Harper felt like she was going to puke. Elena hadn’t logged into Guild Wars since Wednesday morning, and Harper had no idea how to get in touch with her any other way. She’s also made herself conspicuously absent from the Pike & Polearm since Wednesday afternoon. After the scene Mori had made there, and the lingering worry that someone might have overheard her confession about being a herm, she wasn’t quite sure when she’d feel comfortably showing her face again.
She was facing the first real date of her life, and somehow she’d managed to agree to not one but two dates to two different people. In the same place, at the same time. With her luck, they’d be seated right next to one another waiting for her to arrive, completely oblivious of each other right until she stepped into view.
To make matters worse, she had absolutely nothing to wear.
She stood in her room, surrounded by clothes she’d hung on the curtain rod, laid out on the bed, draped over her computer chair, and rearranged in the closet. She stood in the center of everything, wearing nothing but a pair of panties that only barely accommodated her sheath comfortably. Typically, she wore a type of snug boxer-briefs designed for hermaphrodites, but today, for her first date--first two dates--she wanted to feel more feminine than that, and nothing felt more feminine than a pair of pretty panties.
Part of her wanted to feel masculine, too though. Both Elena and Mori had admitted that they were, consciously or not, bisexual. A giddy, excited part of her wanted to prove that she could fill both roles. At the same time, though, she worried about confusing Elena with too much duality. The girl still seemed very confused about her thoughts on herms.
Harper sighed and rifled through outfits in her closet that she hadn’t pulled out yet. Her fingers found soft white cotton and, confused, she pulled out a forgotten garment. It was a boys’ oxford, white and crisp, that her mother had once said looked “positively roguish” on her. She’d hardly ever worn it since, feeling more comfortable in girls’ clothing in public.
Roguish, though . . .she could be roguish. Captain Mal was roguish, and unwittingly stumbling into two dates with two people at the same time and place sounded exactly like something that would happen to him. Smiling as roguishly as she could, she buttoned the shirt up and moved to her mirror.
The light fabric was more sheer than she remembered. Her dark red fur showed through, which she liked, especially where she could spot her blonde dappling, but her nipples made a clear impression as well.
She spent the next several minutes trying the shirt with her limited selection of bras, but the shirt was sheer enough that she hated how obvious her bra was no matter which one she chose. Finally, she wiggled into a white undershirt as a last resort. Her nipples still made slight impressions in the cloth, but they were no longer visible as bright pink spots through the white fabric.
Satisfied, she turned back to her closet. She was tempted to go for brown slacks and suspenders and see if she could really pull off the Captain Mal look, but that would have to wait for the next convention. She glanced at the clock just as she heard her mother hollering from the kitchen. She muttered a word under her breath that either one of her mothers would’ve swatted her backside for if they’d heard. Out of time, she grabbed a black pleated skirt from off the bed and practically jumped into it. She wiggled her toes into a pair of flats just as her mother opened the door, jingling car keys.
“Ready, sweetie? Don’t want to be late for your date.”
“Do I look okay?” she asked nervously, holding her arms out and twirling.
Her mother clucked her tongue, looking her over critically. Her other mother walked by just then, stopping to look in with a sigh.
“Dangerous,” said one.
Harper pouted. “I was going for ‘roguish,’” she said, looking at her reflection in the mirror critically.
“I meant to our peace of mind,” said her mother, reaching around her wife’s midsection to hug the woman from behind. The two vixens churred at each other.
“No kidding,” the other woman replied. “We’ll never trust you to leave the house again, now that you’ve started going out with boys and looking like that.” Harper hadn’t told them about her scheduling problem, and had picked Mori as the safer of her two dates to explain to them.
Harper pouted again. “Mom! I’m not trying to look like a trollop! Is this alright?”
Her two vixen mothers giggled between themselves.
“Yes, dear,” the first said, though she sighed dramatically again. “You look. . .”
“. . .positively roguish. And cute. Roguishly cute!”
Harper rolled her eyes at the both of them and pushed past them both through the doorway. “Ugh, just come on, I don’t wanna be late!”
“Oh, NOW she’s in a hurry,” her mother said behind her.
Harper rolled her eyes again as she passed through the dining room. She grabbed her purse--a little black one with only some lip-gloss, her school ID, and some cash that she’d gotten ready earlier--off the back of a dining chair and waited impatiently for one of her two mothers at the garage door. Much to her exasperation, both of the vulpine matrons only giggled at her. Robin O’Neill leaned up on her tiptoes, kissed her wife goodbye, then walked over to meet Harper at the door.
“Stop scowling,” her mother teased. “You’ll get wrinkles.”
Harper stared up at the red light, willing it to change. Despite living only a few minutes away from Wardenclyffe, she really was going to be later. She fidgeted in her seat and sighed, certain the light was broken and would never turn.
“Just run it, mom,” she said urgently, craning her neck to get a glimpse of the shopping center down the road. Her mother patted her knee, chuckling softly as the light changed.
“We’ll be fine, sweetie. It’s a time-honored tradition for the girl to show up just a little late. It gives the boy a chance to sweat.”
Thinking of Elena, Harper opened her mouth to reply, then snapped it shut again. Now wasn’t exactly the time to tell her mother that she was actually playing the boy and the girl for this particular date. She idly wondered if her mother had gone through any similar experiences. Her other mother, fully female, often hinted that the hermaphrodite half of their married bliss had been a ‘wildchild’ in college. Harper wasn’t entirely sure what that meant, but going on a date with a boy and a girl at the same time seemed rather wild.
“That reminds me,” her mother said softly as she pulled the car into the lot. She parked in an open space at the very entrance to the lot but didn’t stop the car. Putting it in park, she reached into the back to retrieve her own purse. Setting the black leather bag in her own lap, he mother stared out the car window for a long time, fidgeting.
“Listen,” she started, then stopped, then started again. “You’re. . .pretty young. Not even in high school yet. But with the internet and everything I see on TV and that stupid ‘16 & Pregnant’ show and. . .”
She stopped again and Harper stared at her, mouth open. Was she really getting the sex talk in the parking lot when she was already late for her date? She started to protest but her mother held up a hand, forestalling her.
“I know. You’re already late. But your mother and I had a talk. I know you’re not stupid, and you know that your mother and I have nothing but faith in the decisions you make. But being a teenager can make you stupid. Trust me, I’ve been one. So here.”
Her mother reached into her purse and pulled something out. She shoved two condoms into Harper’s hands, then put the car back in drive.
“If you do end up being stupid, just be smart about it, okay?”
“Mom, I’m not going to--. . .”
“Oh, sweetie. I know you’re not. Or I know you would never imagine yourself doing something so. . .Just. Just have them, okay? Just in case.”
Harper blushed, staring down at the two circles wrapped in square plastic in her hands. Blushing, she shoved them into her own purse. They didn’t have much room to hide in there, considering how little the bag was. She stared down at them and snapped her little bag closed, though it still felt as if they were out in the open, announcing their presence to everyone nearby. She blushed deeper as her mother pulled up to the curb.
“I love you, sweetie,” her mother said, leaning across the car to kiss her cheek.
“I love you, too, mom. And, um. . .thanks.”
“Good luck! But not too much luck, young lady!”
She giggled and opened the door. “Thanks, mom. I’ll call you!”
“Don’t!” Her mother teased. “Let that poor boy take you to the damned dance already!”
Her mother laughed and left her standing on the curb, blushing even more than before. She turned and walked past the two stores at the entrance to stand in the center walkway down the middle of the shopping center. Stores stretched to either side, capped by a ritzy hotel at one end and a movie theater at the end. A statue of Nikola Tesla stood right in front of her in the center of a dancing fountain, colored jets of water shooting out of the sidewalk all around him.
She smiled. Seeing the thoughtful visage of Tesla brought her some courage. The man hadn’t once cowed before Edison. Her problems seemed small and silly in comparison. Trying to forget the fact that, despite his courage, Tesla had ended up penniless and alone, she turned left toward the hotel end of the shopping center.
Despite its name, the 12th Street Cafe wasn’t on 12th Street at all, and it was more of a restaurant than just a cafe. In fact, it was rather snooty, right down to their stiff maitre d’ with his comically pencil-thin moustache. The Cafe was pretty affordable for lunch, however, and even though the shopping center was packed with weekend shoppers, there was no wait for a table.
Harper slipped under the maitre d’s disapproving gaze. Like his moustache, his entire demeanor was rather comical, assuming you knew, like Harper did, that he was a senior failing his last English credit necessary to graduate.
Harper rubbernecked over tables and around waiters who were careful not to look too busy. In the back corner of the restaurant, near the window looking out on the foot traffic, she spotted a flash of red. A rose was pinned into the hair of a teenage feline. She sat alone at the table, looking nervous and craning her neck toward the door. The cheetah hybrid wore a blue and black polo that was snug enough to make Harper’s imagination go wild, and her rose-pinned hair was platinum, streaked with blonde, and tumbled out from under the rose in tight waves that made her look like a movie star.
In short, she was gorgeous. Harper blushed, staring for a moment, certain that there must, somehow, be two teenage girls with roses in their hair waiting for dates in this restaurant, and she simply hadn’t found the one who was much more in her league.
The feline’s eyes found her and lit up. She half-stood at the table and waved frantically, an excited grin showing off sharp, pearly teeth. At the same moment, a canine mutt whose dark fur blended in with the cafe’s low lighting, half-stood as well and waved.
Harper stared as the scene from her half-imagined nightmares came true in front of her. Her dates were sitting right next to each other, had spotted her at the same time, and were both waving for her attention. As she watched, the two saw each other and their waving paused as they turned to consider one another.
Harper’s stomach lurched. She made a soft, confused whimper in her throat that caused a few nearby diners to turn and glance at her with concern. She’d told herself that she’d be brave for this moment. Obviously, Elena and Mori were going to figure out Harper’s mistake right away. She would just go up to them both and calmly tell them about the mistake she had made.
And then what? her mind prompted her. Then they would get angry. They would fight with each other and yell at her and make her choose. She’d have to pick one of them, and she didn’t want to hurt anyone. She knew they’d both had to build up a lot of courage to ask her out, and frankly, she’d had to build up a lot to say yes. She was staring down the point of no return, and in a few moments one--or maybe both--of them would hate her.
Tears welled up in her eyes and she made that soft whimper again just as Elena and Mori turned from considering one another to look back at her. All they saw was the blonde tip of her bouncing tail retreating through the crowd of tables.
Why was she running? she wondered as her black flats slapped the rose-colored bricks of the shopping center’s throughway. Her purse bounce at her side and several shoppers let out soft sounds of alarm as she passed, some glancing the way she had came to check for a mugger or some other kind of threat.
Because it’s better than facing my stupid mistakes, she thought back at herself. Better than one of them hating me.
They’re going to figure it out anyway.
And when they do, they’ll still hate you.
Then why are you still running?
Heedless of the dancing jets of water, Harper kept running until her hands slapped the cement pedestal uplifting Tesla’s larger-than-life monument. She’d gotten herself wet, but didn’t really care. She hurried around Tesla’s pedestal and sat on it with her back to him, his metallic form shielding her in the direction of 12th Street Cafe. He kept her company as she cried.
The comfort of solitude was short lived, however. Scarcely a minute had passed before she heard two pairs of feet running up, one on either side of the dancing fountain.
“Harper?” the two asked in unison.
She sniffled and wiped her eyes, glancing at either of them. “I’m sorry,” she muttered miserably.
Mori crossed the fountain to the statue at its center, getting himself as wet as Harper was. Elena hesitated briefly, then executed a well timed jaunt to cross without getting wet. Both placed their hand on Harper’s shoulders.
“I got all mixed up when Mori asked me out. I didn’t mean to mix up the times. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings,” she said before they could ask.
“Mori?” Elena asked softly, pointing at Mori. The pup nodded. Elena smiled and extended the hand that wasn’t on Harper’s shoulder. “Elena.”
Mori took his hand off Harper’s shoulder for a moment and shook hands. Then, as if synchronized somehow, both Elena and Mori sat on either side of Harper, even though there was barely enough room on the edge of Tesla’s pedestal. Elena was the first to speak. She leaned in a little and her voice was right next to Harper’s ear, as if she were listening to it through her headphones again.
“Harper, it’s okay if you’d rather date a boy. When I asked you out. . .well, honestly, I was just as mixed up as you. I just meant to ask you to spend the afternoon with me. As friends. But when you thought I meant a date. . .well, I realized that the thought was really exciting. I really like you as a friend, Harps, I’m not going to mind if you’d rather pick Mori.”
“But that’s just it!” Harper squeaked indignantly. She stood up in a huff, startling both her would-be suitors. They had both been leaning in close, and nearly bumped heads when she slid out from between them. She crossed her arms, frowning and pacing. Cold water fell on her head in intervals, but her tears, which had started again, made her face feel so hot that she didn’t notice it.
“I don’t WANT to pick Mori!” she said, exasperated. She saw hurt flash briefly across Mori’s eyes, exactly the sort of hurt she was terrified of causing. “I don’t want to pick anyone!” she continued hurriedly. “That’s why I ran, because I realized that if I went in there you’d make me pick! I’ve never had a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a real date and all of the sudden two people I actually really like suddenly like me back and having to pick just. . .just SUCKS!”
She stared at them, huffing, soaked, and crying. Water fell on her head and she squeaked indignantly, finally stepping out of the fountain’s pattern now that she suddenly realized it was there. Both Elena and Mori were silent. Elena looked sad and confused, and Mori just looked stunned.
“You. . .really like me?” Mori said, his tail wagging.
Harper blushed darkly and glanced away, crossing her arms.
“Yes,” she said quietly and reluctantly. She frowned. Mori frowned, too, but his tail was still wagging. With another huff, Harper sat, dripping, between the two of them.
“I’m sorry, Harper,” Mori said softly. The sincerity in his voice was touching. There was excitement there that came from learning that Harper actually did like him. There was also hurt there, the kind of selfless sadness that suggested he was thinking of leaving to take the burden of ‘choosing’ off of her. It was totally the sort of thing Mori would do, and also totally the sort of thing Harper wanted to avoid. There was a long pause. “I don’t know what to tell you,” he said eventually, surprising her a little. She smiled to herself, happy that Mori apparently liked her enough to overrule his chivalrous attitude. He still wanted a chance with her, which was somehow more endearing to her than being the ‘bigger man’ and letting Elena ‘win.’
“I do,” Elena said suddenly, the frown melting off her face.
“What?” Harper and Mori said in unison. In many ways, Elena seemed like the outsider to Harper. She and Mori had a history together, not to mention the fact that they actually lived in the same city, which was known to make dating slightly easier. Plus, it seemed to Harper, at least, that Elena was way out of either her or Mori’s league. But even though she only knew Elena electronically, there was a different sort bond there, and it had started growing stronger. The night they had talked had been one of the most intense conversations Harper had ever had, and Harper had finished it desperately wanting to get to know her better.
Elena stood up, pacing a little. Unlike Harper, she had enough wits about her to stay out of the fountain as she paced. “Up until four nights ago, I was of the sound opinion that herms were gross, and I didn’t mind telling anyone who’d listen. Including my cousin, who just happened to be dating one.”
Harper shrugged, having already known this, but Mori furrowed his brow and frowned. “That’s kinda messed up,” he accused her.
Elena shrugged. “I know, right? I’m not trying to make excuses, but it’s just kinda how I was raised. Gays and lesbians are disgusting sinners. Hermaphrodites are genetic freaks. Reptiles are second-class citizens. It’s a small, rich, mammalian town, riddled with casual discrimination that I only just started questioning.”
“Sounds lovely,” Harper said, frowning. Considering most of Riverview’s preference toward non-hybrid races, she’d never exactly considered her upper-middle class home ‘progressive,’ but it starting to sound free-spirited compared to Marblecliff. She was suddenly struck with sympathy for Ross, whom she barely knew.
“Tell me about it,” Elena said with a curt nod. “But that’s actually not my point. My point is that I had a bias that I didn’t even realize, and things make a lot more sense now that I’ve shrugged it off. Uhm, mostly.” She smiled at Harper, her face a mixture of fascinating emotions. Sheepishness, confusion, excitement, curiosity, and contrition. Harper was left wondering how much of the girl’s bias remained and what it would take to dispel the last of it. It was a curiously exciting train of thought.
Mori shook his head. “I’m still not following.”
Elena stopped pacing and sat back down on the edge of Tesla’s pedestal. She crossed her arms. “Why should Harper have to pick?” she asked the two of them, her one slightly argumentative.
Harper’s ears perked at the question and the tone. Of course she had to pick. Didn’t she?
“. . .because what else would she do? Date us both at the same time?” Mori countered, his tone making it obvious that the alternative was so ridiculous it couldn’t even be considered.
Elena shrugged. “Why not?” she asked, leaning forward. “But not just Harper. That wouldn’t be fair. To her or to us. Why can’t all three of us date?”
Harper stared at the beautiful girl. Some part of her had seen the conclusion Elena had been alluding to, but she hadn’t really believed it. Clearly, the possibility hadn’t even occurred to Mori, whose mouth dropped open at the mere suggestion.
“Are you kidding?!” Mori asked, his voice cracking a little. He blushed, coughed, and powered on. “That’s ridiculous! Who ever heard of three people all dating each other? It’s. . .it’s. . .”
“It’s something society says we’re not allowed to do. Just like how Marblecliff says gay couples shouldn’t hold hands in public or hermaphrodites should be wary about revealing their bigendered natures or reptiles should just get the fuck out of town!” She squeaked softly as she swore, blushing a little. She lowered her voice. “It’s just a stupid rule, just like everything else, and I’ve had enough! Harper likes us both and frankly, Mori, you’re pretty cute and I think this could be pretty fucking awesome!”
Elena couldn’t seem to stop her excited swearing even though it made her blush. In fact, all three of them were blushing rather deeply at the moment.
“You think I’m cute?” Mori asked, stunned.
“You’re really on board for something like that?” Harper asked, dubious.
To her surprise, Elena slipped an arm around Harper’s waist. Harper closed her eyes, enjoying the closeness. She wanted to lean in to the feline’s lithe form, bury her face in Elena’s neck and cuddle. She was surprised at the intensity of her body’s desire for intimacy. Not the lewd sort of intimacy Nikki had put on display in the park. Just the comfort of another person close to her. She controlled herself, however. She didn’t want to play favorites, not when Elena was suggesting such a radical idea. The very thought of it excited her. It was an elegant but risky solution. She wasn’t even entirely sure it was possible, but she, for one, was eager to try.
“I find myself wanting to make you--both of you--happy,” Elena admitted shyly. “Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m setting us all up for a lot of heartbreak later on. Or maybe I’m just crazy enough to be right!” She nearly squeaked the last part out, giving them both an excited smile.
Harper took a deep breath, shivering a little. “Okay,” she said softly. “I think we can try it. I don’t think we can tell my moms, but I think I want to try it if you can both be happy with it.”
Harper turned to look at Mori questioningly, nearly pleadingly. Elena favored him with that excited smile. Mori crossed his arms and arched a single eyebrow, looking between the two of them. Harper’s heart sunk. He thought they were both crazy.
“You realize,” he said slowly, as Elena’s smiled faded a little. “That you’re asking me if I’d like to go from having half a shot with one cute, geeky herm to a whole shot with a cute, geeky herm and a gorgeous older girl way out of my league? What am I? Stupid? Of course I’m in!”
The tension shattered just like that and all three of them collapsed into a fit of giggles. Already having one arm around Harper, Elena leaned across and wrapped Mori with the other. Harper found herself quite suddenly beneath the press of both their bodies as the three of them hugged. She closed her eyes and relished the closeness of . . . of her new boy- and girlfriend? It was a weird thought to wrap her head around. She wrapped her arms around them instead. Elena was practically bouncing with excitement.
She gasped as, in the tangle of bodies, a pair of lips found hers. She gasped sharply and jerked her head back instinctively. She wasn’t sure which of the two it was. Someone murmured an apology, but a second later, a different pair of lips were there. She blushed and calmed herself down, letting herself be kissed. It was Mori. She could feel his lips shaking in time with the excited wag of her tail. She squeezed Elena’s side and pulled at her, and the girl rejoined the kiss. It was chaste and awkward and exciting all at once. They all kept their lips tightly closed but kissed with enthusiasm, three muzzles pressed against one another, someone occasionally making an excited squeak or giggle.
Harper was the first to pull back, reluctant to leave the intimacy, but also wanting to stop before her arousal was unhidable. Besides, they were still smack in the middle of the entire shopping center. What would her moms say if word got back that she was kissing a boy AND a girl in broad daylight, in front of the whole town?
“I’m soaking wet,” Harper said grumpily.
“Tell me about it,” Elena replied with a grin.
Harper blushed dark red. “I meant my clothes!” she hissed at her girlfriend, who blushed immediately. Elena shyly said ‘oh’ and glanced away from the other two. Harper bit her lip, squirming between the warm press of her new boyfriend and girlfriend. A thought suddenly occurred to her.
The cheetah hybrid’s ears pricked. “Mm?”
“Would you like to go to a dance with us?”
“Oh, I totally forgot about that,” Mori chimed in, excited. Harper grinned at him.
“A dance?” Elena asked.
Harper nodded. “That’s kinda how this whole thing started,” she said sheepishly. “He invited me to the Spring Fling. I wanted to say yes, but I was kinda freaking out over getting asked out twice in one day. When I tried to put him off, I somehow agreed to a ‘trial’ date. . .at the exact same time as my date with you.”
“Oh,” Elena said softly, looking confused and nodding slowly. ‘So you two already have a second date lined up?” She sounded a little dejected.
“No,” Harper said slowly. “I told him that it depended on how our first date went. He and I won’t go without you. No couples. We’re all together right?”
Mori looked at Elena, sheepish. To Harper’s surprise, Elena just grinned, nodded, and leaned forward, kissing Mori on the lips. The mutt made a soft yip of surprise and Harper could feel his wagging tail thumping against her butt.
“Right,” Elena whispered, then giggled. Harper sighed warmly as the girl squeezed her into her side. She was surprised that the sight of Elena kissing Mori made her feel aroused rather than jealous. Maybe this really could work.
“Well,” Harper said, blushing a little. “We’re not going unless you are. Or if you don’t want to go to some lame middle school dance, we can do something else. All three of us. That’s gotta be a rule. No dates without all three of us. Even when Elena goes back to Marblecliff.”
Mori drooped a little. “No dating at all?”
Harper shook her head sternly. “It’s no fair playing favorites. Dates only with all three of us.”
“Don’t worry, pup,” Elena said, smiling. “I bet I can convince my mom to let me come down for the summer, so we can have all sorts of time together. And until then, we can cam!”
Mori perked up a little. “Oh. I can handle that, I think. School’s getting kind of intense right now anyway.”
Elena shook her head. “We’re getting side tracked. Weren’t you two inviting me to a dance?”
Harper nodded and grinned. “Wanna come?”
Elena glanced down at her polo and khaki skirt. Unlike Harper and Mori, she’d made it through the fountain dry, though the three of them sitting together had gotten her side just as wet as either of them. “This is the nicest thing I packed for my trip,” she said, a little sad.
Harper grinned. “Come on. I know a few of the guys that work here who won’t mind letting us in dripping wet. We’ll all buy some dry clothes, then go dress shopping!”
Elena perked up, her feline tail snapping from side to side. “Oh! Really?! Our first date gets to be shopping?!”
Mori groaned comically. Harper jerked her head at him, grinning at Elena. “See? I told you so!” Both girls erupted into giggles. Mori stared at them blankly.
“What?” he asked.
Elena shook her head. She threaded her fingers through both of theirs, putting herself in the middle of the trio. “C’mon, I’ll tell you the joke if you agree to tell which one of us looks cuter in a slutty dress.”
The three stood up in unison, Harper giggling at Elena’s promise.
“Gee, you mean you two are going to torture me by showing off in gorgeous clothes in front of me all day? How will I ever survive?!”
They all laughed. Elena stopped them before they reached the inner ring of fountain jets. She tugged on both their arms and pulled Harper and Mori in toward her. Instinctively, all three of them met in the middle for another sweet kiss. Harper shivered, her toes curling in her flats as she felt Elena’s and Mori’s lips against her own. Elena’s lips were slightly parted, and when the kiss ended, she bit gently on Harper’s lip, making her gasp.
Elena grinned at both of them, then tugged them forward, just in time to get through the latest cycle of fountain jets without getting wet.