonde hair that gave the illusion of enormous, needlessly complex anime-style pigtails.

She’d put circle lenses in earlier this morning, contacts that gave her bigger blue pupils, so now she brought her makeup case into play to finish the job. Liquid liner formed a thick black line along her top eyelid, and she drew with her white eyeliner pencil along the entirety of her lower lid, exaggerating the size of her eyes. Finally, false eyelashes were glued into place, an easier ordeal than one would expect as she positioned them well outside her lashline to make her eyes seem ever so subtly larger.

Tweaking the hidden wires that kept her pigtails in their distinctive ‘drill’ shapes, Chloe formed a sweet, coquettish smile, and posed in the mirror for several follow-up selfies. Virtually any anime fan would recognize her as Himari, the princess of justice who was immensely popular in the past decade. Magical Doll Himari was basically the leading series of the magical girl genre in the States, and, of course, as the sexy main character, she was any male otaku’s wet dream.

“Yeeeah, I’m kawaii as fuck,” she decided, satisfied. Besides, I look amazing, and no one has the right to tell me what I can and can’t wear. This wasn’t about slutting up or being objectified, of course—she’d simply planned to wear a costume Brian had never seen her in before, and moreover, one he would never expect to see her in. Typically, Chloe cosplayed emotionless and grim characters like Hera Victoria, a dark-haired professional assassin who wore a stately gray pantsuit and dual-wielded a pair of magical handguns. By comparison, Magical Doll Himari was a bright, fluffy, and naive character—there was no way Brian would recognize her at a glance. She would rightfully be in control of their first encounter here today.

Pushing her lips out in an exaggerated pout and flashing her fingers in a ‘V’ for another costumed selfie, she thumbed out a few lines and a handful of tags for her social blog on Nibbler.

♡ at animecon figuring things out!! remember that each and every day is full of blessings!!! love you all!!! ♡

#cosplaycutie #excited #imsuchanerd #animecon #magicaldollhimari #relationship

Nibbler’s loading screen played for a moment, a stylized animation of minnows poking at the silhouettes of junk discarded in water, before it indicated a successful post. Chloe stared at it expectantly, not lowering her phone until she’d gotten her first nibble from her followers.

She’d ‘posted a bit’, which counted for an eighth of a byte; each nibble she got counted as a half-byte, and every byte she accumulated would move her up the daily rankings on the indie micro-blogging site and increase her popularity. There’s tons of Himari fan rings on Nibbler. Maybe a flood of new followers will help commemorate today?

She tucked her oversized sunglasses into one of her flats and her makeup case into the other, rolled the flats up in her jean cutoffs and then her halter top, and finally fit the small bundle neatly into her anime handbag. The cheap drawstring bag she haphazardly tossed towards the restroom wastebin on her way out. She didn’t really need it anymore—it had been Brian’s in the first place anyways.

I can’t wait to find him, Chloe thought as a disdainful smile formed, all anxious and unsettled. Will he even bother wearing that stupid new costume he was so excited about, or has he just been sulking and pouting all weekend? Can’t wait to see him… with all of that stupid, stubborn resolve of his emptied out. Will he even be able to make eye contact with me?

I can’t wait for his apology. For whatever weak, empty male discourse of excuses that half-cooked slab of meat he calls a brain has come up with over the past week. Can’t wait to see him finally swallow all of that stupid, bull-headed masculine pride, discard all of his oh-so-clever little ‘logical arguments’, and simply accept his proper place. Can’t wait to see him begging me to take him back!

Oh, of course I’ll take you back, darling. But on my terms. I’ll rescue you, the emotionally impotent man, from your pitiful, lonely circumstances. But you’ll be making some major concessions this time around… we’re no longer going to pretend to be equals in this relationship. This break-up was your wake-up call, your reality-check.

She was really looking forward to seeing the effect this little bit of honest suffering had on Brian. How it improved his temperament, how much more receptive to her instruction it would make him. To Chloe, this whole ordeal was an important lesson in humility he was long overdue in learning.

Stalking her way confidently back towards Hall D, she glanced at her phone and realized it was still earlier in the morning than she’d thought. Still no reply, huh? Six forty-five AM… you’ll be out already then, doing that useless morning jog of yours, like the clockwork little automaton you are. Yeah, keep trying to outrun your problems, Brian. They’re always going to catch up with you.

• • •

Stephanie’s blue eyes fluttered open to first see a soft pink tangle of hair spreading across her pillowcase, and for a moment she simply stared, lost in sleepy confusion. Then she lurched up rigidly in alarm, brushing those brightly-colored locks out of her eyes, and surveyed her surroundings. This… isn’t my dorm room. That’s right, I’m at the convention. I’m in—I’m in Brian’s hotel room!

Last night, the small hotel room had been lit by the intimate illumination of the end table lamp, a warm and cozy light. Now, the muted white daylight seeping around the edges of the curtain revealed what seemed an entirely different room, disorienting and unfocused. Did all of last night, that game, Brian… going down on me, did that really happen?

Brian was already gone, his absence forming a conspicuous valley in the covers between Stephanie and the shape of another girl at the other side of the bed. That’s right… he was in the middle—Kelly was very insistent about that. Did he already leave for his morning run? Stephanie wondered. The last thing she remembered before drifting off to sleep was cuddling up beside him in a daze of contentment.

Letting out a cute yawn, Stephanie flopped back down again and clumsily rolled to slap a hand towards the nightstand, grasping for her rather plain pair of glasses. After carefully donning them, she sat up and looked around the room as if to confirm that all of the blurred fixtures had appropriately sharpened to waking clarity.

As she turned to regard the other remaining occupant of the small room, Stephanie frowned. Something was off, looked ever so subtly different, and after a moment of observation, Stephanie realized that now all of Kelly’s makeup was gone. Without cosmetic emphasis, her resting face seemed lovely rather than sexy, and it struck a chord within Stephanie. The girl’s neatly coiffured scene hairstyle was now an ordinary mussy tangle, and her serene expression, her unguarded posture; all of it made her appear more natural, seem more real.

Even beneath it all, without all of the makeup and style, she’s still just so pretty, Stephanie thought—but rather than envious, she felt oddly proud of her new friend.

“Kelly? Are you… are you awake?” Stephanie whispered softly across the bed. “Kelly? I think… I might be in love with him.”

For a few moments she thought Kelly might have actually been asleep, but then the dark-haired girl stirred and turned to make a face at her, eyes still closed. It was not the face of someone who enjoyed mornings.

“Steph. You’ve only known him for one day.”

“I-I know,” Stephanie hurriedly said, her face flushing red. “I know. That’s why I said I think I might be instead of I am, and really… that’s why I wanted to talk, if that’s okay…?”

Kelly snorted, rubbing her face blearily, and sighed into her pillow, laying still long enough for Stephanie to wonder if she’d simply decided to go back to sleep.

“Okay. So, talk, then,” Kelly finally grunted, leaving her eyes closed. “Why d’you think you’re in love with him? He that good with his tongue?”

“I…I, uh…” Stephanie tried to begin, before realizing that while she had a million things she needed to say, she didn’t know how to put any of those feelings properly into words. It’s so much more than that… “Because I’ve never izmit escort felt this way before—”


Realizing how cliche she must have sounded, Stephanie hurriedly continued, “And I, uhm, I want to keep feeling this way. This, uh, the way he makes me feel, I want to always feel this way. I, I… don’t want to go back to the way it was. I can’t go back.” I need him. Maybe… maybe I’ve always really needed him.

“You’ve got a crush on ‘im,” Kelly murmured into her pillow. “S’your first guy ya did things with. S’a crush. That’s all. Chill out and go back to sleep.”

“Oh,” Stephanie breathed, frowning, and felt disappointment sink deep down into her. It’s just a crush… “What does… does it, uh, b-but what does this really… mean? What should I do?”

“Ugh, Steph,” Kelly grumbled, sounding aggravated. “You know the phrase, ’love at first sight?’ Well, it doesn’t mean love, it means infatuation. It’s… you know, hormones and chemicals, endorphins and shit going on in your brain, in your whole body. It’ll go away eventually. Always does.”

“Wh-what if the feeling for Brian doesn’t ever go away?” Stephanie asked, a little appalled. The attraction is strong… overwhelming, even. But, isn’t there also more to it than that? So much more?

“Hell if I know,” Kelly said, nuzzling deeper into her pillow. “Getting yourself all hung up on just one guy? Sounds like you’d be totally fucked, then.”

“Fu—?” Stephanie bit back the word and tried to continue. “Uh, h-how so?”

“Calm down, drama queen,” Kelly muttered reassuringly, pursing her lips to blow errant strands of her hair out of her face. “You’ll be fine. It’ll go away.”

I don’t want it to ever go away, Stephanie already knew. What if… what if I’m already totally… fucked? She adjusted herself in the covers, laying down on her tummy this time, and hid her uneasy smile into her own pillow.

“What… should I do?” Stephanie wondered aloud.

“Beats me,” Kelly said. “You’re on your own. And I mean, you’re really on your own. I’m bailing on you guys—I’m gonna find someplace else to crash for tonight.”

“Wha—you’re, you’re what?” Stephanie sputtered, and rose up onto her elbows, a little shocked.

“I said, I’m not staying with you guys for another night. I’m gonna find somewhere else, some other room.” Kelly clarified, turning away from Stephanie to lay on her side, giving her the shoulder. “You’re both on your own from now on.”

“D-did something… um, is someth—anything wrong? Do you have to leave?”

“Hah. Well, you see, last night, after our little game, after we got all settled in and cozy under the covers together… he held my hand,” Kelly scoffed.

“He held your hand?” Stephanie asked, feeling lost.

“Okay, so he was in the middle, between us, right? I was gonna just, sorta… let my hand wander over, see if anything came of it, you know?” Kelly grumbled. “But nope, no dice. He takes my hand, stops me, just fuckin’ holds it. I’m giving him a look, like, seriously? And he sorta glances back at me, like he thinks I’m just kidding around. I was like, dork, I am not playing. I will fuck you.

“Didn’t actually say anything, though. I was all so hyped up and, I dunno, expecting things, that I was kinda laying there in disbelief, I guess. Waiting for him to make up his mind, to make a move, or something.” Kelly muttered. “And before I knew it, the both of you fucked off to sleep. I was pissed. Still am pissed. And I don’t even know why anymore, like, what did I even expect from you two dorks?”

“We, ah, it was… I’m sorry,” Stephanie managed, embarrassment burning across her cheeks. To be honest, Stephanie barely even registered going to bed last night. I was so out of it, I went out like a light after… after we… “Y-you really can’t stay with us?”

“Look, sorry, but I’m frustrated,” Kelly continued in a sigh of sulking resentment, and she flipped back the bed sheet in vexation. Beneath it, she was wearing the same black tank top she’d worn last night. “I didn’t really sleep, because I was so… frustrated. You know? I barely slept, and takin’ a shower while you two were all passed out didn’t help me cool off any.

“And I tripped over someone’s bag over there in the dark trying to see the mirror a bit,” Kelly hissed. “If one of you guys’ over-stuffed fuckin’ bags has a big ol’ foot-sized fuckin’ angry dent in it, s’your own fuckin’ fault. Fuck.”

“S-sorry,” Stephanie meekly apologized again, unsure of just where she’d left her travel bag as they were settling in last night. It was all still a blur to her. “That was maybe—um, might have been me. Er, mine.”

“It’s fine, whatever. I’m just… ugh. Just really not used to getting myself all worked up for somethin’, all night long, and then not getting any attention. I know, I know, I was tryin’ to help you guys out, but… well, fuck. I have needs, too. I don’t wanna get all pissy and wind up being a moody cunt to you guys all day, so… I’m gonna split.”

“Oh,” Stephanie managed, not knowing what else to say. “I just, I mean, I don’t think I can thank you enough for what you’ve, uh, the ways you helped. I never could have called, could have asked him if we could… It’s—I, well, I can barely even talk to p-people most of the time.”

“Yeah—I noticed,” Kelly remarked in a dry tone.

“An-and, that kind of… um, intimacy last night, getting there wi-with someone on my own, it was just, it’s… it’s always been so far out of my reach,” Stephanie explained helplessly. “If you hadn’t been here… I would have just been my, well, me. My same, u-uh, usual boring self. And nothing would have happened, n-nothing would have changed. And now—now everything’s changed. Do you really have to go? I just, I wish you would stay…”

“Yeah? Well, gimme a reason to,” Kelly challenged.

“I feel like, like all of us were having fun, though? I don’t think that it’ll… um, that things will keep, ah, being like they have been, fun like they have been, without you here,” Stephanie admitted, trying not to sound unappreciative. “Oh! And there’s also that little, um, promise you made…”

“Promise?” Kelly huffed. “What promise? What, that I’d wear his stupid goth dress?”

“The promise that, um, you know… that sometime this weekend, all three of us were going to…?”

“…Going to fuck?” Kelly finished for her, twisting the sheets about her legs in surprise as she turned and rose up on one elbow to face Stephanie. “Uh, that was a secret… not a promise. Why, you wanna make it a promise?”

“O-oh, right,” Stephanie said, visibly flustered. “It was… just a secret. But if—I mean, does that—”

“Do you really… want that? I mean, I figured… well, it means Brian wouldn’t just be with you?” Kelly interrupted, a gleam in her eyes. “You, well… are you okay with that? With sharing?”

“I don’t see how that’s, um, up to me to dec-decide? He doesn’t belong to—”

“Look, are you gonna get all hurt and jealous if… no, when me and Brian happen to get intimate?” Kelly bluntly asked. “And by intimate I mean we’re going to fuck. Some really rough, loud and possibly violent sex.”

“I d-don’t think so,” Stephanie answered, staring intently at her fidgeting fingers as her face flushed red. “I, um. Think you might be meaning passionate rather than, ah, rather than intimate. I never really thought that I would—uh, d-do that, it’s not an… expectation that I ever really had for myself, s-so it’s hard to feel… upset about it. I did get a, a weird feeling, um, down in my stomach, when I—uh, when you had me watch you two kiss, last night, but I don’t think it was jealousy…”

“Like… a horrible, crushing feeling that made you feel like, y’know, breaking down and sobbing?” Kelly asked.

“N-no, no, nothing like that. It was, um, I… I almost joined in,” Stephanie confided, averting her eyes. “L-like you’d suggested, to try a, a th-three-way kiss. I, I didn’t, though! It was just a passing thought, an interesting, um… I don’t know. I’m blabbering. Sorry.”

“Okay then,” Kelly mused, her irritated expression with the morning finally giving way to a thoughtful one. “I’ll make ya a deal. You help me out this teensiest little bit, and I’ll stay—and I’ll even keep playin’ matchmaker. Then tonight, maybe, we’ll both get everything we really want. Sound perfect?”

“Everything we want?” Stephanie repeated, startled. “That’s, um, th-, it’s not just, uh, not just up to me? Not just up to us? What about what Brian wants?”

“Oh, we’ll get to that part, trust me, and then some,” Kelly chided, giving Stephanie a clever smile. “But what do you really want outta all of this?”

“Me? I think I want… more,” Stephanie admitted slowly, sounding guilty. “But not, um, not just… s-sexual, uh, things. Al-although I think… maybe I want that, too? I just, I don’t want it to end here. I want to have him, and for him to have me, however he wants—or, or what-whatever that ends up meaning. I want to be amazing like he thinks I am. I want to, to show him how amazing he is to me.”

Kelly let out an exasperated sigh, quirking her lip into a faint smile. “Sounds like you’ve got it bad, huh?”

“I-I do? It’s just, it’s, um, it’s scary. Does he, uh—I don’t know if he feels the same way, the way that I do, though, exactly,” Stephanie stammered. “I-I mean, he, he seems interested, but then he seems so reluctant, too—”

“Well, there’s all that, you know, weird shit with the relationship he just got out of… he like, doesn’t want to put all of that on you.” Kelly pointed out. “And he knows you don’t have any experience with this kinda stuff. You’re one of the reasons he’s holding back, you know?”

“That’s part of it, I think,” Stephanie realized, taking a deep breath. “I don’t want to be a problem, or, or a reason that he has to hold back, I don’t like that, I—I can’t stand that. I want to—I want to be the reason why he can’t hold back. Does that… make any sense? I… want him, all of him. I really think that I love—”

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Kelly interrupted quickly, an undercurrent of excitement appearing in her voice. “Yeah, you know… I could stick around, maybe, and we can make all of this happen. I could make sure it does, in fact. But… you’ll have to do something for me, too.”

“What do you need?” Stephanie asked, showing an earnest face full of determination.

“I’m frustrated,” Kelly mused. “And I’m sure as hell not gonna help out any more when I don’t know for sure if there’s, any, y’know… satisfaction comin’ this way. So, I want a little proof of your resolve, I want you to prove that you’re willin’ to put in some effort, too.”

“Okay, what do I do?” Stephanie asked breathlessly.

“Whatever you want,” Kelly instructed, wetting her lips. “When I get close… surprise me. Do you remember the way I was kissing you last night?” The dark-haired beauty drew her fingertips down the length of her own neck, watching Stephanie’s expression with slightly dazed eyes.

When she gets close? Surprise her? Stephanie thought to herself in dismay, conflicting emotions resurfacing all over again. Close to what? Close to me? She wants me to… maybe to express my feelings in my own way, and… impress her? But… just what are my feelings? What should I do here?

Kelly’s other hand innocuously drew the bed sheet back up across herself, as if to regain some modicum of modesty, and alarm bells began to go off in Stephanie’s head at the sheer incongruity of it.

What is she… Stephanie wondered, but then Kelly began to act, in a slow, sensual motion, a slight exhalation of breath, and a subtle shifting of the sheets. Oh. OH.

Feeling blood rush to her face, Stephanie finally realized exactly what it was that Kelly was doing. With the outline of Kelly’s arm was making in the blanket, trailing down to the juncture between her legs, there was really no mistaking what kind of itch Kelly was scratching. She’s… oh my God, she’s… masturbating. Right here. In front of another person—right in front of me!

There were sounds besides the increasing tempo of Kelly’s breathing… wet sounds. Feeling the mixture of shame, fascination, and excitement gripping her as she watched, Stephanie couldn’t look away. Stephanie was sure she wasn’t gay, but the sight had butterflies beating anxiously in her tummy all the same. That’s what she meant about… getting close. It’s what I felt in the shower, that sensation I wasn’t quite able to reach on my own, that maddening feeling, that something tangible just outside of my grasp. Then she wants me to…?

Stephanie blinked in surprise, doing a double-take and then unconsciously leaning in to peer more closely at a sudden discrepancy she’d just noticed amid Kelly’s dark hair. Three long strands stood out in a vibrant red color, starkly contrasting the girl’s loose tangle of fine black tresses.


“Hm? What now?”

“Kelly, your, uh… did you always have color here in your hair?”

“Well, h-hahh, s’not natural, if that’s what you mean,” Kelly replied with a breathless laugh, letting her fingers rest for a moment. “Think it’s like, colorsilk… midnight black or something. Why, are my roots showing?”

“N-no, no,” Stephanie insisted, “I mean, um, color. BRIGHT color. Like what’s been, uhm, what’s happened to my hair.”

Jolting up in alarm, Kelly flung back the sheets and pulled locks of dark hair before her eyes, sifting through the strands. “Are you fucking serious?”

Before Stephanie could form a reply, Kelly pushed up and off the bed, making her way over to the mirror above the sink.

“Uh, K-kelly, where are your pants?” Stephanie stammered out, catching a startling glimpse of the scene girl’s naked butt before she could look away. “Wh-where is your underwear?!”

“In the sheets somewhere?” Kelly answered. “Did you do this? Did you—did you guys mess with my hair?” She singled out the strands of bright red and turned towards the girl on the bed with a grave expression on her face.

“No,” Stephanie said, quickly averting her eyes again. She’s… she’s shaved bare down there, it’s…

“Did Brian do this? When did…. what’s going on?” Kelly grumbled, turning back towards the mirror. “Seriously, what the fuck, this isn’t funny. How long’s it been like this? Was it like this last night?”

“I-I don’t know,” Stephanie said. “I, uh, I didn’t notice anything, but I wasn’t paying much, um, I-I was… distracted, and the room was, it was dark…”

“This isn’t possible,” Kelly decided out loud. “You were blond enough that your hair can take color, like, right away. I’m not. You’d’ve had to like… bleach out my dark first, and then have color set in my hair for… it’s impossible. I was awake most of the goddamned night, and even still, I would’ve woken up if you’d… There’d be a chemical smell, an ammonia… it’s… it’s not possible.”

“M-maybe some, uh, stain from my hair spread out and… rubbed off in yours… somehow?” Stephanie offered bleakly, inspecting her pillowcase for any colorations.

“Yeah, uh, no,” Kelly refuted right away. “Your hair isn’t stained with sharpie anyways. We threw that theory out last night, remember?”

“We did?” Stephanie asked, confused.

“Yeah. ‘Cause it wouldn’t really explain why your carpet matches your drapes, now, would it?” Kelly growled.

“It’s… what? Carpet… matches my drapes? Wh-what do you mean?” Stephanie asked, looking uneasy.

“The hell do you think I mean?! Take a look, down there,” Kelly suggested, slapping water from the faucet into the red strands of hair. “Your little, uh, tuft down there is pink now—just like all the hair on your head? You’re one-hundred percent pink now, even your brows.”

Stephanie reluctantly pulled upon the elastic of her pajama pants to take a peek inside, finding her sparse thatch of pubic hair was now the same shade of bright pink that had spread across her head.

“Oh my God, it’s… it’s pink. Wh-when did… why is it pink?”

“It’s really more of a red,” Kelly argued, leaning in as close as she could to the mirror and dabbing water from the faucet. “This stuff really isn’t coming out. Fuuuck. How bad does it look? Is it bad?”

“N-no, I meant, um, me. I’m pink,” Stephanie stammered, dumbfounded. “I’m pink down—”

“Uh… yeah, we saw that already. Last night after he… uh, well, how much of last night do you even remember?” Kelly asked.

“Y-you saw?” Stephanie’s hands went to her face. “Uh, I remember that he, um… H-he—”

“Ate you out?” Kelly suggested, working the red strands of hair between her fingers. “Licked and spit your lickety-split? Frenched your fissure, made out with your muff? Cleaned your cla—”

“St-stop, stop, please,” Stephanie protested, pulling the comforter over her head for a moment in embarrassment. “Yes. I… I remember. I do remember that. I remember.”

“So what, Brian has like, the Midas touch? Whatever he kisses really does pop into technicolor? The Midas kiss?”

“Maybe?” Stephanie frowned. What would that mean we’re turning into? “Did you, um… feel anything strange when Brian kissed you last night? Like a weird sort of… heat?”

“Well… I guess so. It was definitely strange, yeah,” Kelly admitted. “Not bad strange. Like, good strange. REALLY good strange.”

“Y-yeah,” Stephanie breathed in agreement, running her hands through her own pink locks nervously. Good strange. REALLY good strange. That seems exactly right. “But, well, wh-what should we—”

“Well, I’ve definitely gotta try kissing him again, then,” Kelly proposed, turning her head at an angle again in the mirror so that she could see the strands of red. “Right?”

“You, uh, is that… a good idea, though?” Stephanie said cautiously. “I mean, we, um, we don’t know what’s—”

“No, I mean, just look at it. It’s not bad for a little splotch of color, but it’s all too small, and too far back. If you’re gonna have bright accents like this, you have ‘em like, right up beside your bangs, or down here as peekaboo highlights,” Kelly said, draping her hair in front of her shoulder and tugging on the tips for emphasis.

“I… I guess that makes sense?” Stephanie sounded unsure.

“Yeah, it totally does. You didn’t think it’s just ‘cause I wanna make out with him, did you?” Kelly laughed, rolling her eyes. “I mean, like that would even factor. He’s just a cute guy who’s also fuckin’ amazing with his hands, you know. That’s all. It’s not like I was even paying attention when he had you squealing last night. Yeah, that didn’t even register. I’m just testing out this hair theory, Stephanie, this is for science.”

“I squealed?!—W-was I squealing?” Stephanie squeaked, slapping her hands over her face.

“Mm-hmm. How was it, by the way? He made you cum, right?” Kelly’s eyes flashed, and she arched her back, skimming her fingertips along to trace the silhouette of her own naked hips. “And that’s only the beginning. The things we can still get up to this weekend… well, don’t’cha get all wet just thinkin’ about it?” The scene girl’s bare skin seemed perfect, and her body was exquisite, but what Stephanie found herself admiring even more was Kelly’s confidence in so brazenly displaying it all.

I need—I need to stop gawking and actually get up, Stephanie thought, pointedly ignoring Kelly’s question and kicking back the comforter to finally hop out of the bed herself. There was a strange, uncomfortable tightness in the muscle of her inner thighs from spreading her legs open for so long last night.

“C-can you put—put your pants on, please,” Stephanie stuttered out.

“Yeah, whatever,” Kelly sighed, crossing the room to fish her pants off the floor beside the bed.

“Wh-what about your underwear?” Stephanie asked as she watched Kelly begin to tug the black skinny jeans up her naked legs.

“These?” Kelly asked, picking her panties out of the sheets and flinging them to a corner beside the bathroom door. “What about them?” I’ve got a spare pair in my purse, obviously.”

“But, you’re um, not going to wear them?” Stephanie asked pointedly. And who’s supposed to pick up that pair you threw?! What if Brian sees them?

“Nah, think I’ll keep ‘em handy, instead,” Kelly explained, fishing a tiny bundle of black string and elastic out of her purse and waggling it. It took Stephanie a moment to realize that what Kelly held was not a hair-tie but in fact a very skimpy pair of panties. Is that a g-string? “Easier for me to… you know, give him the key to the city this way, if you catch my drift? He can start a l’il collection.”

Because he already has a pair of mine, Stephanie remembered, feeling the blood rush to her face. I wonder what he’ll even do with them? After that game of truth or dare had ended, she’d put just her pajama pants back on, a realization that was making her self-conscious all over again. She was going as commando as Kelly was at the moment.

“Well, anyways, we need to get to the bottom of all this hair color nonsense, and figure out what’s really going on. How ‘bout a little kissing? At least… for starters,” Kelly suggested.

“Kissing Brian?” Stephanie asked. “But won’t that—”

“No, I mean, we can just kiss each other now, can’t we? Something weird might happen, right? For all we know, you could be the reason it happens. Don’t we need to experiment a little bit if we’re gonna figure this out and solve this mystery? And don’t you still need to hold up your end of our little deal?”

“K-kissing?” Stephanie choked. “But we’re both, uhm—we’re both girls.”

“Yeah?” Kelly smirked. “Is that a problem? Didn’tcha say when we played the game that you weren’t against kissing another girl? What… were you lying?”

“I-I wasn’t lying, I just, I’ve never—um, I’ve only kissed one Brian. I mean, one person. Brian before. I’ve only kissed one person before. And it was Brian.” Stephanie struggled out, terribly flustered.

“So, what, even after everything, am I no good?” Kelly challenged, giving Stephanie a playful pout. “You’re okay with kissing girls, just not me? Last night, when I proposed that three-way kiss, I only even brought it up ’cause I was… thinking of you. Do you really not like me?”

“D-don’t do that, please,” Stephanie pleaded.

“Do what?”

“What you’re, um, what you’re doing,” Stephanie said. “I-I don’t like it. I’m not against k-kissing you, I guess. I’m, I’m just… scared, not stupid. I don’t like it when you pretend—uh, when you twist all the words to get things the way you want them. It’s, it makes it, I—I get even more uncomfortable. I’m sorry.”

“You…” Kelly began, but the seemingly limitless reservoir of smartass remarks she was so used to relying on had abruptly run dry, and no words came out of her open mouth. She took a step closer to Stephanie.

“It’s not you!” Stephanie hurriedly explained, a trace of panic appearing in her eyes. “It’s, my anxiety, it—”

“No, you’re right,” Kelly mused, the hint of a smile flickering across her face as she seemed to regard Stephanie in a new light. “I keep forgetting, I guess, that you’re not just… well, that everybody has their reasons, I ‘spose?”

“I d-didn’t mean that I don’t—”

But a hand had already found its way around the back of Stephanie’s fluffy pink head, and the shy girl was unable to finish as Kelly pressed in and stole her lips.

The abrupt moment was nothing like the kisses Stephanie had shared with Brian. The other girl’s face was so much smoother, her lips softer, almost pillowy, even—but the biggest contrast was a subtle flavor of impatience that came across. All of it was nice, it felt good, in a way that was making that glow of warmth rise up within her, but that startling raw need she felt from Kelly was just such a marked difference from Brian’s steadfast and cool kiss. The butterflies she felt within her tummy were frantically beating their little wings in flickering flashes of pink and red, and Stephanie rocked unsteadily on her feet.

Sucking me in… It was as though there was an empty space, a void existing within this girl, a vacuum that Kelly was desperate to fill. The taste of her, the sensation of the bold girl’s tongue darting inside her mouth, the strange way it made the flames inside of her twist and curl—all of these pleasant distractions swirled together into a dazzling pink cloud that almost kept Stephanie from noticing the sound of the door to their hotel room opening.

Stunned, the girls turned in unison from their kiss to see Brian standing in the door of the hotel room, holding a plastic bag distorted by the shapes of takeout boxes within. A simple white tee hung down to a pair of navy blue gym shorts, besides which he wore only a battered pair of running shoes and a slight sheen of sweat. His tousled hair was even damp, and the mere sight of him was accompanied by a sudden spike in temperature deep within Stephanie. Oh… Oh! Oh my God, we were…!

“Th-th-this isn’t what it looks like—!” Stephanie exclaimed guiltily, staggering back from Kelly. “I—she—we were, th-this was, it was—”

“Oh c’mon, it’s a little what it looked like,” Kelly muttered in a sly tone, and flashed Brian her trademark devious smile. “We were just getting a little experimental—oops, I mean, trying out this little experiment.”

“A m-mis-misunderstanding!” Stephanie giggled, “It’s, in anime, uh, l-like in an anime where—”

“No, uhhh… yeah, it’s cool,” Briah coughed, looking away because he couldn’t hide his grin. “I, uh, I shoulda knocked or something, I just didn’t want to wake either of you up, in case you were sleeping in… do you girls need another minute?”

“No, no—come in, please,” Kelly invited. “Looks like Steph’s all done taking advantage of me for now, anyways. What’d you bring us?”

Taking advantage of you?!

“Ah, breakfast?” Brian offered, hefting up the bag containing several takeout boxes, and he entered the small enclosure of their hotel room, pulling the door shut behind him. “Wasn’t sure what you girls might like, so I picked up breakfast platters on my way back.”

“That’s… honestly really cool of you, I didn’t really mean… well, thank you.” Kelly said, sounding caught off guard. She cleared some space on the dresser beside the TV for him to set down the cartons. “We were gettin’ all kinds of hungry… weren’t we, Steph?”

“Y-yeah,” Stephanie hastily agreed, trying not to stare at Brian but unable to stop from savoring the sight. Hungry… Seeing him again, there was something deliciously sexy about Brian’s every mundane little detail, a sort of rugged, bishounen aesthetic. He somehow seemed so masculine, yet he wasn’t really burly or beefy in the slightest. A glance at his legs, bare up to the hem of his gym shorts, showed her they were runner’s legs, but they weren’t particularly thick. Rather, that tight curve of muscle shaping his calves was beautifully trim—pared down to the essentials and without an ounce of extraneous flesh. He looked ready to effortlessly explode into motion at any moment. That smoldering sensation from before rose up immediately into blazing pink flames, flames dancing with desperate, voracious energy.

What do I even say to him, after all of that last night? How do I act now? And him opening the door on us right then…! Stephanie blushed intensely. Compared to last night, the sheer intensity of that pulsing pink fire within her certainly hadn’t abated in the slightest. If anything, it seemed hotter, more dangerous, a chemical fire that was burning raw lust, as well as a little bit of something even more potent.

Brian wore a troubled smile, and as he looked over towards Stephanie, parts of her went weak. How could she forget that handsome face buried between her legs last night? That he’d parted her lower lips with his mouth and plunged inside with visceral abandon, tasted her, tongue sliding fluidly across the sensual slickness of her sex in what seemed like an endless spiral of pleasure…

“Steph? You alright?”

“Y-yeah,” she stammered, realizing herself once again. “I, uh, yeah. Yes. I’ve, uh, it’s…”

“You were givin’ him a look,” Kelly chuckled, popping open one of the cartons to peek inside and gesturing her over.

“I, ah, I was? A look? What does that mean?” She tilted her head quizzically from Kelly to Brian, immediately feeling a little stupid.

“Hah, you’d have to tell us. I know better than to ever make assumptions anymore,” Brian said.

“…H-how was your run?” Stephanie asked, abruptly changing the subject and stepping over to join Kelly. The two takeout cartons contained standard diner fare: scrambled eggs, a few strips of bacon, and a small pile of pancakes. Even one of those boxes was more than she could eat, but the empty feeling in her stomach spurred her on, and she dutifully accepted a fork from Kelly.

“It, uh… well, a little rough, but I’m back now, at least,” he paused uneasily.

“Did something happen?” Stephanie asked right away, suddenly feeling alert. Something’s wrong.

“Uh… I dunno, maybe? Probably not. I was just checking the time on my phone when I picked up our order… and saw my ex texted me. She asked which hotel I’m staying at,” Brian admitted. “Kinda just put my head in a spin. She’d texted me yesterday, too, saying that we need to talk… I’d been trying to ignore that whole situation.”

“Ugh,” Kelly mouthed, making a face at him. “Just what we needed. There’s like, no chance, right? She’s not tryin’ to come to the convention and see you, right?”

Stephanie frowned, clamping down on a sudden fiery swirl of emotions that coursed through her, and methodically used the edge of the fork to section off bites of pancake. His ex… Chloe?

“I don’t know… s’probably nothing,” Brian explained. “But if she’s trying to meet up and talk about what’s happened or anything… I’m really not up for it. It’s weird, but I get this sense of, like, dread at the thought of seeing her.”

“W-well, is there a reason for you to, um, well there isn’t any reason for you to feel that way, is there?” Stephanie sputtered, trying to collect her wildly burning thoughts. Unless… Do you feel guilty about what we did last night? Are your feelings for her still…?

“I don’t know,” he replied, sounding tired. He stepped over and dropped his phone into the small pile of his things beside the bed. “She left me without ever actually telling me why in person, just… packed her things up out of our apartment and disappeared. She sent Emily over to tell me a bunch of things—you know, the why, the whole break-up severance letter deal. But Emily wouldn’t actually tell me anything, except that Chloe and I were over. Er, Emily did say that the things she was supposed to tell me weren’t things she could ever say to me. Can’t really say I’m looking forward to hearing all of it directly from Chloe now.

“I’m sure this is just her wanting to deliver her official sentencing on just how low and worthless I really am to her now. I just… really don’t want to hear it anymore. It doesn’t matter to me at this point. I’m so tired of dealing with her, fighting with her over every little thing, it’s… well, exhausting. Just thinking about seeing her again kinda stresses me out, to be honest.”

“I see,” Stephanie breathed, feeling a palpable sensation of relief.

“Keep on ignoring her, then,” Kelly insisted, playfully stealing each of the cut-up portions of pancake from Stephanie’s carton, one after the other, and popping them into her mouth while Stephanie looked on in disbelief.

“Y-you can’t do that,” Stephanie protested, flipping her box’s lid back over protectively. She’d never had someone steal food from her own plate before, and somehow it was almost as shocking as suddenly being kissed. She has no sense of…

“Whatever her bullshit is now,” Kelly swallowed the mouthful, “it sounds like a whole bunch of not your problem.”

“You don’t think that’d be… you know, childish of me? Immature?” Brian asked in amusement, glancing from one girl to the other.

“Ignoring her is immature, now? You must be yahya kaptan escort on very different parting terms with your ex than anyone else I know. Ignoring an ex is literally the only mature thing you can ever do, trust me.”

“Kelly’s right, I, ah, I agree with her,” Stephanie added, picking up her breakfast and pulling away from the dresser. “It’s, if you don’t want to, then it doesn’t have anything to do with, um, there’s no reason to, to give her any of your time anymore. R-right?”

“You guys are sweet. I’d hug you both if I wasn’t all gross from my run.”

“You’re not gross,” Stephanie said quickly, taking a seat away from Kelly on the edge of the bed and settling the styrofoam box in her lap. “You can hug—you can do anything you want to. You’re, you’re never gross.”

“No, really, I’m like, drenched. I’m covered in sweat,” Brian laughed. “After all of that, uh, that ordeal with your roommate you went through, I’d never want to…”

Stephanie realized that she really could faintly smell him, and was stunned by how… stimulating that residual scent from his early morning exertion was. It didn’t repulse her as Megan’s sweat had—he smelled good, something about it seemed natural, felt vibrant and active to her.

“Oh, hey, there’s something else, too, almost forgot. My friends Emily and Rebecca are both gonna be staying with us here tonight, so the room’ll be getting a little more crowded. She called last night, while you were in the shower.”

“O-oh. Emily? You mean that Emily?” Stephanie asked, flashing an awkward thumbs-up while jutting her elbow out. Inwardly, however, she was reeling. Their hotel room had become a special, inviolate place in her mind—a sensual place where it would be safe for her to explore a whole host of options out with Brian and Kelly’s help.

“Ah, fuck,” Kelly remembered sheepishly, glancing towards Stephanie. “There was that, yeah. I forgot about that.”

Before she knew it, Stephanie’s expectations for tonight were gone in a poof, that same thread of disappointment she’d felt when Megan had stolen away her imagined sanctuary of self-discovery. What can we do now? Is it already over—are our chances for… [i]things to keep happening already all gone?[/i]

“Hah, yeah, that Emily. Our friend Rebecca, too. I don’t know her as well, but she’s nice. Guess me and Rebecca’ll take the floor, and Emily can squeeze onto the bed with you and Kelly, if that’s alright. She shouldn’t take up much space, she’s little.”

“You’re okay with Rebecca, ah, being on the floor, though?” Stephanie inquired, stalling her own rampant thoughts and giving him a curious look. Is there some sort of… hierarchy among us girls?

“She just started rooming with our convention group last year, but I think she was more comfy on the floor than anyone on the beds was. She does, like… medieval campout and LARP sorta stuff, she had a linen bedroll and furs to sleep on and everything.”

“Convention group?” Kelly asked. “First I’ve heard of you having your own group.”

“Yeah, uh, normally it’s not just me going stag here—there’d usually be quite a few of us. Not even sure how things turned out this way this time, it’s been… this year’s been strange.”

“That’s really cool,” Stephanie admitted, smiling. “Th-that you do things like this with your friends, I mean. I’m a little jealous.”

“All of my friends are really cool. That includes you, too,” Brian said proudly, playfully poking her on the nose. “Ah, uh, listen, though, Stephanie. I… thought about it a lot during my run, and I’ve gotta get it off my chest. Last night… things got really crazy, so… I want to apolo—”

“Whoa, uh,” Kelly interjected bluntly, turning from her breakfast upon the dresser to give him a meaningful stare. “What are you doing?”

“Uh… about last night, I was just gonna, well, apologize to Stephanie,” Brian continued awkwardly. “For letting things get out of control, for—”

“Brian,” Kelly cut in again with a chuckle. “Do you think what she expects from you is an apology for what happened?”

“I was thinking… she was probably kinda coerced into that, um. Situation, last night,” Brian explained. “Pressured into it, kinda going along with things and now, afterward, that is, she might regret it? I could’ve put a stop to things, made sure, I mean, really made sure instead of just…”

“N-no, no, it was, it—” Stephanie sputtered out.

“What do you want here, written notice? A notarized consent form? A memo from Tammy down in legal that your advances have passed review and been authorized?” Kelly chided. “She dared you to go down on her, and you did. Pretty sure you got her off, too. What’s she s’posed to think when you start saying sorry now? Apologizing for it now’s gonna make her feel like you regretted it, that it was a mistake. Was it?”

“No… no,” Brian sighed, combing fingers through his hair and resting his hands on the back of his neck. “I, uh… it’s just…ugh, damn. There’s still this… well, this filter there in my head, sorta, where I automatically run things through what Chloe would think, you know? This is… this is the kind of thing I meant last night when I was talking about baggage, not wanting to push my issues onto anybody.”

“Steph would’ve misunderstood if you’d apologized, ‘cause she has no self-confidence. So if you’re doing it out of… like, out of some sense of guilt your ex gave you, you’re really just not thinking.”

“I get it,” Brian interrupted. “Really. I was thinking, just… my thoughts’re all a mess this morning, and I got myself on the wrong track. Thank you.”

“Okay.” She regarded him seriously for a long moment, as though trying to gauge his sincerity, before nodding. “…You’re welcome. Steph?”

“Um, last night, it—it—” the pink-haired girl tried.

“Steph, all of that last night,” Brian asked. “Was it too…?”

“Yes,” Stephanie blurted out, and gave him a brilliant, beaming smile. “Very. It was too amazing, I loved it. It couldn’t have been a more perfect, uh, f-first time. First thing. For me. D-did it, um, was it, was I, a bother for you—for you to…?”

“Of course not,” Brian said. “With all that’s been happening to me lately, with what a rough week it’s been… hell, I’m sure I needed all of that even more than you did. That’s not to say I wanted, uh, that, specifically, to happen, that’d be… inappropriate. But it was… uh, well, meeting you… you’re like this anime dream girl that falls outta the sky and into the guy’s lap.”

Stephanie regarded him with a stunned look, and even felt her mouth fall open. Blushing furiously, she pretended to turn her attention towards the breakfast platter she was picking at. What did he just say? The pink-haired girl was speechless. Dream girl? Me? There’s no way this is just a crush. I love him. Kelly’s right, I really am fucked. I’m totally fucked. So fucked. She wasn’t able to hide the giddy smile spreading across her features. And maybe soon?

• • •

Can’t believe I just said that, Brian thought, turning away from her before the embarrassment could become visible. Dream girl? Okay, definitely. But there’s just some things you don’t say out loud like that…

Sneaking a glance at her as she nibbled on a piece of bacon, he saw a strange smile on her face, so maybe at least she was amused. Kelly wore that same unreadable smirk she had last night.

Or maybe it is something I should say? Brian wondered. I really am still stuck in that weird mindset. It was embarrassing having Kelly make him realize that, with his attempted apology, he’d lapsed back into his old thinking habits. It was as though Chloe had seared herself into his mind with a branding iron—while that wound was healing over, she was still clearly legible enough in his thoughts. Wasn’t even really thinking when I bought them breakfast, it just seemed natural, like it was expected of me. Hah, Chloe would’ve just been harping at me for forgetting the… wait, I did forget to get them drinks, didn’t I? …Fuck.

“Well then, that whole… you holding back, the whole keeping all stiff and well-behaved, platonic and in control,” Kelly brought up with a bemused smile, “where’re you actually going with all of that? Brian, what do you really want? You like her, right?” They both glanced towards Stephanie, who paused guiltily in the middle of chewing.

So damned cute.

“…I do. But I didn’t have any like, ulterior motives when I brought her here last night or anything,” he said defensively. “Was just offering her a place to stay so that she wasn’t sleeping in a hallway. Same with you. I don’t expect anything of you guys, or want you to feel uncomfortable, or like you have to do anything for it.”

“Ooh, same with me, too? Hmm, it feels like we’re forgetting something here, though,” Kelly said, tapping her lip thoughtfully with her fork and looking up to the ceiling as though trying to recall something.

“Like what?”

“Oh, that’s right! You want to fuck her,” Kelly remembered with a mischievous smile, and she gestured the utensil towards Stephanie, who had again frozen mid-chew. “You said so last night, didn’t you?”

“That’s… well, c’mon,” Brian grumbled uneasily, not daring to look towards Stephanie. “That was… I was being objective… you know. I’m not going to actually be a creep and try anything, I don’t plan to—”

“Well, do you want to fuck me?” Kelly interrupted, still smiling.

“…Yes and no,” Brian answered carefully. What is it with me stepping into verbal minefields with girls all the time?

“Interesting. Why yes? No wait, that’s obvious. Why no?” Kelly laughed, obviously not having expected a quick answer. “Aren’t you geeky types supposed to suddenly like, spaz out when you’re confronted with these kind of things? So you wanna fuck us, both of us. But you’re not gonna try to. Because you’re just out of this long, awful relationship and you need to sort everything out first. That about sum things up?”

“Whatever, sure. I guess you’ve got the gist of it, then,” Brian chuckled, rolling his eyes. The hell, Kell? Ease up on me a little bit. “You gonna let this all drop now, satisfied that I’m not gonna put the moves on you two?”

“…You clearly don’t know much about what satisfies women,” Kelly retorted.

“No arguments there, my girlfriend left me recently,” Brian nodded in agreement, giving her a bitter smile. “Why’s this always keep coming back to me, anyways? Kelly, you’re like, fixated on my issues. What about your issues?”

“Um, well I don’t think that he doesn’t know, uh, that…” Stephanie fussed, dropping her fork. “I think he, that he knows enough about satis—”

“What about my issues?” Kelly’s smile faltered the tiniest bit, and she quickly made a face instead. She set aside the breakfast carton and crossed the room towards him in challenge.

“Well, weren’t you saying something about wanting to be at the con to… uh, get your life back on track, or something?”

“Ha!” she laughed abruptly, rolling her eyes. “Back on track. That’s a laugh. It was never on track, and there never was a track. I’ve always been lost in space.”

“So what do you want?”

“The same thing Steph wants, and the same thing you want. We all came to AnimeCon for the same reason—” Kelly said, leaning in seductively and lifting her chin to whisper into Brian’s ear, “—to have a good time.”


But she held up a finger, motioning that she wasn’t done speaking yet, and he leaned back from her as if about to step back a pace.

“What, is there some problem with me touching you?” Kelly asked, pointedly poking his chest with that fingertip and leaving it there.

“Well, I mean why would you touch me? What do you get out of it?” Brian retorted nervously, stepping back.

“What do I get out of it? Whatever I want,” she answered smartly, tracing her fingertips lightly down his chest.

“C’mon, cut it out. I’m all sweaty,” Brian protested, retreating another step. “Listen, I’m gonna take my shower. If you guys wanna start getting ready to hit the conv—”

“Mmm, yeah, you kinda are,” Kelly admitted, raising her fingers to her face as if she was about to sniff them. “Go take your shower, then… or, do you wanna shower together? Need any help, uh, washing up?” Kelly offered.

“I can never tell if you’re hitting on me,” Brian chuckled uneasily, grabbing one of his bags to take into the bathroom with him, “or just fucking with me.”

“Why’s it gotta be just one or other?” Kelly countered with a teasing smile.

“You were kinda like that last night, too,” Brian remembered, hesitating in the bathroom door. A twisted piece of lingerie was laying in the threshold, and he gingerly nudged it aside with his shoe, pretending not to notice. “And I still don’t get why. Half the time, it’s like you’re trying to… set me up with Steph, or something. It doesn’t really even seem like you’re into me.”

“I don’t want to be into you.” Kelly grinned. “I want you to be into me, if you know what I mean?”

“…I’m not sure that I do,” Brian said after a slight pause, cocking an eyebrow at her before closing the bathroom door between them. Or even which would be worse; that you’re careless with these joke euphemisms of yours right in front of Steph… or the implication that you only flirt with me to appease your own ego.

Finally alone, he set his costume bag on the toilet lid, and then used the toe of one shoe upon the heel of the other to step out of them, kicking them into the corner of the tiny bathroom. It had only taken Kelly a tiny bit of prodding to throw him completely off-balance this time. These girls… Christ, I’ve even kissed them. I kissed both of them last night. I mean, the one was only for a dare, but still… His sweaty shirt came off, revealing the nicely defined musculature of his abs, and then his gym shorts and boxers joined them in a wrinkled pile as he stepped into the tub. After letting bath water pour into his hand for a few moments, he pulled the faucet diverter and sent a refreshing warm spray streaming down upon him from above.

Those cute whimpering moans Steph made when I went down on her… he remembered, swallowing. She’d wanted it, needed it, her body had been practically begging him for it. The sight of that perfect pussy, the smell of it, the taste of her, feeling Stephanie wriggle, feeling her respond to every movement of his tongue, those sexy little tremors that rippled throughout her body at his touch…

It’d be normal to jack off now, right? Some part of his mind argued. Stephanie… played with herself in here last night, it’s practically expected that I’m going to. Within the shower, Brian found himself faced with a growing dilemma. An urgent dilemma, that filled his hand—swollen to the biggest erection he felt he’d ever had, and continued to jerk insistently for attention. Thinking of Stephanie did nothing to help his situation, and remembering that climax of their truth or dare game made his cock surge, throbbing even larger to fill his hand.

Whoa, I need to calm way down. Can I really duck right in here and masturbate without feeling like some kind of gross pervert? He wondered, gripping himself firmly but not stroking. Am I… bigger than normal?

Like all guys, he’d measured his dick once, but after learning his length was just about exactly average, he’d lost interest, and it had never occurred to him to check again. Today he felt positively enormous, and even his balls felt heavily-laden, still filled with that pent-up ache he’d been stifling all night.

Absolutely fucking disgusting, he imagined Chloe’s voice.

“What am I even doing,” Brian muttered to himself, and dropped his hand to his side, disappointed with himself. With a sigh he closed his eyes and simply let the steaming water batter down upon him. The past twenty-four hours had been a whirlwind of conflicting emotions and experiences.

What am I going to do about Chloe? Brian wondered, frowning. Maybe we do need to talk, whether there’s any real resolution there or not.

Chloe had been his second serious relationship, and his first time living with anyone since escaping his household at eighteen. Besides Emily, Chloe had been the only one he’d ever tried actually opening up to about domestic violence or being abused. With her interest in personal rights and social activism, it had in fact been one of the early rapports of their relationship. When she’d entered into the social justice paradigm and started defining him as a privileged male, seeing him in a new, strangely biased light… it had hurt.

She should know me better than anyone else in the world, Brian sighed. On the one hand, maybe her judgement really did get skewed with all the gender politics stuff, but on the other hand, if I can’t trust her judgement of me, then who can I trust?

His friends Mike and Will had joked that he was pussy-whipped, that too long under Chloe’s thumb was turning him into a beaten man, but Brian didn’t care about that. He’d have proudly become her doormat if that’s what it took to really win her back, to demonstrate to her that he was nothing like other men—like the men she despised. But nothing seemed to help. There was something within him she seemed to see that inspired her distrust and loathing, some hidden aspect of misogyny ingrained in him that he couldn’t pinpoint and excise from himself no matter how much he deliberated. Every conversation seemed to devolve into an argument, no matter how carefully he chose his words.

Yeah, of course she wants to talk now. Brian’s way of dealing with his problems was to give them time and patience, allow his wounds to heal. It should come as no surprise that Chloe had her own baggage to sort out in the aftermath of a breakup, and would want to do so in the way she knew best—by taking it out on him.

Really don’t know if I can handle Chloe venting on me right now, though, Brian thought bleakly. He didn’t want all the bitter frustrations with her he’d been shoving down and bottling up to explode out, because they’d been repressed for far too long, and they were bound to be pretty ugly. A lot of feelings and moments down there he didn’t ever want dredged back up or articulated into words. Too many things that I don’t ever want to say in a heated argument, words I’d regret, things I’d never be able to take back. I’m better than that, right?

Realizing that his penis hung down now, finally flaccid and forgotten, Brian let out a heavy sigh, reached for the thin bar of hotel soap, and started to scrub away the accumulated sweat he’d worked up from his run. It doesn’t matter. Not like I’m having sex this weekend anyways.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t easy at all to stop thinking about it.

Chloe’s been a cunt to you, he seemed to recall Emily’s chipper voice saying to him. And I hope you get yourself laid at the con, just to spite her.

Of course, there was no way she actually meant that. She was just trying to be supportive. After all, isn’t Chloe her friend, too?

What he’d done last night with Stephanie hadn’t been appropriate, not in the context of them simply playing a game, at least. But Kelly urging them on, that strange compulsion to prove himself to them, imagining fear and self-doubt grappling at Stephanie if he’d refused after she’d gone so far, after exposing herself… And more than anything else, he’d simply really wanted to. The sight of her spreading her legs for him, revealing that blushing pussy, obviously soaked with how turned on she was…

Brian’s dick twitched threateningly, and Brian grabbed it again as though it were rebelling out of his control. Yeah, it was amazing. But was it really the right thing to do?

At least I did a fair job, he decided. Parts of him had fallen into the routine as if he were servicing Chloe, but other parts had been reveling in discovering every little difference. Stephanie’s thighs are that perfect kind of plush thickness that I could just bury my face in forever… I wonder what it’d be like from other positions? Maybe getting her on her knees atop the bed, bending her over from behind…

The sessions with Chloe always seemed to begin with her sitting on his face and grinding, a fairly uncomfortable ordeal. She had been less than considerate, and moreover, determined to try to get off without any of his help. Thankfully, she was never able to orgasm from that alone, merely working herself up into a frustrated frenzy before getting up off of him and grudgingly spreading her legs with a whatever, get it over with then, I guess.

In their first months trying things out, Chloe had generally been stiff and unresponsive. She very rarely wanted actual intercourse, as she found it humiliating, leaving Brian unsure as to why she seemed to want him going down on her so often instead. Is it one of those gender culture things, some power trip playing out in her head? he’d wondered—until the day he’d finally learned to coax that first gasp out of her. He even remembered stopping to give Chloe a look of surprise, and nearly getting kicked in the face for it.

That’s where the real battle had always been. Chloe had seemed intent on him failing to please her, which of course only served to spur him on—simply knowing that she couldn’t get off on her own, that she needed him, was a satisfying enough turn-on, his own small victory. Rather than feeling deterred by her attitude, he became that much more determined to put in more effort, to learn every trick of the tongue that could transform the stalwart feminist into a frothing mess.

Of course, going all out on like that on Stephanie may have been… a bit much. He’d heard it was impossible for girls to get off their first time, so he’d used every ounce of his accumulated experience and control—except this time, his partner wasn’t resisting him at every turn. I think I really did get her off, though. That’s something, right?

No, no. I let myself come way too close to… going too far last night. Almost said fuck it and went all the way, almost did something I can’t undo or take back. He’d only ever slept with two different girls in his life, and neither had been virgins. Deflowering a girl was a frightening prospect to him—the weight of that action, the impact it would have on her, the fact that it would hurt her when her hymen was torn and that she would bleed—Brian imagined it was something like being punched in the nose during your first kiss. What a way to remember the experience.

Really don’t think I’m ready for any of that, Brian thought, no matter how much I may think I want it. He wasn’t adjusted for a new relationship yet, too many parts of him were still calibrated to the treatment he received—and had even come to expect under Chloe’s yoke.

That’s what this weekend’s for, isn’t it? he imagined Kelly’s voice purring in his ear. Relax, let loose. Have some fun. Decompress a little. It’s okay to be a little selfish, especially now, right?

It-it’s not going to relax you if it’s, um, if it’s making you feel uncomfortable, though, right? Another familiar imagined voice countered. So don’t ah, don’t push yourself too much. Please.

If I let that pair of girls start dictating what I’m gonna do, then I’ll really be in trouble, he mused, a small smile forming. He couldn’t help but think back to walking in on them kissing; that had been a huge surprise. Kelly’s up to something weird, or maybe they both are?

Shaking his head in amusement at the thoughts, Brian clawed a palmful of shampoo into his scalp, realizing that he’d already been in the shower for way too long. These two girls staying with him were probably already wondering what he was up to.

• • •

He’s masturbating in there, for sure, Kelly decided with a smirk. No matter how aloof and unconcerned he wants to pretend to be, he had Steph cumming all over that handsome face of his last night. He’s beating off while daydreaming ‘bout burying his face in that little pink twat of hers again. Or fantasizing about fucking her. Maybe fucking both of us? Either way, those tile walls are gonna be plastered with cum. What a shame… but there’s no lock on the door, maybe we could just—

“Kelly? Can we talk again?” Stephanie asked timidly, setting aside her breakfast carton and staring down at her fidgeting feet. “About that, um, is that… the deal still up for…? I don’t think we can, um, that it will be as easy to… plan things, now that his friends will be staying here tonight. What, um, what should we do?”

“The deal was; you help alleviate my frustration,” Kelly said. “And in return I stick around, and help… arrange things, so that he can’t hold back his feelings anymore. Right?” And then we all fuck.

“Is that all, um, is it even still possible?” Stephanie asked.

“Of course it is,” Kelly answered easily, tapping her lip, and her thoughtful expression slowly sharpened into a stunning smile. Piece of cake.

“But, while I have ‘til his friends arrive today to make magic happen, you’ve only got ‘til he gets outta the shower to prove yourself… to show me that you’re really willin’ to help me, to put in a little bit of effort on your own.”

“B-but, we, um, we… that kiss, I thought that it…” Stephanie protested weakly.

“That was my kiss, how the hell would that count as you putting in effort?” Kelly exclaimed indignantly.

“That’s, uh… okay, that’s fair. But, the um, the deal. Wh-what will you, I mean, um, how will you, uh, do the making the magic happen… part, now?” Stephanie asked cautiously.

“By being a world-class sneaky bitch. I’ll coach you in what you’ve gotta do, and I’ll lead the conversations around and set you up for them. Get him all riled up, reckless, and y’know, aggressive… and maybe I’ll play a little dirty, if I have to,” Kelly laughed. “But all of that’s my problem. All you need to worry about is helpin’ satisfy me before Brian finishes up in there. Don’t know if you’re up for it? Guys don’t take real long showers, ya know?”

“Umm…” Stephanie wavered, furrowing her brows. “I’ll try? I can try? What can—what can I do?”

“I guess that depends,” Kelly remarked, taking a seat beside Stephanie on the bed. I like this. Maybe this is what Steph really needed here, a little sense of urgency to really kick her ass into gear. “Just how far are you willing to go? You wanna try fingering me?”

“I—I’m, that’s, uh, that’s not fair,” Stephanie protested weakly, avoiding eye contact and shifting awkwardly from one foot to the other. “This is, this is hard for me. It really is.”

“Oh, I know,” Kelly said, slipping her arms around the other girl and pulling her into an awkward hug. That’s what makes it so much fun. “But, y’know, you’re our brave little cuppycake who’ll keep impressing us, aren’t you?

“Do you want to just be this brief memory Brian had while he was at the con?” Kelly asked, dropping her voice to a provocative whisper. The girl leaned in so closely that her every word, the every movement of her lips traced lightly against Stephanie’s neck. “A name and a face, a little moment that… came and went in his life before he moved on with things and got into his next relationship?

“Or… do you wanna make a lasting impression on him? Do you want to be on his mind all the time, do you want him to be keeping in touch with you, texting you when he just needs to talk, calling you when he can’t stand to not hear your voice? Maybe needing to meet up, to hang out, maybe more…? Maybe things he has to express to you, feelings he doesn’t have words for, things that he can only show you with your bodies? You’ve gotta take these chances—no, these opportunities, whenever you can, right?”

“You’re—you’re really scary sometimes,” Stephanie breathed, shivering and giving Kelly a hesitant look as she straightened her glasses.

“What the hell?” Kelly sighed in exasperation, giving the pink-haired girl a playful swat. “You and Brian can both be so rude sometimes. I’m clearly just trying to help you guys out.”

“I know, it’s just, you’re doing it again, I—I feel like y-you want something more, and you’re, I don’t know… leading me into this, somehow?” Stephanie said, taking a deep breath. “I don’t mean to come off as, um, ungrateful, or sus-suspicious, it’s just—”

“Well, you’re not wrong,” Kelly admitted, and she bounced up off the bed to stand right in front of the shy girl. She unbuttoned her own jeans with a wicked smile and slowly tugged the short zipper down to reveal nothing behind it but a triangle of smooth, pale skin. “So, tell you what. I’m gonna start masturbating, right now. Not even gonna expect you to do all the, um, heavy lifting.”

“Y-you’re, you’re what?” Still perched on the end of the bed, Stephanie watched dumbly as Kelly tugged her jeans down further to reveal her naked sex.

“All you really have to do is give me a li’l affection,” Kelly suggested, pulling her pants the rest of the way down her legs and standing boldly in front of Stephanie. The startled girl blinked for a moment at the bare muff right in front of her before quickly looking away.

“Don’t be shy,” Kelly insisted, grinning. “You don’t even need to do much. Like I said before, I can get myself close to the edge… when I’m real close, just gimme a little push, y’know, help send me off to heaven.

Kelly sat beside her again on the end of the bed, bottom half completely naked, and slowly spread her legs. The motion felt fluid, she could feel the sensation of her snatch already oozing with wetness before even letting a finger delve within. Fucking finally, a tiny bit of relief…

“Well? Say something. Being super generous with my terms, here,” Kelly remarked with an air of indifference. “Not askin’ for you to go all lesbian love-slave on me, I just want you to try things out a little, see if you might like it. And if you can’t do it after all, hey, no hard feelings.

“We’ll just forget the deal, then, and I’ll keep fingering myself like this here ’till Brian gets out of that shower. Maybe he’ll find it in himself to… assist me instead. It’d be a shame if you got left outta the loop while me and Brian go at it like animals in heat, but you can always just watch like you did last night—might be all kinds of educational.”

“You’re doing that evil thing you do again,” Stephanie mumbled nervously. “It’s… well, j-just start doing what you’re going to do.”

That evil thing I do, huh? I like that, Kelly thought. She was starting to see this cute little geek as more than just someone she loved toying with, to see her as an actual friend. Well, don’t blame me if you choke up and get sidelined when I pull this guy right out from under you.

Kelly exhaled sharply as she began, diddling her fingertips playfully across her slippery lips. It felt fantastic, and she hadn’t even slid inside for real yet. She tickled at her entrance much in the way she’d play a random, meaningless ditty across the keys of the band’s keyboard back in the day—just to hear the noise it made. She was certainly making some noise now, even if only to tease Stephanie, a series of clearly audible sounds that testified to just how sopping wet she was down there.

“Whoa, god,” Kelly breathed, raising her hand in disbelief for long enough to catch a glimpse of sticky strands clinging to her fingers. When have I ever been this wet before? Red began to filter into the dark sky inside her mind. She jammed her hand back down, pushing her middle and ring finger inside herself all the way to the knuckle. Her mouth fell open, her eyes went vacant, and her head swayed as though caught in a breeze. “Hh—whoaah, fuck.”

Why does this feel so good, though? Is this what it’s like when you let yourself get good and frustrated first? Kelly wondered as she started frigging herself into a daze. Is this one o’ those ‘hunger is the best spice’ things I never bought into, ‘cause I’ve never had enough patience? Because fuck-k-k! Red light slowly filled the horizon gebze escort within her head like the inevitable approach of a sunrise, and she squirmed beneath her own hammering hand, two fingers squelching in and out of her as fast as she could manage. She started jerking her hips into the motion as well, trembling with need.

“C’mon, Steph,” Kelly called in a harsh whisper, glaring towards Stephanie.

“Y-you said that when you get close, then I—” Stephanie stammered out as quietly as she could, frozen in place at the sight of Kelly’s furious masturbation and blushing furiously.

“Fuck what I said, touch me,” Kelly demanded, pausing to take an unsteady breath, biting down on her lip and then pumping her fingers once again in a steady rhythm. The noises were almost loud enough to overtake the steady sound of the shower running on the other side of the bathroom door.

“Wh-where do you—”

“Just fucking touch me,” Kelly insisted, squeezing her eyes shut and letting her head fall back as she concentrated on fingering herself into a constant state of frenzy. It seemed like she’d barely gotten started, but somehow she was already—Oh fuck, I’m already this close?

For a moment she blithely wondered whether spending all night frustrated and horny out of her mind had her body primed somehow. No, that doesn’t make any sense, that’s not… The red tinge seeping across her consciousness was spreading with each second she finger-fucked herself. Brightening, even, as if at any moment that blinding sliver of sun would appear—when she felt a pair of hands gently cupping her breasts through the thin fabric of her top.

“Hh-harder,” Kelly encouraged, eyes fluttering open but not quite seeing the pink-haired girl. “Fucking harder. Pull me, squeeze me, or s-somethin’. Fuh-fuckin’—hh-harder. Hit me.” The last vestiges of chilly bitterness she’d accumulated overnight towards Brian and Stephanie evaporated as color and light filled the skies within her head.

Red sky at night, s-sailor’s delight, Kelly thought to herself in a daze of delirium. Reh—red sky in morning, sailors take warning—?! An old rhyme had incomprehensibly popped into her head, and she had no time to care why. Stephanie had taken the stark shapes of Kelly’s nipples, which were already practically popping out through her tank top, and pinched—hard.

“Hhholy fuck,” Kelly mewled in surprise, writhing and shuddering.

“S-sorry! I’m so so sorry! I just thought—” Stephanie apologized, withdrawing quickly.

“Don’t you—hahh, well don’t fuckin’ stop-p-p,” Kelly cried, almost too tired to ram her fingers anymore and instead starting to trace them up back and forth her slippery slit towards her clitoral hood. She felt Stephanie upon her shaking tits again, clumsily grabbing, groping and squeezing the prodigious shapes of her pair of melons. It felt great, and each shivering sensation seemed to light her up inside, to inch those rays of morning light closer towards dawn… but Kelly’s patience had run out and her frustration had reached its peak; she needed more than hesitant fumblings right now. I know you’re tryin’, Steph, but that’s just not gonna cut it—

Then she felt Stephanie’s incredibly soft lips on the side of her neck, a tongue sliding saliva along as the shy girl puckered and nibbled a wet swath up the slope of pale skin towards her ear.

Oh, shit, Kelly thought in alarm, and her misgivings twinkled out in an instant, like distant stars disappearing from sight at the onset of daybreak. She really was paying attention to what I showed her last night, that feels f-fuckin’ heavenly…! The delicate hands that had been mauling her chest now drew across them with purpose, turning their attention back to the vulnerable protrusions jutting out for attention.

“Keep—keep going,” Kelly urged. “H-harder.” Everything felt too slick, and there was no time to be careful or deliberate with her actions now; she sought out the tiny nub of her clit and then squashed down upon it hard, rolled it beneath her middle fingertip frantically. She tensed, trembled, and caught a single glimmer of the rising… pink? Sun, before the impossibly bright light liquefied all of the thoughts in her head in a flashing red haze of radiation.

“Hh-ahh-hhhahh—haaAAaahh,” Kelly panted out, and fell back in a sprawl on the bed, nearly insensate to the room and everything around her. Several long moments passed, the dark-haired girl’s chest rising and falling with difficulty, before she realized she’d pulled Stephanie down on top of her.

“…Are you okay?” Stephanie squeaked out, her entire face flushed. “That, uh, was that, is that all… um, a normal…? Do you always, uh, are you always so… rough?”

“Hmmm… hm hmm hm hah ha ha, am I okay, she asks.” Kelly responded, rolling her eyes. “Fuck, I wish that was normal. S’never that easy. No. No, that was fuckin’ amazing, is what it was. I think I started, like, hallucinating colors and shit. How’s my hair?”

“Your…hair?” Stephanie echoed in confusion, taking a glance. “Your hair’s fine?”

“I mean, the color, the red,” Kelly clarified, letting a satisfied laugh slip out. “Did the red bits, like, grow out more or… spread or anythin’?”

“Ah, right. Um, no, they’re, they look the same as they did, to me,” Stephanie observed, gingerly running her fingers through the girl’s hair. “It’s the same.”

“Well, that’s that. Guess it’s gotta be Brian’s magic touch then, right?”

“M-maybe?” Stephanie said, slipping off the bed and straightening her clothes self-consciously. “Um, if it’s okay to ask, did you, uhh… was it…strange? Like… you know, good strange? Like when we kiss Brian?”

“Yeah, definitely,” Kelly nodded. “Like, so good that it’s fuckin’ dangerous. Was I noisy?”

“You were kinda… a little loud,” Stephanie bashfully informed her. “But, was it… was it enough? To, uh, to count for our… deal? Will you stay with us? Please?”

“Oh, I dunno,” Kelly grinned, slipping her fingers back down between her legs. “I’m just so hard to satisfy. The more ya give me, the more I’ll want, ya know? How ’bout you ditch those pajamas and we try out a few more things?”

As if on cue, the sound of the shower running within the bathroom fell silent, and Kelly arched an eyebrow at her suggestively, displaying a wolfish smile.

“Kelly,” Stephanie hissed out in a whisper. “I, ah, I d-did the best I could? We—we’ve got to get you dressed, he could be out any minute. Wh-what are you going to do? Is our deal…?”

“You didn’t do that much,” Kelly pouted playfully. “Just, c’mon… touch me a little bit, down there. Please? Then I’ll get dressed and be a good li’l girl today. I promise.”

“Touch you… down there?” Stephanie repeated numbly, staring. Kelly traced a hand along her thigh again, opening her legs to reveal her labia, still flushed red from the attention it had received and smeared slick with her arousal.

“Just a little, it’s not gonna hurt anything, or make things weird, I swear,” Kelly pleaded teasingly. “You can—Ahh!” She broke off in surprise as she suddenly felt Stephanie’s fingertips at her slippery folds, inhaling sharply and quivering gently as red-hot sparks seemed to fizzle across her brain for a moment. Fuck me, she really…

“That’s it, jussst like that,” Kelly cooed, shuddering. “Ooh, I’m still all sensitive from… that’s, that’s nice.”

“It’s… not so bad,” Stephanie said in a stiff voice.

“Not so bad? Jeez, you don’t have to make it sound—ooahhh,” Kelly’s husky voice was cut off as the other girl’s fingers tightened down with a wet sound and one of those delicate fingertips slid slowly up along those rosy lips.

“I… can’t believe I just did that,” Stephanie said in a tiny voice, quickly withdrawing her hand and staring distantly at her fingers. “Th-that any of that even happened, really. Uh, I can’t believe that I actually… helped you with your, your—um, helped you—your frustration. Everything’s gotten so… weird.”

“Well, good weird, or… bad weird?” Kelly asked cautiously, cupping herself down there and struggling to sit up straight again.

“Just… weird. I don’t know,” Stephanie answered honestly, shaking her head and letting out a helpless laugh.

“Do you wanna make out?” Kelly asked, looking at the girl with dusky eyes. “Not, you know, for the deal or anything, but just… if you want to?”

“Um,” Stephanie uttered, staring back at her for a long moment. “Okay. But, you—you have to get dressed first.”

“D’you mind popping into the bathroom real quick to get a hand-towel from Brian for me?” Kelly teased. “The door doesn’t lock… just go right in. Look, I just want to wipe up a bit.”

“D-don’t you ever get, ah, embarrassed, when it’s with these kind of… things?” Stephanie asked, perplexed. “Be serious.”

“You’re such a lame dork,” Kelly groaned, poking the girl’s cheek. “What, walking in on him gettin’ dressed doesn’t interest you at all? Afraid of seeing his schlong, or are you afraid something might happen? Isn’t that what you want?”

“N-no,” Stephanie shook her head stubbornly. “T-tonight, o-or-or, um, or later today, m-maybe. Doing that, doing, ah, things, with th-the three of us is… well, maybe if I even, if I even actually can do that, it needs to be, um… I don’t want to miss anything, any of this convention with him, even if it’s, uh, I know it’s not like it’s a date, or anything, but…”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kelly sighed, heaving up off the bed and digging through her purse for a sanitary wipe. “Gimme the box, then.” Well, I did get more out of her than I thought I would. Maybe she really thought I’d’ve actually bailed on them? Playing up the whole frustration thing was brilliant. Makin’ her watch, hell, making her help, turned out to be way fuckin’ hotter than when I played with myself in the shower last night. Wonder what I can coax her into doing next?

Shuffling back over, Stephanie presented Kelly with the packing box that contained the Calamity Queen gothic lolita set, all while studiously avoiding any accidental glimpse of Kelly’s half-nude figure.

“Okay, uh… well, huh,” Kelly muttered, pulling piece after piece of the gothic lolita outfit out of the box and laying them out upon the bed. “There’s like, a buncha extra bits in here. Has a dress, and then a skirt, and then these goofy little shorts, too.”

“Ah, no, that’s a petticoat, and those are bloomers,” Stephanie chimed, making her way over. Stephanie couldn’t help but pick up the dress off the bed and look at it in admiration.“You wear them both beneath the dress, and they, um, give the dress more volume, bring it out away from your body in a… kind of a bell shape.”

“Nice, huh?” Kelly prompted.

“It’s beautiful,” Stephanie breathed. “I thought it might be, um, cheaply made, but this lace is expensive,” Stephanie said. “Cotton thread, and there’s no real base netting… and the floral arrangement is gorgeous. H-how much did this outfit cost?”

“Okay, whatever. Where are we starting? Kelly laughed. “Seriously, though, how do I put all of this on?”

“N-normal clothes off,” Stephanie instructed. “Your tank top, I mean. Ex-except, underwear, please. Put on some real underwear. It’s Brian’s costume, so you can’t—”

“Che,” Kelly tsked. “Fine, fine.” Crossing over to her purse, she withdrew the pair of g-string panties and began untangling them.

“Do you, um,” Stephanie began, seemingly mesmerized by that tiny bit of string, “did you even bring a bra to the convention?”

“No way,” Kelly denied, turning her bottom provocatively towards Stephanie as she squirmed and wiggled the panties up to their tightest fit—intent on teaching the girl just why the G-string was so often thought of as floss. “Last time I took a bra out for a weekend excursion like this, I never found it again afterwards. And those fuckers are expensive. Why, you got anything I can borrow in a C-cup?”

“I’m, um, I’m—uh, no. I don’t,” Stephanie answered, turning away bashfully as Kelly pulled her tank top up and off.

“Wouldja quit pretending to be shy? Your hands were like, all over these puppies a few minutes ago. Just looking’s not gonna make you any gayer than you already are,” Kelly laughed, hefting those full, round shapes for emphasis before letting them fall freely on naked display.

“I’m-I’m not gay,” Stephanie protested.

“Your call,” Kelly shrugged, stepping over to the bathroom door.

“Brian? You alright, or do I need to send Steph in there to check on you?” Kelly called, rapping her knuckles against the bathroom door. The sound of running water had stopped some time ago, but still Brian had yet to emerge. Leaning in closer, she could faintly discern rustling sounds from within.

“Out in a minute,” a muffled voice responded. “Gettin’ my costume on… these belt snaps aren’t lining up at all like I remember they were supposed to. Maybe something got twisted…?”

“Uh… ‘kay,” Kelly acknowledged, and sent a curious glance towards his small pile of things beside the bed. Getting his costume on? Isn’t his Lance jacket and everything over there still?

“Wh-what if he’d come out right then?!” Stephanie asked in a hushed whisper, glaring at the girl’s exposed breasts for emphasis.

“I know, it was worth a shot, right?” Kelly winked, neatly catching the pair of gothic lolita bloomers Stephanie tossed at her.

“Ugh, I really have to wear this thing, too?” As Kelly held that black pair of bloomers in her hands, she couldn’t help but give Stephanie a dubious look. She sighed and shook her head, stepping into them and pulling them up her legs.

Well, at least they’re comfy. Unable to resist, she immediately bounced over towards the mirror to see how she looked in them.

“Ah, hold on, it’s not—they’re not done,” Stephanie admonished lightly, pointing towards the dangling ribbons. The pink-haired cutie knelt down beside her and pulled these drawstrings tight, cinching the brief bloomer legs snug about her thighs and giving the undergarments their distinctive bubbled shape.

Strange. Kelly had been sure this thing would look ridiculous on her, but… weren’t these actually pretty cute? There was an exaggerated fluffy puffiness to them—her silhouette would probably look as though she was wearing a pumpkin over her hips—but rather than simply seeming silly, they gave her a sense of charming femininity. They were adorable; while the underwear wasn’t revealing in the slightest, these bows and ruffles were clearly meant to be appreciated, which somehow made them feel coy rather than prudish. As Stephanie tied her ribbons off into neat little bows, Kelly felt like she’d become a present to be unwrapped. Maybe in a couple hours?

“Now the petticoat,” Stephanie instructed, holding up the garment that looked like a skirt.

“Christ, what the hell kinda sewing sorcery is this?”

“It is very nice,” Stephanie admitted. “These two bottom tiers are pleated, but th-there’s pintucks—ah, you see, they’re these tiny little bands of folded fabric—all across each of the pleats. And, ah, between each of the folds up here at the bands, the bows they made, they’re sewn shut b-but not simply separate pieces sewn on, ribbon actually was laced through. For something that uh, that won’t even be seen when it’s worn, this is all very excess—um, extravagant.”

“What do you mean, it won’t be seen?” Kelly raised an eyebrow.

“It’s like I said, the, the petticoat goes on over the bloomers, and then the dress will go on over the petticoat,” Stephanie explained patiently.

Maybe the designers just expected someone to be there to appreciate each little state of undress? Kelly wondered as she stepped into the petticoat, a grin tugging at the corner of her lip. Taking a step back from the mirror so that she could see more of herself, Kelly was impressed, fluffing the petticoat’s folds gently with her hands. “Wow. Definitely a lot more volume than I’m used to.”

Then, the masterpiece came on—the dress. Okay, no, this thing is the piece of sewing sorcery. It was a stygian shade of black, and the love and care that had been put into the design of the bloomers and petticoat… here on the dress itself reached a level of obsession. The garment was the perfect wedding of funeral dress and bridal gown; a marriage of somber severity and elegant exuberance, intertwined not seamlessly, but rather with every seam lovingly tailored to draw out and complement these details. The hem was a stunning flowery composition of eyelet lace, making it difficult to tell where the fabric ended and that embroidered lace began.

The accessories were equally impressive—that same intricate bouquet pattern evident in the lace of the dress wrapped about the black stockings Stephanie slipped up her legs, and had also been hand-tooled into the supple leather of the corset. Despite feeling her breaths fall shorter at the tightness as Stephanie carefully laced her into the bodice, Kelly couldn’t help but admire the phenomenal shape it gave her. How much did Brian actually spend on this? Sliding her lace-stocking fitted feet into the rather simple pair of glossy black mary janes, Stephanie buckled the footwear for her and the outfit was complete.

“Kelly… Kelly, oh my god,” Stephanie exclaimed, adjusting her glasses before stepping further back for a better look. “You look amazing.”

Kelly couldn’t help but agree. She’d been mocking the costumes and outfits yesterday at the convention, but this Noblesse Oblique gothic lolita outfit wasn’t anything even she could poke fun at. It was gorgeous, and it exuded a macabre gracefulness that seemed to magnify Kelly’s own unique charm. There was a strange, powerful thrill at seeing herself dolled up in it, a sense of significance, an air of gravitas that left a startling impression.

There had been times yesterday when she’d felt a little like a goddess striding among the various geeks at the convention; now she felt a whole lot more like one, by several orders of magnitude. She felt like she’d be able to stop passersby in their tracks with a mere look, like she could make someone break into a cold sweat with her casual glance.

Horrifyingly beautiful… with just a touch of malicious magnificence, she thought, and unleashed a haunting, evil smile.

“Oh my god,” Stephanie repeated, a silly expression on her face. “Kelly, that looks so good on you. I, I really mean it. You look incredible.”

“…Thank you,” Kelly said seriously, exhaling and finally pulling her gaze away from her reflection to face Stephanie. “Now pull the chair up here to the mirror. I’m gonna do our makeup, we’re gonna look like fuckin’ goddesses, and we’re gonna go fuckin’ rock this convention.”

By the time Brian finally stepped out of the bathroom, the girls were just finishing up. He actually managed to startle them, as he was now dressed from head-to-toe in an unfamiliar new costume. Most of the outfit was a simple black bodysuit upon which simple white skeleton bones were patterned on, while he wore a helmet resembling a stylized skull that hid his entire face—the eye sockets filled in with a black fabric mesh he could presumably still see out of. He wore a pair of stout white gloves with loose, open wrists, a matching pair of boots, and a white pair of wrestling briefs were worn beneath a utility belt filled with pouches. There was an ever-so-slight bulge in his briefs, but it wasn’t the tell-tale outline of genitalia. Fucker’s got a cup or something on. Clever.

“Whoa, nice! Really, you look amazing,” Brian said, nodding his skull helmet in admiration at Kelly’s attire. The girls both still seemed speechless at his sudden new appearance. “The gothic lolita look was perfect for you, Kelly, definitely. You look great.”

“Uh… thanks. What are you supposed to be?” Kelly asked, staring incredulously at his strange getup. “You’re not gonna be Lance again today?”

“You recognized that I was Lance?” Brian remarked, tilting his skull helm. “You didn’t strike me as an old-school Fantasy Wars player.”

“What?” Kelly quickly scowled and shook her head in denial. “Yeah right, no way. I think one of you must have mentioned the name. Right? Anyways, who’re you supposed to be now?”

“Don’t recognize it?” Brian guessed, looking from Kelly to Stephanie and receiving only blank looks. “I’m a Darkmask, from Hero Hero Haruki. They’re the expendable-minion sorta guys for one of the super-villains. In a manga where most characters are jumping several stories and squashing tanks with bare-handed punches, the Darkmasks are pretty much just ordinary guys dressed up like evil henchmen, though.”

“Okay, so… why cosplay as one of them?”

“Well, they won’t seem cool ‘till you’ve read the comic,” Brian admitted, removing the helmet and running a hand through his hair. “It’s a comedy series, for the most part. Action comedy. In the beginning of the series you see Darkmasks everywhere throughout the city, kinda mixed in with the ordinary citizens.

“Like, you’ll see a Darkmask dressed just like this, but also wearing a wig and pushing a stroller, with a little baby Darkmask in it. Or a Darkmask in a convenience store wearin’ a clerk’s uniform apron, and nobody bats an eye. Nobody except for the protagonist Haruki, who’s always kinda freaked out that no one else seems to notice them—but he assumes it’s just part of the whole weird hero craze.

“I figured it’d be a great joke cosplay, like people would want to get shots of me, like, mixed in a background of normal people as if no one was noticing me. I’m gonna be the ‘casual shopper’ Darkmask, I’ll carry around this bag,” Brian explained, hefting up a plastic grocery bag. Several cup ramen packages were inside, along with a cabbage, and the slender stalk of a leek was sticking out the top. “I got this blank bag, and even stencilled on the logo of the fake convenience store brand from the manga… you guys stopped listening, didn’t you?”

“N-no, it sounds really interesting!” Stephanie laughed, smiling at him. “It’s just a shame, that ah, that you have to cover your face for this cosplay, that’s all. It’s really good otherwise, though. You look really cool.”

“It’s uh, cute seeing you geek out,” Kelly tried, giving him a strange look. “Let me get this straight, though, you’re an ordinary person, dressing up as a bad guy henchman character… who’s in turn poorly disguised as an ordinary person shopping? I feel like a lot of people aren’t going to get it.”

“I’m sure the people who read Hero Hero Haruki will love it,” Stephanie defended. “I’m a little jealous. I, uh, only made one costume, the Flamituff dress. I don’t know if I should wear it again today, sin-since I wore it yesterday already.”

“Cons’re always more fun when you’re in costume, for me, at least,” Brian said. “I’d say go ahead and wear it again, it looks really cute on you.”

“Y-yeah?” Stephanie responded bashfully, bursting forth again with a beaming smile. “Thank you. I think I will, then.”

Watching the lovestruck girl scamper to pull her bag into the bathroom to change, Kelly couldn’t help but grin as well. Just wait’ll you see how cute it’s gonna look comin’ off of her…

“Totally don’t wanna… impose or anything,” Kelly coughed, “But what are your, like, convention plans for the day? Do you have a set plan, specific things you’re gonna go to, things like that? Wasn’t sure if you needed some space to go off and do your own thing, or if it was cool if we kinda tagged along, or…?”

“Honestly, my ‘plan’ this weekend was to wander around, all alone, being miserable and feeling sorry for myself,” Brian said seriously, regarding her for a solemn moment before his lopsided grin surfaced. He spun the helmet in his hands between his fingers like a basketball before effortlessly slipping it back up onto his head in one smooth motion.

“But that’s already totally fallen through, so I guess that means we’re on plan B now, then,” he laughed, slightly muffled from within his helmet.

Sure seems like he’s in a much better mood since he came out of the shower, Kelly observed ruefully. What’d he do, spurt out gallons of semen in there?

“Sounds good, what’s plan B, then?” Kelly asked, giving him a wide grin. …Besides the morning-after birth control Steph and I might need after tonight?

“No idea,” Brian chuckled. “But… I’m excited again to be goin’ around the convention this time. You guys, you really saved me. So in return, I want to show you both a really good time today. I feel like we’re gonna have a blast today.”

“Yeah?” Kelly murmured, and that rare genuine smile of hers appeared again, a refreshing red moonbeam breaking through a dark sky of difficult to discern cloud cover.

There was substance to that undisguised good will in his voice, honest appreciation that made her heart skip a beat. There were dozens of raunchy comebacks she could’ve even used, but all of them ducked away and slipped out of her weakly grasping thoughts. She tried to collect herself, but found herself unable to erase that weird, alien feeling within her. Ah… fuck. Am I starting to get sentimental, now? Felt like he touched a… soft spot there, or somethin’.

“Well, you do still owe me the rest of that massage,” Kelly reminded him, easing her expression back into a teasing mask and immediately feeling more grounded. “You said last night you’d… finish it, remember?”

“Yeah, but I don’t know if you could handle that,” Brian countered, cocking his helmet at her daringly.

“Wanna try me?” Kelly challenged, stepping closer—but all she was getting back from him was the blank stare of that stupid skull helmet. Damnit, he’s so much harder to bully now that I can’t read his face.

“Maybe, but should I even bother?” Brian’s muffled voice answered. “I mean, that was gonna be in exchange for telling us why you were here at the con… and you didn’t really give us much of an answer, remember?”

“I did so,” Kelly spat, playfully slapping at his chest, but let her hand linger there afterward. Fuck, no reaction there, either? What gives? Wasn’t he all flinching away from me right before his shower?

“Eh, it was weak, though. Weak answers’ll only get weak massages,” Brian gave a helpless shrug.

“I even told you again this morning,” Kelly insisted, dropping her voice to a low purr. “I’m just here to… have a good time, you know? Although, if you really want, we can, ya know, get into it again… after you finish that massage.”

“That’d be boring,” Brian chuckled, undaunted. “Why don’t we do both at once? I’ll coax all the answers right outta you, the dreaded Darkmask interrogation ten-fingers torture technique.”

“Ooh, I like the sound of that,” Kelly brightened, smirking at him and bringing her other hand up to his chest. Ten fingers, huh? “Got anything to tie me up with?”

“Can’t I just have Steph pin you down?”

“Sounds perfect,” Kelly laughed, and she could feel her cheeks warming. “You really do know how to get a girl excited after all. Wanna just hold off on going over to the convention? I mean, it is still so early…” The thought of Stephanie earnestly and eagerly nibbling up her neck alone was enough to make her shiver. Imagining that girl’s slender fingers along with Brian’s domineering hands, each roaming rampant across her, every nubile contour of her body pulled and positioned and played with, until every inch of her flesh just aching for release… Yep, I’m wet already. Fuck me.

“Well, there was a few things I still wanted to hit up today. There’s a Hero Hero Haruki cosplay meetup planned around noon… probably a couple Darkmask photoshoots, and then a bunch of random shenanigans. Then I’ll need to stop by and wish my buddy Mark luck before his Mana tournament, too. Everything else on the menu is, you know, shopping, and taking some pictures and everything… don’t you think a massage is better after a long day on your feet?”

“Tch, yeah I guess,” Kelly pouted. “How long did you normally spend at the con, with your group or whatever?”

“Normally it was kinda just me making sure Chloe got to all the panels she wanted to see, trying to keep Emily from molesting anyone or embarrassing herself, hitting the big events like the costume and AMV contests… you know, going with the flow. Today, I guess it’ll mostly be whatever you girls wanna do.”

“Yeah? Well, what if we want to do you?”

C’mon, that’s a pretty good one to think up on the spot. She wanted to get a rise out of him, some kind of decent reaction, but she couldn’t see his expression at all behind that damned goofy skull helmet. She found herself watching in disbelief as he comically pantomimed shock in slow motion by wordlessly tilting his helmet and placing his gloved hands on the skull cheeks.

“…Pffft,” she finally laughed, unable to contain herself. “You’re such a… such a—”

“I’m—I’m ready!” Stephanie announced, rabbit ears bobbing as she wobbled out of the bathroom enclosure. She was still tugging one of her thigh-high pink boots the rest of the way up, bouncing with energy and excited for the day at the convention.

“I’m ready,” Brian confirmed, patting the row of pouches sewn onto his utility belt. “Have my room key, I’ve got my phone and wallet, got some snack bars. And my con badge, o’course. Does everyone have their badges?”

“I do!” Stephanie affirmed.

“Uh, shit,” Kelly muttered, crossing the room in a swish of extravagant black skirt to pull her badge lanyard off the dresser. “Should I leave my purse here? It doesn’t exactly look lolita.”

“Sure, you can leave it,” Brian’s skull helm nodded. “If you have anything you need to bring along, I’ve still got empty pouches here on my belt.”

“Cool, thanks,” Kelly said, a devious grin appearing. “Here.” Twirling, she began passing him items out of her purse, one by one. Her phone, and then a travel-sized tube of personal lubricant. Three condom packets, still connected—, Stephanie’s eyes widened at the sight of them, and the girl turned away to retrieve something from her own bag—and finally, a crumpled and heavily weathered twenty-dollar bill.

“That should be everything we…uh, that is, everything I need,” Kelly reported sweetly.

Again without saying a word, Brian shook his helmet in exaggerated exasperation and threw up his hands in resignation.

“Wait, d’you not need your little accessory… thing, this time?” Kelly asked, picking up a small wooden token, a charm bound at the edges with white and red thread. Turning it over curiously in her fingers, she found that some Japanese symbols were carved into one side. Something about it seems…

“Oh, right, can’t forget the charm,” Brian chuckled, accepting it from her. “Emily’d be asking why the hell I wasn’t wearing it.”

“You wear a good luck charm?” Kelly snorted. “You don’t strike me as the superstitious type.”

“It’s not a good luck charm, it’s—” Brian began.

“—it’s a harem charm,” Stephanie finished for him, watching intently as he fastened it to his convention lanyard around his wrist and tucked it into his glove. “And it’s, um… it’s working?”

“Hah, yeah, right,” Brian laughed. “Are we all ready to head across the street to the con?”

The fuck’s a harem charm? Kelly wondered, but didn’t bother asking. Wasn’t that the little pin he had yesterday?

“O-okay, let’s go!” Stephanie declared.

Alright, this is actually pretty cool, Kelly decided, looking on in appreciation as the Darkmask minion led the rabbit-eared girl in the cute dress out the door of their hotel room. She followed a half-pace behind them like an angelic shadow, dressed to the nines in the overly elaborate Calamity Queen set. We have our own little crew, and we all look fuckin’ badass.

“Oh, fuck,” Kelly hopped forward and pulled Stephanie back into the doorway to playfully whisper in her ear. “Our deal, I forgot to really ask you the details. You said that you want Brian to like, not be able to hold back his feelings for you, right? So how do you want them? When the time comes, do you want his feelings, like, deep inside of you, or is it okay if he just spurts them out all over your pretty li’l face?”

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