Together, Off The Deep End

by ZoneTheory twt | dsc | fics

Chapter 1: The first encounter

It was 10pm and the end of her shift. The redheaded girl grabbed her phone out of her locker, it wasn’t company policy to lock up your phone, but she knew she would be looking at it constantly while working, she was the easily distracted sort.

“Baelz, before you take off for the evening, I got something for ya.”

“Oh?” The short red-haired turned back towards her manager.

She handed her an envelope. “I got payroll done early, so here’s your paycheck.”

Baelz eagerly accepted it, her tail whipping behind her betraying her excitement if the look on her face didn’t. She really needed the money. She tore into it and pulled out the check inside.

Her heart dropped as she read the number, it was barely enough to cover half her rent… last month's rent. She realised her true reaction was showing clear as day on her face so she quickly hid it with a polite smile.

“Is something the matter? It should be the correct amount.” Her manager asked, seeing her discontented reaction.

“Yeah, yeah, it’s right, it’s just… Can I stay tonight and close up?” She asked. It was only two more hours of pay, but she was desperate right now.

“Oh, well, uh, sure I guess? You’ve already worked 8 hours today, are you sure you’re okay to work a couple more?” She asked concernedly, it was obvious to both of them that this was a money issue, but she didn’t want her employee to overwork herself”

“I’ll be fine, it’s usually not too busy this late right?”

“You should be good, this is your first time closing though so I’ll run you through a few things before I take off in your place.”


Baelz found herself sitting at one of the tables, half mindedly sifting through her chemistry notes. She only had a few customers during the last leg of the night, and at the present she had none, so she decided to attempt to study a little bit. It wasn't going well.

She was looking at chemistry formulas, but inside her head she was doing rent calculations, how much would she have to work to be able to pay off the rent for the past two months she had missed. If she picked up every available shift, skipped the less important classes, and missed a few practices she might barely be able to start to get the number down, that is if her landlord didn’t follow through on their threat to evict her if she didn’t pay everything she owed by the end of the week.

She groaned, holding her head in her hands. This had gotten out of hand, only a couple months into the school year and she had already taken on so much responsibility that she had to budget her time as well as her money. She was so busy with studying, basketball practice, dance lessons, and council duties that she barely had any time to work and make money.

Baelz has a hard time saying no to things, and it didn’t help that she loved doing those things. She enthusiastically signed up for the basketball team when the form for tryouts was posted. When she heard that the university had dance classes she knew she absolutely had to attend. And when her best friend Nanashi Mumei told her she should put her name in to join the student council with her, how could she refuse?

She didn’t realize that she had accidentally put her name in for the running of student council president, but when she finally found out she ran with it, campaigning her heart out and winning the spot. She was like that with everything, full of a fiery passion no matter what she did. She wondered if that fire would get too bright and burn her out completely.

She was snapped out of her trance when the bell above the door rang to signal an arriving customer. She looked up from the pages she had been pretending to look at to see a tall slender girl with long burgundy hair walk in. Her appearance was extremely striking, even for the usual types of folk who attended this university. She had two black horns coming out from the sides of her head and her ears were long like an elfs, hovering behind her back she had a pair of multi-colored crystalline wings. Baelz had seen a lot of strange people, half-mythical beings and superpowered folk were a regular occurrence here, but something about this girl made her feel stunned.

She shook off the feeling and entered customer service mode. Automatically, Baelz stood up and walked behind the counter, expecting her to order something. The girl walked up to the counter and held up a stack of papers Baelz hadn’t noticed when she walked in. “Can I put an ad up on your bulletin board?”

“Oh, yeah sure, it’s just over there.” Baelz gestured

The girl walked towards the bulletin board at the back of the shop and sat the stack of papers down on the table beside it. She looked up at the board with a look of uncertainty, it was already completely full of various ads and posters stuck up with thumb tacks. There wasn’t so much as a hair of free space to put anything.

Baelz, noticing the girl’s conundrum, walked over beside her and said “You can just pull any of these down and stick it up anywhere, nobody checks the board anyway.”

Baelz had completely missed the implication of what she just said, and seemed to not notice the girl’s dejected look when she said this.

“Oh…”

“So, what are ya advertising?” Baelz inquired.

“Oh, um, I’m looking for a roommate.”

A roommate huh? It sure would be a lot cheaper to have a roommate to help pay rent.

“Ahhh, I see, what kind of place have you got?” Baelz lightly prodded.

“It’s just a 2 bedroom apartment, nothing crazy.”

“Seems odd to be looking for a roommate this far into the semester.”

“My old roommate had to leave to do a book tour actually.”

“Oh so you’re only looking for like, a short term roomie then, until they return?.”

“Oh no, she’s not gonna be moving back in, her book is doing really well and she can afford better than me.” There was a small note of sadness in the girl's response.

“So what kinda rent are you planning to charge?”

“Well…” She was about to respond, but then clued into the line of questioning she was receiving. “Wait, why are you asking?” The taller girl finally turned towards the red haired barista.

Baelz had a big smile on her face, showing her rows of sharp teeth. The ears on top of her head wiggled mischievously and her tail whipped around behind her.

When their eyes met, Baelz noticed something she hadn’t before, the girl had two differently coloured eyes, one was purple and the other was blue, they seemed to sparkle as she stared into them, they were really easy to fall into. She could feel herself getting lost trying to follow the patterns, until the taller girl looked away embarrassed.

“Oh, sorry, the eyes. It happens at first until you get used to them.” The girl said apologetically.

“I don’t think I’d want to get used to them…” Baelz accidentally responded honestly. “Uh, I mean, yeah, I’m actually thinking about moving out of my current place. The rent is a bit much for my pay here.”

“Really, well… to answer your question, whatever you can afford to pay I guess is the rent.”

“Wait, really? Not like a 50/50 split.” Baelz was confused by the girl’s answer.

“I’m not desperate or anything, it’d just be nice to have a little less to pay every month, and it’s kinda lonely just by myself.”

Baelz had to agree with her there, before starting university she had lived with her family and they were a noisy bunch, one of her many rat siblings always making a racket at all hours. Now that she lived alone she found that the constant silence was deafening.

“I see. Well, you drive a hard bargain of ‘pay what you want for rent.’ I can definitely say that I am interested in your offer… uh…” She tried to remember the girls name before realizing that they never exchanged them. “Sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

“Oh!” The girl looked like a switch had been flipped and for a moment she entered performance mode. “HiRyS! It’s IRyS.” She said in a cutesy voice and threw up two peace signs.

Baelz looked at her like she had two heads. “Wha?”

“Isn’t it cute?”

Baelz coughed. In all honesty, it kinda was. “Uhmm, yeah… Anyway, my name is Hakos Baelz, but everyone just calls me Bae.” She introduced herself, but she figured she didn’t actually need to. As the student council president, basically everyone already knew who she was.

They shook hands.

“Well Bae, when would you like to come check the place out? I have classes during the day, but if you are free tomorrow afterwards…”

“Yeah I should be good sometime tomorrow, lemme just check my calendar.” She pulled out her phone from the back of her jeans pocket, careful to angle it when unlocking so IRyS wouldn’t see her wallpaper of Vi from Arcane showing her abs. “I’ve got a council meeting from 2:00 until 3:00, but I’m completely free after. When are you out of your classes?”

“My classes end at 2:30, but I don’t mind waiting a half hour for you.” IRyS responded. “Wait, did you say council meeting? Are you on the student council?”

“Uh, duh?” Bae said, confused.

“What, am I supposed to know that somehow?” IRyS responded, annoyed by Bae’s tone.

“Yes! Everybody knows me! I’m the student council president!”

“Oh, you’re something of a hot shot, huh little mouse girl? Well, excuuuuuuuse me.”

“I AM A RAT!”

They both stood there glaring into eachothers eyes, trying to keep up the impression that they were both mad. Bae broke first, letting out a tiny snort before completely breaking down laughing, IRyS didn’t last much longer.

“Oh man Bae, I like you, you’re funny.” IRyS giggled.

“Why thank you, I try my best. Maybe I should add ‘comedian’ to my resume.”

“I assumed that was how you got hired here.”

“Oi.”

“Anyway, yes, let’s meet at 3pm outside the main doors.”

“Sounds good. Hey, gimme your phone and I’ll put in my number.”

Baelz flushed, weighing the risk in her mind of seeming weird for refusing and risking IRyS seeing her wallpaper. She took out her phone and opened her contacts, she tapped the ‘add’ symbol before passing her phone to IRyS.

IRyS began pressing on the phone, entering her details.

“So IRyS, uhhh, what exactly… are you? Sorry for the blunt question, but I can’t figure it out.”

IRyS glanced up from the phone for a moment before returning to typing. “I am a nephilim, half angel, half demon.”

Bae nodded. Those eyes… angel, her attitude… devil. “That makes sense.”

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean, huh!?” IRyS asked, putting on a fake angry tone.

“Nothing~”

IRyS handed the phone back to Bae. “Text me so I can add you as well.”

“Sure”

“Nice wallpaper by the way.”

“Ack” Bae felt like she just got stabbed. IRyS had to stifle her giggles in response to this. “I just think she’s really cool… art was nice…” She mumbled.

“Anyway, it was nice to meet you, Bae.” She picked up the stack of papers that she now had no use for.

“You too, uh, did you want to order a coffee or anything before you go?”

“At this hour!?”


IRyS left with her flyers tucked under one arm and a small decaf latte held in the other. Somehow that small girl had convinced her to get something, she was quite persuasive. She made her way back to her building through the dark streets, it wasn’t actually that far from campus, only a comfortable twenty minute walk.

She stopped outside the door to her apartment, it was right above a place called Peko Pizza. Thankfully the place was never too busy, as most of the people who ate there were lazy students who just ordered delivery. She hadn’t had any issues with noise living above them and they let her come in and take a free slice and a soda whenever she wanted, so it really wasn’t that bad of a deal.

She opened the side door and climbed the stairs to her apartment. She unlocked the door at the top and went inside, she immediately dumped her stack of papers into the garbage bin beside the door. She knew that posters were a bad idea, Bae made it clear that nobody bothered to check notice boards, everyone these days posted ads online, she was too nervous to do that though, she wasn’t the most tech savvy person.

Slipping out of her shoes and coat she threw herself down on the couch. Mulling over the fact that she was going to have a visitor tomorrow, She analysed her living room. There were empty soda cans everywhere and a thin layer of dust covered just about every surface. She had gotten lazy since Reine moved out last month.

With a huff she stood up and set to work, even though it was quarter past midnight. She cleared away all the cans, did some heavy duty dusting. And tried and failed to somehow silently vacuum the floor. After an hour of cleaning she flopped onto the couch, she was so exhausted from this sudden late night cleaning spree that almost immediately she fell asleep, happily looking forward to finally having some company again.

Chapter 2: Inspection

“Bae? Bae… Bae!” The navy haired girl waved her hand to get the redheads attention.

“Huh?” Bae blinked several times to refocus her vision and bring her mind back into the council meeting.

“Oh uh, wazzup Kronii? Sorry I spaced out there."

"If you aren't getting enough rest maybe you should consider doing less extracurriculars." Sana, another one of the girls at the table chimed in.

"Oh I'm not tired, I was just thinking about something. I met some yesterday and…"

Fauna interrupted her. "Uuuu, what's his name? Is he cute?"

“What? No-” she started to refute.

“Not even a cute boy?” Kronii asked coolly.

“I’ll never understand your taste in men Bae…” Sana said, tapping her chin.

“IF YOU’D LET ME FINISH I WOULD EXPLAIN!” Bae yelled, finally getting their attention properly. Her eyebrow twitched, annoyed that they assumed this was a ‘boy’ thing.

She exhaled and lowered her volume before continuing.

“You guys know how I always complain about not having enough money for rent because I keep taking on more responsibilities?”

“All too well.” Kronii responded.

“Well, I was staying late at the cafe to make some extra cash, when a GIRL came in to post an ad looking for a roommate. We chatted a bit and now I’m gonna go check out her place after this excruciatingly boring meeting.” She finished with a satisfied sigh, happy to not have been interrupted this time.

“I always wondered if you swung that way.” Sana simply said.

“Sana, I’m going to slap you.”

“I’m kidding Bae, it’s nice that you’re considering getting a roommate and making new friends. You'd think you'd make a lot of friends with all the extra stuff you do.”

“Not much time for friend making when you're as busy as me. Either way, if all goes well with her I’m gonna try and move by the end of the week.”

“Woah you’re taking things quick with this mystery girl, huh?,” Kronii pointed out. “Are you sure you’ll be able to move so soon, what about your current place?“

“With the eviction notice hanging over my head, I’m sure my landlord will be thrilled to hear that I want to move out.”

“Fair enough.” Kronii replied, content enough with her answer.

The girls poked and prodded a bit further for information on the mystery girl Bae had met, but Bae wasn’t forthcoming with too many details, she had barely just met the girl and wasn’t overly excited for her friends to try and play matchmaker. Eventually, they were able to resume the meeting, this time Bae made sure to make an effort to actually pay attention to what the others were saying, even if the meetings bored her. She preferred doing things rather than just sitting around talking about doing things.


Bae practically flew out the door she left so fast after the meeting was over, an action that was noticed by the other three attending council members.

“She’s pretty excited about this whole thing, huh?” Fauna said to the other two.

“I’d be excited too if I had a pretty girl waiting for me.” Sana said slyly.

“We don’t even know if she’s pretty, and she’s probably more excited about checking out the apartment.” Kronii said.

The other two looked at her. “You really are clueless, Kronii~.” Fauna teased.

“What? I am not clueless, I am perfect in all things, including… having clues?”

“Well Kronii, speaking of pretty girls, did you wanna go get some tea and do some studying now that the meeting is over?”

Sana rolled her eyes, a gesture unseen by the others. Fauna had been chasing after Kronii ever since they all had joined the council, without much success. “I’ll see you guys later.” She called, waving back to them as she slung her bag over her shoulder and exited the room.

“Oh uh, sorry Fauna I already made plans to help Mumei with her calculus homework. Maybe next time?”

“Uuuu, alright, you better!” Fauna sighed, defeated.


IRyS leaned against the wall outside the main doors of the university, idly flipping between staring at her phone and watching the flow of students passing in and out of the building. She clenched her teeth to keep them from clattering as a chill breeze blew over her. It got colder around this time every year, but she always insisted on hanging onto the remnants of summer for as long as possible.

Her only protection from the cold was a black tank top and a thin flannel she wore over top of it, her legs were almost entirely unprotected by the skirt she wore. She picked this outfit primarily because it was cute and she wanted to make a good second impression, not bothering to check the day's forecast or temperature. Fashion first.

She flicked her eyes away from her phone once again, only to find a pair shining blue eyes meeting her own. “Oh, hi!” IRyS sputtered out, surprised to see that the girl she had been waiting for was now directly in front of her.

“Hey! You ready to go?” The girl asked, she looked like she was going to bounce out of her skin from excitement. IRyS was a little shocked by the energy levels this small girl was capable of outputting simply by standing in one spot.

“Yeah, let’s get going. Hopefully walking will warm me up.” She looked jealously at the rat girl and her oversized winter jacket.

“Did you forget your coat or something?”

“It’s still summer.”

“It’s not.” Bae noted astutely. It was autumn, it had been for over a month.

“I know, but if I hope hard enough maybe it’ll be true.”

“Are you stupid?”

Rude, yet endearing.

The two continued chatting as they started walking. They started by talking about simple stuff, like what they were at the university for, Bae was taking a general sciences course until she found something that she wanted to properly major in, and IRyS was going for a major in Japanese literature. Over the course of the conversation they discovered that they actually shared a European history class, they just never realized it, because at the time they never had any reason to interact, and the class itself was so boring that falling asleep during the long lectures was practically a survival strategy. They resolved to sit next to each other during that class and work on the assignments together whenever possible.

It was undeniable that they had chemistry, they had only just met and Bae hadn’t even agreed to move into her apartment, yet already they were agreeing to work together on school work like they were friends. Were they friends already? IRyS wondered.

“So you must have a pretty sweet gig setup if you’re letting me set my own rent price, what’s your secret? Trust-fund baby? Inheritance burning a hole in your pocket? You got a really nice part time job? Waitress? I heard they get a lot of money in tips…” Bae rattled on, not letting her get in a word edgewise.

Bae continued on before IRyS could attempt to answer any of the questions asked. “Or maybe you work another kind of job that gets tips…” She said with a smirk, looking her over. “You’ve got the looks for it. You seem too awkward for that though… maybe online though? I wonder… maybe I’ve seen your videos before.”

IRyS went red at the thought of what Bae was implying. “N- no! Jeez, you sure like to make a lot of assumptions about someone you only just met.”

Wait, "maybe I've seen…?" Does Bae watch those kinds of videos?

“I’m just teasing you, silly.”

“I don’t even know what you’re talking about.” She lied transparently, she was sheltered, but she wasn’t stupid. “I don’t have a job, I did before I started going here, I saved up enough to be able to cover my costs for a while until I was able to start making money.”

“And how long will your reserve last you?” Bae asked curiously, she knew some people treated money as a private thing not to be talked about, but she had never felt like that.

“Long enough to get me through most of the year,” she nudged the rat’s shoulder. “Longer if you agree to become my roomie.”

“Heh, we’ll see about that. What’s your plan to bring in money then, if you aren’t working?”

“Oh uh, the plan is a work in progress.” IRyS was hesitant to talk about it, she hated creating expectations she wasn’t sure if she could meet.

“A cute roommate on a crash course to becoming broke by the end of second semester… quite the hard sell. I seem to always find myself attracted to chaos, huh?”

‘I’m not gonna go broke!” What Bae had just said finally started bouncing around in her head, “Wait, did you say ‘cute?’” She asked a little quieter. Attracted to?

“Well, I still haven’t seen you without makeup, so I might be wrong.” Bae turned to her with a toothy grin.

IRyS found herself again., “Hardly,” she replied smoothly and threw her hair back dramatically. “I look good all the time.”

“Is that a challenge?” Bae tested.

“That’s a promise.” IRyS confidently answered.

She looked up to realize that they had arrived at her apartment, or at least, the pizza parlour under it. “Oh, we’re here.”

“You live in a pizza place?” Bae looked confused.

IRyS wanted to facepalm, but instead chose to gesture towards the windows on the second floor.

“You know, that makes a lot more sense.” Bae said.

IRyS led her towards the side door and explained the deal with the pizza place, Bae brushed off her explanation about any noise worries and instead focused on the point about getting free pizza, and asked if the deal would extend to her as well. This was a very important benefit for her to consider moving in. IRyS didn’t have an answer for her, she had never seen Reine go in there, although they had tended to exist on opposing schedules with Reine pulling near constant all nighters writing.

She put her key in the lock and ushered Bae inside.

<br>

To be perfectly honest, Bae was already sold on moving in before she entered the apartment, it had been so long since she found someone she could verbally battle like she did with IRyS, it was so refreshing. She loved spending time with Mumei and the other girls, but they had a hard time keeping up with her or matching her energy, and they sometimes had a tendency to miss interpret her playful quips as serious critique, She felt like IRyS understood her style of banter though, mutually assured insults.

It was nice to be able to enter the apartment and find that it was actually quite nice, though. Everything seemed to be pretty well taken care of, there wasn’t any noticeable dust on any of the surfaces or things like empty soda cans lying about. It wasn’t obsessively tidy, but it wasn’t disorganised either.

The layout was fairly simple, the main door opened into a living room, complete with couch and TV, there was a pretty impressive Bluetooth speaker system that IRyS proudly showed off, explaining the technical nightmare it was for her to setup. From there they had access to a small combined kitchen and dining area, and a hallway that led to a bathroom and the two bedrooms.

IRyS had the master bedroom, it was her apartment after all. She briefly showed it off to Bae, it was decorated with a few anime posters, there was a desk with a laptop with an extra keyboard placed in front of it. Bae made a mental note to ask about why her laptop needed an external keyboard, but not an external mouse.

Looking at the posters on the wall, she noticed one that stood out to her, and excited her greatly.

“You like Inuyasha?”

IRyS lit up when Bae asked this. “I love Inuyasha!”

The two proceeded to gush about their mutual love of the show as IRyS led them towards Bae’s potential room.

It was similar to IRyS’ room, just smaller and undecorated. She went inside and looked around, needlessly inspecting for any red flags like she had been trained to do by her parents when she first moved out.

The room would suit her needs, it had a desk for her PC to be setup and the closet was big enough to hold her sneaker collection. She would need to do something about the sad navy blue curtains over the windows though, the colour definitely wasn’t her, but she would be nitpicking if she brought it up. Overall, she was satisfied.

“Well IRyS, I hate to say it…” Bae took on a serious tone.

IRyS readied herself for the worst.

“...I think I might just have to move in.” She switched to showing a goofy smile.

IRyS punched her lightly in the shoulder in response. “Jerk.”

“You’ll come to love me, I’m sure of it.”

IRyS scoffed. “We’ll see rat-girl.”

Bae narrowed her eyes a little at the nickname. “Let’s stick with Bae, mkay?”

“Whatever you say roomie. You wanna go test the free pizza theory and hammer out the details of this arrangement?”

“Let’s go!” Bae enthusiastically pumped her fist into the air.


The rabbit girl who ran Peko Pizza seemed very agreeable on letting IRyS’ ‘new girlfriend’ in on the free pizza deal. IRyS tried to deny the girlfriend claims, but Bae laughed and insisted that they were ‘totally dating’ and that IRyS was just a ‘massive tsundere.’

Together, the not-couple sat on some stools and ate at the counter of the otherwise empty pizza-shop, enjoying slices of cheese pizza and cold sodas.

“Alright, rules are simple, you can bring friends over whenever, just don’t wake me up if I’m sleeping. If you’re bringing over a boy, give me notice and I’ll try to clear out and give you a few hours of privacy.”

Bae snorted in response, but otherwise didn’t comment.

“If you cook it, you clean it. We can rotate apartment cleaning duties every other weekend. Uh…” She tapped her chin. “Not sure if I’m missing anything else, if I am it’s probably not important.”

“I don’t like the mommy aura you’re giving off right now.”

“Is there an issue with the rules?” IRyS asked.

“No, the rules are fine. It’s just when you say them, you have a responsible motherly energy, it’s sickening.”

“Shut up.” She swatted at the smaller girl.

“Hey, that’s domestic abuse! Did anyone else see that?” She called out to no-one in particular. “My new girlfriend is so mean.” She returned to her usual tone.

“I’m not your girlfriend… yet.” IRyS said the last word in a suggestively low tone, it was her turn to tease.

She got the reaction she wanted, as the rat girl lit up almost as red as her own hair. “Gah.”

IRyS giggled at her reaction. She felt a small pang inside her heart seeing this other girl so flustered. She wondered… Maybe…

“You’re a devil.”

“Not exactly.”

“I think your parents forgot the angel half when they made you," Bae gave a fake gasp and covered her mouth. "Maybe it was an affair!"

“Wanna look into my eyes some more? We can test that theory.” IRyS teased.

Bae went red again, remembered the way those eyes had paralysed her when she had looked into them too deeply the night before, she turned away embarrassed. “Stupid magic eyes.”

IRyS shook her shoulder. “Oh come on, you must have some quirk beyond ears and a tail.”

Bae turned back with a slightly more serious look on her face. “Yeah… let’s not worry about that though.” She looked like she was recalling a painful memory.

IRyS didn’t want to push it, so she let the conversation thread drop.

The pair continued talking, IRyS gave Bae Reine’s old key and they hashed out plans to move Bae in that weekend. IRyS was initially surprised by how soon Bae wanted to move in, but she just insisted that her current landlord would be thrilled that she was moving out. This raised a small red flag that she filed away to address at a later date. After all was said and done they shook hands to seal the deal and Bae left to return back to her own home.

IRyS paused outside her door and watched the girl from behind as she walked into the distance. She had a bounce in her step and her tail swished behind her, betraying her excitement, even from a distance.

She smiled at the sight and felt her heart flutter once more. She gently placed a hand over her chest and contemplated the feeling. It wasn’t exactly the first time she had felt this way, but she had never felt it so strongly before. She realized all at once that she might just have a small crush on this adorable rat girl.

Although she would never admit that.

Chapter 3: A star, a flame

Bae trudged into the classroom, her eyes barely open as she scanned the rows of seats looking for somewhere to sit. Her eyes shot open when she looked upon a familiar face sitting in the front row, making her realize what class she was in.

“Bae!” The taller girl waved to her with a smile and gestured to the empty seat beside her.

“Good morning~” Bae said sleepily as she slid into the seat, setting her coffee down on the desk. She pulled her notebook and pen out before starting to slide her bag under her chair.

IRyS leaned over towards her. “Could I borrow a pen? Mine’s out of ink.” She asked.

“Huh? Oh, yeah sure.” She retrieved a spare pen from her bag and handed it off to the other girl. “Just give it back after class.”

“Sure thing, Bae.” IRyS said sweetly.

How and why was she so chipper this early in the morning? Bae sipped her coffee and narrowed her eyes at the harsh morning sun filtering in through the half closed blinds of the classroom. She looked over towards IRyS’ desk and saw an empty bottle of soda accompanied by a bottle that was already half empty.

“How do you drink that stuff this early?” Bae asked, seeking some explanation to this grave offence she was witnessing.

“What? It’s good.” IRyS defensively answered, spinning the top of the bottle and chugging down the remains. Bae could only watch in horror as she downed the sugary liquid.

“Bleh, you do you I guess.”

The two were pulled from their conversation when the teacher entered the classroom and began the day’s lesson.

As per usual it was boring and slow, and the instructor's voice had a horrible droning quality that made staying awake at that early hour even more difficult. Bae passed the time between taking notes by sneaking glances at her new friend, using those fleeting moments to try and gain some insights into the girl.

Overall she didn’t learn much about her or 'european literature', although if she spent more time self-reflecting she might learn something about herself in that moment. She didn’t do that though, instead she snuck another glance to see the girl chewing on the tip of her pen, completely focused on the instructor's ramblings. She admired the way her fangs ran over the plastic and her eyebrows furrowed intensely. If she could sneakily take a photo at this moment, she totally would.

Cute…

…wait, my pen!

Bae leaned over and whispered, “Excuse me, who’s pen do you think you’re chewing on?”

“Huh?” IRyS pulled her attention away from the lesson and embarrassingly realized the pen she had in her mouth. She quickly pulled it out and tried to hand it to Bae, not thinking clearly. “Oh, um, sorry here you go.”

‘What, no! Don’t give it back, you were chewing on it!”

“I didn’t mean to!”

“I don’t care if you meant to, you already did it.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? Unchew your pen?”

“Yes!”

“How am I supposed to do that!?”

“Ehem!” The teacher loudly cleared his throat while glaring daggers at the girls. “Is there a problem ladies?”

They both turned bright red at the sudden attention, they could feel the rest of the class's eyes staring at them. IRyS looked like she was trying to speak, but words weren’t coming out.

“N- no problems here.” Bae managed to say through the embarrassment.

“Good, where were we…” The teacher resumed the lesson and the girls stopped their argument, returning to paying attention and taking notes.

Bae still wanted to get one small victory and leaned back over and whispered, “You can keep the pen, since you like it so much.”

She thought she saw a vein twitch on IRyS’ face, who wanted to respond so badly, but she held it back to prevent having another embarrassing back and forth.

The class continued without incident up until the end of the lecture, when the teacher announced that the next assignment would be completed in pairs. The girls shot each-other knowing glances and sly smirks upon hearing this. The teacher left the classroom to allow the students to sort themselves out and to give them some time to work.

Many students took this opportunity to leave class early, but Bae and IRyS wasted no time getting to work. Deciding what topic to write their presentation on, and comparing their notes on the various subject matters that had been mentioned thus far. They both entered a flow state of working together that didn’t leave any room for playful bickering.

By the time the class was over they had completed more work than either of them would have expected to from working with any other random person in the class.

The pair stood and stretched once the class period was over. Bae grabbed her phone to look at her calendar, checking if she could afford to blow off whatever commitment she had. She wasn’t the type to skip activities, however… she looked at the nephilim next to her carefully putting away her books, and then back at her calendar, Tsk- Basketball practice. She quickly opened her contacts and found her coach’s entry, rapidly typing out a message.

Baelz: not gonna be able to make it to practice today

She sent the message and put her phone away, shortly afterwards she felt the confirmation buzz in her pocket, but didn’t bother to check the contents of the responding message.

“So IRyS, you wanna go get lunch?” Bae asked. There was a 2 hour free block during this time on Wednesday that she usually filled with extracurriculars. IRyS had told her that she didn’t do any of those, and she also wasn’t in any clubs, so unless she already had something planned with someone else…

“Oh… um… sorry I kinda already have plans with someone.” IRyS apologised sheepishly.

Bae was quick to hide her disappointment and flashed a false smile at IRyS. “That’s alright, I guess I’ll see you…” she paused to mentally calculate the next time they would see each other. “Oh yeah! I’ll see you Friday when I move in!”

“Right! I almost forgot to give this to you!” IRyS slung her bag off shoulder, dropping it onto the desk before beginning to rummage inside. “Aha!”

She held out a silver key on her open palm towards Bae, who accepted the item and pocketed it graciously.

“See you later Bae!” IRyS said with a small wave before starting to walk towards the door.

“See ya, enjoy your date.” Bae said in a quieter tone.

“Huh?” IRyS turned back towards her, she was too far away to have made out the exact words said.

“I said ‘see you Friday.’ Bae lied and gave her a small smile.


Bae was mentally kicking herself as she left the classroom. What did she care about who IRyS was spending time with, she only just met the goddamn girl. It should come as no surprise that she probably had a boyfriend or something, she was quite the looker. Not that that was a role Bae was interested in filling, she was just disappointed about losing an opportunity to get to know her new friend/roommate/landlord better.

She was so lost in thought that she crashed into another student, causing them both to go toppling onto the ground.

“Ugh…” Bae held her head and struggled to sit up. She looked over at the other student she collided with, a girl with fiery orange hair that faded to a light turquoise. “Kiara!” She exclaimed.

“Oh, hey Bae, didn’t see you there.” Kiara giggled.

They both helped each other collect themselves and stood up.

“How’ve you been, it’s been a minute since we’ve had the chance to speak.”

“Oh yeah, everything is going good, keeping busy with these second year classes, they really are kicking my ass.”

“I bet, how’s Calli been? I’ve been so busy myself that I haven’t had the chance to speak with her for like a month.” Bae asked, wondering what her half-sister had been up to.

She knew her music career was going well, judging by the posters and twitter posts for her performances around the city. The pair never had the chance to hang out, both having inherited their workaholic nature from their shared father. She wondered how Calli and Kiara managed to make their relationship work with how busy Calli always was, Bae never bothered with romance and relationships for that exact reason.

“Oh umm, well…” Kiara hesitantly began responding to the question.

“KIARA!” A new voice shouted, a blonde girl ran up towards the orange haired girl and threw her arms around her waist. Reaching up from behind, she placed a small peck on Kiara’s cheek. She looked towards a shell-shocked Bae and winked. “I’ll let you finish up your convo here, see you at the usual spot?”

Kiara nodded in response and the blonde skipped away gleefully. She finally turned back towards Bae to see a look of absolute seething rage in her eyes.

Bae had a million words running through her head, she didn’t know which of them she wanted to say, or which of the unpleasant things she wanted to do. She felt herself pulling inwards at the rage, at that chaos, something she said she would never do again.

Kiara saw the fury in her eyes and knew she had to defuse the situation fast. “Bae, wait it isn’t what it looks like… Calli and I… we broke up a month ago.”

What? Bae could hardly hear with the blood rushing through her ears, she had been so ready to defend her half-sisters honour, but… they broke up? Slowly she exhaled releasing the tension that had built up inside of her, letting go of the power she had accidentally grabbed hold of.

“O- oh… I’m sorry, she never told me.”

“It’s okay, it was a mutual decision and we’re still friends, it’s just the relationship didn’t really work out.”

“I see, so who was that?” Bae asked, gesturing towards where the blonde girl had gone.

“Oh, that’s Amelia…” Kiara had a dream-like look on her face, still very clearly in the honeymoon phase of the relationship. “I’ve known her since high school, but we finally decided to start dating last week.”

“She’s cute.” Bae pointed out coolly.

“She’s mine.” Kiara glared at her with a fire in her eyes. This was the Kiara she was used to.

Bae put her hands up, “Hey, she’s all yours.”

“Oh scheisse, sorry I don’t want to keep her waiting. I'll talk to you later, Bae.”

Bae gave a small wave in response and the fiery girl ran off. She was confused and a little hurt. She knew Calli was busy, but she thought they were close enough that she would at least text her to let her know that she had broken up with her girlfriend.

She pulled out her phone, ready to place a call and give a particular rapper a piece of her mind.


“Alright, that was good IRyS. Let’s pause the recording for now and take 10.” IRyS watched through the window as Calli released the button on the microphone that allowed herself to be heard inside the studio booth. IRyS picked up the tablet she used for reading lyrics and her water bottle. She saw through the window Calli pick up her phone with a smile before holding it up to her ear. She made her way out of the recording booth and made her way into the tech room.

IRyS entered the room and Calli held up a single finger and pointed towards the phone. IRyS gave a thumbs up in response and went to sit on the studio’s sofa, replacing her water with a freshly cracked open soda and idly sipping it, listening in on half a conversation while pretending to check her phone.

“Oh, about that, sorry I didn’t tell you…”

“I’ve just been, yes- yes- I know, busy.”

“How did you find out?”

“Oh she told you… how is she by the way?”

“AMELIA!?” Calli coughed and sunk deep into her chair.

“Shut up, rat.”

IRyS perked her ears up hearing that, could it be?

“Whatever. Listen, I’m with a client now so I gotta let you go, chat more soon though, okay?”

“Alright, love you, bye.”

Calli let out a deep sigh and spun her chair towards the nephilim, who was looking towards her with a perplexed, questioning expression.

“Who was that?”

“My sister.” Calli answered looking deflated.

Well, at least I know it wasn’t Bae. IRyS taking note of the distinct lack of rat-like features on the reaper.

“Did she find out about your breakup?” IRyS asked. Their recording sessions together had turned into therapy sessions for a duration after Calli and Kiara had broken up, she felt like this might be turning into another one of those.

“Yeah…”

“You know, you really should just go and talk to Kiara, tell her how you feel.”

Calli grimaced. “It’s too late for that now, she’s got a new girlfriend.”

“Oh… that’s why you yelled ‘Amelia’?”

The pink haired girl nodded solemnly.

“That’s rough.”

With a deep sigh she responded. “I’ll be fine, how goes the roommate hunt?”

“Oh! I’ve already found a new roommate.” IRyS said, smiling.

“Ooooo~ tell me more.” Calli leaned forward.

“Well she’s really energetic and nice, a bit of a brat, likes to argue.”

Calli snorted. “Sounds like you’re describing my sister, careful with those types, they’re exhausting to manage.”

“She’s also really cute…” IRyS said a bit quieter, a faint rose colour dusting her cheeks.

Calli burst out laughing when she heard this. “Got a bit of a crush, do we IRyS?”

“What…? No… of course not…” IRyS smiled.

“IRyS…” Calli said as a playful warning.

“Maybe a little.” She admitted.

“YEAHHA, oh I can’t wait to meet her.”

“You’re overreacting. She’s just my roommate, nothing more.”

Calli gave her a sly smirk. “For now… Have you gotten any of the right hints?”

IRyS understood her meaning, would Bae even be able to be attracted to her?

“I’m not sure… I’ve never really tried to pursue a relationship with a girl before, how do I figure out if she… would be into me?”

“Gonna be honest with you, no idea. Kiara made it as obvious as humanly possible and I still didn’t realize until she was kissing me…” Calli blushed, recalling the memory. “I’m not really good at women.”

IRyS laughed at that. “You got that right.”

Calli shot her a glare. “Alright, alright. Let’s get you back in the studio and finish up recording today.”


Baelz: On my way now, see ya soon XD

IRyS: See you when you arrive!

“Alright ladies, is that everything?” Bae asked, looking at the boxes they had stashed into the back of Mumei’s car.

Mumei wiped the sweat from her brow, having just finished shoving the last of the boxes onto the unstable tower in the backseat.

“That should be the last of it!” Sana exclaimed. “Ready to go? Want to give it one proper goodbye?”

Bae looked at the decrepit apartment building, made of it’s sad dirty red bricks, and tried to conjure up a single happy memory within those walls. Failing at that, she said, “Nah, let’s get out of here. I don’t want to keep IRyS waiting.”

Sana gave her a sly look, but otherwise didn’t say anything. She had been hammering Bae all afternoon with questions about the nephilim, which she had attempted to answer as impartially as possible, which had gotten quite difficult when she had started asking questions like “Is she cute?” or “Do you have a crush on her?” She had managed to overcome it by scoffing and ignoring those types of questions, much to the displeasure of her verbal assailant.

They all piled into the car, Bae electing to squeeze into the little space that remained in the backseat because she knew there was no way Sana would fit back there. Mumei put her keys in the ignition and turned it, the engine rumbled to life and her phone automatically connected to the bluetooth stereo, some catchy pop song from a few years ago began to play.

“Thanks again for helping me out today, and thanks for driving Mei!”

“Don’t mention it… as long as we get that pizza you promised.” Mumei flashed her a smile in the rearview mirror.

She started to drive and they all started to sing along to the music, smiling and laughing at themselves as they went, cracking jokes between verses or making up silly parody lyrics. At one point Sana put down her window and started attempting to belt out whatever was playing to the people they drove past, while an embarrassed Mumei and Bae tried to convince her to get her head back in the car and stop making a fool of herself.

They went a little bit out of their way getting to the new place, it normally would’ve been a 10 minute drive but Bae decided that she would pick up some groceries and a cake to thank her new roommate. A gesture Mumei and Sana saw as unbelievably sweet. Bae defensively argued that she wanted to have the ingredients to be able to cook for her and her new roommate, recalling how the kitchen's food supply had consisted mostly of instant ramen. This didn’t help her case in the eyes of her friends.

After securing several bags of groceries and a large vanilla cake topped with strawberries, the girls climbed back into the van, setting off towards their destination.


Bae: HERE

IRyS jumped up from her seat on her sofa and ran towards the window after receiving that text, looking out between the blinds, down towards the street to see a car parked just outside, two unknown girls- presumably Bae’s friends - were pulling boxes out and piling them on the sidewalk beside the vehicle. She caught a flash of red hair and ears running towards the outer apartment door, although she quickly went out of view.

IRyS then ran to her side of the door and threw it open, coming face to face with the rat girl, who had her arms completely full with several plastic bags while she delicately balanced a cake on one hand.

“Bae!” IRyS exclaimed excitedly. She took the cake from the small girl’s struggling hands and led her inside. She placed the cake down on the table while Bae sat down the bags of groceries. “What’s all that?”

“I got us some groceries, you might be okay with subsiding solely on instant ramen, but I sure as hell am not.”

“You can cook?”

“Hell yeah I can cook!”

“Oh my god, take me.” IRyS dramatically swooned.

“What?”

“What?”

They laughed at each other. Bae quickly threw the cold foodstuffs into the fridge while IRyS kicked on her shoes, and together they bounded down the stairs outside, IRyS ready to meet the new girls and help bring the many boxes into her apartment.

“HiRyS!” IRyS said with a wave to the girls waiting by the car. Bae smacked her upside the head. “Hey! What was that for?”

“HiRyS? Really?” Bae looked at her incredulously.

“It’s my thing!” IRyS put a hand to her chest and said defensively.

Sana and Mumei laughed at the pair's bickering. Mumei stepped up first towards IRyS.

“Hi IRyS, my name is Nanashi Mumei, or you know, just Mumei is fine.” The brown-haired girl looked a little nervous, she wondered if the two feathers sticking out of her head were actually attached to her head, or just something she thought was cute. She reached out to shake the girl’s hand, and while she did she noticed Sana very obviously wink at Bae who responded by childishly sticking out her tongue.

Mumei stepped away and the tall tanned girl ran up to her and very eagerly began shaking both of her hands at once. “I’m Tsukumo Sana, but you can call me… anytime.” Sana gave her a devious smirk and a dramatic wink. IRyS looked completely overwhelmed by the force of the taller girl, and she thought Bae was chaotic…

Bae grabbed Sana by the shoulder and separated the girls. “Or you could just call her Sana like the rest of us,” she looked towards Sana, ‘and you need to remember that you already have a frickin’ girlfriend, you animal.”

“Awww, but she’s the one who taught me that line.”

“Flirt with your own girlfriend, not m-” Bae spluttered for a second “-y roommate.”

IRyS giggled. Wow, nice save Bae.

“It’s nice to meet you, I hope we can all get along.” IRyS bowed to the girls.

With introductions out of the way they worked together to haul all of the boxes inside and into Bae’s room. After everything was brought inside they collapsed onto the couch, with IRyS taking the recliner, enjoying an extra cheesy pizza that Bae had ordered from the shop beneath them between their runs in and out of the apartment.

“So what now? You guys got any plans for the evening?” IRyS asked the girls on her sofa.

“Hmmm, we didn’t come up with anything.” Mumei pondered.

“Karaoke!” Bae exclaimed. “Let’s go to karaoke!”

IRyS’ face lit up at the mention of karaoke. She loved going to karaoke, although she didn’t go that often because she had found it difficult to find people to go with.

Sana noticed her reaction, “Do you like Karaoke IRyS?” She asked.

“I love karaoke!” IRyS answered earnestly.

“Well then it’s settled! Let’s go to karaoke tonight.” Bae slammed her hand down on the coffee table to seal the deal. The girls were all buzzing with excitement. IRyS was happy with how quickly they had accepted her and started to treat her as part of their group.

“Anyone mind if I invite Ina?” Sana asked, taking her phone out, already typing the text.

“Go for it.” Bae said, leaning back with her feet up on the coffee table (she did ask if it was okay earlier).

IRyS thought for a moment and smiled, she knew someone who could use a good night out. “Anyone mind if I invite someone?”

The other girls nodded to indicate that she was good to go. She took out her phone and sent a text.

IRyS: hey Calli, new roommate and her friends are going to karaoke tonight, wanna come?

Calli: lucky for you my show tonight got cancelled, we meet at yours?

IRyS: yup, come here whenever

Calli: omw

“Who are you inviting IRyS, anyone I would know?” Bae asked, although her voice had a bit of a leading tone she didn’t understand.

“My cousin, you probably know her, but I’ll let it be a surprise.” She smirked, wondering how the girls would react when they saw local rapping legend Calliope Mori. She did notice her answer seemed to set Bae at ease though, she would need to figure out what was up with that.

The girls lounged around and idly chatted, waiting for their new companions to arrive.


Ina was the first to arrive, she introduced herself to IRyS and sat down between Sana and Bae. IRyS decided immediately that she liked the quiet girl, she had a pleasant calmness about her, which made it so disarming when she immediately started trying to flirt with her right in front of her girlfriend. Apparently the two of them found this hilarious.

Not too long after Ina’s arrival there was a quiet, almost unnoticeable knock on the apartment door. IRyS jumped up upon hearing the sound and ran towards the door, throwing it open to allow her friend and cousin inside. The other girls watched to see the person who would enter the apartment.

“CALLI!?” Bae exclaimed.

“Wait, what? Bae!” Calli dropped her purse on the ground and ran towards Bae, who had jumped up and met her half way. Immediately upon contact Calli put Bae in a headlock and rubbed her fist on the rat girls head playfully.

“I wasn’t expecting to see you here, squirt.” Calli said, releasing the rat girl, a big smile on her face.

“I didn’t know you knew IRyS!” Bae said with surprise.

“Touche.”

“Wait, you two know each other?” IRyS asked, confused at the demonstration she just witnessed.

“Know each other? IRyS, this is my baby sister! The one I was telling you about the other day.”

IRyS froze, the gears in her head turning… but she’s a reaper… and she’s a rat…

“How do you know IRyS” Calli asked Bae.

“Uhm, she’s kinda my new roommate, I just moved in here today.”

“Wait… you… that means… you…” She looked between Bae (who looked bewildered) and IRyS (who looked mortified) before bursting into manic cackling laughter. She fell to the floor with tears in her eyes, heaving and choking, she was laughing so hard at the situation. The other girls all looked at each other in concern at the amount of amusement Calli seemed to find from their current situation.

Eventually she managed to compose herself and stand back up.

"Ehe, sorry…" She sheepishly apologised for her outburst.

“But, she’s a rat, and you’re a reaper…” IRyS said, befuddled. Was she herself related to Bae? Calli was her cousin afterall… The thought horrified her.

Bae piped up, “We’re half sisters, technically. Same father. How do you know Calli, IRyS?”

“She’s my cousin.” IRyS barely managed to choke out.

“Does that mean IRyS and Bae are related?” Mumei chimed in to ask.

Calli stopped and held out her finger, tracing a family tree in the air. ‘Uhhh, nope. IRyS is on my mothers side.”

IRyS exhaled a heavy, relieved breath.

“Aww, that’s no fun.” Mumei said, crossing her arms, refusing to elaborate on her statement despite the confused looks thrown her way.


The girls sat around the small stage of the karaoke room, enjoying a various manner of beverage, mostly alcoholic, save for Mumei and IRyS who had elected to stay sober for the evening.

Bae sipped her beer and jittered in her seat excitedly. She wanted to hear IRyS sing, however for the first few times the mic was passed around she had passed it up. Eventually she got tired of waiting for IRyS to get up and sing, so she decided to take some initiative and jumped out to take the microphone from Mumei, who had just finished.

"Nice one Mumei! I'm gonna sing something sad, fuck you." Bae drunkenly cursed at no one in particular.

She picked a mournful ballad, something she felt complimented her deep singing voice.

She was a little bit affected by the alcohol, she could never handle it that well, and as she sang, allowed it to lower her inhibitions and truly channel her soul into the song. And so she sang, filling each sorrowful line with a deep emotion, the tears just sitting at the edge of her eyes, threatening to betray her and spill out.

She looked outwards, the light refracting through the crystalline droplets skewing her vision of her enraptured audience. She looked to IRyS, who was looking back at her, her mouth slightly open, tears streaming down her face.

Bae powered through, passion filled words, and as she bellowed out the last refrain she felt the dam finally break and the tears fall from the corners of her eyes. Her final note rang out and the audience sat stunned. Bae passed the mic to Calli, who was closest to her and sat back down in her seat, wiping away the tears on her face. She usually never let herself get so enraptured while singing, but for some reason she felt like she had to today, to show her who she was, what she could do.

The other girls were either struggling to compose themselves or keep their composure from breaking.

“Bae, oh my god, I didn’t know you could sing like that.” IRyS turned to her, astonished.

Bae gave a small smile. “I’m full of surprises. What about you, are you going to sit here all night or are you going to sing for us?”

IRyS looked a little bit caught off guard, but she steeled herself and stood, Calli leaned forward to hand her the microphone.

Bae watched as she took the stage confidently like she owned it, quickly selecting some anime opening on the machine, nodding along as the backing track started to play. Then she started to sing.

And Bae was enraptured.

She wouldn’t be able to describe how she felt if asked, she wouldn’t be able to explain what happened during that 5 minute performance. IRyS was a star and she lit the stage on fire, she was a match and Bae was the candle, Bae was wasted and going through a lot of complex emotions.

As IRyS stepped off the stage, Bae struggled to ground herself, she realized her mouth was open and she had probably been staring for way too long, she quickly blinked several times and shook her head to clear her mind.

She looked at the girls around her for their reactions, her friends all appeared similarly stupefied - although maybe not to the same degree she was, and Calli was looking at her with a massive grin, she was the first to start clapping.

The rest followed suit, giving her a standing ovation. IRyS gracefully bowed in response.

“IRyS, oh my god, you’re incredible!” Bae said, running up to her grabbing her hands.

“Th- thanks.” She replied with a smile.

“No, I’m serious, you should make music, just like Calli!”

The other girls nodded in agreement, except for Calli, who’s expression was unreadable. Bae wondered if maybe she was jealous, so she made a mental note to tease her about it later.

“Oh… I dunno about that…” IRyS hesitantly responded.

All of the girls from then on took turns passing the mic around, singing different songs. Bae managed to control herself when IRyS took the stage for the rest of the night, and she also managed not to have or cause anymore emotional breakdowns when she sang herself.


Once the night was over the girls stumbled back towards Bae and IRyS’ apartment, the other girls said their goodbyes and piled into Mumei’s car.

The pair went up into the building, IRyS helping to support the extremely drunk rat. Carefully she led the girl towards her new bedroom and helped her crawl into bed.

“Mmmm IRyS?”

“Yes Bae?”

“You’re really pretty.”

IRyS flushed and Bae continued.

“You’re an angel.”

“You’re shitfaced.” IRyS pointed out, despite her embarrassment at the sudden compliments.

“Mmmhmm.” Bae smiled with her eyes closed.

IRyS brushed the hair out of Bae’s face, admiring the streaks of black and white on her brow. Something gripped her in that moment and she gently leaned down, pressing a light kiss onto the rat girl’s exposed forehead.

“Get some sleep Bae.” She said sweetly.

The rat girl didn’t respond, it appeared that she had already drifted off. IRyS carefully stood from her seat on the edge of the bed and left the room, shutting off the light as she went.

Once outside she leaned against the hallway wall and released the breath she realized she had been holding in.

OH MY GOD.

Chapter 4: Rebound

Light shattered through closed eyes, pulsating through her brain along to the incessant tune of her own heartbeat hammering against her skull. The unclosed curtains serving as the shepherd ushering the sun's cruel rays directly into her face.

With great effort she managed to roll over, freeing herself from the assailant. It didn’t matter now though, she was awake, and try as she might, the pounding in her head wasn’t going to allow her to fall back to sleep.

“Ugh… shit.” With great effort, she sat up, the room swam and spun. She squeezed her eyes shut, waiting for the feeling to dissipate before struggling out of bed.

Looking down, she realized she was still wearing the outfit she had worn out the previous night. I must’ve just crashed as soon as we got back.

She, strangely enough, decided to start her day by getting dressed into a pair of pajamas. Opening one of the moving boxes to find her favourite pair, a matching set of soft red shorts and shirt with little cheese wheel designs decorating them. She made sure to put them in a familiar box, because she knew she would want them to be one of the first things she unpacked.

She looked at the remaining fortress of unopened boxes, wanting to find where her headache meds were before dismissing the idea. It might take all day to find those.

I hope to god IRyS has some headache medication.

She clicked on her phone screen to check the time… 1pm. Ugh. She pocketed the device, before opening her door, exiting her room.

Like a zombie she dragged herself out into the living room, where she found IRyS playing Mario Kart on her switch.

“Good morning.” Bae said in a deep sleepy tone.

IRyS jumped in surprise upon hearing her voice. “Oh! You scared me.” She paused her game and stood, turning towards her.

“I’mm sorrrry.” Bae apologised in a deep voice, different from the usual energetic, higher pitch that IRyS was used to hearing.

“Oh my god.”

Bae narrowed her eyes. “What?”

“Your voice it’s… it’s uh… ehem… wow.” IRyS stumbled over her words.

“Listen, I just woke up, and I think my brain is trying to escape my skull, do you have any headache meds?”

IRyS took her into the kitchen and showed her the cabinet where she kept the medication. She grabbed the bottle for the shorter girl, since it was on the highest shelf.

“If you’re planning on getting that hammered often, we might need to start keeping these on a lower shelf.”

“Shut up… but also, you right.”

While Bae struggled to open the child safety cap, IRyS got her a glass of water to wash down the medicine. She wasted no time slamming down the tiny pills and washing them back with the entire glass

“I’m gonna go shower.” Bae announced.

“Is that an invitation?” IRyS said with a seductive voice.

Bae lagged for a split second before recovering, “What is actually wrong with you?”

IRyS laughed and walked back to the couch. “Move the handle to about 70%, it’ll start out freezing cold, then it’ll get boiling hot, but after a couple minutes it’ll level out and be just right.”

“Right on. Thanks, yo.”

Bae exited the bathroom and walked out into the living room, IRyS walked over to her as she entered and pressed a hot cup of coffee into her hands.

Internally, she was trying to keep herself level, and Bae wasn’t making it easy. First, coming out of her room with an adorably messy bedhead, then speaking in that husky morning voice. Now, she looked so cute and casual wearing her pajamas with her hair down. This girl would be her ruination.

“Oh ma gawd, you are too kind.”

“Don’t mention it, you feeling better now?”

Bae rolled her shoulders and sipped the coffee. “Yeah, I should be fine now. I’m a bit of a light weight and we drank a lot last night…”

“Correction, you drank a lot last night.” IRyS said teasingly.

“Yeah, yeah… did anything happen after we left the karaoke?”

“Uh, what do you mean ‘did anything happen’? IRyS asked nervously, remembering their exchange before Bae fell asleep.

“I mean I blacked out and literally don’t remember.” Bae said.

“O- oh. Yeah, um, nope, we just went back here and I got you into bed–”

“Uh, that’s sexual assault.” Bae said matter-of-factly.

IRyS went red at this. “Not like that you weirdo!” She swatted at the shorter girl who nimbley ducked out of the way like an expert, despite holding a mug of scalding liquid.

Bae emitted a high pitched laugh in response. “I’m kidding! You are so easy to fluster.”

IRyS pouted. “Jerk.”

“But you love me anyway.”

She froze. Do I? Ethereal hands gripped her heart, squeezing it tightly. How did I manage to fall for her this quickly?

If Bae had noticed her reaction, she chose not to say anything as she continued walking into the living room.

“Alright, cuz, what’s the plan for today?” Bae sprawled herself out on the couch, like a cat laying in the sun.

"Ew, we are not cousins. I would never want to be related to you"

I would rather– Oh, wow I really am down bad right now.

"Okay, ow, hurtful." The rat girl dramatically put her fingers against her heart.

IRyS went over to the couch. "Come on, make some room." She ushered the small girl to sit up and give her a spot on the couch. She sat down with a huff. "I cleared my schedule today, wanted to make sure you were able to settle in." IRyS told the other girl.

"Well lucky for you, I'm free all day as well. I hope you didn't have to cancel on anyone special…"

"They'll survive." She smiled, thinking about how often Calli would cancel on their recording sessions, it was nice to turn the tables once in a while.

Bae gave her a look and raised her eyebrows. "Ooh~ you got a secret boyfriend you haven't told me about?"

"What!? No!" IRyS was taken aback.

"Alright, alright, I get it…” They were quiet for a moment before Bae continued, “...a secret girlfriend?"

"N- no." IRyS replied, embarrassed.

"Right, right." Bae nodded, not looking at IRyS. "Hey, um, IRyS?"

Her heart rate increased. "What’s up?"

Bae took on a more serious tone. "Thanks… for this. I, uh, I wasn't sure what I was going to do to be able to pay my rent before, you really did me a solid."

Her words were like a vice on her heart.

“Bae…”

“I’m just, I’m glad I met you.” Bae looked at her, eyes starting to water.

“Oh, Bae.” IRyS’ protective instincts took over. She leaned over and hugged her, gently running her hand up and down the girls back as tears started to break free.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m crying.”

“Shh shh shh, it’s okay.”

Fire, red hot blazing fire licked at the core of her being, it was a wonder the girl in her arms wasn’t getting burned.

I’m good. I’m good. I’m okay.

The fire began to subside.

“I… I think I’m okay now, IRyS.” Bae said.

The nephilim had held her for a few minutes and whispered kind words while gently rubbing her back, calming her down.

“You sure?” She pulled back, looking into the small girl's face.

For the first time, she didn’t feel lost looking into those mismatched eyes. They grounded her and made her feel safe, like she was home. The fire was just embers now.

“Y- yeah.” Her voice still a bit shaky. “I’ve just been so stressed lately, I guess it all kinda just hit me at once.”

“Did you want to talk about it?”

“No, there’s nothing really to talk about, just a lot of stress and emotions, ya know?”

“If you say so Bae, I’m here if you ever need to talk.”

“Thanks IRyS… so uh, I suppose I should probably spend the day unpacking and getting settled in, right?”

“That would be wise…”

“But…” Bae said with a devious smile.

“But…?” IRyS looked a little worried.

IRyS rubbed her sore neck as she walked into the studio the next day. Bae had decided that she wanted to have a personal celebration with just the two of them, so they went out to the mall, did some clothes shopping, and got manicures done, the usual 'just friends' sorta date one would expect from two girls who were 'just friends'. You would think that would’ve been a relaxing day trip, but when you have a sporty chaotic rat dragging you around by the hand, forcing you to run everywhere, you tend to get a bit worn out. Although, IRyS didn’t really mind the whole ‘holding her hand’ business.

As she entered the tech room she saw a familiar face already sitting at the sound mixer. She sprang into action immediately.

“Alright, spill it.” IRyS said, pointing a finger at the pink-haired reaper.

“Spill what?” Calli responded, a sly grin growing on her face.

IRyS wasn’t sure exactly. “W- her, Bae, I- I dunno!”

Calli laughed at her. “Oh man, when I realized she was your roommate I absolutely died, it was hilarious.”

IRyS narrowed her eyes. “I know, we all watched you wheeze on the floor.”

“Right, right, oh man that’s funny.”

“CALLI!”

“Use your words cousin, if you want to ask me a question.”

IRyS realized Calli wouldn’t make this easy for her, she steeled herself and started to ask. “Bae… Is she…?” She trailed off, struggling to say the sentence.

“Is she what?” Calli asked in response, despite knowing the rest of the question.

IRyS sighed. “...Do you think she likes me?”

“Hmmm, what do you think?”

“She… I don’t know. It seems like teasing and flirting is her default mode.”

“That goes for both of you."

"Shut up."

"You’re pretty oblivious, huh?” Calli tilted her head at the nephilim.

“What!?”

“I know I’m not the best at picking up on signs, but to anyone watching you guys it’s pretty obvious that something is there.”

“Oh yeah!? And what signs are you seeing, then? I didn't see any signs, it was just…” IRyS thought back to their first meeting, to the karaoke, when they both made it home, and finally to what Bae had said in her drunken state "...Oh." Rose began to dust her cheeks.

“Looks like your gears are starting to turn. Yes, I think she likes you, it’s really obvious actually–”

IRyS felt butterflies exploding in her chest. She thinks Bae likes me? The same way I do?

“So what should I do? Just go and confess myself to her? Seems a bit much so soon.”

“Let me finish. She might like you, but I don’t think she knows that yet.”

“What?”

Calli put her hand to her head and sighed before looking back up at IRyS. “It’s a problem that runs in the family, we’re all oblivious workaholics.”

“You just don’t realize when you have a crush on someone? That hardly makes sense. I knew immediately.”

“Is it that hard to imagine? Wait, immediately? I thought you said this was just a ‘small crush’ the other day.”

IRyS was getting flustered. “Well, yeah, but…”

“So you like Bae, you really like Bae?

IRyS swallowed. “Yes.”

Calli stood up and walked over to her, a sinister look in her eyes. “IRyS I need you to be honest with me.”

IRyS nodded, scared of this sudden shift in mood.

“Is this a rebound?”

“A- a rebound- what do you mean?” She asked, confused.

“Reine… your old roommate, you liked her, didn’t you?”

“W- what?”

Calli didn’t say anything, she just kept looking at IRyS waiting for an answer.

“I- I did.” It hurt to say, to admit to someone else. She didn’t want to think about it again.

“What happened with you two? IRyS, I didn’t push when you said she left to do a book tour, but I’ve looked up her schedule, she’s only going for a month. You didn’t need to find a new roommate.”

IRyS looked at the floor. “It didn’t work out.”

Calli put a hand on her shoulder. “IRyS, I love you, but I also love Bae, and if you’re only going after her because you couldn’t make it work with Reine…” She didn’t finish her sentence, the implications were well understood.

“No!” IRyS looked up to meet the reaper's gaze, staring into her red eyes. “Do you trust me Calli?”

The reaper’s face softened and she answered lightly. “Of course. I just don’t want either of you to get hurt.” She gently wiped away a tear that had slid down IRyS’ face.

“I… I love her.”

“Like for real? 100% no doubt, you are sure?”

IRyS swallowed hard, steeling herself. “Yes.”

“I’m happy for you, IRyS.”

They were both quiet for a moment.

“So, what do I need to do to make her realize?” IRyS asked.

“Huh?”

“You said she liked me, but didn’t know it, how do I make her ‘know it’?”

“Oh that, it's simple, you gotta break her.”

IRyS went bright red. “What!?”

And Calli just laughed.

Chapter 5: Cracks

“Forty-one.” Down. Bae heard a click from the front door’s lock, she didn’t bother to turn around. She knew that it would be IRyS getting home from classes. Up. Bae was lucky, her classes ended at noon on Monday.

“Forty-two” Down. She heard the door swing open and a pair of footsteps enter the apartment. Up. “Forty-three.” Down. Up. “Forty-four” Down. Up…

Bae finally turned around, annoyed to have her squats interrupted before she could make it to fifty. She prepared herself to make some snarky remark to her roommate, but was stopped when she saw that the nephilim girl had a dumbstruck-stupefied expression.

“Hello IRyS.” She said calmly instead. “You good?”

“Oh, what? Me? Mhm. Yeah. Great. Uh-huh. I’m gonna- just gonna…” She practically crab-walked along the wall like Bae was a wild animal and she had to keep her distance. “...head to my room now.” She turned and practically ran into her bedroom.

“Strange girl.” Bae muttered to herself. ‘I wonder what’s up with that…”

IRyS had a well and proper gay meltdown on her bed, when Calli told her she would have to break Bae she didn’t consider the fact that Bae might break her first. She rolled around and girlishly screamed into her pillow.

It just wasn’t fair, coming home to her fit and toned roommate who she may or may not find profusely attractive wearing just a sports bra with yoga pants while doing squats and facing away from the door. It was enough to make any self-respecting lesbian fall to their knees and weep.

It was downright cruel and unclear if the universe was punishing her or rewarding her. She rolled over onto her back with a huff and stared at the ceiling for a bit.

“Stupid rat…” She said quietly to herself.

“You gotta break her.”

“What!?”

Calli laughed. “Like, you know, break her out of her shell. Make her realize how she feels.”

“O- oh. That’s what you meant.”

“Yeah, what were you thinking?”

“Nothing, ehem, nothing at all. Well, that just changes the question, how do I break her out of her shell?”

“I dunno dude, I’m not the one trying to romance her. She's my sister. Heh, wouldn't that be weird?”

“Well, what did Kiara do for you?”

“I think I already told you this, but she literally had to kiss me– unprompted, before I got it.”

“I’m not just going to kiss her!”

“I didn’t say that you should, as much as I hate to admit it, Bae isn’t as much of a bonehead as me.”

There was a knock on her door. “Yo, IRyS, I’m headed out, not gonna be around to cook for you tonight, figure yourself out."

It was now or never to start putting things into action. “Hold on!” She jumped out and ran to the door, practically throwing it open, which shocked the rat on the other side. “Where are you going?” She asked as casually as she could manage, trying not to move her eyes up and down rapidly over Bae’s toned body.

“Oh, I’m just going to the school to study with a friend.” Bae answered awkwardly, not having expected this exchange.

“Mumei?”

“No, I dunno if you know her, her name is Gura.”

“Oh Gura! Yeah I know Gura! She’s friends with Calli.”

The three of them had hung out several times before, before Calli started doing shows, she and the shark girl were like a pair of inseparable bros, together constantly. IRyS wondered if there was some jealousy in her and Kiara's relationship that led to the breakup, but quickly dismissed the thought, Kiara and Gura were also super close friends.

“Yeah, her. We were just gonna do some study for chem together. We’ve got a test in a couple days and she convinced me that I shouldn’t just wing it.” Bae chuckled, rubbing the back of her head.

“Mind if I tag along?” IRyS asked.

“You don’t even take chemistry.”

“I’ll study something else, dummy. I’ve got tests too, you know.”

“Alright, alright, fine. I'm sure Gura won't mind."

"Gimme a couple minutes to get ready." IRyS said, closing the door.

Once hidden from view, she pumped her first into the air triumphantly.

Gura watched as two familiar heads entered the classroom, although she was only expecting to see one, this was a pleasant surprise.

“Bae! IRyS!” She called to the pair, her voice bouncing around the otherwise empty classroom.

At some point Amelia figured out that no classes actually happened in here and it had turned into their group's secret meetup spot. There were a handful of desks, chairs, and a table still in the room, making it suitable for use as a private study room.

“Wazzup!”

“HiRyS!”

“I wasn’t expecting you to join us IRyS, also didn’t know you were friends with Bae.” Gura said.

“Oh yeah!” IRyS latched onto Bae’s arm, much to the shorter girl’s surprise. “We're way more than that, she’s my girlfriend!”

Bae changed colour like a stoplight. “W- w- w- w- what!? I am not!”

Gura grinned from ear to ear, she knew this routine by now, having gone through it with Calli and Kiara already.

"We’re roommates. I moved into her place last week." Bae said, refuting the flirty nephilim still attached to her arm.

IRyS gripped tighter. "Oh really, just roommates~, that's not what you were saying on the day you agreed to move in~."

She then attempted her best Bae impression, "This is muh girrlfriend IRyS, you should also give meh free pizza becauze she's muh girrlfriend."

Bae emitted a high-pitched kettle laugh after hearing IRyS' attempt to imitate her.

“Alright you love birds, let’s get to work.”

Despite her earlier teasing of Bae about them dating, the nephilim still looked abashed when Gura called them love birds.

“So y’all are ‘roommates’ huh? How long has that been going on for?”

“Uhhhhh, couple weeks I think?” IRyS answered.

“I see…” Duel tsunderes, how will this play out? “By the way, Watson said she’d be joining us as well, I hope you didn’t mind that I invited her along, seeing as you invited IRyS already.”

Bae extracted her arm out of IRyS’ grip. “Oh, yeah of course… who?”

“Oh I suppose you haven’t met her, Amelia Watson, she…”

“OH! AMELIA!?” Bae blurted out, realizing who she was talking about. Gura looked at her questioningly. “Sorry, yeah we met briefly when I ran– literally –into Kiara. It’ll be nice to meet her properly."

The two newcomers pulled chairs up around the table and began preparing themselves to work.

“I’ve never met Amelia, I just know of her from Calli. She had a– dramatic, let’s say –reaction when she found out about her and Kiara.” IRyS said as she slid into her chair.

“She’s still doting after Kiara, huh? You’d think that dummy would move on by now.” Gura said with a tenderness to her voice. Bae raised an eyebrow at her, but didn’t push it.

Once the newcomers had gotten settled in, Gura and Bae traded chemistry notes while IRyS pulled out a Kanji textbook and began studying the intricate symbols.

“So I had an idea,” Gura started, the other two looked up from what they were doing. “It’d be nice if we could get some people together and go see Calli’s show next Friday.”

“Isn’t it impossible to get into her shows without getting tickets way in advance?” IRyS pointed out. Bae nodded in agreement.

“You’re both literally related to her, have you not tired just asking her to get you in?”

Bae mumbled something that included the word “busy.”

“Wait, you can do that!?” IRyS asked, mystified.

“Obviously.” Gura said dumbfounded by the nephilims naivety. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter. I’ve played the venue before and am friendly with the manager, he said as long as we can pay for the usual ticket price, I could bring as many people as I wanted.”

“Yoooo, okay Gura, go off.” Bae said, impressed.

“Who else are you inviting?” IRyS asked.

“Well I was gonna ask Ame when she got here…”

“I could ask the rest of the council, I bet they’d be down.” Bae offered.

“That would be awesome! I’m sure Ame will bring Kiara, and if you invite Sana then I don’t need to bother inviting Ina.”

“Is that okay…? Calli and Kiara broke up recently, wouldn’t it be weird to bring her ex and her ex's new girlfriend to her show?” Bae questioned.

“Oh no it’ll be fine. Ame is actually really good friends with Calli too, and she and Kiara are still friendly.”

Bae nodded. “I see.” Her tone was slightly doubtful.

“Are you going to bring anyone IRyS?” Gura asked, turning towards her.

“Oh, uh…” The nephilim paused awkwardly, apparently trying to come up with someone. “Oh! I know!” She once again clutched Bae’s arm. “I’ll bring Bae!”

“Gah!”

Gura snorted. “Alright, alright.”

Did IRyS not have any other friends before she met Bae? I should’ve reached out to her after Calli introduced us! I feel like a jerk!

“For the record, I am bringing myself, do not let this succubus convince you otherwise.” Bae said as she attempted to free herself from the girl’s grip.

“Oho~ you think of me as a succubus, do you Bae?” IRyS teased, holding onto her tighter.

Gura wasn’t paying much attention to their antics, she was attempting to do some math in her head, her eyes pointed up and to the side with her tongue poked out, thinking intently.

“Woah, that’s gonna be a lot of people if everyone says yes! It’ll be eleven of us going to see Calli!”

“Ten.” Bae corrected, as she finally managed to wrestle her arm free, her cheeks still red.

“Noooo, stupid… Me, You, IRyS, Ame, Kiara, Calli, Ina, Sana, Kronii, Mumei, and Fauna! Eleven!”

“Calli won’t be able to go with us Gura, she’s performing.” IRyS said as she stifled a laugh.

“Oh right.” The shark girl looked a little dejected.

“What’s got you down sharkie?” Ame said as she strolled into the room, holding a biology textbook tightly to her chest.

Gura stuck her tongue out at the blonde. “Nothing, stinky.”

Quickly Bae and IRyS introduced themselves to Ame and vice versa. After she had settled in at the table with her own study material the other girls filled her in on the details of their plan. Ame was very interested and immediately texted Kiara to fill her in. They all chatted about random topics for a while before remembering that they had come here to study, and finally decided to actually get to work.

“Damn, it’s dark already, huh?” IRyS said as they stepped out of the school’s main doors into the cool night air.

“That’s November for ya.” Bae said.

The rat girl shivered as a crisp breeze rolled over her. “Shit, I didn’t even think to bring my jacket, I’m still used to down-under temperatures.”

“Here.” IRyS pulled off her own coat and placed it on the aussie rat’s shoulders. Secretly, she had sucked up her own refusal to wear winter clothing until it was absolutely necessary and stuffed the coat into her bag in the event that she might be able to loan it to Bae.

“IRyS… you don’t have to. You’ll be cold.” The shorter rat girl looked up at her, concerned.

IRyS looked down and smiled. “You worried about me, Bae?”

“Of course I am! You could catch a cold, and then who’s gonna have to look after you when you’re sick!? Me!”

“You will? I’m looking forward to it then.”

“Tsk-” Bae looked at the ground embarrassed. “Well, we don’t need to go home quite yet, I dunno about you, but I’m starving.”

“Oh! I know just the place! There’s a little ramen shop not far from here that Calli was telling me about, we should go try it!”

“Just how often are you talking to Calli?”

Instead of answering her question IRyS grabbed Bae’s hand, who turned bright red at the sudden contact.

“Come on!” IRyS said as she started to pull her along. “Wha- hey!”

“Your ramen is gonna get cold if you don’t eat it.” Bae pointed out to the girl across from her, who had only eaten half of her bowl, while she herself was already almost finished her second.

The pair had ordered takeout and were back at their apartment, they were now sitting at the small nook dining area in the corner of the kitchen.

“I’m not that hungry, plus, I’d rather just admire the view.”

Bae turned and looked around. “The curtains are closed?” She said, confused.

“I know.” IRyS kept her eyes fixed onto the rat girl.

Realisation dawned on her, and her face once again grew to a familiar rose shade. “Idiot. Don’t say such stupid things.”

“Why shouldn’t I?” IRyS said, testing her.

“Wuh- because-” She sighed defeated. “You’re too much for me.”

IRyS laughed. “But you wouldn’t want to get rid of me.”

“No, I suppose I wouldn’t.”

The pair chatted idly as they finished up their meal. When they were both finished they stood and started to walk towards their own respective rooms.

As IRyS reached her door Bae stopped her by grabbing ahold of her arm.

“Huh?” IRyS was surprised.

“IRyS…” She started speaking, but not knowing where she was going. “I… I dunno, nevermind, it’s nothing.” She released her arm. Her cheeks start turning red.

“What’s the matter Bae? Is something wrong?” IRyS looked at her with concern.

“Oh, no, nothing is wrong. It’s just- I had a lot of fun today, with you I mean. I guess I just wanted to say thank you.” She struggled to say, dying from embarrassment.

“Awww~ Bae, you’re so sweet. I enjoyed spending time with you as well.” IRyS replied sweetly. She leaned down towards Bae and gave her a kiss on the cheek, one that lingered just a bit too long, before she pulled back, “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

“Ack- Oo- a- E-” Bae sputtered out nonsensical sounds as her brain fried, attempting to process what just happened.

IRyS smiled to herself at the carnage she had just caused and walked into her room.

Bae was left the scoop up the goo of her brain that had slid out through her ears alone in the hallway. After collecting herself enough to function she robotically manoeuvred her way towards her room.

She entered the room and without even bothering to turn on the light, she just shut the door and fell backwards onto her bed.

What.

The gears started to spin.

What was that?

She replayed the scene in her mind. Replayed it again. Again.

Did she just?

Is she…? Does she think…? Are we…?

She couldn’t even finish the sentence in her own head. Circular thoughts swam around, growing more and more cacophonous until eventually it all just blended together into an uneasy white noise that lulled her into a restless sleep.

Chapter 6: Controls

“I’ll get a large cappuccino and a rat to go,” the customer said to her.

“Huh?” Bae said confused, blinking her eyes several times at the customer across the counter. Suddenly her brain clicked on and she realized who the person was, “Kronii! My gorsh, I’m sorry, I’m dead tired, my brain didn’t even realize it was you!”

“That bad, huh? Make it two then. Also, aren’t you supposed to be off at six? That’s what you put in the shared calendar,” the tall girl questioned her.

“Yeah, why?” Bae replied, confused.

“Well, it’s currently…”–She checked her phone–“6:21.”

“Bruuuuuuh, shit!” Bae swore, having not realized that her shift ended just over twenty minutes ago. Kronii chuckled at her misfortune.

“Alright hold on, you go sit, I’ll get our drinks and clock the hell outta here.”


“You look like shit by the way,” Kronii commented as Bae slid into the seat across from her, setting down their drinks.

“Gee, thanks.”Bae leaned back in her chair and released a long sigh that morphed into a pained groan, “Uggggggh, I didn’t sleep well last night if you couldn’t guess.”

“Someone keep you up?”

Bae thought of the girl who had been tormenting her thoughts and grinned, “You could say that.”

“Mmm, you two sure are moving fast.”

Bae leaned back forwards and sipped the edge of her drink, “Maybe a bit too fast…” A blush started to rise to her cheeks, “Shit, I mean, it’s not like that… at least, I think anyway? Ugh, this is way too confusing.” Bae set her forehead onto the cool surface of the table.

“Real talk?” Kronii asked simply. It was an old thing they had come up with, when they wanted to have a serious conversation and drop the back and forth ribbing they were so accustomed to.

Bae lifted her head and looked at the girl across from her, idly spinning her drink in her hands, “Uh, yeah, real talk would be good.”

“So, what’s going on with you and IRyS?”

Bae’s mind’s eye spun like an old VCR rewinding a tape, back to the beginning before starting to speak, “It’s weird, it’s like, we work well together, right? I can dish it at her and she can dish it right back, we banter well and I like that. But recently it’s like, she’s way more flirty, like directly flirty.”

“Mhm.”

“Which is fine, I can flirt with the best of ‘em. But last night, I dunno we were having a good time hanging out, eating together, and when we finished we were both going to our rooms, and I guess I didn’t wanna end the night?” Bae said it like it was a question, as if she wasn’t sure herself.

She continued, “I didn’t have a reason to stop her, but I did anyway, and I kinda just sputtered and thanked her for being a good friend or whatever, and then… and then…”

“Go on…”

“She kissed me on the cheek.”

“Ooooooo, spicy!” Kronii exclaimed with a sparkle in her blue eyes.

Bae glared at her, “Why though? Why did she do that? We’re just friends, is it normal for friends to kiss each other? I’m not French. Does she think I’m French? Is she just bad at recognizing accents?”

Kronii laughed at Bae’s floundering, “I don’t think she thinks that you’re French, Bae.”

“Well then why’d she do it? Because that’s a lot further than the flirting I’m used to.”

“Bae, you dumb sack of bricks, I haven’t met this girl yet, but from what you and the others have told me, I don’t think she wants to just be your friend.”

“Huh? You mean like… more?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh…” Bae was blushing heavily.

“I think I already know the answer to this, but… how do you feel about her Bae? Like romantically, how do you feel about her?”

“I don’t do relationships,” Bae answered flatly.

“That’s not what I asked.”

Bae pressed her forehead down on the table again and groaned before repeating forcefully, “I don’t do relationships!”

Kronii scoffed at her and leaned back in her chair, “I don’t know how to help your stubborn ass.”

Bae lifted her head and shot a glare towards the aloof girl, “Like you’re one to talk, how are things going with Mumei?”

“That’s cold, Bae,” Kronii bitterly responded, crossing her arms.

They both stared at each other for a few moments.

“We’re both no good at this stuff, huh?” Bae admitted.

“You’ve got that right.” Kronii smiled at her.

Bae moved so that she had her elbow on the table and was leaning her chin on her hand, her face soured, “I just… I don’t do relationships, I don’t have time for it.”

“You could at least take the first step and admit that you like her.”

“I–” don’t like her. The lie sticks in her throat, so she tries again, “I don’t like her,” she attempts to make the words sound forceful and confident, it doesn’t work.

Kronii just raised a wordless eyebrow at her and sipped her coffee, she didn’t need to say anything, it was obvious that she knew Bae was full of shit.

Bae sighed, “It doesn’t matter, I’m not interested in dating, so I’m not going to. She’s just my roommate, we’re just friends, and that’s how it will stay!” she declared and took a large gulp of her coffee, ignoring the burn of it scalding her throat.

“You’re absolutely hopeless.”

Bae fixed Kronii with the most menacing glare she could muster, “I’m about to text Mumei right now and tell her that you are deeply in love with her.”

“Really? Resorting to blackmail?” Kronii simply responded, crossing her arms, stoic as ever.

Bae couldn’t help but grin at her, “Yeah, I am. So you better shut up and keep quiet about this little conversation we had today.”

Kronii sighed, “As much as I would love to gossip like I always do,” she said, words dripping with sarcasm before continuing earnestly, “Real talk is real talk, stays between us.”

“Good.”


IRyS jumped with surprise when she heard a knock at the door, she wasn’t expecting anyone today.

Did Bae forget her key? No… the door is unlocked, she would just come in.

She went over to the door and opened it carefully, curious to see who was on the other side.

What?

Her mouth parted slightly in shock.

“Heyne! It’s Reine!” A beautiful woman greeted her, one IRyS knew all too well. Her long white hair was tied up in a high ponytail and she wore a simple tight black shirt that didn’t leave much to the imagination along with a pair of bleached skinny jeans.

“R-r-r–” IRyS’ brain attempted to restart, but her engine was just sputtering. What on Earth was she doing here!?

“It’s been a minute, hasn’t it IRyS?” She said, inching forward and leaning against the doorframe.

IRyS quickly shook her head to reset herself, “Y-yeah, wh– what are you doing here?”

“I was in the area, and thought I’d come by to pay my old roommate a surprise visit,” She answered with a small smile that didn’t reach all the way to her eyes. It was never that simple with her, “Can I come in?”

I could just say no, not deal with this again, not have to go through this again.

She sighed and opened the door wider, “Come on in.”

Reine gave a small bow as she entered.

“I’ll go get you some tea, make yourself… at home,” IRyS said, nodding towards the couch, before moving towards the kitchen, leaving Reine alone.

“You don’t drink coffee…” Reine commented, taking note of the copious amount of take-out cups littering the coffee table.

IRyS responded, calling out from the kitchen, “They aren’t mine. I have a new roommate.”

“Oh?”

IRyS clenched her teeth, she could hear more words unsaid, it was an unspoken question directly to her, so you’ve really moved on?

“Yeah, she drinks a lot of coffee. She’s not home right now, I think she’s working.” She responded.

IRyS stood at the counter, prepping Reine’s tea. She stiffened a bit as she felt the presence of the other woman move closer and lean against the fridge behind her.

“Are you two…?” Together? She didn’t have to finish the sentence.

No.” IRyS practically spat the words out, with more malice than she intended. I don’t need her questioning my relationships anymore.

She froze up completely as she felt hands on her hips, expertly positioned, just a few fingers touching her skin above her waistband teasing a familiar static current through her body.

A soft authoritative voice breathed by her ear, “Hmmmm, good. You know I wanted to keep you to myself.”

IRyS hurriedly moved to the side out of her grasp, Reine lazily let her hands slide away. IRyS spun around to face her, “I am not yours and I never have been!”

“You still could be.”

IRyS glared at her, “I’m not having this conversation again, your tea is ready.” She pushed past her and out into the living room, sitting on the couch with a huff.

Reine lifted her tea and sipped it, “Two sugars, you remembered.”

She moved from the kitchen as well and sat beside IRyS on the couch, too close, too intimate. She settled her own cup down on the coffee table, joining Bae’s collection of empty cups.

“I’ve made it enough times.” IRyS said simply.

Reine sighed, “Listen IRyS, I don’t want you to be mad at me, I want to talk, really talk this time.”

“We’ve ‘really talked’ before,” She didn’t attempt to hide any of the bitterness in her voice.

Reine tenderly moved her hand to brush some hair out of her face. IRyS hated how she relaxed at that simple touch, and how she wanted to feel like this more, it infuriated her.

“Don’t touch me.” She barked, but it came out all too weak.

Reine continued for just a few more moments before retracting her hand, “I’ve thought about what you said to me.”

Tsk.”

“I’ll do it.”

Blood roared in her ears, “What?” IRyS turned to face her, stunned.

“I’ve been with a lot of beautiful women. I’ve had a lot of great times with them, and yet you’re the only one who has slipped through my fingers,” Reine leaned closer to her and trailed her fingers along her collarbone, their faces were only centimetres apart.

A torrent of uncertain, confusing, and painful emotions coursed through her. Her lips parted slightly but no sound came out.

Reine continued, “You’re so beautiful, I want to have you, and I want to be the only one to have you.”

IRyS turned away, but lacked the self control to remove the taunting fingers by her neck, “I’m not going to be just another name on your list of whores that you call up every time you get in the mood,” She spat bitterly, her voice etched with the pain of reopened wounds.

“I know. That’s what you told me before. I said I thought about it, and I’ll give the rest of them up, just for you. It’ll be just you and me, and I’ll be able to have you whenever I want.”

She slowly turned her head back towards Reine, eyes piercing through her like they always did, “I–” IRyS couldn’t think, she didn’t know what to say, how to feel, it was all too much.

The panic of the moment was joined by another’s as the apartment door opened.

“IRyS! I’m back!” Bae called as she stepped inside, she stopped and stood stunned taking in the scene of IRyS and some other unknown girl pressed so close together, “IRyS?”

IRyS completely snapped out of the trance Reine had managed to place her under, “Bae!?”

Hot red fire flooded Bae’s cheeks, “Oh my god, I’m sorry, didn’t mean to interrupt, ummmm, I’m just gonna go to my room,” Bae practically sprinted away, down the hall and into her room, the building reverberating as she slammed her door a little too hard.

IRyS shoved Reine’s hand off of her and stood quickly, “Go,” she demanded.

“‘Bae?’ I thought you said you weren’t together,” Reine looked and spoke with a hidden jealous rage that IRyS knew how to identify all too well.

“It’s her name,” she sighed, “Listen, Reine. Thanks for stopping by, but I’m not interested, not the way you want it, not now, not ever. So please just go.”

Reine stood and stretched in that way she knew IRyS had secretly loved, from an earlier time living together, of glances snuck when she thought she couldn’t be seen.

Yet this time IRyS just glared at her, eyes burning with a malice that would make any normal person tremble, but Reine knew her too well, had spent too much time looking into those eyes to be affected anymore.

Reine reached a hand up towards her cheek.

IRyS slapped it away, hard.

For once, Reine looked shocked. After a few moments she collected herself enough to speak, “I see… Goodbye IRyS. Thank you for the tea, sorry I didn’t get the chance to drink any of it.”

She turned and walked towards the door. IRyS didn’t move. She cast one last look towards her, before opening the door and leaving.

IRyS heard the familiar click of the door shutting and her legs wobbled beneath her, she collapsed to the floor, unable to hold back the flood anymore. She curled into a ball and quietly sobbed, making ugly pained noises she would be embarrassed to have heard.

At least it was over, at last.

Chapter 7: Lovers Complex

What is it that you are supposed to do when you find your roommate (whom you hold no romantic feelings towards in the slightest) engaging in intimate relations on your shared sofa with a woman you have never met before? That was the difficult question Bae had to answer.

She, in the moment, had decided on running into her room and slamming the door. This was not the best idea, in hindsight. Now, she was trapped.

The window!

No, don’t be stupid, you’d break your neck, idiot.

So, escaping out the second story window wasn’t an option. But, assuming they were both still out there… on the couch… doing… things… intimate things…

The hot flush that had been flooding her face ever since entering the apartment was reaching volcanic levels.

Whatever, what do I care what she does…

A lot apparently, based on your reaction.

“Shut up,” she muttered to herself.

Razor wire threads coiled their way around her heart, cutting into her.

She lied to you, and said there was nobody. You just saw her, with your own eyes.

“But, why would she…”

She doesn’t care about you, she was just stringing you along, playing with your idiotic heart.

Her head spun. I-I don’t know that! I don’t even know the situation! Maybe they just met… or… or… or… something!

You’re jealous, and you won’t even admit it, look at you, arguing with yourself. You’re pathetic, just like you’ve always been.

“S-stop…” She held her head tightly in her hands, trying to squeeze the thoughts out of her brain.

You’re right to be scared, you always mess things up, look at how you messed things up with her, you entertained the thought of loving her, and look where it got you.

Crimson sparks began flying from her hand as dancing arcs of energy coiled their way around her fingers.

Let it out! Rage!

She pulled back her arm, ready to punch the wall, to tear this place down.

And then she thought of IRyS.

What am I doing?

It fizzled out and she slumped against the wall, defeated.

She can love who she wants, even if it isn’t me.

With a deep sigh she moved from her position against the wall.

I still don't wanna be here… not right now…

She tiptoed towards the door, and pressed her ear to it. Nothing.

She opened it just enough to poke her head out. Nothing.

Maybe they left… or maybe they took it to her room… Her stomach turned at the thought of what they could be doing. Images of them, perverse fantasies she couldn’t stop swarmed her mind, horrible visions of those bodies entangled erotically together.

She lightly pounded her fist on the doorframe, dislodging the salacious delusions from her mind. She let them fall away and everything was still, mute.

A quiet, barely audible, almost mistakable sob hit her ears like a thunderclap, deafening her.

She threw open the door and ran out into the living room, ready to do… something. She didn’t even know the situation, all she knew was that IRyS wasn’t supposed to be crying.

The scene before her was devastating, the mystery woman was nowhere to be seen, and IRyS… she lay curled in a sad ball on the hard floor, quietly sobbing.

“IRyS…” Bae’s voice was small, inaudible.

She closed in on the poor girl and kneeled beside her. Gently, she touched her shoulder. IRyS jumped with surprise and turned her head towards Bae. Her eyes swam with tears, distorting her vision.

“Bae…?” she choked out.

“Hey, hey, hey, shhh shhh shhh, it’s alright, it’s okay.”

IRyS turned away, back into herself, and continued to cry.

“Come on now, IRyS, that can’t be a comfortable place for this.” Bae leaned down and put her arms under the girl, and with a surprising display of strength, scooped her up into her arms and stood up.

IRyS’ breath hitched as she was hoisted into the air.

Bae carried her over to the couch and sat down, laying IRyS beside her so that her head rested in her lap.

IRyS stiffened and her crying stopped. She opened her mouth to speak, to say something, to explain. “I—”

“Shhhhhh,” Bae interrupted, “you don’t need to talk, just relax. It can wait.”

Tenderly, Bae began stroking her hair, combing her fingers through the long flowing strands. IRyS sighed against her touch, relaxing her body.

“But—” IRyS tried to protest weakly, desperate to explain herself, but Bae didn't let her.

“IRyS. It can wait.”

IRyS stayed quiet, Bae continued her motions, running fingers through long beautiful hair. The beast clawing at Bae’s heart stilled at last, the chaos within her unified in the single goal of comforting her friend.

IRyS’ irregular pained breaths steadily evened out into small gentle breaths as Bae soothed her into a calm slumber, lying on her legs. Bae couldn’t get over how pretty she looked like this, sleeping on her lap so peacefully.

What happened, IRyS?


IRyS woke slowly, her eyes still shut as her brain-fog cleared. Her head was lying on some squishy, non-pillow surface. She stretched her arms upwards and brushed against some kind of soft fabric covering an unknown mass, her drowsy mind grabbed at it and squeezed trying to identify her surroundings.

“Eh!?” An astonished voice above her yelped.

IRyS’ eyes shot open, all at once realizing where it was she was at, what she was lying on, and what she had just grabbed ahold of. Fire flooded her cheeks and she retracted her hand immediately.

“B-B-B-B-Bae! I’m sorry! I didn’t— I wasn’t trying to—”

Bae gave her one of her signature whistling kettle laughs. “Well, hello~ to you too. Did you sleep well?”

“Mmmm, yeah. How long”—suddenly, it all started coming back to her—“was I…” She groaned. “Oh gods,”—she held her face in her hands, muffling her voice—“you must think the worst of me.”

“Never,” Bae refuted, “I don’t know who that was; I don’t know what happened. All I need to know is if you’re going to be alright.” She looked down at her, and IRyS looked back up to meet her gaze. IRyS swam circles in those blue eyes, flaked with fire, just like her chaotic personality.

“Thank you, Bae. You don’t know how much that means to me. I– I'll be okay.”

Bae once again ran her fingers through IRyS' hair, and her eyes fluttered closed at the soothing touch.

“So, are you ready to talk about what happened? You don’t have to if you don’t want to, I understand…” Bae started to withdraw her hand from her hair.

“No! Wait—”

Bae froze her hand. “What?”

“K-keep stroking my hair… please?” IRyS flushed, embarrassed at what she had just requested.

Bae just smiled at her and returned to running her fingers through her hair.

“I… I’ll talk about it.”

“Good. I want to know if I need to go find that bitch that made you cry and give her a piece of my mind.”

IRyS chuckled. “I don’t think either of us will have to worry about her anymore.”

“Did you dump her?”

“No—”

“Did she dump you?”

“No. Bae—”

“You’re still with her then?”

“Bae, listen to me for a second. What you saw, it… wasn’t what it looked like, okay?”

Bae looked at her suspiciously. “Are you sure? Because it sure looked like… something.”

IRyS sighed and began to explain, “That was Reine, my old roommate. We had a kind of… complex relationship. It’s really embarrassing to say… to you…”

“It’s okay, I won’t judge you.” Bae spoke sincerely, their eyes still swimming together, betraying true emotions.

“I— I loved her…”—Bae inhaled sharply, like she had been punched in the stomach—“and she wanted me, for my body, how I looked.”

“Huh?”

“I didn’t want a relationship like that. We didn’t see things the same way. But, still… I was in love with her, and she knew that, and she tried to use that to convince me… to...”

"IRyS…" Bae gently uttered her name.

With a sigh she finished, "...she wanted to sleep with me."

Bae's eyes widened. "Did you!?" She coughed. "Shit, sorry, it's not my place to ask. Forget I said anything."

"No, no, it's fine. We didn't, we were never really together, because we both wanted it different ways, you know. I wanted a real, proper relationship, but she was more into having a list of… girls… that she could call up whenever she got in the mood."

IRyS closed her eyes, and continued speaking.

"Eventually, I grew tired of it, her bringing them home at all hours of the night, or leaving to be with them, even though she knew how I felt about her.

"When she told me about her book tour, I saw that as an opportunity to finally free myself of those feelings, to start over… to find someone new, who I could really love…"—she opened her eyes, locking onto the rat girl above her—"...someone who would really love me."

Bae looked away, embarrassed.

They were quiet for a moment, until Bae asked, "So, why was she here today?"

"She… she said I was the only one she never had, the only one she couldn't catch."

"So, she was trying to… seduce you?” Bae asked, quizzically.

IRyS giggled. “When you say it like that it makes my crying seem a whole lot more pathetic.”

Bae gently cupped her cheek. “You’re not pathetic… you’re…”—she sighed—”Love is a difficult beast, it grabs hold of you when you least expect it and it doesn’t let go…”

“Have you ever been in love, Bae?”

Bae’s eyes flicked back down towards her for only a microsecond, but IRyS read it clearly, an accidental admission.

“Y-yes.” She swallowed nervously.

“Tell me about it.”

“They… are… they…” Bae struggled to find the words.

IRyS sat up from her position lying on her lap and moved to be sitting closely beside her. “Hey, it’s alright,”—she put her hand over top of Bae’s—”sorry I shouldn’t have asked, you don’t need to say it yet.”

“...yet…?” Bae asked, turning to look at her with a confused expression.

IRyS winked at her.

Bae quickly looked away blushing. “You say the stupidest things sometimes…”

They spent a minute in silence. IRyS gently rubbed her thumb on the back of Bae’s hand, before she finally spoke. “Thank you Bae,” she whispered, nearly inaudible.

“O-of course. It’s what friends are for, helping each other when you’re down.”

“No… not just that. Bae, I think… I think I… I think I almost did something I would’ve regretted…” IRyS choked, her body tightening, “and— and— and—”

Coiled too tightly, she broke down once more, dropping her head down onto Bae’s shoulder, tears flowing once again. Guilt gripped at her heart, she had actually considered it, in that moment, Reine’s offer.

How could you…

Bae was quick, turning to take IRyS into her arms. “Hey, now, hey, now… it’s alright.”

“You mean so much to me, Bae, and I almost ruined that—”

“IRyS… it’s okay…”

IRyS pulled back to look Bae in the eyes.

“You don’t understand, Bae! Just, listen to me! I fucked up! I lov—”

Bae silenced her. Soft lips pressed to hers, a thousand comforts in one moment. Her eyes went wide in surprise before fluttering blissfully closed.

That moment, ever fleeting, ended. Bae cautiously pulled back her head to separate them, and IRyS leaned forward ever so slightly, desperately missing her lips already.

They stilled, staring into the other, rushing heartbeats unified. Bae’s fiery eyes fixated onto her soul, and her teary eyes gazed back, lost in her seas of flame.

“Bae?” IRyS started to ask… something, but unsure of what; afraid to destroy the moment.

“I—”

“Thank you…”

“I can’t believe I just did that.” Bae said in disbelief.

“I’m glad you did.”

“Did I really just do that?” She asked, starting to pull back further, trying to separate them in a panic.

But IRyS wasn’t ready to let her go. She grabbed her face, and pulled her into another kiss. Long, slow, comforting, they both relaxed into it. Their heads tilted, deepening the kiss with contented sighs.

Bae, in this moment, washed away all of her pains, her worries, her insecurities, and her mistakes. Bae made her feel whole, complete, and loved. And against her, she felt Bae calm, her panic and doubt discarded and replaced with a gentle comfort.

Their lips parted; their foreheads pressed together.

“IRyS… I…”

“I love you, Bae.”

“I… I… I love you too.”

Chapter 8: No Secrets

IRyS wiped the tears from her eyes, flinging the crystalline drops away, finally allowing herself to see clearly and stare back into the eyes of the one she loved.

She reached up and cupped Bae’s cheek, running her thumb over the faint dusting of freckles on the rat girl's face, almost unnoticeable unless you were as close as she was now. IRyS cracked a small smile and giggled.

“What?” Bae questioned.

“Nothing, you’re just really cute.”

“Sh-shut up! I can’t believe you would trap me like that,” Bae huffed.

“Trap you?”

“By being all sad and stuff.”

“You’re saying that me being sad is to blame… for you kissing me first?”

“Yes.”

IRyS rolled her eyes. “So… What now?”

“I… I don’t know…”

“What do you want out of this? Our relationship?”

Bae started into her lap. “I… I don’t do relationships,” she spoke quietly.

IRyS felt a twinge in the bottom of her stomach, she couldn’t give up that easily.

“Why?”

“I’m just so busy… I don’t have time for it…”

“We’ve had plenty of time to spend together, enough for us to fall for each other clearly, you aren’t that busy,” IRyS rebutted.

“I didn’t fall for you! I just… It… I don’t know…” Bae stammered. “Besides, I’d make a terrible girlfriend, you can do better than me clearly considering that bombshell you had in here earlier.

“I don’t want to do better than you, I want you.” IRyS moved from her spot beside Bae and made an extremely forward move by straddling herself onto the rat girl’s lap.

“I-IRyS!?” Bae blushed.

“You are beautiful,” IRyS began to list the qualities of Bae she adored, “You are hard-working, you are kind, you are hilarious, you make my heart spin in all kinds of funny ways, you’re everything I want.”

Bae’s face was engulfed in crimson, unable to handle the praise. “Ehm, uh…”

“I want you to be my girlfriend.”

“Okay…” Bae replied in the tiniest voice.

“Wait, what?”

“What?”

“That was easy.”

“Shut up!” Bae shoved IRyS and the nephilim nearly tumbled off of her perch on the rat’s lap. “Getting me all worked to make me say stupid things! I can’t believe it. Half-angel my ass…”

Despite her near-fall, IRyS recovered gracefully enough and smirked at her newly acquired girlfriend.

“It’s just…” Bae started, “I want you to be happy. I’m scared I won’t be good enough.”

“You are good enough.”

“How can you be sure?” Bae looked back with damp eyes.

“I trust you.”

“You shouldn’t, all I do is ruin things.”

“Then…”—IRyS leaned forward and allowed her lips to lightly graze across Bae’s, planting a soft feathery kiss—“You can ruin me too~”

Bae’s eyes blew wide and her hands gripped onto the nephilim’s hips. Despite her shock (and maybe some arousal) from IRyS’ words and actions, she still wasn’t convinced.

“But… what will you do when my basketball games interrupt out date plans?”

“I’ll come watch.”

“What about when council duties keep me away from you?”

“I’ll wait for you.”

Bae squirmed under IRyS.

“I don’t know if I can trust myself not to mess this up.”

“I trust you, and I want you to trust me.”

“I— How can I trust you?” Bae’s eyes glimmered with seriousness. “You’re constantly sneaking away, going off to do who knows what with some other person you won’t tell me about, I thought for certain you already had someone else, but…”

“Oh…” IRyS turned away. “That… Listen, Bae. That’s…” She gulped.

“See?” Bae looked at her defeatedly.

IRyS turned back, face now glowing with conviction. “You know what?” She stood up from the rat girl’s lap and grabbed her arm, pulling Bae up with her. “Come on, we’re going out.”

“Huh? Where are we going?”

“You wanted to see what I’ve been up to? Let’s go!”

“Wait… this is…” Bae looked at the building IRyS had dragged her to.

“Yup.”

“Calli’s studio?”

Bae looked at her in wonderment. “All this time, you’ve been coming here… Have you been recording?”

IRyS smiled. She pulled out an access card from her pocket and tapped the electronic lock. With a buzz and a click, the latch released. She pulled open the door. “After you.”

“She gave you a key card!?” Bae stepped inside and IRyS followed her. “Wait, so, are you like, gonna feature on one of her tracks or something? You’ve been coming here a lot though, way more than just one track, right? Or are you like her producer or something, did she fire J-Chad?”

IRyS rolled her eyes at the questioning as they walked into the studio. She felt along the wall and flicked on the interior lights.

“I’m not her producer. I’ve been working on something, she’s been helping me… I guess she’s my producer?”

“Oh, I see, well uh, I guess can I listen to it?”

IRyS gestured at the producer's seat that faced the glass window looking into the recording studio. “Take a seat.”

Bae acquiesced and IRyS passed her the headset. IRyS leaned over the table beside her and opened the laptop that was there, she navigated to the folder where her finalised recordings were kept, inside there were ten audio files.

“Ten!?” Bae gasped, “You’ve recorded ten songs? Are you making an album?”

IRyS giggled. “I think I might just start by releasing a few as an EP, just to test the waters.”

“That’s incredible, you’ve put so much work into this!”

“Just, hold on and listen to it first.”

“Alright, alright! Go ahead and play it!”

IRyS hit play on the first track, and then stepped back and placed her hands on top of Bae’s head, folding her rat ears down so she would only be hearing the track. The rat girl hummed appreciatively at the gesture.

The track began to play and Bae felt her ears fill with a rising crescendo, perfectly punctuated by IRyS’ powerful singing voice. Bae had heard her voice when they went to karaoke together, but this was something else entirely, a practiced and refined version of her craft.

“Wha— This is… incredible!” Bae exclaimed.

IRyS smiled lightly, and a faint red dusted her cheeks. She could faintly hear her own voice coming through the headphones on Bae’s head. She cringed a little bit inside at the sound of herself, even though she had heard it hundreds of times while recording, it was still weird to hear it.

“IRyS!” Bae spoke loudly, partially from excitement, and also because the noise-cancelling headphones made it difficult for her to gauge her own volume.

“Hm?”

“Are you hearing this!? You’re singing is amazing!”

“Well… it is me…”

“What?” Bae asked, unable to actually hear the physical IRyS.

“Oh.” She removed her hands from Bae’s rat ears and leaned forward to pause the track.

Bae reached up and lowered the headphones to hang around her neck. “You sound like a… like an idol, like an honest to god, real idol!”

“Thank you, Bae. It means a lot to hear you say that.”

“Did Calli do the mixing? I think I heard some of her signature sound in there.”

“Yeah she did, we tried to change up her style enough that it wouldn’t be recognizable unless you knew to listen to it.”

“Oh, yeah I can totally get that!” Bae nodded enthusiastically. “It’s all just… wow.”

IRyS just smiled a dorky smile at the praise.

“I’m just confused, why hide this? Everyone should hear this!”

The smile dropped from IRyS’ face and she shuffled in place. “I…” she sighed. She walked over to the studio couch and plopped down.

Sensing something was up, Bae stood and followed her, sitting down next to her. “What is it?” She put a supportive arm around her girlfriend.

With an uneven breath, IRyS began to speak.

“Back in middle school, I loved to sing, I would talk constantly about it, tell people that I was going to become an idol. I really believed it, I spent a lot of time practicing, and I think some of my friends really started to believe it. Then, an amazing opportunity fell into my lap, you know the show Idol Stars?”

Bae answered, “That singing competition TV show?”

“Yeah, they were doing auditions for a new season, I decided to submit a clip of me singing and they wanted to bring me on to do an in person audition. My parents and I drove for eight hours to attend. I was ready to be a star!” IRyS laughed dryly.

“So there I was, under all of the cameras and the spot lights. Keep in mind that this was just for the audition clip reel to show who made it and so they could highlight some funny fails, you know how it goes. Anyway, I stood there and I sang… and then… as I gave the big crescendo, the big belting send off for the song, my voice cracked.”

“No…” Bae gasped.

“It was horrible and screachy, honestly comical. Obviously I didn't make it, they sent me home.”

“They didn’t… They didn’t use that footage did they?”

“They used it all right. I even hyped my appearance there to basically the entire school, everyone I knew was going to watch that episode.”

“Ohhhhhhh…” Bae groaned, sensing where the story was going.

“Everyone saw it. It was the talk of the school, people would walk past me in the halls and they would squawk at me, it was traumatizing.”

“IRyS…” Bae rubbed her back supportively.

“My friends… They told me I should stop singing. And after the bullying got really bad they realized it was dangerous to be associated with me, so they cut me out.

“We ended up moving house so I could go to a different high school and get away from it. But it took me a long time to find my voice again, it wasn’t until… until Reine… she convinced me to sing again. As toxic as our relationship was, she was still my friend…”

IRyS glanced at Bae. “Fuck, sorry I shouldn’t mention her…”

Bae soothed her, “No no no, hey, it’s alright. It’s all in the past now. I’m really happy to hear that you found your singing voice again, it’s beautiful… just like you.”

IRyS turned to face her girlfriend, a hazy wetness clung to her eyes. “I think…”—she leaned forward slightly—“I love you more than I ever loved her.”

IRyS gently connected their lips for a moment before leaning back. “She helped me find my voice, but you… You helped me find myself.”

Bae couldn’t hold back, she leaned back in, more forcefully pushing their lips together in a heated emotional kiss.

IRyS’ hands came up to drape around Bae’s shoulders, while Bae’s hands drifted onto IRyS’ cheeks, thumbs wiping away the tears before they could spill out.

Bae felt the fire lashing within herself, but now she knew she could control it, this wasn’t like the other times when her raging emotions got the better of her, she was in charge of them now. She tilted her head and parted her lips wider, and IRyS matched her motions.

She prodded forward with a testing tongue, and at the lightest touch the nephilim opened up for her, inviting her inside, to entwine themselves deeper into the kiss. Their tongues slid over each other and Bae swallowed a whimper out of IRyS’ mouth.

Bae slid her hands further back to tangle her fingers in IRyS’ long hair, and at the same time the nephilim gripped tightly onto the rat girl’s shirt.

IRyS pulled back her tongue and separated their kiss.

“Bae, I love you.”

“I know.”

And without hesitation Bae dove back in, forcing IRyS down on the couch, while she kissed her within an inch of life, which the nephilim gladly accepted.

Calli tapped the key card and stepped inside of her studio. She was so exhausted, but knew she had to get some work done.

There was only one more track she had to master for her nephilim cousin before she would be able to start shopping around for a deal to publish her very first EP.

Calli smirked to herself, knowing that she had already sent a copy of the tracks to J-Chad and that her manager had forwarded it to her label, IRyS’ face would be so good to see when she learned that her label was interested in signing her.

“Patience, Calli, patience…” she mumbled to herself.

She kicked her shoes off and rounded the corner toward the studio proper. However, she was surprised to see the lights on inside.

Did I leave the lights on… Or has IRyS been in here? I don’t think she’s ever come here without me before…

Am I being robbed?

Calli cautiously continued forward, as she travelled down the hall she grabbed a broom that had been left propped up against a maintenance room door. She brandished the item like a weapon as she continued to creep along, listening for any signs of life.

“Ah~” she heard what she could’ve sworn to be a deep-voiced woman’s gasp and froze, listening intently, but it was silent.

So she continued forward until she reached the precipice of the studio room. Her heartbeat pounded in her chest, adrenaline coursing through her veins making her ready to fight any intruders waiting inside.

She burst into the room! “AH!” she cried, attempting to startle whomever was within.

She hadn’t realized the people within the stidio were her (non-blood-related-to-each-other-but-blood-related-to-herself) cousins.

Bae, who had been on top of IRyS, shoving her tongue down the nephilim’s throat, started to jump back in fear. IRyS, unfortunately, accidentally bit down, her sharp fangs cutting into the rat girl’s tongue.

“AHHG!” Bae cried in pain.

“HUH!?” Calli looked at the pair in bewilderment.

“CALLI!?” IRyS screamed.

“FUCK MY TONGUE, YOU BIT MY TONGUE!”

“WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING HERE!?!?”

to be continued

Extra: onyx

It was strange. Even as she stared into the water, pitch black under the overcast night sky, a dark and impenetrable veil, she could still see their reflection.

A reflection of what once was, a glimpse into what could’ve been. Happier times, a brighter future. It’s not easy to say who is at fault, who is the reason why she is here on this night, alone.

Neither of them could say they wanted this, this loneliness. As the dice fell and hands were dealt, they had to roll with what they had.

Maybe she played too close to her chest, maybe her partner showed her cards all too willingly, it’s hard to say, even with hindsight.

Someday in the future, things might be brighter. Perhaps she’ll stand here again, sun bright overhead, no clouds to obscure her way.

She breathed in the crisp night air. She shivered against the chill breeze. One step back, two steps back, three.

She exploded forward like she had done this dozens of times before, because she has… but never like this, never alone.

She jumped from that ledge, down toward the onyx surface below. She screamed. Was it fear, excitement, anguish? It was impossible to tell as the sound was whipped away by her dauntless descent.

In that darkness below, for just a second, she saw her. Her love. She wasn’t doing this alone, somewhere in her heart, she was still there.

Even if just a delusion conjured up by a lovesick mind, it still felt real. It had to be real. The mirror of her mind screamed to her, pulled her in, dragged her down, down, down, until she was gone beneath the surface.

She swam lost, eyes filled with times past, where arms and legs would scramble and kick together to reach the surface. When airy laughs would ring out over the lake without a care for who heard.

Tonight, on this moonless night. It was both of them, even if she was alone.

Together, Off The Deep End.


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And read the rest of my works on baerys.com

Edit
Pub: 11 Jul 2023 15:31 UTC
Edit: 11 Jul 2023 16:47 UTC
Views: 75