After she’d scrubbed and rinsed her leg a few dozen times and stood under the hot stream of water for a good long while she finally decided to dry off. Beca leaned over the small sink in the hall bathroom and stared at herself in the fogged up mirror. This couldn’t be happening right? Because she didn’t have any marks. That kind of life wasn’t for her. Right?
It was what she’d told herself for so long and now it was all different. She could love someone. Really love them and not just go through the motions only to end up a huge disappointment to herself and the person she wanted to love. But what did any of this mean really? So she could love people and that was great, better than great, it was fantastic. But what if they could never really love her? No matter what Aubrey said, Beca knew what it was like to want to love someone but being unable to actually really love them. What if whatever was happening, whatever the marks meant, she just…wasn’t loveable? Wasn’t that a worse fate than having nothing at all?
Beca wasn’t sure she had any answers for that, she wasn’t sure anyone had the answers for that. She took another minute to settle herself before she pulled on her clothes, stopping to eye the baby pink sweat pants dubiously before pulling them on. She looked ridiculous in her dark flannel and tank with the pants but at least she was comfortable. She took another deep, calming breath before opening the door to the bathroom only to find Bella sitting at the door waiting. “You again.”
Bella sneezed gave a warbling chitter but didn’t move and Beca wasn’t about to push things. Mostly because she didn’t want to get peed on again, but also because she still wasn’t sure that foxes didn’t eat people. Slowly Beca crossed her arms over her chest, not wanting to give up ground but unwilling to push past the fox either.
“Beca? Are you oka…what um, what’s going on here?” Chloe came around the corner to find Beca and Bella in a Mexican standoff, each silently and warily evaluating the other. The brunette broke her gaze with the fox just in time to catch Chloe giving them an amused smile.
“She doesn’t like me.” Bella yawned and stretched then laid herself directly in front of Beca’s feet, completely blocking the door.
Chloe chuckled and reached down to rub Bella’s head. “Are you giving Beca a hard time?” Bella nudged at her hand with her snoot then got up and walked away seemingly bored with the entire situation. Chlo chuckled and stepped back so Beca could exit the bathroom. “Why do you think she doesn’t like you?”
Beca let out a sigh of relief and shook her head. “She peed on me. And then stole my pants. Your fox is a bully.” She was joking mostly but she still gave a suspicious glance in the direction that Bella had gone before stepping out into the hall with Chloe. Half out of reflex she reached back and scratched between her shoulder blades, frowning when Chloe caught her at it. “I think she gave me fleas or scabies or whatever.”
Chloe’s laugh made Beca’s stomach do a weird flutter thing and she felt her face turning red. Bec dropped her hand from her back immediately self-conscious about the gesture.
“Okay first, I think you mean rabies, which neither you nor Bella have.” Chloe gently turned Beca to face the wall and brought her hands up to tug the hem of the shorter woman’s shirt up so she could see her back. “And don’t worry. It’s not fleas either….probably.” Beca squirmed for a second before the soothing warmth of Chloe’s hands on her skin settled her. A nervous shiver chased itself up her spine with each inch of skin exposed to the cool air conditioned interior of the house. “But don’t worry, we can always give you a flea dip out back. We might even find your pants out there.”
“You’re hilarious Beale.” There wasn’t any sting to her comeback, she was just trying to snark her way over the fact that her muscles were twitching everywhere Chloe touched.
When the fabric had finally cleared the irritated and inflamed spot on her back Chloe sucked in a sharp breath and let it out with a soft exclamation. “Oh.”
“Oh?” Beca tried to look over her shoulder but could see nothing. “What is it? What’s wrong? It’s fleas isn’t it? Okay I’m just gonna say it…if you tell anyone I let you flea dip me we’re no longer friends.”
“I…no…that’s…wait…you’d let me flea dip you in the yard? Beca, sweetie, no.” Chloe’s bright eyes blinked at her in mild horror at the thought that Beca was actually okay with that. “Just…wait. One sec.” The redhead jogged down the short hall to what Beca assumed was the master bedroom. She was only gone for a second before she popped back out with hand mirror and a bottle of lotion.
“Is this gonna be one of those ‘it puts the lotion on it’s skin’ moments? Because I just want you to know I’d make a lousy coat.”
Chloe paused and frowned at that not quite sure how to answer. “A what moment?”
“Never mind. Never mind me, the one with scabies and fleas.”
Her lips tugged into a grin at Beca’s obvious anxiety and on impulse leaned in to pull the brunette into a warm hug. “You’re fine. And it’s rabies.”
“Oh great. So now I have rabies too.”
Chloe laughed and turned Beca toward the bathroom. “Just go. Let me get the girls.”
Beca wasn’t entirely sure why this needed to be a group event but she went along with it because curiosity was stronger than her nervousness. She gave a little start when all three of the girls crowded into the bathroom and gave them all a wary blink. “Okay if it’s gross just…don’t be a dick about it.”
“It’s not gross just…turn around and take off your shirt.”
Beca turned but looked over her shoulder at Chloe. “You know you two are really demandy about the nudity.” It took her a minute as she sighed suddenly realizing that this was the most exposed and vulnerable she had ever been with anyone ever before. She shrugged off the flannel and dropped it on the counter before slowly raising her tank top, holding it to her chest as the only defense she had. Her body hunched under the weight of their gazes and Beca swallowed hard. “How bad is it? Like doctor bad or just ‘you should invest in calamine lotion stock’ bad?”
Soft fingertips traced over her back and she flinched automatically. After a second Chloe picked up the mirror she’d left next to the sink and handed it to Beca, helping her angle just right so she could see her own back in the mirror. Beca blinked and brought her free hand out to trace over the marks reflected in the small hand mirror.
“But that’s…I mean…”
For a minute her knees felt like jelly and she thought they just might buckle under her weight, so she sagged back against the counter still staring at the part of her she never knew existed. Chloe’s voice was soft when she finally spoke into the weighted silence. “I know it’s hard to see on your own but Becs, someone had to have seen it. I mean a girlfriend or boyfriend…?”
Beca’s face flamed red and she put the mirror down so she could pull her tank top back on. This was one of those times where she was supposed to have an answer for things she wasn’t even sure of herself. And it was just too much, they were too close and the bathroom too small. “Can we just.” She stopped herself from saying anything more choosing instead to pull her flannel back on. “I can’t breathe in here.”
Her mind was churning with more thoughts than she could process and she pushed past the women surrounding her to get out of the confined space. Once out she didn’t know where to go or what to do with herself so she stood awkwardly in the hall trying not to notice the way they were all looking at her. Aubrey frowned slightly, her gaze going down to her own wrist before a quiet understanding filled her eyes and she sighed. “Oh Beca…”
She glanced away at the sad look and wiped angrily at a tear she could feel creeping over her cheek. “I didn’t want anyone to ever realize I didn’t have them.” Her shoulder raised in a shrug with more nonchalance than she actually felt. “Not that anyone was knocking down my door to get into my bed but the few times…it was very dark and over very quickly. Not a lot to write home about.”
Sex was one thing, she’d done that enough times to know she liked it but never felt quite comfortable or right about it after it was over. Once things got quiet and intimate her mood often changed and the creeping panic that someone would notice, would know that she was somehow wrong, threatened to drown her with an overwhelming wave of anxiety. It had left her lacking in any kind of experience beyond getting off. And now standing there in front of people that were supposed to be her soulmates she felt completely out of her depth.
She hated seeing those pitying looks on people’s faces and she didn’t want to see it on any of theirs. Chloe was the first to move into her personal space, warm arms wrapping around her and oh my God it felt so good. So good she struggled not to stiffen up at the closeness and comfort of everything Chloe. Stacie eased into place on her left and Aubrey’s solid presence filled the spot on her right. Just for a moment as their arms closed around her she thought she might run screaming into the night, but it passed as she went lightheaded as the tide of their love bathed her in utter peace.
She wasn’t sure which one of them said it but she was certain they all felt the same way. Beca gave a ragged gasp before a sob broke and she didn’t even really know why she was crying but she couldn’t seem to stop. Nothing had ever felt so right in her entire life and she wilted a little, knees going weak, but they were there. All of them supporting her in a way she’d never experienced before. She belonged to people and they belonged to her.
“Let’s get comfortable.” It was Aubrey’s calm and reassuring voice and Aubrey’s strong hand that took hers and led them down the hall to the master bedroom. Beca paused for a moment inside the door, a little unsure if she was allowed to have this moment. She could feel Chloe and Stacie patiently waiting for her to decide what she wanted. “We can just cuddle.”
Beca gave Aubrey a look and raised her brow despite the fact that she was still sniffling and unsteady on her feet. “Sure, Jan.”
Aubrey snorted out a surprised laugh and settled on the edge of the large bed. “Honestly, I just thought it would be easier than trying to pile up on the couch but if you’d rather…”
“No! No…I don’t want to go back…” Beca wasn’t even sure if she meant the living room or something else entirely but definitely wanted to be there with them. Carefully she crawled up into the bed and gingerly settled in the middle.
“What about you Stretch?” Chloe’s tone was teasing and light but it was clear ball was in Stacie’s court. “You wanna get some cuddles?”
Stacie looked surprisingly shy when she glanced at the bed where Beca and Aubrey were already starting to ease into spooning. “Yeah, I could be DTC.”
Beca held out her hand and Stacie crawled into the bed, Chloe following her. It didn’t feel awkward like she thought it should, having Chloe and Aubrey spooning them. It should have felt a little bit weird when Stacie reached out to trace fingers along her jaw before kissing her while they were being held two other women. It should have been anything but comfortable and safe but…it was exactly that. Safe. It was perfect.
Tears welled up in her eyes again and Stacie wiped them away when they fell with a soft brush of her thumbs. “It’s okay, we’re home now.”
In the back of her mind she knew there were things she still had to figure out. Like why the one person in the world that would have known she had marks never told her. She wasn’t at all sure how she was going to handle that or what she was going to say to her mom but she knew she didn’t have to deal with it alone. Muscles she didn’t know had been clenched suddenly relaxed when Aubrey pressed a soft kiss to her shoulder and Chloe’s arm reached over Stacie to lace fingers with her.
Home. That felt right and for the first time in her life she finally found a home where she belonged. The rest she…they…could figure out later. Together.