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Red Threads

Chapter Text

We understand time from a linear perspective. We see it as a one-way line taking us from point A to point B, and we see it like that because: how else would our brains process the many events that happen and cannot be changed? We look at life and the many instances of its passage as a constant cause and effect. If this happens then that will, and time will carry that event out as a dependent variable. I however beg to differ. Instead, I offer a different theory, one I like to nickname the RPG theory. The idea that some events in your life are simply totalities of your life. Unavoidable pros and cons that life offers as you go about your daily activities. I argue that some aspects of our lives are unavoidable, determined by unforeseen or uncontrollable factors. Something in the time stream is cemented in that point, and there’s no going around it. I choose to believe that those immovable blips are people. Their choices in how they treat you may be fluid in time, springing off a multitude of futures that slip into the weaving tapestry that is the universe and its infinite wisdom. Yet, I believe that meeting some people is an unavoidable segment of your life.

Now, you may be wondering what this has to do with anything, but bear with me. I have a lot of thoughts in my “pretty” head, and you need to know them to fully grasp what I’m trying to explain. After all, it’s all connected. Me, the people I touch along the way, Aubrey, you name it. We go by different names and have different dreams but the totality of our existence amounts to how much “good” we can put out into the universe. Good being a relative term, mostly, but highly dissuading events such as rape or murder. Our choices are our own, but who we’re supposed to meet along the way isn’t, or at least not always.

Think about it. The circumstances that line you up to meet that person at the exact moment, whether they become your best friend or your greatest enemy. Your lover or your heartbreak. The history in us that stacks up creates a universe that is seen wholly from the unique perspective of the viewer. In a way, it’s kind of Aca-Awesome. In a way it makes me feel infinitely small, yet it also makes me feel completely in focus.

Yet this is a story of how timing is everything, yet who a person is can cement them in your existence forever. Regardless of when or where some people are bound by the particles of the universe. Their very molecules tying them together for the entirety of the universe’s existence. This is a story of love not being enough, or being everything. It’s a story of the dark side and the light. It’s hope and despair. It’s life. It’s what you want or hates. At the end of the day, it’s what you make of it.

Chapter Text

The world was changing, and it was changing fast. Not only were the beginnings of war taking place amongst the vampire covens around the world, but a schism within the ranks of the Hunters was also forming. Something that had the world of the Fae on high alert. Aubrey sighed as she surveyed the room. She was currently in her apartment with humans milling about under compulsion. A trick that her siblings seemed to enjoy, even though they weren’t always quite gifted at it.

“Come on Bree, have some fun!” Morgan implored her, their red eyes widened in the best version of a demented pouty face they could muster.

“I think I’ll pass, Luciana won’t want me blood drunk these days;” Aubrey groaned.

Aubrey had taken up a position as the southeastern clan’s liaison, a responsibility that her siblings were all too eager to avoid. As the eldest vampire there, she was the only one truly suited for the job.

“Come on Bree, I invited a couple of friends too! I heard they might bring a succubus.” Morgan was practically vibrating with excitement. Aubrey rolled her eyes.

“Great, try to keep the succubus to one of the bedrooms, I know what they can do, and if you get a particularly powerful one, they’re going to make the entire building sexually frustrated if you all don’t watch it.”

“Will do,” Morgan agreed with an attempt at a flirtatious wink.

Aubrey sighed, it was going to be a long night.

The small party kicked off relatively easily. In attendance were one wood elf, a werewolf, two more vampires, and a hunter deserter called Fat Amy. When the succubus didn’t show Aubrey was nothing short of relieved since she had been wary of succubi since the Paris incident of 1846. One night of drunken debauchery was enough to last her the next two centuries.

Morgan had turned on music for everyone before ordering food for the werewolf and wood elf. Wood elves were particularly hard to order for considering the ancient rites they required for any animal product. Werewolves on the other hand were relatively easy if it’s meat: make it rare, if it’s anything else, it’s open season.

The wood elf in attendance was none other than a woman named Lily Onakurmura, who had a tendency to whisper everything she said. If it weren’t for vampiric hearing, Aubrey would not have heard a single word.

A knock on the door broke off the blonde vampire’s attention as she flitted to the door and peered through the peephole. Two brunettes stood outside, one of which Aubrey recognized as her friend, Chloe’s, mate: a werewolf named Beca. Along with a taller person whose low cut top took up most of the view. Aubrey pulled open the door.

“Hello Hobbit,” Aubrey greeted Beca dryly.

“Watch it, Posen, just because my pack is on good terms with you doesn’t mean that I won’t lay you out;” Beca drawled.

“Who’s this?” Aubrey inquired as her eyes settled on the taller brunette beside Beca.

Aubrey’s inquiry was met with a wave of seductive energy that had Aubrey’s head spinning for a second. “Fuck, succubus;” Aubrey groaned as her pulse picked up and the mood in the room took a sudden turn. She saw Morgan making out with one of the humans as the two other vampires seemed to follow suit.

“If I let you in can you turn the aura down a notch? I’m not trying to have an orgy in my living room.”

“Sorry,” the tall brunette said with a wink. She didn’t sound sorry at all.

“Beca, what are you doing here?” Posen inquired, the room temperature felt infinitely cooler as the flat occupants all snapped out of their sex-crazed daze.

“We were invited by Morgan, figured we would pop in.”

“Where’s Chloe?” Aubrey asked, hoping her best friend would be there.

“Dealing with some witch business, as usual,” Beca answered with a shrug.

“Can we come in?” The succubus requested with a positively wolfish grin. Aubrey made a note to inquire into whether the girl had werewolf lineage later.

“Fine, might as well. I didn’t need sleep anyway.”

Aubrey stood to the side and gestured for them to enter, a formal invitation wasn’t required for their kind, unlike vampires. “Did you ever have an instance where you needed to get into a house and you weren’t invited in?” The tall brunette asked.

Aubrey thought for a moment before answering, “I haven’t but my sire got so mad at some house occupants that he grabbed a car and threw it through the wall.”

“Dude, no;” Beca gawped.
“Alaric wasn’t always the most level-headed member of the great council.” Aubrey’s comment was met by chuckles from her fellows and a couple of raised glasses.

“How many of you did he sire?” Beca asked.

“I don’t know, I just know I was somewhere in the top thirty, he said I reminded him of what his wife looked like when she was younger.” Aubrey blinked for a moment, surprised she was talking about it so easily since her relationship with Alaric was fraught with issues.

“Stop doing that,” Aubrey snapped, her gaze settled on the succubus who smiled impishly.

“Sorry, when people are feeling intimate they’re usually more honest. It’s hard to shut off.”

“Well make a better effort.” Aubrey griped.

“Can do captain,” Stacie replied with a flirtatious wink.

The night blurred by in a swirl of alcohol and blood as Aubrey surveyed the quickly thickening crowd of guests. More than a few members of the Fae community made an appearance, so eventually, Aubrey made an escape up to the roof of the building. Especially since more than a few succubi arrived and the atmosphere of the place was getting too chummy for Aubrey’s taste. To her surprise, she found the tall brunette from earlier sitting on the edge of the rooftop, a Glass of wine in hand.

“What are you doing up here?” Aubrey queried, she was perplexed. Succubi never turned down a good party, especially when their energy turned the affair into pure sex. The only other being that could rival a succubus or incubus in party culture was Bacchus himself. Not that she had seen the Olympian lately. Supposedly he was in Vegas, feeding on the debauchery of the area.

“You really don’t remember me, do you?” The brunette chuckled, her green-blue eyes met Aubrey’s with a hint of mirth and something else.

“No, should I?’ Aubrey approached, hitching a leg over the side of the wall to face the taller woman.

“We met at the beginning of the twentieth century, I’ll admit though, your control was lacking around that time.”

Aubrey grimaced for a moment, perplexed. Stacie sighed, “Anastacia? Russia, 1920’s”

Aubrey’s eyes widened in surprise, something Stacie mistook for recognition.

“There we go, it’s just Stacie now.”

“The long-lost princess of Russia goes by Stacie, that’s an interesting drop in prestige;” Aubrey chuckled, not really bothering to correct the taller girl’s assumption at first.

“Ouch,” Stacie winced in mock offense. “At least tell me you missed me?”

“Sorry?” Aubrey shrugged.

“You still don’t remember me, huh?” Stacie said.

“Not quite, no;” Aubrey sighed.

Of course, Stacie was not really that surprised considering Aubrey’s state when they had met. Stacie didn't know it yet but Aubrey used to be the golden daughter of Alaric the Reaper, also known as the Vampire Baron. She did everything Daddy dearest said, or at least she used to. She used to reside in court with Luciana after the great Mage wars of the early eighteen hundreds. Back when the Witches and Warlocks of the century had risen up in defiance of the vampire’s and hunter’s alternating power grabs.

She had met Chloe during those days, the witch had unbound Aubrey from the curse of her predecessors. They had been friends ever since. Even though Aubrey’s behavior upon release was less than cordial to those that were not a member of the vampire race, or Chloe. In fact, she had become something of a terror in 1800’s France, leaving a swath of destruction through the area.

The fact of the matter was, she had become lost in the blood haze. Something that beginning vampires often succumbed to and Aubrey had definitely earned her nickname as the Reaper’s Daughter. The terror she left in her wake had only been calmed by Luciana, something she was wont to part with when she was sent to look after the Southeastern Coven of the new world.

“I met you during my relapse,” Aubrey noted aloud.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Stacie smirked as the girl seemed to remember something.

“You actually tried to feed on me when we met,” Stacie chuckled.

Aubrey’s eyes widened in slight horror for a moment, “I tried to kill you?”

“Feed, I said feed;” Stacie clarified.

“Back then feed and kill was synonymous;” Aubrey retorted.

“Not for me,” Stacie grinned, “You said I was too pretty to murder.”

Aubrey’s brow furrowed for a moment at the lost princess’s words. “I -”

Stacie waved a hand dismissively before taking a drought from her wine glass. “It’s okay Aubrey, we had a fun night. It’s just a shame you don’t remember it. Besides, I think I helped you keep a couple of humans alive, especially since I kept you occupied doing other things.”

If Aubrey could blush she would have, especially since she had no recollection of what Stacie was talking about. “We?”

“Oh yeah, but again, don’t worry about it. I’ve been alive long enough to know what a blood haze does. You guys really can’t stop, it’s like an addiction. Brain chemical imbalances make your body crave blood all the time, you can’t help it. It’s not like we can send your kind to vampire rehab, either.”

“They have support groups in the capitol;” Aubrey shrugged.

Stacie blinked for a moment, “You have - what?”

“Bahek runs it,” Aubrey said in a way of explanation. “He understands the blood haze well, he says his fathers had it.”

Stacie laughed as she imagined the great right hand of the Red Court running group therapy for overprivileged vampires. “That must be so strange, to be made and not born. You were human once, but now you’re one of us.”

“One of you that’s immortal and can’t die from anything but violence,” Aubrey quipped.

“And sunlight in that first decade,” Stacie teased.

Aubrey rolled her eyes, “That was a nightmare, also the time varies depending on how far down the line of succession you are.”

Stacie snorted, “Line of succession? Like Luciana is going to die?”

“Hopefully not, she’s not as bad as people make her out to be;” Aubrey commented. “It’s not like vampire kind would survive without her either.”

“Yeah, and you’re too pretty to be murdered;” Stacie winked.

Chapter Text

Anastacia Conrad was the name of the winner of the 69th Hunger Games. Aubrey took a deep draught from her cup at the Capitol bar. The image of her tribute dying in electric spasms imprinted itself on the back of her eyelids. Her father was not going to be happy, not because someone died. That wasn’t important. No, he would be furious about District 2 falling short of victory again. Ever since Aubrey won, District 2 had been having a bad go of things. It was death after death for their tributes, seven years running. The fact that her tribute, a promising boy named Gaius, had fallen in battle to a girl from District 3 would not go over well.

“I’ll have what she’s having,” A voice sounded over her shoulder.

Aubrey turned to see her best friend, Chloe Beale. “Hey, you’re still in the Capitol?”

“Yeah, I’m not ready to give Marina’s Mom my condolences,” Chloe answered. The bartender, with the mohawk and overly large neon lip ring, slid a margarita across the bar and into the redhead’s waiting hand.

“Never gets easier, huh;” Chloe sighed.

“Nope,” Aubrey mused, considering her glass.

Chloe had been the first tribute to beat one of Aubrey’s mentees. Winning at the age of fifteen, she had impressed the game makers with her bubbly attitude and astute survival skills. It helped that the arena was an aqua-based landscape of deep lagoons and scattered islands. Bets had been through the roof in favor of District 4. It was a shame when the tsunami came and wiped out the remaining tributes, leaving Chloe to fight her district partner to the death.

Half in love with the redhead, Tom had killed himself instead of raising a hand against Chloe. This romantic conclusion had won Chloe the nickname of The Siren., something that led to a plethora of seashell and mermaid fashion throughout the Capitol. Aubrey had tried to hold a grudge, but Chloe’s warm personality belied any ill will Aubrey could have mustered.

“She’s going to need help,” Chloe muttered, gesturing at the screen.

Aubrey turned to watch the recap of Anastacia’s interview. The crowd loved her. The girl was smart, proving her skill with engineering and mechanics time and time again; it didn’t hurt that Ms.Conrad was positively the most beautiful woman Aubrey had ever laid eyes on. If Anastacia hadn’t shown her mechanical prowess, Aubrey would have thought she was from District 1. Now, Anastacia was out of the games, and the beauty that saved her would be a curse.

“I always feel bad for the pretty ones,” Aubrey sighed.

“Yeah, there’s plenty of sorrow to spread around this place;” Chloe’s words were barely audible over her cup, but years of auditory training allowed Aubrey to pick it up.

“Careful, just because our new fellow victor has trouble on her head doesn’t mean that we need any on yours,” Aubrey warned.

Taking one last sip of her drink, Aubrey slapped some money on the bartop and got up to leave. Squeezing Chloe’s shoulder on the way out, Anastacia’s face flashed in her mind as dread settled deep in her gut. That girl was going to be trouble; she was sure of it.

It was the victory tour when Aubrey finally met Anastacia in person. The girl had garnered a reputation amongst the Districts and Capitol. Collecting gifts and favors from her patrons, Anastacia Conrad was the one to watch. They were having dinner in the town hall, where Aubrey was seated directly beside the newcomer. She was far from pleased about it.

Despite the rumors that Anastacia’s personality was as lovely as her appearance, Aubrey couldn’t shake the feeling that Anastacia was doing her best to snub District 2. Not only had the new victor been late to every gathering, but her speech seemed stacked with puns that hinted at Gaius’s end. While Gaius was admittedly a bit of an ass, no one deserved to have their death brought down to a cheap footnote at the end of a victory speech. Especially by the very person that killed him.

The dinner had devolved into a party where the banquet tables were pushed aside for dancing and music. Aubrey had gotten a dance with her father briefly before switching to Thomas, Chloe’s on and off again boyfriend, and then her brother.

“Miss High and Mighty have left the building,” Jason muttered into Aubrey’s ear.

Aubrey glanced around briefly, confirming that the tall brunette in question was indeed gone. “She couldn’t have gotten too far. They never let victors have too much fun.”

Her brother nodded in agreement before spinning her away and back in for a dip. “Maybe The Hunter has gone to get some air. I know the roof of the justice building is a fan favorite.”

Aubrey scoffed at the use of the Capitol’s nickname for the new victor. The girl had made one flirtatious comment over a campfire, referring to her crotch as ‘A Hunter,’ and now it was everywhere. “I should probably go wrangle her before Dad notices she’s gone,” Jason sighed.

“I’ll do it; Dad is more likely to notice if you’re gone,” Aubrey said. Jason released her from his grasp, giving her hand a gentle squeeze before she left. “I’ll keep Dad occupied,” he offered as Aubrey trod off in the other direction.

Aubrey arrived on the roof of the building to see. The brunette was flat on her back, staring at the stars. Hearing the blonde’s approach, the other girl rolled her head to the side to meet Aubrey’s gaze. “Come to drag me back?”

“You can’t just leave, President Snow will hear about it, and he won’t be happy,” Aubrey replied.

The younger girl’s jaw tensed, the curvature of her cheekbones sharpened for a moment before finally relaxing. “If he kills anyone, he won’t have any leverage; I only have my brothers anyway. He’ll give me a break on this.”

Aubrey snorted but relented. She turned to leave for a moment, but a voice in her head told her not to. The other victor’s look of amazement when Aubrey approached and sat down, cross-legged, beside her was almost comical.

“Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” Aubrey chuckled humorously.

“It’s not as though your district has a lot of beating to do; you all seem pretty cozy to me,” The brunette muttered darkly.

“Yeah, I get that. I was trained for the games since I was old enough to hold a sword. My Dad was a victor; my Mom was a victor, and so on. It’s a family dynasty. My brother went in two games before me, and my little brother Andy is going in this year.”

“How can you look forward to this? The decorations, the volunteering? How can you want this?”

“What’s the alternative, Anastacia?”

“Stacie, I hate my full name,” Stacie retorted, although she didn’t have an answer to Aubrey’s question. There wasn’t an alternative. It was: celebrate and prepare for it or dread and mourn it. One you died. Happily, the other you died miserably.

“Aubrey ‘The Captain’ Posen,” Stacie mused. “I thought you’d be more of a hardass.”

“I thought you’d be more of a flirt,” Aubrey retorted.

“I could if you want me to,” Stacie turned to look at Aubrey again, offering the blonde a lascivious smile and wink. Aubrey almost smiled.

“Save it for your suitors; I don’t pay for that stuff anyway.”

Stacie blinked in surprise at Aubrey’s revelation of knowledge. “How…?”

“He tried to do it to me two years after I won my games. You’re eighteen now, so you’re fair game. I was sixteen, but he didn’t care about that.”

“How did you get out of it?”

Aubrey turned to look at the brunette, thoughtful. Eventually, she decided on her answer.

“I didn’t, not really. My father runs the peacekeepers, my brother is just like you, and I’m untouched because I lost the one thing that he could take away from me. I bet that all my family members were too valuable, and I lost. The only reason Snow didn’t call me is because of the victors that came after me. I was a hot commodity, and now I’m not. I don’t know when I will be again.”

“So there’s no hope then,” Stacie’s words come out more like a garbled whisper. Aubrey turned, watching as Stacie’s shoulders shook slightly.

“I can’t tell you that it doesn’t suck to be a victor. Sometimes I wonder if we’re really the winners. I know it sucks; every victor in their right mind knows that it sucks. All I can tell you is that you find people who help face the terrible world with you. They don’t make the world better, but at least they’re there to help you keep as many pieces together as possible.”

Stacie nodded and wiped the tears from her eyes. Turning to face the brunette, Aubrey allowed her eyes to linger on Stacie’s face for a moment taking it all in.

“You’re smart; you’ll get through. Being a victor is a lot of responsibility, but I’m sure you’ll manage. And … if you need anything,” Aubrey sighed for a moment, considering the repercussions of the offer but deciding to do it anyway. “Your house has a phone; feel free to call me.”

“Really?” Stacie exclaimed.

“Yes, I’ve been a victor for the past seven years; I’m sure I can help you out.”

“Seven years? You’re what, twenty-two? You won at fifteen?”

“Fourteen, youngest ever, I’m twenty-one now,” Aubrey answered.

Stacie let that information sink in for a moment, thinking. “So, you’re only four years older than me?”

“Yes?” Aubrey said, perplexed.

“Well, age is just a number, and even then, it’s not that large of one. If you ever want to help me out in other ways,” Stacie’s come-on was somewhat detracted from by the red eyes and nose brought on from her crying. That, coupled with the fact that the conversation had taken a complete one-eighty, had Aubrey laughing.

“Hey, don’t laugh; I was trying to be hot, not funny,” Stacie pouted.

Aubrey only laughed harder, gales of laughter that rang through the air as a grin stretched across Stacie’s face. The brunette had to admit, being a victor so far had sucked, but right now, life didn’t feel too bad.

Chapter Text

Hey,

My name is Stacie Conrad and I was told that I would be meeting you in three years. This might sound crazy, but I think I’ve been drawn to you since I was a child. Even though we haven’t met yet, I see you in all my dreams and every moment I feel at my weakest. I think I miss you, and I don’t even know you. I know I want to though, I know there’s some strand of fate tying us and -

Stacie groaned and stopped writing. Crumbling the piece into a ball, she tossed it into the trash can and settled her head on her desk. The nights were getting harder and the dreams more vivid, each one outlining a different story, a different life. She saw some old faces and some new ones, but for all her life she couldn’t remember them. All except for one face that she saw in her dreams, repeatedly. A quandary that had plagued her current days. Sometimes to get the thoughts and dream made memories out she would start to write a letter to the unknown girl, but she always stopped halfway because she felt stupid.

When Stacie turned eighteen she had a minor accident that left some irreparable head trauma. She couldn’t recognize people, faces turned to mush in her memory. Everyone was a blank slate. Despite this issue, her sex life was hardly influenced. With this freedom of not remembering she took advantage of her circumstances and had something of a healthy sex life. She was happy to forget the face that haunted her dreams every night, leaving tantalizing memories of lives not lived. That is until her friends Jessica and Ashley dragged her to a psychic.

Now, Stacie was never one to believe in the more mystical matters of the universe, but the medium in question had some surprising details and insights that even Stacie couldn’t scoff at. She had gone in as a joke but walked out surprised and slightly anxious. So, as is her habit, Stacie immediately gathered as much reference material as possible pertaining to any supernatural or mystical mumbo jumbo she could find.

Whether the psychic read body language or pupil size, Stacie wanted to know. Beca thought she was nuts.

“So you have a mystical three years soulmate?” Beca exclaimed skeptically.

“Meh,” Stacie murmured as she hunched over her laptop. Dozens of links were open for psychic readings around the world, she had introduced herself and sent the same question to every one of them. She was also in the process of coding a simulation with similar suggested variables and seeing if the prophetic advice was even viable.

Beca was peering over her shoulder with vague curiosity. “You’re nuts, I hope you know that.”

Stacie ignored her friend in exchange for writing out a couple more coding functions. “Do you think you could maybe help, instead of just watching?”
“Do what? I can’t code, I don’t even know what language that is.;” Beca retorted.

“It’s a mixture of c++ and Java along with something I made for myself, I blended my own functions and created software to process it.”

Beca blinked and shook her head at the taller brunette’s antics. “Absolute weirdo.”

“Why are you putting so much effort into this anyway? You’re not made of money, last I checked, and psychic’s charge;” Beca pointed out.

Stacie groaned and hammered the backspace button furiously, her eyes didn’t leave the screen as she began her explanation. “The priestess lady, or whatever, had details I didn’t share. Not even online. She couldn’t have known where I wanted to go to grad school, what I did on my last date, none of it.”

“So, now you’re doing an experiment to see if one person was lying to you? By possibly paying a dozen other people to lie to you?” Beca reiterated.

“A dozen isn’t a good sample size, Beca;” Stacie stated.

“How many psychics did you hire Stacie;” Beca gawped.

“If the sample size isn’t at least one hundred it’s not a viable study,” Stacie replied.

“Stacie!” Beca shouted.

Stacie stopped typing and turned around to consider her friend. “I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense to you but I just have to know okay?”

“Why no one else knows, why do you have to?” Beca raised a fair question, one that Stacie had been asking herself. Her tiny friend was right, no one else knows what fate has in store for them. Why does she feel the need to?

“I guess, I’m scared,” Stacie admitted. “I’ve never been in a relationship and my dating life has been absolutely terrible, I mean, my sex life is phenomenal don’t get me wrong, but I don’t know how to do this. If I have one person, only one. As statistically improbable as it is, I just need to know how real that is because it’s a variable I can prepare for. I see this girl in my dreams Becs and I’m always so happy. I just, I need to know so I don’t fuck it up.”

Beca gently pried the laptop from Stacie’s clutches and settled in the spot beside the taller girl. They sat in silence for a moment as Beca pondered what to tell her friend, she wasn’t particularly mystical like Lily, or free-spirited as Fat Amy, but she knew Stacie. She knew what kind of person Stacie was, she had seen the girl through all her disastrous crushes and Beca had to agree. Stacie was right, it always seemed off. Every almost relationship the taller girl had gotten into had been plagued by self-destructive tendencies or just oddly impractical circumstances. If there was a plan or sense of fate, then it definitely had pulled in Stacie’s romantic life. Or lack thereof.

“How much money do you need?” Beca sighed.

“Wait, what?” Stacie stammered.

“How much money do you need, I’m trying to be a supportive friend. Take it now before I change my mind, I -” Beca didn’t get to finish her sentence because Stacie had sprung forward to wrap the ting girl in her arms.

“Thank you so much, I applied for some grants as well! So that should help cover it.”

“You what? Stacie, your study isn’t linked to any universities, how -”

“Can you help send these emails, it’s the same message over and over. We can’t contaminate the evidence. I also want to check the soulmate sketch market since I have a clear image of what she’s supposed to look like.”

“Stacie, you don’t remember faces;” Beca reminded her friend.

“Oh, I remember hers,” Stacie informed her, something that was brand new information to the DJ.

“You remember her face?” Beca exclaimed.

“Yup, I’ve seen it since I was fifteen so I would hope so.”

“Stacie, you confused a moving man for your mom;” Beca recounted.

“I know her face, trust me;” Stacie said resolutely. The conviction in the taller girl’s blue/green eyes was enough to convince Beca.

“I’ll grab my laptop, you can send me an email with the message you need me to send.”

Stacie squealed with delight as her friend pulled out a laptop and set to work. Begin operation Fact or Fiction.

Chapter Text

The day started out pretty normal. Chloe made lunch, threw the trash out, hummed along to ‘Price tag’, and thought of what to do on her next date with Beca. The tiny DJ was playing with one of her mixes and Chloe went to take out her earbuds before asking the brunette a question when she heard it. A rattle, a scamper, and a squeak. Chloe stopped for a second, concerned. “Becs!” Chloe shouted.

Beca paid her no mind, the large headphones were quite efficient in canceling out noise. Chloe looked around before finding an apple nearby and tossing it at the back of Beca’s chair. Misfiring, Chloe managed to nail Beca directly in the back of the head.

“Ow!” Beca yelped.

Massaging her head, she lowered the headphones and turned to face her anxious girlfriend. “What?”

“I thought I heard something,” Chloe hissed.

The scrabbling sounded again and this time Beca froze, eyes wide. “Dude, what the fuck.”

“Right! What do we do?” Chloe whined.

“I don’t know! My Mom took care of the pests back in Seattle,” Beca replied.

“Becs I can’t even kill the roaches, this sounds bigger than a roach.”

Beca stood and approached the area where the noise had emanated from. The scratching of nails on plastic sounded again from beneath the countertop, so Beca pulled open the drawer for the garbage bin just in time to scream and leap backward.

“It’s a rat!” Beca shouted.

The rodent had made a mighty leap, its nose several inches below the lip of the garbage bin. Chloe peered in and cooed.

“Aw, it’s so tiny!” Chloe leaned in a bit more to get a closer look. “I don’t think it’s a rat Becs, I think it’s a mouse.”

“Well, do we call the exterminator or something?” Beca inquired.

“That’s two hundred bucks for one mouse, babe;” Chloe pointed out. “Why don’t we just release it?”

“What? So it can scamper back and haunt us, no way.” Beca said vehemently.

“Well I’m not killing it;” Chloe stated.

“Chlo, we can’t just let it run around our place, it could chew on wires and start a fire;” Beca informed the redhead. Praying that the ginger would do it.

“No way, I’m not killing anything that cute.” Chloe crossed her arms and thought for a moment before her eyes widened and she pulled her phone out of her back pocket.

“Let’s call Aubrey, she’ll know what to do!”

Beca opened her mouth to protest Aubrey’s presence on reflex but thought better of it this time. The blonde would definitely know what to do, especially since Aubrey was a southern girl. The southerner was a little too good a shot for her to have only hit inanimate objects.

The phone rang for a moment before the line was picked up. “Aubrey Posen, speaking.”

“You know who I am Bree, I don’t know why you answer the phone like that;” Chloe sighed.

“Sorry, habit. What’s up Chlo?” Aubrey asked.

“We have a small situation and need some advice,” Chloe hedged. She had just realized that she was about to tell the most organized and neat person in existence that her apartment had a rodent infestation.

“Sounds serious, what’s going on?”

“Um, we may have an uninvited furry guest?” Chloe murmured.

“Chloe, did you grab a dog off the street with worms, again?” Aubrey groaned.

“Hey, I said uninvited, and how was I supposed to know the dog had worms. He was super friendly and deserved a loving home.”

“Fine, so what is it this time? Kittens in your car engine? Dog hopped into your apartment? A particularly fluffy duck?”

“Can I finish?” Chloe frowned, there was no need to bring up past incidents. It’s not her fault animals are cute and always seem to wind up in her apartment.

Aubrey fell silent, waiting. “Okay, thank you. For your information, it’s a mouse and it’s in my trashcan.”

“You have a rodent infestation?” Aubrey yelled into the phone.

Chloe winced and held the phone away from her ear, “it’s only one mouse Bree.” She replied, hoping that would make it better.

“Did they crawl through the toilet pipes, because that happened to my Aunt once and we just flushed it?”

“What? No! Wait, they can do that?” Chloe exclaimed, horrified.

“Yes, Chloe, they can do that. Usually, you have to get a special flap or pipe installed that stops the rats from crawling up. Although big cities usually have those automatically.” Aubrey rattled off a couple of other horrifying details about creatures and plumbing before Chloe finally remembered her point.

“Aubrey, help us. We don’t know what to do with the mouse. Do we call animal control or something?”

Chloe’s hope was instantly squished when she heard Aubrey start laughing her, something is going to die, laugh. Chloe had gone on one hunting trip with Aubrey and that particular laugh was permanently etched into her brain.

“Chlo, you have to kill it.”

“Um, no? It’s cute and I don’t kill things,” Chloe remarked.

“Have Beca do it.” Beca, who had been listening in silence up to that point, immediately scowled at the phone.

“No way, I’m not killing it. What if it bites me? I’m not getting black death because of a mouse.”

“Well actually, the black death was caused by rats and passed through the fleas that were on the rats, not necessarily the rats themselves,” Stacie chimed in from the other line.

“Aren’t you supposed to be at work right now?” Beca retorted.

“Hey, why wouldn’t I also be at work?” Aubrey snapped, “Why is my workday less important than Stacie’s?”

“Babe, it’s probably because Stacie is researching a bunch of important stuff involving clean energy sources and physics, while you just do civil suits for fortune 500 companies.”

“Aca-Scuse me?”

“It’s alright babe, you still look really hot in a suit,” Stacie’s tone took on a flirtatious tone as Beca and Chloe caught a muffled reply. Suddenly slight wet sounds came from the other side of the phone and Beca started blushing.

“Dude! Stop making out and help us!” Beca shrieked her face a brilliant shade of red.

The sounds paused for a moment as a hushed conversation filtered through. Unable to make it all out, Beca debated gouging her ears out. It seemed to be just her luck that only the inappropriate comments made their way through the line.

“Alright, we’re coming over;” Aubrey said.

“Wait, what?” Chloe stammered. It still sometimes astounded her that her best friend, who was a complete prude in the beginning, could match Stacie “the Hunter” Conrad at dirty talk.

“We’re coming over, give us a bit!” Aubrey reiterated.

“Might take us longer than a bit,” Stacie chuckled before the line went dead.

“Uh, are they?” Beca muttered.

“Do you really have to ask?” Chloe smirked.

It was three hours later when Stacie and Aubrey arrived. Three hours of Chloe and Beca watching the Mouse persistently jump in an attempt to make a break for it. Chloe had begun to wonder whether it was better to just dump the mouse out and text Aubrey, ‘Nevermind’, when the doorbell rang. Beca sprang up to get it, swinging the door open, she was immediately wrapped up in a hug by Stacie.

“Hey Beca,” Stacie greeted her tiny friend.

“Hey,” Beca choked out between Stacie’s tight embrace.

“Hobbit,” Aubrey said with a smile.

“Posen,” Beca replied with narrowed eyes.

Both girls laughed before giving each other quick hugs. “So, where’s the mouse? Still in the garbage can?” Aubrey inquired.

“Yeah, he’s just jumping right now.” Beca guided them over to the drawer with the garbage can in it. The sounds of hopping droned on.
“Stace, got the stuff?” Aubrey asked.

Stacie nodded and pulled out a small glass vial with some mysterious goop in it. “I finally got to use my chemistry skills,” Stacie said happily.

“Dude, you’re gonna evil queen the rat?” Beca gasped.

“Evil queen? What? And I thought it was a mouse,” Stacie grumbled.

“Evil Queen, like from Snow White, with the poison?” Beca explained, “Chloe has been making me watch too many Disney movies.”

“Ooh, let’s watch Tangled after this,” Chloe chirped.

“What about Ratatouille?” Stacie smirked.

Aubrey smacked Stacie in the arm, “You’re terrible.” The blonde said while holding back a smile.

“You love it,” Stacie winked.

When Aubrey and Stacie set to work on the mouse Chloe and Beca lingered around, curious to see what the tincture would do. However, if they had the option to go back and change what was about to happen they absolutely would have. Because the rat poison didn’t work, and that meant that they had to do it the Aubrey way. Which was a lot less scientific, and a lot less humane.

“Stace, you lost the bet, your chemicals didn’t work;” Aubrey said cheerily.

“Fine, you get choice of our nightly activity,” Stacie sighed, “I was really looking forward to -”

“Did you guys bet on who would kill the rat better? And did you make the winner a sex thing?” Beca bellowed.

“What? It’s my day off, Aubrey and I were going to be spending all day in bed anyway, but we decided to help. You should be thanking us,” Stacie exclaimed.

“You made a sex bet on mouse killing technique,” Beca spluttered.

“Meh,” Stacie shrugged while Aubrey ignored Beca’s protestation in favor of pulling the extendable nightstick out of the bag that Stacie brought. “Sorry Despereaux, time to say night- night;” Aubrey hummed.

“Aubs, you can’t name it and then -”

WHACK

Chloe screamed and darted out of the room, hands over her head as a series of bangs came. The scrabbling got faster and the smack of solid carbon plastic hitting the garbage can increased in speed as well. Beca immediately spun around and power walked to her shared bedroom with Chloe as Stacie shouted directions at Aubrey over the blonde’s shoulder.

Chloe and Beca didn’t really know how long they stayed in their room but they were finally released by the light sound of knocking on their bedroom door. “You can come out now!” Stacie informed them.

“Yeah, cuz you killed him!” Beca yelled back.

Chloe opened the door and waited for Beca to follow her out, both peeking around to see Aubrey tying off a garbage bag. “I don’t think I can ever look at Aubrey the same ever again,” Beca muttered.

“Now imagine going on a hunting trip with her, she’s terrifying,” Chloe said solemnly.

“Alright, we got the body in the bag and now we’ll just be tossing him out,” Aubrey stated as she tossed the bag over her shoulder.

“Wanna watch a movie after I throw this out?” The blonde offered.

“Sure, just um…” Chloe hesitated for a moment, wincing.

“Anything but Despereaux.”

Chapter Text

They had been dancing around each other for weeks, something that their friends had started to notice. Despite their heart to heart atop the roof, Aubrey seemed to have little interest in getting to know Stacie again. Which left Stacie idly sitting at a bar, looking for her next meal while Aubrey congregated with her vampire cohorts for a plan of defense against Queen Luciana's enemies.

Stacie's concentration was only broken when Beca approached and took the seat beside her. “Dude, what are you doing here?”

“I’m hungry,” Stacie shrugged. A couple was eyeing her from a corner booth, and she knew that if she fed on both of them in moderation they’d both likely survive.
“You really shouldn’t feed on humans,” Beca reminded her.

“I haven’t killed anyone Bec’s, it’s just a meal. Besides, humans have such ease of access. I haven’t had a good aura in a while.”

“You mean since the early nineteen hundreds,” Beca sighed. “You never really got over that girl, huh? Did you ever find her?”

“Work in progress,” Stacie groaned, just the memory had her eyes glowing a brilliant Fuschia before they faded back to their regular sea green.

“So that’s a no then?” Beca chuckled.

“I didn’t say that,” Stacie snorted. Beca’s jaw dropped as her mind whirred to life.

“So you did find her?”

“Something of the sort."

"Something of the sort?" The werewolf inquired.

“I found her, kind of;” Stacie smiled softly as the memory of her latest conversation with Aubrey filled her mind.

“What does sort of, mean?”

“Well, she doesn’t remember me;” Stacie muttered.

Beca’s eyes widened, “Wait, you mean the girl you said, and I quote, was the best sex of your existence, doesn’t remember you?”

“I know, it sucks,” Stacie groaned. “It just means I have to remind her, although I don’t know how I’m going to do that. She doesn’t seem to want a repeat performance, she’s worried about her control around me.”

“Is control an issue for her?” Beca hedged.

“She may have been responsible for a multitude of deaths throughout the early eighteen hundreds,” Stacie admitted.

“Stacie, you can’t risk something like that. If I knew she struggled with blood haze I would never have supported your need to find her.”

“She’s not like that anymore Beca, besides she doesn’t seem too keen on touching me lately anyway, even though she was really good at it” Stacie pouted.

“Gross,” Beca grimaced, “Maybe it’s for the best. You don’t want to test fate twice, just because you’re a succubus, doesn’t mean you should play games with a haze-vampire’s control.”

Stacie frowned at her friend’s words, a deep urge to roll her eyes bit at the back of her mind as Beca continued to prattle on about alternatives. The thing is, Stacie had felt something with Aubrey even if the blonde had forgotten that night, something deeper had happened between them than just another meal. While the conversation on the rooftop was light and teasing as the two women danced around each other, Stacie had the same intense pull towards the other woman. The muscles in Stacie's cheeks had begun to wear as she continued to smile through the women's conversation. While the current version of Aubrey didn't have the same dangerous attitude, this Aubrey still had the same pull for Stacie. In fact, the infinite differences from the Aubrey that Stacie had met in the roaring twenties only piqued the brunette's interest in the vampire.


1920s Russia:

Stacie had staged a party in the Kremlin for anyone that was able to attend. She was only twenty at the time and she had reached the equivalent of succubus maturity. Which is to say, her libido was off the charts. Left to her own devices, Anastacia as she had been known then, was wont to do whatever she wanted should the whim occur to her. If that included half of the Russian population, so be it.

It was at one of her parties that she met, Aubrey, the vampire that would change her life.

Stacie had been glutting herself on a multitude of nobles from across the continent when she felt a new presence. She had been carefully stoking the flames of the party’s atmosphere, pushing the sexual tension up to the breaking point. Men and women were in various states of debauchery all over the building. Copulating in any room, nook, cranny, or on any form of furniture, they could find. Yet, this feeling was new. This wasn’t fully sex, there was something else to it. An edge.

Stacie followed the pull of the new aura all the way into a room. The door was shut tight and no amount of human strength could open it. Looking both ways, Stacie’s eyes glowed Fuschia and the door gave. Swinging open, Stacie was met with a view that was quite new. Blood was streaked across the bed and three bodies laid prone on the deep green carpets. The four-poster bed was occupied with three more people, one was a man who was persistently sucking at a one woman’s neck. The woman in question had her lips attached to another woman’s throat, blood leaking from beneath the woman’s lips.
The man didn’t cease his ministrations, obliviously pumping into the naked woman as she continued to feed on her latest victim. The vampire had long blonde hair and creamy skin, she lapped eagerly at the ebbing blood flow. When the woman finally ran dry the body was dumped onto the floor and the vampire looked up, eyes a deep blood red and fangs pressing into crimson lips. Stacie’s focus was broken by the sound of the man moaning, the energy in the room stretching slightly as she breathed it in. Looking up, the blonde’s eyes met Stacie’s.

Before Stacie could blink the man has pushed away with one hand while his neck was snapped with the other. The blond studied Stacie imperiously as the man’s energy withered. “You smell different,” the vampire chuckled.

“I’m a succubus,” Stacie replied.

“Do you have a hint of human in you?” The blonde smirked.

“I wouldn’t mind having a hint of you in me,” Stacie flirted. The vampire laughed. “You’re a spirited one, aren’t you?”

“Something of the sort, although I will request we move to a room with fewer dead bodies. Death really kills the ambiance.”

The vampire smiled at her, one moment still kneeling on the bed and the next standing directly in front of Stacie, pouty lips pulled up at the corners. “I think I could have a lot of fun with you.”

...

It didn’t take much time for them to find another room. The vampire, who introduced herself as Aubrey, made short work of Stacie’s clothes. Tearing them apart at the seams as the blonde sucked Stacie’s bottom lip into her mouth. The succubus felt a brush of fangs and a slight nip before Aubrey shoved her hard onto the bed. The small cut on Stacie’s lip was already closing but the blonde’s eyes had turned from a human green to dark burgundy, “God you taste delicious.” The blonde leaned forward to recapture the brunette’s lips, hands wandering along Stacie’s naked body.

Stacie kissed the other woman back, a spike of arousal settling at the apex of her thighs as Aubrey’s hands dipped where Stacie wanted them. “I’ve never met a succubus before, or at least none as beautiful as you” Aubrey wondered aloud. Stacie quirked an eyebrow at the other woman’s words, but a moan quickly disrupted her comment. Aubrey’s fingers had found the right spot as they were pushed in and out lazily, Stacie brought a hand to Aubrey’s cheek and pulled the girl's lips to hers. The energy between them pulsed and Stacie began to drink it in.

Succubi could consume sexual energy through a multitude of ways: mouth to mouth, simple touch, or climax. Doing all three was something of a wonder for Stacie since she had mostly fed off of humans which meant she had to check herself constantly. Lest she leaves a trail of the dead like Aubrey had done. Aubrey detached her lips from Stacie as her fangs dropped and the hand between Stacie’s legs sped up. “I want to try something,” Aubrey murmured, lips grazing Stacie’s neck.

A voice in the back of her head went off, warning against the danger of a vampire feeding on her, but she ignored it. A feeling of mutual trust had seemed to settle between the two, for some reason Stacie knew Aubrey was special. She wouldn't hurt her.

With a gentleness, otherwise not exhibited by the vampire, Aubrey kissed Stacie’s pulse point gently before allowing the point of her fangs to rest against the skin there. “May I?” Aubrey’s request was sweet, almost. Patient. The earlier fervor seemed to slow and Stacie felt the aura around them pulse, stronger than before. “Yes,” Stacie said, her voice almost a whisper. She could feel the blonde’s smile against her neck before another kiss was given and her ministrations sped up once again. This time at vampire speeds, Stacie's keens echoed through the room and into the hallway as her arousal grew. "Look at me," Aubrey ordered. Prying her eyes open, she managed to face the vampire. Aubrey looked deep into Stacie’s eyes and curled her fingers upwards, “let it go,” the blonde hummed. The vampire’s compulsion was strong and Stacie felt her release begin just as Aubrey leaned forward and sunk her teeth into Stacie’s neck. Stacie saw white, her eyes glowed and she sucked in as well. Absorbing more energy from Aubrey than she ever did with anyone before.

The power a succubus had over pleasure meant that Aubrey climaxed just as hard as the woman beneath her. Despite her habits, Aubrey forced herself to retract her fangs before licking the brunette’s wound closed. Aubrey raised her head to say something to Anastacia but found the other succubus's eyes closed, breathing even. For a moment the haze cleared and Aubrey, the real Aubrey, came back to herself.

Her eyes widened, staring at the face before her. Then the scent of blood clouded her senses and she felt a strong urge to bite and tear. Jerking backward, Aubrey shook her head vigorously and got dressed at lightning speed. Questions came to mind as she wondered how many people she had killed this time. How was she going to escape the force of Hunters that would definitely be pursuing her? What about the girl she was leaving behind? Pushing the thoughts from her mind once more, Aubrey turned to look over her shoulder at the slumbering woman, then streaked from the room. Telling herself to pretend the previous night never happened.

Of course, Stacie hadn’t known about that last look, so she remained oblivious to the blonde’s lies. After all, how could she know that Aubrey would remember the slumbering girl’s face for the next century?

...

Stacie sat brooding over Aubrey’s refusal to get reacquainted, the bodies around her felt practically stale in comparison. When Aubrey had left that one night a century ago, Stacie had searched everywhere for the blonde, unable to find the vampire she had wondered if the vampire’s sun curse had worn off yet. Most of the vampires she met had to hide from the sun for a decade before their magic strengthened enough and became a simple light sensitivity. Stacie had seen plenty of the older ones strolling through the streets of Moscow in their best finery. Yet she had also met plenty of young vampires in the shadiest of speakeasies that never surfaced until the fall of the sun.

But she never met Aubrey again to ask these questions. Instead, the blonde’s green eyes seemed to circulate Stacie’s psyche, invading her most lascivious dreams. Often soiling whatever experience Stacie had thereafter since nothing ever truly compared. The brunette consulted warlocks and seers, begging for a consult, but often when the magic users saw the first image of the blonde their lips sealed and they shoved her out of their homes.

After searching for a century, Stacie was thrilled to find her mystery woman at a party Beca had invited her to. Yet, what was she going to do if the blonde didn’t remember her? Most of all, what was she going to do if Aubrey didn’t want to?

...

“What’s her name anyway?” Beca inquired in the last-ditch effort to learn something about her friend’s much sought-after mystery crush.

Stacie hesitated a moment before seeming to come to a decision, eyeing Beca objectively, she said; “Aubrey, it’s Aubrey.”

“What!” Beca barked, “You’ve got the hots for Posen? Stick up her ass Posen?”

“Yeah, why? What’s the big deal?”

“Nothing, it’s just I didn’t know she was ever a blood reaper, that’s weird. No wonder she’s such a control freak, I guess when you’re always about to kill someone, you’d be edgy too.”

“She’s not a control freak Beca,” Stacie said, sticking up for the blonde.

“Oh, she definitely is. It’s definitely gotten worse since her father went nuts though;” Beca countered.

“Who’s her father?” Stacie asked.

“Alaric, The Baron of Blood and Terror. If I remember correctly, he was one of the original reapers. Guess it runs in the sire line.”

Stacie's thought process stalled. Well shit, Aubrey’s sire was the man who had started the Third great Fae War. Stacie winced, she was going to have her work cut out for her.

Chapter Text

BECA

 

So, it was a well-known fact amongst the Barden Bellas that Stacie was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. When she wasn’t out partying at the various frat houses, she was lounging around the Bella common area filing her nails and perusing gossip magazines. If Beca were being honest she was surprised that the girl hadn’t caught some form of venereal disease as of yet, well again that is.

 

Beca groaned in dissatisfaction as her computer froze again. Her software had been on the fritz for the past week and it was getting in the way of their arrangements. Sighing, Beca pressed the power button to shut the laptop down once more. Her deep sigh seemed to catch the leggy brunette’s attention, however, causing the girl in question to look up from her own laptop. 

 

“Something wrong?” Stacie inquired. The girl looked like a model despite wearing sweatpants and a tank top, black-rimmed glasses perched on her nose. 

 

“My laptop has been on the fritz for the past week and it’s driving me nuts. I would buy a new one but I really don’t have the money, maybe I can get Benji to look at it?”

 

Stacie pursed her lips for a moment as if debating something internally before she stood up and came to a stop beside Beca. The DJ watched dubiously as Stacie awkwardly leaned down and hesitated before touching Beca’s laptop. 

 

“Go ahead,” Beca agreed, pushing the computer in Stacie’s direction lightly before crossing her arms in trepidation. 

 

Stacie pulled the chair out beside Beca and sat, leaning over the machine as her hair formed a curtain between Beca’s gaze and the screen. Beca waited as the taller girl pulled up the command prompt and the file history on the computer. Typing away furiously, the next hour passed quickly as Stacie worked. 

 

It took a moment but Stacie soon turned the computer in Beca’s direction with the music software open and ready to go. “It should work now, I got rid of some of the extraneous files to speed up your processing speed, and I also installed a better security and cleaning program. You were just using the one that the computer came with and that’s never enough. If you need any more help you can ask, but for now, this should do. You really should get an extra hard drive though.”

 

Beca gawked at Stacie’s matter-of-fact attitude, she had never seen the airhead so factual in her life. “Um, yeah, got it;” Beca stuttered. Stacie offered Beca a small smile before returning to her seat on the couch. Beca stared for a moment before shaking her head and returning to what she had been doing. Filing the information away for later. 

 

CHLOE

 

So Chloe was most definitely studying, or at least that’s what she was telling herself. If she were being honest she was actually staring at the back of a very familiar girl’s head. Now, Chloe was not losing her mind but she could have sworn that the person sitting at the table ten feet away was Stacie Conrad. Self-proclaimed bimbo of the Barden Bellas. 

 

The girl’s proclivity for sexual comments and complete disregard of a filter, paired with her openly admitted habits of cuticle care and the E! Network did not suggest an inkling of book smarts. Yet there Stacie was, hunched over a book with a large stack of literature beside her. 

 

If Chloe was dreaming she needed to wake up right now, especially since the brunette seemed to have a penchant for reading that could rival a certain anal-retentive blonde that Chloe knew. 

 

Chloe shuffled parallel to the Stacie look-alike, checking for a telltale difference that had to be there, but only was met by the sight of very familiar cleavage and the focused expression of one Stacie Conrad. Weird. Then again, the universe could hardly be so kind to two girls in Barden. Stacie’s aphrodite-Esque appearance was unmatched throughout the university. If there were two, Chloe was sure she would have heard about it. 

 

As Chloe was checking the girl’s face again for any key differences the brunette looked up and blue eyes met blue/green. “Chloe?” Stacie questioned, the brunette wore her glasses, appearing more like a sexy librarian than an actual student. 

 

“Stacie! Hi, how are you? I was wondering if that was you,” Chloe greeted the girl as casually as she could manage. 

 

“Oh, yeah, I’m just doing some light reading for some of my classes,” Stacie said with a shy smile. 

 

“That’s light?” Chloe chuckled. Her eyes settled on a particularly impressive tome with the words: Quantum Computation and Quantum Information.  

 

“Oh, yeah. Some of these I’ve already read. I just felt like rereading for old times sake,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

Chloe opened her mouth to reply but no words came out, her surprise evident. Before the redhead could collect herself Stacie looked at her watch and made a small noise of disquiet. “Shit, I’m going to be late for my date. I’ll see you later Chloe,” Stacie waved goodbye, tucked the stack of books under her arm, and left. 

 

Chloe stood there dumbly for a moment more, still trying to process the new information. Maybe Stacie wasn’t quite the bimbo she pretended to be. 

 

CYNTHIA ROSE

 

Okay, so Stacie was honestly the hottest piece of ass that Cynthia Rose had seen, and she was raised in New York. CR had met plenty of beautiful and talented women in her life there, but Stacie really took the cake. Long legs, a beautiful smile, and shining eyes that switched between blue or green at any given moment. Yet, for all the girl’s beauty, the girl seemed to have been a couple of IQ points short of average. 

 

Or at least that’s what Cynthia Rose thought until the incident. 

 

Now, she would never admit this but her gambling problems were causing quite the detriment to her financial state, so when her wallet hit an all-time low she wasn’t able to get the proper hair care products that she had been using for quite some time. So when an especially bad hair day occurred, she was resigned to her fate. After all, what could you do when you were practically out of spending money for the month. 

 

The endless teasing from Fat Amy was another matter. While she could take the lack of proper care for the month, several consecutive days with Fat Amy’s comments were getting old and Cynthia Rose was tempted to dip into her savings when she was surprised by Stacie’s offer. 

 

To say that Cynthia Rose was skeptical was an understatement, but having heard briefly from Beca on Stacie’s surprising talents, she was willing to hope for a miracle at this point. It was a gamble, but then again, she was never afraid of placing her bets. So Stacie reconstructed her hair care products using chemicals she managed to find in the school lab and procured mysteriously from Lily. 

 

It took another week of hassling from Fat Amy but finally, Stacie handed the bottle over with a confident smile. It wasn’t the most prestigious package or branding but what mattered to Cynthia Rose was that it worked, and it did. Cynthia Rose had no clue how, but Stacie had managed to recreate a high-end formula from a bunch of questionably procured chemicals. It was honestly the biggest surprise in CR’s life. Not only did the brunette manage to get Fat Amy off her back, but she was apparently a chemistry genius. 

 

CR thanked Stacie profusely but the brunette waved her appreciation away with a charming laugh and a comment about enjoying the practice in the lab. To say Cynthia Rose was amazed was an understatement. Maybe she was too quick to judge? If the girl could cook up expensive hair care products in a school lab what other secrets did the girl have?

 

JESSICA 

 

Jessica would never say that Stacie was dumb, after all, intelligence has many facets and books were not everything. Yet, maybe Ashley had a point about the girl being two tools short of a complete toolbox. After all, the girl had admitted that she broke her doctor’s “no sex for six weeks” rule. 

 

So, when it was the first day of her advanced physics class she was more than surprised to find Stacie sitting calmly in the front row, typing furiously on her computer. 

 

“Um, Stacie?” Jessica greeted demurely. Stacie looked up immediately at the familiar voice, eyes widening for a second in what appeared to be a flash of panic before it settled into an easy smile. The expression flitted across the brunette’s face so quickly that Jessica was unsure on whether she had actually seen what she thought she had seen. 

 

“You’re taking this class too?” Jessica exclaimed, she tried her best to hide the surprise but from Stacie’s brief eye roll, she didn’t do too well. 

 

“Oh uh -” Stacie began but her words were cut off by the professor’s entrance. 

 

“Welcome class, everyone take their seats, my name is Peter Howell and you can call me Mr. Howell or Professor Howell. Your TA for this semester will be Stacie Conrad, her email will be on the syllabus along with her contact info.” 

 

Jessica’s mouth fell open in surprise at the realization that Stacie was her TA, not only was she, the brunette, in an advanced physics class, but she was the teacher’s assistant, not just a regular student. Stacie flashed Jessica a slightly apologetic grin before standing up and waving to the classroom. When Stacie sat back down Jessica continued to stare at her in a mixture of shock and horror throughout the rest of the class. 

 

The lecture proceeded with Professor Howell beginning his first lesson after covering the syllabus. Whenever students were unable to answer a question Stacie was the one who filled in the blank, her explanations were delivered so eloquently that Jessica hardly believed that it was the same sexy soprano she had met in freshman year. After all, this was the same girl who referred to her crotch as “The Hunter” there was no way she’d actually be a genius. Right?

 

When class ended Jessica wanted to talk to Stacie but stopped short when she saw the crowd that had gathered around the other Bella. Thinking better of it, Jessica decided to let Stacie keep her secret, after all, it was none of their business that Stacie wanted to be around them. Hopefully, she’d trust them eventually, but until then Jessica was okay keeping this information to herself. It would be interesting to see the real Stacie for a semester. 

 

ASHLEY

 

So Ashley was failing math. It was the middle of the semester and Ashley was absolutely dying in her Calculus II class. If she could trade brains with a math genius at that moment she would, but all she knew how to do was sing, dance, and write. Three skills that honestly had very little to do with math. 

 

Ashley of course was complaining about this to Jessica when the girl mentioned a tutoring service she has seen advertised around campus. Supposedly one of the honors students had created a small tutoring club that helped other students out for free. It was considered a school learning assistance program so the school often covered the fees. At this point, Ashley was willing to try anything. 

 

So Ashley called the service and they assigned her the nearest tutor on campus, which so happened to be one of the Bellas. However, which one was the real surprise. When Stacie popped up as the owner of the offered phone number Ashley honestly thought it was a prank. 

 

“Stacie?” Ashley remarked in mild alarm. 

 

Jessica shrugged from her place on her bed. They shared a room in the Bella house, their pairing was the most obvious after all. 

 

“She’s actually really smart. I’m taking advanced physics with her this semester.” Jessica muttered.

 

Ashley blinked, “You’re what?” 

 

“Yeah, I’m taking Quantum Mechanics with Stacie,” Jessica’s utterance was met with absolute incredulity as Ashley processed her girlfriend’s words. 

 

“Is she passing?” Ashley inquired, Jessica snorted in response. 

 

“Passing? She practically teaches the class, half the things the professor says are absolutely incomprehensible, she knows how to explain it in laymen and scientific terms. It’s actually really impressive,” Jessica’s answer is met by dumbfounded silence as Ashley continued to stare at the blonde, waiting for the other girl to say “psych.” 

 

“You’re not joking are you?” Ashley gawped. 

 

“Nope,” Jessica replied, adding a shake of the head. 

 

When Ashley’s tutoring session arrived Stacie was ready. Dropping a pile of books on the dining room table, the girl’s messy bun and thick-framed glasses were offset by a determined expression that gave Ashley flashbacks to a particular taskmaster from her freshman year. “Let’s get started,” Stacie stated with a fierce determination. 

 

And get started they did. By the end of the session, Ashley was two bottles of water and a cup of tea while sporting a dull headache. Despite it all, though, she was grasping the infinite series and differential equations a lot better. 

 

The main question that was really tugging at Ashley’s subconscious through it all was how Stacie was so smart, yet absolutely none of them knew? When Beca had claimed that Stacie fixed her computer Ashley had figured that maybe Stacie was just a savant of sorts. When Chloe had mentioned the physics textbooks Ashley had waved it off as Chloe seeing things. Even when Cynthia Rose had somehow managed to get her hair care product Ashley was sure that Lily had more to do with it than Stacie. Yet now? Now Ashley was feeling dumber by the second next to her fellow Bella.

 

As Stacie continued to drill her on calculus formulas, Ashley made a note to discuss theories with Jessica later on just how high Stacie’s possible IQ was. After all, there was no way in hell that anyone else in the house was smart enough to be feeding Stacie half of this information, which meant it was absolutely not a prank. 

 

FAT AMY

 

Stacie was hot, Fat Amy knew that, but if you had asked her if Stacie was smart she would have replied absolutely not. That is until she found out that Stacie could calculate the exact timing of any object meeting its destination at will at all times. How did she discover this particular talent of Stacie’s you may ask? Well, that was quite an interesting tale.

 

It was lightly snowing in Georgia at the beginning of the Spring semester and Fat Amy was cold. Freezing in fact, yet she was quite thrilled about all the snow considering all the snowballs she could hit people with. However, the speed at which she could hit people was severely lacking, so what did she do? She commissioned the robotics club for a special snowball throwing machine. Something the nerds in question rushed to make at Fat Amy’s request, hoping to gain an invitation to one of the many parties that the Barden Bellas were invited to. 

 

When the machine was ready the geeky boys crowded about and attempted to explain the machine’s functionality but their instructions seemed to slip in one ear and out the other. Apparently, the club member that actually made the blueprints of most of the machine and knew the finer details of its creation wasn’t present at that time. Their stuttering voices were hardly attention-grabbing so Fat Amy just nodded along until they finally shut up.

 

Fat Amy wound up bringing the machine home in a little toy wagon where the other Bellas crowded about and asked her a series of questions that the blonde was unable to truly answer. It was only when Ashley, or was it Jessica, picked up the remote and hit a series of buttons that Fat Amy was forced to pay attention. 

 

The machine’s screen had changed from a self-proclaimed easy “Automated mode” to a much harder “Manual mode.” Manual mode required Fat Amy to know the exact amount of joules required for each toss. So when Fat Amy took it outside to throw snowballs at passing twig bitches, the balls fell short or launched way too far for Fat Amy’s liking. It was only when Fat Amy verbally groused about how many joules does it take to hit a car going twenty miles per hour from twenty feet away that Stacie spoke. 

 

Spouting an oddly specific number that Fat Amy would never have come up with, Fat Amy entered the numbers into the machine and waited in the same position. Curious to see if the brunette’s calculations were correct. When a car rounded the bend Fat Amy launched the ball, the snowy sphere arched in the air before smacking loudly into the driver’s side window with enough impact to crack the glass. 

 

After a quick panic where Fat Amy did some quick vertical running, she hid the machine in the house’s closet before approaching Stacie with the news that her calculations were correct, also to inquire into procuring money to replace the belligerent man’s windshield. 

 

After that awkward conversation, Fat Amy made sure to commit Stacie’s newfound superpowers to memory. After all, what could they accomplish together next time Fat Amy wants to launch something into the sky?

 

LILY

 

Lily knew Stacie was smart, her background check had shown as much, In fact, Lily knew that Stacie was a certifiable genius that only went to Barden because she wanted to piss off her wealthy grandparents. 

 

When Stacie and Lily talked late into the night they discovered a lot about each other. Lily learned that Stacie wasn’t an idiot and Stacie learned that Lily could indeed speak over a whisper with little to no issue. Yet, Lily had no clue just how “genius” Stacie was until a small issue involving a small incendiary device. 

 

Now, Lily was not responsible for this particular creation but she had helped supply the chemicals to a particularly idiotic chemistry student. So when she mentioned the obscure chemical components offhand to Stacie, she was surprised to learn that Stacie knew of them and the particular combination they provide could blow up at least twenty of the two hundred dorms in that building. Not a good idea overall. 

 

Lily quickly called the customer she had provided the chemicals for, hastily handing the phone to the brunette as the taller girl explained the situation. Apparently, the boy was just about to add the last chemical when they called, thankfully he immediately dropped the container and ceased his experiment, horrified at what he had almost done. 

 

After thanking Stacie profusely, the boy had sworn off chemistry and claimed he was switching his major to art like he actually wanted and that his parents would simply deal with it. Once he hung up Stacie turned to Lily with a bemused look and handed the phone back to her. “Next time you sell chemicals I suggest you check with me first. I’d prefer the campus stays in one piece,” 

 

Lily shrugged in agreement and made a mental note to check with Stacie before any chemical transactions. Wouldn’t want to be indirectly responsible for a bomb, again. 

 

AUBREY

 

Aubrey knew Stacie was smart, after all, she had read the girl’s audition file. An idiot did not sign up for a Physics and Engineering double major with minors in Chemistry and Mathematics. That winning combination was simply not possible. Especially since Aubrey checked Stacie’s academic standing and the girl was already a Junior credit-wise. The leggy brunette was impressive. 

 

So when Stacie revealed her interests to be the E! Network and cuticle care, Aubrey brushed it off as a simple nervous remark. A mask of sorts. After all, if anyone knew about defense mechanisms Aubrey did. Especially since her upbringing had basically been one big predecessor for the defense mechanism that was her entire personality. It was with this prior knowledge that she began her relationship with Stacie Conrad. 

 

They started during hood night and continued in secret throughout the rest of Stacie’s freshman year. At first, it had been casual but feelings had quickly caught up to the both of them and after some somewhat mutual panicking, they figured things out. So when Aubrey graduated they had already settled into something of a routine because just as much as Aubrey was a big planner, Stacie was a mathematical genius that could plan a schedule better than any current AI program. 

 

They’re sitting in bed together reading, Stacie’s head rests on Aubrey’s shoulder as her eyes flit across the page. 

 

“Why do you like me?” The brunette blurts out. Her eyes are still on the page so Aubrey hesitates for a moment, wondering if she imagined the question. 

 

“Huh,” Aubrey hums in confusion.

 

“Why do you like me?” Stacie repeat

 

“What’s not to like?” Aubrey shrugs in answer. 

 

“Well except for my exceptionally sizeable pectoralis major, a talent for absolute pitch, adeptness for kinesthesiology, and statistically preferable aesthetic, I really don’t know.” Stacie huffs in reply, her eyes haven’t left her book which is endlessly amusing to Aubrey. 

 

The blonde gently closes the book in Stacie’s hands after closing her own and tilts Stacie’s chin to better look at the brunette’s face. “I love when you talk nerdy to me,” Aubrey teases. 

 

The accompanying pout only makes Aubrey smile more, the strong urge to kiss her girlfriend filling her chest. “Love is just a flood of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. Those chemicals can be supplied by anyone, especially any high-end drug dealer.”

 

“Stacie -” Aubrey begins but Stacie cuts her off with a quick look and continues. 

 

“I’ve just been thinking lately that in all the vastness of the universe do you think I’m the one? Or at least statistically likely to be one of your “ones?”

 

Aubrey struggles to hold back her smile of amusement but listens patiently as Stacie continues to ramble on about the vastness of the universe and the totality of space and time versus the statistical probability of romantic relationships surviving each year. She loves the way the girl’s eyes seem to come to life when discussing any scientific topic, even when that topic might contradict a hope for a future forever between them. 

 

“So why do you like me? What’s your source of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin? I want to know so I don’t change it or anything, and -” Aubrey cut off Stacie’s next sentence with a kiss, unable to fight the urge any longer. 

 

Stacie pulls back for a second but Aubrey pushes forward, cupping the other girl's cheek as the kiss is deepened. 

 

“I love you, everything about you,” Aubrey whispers out between each kiss. “I love the way you sound when you’re nervous, I love when you sing, I love your laugh, and the way you poke your tongue out when you’re thinking. I love the color of your eyes and how I don’t really know if they’re actually green or blue. I love your thoughts on the world and how excited you get when you express them. I love how you read anything and everything you can get your hands on. I love the way you love me, all the small gestures and all the big ones. I love the way we argue because you’re the first person I’ve felt secure with, and I know that I will come back to bed each night and hold you no matter how angry we get. I love you for all your hair-brained schemes with Lily, and all your enabling with Fat Amy. I love that you’re so smart and so kind.”

 

Aubrey had switched to light pecks as she smattered kisses across Stacie’s face. The feeling of wetness leaving trails down a pale cheek is not lost on her as she confesses every reason she loves the woman in her arms. “I love your wit and your jokes. Yes, I love your boobs and your body as a whole but I love the mind it holds the most. I love how creative you are in and outside of the bedroom. I love the sex and I love the intimacy of our other moments. Most of all, I love how you turn on your science brain every time you get insecure because it’s honestly the most adorable thing I have ever heard and I don’t think I have ever felt so endeared by the word norepinephrine in my life.”

 

“I love you,” Stacie whispers against Aubrey’s mouth as she captures the blonde’s lips with her own. 

 

“I love you too and I promise I will continue to love you forever. Your intelligence is my favorite thing and I can’t wait to see all the things we can learn together,” Aubrey murmurs back. They both smile into the kiss as they pull each other closer, celebrating the future they’ve promised to each other. 

 

Chapter Text

It was funny really, how much Stacie used to dream of a prince or princess charming. She remembered the days when she was young, gallivanting across the playground as she dreamt of a happily ever that would never come. Back when her parents loved each other, back when her father was alive.

She knew exactly where her issues stemmed from. If it wasn’t the endless spectating of her parent’s failed marriage, as she watched two people who used to love each other prove over and over that past love wasn’t enough, it was definitely the final metaphorical and literal nail in the coffin when her father died. Because even if you break it off there is nevertheless an empty space in your heart where that person was relocated if that person should die. Or be murdered, in Stacie’s father’s case.

Now, Stacie’s mother would condemn Stacie’s viewpoint, the point of contact that caused Robert Conrad’s death was vehicular manslaughter, but Stacie deemed it murder nonetheless. Regardless of semantics such as a degree. After all, the man had decided to operate a moving vehicle while high off of cocaine and shrooms through his own volition. Now he would sit in rehab, while Stacie sits on a cemetery bench on the same day every year.

She promised herself that she’d never let anything hurt her that much again. After all, no one could hurt you if they never really knew the real you, to begin with. So she dumbed herself down, she became banal and flighty. Hiding her good grades from her peers as she replaced her emotional needs with physical ones. Her reputation preceding her as she developed a loose attitude towards sex and relationships.

Everything worked out, she found someone passably attractive, she had sex, then she moved on. When some of the football team claimed to be a notch in her bedpost as well she didn’t really care, after all, she wasn’t overly attached to anyone so it's not as though their opinions mattered. High school was a breeze, she was invited to all the parties, all the nosier girls thought they had her figured out because of her dumb bimbo routine so they never pried, and even when they did she was able to shut them up by relating some inane sex story that she didn’t particularly care about.

When college came around, she expected to do much of the same as she did in high school. Have sex, study, get above average grades despite everyone’s preconceived idea of who she is, don’t get attached. Yet, when she found out that the grad school she wanted to apply for required extracurriculars, Stacie decided to up her game.

Acapella was not Stacie’s intention at all, but her advisors suggested she try to round out her application in something that wasn’t science-related. Since apparently none of her accomplishments showed a “well-rounded applicant.”
When MIT and Georgia Tech started giving a damn about the arts, Stacie had no idea, but they wanted to see something more artistically creative and collaborative. So when Stacie saw a gorgeous blond girl hanging up posters outside of her classroom Stacie’s interest was piqued. She knew she could sing fairly well and the dance lessons that her Mother had enrolled her definitely would come in use, so she saw no harm in applying. Especially if the Barden Bellas could get her closer to the beautiful blonde in question.

The auditions went as expected, Stacie’s ego undoubtedly boosted by the way that Aubrey, the girl who had hung up the poster, seemed to stare at her as she walked up onto the stage. The look had been tinged with a want that was familiar to Stacie. A look that spurred on Stacie’s new plan. Where before her to-do list included classwork, extracurriculars, and previously unidentified sexual trysts. Now, Aubrey Posen was at the top of her things to do, and the Hunter was very excited.

Chapter Text

 

Stacie could hear the clicking of cameras from where she sat in her limo. Her bodyguard, Cynthia Rose, sat across from her whispering into a Walkie Talkie. Stacie scrolled aimlessly through her Twitter feed, humming in interest every once in a while. Her pointless scrolling was interrupted by the buzz of her phone as her mother’s face appeared on her screen. 

 

“Hi Mom,” Stacie greeted her mother’s facetime image. 

 

“Anastacia, good, have you arrived yet?” Mama Conrad inquired. 

 

“We’re waiting for the all-clear before leaving the vehicle ma’am,” Cynthia Rose responded. 

 

“Good, good, I wanted to catch you before you spoke to the press.” Mrs. Conrad said, “Anastacia, we need you to be on your best behavior. The first daughter of the United States is coming and I don’t want an international incident.” 

 

“You won’t, Mom. It’s not as though I’ll be hanging out with her, from what I’ve heard, she’s really boring.” 

 

“Boring is good, Anastacia. Boring stays out of headlines;” Her mother reminded her. 

 

Stacie sighed and stared up at the sunroof of the limo. “Right, I have to go, mom. I think they gave us the all-clear.” Cynthia Rose sighed across from her but didn’t bother to correct. Stacie hung up and groaned loudly as CR shook her head. “You shouldn’t lie to your mom, she’s only looking out for you.”

 

“I thought that was your job,” Stacie retorted. 

 

A murmur came from CR’s earpiece and the other girl nodded, “Alright, show time princess.”

 

“You do know that title has no bite when I’m literally the princess of Russia, right?” Stacie quipped. 

 

“Good thing I wasn’t taunting you, then;” Cynthia Rose shot back. 

 

Stacie stepped out as the door was opened for her, a crowd of paparazzi stood on both sides of the gated entry, cameras at the ready. Other high-profile students milled about on the red carpet, Lily from Japan walked briskly through the gates with minimal press interaction. Chloe Beale, the Vice President of the US’s daughter stood cheerfully speaking to Donald, the son of a dignitary from India. 

 

“Hey there legs,” an Australian accented voice exclaimed. 

 

Stacie turned to see one of her few friends, Patricia, or Fat Amy as she preferred to be called. “Amy, how are you doing?” The tall brunette greeted the blonde with a hug and a smile. 

 

“Not much, keeping up with my boyfriends. They were quite disappointed to see me go. Who wouldn’t be bummed though, now that they’re missing out on all of this;” Fat Amy gestured to her body with a confident grin. 

 

“What about you, Legs? How’s the Hunter doing?” Fat Amy inquired. 

 

“Last fed, twenty-four hours ago;” Stacie said with a mock pout. 

 

“Guess you’re going hunting tonight then?”

 

“Oh, most definitely,” Stacie winked. Turning away, Stacie surveyed the crowd once more. Studying her fellow students, Stacie made mental notes of the most attractive members of her class. Her wandering eyes settled on a blonde girl, almost Stacie’s height, with pouty lips and piercing green eyes. 

 

“Who’s -” Before Stacie could finish her inquiry a crackle of static sounded and all the students congregated in front of a varnished wooden podium. A microphone was settled at the top, an older blond lady stood before it with a wide smile. “Welcome students of Barden Academy, where the future’s world leaders learn how to make a difference. My name is Gail Abernathy-Fineburger and I am the Dean at this fine institution. As the first and foremost educational institution, we at Barden are excited to begin a year of integral lessons for our student’s professional and political development.”

 

 

The rest of Gail’s speech went off without a hitch. Once the press conference was done, the students were ushered past the gates and onto campus while security held off the encroaching line of press. Stacie, having lost sight of the beautiful blonde, found herself shoved into a group with a moody girl from Canada with a lot of piercings, Lily from Japan, Fat Amy from Australia, and Emily from Greenland. 

 

“It’s so warm here,” Emily commented. Her eyes were wide with wonder at the bright sunlight that permeated the sky. 

 

“You’re from Greenland, shouldn’t everything there be green?” Fat Amy questioned. 

 

“Greenland tends to have an arctic climate more often than not,” Stacie replied. 

 

“Why did they call it Greenland then?” Fat Amy scoffed. 

 

“It was named Greenland by Erik the Red in the hopes that the name would attract settlers,” Stacie informed the group. 

 

“Did it?” The girl with a lot of piercings asked. 

 

“No, not really;” Emily answered. 

 

“What about you Shawshank, what’s your name?” Fat Amy asked the moody-looking girl. 

 

“I’m Beca and I don’t even want to be here.” 

 

“Then why are you?” Fat Amy queried. 

 

Beca shrugged, “My dad is Prime Minister and he told me it would be a good experience. He didn’t really give me much of a choice.” 

 

“That’s a mood, I came here to get away from all my boyfriends back home, they’re all really attached. I mean, really attached, it’s as if they’re dingos in heat and it’s like, that’s enough already, y’know.” Fat Amy remarked. 

 

“I was sent here to hide from the ninjas my parents sent to assassinate me, little do they know that this is my alibi when those ninjas kill them,” Lily whispered. 

 

The four other girls stared worriedly at the raven-haired woman, half of them wondering what she had said while the other half wondered if she was serious. “Um, good for you Lily;” Beca stammered. Lily smiled. 

 

After being escorted to their rooms, Stacie was rooming with Beca, they were all given the chance to roam the campus of their own free will.

 

While she was walking around she saw her again, the beautiful girl with blonde hair and green eyes. She was sitting beside the school fountain with a book in her lap. Her schoolgirl skirt was pleated and her blouse was tucked in at her waist. Quickly, Stacie approached.

 

“Hey, I’m new around here can you show me to the campus medical center because I think you took my breath away.” Stacie flirted.

 

The blonde girl pointed off in the direction of the security building without glancing up. “Past the great oak and over the koi pond. If you hit Business administration you’ve gone too far.” 

 

Stacie blinked, stalled for a moment as she wracked her brain for something else. “Are-“ 

 

“You a parking ticket? No, but I’m about to charge you for wasting my time.” The girl snapped back. 

 

Stacie shut her mouth and flushed slightly, a mixture of indignation and embarrassment overtaking her. “I’m sorry, you’re right, pick-up lines are ridiculous. I just saw you andhad to say something. I guess I don’t really talk enough to beautiful girls like you,” Stacie said with a wink.

 

“Then don’t.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Don’t talk to me, I’m busy, it’s my last year and I have to get ahead on my readings, so don’t talk to me.” The blonde said all of this very irately as she snapped her book shut and finally looked up at Stacie. Her eyes widened in surprise briefly, flickering down to Stacie’s figure before returning to meet Stacie’s gaze. The brunette smirked, satisfied by the spark of attraction she had seen in the blonde’s eyes. Seeing this, the blonde’s eyes narrowed.

 

“You’re not going to give up, are you?” The older woman scowled.

 

“No, I am, I’m just glad to know it’s not that I’ve lost my game. You just have a stick up your ass,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

The blonde turned an interesting shade of pink at Stacie’s words, her empty hand twitched as though she wanted to hit Stacie. “I should have expected nothing less from the descendant of the runaway princess of Russia.” 

 

“Oh yeah? Like you’re much better? What country are you from? Probably the daughter of some underhanded diplomat with a drinking issue. They probably need it after dealing with someone as anal-retentive as you.” Stacie snapped.

 

The blonde’s brow furrowed as she paused for a moment in surprise. “You don’t know who I am?” 

 

“Should I?” Stacie sneered.

 

“I-“ Aubrey began but the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching them broke off her words. Both girls turned to see a redhead and Beca running at them with a surprising amount of panic. 

 

“Bree! It’s the paps! They got in, run!” The redhead, Stacie recognizes her as Chloe, called out. The blonde, named Bree, paled visibly and turned to book it with a speed Stacie didn’t know was possible. What surprised her, even more, is the fact that the previously irate older girl, grabbed Stacie’s wrist and pulled her along. 

 

“What are you doing?” Stacie questioned as they ran. 

 

“Saving you from starting an international incident.” The other girl answered. 

 

Even with her long legs, Stacie had to put in a lot of effort to keep up with Bree. She wanted to ask more questions but the rapid pace at which they were running kept her mouth shut. Once they made it to a collection of elegant ivy-covered brownstone buildings, the blond rounded the corner into an alleyway. There was a dumpster beside a low brick wall, next to an overhang. “Climb,” the blonde ordered as she shoved Stacie towards the wall. 

 

“What?” Stacie gawked at the wall and then at the blonde in question. “Seriously?” 

 

“Dixie chicks serious, climb.” Bree gave Stacie another shove, causing her to reluctantly begin her ascent. 

 

Both girls made it onto the overhang from the wall, where Stacie felt a sharp tug that brought her chest to chest with the beautiful blonde as said girl peeked around the corner of the wall. Using their height difference, Stacie peered around the edge as well to see a man with a camera looking about furiously for them. Another quickly joined him, both searching the area. 

 

“Come on, this way,” Stacie was gently guided towards a ladder that hung along the brick wall. They both started climbing.

 

When Stacie stepped up onto the roof she couldn’t help but gasp in amazement. She could see the entire campus laid out beneath them. The concrete walls only rose to her stomach, allowing her to gaze out at the campus with ease. 

 

“Yeah, it’s really nice up here,” the blonde sighed. Her own green eyes scanned the horizon, a small smile on her lips. Stacie stared at the girl in amazement, even though the girl was absolutely nuts, she looked absolutely beautiful in the sunlight. The older girl rounded on her, hands-on-hips suddenly, “you really don’t know who I am, do you?” 

 

Stacie shook her head, “should I?”

 

The other woman sighed, “I guess I owe you an apology then. I thought you were messing with me on purpose to get a rise out of me. My father said the Russians might try something. Although I’ll admit, I was startled by your American accent.” 

 

“My dad was Canadian but he was a scientist, he studied in the Olympic peninsula. He took care of me when I was younger until I was twelve. I guess the accent stuck.” Stacie considered for a moment, “I’m assuming, from your distaste, you’re the US's first daughter?” 

 

“Aubrey Posen, first daughter of a long dynasty of Posen’s.” The blonde held out a hand and Stacie took it. The skin-to-skin contact, despite how little, sent a small shiver down Stacie’s spine. Aubrey felt it too if her blush had anything to say about it. 

 

“I hope your friend wasn’t caught, the redhead;” Stacie exclaimed. Aubrey shook her head in response, “there’s no way, she’s my running partner, she can outpace any mediocre photographer. Although, I can’t say the same for that other girl she was with.” 

 

“Beca? Yeah, I don’t think she’s outrunning anyone;” Stacie chuckled. 

 

Aubrey frowned, “I hope they got away, the paparazzi aren’t even supposed to be on campus. I’ll have to talk to my security team.” 

 

Stacie took a seat against the wall with a sigh, resigned to settling down to wait. She was surprised to see Aubrey do the same, taking the spot next to her. Their shoulder’s brushed slightly and Stacie withheld a smirk. “You could always sit in my lap you know,” she teased. 

 

“You really are just a flirt, aren’t you?” Aubrey said, clearly suppressing a smile. 

 

“Get to know me and find out,” Stacie returned with a wink. 

 

Aubrey shook her head, amusement evident in the curl of her lips. “You’re incorrigible.” 

 

“I’d like to say I have a gift for perseverance,” Stacie argued. 

 

“Like a fungus,” Aubrey said teasingly. 

 

“Hey, I’m too hot to be a mushroom;” Stacie protested.

 

Aubrey gave her a once-over, “yeah, I guess you are.” 

 

Stacie gasped, “Was that a compliment? Did you just compliment me?” 

 

Aubrey yelped in surprise as Stacie hooked a leg over her’s to straddle the blonde. Hands settling on Aubrey’s shoulders, both girls came face to face, alarmed by the sudden proximity. “You think I’m hot,” Stacie beamed.

 

“I have eyes,” Aubrey snorted.

 

“Ooh, laying it on thick, huh?” Stacie grinned.

 

Their gazes met for a moment before flashing to the other girl’s lips, “I-“ 

 

Whatever Aubrey was about to say was cut off as Stacie leaned in, their lips just brushing before they heard the sound of someone else climbing the ladder. Hearing the noise, both girls froze before Aubrey hastily extricated herself from Stacie’s embrace. The blonde was blushing furiously as the tingling sensation of where their lips just touched sent electricity through her body. 

 

It wasn’t long until a ginger head of hair was quite visible over the wall, and Aubrey sighed in relief. “Chloe?” 

 

The redhead popped up fully to reveal brilliant blue eyes and the smile that earned the ginger her title of “America’s Sweetheart.” 

 

“Bree! I thought you would be here,” Chloe chirped. Stacie watched as the other girl pulled herself over the wall and turned around as though to help someone up. “Come on Beca, it’s just a couple more rungs!” 

 

Stacie heard a begrudging groan come from below, followed by the sound of climbing. 

 

When both newcomers were situated on the roof, they turned to Stacie and Aubrey expectantly. “I see you avoided the paparazzi okay!” Chloe observed.

 

“It’s good they have no idea this rooftop area exists,” Aubrey admitted. 

 

“Beca, are you wearing lipstick?” Stacie commented as she noticed an odd bright pink tinge to the shorter girl’s lips. The brunette in question blushed, “no dude, these are just my lips.” 

 

“Sure,” Stacie chuckled, she didn’t miss the look Aubrey sent Chloe as both girls silently conversed with each other. 

 

A commotion garnered the group’s attention before Stacie could broach the topic, all the girls rushed to peer down at the grounds where they saw a group of photographers being dragged out in handcuffs by security. “Seems like the coast is clear,” Beca said, “um, it was nice meeting you, Chloe. I’ll see you around.” Beca bobbed her head awkwardly before making a beeline for the ladder. 

 

“I should go too, I have more studying to do and this was enough distraction,” Aubrey chimed in. Dusting the invisible dirt from her clothing, the blond flashed an awkward smile at Stacie before walking towards the ladder. That left Stacie with Chloe who was studying Stacie with a furrowed brow. 

 

“Did we interrupt anything up here?” Chloe inquired.

 

“Um, no?” Stacie responded, unsure whether she was supposed to tell Aubrey’s best friend anything. 

 

Chloe raised an eyebrow, “Okay, sure. I just hope Bree knows what she’s doing. Be careful on your way down. It’s a long way to fall.” With those parting words, Chloe turned and followed the blonde down the ladder. Stacie stood dumbly on the roof, wondering whether she had just gotten herself into some kind of trouble.

Chapter Text

 

Being a victor meant a lot of things, three of which were very important lest your loved ones suffer for it.

 

 One, It’s an honor. Any suggestion that it’s less than that translated to certain death for any or all of your loved ones. Stacie kept this in mind through most of her interviews, her outward flirtatious persona was interwoven with an arrogance that her mentor, stylist, and escort found desirable.

 

 Second, was the fact that her life was no longer her own. This was a factor she learned about early on when she was called in immediately by President Snow where she was informed of the expectations of the capitol. They loved her. They thought she was beautiful and intelligent, desirable, was the word that President Snow had used. It was a word she grew to despise when she was forced into periodic relations with sycophantic capitol citizens. 

 

Third, trust no one. It didn’t take long for Stacie to notice how differently her fellow District 3 residents viewed her. The rumors of her dalliances in the Capitol had spread, quickly and malignantly. People she had grown up alongside glared at her from the streets, calling her a Capitol sellout. Her parents were given harsher deals at the black market and her sisters were excluded from class activities. Her brothers began to call her princess in joking tones, but their eyes revealed their disgust. It became quite evident how little she could trust anyone, so she allowed them to move out of her victor’s home. 

 

It was their decision, and Stacie couldn’t take their judgmental gaze anymore. 

 

When the tour came around and she was supposed to turn back on the happy and vivacious persona to air for millions, she wanted to cry. She wanted to scream, throw their money back in President Snow’s face, she wanted to kill the capital citizens that paid for her company. She wanted to die. She wanted to go back to the arena and let that boy from District 2 kill her. 

 

But she didn’t. She boarded the train, smiled, waved, laughed, told edited versions of her meetings in the Capitol. She rewatched her games with glazed eyes and a plastic smile, praying that it could end. But it didn’t, and she kept that plastic grin in place all the way to District 2. The home of her greatest opponent in the arena.

 

She didn’t know what she had been expecting from the Capitol’s lapdogs, but the size of their district and the well-fed appearance enraged Stacie. She remembered how her family used to look before she had won. How her siblings always looked half-starved, how her brothers scavenged for bits and pieces to sell on the underground. Everyone in this district looked well-fed, fit, determined, and worst of all: proud. 

 

She didn’t miss how they seemed to revel in the splash of blood across their screens, their eyes shone with excitement that made Stacie physically ill. So, Stacie did the one thing she could do, she rubbed their tribute's deaths in the crowd’s face. 

 

Admittedly the decision may not have been a sound one, considering the looks she got from District 2’s last victor: Aubrey Posen. To Stacie’s knowledge, Aubrey had shown an amazing prowess in killing her fellow tributes. She was known to be a rigid and determined career pack leader, that pushed everyone to their breaking point. She also managed to luck out and survive District 5’s attempt on the career pack’s life, because of her nervous habit of vomiting when she got too stressed. Her body got rid of the poison before it even had the chance to spread into her stomach lining. 

 

Despite this reputation for rigidity, the girl showed a surprising amount of sympathy that night on the rooftop. The two girls laid on the ground talking and staring at the stars. Stacie began to point the constellations out as Aubrey listened intently. The two girls had switched positions to lie head to head, Aubrey, craning her neck to see where Stacie was pointing. At that moment, Stacie didn’t feel like a victor or a murderer. She felt like just another person, gazing at the stars like she used to do with her father before he hated her. 

 

Stacie was boarding the train later that night when she heard the sound of footsteps behind her. Turning, she saw Aubrey running full pelt towards her. The lack of decorum would have been funny if it weren’t for Stacie’s initial panic, the image of another district 2 female running at her flashed through her mind. But Aubrey slowed and stopped in front of Stacie with a slight smile. 

 

“I wanted to give you something, I forgot to give this to you earlier;” Aubrey pressed a piece of paper into her hand. Stacie took it, gripping Aubrey’s hand in hers for a moment. Sparks traveled up her cold fingers, setting her heart stuttering. “It’s my number, so you can call me some time. I know it’s not much, and it won’t be the same as if we were in person;” and alone, Stacie heard in the back of her mind. “But I just want you to know that you’re one of us now, don’t forget that.” 

 

Stacie felt her eyes tear up slightly for a moment. She couldn’t thank Aubrey enough for the brief feeling of safety the girl had provided for her, but she was very aware of the capitol cameras following her along with the train attendants and her escort. “Thank you,” She murmured. Aubrey gave her a small nod, releasing her hand.

 

 

The rest of the tour was relatively uneventful after she met with Aubrey. The way the blonde had gazed at her, smiling, on the rooftop featured heavily in her dreams from that point forward. When Stacie was in the midst of a capital citizen appointment, it was often the idea of Aubrey holding her that finally lulled her to sleep. Whenever Stacie was home she called Aubrey as often as she was able where they talked about cooking, or how empty their houses felt. 

 

Since Aubrey had a family full of victors, everyone had their own home. This left Aubrey alone in her victor’s house, although she was often visited by her family. Stacie on the other hand spent all her time in District 3 alone or with her mentor Lily, a quiet girl who had won her victory three years prior at age sixteen. The girl was soft-spoken, but Stacie had to admit that she wouldn’t have made it out alive without the girl. 

 

It didn’t take long for the rest of the year to pass by, meaning Stacie was set to be District 3’s newest mentor. The Reaping seemed to go quickly this time around, most likely a result of her not having the anxiety of her name being picked. The worst had happened, and she had survived, now she had to live with it. It wasn’t as though any of her siblings were at risk in the Reaping this year either. Her younger sisters, Gwen and Kira, were only ten and eight respectively and her brothers were older than her. Since she had been on the precipice of aging out of the hellish lottery, her brothers were far too old to be reaped. Stacie had a few more years before she had to worry.

 

Once two kids were reaped, Stacie was asked some questions about her initial impression and then guided towards the train. While she waited for the kids to say their goodbye’s she watched the Reapings unfold in the other districts. District 12 reaped two kids that looked as though they were on their last legs. District 11 pulled a twelve-year-old and a thirteen-year-old, fodder. The reapings premiered one after the other, the notable tributes being a girl from Seven named Flo Florentes, a girl from five named Cori, and a boy from four named Unicycle. 

 

When the announcers got to District 2 Stacie leaned forward in her seat expectantly. The tributes in Districts 1 and 2 decided the fate of their competition, more often than not. The brunette watched as they pulled the boy’s name first, the announcer calling out the name loudly. A boy at the age of thirteen stepped forward cautiously, the camera flickered to Aubrey’s face from her position on the stage. Stacie saw a shimmer of fear in the other girl’s eyes and tried to recall the name that was just said, paling in horror at the realization that the boy was Aubrey’s youngest brother, Arthur. 

 

The moment Stacie felt a stab of pain in her heart for her newfound friend, she heard the other shoe drop. Jolene Posen, Aubrey’s youngest sister, and Arthur’s twin stepped forward in horror. To Stacie’s astonishment, no one volunteered. The two thirteen-year-olds shook each other’s hands as the capitol announcers cooed after the pairing and the Posen family’s bad odds. 

 

Stacie’s tribute boarded the train along with their fellow contestant, Stacie’s fellow mentor for that year was Donald, a lanky boy with glasses and olive skin. He had a habit of beatboxing while he worked over his many music players. Stacie sat at the train table with the tributes and watched as the pair scarfed down the food in front of them. 

 

They discussed strategy for most of the train ride, advising their tributes on how to interact with the crowd and hold themselves. How to speak and appear was essential to their survival. Their lives were forfeit the moment it was pulled out of that crystal ball. Stacie tried not to wonder about what Aubrey was doing at that moment, and how the girl was dealing with things. 

 

When they reached the Capitol her tributes were herded towards the remake center while Stacie and Donald made their way to the training center. Stacie immediately hit the two-button while Donald hit the three, only raising a single eyebrow in question before allowing Stacie to exit hastily without an explanation. 

 

As soon as Stacie walked off the elevator she curved through the hallway and into the living room where Aubrey was sitting at the counter over a bottle of wine. “Aubrey,” Stacie murmured, approaching cautiously she slipped into the seat beside the blonde. “I’m sorry.” 

The blonde shook her head, mutely. Stacie placed her hand on Aubrey’s shoulder in an attempt to be comforting, she was relieved to feel the other girl relax at her touch. 

 

“I don’t know what to do, how do I keep them alive?” Aubrey muttered. 

 

“I’m sorry,” Stacie repeated the words, she couldn’t provide any solutions. She had her own tributes to keep alive, the fact that her tribute’s survival was dependant on the deaths of Aubrey’s brother and sister was not lost on her. 

 

“My Dad will never forgive me if at least one of them doesn’t win, but how do I choose?” Aubrey fretted, her head was settled in her hands while Stacie patted her on the back reassuringly. “How do I choose?” 

 

 

Stacie stayed to watch the parade with Aubrey, she allowed Donald to handle both of their tributes at that moment. Instead, Stacie held Aubrey’s hand when no one was looking and spoke every once in a while to Aubrey’s brother, who had bullied his way into a mentorship when his siblings were reaped. 

 

When the parade finished with District 7 being the favorites for that year, their cherry blossom tree costumes caught many eyes, Stacie allowed Aubrey to guide her through the city instead of back to the training center. Instead, Aubrey took her to a bar where a redhead sat waiting. As soon as Aubrey walked through the door the redhead was hugging her. An embrace that Aubrey returned gratefully as Stacie stood to the side awkwardly, attempting to curb her jealousy. 

 

Chloe Beale had an absolutely effervescent personality, one that no doubt earned her the position of Panem’s Sweetheart. Stacie had heard rumors about Chloe’s dalliances in the capitol as well, so Stacie immediately couldn’t hate the girl. No matter how much Aubrey clung to her. If anything, Stacie felt a kindred spirit in Chloe who lamented the night with them over a bottle of spirits. 

 

As the week passed Stacie grew to enjoy the company of her fellow victors. Chloe was the life of the party and made everyone around her feel good at all times. Cynthia Rose from Seven was funny and flirtatious with Stacie, but insisted she meant nothing by it and that her wife, a girl back home named Denise, would kill her. Bumper was a hard pill to swallow at first but his interactions with a District 12 girl, named Fat Amy, quickly grew on Stacie. In fact, she was astounded to learn that she actually liked most of the victors. 

 

“We’re one big fucked up family,” One boy named Benji, from District 6, chuckled. He had won two games before Stacie, he had simply hidden long enough to be declared the winner. Stacie vaguely remembered that his talent was magic, and asked to see a card trick. Quite happily, the boy pulled out a deck of cards and performed a quick sleight of hand that allowed him to spit the card into his hand after Stacie searched up his sleeves. 

 

Despite the applause and laughter, Aubrey’s reticent mood wasn’t lost on the brunette. The blonde and her brother stayed to their corner of the bar or table, often, while the others conversed. Chloe would often catch Stacie watching the blonde from afar, often asking the brunette a question to pull Stacie’s attention from Aubrey’s profile. 

 

The training sessions passed, and the private session whipped by as well. Aubrey’s siblings garnered relatively respectable scores for children their age. Aubrey’s sister earned a 9 and her brother earned an 8. Aubrey couldn’t stop gushing about how proud she was of her siblings that night, the pair had snuck off to the rooftop to gaze at the stars like old times. Stacie listened patiently as the blonde smiled for the first time in a long time, her smile actually meeting her eyes. 

 

“Maybe, we’ll get to bring one of them home;” Aubrey said. 

 

Stacie stayed silent, allowing the other girl to pray because she knew that whatever she said in response wouldn’t be honest. What else could she do but allow the other girl to hope? 

 

“Arthur wants Jolene to live, he says he has to take care of his sister,” Aubrey sighed. “Of course Jolene thinks Arthur should live, she’s seven minutes older so she thinks she’s had more life experience.” 

 

Stacie snorted at the fourteen-year-old’s words, turning to face Aubrey who had an equal expression of mirth. “Maybe I can get them both out,” Aubrey hummed, her green eyes met Stacie’s with so much hope that the brunette’s heart broke at that moment. 

 

“Aubrey,” Stacie sighed. 

 

“I know, just, let me have this one dream. This one moment to think, maybe I don’t have to lose anyone else. Let me think I can fix it, that my brother and sister aren’t going to die for me;” Aubrey wept. The blonde settled her head on Stacie’s shoulder, cuddling into her. Stacie felt a rush of warmth that wasn’t attributed to the blonde’s body heat but didn’t comment. Instead, she curved her arm to weave her fingers through blonde locks. 

 

“Why didn’t anyone volunteer?” Stacie asked, the thought finally forming into words. 

 

“This is my punishment,” Aubrey murmured. 

 

“Punishment for what?” Stacie inquired.

 

“Why do you visit the Capitol so much?” Aubrey replied bitterly. Stacie’s eyes widened in surprise, “I thought no one requested you anymore.” 

 

“Someone did, I said no. They already killed my Mom, my Dad is a big figure in the public and my brother is doing what you’re doing to keep our siblings safe. I just guess it wasn’t enough this time.” Stacie feels tears soaking into her shirt as her fingers play idly with Aubrey’s hair. Rage seethes deep in her chest for the other girl as the new information swirls in her mind. “They can’t keep doing this to us,” Stacie growls. 

 

“What else is there? We should be honored, after all, we lived;” Aubrey sneered. “We’re nothing but commodities.” 

 

“Maybe, maybe things can change? What if -” 

 

“Stacie!” Aubrey clapped a hand over Stacie’s mouth and looked around. “I know where this is going but we can’t talk like that. Not here. I know we’re on the roof, but still. I have Arthur and Jolene to think about, I can’t give them any reason to pull the trigger.” 

 

Stacie nodded in understanding, allowing Aubrey to pull her hand away and place it on her shoulder instead. Nuzzling into the crook of her neck further. “Thank you for staying up here with me,” Aubrey said quietly. 

 

“Always,” Stacie murmured back. Without thinking she leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on the crown of Aubrey’s head, freezing when she felt the other girl’s body stiffen. 

 

“Sorry, I didn’t -” Stacie scrambled to apologize when she felt Aubrey beginning to extricate herself from Stacie’s grip, but she was further surprised to feel another set of lips on hers. Stacie’s eyes fluttered closed as she welcomed the kiss, responding with equal fervor. 

 

The pair continued kissing for some time, enjoying the feeling of each other’s lips and bodies pressed together. The warmth and affection in their embrace provided more comfort than either girl had received in quite some time. Stacie breathed in the feeling of kissing someone she actually wanted to kiss, gratefully. Loving every second. 

 

Eventually, Aubrey pulled away, lightly placing her hands on Stacie’s chest, thumbs grazing the brunette’s collarbones. “I’m really enjoying this, but I need to go to sleep, and we shouldn’t be caught up here like this.” 

 

“Yeah,” Stacie sighed, reluctant to part with Aubrey now. 

 

“Stacie, I really like you and I really enjoyed this moment,” Aubrey began. 

 

“But?” Stacie replied with a raised eyebrow. 

 

“But we shouldn’t do this again, the more people I love the more ammo Snow has.” 

 

“He can’t get me, I’m safe;” Stacie retorted. 

 

“What about your family? He has no problem hurting those that my loved ones are protecting, Arthur and Jolene were supposed to be under my brother’s protection but they’re still here.”

 

“We’ll handle that if it comes.”

 

“No, Stacie, I won’t let you risk your family for me;” Aubrey argued. 

 

“I won’t be risking anything, I can keep my family safe, you know I can handle myself.” 

 

“That’s what I thought too, but they’re still here Stacie. They still got reaped.”

 

“I just won’t say no, he won’t have reason to -” 

 

“No, you shouldn’t have to do that for me. I don’t want to be another reason that you put yourself through that;” Aubrey was on her feet now and pacing the rooftop. 

 

Stacie scrambled to her feet, following Aubrey’s tracks. “I’m doing it anyway, so why does it matter?” 

 

Aubrey halted her steps, her eyes were steely with determination. “It matters because I think I could love you. Maybe not now, but someday, and I can’t live with myself if I ever saw you grow to hate me too.” 

 

Stacie took a step forward but stopped because she got it. Because as much as she hated how much her parents seemed to resent her now, as much as the glares of hatred from her loved ones hurt, she knew she hadn’t been much better. Because as much as she loved her family she knew, deep down, she gave them those looks first. Every time she returned from the capitol after her sojourn with a random capitol citizen she couldn’t stop her utter self-loathing and bitterness. She couldn’t stop the resentment from leaking through every time she was reminded that she was trapped. Trapped in an endless cycle of being used as a personal sex toy for the highest bidder. Trapped because she had to protect a family that was none the wiser. 

 

She got it because it would break her heart if Aubrey ever looked at her with that same hatred in brilliant green eyes. “I think I could love you too, one day;” Stacie said quietly. Aubrey bit her lip, tears springing forward. “Maybe in another life.” 

 

“Maybe in a world where the Hunger Games didn’t exist?” 

 

“Maybe in a world where this was just a bad dream, and you didn’t have the fate of your family hanging on your shoulders. Maybe I would just be a girl you were fated to meet.”

 

“Maybe we would fall in love and never have to let go;” Stacie chuckled. 

 

“I wish that was our world now,” Aubrey smiled sadly. 

 

“I know,” Stacie pulled Aubrey into a hug then, familiarizing herself with the feeling of the other girl against her one more time. “I would love you,” She murmured sadly. 

 

“I know,” Aubrey sniffled, “But you can’t, not in this life.”

Chapter Text

Stacie fretted awkwardly in front of Aubrey’s door, her fingers twitching with anxiety. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door, the rap of her knuckles loud in the middle of the night. After repeating the action a few more times, the door finally opened to reveal a disheveled Chloe Beale. “Stacie? What are you doing here? It’s 2 AM.”

“I need to talk to Aubrey about something important,” Stacie replied.

“If this is about rehearsal you can talk to her tomorrow,” Chloe groaned.

“No, it’s not that, I-” Stacie broke off when Aubrey appeared in the doorway. “Go to bed Chlo, I’ll handle this.” Chloe shuffled off to bed, leaving Stacie facing an irate Aubrey.

“What do you want Conrad?”

“I want another chance, with you. For us,” Stacie stammered.

“There is no us, you made that really clear;” Aubrey snapped.

“Aubrey, please, I can explain. Okay?” Stacie shoved her foot in the doorway, prepared in case the blonde tried to slam the door in her face. “Why should I listen to a word you have to say?” Aubrey sneered.

“Because I love you, and I’ve never said that to anyone before, and honestly that scares the crap out of me.”

Aubrey froze, her eyes wide in alarm. “You what?”

Stacie gently edged her way through the doorway, taking advantage of Aubrey’s momentary lapse in awareness. “I love you,” she reiterated.

Aubrey closed the door behind Stacie and turned, “Why are you telling me this now? I asked you on a date two weeks ago and you decided to sleep through Barden’s entire Junior year.”

“Aubrey,” Stacie began.

“No, you’re going to listen, because I spent all of last week crying and all of this week wondering what’s wrong with me. I told you that I thought we could be something and I wanted to try with you, but you laughed in my face and told me that wasn’t our agreement. You said you’ve been sleeping with other people this entire time and you felt nothing, so you thought it was best if we stopped seeing each other outside of rehearsal. You didn’t even want to be friends Stacie, how do you think I felt? You’re the one person who I thought believed I was more than just some -”

Aubrey broke off then and began sobbing. “I thought, maybe you felt it too.”

Stacie rushed to the other girl and wrapped her arms around the blonde. “I did feel it, I was an idiot and I freaked out, okay. I just, I’ve never felt anything like what I feel for you before and that terrifies me.”

“And you don’t think it scares me?” Aubrey scoffed, the blonde began to wriggle her way out of Stacie’s embrace, but Stacie only tightened her hold, speaking quickly into Aubrey’s ear.

“I know, you told me about your parents. How your Mom died and your dad could barely look at you. How you tried so hard to get your Father’s attention after that, how your brother left to follow your Dad into the military. I know, and I’m sorry I hurt you. I love you, please let me explain.”

Aubrey relaxed in Stacie’s grip and let out a deep sigh. “Fine, but not here.”

Aubrey pulled Stacie into her room, which had been soundproofed after Chloe’s lady jam incident. Once the door closed, Stacie started speaking.

“The moment I saw you I thought you were the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and I thought I just wanted to sleep with you but you’re so smart and funny and kind, and all I wanted to do some days was make you smile or look at me like I’m the only one in the room. I auditioned because of you, and I stayed because of you even when sometimes your crazy rehearsals really make me want to quit. I fell in love with you every single night we were together, it just took me a while to realize it. Aubrey, you’re my first thought in the morning, and you’re the person I want to go to sleep with every night. I’ve never looked at anyone and seen a future like I have with you. I think you’re my one, and while I’m terrified I can’t imagine going another day without speaking to you. Please, give me a chance.”

“God, for a genius you’re such an idiot,” Aubrey grumbled.

Stacie felt it as she was pulled forward, her lips finding Aubrey’s immediately. They kissed for a moment before they paused for breath. “I had more to say like we’ve been sleeping together since August and it’s April now, so it’s been eight months and scientifically that's more than enough time to figure out that you’re in love with someone. Also, I lied, I haven’t actually slept with anyone but you in months.”

Aubrey raised an eyebrow at her words but remained silent, “The average woman falls in love with someone in one hundred and thirty-four days and I think I actually fell in love the moment I first met you.” Stacie explained.

Aubrey snorted, “You’re such a dork.”

“No one gives me norepinephrine like you do,” Stacie winked.

Aubrey pulled Stacie in for another kiss, her thumbs brushed Stacie’s cheeks as she swiped her tongue across the brunette’s bottom lip. Stacie pulled back with a wide grin, “For the record, I think we could be something, too.”

Chapter Text

The buzz of the party broke through the otherwise quiet night. The estate gates were open as her car lingered at the gates, the engine idling. She appreciated the hum of the engine as she collected herself, the woman in front of her sat with a sympathetic expression. Chloe knew what was at risk if they got caught. Aubrey was well aware too. They were deep in National Socialist Germany and the world was turning to utter shit, excusing Aubrey’s french. 

 

The party was being thrown by one Princess Hohenlohe in the abandoned estate of the theater director Max Reinhardt. They were supposed to ingratiate themselves with their host and gain intelligence on the princess’s social circle. Chloe’s target was Elias Fischer, and Aubrey’s was Gunter Bauer. Both of whom were Obersturmfuherer’s for their respective units. Aubrey and Chloe were expected to turn up the charm. Chloe’s job was expected to be relatively easy since her target was unattached according to his file. The real trouble was expected to be Gunter who’s attention had been claimed by a mysterious paramour, rumored to be the most beautiful woman Germany had seen. 

 

Aubrey and Chloe adjusted their hair and checked their makeup on any available reflective surface, they only got one shot at this. “If anything happens I’ll meet you at the place,” Chloe reminded Aubrey. The blonde nodded, a wave of solemnity settled over the pair as they ruminated over their shared fate if things were to go wrong. 

 

“Do you think we can pull this off?” Chloe murmured. 

 

Aubrey took her friend’s hand and gave it a firm squeeze. “We’ll get through this Chlo.”

 

“It’s Miss Gisela Schafer tonight,” Chloe replied, squeezing Aubrey’s hand back. 

 

“Well, Fraueline Schafer, good luck.”

 

Both women released their hold on the other’s hands as they turned to face their fate. 

 

 

People crowded in and out of the house, musicians played Reich-approved songs on instruments as men and women with Nazi insignias waltzed around the designated dance floor. Chloe spotted her target immediately, he was a stocky man with glasses and slicked back blonde hair. His teeth were yellowed from beer, their discoloration flashing with every toothy grin he flashed at the woman before him. Chloe narrowed her eyes, studying the other woman’s stance. Deciding the girl wasn’t a threat, Chloe slipped through the crowd in the man’s direction, idly greeting those she passed.

 

Aubrey’s target proved more elusive. She had seen the man’s picture in the file the CIA had given her but he appeared to be absent from the great hall. Aware of her need to blend in, Aubrey approached the buffet table and looked for a glass of champagne. Her eyes flitting from one face to the other. “Hallo, Fraulein;” A voice sounded from behind her. Aubrey turned to face Willhelm Canaris. The Abwehr of the German espionage efforts. She felt a clench of her stomach as bile rose in her chest, an old nervous tick she had never fully gotten control of. 

 

“Ah, blonde hair, beautiful eyes. Practically the perfect member of the Aryan race.” 

 

Aubrey wanted to throw up even more. She greeted the Intelligence officer in german, offering him a bow of her head while she debated whether it’d be worth it to knee him in the crotch. Pushing the instinct to the side she offered the man a small demure smile. Abwehr Canaris spoke calmly to Aubrey, his efforts of seduction were mentally noted by the blonde as she debated how to get in touch with her handlers. Canaris was a much bigger deal than Gunter. 

 

It didn’t take long for the intelligence officer to ask Aubrey to dance, something she politely agreed to despite her subconscious protestations. The music was flowing around them as Canaris continued to speak quietly, his breath beating against her right ear as he leaned in. “So what’s your favorite thing about your job?” Aubrey inquired, her smile was brilliant but those that knew her would immediately detect the duplicity behind her eyes. 

 

“My favorite thing?” The man mused as they continued to move to the music slowly, “Hmm, well I feel honored to serve my country. I love it very much, it doesn’t hurt that I get to meet beautiful women like you at events like this.” 

 

A line like that from a boy back home would have deserved a date, but Canaris was a dangerous man. One that Aubrey admittedly had a deep distaste for. The Nazis were horrible and cruel anti-Semites, their treatment of women was questionable as well. Aubrey wanted to gag at the line. 

 

A tap on the shoulder alerted Aubrey to someone else’s presence, her dancing slowed as they turned to face the newcomer. Aubrey looked up to see a tall woman with brilliant seafoam eyes and the most beautiful smile Aubrey had ever seen. Aubrey blinked, her eyes dropping to assess the other woman’s figure before rising back to meet the woman’s gaze. 

 

“Hello, I’m Ana Jager, I was wondering if I could have a dance as well?” The woman, Ana, said with an accent that Aubrey couldn’t quite pinpoint. 

 

“Ah, Jager, your name in English means Hunter, you know? I have a brother-in-law with the same last name.” Canaris commented, his eyes seemed to be assessing Ana in a similar way to Aubrey. 

 

A man with blonde hair and a charming smile approached, he was wearing his Nazi uniform, a cap tucked under his arm. Gunter Bauer, Aubrey’s target. 

“Ah, Abwehr Canaris,” Gunter saluted, saying the traditional words which Canaris promptly repeated. “I see you have met Ana.”

 

“The beauty of Austria,” Canaris greeted the woman with a brushing of his lips on her knuckles. “This is…” he trailed off for a moment, staring at Aubrey expectantly. 

 

“Louise Pfeiffer,” Aubrey introduced herself. Her cover name at the ready. She shook the other woman’s hand, lingering for a moment before they both let it drop. 

 

The men began to discuss business as both women stood idly by, listening to their dance partner’s conversation. 

 

“So you managed to catch the eye of the great Abwehr Canaris,” Ana purred.

 

Aubrey smiled politely at the brunette, her ears honed in on the two men as she kept a metaphorical lookout for any important information. Her efforts were quickly dashed, however, when both men offered apologetic smiles before traipsing towards the stairway. Canaris quietly requested Aubrey to save him a dance.  

 

When they were left behind, Aubrey turned to look for Chloe but found the other woman wrapped up in romancing her mark. 

 

“Est-ce que tu parles français?” Ana inquired amiably with a smile. 

 

Aubrey raised an eyebrow but replied in french anyway, “Yes, I speak french.”

 

Ana grinned and wrapped her hand around Aubrey’s wrist before pulling her towards the doors of the estate. As she was tugged towards the gardens Aubrey mentally prepared herself for an altercation. Her mind flashed back to the self-defense lessons Aubrey had taken, although the CIA offered little for women. Her welrod pistol was strapped to her leg, but Ana’s hand was wrapped around her gun arm. 

 

Ana turned around and gave Aubrey a flirtatious wink before pulling her through the hedges. Aubrey wanted to resist, but the brunette put a considerable amount of weight behind her pull. When Aubrey stumbled through the bushes, Ana let go of her arm and laughed. 

 

“You have to be the worst spy I’ve ever met,” the woman exclaimed. 

 

Aubrey spluttered for a moment, scrambling to figure out what could have given her away. 

 

“Don’t worry, he didn’t notice your utter look of loathing,” the brunette chuckled. 

 

Aubrey narrowed her eyes at the other woman, “If you’re able to spot me that quickly and you haven’t killed me yet, I’m assuming you’re a spy as well?” 

“Correct,” Ana grinned, “Ana Jager at your service. You’re Aubrey Posen?” 

 

Aubrey spluttered once more, her eyes fervently searched the maze-like hedge for eavesdroppers. “You can’t-”

 

“Don’t worry, no one is here;” the woman said. 

 

“I-” Aubrey began but Ana quickly put her finger to Aubrey’s lips, shushing her. 

 

“Stop protesting, we’re on the same side. Actually, I find it really funny when American spies think they have the drop on anyone.” 

 

“So you’re french, I’m assuming,” Aubrey muttered out past the other woman’s finger. 

 

“Guilty,” the brunette offered. 

 

“Well -” Stacie cut Aubrey off once more, settling a quick peck to Aubrey’s cheek before she leaned down and looped her arms over Aubrey’s shoulders. “I know your target is Gunter but I got here first. Everyone could use whatever information you can glean from Canaris, though. Also, I’m curious to see if you succeed. So consider me an ally. Just try not to get caught, yeah?” 

 

Aubrey opened her mouth in protestation but snapped it shut quickly when she heard footsteps nearing their location. 

 

“Time to go,” Ana exclaimed before turning and exiting the small dead-end she had led Aubrey to. Aubrey stood for a moment, giving Ana time to put some space between them while she internally debated reporting the fact that she had been made by the Russian’s best spy. Anastacia ‘ The Hunter’ Conrad. 

 

It had taken her a moment to realize, but there was rarely someone as adept in espionage as Aubrey. The brunette had spoken quickly but it only took one word for a small hint of a Russian accent to peek out and Aubrey knew exactly who she was dealing with. She now also knew that the pretentious bitch was going down.

Chapter Text

Stacie sat at the bar beside Cynthia Rose, both women taking long droughts from their drinks as they watched the Games unfold. Cynthia’s boy tribute had died in the initial bloodbath, Stacie’s tribute had thrown herself off the pedestal rather than face the carnage head-on. That had come as a particular shock since Stacie hadn’t had a clue of the girl’s plan. Then again, she didn’t pay any particular attention to this year’s tributes. Aubrey’s happiness was apparently enough for Stacie to betray her district in that way.

The Hunger Games had begun with the sound of the gong as all the tributes either charged forward or streaked away. Donald’s tribute made it to the treeline, but Stacie was watching Arthur and Jolene. The pair had found each other in the chaos and were watching each other’s backs. Both kids grabbed a pack and weapon, back to back as they looked out for one another. Arthur yelled a warning, pushing his twin to the ground as a knife whizzed over her head. Popping back up, Jolene threw her knife back at the boy from 9. The knife hit its mark and the boy collapsed.

The scene carried on in a similar fashion for some time as children died around the cornucopia or managed to flee. Aubrey had managed to secure her siblings the familiar alliance with District 1, which was lucky considering their age. The Posen name still had weight, and Posen's often made the final five.

The twins took turns staying awake, keeping an eye on their allies during the night. Stacie wondered what kind of sponsorships Aubrey had lined up for them. In fact, the blonde had featured heavily in Stacie’s mind over the past three days. Ever since their kiss on the roof, the pair hadn’t had a chance to be alone together. Somehow, Aubrey always seemed to be accompanied by Chloe whenever the two saw each other.

Stacie watched the screen with rapt attention as the careers went hunting that night. For the first time, Stacie found herself rooting for a Career. A stab of guilt reverberated in her chest as she realized the irony, the fact that her survival depended on the failure of the careers. Something that her district often reveled in, but here she was internally celebrating with the tributes of District 2.

“You like her a lot, huh?” Cynthia Rose chuckled over her drink.

A particularly uproarious cheer had erupted in the bar when the Careers managed to kill a boy from 8, distracting any nearby patrons from the widening of Stacie’s eyes at her fellow victor’s comment. “What? Who-”

“You know who I’m talking about,” Cynthia Rose said pointedly.

Stacie did know who CR was talking about because the girl’s eyes flickered in the direction of the screen where the twins were heavily in focus. “Do you love her?” The girl asked, the words were quiet. Barely audible over the noise of the bar.

“I can’t,” Stacie shrugged and took a deep gulp of her drink.

“That’s not an answer,” Cynthia Rose snorted.

“Isn’t it?” Stacie scoffed.

Cynthia Rose sighed and knocked back her drink, staring at the screen. “One of them might make it, y’know? Once they do they can’t be touched.” CR’s hints weren’t lost on Stacie, but she didn’t dare to hope. Maybe if she didn’t say it loud the world would let it come true. Before CR could add anything else, Aubrey and Chloe walked into the bar. The blonde was wearing a brilliant green dress that brought out her eyes and hugged her body. Stacie gulped when she saw it, wishing beyond anything else in the world that they lived in a world where she could go to Aubrey and kiss her in front of everyone.

“You okay there hunter?” Cynthia Rose teased, an edge of warning in her voice.

Stacie recovered quickly and turned back to the screen where the careers were hunkered down for the day in the shade of the cornucopia. Aubrey took the seat beside Stacie with a polite smile. Stacie gave a cursory nod in return. “How’s the sponsor hunting going?” Cynthia Rose inquired.

“I have a few lined up, Posen’s have good odds;” Aubrey replied. The District 2 Victor laid a hand on Stacie’s hand and gave a squeeze. “I how are you holding up? I know Star was your first mentee.”

“I’m okay, I didn’t get too involved with her if I’m being honest. Donald took over my job, mostly;” Stacie shrugged. I was too busy being worried about you, went unspoken. Aubrey nodded and took her band back, leaving Stacie to miss the feeling of the other girl’s hand on hers.

“Unicycle is doing well, he’s joined the career pack.”

“District 4 usually does take a spot as a prime contender,” Cynthia Rose remarked.

“It’s the fishing and our familiarity with spears, we have a leg up because of industry;” Chloe commented.

“District 7 does too, and you don’t see us as a Career district;” Cynthia Rose snorted.

“We all know the real reason Careers have a leg up,” Stacie muttered, eyes flashing to the screen where Unicycle was featured keeping watch.
“I didn’t realize your districts called us Careers until I got out of the games,” Aubrey hummed.

“It’s because you all treat this as a dream job,” Cynthia Rose griped.

Aubrey and Chloe shrugged in response, the screen fully capturing their attention as they saw the girl from five edging towards the camp. Flo. “Hey, isn’t that your girl?” Chloe said.

“Not mine, Clef is handling that one, she had more of an attitude than I wanted to deal with,” Cynthia Rose informed them.

“She has a knife,” Aubrey muttered, clearly on edge as the girl neared her siblings. Stacie settled her hand on the middle of Aubrey’s back without thinking, gently rubbing circles. The movement wasn’t lost on either Cynthia Rose or Chloe, who pursed her lips and scanned the bar wearily for any onlookers.

Flo crept forward, silently climbing onto the top of the cornucopia and worming her way to the edge. Aubrey gulped in fear, her hands tightened on the bar counter as they all watched with bated breath. Stacie saw Cynthia Rose flash Aubrey a worried look, before returning equally anxious to the screen. She wondered what the District 7 victor was thinking. Flo was at the lip of the Cornucopia, her knees above Unicycle’s head. Fishing for something in her pocket, the girl tossed a knife over the top and onto the ground. Seeing only a sudden shimmer, Unicycle rose and began to walk towards the mouth of the structure. “Don’t do it, idiot,” Chloe muttered under her breath at the same time Cynthia Rose muttered, “Go for it.” Both girls glanced at each other guiltily before falling into a focused silence.

Unicycle was just putting his foot past the entrance when Arthur awoke, “What are you doing?” The blonde boy inquired. Unicycle paused and turned to look back at the much smaller boy. “I was just checking something, it was nothing;” The District 4 boy replied, settling back down to sit with his spear in hand. “I can take watch,” Arthur offered. “Don’t worry about it, I’ve got this;” Unicycle waved the District 2 boy’s concern away. Arthur nodded and went back to sleep, curling closer to Jolene. Meanwhile, Flo laid frozen above the Cornucopia listening intently with bated breath. The camera zoomed in on the girl’s face as thoughts seemed to run rampant across the girl's features. Coming to a decision, Flo slipped down off the Cornucopia and curved around it the long way. A couple of large boxes lay scattered around the area and the sky was beginning to dim. Expertly, the girl grabbed an apple and lobbed it at the box across from her. This time, Unicycle went for it.

Stacie would remember this moment for the rest of her life.

Several things happened at once, Unicycle stepped clear of the Cornucopia and Flo threw her knife but her hand caught briefly on the cloth of a nearby bag. Arthur, who had heard the thunk of the apple, had risen as well and walked clear soon after. Jolene, noticing her twin’s absence from her side, rose as well and began to walk out several steps behind Arthur. The knife flew, askew and spinning. Unicycle saw it and shouted a warning, Jolene began running. Aubrey screamed.

Stacie knocked on the door hesitantly, Aubrey had locked herself in her room ever since the finale. After Flo killed Arthur with that first knife, the girl had gone into overdrive to bring her sister home. Unicycle had run after Flo at the first attack, waking up the District 1 tributes while Jolene wept over her brother’s dying body. The two shared some private words that the mics couldn’t even pick up, and the cannon sounded while Aubrey curled into Stacie’s shoulder crying. The two immediately gravitated to one another in the bar. This was a big mistake.

The word got out and Aubrey was called into Snow’s office soon after. When the blonde came back she wouldn’t even meet with Stacie, Chloe had to inform the victor of Aubrey’s return. The brunette didn’t know what hurt more, the fact that she couldn’t see the blonde at one of her worst moments or the fact that Aubrey clearly didn’t want her to. Stacie waited patiently in front of the door, hoping that Aubrey would give her a chance. At least to give her condolences for Jolene. The girl had made it to the last two, she would have replaced Aubrey as the youngest victor ever, but there were mutts. Mutts that paid a suspicious amount of attention to Jolene.

“Aubrey, if you’re in there open up, please.” No answer. “Aubrey, come on, please. I just want to help, we don’t have to do anything. I - I don’t know what you’re feeling right now but I need you to know that whatever lifetime, whatever circumstances, I’m here for you. Okay. Whatever you need. Um, if you want to talk I’ll be on the roof. I’ll be up there for as long as it takes.”

Stacie laid on the roof staring at the stars absentmindedly. The sound of the wind through the city was loud that night as everyone celebrated the games. Flo had won, the girl was crafty and smart, District 7 got one of its kids back, two if you counted the one in the box. Stacie wondered idly if Flo would be getting the same nightmares as the rest of them now? The girl had raised an ax in victory before she was lifted to relative safety, almost smiling. Stacie made a note to keep an ear out for the girl.

Stacie had begun to doze off when she heard the sound of footsteps. Turning, Stacie’s eyes met bloodshot green. Scrambling to her feet, Stacie started to say something, I’m sorry, It shouldn’t have happened like that, Why haven’t you talked to me for so long? Instead, Aubrey took her breath away. Stacie felt the impact before she processed the press of lips to hers. Where their first kiss had been slow and filled with a precious reverence, this one was forceful. A clash of teeth and the press of a tongue. Stacie’s mind blanked as Aubrey overwhelmed her senses, sinking into the moment with everything she had.

The kiss itself felt as though it was an accumulation of whatever they couldn’t say to each other. For the sake of fear, their family, safety, all their shared or similar trauma. It was a release of everything they wanted to be and couldn’t. They continued for several more minutes, Aubrey discarding Stacie’s shirt and running her hands over the tall brunette’s scarless skin. Her fingers brushed over a mole on Stacie’s hip, dipping slightly past the waistband of Stacie’s pants before rising to Stacie’s chest. Stacie shivered, her own hands were cupped around Aubrey’s neck and cheek. The feeling of wetness was the thing that broke off their kiss as Stacie pulled away to finally get a good look at Aubrey. The girl had a fading bruise around her left eye and a healing busted lip.

“What happened?” Stacie exclaimed, she ran a finger along Aubrey’s lower lip. Aubrey raised her hand to place over Stacie’s, their fingers tangled together as Aubrey kissed the brunette’s hand. “I tried to do what I could for my sister,” Aubrey answered. Stacie’s eyes widened in realization. “You said yes.”

“Do you blame me?”

“No, I would have done the same thing;” Stacie murmured, pressing a kiss to Aubrey’s forehead the two stood there together. Allowing the events of the past couple of days to wash over them. “Why didn’t you tell me, I would have understood.”

“I didn’t want you to see me like that, this is everything healing. It was worse before.”

“How’s Jason dealing with everything? How are you?”

Aubrey smiled wryly, “As good as anyone could be when the reason they allowed themselves to - It didn’t work.”

“I’m sorry,” Stacie murmured, their foreheads were pressed together as they drew comfort from one another. “Me too,” Aubrey whispered. “I have to handle the funerals for Arthur and Jolene, they at least deserve to be buried with dignity. I just wish I knew what Arthur said in his last moments, Jolene was so brave and her last words meant everything. Even as awful as it was, at least I have something to hold onto, y’know.”

“That reminds me!” Stacie exclaimed, digging in her pockets she pulled out a small music device and handed it to Aubrey. “What’s this?” Aubrey asked, rubbing away the tears from her eyes. “Listen to it,” Stacie told her. Aubrey took an offered earbud and put it in her ear as the brunette pressed play, becoming even more confused when Stacie refused to take the other one.

As the blonde victor listened a fresh crop of tears sprung from her eyes to fall down her cheeks, the sounds of her brother’s words washing over her. “I told you I’d go before you Jo, tell Aubrey I’m sorry. Tell her we know what Jason has been doing for us, tell her we wouldn’t have wanted her to give in. When you see her, tell her I love her. Okay, and that I’m, we’re both proud of her. Love you, Jo, I’ll be waiting for you. See ya in ninety years.”

“See you in ninety years, Artie;” Jolene’s words ended the clip. Aubrey looked up at Stacie's eyes wide, her mouth opening and closing. “How-” she finally managed.

“I got Donald to help me record it by hacking into the television, he helped me fitz with the audio since that’s his specialty back home. I wanted to give it to you since no one knows what he said.”

Aubrey pulled Stacie into a deep kiss, tears falling from the girl’s eyes in a mixture of gratefulness and solemnity. The gift Stacie had given her could never be replaced, she got some form of goodbye. A weight lifted from her shoulders, closure. “I think I might love you,” Aubrey chuckled. Her words were emitted, pressed to Stacie’s mouth so the brunette found the vibrations of the phrase. “Moving fast aren’t we?” Stacie teased.

“I love you,” Aubrey stated, surer now.

“But?” Stacie said sardonically.

“But, nothing. I love you.”

Stacie blinked in surprise, the words settling into her consciousness. The meaning finally reached her. “I-”

“You don’t have to say it back, I just need you to know that.”

“I wasn’t not going to say it back,” Stacie rushed to explain but Aubrey settled a finger over her mouth.

“I love you, and that’s why I’m doing this. I made a deal, he didn’t keep my sister alive but I can protect you now. I have no one else to protect, so let me do this.”

“Do what?” Stacie remarked, confused. Aubrey caught her eye, the meaning became clear.

“No, Aubrey, absolutely not. Not for me.”

“Stacie, you’ve told me how much you hate it. Snow has agreed, I’m hot on the market right now. Especially as the last Posen girl. He’ll give you up, let me do this.”

“Over my dead body,” Stacie sneered.

Aubrey went to say something but broke off, “Stacie.”

“No, this is done. We’re nothing if you do this. I won’t be a new reason for him to hold over your head.”

“Stacie,” Aubrey pleaded, but Stacie pulled herself free and backed away.

“Aubrey, I can’t let you do this;” Stacie growled.

Aubrey had begun to cry again, her hand grasping at Stacie’s hand as she pulled away. “I don’t choose this, Aubrey. You can’t make this deal. Not for me. Bree, you’ve been through enough, you don’t have to add this.”

Emerald eyes met seafoam and Stacie’s heart sank, the feeling of the end settling over the two. “It’s already been decided. You don’t get a choice in this Stacie, I made the deal. Now we have to live with it. I’ll do it whether you want me to or not.”

“Then you’ll do it without me, I won’t watch you learn to hate me. I don’t think I could keep going if I saw that look in your eye.”

“Stacie,” Aubrey took a step forward, reaching one last time for Stacie’s hand.

“Goodbye Aubrey,” Stacie murmured. She went to say one more thing but felt it was too cruel. What use is an ‘I love you’ when it changes nothing?

Chapter Text

The rest of Aubrey’s year passed in relative turmoil. Her family buried Arthur and Jolene side by side in the family plot, and when Aubrey wasn’t staring at a silent phone at home or eating dinner with Jason, she was in the Capitol keeping her word. It didn’t matter whether Stacie agreed or not because at the end of the day, Aubrey rather the brunette was alive to hate her than dead.

The day Aubrey had been called into Snow’s office was by far the worst of Aubrey’s life. Not only had she watched her brother die on television, but she also learned that nothing was safe. Especially not Stacie. The words “I’m Safe,” sounded in the back of Aubrey’s mind ironically as she stirred her drink. She was at a bar, taking some time to herself after her latest patron. She was in a sparkling dress and her blonde hair was draped over a shoulder. She looked good, but she wanted to be home. Or possibly back in time where all she did during the day was a daydream of the girl and the stars before tucking her youngest siblings into bed, despite their protests. Sometimes she wondered if she died in that arena too.

“Is this seat taken?” A voice inquired, Aubrey turned to see the bright blue eyes of her best friend, Chloe Beale. “I believe it belongs to a redhead from district 4;” Aubrey chuckled. Chloe sat.

“Word on the street is that the Hunter hasn’t stopped, although she’s definitely switched to Victors instead of Capitol people.”

“I rather she fuck one of us instead of one of them,” Aubrey sighed.

The redhead hummed in reply, flagging down the bartender. “Do you think she loves you back?”

“Doesn’t matter, it’s over. Whatever it was,” Aubrey adds the second part with a tinge of bitterness. She stops for a moment, staring into the depths of her glass. “He really took everything from me, my mom, Arthur, Jolene… Stacie. Now Jason.”

“She’s not dead,” Chloe pointed out.

“Yeah, but I might as well be;” Aubrey grimaced. “She didn’t even call when-”

“The news hasn’t broken yet in the other districts Aubrey, she probably doesn’t know.”

“Daddy won’t even talk to me,” Aubrey muttered under her breath.

“How did he die, you still haven’t told me;” Chloe inquired.

“I messed up,” Aubrey shrugged, “There was a couple who paid for my time, but they also paid for my brother’s. They wanted me to do something, I refused. The guy attacked me, fucking asshole. Jason fought him off for me.”

“You can’t hit a Capitol citizen without their consent,” Chloe uttered in understanding.

“They get to do whatever they want to us though,” Aubrey snorted. “Snow didn’t care, of course. Goodbye Jason. We got his body back two days ago, with a card. If I mess up again, well. I really have no one left.”

“Will he go after your dad?”

“No, my dad is so firmly in Snow’s pocket, he wouldn’t bother.”

“Stacie?”

Aubrey turned to look at her best friend, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears. “I really should have just kept the berries down, huh?”

Chloe gasped and leaned forward to wrap Aubrey in her arms, “No, Bree. You’re my best friend and I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

“What do I do Chloe? I lost the girl, the rest of my family is gone and my Dad hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you, he’s just stupid.” Aubrey snorted at her friend’s words, shaking her head as she chuckled and cried at the same time. “I still love her,” she murmured into the ginger’s neck. “I know, babe;” Chloe hummed. “I hope I love someone as much as you two idiots love each other, one day.”

“It’s not enough,” Aubrey mumbled.

“It will be,” Chloe whispered back.

The 71s Hunger Games begin and the winner is a girl named Jessica from 8, she’s a bubbly blonde that the crowds rave over. Her talent is singing and she ends her final interview with a song to her girlfriend back home. The crowd goes wild and cheers her on with increased adoration.

That year is also marked by the sound of the phone ringing when the news of Jason’s death breaks. The caller ID showed Stacie’s name from when she had programmed it in. When Aubrey picks up, though, the line goes dead and she feels her heartbreak all over again.


Aubrey’s father goes missing the year of the 72nd games. He was conducting a missing person search with his peacekeepers when he vanished. Aubrey hops a train to the Capitol, begging President Snow to release her father wherever he’s being kept. The President portends that he has no idea what she’s talking about and Aubrey is the last living Posen.

She pretends to not hear the rumors of her family’s curse. Sometimes she wonders if they’re right. That year is marked by the first District 2 win since Aubrey. His name is Anders and Aubrey wishes her dad was around to see it. She wonders whether he’d actually look at her with pride at that moment? Whether it would have been worth it.

The 73rd Hunger Games is mostly uneventful, the most memorable moment is her glimpse of Stacie on the stage as she stands behind her tribute. District 3 won that year, something that Aubrey’s father would have berated her for. But there Stacie is, wearing a blue dress that brings out the azure flecks in seafoam eyes and red lipstick, standing behind a gangly boy with glasses. Aubrey doesn’t think she’ll ever stop loving Stacie, no matter how long they stay apart. She’s not sure she’d ever want to.

Stacie is back in the Capitol and Aubrey doesn’t even realize she hasn’t been requested for a majority of that year.

The 73rd Hunger Games has passed and the victory tour is afoot. Aubrey gets wind of Stacie’s little sister, Gwen’s, death. It wasn’t the games this time, it was illness. Aubrey calls this time but Stacie doesn’t pick up. She leaves a message saying how sorry she is and that she’s there to talk if the younger girl needs it. She bites her tongue before saying the three words that hurt so much, there was no need to open old wounds. Especially when the feeling wasn’t mutual.

The 74th Hunger Games is upon them and things feel different. Aubrey can’t place her finger on it. A girl from District 12 volunteers, a tiny thing named Beca Mitchell. The girl’s appearance on screen captures Chloe’s immediate attention, something about her is different. These games are different. The girl volunteered for another girl named Emily Junk. District 12 has its first volunteer.

Amongst the other tributes, Stacie’s little sister is reaped. Kira goes into the games, she’s only twelve. Aubrey whispers her deepest regrets to Stacie in the crowd of the parade that night. For a moment Stacie takes her hand and squeezes. The brief amount of contact feels like the air has returned to the world and Aubrey breathes for the first time in years.

The boy tribute from District 12, Jesse confesses his love for Beca in the middle of his interview. Beca managed to get an 11 training score, and now she’s part of the star-crossed lovers of District 12. “She’s safe,” A voice whispers in the back of Aubrey’s mind.

Aubrey is mentoring a boy from 2 named Luke. He has rippling muscles and is skilled with a sword. Chloe begins to fidget when Aubrey informs her of his skills. His training score was a 10, one point below Beca’s which had Luke roaring in rage. His temper is wild and untempered. Aubrey lets this slip to Chloe in her frustration, missing the thoughtful look in the ginger’s eyes.

The Games have begun and Beca has run into a fair amount of trouble. They’re in a wooded arena with plenty of trees and greenery. Leagues better than the 73rd where they all had to bludgeon each other to death while in a snowy tundra. Aubrey watches as Jesse pines and Beca makes camp on a long list of trees. Their love story unfolds for all to see.

Stacie’s sister allies with Beca. The two become companions as Beca cares for the little girl, singing songs with the twelve-year-old and foraging for berries. The two share roasted pheasants and shreds of fruit. Fat Amy is seen amongst the crowds, doing her job as a mentor for the first time in a while. She had apparently taken a liking to Beca.

Kira dies, she’s hit in the stomach with a spear by the boy from District 1. Aubrey doesn’t know what to say but she finds herself standing at the door to Stacie’s room, tapping.

She doesn’t expect to be let in, but she is. What follows is a single night where their words, their history goes away. Stacie needs her and Aubrey doesn’t have it in her to ever walk away again. They don’t sleep together in a carnal sense, Aubrey refuses to take advantage of Stacie in such a vulnerable state, but they do curl together and feel one another’s hearts beating. They breathe in and out, filling themselves with each other’s scent. Praying that there would be a day where they would wake up and everything was simply a bad dream.

They dreamt of longer days filled with ease and love. They dreamt of a forever with one another. What their subconsciouses realized that day is that they loved each other, that never stopped. It was simply that moment where they let that be enough.

Beca Mitchell wins the 74th Hunger Games, with Jesse. They have two victors, two victors that became so because they threatened to kill themselves otherwise. Snow is livid, and all eyes are off of Aubrey and Stacie. Instead, there are whispers of rebellion and riots circling the Districts. Aubrey gets wind of it first. She immediately calls Stacie, wondering if their “maybe someday” was closer than they thought. It breaks her heart a little when the brunette doesn’t pick up.

The victory tour begins and Aubrey wonders if Beca is the real deal. A revolution is beginning to galvanize around the girl, and she seems to have no clue what she’s doing. Yet, when Aubrey voices her concerns to Chloe while in the Capitol, she’s dismissed. There’s nothing to be done yet. It’s only unrest, they need time.

There’s no time. Riots have broken out in 3 and peacekeepers have cracked down. Aubrey wants to call Stacie but the phone won’t even connect to the girl’s line. All the blonde can do is hope Stacie is alright, all she can do is hope that there’s still a chance for maybe someday. Hopes that are dashed two months later when the Quarter Quell is announced. Tributes are to be reaped from the existing pool of victors. Aubrey screams, she breaks her television, her dishes, and her glasses. She might be going back into the arena.

Her next couple of months are spent training for her eventual return to the arena, Aubrey doubts that Snow is going to leave her alive. Her death would probably be a revelry for the thick-lipped snake. She wonders if it’s too much to hope that Stacie makes it out alive. If it’s too much to wish for a happy ever after.

Aubrey’s name is pulled and no one volunteers. She knows deep in her gut that Snow rigged the bowl. She wonders if all the papers have her name written in crisp print, or if the escort is in on it. Either way, Aubrey accepts her fate with a look of steely determination. No one weeps for her, there’s no one left.

As soon as Aubrey arrives in the capitol she’s placed in a toga and given a winged crown. Her hair is curled and sprinkled with glitter. Chloe stands in her chariot with most of her body on display, Panem’s sweetheart. The redhead sprints towards her and wraps her in a hug, Beca trails awkward behind the girl with Jesse at her side. The girl is shorter in person. “District 12,” Aubrey greeted the brunette politely. Beca wrinkled her nose in disgust as though Aubrey had smeared dog excrement on the girl’s face.

“Have I done something to offend you?” Aubrey inquired.

“You mentored Luke last year,” Beca exclaimed.

“I’ve mentored a lot of people,” Aubrey said through gritted teeth, her brother and sister’s faces flashed in her mind. The shorter girl only hummed in response. Aubrey wanted to kick her or kill her. However, before Aubrey got a chance to give the hobbit a piece of her mind when Stacie approached and wrapped the smaller woman in a hug. “The golden girl herself,” the leggy brunette proclaimed cheerfully.

Aubrey suppressed a snicker as she watched the smaller girl scramble to get out of the taller brunette’s embrace. “Who, are you? Get off me!” Beca protested. Jesse laughed beside her and gently helped extricate Beca from Stacie’s grip. “Beca, nice to meet you. I’m Stacie.” The tall brunette grinned, she held out her hand to Beca who took it. “Hi?”

“I wanted to say thank you for everything you did for Kira, you have my family’s deepest gratitude. The lullaby you sang her and the flowers, we really can’t thank you enough.”

Beca’s eyes widened in recognition, “You’re her older sister. Ana?”

“That’s me,” Stacie said with a small smile. Aubrey didn’t miss the pain in the taller girl’s seafoam eyes.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t do more-”

“I know, you said it in your speech, my brothers told me. I just wish I could have been there, I was otherwise preoccupied outside of my district though.”

“Right, he’s a hunter;” Beca muttered uncomfortably. Chloe and Stacie broke into laughter at Beca’s comment while Aubrey and Beca watched in respective amusement and confusion. “Hey, too bad we’re all going back into the arena, you could have made out like a bandit,” Stacie commented, her tone was flirtatious. Aubrey felt bile rise in the back of her throat as she turned around and walked to the horses attempting to ignore the conversation. Albeit, unsuccessfully.

“What do you mean?” Beca inquired.

“People would pay you endlessly for your company,” Stacie replied.

“Not that you’d necessarily want their company,” Jesse quipped.

“True, but there are so many treasures to discover,” Stacie countered.

“I have enough money,” Beca snorted.

“Then don’t take money,” Stacie shrugged. “Take secrets.”

“Secrets?” Beca stammered.

“Yeah Becs, do you have any secrets?” Stacie teased, a wide smile on her face. Aubrey turned to peer at the girl suspiciously for a moment. She didn’t know what was happening but one thing was abundantly clear. Regardless of that last night, they had together, it meant nothing. She was just comfort, a friend, maybe. There’s no way Stacie could feel the same and flirt with Beca right in front of her otherwise. Aubrey boarded her chariot, standing beside Chicago, she waited for the parade to begin.

The following weeks left a bitter taste in Aubrey’s mouth as she watched Stacie grow increasingly close with Beca. The two seemed to have a lot in common as they discussed the state of their districts and the encroaching ambiance of peril. Aubrey wondered if she could kill the smaller girl before her own cannon sounded. “Eying your girl?” Chloe chuckled from beside Aubrey. The blonde grunted in response, eying the pair bitterly.

“You have nothing to worry about, she loves you;” Chloe reassured her.

“When the news broke, did you get a call from anyone?” Aubrey inquired casually.

Chloe looked at Aubrey blankly, confused. “Yeah, Why?”

“I didn’t, I called, but I got no response. I can assume she was busy, but obviously, if it was just scheduling or technology problems she would have talked to me. She doesn’t care Chloe, and that’s okay.”

“Aubrey-”

“No, I know how this will go. We’re going into this arena, and only one of us is coming out. If she can move on, that’s good, because that’ll give her a better chance at happiness when it’s over.”

“What are you talking about, Bree?”

“You’d forgive me, right? If we had to pick between the impossible when we’re in there? If you can’t I’m sorry, but I’ve made up my mind.”

“Aubrey, what are you-”

“Stacie is making it out of the arena Chloe, I’m going to make sure of that. You and her, you’re all I have left, and I’m not stupid. I’ve seen how you and twelve are looking at each other. You wouldn’t hesitate either.”

Chloe’s eyes widened in understanding as she looked at her friend in a whole new light. “You’re going to give this all you’ve got, aren’t you?” Aubrey glanced at her friend, guilt evident in her eyes. “I need to get back to sparring,” Aubrey dismissed her friend. The ginger frowned but backed away, leaving the blonde to her thoughts.

The days passed in relative monotony. The tributes trained in the newly made training facilities and formed their various alliances. Aubrey tried to ignore the pang in her chest when she never got an alliance offer from Stacie. Instead, she allied with her district partner, Chicago, and the two victors from District 1. Kommisar and Pieter. The two were impressive in their fighting capabilities, they formed that year’s career pack.

When Aubrey wasn’t strategizing with her new allies, she paced her private room and planned how she would get Stacie or Chloe out alive. Of course, she wondered which one would win, and who she would choose if nature didn’t take its course with at least one of them. Her best friend and the love of her life were on the other side. Aubrey knew Chicago's weaknesses, she also knew that Chloe could take the man easily. Yet, Kommisar and Pieter posed an entirely new problem. They were efficient and merciless killers, together they were almost a machine. The two seemed to move as though they had a mental link. Aubrey had no clue how she would take them out. Maybe in their sleep? Aubrey sighed and pushed the thought away for the night. She had three more days to figure it out before her feet hit the ground in the arena.

The following days passed quickly. The entire career pack got 10’s, Stacie received a 10 as well, something that Aubrey smiled privately about. The words: That’s my girl, sounded in her head before she could stop them, followed by a tinge of sorrow. Chloe received a 10 as well, something the announcers were positively excited about since the Quarter Quell would “undoubtedly be the best games ever seen, what with so many prodigious contenders.” Benji received a 6, Cynthia Rose got an 8, District 8’s Jessica received a 7, and District 10’s Alice received a 9. When the tributes from Eleven passed in a fairly underwhelming fashion, District 12’s Jesse appeared with the number 12 next to his face. Aubrey gasped in horror, her anxiety only increasing when she saw Beca’s face appear with the same score.

“I guess we know who we’re gunning for,” Chicago chuckled.

The interviews were beginning and Aubrey was waiting by the stage when she felt someone approach her. “Yes?” She turned to greet the person, she suspected them to be one of the stagehands but was astounded to meet Beca’s eyes. The girl stood in a large white dress, it took Aubrey a moment, but she eventually realized it was a wedding dress. The blonde hadn’t paid too much attention to the Capitol gossip rags, but she did faintly recall the Capitol being particularly invested in wedding plans. She had simply forgotten that it was for one Beca Mitchell.

“You’re wearing that?” Aubrey scoffed for a moment, unable to help herself. Her dislike and jealousy of the girl got the best of her at that moment.

“Snow made me wear it,” The petite brunette grumbled. Aubrey felt a hint of sympathy for the girl then. After all, if anyone knows what it’s like to have their life meddled with by President Snow, it was her. “Make him pay for it,” Aubrey murmured, straightening one of the dress’s many ruffles.

Once Kommisar and Pieter finish their interview Aubrey walks up and takes her place on the stage with Caesar Flickerman. “Aubrey! The Captain, Posen! How are you?”

“Hello Caesar, I’m doing well at the moment, although I don’t appreciate being called back here again.”

“Really? You don’t want to give it the good old Posen try? Come on, what happened to that can-do attitude from your first games?”

“Well Caesar, I thought we made a deal. I go and win the games, so I could live in peace, but instead, I’m here, and Panem has decided they want to kill me again.” Aubrey answered tersely.

“Does that mean you’ve given up? Because I’m sure that’s not what your family would want.” Those were the wrong words. Aubrey’s fists tightened as she remembered Arthur and Jolene, how they looked when they climbed those steps and onto the stage. She remembered Stacie and then Stacie’s sister. She remembered her last embrace with her brother before the Peacekeepers came to collect him. At that moment Aubrey broke.

“Fuck you, Caesar, Fuck you, and Fuck the Gamemakers. Fuck all of you, and everyone that has anything to do with the Hunger Games. Fuck your hubris, fuck your -”

The crowd doesn’t get to hear the rest of Aubrey’s statement because her mic instantly goes off, she’s instantly being guided off the stage by Anders and her stylists as Caesar amicably smooths things over with the, now uncomfortable, crowd. Aubrey struggles against her handlers as Chicago walks on stage. “What are you thinking Aubrey, no one’s going to want to sponsor you now!” Anders snapped.

“I don’t care! It’s not like I was going to live through these games anyway, we’re just all waiting to see how it happens.”

“Aubrey-”

“No Anders, I helped you get through your games so you know I know how this works. They’re going to sound the canon, we’re gonna storm the Cornucopia and everyone’s going to wait on tenterhooks to see what we do. We were all friends before this, everyone besides Jesse and Beca anyway. So they’re curious, it’s the final word in entertainment. Will all these friends turn against each other? The answer is yes, we will. No one good comes out of these games, no decent person makes it out. So pardon me while I find a way to die with a little dignity before I see my family again.” Aubrey pushed past Anders irately and came face to face with Stacie, their eyes met for a moment, just long enough for Aubrey to see even a glimpse of worry in the other girl’s eyes. “Make them love you, you’re good at that;” Aubrey choked out. Stacie only had a moment to blink before the blonde slipped by her, eyes shining with tears.

Chapter Text

Aubrey loved having Stacie around, truly. The leggy brunette was a phenomenal company, witty, charming, same judgy sense of humor. Everything Aubrey could want in a companion, Stacie was it. All five feet and eight inches of the girl was flawless and wonderful, but Aubrey drew the line at going grocery shopping with her girlfriend after the last time.

It happened during August, they had just gotten together. The pair had been in the frozen section and Aubrey was debating the number of pizza rolls that the Bella’s could consume. Fat Amy herself could finish off a bag, along with Lily. In fact, the only people that wouldn’t finish off a bag all on their own was: Chloe, Beca, Ashley, and Jessica. Even Stacie would most likely eat about half of everything bought. With a sigh, Aubrey tossed three jumbo bags into the shopping cart before looking down the aisle for her girlfriend.

Instead of coming to find her girlfriend carrying the two bags of mozzarella sticks Aubrey had requested, she came across Stacie standing with her arms full in the aisle, attempting to grab a box of Captain Crunch to add to the pile.

“Stacie, what are you doing?” Aubrey exclaimed, startling the girl. The boxes and bottles fell with a clatter when the taller girl jumped. Aubrey watched with pursed lips as Stacie frantically attempted to collect all the items off the floor before turning to look at Aubrey sheepishly. “I wanted to get some stuff.”

“We just need mozzarella sticks,” Aubrey pointed out.

“Yeah, but I saw the box of Captain Crunch, and I remember that time Chloe wanted ice cream and we didn’t have any. Plus, I needed baking soda for one of my experiments.”

“The eggs?”

“Experiment.”

“Vinegar?”

“Also, an experiment.”

Aubrey leaned down and plucked a fallen box off the floor with a frown. “Highly concentrated yeast?”

“Oh, that’s for the, um-” Stacie broke off as Aubrey stared at her exasperatedly.

“How much of this are you actually eating Stacie?”
“The Captain Crunch,” Stacie muttered under her breath. Aubrey raised an eyebrow and handed Stacie back the box of yeast. “I’ll take this,” Aubrey sighed as she grabbed the box of Captain Crunch, “And I’ll grab the oat milk you like, put everything else back, and grab mozzarella sticks on your way.”

“But I remembered this cool egg experiment I did once and I wanted to try it, I did it with my dad.”

Aubrey let out a groan, whenever Stacie mentioned her father Aubrey gave in. It was a pattern the pair had found themselves in. Stacie would mention a science thing she used to do with her dad, and Aubrey would immediately cave, but this was the tenth time within their five-month relationship that Stacie had done this to her. Every time it was the pair’s turn to do the grocery run for the Bella's, Stacie wound up adding a dozen science-related ingredients to their cart. It was starting to get out of hand, especially since she never used all of it for the experiment and that left Aubrey to scramble and find a recipe that utilized the leftovers.

“Fine, pick one experiment and get it;” Aubrey groaned.

Stacie immediately perked up and dropped the vinegar and carton of eggs in the cart. “I’ll be right back,” Stacie murmured into Aubrey’s ear. Pressing a kiss to the blonde’s cheek, Stacie turned and left to return the yeast and baking soda. Relieved, Aubrey went in search of the oat milk. Once she found the item she dropped it in the cart and retraced her steps to where she had seen Stacie last, hoping to check out.

That’s when Aubrey spotted Stacie with a new cart, filled with random chemicals, and items. “Stacie!” Aubrey whined.

“Aubrey, I found a two for one deal on -”

“Nope, I don’t care. I’ll get you the eggs and vinegar, but you’re paying for the rest of that yourself.”

“Aubrey-”

“Next time, I’m coming here with Chloe.”

“But-”

“No buts, bring Lily next time you’re experiment shopping.”

Once they checked out, Aubrey managed to fit everything into Stacie’s tiny sports car and shut the trunk with a snap. “I’m sorry, I just get so carried away, I saw all these at-home experiment ideas and -” Aubrey shut Stacie up with a kiss on the lips.

“You’re such a nerd,” Aubrey laughed. Stacie smiled into the kiss and pulled the blonde closer in the car. “You’re not mad?”

“No, I knew about your science addiction when I agreed to go out with you. But I mean it, I’m not going grocery shopping with you anymore. You wrack up way too high of a bill.”

“Sorry,” Stacie chuckled.

Aubrey rubbed a thumb gently across Stacie’s cheek, “It’s okay. You’ll just be the Hobbit’s problem next time.” Stacie rolled her eyes and started the car.

Chapter Text

Time was a strange thing, one moment she was watching Aubrey walk away and the next she was in a hospital room, an IV attached to her arm as she tried to come to terms with everything that had happened. Your name is Stacie Conrad, you’re 23, you’re from District 3. Your family is waiting for you in District 13. You’re alive. You survived the 75th Hunger Games. You’re in love with Aubrey. They have Aubrey. Stacie blinked back tears as she remembered that last part. Her nails dug into her palms, the memories from the arena overwhelming.

Everything from the moment her interview began to the moment she was rescued from the arena seemed to occur in a vacuum until it didn’t. Her interview had been quite the bomb drop as Caesar Flickerman had the tech team pull up footage of her and Aubrey on the rooftop or in the apartments. Them speaking, cuddling, sleeping together, kissing, everything. The Capitol knew everything.

“So, you and Ms. Posen, it appears folks that we have another pair of star-crossed lovers,” Caesar chortled. Stacie remained silent, stunned. They knew. All the yearning, the pain, the anguish. Pointless. Stupid. “I-”

“I heard you had written a poem for your one true love, we know everyone thought that meant them, but would you say it’s meant for Aubrey?”

“I-” Stacie stumbled over her words, her eyes furtively flickering towards the part of the stage Aubrey was standing. Their eyes met, equally panicked for a moment. Stacie’s heart stuttered almost to a stop, every stolen moment felt useless. Aubrey’s expression eventually settled and Stacie began to breathe again.

“Well Caesar, Aubrey, and I were really good friends and we got very close, but whatever we were ended back before the 71st games.”

“Really?” Caesar exclaimed.

“Yes, we figured out that we weren’t fully compatible, and she had so much going on that it didn’t feel like the right time.”

“When would be the right time?” Caesar inquired.

Stacie paused at that, the answer clear. When the Games are over. When the rebels win. When every single person that has anything to do with this is dead. “I don’t know Caesar, I just know it’s not now. Maybe someday though.”

Stacie squeezed her eyes shut, erasing the memory from her conscience. Aubrey had left when Stacie mentioned their incompatibility. Only coming back for the finale where they all held hands, Aubrey had missed Stacie’s attempts at persuasion. The last thing Aubrey had heard outside of the games is how Stacie didn’t think they could work.

Things only got worse within the arena.

The bloodbath went off without a hitch, all things considered. Stacie managed to grab the electrical coil along with a spear while Cynthia Rose grabbed an ax. Donald even managed to grab a bag of dried jerky. The saltwater lapped at their feet as they ran. Stacie only hoped that she could catch up with Beca sooner or later.

Donald had begun to beatbox absentmindedly while they languished around camp. The anthem had begun, the long series of cannon fire had ended a couple of hours prior. Stacie watched the sky with bated breath, praying not to see familiar green eyes looking back at her in the sky. She didn’t really know what she would do if Aubrey was up there.
She let out a sigh of relief when the first face that appeared was Chloe’s District partner, followed by the male and female tribute from 5, Cynthia’s district partner, the man from district 8, both from 9, and the woman from 10. “Blondie lives another day,” Cynthia Rose quips. Stacie sleeps easier with those words rolling around her head.

They see each other, finally, at the Cornucopia. Donald had a knife in his leg, and Stacie was helping him away. Lily would never forgive her if she didn’t get Donald out, the two had been going out on the down-low for the past three years. The Careers had come after their group, leading to Beca shooting an arrow through Pieter’s eye. Kommisar took a trident through the chest. Aubrey and Chicago were facing Donald and Stacie, weapons at the ready.

“Looks like you have your hands full,” Chicago chuckled.

“I don’t need them to take you on,” Stacie countered.

“Stacie,” Aubrey said in warning.

“Why didn’t you ask for an alliance, we didn’t have to meet like this,” Stacie muttered.

“Why didn’t you?” Aubrey challenged. Stacie shut her mouth, the blonde had a point. A point that Aubrey was about to expand upon when they all felt the ground underneath them begin to shift. “They’re rotating the island,” Donald exclaimed.

“Shit,” Chicago growled, turning to make a break for it. However, he was too late. The rotation sped up, knocking Stacie and Donald off their feet. Stacie latched onto a nearby rock, dodging the flying crates and weapons as they flew off the island. Donald held onto her forearm with both hands.

“Stacie!” Aubrey shouted. Stacie turned in time to see Chicago make a wild cut in Stacie’s direction. The sword swiped, barely cutting into Stacie’s arm as she wiggled out of the way. The man tried to make another swipe while his other hand hooked into a crevice in the rock, his eyes set on Stacie. What happened next was something even Stacie was unsure of, one moment she saw the sword coming towards her as she struggled to hold onto Donald. The sword’s trajectory was in line with Stacie’s rib cage when emerald green eyes met seafoam, a slight glimmer, and suddenly Chicago was shouting as he tumbled into the water along with a certain blonde. Stacie screamed, the scene moved in almost slow motion as she watched Aubrey spin after her district partner.

When Stacie asked about the incident, Gail, the Ex-Head Gamemaker in District 13 gave Stacie a recording. On the tape, Stacie saw Aubrey’s look of fear and her sudden decision. Stacie watched as the blond threw herself at her District partner, successfully stopping his attempt on Stacie’s life. After all that time, the blonde was still trying to protect her.


After their altercation at the Cornucopia, they didn’t see Aubrey and Chicago for some time. Which, debatably, was a good thing since Beca decided to go off on a tirade about the Careers and their bloodthirstiness. It didn’t help that Aubrey had thrown a knife at Beca’s head. “She’s insane,” Beca ranted.

“She’s really not that bad,” Chloe defended her best friend.

“Is that why she threw a knife at me?” Beca sneered.

“To be fair, you shot an arrow at her first,” Jesse pointed out. Beca groaned in response, adding an eye-roll for good measure. “Did you and her really have a thing?” Beca inquired, turning to Stacie. Stacie remained silent, choosing to ignore the question. She didn’t want to create a bigger rumor mill in the Capitol. “So, everyone knows the game plan tomorrow, right?”

“Run a wire through the jungle to kill the careers;” Beca rattled off.

Stacie winced, the idea of Aubrey dying by her hand was not a pleasant one. She briefly wondered whether she could warn the blonde, but she remembered her orders. “Tell no one from District 1 or 2,” no matter how much she wanted to. The only reason she had refrained was because Aubrey would be safer should they fail.

Stacie was in the process of digging the tracker out of Beca’s arm, blood-streaked along her cheek as she disabled the small bit of tech. “Stay still,” she whispered in Beca’s ear. The small brunette froze as Stacie rose and came face to face with a gleeful Chicago, and a shocked Aubrey. Chicago broke the silence with a whoop as he charged forward, Stacie sprinted off into the jungle, leading him away from Beca.

Stacie was beginning to make the loop around when she was tackled to the ground. Chicago had managed to catch up, his sword to her neck, smile wide. “It looks like the Capitol’s harlot finally met her end, huh?”

“Harlot? Really, what dictionary did you get that out of?” Stacie snarled.

“You know, I never got a turn, I would have -” What Chicago would have done remained a mystery, because a blade sprouted from his throat, cutting him off.

“I never liked you Chicago,” Aubrey grunted, dragging the man off of Stacie. “Right on time,” Stacie chuckled.

“You know how I feel about punctuality;” Aubrey quipped.

Dirt and blood on her face, sweat collecting at her temples, cheeks hollow from lack of food, and blonde hair up in a messy bun; Aubrey looked absolutely entrancing at that moment. “Stacie, I-” Stacie lunged forward and captured Aubrey’s lips in a kiss, fingers curved at the edges of the other girl’s jaw as she cemented the moment in her mind. “Do you trust me?” Stacie asked when she broke away.

“Always,” Aubrey replied, her finger came up to press gently at the dimple on Stacie’s chin, tilting the taller girl’s head down. “I have to do something, I’ll come back. Just stay here, okay?”

“Stacie, what’s going on?”

“Just trust me,” Stacie urged, settling one more kiss on Aubrey’s lips, she turned and ran.

Stacie didn’t make it to the tree before the explosion, in fact, she didn’t make it much of anywhere when everything started to fall apart. Literally. The arena was coming down in pieces and she could hear Cynthia Rose shouting for her. Turned around, she saw another tribute leftover in the arena fighting with someone else in the distance, it almost looked like Chloe. “Stacie!” Aubrey’s voice sounded above the chaos, Stacie ran in the voice’s direction. “Beca!” Another voice sounded, Jesse. “Aubrey?” Stacie called out, but no reply came. Instead, helicarriers appeared out of nowhere and Stacie found herself being lifted by a claw. “Aubrey!” Stacie shouted anything to get the blonde’s attention. She saw another claw come down beside her, holding Beca, burnt and unconscious. Whatever happened, they were in the endgame.

Stacie grimaced at the flood of memories. She hadn’t seen Aubrey since their last moment in the arena. When she had gotten wind of the blonde’s presence in the Capitol she had wanted to break. Cry, scream, die. It was her fault that they had gotten the blonde, if she had just dragged Aubrey with her, they would be safe in District 13. Together. Aubrey had trusted her, and Stacie had failed.

“You’re torturing yourself,” Donald remarked. He was in a wheelchair at the moment, being pushed by a silent Lily. The two made a cute couple, eating meals together as Donald interpreted what the petite woman was saying for everyone else. Sometimes she would sit in his lap as he pushed them along in his wheelchair. Lily murmured something into his ear and the man smiled. “You’re right.”

“About what?” Stacie inquired.

“She has some nice weapon designs for everyone, you are on the propo team after all. Ever since Beca agreed to be the Mockingjay. It might do you some good to get into the lab again, maybe it can distract you.”

Stacie snorted at her friend’s suggestion, it hadn’t been the first time someone tried to get her to do something “productive” for the rebellion. “Come on Stacie, you can’t stay in the hospital throughout the war;” Donald sighed.

“What’s Coin doing about Aubrey, Chloe, and Jesse?”

“Um, well;” The man spluttered.

“Thought so, let me know when the situation changes.”

Weeks passed and Stacie found herself watching the Capitol broadcasts, desperate for a glimpse of Aubrey. She had seen the blonde standing solidly beside Snow along with Chloe and Jesse. The trio looked relatively unharmed at that moment, but it only took a couple more weeks for Jesse’s appearance to alter significantly. Chloe and Aubrey were nowhere to be found in the following videos, alarming Stacie and Beca equally.

As Beca threw herself into her missions as the Mockingjay, Stacie found herself pulled along for various propos against her personal wishes. The absence of Aubrey from all of Snow’s broadcasts set Stacie’s ill at ease. If she couldn’t see Aubrey, she wouldn’t know what he was doing to her.

After some time, the Capitol had enough of her and Donald tinkering with their airwaves. Warned in an interview by Jesse, District 13 was sent scrambling towards the lower levels for a bomb drill. Stacie trailed after her brothers and parents, the alarms and flashing lights doing little for her psych med-addled brain. “Come on Stace,” Xavin exclaimed, guiding her down the steps by the arm.

Once everyone was situated in the bunker properly, Stacie sat in her bunk staring at the ceiling. Her brothers snored in the beds to her left. Her parents were in another room, watching Emily play with her cat. A knock sounded at the doorway, causing Stacie to raise her head. Beca stood awkwardly at the entrance to the Conrad room, her fingers tapping a rhythm out on her thigh. “Can I, um, talk to you?” Beca mumbled.

“Yeah, sure,” Stacie sat up and scooted higher in her bed to allow room for Beca to sit. The shorter brunette did so, settling on the bed with a pensive look on her face. “I’m sorry, you’re the only one that even understands. They have Chloe and Jesse, I don’t really know what to do. No one else gets it, but you do, probably. After everything that went on with you and that girl from District 2.”

“Aubrey,” Stacie smiled a little when she uttered the name. The longer she didn’t see the girl, the more certain she became that Aubrey was dead. The more comfortable she grew in believing that the girl was past pain. The more she hoped that they couldn’t hurt her and the piece of her heart that Aubrey still held.

“You really love her, huh?”

“Yeah, I do,” Stacie whispered, more to herself than to the other girl. “Want to know something really crazy? I never got to tell her that. I knew her since my victory tour, and we talked almost every day that following year. She told me she loved me a couple of days after her younger siblings died, and I never said it back. Why didn’t I say it back?”

“I don’t-”

“She’s dead now, probably. We haven’t seen her pop up in anything for so long, she’s probably dead and I never got to tell her that I love her.”

“Stacie-” Beca moved forward to wrap her arms around the taller brunette, her instincts told her that it was the right move, despite her personal aversion to affection. “I never got to tell her that I love her, and she’s gone now. Or at least I hope so because she’d be better off dead than in the Capitol having whatever they’re doing done to her. I’ve researched their methods Beca, if she’s not dead they’re hurting her and I don’t-” Stacie broke off as she began to emit wracking sobs. “It’s my fault, I didn’t tell her what was going on. Maybe if I warned her she would have helped, maybe she would have stayed by me and she’d be with me right now.”

“I never got to tell Chloe I love her, either;” Beca muttered, biting back her own tears. “I had a chance before we started running that wire. I could have just said it, but I didn’t. I was so caught up in the Games and my act with Jesse, I didn’t say it. I’ve never said it and she’s been missing almost as long as Aubrey. That last broadcast she was in, I saw the way she stood. She was in pain, and I couldn’t do anything. I’m the Mockingjay and I don’t even know how to keep those I love safe.”

“You’re doing better than you’re giving yourself credit for,” A voice sounded from the doorway. The two girls turned and were greeted by the hazel eyes of Emily Junk. The girl Beca had volunteered for. The girl in question was sixteen years old and stood taller than Beca ever would. “Hi, sorry, I saw you two crying and I don’t know what you’re dealing with exactly, but I wanted to say that you’re not a bad Mockingjay, you’re so inspiring and no one expects you to be perfect all the time.”

“Hi Emily,” Stacie greeted the girl, she had met the other brunette during the younger girl’s hospital rounds. She was one of Stacie’s favorite nurses. “Hey, I’d like to also say that Aubrey probably isn’t dead.”

“Why do you think that?” Beca inquired.

Emily pursed her lips together hesitantly, “I don’t know if you want to actually hear what I have to say. It’s kind of awful.”

“Just say it, Em;” Beca groaned.

“She’s not dead because they wouldn’t have any leverage on Stacie otherwise. If they didn’t have Aubrey, they wouldn’t have anything to hold over Stacie. We all saw the video of you two during your interview, your entire relationship is public knowledge now. They know how much you’re willing to do for one another. They won’t let her die anytime soon, not when you’re still alive.”

Of course, the girl was right. Stacie was completely aware of Aubrey’s pertinence to Stacie’s good behavior. She hadn’t been too forceful or verbal in her denouncement of the Capitol as a result. She had seen the way the peacekeepers beat Jesse to a pulp on camera when he had given them the warning. She had seen the way each kick seemed to physically affect Beca as well. Yet, she was even more aware of the fact that Beca’s expression fell further and further, every moment Chloe Beale didn’t step into a shot. If that was Beca’s reaction after knowing Chloe and Jesse for a year, Stacie wondered what she looked like every time she noted Aubrey’s absence.

Ex-Gamemaker Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Feinberg decided it was a brilliant idea to get a video of the surviving victors announcing their survival. However, what she wasn’t expecting was a large number of rose petals sprinkled around the grounds. Beca barely got through half of her first line before she snapped, breaking down into tears about Jesse and Chloe, the crew rushed to calm the girl. When they turned to Stacie, she didn’t do much better, nurses had to rush forward to inject anesthetics into her system as she fought against the surrounding security.

Stacie awoke to the blaring lights of the hospital, she could hear someone rousing beside her. Opening her eyes, she turned to find Donald in her room along with bleary Beca. “What’s going on?” The shorter girl mumbled. “They’ve committed to a rescue mission. Benji, Cynthia Rose, and some of the District 13 soldiers are on their way to the Capitol as we speak;” Donald explained.

“They’re what?” Stacie stumbled over her words as she fought against the drowsiness of the drugs.

“They’re about to enter Capitol airspace now, Jessica has been doing a propo to clog up Capitol airspace. We’re hoping it's distracting enough.”

“What, let us help;” Beca began to scramble out of her bed, pulling at her IVs and connecting wires. “You were just injected with a ton of anesthetic,” Donald argued.

“Help me up, Donny, we need to do this;” Stacie said. With a sigh, Donald grabbed Stacie’s hand and pulled the tall girl with as much strength as he could muster, from his wheelchair. “Where’s the camera crew?” Stacie inquired hurriedly. Beca was clambering out of her own bed.

“I’ll take you there,” Donald sighed.

The camera crew was standing where Stacie and Beca had left them. Jessica stood in the center of the rubble, surrounded by rose petals. She was discussing her life after the Hunger Games and how she was threatened by Snow concerning her relationship with her girlfriend, Ashley. Ashley had also been captured by the Capitol, despite the girl knowing nothing of the rebel plot.

Jessica finished up her story and moved off to the side as Beca stepped forward to speak. The girl twitched slightly under the heavy lighting of the camera crew but began her monologue, nonetheless. She spoke about the death of her mother and how her father seemed to check out of reality afterward. She talked about the unfair conditions of the districts and how she was cared for by Emily and her family. She talked about Jesse and the way he saved her life by giving her hope with a piece of bread. Yet, the most interesting details of her life were revealed at the end. Everything Beca had said previously was something everyone knew or had at least surmised.

“I will always be grateful to Jesse for what he gave me, but I was never in love with him. Yes, he said he loved me, but I never returned those feelings and he knew that. I didn’t even know he liked me until he confessed it on television, but I had to pretend that I loved him for the Capitol. That was the story they needed to push because otherwise, I was simply some girl that managed to outsmart them with a handful of berries. I never loved him in the way that everyone wanted me to, and he understood that. Well, understands that. I don’t love him, but I am in love. I fell in love with Chloe Beale. I met her when I got back to the Capitol after my games. Fat Amy introduced us and she helped me with my post-victory interview.” Beca paused for a moment before continuing.
“Now, you may be wondering why I’m revealing this, but I needed to say it. Because of Snow and his games, I never got to say those words before. He’s a monster that controls our every move, and I won’t let him control me anymore. So, Snow, if you’re watching this, I hope you know that we’re coming for you. We’re going to win this war, and your time is coming, just wait.”

“Alright, cut!” Fat Amy cheered, running forward, the larger woman wrapped the tiny victor in her arms. “You did great Shawshank!”

“Stacie, you’re up;” Donald called. Stacie gulped and steeled herself for what was to come. If she was going to be effective at all, she needed to turn every single person’s head. She needed to rip away the curtain that Snow was hiding behind. For every person that had been affected by the snake and for her own sanity. For Aubrey.

“You sure about this?” Donald questioned.

“I have to do this, for Aubrey;” Stacie replied.

The camera focused on her face as the air around her seemed to buzz with a special kind of tension.

“President Snow used to sell me, my body that is. If a victor is considered desirable, he offers them as a reward or allows them to be bought for exorbitant amounts of money. I wasn’t the only one. If you refused, he killed someone you loved, so you did it.”

A breath. “One of his favorite ways to get back at the victors that refused to be sold was by rigging the Reapings. That’s what happened to Aubrey’s siblings, she refused to be used by the Capitol citizens, so Snow had her brother and sister killed.”

“I said yes. I wanted to protect my family, so I was bought and sold on President Snow’s whim. I wasn’t the only one, but I was the most popular. To make themselves feel better, my patrons would give me gifts in the form of jewelry or money, but I found a much better form of payment. And this is where you’re going to want to pay attention, President Snow. Because so very many of them were about you.”

Stacie watched as the camera crew and her fellow victors listened to her words. The ways they’d gasp and whisper amongst themselves. Stacie wove the tale of how a young Corlianus Snow used poison to rise to the presidency. She saw the shock and horror of her fellow refugees, she saw the alarm in Beca’s eyes. The stripping away of the brunette’s last shred of judgment. Most of all, she saw the arrival of her brothers and parents, stepping off the lift. They had been listening to the broadcast. Tears in their eyes, Stacie sighed in relief when she saw the way they looked at her. Gone were the thinly veiled expressions of disgust and anger, instead, they were filled with the love of old.

When Stacie finished her story Xavin and Luke rushed towards her and enveloped her with their burly arms. “Stace, we didn’t know. We’re so sorry,” Luke apologized profusely. “If we had known we would never have said half the things we did to you. We’re so sorry.”

“Stacie,” her Father approached hesitantly, his eyes clouded over with guilt. “I’m so sorry. God, how did I not realize.” Stacie slipped from her brother’s arms and finally hugged her father, tears streaming down her face. “All this time?” Her mother inquired, joining in on the hug.

“I didn’t have a choice,” Stacie explained.

“Why didn’t you tell us?” Her father questioned.

“I wasn’t supposed to, it’s not something we’re allowed to tell others. It’s only really known amongst victors.”

“We’re so sorry, sweetie;” Her mother said.

Stacie nodded, accepting her family’s apology, and sank into their embrace. Her parents loved her again, she was able to help in the rescue attempt, and now she simply had to wait. Either Aubrey would be in her arms or dead. Either way, Snow wouldn’t be able to hurt her anymore, and maybe that was enough for now.

The rescue mission was a success and the rescue team was on their way back. After Stacie had finished her speech, Beca had jumped back on for a conversation with Snow that led to another breakdown. It was a trap, or at least they thought it was. Cynthia Rose took a shard of glass to the shoulder, and Benji broke some ribs, but they managed to get the imprisoned victors out.

When the rescue team walked through the hangar doors, Stacie and Beca were waiting. The first victor through the door was an unconscious Jesse. He was emaciated and bruised, his eyes sunken and blackened. Where he had previously had muscle, his skin now seemed to hang off the bone. Beca rushed to his side, worriedly when the next stretcher came in. It held a woman with brown curly hair. Stacie heard Jessica gasp as she ran towards the gurney, the other woman was awake and alert. “Jess!”

“Ashley!” Jessica reached for her girlfriend, who pulled herself out of the gurney and immediately fell into Jessica’s waiting arms. The two kissed with an admirable fervor as they rejoiced in their reunion. Stacie smiled for her newfound friend, the blonde’s excitement was nearly contagious. “Out of the way!” A medic shouted, pushing a bed past them as quickly as possible. Stacie looked at the quickly approaching medical team with wide eyes. In the bed laid what looked like a skeleton with skin. “Move it!” The medic exclaimed, pushing past Stacie. “Chloe!” Beca shouted.

Stacie turned to see Beca chasing after the gurney that just passed them. Surprise colored her features as she realized the skeleton was the vivacious ginger. Her hair was shorn off, and she was littered with bruises, but she was Chloe. Stacie gulped in fear, if that’s what Chloe looked like, what did they do to Aubrey?

“Come on, Bree;” Cynthia Rose’s voice carried from the entrance of the hangar. Stacie turned, bracing herself for the worst. Her eyes met familiar green, and Stacie picked up the pace, excited to see Aubrey. Finally, they could be together. “Aubrey,” Stacie shouted, running towards the blonde in her excitement. The blonde’s expression changed in a split second, and that’s all the warning Stacie got before the blonde punched her in the jaw. Stacie fell backward, her head hitting the ground with a thwack. Her eyes met green as she felt Aubrey begin to press down on her windpipe.

Chapter Text

The studio was filled to the brim with dancers. Sweat covered their bodies and the room felt beyond humid. In fact, it felt so sticky an atmosphere that Aubrey would have left long ago if it weren’t for a certain bubbly redhead. Instead, Aubrey lingered unwillingly as her best friend listened with rapt attention to the dance instructor. The blonde had finally given in to Chloe’s pleading when the redhead had explained that her music was going to be at the studio.

Apparently, the great musician: Beca Mitchell, had hosted a dance competition on social media and this particular studio had won the music video dance-off. Now, they got a visit from the artist along with the chance to dance with the tiny DJ. Chloe had been ecstatic and insisted Aubrey come with her to be her wing woman. Nevermind the fact that Aubrey hadn’t danced since college, and had spent the past seven years in a courtroom or high-rise office.

“Oh my god, she’s here!” Chloe trilled, jumping up and down in excitement.

“Turn the dramatics down a notch, Chloe. She’s just another human being;” Aubrey reminded her friend.

“She’s so pretty, how’s my hair?” Chloe preened, using the nearest mirror to check her reflection.

“Sweaty,” Aubrey replied, to which Chloe stuck her tongue out and blew a raspberry. “You’re no fun,” The ginger pouted.

The music started before the blonde could retort, the subtle beat of the track gained the attention of all the dancers as they began to cheer. “Who’s up first?” The studio instructor exclaimed into a microphone. Chloe bounced forward in excitement, hand raised. “How about you pick, Ms. Mitchell.” The instructor handed the mic off to the short brunette, who smirked. “Alright, let’s see.” The DJ began picking people out of the crowd, pointing to men and women scattered around the room. “Let’s see what you got red,” the brunette chuckled. Chloe let out a squeal of excitement and hugged Aubrey before spinning away. “Stacie!” Beca called out, turning to a taller girl with brunette locks and sea-green eyes. “Sup?” The taller girl asked, looking up from her phone.

“Why don’t you lead them on this one?” Beca suggested. The leggy brunette smiled and tucked her phone into her bag before approaching the front of the group. Aubrey watched with avid attention as the other woman moved. She was absolutely flawless, her long brown hair was pulled back into a high ponytail, and her lips were a brilliant kissable pink. Every step looked as though it belonged to a prima-ballerina. “Try to keep up;” the woman, named Stacie, smirked as the volume of the music picked up.

The group shifted from movement to movement in uniform, each dancer slipping into each pose or pop properly. Aubrey watched as the group dropped to the floor, rolling into the next move and then extending into an impressive split. Inappropriate ideas sprung to Aubrey’s mind as the other woman’s flexibility was put on full display. The brunette grinned and flashed a wink in Aubrey’s direction as she rolled her body along the floor and then spun back onto her feet.

As soon as the taller girl stood up, Aubrey realized that the woman was doing everything in heels. When the routine came to a close, Aubrey clapped along with everyone else in the dance studio. Stacie did a series of pirouettes in rapid succession before stepping forward into an aerial. Clearly showing off.

“Nice! I guess it’s my turn,” Beca chuckled, stepping forward to perform with the next group. Chloe skipped over to Aubrey’s side, absolutely beaming. “Did you see me? Did I do well?”

“Um,” Aubrey stuttered, unsure how to inform Chloe about her complete lapse in attention. “I think she was distracted,” Another woman’s voice chortled from beside them. The pair turned to greet the new arrival, only to meet the gaze of one Stacie, the very dancer Aubrey had been ogling. “You’re very good, how long have you been dancing?” Aubrey inquired politely. Stacie let forth a Cheshire grin, “So it was the technique you were admiring, nothing else?”

“Your transitions were very smooth and you had admirable form,” Aubrey replied stoically.

“Oh, in that case, I guess you wouldn’t want my number?” Stacie leaned forward to whisper the question into Aubrey’s ear, feigning a congenial attitude. It almost appeared as though she was being considerate and drawing closer so Aubrey could simply hear her better. Aubrey’s mouth went dry when she felt the other woman’s breath ghosting over the shell of her ear.

“Um,” Aubrey started, unsure of what to say for what felt like the first time in her life. “She’ll take the number,” Chloe filled in for her. Stacie let out a sharp laugh and handed Chloe a business card. “For her, when her brain resets,” Stacie teased. Chloe took the piece of paper with a giggle and a wave as the leggy brunette walked away.
“Wow, someone finally made the great Aubrey Posen speechless;” Chloe quipped. Aubrey blushed in response but remained silent. This of course had never happened before, she had anxiety before, but nothing had ever made her brain turn into a complete mess as Stacie had. “She can’t get the last word,” Aubrey muttered.

“What does that mean?” Chloe asked, but Aubrey ignored her. When the music for the second group came to a close, Aubrey raised her hand to go, knowing what she had to do. Luckily for her, she had taken dance before and Chloe had drilled the routine into her in preparation for this day.

When Aubrey took her place amongst the new group of dancers, her eyes met Stacie’s for a moment. The brunette raised an eyebrow in question, almost as a challenge, and that only fueled Aubrey on more. Posen’s never backed down from a challenge.

The routine started relatively tame as she shifted along with the group from move to move. As the dance progressed, Aubrey made sure to add an extra arch to her back or shake her hips when appropriate. Not as flexible as Stacie, Aubrey was surprised when she managed to get the split. However, she quickly hid her surprise and pulled herself out of the split with the rest of the group. Once the music began to loop back, Aubrey walked away from the center of the dance floor, adding a flip of her hair for good measure, feeling Stacie’s eyes on her the entire way back to her place beside Chloe.

If anything, she had definitely managed to make a statement.

Chapter Text

She was starting to get used to the hospital lights considering how many times she awoke to the bright fluorescents. Her neck was sore, and her head hurt, but she was awake. Aubrey was a fair amount thinner than Stacie after her captivity, so it was easy enough to get the other girl off of her. Stacie had some bruising on her throat and it was advised that she didn’t talk too much, but otherwise, it was the concussion she really had to worry about.

Beca had gotten the worst of it. Whereas Stacie had several inches and a couple of pounds of muscle on her lover, Beca stood no chance against a feral Jesse. The girl had been wheeled into the ward alongside Stacie not soon after Aubrey had attacked her. Both brunettes were kept under close guard and checked hourly by nurses. Stacie found it almost comical how much she and Beca had in common, nowadays.

“I think I need this more than you,” Chloe griped, taking the morphling drip from Stacie’s arm and tapping it into her own veins. The ginger had been stealing Stacie’s pain relievers for a while now, which wasn’t something she was going to complain about. It’s not as though she enjoyed the clouded feeling she got in her head.

“Take it whenever you want, I don’t need it;” Stacie replied dryly. Chloe hummed in response and breathed a sigh of relief as the drugs began to take effect. “How was therapy?” Stacie inquired. The ginger snorted. “You mean the two-hour session of the brainless doctor telling me I’m completely safe? Pretty uneventful. Half the people here are naive idiots, and the other half are purposefully obtuse. Thinking they’ve gone through a fraction of what I have.”

“Where’s that sunny attitude you’re so famous for?” Stacie chuckled.

“Fuck you, probably got wiped with the thirty-somethingth shock treatment,” Chloe grumbled. “What are you still doing here anyway? Weren’t you free for discharge?”

Stacie shrugged, “If I’m discharged that means I have to walk out of here and pretend the love of my life doesn’t want to kill me.”

“That’s not true at all, you can acknowledge the love of your life wants to kill you while walking around amongst the plebians of this grey and monotonous district;” Chloe said flippantly. Stacie rolled her eyes in response but held her tongue. The ginger had come back to them with no filter and a penchant for the morbid, but it wasn’t as though anyone could blame her. Relatively speaking, Chloe had come back in the worst physical shape. Although the psychological torture Jesse and Aubrey seemed to have suffered would probably beg to differ.

“Do you still love her, even though she tried to kill you?” Chloe inquired.

“Yeah, of course; It’s not her fault,” Stacie answered.

“Then go and see her, maybe you guys can fix it, whatever it is;” Chloe suggested, turning to look at Beca’s unconscious form. “They’ve been keeping her under for so long, I’m worried that she won’t recognize me. What if she doesn’t love me now? Who they made me, I mean.”

“She will, she loves you more than you could know. She will;” Stacie reassured the other girl. Chloe smiled slightly, her expression softening as she stared at the tiny brunette. For a second she looked like her old self.

“Go see Aubrey, if she means anything to you, you’ll go see her. I know my best friend, no matter how much they fucked her up, a part of her wants you there. You just might have to dig a little bit.”

“Thanks, Chloe. I think I’ll ask a nurse to see Aubrey now.”

Stacie stood in front of the one-way glass in a white shirt, sweatpants, and a grey robe. Her feet were clad in standard grey shoes, and her arms were crossed as she listened to the doctors around her. Apparently, Aubrey had suffered from something they were calling “hijacking.” This technique was also used on Jesse to warp his and Aubrey’s memories into ones of fear. Stacie chewed the inside of her cheek as she pulled the doctor’s words over. If the Capitol had changed Aubrey and Jesse’s memories, that means the Capitol had to be using memories they had access to. Which suggested they were unable to touch memories that they didn’t have access to.

“Let me talk to her,” Stacie blurted out in the middle of Dr. Geraldine’s speech. The doctor floundered for a moment, astounded at Stacie’s demand. “Ms. Conrad, it’s not safe. We haven’t devised a good treatment plan and -”

“Let me talk to her,” Stacie reiterated. “I might be able to make a breakthrough, I have a theory.”

“Whatever that theory is, we shouldn’t test it using you. You’re just out of the hospital and -”

“Fine, ask for Cynthia Rose to come down here;” Stacie demanded. If her theory was right, then she may have a shot at convincing Aubrey to at least question her programming. She didn’t know how the method would transfer to Beca, since her memories with Jesse were only in the public eye, but in her and Aubrey’s case: their relationship began in private.

“What’s your theory?” Emily asked from the back. Stacie turned to face her, “Their memories were warped using footage from the Capitol, right?”

“Yes, but -” Dr. Geraldine began, but Stacie quickly cut him off. “Aubrey and my relationship went public last minute, I don’t know how much footage they actually had of us together but there had to be private moments between us. We’ve known each other for years. I don’t remember all of the videos they used when they revealed our relationship to all of Panem, but I know I didn’t see everything. They’re missing some things, which means that Aubrey has to have some untainted memories of me. Maybe I can reach those.”

“Do you really think that could work?” Emily asked, hopefully.

“We don’t know unless we try;” Stacie said adamantly. “Donald, what do you think?”

The District 3 victor had been sitting in the background for some time, finally, he seemed to break out of thought. “It could work, I don’t know what we can do for Beca and Jesse since most of their interactions were recorded, but I think I have an idea that can help Aubrey.”

Once they had figured out a plan, Donald wheeled himself into the room where Aubrey laid, restrained with leather straps. The blonde looked up in surprise but didn’t say anything, simply watching the boy in the wheelchair. “Aubrey, I hope you remember me, I’m-”

“Donald, District 3. You won your games two years after I did, you used the electronics in the arena to keep yourself warm while everyone else froze to death.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Donald offered the blonde a smile before handing Aubrey a familiar-looking music player. “I have a gift for you, from someone you used to know. I helped them make this for you, something to hold onto.”

“I can’t very well listen, I’m a little tied down at the moment;” Aubrey jostled her restraints for emphasis. Donald rolled closer and hit the button to lower Aubrey’s bed more. “I can put this in for you,” Donald said amicably as he placed the earbud in the blonde’s ear. Donald hit play once the earbud was in place, and left the music player on Aubrey’s lap, backing away swiftly as the girl listened with rapt attention.

Aubrey listened intently as she listened to her younger brother’s last words, the sound of her siblings’ voices softened her expression. Stacie watched tears spring to Aubrey’s eyes. “Artie,” She murmured.

“And your sister, Jolene, right?” Donald probed. Aubrey nodded subtly, her sniffles breaking the silence. “Do you remember how you got that recording?” Donald continued to hedge.

“I- no, or at least, I don’t-” Aubrey began to fidget and her brows furrowed as she tried to force the memory. “I got this on the roof, from - that doesn’t make sense.”

“Who do you think you got it from?” Donald inquired, attempting to push the other victor in the right direction.

“No, she didn’t. She’s not right, that’s not right.” Aubrey rambled. The blonde had begun to struggle against her bonds, shaking the music player onto the floor where it clattered against the cement. “She’s not real, she’s not human. You can’t trust her. She didn’t, no, they put that in my head. She’s not real, she’s a mutt, they planted her here. You can’t trust her, she’s going to kill us all. You have to-”

Donald had backed away rapidly, rolling himself hastily out of the room as nurses rushed to the struggling Aubrey as she continued to scream about Stacie being a mutt. Stacie watched as the blonde went slack, the drugs taking effect. “That didn’t work,” Emily murmured.

“No, it did;” Stacie said, determinedly. “She remembers me giving that to her, they couldn’t touch the feelings she had associated with the recording because they didn’t know what was on it.” Stacie wiped the tears from her face as she leaned forward and placed her hand on the glass, anything to feel an increment closer to the woman she loved. “I can get through.”

“She just flipped out on me, how do you think she’d behave if you’re there;” Donald protested.

“I have to try Donald, I can’t just leave her like this.”

“It’s highly advised that you take a step back from this Ms. Conrad, allow the professionals to handle it. I’ve heard of your intellect and I’m sure you can be very useful, but I don’t think you can be objective in this case. Mayhaps, you can assist with Mr. Swanson?” Dr. Geraldine implored.

“No, I’ll work here. We have a better chance at making a breakthrough with Aubrey, I have more untapped memories with her.”

“And a higher chance of getting killed,” Donald countered.

“She won’t kill me, I’ll be ready this time;” Stacie replied.

“She’s a fully trained career, youngest victor ever. You think you can take her?” Donald scoffed.

“No, I’m saying that I think the restraints will give me a head start, also I believe in her. Even like this.” Stacie turned back to watch Aubrey sleep through the glass, her mind running a million scenarios where this is all a sick joke or nightmare. Maybe she was going to wake up in the hospital and find Aubrey standing over her with an amused smile. Maybe she’d get a kiss out of it. “I won’t give up on her,” Stacie said with finality.

Stacie was discharged from the hospital, but that didn’t mean she left. When she wasn’t eating with her family in the cafeteria, or completing basic training for the final Capitol assault, she was working in the medical bay on Aubrey’s case. Beca had run off to District 2 to better serve the rebellion, or flee the Jesse situation. Chloe was left behind to spend her days in the hospital, pilfering fellow patient’s morphling. Stacie visited whenever she could to make a discussion with the ginger, whose hair had begun to come back. Now the girl had a dusting of red fuzz on the crown of her head and some meat on her bones. “Why doesn’t Aubrey have any signs of physical torture like you and Jesse?” Stacie asked one day, she had been wondering about it for a while but was always too scared to ask.

“They tortured her just as much as the rest of us, although they did feed her more. Snow liked her skin flawless for other things if I recall correctly. After a torture session, he’d have her taken back to the remake center where they’d give her body a nice touch-up. To be honest, I think I might have gotten off easy with the electrical shocks.”

Chloe’s explanation had completely appalled Stacie, who quickly fled the hospital in favor of the nearest maintenance room to hide in as she hyperventilated. My name is Stacie Conrad. I’m 23 years old, almost 24. I won the 69th Hunger Games. I helped plan the rebellion. Aubrey didn’t know. Aubrey got captured, and tortured, repeatedly. Aubrey thinks I’m a Capitol mutation. I’m still in love with her. I don’t think she loves me anymore.

Stacie fell asleep in the maintenance closet and was awoken by an anxious Emily, who had gone in search of her. Apparently, Aubrey had asked to see her. They had made a small breakthrough when they showed Aubrey Stacie’s little sister’s games after Emily mentioned how she had been reaped until Beca volunteered. Aubrey remembered Stacie’s family, something that a mutation wouldn’t have had.

Stacie immediately rose and rushed to the room where Aubrey was being kept, anxious to see the blonde, if even for a moment. When she got into the room, one of the nurses let her in. Aubrey was still strapped to the bed, alert and sitting up. Her hands bound to her sides. Stacie shuffled in, conscientious of not making any sudden movements.

“Hi,” Stacie said lamely.

“Hi,” Aubrey’s reply was tinged with suspicion, her eyes narrowed as she looked Stacie up and down imperiously. “Well, if you’re a mutt you’re definitely a pretty one.”

Stacie snorted, “Is that important for mutt making? Being pretty?”

“I’d assume attractiveness is a plus for cases of espionage. People let you in more.”

“If people are supposed to let me in more, why doesn’t it work on you?” Stacie challenged.

“I’m smarter than to fall for the Capitol’s tricks,” Aubrey faltered for a moment, “Or at least I thought I was. That girl, your sister? Did she really die?”

“Kira? Yeah, she was killed by a spear. My District started a pretty big riot over it. I had another sister named Gwen, but she died of a small epidemic that overtook District 3.”

“Why didn’t you get her medicine? If you’re a victor you have the funds;” Aubrey sneered. Stacie bit back the venom that was about to enter her tone, the question hit a nerve as she remembered the death of her younger sister. “I tried, my family wouldn’t accept my money. They called me a Capitol sellout.”

“Aren’t you?” Aubrey murmured.

“Am I what?” Stacie snorted.

“A Capitol sellout.” Stacie’s heart stuttered for a moment, her eyes began to burn and her hands clenched. “W-What?” She stammered.

“If my memory serves, I gave you an out. I put myself through hell for you, but what did I get? You left me after I said I loved you, which was clearly a moment of weakness since I would hope I chose better than a Capitol mutt like you.”

“I’m not a mutt;” Stacie snapped.

“Aren’t you?” Aubrey cackled, the sound was foreign to Stacie’s ears. Sharp and humorless, biting. “You had an out, I gave you an out, but you wanted to play into Snow’s hand some more. You never cared about me, you just can’t stand the thought of someone seeing you for who you are, a Capitol creation, an abomination. Well, guess what, I see you for who you really are, a spoiled pompous girl who craves the attention and affection of her captors. You may not have been created in a lab as I thought, but you’re just like them.” Aubrey continued to scream insults at Stacie as she turned and left, tears streaming down her face. When she got into the safe room she immediately slid down the nearest wall and began to sob.

“Hey, shh, she’s wrong about you. You know that, right?” Cynthia Rose whispered to her. The victor from District 7 had made a habit of visiting Aubrey to persuade the blonde to see sense. “She’s not wrong, I did leave her. I gave her an ultimatum when she tried to give me an out. I wasted so much time CR. I could have been with her for all this time, but I didn’t. I gave up on her so long ago, it’s only fair that she’s finally given up on me.”

“Don’t say that, you’ll get through to her. Trust me, it’s never too late.”

“Maybe Beca had the right idea, getting out of here and heading to District 2.”

“Yeah, about that, she’s back. She was shot on live television;” CR informed the leggy brunette. Stacie immediately popped her head up, eyes wide in surprise.

“She was, what?” Stacie spluttered.

“Yeah, someone from District 2 shot her;” Cynthia Rose reiterated. Stacie immediately climbed to her feet and dusted herself off as she started for the door. “I have to see her.”
“They have her unconscious right now,” CR protested.

“I don’t care, I’ll wake her up;” Stacie snapped.

The two women marched through the corridors and towards Stacie’s old hospital room, where Chloe was sitting on the edge of Beca’s bed. The smaller brunette seemed barely conscious, but the two women were holding hands and a dopey smile was spread across the small girl’s face. “Glad you two are getting reacquainted,” CR quipped.

“Becs was just catching me up on everything that happened in District 2,” Chloe chirped.

“They shot me in the chest,” Beca muttered sullenly.

“Poor dear,” Chloe snorted, patting Beca on the head with her free hand.

“What’s been going on here since I’ve been gone?” Beca inquired.

“Other than the fact that Aubrey hates me and thinks I’m a Capitol sellout that wanted to be sold like chattel, not much;” Stacie shrugged, swallowing the lingering sense of hurt.

“She said what?” Beca yelped. Stacie watched as the smaller girl squirmed in an attempt to sit up, but Chloe pushed the girl down gently and flashed a warning glare in Stacie’s direction. “Beca, you can’t move yet, you have bruised ribs.”

“I’m gonna kill that blonde, she has no clue how much Stacie’s been pining after her miserable ass;” Beca snarled.

“Hey, she’s been through a lot too, give her a break. It’s not her fault that they broke her mind, what would you do if that was me?” Beca froze at Chloe’s point, dropping back onto her pillows with a disgruntled groan. “Okay, fine;” Beca pouted, “Blondie gets a pass.”

“Chloe, do you think you could talk to her? You’re her best friend, after all;” Cynthia Rose implored.

“Sure, I can see what happens. We were cell neighbors, so we’re familiar enough with each other, and she didn’t try to kill me during our journey over.”

“As long as it’s safe,” Beca cautioned.

“Of course it is, even if we haven’t seen each other face to face in a while, we were best friends before all of this, and we did grow very familiar with each other’s screams. I’ll see what I can do;” Chloe said reassuringly.


The rest of the month passed with Stacie visiting Aubrey occasionally, only to run out crying when the blonde said something particularly awful. Some nights it felt as though she was literally begging for any shred of the old Aubrey she could find. Yet, the only time she saw the girl she had known, was when she sat behind a one-way glass watching Chloe and Aubrey discuss current events.

To everyone’s surprise, they had found that there had been little crossover between Aubrey and Jesse’s torture, meaning that Chloe could talk about Beca safely with Aubrey and Stacie could visit Jesse safely. Another interesting finding was the fact that if you mentioned Aubrey or Jesse’s target in front of the pair, they would both begin arguing over who the real Capitol mutt was. Never actually agreeing, only becoming increasingly insistent until it turned overly aggressive. Fat Amy seemed to get a kick out of it some days, sometimes coming to visit expressly for those instances of the pair visiting each other.

The more time that passed, the more jealous of Beca Stacie grew. The shorter brunette got her happy ever after with Chloe, even if Jesse did hate her. Snow had miscalculated with Beca’s object of affection, Stacie had not been so lucky. Every day that Stacie saw Beca and Chloe sitting at a cafeteria table, holding hands or feeding each other, Stacie wasn’t sure if she wanted to punch them or cry. One day, she finally lost it and slammed her tray on the table after the two had pressed their foreheads together to trade kisses. “I’m trying to eat here!” Stacie shouted. Not bothering to listen to a response, Stacie kicked her chair out of the way and marched out of the mess hall.

Beca found her later and apologized, but also raised the point that she shouldn’t take her anger out on the couple just because she’s frustrated about the situation with Aubrey. “It’s just hard to see you two together, I miss her so much and she hates me, all I want is to feel her arms around me again. I miss kissing her and sleeping next to her. I thought when we got them back that the time was finally right, but it turns out it’ll never be right. No matter what, something will always be standing in our way. God, I look at her and all I see is how much she hates me. She doesn’t know how much I love her, and now I’ll never get to tell her.”

“Why not?” Beca asked, “She’s here, why not try it?”

“What?”

“Tell her you love her, it’s not as though you have anything to lose. She already hates you.”

“Thanks,” Stacie deadpanned.

“You know what I mean,” Beca grumbled.

“Yeah, I do. Thanks, Becs.” Stacie sighed. Nothing left to lose.


Stacie had slipped into Aubrey’s room during lunch when no one was around. She quickly pressed the button to Aubrey’s room and entered, she could only imagine how odd she looked. Eyes red from crying, wrinkled clothes, hair pulled up in a messy bun. The blonde stared at her in surprise, a tray of food was resting on her lap and she was holding a fork and a knife. Stacie opened her mouth to speak but quickly shut it as she ducked and the knife whizzed over her head and embedded itself in the wall.

Rolling to her feet she raised her hands in mock surrender, “I just have to say something, okay.” She jumped to the side as the fork flew at her, rolling to the side and clambering back onto her feet, she kept her gaze focused on the blonde. “Do you remember how we met?” This time the tray with all its contents flew at her and Aubrey was bounding out of the bed and slamming into Stacie.

The pair began rolling on the ground as Stacie grappled with Aubrey’s arms, trying to pin the blonde to get a word in. “I remember that night, you came to get me to return to the feast, but I was laying on the roof of the town hall. I was staring at the stars, just like my dad and I used to. Just like my sisters and I used to.” Aubrey managed to elbow Stacie across the face and pin one of the brunette’s arms while the other scrabbled for her throat. Stacie grabbed the other hand with her free one and tightened her fingers around it. Not the way she imagined holding the blonde’s hand but it would do for the moment.

“You were beautiful that night, and I flirted with you for the first time. Snow had threatened my family if I didn’t give in to his demands, and my reputation in the Capitol had grown since my games. But you didn’t look at me like I was broken, or dirty, or brainless. You looked at me like I was a person. You looked at me like you thought I was more than just beautiful or pretty, or whatever. That first night, what I saw in your eyes was a future. I flirted with you that night because you were the first person I really wanted. You weren’t forced on me, you weren’t after me just for a quick lay. I know you said you loved me and I didn’t say it back, but that was my mistake.”

Aubrey had frozen, her grip loosening around Stacie’s wrist, her struggles against Stacie seemed half-hearted now. “What are you talking about?” The blonde grunted.

“I love you, Aubrey. I didn’t say it before but I’ve felt it since before you said those three words that night on the Capitol roof.”

Aubrey’s hand tightened to a painful level at the mention of the Capitol roof, so Stacie switched tactics. “You ran up to me in the train station in District 2. You found me before I left and you handed me your phone number. I think I fell in love with you a little bit at that moment, and every phone call and the following moment I fell for you even more. I don’t know what you’re thinking and I don’t know what memories they did and didn’t touch, but I know you have to remember some of it without whatever they did. You are the love of my life, and I need you to know that. So,” Stacie grabbed Aubrey’s hands and settled them on her throat, looking the blonde dead in the eyes. “Whether you believe me or not is up to you. If you think I’m a mutt, so be it. End it now. It’s okay.” Stacie brushed her thumb over the side of Aubrey’s cheek, memorizing the contours of the other woman’s face. The line of her cheekbones, the shape of her jaw. “I won’t give up on you, I’m here until the end. If you think there’s no hope or return, then get it over with. I’m dead without you anyway.” Aubrey knelt, frozen over Stacie, fingers resting around the brunette’s windpipe. “Y’know, this really isn’t how I pictured us exploring choking, but what do I know, I may not have lived for many years but age is just a number, although I did see you helping me out in different ways;” Stacie chuckled wearily, adding a wink for flare.

Aubrey’s muscles twitched and Stacie felt sudden pressure around her throat, she braced herself for the impending feeling of the air leaving her lungs, but it didn’t come. Aubrey’s hands loosened around Stacie’s throat, hands coming up to cup Stacie’s jaw. The next moment would remain in Stacie’s memory forever, because instead of choking the life out of the brunette, Aubrey let out a peal of laughter. Stacie smiled her first genuine smile in a long time as the sound rekindled her memory of the first night they met. “Hey, I’m trying to be hot, not funny;” Stacie quipped.

Aubrey simply laughed harder, sliding sideways and lying flat on her back beside her.

Chapter Text

The walls were white and the lights flickered sometimes, but everything was relatively good in District 13. After her private scuffle with Stacie, Aubrey was given more privileges. She was allowed more visitors, and she wasn’t kept under as much supervision. She was even allowed outside of her room without handcuffs, a definite improvement from her former situation. The doctors were quite impressed with her progress, although they were quite unwilling to repeat the initial situation that caused the improvement.

In fact, Aubrey heard Cynthia Rose, Donald, and Beca yelling at Stacie about it from the other room.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” Beca bellowed at Stacie, who was admittedly sporting finger-shaped bruising on her windpipe. “It’s fine Beca, it worked! I’m not dead, see. Besides, you were the one that told me to tell her I loved her.”

Aubrey paused at the other girl's words, the paranoid thought that it was all a tactic to earn her trust made a brief appearance. Her fist tightened as the thoughts began to devolve slightly. She said it to gain your trust and you fell for it. She’s going to kill everyone you care about, or at least whoever’s left anyway. She’s a mutt, you have to stop her. She’s supposed to be charming, she’s the reason you were captured by the Capitol. She left you to rot, she’ll do it again.

“...I love her, and you were right, I needed to tell her that. I know it may have been a little dramatic but I had to let her know. Even if it killed me.”

She won’t give up on you,’ Stacie’s words interrupted her trainwreck of a thought process, causing her heart to palpitate for a moment as an overwhelming feeling of repulsion and adoration filled her. The two conflicting emotions seemed to war within her for a moment, causing a pounding sensation in her head.

“You’re lucky she didn’t kill you Stacie;” Cynthia Rose insisted.

“She didn’t do it, because she loves me too, whatever the Capitol did to her isn’t her fault. So I’m not going to just ignore her until she magically gets better. She needs to know I’m not a threat to her.”

“She threw a knife at you, Stacie,” Beca snapped.

“I ducked! Can we let it go, I’m alive. Nothing happened. It’s not like you walked in while she was choking me to death.”

“She clearly tried,” Beca spluttered, gesturing at the bruising on the other girl’s neck.

“It’s fine, it’s not her fault;” Stacie waved her friend’s concern away.

“Stacie…” Beca began but Aubrey zoned out while the shorter girl continued to critique Stacie’s methods. The voices were too much, and the memories didn’t make sense. She remembered that night with Stacie though, on the roof of District 2’s Town Hall. It was too dark to see the Nut clearly, but the sky was filled with stars. The glimmer was small though in comparison to how brightly Stacie seemed to shine on that rooftop. All of her attention was focused on the girl from District 3. All of her affection, adoration, hope, and fear. The fear was the tumultuous thing, the effect it had on the other memories.

Aubrey saw Stacie in the games, shining and beaming. She saw herself being suffocated underneath the churn of the water as haunting green eyes watched over her, uncaring. She heard the sound of an explosion and fear for the girl with the glimmering sea-green eyes, but then the image seemed to warp. The arena glittered with the rays of a thousand flares as Stacie seemed to tear her to pieces with a single touch. Next, she was on a rooftop and Stacie was standing over her. She was bruised and bleeding as the other girl stood irately beside Aubrey, a burning sensation spread across her skin as the world around her shimmered in a series of blinding lights.

She was in a room, in the Capitol. She was sore all over from her latest round of physical torture. Her skin felt raw and everything hurt. The lights seemed to shimmer and dance as she shrunk away from Stacie’s form in the corner, a wolfish smile on the girl’s face. Her teeth elongated into points and the girl seemed to melt and shift into a beast.

Aubrey was startled by the sudden settling of a hand on her shoulder. Chloe had her hand settled on her shoulder while Cynthia Rose and Beca held Stacie back. Upon seeing Stacie, Aubrey jolted forward, her instincts kicking in for a moment as she forgot herself. Chloe’s hands, however, stopped her. “Aubrey, remember your mantra!” Chloe reminded her friend. Aubrey took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes as she tried to center herself, focusing on anything but Stacie’s presence in the room.

“My name is Aubrey Posen, I’m twenty-seven years old. I’m best friends with Chloe Beale. I won the sixty-second Hunger Games. I survived the Quarter Quell. I was captured by the Capitol, I was rescued. I am alive in District 13. My family is dead…”

“Good, and…?” Chloe prodded.

“I met Stacie five years ago, she’s not a mutt;” Aubrey finished the mantra and took a deep breath before opening her eyes. “You’re not a mutt,” Aubrey directed the words at Stacie who smiled encouragingly.

“Not a mutt,” the taller girl said with a wink. Aubrey snorted in reply, ignoring the feeling of her fists tightening around the covers of her bed. “Can I have the room with her?” Stacie requested, hopefully.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” Donald muttered, turning to the doctors for assistance.

“Let them be alone for a moment, we can always just keep an eye on it through a monitor,” Dr. Geraldine shrugged.

“I don’t know about you, Doc, but I’d prefer Stacie alive;” Beca quipped.

“Guys, I’ll be fine!” Stacie groaned, “I trust her.” Stacie turned to face Aubrey when she said the last part, their eyes met with equal longing. Yet Aubrey was reticent to be left alone with the leggy brunette. However, the Doctor’s words proved enough for the others as they trailed out. Beca made a gesture as if to say ‘I’m watching you,’ before leaving.

Aubrey sat anxiously in her bed, burying her hands underneath her thighs to prevent herself from doing anything. Stacie approached her bed and made to sit on the side of it when Beca’s voice came over the intercom, stating: ‘That’s close enough.” Stacie rolled her eyes and flipped the one-way mirror off before turning to the blonde. “I swear, the longer she’s the Mockingjay the bigger her head gets. I can handle myself fine.”

“They’re right, I could have killed you;” Aubrey murmured.

“But you didn’t;” Stacie exclaimed.

“I could have. What if I had chosen to kill you, what if I didn’t remember?”

“But you did,” Stacie reminded her.

“But what if one day I don’t? All the memories, all my memories, they’re warped or wrong. How do I know what’s real or not real?”

“I’ll tell you, and anything I don’t know, I’m sure Chloe would be willing to help;” Stacie said reassuringly.

“I’ll help!” Chloe exclaimed over the intercom.

“See?” Stacie grinned, “So, what memories are you having problems with?”

“When I was in the Capitol, I saw you watching me while I was being, while they, um. I saw you watching and you liked watching it happen. Your teeth would get sharper, and sometimes I’d see you with blood coming out of your mouth. I- I don’t think it’s real, it can’t be if you were here the entire time, right?”

“I didn’t know what they were doing to you. I thought you were dead until you walked through those hangar doors. They never showed you in interviews like they did with Jesse, or even parade you around during government addresses like they did Chloe. You were just gone after that first appearance. I thought I lost you.” Aubrey felt one of her hands twitch, not for the first time, but also this twitch was different. At that moment, she really wanted to hold Stacie’s hand.

“Do you see anything in the visions that help you separate, if I remember correctly, tracker jacker venom influences your perception of imagery while increasing your fear when you hallucinate?”

“Um, the memories look, shiny?” Aubrey murmured.

“Shiny?”

“The lights shimmer, like diamonds or crystals, a bunch of beams of light,” Aubrey answered.

“Okay, well, what memories are shiny. Maybe I can tell you what really-”

“Hey, maybe lay off the therapy, for now, you still have bruises on your neck, Stace;” Cynthia Rose chimed in from the intercom.

The rest of their conversation was relatively unproductive from that point forward. Stacie would talk to Aubrey about anything and everything while the blonde listened patiently. The other girl would often fill her in on all the goings-on around the district, including Jessica and Ashley’s wedding. “They wanted to have Beca and Chloe get married on television, but Chloe says she wants to get into better shape first. The Capitol did a number on her.”

“Am I allowed to go to the wedding?” Aubrey inquired. Stacie pondered the question for a moment before turning to face the glass separating the two rooms. “Can she?”

“We’ll clear it with Coin,” Donald’s voice sounded from the other side.

“I don’t see why you shouldn’t come. Even Jesse is making an appearance, apparently, he’s making the cake.”

“Oh, yeah, he’s a baker.” Aubrey recounted.

“Yeah, his family is dead now since they bombed District 12, but he was a baker so he knows his way around batter and dough.”

“I used to make cupcakes with Arthur and Jolene, I wonder if they would let me make some;” Aubrey hummed, the clear memory had floated forward into her mind as she imagined the prospective wedding cake. “Maybe we can make some together?” Stacie exclaimed.

“She’s not allowed near any kitchenware with you around!” Dr. Geraldine called out.

“Maybe Chloe then,” Stacie chuckled.

The following days repeated similarly. Stacie spoke with Aubrey alone in her room, under the watchful eye of the surveillance team and the one-way glass. At some point, Aubrey grew tired of sitting on both of her hands, so she simply requested that they cuff one to the bed and let her have one free. While somewhat impractical, it improved Beca’s mood whenever she heard about Stacie visiting the blonde.

While the blonde seemed to recover fairly well, Jesse made much smaller steps in progress. Now that he didn’t have Aubrey to argue with, about the mutt problem, he now argued with himself.

Aubrey was allowed outside of her cell one day, along with Jesse, where they were both brought to the cafeteria for lunch. Jesse’s hands were zip-tied, and his guards were supposed to hand feed him, but Aubrey was allowed out with one member of security to keep an eye on her. Upon seeing Aubrey’s entrance into the cafeteria Stacie’s eyes seemed to light up like a child on a winter feast. The brunette rushed over, only halting when the security guard moved to block the girl’s way. “Aubrey, you can sit with me! Let me through, this is ridiculous, I’m just trying-” Stacie struggled against the security guard until she finally won out.

It was the first time in a while that Aubrey and Stacie touched, but Stacie’s fingers intertwining with hers awoke a strong sense of yearning in her, along with a flash of fear. Aubrey’s fingers tightened abruptly before loosening in the same moment, almost like a squeeze. You met Stacie five years ago, she’s not a mutt. Aubrey repeated the mantra in her mind while Stacie showed her to her seat.

She took the spot directly beside Stacie, even more, surprised when Stacie didn’t let go of her hand when they finally settled down. Turning to the blonde, the green-eyed beauty beamed at the District 2 victor and gave a slight squeeze of her own to their entwined hands. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” The brunette stated.

“What?”

“We’ve never been able to hold hands publicly, it’s nice.” Stacie shrugged. Aubrey allowed a small smile at that moment and gave the other girl a small squeeze of the hand. “Yeah, it is nice.”

Ashley allowed Jesse to take the spot beside her while Jessica sat on her other side. Beca and Chloe took the seats opposite Stacie and Aubrey, while Jesse sat to Aubrey’s right. “So you don’t think Stacie’s a mutt anymore?” Jesse asked somewhat stiffly.

“I don’t think so,” Aubrey replied haltingly.

“I guess that just leaves Beca,” Jesse muttered.
“Shorty? A mutt, I doubt it. She’d be a damn ineffective mutt, she practically melts into a puddle for Chloe.” Fat Amy chortled.

“Hey!” Beca protested.

“B, you know it’s true;” chuckled Cynthia Rose. “You’re so whipped.”

Lily mimicked the sound of a whip cracking from her spot on Donald’s lap. Most of the table laughed while Jesse and Beca sat in relative surliness. It had been a while since Aubrey was able to sit amongst friends and appreciate a good moment, in fact, her cheeks hurt a bit from smiling.

“I’m glad we can have moments like this now,” Stacie whispered in her ear. Aubrey turned, their faces were impossibly close at that moment.

A rooftop, the feeling of lips on hers. Hands cupping her face as she felt an all-consuming rush of adrenaline. A shimmer, a growl, screaming, blood.

Aubrey!”

Aubrey blinked in confusion, her chair was several feet away and she was on top of Stacie, her one hand wrapped around the girl’s throat. The security guard was sporting a bloody nose and Chloe held the other arm taught. The other victors were on their feet, eyes wide. Jesse was being dragged out hurling insults at Beca. Aubrey scrambled backward, eyes wide in horror. “I- I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. I-”

Stacie waved her hands in dismissal while she heaved a wracking cough. “It’s fine, you came back, it’s-” she didn’t finish her sentence as she continued coughing.

“I told you she was dangerous,” Beca growled. “We never should have trusted her, she’s just as bad as Jesse, no, she’s worse. She’s like a ticking time bomb, at least with Jesse -”

“Beca, shut up;” Chloe snapped, taking the entire table by surprise. An eerie silence fell over them all, only split by the sounds of Stacie getting her breath back. “Aubrey, did you do that intentionally?”

“No, I didn’t realize. One moment I was looking at Stacie and the next… I was back on the rooftop with her. We were, um, she was really close and then I saw-”

“It’s okay, she didn’t mean it. It’s just the tracker jacker venom;” Stacie assuaged, her voice was slightly hoarse.

“I’m sorry,” Aubrey apologized.

Stacie moved closer to Aubrey again, taking the girl’s hand. “It’s okay, you didn’t know;” Stacie murmured.

“It’s not okay, though.” Cynthia Rose said, “Yes, Aubrey was tortured and experimented on, or whatever, but we don’t know how far they got in her mind. We don’t know what the triggers are, if she’s not even aware when it happens, she can’t control it, and you’re not safe.”

“I know she just tried to kill me, but that wasn’t really her. That’s whatever the Capitol made her do, it’s not her fault,” Stacie countered.

“No, they’re right, Stacie. You’re not the mutt, I was wrong in thinking that, but whatever the Capitol did to me made me a danger to you. I won’t be the reason you die.”

“Aubrey.”

“No, they’re right. We can’t, I won’t,” Aubrey stammered for a moment, trying to find the words. “Maybe in another life;” She finally said. Her heart seemed to shatter at that moment as Stacie’s eyes dimmed, she wanted nothing more than to reach out and brush the tears away from the corners of Stacie’s eyes, but she resisted the urge. Instead, she pulled her hands away and hugged her midriff. “Aubrey, I love you, please;” Stacie whispered, barely audible for their spectators.

“I love you too, but that’s the reason we can’t be together;” Aubrey said resolutely.

“Whatever they did…” Aubrey began but Beca finished her thought for her.

“She’s the mutt now, Stacie.” Chloe turned to glare at her girlfriend, but the damage was done.

With those words, Aubrey allowed the tears to fall, the truth of the matter seemed to finalize her decision. The security guard approached with handcuffs drawn, Aubrey held out her hands, the hands that almost killed the love of her life, and allowed the metal to snap around her wrists. “I won’t give up on you,” Stacie shouted as Aubrey walked away.

Aubrey halted mid-step and turned to look back, tears falling down her cheeks. “I know, but you should.”

Chapter Text

The revolution was coming to a close. The rebels had managed to gain footing near the Capitol, and the final push was impending. Stacie had been completing her drills amongst the soldiers for some time. Cynthia Rose and her were deemed battle buddies and were participants in a variety of drills in preparation for the storming of the Capitol. 

 

Beca and Chloe were supposed to be taking their final test that day, so Cynthia Rose had asked Stacie to help decorate for the private victor’s celebration when their friend’s passed. Stacie had seen Aubrey and Jesse training as well for the cameras, but she doubted that they were going to join the regular soldier ranks, anytime soon. Stacie would be lying if she wasn’t relieved at the thought that Aubrey was staying back in District 13. Not because she was worried the girl would kill her, but because the blonde could put herself in danger should one of her relapses occur. 

 

“Hey, Stacie, you’re the tallest here, put this up?” Jessica requested, handing Stacie a makeshift banner. 

 

“How did you convince Coin to allow the use of these materials, isn’t it superfluous use of resources?” Stacie quipped. 

 

“I may have found them in a storage room, and I may have just taken them;” Fat Amy grinned. “What Coin doesn’t know, won’t kill her.” 

 

“How many people are coming?” Emily inquired, she was busying herself with napkins and stolen silverware. 

 

“I don’t know, but I convinced Jesse to help us make some cupcakes!” I said they were for Jessica and Ashley though,” Fat Amy replied. 

 

“Aubrey wanted to make cupcakes,” Stacie muttered under her breath. 

 

“What?” Cynthia Rose asked, not quite hearing the other girl. 

 

“Nothing,” Stacie sighed. 

 

 

The party turned out to be a bit of a bust, Chloe didn’t pass her test since they flooded the entire room with water and mimicked the sound of a thunderstorm. Considering the torture the girl had endured at the hands of the Capitol, that was a particularly cruel move. Something that Beca made a point to raise to Coin, via shouting. When the brunette did arrive in her private room, the other victors were standing around wearing dusty and marred party hats. Cupcakes were on the only table in the room, and everyone was crunched together in the tight space. 

 

Beca didn’t stay long, instead opting to visit Chloe in the med bay. Which left Stacie, Cynthia Rose, Fat Amy, Lily, Donald, Jessica, Ashley, and Emily to finish off the cupcakes themselves. With one cupcake left, Stacie grabbed the last one and bid her friends goodbye before rushing off herself. 

 

Taking the familiar path down, Stacie wound up in front of Aubrey’s room. The blonde was still languishing under surveillance, but the room definitely looked more lived in. A journal laid open on a bedside table, and clothes stocked the closet. A box of pens was on the dinner tray, along with a finished meal. Aubrey sat in her bed, reading a book. The other woman wore the traditional drab wardrobe of District 13, but she looked just as beautiful to Stacie as she did when she wore that evening gown the first day they met. 

 

Stacie pressed the intercom button and cleared her throat. “Hey, I have something for you;” Stacie waited with bated breath as the blonde’s eyes widened for a moment, lithe fingers twitched and tightened around the book. A deep breath, the closing of green eyes. “You shouldn’t be here, I know the doctors are out at dinner.” 

 

“Maybe I don’t want to stay away from you,” Stacie replied. 

 

“You should,” Aubrey cautioned.

 

“What if I brought you a cupcake?” Stacie said, holding up the cupcake as though Aubrey could see it through the one-way glass. 

 

“You’re holding up a cupcake right now, aren’t you?” Aubrey chuckled. 

 

“Maybe, tell me I can come in and you’ll find out.” 

 

“Alright, fine, give me a moment.” Aubrey flitted around the room as Stacie watched. The blonde began to wrap one of her hands in a bundle of clothing, using a roll of tape to tighten the bundle. Stacie suppressed a smile as she watched Aubrey work, endlessly amused by Aubrey’s efforts. When the blonde was finished, she had one hand wrapped in bundles of cloth while the other was firmly under her bottom. “You can come in now!” 

 

Stacie pressed the button to unlock the door and strode in, a barely contained smile on her face. She hadn’t seen Aubrey face to face in weeks, the blonde had repeatedly refused to see her. “Come bearing offerings,” Stacie teased, holding the cupcake up. Aubrey smiled at her, eyes crinkling at the corners at Stacie’s approach. 

 

“I guess the party didn’t go as planned?” Aubrey commented. 

 

“No, they flooded Chloe’s test. She went into a panic attack, she’s in the med bay right now;” Stacie informed the blonde. She took the spot at the foot of Aubrey’s bed, cupcake still clutched in her hand. “How did you know about the party?” 

“I helped Jesse make the cupcakes, it was deemed therapeutic.”

 

Stacie felt a spark of jealousy at the idea of Aubrey making cupcakes with Jesse, Stacie got such little time with Aubrey nowadays. “Was it?”

 

“Was it what?” Aubrey asked, blankly.

 

“Therapeutic?” Stacie hedged. 

 

“Oh, yeah, I guess it was. I had a good time, and Jesse knows how to bake.” 

 

“Well, he is a baker;” Stacie snorted. 

 

“What’s that face?” Aubrey inquired, Stacie dropped her eyes to the covers subconsciously. “Are you jealous of Jesse?” 

 

“Maybe, he gets to spend so much time with you and -” 

 

“Stacie, I’m not safe for you.”

 

“I can handle myself, you haven’t killed me yet.” 

 

“Yet, being the optimal word, Stacie. We can’t keep playing with your life, you can’t keep playing with your life.” 

 

“I miss you,” Stacie murmured. Aubrey brought a bundled hand to Stacie’s cheek instinctually, so it almost felt as though a pillow was being held to her cheek. 

 

“I know, and I miss you too, but you shouldn’t be here. You should go, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.” 

 

“Aubrey-”

 

“Stacie, what are you doing in there!” Beca shouted over the intercom. Stacie sighed and stood up, placing the cupcake on Aubrey’s bedside table. “I’ll come back some other time,” Stacie muttered. 

 

“Like hell, you will!” Beca protested from the doorway. Aubrey allowed her bound hand to drop to the bed, a sad smile on her lips. “You should go.” Stacie nodded and walked towards the door dejectedly. “Wait, Stacie!” Aubrey called. The brunette spun around excitedly, hoping the blonde would tell her to stay. 

 

“I-” Aubrey hesitated for a moment, “Um, thanks for the cupcake.”

 

Stacie nodded affirmation and traipsed out the door. 

 

 

Jessica and Ashley’s wedding came two weeks later. Stacie wasn’t allowed in Aubrey’s room at any point between, but Stacie knew Aubrey would be at the wedding. Jesse had progressed in his treatment to the point that he didn’t need to be handcuffed to guards, although he was constantly shadowed by them. 

 

The wedding was the biggest affair that District 13 had held, those selected to attend showed up in their best clothes, which meant the uniforms that were the least torn or stained. Aubrey and Chloe attended to Jessica while Stacie and Beca attended to Ashley. They raided their old homes in their various districts for proper gowns, all the time chatting amicably. 

 

Jessica wasn’t heading into battle with everyone, instead, Jessica and Ashley were looking to start a family. Their first fertility appointment was supposed to be the week after the invasion. Stacie couldn’t help but feel happy for the pair as they made their rounds amongst the wedding guests. Jessica wore the dress that Aubrey had worn the night they had met. Aubrey wore another gown, one that was unfamiliar to Stacie. She still looked stunning. 

 

“Excuse me, but I think it’s unfair how beautiful you look;” Stacie flirted. 

 

Aubrey turned towards Stacie with a smile, “You look good too.”

 

Stacie was wearing the same dress she had worn when they first met, it seemed the safest bet since the night of their meeting hadn’t been tampered with. “Gorgeous as always,” Aubrey said, her hand moved closer to Stacie, causing the security guard shadowing the blonde to stiffen. “It’s alright, I’m aware of what I’m doing,” Aubrey assured the man. Stacie watched as Aubrey traced the cut of the dress with the tips of her fingers, rising the dangerously low v that stretched from Stacie’s shoulders to her navel, upwards to cup the back of Stacie’s neck. Stacie let out a breath that she didn’t know she was holding as the touch settled delicately, thumb brushing her jawline. “I missed you,” Aubrey admitted. 

 

“I missed you too,” Stacie said, her voice low. “May I have this dance?”

 

Aubrey turned to talk to her security guard who acquiesced. Stacie took Aubrey’s hand and led the blonde to the dance floor where Jessica and Ashley were happily dancing together. Turning, Stacie took Aubrey’s hand and settled her other on the blonde’s waist. Dismissing a warning glance from Beca, Stacie began to shift slowly to the music with Aubrey in her arms. 

 

“You’re smiling,” Aubrey commented as they spun around slowly. 

 

“I like being with you, it’s been two weeks. I missed you;” Stacie explained. Stacie raised her arm so Aubrey could twirl beneath, pulling the blonde back sharply so that they were chest to chest. “I’ll be here no matter what, waiting for that someday or some life.” 

 

“You got a lot more romantic while I was away,” Aubrey remarked, her lips were pressed together as though suppressing her own smile. “I love you, Stacie. I want you to know that.” 

 

“I love you too,” Stacie returned, her cheeks were burning with the sensation of smiling as widely as she was, but she didn’t want to stop. “Is there a reason you’re breaking your own rules?” 

 

Aubrey paused for a moment before letting out a sigh. “I know you’re going into the thick of things tomorrow. If anything happened to you I don’t know what I’d do. I just want you to know how much I love you. This moment, this moment will mean everything to me while you’re gone. They can’t do anything to this memory. I want to savor this, at least for now.” 

 

“I’m coming back, you know;” Stacie said. 

 

“Knowing our luck,” Aubrey chuckled sardonically. 

 

“Hey, I’m coming back. No matter what, I’ll come back to you.” Stacie took Aubrey’s head between her hands and leaned her forehead in. Bracing herself for an adverse reaction. She felt Aubrey’s hands twitch at her hips, tightening around her dress. Stacie brushed her thumbs over Aubreys cheekbones, wiping away the prick of tears on blonde eyelashes. “Look at me, breath, I’m here, I’m real, and I love you. I’ll always love you, and I’ll always come back to you. That’s our thing, okay?” 

 

Aubrey nodded, eyes shut as her hands began to shake slightly. Holding back something she didn’t fully grasp herself. “I’ll be okay, I just need to get the bastard that did this to you. I’ll get the job and then I can come home. You’ll get better, and we can have a wedding just like this.” 

 

“Stacie,” Aubrey began to protest. 

 

“Do you want a future with me?” Stacie asked. 

 

“Yes, but-” 

 

“Then that’s it, that’s all that matters. That’s all I want to think about. The Capitol isn’t in our way anymore, after we storm it there will be nothing left to stand in our way. Nothing but ourselves. I won’t fight us anymore, Aubrey. Please, stop fighting, if you want me you have me, oka-” 

 

Stacie’s gasp of surprise was quickly muffled by the press of Aubrey’s lips to hers. Once the kiss began, Aubrey yanked her hands away, tightening them at Stacie’s hips to almost painful pressure. Stacie cupped Aubrey’s jaw and wrapped her other arm around Aubrey’s middle. Smiling into the kiss, the pair reveled at the moment. “I missed doing that,” Aubrey mumbled into Stacie’s mouth. “Me too,” Stacie replied, she pulled Aubrey back into another kiss, allowing her tongue to swipe along Aubrey’s bottom lip. The two continued to kiss for some time, oblivious to the various onlookers. Aubrey’s security guard had sidled up to the buffet table to give the couple some privacy, although it didn’t appear that either woman cared who saw them. Beca sat by Chloe, on a break from dancing, Stacie didn’t see it, but the District 12 victor was smiling and shaking her head while whispering comments into a grinning Chloe’s ear. The cameras were flitting from one couple to another, every once in a while coming back to the still embracing Aubrey and Stacie. 

 

When the pair finally parted, Beca pulled Stacie aside. 

 

“You gave Snow an eyeful tonight, they kept flickering back to you for the live broadcast.”

 

“Don’t tell me you don’t approve,” Stacie said suspiciously.

 

“No, I do, I just wanted to say that I was wrong. Aubrey isn’t a monster and I shouldn’t have treated her like she was. I guess I just hate what they did to Jesse, and I took it out on her. I don’t love him, but he became one of my best friends. Maybe if I was as patient with him as you’ve been with Aubrey, things would be different. Maybe I could have a conversation with him, or thank him for the cupcakes. I guess I just miss him.” 

 

“Have you told him that?” Stacie exclaimed, throwing Beca’s words back at her. 

 

Beca chuckled, “No, I haven’t. I guess I should, huh?” 

 

“Yeah, I think it worked out pretty well for me,” Stacie turned to catch a glimpse of Aubrey talking animatedly to Chloe. Her hands weren’t balled into fists and she seemed at ease for the first time in a while. “You love Chloe, but you love Jesse too, in a different way sure but it’s still love. Tell him before you leave, maybe it’ll mean something.” 

 

“Yeah,” Beca hummed, pondering the taller brunette’s words. “Maybe I will.” 

 

….

 

Stacie was awoken five hours into the day, fully outfitted with her gun and various gadgets that Lily had made. Stacie had something of a gift for chemical reactions, so most of her gear had pockets for Stacie to place self-made grenades in. Donald wheeled himself in with Lily on his lap to say goodbye, a smile on the couple’s lips. “When you come back, I expect you to be my best man,” Donald chuckled. Stacie stooped down to hug him along with Lily before turning to board the jet that was supposed to fly her into the warzone. 

 

“Stacie, wait!” Aubrey’s voice broke through the all-encompassing sound of the jet’s engine. Stacie whipped about, her eyes meeting the rushing blonde. Another moment in time appeared in her mind, instead of a jet it was a train, and the sun was peeking over the far off hilltops. Stacie dropped her bag and opened her arms in time for Aubrey to jump into them. The blonde’s hands curled into fists and around her belt loops as Stacie was pulled ever closer. Their lips met in a passionate kiss as the pair soaked in the moment. Stacie moved her hands to trace along Aubrey’s jaw, thumbing her chin for a moment to rest her forehead against the blonde, whose eyes were tightly shut. 

 

“Look at me,” Stacie prodded. 

 

Aubrey swallowed thickly and looked at Stacie, somewhat reluctantly. Stacie felt it when hands tightened around her belt loops in a violent spasm. The idea of walking away from the blonde now felt almost painful. They had just gotten back to each other, and now she was off to fight a war. Part of her wanted Aubrey by her side, the other wanted to stay in District 13 with the blonde. Guarantee a future where they would grow old together, but the idea of not seeing Snow into his grave personally would be one of her deepest regrets. 

 

“Come back to me, please;” the blonde’s words were mumbled against Stacie’s mouth. 

 

“Always,” Stacie said. 

 

The pair allowed themselves one last kiss before Cynthia Rose called Stacie’s name, demanding the girl “get her ass on the plane or else.” Stacie let out a laugh and pecked Aubrey on the lips once more before grabbing her bag and hightailing it onto the jet. She watched Aubrey wave goodbye until the doors shut, smiling the entire time. 

 

 

Upon their arrival, Stacie was herded into a tent where their status as a squad was explained. Apparently, they were to be the star squad. They would be sent down unoccupied alleys with the intent of shooting jars, windows, or non-threatening and unactivated pods. The pods were an extremely intimidating factor that seemed to make Beca’s eyes grow wide with surprise and something else Stacie couldn’t put her finger on. 

 

“This is a holo,” Lieutenant Boggs exclaimed, showing the group a machine that emitted a detailed holographic map of the city. “The Capitol Gamemakers decided to make a series of nasty traps we call pods, when activated anything can happen. They can release tracker jackers, spikes, make the ground drop out from underneath you. They all trigger something that has one goal and one goal only, to kill you.” 

 

“Welcome to the seventy-sixth Hunger Games,” Stacie muttered under her breath.

 

“Yeah, Boggs, why’d you have us go through all that training when you had your most experienced soldiers here;” Cynthia Rose chuckled. Benji nudged her with an elbow, smile wide. 

 

“We have four victors here, Stacie, Cynthia Rose, Benji, and Beca; you are all the faces of the rebellion. They want shots of you fighting with us to bolster the troops. We’ll be focusing most of our attention on areas that have been fairly cleared already. Hopefully, we’ll get back to District 13 in a week with the war won, so we can all get back to our families. 

 

 

Their days from that point forward went pretty easy. Despite Beca’s reticence to participate, the star squad took turns shooting whatever they were told, never seeing a single peacekeeper. The most excitement occurred when one of the pods was mismarked, and one of the soldiers that came with Boggs, one of the twins, was hit by a metal dart. She dies before the medics can reach her. When Gail is phoned in for the next moves, they’re assured that a replacement will be on their way. 

 

The next day, when Stacie wakes up to quite the ruckus. Cynthia Rose is bellowing at someone full force while Boggs’s voice seems to yell at her. For a moment Stacie thinks the two are arguing but then the context catches up, and it sounds like they’re agreeing. Rising, Stacie makes her way to the center of the crowd to find Aubrey and Jesse standing there awkwardly. Aubrey is standing there with her hands balled into fists at the edge of her shirt, while Jesse fidgets with the cuffs around his wrists.  

 

Stacie had never seen Boggs angry before, she hadn’t interacted with the man as much as Beca had, but even the smaller brunette was shocked. 

 

“Stacie,” Aubrey exclaimed upon seeing the brunette. Stacie strode over to the blonde, arms draping over the blonde’s shoulders. “I thought you weren’t coming,” Stacie said. 

 

“It’s a long story,” Aubrey replied sheepishly. 

 

“Conrad, Mitchell, with me!” Boggs ordered. Stacie gave Aubrey a reassuring squeeze, paired with a promise to catch up later before trailing after the Lieutenant. 

 

 

The conversation with Boggs could be surmised in one way and one way only. Coin had decided that Beca is of no use to her alive anymore. Deemed a danger, Beca was to die for the rebellion, becoming the martyr that spurs everyone to better action. However, the same was not said for the case of Aubrey’s appearance. In fact, Stacie’s interactions with Coin had been relatively brief, if not minimal. Stacie had been the perfect helper, assisting in ideas for traps and medicine for the troops. Boggs seemed just as confused by Aubrey’s presence as Stacie was. 

 

“They won’t be allowed guns, if they do have to hold a gun for a shot it won’t be loaded. We’ll give them blanks. All I know is that you two will be living long lives, whether Coin likes it or not.” 

 

Stacie and Beca walked back to the group where Jesse was being watched sharply by Cynthia Rose and Benji. “I’m not going to do anything Benji,” Jesse groaned. 

 

“We don’t know that,” Cynthia Rose responded. Her gun’s safety was off, and her finger was close to the trigger. Stacie frowned and approached Aubrey. The blonde smiled pleasantly at her from her place on the floor, Stacie sat beside her and draped an arm over Aubrey’s shoulders. Warmth rushed through her body when she felt Aubrey scoot closer. Hands firmly balled at the ground. Stacie took Aubrey’s right hand with her own and smoothed the fingers out. “It’s okay, I trust you;” Stacie hummed. Aubrey’s fingers relaxed and entwined with Stacie’s as both girls sunk into the embrace fully. 

 

“Why are they here?” Benji asked. 

 

“Isn’t it obvious?” Cynthia Rose scoffed. 

 

“What, it’s not like they want Beca dead, she’s the Mockingjay;” Benji groused. 

 

“Yeah, and she did her job well, she bound the districts together and fanned the flames of the galvanized troops;” Aubrey chuckled, her eyes met Stacie’s as she said it, pulling away slightly. “What’s one thing more she can do for the rebellion?”

 

“Die,” Beca said bitterly. 

 

 

Stacie managed to talk the others into allowing Aubrey to share a tent with her. The one catch was that there had to be someone on watch at all times to check up on the two. Jesse was simply put in another tent away from Beca, where he was expected to stay. Stacie was quite satisfied with this arrangement. She let Aubrey be the little spoon and slipped her arm under the crook of the blonde’s neck while she brought her other hand up to wrap around Aubrey’s waist. She rested her chin on the crown of the other victor’s head, a self-satisfied smile stretched across Stacie’s face as she felt Aubrey’s hand slip into the one around her waist.  

 

“Why are you here?” Stacie murmured, glad to have a moment of privacy with the other woman. 

 

“I was told to come here by Coin personally, I didn’t like it but it was her direct order so I couldn’t say no without being thrown into a cell for disobedience.” 

 

“Why did she want you to come here?” 

 

“I overheard her talking about sending Jesse, I made a comment in an attempt to dissuade her.”

 

“So now she wants you dead,” Stacie groaned. 

 

“Because I stood up to her, apparently;” Aubrey sighed. 

 

“Well, that’s not going to happen, because you’re not going to be in any danger. I’ll talk to Boggs about having you stay at base camp, I’m sure he’ll agree. He probably isn’t keen on the idea of having to keep an eye on you and Jesse. One is probably enough for him.” 

 

“What if you stayed here with me?” Aubrey suggested, hopefully. 

 

“I can’t, they need me,” Aubrey groaned but acquiesced. “Fine, but I expect you to come back to this tent every night, got it?”

 

“Heard,” Stacie chuckled. Pulling Aubrey tighter, the pair shifted a little bit before closing their eyes to go to sleep. 

 

 

The next couple of days were filled with the type of ease people were unaccustomed to in a warzone. Aubrey and Stacie woke up together, with smiles on their faces and lazy morning kisses. Aubrey seemed to be getting better as well as more memories were made, burying the old ones. Her hands twitched but stayed far away from Stacie’s throat. 

 

The star squad was filled with relative laughter and banter as the soldiers mixed with the victors. Some of the conversations were easy, such as what was life like in everyone’s respective district. Others were harder, like their experiences in the games. Stacie, for what it’s worth, didn’t pay much mind to public opinion, but there were plenty of questions about the secrets she uncovered during her forced trysts in the Capitol. The only reason Stacie clammed up sometimes was because of the faraway look Aubrey got in her eyes when the matter was discussed. Eventually, she simply refused to answer, her eyes never leaving the face of her love until the questions stopped. 

 

...

 

It was on a particularly arduous day for Aubrey, where the blonde stayed back at camp, that everything went wrong. Stacie left with the group to film the triggering of a pod. Beca lined up her shot with a bow and let fly, triggering a small nest of tracker jackers. They all cheered when it went off, smiling and waving for the camera, their faces quickly changed to fear when the ground exploded underneath Boggs, blowing his legs off. 

 

 

The next series of events were still a shock for Stacie. Jesse snapped, the soldiers fought back, a wave of black goo swept over the square, and Stacie was rushing into a home and climbing a series of steps to escape it. Beca claimed the holo despite Sergeant Jackson’s protests, and they were suddenly on a mission to assassinate Snow. Something that Stacie knew was utter bullshit, but she also would be lying if she said she didn’t want a crack at the old man herself. So they all went along with it and followed Beca back, away from camp. Away from Aubrey. 

 

At some point, they were declared dead, and Stacie wondered what Aubrey was doing. How she was feeling. Whether the blonde had seen the peacekeepers blow up the home that Stacie, Beca, and co. had been reported last. The peacekeepers were going to have a nasty shock when their bodies were nowhere to be found. 

 

To escape the home, they all went into the service tunnel, where one of the cameramen, Pollux, led them through. Jesse had smiled kindly at the man and said that the avox was the most useful one of them, a kind statement that was almost reticent of the boy’s former self. Something that Stacie made note of, maybe Jesse was improving after all. 

 

The squad marched through the service tunnels, anxiously awaiting Snow’s revelation that they were alive. 

 

 

The service tunnels were dark and odorous. They passed by streams of sewage and ducked behind corners when peacekeeper trucks moved through. They sometimes manage to claim another abandoned house, where they found food stashed throughout. Sometimes they wound up in a dark corner of the service tunnel, waiting for the right time to move. It was one of those times when Jesse started acting strange. He started to whisper Beca’s name, the sound echoed through the tunnels with a hiss. Beca was up and shaking, a feeling of foreboding came over them all. 

 

“Jesse?” Beca inquired, prodding the boy. 

 

Jesse sprung to his feet, eyes wide and arms trembling. “We have to go, now.” He pushed Beca forward and began to nudge the others awake, herding them frantically in one direction. “Hurry, before they get here.” 

 

“Jesse, who’s they?” Benji inquired. 

 

“No time, hurry up;” Jesse shoved Benji after the others, pressing a gun into the other victor’s hands. 

 

 

They were all scrambling through the tunnels away from the voices when whatever it was, caught up to them. A pack of large lizard men sprung from the shadows screaming and reeking of a mixture of blood and roses. Beca seemed to be gagging as she ran, firing off rounds at the beasts when she could. Stacie sprinted after the smaller brunette, tossing small grenades towards the back of the lizard cluster. 

Explosions shook the tunnels as the grenades went off. Peacekeepers peeled into the area in trucks, guns blazing, but the mutts didn’t seem to care. They tore through the other Leeg girl and Sergeant Jackson upon their exit. At some point one of the camera crew got caught in a pod that shot out a blinding beam of light, stripping the flesh from the man’s body. Jesse herded their avox guide along, pushing the man away from the chaos vigorously. 

 

They were in a tunnel filled with water, a ladder was in the center. The avox scrambled up, followed by Benji. Cynthia Rose threw an ax at one of the lizard monsters as it attempted to pull Benji down. Jesse was wrestling with a particularly fierce lizard, while Stacie shot at the mutts indiscriminately. Stacie caught a particularly vicious one that had sprung at Cynthia Rose from behind. Cynthia Rose turned to thank her, but suddenly Stacie was thrown into the water. She felt claws rake along her back, as water began to fill her lungs. 

 

Just as quickly as the pressure was there, it was gone. Stacie was back on her feet spluttering as Cynthia Rose stood above her, hacking at the surrounding reptiles. Jesse was scrambling up the latter after Beca, the remainder of the camera crew was nowhere to be seen. Most likely up top with Beca. “Cynthia Rose, go, I’m right behind you;” Stacie directed. Grabbing one of the axes, Stacie began hacking at the beasts as Cynthia Rose started up the ladder. There were four lizards left, all of them seemed to ignore the wounds inflicted on them. Stacie could feel her body growing weaker, whether from blood loss or the actual motions of the fight she had no clue. Once Cynthia Rose was up the ladder, Stacie began to climb, every once in a while slashing with the ax at extended claws. 

 

Stacie made it halfway up the ladder when one of the lizards made a wild leap and bit into her ankle. She let out a sharp cry as she was dragged down the ladder, landing with a splash. She frantically tried to get back up again, but she wasn’t able to. “Beca!” She called, desperate for any aid. Plucking up the ax, she managed to behead one of the creatures in one swipe before parrying another taloned slash. She quickly dealt a death blow to the creature’s solar plexus, but the ax got lodged in the bone. Stacie loosened her grasp on the ax and switched to her one knife. It wasn’t big, but it would have to do. 


“Beca!” She called again. She heard a beeping and a sudden splash, the flashing of red light. Stacie swiped at the next claw, as the image caught up to her. Flashing red light, no help. ``The Holo self destructs.”

Chapter Text

 

Stacie’s eyes widened as she began sprinting, the lizards hot on her trail. “Beca!” Stacie shouted, one more time, but no answer came. How long until it blows? The mutts were gaining on her as she tried to retrace her steps. Avoiding the meat grinder, and the flashing pod that stripped the skin from their camera man’s body. It occurred to her that she might get captured by the Capitol, which was as good as dead, but at the moment she had to get as far away from the mutts as possible. 

 

Stacie was running furiously when she heard it. “ Stacie,” The lizards had taken up her name. Her adrenaline spiked and she was streaking through the service tunnels, searching for any exit. “I’ll always come back to you,” that was her promise to Aubrey. Stacie put in another burst of speed as she felt the tunnel shake. The holo had a delayed set-off, apparently, there had been a glitch in the design. If she ever saw Beca again, she was going to have a word with the brunette for giving her up for dead. 

 

“Stacie?” 

 

A shaft of light appeared from above, quite a distance away. The voice sounded almost like Aubrey’s? Stacie saw a flash of blonde hair from afar, her eyes widened in realization as the blonde raised a gun. Beside Aubrey was Chloe, holding a trident, a gun strapped to her back. “Chloe, cover me,” Aubrey said. 

 

“Aubrey, don’t;” Stacie protested, but the Blonde slid down the ladder and spun about running in Stacie’s direction. Stacie had apparently slowed down at that moment because one of the lizards managed to pin her to the ground. Her chin dug into the cement as the lizard reared up to undoubtedly take a chunk out of Stacie’s shoulder. The brunette braced herself for the feeling of being torn apart but was surprised when it didn’t come. Instead, she saw Aubrey dancing amongst the beasts, a sword in hand. The sword seemed to have Lily’s signature touch. 

 

Aubrey dodged in and out of oncoming attacks. Hacking off limbs and heads with ease. Stacie watched her in awe, a swell of pride overtaking her. When Aubrey finished, the blonde gently ushered a bloody and injured Stacie up the ladder where the brunette promptly collapsed. “Are you alright? You’re bleeding;” Aubrey hovered over the brunette hesitantly. 

 

“How did you find me?” Stacie gasped out. 

 

“I followed the sound of your name,” Aubrey answered. The blonde turned the brunette over to get a look at the girl’s back. “Shirt off,” Aubrey demanded. 

 

“This is not the context in which I imagined hearing those words,” Stacie grumbled, shedding her shirt nonetheless. 

 

“I have a universal antidote in my thigh pocket. It should help with most infections.” 

 

“Why didn’t you just stay in the lab with Lily;” Aubrey sighed. Stacie felt the other woman rummage through her pocket before pulling out the tube of antidote. “Stacie, this is not nearly enough to disinfect these claw marks.” 

 

“We can just get back to camp then, they can fix me up there.”

 

“Well, that’ll be hard;” Chloe remarked, “Sorry Stace, but we don’t even know where the rebels are anymore.”

 

“We’re on our own,” Aubrey murmured. Stacie sagged into the ground with a groan. 

 

 

The trio trudged through the Capitol, the citizens were being herded into the city’s center, so the three women raided the closets of the Capitol citizens to blend in. They threw on wigs, and silk blouses paired with heels and skirts, hiding their weapons under jackets or ponchos. They climbed down into the service tunnels to make it past the checkpoint, Aubrey helped support Stacie when needed. The wounds that stretched along her back had begun to burn and bleed endlessly. The self-made coagulant in Stacie’s coat seemed to do just enough to keep the brunette alive. 

 

Chloe had arrived in another transfer ship two days after the Beca and co had been separated from the rebel camp. Chloe wanted to go in search of Beca when reports came back that bodies were never found. Aubrey had helped Chloe sneak out of camp in the hopes of finding their girlfriends. They had been sleeping in an abandoned home when Aubrey had begun to murmur Beca's name in her sleep. Chloe had awoken the blonde then, curious. Just like Jesse, Aubrey had a sense of where the mutts were. The girls decided that wherever the mutts were, that's where Beca and Stacie would be. They had reached Stacie right in the nick of time, which the brunette was endlessly thankful for. Aubrey had given her a stern talking to about playing hero, but they had kissed in relief, settling down for the night in each other's arms. Determined to make it deeper into the capitol the next day. 

 

They made it to the city center along with the press of the crowd. They were avoiding the peacekeepers that were checking the faces of passersby. One man that looked minutely similar to Jesse was beaten to a pulp by the rest of the Capitol citizens. Children were being passed to the front. Stacie clutched Aubrey’s hand while Chloe brought up the rear. They had found contacts for the ginger, to hide her distinctively blue eyes. 

 

“They have DNA scanners,” Aubrey hissed. Stacie looked up, her vision was blurring around the edges from the constant motion. Her breath was coming harder. Aubrey seemed to notice, instantly wrapping Stacie’s arm over her shoulder to support more of the girl’s weight. “We need to get out of here, they might-” 

 

The sound of gunfire interrupted Aubrey as the people in the crowd to the left dropped to the ground. Blood leaking into the streets and screams began to echo around them. “Rebels!” Chloe shouted, pushing the couple forward. Stacie tried to hobble along as quickly as she could. They were just about to make it to a building when the ground opened up beneath them, slanting downwards towards a shredder. Aubrey threw Stacie with all her might towards the nearest lamppost as the blonde began sliding backward. 

 

Stacie’s eyes widened as her arms wrapped around the pole and Aubrey started to fall back into the shredder. “Aubrey!” She screamed, reaching out towards the girl. The blonde seemed to fall backward in slow motion for a second before Chloe exclaimed an excited: “Gotcha”, the ginger’s hand fastened around the blonde’s. Chloe had pulled her trident out and wedged it between the grates of a gutter. The collapsable trident had expanded in the grating, holding the pair up. “Thanks,” Aubrey exhaled in relief. 

 

“What are best friends for,” Chloe grunted. 

 

The battle raged around them, rebel tanks rolled in, aiming their weapons at the fleeing Capitol citizens. “You don’t think they’ll spare us, do you?” Chloe said hopefully. 

 

Stacie watched as a woman was gunned down, followed by her child. “No, I don’t think so,” Stacie replied. 

 

“Shit,” Chloe groaned. “Aubrey, start climbing.” 

 

“Got it,” Aubrey pulled herself up Chloe’s body, switching her grip to the redhead’s leg so the other victor could grab onto her trident with both hands. Stacie couldn’t help being impressed with both girl’s upper body strength. When Aubrey made it into an alcove, she quickly helped Chloe up. Reluctantly, Chloe let the trident drop through the gutter. Stacie managed to scoot up the pole and onto solid ground, the adrenaline from their latest obstacle overriding the pain of her wounds. “Let’s go,” Stacie urged. 

 

The three girls sprinted towards the City center, and away from the encroaching rebels. “What if we pulled off our disguises?” Chloe suggested. 

 

“They’ll shoot us from a distance before we get a chance,” Aubrey answered. 

 

“If they scan our DNA and figure out who we are, we’re dead anyway;” Stacie countered. 

 

“We need to-” 

 

Bang. 

 

Stacie stumbled as pain flared in her leg. She collapsed to the ground with a gasp, Aubrey began to rush forward but Peacekeepers appeared out of nowhere, wrapping their arms around the older girl. “Aubrey!” Stacie cried out, reaching for her gun she aimed blearily but she hesitated, unable to take the shot when Aubrey could be hit. 

 

“Don’t let them take me again, Stacie, please;” the blonde pleaded. 

 

“Aubrey!” Chloe drew her gun and started to aim. 

 

“Chloe, remember what we promised each other!” Aubrey shouted. 

 

Promised each other? Stacie watched as Chloe lined up her shot, eyes widening in realization. “No!” Stacie mustered up the strength to kick one of Chloe’s legs, toppling the other girl. The shot missed and the bullet hit the wall instead, Aubrey let out a final wail as the peacekeepers pulled her through a doorway and out of sight. 

 

“What the fuck Stacie,” Chloe roared, turning on the brunette. 

 

“I wasn’t going to let you kill her,” Stacie groaned. Her head was growing foggy, the blood was pooling around her, a mixture of Capitol citizens and her own. “You need a tourniquet,” Chloe sighed. Chloe began binding up Stacie’s leg, adding the remainder of the coagulant to Stacie’s wound. “If they do anything to her if this invasion doesn’t end up the way we want and they have her, I’ll never forgive you;” Chloe growled.

 

“If they have her, and the war isn’t over after today, I’m not leaving here alive without her;” Stacie replied stubbornly. “Now let's get to the President’s mansion and kill the bastard.” 

 

Chloe gave Stacie a nod and helped support her, guns at the ready. 

 

 

They were at the gates, hundreds of children were gathered in a herd. The adult citizens milled about outside the gates. Snow had begun to fall, the chill turning cheeks rosy and fingers blue. Stacie and Chloe struggled to get closer, their position in the middle of the crowd slowly shifted to the front. The sounds of explosions and gunfire in the distance gave them a mixture of hope and foreboding. 

 

The gunfire drew nearer and the crowd shifted restlessly, a hovercraft appeared above them all with the Capitol insignia glowing. Stacie and Chloe looked up anxiously, unsure of what was about to occur. Small parachutes floated down, Stacie gasped as she recognized the sponsor parachutes that used to symbolize hope in the arena. The gifts floated down amongst the children who pointed upwards in wonder. The guards seemed to ignore the event, keeping their eyes trained on the surging crowd. Screams started up from the back, Stacie and Chloe were shoved forward. The force of the panic separated the two, leaving Stacie to limp on her own. “Stacie?” Chloe called out. 

 

“Chloe?” Stacie called back, using her height to see over the crowd. 

 

“Chloe?” Beca’s voice sounded from the left. Stacie turned in surprise, just as the sponsor gifts exploded. 

 

“The children!” Stacie heard Chloe cry out. The redhead sprinted towards the children, past the guards that laid prone on the ground in surprise. Stacie stumbled after her, searching herself for any chemicals that could help staunch the bleeding. “Chloe!” Beca shouted, terror evident in the shorter girl’s voice. “Beca?” Chloe stood up, looking for her girlfriend. Stacie made it to the gates, a spray of instant freeze in her hand. Her mind was rattling with chemical formulas and medical facts, anything to help save some of the children. Beca made it to the gate, running faster than Stacie could hobble, dashing towards the redhead with wide eyes. 

 

“Beca!” Chloe exclaimed in excited surprise. Stacie saw Beca rushing towards Chloe, she saw some of the other gifts, still intact. Her mind caught up in an instant, she took an instinctual step back, the warning on her lips when the second round of bombs exploded. 

 

 

She was in a sea of fire. Aubrey stood before her, begging her to stay but something told her it was time to go. The blonde’s words washed over her, she felt a burning sensation all over her body. Her eyes shut tight as she screamed until her throat ran raw. She was floating in a sea of fire, watching as a Mockingjay swooped above her. Telling her to fly. She tried to rise, and flee away from the burning, but she didn’t have wings. She couldn’t fly. When she looked down, she saw green eyes and blonde hair. A hand reaching out. 

 

“Come back to me,” the blonde apparition said. 

 

She looked towards the sky one more time, the flapping of the mockingjays above her, the sound of her sister’s laughter emanating from open beaks. “Come with us,” They seemed to cry. 

 

Stacie took the hand. 

 

 

Stacie awoke to familiar hospital fluorescents and a hand clutching hers. Her body ached and burned, the discomfort almost overwhelming. Ahead of blonde hair rested on the space of her bed, lips pressed to their tangled fingers. Aubrey. 

 

“Aubrey,” Stacie tried to say, but the words burned and came out stunted. The girl in question propped her head up, green eyes wide. “You’re awake!” Aubrey exclaimed, she pressed a button beside the bed and pressed a firm kiss to their entwined hands. “You scared the crap out of me,” Aubrey murmured. 

 

“What -” Stacie tried to speak once more but Aubrey shushed her. 

 

“The flames got into your lungs, you’ll be on the mend for some time. The bombs went off twice, the children were the last straw for the Capitol citizens, who instantly gave up. Snow has been captured and is being held by the rebels in the Capitol. You’re in the remake center right now, they’re using it as a hospital at the moment since the actual hospital is overflowing.”

 

“Beca?” Stacie asked. 

 

“She was hit by the bombs too. They got her arm, she’s being fitted for a prosthetic. She hasn’t woken up yet, though. I don’t know what she’s going to do when she does.” 

 

Stacie gave Aubrey a questioning look, scowling when the blonde pursed her lips and let the silence persist for the moment. Stacie opened her mouth to ask for more details but Aubrey beat her to it. 

 

“Chloe didn’t make it.” The blonde choked out, tears poured down the blonde’s cheeks. Stacie made a move to wipe them away but the movement hurt. “She was right there with the bombs, and she’s gone. Benji is too. Cynthia Rose had the side of her head burnt off and is currently suffering from acute brain damage, she’s in a coma still.”

 

“How -” 

 

“I don’t know how you’re alive, they expected you to die during surgery but you didn’t. You flatlined a couple of times but you always came back.” 

 

“Always,” Stacie croaked, her hand tightened around Aubrey’s as the couple smiled at each other for what felt like the first time all over again. 

 

 

Stacie’s recovery was touch and go for some time. Because of the placement of the gunshot, Stacie lost the leg. After she was fitted out with a prosthetic, she was subjected to physical therapy for the following months. Beca woke up three weeks later to the worst news of her life. Jesse stood by her the entire time, helping her through it to the best of his ability. Emily was notably absent. When Stacie asked about it, Aubrey explained that the girl had been granted medical leave to go to aid in civilian casualties. The girl had been present for the bombs as well, she was nowhere to be seen, presumed dead from the same explosion that killed Chloe. 

 

Aubrey was never far from Stacie’s side from that point forward, both women sharing their grief in the private moments of the night. Eventually, they were all called in by Coin. Stacie and Aubrey took their places at the table, hands linked. Stacie’s skin looked patchy from all the skin grafts they had to do, but Aubrey still looked at her like she was the most beautiful person she had ever seen. Out of respect for Beca, Stacie and Aubrey toned down their PDA, hyper-aware of Chloe’s absence. 

 

A chair stood empty beside Beca, no one daring to fill it. 

 

Stacie was surprised upon waking to find out how many of the victors had been assassinated throughout the war. The only remaining victors were in the room. Beca, Jesse, Jessica, Fat Amy, Lily, Donald, her, and Aubrey. Cynthia Rose remained in a coma, her brain showing no activity. Stacie awaited Cynthia Rose’s girlfriend, Denise’s, decision anxiously. Unsure of what she wanted for her brain-dead friend. Denise sat in her place. 

 

“I called you today concerning a decision. No one may abstain,” Coin explained. 

 

“The war is over, but our side has suffered some considerable losses,” the president looked at Beca upon those words, before her gaze flickered away. “In honor of war reparations, I have come up with a compromise. To avoid further bloodshed, and any future retribution, I have proposed that we hold one more symbolic Hunger Games.” 

 

The members of the table stiffened, all of them looking at one another anxiously. “The children of the Capitol will fight in these games, twenty-four of them will be selected as tributes in one last reaping.” 

 

“No,” Jesse exclaimed. “We can’t do this. We’d just be repeating the same pattern, this isn’t reparations, this is revenge. I vote no, and you should too.” 

 

“I vote no as well,” Donald said. His hand tightened around Lily’s when he said it. “Yes for me, I watched too many of my friends die, I’d like to see them get a taste of their own medicine;” Lily stated. She settled an apologetic hand on Donald’s shoulder, the man let out a sigh but still tucked the woman’s hand in his. 

 

“Stacie?” Coin turned to the brunette. She had been idly playing with Aubrey’s fingers, wondering what to do. “I need time to think about it,” Stacie murmured. 

 

“I vote yes,” Beca growled, her arms crossed in front of her, glaring at the Coin. “For Chloe,” Beca added the last part, looking at Aubrey expectantly. “I vote no, I don’t think it’s going to solve any of our problems, and Chloe would never have wanted more children to die;” Aubrey said resolutely. Beca glared daggers at Aubrey. “If you knew her at all, you would vote yes;” Beca spat. 

 

“She was my best friend, I knew her years longer than you, she never would have wanted this;” Aubrey retorted. 

 

“I vote no,” Jessica broke in. “I never want to see another Hunger Games again, the violence needs to stop here.” 

 

“I disagree, what they did to us is unforgivable. I say let them feel the fear they gave us;” Denise grunted. The girl’s head was focused on the table, uncomfortably. “They need to pay for what they did to CR.” 

 

“Fat Amy?” Coin turned to the blonde from District 12, expectantly. Fat Amy was staring at Beca, a silent communication passed between them. They quickly reached a resolution, “Are you sure, Shawshank?” 

 

Beca nodded. 

 

“I vote yes,” Fat Amy sighed. “For the shorty over here.” 

 

“Amy,” Jesse started to protest, but the older woman waved him off. “She’s lost the most in this, I’m not begrudging her final say.” 

 

“Stacie, we’re back to you, have you made up your mind yet?” Coin inquired. 

 

Stacie looked from one person to the next. Donald shook his head imperceptibly while Lily stared her down. She owed them both so much, but even they were on opposite sides of this. She knew what Beca wanted, and she knew what Jesse wanted. Fat Amy seemed to only pay attention to what Beca wanted. Jessica tapped her fingers on the table anxiously awaiting the verdict. Each tap a name in Stacie’s mind. 

 

Artie, Jolene, Kira, Benji, CR, Chloe. Artie, Jolene, Kira, Benji, CR, Chloe. 

 

Aubrey took her hand and gave it a subtle squeeze. “Whatever you choose,” She murmured. Stacie took a deep breath, her eyes settling on Denise. The woman’s eyes were filled with bitter rage, a rage that would undoubtedly consume her. Would CR want that? Would she vote yes, would voting yes help anything? Stacie wondered if this is how the Hunger Games came to be. A bunch of people ravaged by war, deciding the fate of those around them out of anger. The need for retribution, all-consuming. She didn’t think another Hunger Games would solve anything. Only repeat the anger, the cycle of depraved violence. 

 

She looked at Beca one more time, the way the girl’s eyes had flickered to Coin. The President smirked, her fingers pressed together as she watched Stacie’s mind work. The woman’s eyes were grey and lifeless, except for something hidden in its depths. Something she didn’t like. Snow. She knew that look anywhere, it just took her some time to realize it. Coin was planning something, a repeat of the cycle. Stacie turned to Beca, their eyes meeting. 

 

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Stacie said pointedly. Beca nodded. 

 

 

The vote concluded with a 5/4 vote of Yes. President Coin had packed up her papers with a smile and gone to deliver the news. Aubrey waited patiently for Stacie to rise before the couple strolled out the door. “There isn’t going to be another Hunger Games, is there?” Aubrey hummed once they were back in their private room. 

 

“I don’t think so, Beca needed Coin to win this one.” 

 

“I wonder why,” Aubrey pondered the question for a moment before settling in bed with Stacie. The brunette settled her head on Aubrey’s shoulder and shut her eyes, familiarizing herself with the other woman’s heartbeat. 

 

“We’re together, we managed to survive;” Stacie remarked. 

 

“You made me a promise, and you somehow managed to keep it.” 

 

“For you? Of course ,” Stacie murmured. Aubrey settled a kiss on the crown of her head. “When this is all over, and Snow’s been executed. Would you marry me?” Aubrey’s question is addressed to the ceiling, so she doesn’t see the smile that stretched across Stacie’s face. 

 

“Yes, I would love to marry you;” Stacie exclaimed. The two kissed then, appreciating the warmth from the embrace, enveloped in their own private cocoon of blankets. Eventually, the pair got lost in each other, shedding clothes and barriers as they celebrated their planned nuptials. 

 

 

The day was warm, the sea breeze whipped the hair into Stacie’s face as she stood awkwardly at the altar. She wore a white dress and held a bouquet. The music played softly on a piano as the small cluster of guests milled about. Aubrey and she had settled in District 4, unwilling to remain in a place where so many ghosts could haunt them. This District reminded Aubrey of her best friend, it made the blonde feel closer to the redhead and Stacie wasn’t going to begrudge her that. 

 

Donald and Lily had gotten married two weeks after Snow’s execution. The event had been utter chaos since Beca had duly targeted Coin instead of her official target. Jesse managed to make it to the girl, stopping her from consuming the nightlock pill located on her shoulder. The shorter girl had been contained in the tribute building and kept under careful surveillance. Stacie tried to visit but she was often turned away. 

 

It was several months when things returned to normal and Beca was released to District 12 where she was left to mourn her family. Her father visited sometimes along with Emily’s mom, but otherwise, she was left alone. Stacie made sure an invitation was delivered to Beca’s door, even though she doubted whether the girl would manage to make it. Surprisingly, she did. With Jesse in tow, the two best friends had decided to live together in a platonic partnership. Jesse had begun to see a girl casually, but he never once made Beca feel like a third wheel. 

 

Denise was present, she had a ring made out of CR’s ashes, a ring she wore so Stacie could at least have some part of one of her best friends present. Denise stood in for CR as Stacie’s best man, while Beca stood in place of Chloe for Aubrey’s maid of honor. The wedding was on the beach, as close to the shore as they could get. The blue mimicked the color of Chloe’s eyes that day, something that Beca seemed to pick up if the tears in her eyes had anything to say about it. 

 

“Is she coming?” Fat Amy exclaimed impatiently. The rest of the wedding guests laughed as they all looked towards the white tent that Aubrey was supposed to exit from. The music changed to a slower tune, suddenly, mixing perfectly with the roll of the waves. Aubrey stepped out in a white dress, holding a bouquet in her hands. Her hair was down and curled over one shoulder, her dress was strapless, the bodice worked with lace and silk. The blonde stepped to the beat as she approached. 

 

Stacie surveyed her soon-to-be wife with equal parts excitement and nerves. She had never seen someone so beautiful in her life. When Aubrey reached her, Stacie couldn’t help the words that fell out of her mouth. “God you’re beautiful;” Stacie remarked. The wedding goer’s laughed as Aubrey beamed back at her. 

 

“You look amazing Stacie,” the blonde replied warmly. Stacie opened her mouth to make a suggestive comment but thought better of it. “Let’s get this started, I want to be your wife already.” 

 

The marriage official stepped up to begin the ceremony. Stacie and Aubrey stared at each other all the while, repeating the necessary words and itching to kiss one another every other moment. The audience seemed to fade away as the moment dragged on. 

 

“Aubrey Posen, you made being a victor bearable, you gave me something to fight for, you gave me love and acceptance. Most of all, you gave me a moment of forever in this infinite world. So this is my promise to spend every single day that I continue to breathe, making you happy. We’ve been through so much and I know that every painful second was worth it, because here we are. In our, other life, our maybe someday. I love you, and I’ll keep loving you until the end of time itself. Every life, every moment, every painful part of this life and the next. I promise to love you and come back to you every single time. I love you, and I can’t wait  to be your wife.” 

 

“I love you too,” Aubrey stammered, her eyes were filled with tears when she moved her hand to link it with Stacie’s. 

 

“I don’t want to go a single day without you ever again. You pulled me out of my darkest moments, you’re my greatest love, and my best friend. You told me a long time ago to stop fighting us, and you were right. Because we’re stronger together than we are when we’re apart. You showed me there was something worth fighting for when I thought I was lost. You were my flashlight in the dark, the sun to my universe. You never gave up on me, and god I don’t think I could ever give up on you. We come back to each other because we belong together and you’re the only one I’ll ever love. Thank you for standing by me, I can’t wait to be yours forever and always.” 

 

“Forever and always,” Stacie repeated. The wedding official pronounced them wife and wife as their friends cheered them on. Stacie leaned in at the same time Aubrey did, their lips met in the middle and the world melted away. All she felt was Aubrey, Aubrey, and their small piece of forever and always.

Chapter Text

Stacie awoke suddenly that morning. Her leg felt odd, almost tingly? She massaged it curiously and pushed the covers off of herself to reach for her journal. She had been cataloging her dreams in the journal for the past several months. The messages from the psychics had begun to pour in and she was organizing the results before reviewing them to their fullest extent. The last three letters were due later that week, which meant that she could invite Beca over to help with research. So far, she had the envelopes organized by date of arrival, and alphabet. 

 

The brunette scrawled a note on the corner of the page, the words ‘Hunger Games’ were written in big bold letters. A curious development that she was particularly interested in. She hadn’t read or watched a single Hunger Games source in months, but the dreams kept occurring in a continuous fashion. She had gotten married to the mysterious blonde girl in the dream, the woman had brilliant green eyes and wonderfully pouty lips, but for the life of her, Stacie couldn’t remember the name. 

 

Ding Dong!

 

Stacie started in surprise and tossed her book onto her bedside table. She quickly grabbed a shirt and some shorts to throw on before making her way to the door of her home where Beca stood, clutching her laptop bag. “Hey!” Stacie greeted her friend. Beca waved sheepishly before shuffling in. Stacie shut the door behind her and turned to watch the shorter brunette move through her apartment. 

 

“Alright, you said you wanted to do more background research today?” Beca sighed.

 

“Yeah, I’ve pulled up Descartes’ Theory of Ideas and some articles on parallel universes. I want you to google red thread legends and reincarnation testimonies;” Stacie rattled off idly. 

 

“And, this helps how?” Beca inquired.

 

All good experiments need good background research Beca;” Stacie replied. The leggy brunette grabbed her laptop and began to read the articles she had opened the previous day. “Stacie, I still don’t know how this is a proper experiment, doesn’t it need to be repeatable or something. I know you’re the science nerd here, but I at least remember Ms. Samuels telling us that much in ninth grade.” 

 

“Ms. Samuels sucked, she was so boring,” Stacie scoffed. 

 

“Stacie, focus, how is this repeatable?” 

 

“Anyone can pay a psychic to draw a picture, anyone can do it, and anyone can look up these articles. If a large enough percentage hold in common features, then there might be some substance to the prophecy.”

“Stacie, you paid a janky medium $35 for a reading, it’s not like you went to the Oracle of Delphi;” Beca ridiculed. 

 

“Beca, can you please just read, I have to know okay? The dreams are getting worse. I see her every night, and the plot is getting more and more intricate.” 

 

“Maybe this is the Universe’s way of telling you to take up writing, why does it have to be a be all end all love of your life?” 

 

“Beca, just read!” Stacie snapped. The taller brunette reached an arm over and gripped the top of her friend’s head, turning it with force towards the glowing laptop monitor. “Read, and stop asking questions. Let me just research before we look at experiment results.” 

 

“Fine, I’m just saying, it’s not like we can forcefully repeat the mystery dream portion of your experiment.” 

 

 

The two girls pored over various articles for several hours before Beca left for work, leaving Stacie curled up on her floor with a pouch of caprisun. If Stacie was being fair, Beca had a point. The first part of the experiment wasn’t repeatable. She couldn’t very well induce a soulmate dream in the next person, she could put them to sleep but what they dreamt about was up to that person’s brain. 

 

Stacie let out a disgruntled groan and shut her laptop loudly, fingers tapped impatiently on the top for a moment before she placed the computer on the nearest table and walked out of the room. Wandering down the hall, she entered her bedroom and grabbed the journal she had kept. There were multiple stories sprinkled throughout. Some stories seemed to carry on, night to night, while others appeared randomly, breaking up the consistent stream of violence that her latest dream plots provided. Stacie really hoped that the Hunger Games plot was wrapped up, now that she had gotten married to the mysterious blonde. 

 

If she ever saw a lizard man again, she was going to scream. 

 

 

The last drawings arrived in manila envelopes three days later, as expected. Stacie quickly sorted them and called Beca, excited to get the other girl’s assistance. 

 

“Why am I here again?” Beca groaned, Stacie had pulled the brunette out of a nap by knocking on the DJ’s door until Beca gave in. 

 

“You need to help me sort facial features,” Stacie answered. 

 

“Stacie, you’re facing blind. I’ll be doing all the work, can’t you get CR on this?” 

 

“CR has a date with Denise today,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

“Wasn’t that her excuse last week?” Beca grumbled. 

 

“She has date night every week on the same day, it just so happens that it's also my night off during the week. So you’ll survive.”

 

Beca let out a pitiful whine but settled down into an empty chair, ready to work. Stacie had divided the envelopes, all five hundred of them, into two separate piles. One for her, and one for Beca. They were supposed to sort them by similar features, ethnicity, gender, eye color, nose type, freckles or no freckles, chin dimple, hair color, etc. There would also be pile differentiations between drawings with color, and drawings without color. 

 

It wasn’t the hardest work ever once Stacie got into a rhythm, she wasn’t assessing the entire face for familiarity at that point, but for distinct features. She was vaguely disappointed to see so many men mixed in, she wasn’t opposed to sleeping with men, but they definitely weren’t the girl in her dream. 

 

 A separate pile of predictions was made for letters without images. The readings suggested names and suggestions of where Stacie was likely to meet the mystery girl. The pair had switched to the letters once they grew tired of all the drawings. Now they simply skimmed through the letters to check the gender. Any that mentioned women, Stacie kept. All those that mentioned men, were tossed in a pile on a chair. 

 

“This one says Brayan?” Beca scoffed. Beca handed Stacie the letter with a chuckle. 

 

“Brayan, Doctor, Virgo, and oh no…” Stacie continued to read over the letter, amusement only growing. “He’ll visit your mom, Stacie;” Beca teased. 

 

“Nope, absolutely not;” Stacie grimaced and tossed the letter onto the men’s pile. “What about this one?” Stacie took the next piece of paper handed to her by Beca. On the page was a woman with long blonde hair and pouty lips. Green eyes shone back at her from the page as an image appeared in Stacie’s head. 

 

White dress, bouquet, a sandy beach with Beca standing beside the blonde. Denise on Stacie’s left. Soft words and a warm moment as the sun slowly dipped below the water’s edge, shattering into a million lights on the ocean surface. 

 

That’s her. Stacie flipped the page over to read the words, “Alison, Alicia, Andrea, Anna, Ashley Aria, Ariana, Aubrey, Audrey. Older than you. Green eyes. Worrier, perfectionist, all work and no play. 3 years.” 

 

Stacie excitedly grabbed a magnet from the box she had prepared and placed the page on the fridge. Her first recognizable reading. “That’s her?” Beca observed. The girl peered at the image critically, lips pursed. “I have to admit, she’s hot.”

 

“I know, right?” Stacie grinned. 

 

“So, I’m guessing you want me to look for similar drawings?” Beca guessed. 

 

“Just keep sorting, for now, we can check the closest pile later. Was there anything else in the envelope you found it in?” 

 

Beca turned around to check. Stacie heard the sound of the envelope tearing and the unfurling of more paper. “Yeah, it’s another girl.” Beca passed the taller brunette the page, confusion evident in her expression. “She’s a redhead?” Beca exclaimed. Stacie took the new drawing and stared at it in surprise. The ginger had brilliant blue eyes and a megawatt smile, she was gorgeous as well, but Stacie knew the blonde was the one in her dreams. Suddenly, a memory returned. 

 

Beca sat beside a beaming redhead, hands clasped, both girls looked at each other as though they meant the world to one another. 

 

“I think this one is for you,” Stacie mumbled. She handed the drawing back to Beca who took it with further befuddlement. “I’ve never seen this girl in my life;” Beca stated, she tried to hand Stacie back the drawing but the girl wouldn’t take it.

 

“She’s your soulmate, you can put her on the freezer door. Congrats Beca, you’re our second test subject!” 

 

“Wait, what?” 

 

“I’ve seen her in my dreams, she’s always with you. You’re very happy together,” Stacie grinned. “You’re absolutely adorable together.”

 

“I don’t even know this person, Stacie. How can I be happy with someone that I’ve never met?” 

 

“You will, I’m sure of it. If I meet the blonde, I’m sure you and red will be introduced.” 

 

“You’re making about as much sense as Fat Amy, Stace;” Beca griped. 

 

Stacie shrugged and ignored her friend’s protests in favor of pulling out her computer once more. “I need to send an email in your name for your soulmate now, we have our second trial.” 

 

“Stacie, with what money?” Beca argued. 

 

“Don’t worry about it,” Stacie flashed a wink in Beca’s direction and began typing.

Chapter Text

The AT-AT rested on its side, the rain dripped in a steady rhythm as Stacie worked. Zora Maldei stood beside her with a bucket as she attempted to get all the bolts off. The work on Braca was hard labor, especially ever since the Inquisitors had come and dropped off even more wrecks. Stacie leaned back with a sigh, wiping the rain off her face she turned to look out over the wreckage sites. TIE fighters littered the ground, or at least what was left of them. It was going to be at least two more months before it was all salvaged or scrapped. 

 

“Do you really think there was a jedi here?” Zora asked, she clutched the bucket with blue hands, her horns barely peeked out from the top of her head. “No clue, I’d rather keep my nose out of it,” Stacie replied. She quickly returned to unscrewing the bolts, anything to avoid this line of conversation. 

 

If Stacie were, to be honest, yes, she did think it was possible that jedi could be there amongst them. Was she going to say that though? No. She had been young when the purge happened and all the clones had turned on them, luckily for her, she was a bit of a tech wiz and had managed to pull the chip out of some of her master’s personal commandos. Did that stop her master from dying with their ship? No, but it did get Stacie into an escape pod in time. 

 

“I hope they caught them, my da said those Jedi were traitorous scum, I don’t want anyone like that around here.” Zora’s exclamation was met with a deep sigh from Stacie and a roll of the eyes. She wasn’t going to blow her cover over a minuscule pest like Zora. “Do you think the inquisitors got hurt during the fight, they seemed really angry.” 

 

“Zora, whatever happened doesn’t concern us and I’m sure they’re fine;” Stacie muttered. The chagrian pursed her lips and held the bucket out more, taking the queue to shut up. 

 

 

Once Stacie was able to finish up the bolts, she signaled the proper team to come and move it. The tall brunette hopped into the driver's side of the speeder while she waited for Zora to get in, impatiently tapping her fingers on the steering wheel. If things were different she’d be in the archives of the library right now on coruscant, or the Jedi temple. Maybe she’d even get to sneak away to the bar with her friends. 

 

All the padawans had scattered to the winds. Lily, Ashley, Beca, and one name that she dared not speak, lest the memories consume her. Everyone that Stacie knew from the old world had vanished during the coup. Now, all Stacie could do was hope that her friends were alive. They had all been so close to being full Jedi as well. Stacie was set to become a Jedi Consular, all the time spent studying in the library, all her questions for Master Yoda. Gone now. 

 

“Line up, scrappers!” Lars Actuine, an Ughnaught with paling skin and fuzz along his cheeks, barked. Stacie parked the speeder and climbed out, lining up with the rest of the unit, somewhat awkwardly. “The inquisitors want to check for any more hidden Jedi in our ranks, they’ll be checking everyone tomorrow. I expect all of you to be up, bright and early, for this inspection. Got it? No excuses unless you’re dead.” 

 

“Sir, what time is the inspection?” Another scrapper named Ritz Sharvaine inquired. 

 

“Why? Looking to flee?” Lars scoffed. 

 

“No sir, I was just hoping to see someone tomorrow. You gave me off.” 

 

“I did?” Lars gawped, “When did I say that?” 

 

“Last week sir,” Ritz answered awkwardly. 

 

“Well, you can’t get out of the inspection, so I suggest you cancel your plans. They didn’t tell me the time, only that they’ll be here. I suggest everyone go to sleep early tonight just in case. Dismissed.” 

 

 

Stacie shuffled around her room, stuffing items into her bag. Her heart was beating out of her chest as she searched through the room for anything else. She should have expected this, she should have run as soon as that other Jedi had. Loosening the air duct, Stacie grabbed the small chest she had stored in the air vent. The box opened without any hassle, the hinges were surprisingly well oiled after all these years. Stacie pulled out the lightsaber, assessing the weapon for any cracks or issues. Something told her she was going to need it soon. She pressed the button and smiled when the blade popped out, the feeling familiar. It almost felt like old times, almost. Stacie pressed the button again and the green light vanished, her smile with it. 

 

It was time to go. 

 

She scaled the walls, slipping from one shadow to the other. Careful not to tap into the force, lest the inquisitors track her. She had to find a ship that could slip past everyone, and for that to happen, she needed a smuggler. Luckily for her, she had heard of a certain smuggler docking in Braca earlier that week. All Stacie needed now, was to make sure that the smuggler was still on this scrap heap of a planet 

 

 

The bar was bustling with activity that night, most of the scrappers had taken their sweet liberties considering they weren’t a Jedi in hiding. Upon seeing Stacie, most of the men smiled and waved, hoping to get her attention. If there was one thing she hadn’t missed when the order fell, it was the chastity. When Stacie had arrived at Braca, she had quickly shed that rule, something the locals were more than happy to take advantage of. 

Stacie waved to the men politely but approached the table where the woman of the hour sat. “Patricia Hobart?” She inquired. Stacie kicked one of the seats before sitting on it. The chubby blonde was nursing a drink, staring at a screen with rapt attention. “Are you Patricia Hobart?” Stacie repeated, she kicked the woman’s chair for emphasis. 

 

The blonde startled and finally met Stacie’s eyes, her goggles toppled off the top of her head and over her eyes as well, as the smuggler blinked wildly. “Fat Amy, reporting for duty!”

 

“Fat Amy? You call yourself Fat Amy?” Stacie said, perturbed.

 

“Yeah, so twig bitches like you can’t do it behind my back;” The pilot grinned. Fat Amy righted the goggles with flair and winked at Stacie. “What can I do you for Legs?” 

 

“How much to get me off of Braca tonight?” 

 

“Mmm, no can do. The Inquisitors got this place locked down tight. Why? Something you need, cus I might have a little something something in the hold of my ship if you know what I mean?” 

 

“What if I have some stuff that’s super rare, before the Empire?” Stacie offered. She pulled one of the holocrons she had managed to snag from her master’s room, out of her jacket and slid it across the table. The blonde woman’s eyes widened when she saw it, her fingers wiggled excitedly as she picked it up. “Nice, it’s in perfect condition too. Where’d you find this?” 

 

“Old shipwreck,” Stacie lied. 

 

“Hmm, alright. Maybe I could sneak something out for you, just not you. Sorry legs, but human cargo is a big no with force sensitives. They’ll notice, and it’s not as though I can lie to them.” 

 

“What if I work for you as your mechanic? It’s not lying if it’s true.” 

 

Fat Amy thought for a moment, finger rubbing along her grubby chin. “Mmm, maybe, I could try it. But I’d be putting myself in a lot of danger for you, I’d need something more than this;” the blonde tossed the cube back to Stacie for emphasis. Stacie caught it with ease and stuffed it back in her coat, thinking. 

 

“Okay, I have a bit more in a chest, but it’s in my speeder. Whatever you want, it’s yours, just get me out of here. Deal?” 

 

The other woman grinned and held out a gloved hand, holes were cut into where the fingers would be, so the girl’s hands were caked in oil and grime. “Deal, if you have something like that cube, you probably have some nice stuff in that chest. How soon do you need to leave?”

 

“Does now work?” Stacie suggested hopefully. 

 

“Yeah, okay, I can do now. Let me just grab my grog to go!” Fat Amy chugged her mug down and slammed it on the table before wiping her mouth off with the back of her hand. “Onward!” She cried out theatrically. Stacie groaned, and followed after the blonde, making sure to draw her hood up over her head at the door. 

 

 

Fat Amy’s ship was painted a bright white and blue, not exactly subtle for a smuggler. “This is the She-Devil! Come on, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the crew!” Stacie followed Amy up the ramp and into the ship, the bag is thrown over her shoulder. A woman with black cropped hair and an eyepatch introduced herself as CR, and a grinning man with curly brown hair introduced himself as Benji. 

 

“Benji Applebaum, at your service!” The man greeted Stacie enthusiastically. Stacie took the offered hand with a polite smile, he was cute in a scrapper way. She wondered what planet he came from. “Alright, we have a new job to get this one off the planet before sunrise,” Fat Amy exclaimed. The woman named CR looked Stacie up and down appreciatively for a moment before turning back to her captain, “You sure know where to pick 'em, Cap, although I didn’t think she’d be your type.” 

 

“Hey, you know I’m not on the market for the women, no offense legs.”

 

“None was taken,” Stacie drawled. 

 

“No, she wants off and she’s willing to trade some high-quality items for it. So I say we go for it, it’s another adventure.” 

 

“Sure! Where to cap? I’ll punch in the coordinates while Emily and… I’ll contact Emily.” 

 

“Sounds good, let’s get ready to depart as soon as they get here.” 

 

 

Emily turned out to be an excitable brunette with hazel eyes and a megawatt smile. When she wasn’t bouncing around she was checking Stacie’s vitals for standard stats and asking a million questions. “Welcome to the Bella! Fat Amy said you’re new, right? What did you do before this? Don’t you have family here? Is it true you found an actual Holocron?” Stacie let the stream of questions pass, only chancing a lie once in a while. 

 

“Alright, everyone is on board, we’re ready for taking off!” CR announced. Stacie heard the engine rumble to life, wincing when she heard some light concerning noises. She definitely had to work on some things when they got out of here. The takeoff only took a moment, the crew had docked in a relatively unknown hanger, which meant hands could be greased to turn the other way. Stacie made her way over to the ship's quarters where she saw an array of small compartments with beds. One of the doors was open, so she peeked in, curious. In the room laid Fat Amy, dozing away. 

 

“Fat Amy?” The blonde woke up with a start at the mention of her name, eyes wide. “Aren’t you the captain? What are you doing asleep? In the regular quarters, I thought Emily mentioned a captain's quarters earlier.”

 

“Oh, uhhh, yeah. I was just, um, checking the standard bed. Y’know, gotta erm, keep the bed…” The blonde trailed off awkwardly, unable to come up with a good lie. Stacie glared at the other woman suspiciously, arms crossed until finally, the blonde broke. “I’m not the captain, okay, I’m the decoy. Jeez, stop glaring at me.” 

 

“Where’s the Captain then?” Stacie demanded. 

 

“Cockpit, can’t miss her;” Fat Amy groaned. 

 

Stacie stomped towards the cockpit, one hand on her lightsaber, ready in case she had to use it. The door slid open to reveal a bubbly redhead sitting at the pilot's seat, the other seat was empty. “Are you the captain here?” 

 

“Oh, you’re the new shipmate? No, well kind of, or not really. I’m Chloe;” The redhead held out her hand and flashed Stacie a warm smile. Stacie didn’t move her hand from its place on her belt, the lightsaber hidden by her coat. “I thought Fat Amy was the captain, but she’s not. Who’s the real captain?” 

 

“Get your hand off that lightsaber and sit down,” Someone barked from behind her. Stacie drew the saber and whirled around on instinct, as the blade arched through the air, a yellow blade met it with equal force. Stacie froze, eyes wide as her eyes met green. “Aubrey?”

 

“Stacie?” The other girl deactivated her lightsaber at the same time Stacie did, their expressions split into smiles. “You made it off Coruscant?” Stacie grinned. 

 

“You made it off that ship in the asteroid belt,” Aubrey breathed. “I thought you were dead.” 

 

Stacie laughed, “Same for you, I didn’t know any Jedi got away from the capitol.” 

 

“Me and a couple of others, Beca’s back at home. Guarding the place.”

 

“Padawan’s grown up?” Stacie teased. 

 

“Says the other padawan,” Aubrey snorted. 

 

“Can someone catch me up on what’s happening,” Chloe chimed in, she was staring at Stacie curiously? “Yeah, we need to set a course for home now. There’s no way we’re dropping her off on a random planet now.” 

 

 

The crew crowded into the area around the cockpit to hear the full story of how Aubrey and Stacie knew each other. Everyone was interested to hear about their mysterious Jedi captain’s past, especially if it included this new beautiful girl they had just picked up. 

 

“Do you want to tell it, or should I?” Aubrey inquired. 

 

“You can do it, I want to know how you survived as well,” Stacie replied, she gave the other woman a squeeze of the hand, her relief in having another Jedi in front of her after so long was palpable. Especially since it was Aubrey. 

 

“I was a padawan around the same time she was, I just took my test sooner. I had two years of being a full Jedi knight on her. I was on a sentinel track, and she was supposed to be a consular. Different ranks, different hierarchies. We met on a mission though. She was with Master Plocoon, and Yoda at the time, and I was assisting Windu. We were on Kashyyk for talks with the wookies, it was periodic but the separatists had hired some pirates to ravage their shipping lanes. We got wind of a sith in the area, so Windu and I arrived to defend the wookies. Stacie was supposed to be learning about peace talks.”

 

“Supposed to, did she learn something else?” Fat Amy chuckled. 

 

“More like someone else,” CR snorted, making note of the two women and their linked hands. 

 

“I thought Jedi weren’t allowed to love,” Emily said in confusion. 

 

“We’re not,” Stacie answered, yet her hand remained unmoving from Aubrey’s grasp. “We spent a lot of time together on Kashyyk. That shyyo scared the crap out of us, remember?”

 

Aubrey smiled in response, “You were so annoying at first.” 

 

“Sorry, haven’t changed there;” Stacie joked, Aubrey rolled her eyes in response. 

 

“I expect nothing less from you.” 

 

“So you met on Kashyyk amongst the wookies, and-” Cynthia Rose broke in, impatient to hear the rest of the story. 

 

“And nothing, I annoyed the crap out of her one day so we got into an argument. It just so happened that the separatists had caused a problem somewhere and the sith snuck in. We both weren’t working together properly, so we wound up stranded in the jungle for a bit. When we got back, we helped deal with the sith and I went back to coruscant while Aubrey was called into Alderan.”

 

“Mmhmm, sure. That’s why you two haven’t let go of one another;” CR scoffed. 

 

Stacie caught Chloe and Aubrey sharing a brief look but did not comment. She wasn’t about to grow suspicious of people that Aubrey so clearly trusted. “We got close in the jungle, we didn’t get to go on many missions together afterward, but when our paths crossed on coruscant we took some downtime together,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

CR opened her mouth to make another comment but a beeping on the ship's radar interrupted. “Uh oh, something is being picked up behind us.”

 

“What?” Aubrey asked, the older Jedi slipped her hand out of Stacie’s, eyes on the monitor. 

 

“It’s not good, it's gaining fast. You don’t think we were followed, do you?” Chloe whined. 

 

“CR, get to the guns, you too Benji. Stacie, you and I need to hide. Fat Amy, you know the drill.” Aubrey directed Emily to the medbay then grabbed Stacie’s hand and started dragging her. The pair got a peek at the back monitor with pursed lips. Three TIE fighters and a larger empire ship were drawing near from the direction of Braca. “Hopefully it’s just stormtroopers, if it’s an inquisitor there’ll be casualties.” 

 

Stacie nodded in understanding, lightsaber clasped tightly in her free hand, Aubrey’s hand in her right. “I don’t think they bought the, nothing happened in Kashyyk story, by the way;” Stacie said in an attempt at lightening the tension. 

 

“No one was supposed to know, you and I agreed on that.” 

 

“Aubrey, it’s been ages. The order is finished, maybe one good thing can come of it.” Stacie’s hand tightened around the blonde’s for emphasis. She felt Aubrey squeeze back as she was tugged down under the floor paneling, into a secret compartment. “Let’s talk about this when the empire isn’t directly behind us,” Aubrey proposed. 

 

“Agreed.” 

 

The two clutched the hilts of their lightsabers, clinging to one another in the dark, their minds flitting to what felt like ages ago as danger loomed once more.

Chapter Text

The thing about the Fae wars was that life went on like normal until they didn’t. Take the mage wars, for example, the human and fae world interactions were fairly consistent through those decades. Some humans vanished mysteriously, some vampires died, some other fae were captured, life went on. Decades were equivalent to a year in the grand scheme of the fae lifetime. Maybe that’s why Stacie wasn’t taking this particular war seriously. It was a succubi tradition to keep your nose out of things that didn’t affect you, and most of the conflict in the fae community was caused by one of three groups, none of which were succubi. 

 

Stacie had decided to throw a party in a nice upscale apartment within New York City. She had met a nice young man that kept her fed, along with his plethora of girlfriends, and she was able to relax in the big apple. The city had come a long way since she had visited last, the nineteen forties were not the technological marvel everyone thought it had been. Supposedly, Aubrey was in town, assisting with some clerical work for the northeastern clan with Chloe, who was representing the witches. Beca had accompanied Chloe, and Stacie had accompanied Beca. If she so happened to stick around a certain blonde vampire, it was just a happy coincidence. 

 

At the moment, however, Stacie was languishing in the apartment while the others strategized. The Silversmiths had staged a blockade on the Brooklyn Bridge while Alaric’s vampires charmed the local government to shut the bridge down with the mortals still on it. Without the supplies, the eastern clan was forced to reconsider travel tactics. Something made harder by enemy witches and warlocks. Chloe had asked Stacie to come, but as opposed to the witch, werewolf, and vampire community, the succubi and incubi populations didn’t have a specific hierarchy. They went wherever they wanted. 

 

The Mother Witch was supposed to be attending that meeting, along with Bahek, and the leader of the great Flint Wolfpack from Europe, so no interlopers were allowed. Hence, Stacie dallying on the couch absentmindedly beside a sleeping human. “Ugh, you’re lucky your life is so uncomplicated,” the brunette grumbled at the unconscious man. She rose from the couch and headed for the bedroom in the hopes of finding a good book to read. 

 

 

The others arrived at the apartment hours later. Aubrey seemed to stomp in, arms crossed and brow furrowed. In the blink of an eye, the blonde disappeared into the room she had chosen while Chloe and Beca entered in a much slower manner. “Did something happen?” Stacie inquired. 

 

“Flint’s being an ass,” Beca sighed. 

 

“He won’t send any of his wolves to hunt down the vampires until the witch mother promises to release his son,” Chloe explained. 

 

“What did the son do?” Stacie asked. 

 

“He got the witch mother’s daughter pregnant, the witch mother isn’t too pleased since her daughter was supposed to marry into the Egyptian coven in September.” 

 

“Oh,” Stacie pursed her lips at the news, she had forgotten about political marriages existing. It was so rare for succubi to get married, much less be forced into one nowadays. The last one had been her mother, and the hunter uprising and aiding of the Bolsheviks had ended that. “Yeah, he doesn’t get to leave until a marriage ceremony has been held.”

 

“I don’t see why Flint would want his son to be forcefully married off,” Stacie said. 

 

“Apparently, the son wants to marry the witch daughter, the problem is that Flint promised his son to the Brooklyn Pack.” 

 

“Oh,” Stacie exclaimed, understanding the situation now. 

 

“The two ruined two key alliances within our ranks. So the Brooklyn wolves won’t help until they get Flint’s son. So the bridge stays blocked, and now we ask help from the sirens;” Chloe groaned. Beca patted her girlfriend on the back soothingly, unsure of what to say. 

 

“Want to know the worst part,” Aubrey stormed in angrily, green eyes blazing. Stacie felt a rush of excitement at the look in the blonde’s eye, the room’s atmosphere sharply spiked as a result. Chloe rushed in to kiss Beca who responded hungrily and Aubrey halted midstep with her eyes shut tight. “Stacie, stop it, turn it down;” the blonde growled. 

 

Stacie relaxed and took a deep breath, allowing the sexual aura to dissipate. Beca and Chloe detached from one another sheepishly, clearing their throats. “Right, the worst part is that it’s now up to the vampires to fix everything since the hunters are otherwise occupied with their civil war. God, I wish I could just force everyone to get along, but compulsion doesn’t work against witches and werewolves.” 

 

“Too bad Luciana didn’t come to this meeting personally;” Chloe sighed. 

 

“If she and Bahek were gone at the same time, the Red Court would fall in a millisecond to the Hunter Insurgents. They’ve been camping outside our door forever, doesn’t help that the Huntresses of Artemis are carving a small warpath as well.”  

 

The Huntresses of Artemis were a small group of women, fae, human, or a mix of both. They supposedly had been blessed by the great Olympian, Artemis, before the Hellenistic fae disappearance of the twelfth century. The only one that remained was Bacchus and Apollo, although you never gained an audience with either unless you did something completely unusual to catch their eyes. Stacie had briefly had a thing with Bacchus, but it was just for fun. The god of revelry and wine was not one for a relationship. Neither was Stacie at the time if she were being honest. After Artemis disappeared, the Huntresses of Artemis had persisted in the Olympian’s mission of hunting beasts and monsters across the world. Although, the group was interspersed throughout the world. The last huntress Stacie had seen was a group of eleven. They moonlit as burlesque dancers along the southeastern seaboard, although one of them might have expanded to New York. 

 

“What are the Huntresses of Artemis doing in Rome? Didn’t Luciana make a pact with them, they left her city alone and she would control her vampires?” Beca queried. 

 

“Alaric’s rebellion broke that treaty when he went on his last rampage, so now the Court is under constant threat. The only thing that could get everyone in the same room again is if we could calm everyone down by force, but Bahek isn’t strong enough to control a room of Fae’s minds, and it’s not as though they’d appreciate the compulsion.” 

 

“What if we didn’t compel them?” Chloe said the words slowly, eyebrow quirked as she squinted at Stacie. 

 

“If we can’t control them, they won’t step foot back in that room without some form of compromise and I don’t see the Witch Mother or Flint caving anytime soon;” Aubrey groused. 

 

“That’s fine, we’ll have plenty of control;” Chloe smirked. 

 

“You just said we’re not compelling them, how… oh.” Aubrey stopped talking and assessed Stacie with narrowed eyes. “That could work.” 

 

“What could work?” Beca and Stacie said at the same time in equal confusion. 

 

“You just adjusted our moods in the blink of an eye, you could probably get a room to calm down for at least a moment to listen to each other.” 

 

“Won’t this be a room of some of the most powerful fae in the world?” Stacie reminded them. 

 

“You’ve controlled the mood of the entire Kremlin before Stacie, whether you were in the room or not. You can do one room, easily;” Aubrey scoffed. 

 

Stacie’s eyes widened as she turned to look at the blonde, but Aubrey had turned towards Chloe excitedly. “I can get Bahek, see if we can at least get them all into a room under pretense. If Stacie can get everyone to calm down and not kill each other, we might stand a chance at getting rid of the blockade.” 

 

“I heard they were calling Cynthia Rose in from the sirens,” Beca exclaimed. 

 

“Can’t hurt to bring the sirens into the fold anyway,” Aubrey said dismissively. 

 

“Hold on a second, I haven’t agreed to help yet;” Stacie cut in. 

 

“Why are you here then? Unless you’re here to stalk me against my wishes,” Aubrey challenged. Stacie pursed her lips and bit her cheek, the blonde had her there. “What do I get if I help? You know my kind don’t do war;” Stacie argued. 

 

Aubrey’s eyes flashed a dangerous burgundy before switching back to green, a smile newly plastered on her face. Stacie’s mouth became impossibly dry when green became red again and the vampire stepped into her space. She felt the blonde’s hand rest on her clavicle, tracing the bone structure there as she leaned down to meet red eyes. “Can you please do it, for me?” Aubrey crooned, pushing her bottom lip out to create a pouting effect. Stacie gulped as her arousal spiked, she thought she glimpsed Chloe and Beca suddenly spring at each other out of the corner of her eye, but she wasn’t sure. Her focus was on Aubrey, and Aubrey only. 

 

“That’s not fair,” Stacie whined. 

 

“All’s fair in love and war, Stacie;” Aubrey quipped. 

 

Stacie let out a deep groan of disapproval, “Fine. I’ll help, but you owe me a conversation about what you said earlier.” 

 

Red eyes switched back to green, simper replaced by a confused smile. “What did I say earlier?” 

 

“Oh nothing, I just thought you didn’t remember how we met;” Stacie said slyly. 

 

“I don’t,” The blonde iterated haltingly. 

 

“Oh really?” Stacie sneered, “Then how did you know I used to hold parties at the Kremlin and used my powers to influence the mansion?” 

Aubrey’s eyes widened in realization, Stacie was sure the girl would have blushed if she could. “Busted,” Stacie grinned.

Chapter Text

They had been drawing closer to the Pink for weeks now, supposedly it was carrying some important people and Stacie was eager to introduce herself. She had dressed specially for the occasion, she wore the perfect gown and her hair was combed out to the best of her ability. All the men had pistols and cutlasses hidden away beneath their soldier or dignitary coats. Properly groomed to the best ability of a man at sea. 

 

She nodded to Roger Beckham, the captain of the ship. He gave the signal for the men to hoist the East India Trading Company flag they had nicked a couple of months back. She had been excited to hear news of this particular Pink. Supposedly it was carrying some very important people on board, and Stacie just couldn’t wait to meet them. 

 

Roger Beckham, who was dressed in full officer’s regalia, stepped forward as they sailed closer, Stacie stood on the top deck, holding an umbrella beneath the setting sun. “Hoi, there!” Roger called out, flagging the other ship with a white handkerchief. The other ship had anchored off for a brief rest along the island, probably in need of some game. Their ship, The Siren, pulled alongside smoothly. The men on the other ship seemed to relax when they spotted her, a seemingly helpless damsel aboard a navy frigate. 

 

“Ho, what port did you set off from?” The other ship’s captain inquired, somewhat suspiciously.

 

“We came out of the West Indies, taking a governor’s daughter to Boston. We saw your ship and thought some good company would do for the night;” Roger suggested amiably. 

 

“I didn’t know Boston’s Governor had a daughter, just sons I heard.” 

 

“Not by blood, marriage;” Roger corrected easily. 

 

The other ship’s captain hummed in understanding when his eyes alighted upon Stacie’s face. “Ah, quite the beauty you got there. Lucky man, we have our own lady aboard. Stafford, see if Ms. Posen would like a companion for the evening.” A scrawny ship hand scampered off and down into the hold. “Pardon my suspicion, we’ve heard that these parts are filled with pirates lately. We didn’t want to run afoul. “No offense taken, we have been equally diligent in keeping out of trouble. We want no harm to come to our own guest.”

 

“Yes, how impressive a man her husband must be, to hire a frigate for transport.” 

 

“Less chance of pirate attacks,” Roger said genially. 

 

The captain signaled for his men to stand down, Stacie smiled as the other sailors lowered their various weapons and pulled out gangplanks for the Frigate’s crew to climb aboard. “We captains can have a meal in my cabin, the rest of the men can convalesce together in the meantime. I’m sure the two ladies would love a chat as well.” 

 

The sound of footsteps caused Stacie and the two men to turn as Stafford and a woman in a periwinkle dress stepped out. Upon first sight, it felt as though Stacie had the air knocked from her lungs. The woman was breathtaking. Her cheekbones were high and her eyes were a beautiful green. Her lips were prominently pouty and blonde hair fell in waves, cascading over a bare shoulder. Her bodice had intricate lacing and her skirt shimmered in a way only fine silks could. She was rich. Stacie smiled at the woman and waved politely. 

 

“Hello, I didn’t think I’d find another woman my age out at sea. My name is Aubrey, Aubrey Anne Posen,” the blonde woman greeted Stacie with a charming smile and a slight curtsy. Stacie returned the curtsy and took the woman’s hand, unable to resist a little flair, she dropped a kiss on the woman’s gloved knuckles. 

 

“It’s a pleasure, I didn’t realize that Lord Posen’s daughter was quite as beautiful as you, the rumors don’t do you justice;” Stacie flirted. 

 

Roger cleared his throat and flashed her a warning glare before switching back into a non-threatening smile. “Shall we grab some drinks?” He suggested to the Captain of the Pink. The other man nodded and allowed Roger to herd him in the direction of Stacie’s quarters. “So, I introduced myself, what’s your name?” The woman, Aubrey, inquired. 

 

Stacie smiled, “You can call me Ana for now, if things go to plan you might even get to use my more common name.” 

 

“And that is?” Aubrey queried. 

 

“All in good time, my new friend;” Stacie lilted. “Want to see something absolutely intriguing?” Aubrey quirked a brow and pondered for a moment. “What sort of intriguing?” 

 

“Not intriguing as much as just shiny, come on, I’ll show you;” Stacie held out her hand for Aubrey to take, pleased when the woman did just that. Stacie tugged Aubrey towards the ladder into the hold excitedly, gesturing for Aubrey to go down first. The two entered belowdecks, Stacie tugging the blonde towards the cargo hold. 

 

In the cargo hold, Stacie lit a torch and held it aloft, revealing the large chests of silks, doubloons, salted meats, and wheat. Aubrey traced her hand over a particularly fine roll of fabric, entranced by the smooth texture. “They’re carrying all of this? How? Does this belong to you?” 

 

“Well, it more belongs to the ship, but you’re more than welcome to grab any piece of jewelry you wish. On me.” 

 

Aubrey snorted, “I don’t think the Captain would be happy if I took his gold.” 

“I can assure you, the captain is perfectly okay with it;” Stacie grinned. 

 

Aubrey continued to survey the pile. “Stafford said you were the daughter-in-law of Governor Wickenham, I didn’t realize that his son was married. I thought he was still chasing after his runaway bride.” 

 

“Hmm, really? What else did you hear?” Stacie asked. 

 

“I heard she turned feral and disappeared. No hide nor tail has been seen of her since. Although there’s another rumor that she turned pirate, I don’t believe those tales.”

 

“Why not?” Stacie pressed, anxious to hear more. 

 

“I heard she was a doctor’s daughter, she wouldn’t turn to kill when saving a life was what she was raised on.” 

 

“Interesting reason,” Stacie considered the woman’s words, ideas bumping around her head as she chewed absentmindedly on her bottom lip. “I heard something different, now. I’ve heard multiple rumors from multiple people. Some say she became a whore out in Nassau, some said she fled with her pirate lover but he left her to die on an island somewhere, I’ve even heard them say she turned witch to enchant men to follow her into debauchery on the seven seas. My favorite is the claim that she was so beautiful that she fled back to the sea amongst her siren sisters, back where she belonged. They say she still hunts unsuspecting men to this day.” 

 

Aubrey laughed then, a wonderful sound that immediately brought a smile to Stacie’s lips. “None of those are true. Maybe the Nassau one, but not the others. They’re ridiculous and improbable. No self-respecting woman turns pirate.” 

 

“Want to know the truth?” Stacie suggested conspiratorially. Aubrey sat on top of a closed chest, patiently awaiting the story. The light had lowered in the hold, Stacie thought she heard the sound of metal clattering. Aubrey heard it too, clearly, because the girl’s head perked up at the noise. 

 

“Was that sword fighting?” Aubrey gasped. 

 

“The boys are probably sparring on deck, the crew of the Siren enjoys a good play fight;” Stacie shrugged. 

 

Aubrey relaxed at Stacie’s words and turned back to Stacie. “What’s the real story then?” 

 

“It started like this…”

 

Anastacia, or Stacie as she preferred, Conrad was born to Dr. Nicholas Ronald Conrad II. One of the best surgeons in Kensington. When Stacie was born, his wife had died, leaving him to care for his one and only daughter. She grew up smart as a whip and beautiful, her eyes were the color of the sea and her hair fell in lovely brown waves. Dr. Conrad made plenty of money doing house calls for the wealthy, enough money to book his passage to the new world to start over there. So Stacie moved with her father when she was ten years old, excited to see the world. 

 

When they arrived in Boston, her father immediately set up practice there, bringing in indentured servants and maids to help with home upkeep. He hired the girl tutors, but her best lessons were the ones she found in practice. He didn’t know it, but she had a brilliant medical mind. She often read his books and medical journals when he was otherwise indisposed, soaking up as much knowledge as she could. 

 

One day, her father was away aiding the Governor when a group of sailors made their way to the Doctor’s house. One of the sailors had been shot and needed help. Upon hearing of the Doctor’s absence, the sailors believed their friend lost but Stacie persisted. She followed her father’s steps of bullet removal to the T, and the soldier lived. When the doctor got home, Stacie thought he would be furious, but he wasn’t. In fact, he was impressed. 

 

From that point forward, Stacie was given access to all of his medical journals and was even allowed to observe him working. Something that the other townsfolk whispered about, but she often proved them wrong when she helped save their life. Everything was alright then, Stacie was happy and fulfilled. She even thought she could replace her father when the time came for him to retire. 

 

This changed of course when her father got remarried. Unwilling to force his daughter into marriage, he often allowed her to do as she willed. His new wife, however, was disgusted with Stacie’s freedom and claimed she was irascibly ruined in terms of womanhood. To appease his new bride, Stacie’s father discontinued her studies. The new stepmother was a complete nightmare, and Stacie rebelled against her willfully. 

 

Eventually, this rebellion hit a crux when her new stepmother designed Stacie’s engagement to the Governor’s son, Charles. Outraged, Stacie did the first thing she could to break up the engagement. She found the nearest sailor and slept with him. An argument broke out, leaving Stacie on one side and the stepmother on the other. Furious at his daughter’s actions, the father chose the stepmother’s side. Paying the sailor off to keep his mouth shut about the occasion. 

 

By the eve of her wedding, Stacie had tried everything to avoid marriage to Charles Wickenham. She had slept with every person without the pox in the entire town, but somehow everyone kept their mouth firmly shut out of respect for the doctor. With each new partner, the father withdrew more and more from his daughter. Completely estranged, Stacie decided to put the final nail in the coffin herself. 

 

There was a gentleman in town, named Christopher Watson, he was a bloody man with a horrible temper, but when given the opportunity he could be charming and impossibly witty. He also had something Stacie desperately needed, a way out. He had a ship and a crew, they were an unsavory lot, sure, but they got the job done. Stacie snuck out and seduced him that night, planting the idea to run away together in the man’s head. More than happy to do just that, Stacie boarded The Fletcher and didn’t turn back. 

 

Things went smoothly after that point. She was practically a trained surgeon, so she became an integral member of the crew. Often saving their lives after raids. She knew they were pirates when she boarded, but she didn’t quite care. She wasn’t too keen on suffering a governor’s rule either, so she fit in fine. 

 

Skipping a couple of years, Captain Watson had grown jealous of his paramour. The crew loved her, she was smart, strategic, charismatic. She inspired loyalty in the crew while he seemed to only inspire fear. Imbittered with envy, he hatched a plan to kill her during the next raid, he was hoping to make it look like an accident. What he didn’t know, is that she found out what he was up to, she had been watching him and she knew that look in his eye. So she let him make his attempt, she just made sure the others took notice that it was an attempt on her life. 

 

The crew quickly turned on him and pushed to mutiny, but she wanted to settle the issue another way. So, she challenged him to a duel. Ten paces, a pistol shot, and cutlass until one laid dead. Watson, as arrogant as he was, had no issue fighting a woman. He thought he could win. When the time came, they took the necessary steps and turned to fire. What he hadn’t counted on, was her aim being better than his. Watson was a drunk, and his vision was blurry at best. She hadn’t drunk in a fortnight in preparation for that moment, so when she pulled the trigger it was Watson that fell dead.  

 

They made her captain after that, and now she sailed the oceans between Britain and the West Indies, paying special attention to ships that left from Boston’s ports. One such ship that left was a frigate, a frigate owned by the very man she was supposed to be married off to. As recompense, she tricked the men on the frigate into letting their guard down.

 

 

Stacie smiled warmly at Aubrey, the blonde was staring at her with slightly narrowed eyes, the realization was just on the tip of the girl’s tongue. Stacie could sense it. “You want to know how she got the frigate?” Aubrey remained silent. 

 

“She dressed up in a lady’s dress, and held aloft an umbrella, hoping to look as dainty as could be. The men fell for it, of course, men often fall for the damsel in distress idea. It makes them feel big and important, it also lowers their guard because no one thinks women can be just as dangerous as men. So she got all dressed up, then the captain allowed her men to board his ship for a nice quiet night of cards and rum. What they didn’t know is that her crew was getting them purposefully drunk. She took some of the more important people down into the hold, told them intriguing stories, and offered them some of the riches on board. When the nobles finally climbed up on deck, the ordeal was over. They had no weapons, no warning, they were her prisoners now. No bloodshed necessary.” 

 

Aubrey looked truly alarmed now, something that Stacie found intensely amusing. The blonde stood up sharply, hands balled into fists. “Let me guess, she named the frigate the Siren.” Stacie beamed at the other woman, “You got it! Do you want a prize?” 

 

Aubrey moved forward as though to push past Stacie, but the taller brunette quickly slipped to the side, allowing the woman to pass. “I’m not going to stop you from leaving, you can do as you wish. It’s not as though you can leave the ship anyway. Most likely we already set sail while you were distracted.” 

 

 

Stacie followed Aubrey back on deck, prying off her bodice and skirt to the best of her ability. Underneath she wore sailors breeches. She kicked the slippers from her feet and took the offered boots from her second mate, Alvin. The sales were at full mast, and other guests from the pink were tied up on deck where Roger stood expectantly. Stacie tore the dress from her body and accepted the shirt Hendrix, her Boatswain, offered her with a crisp thank you. The Pink’s Captain was also on board, hanging from a haphazard gibbet, a chair beneath his feet. 

 

“What did he do?” Stacie inquired. 

 

“He spit in Nelson’s eye,” Roger answered gruffly. 

 

“The cat? He spit in the cat’s eye?” Stacie gasped, turning towards the hanging man. “You could have picked anyone to spit on, but you chose the cat. Roger loves that cat, now you’ve done it.” 

 

“Release him, there’s no point in hurting him now;” Aubrey stated stiffly from her place near the hold. “Well, obviously you’re wrong. He spit on Nelson, no one hurts Nelson on this ship. He takes care of our rat problem.” 

 

“You have a rat problem,” Aubrey grimaced. 

 

“It’s a pirate ship, it’d be weird if it didn’t have a rat problem;” Stacie retorted. “Roger, get the Captain down and throw him in the brig, I’ll have Coleson ask him some questions. He might know about some interesting convoys.” 

 

“What about the rest of them?”

 

“They can go in the other cell, all except Ms. Posen. She’s our special guest, so she gets special treatment.” 

 

“Aye, Captain;” Roger nodded. 

 

The crew moved to do Stacie’s bidding, frogmarching the Pink’s occupants down the hatch and into the hold. Aubrey stood arms crossed and nostrils flared. If it weren’t so dark outside, Stacie would swear the girl was turning red. 

 

“You’re The Hunter, the Pirate Captain;” Aubrey snarled. 

 

“You know my nickname, how sweet;” Stacie simpered. 

 

“I would like to know what you’re planning to do with me, now that you’re holding me hostage.” 

 

“Well, for my female captives I usually work out a deal. It’s pretty simple, and something that women usually aren’t given a chance at. You see, as someone who was going to be married off like common chattel, I like to give my fellow women a choice. I’m going to ransom you back to your father, but it’s your decision on whether you actually go back.”

 

“Why wouldn’t I go back?” Aubrey spluttered.

 

“Well, I’ve encountered it plenty of times. Two women escaped to Nassau and opened a pub there. Some women run off to the men they actually want to marry. Some move to a different country and change their names to something fantastical. I don’t know what you want, this is just an offer I make to every woman that comes on board my ship. I’m assuming from your indignation, that you’re perfectly fine with your marriage and wish to go home? That happens too, I’m assuming you and the Governor of South Carolina’s son actually like each other then.”

 

“We are perfectly fine, thank you. He’s a respectable man with a good pedigree, and my father said he’s supposed to be a wonderful match.” 

 

Stacie froze, brows furrowed in horror. “Nevermind, you definitely haven’t met him if that’s all you have to say about him. Half of that can be said about a horse.” 

 

Aubrey scowled. “We will have a perfectly fine marriage, and when he hears about this you’ll all hang.” 

 

Stacie rolled her eyes, “Sure thing, m’lady. Before or after he manages to procure a martial ship that can overpower a frigate with seventy guns?” 

 

The blonde sneered at her from afar, the cold attitude a heavy juxtaposition from how she had been greeted. “What, no charming smile? No curtsy and bow?”  Stacie snapped. 

 

“I reserve that for equals;” Aubrey scoffed. 

 

“Wow, you and William deserve each other;” Stacie grumbled. The taller girl turned around to head towards her captain's cabin, wondering whether she should just throw the blonde into the hold with the others. It was too bad she had made a rule for herself in terms of proper conduct with women hostages.

 

“You don’t know him, my father said he’s the perfect gentleman;” Aubrey retorted. 

 

“Oh yeah, until you get him in private. That man is more violent than my entire crew, I hope you have enough makeup because you’re going to need it.” 

 

Aubrey’s eyes widened at the new information, something that Stacie took some pleasure in so she continued. “He used to visit Boston with the man I was supposed to marry. They liked to go to the brothels in town. What they didn’t know is that I frequented the same brothel, I even became friends with one of the more popular girls there. She said that he often left the girls that serviced him, crying. He’s a terrible person and if anything I’m doing a favor by holding you here. That being said, it’s getting late and I need to be up early to assist in setting a new course. You can take my cabin, I’ll sleep below decks with my men. Feel free to lock the door.” 

 

With those last words, Stacie walked off towards the latter. Already counting the days until she could get away from the snooty princess that was Aubrey Posen. 

Chapter Text

Initiation went off without a hitch. Aubrey and Chloe had managed to snag all the new Bella’s with ease and line them up for the oath. Once the oath was done, along with the wine (thanks to Fat Amy), the group set out in the direction of the traditional party. Aubrey remembered her first hood night, Chloe and her had been roommates freshman year and hood night only helped to cement their friendship further. Aubrey helped Chloe fend off some of the Treblemakers at the time, while the ginger got impossibly drunk. 

 

Things hadn’t changed much if Chloe’s constant imbibing of alcohol had anything to say about it. Aubrey smiled fondly at the ginger, relieved that she wasn’t alone in the reclamation of the Bella’s reputation. 

 

Once Fat Amy had wandered over to dance amongst the stone benches, Aubrey was left to look at the dancing crowd and reminisce over the old days. Her freshman year was fairly easy, back when all she was figuring out was her major and how to do her father proud. Now, she was graduating with a Law degree, waiting on acceptance to a graduate program. Bile rose at the back of her throat just thinking about it. Aubrey pushed the anxiety away and took a deep draught from her drink. 

 

“Hey Cap, why aren’t you dancing with the others?” A familiar voice inquired. Aubrey turned to see the tall brunette, Stacie Conrad, standing beside her in heels and a cropped blue pleather jacket. Her low cut top revealed a judicial amount of cleavage that Aubrey tried her best to keep her eyes away from. 

 

“Usually Chloe’s my dance partner,” Aubrey answered. She nodded in Chloe’s direction for emphasis, the girl in question was in the middle of an intense makeout session with Tom from the BU Harmonics. Stacie grinned, “Sounds like you just need a new partner then.” The brunette quickly finished off her drink and held out a hand to Aubrey. “I can replace red, that is if you can keep up?” 

 

The challenge in the other girl’s voice was enough, Aubrey placed her cup on the nearby table and took the other girl’s hand. Determination was evident in her gaze. Posen's never backed down from a challenge. 

 

The two women began to dance to the beat, Stacie grinned at her wolfishly as she gyrated her hips. Aubrey mimicked the movements as they drew closer together, eventually, they were grinding up against one another, Stacie humming the lyrics into Aubrey’s ear. Most of their fellow aca-people were three sheets to the wind, several drinks in and bobbing clumsily to the tunes playing out of the speakers. 

 

Aubrey twisted around from her place in Stacie’s arms, the taller girl had wrapped one arm around Aubrey’s front as they rolled their bodies together in the crowd. Aubrey extricated herself from the other girl’s grip, unaware of just how close their faces would be. When Aubrey looked up, Stacie’s lips were inches from her own. Aubrey felt a deep urge to kiss them. 

 

“I need another drink,” She blurted out. The blonde started for the table of drinks, cheeks flushing a little when she felt Stacie’s hand wrap around hers. The taller girl pushed through the crowd with ease, her taller stature immediately gained the attention of those around them. When they reached the table, Aubrey grabbed the nearest bottle and poured, eager to achieve some form of distraction from the anxiety that was mounting. Stacie leaned against the table patiently, sipping on her own new drink. She’s a Bella, you can’t sleep with her. Aubrey internally chastised herself. 

 

“Wanna get out of here?” The other girl suggested. Stacie’s breath wafted over the shell of her ear, and all of Aubrey’s restraint went out of the window. Before she could think better of it, she nodded and clutched the brunette’s hand firmer in her own. She just hoped that she wouldn’t regret it. 

 

On their way out, Aubrey noticed Kori leaving with Donald. She made a mental note but continued towards her car, hoping no one noticed just who she was leaving with. 

 

The next morning, Aubrey awoke to the feeling of unfamiliar weight. Through squinted eyes, she turned to see a head of brown hair and slightly open plump lips. Aubrey allowed a small smile as she looked at the other girl. Stacie was astonishingly adept in bed, probably taking the crown as the best Aubrey had ever had. The pair had continued into the early dawn until they finally couldn’t go anymore. Stacie had promptly collapsed on top of Aubrey and fallen asleep in an instant, something that amused Aubrey as the feeling of the other woman’s fluttering heartbeat settled in her bones. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but it felt right waking up next to the brunette. 

 

Checking the time, Aubrey’s eyes widened when she realized just how late they had slept in. “Stacie, wake up;” Aubrey prodded the other girl in the arm. The younger girl moaned in protest, arms tightened around Aubrey’s middle as Stacie nuzzled her nose into the crook of Aubrey’s neck. “...minutes;” Stacie grumbled. 

 

“Up!” Aubrey pinched Stacie in the ribs lightly, causing the brunette to yelp in surprise. Taking her chance, Aubrey slipped from Stacie’s embrace and landed on the floor with a small thump. Now missing the other warm body in the bed, Stacie pried an eye open with a disgruntled groan. “What’s going on?” 

 

“We have rehearsal in twenty minutes, you need to get up;” Aubrey answered briskly. The blonde didn’t miss the whine of protest when she left the room to brush her teeth. 

 

Stacie went back to her dorm while Aubrey drove to the rehearsal space. Chloe was already there, unstacking chairs. “Sorry I didn’t make it to our morning run, I stayed at Tom’s last night;” The redhead explained. 

 

“That’s fine, I slept in today anyway,” Aubrey said dismissively. Chloe dropped a chair with a clatter, eyes wide. “You what?” 

 

“I slept in;” Aubrey shrugged. 

 

“Since -”

 

“Hey Caps,” Cynthia Rose interrupted. The other girl set her bag down and dropped into a chair. Chloe looked at Aubrey with narrowed eyes as if to say ‘this isn’t over.’ 

 

“Hey Cynthia Rose, how did last night go for you?” Chloe exclaimed. 

 

“Meh, I danced a little bit but I didn’t get any action or anything. Did y’all see where Stacie got to last night, she was there, and then suddenly she wasn’t.”

 

“Sorry, I left kind of early so I didn’t see, she’s alright hopefully;” Chloe answered. 

 

“Hmm, well all I can say is that the girl was on the hunt last night. Said something about getting laid if it was the last thing she did. I’m guessing she went home with someone.”

 

Aubrey twitched a little as her anxiety reared its ugly head, her fingers tightened around the papers she was pretending to look at as she listened to the conversation intensely. 

 

“Hey,” Denise’s voice broke in. “If you’re wondering about Stacie, I saw her get back to her dorm this morning. She looked fine, although I think you’re right about her going home with someone. She had a massive hickey right on her -”

 

“Alright,” Aubrey broke in, forcing a smile. “It’s ten past two, where is everyone else?” 

 

The sound of the doors opened to reveal Jessica, Ashley, and Lily. “Sorry, we got held up in the quad, the running in a circle people decided to do a demonstration and we had to go around,” Ashley explained. 

 

Mary Elise entered the choir room along with Beca, which just left Stacie. Aubrey winced, she was fully aware of the fact that she couldn’t get mad at the brunette since she was the reason the younger girl was late. “Alright, we’ll wait for everyone to get here before getting started...

 

 

The brunette arrived fifteen minutes late and clutching a cup of iced coffee. Something that Aubrey allowed, considering how long they had both been up. “Alright, everyone’s here so let’s get started. As you can see, Kori isn’t here, last night she was treble-boned, so she has been disinvited from the Bellas.

 

“That oath was serious,” Beca exclaimed. 

 

“Dixie-chicks serious, you can mess around with anyone you want, just not a treble;” Aubrey stated earnestly. 

 

“That’s going to be hard, he’s a hunter;” Stacie chuckled, gesturing at her crotch. Aubrey looked at the brunette in alarm for a moment, lips pursed. She hadn’t been expecting that, the Stacie Aubrey had gotten used to last night was insightful and contemplative. This Stacie had something else in her eyes. 

 

“Stacie, the treble’s don’t respect us, if we let them penetrate us we’re giving them our power;” Aubrey insisted, ignoring the moment that Fat Amy raised her hand to make the claim “That’s not a good enough reason to use the word, penetrate.” 

 

 

When rehearsal wrapped up, Stacie was one of the first people out the door. Something that Aubrey made note of. Throughout the rehearsal, it had become increasingly clear that the younger girl saw their tryst as just that, a tryst. A one-time thing. While Aubrey hadn’t expected otherwise, necessarily, she was alarmed to hear some of the experiences the other woman had. Stacie had definitely been adept in bed, but the number of experiences behind that was incredibly worrying. 

 

Aubrey made a note to get tested, immediately. 

 

Once Aubrey got off the phone with her gynecologist's office, she went to her apartment and changed into her gym clothes. Just because rehearsals were deemed too much cardio for everyone else, hardly meant the same for her. On the way across campus, she spotted Stacie standing in front of the library talking to a boy from the swim team. He had been in one of Aubrey’s classes two semesters back, he had a cute smile and green eyes. Aubrey had briefly gone on a date with him but never followed through on a second. 

 

Aubrey sped up her steps and tried to keep her head down, she didn’t want Stacie to think she was following her. Especially with how obvious the girl was making it that she wasn’t looking for a repeat. Not that Aubrey wanted a repeat, it wasn’t a personal habit of hers to sleep around after all. 

 

“Aubrey, wait up!” Stacie called. Aubrey heard the sound of footsteps as long legs rushed to keep up. Aubrey halted and turned, surprised to find the brunette running after her. 

“Hey,” Stacie grinned when she finally caught up. “I didn’t get to talk to you about last night, I didn’t know whether you wanted everyone to know.” 

 

“No, I didn’t, that’s fine.” Aubrey assuaged.

 

“Well, I just wanted to let you know that I had a good time, and if it were to ever happen again that’d be fine with me,” Stacie said.

 

Aubrey’s eyes widened in astonishment for a moment, it hadn’t occurred to her that the self-proclaimed ‘Hunter’ would want more than one night. “I didn’t think you did repeats;” She admitted. 

 

“What gave you that idea?” Stacie chuckled, “No, I’m fine with repeats as long as everyone’s mature about things. I don’t do exclusivity or relationships, but I’m open to sleeping with people multiple times.”

“Oh,” Aubrey considered the girl’s words for a moment, adding them to the mental list she had started. Just who Stacie Conrad really is was becoming something of a mystery for her. Aubrey had peeked at the brunette’s application, Stacie was an honors student with an impressive starting GPA with junior standing. The only reason the girl was expected to graduate in four years was because of her status as a double major in engineering and physics, along with a double minor in Chemistry and Mathematics. If anything, Stacie should have been in MIT or some Ivy league school somewhere. Not a mid-level university in Atlanta. 

 

Aubrey snapped out of her reverie and turned to the girl in question, who was patiently awaiting an answer. “I think an arrangement could be made between us. It wouldn’t be prudent for me to get into a relationship with my impending graduation anyhow.” 

 

A smile stretched across Stacie’s face, Aubrey’s heart thumped a little bit faster. “Perfect, you have my number, right? If you’re ever in the mood, feel free to call.” The girl left with a flip of the hair and a cheeky wink, leaving Aubrey to wonder what she had just gotten herself into. 


Trouble, that’s what Stacie Conrad was. Pure trouble. Aubrey added the new description to the list and continued to the gym. Something told her that she was going to need other ways to blow off steam that year.

Chapter Text

The tickets were tucked into the picnic basket while Stacie clutched at the velvet box in her pocket. This was it, the moment, the best moment of her life. Hearing footsteps, she quickly grabbed the picnic basket and turned to face the entryway with a smile. The kitchen was painted a creamy yellow with white cabinets and white marble countertops. The fridge was stainless steel with pictures of her and Aubrey stuck to the front. 

 

“Alright, I couldn’t find the Off, but I grabbed some blankets so we can cover as much skin as possible,” the blonde exclaimed as she entered the kitchen. Stacie smiled at the other woman, “That’s no problem, I think I left it in the car after all. It’s a precaution anyway, the mosquitoes aren’t supposed to be out this time of year.” 

 

“Perfect,” the other woman beamed. Stacie took the blonde’s hand and started traipsing into the living area, towards the foyer. What she found there caused her eyes to widen in shock. Candles and rose petals were scattered around the room. “I was wondering why you were taking so long finding the bug spray,” Stacie chuckled, she turned around to look at her girlfriend but the other woman was already down on one knee with a ring out. 

 

“Anastasia, you have made me the happiest woman alive, and I know we don’t have eternity but I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You’re beautiful, smart, funny, and absolutely amazing. I love you so much, so will you do me the honor of marrying me?” The blonde implored. 

 

Stacie laughed as tears began to prick the corner of her eyes. She reached into her pocket and brought out the black velvet ring box in her pocket. “I was going to ask you the same thing,” She chuckled. The blonde, Aubrey, rose to her feet with a brilliant smile and wrapped her arms around the brunette’s neck. “Is that a yes?” 

 

“Yes,” Stacie beamed. The two leaned in for a passionate kiss, excited for their future together. 

 

“Cut!” Cynthia Rose, the director, called out. Stacie and Aubrey immediately separated. Out of the corner of her eye, Stacie saw Aubrey wipe her mouth with disgust. 

 

“Do you have to drool so much,” Aubrey sneered. 

 

“Do you have to be such a bad kisser;” Stacie bit back. 

 

The two actresses stormed away from each other, towards their separate makeup teams. The two had hated each other since their days as childhood stars. Stacie had stolen Aubrey’s on and off boyfriend, Luke, and Aubrey had never forgiven her. It didn’t help that Stacie had promptly gotten a part that Aubrey had been up for. 

 

“Deep breaths, deep breaths;” Flo hummed to Stacie as she touched up the brunette’s makeup. “I swear I’m going to slap the blonde out of her,” Stacie growled. 

 

“That would only make Kommissar’s job harder,” Flo snorted. 

 

“Good, she’s a bitch too;” Stacie grumbled, but she remained seated nonetheless. 

 

The pair did the scene three more times, each with equal verve until Cynthia Rose deemed the takes acceptable. Upon dismissal, both women rushed to grab their things from their trailers and get as far away as possible from one another. However, they were about to be sorely disappointed. 

 

 

“We have to do what?” Stacie spluttered. 

 

They were currently sitting in Cynthia Rose’s trailer in front of the production company’s representative, Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Fineburger. "The production company would like to see more spice from you two. Rumors have gotten out that you two don’t like each other and that’s not great for a romance movie.”

 

“Can’t we just, I don’t know, do a press tour? Interviews? Something?” Stacie groaned. 

 

“Really, I’m supposed to be filming How to Not Be A Monster in two months, I don’t have time to maintain a fake relationship;” Aubrey groaned. 

 

“Well, ever since you both came out, fans have been clamoring to see you two with a woman. It’s not as though you’re actually dating anyone,” Gail argued. 

 

“Ahem, I am;” Stacie retorted. 

 

“Sex doesn’t count as dating;” Aubrey snorted. 

 

Stacie glowered at the other girl, sticking her tongue out in the process. 

 

“Put your tongue back in, I know where it’s been;” Aubrey snapped. 

 

“That’s it,” Stacie jumped out of her seat and made a move towards the blonde who jumped up as well.

“Stop!” Gail shrieked. Stacie and Aubrey froze and turned to face the now, red-faced woman. “You’re both contractually obligated to behave with the film in mind. You both signed on to partake in any promotional stunts, public events, or social media requirements. If you want to fight it, fine by me, see you two in court. You won’t be getting your cut of the gross if you break your contracts anyway, so more money for everyone else.” 

 

Both women sat down quickly. “Fine, so what are we doing?” Aubrey sighed. 

 

“From now on you’ll be participating in a public relationship. You’re required to make it seem like you’re a couple for the next six months. No bickering on set, no paparazzi leaks,” she pointed at Stacie, “No extracurriculars.” 

 

“That’s going to be hard, he’s a hunter;” Aubrey muttered sardonically, pointing at the brunette.

 

“You’re just jealous that no one can fit anything past that stick you’ve -”

 

“Alright!” Gail barked, “Starting now. You’re happy, you’re falling in love, you think wonderful and amazing things about each other. Got it?”

 

“Got it,” They both said in unison. 

 

“Good, now get out of my office;” Gail dismissed. 

 

Both women got up to leave, Stacie stopped at the doorway as Aubrey slipped past. "Technically, it's Cynthia Rose's off-"

"Out!" Gail snapped

Chapter Text

Stacie stood in the dark, Aubrey’s hand clutched in her own. The sound of footsteps echoed above them. Only the sound of their breath permeated the air for a moment until a voice finally sounded. It was Fat Amy welcoming the Stormtroopers onto the ship, using her own self-made moniker of “The She-Devil,” instead of the actual name of The Bella. Muffled voices were replying to Fat Amy’s loud one, paired with the high chirp of Chloe and the awkward mumblings of Emily.

“Oh, Braca was locked down, I had no idea, Chloe? Did you know?” Fat Amy exclaimed.

There were more murmuring and the sound of footsteps tracking along with the ship. “Oh, you have an Inquisitor that would like to board, wonderful;” Fat Amy reiterated, Aubrey and Stacie turned to look at one another nervously. An Inquisitor would be able to sense them. “You want us to land on the main ship for the inspection? Okay, got it;” Amy’s words were met by another murmur and the sound of footsteps receding. Stacie moved to open the latch but Aubrey tugged her back and shook her head.

“Why?” Stacie mouthed, but then heard the sound of a body hitting the ground followed by a loud “Whoop there it is.”

The panel opened up and Aubrey pulled Stacie along with her, “We have to go, now. Did Cynthia Rose get the light speed generator going?”

“Got it, boss!” Cynthia Rose called out from the other room.

“Alright let's go, before we-” Aubrey didn’t finish the sentence. Instead, the sudden sound of a laser cannon firing was followed by the ship being thrown into a tight spiral. Stacie and Aubrey were flung to the side, landing in a heap against the wall. “Sorry! They’re shooting at us!” Emily apologized, the ship shot downwards in a tight spin. The rest of the crew held on for dear life as the sound of TIE fighters pursued them.

“Emily, light speed. Now!” Aubrey ordered. She was holding onto a nailed down table leg with one arm. “If they’re already shooting at us,” Stacie grumbled to herself. Using the force, she jumped upwards, flipping and using another wall as a vaulting point to land as close to the cockpit as possible. Latching onto the door, she pulled herself in and slid down the hatch to reach the revolving gun.

“Light speed in five!” Emily shouted.

“Should Legacy be piloting the ship? She has the least experience!” Fat Amy hollered. Her point was followed by a loud thump, Stacie presumed that the girl had fallen during the younger brunette’s latest spiral. Stacie strapped herself into the 360 turrets before pressing the button to drop the guns to begin firing. The trigger on the yoke simply had to be held down to generate an automatic stream of blaster fire. “Use the force” her old master’s words echoed in her head. Stacie aimed carefully at the approaching TIE fighter, centering the sights on the cockpit of the ship, she fired a direct hit and watched the enemy ship burst into pieces. Spinning the turret around, she hit the fighter attempting to flank her.

One after the other, the TIE fighters broke into pieces until finally, Emily shouted, “Buckle up, light speed!”

Stacie hit the button to return the 360 guns into the body of the ship and shouted “okay” to Emily. As soon as the words left her lips she felt a sharp lurch in her stomach, signaling their new mach force. Once the feeling ebbed, she pressed the button to open the top panel for the ladder and climbed up, back into the cockpit.

Aubrey was in the passenger seat while Emily sat as the pilot. “You did good today, Em;” Aubrey praised the other girl. Emily flashed a relieved smile, “Thanks, I never want to do that again.” Aubrey laughed. “Hopefully we won’t be under fire anytime soon.”

“Hopefully,” Emily groaned. The other brunette hit the autopilot and left the cockpit to get some rest after her stressful encounter. This left Stacie alone in the cockpit with Aubrey. Stacie settled in the pilot’s chair and turned to face the blonde with a cocky smile. “That was some fancy flying she did earlier.” Stacie hedged.

“It was,” Aubrey admitted, peering at Stacie with suppressed mirth. “Why is it that every time I see you, we almost die?”

“I don’t know, it did remind me of old times though;” Stacie grinned.

“That it did,” Aubrey sighed.

Aubrey’s arrival on Kashyyk had been quite a complication for Stacie. After all, this was supposed to be a big defining moment for her Jedi training. Yet, here was Mace Windu and a new up jumped Jedi, ready to steal the spotlight. A sith was not what Stacie needed at that moment, but there they were.

As the week passed, Stacie found Aubrey to be more and more tightly wound. The blonde watched Stacie like a hawk, criticizing her every move or comment. Finally, Stacie grew tired of it and asked the other girl why she seemed to have a stick up her ass. The comment was not an amusing one, and the two promptly began to verbally berate each other on the wooden platform between the Wookie huts. A mistake that they later regretted when a sith managed to sneak into the Wookie village.

Long story short, the two wound up being more of a hindrance to one another in the fight than a help. Both of them were force pushed off the wooden platform, tumbling downwards in a long fall from the great tree. When they landed, their bickering hardly improved.

“This is your fault if you had just moved out of the way;” Aubrey griped.

“Shut up and let me fix your arm,” Stacie snapped. The brunette popped Aubrey’s arm back in place, a slight yelp being the only thing emitted from the blonde during the process. “I hope Master Plo Koon and Windu manage to get the sith;” Stacie murmured.

“I’m sure Plo Koon will be a lot more assistance to Windu than you were to me,” Aubrey grumbled. Stacie used the force to whack the other girl in the head with a pebble in response. “How do we get back up?” She asked, ignoring the blonde’s glare.

“Climb,” Aubrey sighed.

“Great,” Stacie groaned.

Their ascent began just as bitterly as their fall, but eventually, their cold shoulders thawed. Stacie began to help Aubrey climb when the other girl’s arm ached, and Aubrey helped Stacie continue her force drills when needed. They were becoming quite the team.

“What planet are you from?” Stacie asked one day.

“Alderan,” Aubrey replied, “You?”

“Concord Dawn?” Stacie said hesitantly.

“Mandalorian planet? Really?” Aubrey exclaimed. They were sitting beside each other at the fire, shoulders brushing. Stacie turned to look at the blonde whose face was respectively close to hers. “Yeah, my mother was from Naboo and my Dad was a Mandalorian, supposedly.”

“Did you know them?” Aubrey inquired.

“Not really, the Jedi’s found me when I was three, I vaguely remember my mother’s smile, but my dad is a mystery.”

“I wish I didn’t know my father sometimes;” Aubrey admitted.

Stacie’s eyes widened at the blonde’s words, she didn’t know that Jedi were allowed to know their parents. “You know your dad?”

“Do you remember the old senator, from Alderan?”

“The old guy that recently got replaced?” Stacie remembered the man. He had been balding and gruff, ill-tempered and obstinate in his sometimes backward views. Stacie had thought him to be overwhelmingly annoying.

“That’s him. I was his illegitimate daughter, the only reason he acknowledges me is because I was force sensitive. Otherwise, I probably would have been tossed aside.”

“He sounds terrible,” Stacie snorted.

“He kind of is,” Aubrey chuckled.

The two girls smiled at each other, a real genuine smile that had Stacie’s stomach fluttering. “You deserve better than that,” Stacie blurted out, their faces had drawn closer to one another. Stacie’s gaze flickered to Aubrey’s lips, tracking the swipe of the blonde’s tongue along her bottom lip.

“Stacie,” Aubrey murmured.

Snap.

Both girls sprung to their feet, lightsabers at the ready at the noise. They heard a loud buffeting of wings overhead followed by tree branches snapping. “I hope we don’t have company right now,” Stacie hissed. She looked upwards just in time to see a large shadow pass over them, the moonlight vanished and the two women saw the outline of a large bird. “What’s that?” Aubrey gasped.

“Shyyo, not unfriendly, necessarily. It’ll probably leave us alone;” Stacie explained.

“If it doesn’t?” Aubrey muttered.

“Run?” Stacie stated emphatically.

The shadow vanished, leaving them standing in a mixture of shadow and moonlight. The fire flickered beside them, the embers were beginning to shrink. “I’ll take first watch, you get some sleep;” Aubrey offered. Stacie nodded and did as she was told.

“Stacie, where did you go just now?” The blonde asked.

Just like that, Stacie was back in the cockpit of the Bella, staring at the woman that used to annoy her. “I was remembering when we first met,” she replied.

“Ah yes, when you told me I had a stick up my ass;” Aubrey reminisced.
“The first time we almost kissed,” Stacie corrected.

“We didn’t, though;” Aubrey said wearily.

“I wanted to,” Stacie exclaimed, “I’m glad we did, eventually.”

“We weren’t supposed to,” Aubrey reminded her.

“I know, but -” Stacie broke off and leaned closer to the blonde. Her hand came up beneath the blonde’s chin as their eyes met in equal understanding. “I missed you,” Stacie whispered. Her breath played across the blonde’s lips. Aubrey shut her eyes for a moment as Stacie continued to stare. “I missed you too,” The blonde finally admitted.

“I thought you were dead,” Stacie continued. “I called over the radio for you, but I never found you. I thought you were dead, I never heard about anyone getting off of Coruscant.”

“I heard about Plo Koon’s death, I heard about his ship exploding and the purge of your battleship. I thought I wouldn’t ever see you again;” Aubrey mumbled. Stacie pressed her forehead to the other girls, their noses brushed for a moment as they breathed in one another at that moment.

“I replayed our last kiss in my head every day, I couldn’t help wondering whether we should have left the order as you suggested. We could have moved to Naboo, you could have become a mechanic.” Aubrey recounted Stacie’s words from the past. All the things the brunette had said while pleading with the blonde to stay. She had been willing to throw her Jedi training away, all for the rest of her life with the blonde.

When the purge had happened, Stacie was left bereft. She buried herself in work and other bodies, anything to forget the woman she had given her heart to. She had thought herself to be alone. “I told you I loved you then, I still love you now;” Stacie said with certainty.

“Stacie,” Aubrey began.

“Aubrey, the order is over. We’re on the run. What can they do to us that we aren’t already aware of? What can they do that they wouldn’t do anyway? Nothing is stopping us anymore.”

“But-” Aubrey paused, pulling back, the blonde cupped Stacie’s jaw and traced her thumb along the brunette’s cheek. “But what?” Stacie challenged.

“I never said it back, when you told me you loved me, I didn’t say it back. How can you still love me when it’s been so long and I gave up on us?”

Stacie pulled Aubrey’s lips to hers in answer. The feeling of the blonde in her arms felt like coming home after a long voyage. It felt like they were back in a private room on Coruscant, hiding away from their fellow Jedi. It felt right, like the world’s gravity was wrong before and suddenly it corrected itself. Both women kissed each other until they had to separate for air, instead they rested their foreheads together again, panting slightly.

“I love you too,” Aubrey finally admitted. Stacie smiled into their next kiss, savoring the moment and the fact that they were both alive.

Chapter Text

The sea breeze wafted across the deck refreshingly as The Siren crested the lapping waves. They had been at sea for weeks now and some of her men were getting restless to dock and take some time away. Stacie knew that it had been night two months since most of her men had the chance to convalesce together at a port, which meant they would be getting quite frustrated soon. More frustration meant more conflict and more conflict meant less efficiency.

“Set a course for Nassau,” Stacie suggested at the crew meeting that night. A hearty echo of ‘here, here's sounded as the men roared their approval. Happy for a destination that meant rest on dry land. Their guest, Aubrey Posen, seemed less than pleased, however.

The blonde had locked herself in Stacie’s cabin more often than not, leaving the brunette to take one of the extra hammocks on shift. With the bounty they had accrued after the capture of Posen’s Pink, the crew had relented on their hunt for more ships to capture. Instead, they took a relatively calm course in the direction of home. Excited to spend their hard-earned rewards.

“Won’t you be taking me quite far away from South Carolina? I thought you were going to ransom me back to my betrothed.” Aubrey commented.

“I’m ransoming you back to your father, I’m sure I can get a letter out in the meantime. For now, you get to languish with the crew of The Siren. Maybe the sea will assist you in pulling that stick out of your arse;” Stacie teased to ill amusement from the other woman.

“The last thing I want is to spend more time with you and your barbaric crew;” Aubrey scoffed.

Stacie snorted at the look of disgust on the other woman’s face, even when derisive the blonde was beautiful. Stacie felt a tinge of desire and wrinkled her nose briefly as she considered how long it had been since she was given a good tryst. “Sorry to disappoint your highness, but what you want in this instance isn’t high on my list of priorities.”

“I thought you cared about the comfort of hostages like me?” Aubrey harumphed.

“Last I checked you’ve been plenty comfortable in my cabin, were you expecting a handmaid? Perhaps a footman, or ascribe to write your woes?”

Aubrey rolled her eyes and turned away, officially put out with the brunette. Stacie ignored the blonde in favor of turning back to her crew, who were all snickering quietly amongst themselves. “Any qualms with Nassau?” Stacie iterated for everyone to hear. The deck remained silent. Stacie nodded her assent and scratched a mark in ink over the map they had laid out, right over the island.

“Perfect, we’ll be there in a moon’s turn.”

Their arrival in Nassau was met with much aplomb as The Siren’s crew stormed the beach with equal verve and excitement. Stacie knew the bawdy houses would be absolutely rowdy that night. Aubrey walked beside her, a rope tied about her waist, the other end was wrapped around Stacie’s belt.

“Is this really necessary?” Aubrey griped, tugging uselessly at the rope.

“Well, I don’t really believe you wouldn’t run away, so yes;” Stacie deadpanned. “Now stop tugging the rope, I want to introduce you to someone.”

Stacie led Aubrey through the streets of Nassau, past the many brothels and towards one of the many taverns. The building in question was made of worn dry wood, the shutter slats were cracked and creaking with age. Stacie opened the door and ushered the blonde in before her. At the bar was another blonde woman and a brunette. “Aubrey, meet Jessica and Ashley;” Stacie introduced the two barkeeps with a wide grin.

Aubrey assessed the two women with thinly veiled suspicion. “Are they pirates too?”

Jessica and Ashley laughed. “No, we’re just innkeepers, Ash gets seasick;” the blonde, Jessica, replied. Aubrey relaxed a tad at the other blonde’s words. “Stacie, you really should stop introducing your broken birds to us, just because you’re wanted doesn’t mean we want to be;” Ashley tutted.

“Sorry, I just thought a conversation with you two would do her some good;” Stacie shrugged.

“Well untie her then, I’m guessing she’s another ‘special hostage’;” Ashley sighed. Stacie did just that and untied the rope from around Aubrey’s wrist. “She’s engaged to Charles’s friend, William;” Stacie explained. Jessica and Ashley’s eyes widened in recognition as both women turned to look at Aubrey with pity in their eyes.

“You know him?” Aubrey exclaimed, hesitantly.

“Know him?” Ashley scoffed, “That no-good son of a cunt is lucky I never met him in person. All I’ve heard is the stories and that was enough. If I ever met him in person, I’d shove my foot right up his -”

“Ash-” Jessica hissed.

“What, it’s true. I’d sooner kill him than have him mentioned around here ever again.”

Aubrey looked at the pair in confusion, curiosity getting the better of her as the silence persisted. “What did he do?”
Ashley fumed while Jessica put a calming hand on her partner’s shoulder. “It’s a long story, the short one is that he’s a terrible man and I hope you can sunder the engagement before he gets his hands on you;” Jessica’s explanation wasn’t much in terms of detail, but it did successfully settle a sense of foreboding in the other blonde. This was the second time she was hearing about her betrothed’s ill-begotten ways, and to say she was so far put off, was an understatement.

“Stacie, I know you came in here to better inform her, but you know how much of a touchy subject he is;” Ashley chastised the pirate. Stacie held up her hands in mock surrender, “My apologies, I simply heard about her engagement and immediately thought of you. She doesn’t seem to like me much, so I figured she might listen to common folk like you two.”

Jessica pursed her lips, “Ashley, grab a bottle of whiskey out of the back.”

“But-” Ashley began to protest but stopped as soon as she saw the expression on her partner’s face. “Very well,” the brunette sighed as she turned about and walked away. “Stacie, go help her, it’s on a high shelf;” Jessica added. Stacie nodded and followed her fellow brunette out the back door.

“Is he really -” Aubrey began to ask, but Jessica’s hand settled on her forearm suddenly and interrupted Aubrey’s stream of thought.

“You can’t marry him, he’s a monster. You’ll never know a moment of peace with the likes of him, he’s atrocious and terrible.”

“What did he do?” Aubrey pressed the other woman for more information.

Jessica took a shuddering breath and turned around, pulling her hair over one shoulder to reveal a strip of her bareback between the low dip of her shirt that settled below her shoulders. Aubrey leaned closer to catch a better glimpse at what the innkeeper was trying to show her. She was just about to ask what she was looking at when the light caught the scar tissue at just the right angle. Aubrey’s eyes widened in shock, burn scars. “He did that?” Aubrey gasped.

“He enjoys inflicting pain for sexual pleasure, he doesn’t care whether you ask him to stop. I used to work in a bawd house in Boston when he came to visit. He likes them blonde;” Jessica remarked with a sardonic chuckle. Aubrey settled her fingertip on the top of the scar and traced it down to the collar of the shirt. “I’m sorry, I had no idea. In high society he comes, so highly recommended.”

“Stacie remembered me after she fled. She remembered everything that had happened, she came looking for me. Ashley was part of her crew at the time. They rescued me at just the right moment. I didn’t want the pirate’s life and I couldn’t go back to whoring, so Stacie helped me set up shop here. Ashley stayed on as part of the crew for a little bit, but we fell in love. She’s been here ever since.”
Aubrey considered the new information, lips pressed together as she deliberated. Perhaps, Captain Conrad wasn’t the savage she was rumored to be. “She wouldn’t turn to killing when saving a life was what she was raised on.” Her own words circled her mind, weaving itself with her new knowledge of the pirate captain. Maybe, the brunette was more of her former self than the story would have suggested.

“Hey, I couldn’t find the whiskey, but I grabbed a nice gin?” Ashley entered the room with a bottle in hand. Stacie traipsed behind the brunette, tankards in hand. “Drinks are on the house for you, Miss Aubrey;” Jessica said. Aubrey took the offered tankard quite daintily, her pinky extended like she was taught. “What about me?” Stacie scoffed.

“You are a successful Captain of your very own ship, last I checked, you could afford it;” Ashley jeered. Stacie feigned a look of utter indignation before she settled her expression into one of magnanimity and tossed a couple of doubloons onto the bartop. “Keep the change, buy yourself something nice;” Stacie guffawed.

Aubrey sat back in the captain’s cabin, alone. Stacie had dropped off some ink, a journal, and some books for Aubrey’s consumption before leaving to gallivant around Nassau with her crew. Aubrey was just waiting for the ink to dry on her journal when she heard a knock. She bade the person to come in as she hastily closed the book, hoping the ink was dry enough.

Stacie made her way in awkwardly, her captain’s coat was hanging from one shoulder and her shirt wasn’t properly laced. One leg of her breeches hung out of her boot. “Oh, sorry, I forgot you were in here. I was just going to turn down for the night;” Stacie mumbled. The captain’s eyes were a little glazed, most likely from the liquor.

“That’s quite alright, it is your cabin after all. I’m simply borrowing it.” Aubrey offered the brunette the first soft smile in a while. The expression seemed to put the other woman more at ease. “I enjoyed my time with Jessica and Ashley, they were very kind.”

“That’s good, they’re really wonderful people. I miss having Ashley in the crow's nest, but I know she belongs with Jessica;” Stacie grinned.

“Yes, I just wanted to thank you for being as accommodating as you are. I may have misjudged you;” Aubrey admitted. Green eyes met green, Aubrey stepped closer to the other woman to better communicate with the obviously intoxicated pirate captain. “Misjudged me?” Stacie mumbled.

“You may not be the horror I thought you to be, you’ve been incredibly kind to me. You’ve never hurt me and you’ve provided every convenience in your power. You’re not the pirate I thought you were.”

“But, I am a pirate;” Stacie pouted. Aubrey suppressed another fond smile as the adorable expression took over the captain’s face. “You’re like no pirate I’ve ever heard of then, you save people.”

“I’m still ransoming you, you know;” Stacie chuckled.

“I know, I just wanted to thank you for looking out for me. You may take hostages, but you do care. I just want you to know that I appreciate that.”

The other girl nodded drowsily and took a stumbling step forward. Aubrey watched with deep amusement as the woman did a confusing spin about the room before her eyes settled on the bed. The brunette trotted forward and collapsed into it. The nailed-down piece of furniture let out a brief creak as the captain tossed and turned for a moment until Stacie gave a light hum and drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Panic. That’s what she felt. She had been so careful to ensure that the succubus didn’t realize her deception, but it had only taken a moment where she let her guard down. A moment of slipping into the overwhelming aura that Stacie put out, now set the blonde up for an overall awkward conversation. After all, how do you broach the topic of your past convalescence with someone you had tried to forget for centuries. 

 

Of course, she remembered the slumbering girl. After Aubrey had left that night, she had dug up some information on Stacie, or Anastacia as she was known then. She had discovered that Stacie was the lost princess of Russia and that she often used her powers of seduction to pull herself out of sticky situations. Something that Aubrey suspected pulled in the other girl’s favor when she had fed on her. After all, most of Aubrey’s victims didn’t live past the first initial fifteen minutes, much less after the fact. When Aubrey saw Stacie at the party, she had done such a good job at forcing her last relapse from memory that she hadn’t recognized the girl. Although, she soon remembered on the rooftop. Not that she told Stacie that. 

 

Aubrey flitted into her bedroom, knowing that the brunette wasn’t far behind. 

 

“So you did remember me?” Stacie preened as she strutted through the door. 

 

“Shut the door,” Aubrey groaned, resigned to the conversation. 

 

Stacie did so, the smile a permanent fixture on the succubus’s face. “I knew I did too good of a job that night for you to not remember me,” The younger woman exclaimed.

 

“Is that all you care about? Sex?” Aubrey glowered. 

 

“I mean, it was really good sex;” Stacie flirted. The succubus moved closer, the atmosphere of the room had begun to pick up. Aubrey took a deep breath as her body seemed to wake up. “I could have killed you;” Aubrey stated resolutely. 

 

“You didn’t,” Stacie retorted. 

 

“I could’ve;” Aubrey groaned. Stacie moved within an inch of Aubrey, one hand rested on the blonde’s hip while the other played with a strand of blonde hair. “You didn’t, you had an opportunity after and you didn’t.” 

 

“I almost did,” Aubrey mumbled. Her mind flickered back to that night, that urge to rip and tear. She felt the ache around her eyes, the burning of her nose, her fangs dropped. The memory of the blood was almost too much. Stacie leaned in and the scent of blood thickened, Aubrey lurched backward. Her back slammed against the wall as she held her breath. “I need you to take a step back, right now;” She choked out. Stacie’s advances faltered for a moment, a look of concern overtaking the girl’s lascivious smirk. 

“You won’t hurt me,” Stacie said, her voice was low, as though more to herself than to Aubrey. “You could have killed me that night, why didn’t you?” 

 

“I-” Aubrey paused. If she were being honest with Stacie, she wasn’t sure why she hadn’t killed the brunette. All she knew was that she had felt inexorably connected to the other woman, as though killing her was unthinkable. Even at that moment, when the overwhelming urge to bite the other woman seemed to be batting down all of Aubrey’s carefully planned control, she felt that the urge was more lust-fueled than outright murderous. 

 

“We’re connected, you can feel it too;” Stacie said. She took a step forward, gathering courage now. “Aubrey, what do you know about succubi?” 

 

“You hold dominion over lust, you can affect larger and larger groups depending on maturity and power. You can often read emotions around you, outside of lust, it’s sometimes misconstrued as mind reading.” 

 

“That’s almost textbook,” Stacie chuckled. “What you don’t know is that my father was part seer. Babushka was a seer, Dedushka was a Vulcan. As you should know by now, when two different types of Fae have a child, that child claims portions of both parent’s powers.”

 

“So your dad was a Vulcan and seer halfling,” Aubrey remarked. 

 

“Yup, and since seers influence over time and the future…”

 

“And Vulcans hold power over mechanics and probability,” Aubrey surmised. 

 

“My powers of attraction far outstrip others, because I’m able to deduce the probability of certain situations and then influence people in the right way at the right moments;” Stacie explained. She had resumed her place directly in front of Aubrey, her hand reached out to cup the back of the blonde’s neck. “What I felt that night had a high probability for something I never expected, and I’d really like to find out if my hunch is right or not.” 

 

“So, you don’t actually want me, you just want to be right?” Aubrey snarked. 

 

Stacie grinned her wolfish grin, which made Aubrey question a possible werewolf lineage. “Why can’t I have both? From my side of things, you were the best sex of my life, and I think could help you with your blood haze. It’s a win, win situation.”

 

Aubrey gave Stacie a skeptical look but refrained from protestation. After all, who was she to bet against the power of probability? It wasn’t as though the girl was going to willingly die. “So the deal is, I feed you and you feed me” She reiterated. Stacie nodded in agreement. 

 

“Deal, but if I start to take too much, do whatever you need to do to stop me, got it?” Aubrey said while she held her hand out for the other woman to shake. Stacie took the hand and pulled Aubrey in closer, “I think this is a deal better sealed with a kiss.” Aubrey’s groan was quickly muffled by Stacie’s lips on hers. The succubus allowed her own excitement to leak into the room, her happiness was contagious if Aubrey’s barely suppressed smile had anything to say about it. Smiling into the kiss, the pair leaned in once more, excited to further seal the deal. 

 

The two women sprung at each other in a whirl of passion. Their kisses were all lip biting and suction as the succubus managed to pin Aubrey to a wall. “Finally,” The brunette hummed. Stacie whipped the other woman’s shirt off, the fabric tore with the force behind the motion. “You owe me a shirt;” Aubrey grumbled. Stacie pressed her lips back to the blonde’s and flicked open the button of the other woman’s pants. The sexual tension in the room was absolutely delicious as Stacie drank it in, her eyes glowing with the power it provided. “I’ve waited a century for this, it’s more than worth a damn shirt;” Stacie chuckled. 

 

Aubrey gasped as Stacie’s fingers met their intended destination, her eyes rolled back into her head in pleasure as the succubus worked her magic. Her vision grew foggy and small spots popped up around her eyes. She thought she heard a loud moaning, but soon realized it was her. She had heard rumors about sex with a succubus being the best in the world, but this was ridiculous. “God, fuck;” Aubrey gasped out when Stacie’s fingers found the right spot. The blonde’s nails scrabbled to find purchase along the brunette’s back. Her eyes turned a dark red and she heard tearing as her fingers left claw marks along Stacie’s back. The feeling of Stacie’s fingers working inside her, mixed with the addition of fresh blood made her fangs drop and pressure from around her eyes. “Stacie;” She choked out. She could see the glow of the other woman’s eyes as she fed off of Aubrey’s energy. The brunette leaned in with a smirk. Licking along with the shell of Aubrey’s ear, the blonde felt another hand rip away the fabric of her bra and caress a breast. “I know how good this feels for you, I bet you missed this too.”

 

Aubrey whined in response, her orgasm hanging at the precipice. It took her a moment, but she soon realized that Stacie could manipulate someone’s climax with her powers. “Stacie. Please;” She pleaded, her nails dug into soft flesh and the scent of blood increased. The old urge to bite and tear returned but Stacie felt so good against her that all Aubrey’s mouth could do was hang open as she let out various noises in pleasure. “Tell me you missed me, and maybe I’ll let you cum;” Stacie teased. Her breath gusted over the shell of Aubrey’s ear, her keens got louder when Stacie picked up the pace. She would have climaxed multiple times by now if it weren’t for the Succubus’s influence over sexual tension. “Tell me you missed me,” Stacie whispered. Aubrey’s hand cupped the back of Stacie’s neck and pulled the succubus in for a kiss, their tongues slid together languidly for a moment before Stacie pulled back with a smug smile. “Say it,” the brunette hummed teasingly. 

 

“Fuck, I missed you;” Aubrey whined, finally giving in. Stacie beamed in response and sped up her ministrations, even more, using the energy to fuel her speed. Aubrey’s nails dragged a path around the succubi’s neck and all down her back as she let out a broken moan. The smell of blood filled her senses and she could feel the veins around her temples and eyes tingle as the burning sensation in her throat erupted. Aubrey fought the urge to bite to the best of her ability but Stacie surprised her by tossing her long brunette locks over her shoulder and moving a hand from Aubrey’s breast to cup the back of the blonde’s head. Coaxing her closer. “You need to eat too,” Stacie reminded her gently, the fingers inside of Aubrey never ceasing. Aubrey gave in and bit down on the junction between Stacie’s neck and shoulder just as the Succubus triggered Aubrey’s release. 

 

Aubrey’s screams were muffled by Stacie’s shoulder as her jaw loosened around the newly opened wound. The rush of blood in her mouth set her body on fire as she rejoiced in the warmth of her meal. She hadn’t had a drink outside of a blood bag in ages, Stacie’s blood was quite possibly the most delicious she had had in a while. 

 

When the force of her orgasm ended and Stacie had begun to lazily work her through the aftershocks, Aubrey resumed drinking the blood from the brunette’s neck. “Aubrey, I need some of that blood, you need to stop;” Stacie exclaimed as she gently pushed the blonde away from her. Aubrey seemed to ignore her for a moment but Stacie laid a gentle hand over Aubrey’s cheek and allowed a pulse of energy to shift between them. Slowly, Aubrey came back to herself and began to lick the wound closed. 

 

“Sorry,” Aubrey muttered sheepishly. 

 

“It’s okay, you needed to eat too, ready for a round two?” Stacie grinned. Aubrey’s eyes flashed a brilliant red as her fangs dropped. “Let me know if you need some of my blood for a pick me up,” the blonde exclaimed. 

...

 

Aubrey and Stacie laid naked in bed. Stacie leaned over and wiped the small trickle of blood from Aubrey’s mouth, a smile on her lips. “See, you didn’t kill me;” The brunette beamed. Aubrey hummed in admission as she leaned over and began to lap at the bite marks upon Stacie’s neck. The taste of the succubus’s blood sent sparks through her body, but her violent urges were dampened by the soothing aura Stacie projected. “You taste good,” Aubrey mumbled absentmindedly. 

 

“I know, you’ve said that before;” Stacie chuckled. 

 

“I did?” Aubrey muttered, aghast. Stacie nodded, “First night we met. I guess the blood haze actually did take over your memories for that part.” 

 

“I only remember coming to, on top of you. I don’t remember the lead-up;” Aubrey explained. 

 

“Hmm, maybe we can get a witch to help with that. One that deals with memory, often;” Stacie mumbled into the crown of Aubrey’s head. The vampire relaxed into the brunette’s embrace as a rush of calming energy washed over her. “You’re going to make me fall asleep,” Aubrey grumbled. 

 

“Is that a bad thing?” Stacie laughed. 

 

“I need to plan the talks with Chloe;” Aubrey yawned. 

 

“You have time, what’s a couple of hours to an immortal?” Stacie sighed. 

 

Aubrey mumbled something unintelligible before her eyes slipped closed, Stacie drifted off soon after. Content to have the blonde in her arms again. 

 

 

Aubrey woke up the next day to a loud crash and swearing. Jolting awake, she felt Stacie’s arm drop from its place flung over her torso. “Aubrey!” Chloe called out, clearly panicked. Aubrey flitted around the room and threw on a robe before entering the room in a blur. Chloe stood with bright blue eyes and flames in her hands before a woman with a notched bow and arrow. “You are within the domain of the Huntresses of Artemis, we demand you leave at once or risk becoming our prey;” the woman snarled. A grey streak appeared followed by a yelp as the arrow was loosed and found its mark in Beca’s shoulder. The girl was in wolf form and standing protectively in front of Chloe. “Beca!” Chloe cried out as she rushed forward to aid her girlfriend. 

 

“We don’t make a sport out of witches and werewolves, for you are sisters of the moon as well, so we are giving you the warning to get out of -” The huntress stopped suddenly, eyes focusing on Aubrey finally. Aubrey remained stock still, trying her best to appear as human as possible. Huntresses hesitated when facing werewolves and witches, they were deemed a natural part of the world order. Vampires, however, were seen as beasts and interlopers. The huntress would have no problem attempting to turn Aubrey to ash. 

 

“God, that was the best sex that I’ve had in a while, vampire speed is amazing, do you think-”

 

“Stacie,” Aubrey warned. 

 

“Sorry, did you not want the others to know that we- oh,” Stacie came to a stop behind Aubrey, eyes wide. “Huntress, great.” 

 

The huntress in question had her bow drawn and aimed directly at Stacie. “You have a human woman in your thrall,” the woman with the arrows growled. Stacie, for what it’s worth, remained silent. Eyes narrowed and focused on the weapon. “You have a vampire in this apartment, I cannot allow the creature to live. Stand in my way and you shall die with it;” The huntress growled. 

 

“The human isn’t even in this apartment,” Beca grumbled, now back in her human form. Chloe had grabbed a nearby blanket to wrap her girlfriend in. 

 

“Then who is the blonde? Her vampire partner came in mentioning vampire speed unless this vampire has managed to compel you two?” The huntress squinted at Stacie suspiciously. 

 

“She’s not a-” Chloe clapped a hand over Beca’s mouth. Stacie took a slow step forward, placing her body in front of Aubrey’s. “She may be human but I’m no danger to her,” Stacie said. The huntress's lips twisted downward into a grimace, “I don’t trust the likes of your kind.” 

 

“Then trust me,” Chloe exclaimed, stumbling forward from Beca’s side the redhead approached the huntress. “I’m a white witch from the Beale Coven. We date back to the Becketts in the sixteen hundreds. We’ve always worked with the best interest of the living in mind.” 

 

The huntress assessed Chloe skeptically for a moment before she recognized the determined look in the witch’s eyes. “Very well,” the woman sighed. “We will let you pass out of our territory this time. If we see this vampire ever again we will shoot on sight.” With one last foreboding glare at Stacie the huntress left. 

 

 

They had all packed up and moved to a separate area of New York, into a temporary flat in Hells Kitchen while they planned their next move. They didn’t need to worry about human crime when they were the creatures that often went bump in the night. “So Brooklyn belongs to the Huntresses,” Aubrey sighed, marking the area on a map. “Queens is Maroon’s territory,” Chloe sighed, Aubrey marked the map again. “Soho is in the hands of the Goblins and Djinn;” Beca muttered, crossing the spot off herself. 

 

“West Village is neutral;” Chloe remarked. 

 

“Too many humans,” Aubrey mumbled. 

 

“Chinatown?” Chloe proposed. 

 

“Nope, one of the Phoenix’s nephews lives there. Not exactly a nice one either. He’s only been alive a couple of decades, hasn’t mellowed out yet;” Aubrey sighed. 

 

“Harlem belongs to the sirens,” Beca added. 

 

“Staten is neutral fae land, right?” Chloe mused. 

 

“It’s run by the incubi and one Bacchus demigod I know,” Stacie informed the group. 

 

“Will they attack us?” Chloe inquired. 

 

“Not in the way you’d think unless you count having a good time as an attack;” Stacie shrugged. 

“It’s too far, it’ll be too much of a hassle to commute for meetings;” Aubrey groaned. 

 

“So do we stay in Hell’s Kitchen?” Chloe asked, Aubrey, nodded. “It’s the best bet we’ve got right now. It’s not as though we can get mugged.” 

 

“They could still shoot you in the heart Aubrey,” Chloe sighed. 

 

“Theoretically, everyone here could die via a bullet to the heart;” Stacie pointed out. “At least Aubrey could compel them.”

 

“You could make them all warm, fuzzy, and horny inside;” Beca reminded Stacie. 

 

“And Chloe could say a word and put them to sleep,” Aubrey commented. 

 

“True,” Beca chuckled, “Wait, guys, am I the only one that can’t influence their minds with some kind of magic? Am I the one that’s most likely to get shot?” 

 

“Don’t worry Becs, you’ll be with one of us at all times,” Chloe soothed her partner. Beca looked far from pleased but let the matter go. 

 

“Alright, so, tomorrow we gather everyone for another meeting. Hopefully, Stacie can convince everyone to work together;” Aubrey said. 

 

“Sounds good,” Stacie exclaimed, grabbing Aubrey by the hand. “Alright guys, good meeting. I’ve gotta eat now though, so you two can carry on without us.” 

 

“Stacie, what are you doing?” Aubrey yelped. 

 

“If I’m controlling the moods of some of the most powerful Fae tomorrow, I need to be at tip-top shape. Which means, I need some fuel. Unless you want me going through the entire nightlife population of New York right now…”

 

“Stacie, you ate last night;” Aubrey groaned. 

 

“And I need more power,” Stacie hummed. “Besides, last I checked Posens never lose, and I definitely won our little bet last night. I thought you might like a rematch.” Aubrey’s eyes darkened in response, her hand wrapped tightly around Stacie’s and their pace towards the bedroom picked up. “You’re on;” the blonde muttered.

Chapter Text

Welcome to Barden High, home of the Spartans. Also known as Hell in public school form. Stacie touched up her makeup in the mirror while other girls milled in and out of the locker room. Stacie was captain of the volleyball team and a prized member of the robotics team, although most of her peers had deemed her the school slut and Stacie didn’t care much about correcting them. 

 

“Ugh, what’s she doing here?” An annoying voice sounded from over Stacie’s shoulder. Stacie turned around to meet brown eyes and a curled upper lip. Alice, the captain of the color guard team. Stacie always felt the urge to claw the other girl’s eyes out, after all, it had been Alice’s words that began Stacie’s “slut” reputation. It wasn’t Stacie’s fault that the girl’s boyfriend had hit on her during homecoming the previous year. 

 

“Oh, great, the wicked bitch of the west;” Stacie drawled. 

 

Alice grimaced in her direction while the other color guard girls crossed their arms and rolled their eyes. “Any reason you’re hanging around in the locker room? You’re not trying to spy on girls changing, right?” 

 

Stacie held back a groan at the other girl’s ignorant comment, “No, and my sexuality does not mean I would creep on anyone. Suggesting otherwise is really homophobic, Alice.” 

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I have a gay cousin;” Alice retorted. Stacie shut her eyes tightly for a moment and let out a deep sigh. Yup, that’s enough. 

 

“Alright, I don’t have time for this. I have to go;” Stacie grumbled. She pushed past the lingering girls and stomped towards the exit with her bag slung over her shoulder. High School sucked. 

 

 

Stacie was marching in the direction of the student parking lot, keys in hand and humming a tune when she saw a flash of gold. She stopped and turned to see a blonde-haired girl spin up into the air, land on one foot, and strike a pose as her fellow cheerleaders held her up. Their eyes met briefly and the girl raised an eyebrow in interest before falling back into the arms of her teammates. Stacie smiled as she watched the blonde land on her feet in the grass and let out a cheer. 

 

 

The neighborhood she lived in was a regular suburb. White picket fences, four-pane windows, white-edged houses with shingle roofs. Painted with crisp blues, whites, and light cream, the houses were uniform in appearance. When she pulled into her driveway her oldest friend, Beca Mitchell was sitting idly on her skateboard.  Stacie hopped out of her Hyundai and locked the doors with a click. “Becs? What are you doing here? I thought you were working on an arrangement with Cynthia Rose for the school talent show?” 

 

“She got the flu so she canceled;” Beca shrugged. 

 

“And your first thought was to come here?” 

 

“No, I tried Jesse first, but he was busy playing video games with Benji.” 

 

Stacie pursed her lips and gestured for the other girl to follow her inside. She decided to ignore the fact that she was Beca’s third option. “How’re the arrangements going?” She inquired instead. 

 

“They’re okay, I’m also helping some others out for their sound;” Beca said.

 

“Would any of those others be an effervescent redhead named Chloe Beale?” Stacie teased. 

 

“I-shut up, she asked for some help. I wasn’t going to say no;” Beca blushed. Stacie laughed at her friend’s embarrassment and tossed her bag onto a nearby seat. Beca had been crushing on Chloe Beale since freshman orientation. The ginger had been one of their orientation counselors and the tiny DJ had been harboring a crush on the girl ever since. “Tell me you’re at least asking her to prom,” Stacie pressed. 

 

“What? I can’t do that. She goes with Tom every year anyway;” Beca spluttered. 

 

“Not this year, Tom was caught with Barb and now he’s on the outs with red;” Stacie informed her friend. Beca’s eyes widened for a moment as the smaller girl lapsed into thought. “When did you hear this?” 

 

“Volleyball practice,” Stacie smirked. “They haven’t been together for a couple of months now, actually.”  

 

Stacie allowed her friend to ponder the news while she set about making herself a sandwich. Grabbing the bread, turkey, ham, salami, mozzarella, and butter, she slathered the ingredients on top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper before shoving the sandwich into her mouth. “Dude, don’t you need to chew that?” 

 

Stacie swallowed the food thickly before answering, “Haven’t you heard? I’m really good at swallowing.” 

 

Beca let out an amused snort. “You’re not that sexually active.”

 

“I mean, I’m pretty sexually active;” Stacie hummed. 

“You haven’t told me a single uncomfortable story this entire school year,” Beca argued. 

 

“Maybe I’ve been too busy doing, extracurriculars;” Stacie’s voice turned sultry when she said the last words. Her finger traced a lineup of Beca’s arm as the shorter girl squirmed. “Stop that,” Beca griped. “If you don’t want to tell me, fine, but whatever it is, I’m proud of you. You’re finally giving the hunter a break.” 

 

“The hunter never needs a break;” Stacie scoffed. 

 

“Fine, not a break, I just mean you’re prioritizing other things;” Beca corrected. Stacie met Beca’s expectant stare with a perturbed quirk of her brow, but let the subject drop. “I ran into Alice today,” she exclaimed instead. 

 

“Oh, great, the wicked bitch of the west;” Beca deadpanned. “How is my lovely step-sister?” 

 

“Terrible, as always;” Stacie chuckled. “I have something in my room that can turn her hair purple if you ever want to try it?” 

 

Beca let out a sharp cackle which was followed up by the clap of her hand over her mouth. “Dude, no, she’ll annoy the shit out of me for the rest of my life if I do that.” 

 

“Might be worth it,” Stacie grinned. 

 

 

The next day of school was monotonous, to say the least. Stacie arrived at Barden High three hours later than the rest of the school’s population as a result of her dual enrollment in the nearby university. The rest of her classes were mostly TA positions for the upper-level classes, a rare setup in a high school. Mr. Everett, the chemistry teacher, was one of the teachers that actually expected work from his TA’s. 

 

It was AP Chemistry and right before lunch. It was a class meant for the most advanced students, and that meant Stacie was the least expected person in the school to be there. “Conrad? What are you doing here?” Alice’s nasally voice sounded from the back of the room. Stacie looked up to see the older girl, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “Oh my god, are you doing some ‘extra credit’ for Mr. Everett?” The girl’s suggestive tone around ‘extra credit’ made Stacie’s nostrils flare. The insinuation, clear. 

 

“If anyone needs extra credit it’s you, Alice;” Another voice broke in. Stacie whirled around to see the same blonde cheerleader from the day before. Aubrey Posen, straight-A student, captain of the Cheerleaders, and the school’s ice queen. “I can defend myself, thanks;” Stacie snapped. The blonde rolled her eyes, “I’m not doing it for you, Anastacia. Alice needs to be taken down a peg anyway.” 

“Excuse me,” Alice seethed. 

 

“I heard you went down to the auditorium and said something to Chloe, yesterday. You can make fun of me all you want, but you leave Chloe out of it. Got it,” Aubrey snarled. Stacie watched the blonde with interest as she went into a long tirade about basic principles and Alice’s lack of integrity. 

 

“And if you ever say that Chloe has no talent ever again, I will personally pull your head out of your ass myself. Understood?” 

 

Alice stood stock still in indignation, her small mind rushing to find a good comeback. “I’m going to be late for class, I’ll see you in English Anastacia,” Aubrey huffed. Stacie watched the blonde flick some invisible dust from her shoulders and leave with a flip of blonde hair. “Better get out of here before you’re late for class, you don’t want to hurt your small brain with advanced thermodynamics;” Stacie simpered as she pointed Alice towards the door.

 

 

 Volleyball practice ran late that day, which meant that Stacie was late to Robotics. They were supposed to be making a traceable solar car for the event coming up, and Stacie was one of the best designers that the club had. Since Stacie was late, she wound up staying longer. “Sorry Mr. Luther, they kept us later for volleyball. I’m glad we figured out the transmission, though;” Stacie exclaimed upon her exit. The engineering teacher waved her away as she set off into the rain. 

 

She made it to the doors of the gym and slipped into the locker room. She had forgotten her chemistry textbook, so she had to come back and grab it. The cheerleaders were in the locker room along with the color guard team, getting ready for the upcoming pep rally, probably. “Shut up Alice, no one wants to hear your theories on Conrad again;” A familiar voice said. Chloe, the redhead was apparently given a pass by their drama teacher to attend cheerleading practice. 

 

“You’re just defending her because she’s that midget’s friend,” Alice sneered. 

 

“Alice, you shouldn’t use that word, it’s offensive;” A girl, Kori, chided. 

 

“Whatever, ginger just has heart eyes for Becky smalls. At least Conrad has one thing going for her and that’s her looks. Although I think all of her assets went to”

 

“Alice, shut up. No one cares, Anastasia doesn’t bother anyone. You’re just mad that Danny wants to ask her out to Prom and not you;” Aubrey snapped. 

 

Stacie heard a gasp and a flurry of hissed words, followed by a muttered retort that had the entire locker room gasping. “Whatever, Posen. You’ll see, she’ll steal your boyfriend and I’ll get to tell you I told you so.” 

 

“She’s not going to steal Jesse,” Aubrey snorted. 

 

“You don’t know that, it’s not like she knows how to keep her legs closed for -” 

 

Slap.

 

More gasps sounded followed by approaching footsteps. Stacie backed up rapidly to make room for a furious Alice. The older girl had a red mark across her cheek. “Of course you would be creeping on us in the locker room,” Alice snarled before shoving the door open and disappearing out of it. Stacie stood in shock, waiting for the sound of all the other girls leaving through the other door. 

 

“Anastacia?” Aubrey remarked, surprised to see the taller girl. 

 

“I forgot my chemistry book,” Stacie explained. She offered the blonde a small smile and stepped closer towards Aubrey in the direction of the lockers. 

 

“Of course you did,” Aubrey chuckled. The blonde stepped to the side and allowed Stacie to pass. The brunette started to say something but was interrupted by the sound of Chloe humming. 

 

“Bye Bree, see you tomorrow!” Chloe called out, followed by the sound of the door shutting behind her. 

 

Stacie made her way to her locker and entered the code, taking her time as she heard Aubrey’s footsteps mill about the room. “Got my book,” Stacie exclaimed. She shoved the book back into her bag and turned around as Aubrey turned the corner of the lockers with a fond smile. 

 

“Looks like you sufficiently cleared a room,” Stacie grinned. 

 

“Yeah, I did;” Aubrey said.

 

The pair sprung forward, hands rose to clutch one another as their lips pressed together. Stacie hummed at the contact, enjoying the feeling of Aubrey’s tongue swiping along her bottom lip, asking for entry. She opened her mouth and let Aubrey’s tongue in, her own caressing in a playful pattern. Aubrey gently sucked on her tongue while Stacie moaned lowly before the pair parted for air. 

 

“I missed doing that,” Stacie smirked. 

 

“Me too,” Aubrey sighed, her thumb swiped along Stacie’s bottom lip. Stacie bit the tip of Aubrey’s thumb teasingly and offered her girlfriend a playful wink. “So, the word in the locker rooms is that you have a boyfriend now?” 

 

Aubrey snorted and backed away a step, Stacie’s hands settled around the girl’s hips and pulled her back. “He asked me to prom and I said yes, he’s a good guy. Chloe vouched for him.” 

 

“Hmm, well there goes my plans of asking you to prom,” Stacie teased. 

 

Aubrey leaned forward and tipped Stacie’s head forward, pressing her lips to the other girls in a chaste kiss. “I wish I could go with you,” Aubrey mumbled into the kiss. 

 

“I know, but your southern parents wouldn’t stand for it, I know;” Stacie finished sadly. 

 

“If you want, you can meet me in Atlanta and we can go dress shopping?” 

 

“Aren’t you worried someone will see us?” Stacie sighed. 

 

Aubrey paused for a moment in thought, “Maybe we play hooky and go during a school day?” 

 

“The great Aubrey Posen, the goodie-two-shoes queen, breaking a rule?” Stacie feigned outrage, clapping a hand over her mouth in shock. Aubrey slapped her shoulder in indignation before crossing her arms and beginning to pout. 

 

“It was just a suggestion, I thought you wanted to see me in my dress.”

 

“I think I’d prefer to see you out of your dress,” Stacie flirted, pressing a kiss to the blonde’s temple. 

 

“Stacie!” Aubrey hissed, “I swear, you’re absolutely incorrigible.” 

 

“Haven’t you heard? He’s a hunter;” Stacie joked, nodding her head in the direction of her crotch. Aubrey snickered in response and graced her girlfriend with a roll of her eyes. “Last I checked, The Hunter retired.” 

 

“Retirement? Never. He just works for a very specific boss now, maybe you know her? Blonde, gorgeous green eyes, wonderfully pouty lips and legs that some people would die for.” 

 

“Stacie, your legs are nicer than mine,” Aubrey chastised. 

 

“Yeah, well I love yours more, maybe because of who they’re attached to,” Stacie whispered into Aubrey’s ear. She heard her girlfriend gulp, a Cheshire grin stretched across her face as she moved her face closer to Aubrey’s and leaned down to press their lips together once more. Where the kiss before was rushed and desperate, this one was slow and sweet. Aubrey’s lips were always so soft, and her breath always smelled of fresh mint. When they separated they smiled warmly at each other, their heartbeats ringing in their ears. 

 

“I love you too,” Aubrey hummed, resting her forehead against Stacie’s. “When I leave for college, text me every day, okay?” 

 

“Well, actually;” Stacie began, but the sound of a door opening interrupted. The two sprung apart, Aubrey turned to fiddle with her lock as Stacie pulled out her chemistry book. “So, I was hoping you know what I’m supposed to do for problems 3 and 7 of the Chemistry homework?” Stacie inquired. Aubrey spun around and looked at the textbook as Stacie pointed at the appropriate number. 

 

“Oh, you two are still here?” Flor Fuentes, one of Aubrey’s fellow cheerleaders, said. “I thought I would be the only one left. I was actually hoping I could get a ride? Emily got a ride from Benji and I forgot to ask Jessica.”

 

“Oh, yeah, sure. I can drive you;” Aubrey replied warmly. “I’ll send you a link on how to do conversions later, just give me your number and I’ll send it over;” Aubrey said to Stacie. The brunette nodded and scribbled a set of random digits on the piece of paper before handing it to Aubrey. The blonde offered a small polite smile and a wave as she left with Flo in tow.

Chapter Text

 

The handcuffs pressed uncomfortably against her wrists. The metal was cold and chafing as the police cruiser made the journey to the nearest hospital. They had called it an involuntary committal or a section 302; Stacie called it institutionalization. Not that the cops cared to listen, that is. 

 

“It’s good you’re doing this! You’ll go in, and they’ll make sure you get better,” The cop exclaimed cheerfully. Stacie rolled her eyes and put on a chirp of a voice, “Yeah, I’m sure. I really just want to get better,” She said as she shimmied her handcuffed hands down her body and brought her legs through. Her hands were now at the front of her body as opposed to behind her, where the cop had cuffed them. 

 

“I’m really glad you want to get better; that’s the first step after all,” The cop prattled on. Stacie nodded and smiled at the cop through the rearview mirror as she fiddled with the cuffs in front of her. “Well, it looks like we’re here!” The police officer stopped the car and got out. Stacie watched the officer walk around the cruiser and open her door; she took a small victory at the look of surprise on the man’s face when she saw she had brought her hands around. 

 

“Well, when did you do that?” The policeman chuckled.

 

“It was uncomfortable having them behind me,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

The man snorted amicably and held out a hand to help her up. When she stood, she stood a little taller than the police officer, which was even more comical to her, especially when she saw the man straighten his posture in an attempt to look taller. “I’m sure everything will be fine when you get out. This way.”

 

The hospital had sliding glass doors and metal detectors at the entrance. Stacie took a seat in the lobby while the policeman talked to the receptionist at the front desk. An older woman gave Stacie a courteous smile. While the cop and receptionist discussed the technicalities of an involuntary commitment, Stacie continued to fiddle with the cuffs. Luckily, she had put her hair up that day, so it only took her a moment to pull a bobby pin out of her hair. Biting the plastic tip-off, she inserted the self-made pick into the lock and bent it to a ninety-degree angle, and then bent it the opposite way at a forty-five. Once she properly formed the pick, Stacie inserted the pin all the way and twisted clockwise for the first tumbler and then counterclockwise for the second. The bolt unlocked, and she pulled her right hand out and massaged her wrist before unlocking the left cuff. 

 

Satisfied, she waited for the cop to finish up his conversation, his eyes widening further when she held the cuffs out for him. “Well, aren’t you making my job easier;” The cop chuckled. Stacie shrugged and turned to the approaching nurse. “Can you follow me, please?” The nurse requested; Stacie stood up and did as she was asked. Resigned to her fate. 

The nurse had her sit in an empty room at a round table with her phone for several hours, filling out phone numbers on a small card and a ton of paperwork. The forms requested information about her parents, her medical history, allergies, special diet requirements, the reason for forced institutionalization, permission to hold phone and belongings, etc. By the time Stacie was done with the forms, it had been three hours, and her phone was on nineteen percent. 

 

Once they collected her paperwork and filled her in on hospital expectations, she handed her phone to the administrative worker, who tossed it into a Ziploc bag. Once her orientation was complete, he guided her down a series of hallways and further into the hospital. Stacie made a note of the koi pond and spa that they passed, followed by a pool and an area dedicated to shuffleboard. The administrator rattled off information about their activities, but Stacie mostly zoned out through it. 

 

After being strip-searched, Stacie was given back her leggings and a paper shirt in place of her hoodie. “Why can’t I wear my hoodie,” She asked the nearby tech. 

 

“You can, but we’d have to cut the strings off of it,” The girl explained. Stacie gawked in horror and donned the paper shirt without further protest. She liked her hoodie too much to allow them to cut the strings. “Do I get my shoes back?” She asked. 

 

“You don’t really need them, plus, you can’t have shoelaces,” The tech replied. Stacie groaned, “What’s the full list of things I can’t wear?” 

 

“Anything with a string isn’t allowed, no sharp objects, shoes aren’t suggested since you’ll mostly be in here anyway. We bring a cart out for shampoo and conditioner at seven PM sharp, and we take the cart away at eight, so you need to shower before it goes back in storage. You only get a paper cup filled with soap, and you’re constrained to two pumps.”

 

“What, do you think we’re going to drink it?” Stacie scoffed. 

 

The tech looked at her skeptically as if to say, “yeah, duh.” 

 

“Anything else?” Stacie pressed. 

 

“Breakfast is at eight AM sharp, group therapy is at ten, and we will schedule your individual appointments throughout the day. You’ll be required to sign voluntary surrender forms between then. If you get violent, we are expected to call a code grey and give you a sedative and return you to this room for solitary confinement. Medication, if you've given any, is dispersed at half-past seven, right after vitals.”

 

“Great,” Stacie mumbled. The tech opened the door and led Stacie into the common room. 

 

 

A nurse gave Stacie a meal as the woman explained that all her fellow patients were out at dinner. The meal itself was generally sparse fare. Mashed potatoes, chicken, and an apple. While she was eating, she was interrupted by a flurry of discussion and the automatic opening of the ward doors. Turning, she was met with the image of three boys rushing forward in paper shirts and pants, rubber-tipped socks squeaking against the linoleum floors. “Trolls!” One of the boys cheered. The troll boy had styled black hair and glasses; his smile was wide as he hopped over the back of the couch and flicked on the television. 

 

“Looks like we’ve got fresh meat,” One of the other boys grinned. He had boyish looks and brown hair; he reminded Stacie vaguely of a cherub. 

 

“Don’t call her fresh meat, Bumper; it’s rude,” A blonde girl with blue eyes chided. “I’m Jessica; the obnoxious one is Bumper.” 

 

“Sup,” Bumper grunted. 

 

“Ooh, fresh meat!” Another girl shouted upon her entrance. Stacie’s eyes widened when a chubby blonde girl with an Australian accent approached eagerly with a wild look in her eye. “Fat Amy!” Another voice groaned. “You’re going to scare her.” 

 

The Australian girl stopped short and cocked her head to the side in confusion. “How would I scare her?” 

 

“Well, for one thing, charging at her like a bull definitely won’t help the transition,” Another girl scoffed. Stacie looked up to see a black girl with red hair and a bright blue v-neck. “Hey, I’m Cynthia Rose,” The other girl introduced herself. 

 

“Um, hi?” Stacie said haltingly. 

 

“See, you scared her,” Cynthia Rose admonished Fat Amy, turning in the other girl’s direction with her hands on her hips. 

 

“Quiet guys, I’m trying to watch Trolls,” The boy with the glasses shushed them.

 

“Donald, you’ve watched that movie every day for the past three days;” The blonde girl with blue eyes groaned. 

 

“Shhh,” Donald ignored his fellow patient’s protest as the Trolls ran from the king’s cook. 

 

“Sorry about him, I’m Jessica, and that’s Donald.” The blonde girl pointed at the boy with glasses, who offered Stacie a quick wink before turning back to the screen. 

 

“I kind of figured he was Donald since you just said his name,” Stacie chuckled. 

 

“Who hasn’t said their name yet?” Jessica asked her fellow patients. 

 

“Hey there, I’m Bumper, but you can call med-”

 

“Shut it, you overgrown cabbage patch kid,” Fat Amy cut Bumper off with a hip check. “Well, CR said my name and then introduced herself, so I’m assuming you know who we are. Which leaves the people that haven’t spoken up.” Fat Amy grabbed Stacie’s arm and pulled her to her feet, spinning her around to face the group's direction. 

 

“Let’s do a rundown anyway. Skinny blonde is Jessica; our local lesbian is Cynthia Rose, the worst person you’ll ever meet is Bumper, best is moi also known as Fat Amy-”

 

“You call yourself-”

 

“Yes, she does, so twig bitches like us don’t do it behind her back,” Jessica and Cynthia Rose sighed in unison. 

 

“Got it,” Stacie uttered under her breath. 

 

“The boy that hasn’t talked yet is Benji,” Fat Amy gestured towards a boy with brown hair and thick eyebrows. He smiled kindly at Stacie and gave a small wave. “He’s our magician friend. Next, we have Shawshank, our very own walking iPod. Seriously she knows every single song; just ask.”

 

“Hi, I’m Beca;” A tiny brunette introduced herself sheepishly. 

 

“Red is in her room at the moment; she wasn’t feeling up to dinner at the moment;” Fat Amy rattled off the names in short order, finishing by pointing Stacie towards the hall where she assumed ‘Red’ was located. “You’re new, so for the first night, you get your own room. Good for you!” 

 

Stacie watched as Beca walked off down the hall towards the rooms as the others crowded around the common area to watch the movie or play board games. “So, what are you in for legs?” 

 

“I was found at the top of a parking garage,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

“Found as in, something bad  happened up there, or you almost did something bad up there?” Fat Amy inquired. 

 

“Well-”

 

“Hey, guys.” 

 

Stacie turned to see a pretty redhead entering the room with Beca in tow. They were holding hands. “Hi, Becs told me we had someone new; I’m Chloe;” The redhead took a seat on the couch after Benji stood up to sit on the floor. “Trolls again?” Chloe giggled. 

 

“It’s my favorite movie,” Donald mumbled self-consciously. 

 

“That’s okay, Donald; I love anything with music, you know that,” Chloe assuaged the boy with a pat on Donald’s knee. 

 

“What were you guys talking about?” Chloe asked. 

 

“We were asking how legs got here,” Amy informed her friend. 

 

“Oh, hmm, well, she doesn’t have to answer that,” Chloe commented. 

 

“Well, I’m here because I was deemed dangerous to the public. All I did was punch a guy; it only got worse because I called the cop a wanker and broke a window,” Fat Amy exclaimed with something resembling pride. 

 

“I wrote a Reddit post about how I was having a tough time of things, and my university tracked me down to commit me,” Bumped harrumphed. 

 

“I went to a hospital asking for a therapist, and they sent me here instead. I didn’t know that I said the wrong things when they asked me whether I ever felt sad or hopeless sometimes,” Donald continued the conversation, his eyes never leaving the screen. 

 

“I’m not answering this question,” Cynthia Rose grunted. 

 

“Same,” Beca muttered. Chloe nodded in agreement, her thumb brushing over Beca’s. 

 

“I’ll go,” Benji offered. 

 

“Nah, dude, yours is messed up,” Cynthia Rose exclaimed. 

 

“I mean, it’s kind of funny?” Benji continued. 

 

“Dude, your method is the reason we’re not allowed to have shoelaces,” Donald snorted. 

 

Stacie’s eyes widened in brief understanding; the comments were definitely adding up. “I think I get it,” She told them. 

 

“Good, no need to tell the full story then,” Chloe hummed. 

 

Stacie slept badly that night. The air conditioning was loud, and her blanket was too thin for her to complete a REM cycle fully. When the nurses came in to wake her up, she rose rather easily since she hadn’t fully fallen asleep anyway. She filed into the hallway, followed by the others, as the nurses took her blood and checked her blood pressure. 

 

“I hate mornings,” Beca grumbled. 

 

“It’ll be alright, babe,” Chloe yawned and patted the brunette on the head comfortingly. 

 

Stacie approached the couch and sat down, debating the entire time on whether she wanted to attempt sleep again. Maybe she could ask for another blanket? “Looks like we have fresh meat again,” Bumper grunted. Stacie turned to look in the same direction as the boy in surprise. In the seat nearest the door sat another blonde girl with green eyes and a deep scowl. 

 

“Aubrey?” Chloe gasped. Stacie watched as Chloe rushed forward to stoop near the blonde. “What are you doing here?” 

 

“I was doing a mock trial paper, and I was having someone peer review my work, but the idiot thought I was serious when I related to depression in my speech, so he reported me.” 

 

“And they Section 302’d you for that?” Cynthia Rose gawked. 

 

“They wouldn’t even listen to me; they threatened me and everything when I didn’t want to cooperate. If they just read my paper, they’d realize it was a school assignment. Yet, here I am. I’m going to be so behind in my coursework,” The blonde, Aubrey, groaned.

 

“They wouldn’t Section you for a term paper,” Beca stated suspiciously. 

 

“Are you calling me a liar?” Aubrey challenged, green eyes narrowed on Beca. 

 

The tiny brunette held up her hands in mock surrender, “Fine, whatever you say.” 

 

“Well, at least you’ll have company during breakfast today,” Cynthia Rose said to Stacie. 

 

“Huh?” Stacie turned to look at the other girl in confusion. 

 

“You haven’t filled out all your paperwork yet, and you haven’t had your first psychiatric appointment. You’re not allowed in the cafeteria,” CR explained. 

 

“Well, Aubrey, you and… wait, did we never ask you for your name yesterday?” Chloe gasped, turning to Stacie with a dropped jaw. 

 

“Yeah, it’s fine, though. You can call me -”

 

“Anastacia Conrad!” The nurse at the reception area called out. Stacie groaned at the use of her full name. “Please, call me Stacie,” She said loud enough for everyone to hear. 

 

“Stacie is a lot less impressive than Anastacia,” Aubrey hummed, quirking one perfect eyebrow. 

 

“Yeah, well…” Stacie trailed off. The tall brunette made her way to the desk, where the nurses gave her an appointment time. 

 

...

 

Aubrey was an anxious mess, something that became glaringly apparent as Stacie interacted with the girl. The blonde would often go off on tangents about school assignments, her father's opinions, calorie intake, professors, school ranking. It got to the point where Stacie was beginning to stress out for the girl. “You know, worrying isn’t going to help you in this situation, right?” Stacie said hesitantly. 

 

Aubrey slowly turned to face Stacie with the dramatics of a horror film. “Aca-Scuse me?” 

 

“Aca- what? Where did, what -” Stacie stumbled through her thoughts as she attempted to frame an appropriate response to Aubrey’s utterance. 

 

“For your information, I am a member of the Barden Bellas, and my captain will kill me for missing a single day of rehearsal. I’m sorry I don’t have my head in my ass as you do. Some people have things to do in the real world.” 

 

“The Barden Bellas? You mean that group of girls that sometimes sing while cosplaying as flight attendants?” 

 

If it were possible, Stacie would have sworn that Aubrey’s face got redder. “Aca-”

 

“Whatever,” Stacie broke in, “You can miss a couple of days of flight attendant training while you focus on getting better because as much as you say you don’t belong here, every word you have said so far suggests you need this.” Stacie’s words were met with Aubrey’s furious glare and the snap of her mouth shutting. “Good, now breathe; we have a long seventy-two hours ahead of us.”

 

Aubrey groaned and settled her head in her hands. “I’m so screwed.” Stacie looked at the blonde and her defeated posture. She felt a spike of sympathy for the other girl and tentatively patted her on the shoulder.

 

“Hey, it’s three days of your life. They’ll realize there’s nothing wrong with you, you’ll get your discharge papers, and you’ll never see this place again. It doesn’t sound like it’s your first time here anyway, so at least you have some form of prior knowledge of how things work here, right? I’m sure everything will be fine, and nothing is a better excuse for lack of access to technology and assignments than being locked up someplace against your will. Professors can’t fail you for that.” 

 

Aubrey peered at Stacie suspiciously for a moment before relaxing. “Yeah, you’re right. Although, Alice is still going to murder me.”

 

“I don’t know who this Alice is, but do you want me to punch her?” Stacie chuckled. Aubrey finally cracked a smile; the force of her grin was dazzling at the moment. Stacie thought that Aubrey’s smile was the most beautiful she had ever seen. 

 

“Don’t punch her; you’ll wind up right back here, and don’t let the nurses hear that. You’ll be marked down for violent thought patterns.” 

 

The two shared a look of annoyance before bursting into laughter. “So big brother’s watching?” Stacie chortled.

 

“Oh yea, big time. They take note of everything you say.” 

 

“So, your little spiel on how stressed you are just earned you what? Another week?” 

 

“Don’t even joke about that; I would have a panic attack,” Aubrey snorted. 

 

“Well, if it makes you feel better, I’ll probably be here longer than three days too.”

 

“Why’s that?” Aubrey inquired, curious. 

 

“That’s what you get when you’re caught trying to jump off of six-floor parking garages,” Stacie shrugged. 

 

Aubrey’s expression faltered for a moment, a mixture of alarm and sorrow flit across her features. “If I may ask, why?”

 

Stacie shrugged once more and stared off at the black television screen. “I guess I didn’t see much of a point in sticking around. It’s funny too. I had just been hanging out with friends, and I was laughing with them, playing games. I saw my friend Emily score a goal in her soccer game, her boyfriend Mikey cheering her on. Everything was good. I wanted to do something after but Emily was tired. I didn’t want to be alone, but they weren’t sticking around, so I went to the roof of the garage to get some air. I usually did that to breathe, be closer to the sky. Except this time was different. This time I didn’t spend my time looking up. Instead, I looked down, and all I wanted was to fall and never get up again.”

 

“Were you practicing?” Aubrey asked. 

 

“I don’t know, I thought I just liked to go there to think, but at that moment, it felt like everything was supposed to lead up to me jumping off that roof.” 

 

“I’m glad you didn’t,” Aubrey said. Stacie turned to look at the blonde in mild surprise, “You just met me.”

 

“That doesn’t mean I can’t care about another human being, so I’m glad you didn’t make the jump.” 

 

“I almost did,” Stacie mumbled.

 

“But you didn’t, small victories;” Aubrey’s response was accompanied by a gentle taking of Stacie’s hand. 

 

“Small victories,” Stacie repeated as she accepted Aubrey’s hand with a gentle squeeze.

Chapter Text

They were in a hotel suite not too far from the Empire State building. Beca and Chloe, Stacie and Aubrey. The two pairs had gone about dispersing unofficial acquiescence to the demands of the various Fae leaders. Bahek was the first to enter the room wearing his traditional tailored Italian suits and golden enchanted rings. They accented his regal posture while juxtaposing his dark skin. He gave Aubrey a soft touch of the arm before approaching his seat. The Witch Mother was. Next, her soft frame was countered by her shining blue eyes and olive skin. She was the oldest witch alive; to their knowledge, that is, there was a long history of witches suddenly reappearing centuries after they were presumed dead. 

 

Cynthia Rose arrived with her fellow sirens in tail, followed by Flint, the werewolf alpha, and his wife, Myra. The Werewolf leaders were extremely tall individuals with flashing yellow eyes and rippling muscles. He held out the chair for his wife before taking his own seat. They both had bright red hair and pale skin. When they weren’t flashing their teeth and wolf eyes, they had a similar iris coloration to one Chloe Beale. 

 

“Where’s my son?” Flint barked. He had a bottle in one of his massive hands; he was in the process of pouring his wife a drink. 

 

“What? You owe me an apology for your threats on my people,” The Witch Mother snapped. 

 

“I never -” Flint broke off as Stacie flooded the room with a calming aura. Aubrey felt her own body relax in its seat as Stacie worked. Beca and Chloe were turned to brush their lips together as everyone else in the room fought the succubus’s effect.

 

“How about we try to relax a little, talk about everything in a calm and orderly fashion,” Stacie suggested. Aubrey hummed and resisted the urge to kiss the succubus. One side effect of succubi's mood affectation was that any feelings of genuine affection became all the more obvious, even when Stacie didn’t purposefully introduce sexual tension into the mix. “Flint, you promised your son to the Brooklyn wolves, correct?” Aubrey spoke up. 

 

“Yes, I did, and wolves don’t break their word. He needs to come home and marry the girl.” 

 

“He is already bound to my daughter through her bearing his child,” The Witch Mother argued. 

 

“Please, Paulina, you and I both know that we could work out maintenance for the child,” Flint scoffed. 

 

“The child deserves a father, and there are some decisions I can no longer make for my daughter. They are bound by blood.” 

 

“You said that already,” Flint attempted to stand suddenly, but his motions were much more languid than he intended. “Blast it; why do I feel so slow?” 

 

“You’ll handle this meeting calmly and rationally until we say otherwise,” Aubrey answered. The werewolf’s wife settled a hand on her husband’s arm and leaned in to nuzzle his neck as she whispered words into his ear. Aubrey turned to look at Stacie, who seemed to be studying the maps they had laid out. The blockade was marked in red ink with moving dots that symbolized their current forces stationed there. “We all need to work together if we’re going to beat Alaric. He has numbers and power; Luciana can’t leave the Court. The Huntresses aren’t accepting peace talks, and half of the hunters have gone rogue while the other half is scrambling for a leader. We need to do something, and we don’t have enough time to settle your petty squabbles,” Aubrey iterated for the group. Cynthia Rose, Beca, Chloe, and Bahek all nodded in agreement. “Alaric has never been a friend to those with red blood in their veins. He can’t be allowed to persist in his plans, lest he reveals our existence to the humans,” Cynthia Rose sighed. 

 

“The Moretti boy is running around clueless right now as well, trying to gather up the remainder of the Hunter forces. We need to help clear things up on this side of the globe as well,” Beca added. 

 

“Paulina, Flint, Myra, we need you to cooperate. Please, for the safety of everyone. Put this feud aside, lest we all die before your decisions are made,” Bahek implored them. 

 

....

 

The Fae leaders came to some form of consensus under the influence of Stacie’s pathokinesis. Flint and the Witch Mother agreed to rearrange their other children’s marriages to make it up to the slighted groups in question. The Brooklyn wolves and Egyptian Coven would simply have to make due in the meantime. Flint sent wolves to aid the vampires at the blockade; the Silversmiths were projected to be routed momentarily. The witches were able to aid in the erasure of unwanted memories for the humans, while the Sirens prevented a naval retreat. 

 

Stacie and Aubrey returned to their apartment, drained from the unending negotiations they had just endured. Chloe and Beca stayed behind to strategize with the werewolves and witches of Brooklyn further. Leaving Stacie and Aubrey alone together in their newly acquired apartment. Upon their return, Stacie tugged Aubrey into the bedroom to recharge in a long session of lovemaking. Beca and Chloe had the chance to return and leave twice before Stace was finally sated. Aubrey took her to fill as well; her eyes flared a deep red before fading to their more human green. 

 

“How did this war start?” Stacie asked. Aubrey turned to look at Stacie in surprise; the war had become such a large part of daily vampire politics she sometimes forgot other members of the Fae wouldn’t understand the full reasoning. Especially succubi, who seldom choose sides. 

“Do you know the origins of the Hunters?” Aubrey inquired. 

 

“Yeah, that story has been passed down forever. My Babushka used Luciana and Titus’s story to scare my brothers and sisters into not talking to humans. They’re crazy.”

 

Aubrey giggled into Stacie’s shoulder at the brunette’s words and shook her head. “Humans aren’t too bad.”

 

“You’re only saying that because you used to be one,” Stacie countered. Aubrey didn’t have a response to that, so she conceded that point to Stacie. “If you know about Luciana, then that leaves about three-fourths of the story for me to tell unless you also know what happened with Alaric’s family?” 

 

“I do; that one was also a story to dissuade baby succubi from fraternizing with food.” 

 

“The beginning of the second great war, do you know that one?” Aubrey probed. 

 

“Yeah, a sect of witches that later called themselves the mages enslaved half of the Fae world in the fifteenth century. My family escaped most of it because of their influence over the human nobility.”

 

“That’s lucky; I was one of the enslaved. They caught me days after my turning. We were locked in a prison world where none of us could die. Centuries passed without us. The vampires that lived there relied on being summoned to feed, that or they fed off of those with blood.”

 

“Is that why you have blood haze?” Stacie queried.

 

“Not exactly; I guess it’s time I tell you my origins, though.” 

 

Stacie hummed and waited for Aubrey to begin, eyes focused on the blonde with rapt attention.

 

“I was born in the seventeenth century to a minor noble family in England,” Aubrey started. “I married a man named Charles when I was sixteen, and I bore him a child. He died while taking passage on a ship, a pirate attack. Charles was so brave he would have been considered stupid if he was of any lesser birth. In those days, though, your life is almost over without a man to protect you. His parents claimed my son and my own parents were devising another way to use marriage to curry them favor in court. I was miserable and bereft. Charles was a good man, and good men were hard to come by in those times, even if he was stubborn to a fault. I loved him, or at least I liked him. Alaric found me in the cemetery in front of Charles’s grave.”

 

 

Aubrey sat on the ground by the grave of her late husband. She was in a black gown of mourning, and a veil hung over her face. She ran a soft hand over the tombstone; the etching of Charles’s name ran against her fingers. She had so much left to say but nothing left to give. “I’m sorry you couldn’t see your son grow up.” She murmured. Charles had been so excited when Arthur was born; now, neither would ever get to raise their beautiful boy. 

 

“How long ago did you lose them?” A voice inquired behind her. Aubrey whipped around and came face to face with a man in a worn black coat and hat. He had wild blue eyes and windswept black hair. His pale skin was whiter than Aubrey’s, which at least had the pulse of blood behind it. The way he moved was smooth and calculating; a preternatural aura seemed to accumulate around the man. 

 

“My apologies for interrupting; my name is Alaric. I heard you and thought you could use an ear. I have some experience in grief.” The man, Alaric, explained.

 

“He was reported dead a year ago on this day,” Aubrey answered. The man nodded solemnly and settled down beside her. “I lost my wife; I know what it is to lose your love, how much it hurts. I’m sorry.” 

 

“I’m sorry too; I wish he got to see our son say his first words. I wish I got to see him say his first words;” Aubrey’s voice was ne'er above a whisper, but the man seemed to hear her easily. “You didn’t get to see your son say his first words?” Alaric exclaimed surprise colored his voice mixed with something else. Something that Aubrey felt too, rage, barely contained but strong. 

 

“His parents took our boy away; they said I couldn’t provide for him so that they would take the burden away from me,” Aubrey said. 

 

“Raising a child isn’t a burden; it’s a gift.” Alaric smiled sadly at the headstone as though he and Charles were old friends. “My wife and I had a child; her name was Sylvia after my mother-in-law. People took her from me as well.” 

 

“What did you do?” A stony silence met Aubrey’s question. Alaric’s eyes hardened as he glared at the tombstone. “She had grown up by the time I found her; I left her to her life. I dropped in sometimes to make sure she was well; she never really knew. She had children, and they grew up as well, so I watched out for them too. Everything I’ve done is for my family.” 

 

Aubrey studied the man beside her in confusion; he looked not much older than she was. He looked to be in his late twenties, early thirties, maybe. “How old are you?” She asked. 

 

“Older than I look,” the man answered. His voice sounded tired, defeated almost. Aubrey waited for him to explain, but he remained silent. Their eyes met, and she saw the flash of red, which was enough. She stood up and scrambled away, eyes wide in fear. “Demon,” she gasped. Alaric stood slowly and cautiously, his eyes back to blue. “Wrong, I am no child of Lilith. I am something else entirely.” 

 

“What are you?” Aubrey gasped. She knew there was no way she could outrun him in her dress. She could only keep him talking and hope someone else would come to her aid. 

 

“Some would call me a vampire; you may call me that if you wish, although I prefer my name. The legends of vampires based around my kind are often inaccurate, although the title isn’t a new one.”

 

“You feed on the blood of innocents,” Aubrey said. The man laughed. “Innocents? No. Humans, yes.”

 

“Are you going to kill me?” Aubrey stammered. Alaric moved closer to her slowly; his ethereal grace was a heavy contrast to the fabled brutality his kind was supposed to have. He shook his head. Aubrey assessed his handsome features, unmarred by bloodlust or anger. He simply looked sad. 

 

“I would never seek to harm someone of my blood. You are one of my children. You look like the spitting image of my dear Sylvia, who was the spitting image of her mother before her.” 

 

Aubrey’s eyes widened in surprise at the new information; she took a stumbling step backward. “What?” She choked out. 

 

“I’ve missed so much time, so many moments. They’ve had me in Prague, Russia, the Americas. I wasn’t summoned here until recently, but they’ve left me sometime in this world. I’ve scoured church records all over, and I finally found you and your family. Silvia, my Silvia, was your, many great’s grandmother.”

 

Aubrey paled at the vampire’s words, her heartbeat was erratic, and her hands were beginning to sweat. “What?”

 

“You have nothing to fear from me; I only wish you the best. As long as I am in this world, I will always protect my family. I promise.” Alaric came to kneel before Aubrey as though he were a knight before a queen. Aubrey felt a sudden urge to touch him, her supposed great grandfather. She started to do so when she heard the sound of footsteps rapidly approaching. She looked up to see a group of men drawing near, laughing uproariously. When Aubrey turned back to speak to Alaric, he was gone. 

 

“Alaric?” She hissed into the night. There was no reply, but the group of men noticed the utterance and quickly changed course. One of the men held a torch aloft as they sauntered closer, merrily singing bawdy songs. They were all obviously deep in their cups. “Look, lads, it’s a lady!” One of them jeered. They all sped up to head in her direction. 

 

“Is that Lady Posen? From the Castle?” One of the men queried; he was balding and broad-shouldered. 

 

“The widow probably didn’t even get half a decent ride out of ‘er husband,' ' another man leered. Aubrey noticed that he walked with a slight limp. 

 

“Think we could give her a ride and win us a lordship?” A third man suggested. The others laughed while Aubrey took a hesitant step away from them. There were six men in total, all in breeches and roughspun tunics. Some of them were barefoot, while others were in boots. She knew she could outrun none of them. 

 

“Stay away from me or -”

 

“What? Your father will hear about it? He won’t know anything; no one’s around.” 

 

[TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL ASSAULT]

 

Aubrey gulped and stumbled back once more. The men quickly charged forth, grabbing her and attempting to hold her down. Aubrey kicked out with one leg and drove her foot in between a man’s legs. The man collapsed to the ground, clutching his groin. Another man rushed to take his place. Aubrey screamed while she lashed out. Her left hand cracked across one man’s jaw; she felt the back of her dress rip. The men were howling with laughter as Aubrey struggled to push the men away. 

 

Her efforts were in vain as the men rushed forward. Aubrey shut her eyes as she braced herself for the onslaught, but suddenly she hit the ground, and the men’s grubby hands were no longer groping and touching her. 

 

[Attempted Assault Over]

 

Aubrey got to her feet from where the men had left her. The sound of droplets hitting stone was the only thing to break the silence. Alaric stood amongst the carnage, a man’s head in one hand. Blood dripped from the neck and the corners of his mouth. His eyes glowed a deep red. “I’m sorry I let them get so far; my master called me away for a moment,” Alaric apologized. He wiped the scarlet droplets from his chin and tossed the head to the side. Aubrey nodded mutely and settled on the ground with wide eyes. 

 

“They’ll never touch you again,” Alaric soothed. Aubrey bobbed her head in understanding while she continued to stare at her vampiric ancestor. 

 

“If you would like, I could escort you home,” Alaric offered. He offered a pale hand to her, slow and steady. 

 

Aubrey took it, allowing the man to hoist her up. Something he accomplished with ease. “If you need to take a moment,” Alaric suggested. Aubrey continued to study the scene with a critical eye. The men had been torn apart. Some of them had holes in their chests the size of fists. Bite marks stood out on necks as blood trickled from the wounds. Aubrey turned to look at Alaric once more; her heart was beating profusely as she stared at the man. “You tore them apart,” Aubrey remarked dumbly. 

 

“Would you have preferred I leave them alive?” Alaric asked in confusion. 

 

“No, I just, I’ve never seen men torn apart like that before,” Aubrey shuddered. 

 

“I’m sorry you had to see that; you must not be used to the carnage; I can get you out of here in the blink of an eye if you wish -” 

 

“No!” Aubrey refused, “How did you - How were you -” She halted her speech as she attempted to ascertain what she wanted. Those men were relentless, and her attempts to fight back were practically useless—child’s play. If Alaric hadn’t been there, she would have been utterly at the mercy of absolute brutes. For all her life, she had been at the mercy of the powerful men around her. Her father controlled her life. Her future husband definitely would. Even sweet, stupid, Charles held sway over her life. If her son were to grow up, she would undoubtedly fall mercy to his whims, as well. Now, she met another man, a creature that claimed he would protect her, but she didn’t want to be protected anymore. She never wanted to fall at the mercy of another man again. 

 

“You killed them. You killed them, and it was easy for you.” Aubrey said, “All my life, I’ve been a pawn to the whim of men like them. I don’t want that anymore. I want out. My son has been taken from me; my husband is dead... I don’t want this life anymore.” 

 

“What do you want then? Whatever it is, if it’s in my power, I can grant it. I can compel your family to obey you; I can force the return of your son. I can make the world fall at your feet. Whatever it is, I will do it.” 

 

Aubrey looked at her husband’s grave one more time and sent a small prayer for forgiveness; whatever she did next, she did for herself. 

 

“I don’t want anyone to do anything for me anymore. I want to be able to protect myself. Make me what you are. Make me a vampire, so I never have to suffer at the hands of men like them again.” 

 

Alaric stared at his great-granddaughter for a moment as though he were debating. He remembered his sweet Annabelle, how she had glowed as an immortal. He nodded. He would grant Aubrey this request. If for nothing else, but to have a member of his family forever. 

 

 

Stacie laid sideways, leaning on one arm as she traced patterns into Aubrey’s shoulder. She was completely enraptured with the story of how Aubrey became an immortal, how her great-great-grandfather had taught her everything she needed to know about being a vampire. The growth of their bond entranced her as they were trapped together in servitude during the mage war. 

“You loved him,” Stacie commented. 

 

“Yes, he was the father I never had. He was patient and kind, he showed me everything I needed to know, and we served in Luciana’s court together happily, once the war was over.” 

 

“So, what went wrong?” Stacie asked. 

 

“Luciana wasn’t interested in continuing the centuries-long fight against the Hunters. She chose to hold her court more peacefully. Alaric wanted to take a more aggressive stance. She denied him.”

 

“Why would he force a war, though? It doesn’t make sense.” 

 

“It does, though. Ever since he came to the Red Court, he has done nothing but plan his revenge against the people that took his daughter and wife away from him. Humans, witches, hunters, they’re all guilty in his eyes. Witches and humans have more wiggle room than the hunters, though, because being a witch or human is simply something you’re born as. Being a hunter is a mantle you take up; it’s the perpetuation of oppression to Alaric. The Hunters organized the storming of his home and the murder of Annabelle, and they never once apologized. There was no trial or checking of the facts. They saw vampires and immediately started killing. It didn’t matter that Annabelle and Silvia only fed from Alaric.”

 

“That happened centuries ago,” Stacie pointed out. 

 

“Doesn’t matter to him; The Elites never corrected the system. Hunters still kill vampires and other members of the Fae without discernment. He could never forgive Luciana’s unwillingness to fight back. He’s been in charge of the Red Court’s security for centuries. He was an instrumental part of the Second Great Fae War. He was known for being ruthless; he was admired for it even. His measures kept everyone safe and stopped the Mages in the end.”

 

“It sounds like you agree with him, so why are you with Luciana?” Stacie inquired. 

 

“I agree with most of his sentiments; I’ll admit that. The Hunters were harsh and unfair, especially when they stole Alaric’s life from him. I sympathize with him there, but I no longer agree with his methods. I worshipped him when I was newly sired, and I reveled in the power my new status provided me. I hunted men and tore them to pieces. I felt their blood fill me; I used to rejoice in their pain. It felt like revenge, retribution for everything the world put me through.”

 

“What stopped it?” Stacie asked. 

 

“The first time it was Chloe, she saw the path of destruction I was wreaking, and she forced me to get clean along with Bahek. I had just decimated a village in Czechoslovakia; Chloe had freed me from the mage that bound me. To protect me from further entrapment, she bound my form to hers until the war was over. She let me have free will, no jobs, no demands. She only requested that I not kill anyone else.” Aubrey explained, “I thought I could stop at any time and that I was killing for my own satisfaction, but it was more than that. The blood lust had taken over; it was warping my brain, making me lose control. Bahek was one of the few free vampires during the era, so he was Chloe’s answer. He helped me gain control.”

 

“What brought the bloodlust back?” Stacie probed.

 

“I never really stopped longer than a decade; I was always falling off the wagon, per se. I usually cheated by killing rapists and murderers; I figured that they weren’t helping society. It fulfilled some form of recompense for all the innocents I killed in Czechoslovakia. I only really started getting clean when Chloe begged me to stop killing people that I could simply compel to turn themselves in.” 

 

“But you said you were in a full blood haze when you met me.”

 

“Yes, all those other times I only killed those I was certain was guilty. I stayed away from innocents if I could help it.” 

 

“What changed?”

 

“I was in Chicago after the Second Great War. Everything was back to normal, and I had refrained from drinking from a live human for three years. Chloe fed me some of her blood habitually to keep me sated, but I was walking down the street one day, and this stupid man tried to cross the street in the city. He was running across; he had just been running after one of his friends. He was halfway across the street, following her, when a passing carriage hit him. I hadn’t fed off of Chloe yet that day, and I was thirsty; his chest got a large enough gash to require stitches...”

 

“You killed him?” Stacie surmised. 

 

“I pulled him up a fire escape and drank every last drop. When I was done, all I wanted was more. I became a reaper again for the next half a century,”

 

“What pulled you back” Stacie’s question brought a small smile to Aubrey’s lips. She raised a hand to trace a finger along Stacie’s bottom lip. “You did. I had torn my way through most of the Americas and into Russia. I was a complete menace during the French Revolution, but you, I couldn’t kill. I remember waking up from the haze and breathing in your scent. I remember everything from that day, your face, your lips, the way your eyes glowed….”

 

Stacie’s eyes lit up a deep Fuschia in answer. 

 

“Yeah, just like that. I remember the way you said my name, the way you held me for a moment before you fell asleep.”

“I thought you forgot all of that,” Stacie remarked.

 

“I lied, but whatever this is between us, it feels stronger than a normal bond. I feel drawn to you in a way that isn’t blood lust. It’s different. I don’t want to hurt you.” 

 

“Is that why you didn’t join Alaric, you don’t want to hurt people anymore?” 

 

“Kind of. All he’s known as a vampire is war and revenge. He’s constantly seeking a fight to fill the hole of his missing love and daughter. I lost Charles, but I wasn’t in love with him. I realize that now, it doesn’t help that only some human memories survive when you're turned. Whatever was the dominant thought in your mind when you are turned is what becomes the core memory and drive for you as a member of the supernatural. He died with revenge on his mind. He watched his family die in front of him then was promptly murdered with their blood in his veins. Alaric turned me after being saved from the worst; the thoughts in my mind were a little more varied than his. Vengeance wasn’t my only desire; I also thought of my relief that I would be safe and in control of my life for once. That’s why I chose Luciana’s side because I don’t want what I used to. Alaric claims he wants to save the Fae from the interference of the hunters, but I know what he really wants because I used to want it too.”

 

“What did you want?”

 

“ Destruction. I wanted to watch the world burn before me, but I changed, and I learned to want something else. I spent enough time with him, though, to know that his desire hasn’t changed. What he wanted back then, he wants now. Destruction to anyone that isn’t his family, and he’s willing to take anyone down with him to do that.”

 

"And what do you want now?" Stacie asked.

 

Aubrey smiled and ran a thumb along Stacie's bottom lip. The other girl sucked the finger into her mouth, eyes a brilliant violet. You. Aubrey replaced her fingers with her lips. 

Chapter Text

Aubrey and Chloe had a tradition of getting brunch together every other Sunday. A tradition they enjoyed to keep in place, lest the two best friends lose touch with one another. Although they belonged to the same friend group, they often kept this particular date open only for one another, preferring their private time to discuss personal matters in their lives apart from the other Bellas. In fact, they were currently in the midst of discussing an important topic that had been a point of contention between the two: Who had the dorkier girlfriend.

 

Aubrey had recently become engaged to Stacie after seven years of dating the tall brunette. At first, the pair had kept their relationship a secret from the others (Outside of Chloe and Beca) until the other members of the group progressively caught them in the middle of intimate moments. When it finally became a well-known fact, they had already hit the year and a half mark. That year and a half left the two to become quite familiar with one another’s hobbies and interests. 

 

To Aubrey’s utter surprise during the early months of their relationship, she had discovered that her gorgeous girlfriend was a complete and total nerd. Something that she brought up to Chloe during one of their brunches. The subject matter came to a bit of a head when Aubrey claimed that Stacie was the dorkiest person in existence. The announcement was met with an instantaneous denunciation from the redhead, who contended that it was, in fact, Beca that was the dorkier girl. 

 

So now, they sat sipping mimosas while arguing their separate points. 

 

“Beca is definitely dorkier than Stacie; she still has a teddy bear that she keeps in her closet. She calls him Mr. Bubbles,” Chloe scoffed. 

 

“Stacie has a closet full of collectible star wars figurines that she’s never opened, I have asked whether she plans on selling them, and her pout was probably the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.” Aubrey countered.

 

“Beca has collectors edition Pokemon cards that she secretly calls her horde,” Chloe retorted. 

 

Aubrey, ever competitive, immediately informed her friend that Stacie used to participate in officially sanctioned ‘Magic the Gathering’ tournaments. Chloe burst into laughter and added her own excerpt about Beca playing pokemon video games professionally when she was younger. 

 

“Stacie plays War of Warcraft,” Aubrey exclaimed. 

 

“Beca plays League of Legends,” Chloe quickly countered. 

 

“Stacie had a Darth Vader helmet that she still wears sometimes.”

 

“Beca still has a racecar bed at her dad’s place; she makes the noises when she doesn’t think I’m listening.” 

 

Aubrey burst into laughter at this new information, filing the news away for later so she could hold it over the hobbits head in the future. “Stacie has a secret book nook where she keeps every single first edition comic book that her grandparents bought her when she’s younger.”

 

“Aubrey, comics are mainstream now; I’d hardly count that as dorky,” Chloe scoffed. 

 

“She made me dress up as Princess Leia during sex,” Aubrey blurted out instead. Chloe’s jaw dropped along with several of the patrons seated at nearby tables. Aubrey flushed red and averted her gaze to her food. 

 

“Beca and I dressed up as Hogwarts students during roleplay once,” Chloe muttered back as she flushed red as well. Aubrey choked on her mimosa at her friend's words. “Were you?” She hedged. Chloe nodded, “Ginny Weasley.” 

 

Both women laughed at the revelation, clicking their glasses in cheers. “God, our girlfriends are such dorks,” Chloe giggled. 

 

“Yeah, but they’re our dorks,” Aubrey sighed. 

 

“When you dressed up as Leia, which outfit?” Chloe asked. 

 

“The white traditional one, she said the jaba outfit was misogynistic and crafted for the male gaze.”

 

Chloe tipped her glass towards the blonde, “She’s right about that.” 

 

“I know, she made a PowerPoint lecture on it at some point. I found it on one of her old flash drives that she let me borrow. Apparently, it’s an old high school project. I love her so much,” Aubrey sighed. 

 

“Yeah, we should call them, see how they’re doing,” Chloe said as she reached for her phone. Just as she pulled out her purse, her phone sounded with the Game of Thrones theme music. “Speak of the devil,” Chloe snickered. 

 

Chloe picked up her phone just as Aubrey’s sounded with the Lord of The Rings theme song. “Aubrey Posen,” Aubrey answered immediately. 

 

A flurry of noise met their ears as both Aubrey and Chloe jerked back from the onslaught of sound. Beca was shouting through Aubrey’s phone, and Stacie was shouting through Chloe’s. 

“I’m totally cooler than Beca, right?” Stacie shouted through the device. Beca’s words were almost identical to Stacie’s, except she replaced her own name with the taller brunettes. 

 

“Stacie is definitely cooler than you,” Aubrey said breezily. 

 

“Aha!” Stacie cheered on the other end of the line. 

 

“Didn’t you just say that she still wears a Darth Vader helmet,” Chloe chimed in defense of her girlfriend.

 

“Hah, you’re such a nerd Conrad,” Beca chortled. 

 

“Beca still makes the noises with her race car bed!” Aubrey retorted.

 

“Chloe! How could you?” Beca protested. 

 

“You still make the vroom noises?” Stacie jeered over great gales of laughter.

 

“Stacie and Aubrey roleplay star wars in the bedroom,” Chloe spluttered. 

 

Aubrey heard a gasp from Beca. “You roleplay Harry Potter during sex, with Chloe as Ginny Weasley,” Aubrey snapped back. 

 

“You told her!” Beca protested. 

 

“You’re such a nerd!” Stacie crowed. 

 

“Takes one to know one,” Beca countered. 

 

“You little -” both lines went dead, leaving Aubrey and Chloe to stare at their devices in mute embarrassment. “They’re such dorks,” Chloe remarked finally. 

 

“Hey, you’re not marrying yours,” Aubrey chuckled, fidgeting with her engagement ring. 

 

“Yet, I’m not marrying my dork, yet,” Chloe corrected. 

 

“Yet, indeed,” Aubrey smirked, clinking her nearly empty mimosa glass to the redheads once more.

Chapter Text

AU

The rumble of the subway was a familiar sound in New York City, especially for Stacie, who had been living in New York City for the past five years while she finished up her Bachelor’s degree. The hard plastic seats were uncomfortable, the latent squeak of the rats was alarming, and the waft of male musk was unsavory, but it was also home. For now, that is. 

 

Stacie had grand plans for her future, plans that included a nice press pass for National Geographic as a writer for the science section of the magazine (possibly studying storms or dangerous weather patterns). Plans that, hopefully, would bring her to far-off countries a world of adventure. For now, though, she had to set about getting her foot in the door. Since the age of eight, she read every National Geographic issue when her dad bought her a copy during a business trip. 

 

Her father, now long gone, had been an Imagineer for Disneyland in California, where she grew up. He had assisted in the concept of Space Mountain and had promptly shared his love for everything astronomy with his eager daughter. Stacie still had a set of Mickey Mouse ears on the top of her dresser, right in front of an intricate star map that she consistently tacked to her wall. The star map was the last present Darren Conrad got his daughter before passing from an aggressive case of cancer. 

 

The subway slid to a stop, and Stacie rose, hastily exiting in the direction of 65 Broadway. People cluttered the sidewalks. Other women and men stomped through the streets in billowing coats and clutching briefcases or totes, clutching cellphones to their ears. Stacie marched along with them until she reached the overly large building that held the address she was looking for. The Elias-Posen building was a great grey skyscraper with walls of glass windows and shining light. A beacon of hope for aspiring magazine journalists everywhere. 

 

Stacie entered the building and got to the chrome turnstiles; a grinning man sat with his feet up on the desk and playing a game on his phone. He had cherub cheeks and mischievous eyes; his hair was a shiny brown. “Hey, there, miss, looking for someone?” The man inquired with an attempt at a charming wink. 

 

Stacie informed the security guard that she was looking for one Chloe Beale and was swiftly directed through the gates after being provided with a guest pass and directions to Chloe Beale’s office. The halls were a shining black, and the glass-separated offices blinked brightly in the fluorescent lighting. As she weaved her way through well-lit halls, she passed men and women dressed in crisp fashion-forward suits, skirts, jackets, and blouses. Each wearing polished shoes that must have cost them a fortune. 

 

Knowing that Bella Magazine was a fashion magazine of great renown; Stacie wore her best approximation of a fashionable outfit. Yet, if she were honest, she looked more like a flight attendant than anything. Her pencil-thin skirt hugged her curves, and the navy blue blazer she wore had short sleeves. Her white button-up was ironed and buttoned to show a healthy amount of cleavage, and her bag was a Gucci knock-off she had acquired in college. She was as ready as she would ever be. 

 

Chloe Beale’s office wasn’t as much an office as it was a reception area. Two desks flanked an empty carpeted floor, each with apple computers and carefully placed notepads. It was almost eerie how precisely Chloe had placed everything. Stacie thought of making a simulation joke but thought better of it. She doubted making fun of the office would make a good first impression. Instead, Stacie stepped forward to shake hands with the beaming redhead who introduced herself as Chloe Beale, the Senior Assistant at Bella Magazine. Apparently, the other Junior Assistant had left due to unforeseen circumstances, and Chloe was doing her best to find someone to fill it. 

 

“I’m sure you’ve heard of Aubrey Posen by now, correct?” Chloe exclaimed as she took a seat at her desk. Her fingers flew over the keyboard as she spoke, speedily clacking away while Stacie hurriedly looked for a seat. She wound up grabbing the other desk chair and awkwardly scooting it over to Chloe’s desk. “Yes, I’ve heard of her,” Stacie answered. If she were honest, though, she had only heard of Aubrey Posen from the HR person she had conversed with before this meeting. 

 

Stacie had actually been hoping to get an entry-level writing position for TechToGo or Stargazers, technology, and science magazines that Elias-Posen owned. Yet, HR had instead eyed her for a personal assistant job. Although she was skeptical at first, Mary Elise, from HR, had promptly informed her that working a year with Aubrey Posen could get her anywhere she wanted. Including National Geographic, so she hastily agreed to interview for the position. After all, what’s one year of her life? Especially in service to a fashion magazine. 

 

“...she’s brilliant, of course, but she’s looking for specific qualities in her junior assistant. She needs someone detail-oriented and is willing to go above and beyond for her.” 

 

Stacie blinked in surprise; she hadn’t realized that Chloe was still prattling on. The redhead continued to type away as her words blurred by. It took a bit, but Stacie realized she had already explained the job expectations while she was zoned out. Not good. Stacie opened her mouth to request a repeat of the information. When the phone rang, Chloe held up a finger and answered the phone. “Aubrey Posen’s Office - what? Now?” 

 

Stacie watched as the redhead jumped up from her seat and began dialing a new number on the phone. Immediately connecting with the other line, Chloe said two words before hanging up. “She’s coming.” Stacie sat, mouth agape as Chloe began to dash about the room grabbing pictures and tossing them in her desk. When she leaned backward, she saw a flurry of activity as she had never seen before. Men and women were moving as though Chloe had just informed them of an impending apocalypse. 

 

She saw women changing out of shiny kitten heels and into tall stilettos that Stacie’s mom would affectionately refer to as “Fuck me Pumps.” She saw men changing out of perfectly normal turtle necks, shirts, jackets, and pants into Armani suits with high-end suspenders, jackets, and fancy watches. She even saw one girl take off her engagement ring in exchange for a more fashion-forward ring. 

 

Clothes were flying everywhere, men and women were pulling and pushing racks of clothing in various directions. Employees dropped personal pictures into trash bins or desk drawers, whatever receptacle that was closest. Chloe changed from her own pair of wedges and into shiny Jimmy-Choos. She also was wearing a completely new top with golden pearl earrings while she fanned magazines across a desk, complete with sparkling water in a crystal glass placed on the left side of the desk.  

 

“I-” Stacie began to say, but Chloe cut her off with a harsh ‘tsk’ sound and a hand across her throat. Stacie felt her jaw drop in indignation, but her following remark was quickly shut up by the opening of glass doors as a tall blonde woman strode in carrying a tray of filet mignon, perfectly cut asparagus, and potato wedges. Stacie could smell the faint waft of truffle oil; her mouth began to water. 

 

Chloe grabbed the tray with a frantic nod before rushing forward to place the tray on the desk, only fidgeting with the angle for a second before she burst back into the reception area where Stacie sat waiting. Chloe rushed forward and yanked the glass doors open just in time for another blonde woman to stride in. She wore a pair of Dior sunglasses on her head and had a brilliant yellow Michael Kors coat that she promptly dropped on the Junior Assistant desk. 

 

“That took forever, Chloe; make a note to block all of Mr. Evans’s calls. I don’t want another date with a blithering idiot ever again, got it. Also, from now on, all of Amy’s setups have to be vetted. I want to know their legal history, their bank account balance, and their dating history. If they have a gold tooth in the back of their mouth, I want to know about it. No more blind dates.”

 

“Yes, Aubrey,” Chloe replied quickly. Stacie watched as the other girl ran to hang up the monstrous yellow coat before running to get the door for a very irate and impatient blonde. “Who’s this?” Ms. Posen barked, turning her piercing gaze to Stacie. The brunette quickly looked at her feet, eyes wide under the full force of the CEO’s gaze. “This is Stacie Conrad; she’s interviewing to be your new Junior Assistant.”

 

“Where’s her resume?” Aubrey inquired. Chloe rushed to place a manilla folder in the other woman’s hands. The blonde flipped through it. Briefly, Aubrey pulled one of her pouty lips between teeth as she considered the document. Stacie had included writing samples and a cover letter for Elias-Posen, but now she was reconsidering this move. What if this woman, this editor and chief of the most prominent fashion magazine in the world, took one look at her school articles and laughed. She was screwed. 

 

“Come with me,” the blonde ordered. Stacie sprang to her feet, surprised to find that she was eye level with the domineering blonde, despite the Louis Vuitton red bottoms she was wearing. Chloe held the door open for the both of them; Chloe threw an encouraging wink before shutting the glass door firmly behind them. Stacie watched Aubrey walk around her desk and sit at the black leather desk chair. She looked at the steaming steak and scowled. “I just had lunch; why would she- Chloe!” 

 

The glass door flew open, and Chloe stood at attention for a moment before her eyes settled on the tray that Aubrey was pointing at. “I just had lunch with Mr. Evans; why would I need more?” Stacie saw the other woman swallow anxiously as she stepped forward and grabbed the tray. Exiting quickly, Stacie almost let out an audible gasp as she saw the redhead drop the tray into the trash. That meal was nicer than anything Stacie had eaten in the past six years, and now it was in the garbage. 

 

“What brings you to Bella , Anastacia?” Aubrey’s words were crisp and clear; her voice would have sounded soothing if it weren’t for the display of sheer panic Stacie had observed earlier.

 

“Please call me Stacie,” Stacie said breezily. The blonde remained silent, eyes unforgiving, waiting for her to answer the question. Stacie cleared her throat. 

 

“Well, I interviewed with Mary Elise in HR, and she said that you were looking for an assistant.” 

 

Aubrey lifted one perfectly plucked eyebrow at Stacie, waiting for further explanation. “I know you’re looking for someone detail-oriented and determined. Someone willing to go above and beyond for you with whatever request you may have. After meeting Chloe and hearing what’s to be expected, I feel that I’m perfect for the job.” Stacie lied easily. 

 

Their gazes met, and Aubrey seemed to consider Stacie for a moment. “Do you speak french?” 

 

“No, but I know Italian,” Stacie answered. 

 

“You went to Columbia?” Aubrey continued her line of questioning unflinchingly. 

 

“Yes, I was a Journalism and Astrophysics major; I minored in writing and rhetoric,” Stacie explained. 

 

“Does your interest in science and writing mean that you aren’t interested in fashion?” Aubrey asked; her eyes scanned Stacie’s outfit with some form of distaste evident. Stacie felt sweat begin to break out under her arms and along her back. Keep it together, Stacie. 

 

“Of course not; I love fashion,” She lied once more. 

 

“Really, which magazines do you read?” Aubrey inquired. 

 

“Oh, I’m subscribed to WIRED, National Geographic, Astronomy , and Smithsonian ,” Stacie answered. 

 

Aubrey looked hardly impressed as she leaned back with her fingers templed before her. Green intelligent eyes continued to roam Stacie’s face. “None of them are fashion then?” 

 

“I-” Aubrey cut Stacie’s attempt at damage control off with a finger. “Anastacia, I think this interview would go easier if we don’t lie to each other. Your degree and extracurriculars are impressive. You were part of the astronomy, journalism, meteorology, writing, and physics club while maintaining a 4.0 GPA as a double major. It also says you were the recipient of multiple academic scholarships, so clearly, you’re intelligent. Too intelligent to believe lying to me will work. So, I will ask again, ``Do you have an interest in fashion?”  

 

Stacie gulped similarly to Chloe when Aubrey had demanded the tray of food be removed. “No.” 

 

“Have you ever read Bella , Anastacia?” 

 

“No.” 

 

Stacie didn’t bother to expand or elaborate; instead, she looked Aubrey right in the eye and said the single word with as much certainty as she could muster. Aubrey looked at her for another ten minutes in utter silence. Their gazes never shifted away from each other. It got to the point where Stacie could count the flecks of gold in the other woman’s eyes, the brown roots of her hair. After a couple more minutes, Aubrey beckoned for Chloe to escort Stacie out. 

 

Upon her exit, Stacie could feel Aubrey’s eyes on her departing figure. Something told her that she might not be out of the race yet, after all.

Chapter Text

Every step was hell on earth. Her arches were definitely falling, her jacket had sweat stains, and there was no way in hell she could afford the dry cleaning bill for this Tommy Hilfiger shirt. Let’s say that Stacie was screwed. Especially since Roger, the antsy bulldog was tugging her down the streets of Manhattan in five-inch Louboutins. Her first month was a travesty if she had ever seen one. 

 

Stacie had been informed that she got the job at Seven AM the Friday after her interview by a persistently peppy Mary Elise. The brunette had woken up, bleary-faced and blinking rapidly as she managed to coax a pillow into the arms of her latest bed partner. Grabbing her Payless heels and Target dress, she slipped from the room and continued her conversation as professionally as she was able. Mary Elise hurriedly informed her that she was expected to start on Monday; a crisp ‘Good luck accompanied the click of the call ending. 

 

The following Monday, Stacie arrived at the Elias-Posen building carrying her knock-off Gucci bag and her previous flight attendant garb. What didn’t kill her last time certainly wouldn’t incite a riot now, right? The cherub-faced security guard greeted her at the desk. She quickly learned his name was Bumper, and he had absolutely no filter, which wasn’t optimal since he quickly set about flirting with her. “Don’t pay attention to him; he’s just trying to get your panties in a bunch,” An Australian accented voice sounded from behind Stacie. 

 

She turned to see a chubby blonde girl approaching with a white Birkin bag and Prada sunglasses that cost as much as Stacie’s apartment. “Well, come on, let me through,” The Australian woman barked. Bumper hit the button, allowing Stacie and the other woman past the gates and pointed them towards the elevators. Once inside the elevator, the woman introduced herself as Fat Amy, a long-standing friend of Aubrey Posen. Stacie gawked in surprise at the other woman, who seemed loud, mouthed, and brash. Quite a juxtaposition from the domineering and well-spoken Aubrey. 

 

They both exited the elevator on the same floor where Stacie was accompanied by Amy all the way to the office, where Chloe waited anxiously, clutching a clipboard. Upon seeing Fat Amy, a forced grin appeared on the redhead’s face. “Hello, Ms. Hobart; what can I do for you today?” The other girl chirped politely. 

 

“Oh, I’m just here waiting to talk to Aubrey; she told me to meet her here. I may have gotten here a tad earlier than I thought.” 

 

“Wait, Aubrey’s coming?” Chloe gasped. 

 

“Yeah, she should be here in ten minutes,” Amy replied. Chloe’s eyes widened, and she dashed to the phone, quickly dialing the same number as Stacie had seen her do last time, followed by the same ominous ‘She’s coming.’ Stacie watched in resigned terror as Chloe flitted about the room, once more switching into more fashionable clothing while procuring the proper beverages, magazines, and papers. She watched as Chloe once more pushed a picture frame of the redhead and what appeared to be a shorter brunette into a desk drawer. 

 

Fat Amy gleefully leaned over in Stacie’s direction as Chloe darted around the room and informed the brunette that Aubrey was actually supposed to be twenty minutes later than she had said, and she just ‘loved watching them scramble like ants.’ Stacie had to admit that from the outside, it was absolutely ridiculous how everyone rushed about. Although, she wondered if she too would be hit with the same abject horror as the rest of them during her employment here. 

 

Once the office had calmed down, and Chloe had informed everyone that it was a false alarm brought about by Fat Amy, Stacie was provided a password and company email along with a piece of paper that ordered security to get an ID card for her. She was directed to drop that piece of paper off at the security desk before she left. 

 

“Those ID cards track every room you enter in the building on every floor. It helps us keep track of who might have stolen merchandise or anything from the closet,” Chloe explained. Stacie listened intently as Chloe continued to rattle off more information. According to Chloe, Stacie only had to know the names of the magazine directors. The Lead Designer was Benji Applebaum, a friendly boy with curly brown hair and a smile. Lead Writer Jesse Swanson, another smiling man with a dimpled chin and cropped dark brown hair. Art Director Lilly Onakuramara, a silent slip of a woman with bow-shaped lips and dark staring eyes. Fashion Director Cynthia Rose, a stocky black girl with neatly faded black curly hair and a penchant for flirtations. Her Assistant Director was her fiance, Denise Walmsley, soon to be Walmsley-Rose. The Director of Photography was a fumbling girl named Emily Junk, who looked more like she should be in front of the camera instead of behind it. Flo Fuentes, a short Latin woman, was Director of Copy. 

 

“The only non-director’s you need to know are Jessica and Ashley because they’re both in the Design department; they do hair and makeup for big events that you might have to accompany Aubrey to,” Chloe prattled onwards. Stacie took in the rush of information to the best of her ability, but she knew she was likely to forget half of the people she had just been introduced to. Along with the directions to their particular domain. 

 

“Now, as Aubrey’s Junior Assistant, you’re expected to answer the phones at all times and write down who called and whether they’re important to call back. This book,” Chloe held up a small black leather book before Stacie’s eyes, “Has the names of all important people that Aubrey would want to talk to immediately. If anyone from this list calls, you enter it in the Bulletin, our shared excel sheet, in red with an alert to Aubrey’s email. If any of these people call, and we don’t call back immediately, they may not be available again for days at a time, so you must do this correctly. Got it?” 

 

“Got it,” Stacie nodded in understanding, but Chloe’s obvious anxiety didn’t change. Blue eyes met hers with a frenetic energy that Stacie hadn’t thought possible until this moment. “If you mess this up, she WILL fire you. Got it?” Stacie nodded emphatically, her breath caught in her throat as she realized the gravity at which Chloe spoke. What kind of monster job had she just gotten? 

 

Finally, around Eleven AM, the phone rang to inform Chloe that Aubrey was coming. So the crazy rush to clear the office of all conceivable humanity returned. Stacie helped Chloe place the tray on Aubrey’s desk at an apparent perpendicular angle from the right edge of Aubrey’s desk. It had to be 45 degrees exactly, or Aubrey was like to demand they get her a new lunch. Truffle potato wedges be damned. 

 

A glass of Perrier with exactly three perfect cubes of ice was to be placed on the left side of the desk. If anyone placed it on the right, Aubrey would stare at it until Chloe or Stacie moved it for her. As a reminder, Chloe had placed a sticky coaster on that spot and took a picture of the exact placement she kept on her phone. Stacie thought the entire thing was quite ridiculous. 

 

And so the rest of the day went; everyone rushed around to get the office sparkling and pristine for the twenty minutes that Aubrey was expected to be in until Amy called her for an impromptu outing. While Aubrey was in the room, Chloe’s ceaseless chatter halted; once the blonde had left, Chloe took up the stream of information again in an endless drone of Aubrey Posen facts. 

...

During the first week, Stacie was given a notepad to jot down information on, with Chloe pausing on anything significant so Stacie could hastily scrawl the fact on the page. She learned Aubrey’s favorite colors, time of day, best times to ask questions for clarifications, favorite foods, beverages, makeup brands, what colors never to put her in. What colors to never wear around her. What colors to wear when around her at a party or an office event. What shoes, socks, stockings, skirts, jackets, blouses, headbands, and jewelry to wear around the office. She found out that Aubrey was deathly allergic to shellfish, and any possession of such substances within the glass doors of the Posen office would be met with vicious prosecution and immediate termination. She also learned that any presentation of Reese’s candy, peanut butter, peanut butter cookies, or any nut-associated items on the premises would be met with a security escort out of the building because Aubrey was also allergic to peanuts, albeit not enough to kill her. 

 

“What isn’t she allergic to?” Stacie muttered upon the revelation that Aubrey was also allergic to a plethora of flowers. 

 

“She just needs Benadryl; she loves Peonies and Tulips, though. Just don’t get any Gardenia’s; she may never forgive you.” 

Chloe continued to explain all of Stacie’s new duties, including taking Aubrey’s coat, taking calls, fetching coffee, attending to the upkeep of the office, fetching food, procuring various items for Aubrey, and ridding the office of anything outside of the approved list of flowers, foods, animals, and beverages. All of which are written in the back of the little book Stacie has to memorize because it takes too long to refer to it every time. Once Stacie, had everything ‘Aubrey’ memorized, she was required to learn every bit of information she could gather about the people Aubrey frequented the general populace with. 

 

Kori was Aubrey’s maid/housekeeper. Pieter, a sarcastic German man, was her driver. Kommisar was the manager of a renowned music label, DSM, that Aubrey knew from childhood. Luke Elias-Stroma, was the heir to the Elias portion of Elias-Posen. He was also Aubrey’s childhood friend since their families had been in business together for decades. He was also one of two people that Stacie was supposed to treat with the same courtesy as Aubrey. Then there was, of course, Fat Amy, whom Stacie had already met. She was a rich Australian socialite that Aubrey had met during boarding school in her high school years. Fat Amy was one of the few wealthy people that Stacie was allowed to speak candidly with. Kommisar never deigned to speak to the help, and Aubrey would give Stacie the evil eye if she so much as opened her mouth in front of Luke. 

All and all, it was shaping up to be quite a challenging job. Thankfully, it was only the first week and Stacie would be given some room for mistakes, right?

 

....

 

Stacie groaned as she fought against Roger’s next lunge. The furry bulldog weighed half a hundred pounds, and his lower center of gravity gave him the best leverage to yank Stacie off her feet. Kimmy Jin, Aubrey’s dog walker, had called in sick that day, so Stacie was left to handle it regardless of what footwear she had been sporting. The waddling dog gave an insolent ‘harumph’ and began to squat on the small patch of mulch surrounding a scraggly tree. Stacie sighed and grabbed the poop bag, hating every second of what she was about to do. 

 

Once, the dog was safely back in Aubrey’s home in Two Park Place. When Stacie had first visited the home, her jaw had dropped at the grandiosity of the place. Aubrey’s home was the penthouse suite of one of the most luxurious buildings in New York City. Located at 2 Park Place, Pinnacle Penthouse New York, Stacie googled the price of the apartment to find that it was priced at seventy-nine million dollars. Stacie wondered how many years of food could afford her and practically wanted to cry when she eventually did the math. She knew Aubrey was rich, but the price of her boss’s apartment was ridiculous. 

 

Ring. Stacie let out a pitiful moan when her work phone went off. Along with fancy clothes from the closet, happily provided by Benji, Bella required a separate work phone that had to remain on at all times, even weekends. At first, Stacie had been ecstatic that she would get the latest iPhone, but that excitement was quickly smothered by the sheer volume of work-related calls she had gotten within her first twenty-four hours. Aubrey called her and Chloe for everything. She has books, notes, dinner reservations, lunch reservations, date cancellations, dog walking, and picking up her nieces and nephews from daycare. Whatever Aubrey needed, Stacie and Chloe did it. Stacie answered her phone with a tight smile and a quick, “This is Stacie,” Which was promptly cut off by the sound of a very irate Aubrey. 

 

“Anastacia, where is my driver?” Aubrey snapped. 

 

Stacie looked at the rearview mirror where Pieter was trying not to eavesdrop. “He’s with me at the moment; you told me to take him when you needed me to walk Roger.” 

 

“What? No, I didn’t; I said to take, A driver, not my driver. Get over to The Capital now, Kommisar canceled, and no one told me. Do I really have to do everything? Why did I hire you if you can’t even keep up with my appointments?” 

 

Stacie winced and withheld the biting words that popped into her mind. Of course, Aubrey forgot that they needed to cancel Kommisar, even though Chloe had mentioned it before Aubrey left for a prior meeting. “I’m sorry, we’ll send you another reminder next time.” 

 

“One would suffice and drop the tone, Anastacia; I don’t appreciate it. If I were paying for sass, I would have hired Chloe’s hobbit girlfriend,” Aubrey sneered from the other end of the line. “Make sure you’re here in five, or you and Pieter will be fighting to decide who keeps their job.” Click. 

 

Stacie stared at the phone and felt the strong urge to chuck it out the window. What if she took the car to Jimmy’s Bar and wracked up as large of a bill as she could manage? Stacie shook the thoughts from her mind and gave Pieter the address for The Capital Grille, where Aubrey supposedly was. When Stacie mentioned a five-minute time limit, the German man got a look in his eye of utter panic as he proceeded to streak through the streets of Manhattan like an ex-Nascar driver. 

 

Somehow, miraculously, they made it to Aubrey with one minute to spare. Stacie stepped out of the vehicle and got the door for the impatient blonde. “Call Momofuku and tell them I want dinner on my desk at five, and tell Benji I want his latest edits by three. Also, Chloe is going home early for her anniversary with the dwarf, but the Book isn’t out until eleven tonight, so call her and tell her she needs to come in and deliver it to my house.” 

 

Stacie jotted down the directions on the notes app of her phone and nodded as she climbed back into the car beside Aubrey. She hoped that Pieter could drive fast enough so she could get out of the car as quickly as possible. However, it took her a couple of moments to realize they weren’t moving at all. Stacie looked up from her phone to meet glaring green eyes. “Did you want me to do that now?” Stacie scrambled to find the contact for a moment until Pieter caught her eye and signaled for her to exit the vehicle with a jerk of his head. You have got to be kidding me. “Am-Am I not allowed to ride back to the office with you?” She stammered. Aubrey raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow at her as if to say, ‘ no duh,’ before turning to her phone as though Stacie hadn’t said anything. Stacie wanted to punch her. 

 

With a dramatic huff, Stacie began to extricate herself from her seat, throwing the car door open closest to traffic. She wondered if it was too much to hope that if she left it, a random driver would take the door off, but she couched that particular thought for another day. Instead, she shut the door and started walking in the direction of the nearest subway. “Oh, Anastacia?” 

 

Stacie turned around and plastered the most accommodating smile she could muster onto her face. Aubrey paused for a moment; their eyes met, and Stacie wondered what she looked like to her boss at that moment. Rundown? Tired? Completely and totally wrecked? Whatever it was, Aubrey’s eyes softened for a moment, and Stacie watched as she pulled out her phone. 

 

“Hello? Can I speak to Malcolm, please? I need a car for one Anastacia Conrad at 120 Broadway. Yes, I need it now. No, you may not have twenty minutes to find a driver, do it now, or you can kiss your job goodbye.” Aubrey rolled her eyes and hung up. “Here,” Aubrey handed Stacie an American Express Card, bold and black. “Get me my usual from Starbucks and get yourself something.” 

 

Stacie took the card tentatively and wondered if she was going crazy. “Well? Don’t just stand there catching flies; hurry up and get my coffee order. I expect it to be still hot when you get to the office. No excuses,” Aubrey barked. Stacie released the breath she was holding as things shifted back to normal. Yup, same old Aubrey. She watched the black town car peel away, the black American express still pinched between two fingers.

Chapter Text

After Aubrey’s brief moment of kindness that Stacie called ‘The Black Card Incident,’ things reverted to normal. Aubrey still demanded that Chloe and Stacie handle everything and anything for her, from babysitting her nieces and nephews when she was unavailable to helping her secure a driver in Milan at 3 AM Eastern Standard Time. If Stacie were honest, it sometimes felt as though that moment was a fever dream. The only evidence she had to prove it happened was the receipt she had kept after purchasing the two coffees from Starbucks. If it weren’t for that receipt, she would have thought it was a hallucination. 

 

Although there was a bone of decency in Aubrey, Stacie didn’t find it for the remainder of that month. It was October, and Stacie had been working for Bella for the past three months, although the intensity of her indenture to Aubrey made the past three months the longest of her life. Sometimes she would wake up at 2 AM in her bed to the sound of an irate Aubrey panicking about noise outside of her penthouse. 

 

The first time this happened, Stacie had sprung into action and had security and the police on the phone, only to realize that Aubrey lived on the top floor of her building and had around-the-clock building security. Aubrey also had her own private elevator. Stacie hadn’t taken any of Aubrey’s midnight reports seriously afterward. If it weren’t for the fact that Aubrey mandated availability at all times, she would have turned the phone off until it was time to get up for work. 

 

“You really should be delivering The Book to Aubrey’s apartment by now,” Chloe commented one day. The redhead seemed more drained than usual; she had bags under her eyes that distracted from the other assistant's perfectly curled hair and immaculate outfit. “If she doesn’t trust you enough to deliver The Book yet, we have a problem. There has to be something you’re doing wrong; if you fix it, you can take over the responsibility.” 

 

“So I can stay here until eleven at night? No thanks.” Stacie snorted; she was in the middle of updating the Bulletin. Amy had called with a new blind date option, and Stacie was currently entering the mystery man’s contact information into the document. 

 

“This is important, Stacie;" Chloe argued. The Book was a large three-ring binder as large as an unabridged dictionary. It contained the entire mock-up of this month’s Bella issue. Every section was expertly written, printed, edited, and designed as though it were ready to print for the masses. Supposedly, Stacie was supposed to use the special elevator key to Aubrey’s penthouse and drop off the blonde’s dry cleaning at the closet to the left of the elevator. Then The Book was supposed to be placed, centered, on the coffee table to the left of the right couch. 

 

Despite Chloe’s specific instructions and three months of work, Stacie still hadn’t been called upon to deliver The Book. Something that filled Stacie with equal parts relief and dread. If Aubrey didn’t trust her with something so important, did that mean she was likely for termination? Or was the fact that she wasn’t being called upon for such an arduous task a blessing in disguise? 

 

Whether it was a bad sign or not was irrelevant because mid-October brought the arrival of Hurricane Joshua. The bringer of 150 mph winds and an overwhelming amount of panic buying. Stacie was tasked with acquiring two weeks' worth of hurricane supplies for Aubrey’s Park Place home, it was meant for when Aubrey returned to the city. Meanwhile, Chloe was tasked with ensuring Aubrey’s South Carolina home was ready, and a plane was ready to take her along with the driving service that was paid a bonus for inclement weather. Chloe told Stacie to forge Aubrey’s signature for the ‘in case of death’ waiver that the driver’s agency sent over. 

 

The storm was shaping up to be a big one, and it was the day before the storm hit when Stacie realized she hadn’t stocked anything for herself. She had been so focused on ensuring every one of Aubrey’s demands were taken care of that she had forgotten to get supplies for herself. Stacie groaned and made a note to order some more items to the list on Bella. It was only fair considering they needed her alive if she continued her indentured servitude to them. 

 

....

 

It was the day of the storm, and Aubrey was supposed to be in her South Carolina home, shuttered in and stocked up to her eyeballs in food and water. If anything, she was going to skate along perfectly in the midst of Joshua’s screaming winds. Stacie would have been relieved for the break if it weren’t for the fact that a category 4 Hurricane was batting down her tiny apartment walls. The basement of the building was already flooding, and Stacie knew she would be going elsewhere for laundry for the next week. There was no way the landlord was going to fix everything on time. 

 

The power was out, and Stacie was sitting around a battery-powered lantern with a book when she heard it. Her phone was ringing, and it wasn’t her personal phone. The clear, high, staccato sound of the iPhone tone bore into her eardrums like the soundtrack of her personal hell. Stacie wondered if she could pretend the phone was dead, but then she remembered that Chloe was currently in New Jersey with her family and fiancee, so the ginger couldn’t help if she wanted to. 

 

Stacie let out a disgruntled mumble before grasping around in the dim lighting for the phone. It was on the last ring when Stacie answered. 

 

“Anastacia!” Aubrey’s voice greeted Stacie through a clamor of wind and feedback. Service was debatable, so this call had a time stamp. 

 

“Yes, Aubrey?” Stacie sighed. 

 

“I don’t need your attitude right now; I need you to get a driver for me. It’s cold and raining, and I need to get to 2 Park Place.” For what it was worth, Aubrey did sound utterly miserable at that moment. 

 

“No driver is going to come out in the middle of the worst of the storm Aubrey, especially to drive you from South Carolina to Manhattan. Just wait for flights to New York to come back.” Stacie reminded her boss as patiently as she could muster. 

 

“Anastacia, weren’t you listening? I’m not in South Carolina; I’m stuck at JFK; the flight got canceled because of the inclement weather at the last minute,” Aubrey growled through the phone. Stacie stiffened at the new information; Chloe had booked Aubrey a red-eye flight before the worst of the storm was supposed to hit; how did it get canceled? The storm didn’t hit until 10 AM; there should have been plenty of time.

 

“Aubrey, where are you right now?” Stacie hurried to inquire; her mind scrambled to picture JFK in its entirety. She winced at the wide expanse of windows that she called to mind in the process. She heard an irate huff from the other end as Aubrey proceeded to snarkily inform her that she already said she was at JFK. Stacie sighed and resisted the urge to facepalm. Instead, she gritted her teeth and forced the next question out of her mouth. 

 

“Where in JFK?” Aubrey fell silent and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like near the car loop outside. Stacie wanted to kill the airline staff. 

 

“Alright, let me call Pieter and see what they can do. I’ll call you when I know more, okay?” Stacie said. Luckily, she had the driving company’s number memorized by now. Stacie was about to hang up when Aubrey’s panicked voice sounded over the speaker. 

 

“Wait, Stacie!” 

 

Stacie wasn’t sure if she jumped from the volume or the fact that her anal-retentive boss just called her by her preferred name. “Yes?” Stacie replied tentatively. She thought she heard light sniffling on the other side of the phone. “Please don’t go,” Aubrey murmured. Stacie sucked in a deep breath at the level of vulnerability in Aubrey’s voice. It was strange to hear the usually put-together woman reduced to just another scared human being. It was unnerving; part of Stacie wanted to hear Aubrey yell at her again to get the sad sound of the blonde’s voice out of her head. 

 

“Alright, can I call you back on my personal phone? Then I can use this phone to call the drivers, is that okay?” There was silence on the other end for a moment, and Stacie wondered if the older woman had hung up. Finally, after a couple more seconds of waiting, Stacie heard a quiet ‘yes’ and began to dial. 

 

It turned out that Stacie was right, and no one was willing to make the drive to JFK for a slightly vicious yet vulnerable blonde. Which left Stacie on the phone with her presumed, drenched boss as the fashion mogul was reduced to something akin to hysterics. Not that Stacie could blame her, she wouldn’t want to be stuck in a glass-walled airport during a category 4 hurricane either. She briefly wondered whether she should call 911, but when she suggested the idea to Aubrey, the blonde became incredibly belligerent, so Stacie discarded the idea. All she could do was be grateful that Roger had been sent along to Aubrey’s Grandparents before the storm. 

 

It was twenty more minutes into the phone call when it happened; Stacie heard the sound of something crashing followed by the buzz of a dead line, and Stacie was sitting, eyes wide, staring at her phone. Now, what she did next was something that surprised even her. If anyone asked her about it, she would forever say she had no clue what brought her to that moment. Still, her following actions had Stacie leaving her apartment, crossing the street in a torrential downpour, andclimbing into the ratty old car that she had brought to the city to visit her grandparents in Philly. It took a moment, but she got the car in working condition with a portable car battery and was off into the storm. 

...

The winds shook the car, and Stacie could swear that she was floating more than rolling, but she managed to drive the fifteen miles towards JFK using the GPS on her phone. She pulled into the JFK lot and continued to call the blonde back, but she went straight to voicemail just like the last ten times she had called. Stacie pocketed her phone and put the car in park. The emergency battery was in her trunk, and she had managed to park under the underhang because the loop was practically abandoned. 

 

Stacie ran through the sliding doors, which were operating on emergency power. Like a complete lunatic, she ran through the airport yelling Aubrey’s name while slightly damp and borderline panicking. When Stacie was about to give up, she felt a sudden presence behind her; turning, Stacie came face to face with a perfectly fine, albeit puffy-eyed, Aubrey Posen. 

 

She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to punch or kiss the girl at that moment for being okay, so Stacie settled for a frantic hug where she took her first even breath in hours. Aubrey stood stiffly in her arms, eyes wide with surprise. “You scared the shit out of me; why didn’t you answer your phone. I called ten times.”

 

“My phone died,” Aubrey answered haltingly. 

 

Stacie allowed her boss to extricate herself from the embrace, smirking for a moment at the brilliant red shade of the other woman’s cheeks. “I thought no drivers were willing to brave the storm?” Aubrey snapped testily. Stacie withheld the biting remark and tried to hold onto the utter relief she felt at finding Aubrey in perfect condition. “No drivers were, but this mad scientist managed to make it.” 

 

Aubrey’s eyes widened in surprise for a moment before settling back into its usual poker face. “You have a car?” 

 

“A barely functioning car, but it got me from point A to point B,” Stacie corrected. Aubrey considered her for a moment, mind churning. Stacie could see the cogs working in the CEO’s head and decided to ignore it for the moment. Instead, she pulled out her keys from her pocket and held them out for Aubrey to see. “It’s my Dad’s old car; I took it with me so I could visit my grandparents in Philly without needing to buy a plane ticket.”

 

Aubrey looked at the Honda logo upon the key fob with a curl of her lip but managed to shrug it off in the blink of an eye. “Beggars can’t be choosers,” the other woman finally said. Stacie watched as the blonde walked in the direction of the main exit, leaving the pile of luggage in her wake for Stacie to carry. What a bitch. 

 

Once Stacie managed to cram all Aubrey’s things into her 2008 Honda Civic, she started the car with little to no issue. Luckily for her, the engine started the second go-around without needing the jump. Stacie took a little pleasure in the look of horror that graced Aubrey’s face between the moment she turned the key and when the car started. Overall, the ride was uneventful. After driving through it once, Stacie was prepared for the winds. It didn’t hurt that the storm had dropped to a Category 2 within the time it took to find Aubrey in the airport. 

 

Despite Stacie’s wishes to go home, it was obvious that Aubrey wanted to get to her apartment as quickly as possible, so Stacie drove the way to Aubrey’s building. Thankfully, a garage was waiting with a side entry into the building. Aubrey immediately got out of the car and waited for Stacie to help her with her bags, and by help, Aubrey meant: carry the bags for her.  

 

The building’s elevators were on a backup generator, and everything was working, so they were able to take the elevator up instead of climbing two hundred flights of stairs. When the elevator doors opened, Stacie dropped the bags in the living room. She had only ever been in the penthouse briefly, but she was still astounded by its luxuriousness. The couches were a classy grey, facing each other across from a glass coffee table. A grand piano stood to the right, facing the curved eggshell walls that overlooked the city skyline. The ceilings towered high above them. Stacie took it in for a moment before turning around to get back to her car; if she wanted to get back in time to weather out the rest of the storm, she needed to go now. She had heard that it might get worse before it gets better. Supposedly another tropical storm by the name of Melinda was set to run them over in a couple of hours. 

 

Stacie pressed the button and stepped into the elevator. “Anastacia!” Aubrey called. Stacie turned around reluctantly. “Melinda’s supposed to hit in an hour, and I don’t want to know what another storm on top of a hurricane feels like,” Stacie remarked wearily. 

 

Aubrey had her arms crossed and scuffed the toe of her Miu Miu slippers against the richly finished wood of her floors. “ It’s dangerous out there,” the blonde said lamely. 

 

“I know, that’s why I have to go; I need to make it back to shelter before-” 

 

Aubrey let out an irritated sigh and furrowed her perfectly formed eyebrows. “What I’m trying to say is, you should stay. It’s not safe for you to drive back in this weather. Melinda’s been upgraded to a Category 1; it was just in the news.” 

“I can get back fine if I leave now, it’s not a problem,” Stacie argued; the idea of staying in the same home as Aubrey sounded like a bit of a nightmare. If the woman had her running around like a bat out of hell in the office, she didn’t want to know what horrors she kept in her home. Stacie was about to say so when she heard a deafening crack of thunder. Aubrey shook for a moment, eyes wide and bottom lip between her teeth. If Stacie didn’t know any better, she would say that the all-powerful editor in chief of Bella was scared of thunder. 

 

“Anastacia, I think it’s prudent that you stay here to weather the storm. I have plenty of food to last us both, or at least I should if you did your job right. Besides, I can’t have you getting injured; we have a gala next week with the CEO of Alexander McQueen and Tommy Hilfiger that I need you to organize.” 

 

Stacie rolled her eyes and took another step towards the elevator buttons, but a hand caught her arm and pulled her hard enough that she was stumbling out of the gilded vestibule. “Stacie, please,” Aubrey pleaded. Her eyes shone with something that Stacie couldn’t decipher. She felt her body thrum under the other woman’s touch; she let out a breath she wasn’t aware she was holding, and her eyes flit to Aubrey’s lips before returning to light green eyes. Kiss her or punch her? 

 

Aubrey let go of Stacie’s wrist and the electricity in her body lessened. She quickly composed herself and met her boss’s gaze once more. She really tried her best to look nonplussed, but she wasn’t sure if she was pulling off after that brief and incredibly charged moment. “Fine, I’ll stay,” She acquiesced suddenly. She ignored the flash of relief in the blonde’s eyes, paired with something else again. 

 

“Good, it would be utterly stupid to go back out there, Anastacia, really,” Aubrey chided, but Stacie cut her off with a finger to the other woman’s lips. 

 

“I’ll stay, but you don’t get to call me Anastacia anymore. I go by Stacie; if I hear you call me Anastacia one more time, I don’t care how violent that storm gets. I will go out there and crash into the Empire State building for all I care, got it?” 

 

Aubrey nodded once; Stacie dropped her finger. “Good, also, you don’t get to boss me around. I came and got you from that airport because it was a decent thing to do, I am not on the clock, and you will not treat me like I am, agreed?” 

 

“Agreed,” Aubrey said tersely, but it was a deal nonetheless. Maybe weathering out the storm with Aubrey wouldn’t be as bad as Stacie thought. 

 

Chapter Text

The crew of the Bella landed on a small outlying planet on the fringes of the Jaba territories. Stacie and Aubrey had slept in the same cabin for the remainder of the journey, their relationship growing stronger all the while. Stacie worked on the ship’s engine when they stopped somewhere and accompanied Aubrey on dangerous errands. When they finally stopped at the Bella hideout, Stacie and Aubrey were efficient partners once more. It almost felt like old times. 

 

Almost.

 

The Bella’s hideout was a dug-out structure in the walls of a canyon on the planet of Bespin. Hidden in the clouds, the planet was something of a marvel since it was a gas giant for all intents and purposes. Yet, some terraforming had been done that created quite the geographical feat for the planet’s inhabitants. The hideout was dimly lit through sunstone and electric lighting. When Stacie stepped off of the ship and onto the hangar, she was immediately embraced by another familiar brunette. Ashley. Stacie hugged the girl back and looked around to find Beca standing with wide eyes from a distance. It took a moment, but the shorter brunette finally approached and gave Stacie one of her very rare hugs. 

 

“When Aubrey said that you were on board, I didn’t really believe her,” Beca muttered into Stacie’s collarbone. 

 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t really believe her either,” Stacie freely admitted. The idea that Aubrey was still alive was still a complete marvel to Stacie, never mind her friends. 

 

Stacie felt a slight shift in the room’s atmosphere and turned away from Beca; her eyes found Lily, hanging from the rafters with wide, curious eyes. The lightsaber at her belt looked different; the handle was golden and jeweled. She peered down at Stacie curiously but quickly swung back up and away. “Lily hasn’t really been the same since the Inquisitors got her. They held onto her for barely two weeks before we found her, but she hasn’t said a word since,” Beca explained. Stacie nodded in understanding; a spike of sympathy worked its way into her heart when her eyes returned to space where her old friend used to be. The Empire had left its scars on everyone. 

 

Stacie winced when she remembered her first night on the ship with Aubrey. They had begun to reacquaint themselves with each other, and Stacie’s wandering hands had pulled up Aubrey’s tunic. What she found in the place of clear skin were a dozen stretching scars spaced throughout her lover’s torso. Stacie had swallowed thickly as she traced the new and rough lines. “Who did this to you?” She had muttered, anger flooded her tone. Aubrey had to set a calming hand on Stacie’s chest as she explained. 

 

Aubrey had escaped the Empire at first, and she had been looking for Stacie. Beca was with her along with Chloe, the daughter of a diplomat from Naboo. They were all running from the Empire when Aubrey had gotten wind of a tall brunette Jedi's apprentice being captured around Geonosis. Aubrey hadn’t known which planetary system Stacie’s ship was near, but when she heard about the Empire’s new prisoner, she had rushed to rescue that padawan, hoping it was Stacie. Of course, it hadn’t been Stacie because, at that point, Stacie was on Braca working as a newly appointed junker. When Aubrey reached the Empire ship, she had briefly been captured as well. Luckily, Beca managed to escape and rescue them with the help of Chloe, who had called in a favor from Amy and Cynthia Rose. They all escaped, but not before a small round of torture was conducted on Aubrey. 

 

During their escape, they found Ashley and Lily. The smaller girl had definitely gotten the worse of the torture, but she was able to sneak out with the rest of them

 

Stacie had been horrified at the thought of Aubrey in the Empire’s clutches, of course, but she couldn’t help being a bit relieved that Ashley and Lily managed to escape because of Aubrey’s hair-brained rescue mission. It was also quite heartwarming that the blonde loved her so much that she risked capture and possibly death. 

 

Once Stacie had been greeted by everyone, including other members of the crew that she had never heard of: Cynthia Rose’s girlfriend Denise, Emily’s roommate Flo, a lockpick named Donald, Fat Amy’s fiance Bumper, Ashley’s girlfriend Jessica, and Benji’s best friend Jesse; Stacie was shown to her new room. Of course, by new room, Aubrey meant a shared room. Since the base wasn’t that big, everyone was expected to double up. In fact, Aubrey had been the only one without a roommate, until now, that is. 

 

“You sure you don’t mind sharing a room?” Stacie teased the other woman. Aubrey rolled her eyes and pulled her to the bed. Every rest of Aubrey’s hand on Stacie’s shoulder or waist brought a spark to the synapses of the brunette’s skin. She was home. 

 

 

Stacie remembered a time when Aubrey’s arms had been the farthest thing from home, and she also remembered the days where the blonde had slowly become Stacie’s world. 

 

Their climb up the great tree of Kashyyk was a hard one, especially with Aubrey’s arm in a makeshift sling. Stacie’s tunic was torn at the bottom and tied around her midriff; she had used it to make Aubrey’s sling, not that the blonde said thank you. Yet, despite the blonde’s many barbed comments, there were quiet moments too. Moments where they shared food or a smile, maybe a story about their training. 

 

“Do you think Plo Koon and Windu are searching for us?” Stacie asked one night. The fire was low, and they had just finished the roasted dregs of some creature they’d run into. Aubrey shrugged; her eyes never left the fire. “Maybe, or maybe they’re simply waiting for us to get back. I’m sure Windu expects us to fend for ourselves.” 

 

“Well, I hope we get back soon. I’m up for consideration; they might let me take the final test at the temple this year; if I die out here, I’ll never get to become consular.” 

 

“Is that your dream? Consular?” Aubrey inquired politely. Stacie shrugged. 

 

“I want to be part of their research teams. If I wasn’t forced sensitive, I think I would’ve become a scientist or ship engineer of some kind,” Stacie exclaimed. Aubrey looked at her then; green eyes flickered gold in the firelight. Stacie wondered what the girl’s lips felt like for a moment but pushed the thought away. Jedi weren’t supposed to form attachments; it was simply a matter of hormones. Nothing more, nothing less. 

 

“You’ll be a great Consular one day; I’m sure you’ll be sent to all kinds of places to research force-sensitive civilizations. You’ll have the time of your life.” Aubrey’s words surprised Stacie; she had never heard the blonde say something so kind before. 

 

“Did you always want to be placed with the Sentinels?” She asked. 

 

It was Aubrey’s turn to shrug. “It was the right place for me; they liked my determination and drive. I wanted to help save the galaxy, and the sentinels help me do that. One dead sith at a time.” Stacie considered the other girl’s words; the phrasing definitely said something about the blonde. The intonation sounded more resigned than anything, and the rhetoric hinted at a semblance of reluctance. 

 

“If you weren’t a Jedi, what do you think you’d do with your life?” She asked. 

 

Aubrey looked at the treeline thoughtfully, pouty lips pursed and fingers twiddling away. “I think I would have started a family, maybe become a diplomat like my father. Maybe not entirely like my father, though. He’s an ass, but I would have liked to help people. Maybe talk it out instead of fighting.” 

 

“You would have wanted a family?” Stacie remarked the blonde was just full of surprises. 

 

“Yeah, I would have liked to raise a kid of my own. I guess I’ll get to do that when I get an apprentice, though. Whenever that is.” 

 

“You’ll be a great master one day,” Stacie said; she couldn’t help feeling slightly astonished when she meant it. Aubrey would be a great teacher one day. She was smart, capable; she had been helping Stacie with her force and saber exercises early in the morning. Maybe Aubrey wasn’t as annoying as she thought at first. 

 

“You should get some sleep; I’ll take the first watch;” Aubrey’s utterance was a clear end to the conversation, but Stacie couldn’t help the words that flew out of her mouth. “You would have been a great mother,” She said quietly before she tucked herself into the bundle of leaves that served as her bed. She didn’t get to see Aubrey’s face, but for a second, she thought she heard a sniffle. 

 

 

The days flew by while Stacie was on Bespin with the others. Besides regular maintenance and supply runs, the crew of the Bella was mostly unbothered. They took care of each other; it also helped that she found out Jesse used to be part of the Medical Service crew back when the Jedi Order was in power. He took care of most of their scrapes, bruises, burns, breakages, and cuts. The only thing he couldn’t do was use force to heal people. 

 

“Yeah, I failed out of Jedi apprenticeship early on, somewhere around the age of nine. They thought I was too emotional, so they moved me to the Service corps;” Jesse chuckled sheepishly. Whatever may have happened, Stacie really didn’t care; it was nice to find another member of the group that understood the loss she felt. After the collapse of the Republic, nothing was the same anymore. 

 

It was in the middle of the week when Stacie came out of her shared room with a look of confusion, only to find Aubrey packing a bag in the makeshift hangar. The Bella was gone, along with Chloe, Flo, Jessica, Jesse, Beca, and Lily. They were supposed to be on a supply run, but that didn’t explain why the blonde was packing. 

 

“Bree, what are you doing?” Stacie grumbled, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She looked quite adorable in the faint amber glow of the sunstone light. “They were supposed to be back by now,” Aubrey growled. Stacie watched as the blonde clipped her lightsaber to her belt before tossing a blaster into her bag. “And you’re going to find them,” Stacie concluded. 

 

“Yes, stay here and hold down the fort while I’m gone,” Aubrey answered. The other Jedi made a move towards the extra starfighter, but Stacie immediately moved to block her. 

 

“Hold on, not so fast. You’re not leaving without me,” Stacie exclaimed. Aubrey glowered at Stacie and made another move for the extra ship. 

 

“Stacie, move,” the blonde snapped, but Stacie resisted. The past several weeks with Aubrey and their hodgepodge group of rebels had quickly become some of Stacie’s favorite memories. Every moment she looked across a table or room to find Aubrey looking back at her was a blessing that she never thought she’d have again. Aubrey wasn’t going into danger without her, and that was final. 

 

“Let me pack my bag, and I’ll come with you,” Stacie urged the other woman, who clearly wasn’t having it. To Stacie’s utter indignation, she found herself suspended in the air as Aubrey used the Force to move her out of the way. “I’m sorry, but you can’t come with me. It would help if you stayed here to protect the others. We always keep two Jedi here to protect everyone; we can’t break the procedure.”

“Aubrey put me down right now!” Stacie growled. She closed her eyes to concentrate, anything to break Aubrey’s hold on her, but the blonde was older and more practiced. There was a reason the Council had made the blonde a full Jedi before Stacie had even gone up for consideration. To her chagrin, she watched Aubrey climb into the extra starfighter and press the buttons for liftoff. With one last mouthed ‘sorry,’ the blonde was gone, and Stacie was facing a space where her girlfriend used to be. 

 

When Aubrey got back, Stacie had words for the blonde.

Fuming, Stacie stormed into the main living space. Cynthia Rose sat at the table with Donald and Ashley. Benji was organizing Jesse’s medical kit; the kind boy was trying to learn everything Jesse knew, so the group always had two medics. After watching Benji attempt to roll a bandage for a couple of minutes properly, Stacie begrudgingly moved to help the boy. “Give me that,” Stacie muttered; her quick fingers made short work of the bandage, so she moved on to the next one. 

 

It took a couple of hours, but Benji finally had the entire supply kit crammed into a canvas bag. Cynthia Rose’s girlfriend had made breakfast, and Fat Amy was lounging on the sofa feeding grapes to Bumper when she felt it. A sudden shift in the force. Casting a baleful eye around the area, Stacie’s heart rate picked up as she considered the sudden dark feeling that choked her. Something was wrong. 

 

“Guys, something's wrong!” Ashley stated for the others. Everyone looked up, immediately alert as the two brunettes pulled out their lightsabers; the impending doom seemed to surround them at that moment. Stacie saw Cynthia Rose reaching for the blaster taped to the bottom of the table. She saw Benji and Fat Amy running for the supply room where they stocked extra bags, just in case. Emily was dragged out of her room by an alert Denise. Donald had a blaster strapped to his leg and already in hand. He was switching it from wall to wall, uncertain of where to shoot. His answer came quickly. 

 

The west wall burst open under the force of starship laser fire. The sunstone crumbled like paper as their group scrambled for cover, away from the falling rock face. Stacie and Ashley used the Force to push away the largest debris, away from themselves and away from any of their comrades. “Donald! Fat Amy! Get to the pods!” Denise shouted; Stacie watched as the older girl pushed Emily towards the two; Donald grabbed Emily by the arm and streaked off in the direction of the hangar. “Inquisitor!” Ashley shouted in warning just as someone hurled a red lightsaber through the air in a vicious windmill. Stacie watched in horror as it tore through a fleeing Jesse’s right arm, just as he pushed Benji out of the way. 

 

Stacie used the force to push the lightsabers trajectory into a wall and turned to face the open doors of the Empire’s Cruiser. A man with closely cropped blonde hair and green eyes stood in all black; a series of scars were scattered around his face. “Well, hello, sorry to break up the party,” The man quipped. With a wave of his hand, the red lightsaber returned to his clutches; his dark eyes studied the scene malevolently. Ashley and Stacie stood facing him, blue and green lightsabers glowing. Benji had managed to pull Jesse out of the room. 

 

“Luke!” Ashley gasped, eyes wide with horror. Stacie’s eyes widened in realization at the other woman’s remark. She knew that name. Luke had become an apprentice a year before Stacie; he had been an accomplished padawan and had become a Jedi Sentinel, just like Aubrey. She thought he had died during the purge, but she was wrong. 

 

“Ahh, Ashley, so nice to see you again. I see you made some friends, another Jedi padawan, maybe?” The man’s tone was teasing, yet his overall aura was one of danger and death. Stacie felt that she would need every shred of knowledge and grit in her to beat him. “I see Aubrey isn’t here; I was hoping to give her another gift.” He waved his lightsaber playfully in the air as he said it. Stacie stiffened at the implication, “Those scars?” 

 

“Tokens of my affection;” Luke grinned mockingly. Stacie growled and charged forward; her vision was nearly red with rage. Luke seemed thrilled. “Good! You’ve got some fire in you. We’ll make an inquisitor out of you yet!” 

 

“Stacie, stop!” Ashley shouted, but Stacie didn’t hear her. 

 

Luke bounced between the two with delight, batting Ashley aside with ease and expertly weaving his way between each of Stacie’s slashes. His words were ones of praise, albeit condescending praise, and disparagement. For every tactile swipe from Ashley and furious jab from Stacie, the blonde boy had a quip that only infuriated Stacie more. By now, there was an all-out war in the skies surrounding their base. A large hole overlooked the cloudy canyon, and the ship that had carried Luke was weaving figure eights throughout the skyline. 

 

Stacie swiped at Luke once more, the tip of her lightsaber caught his arm, and she smelled the scent of burned flesh and fabric. The boy’s facial expression changed; instead of a gleeful smile, he now wore a merciless glare. Stacie lept back just in time as arcs of lightning caught Ashley in the chest. Stacie made a wild spinning strike that Luke met with his blade, eyes gleaming with excitement and something else, something Stacie couldn’t pinpoint at that moment. 

 

“I’ve seen you before, you know?” Luke grinned. Stacie sprang back and attempted a feinted backswing followed by a spinning kick to the man’s chest. Her foot clipped him in the chin, and he stumbled a little, but he didn’t go down. Not good enough. “Yes, I’ve seen you before,” Luke muttered. He wiped the drops of blood from his split lip and continued. “I saw you in Aubrey’s head when she was a mere prisoner on my ship. You were there, and she was there. You both looked quite cozy.” 

 

Stacie attempted a force push, but he waved it away. “You know, when I got a peek into that pretty head of hers, I saw something that astounded me. The great Aubrey Posen, the disciplinarian and rule follower, was in love. When I saw it, I could hardly believe it.” Stacie charged once more, and he parried easily. 

 

“When I found out what you two were hiding, I thought there might be hope, maybe I could turn her into one of us, but then I saw you were dead. Or at least she believed it to be so. You were dead, and there was no way she would join the people that took you from her. But now…” Stacie felt the air leave her lungs as a pressure-formed around her larynx. “Now, here you are. Her weakness, the chink in her armor of ethics. I know what you two did in Kashyyyk; I know what you two did in Coruscant, Alderan, and every planet where you two managed to congregate. Or should I say conjugate?” 

 

Stacie’s vision was starting to fade, and she could feel the burn in her lungs. “Hmm, there might be hope for poor Aubrey yet. Maybe we can help her, get her out of the mental entrapment under the Jedi’s tutelage? Maybe she’ll join us, hmm? What do you think?” 

 

“Leave her alone,” Stacie choked out with the shreds of air that remained in her. She could feel the blood rushing to her cheeks; she was going to pass out any second now. 

 

“No, I don’t think I will. I think you’re the key to her salvation, actually.” If Luke had anything left to say, Stacie didn’t hear it as her vision faded to black. 

Chapter Text

Stacie’s stay in Aubrey’s penthouse was remarkably relaxing. Despite Aubrey’s rigidity, living in such a lavish apartment proved to be quite the break, especially since the blonde willingly held to their deal. Stacie didn’t have to hear her full name pass from Aubrey’s lips for the entirety of her stay with the fashion mogul. Instead, she was waited on hand and foot by staff within the building. Aubrey had a private chef, maids that lived a floor below her, and a masseuse who lived several floors down in the building. Stacie was the pinnacle of pampered while under Aubrey’s roof. She couldn’t wait to tell the people at work, although she was sure they’d call her a liar. 

 

The city roads and subways were closed down for three days following the storm as street cleaners picked up debris, and the flooding was taken care of. Stacie managed to go back to her apartment, but Aubrey surprised her once more by insisting on accompanying her. There was still plenty of rain and thunder, but the winds weren’t nearly as forceful. 

 

It was an intriguing sight for Stacie and all her neighbors when Aubrey trailed behind the brunette wearing a Fendi coat and Ferragamo shoes. A Balenciaga bag was over the blonde’s shoulder, and a yellow Hermes scarf was wrapped around her neck. Stacie was positive Aubrey’s outfit was worth at least three months of rent. Stacie lived on the second floor, so the flooding hadn’t affected her too much, but the basement contained all the washers and dryers, which now teemed with murky brown water. Aubrey wrinkled a nose at the sight and skirted the top of the stairs as though the water was still rising. Stacie wasn’t too keen on the new subterranean pool either; she still hadn’t gotten cleared on exposed wires, touching the water was not a good idea. 

 

“You can’t live here,” Aubrey snapped. Her expression of disgust, while previously entertaining, now was a point of concern for Stacie. What did Aubrey mean when she said Stacie couldn’t live here? Where should she live, then? 

 

“It’s my apartment; I can’t live with you forever,” Stacie pointed out. Aubrey pursed her lips and fiddled with her phone; she looked like she wanted to argue but couldn’t find a good enough reason. The pout would have been adorable if Stacie didn’t know better. Right after Aubrey pouted, she usually got her way. “This is ridiculous, this building isn’t safe, and you’re going to die here. I demand you find another apartment to live in.” 

 

Stacie leveled a baleful look at her boss. The reality Aubrey lived in must be magical if she thought Stacie would simply up and move at the snap of her fingers. “Yeah, I can’t afford to move, so I guess I’m staying here. Regardless of whether you think it’s safe or not.” Aubrey’s jaw tightened, and Stacie met the indignant gaze that was attempting to bore a hole through her head. “We’ll see,” Aubrey said in a clipped tone. Stacie didn’t like the way that sounded. 

 

Aubrey kept Stacie hostage in her guest room for three more days while the thunder rolled over the city. While it was nice to swim in Aubrey’s heated private pool and use the penthouse’s private gym, Stacie was starting to miss her books and bed. She was also starting to miss sex, which was definitely something she couldn’t have in Aubrey’s apartment, never mind one of Aubrey’s many beds. Eventually, the storms passed, and Aubrey relented. With a list of new tasks for the next day and a promise she would speak to Aubrey the next day at the office, Stacie finally returned home. The apartment had peeling wallpaper, a hint of mold, and about five interchangeable pests depending on the season, but it was home. 

...

 

Stacie arrived at the office at 7 AM the next day, holding two cups of coffee and clutching a receipt for reimbursement from the Elias-Posen accounting office. To her utter surprise, Aubrey was sitting at her desk with her computer on, tapping away. “Hi-” Stacie began, but Aubrey pointed to the seat in front of her desk and continued to type away. Her perfect eyebrows were furrowed over green eyes, lips pursed in concentration. Stacie casually sipped her coffee in the meantime and placed Aubrey’s drink on the desk coaster. “So you-” 

 

“Shh,” Aubrey shushed her. The typing halted, and the blonde looked hard at the computer monitor for a second before smiling. “There,” She exclaimed, turning the monitor around so Stacie could see. Upon the screen in 4K resolution was a filled out and approved application for a relocation fund. Stacie blinked; the lethargy of the day immediately fled her as she considered the new information. Aubrey was quite possibly forcing her to move. “You’re kidding, right;” Stacie gawked at the digital document some more, eyes squinting as she read the fine print. 

 

“You’ll be closer to the office and my apartment this way; it’s more conducive while you’re working here,” Aubrey answered breezily. 

 

“Aubrey, you can’t just make me move. I have a lease, and don’t forget I have to pay off my college loans. I can’t just find and pay for a brand new ritzy apartment; I can’t afford it.” 

 

“It’s been taken care of, Anastacia, don’t complain. At least you can get out of that cesspool now,” Aubrey said flippantly. Stacie stared at her in abject horror; all previously positive opinions of Aubrey had now combusted in her brain. What a controlling bitch. “My name is Sta-”

 

“Your name is Anastacia; it says so in the full name section of your job application,” Aubrey corrected her. Stacie felt the strong urge to punch Aubrey at that moment, a feeling that was far from unfamiliar to the brunette. “No one calls me Anastacia anymore; I don’t go by it. We had a deal.”

 

“A deal that ended the moment you weren’t staying at my place anymore. You’re back to being my employee instead of my guest, and as my employee, you must listen to company policy. If I say you move, you move.” Aubrey glared at Stacie with her usual look of self-importance. Her perfect face was stony and obstinate, kiss or punch? Kiss or punch? Punch was definitely winning out right about now. 

 

After some more fruitless objections, Stacie was dismissed from Aubrey’s office with a printed PDF of the approved relocation application and another piece of paper for accounting. Stacie hadn’t even gotten a chance to read the second document before she was sent scuttling to the financial office two floors down. 

 

The financial office was a lot less grand than Bella. The walls were a dull cream, and the lights had a yellow tone to them. The space was homier, warmer almost. Bella was blinding white lights and heavily contrasting blacks; this office was grey carpeting and brown leather couches. Stacie knocked on the door to the main financier; a man with long tapered fingers, black gelled hair, and glasses sat in a black rolling chair entering numbers absentmindedly. He looked up when Stacie entered and smiled. “Hey, you must be Anastacia; I’m Donald; Aubrey called ahead for you.” Stacie grimaced at the use of her full name and dropped the papers on his desk. “It’s Stacie; she insisted I move to fulfill my employment duties.” 

 

Donald chuckled and gave a well-meaning roll of his eyes. “Yeah, well, whatever Aubrey wants, Aubrey gets. We try to keep her happy here since her father owns the other half of the building, and she does such great work with Bella. She’s really carried the mantle after her mother passed,” Donald chattered genially. Stacie raised an eyebrow at the accountant’s words. 

 

“Her mom passed?” She exclaimed. Donald nodded solemnly, his fingers flying over the keyboard as his gaze switched from the form to Stacie’s face. “Yeah, it was a shame too. She was the original CEO of Bella when she died; all eyes were on Aubrey to take her place. She was practically born for the position as the only girl in the family. Spitting image of her mom too.” 

 

Stacie’s mind whirled with the new information. She had figured Aubrey was a spoiled brat that never saw adversity in her life. She had no clue that Aubrey’s mother had died; she had always figured the Posen Matriarch was out sipping mimosas with a gaggle of rich women somewhere in the Bahamas. Maybe she didn’t have Aubrey as figured out as she thought. 

 

“How did her mom die?” Stacie inquired. Donald looked up, lips puckered for a moment as he considered her question. She saw his eyes flit to the door and then back to Stacie. “It’s not really talked about here, but I guess...  I mean, it’s all online. Everyone reported it for a couple of days. It’s not as though you couldn’t…” Stacie watched the man mutter to himself some more before he finally sighed and gave in. 

 

“It was a storm, kind of similar to the one we just had. Aubrey had been working at the company since she was sixteen. It was after a private fashion show; her mom was coming back from LA on a plane. Aubrey hadn’t been answering her phone that day because she was out with friends. Her mom wasn’t able to get a hold of her, so she booked a flight to the city instead. It was a freak accident, but lightning hit the plane, and they crashed. Her mom died on impact.” 

 

Stacie froze, she felt her jaw drop, but she couldn’t seem to close it again. Aubrey’s mother died in a plane crash caused by a storm. Aubrey’s twitching every single time thunder sounded made a lot more sense now. “Do you know what Aubrey’s mom wanted to tell her that made her fly out from LA?” A shrug and a blase glance met Stacie’s question. “No clue, probably something stupid, like what color taffeta the gala centerpieces should have.” 

 

Stacie returned to the office with her mind reeling. Aubrey’s past was starting to make a modicum of sense; even though she didn’t like how the woman treated her, at least she was starting to ascertain why. Aubrey was out of the office upon Stacie’s return; a note was on her desk. Chloe looked up, beaming, fingers tap-tap-tapping away at her keyboard. “Hey, you just missed her, but good news, she trusts you now!”

 

“How do you know that?” Stacie asked. 

 

“Look!” Chloe pointed to the note on Stacie’s desk. Stacie had the letter in her hand; her eyes quickly absorbed the verbiage. 

 

Anastacia. 

 

Stacie, 

 

I have decided that it’s time you were responsible for the book. You know where I live, and I figured that you could manage to transport one binder regardless of weather since you managed to transport me in the midst of Joshua. I expect that Chloe has informed you of what is appropriate behavior when upon the premises. I know you wouldn’t dare to disappoint me. I expect the book as soon as it’s finished. Make sure no watermarks, coffee stains, or blemishes grace the cover or else. I hope you won’t take too long; the key to my elevator is with Chloe. 

 

 

- Aubrey

PS. I found the perfect apartment for you; it has windows overlooking the city and an efficient maintenance crew. I have called them, and they expect you tomorrow at 6, you’re still due at work by 7 sharp. 

 

Stacie blinked, the familiar internal conflict rising once more. Kiss or punch? Kiss or punch?  

 

....

Stacie had been waiting forever for The Book to arrive, and finally, at 11:30 PM, she got it. Once the over-glorified group project was in her hands, she was scrambling to call a car and make a break for Aubrey’s apartment. Anything to be one step closer to her bed. The car, thankfully, sped through the streets of NYU with little to no issue. It only took ten minutes for Stacie to pull up in front of Park Place, sprinting in Louibuitons with a giant white binder tucked under her arm and dry cleaning slung over a shoulder. 

 

The elevator ride up was slow going as it proceeded up fifty floors before finally opening with a soft ding. Stacie crept towards the living room, where she placed the book centered on the end table to the left of the right couch. Taking a deep sigh of relief, she dropped the dry cleaning on the doorknob to the closet but hesitated at the sound of a piano riff. Frozen in terror, she turned around to face the piano only to find it empty. Stacie exhaled in relief, but her thoughts were scattered by the continuation of the piano, the soft tinkle of the keys was followed by a soft voice. Aubrey was singing. 

 

“Yesterday I died, tomorrow’s bleeding,” Aubrey crooned from somewhere above Stacie. The brunette did a complete spin as she attempted to pinpoint the blonde’s exact location in the penthouse. She couldn’t help being drawn by the other woman’s voice; unable to think better of it, Stacie began to climb the spiraling staircase upwards towards the next floor. Past the dining room and up into Aubrey's private living space. Stacie popped her head up over the landing and saw Aubrey sitting at a polished black piano. A fireplace was situated against the wall, languishing beneath open windows with lace curtains. Aubrey was still singing away; her eyes focused on the instrument before her. 

 

“And I’ve lost who I am, and I can’t understand.

Why my heart is so broken, rejecting your love 

Without love gone wrong, lifeless words carry on, 

But I know, all I know is that the end's beginning.”

 

Stacie knew this song, she had to pull it up from the dregs of her memory, but she had heard it at one point or other from some of her angstier friends in high school. Unwittingly, she began to hum along. As the song continued and the piano wove its way through the lyrics, Aubrey’s voice melded with the light humming that emanated from Stacie. Lost in the music, the blonde didn’t notice Stacie’s presence until the music stopped, and Stacie continued to hum lightly for a moment. 

 

Upon detection, Stacie and Aubrey froze; both immediately looked at each other with equal amounts of horror and embarrassment. Stacie’s cheeks flushed red, and Aubrey’s ears and chest became a brilliant scarlet. Stacie didn’t know what to do. Did she say hello? Did she just run? Did she tender her resignation letter now? “Hi, uh, I put the um. Yeah. I’ll just;” Stacie jerked her thumb in the direction of the back wall before doing an about-face and sprinting from the apartment. Pieter, Bless him, sat waiting in the car patiently, smiling, polite and curious. “That took you a long time,” The man said in his thick German accent. 


“Yup, I may have just signed my own death warrant,” Stacie trilled nervously. Pieter gave her a look of concern but didn’t comment. Instead, she felt the car give a slight jerk as he accelerated away from the Woolworth building, where Aubrey had her home. Amidst the trip, Stacie wondered how she was going to face Aubrey the next day. How was she going to save her job now? What would Aubrey do to her? Did she still have to move if she was fired? Most of all, she managed to process why the moment had terrified her so much. A tiny voice in her mind sounded with the one question that was going to haunt her in her sleep that night: What was the significance of that song to make Aubrey cry like that?

Chapter Text

Stacie was panicking. Her breath was coming quicker, she was sweating, and her thoughts were blanking. She could be having an orgasm for all intents and purposes, but this feeling was much more unpleasant. “Fuck, what do I do?” Stacie muttered as she paced her room. She had just gotten Aubrey to agree to go out with her after their reunion. Stacie had run to Aubrey’s room crying and half-drunk to tell the blonde that she loved her, and now she had to plan a date. How does one plan a date?

 

Most of Stacie’s dates weren’t really dates, you see. Because every time someone hinted that it could be a date, Stacie made a point to clarify that it was indeed NOT. She never wanted to be under someone’s power because she never wanted to feel the same amount of pain she had after her father died. Yet, this personal vow was quickly discarded in favor of a beautiful blonde woman with sparkling green eyes and a smile that made Stacie breathe easier every single time. 

 

That was the thing about Aubrey. Life had told Stacie for the longest time that love was butterflies and sweaty palms. Nerves and doubts. She had been ready for that, guarded and prepared. Yet Aubrey hadn’t been any of those things. When Aubrey entered a room, Stacie’s breathing steadied. Her mind stopped spinning with all the world's difficulties; all she saw was the blonde, even when barking orders or demonstrating a proper stance. Where others shrunk back in fear, Stacie’s body seemed to thrum with the Acapella Captain’s mere presence. She was alive; she was safe. 

 

She hadn’t been ready for that, feeling safe, but now here she was: planning a date for quite possibly the love of her life. She didn’t know anything about first dates, but dammit if she wasn’t a good enough researcher to find out. 

 

So Stacie sat amongst a pile of romance books in a Barnes and Noble, wrinkling her nose or bookmarking specific pages. She eventually had to snap herself out of her trance while reading the seventh erotic fiction book; she highly doubted that having sex in public was first date material. Although she did bookmark the book for later, maybe that was a future goal. Who knew? 

 

It took a day of research which she interspersed with cute text messages with the object of her affection until she finally planned the perfect date. As the one who originally rejected Aubrey’s affection, it was expected that she would blow the woman out of the water. So what if she called in some favors from her loaded grandparents? Who cared if she promised to consider MIT the following year? It was a promise to consider it, not actually go, right? Stacie pulled out her phone and began making the reservations, a large smile in place as the night’s hypothetical events played out in her mind. 

… 

 

Stacie picked Aubrey up in her BMW, wearing a black dress with a plunging neckline and a slit along one leg near the skirt. Stacie stood at Aubrey’s door, a bouquet of peonies in her hand: Aubrey’s favorite flower. Her knuckles rapped on the door, which opened to reveal Aubrey in a royal blue dress and gold earrings. Stacie's mouth felt impossibly dry for a moment. 

 

The brunette leaned forward and pressed a chaste kiss to the blonde’s mouth. Aubrey smiled in amusement when Stacie backed away, the picture of politeness. “I’m impressed; you’ve managed to behave like the perfect gentlewoman for three minutes straight,” Aubrey teased. The older woman looped her arms around Stacie’s shoulders; green eyes looked up at her through long blonde eyelashes as perfectly glossed lips pulled into a pout. “You wouldn’t want to skip the dinner reservation, would you?” Aubrey simpered. Stacie felt her body shiver, unable to prevent her natural reaction to Aubrey’s charms. It was going to be a long night. 

 

“Come on, I got us a table at Aria downtown,” Stacie said, distracting Aubrey with the name of the fancy restaurant nearby. Aubrey had wanted to eat there for a while now, if Stacie remembered correctly. Aubrey beamed and released Stacie from her grasp; instead, the pair linked hands, the feeling of Aubrey’s fingers interwoven with hers, felt like home. Stacie had never felt like she belonged before, but damn if this didn’t feel close. 

 

Stacie and Aubrey arrived at Aria, where they were seated at a booth in the back with dim, romantic lighting and hanging red-covered lanterns. The menus were sophisticated, and the tablecloths were pure white with linen napkins folded neatly surrounding silver utensils. Stacie ordered a cabernet and prayed that the waiter didn’t ask for an ID. Usually, her boobs got her into any place she could want, but it had been a while since she had attempted alcohol procurement in a place so high-end. 

 

Luckily for her, the Cabernet arrived without issue, and Aubrey only smirked and shook her head when considering Stacie’s legal transgression. Point 1, Stacie. 

 

“How did you get reservations here?” Aubrey asked. 

 

“Oh, I just mentioned my grandparents. Grandma Gwen was an international model when she was younger, and Grandpa Anthony was a famous Neurosurgeon.” Stacie explained flippantly. Aubrey stared for a moment in surprise; Stacie never talked about her grandparents, which probably gave away how much effort she had put into this date. The blonde opened her mouth to say something but was promptly interrupted by the waiter. 

 

“Hello, my name is Maverick; what can I get for you two today?” The man had curly brown hair and laughing blue eyes. 

 

“Hi, can I get the springer chicken?” Aubrey answered quickly; Stacie should have known the blonde would make a quick decision. 

 

“I’ll take the Berkshire pork,” Stacie said, picking an item on the menu at random. The waiter nodded and took the menus. Stacie popped the cork on the bottle of cabernet and poured a glass for Aubrey before serving herself. 

 

“You didn’t have to ask your grandparents for a favor for me; I hope you know that,” Aubrey sighed, taking the offered wine glass. Stacie hummed and gave a slight shrug of her shoulders. 

 

“I wanted this night to be perfect; talking to my grandparents was a small price to pay.” 

 

Green eyes softened when looking at her, and Stacie felt infinitely lighter at that moment. She was good; she was with Aubrey. 

 

Stacie and Aubrey spent the remainder of dinner discussing various topics such as the Bellas, classes, Fat Amy’s antics, Aubrey’s plans after graduation. The conversation slid from topic to topic easily throughout dinner, something that Stacie was incredibly grateful for. She hadn’t been too sure that date wouldn’t give way to a bout of stilted discussion and small talk. It was nice to see that things remained the same between them, regardless of their newly updated relationship status. 

 

Once they finished their meals and the bottle of red was empty, Stacie picked up the bill and slipped her credit card in with the check before Aubrey could argue. She had asked Aubrey on this date; she would get the bill. Maverick arrived quickly to pick up the check, and Stacie turned back to a smirking Aubrey. 

 

“So I get to plan the next date, right?” Aubrey asked; the blonde leaned in and traced Stacie’s arm with a perfectly manicured finger. Of course, she didn’t know that the night wasn’t over, so the surprise in Aubrey’s expression was almost comical when Stacie got a mischievous look in her eye. 

 

“Who said this one’s over?” Stacie chuckled. Aubrey’s eyes widened, and Stacie watched the blonde lean back in her chair, ever thoughtful. 

 

Once Maverick returned with the check and Stacie left a sizable tip, the two women departed for Stacie’s car. Upon exit from the restaurant, Aubrey started up a long-winded stream of questions about what they could be doing next. 

 

Stacie pulled up in front of Peachtree street and parked the car in the available lot. She had called in more than just reservations at Aria as a favor. She had also requested midnight access to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Her grandparents were big donors and were able to pull a couple of strings. The white building was boldly lit against the night sky, and lamp posts lined the solid grey sidewalks. Aubrey’s jaw dropped at sight; she placed her hand in Stacie’s as the taller woman helped her from the car. 

 

“Isn’t it closed?” Aubrey gasped. Stacie shook her head and flashed a bold Cheshire grin at her date; “Nothing is ever closed to a Conrad.” 

 

A guard stood at the front of the museum to let them in; the inside of the building was bright and welcoming. Soft jazz music played in the background as Stacie led Aubrey inside, their hands linked. “Welcome to the High Museum of Art; if there’s anything you’d like to know, feel free to use our audio guides. If there are any questions, please let me know, and I’d be happy to assist you,” A friendly museum attendant said whilst ushering them in. 

 

The museum had multiple levels, more levels than the pair wanted to walk in heels, but Stacie promised that they could come back anytime to see the rest of it. After perusing sculptures of tentacles, springs, and other geometric shapes, they stumbled upon Stacie’s favorite room by far. The exhibit was filled with lights; hundreds and thousands of dazzling bulbs lit up the scene as though they were giants in a great city. Mirrors were used to make the room appear endless, a sea of synthetic stars. Stacie made sure to snap a picture with Aubrey; her smile widening when Aubrey took another, lips pressed to Stacie’s cheek. Stacie turned to face Aubrey once the flash went off; the blonde looked gorgeous. Royal blue dress with accents of gold, blonde eyelashes fluttering in the low light.

 

Stacie pulled Aubrey closer, unable to resist the urge to touch the blonde. Her desire was almost overpowering. Aubrey tilted her head back and looked at Stacie as though she were waiting for something. Maybe it was simply waiting to see if Stacie made the first move? So she did. Stacie leaned in, and Aubrey’s lips met hers, first softly and then more passionate. The tension had been building between them all night, and Stacie wasn’t about to stop it. 

 

“We probably should go back to my apartment,” Aubrey’s words were whispered against Stacie’s lips, barely audible and obviously reluctant. Stacie drew back, worried that she was pushing for a moment until she saw the look in Aubrey’s eyes. Aubrey didn’t sound reluctant because she didn’t want to have sex; she sounded reluctant because she didn’t want to wait for the drive home. Home, that was an interesting word, did she consider Aubrey's apartment home now too? 

 

Stacie didn’t have time to think about the implications of the word because Aubrey’s mouth was back on hers, fervent and demanding. Stacie briefly wondered if she could convince Aubrey to have a quickie in her car to tide them over for the ride when suddenly Aubrey’s hands were dipping lower than was publicly appropriate. 

 

“Are we really doing this?” Stacie hissed. Aubrey’s hand stalled for a moment, thumb rubbing circles on Stacie’s thigh. 

 

“Did you not want-” the blonde started to pull away, but Stacie pulled her back, arms locked around her shoulders. 

 

“I didn’t say that,” Stacie interrupted, “I just didn’t think you’d want to here.” 

 

Aubrey’s face flushed pink. “This may be a small fantasy of mine,” the Bella captain admitted. 

 

“Having sex in a museum?” Stacie snickered. 

 

“Well, someone needs to pin the art,” Aubrey quipped. Stacie’s brain stalled for a second; the comment was definitely unexpected but not unwelcome. Best. Date. Ever. Also she was realizing that maybe she really had rubbed off on the blonde over the past six months. Public sex on the first date? Point 2, Stacie.

 

“I’ll have you replicating the scream in no time,” Stacie countered, she was perfectly happy to help the blonde fulfill a fantasy. Aubrey laughed and leaned in once more, “Yeah, we’re doing this here. I’ve got to get a ravishing review;" The blonde's words were teasing and light. Stacie thought she fell more in love at that moment. Stacie didn’t have a chance to retort before the blonde captured her lips once more. This dating thing really wasn’t so bad. 

Chapter Text

After the ‘piano incident,’ Stacie returned in a panic. In fact, she was so worried that she wrote three paragraphs of a resignation/apology letter before she finally settled down. She was three months in; she only had a year of this to endure. She could do this. There’s no guarantee that Aubrey was going to fire her anyway. Stacie pushed away from her computer and decided to go to bed, it had been a long day, and she wasn’t going to think clearly while sleep-deprived. 

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. Ring. Stacie’s eyes snapped open as she palmed her phone and quickly pressed the accept button. Aubrey’s voice met her eardrums, just as scathing and unpleasant as she had been in the past. Good, nothing’s changed. “Anastacia! Where are you?” 

 

Stacie stalled for a moment; her mind raced with a vision of the itinerary for the day. She checked the time for a moment, positive she wasn’t supposed to be in the office so early. It was 5 AM, after all. “

 

“It’s 5 AM,” Stacie stammered. 

 

“You have an apartment meeting,” Aubrey snapped. What? She was positive that Aubrey said 6 AM yesterday. Stacie scrambled for the note; her eyes quickly found the words 6 AM written in Aubrey’s neat looping cursive. 

 

“You said six yesterday,” Stacie corrected the other woman. She heard a sharp intake of breath on the other end of the line and immediately sighed. She wasn’t going to win this one, was she? 

 

“Anastacia, I said five; it’s not my fault you can’t read. Get there now; if you aren’t there soon, I’ll take that as a reason for termination. I expect you to be in the office by six; I have a special task for you.” The call ended on that note, leaving Stacie staring at the phone with utter murder in her eyes. She was going to throttle that woman one day. 

 

 

Stacie made it to the apartment within twenty minutes, where a beleaguered realtor waited with the keys and the new lease. The new apartment was on 15 Cliff Street and only half a mile away from 2 Park Place, which meant Stacie could quite possibly walk from her place to Aubrey’s with little issue. She could only imagine the horrors of the workload. When Stacie found out that rent was $5,760 a month, she wanted to cry until she learned that Bella was footing most of the bill. In fact, the building manager was so frighteningly courteous to her that she wondered if Aubrey had spoken to him personally. 

 

So, Stacie signed the lease with no argument. It helped that the apartment came with furniture, so it wasn’t as though she needed to buy anything. She also figured that Aubrey wouldn’t have gone through so much to get her an apartment if she was planning on firing her, so she was most likely safe for the nonce. At least she could live out the rest of her year in a five thousand dollar apartment that she didn’t have to pay for personally. That was always nice, although she’d have to contact her current landlord and inform them that she was breaking the lease. 

 

Stacie arrived at the office with two cups of coffee; out of pure habit, she ordered Aubrey’s coffee whilst waiting. Miraculously, she had worked out a deal with the Starbucks manager that allowed her to skip the line; this also counted for before they opened officially. Aubrey’s name went a long way in getting the world served up on a shining platter. 

 

The office was quiet, and most of the offices were dark. It wasn’t often that people got there before 8, but 6 AM was almost unheard of. Yet Aubrey’s office was brightly lit and filled with activity. Chloe swooped around the room carrying boxes and papers. The redhead gave Stacie a small nod before pushing the door open with a foot and scurrying off down a hallway. Stacie set her own coffee on her desk and approached Aubrey’s office. The glass door was open, and Aubrey was typing away. 

 

“Hey, I brought you this;” Stacie set the coffee down on the designated coaster with a sheepish smile. The image of the other woman’s red and teary eyes echoed in her mind, a heavy contrast from the scowling woman she saw in front of her at that moment. “You signed the lease?” Aubrey inquired, almost politely. Stacie was terrified. 

 

“Yes?” Stacie said slowly. She could feel the other Prada and rhinestone shoe about to drop. If Aubrey was going to crush the inner workings of Stacie’s life, the brunette had no doubt the other woman would do it in style. 

 

“Good, now that we have the matter of your toxic living conditions sorted out, you can focus on work better.” Stacie decided not to protest the ‘toxic living conditions’ comment and allowed the CEO to continue. “I need you to procure for me a finalized script of the next Spiderman movie.” 

 

“I, what?” Stacie stammered. She had to have misheard Aubrey because it sounded like the woman wanted a finalized script of a movie that wasn’t even showing trailers yet. Stacie resisted facetiously clean out her ears and settled on gawking like a fish. 

 

“I don’t even know if that script is finalized yet, Aubrey,” Stacie spluttered. The blonde leveled her with a furious glare and stopped typing. The silence seemed to bore into her as much as the evil green eyes of her absolute villain of a boss. “Get me that script, or don’t bother coming back; you have until Wednesday night. My nephew is a big fan of marvel, and he wants to know what happens next. His birthday is on Friday, so that script should be on an express delivery plane by Thursday morning. Understood?” 

 

Stacie nodded mutely; she didn’t even bother to mention how little time she had, considering it was Tuesday. No wonder Aubrey had woken her up early; this was punishment. Stacie turned around and started to walk out the door, but the sound of Aubrey clearing her throat stopped her midstep. 

“Oh yeah, Anastacia,” The brunette turned around to face Aubrey once more. “What you think you saw last night didn’t happen. You haven’t been sleeping, obviously, or you wouldn’t dress so slovenly in my presence. It was late, and you were slightly delirious. If I hear any rumors of what you think you saw circulating-” 

 

It took a moment, but Stacie finally realized what Aubrey was insinuating. The blonde thought she’d sell personal information on her to the press. Indignant, Stacie puffed out her chest slightly and straightened her posture. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if I did, I would never sell personal information to the paparazzi. Unlike some people, I know how to treat others with basic human decency and kindness.” Stacie’s words were met with stony silence, so she quickly turned tail and stalked out of the office, hands balled into fists. 

 

 

It was approximately 5 PM on Wednesday, and Stacie was spiraling. She had tried everything to get that Spiderman script. She might as well have called Buckingham Palace and requested an evening use of the crown jewels. She wanted to kill Aubrey. It didn’t help that the blonde was running Chloe too ragged to help, or else Stacie would have recruited her. Stacie was instead forced to call every Marvel, Disney, and Sony executive she could find the number for and beg them to release the script for her. It even got to the point where she was screaming “It’s for Aubrey Posen” into every single phone receiver while holding back tears. She was having a tough time with things, to say the least. 

 

She was down in the dining room drinking a mojito while she debated the possibility of fleeing the country to avoid Aubrey’s wrath when she noticed someone’s presence. Turning, she came face to face with one Luke Elias-Stroma. The heir to Elias's side of the building would be surrounded by executive offspring because, of course. 

 

This wasn’t Stacie’s first time meeting Luke; of course, he was also a common visitor to Aubrey’s office. The two blondes would hold small meetings in either his office or hers where they’d discuss the budget and spending of Bella magazine. Sometimes when he addressed her, Stacie thought he was flirting, but she often pushed the thought away in favor of focusing on Aubrey’s demands. Now he was sitting next to her in a three-piece suit, all charming smiles and rippling muscles. If Stacie remembered correctly, Luke had recently been named New York’s most eligible bachelor. 

 

“You don’t look too good; what does Aubrey have you doing now?” The senior executive inquired politely. His lilting British accent was ridiculously attractive, and Stacie knew she would have pounced if she wasn’t sitting at the office building’s cafeteria. “She wants me to get Matthew the unreleased Spiderman script,” Stacie groaned. Just admitting it was painful. She had been mulling over the likelihood of losing her job all day; now, she was waiting for its impending eventuality. 

 

For what it was worth, Luke didn’t laugh at her. Instead, the man shook his head and sighed at his old friend’s antics, lacing his fingers together on the table as he staged an internal debate. Stacie wondered if his pretty head was going to break in the process, but he managed to get by unscathed. “I have contacts in Disney that might be able to help. I know Aubrey can be difficult sometimes.”

 

“Difficult,” Stacie scoffed amusedly. Difficult was the understatement of the century. Every second of every day, Aubrey was calling upon Stacie to fulfill one aimless task or another. Sometimes she ran to fifty different fashion outlets in the city to procure different periwinkle headbands or hoard a factory’s worth of crimson Birkin bags. It was a never-ending slog with Aubrey, and every time she managed to catch a microscopic glimpse of the real person underneath, it felt as though she slid ten steps back. She was beginning to wonder if it was worth it anymore. 

 

It took her a moment, but Stacie suddenly realized that Luke was still talking. As his accented words washed over her, she studied his features. He had a strong jaw and a dusting of stubble. His hair was neatly cut, and his eyes were a lighter shade of sage green. Handsome, rich, accomplished, her mother would love this man. 

 

“... so, of course, we wound up calling it quits. Our parents were incredibly disappointed, but it was probably for the better. They managed the merger well enough without us,” Luke continued. Stacie froze, her brain caught up to the stream of conversation belatedly. It almost sounded like Luke was saying that he and Aubrey used to date? She felt a sudden twist of her stomach at the man’s words, although she didn’t know why. Maybe it was because Luke seemed so personable and kind, and she felt slightly sorry for whatever miserable wretch that wound up with the blonde. She could only imagine how demanding a lover Aubrey must have been. 

 

“You and Aubrey dated?” Stacie stammered. 

 

“Oh, yeah. Weren’t you listening? We were set up for betrothal at birth, practically.” Luke chuckled. Stacie stared at him in horror, waiting for the Executive to expound on the subject. “Yeah, our dads were best friends and business partners. When Aubrey and I were born around the same time, they practically started planning our wedding. We started dating when we were fourteen, it was expected.” 

 

“What changed?” Stacie inquired. She realized that the boy had most likely already explained this, but she definitely needed to hear it again for better comprehension. 

 

“She took over Bella; it was her mother’s Legacy. The one thing her mom controlled personally. She became so wrapped up in work that we didn’t really have time for each other anymore. I could have been more understanding, probably, but we didn’t even get to see each other for weeks on end outside of work. I didn’t really get it back then since she didn’t even want to work in fashion, but her mom’s death really changed everything.” 

 

There they went again, with Mrs. Posen’s death as a catalyst for a seismic change in Aubrey’s life. Stacie wondered what Aubrey would have done if her mom hadn’t died. She was about to ask that very question when Luke’s phone began ringing. The blonde held up a hand and offered an apologetic grin but answered nonetheless. Stacie watched Luke stand up and disappear out the cafeteria doors, leaving more questions than when he had entered. Stacie harrumphed in frustration, aggressively clearing her many mojitos; she left the cafeteria as well. 

 

It was 8 PM, and Stacie was having no luck with the Spiderman script, or at least she had thought so until she got an email and a surprise call from Luke. The man’s charming accent sounded like music to her ears as he told her just how he had managed to procure a single advanced copy of the Spiderman script. Apparently, he knew the director who happened to owe him a big favor. Stacie’s job was safe; she had to print the script out and get it bound in the local publishing house before 10 AM tomorrow. To ensure this, she called the head of the publishing office in Elias-Posen and demanded that someone be ready to print and properly bind the script for her under the orders of Aubrey Posen. Of course, with Aubrey’s name under the order, the publishing house rushed to aid in Stacie’s task. 

 

The next morning Stacie managed to drop a properly printed and bound script of the newest Spiderman movie on Aubrey’s desk. Upon first sight, Aubrey picked up the script with wide eyes before looking at Stacie curiously. “I see you managed to get the script,” The Fashion mogul choked out. Stacie beamed at her with as much thinly veiled malice as she could muster. She still hadn’t forgiven the blonde for this particular task or the insinuation that she would use Aubrey’s past trauma against her. 

 

“I did,” Stacie replied with a certain level of self-satisfaction. 

 

Aubrey didn’t like this, of course. Her look of surprise was quickly masked by her typical disdain and look of irritation. “Anastacia, I thought I told you to ship this directly to my nephew?” 

 

Stacie, of course, saw this coming, so she quickly informed the blonde that she had sent two copies of the script to Matthew, including a signed picture from Spiderman himself. The copy on the desk was simply for Aubrey’s bemusement if the blonde so wished it. Aubrey’s expression of astonishment was almost picture-worthy. “Is there anything else that you want me to do?” Stacie inquired in as professional of a voice as she could muster. Aubrey shook her head, ‘no,’ and placed the script on the right side of her desk. Stacie left the room with a new spring in her step. She could feel Aubrey’s eyes on her back, following her every move. When she looked up, she thought she saw something else in the older woman’s eyes. If Stacie didn’t know any better, she would have said that Aubrey almost smiled.

Chapter Text

When Stacie was little, she used to fix old radios with her dad. It was a hobby that her father used to have, refurbishing old radios for the Smithsonian. It was a side project of his, something he did when he wasn’t working as a Disney Imagineer. He enjoyed the work, and he shared that love with Stacie. He taught her how to make her own walkie-talkies, record players, and radios. One day he got a hold of the black boxes from the 9/11 flights. After the tragedy that had befallen New York, he had volunteered his services in the hopes of aiding those in need. It also served as his method of educating a young Stacie about what had happened. While they were restoring those black boxes, Stacie had heard a burst of feedback that thundered over the speakers. It was loud and obnoxious, downright annoying, in fact. When Stacie let out a groan of frustration after only receiving loud bursts of feedback and static, her father had wrapped her in a hug with a patient smile, his hand cupping the back of the 8-year-old's head to his chest. 

 

“Loud bursts of unintelligible sound aren’t a bad thing, Stacie; it’s actually a good sign. It means something is supposed to be communicated here; we just have to pick out the parts of the message that we can work with.” Stacie had held onto those words when her father passed. Sometimes at night, she would turn on a radio she was working on and listen to the feedback, imagining it was her father trying to tell her something. She just had to pick out the message. 

 

It took some time, but Stacie realized that working with Aubrey was similar to working on one of those warped and damaged black boxes. It took a lot of precise work and attention; sometimes, you misunderstood a word or heard a lot of loud noise that hurt your eardrums, but if you tweaked the right wire or spun the dial just right: You’d understand the message perfectly. Or, in the case of Aubrey, perform the next outrageous task perfectly. 

 

After the Spiderman Script incident, Stacie found her workdays mostly back to normal. The procurement of the impossible item had served as satisfactory recompense, and Aubrey seemingly forgot about the piano incident entirely. Stacie couldn’t believe her luck in finding Luke that day and thanked the man profusely. In return, Luke teasingly asked her to dinner. Stacie didn’t promise him anything, but she gave him a firm maybe, depending on Aubrey’s plans for her in the coming weeks. 

 

And so the rest of October and most of November slipped by with minimum ardor. Stacie answered phone calls, fetched expensive items of clothing, scheduled meetings, and transported the book from Bella to Aubrey’s apartment with zero missteps. Barely a word outside of a direct order was shared between the two, whatever warmth that had been generated after Hurricane Joshua had melted into pure professionalism. Although Stacie would sometimes feel a burning gaze on her profile while typing at her desk, sometimes her eyes would linger on the blonde’s lips one second too long after being given one direction or another. The two melded into the perfect employee-employer relationship to the eyes of the public. Time was passing so easily that Stacie rarely even wanted to punch the woman anymore. 

 

It was Thanksgiving, and her Mom and four siblings were visiting her. She had two older brothers and two younger sisters, all of which were rambunctious and loud. Nicholaj was twenty-four and working in Philadelphia as a lawyer, while Stephan was plying his trade as a struggling photographer in LA. Nicholaj, the newly successful family member, had supplied them all with tickets to visit Stacie in the big apple. It had been forever since she had seen her family. Even Grandpa Alex and Grandma Nina attended brunch via facetime. 

 

While Stacie’s apartment was packed to the brim with people, the brunette couldn’t help being thankful for her forced upgrade. Without her three-bedroom apartment, complete with kitchen, dining room, and living room, she would have been serving her family out of a practical shoebox. Her Mom was especially appreciative of Stacie’s new home when the brunette was able to offer her mother and her two younger sisters rooms to stay in. 

 

“Look at you, Ana, moving up in the world,” Stephan chuckled between scoops of stuffing. 

 

“Soon, you’ll be the only unemployed member of the family,” Nicholaj teased. Both boys had the same seafoam eyes as Stacie, although Nicholaj had the beginnings of a beard. Stephan’s hair fell to his shoulders as he consistently attempted to blow his brown locks out of his face. “Now, now Nick, be nice. Kira and Gwen still haven’t reached the legal age to work yet;” Stacie’s Mom, Annalise Conrad, chuckled.

 

"Hey, we own the lemonade stand," Kira, the youngest, grumbled indignantly. 

 

"Looks like you really are the only unemployed one," Gwen snorted, side eying her older brother. 

 

Stephan pouted for a moment before his usual grin returned, “You’ll see Ma, one day I’ll be rich and famous. I’ll be living in a nicer place than Stacie or Nik; maybe I’ll even get married to a supermodel. Y’know, if you ever want to introduce me, sis,” Stephan nudged Stacie, who playfully shoved him to the side and almost out of his chair. 

 

“I wouldn’t let you within twenty feet of Aubrey, never mind the supermodel,” Stacie scoffed. 

 

“Aubrey?” Annalise exclaimed. 

 

“Stacie’s boss, she’s a big deal in the fashion world. Her mom made Bella magazine what it is today; I guess she’s carrying the mantle.” Nicholaj answered. Annalise emitted a small, thoughtful hum and returned to her dinner. 

 

“Yes, and she would never want someone like you to step foot in her company. She hates my clothes now; she would rip you to shreds,” Stacie said pointedly. 

 

“If she’s hot, she can rip my clothes off all she wants,” Stephan grinned. Stacie felt the strong urge to punch him suddenly. Instead, she settled for flicking him in the ear. The boy flinched heavily and let out a childish squeak. “She’s an heiress worth billions of dollars; I’m sure she would have little interest in someone who hasn’t even started a portfolio yet,” Stacie snorted. 

 

“Hey, a little interest isn’t no interest,” Stephan laughed; his easy smiles and jokes usually cheered Stacie up, but she found this particular strand of comedy unappealing. “Stephan, you’re not getting with my boss. She’s rich, entitled, and so out of your league that you wouldn’t even have a shot in your next five lifetimes. There's not a chance she'd want you, so it's better that you drop it;” Stacie said all of this quite forcefully; in fact, her tone had such a serious note to it that most of the table fell eerily silent. Kira and Gwen stopped their incessant texting to stare at Stacie in surprise. 

 

“Jeez, Stace, I was only joking,” Stephan muttered uncomfortably. Stacie winced as her mind rattled with a thousand different things to say. Sorry? I was joking? She’s really not that out of your league. Actually, she’s kind of a terrible person most of the time. You can’t have her when I haven’t even decided if I like her or not on a basic human level?  Maybe, in a bit more than a basic human level. Stacie shook the thoughts from her head and cleared her throat awkwardly. “I’m sorry, that was out of line. Bella has been really good to me with the pay raise and the apartment; it’s just that my boss is really demanding, and sometimes just talking about her gets me really stressed.” There, that was the truth. They couldn’t fault her for that. 

 

“Oh, sorry, Stace, I didn’t realize you were going through some stuff with her. I won’t mention it again. Besides, I don’t even know the chick. I’m sure she’s nuts.” Stephan said in an attempt at appeasement. Stacie withheld her urge to wince at his casual denunciation of her boss, now was not the time to launch into a ‘ Is she nuts or just pushing people away’ debate. 

 

“Thanks, Steph, I appreciate it. Sorry for snapping at you,” Stacie apologized instead. Stephan waved her apology away with his familiar smile back in place. “No worries, sis. You can make it up to me by introducing me to Stella Maxwell.” The table roared with laughter at her brother’s cheekiness, the crisis officially over. 

...

They were all sitting down to monopoly when Stacie’s phone rang. Loud and terribly distracting, Stacie finally got it after the fourth ring, much to her family’s disapproval if Stephan and Nicholaj’s jeers were anything to go by. “Hello, this is Stacie Conrad speaking.”

 

“Anastacia?” Stacie winced at the familiar voice, dreading what was about to come next. It was Thanksgiving, for Christ's sake.

 

“Hello Aubrey, did you make it to South Carolina, okay?” She inquired politely. The other side of the line was silent, so silent that Stacie wondered if the other woman had hung up. Stacie took a breath, the traditional “hello” ready when she heard something that sounded like a sniffle. 

 

“Aubrey?” She whispered into the line. She left the living room in exchange for the privacy of her bedroom. She shut the door firmly behind her. “Hey, what’s going on?” She didn’t really know why she was so worried by the sound. Maybe it was because no matter how monstrous Aubrey was sometimes, the blonde was still a human being. A human being not much older than Stacie and clearly not coping well with life in general. It didn’t take a certifiable genius to realize that Aubrey rarely seemed satisfied with her life. When she wasn’t barking orders at Stacie or screaming at her for every minuscule mistake, she actually seemed quite lost. 

 

“Anastacia, I, um. I need you to come to City Hall Park, I lost a ring, and I can’t find it.” Stacie sighed; she couldn’t do that. It was Thanksgiving, and her family was here. There was no way she could just leave to help Aubrey find one ring in a public park at 10 PM. “Aubrey, I can’t do that. It’s Thanksgiving, and I’m with my family. Besides, weren’t you supposed to be with your father and brother right now?” 

 

“Anastacia, I need you to help me find my ring. It is your job as my assistant to assist me in my daily tasks, and right now, that includes finding my three karat diamond ring in City Hall Park;” Aubrey’s demands were pitched with a level of urgency Stacie had never heard before. Stacie wasn’t sure how to proceed from here. On the one hand, she could just give in and help her miserable boss find the damned ring so she could go home without a problem. On the other hand, she wasn’t on the clock, and the blonde had to know how ridiculous she was being. Stacie closed her eyes and let out a low whine. Sometimes she really wished her dad was there to offer advice. Sometimes though all the noise and static, there’s something important that’s trying to be communicated. His words came back to her at that moment, and the question that had been nagging at the back of her brain came to the surface. 

 

“Aubrey, why aren’t you in South Carolina right now?” She asked calmly. She heard a deep frustrated sigh from the other end. “My father decided to celebrate Thanksgiving in London this year. It appears they forgot to invite me.” 

 

Forgot to invite her?  How could they forget to invite her? And how could that possibly matter to billionaires? There’s no way that Aubrey couldn’t just get tickets for an immediate flight to Europe. Unless  she’s unwelcome. Stacie softened at the realization, Aubrey hadn’t been forgotten; Aubrey's family had purposefully ignored her. Dammit. 

 

“Alright, I’ll be there in a moment,” She sighed.

 

 

Stacie had made a deeply apologetic exit from her own apartment before walking half a mile to the park. She found the blonde wearing a pink Prada coat, a black Dior beret, and sparkling jeweled shoes from Alexander McQueen. Aubrey’s eyes were puffy and red; her yellow Hermes scarf was being used as a hanky. Stacie arrived in a leather jacket and jeans; her boots rose to her knees. 

 

“Anastacia, you’re here, good-” 

 

Stacie cut the blonde off with a shake of the head and snorted, “No. I’m off the clock. My name is Stacie, and you will call me by that name unless you want to look for this ring yourself.” 

 

Aubrey hesitated for a moment; her eyes narrowed as they assessed Stacie’s level of obstinance. Finally, the blonde let out a deep sigh, shoulders sagging. “Fine, Stacie then. I think the ring might be somewhere in the fountain, but I can’t tell with all the pennies and coins in there.” 

 

Stacie approached the fountain and studied it for a moment. It was a beautiful thing; its stonework was nice and neat, the lampposts situated on each corner illuminated the small square clearly. Hundreds of shining coins shimmered in the lamplight as Stacie looked the entire thing over. It was going to be a long night. 

 

“Why does this ring matter so much? You said it’s three karats, but that’s not a lot for someone who has as much money as you do,” Stacie pointed out as she began her mad search for the missing piece of jewelry. Aubrey leaned down as well, her phone flashlight bright against the water. “It was my Mom's,” The blonde admitted. “It was her engagement ring. When my dad first proposed, my mom, told him that she didn’t want anything that his parents had won for him. He saved up and bought her the ring by himself.”

 

“Why wouldn’t she let him buy it with his parents' money?” Stacie asked, curious. 

 

“My dad met her at the office. She had just started working as junior assistant to the editor of Bella then. It was an office romance, and my grandparents disapproved. She wasn’t from money like they wanted, so she insisted on not using a single penny of their funds. When my dad proposed to her using the money he saved up independently, it was his way of saying he’d choose her. No matter what.” 

 

Stacie paused to fully absorb the just provided information, adding it to the mental notes she had been storing on the blonde. “So that ring, its value isn’t about money. It means a lot to you?” 

 

The question seemed to take the blonde by surprise because Aubrey paused for a moment and turned to face Stacie with a look of perplection. “Yes?” Aubrey answered, albeit haltingly. Stacie nodded, “Okay, that settles it then.” 

 

“Settles what?” Aubrey exclaimed. Her question was quickly answered when Stacie tossed her jacket onto the ground and kicked off her boots. It was a freezing day in New York City, the night air was currently resting at a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit, so Stacie’s actions were quite the statement, especially when the tall brunette proceeded to climb into the fountain barefoot and in jeans that immediately got soaked up to the mid-thigh. 

 

“Stacie!” Aubrey gasped in horror as the other woman rooted through the fountain, searching for the ring.  

 

“Come on; we can search in here. It’s not too bad;” Stacie offered her boss a hand. The blonde stared at it with a quizzical expression for a moment but reluctantly took it. Obviously, her desire to reclaim her mother’s ring was the dominant motivation here, far outweighing the other woman’s need to be dry. Aubrey kicked off her heels and laid her coat on the cement steps outside the fountain. Stacie watched as Aubrey briefly scanned the area for paparazzi, shivering when her feet made contact with the water. Aubrey tried to pull away, but Stacie felt a rush of mischief and tugged the blonde into the fountain. The CEO landed in Stacie’s arms with a splash and a squeak; the brunette tried her hardest not to laugh. 

 

“Not funny, Anastacia,” Aubrey grunted as she straightened her Valentino blouse and Gucci slacks; they were now soaked in fountain water up to the waist. Stacie was really trying her best not to laugh. “Alright, let's start looking,” Stacie said encouragingly. Aubrey nodded and started in the corner, perusing the stone floor with her eyes. Stacie followed her boss’s lead, picking a corner and beginning her metal scan of the fountain floor. 

 

It took a while, but eventually, they found the ring towards the fountain's center, a half foot from the central statue. Stacie and Aubrey stared at it for a moment, the realization of what they had to do finally washing over them. With the height of the water, bending over meant near total submersion. If Stacie leaned down to get it, she would undoubtedly have to duck her head down and soak her entire front. If she bent her legs or knelt and tried to retrieve the ring, she was going to get everything wet up to at least her boobs. It was quite the quandary. 

 

“So…” Stacie trailed off; her eyes focused squarely on the ring. 

 

“So…” Aubrey repeated the word back; her expression was clearly one of reluctance. Stacie wondered if she could convince the woman to leave the ring but thought better of it. It was, after all, one of the few signs that Aubrey clearly had a heart. She wasn’t going to tell the girl to get rid of it. It would have been akin to telling Stacie to rid herself of the star map in her room or the mickey mouse ears. Some things simply had to stay. 

 

Stacie decided just to do the thing. So, with a deep and sudden breath, she submerged herself in the fountain. She felt a rush of water as she folded her legs and dunked herself into the frigid fountain. Her fingers scrabbled around on the ground for the ring, sifting through pennies and nickels until her fingers found the metal loop. Once Stacie secured the ring, she stood to her full height and burst from the fountain with a deep breath and a mental note to consult a doctor later for any water-borne diseases. One could never be too careful in New York. Stacie offered the ring to Aubrey with a self-satisfied smile and a shiver. It was irrefutably freezing in the fountain, but she couldn’t help feeling a swell of pride when she saw the blonde’s face break into the first full smile she had ever seen. It was truly glorious, and Stacie briefly wondered if she could see that smile every day for the rest of her life, that is, until she came back to Earth. 

 

“Anastacia, I want this shined and brought to me by tomorrow morning,” Aubrey commanded, buffing the ring’s diamond with her shirt.

 

With a sudden jolt, Stacie remembered where she was and who she had just dunked herself into a fountain for. A fountain that was absolutely freezing and was now causing her entire body to shake like a hyperactive chihuahua. “Fuck, it’s cold,” Stacie grumbled as she crossed her arms and hunched her body against the slight fall wind. Aubrey looked up from the ring and faced Stacie with a look of utter indignation at Stacie’s crass vocabulary. The blonde opened her mouth to say something, most likely, unsavory but Stacie wasn't having it. 

 

With perfect precision, Stacie bounded forward and wrapped Aubrey in the biggest hug she could muster. She was sopping wet and probably several degrees below acceptable touching temperature; it was perfect. It also helped that Aubrey was conceivably warm and probably needed a good hug anyway. Besides, it was great revenge either way. Aubrey let out a brief squeak and started to struggle, but Stacie was several inches taller than the blonde, who soon ceased all protestation. 

 

It took a moment, but Stacie felt it when Aubrey’s arms wrapped around her waist and held firmly. Just like she had thought, Aubrey was in desperate need of a hug. “If you issue another order, I will pull you into the depths of the fountain with me, got it?” Stacie threatened teasingly; the words were whispered into the shell of Aubrey’s ear. She felt the blonde shiver momentarily and wondered if it was from the cold or possibly from the feeling of her breath ghosting against the other woman’s skin. 

 

“It really does need to get polished, but I guess I could get Chloe to do it,” Aubrey sighed in acquiescence. Her head was resting at the crook of Stacie’s neck. Stacie couldn’t begin to describe how nice and warm Aubrey felt in her arms. It was almost perfect. Almost, because Aubrey was still her boss and Stacie was still a measly assistant that got things wrong just as often as she got them right. 

 

Stacie released Aubrey from her embrace and began to take a step back. Aubrey looked up at her, eyes flickering to her lips. Does she want to kiss me too?  Stacie wondered whether the blonde felt just as irrevocably tethered as she did. She wondered if that could ever be enough. Aubrey leaned in, one hand fisted around the ring while the other was equally as wrapped up in Stacie’s t-shirt. Stacie wanted to lean in as well. She wanted to kiss her boss with as much fury and passion as she had felt in the past couple of months. She wanted to know whether the frustration she had felt during her tenure at Bella had been purely professional, or maybe it was something else. Maybe it was Aubrey. 

 

In some ways, it would make sense because half the time, she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to kiss Aubrey or punch her. When the woman was yelling at her, she wasn’t sure whether she wanted to angrily storm off or try venting out her frustration in other ways. When the veins strained around Aubrey’s neck or when the blonde bit her lip, Stacie sometimes caught herself wondering what it would feel like to watch Aubrey lose control in another way. Yet, she wasn’t sure how much of that was attraction or simply desperation to feel some sense of control with the blonde, and until she figured that out, it wouldn’t be fair to either of them. Kiss or punch? Kiss or punch? 

 

Stacie took a step back; the moment was broken as a thousand different ideas on how the night could have gone flooded her mind. She tried to forget the brief look of disappointment that crossed Aubrey’s eyes. She tried to ignore her own deeper disappointment, as well. “You should get back to your apartment. Are you good to walk back from here?” Stacie asked politely. Aubrey nodded, collecting herself, “Yes, I’m sure I’m well equipped to see myself back to my apartment, Anastacia.” 

 

“Good," She said, deciding to ignore the use of her full name once more. She was starting to get used to it. "I’ll see you in the office on Monday then;” Stacie helped Aubrey out of the fountain and handed the blonde the pink Prada coat. It had black buttons and small epaulets. It was still slightly warm. 

 

“You should take the coat; I’m sure you’ll need it more than I will. Besides, my penthouse is merely a block from here;” Aubrey pushed the coat into Stacie’s arms. Her green eyes looked beautiful in the low light of the fountain. Stacie took the coat and put it on, accepting the warmth that Aubrey offered. If she couldn’t have the girl, she’d at least have the jacket. “If you need anything else, you know where to find me;” Stacie’s comment was interrupted by the chattering of her teeth. Aubrey almost looked concerned. 

 

“You should get home; I don’t want you to be sick on Monday. I have important matters for you to deal with,” Aubrey exclaimed. Stacie suppressed her smile and shrugged. “I’ll be there no matter what; a job’s a job.” And I haven’t quite given up on figuring you out yet. 

 

Stacie and Aubrey turned and trudged off in opposite directions; Stacie wrapped snugly in Aubrey’s pink Prada coat. The blonde had hugged Stacie goodbye in an apparent moment of affection. However, her surprises for the night weren’t finished because she also departed the fountain with the brush of Aubrey’s lips on her cheek. The warmth of the act seemed to carry her all the way to her apartment, where she pulled off her wet clothes and jumped into a warm shower, ignoring confused looks from family members. She climbed into bed moments later. The pink coat took up residence in her bed when she fell asleep, the scent of Aubrey’s perfume wafting over her.

Chapter Text

After Thanksgiving, Stacie expected things to revert to normal with Aubrey. She expected ridiculous demands and orders to pour in from the phone at all business hours while she and Chloe scrambled to complete each task. To her surprise, however, Stacie found her workdays becoming almost bearable? Admittedly she saw Chloe running around regularly, but her own schedule seemed to clear up. 

 

While, yes, she was still picking up hundreds of Gucci packages and setting up Aubrey’s lunch and dinner when it arrived, the blonde no longer dropped her coat on Stacie’s desk without a word. Instead, she’d find the coat already hung up or coffee waiting on her desk. The brunette was completely flabbergasted, but she wasn’t about to complain, especially since her day had just gotten infinitely easier. 

 

“I don’t get it,” Cynthia Rose remarked during lunch one day. 

 

“What?” Stacie said in confusion. She turned to her new friend, who was watching Aubrey from afar. The blonde was sitting at a table with Luke and another older man. Gerald Elias, Luke’s father, was a broad-shouldered man with the beginnings of a gut that he hid well in his navy pinstripe suit. They were in the midst of a lunch meeting, something that the employees of Elias-Posen were subtly trying to eavesdrop on. 

 

“You and Aubrey, what’s up with that? I’ve never seen her be so nice to an assistant before,” Cynthia Rose explained. Stacie chanced a look at the table where the two executive heirs sat, Aubrey was facing Gerald, but Luke caught her eye and gave her a wink. 

 

“Nice? She made me bathe her dog three weeks ago;’ Stacie spluttered, but even she knew she was lying. Three weeks ago, Thanksgiving wasn’t even a fever dream. Three weeks ago, she hadn’t almost kissed her boss in the middle of City Hall Park’s fountain. Cynthia Rose wasn’t buying it either if the look she gave Stacie was anything to go by. “I saw the coffee on your desk before you made it in. You got in late, too; Aubrey was already in the office. I’ve seen her fire a girl for turning up a minute after seven; you didn’t get in for a full ten minutes.”

 

“I had an early dentist appointment; I mentioned I needed a cleaning to her, so she got me the earliest appointment possible so I could get to work before eight,” Stacie shrugged. Just saying it was enough to make her self-conscious. It really was obvious that she was getting special treatment. 

 

“She booked your appointment for you?” Cynthia Rose sputtered. Stacie could feel her cheeks flushing. “Well, I-” 

 

“Hey, are you Stacie?” Stacie turned to see an irate short brunette girl standing in front of her. The girl was wearing ripped black jeans, a flannel, and headphones around her neck. She also wore an engagement ring that looked vaguely familiar; actually, if Stacie thought long and hard about it, the girl looked familiar as well. 

 

“Do I know you?” Stacie said with utter perplexity. 

 

“I’m Beca, the fiancee of the girl whose job you took,” the girl, Beca, growled. 

 

Stacie reared back, startled. “What? I didn’t take anyone’s job, I-”

 

“Really? Then why is my girlfriend doing all the tasks you’re supposed to be doing? She told me all about how she has to get coffee for you and Aubrey now. How you’re the one handling Aubrey’s important meetings, and how you get the extra time to come in. Chloe’s senior assistant, not you, so why don’t you stop sleeping with your boss and actually do your fucking job.” Beca’s rant had risen to a high enough volume that everyone in the dining hall had stopped all activity to listen. Aubrey sat some distance away, eyes alight with rage, while Luke flashed Stacie an awkward smile. She was so fucked. 

 

“Beca,” Chloe’s voice came from somewhere behind the girl as the ginger ran to her girlfriend. “What are you doing here?” Chloe hissed, the redhead cast a furtive glance in the direction of Aubrey’s table, but she was nowhere to be seen. 

 

“Chloe, if you’re here, who’s with the phones?” Stacie exclaimed as she rose to her full height, which she was happy to notice: towered over the minuscule Beca. 

 

“Shouldn’t it be you? You’re the junior assistant, after all,” Beca snarled. Chloe put a placating hand on her fiance’s shoulder and tugged the girl back. “It’s fine, Bec’s, it’s not Stacie’s fault; she didn’t even know I was getting her the coffee.” 

 

“Chloe, who’s with the phones? Oh my god, someone needs to get to the-” Stacie didn’t finish her sentence because the harsh clearing off a familiar throat sounded behind her. Stacie’s eyes widened before she spun around. 

 

“Hello, ladies. Is there a reason that both my assistants are here in the dining hall and not attending to the phones on their desks?” Aubrey’s words sounded eerily calm, belying the rage that the blonde held in her eyes. Chloe and Stacie automatically took a step away from their boss’s gaze; every muscle in their bodies told them to make a break for it. Cynthia Rose, who had seen the blonde coming, became very interested in her steak. Beca was the only one to meet the Fashion Editor’s eyes where a silent war started to take place. 

 

“Chloe deserves better than to play second to some girl who’s been with you for less than a year.” Beca snapped; Stacie really had to admire the girl’s bravery. Or was it stupidity? Either way, Aubrey was not amused. 

 

“Beca, yes, I would love to hear more about how to treat my assistants. I’m sure you have so much experience in the matter as an intern at Residual Heat.” Aubrey’s response caused the shorter woman to take a threatening step forward, but Beca was promptly yanked back by an anxious Chloe. “Chloe, I would appreciate it if you returned to your post at your desk; I’m sure Stacie was just finishing up her lunch so you can take your lunch break after,” Aubrey said, almost reasonably, but Beca didn’t have it. 

 

“She's a senior assistant; shouldn’t she get the first lunch break? Or did you forget that fact while you were screwing her?” Beca punctuated her sentence with a perfunctory finger pointed at Stacie. “Y’know, Chloe always sang your praises, hell, she worshipped you half the time. The genius fashion editor that would show her the world. But it turns out you’re just like any other slimy executive with all the money in the world. You were always awful and spoiled, ungrateful and rude, but I always thought you at least had some form of integrity. Apparently not.”

 

“Bumper!” Aubrey shouted; the security guard shuffled in awkwardly, head down. 

 

“Yes, Ma’am, I mean Miss, I mean Aubrey,” Bumper stammered. 

 

“Escort Ms. Mitchell from the building and inform the rest of the security staff that she is no longer allowed on the premises. If she comes back, have her booked for trespassing. Chloe, you have the next three minutes to get back to your desk, or I will find a new senior assistant, then Stacie really will take your job as the hobbit here just claimed.” 

 

“Aubrey,” Stacie began, but the blonde ignored her. 

 

“I want Ms. Mitchell removed from any plus one lists, and I will no longer be attending your wedding; yes, I got the invitation. In fact, I intended to appear at the event, but I cannot say that I would enjoy the event considering the decorum of the other bride;” Aubrey threw Beca a venomous look at the last word that only caused the brunette to narrow her eyes in return. Chloe looked to be close to tears. 

 

“I will also be returning the wedding gift I bought you; I’ll add it to your itinerary. I’m sure this is just a taste of how Ms. Mitchell, here, will destroy everything you have ever built. I’ll be sure to inform Khaled about his employee’s behavior; I’m positive he won’t appreciate anyone with her particular attitude representing his label.” 

 

Beca finally paled at the blonde’s words; the shock was written clearly on her face. “What?” The tiny brunette croaked. “Aubrey, you can’t be serious. Sure, Beca’s a little headstrong, but her talent with music is amazing; you can’t just get her fired from her job. She’s not even on the clock right now,” Chloe exclaimed in defense of her future bride. 

 

Stacie noticed the pair clasping each other’s hands, desperate to hold onto one another in that stressful moment. She had no idea that it was Chloe that had been delivering the coffee. In Stacie’s mind, she had always figured that the blonde was getting the drinks herself. It would have been extremely out of character, but she thought it was a gesture. A bit of work Aubrey put forth herself instead of having it served to her on a silver platter. The fact that it was Chloe the entire time put a foul taste in her mouth. No wonder the redhead looked so worn down all the time; she wasn’t just doing her job; she was doing Stacie’s. 

 

“Aubrey, stop this,” Stacie implored. She settled a hand on the blonde’s shoulder out of reflex; she felt the other woman tense for a moment before relaxing just a little. Aubrey pursed her lips and considered Beca once more. “Fine, Mitchell, this has been a warning. I don’t want to see you in this building again, Chloe; get back to your desk.” Her words were an obvious dismissal, one that was immediately heeded by the couple. Beca sped out of the room, tears still stuck in her eyes, while Chloe rushed off back to her desk. Stacie noticed that the couple gave each other a quick squeeze of the hand before their speedy departure. 

 

“Stacie, I’m sure your lunch break is almost over; you should head up soon,” Aubrey told her warily. The woman’s voice was softer, but Stacie was far from appeased, but she gave the other woman a nod and high-tailed it out of the dining hall. She made a mental note to talk to Aubrey privately later. 

 

 

Stacie stepped into the office moments after the cafeteria debacle, tired and mind-boggled. She was still annoyed with herself for believing that Aubrey had made any of those kind gestures herself. Chloe was sitting at her desk, phone in her hands and whispering into the line. Stacie could only assume she was speaking to Beca. Stacie cleared her throat politely and approached Chloe’s desk; the redhead studied Stacie suspiciously for a moment. The wary expression was enough to send a tinge of remorse through Stacie’s being. 

 

“Can I talk to you?” She requested softly. 

 

Chloe looked at the phone anxiously for a moment. “You can keep Beca on the line. I would want her to hear this too,” Stacie added. Chloe whispered something to Beca, and a feint couple of words came out of the receiver that Stacie couldn’t hear. “Okay,” Chloe finally sighed. Stacie waited as the other girl put the phone on speaker. 

 

“I want you guys to know that I had no clue she was having you do my job. I didn’t know about the coffee or the dry cleaning; I thought maybe she was doing it all herself. I had no idea that you were going out of the way to do those things for her; I’m sorry. Also, I know you have no reason to believe me since I honestly should have known better, but I’m not sleeping with her. I swear, I’m not. Especially now that I know, nothing she’s done has been on her own. Lesson learned, and I’m planning on talking to her about all the coffees. She shouldn’t be making you do all the work, no matter what her personal feelings are. It’s unprofessional, and I’ll try to pick up the slack. Do you think you could forgive me for being a little stupid and thinking Aubrey did it herself?” 

 

Chloe and Beca were silent for a moment, somehow telepathically communicating through the phone. “Yeah, alright,” Beca griped, her voice sounded distant, but Stacie heard it all the same. “I’m sorry I yelled at you; it’s not your fault your boss is crazy.” Stacie snorted and leaned back against her desk. 

 

“You really thought that anal-retentive bitch cared enough that she would get you coffee herself?” Beca chortled. 

 

“Beca, shhh, she might hear you,” Chloe chastised her fiance. 

 

Stacie shrugged, “No, she’s right. I should have known better. Aubrey was raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. I know her Mom died, but it’s no reason for her to treat others the way she does.”

 

“I heard her Mom was head bitch too,” Beca sneered. “I wonder if being awful runs in the bloodline.”

 

“I wouldn’t know; I just know her father didn’t even invite her for Thanksgiving;” as soon as Stacie said it, she regretted it. She shouldn’t have told anyone that; she didn’t know if Aubrey would want her family drama out in the open, even if it were shared with only Chloe and Beca.

 

Stacie immediately rushed to correct herself. “Aubrey’s family must be super busy all the time; they are a multi-billion dollar media corporation after all.”

 

“That’s no excuse to act like such a megalomaniacal bitch, though,” Beca scoffed. “She’s nuts, and she runs Chloe ragged looking for so many stupid things. It’s crazy; it’s just fashion, no offense Chlo, she’s making you guys treat every small request like it’s a bomb threat or something.” Beca sighed, “All I can say is, I have no clue how you guys deal with her. She seems like the boss from hell.” 

 

“She is,” Stacie admitted. “She can be cruel and manipulative. She has heaps of control issues, and I really think she has no idea what the real world is like outside of her sterling silver spoon life, but I don’t think that’s all there is to her.”

 

“Well, whatever you think she has inside her, I’ll bet you fifty bucks it's a load of bullshit. She’s mean to the bone, and the only reason anyone puts up with her is that they want something from her. Maybe that’s why her family doesn’t want to put up with her because whatever she could give them, they already have,” Beca grumbled. A sound came from the doorway, causing the redhead and brunette to jump. Chloe flashed a worried glance at the hallway but didn’t see anything. “We really shouldn’t be talking like this at work,” Chloe exclaimed, “Becs, I’ll see you at home. Let me know if Aubrey makes good on her threats; I’ll see what I can do, okay?” 

 

 

Aubrey arrived back in the office five minutes later. When Stacie asked to speak to her privately, the blonde brushed her off and locked herself in her office. Stacie stole glances at Aubrey through the glass doors, but she was never able to catch the CEO’s eye. When the day came to a close, Stacie was too busy with phone calls to stop Aubrey from leaving. The only instructions she received were from Chloe, who informed her that Benji handed the Book to Aubrey earlier that day. 

 

The next morning, Stacie was treated to a call from Aubrey, who, in a very clipped tone, informed her that she was expected to be at the office by seven with the morning’s coffee. “And Anastacia, make sure you put your own coffee on your own card; Bella shouldn’t be funding your caffeine addiction,” Aubrey snapped before hanging up. Stacie stared at her phone in utter confusion for a moment but thought better than to argue, it definitely saved her an awkward conversation later.

 

Figuring that Aubrey was doing her a favor by ceasing all obvious coffee flirtation, Stacie ordered the Starbucks as usual and arrived at the office as quickly as possible. When she arrived at Bella, she entered Aubrey’s office to drop the coffee off, only to find the Editor in the spinning chair, staring at her computer. “You’re late,” Aubrey snapped. 

 

Stacie checked her watch with a frown. “It’s 7:01,” She exclaimed. 

 

“Which is later than seven, don’t let it happen again, Anastacia,” Aubrey chastised Stacie, her perfectly plucked eyebrows furrowed over accusatory green eyes. 

 

“I’m late by one minute Aubrey,” Stacie sighed, “and suddenly I’m Anastacia again? Really?” 

 

“I don’t appreciate your tone Anastacia,” Aubrey stated, “I’ll admit that I may have grown comfortable in your presence recently, but that was my mistake. Clearly, whatever relationship we have is supposed to remain professional. I have strayed from that; as your employer, it is my job to correct our error. You will resume working for me, the ‘cruel and manipulative boss from hell’ as you may have put it, more professionally. Failure to do so will result in termination.” Aubrey met Stacie’s shocked expression unflinchingly; an emptiness Stacie had never before seen laid deep in the blonde’s eyes. 

 

“Au-” Stacie started, but Aubrey’s phone rang loudly, interrupting the moment. “Anastacia, get me the skirt order and alert Benji that I expect a run through. Tell Jessica and Ashley that they’re expected to come to the office for my fitting, Oscar is arriving soon, and I expect him to be shown to my office immediately. Tell Chloe to start preparing my Paris itinerary, and I expect you to complete the Christmas Gala seating chart by five today. I want a run-through and full approval done by six.” Aubrey said all of this quickly before picking up the phone and placing her ear on the receiver. Stacie sat frozen in her seat until Aubrey paused her conversation, “Anastacia, get out. You have things to do.” Stacie rose from her seat and stumbled out of the room. Aubrey had heard her conversation with Beca. 

 

Stacie approached her desk to find Chloe working furiously at her computer across the room. Aubrey’s coat and bag were lying haphazardly on Stacie’s desktop; she had missed it when she ran in to give Aubrey her coffee order. “Welcome back,” Chloe whispered to her sympathetically. Stacie forced a small smile and shrug as her heart clenched with guilt and something else that almost felt like heartbreak. 

 

Chapter Text

Stacie’s body positively ached, and it wasn’t the good kind. Ever since she and Aubrey had been on the outs, the blonde had been pushing them harder than ever. Stacie was sure her bruises had bruises at this point, and it didn’t help that Aubrey had caught her making out with Dylan Rogers, Barden’s linebacker, at one of the pre-spring break parties. It had only been three days since the Bella Captain had confessed her feelings, and to say Stacie didn’t react well would be an understatement. 

 

Actually, Stacie had flipped and said some quite rude things. Although the entire ordeal had put the brunette on edge, she wasn’t quite sure what she had said until after the fact. All she did know was that she had told Aubrey she was just an easy lay for all intents and purposes, and she hadn’t been the only one, which was a lie. The blonde didn't know that Stacie hadn’t slept with anyone that wasn’t Aubrey Posen since hood night. Somehow, someway, Aubrey had satisfied all of Hunter’s needs and then some, so Stacie hadn’t gone looking elsewhere until the Bella Captain went and confessed her feelings, that is. 

 

Before that moment, though, she had repeatedly gone to bed with the blonde almost every night for the past seven months, give or take days they were away for winter break. There deal had worked wonderfully at the time, and they had agreed it was just sex, but even Stacie had to admit the lines blurred sometimes. The line got especially blurry when Stacie had stayed a little longer for one more night with Aubrey before they hit the road, or the airport tarmac, really. 

 

Stacie let out a bereft groan and rubbed her hands over her eyes in frustration. She had really tried to get over the blond for the past week, but nothing seemed to be working. Even kissing people seemed slightly disgusting if that person wasn’t Aubrey Posen. She had only kissed the linebacker for a mere thirty seconds before she lost all interest. Stacie absentmindedly reached for her phone and got halfway through a random number before she realized it was actually Aubrey’s. Fuck, she had memorized the blonde’s number. 

 

Stacie tossed her phone to the side, where it thumped against the carpeted dorm floor. She had a single, thanks to her grandparent's pockets, and she usually appreciated that, but right at that moment, she wished she at least had a roommate to bitch to. Stacie let out another beleaguered groan, but as expected, no one answered. Closing her eyes for a moment, Stacie sat up sharply when her fallen phone began to ring. It took her a second, but she managed to crawl halfway out of her bed and pluck up the phone before putting it to her ear. 

 

“Hey, this is Stacie,” the brunette sighed. 

 

“Oi, I got invited to a senior party by a couple of frat guys. They’re not acapella nerds, so I thought you’d want to be my plus one,” Fat Amy offered. Her voice was loud in the receiver, so Stacie was forced to hold the phone half a foot from her ear. 

 

“I don’t know, Amy; I’m not really feeling it right now,” Stacie mumbled into the mic. 

 

“What? Aren’t you the Hunter? Come on, there are a ton of hot people, it’s a senior party, and CR already blew me off. Something about poker night,” Fat Amy insisted. Stacie thought about it for a moment, painting a picture across her popcorn ceiling. On the one hand, she seemed to be stuck on Aubrey, and the idea of a party before another grueling rehearsal sounded like a nightmare for her muscles. On another, she was stuck on Aubrey, and she really needed to get over the blonde for the sanctimony of her own peace of mind. 

 

You never asked for love Stacie, in fact, you never wanted it. She didn’t owe Aubrey anything, not sex, not romance, definitely not love. The Hunter was beholden to no one, and Stacie was going to make sure of that if it was the last thing she did. “Alright, I’ll be there; text me the details,” Stacie finally said. She heard a cheer from Amy’s end and let out a sigh. Just find a cute person at the party and fuck them until you forget all about Aubrey. Easy, right?

 

 

Stacie arrived at the Epsilon Kappa Tau party wearing a black dress with spaghetti straps and a neck that dipped down almost to her navel; her shoes were a strappy designer number from Luis Vuitton’s 2006 collection. She had ‘borrowed’ the pair from her mother and conveniently forgotten to return them. She had never been so thrilled to have her Mom’s shoe size. Her long legs were on full display, and her boobs looked even better than usual, mission success. 

 

“Damn, Legs,” Amy exclaimed upon seeing her. The other girl was wearing her usual leggings and brightly colored blouse. “The Hunter’s on the prowl,” Stacie grinned, throwing a wink at her fellow Bella for good measure. 

 

“I’ll say, if you don’t go home with someone tonight, I’ll eat my bra,” Amy chuckled. 

 

The rest of the night melted away as Stacie danced with a long line of college boys and downed several cups of liquor. She eventually found herself leaning into someone’s chest smiling and flirting, three cups of cheap beer in. The boy's smile was slightly lopsided, and his eyes were hazel instead of the green she liked so much, but the boy’s hands were firm, and his hair was a glorious chestnut mane. He would do. Stacie leaned in to seal the deal when she saw her. 

 

Over by the couch, standing next to a tall, muscular boy with a grey beanie and a brilliant smile, stood one Aubrey Posen. She wore a green dress and matching emerald heels. A gold arm cuff wrapped around the bicep of her arm, the arm she was using to touch the blonde ( was he blonde?) boy’s chest. Aubrey’s head was thrown back, laughing, as she took a flirtatious step forward and teasingly pushed the guy’s chest again. 

 

At this point, Stacie was all out glaring at the stranger, completely ignoring her dance partner, who was prattling on about the challenges of Coulomb's Law and how he could teach her a thing or two about electricity. Stacie blatantly ignored him and continued to stare at Aubrey, who was moving without a single wince of pain. I’ll show you a proper punishment. Stacie started to walk over there, but she stopped halfway. What was she doing? 

 

Stacie felt tears prick her eyes as she watched the interaction between the two blondes. You have no right to stop it; Aubrey isn’t yours. Stacie wanted to throttle the tiny voice in her head, but she knew it was right. She had rejected Aubrey; if she walked over at that moment, she would only be standing in the way of Aubrey being happy. Aubrey deserves to be happy. 

 

“Shut up,” Stacie growled in frustration. Failing to notice her male companion’s look of utter confusion, she stomped out of the room and as far as she could get from one Aubrey Posen. 

 

Fat Amy found her later, sitting on a garden bench alone. After seeing Aubrey, Stacie had rejected every passing flirtation; suddenly, it all felt impossibly empty and pointless. What’s the point if they’re not Aubrey?  Curious, Fat Amy had asked the brunette a stream of questions about the brunette’s lack of a bed companion, but all the brunette could do was play dumb. To do so, she had devised a plan before her arrival, just in case.

 

That plan was simple: Stacie would avoid all awkward questions by pretending to be drunk. So dunk, in fact, that no one would understand what she was saying. To do so, she added some stumbles and random words in random places in the hopes of getting away from the party and the one particular senior that haunted her dreams. While Amy was helping her trip her way through the party, the voice she was hoping to avoid sounded behind them. “Amy? What are you doing here?” Aubrey exclaimed. 

 

Fat Amy turned to smile sheepishly at their captain, forcing Stacie to turn around as well. The brunette made sure to stare blearily in any direction to simulate intoxication. “Legs got sloshed, so I was taking her home,” Fat Amy explained. 

 

“Oh, okay, do you want me to help you get her to the car?” Aubrey offered politely. 

 

“Oh, we were just gonna walk it,” Fat Amy shrugged. 

 

Aubrey pursed her lips and looked at Stacie, who made sure to lay it on thick, lest the blonde call her out for faking intoxication. Lolling her head to the side, she allowed one of her legs to bend an awkward way in the hopes of feigning another stumble. What she didn't realize, is just how much her legs hurt after rehearsal, so of course, that movement caused her leg to buckle. Fat Amy flailed to take more of her weight but only managed because of Aubrey's assistance. Stacie barely suppressed the slightest hum when she felt Aubrey’s hand slide around her lower back and pull Stacie’s body tight against her. 

 

“Let me drive you two home; I don’t think Stacie’s going to make it;” Aubrey’s words weren’t an offer as much as a command. One that Fat Amy wasn’t going to refuse, especially when her Bella Captain used that tone of voice. “Alright, Cap, no problem. Although, I think I’ll walk. I still have some things to do, and my mate’s place isn’t too far from here. You can get the Hunter home, yeah?” 

 

“Yes, it’s not an issue, Amy,” Aubrey sighed. 

 

Stacie continued her ruse as she was practically carried to Aubrey’s car. She felt more than saw Aubrey lean in and buckle her seatbelt; the senior’s perfume wafted through the air and lit up Stacie’s senses; the blonde's proximity was killing her self-control. Too quickly, the door shut, and she heard some muffled words being exchanged, followed by the driver's side door opening and closing. Stacie lolled her head to the side and placed her temple against the window, feigning sleep. 

 

“Oh, Stacie, what am I going to do with you;” Aubrey sighed. The car started, and she felt the vehicle reverse out of the parking space. “I can’t believe you’re still gorgeous when you’re drooling,” Aubrey snorted. Stacie froze for a moment and checked herself for drool, she knew she was good, but she didn’t want to be that good. Or that messy. 

 

“You’re probably so drunk right now that you wouldn’t remember anything I’m saying,” Aubrey said solemnly. Stacie felt the car take a turn; she made sure to roll her head in the direction physics demanded. “I saw you flirting with that guy earlier. Evan, he’s in my economics class; he’s an entrepreneurship minor and such a tool. Maybe that’s why you got so drunk, couldn’t stand talking to him. I guess that would be fair. I want to drink every time he opens his mouth too.” Aubrey fell silent for a moment, contemplative. Stacie continued to feign, dozing peacefully against the window. “I hated seeing you dancing with him.” Aubrey finally admitted, “I hated watching you flirt and lean in. I hate watching you with anyone that’s not me, and I know you’re not mine, but god, I wish you were because I miss you so much.” Stacie kept her eyes closed, unsure of what to do after the other woman's admission. 

 

The car’s engine stopped, but Aubrey kept talking, on a roll now. “I know I’m not good enough; you said as much our last night together, but I wish I could prove you wrong. I know I’m headstrong, and I have perfection issues; I know I’m desperate for approval, especially from my father, but Stacie, when I was with you, that melted away. Even for a moment. I-” Stacie felt her lips twitch into a frown, but she fought the urge as she continued to listen to the older girl's ramblings.

 

Aubrey took a shuddering breath, and Stacie felt her heart clench, the urge to reach out and hug Aubrey was almost overwhelming. “I hate the idea that someday there’s going to be somebody else, and that person won’t be me. Every moment with you was like my first real breath of oxygen, and I’m terrified that I’ll never feel that with anyone ever again. But I’m not it for you. I thought maybe you were it for me, but I know I’m not. If I were, you would have wanted me back, and I wouldn’t be sitting here crying while you’re sleeping in my car.” 

 

Stacie heard another sniffle and couldn’t take it anymore. She hated hearing Aubrey cry, so she made a snap decision. Leaning to the other side as though she was rolling over, Stacie allowed herself a deep sigh and a long stretch that brought one of her arms to the armrest between the two seats. She stopped short of touching Aubrey, figuring that the blonde might grow suspicious if she was too accurate. It took a moment, but eventually, Aubrey did what Stacie hoped she would do and placed a hand over her own. The younger woman immediately tightened her held around Aubrey’s fingers and pulled. She smiled a little when the blonde ceased crying. 

 

“God, this is nice,” Aubrey whispered. Stacie felt fingers weave their way between hers. “Maybe sitting here for a moment before I get you inside is the closure I need. Maybe I can pretend I’m your somebody else, that it all worked out, and you love me too. Maybe I can close my eyes and open them, and I’ll somehow let it all go. The coffees, the study time, the stolen kisses, the way your eyes lit up when you shared a random science fact, the sex. God, the sex. Maybe I’ll forget it all, just like you want. Because that is what you want, right? Me to forget so you can be free?”

 

Stacie frowned. Did she want that?   She imagined for a moment a world where Aubrey forgot all about their time together. The flirting, the jokes, the feel of Stacie’s skin on hers. She imagined a world where they hadn’t started anything, and she never had to get Aubrey’s taste out of her head. The entire time she pictured this other world, she felt her throat close up and her heartbeat harder. She didn’t want Aubrey to forget her, not their moments, not their jokes, not the feel of Stacie's lips on hers. You don't want her to move on, but you won't date her? Stacie wanted to run away at that moment, but Aubrey’s hand in hers kept the brunette firmly planted in her seat. Blissfully unaware of Stacie's internal dilemma.


“If I’m not enough, but I can’t forget, what do we do?” Aubrey asked her. But Stacie was busy answering her own questions. Because the problem wasn’t that Aubrey wasn’t enough, at the end of the day, it was the fact that Stacie couldn’t be what Aubrey needed. Which undoubtedly meant that Stacie was the one lacking in this particular set of circumstances, not Aubrey. If you love her, but you’re not enough, what do you do? The voice in Stacie’s head was beginning to get on her nerves, but she knew it was right. Which also meant one other thing. She was in love with Aubrey Posen, and she had no idea what to do about that.

Chapter Text

It was late at night, and the bed was warm. Stacie could feel Aubrey sleeping beside her peacefully, dozing away and oblivious to the world. They had been officially dating for the past three months, and Stacie still didn’t know what to do with that information. Aubrey had been offered scholarships to Emory, Mercer, and Georgia University, but the blonde was passing for the moment to save money. It did help that she had been placed in the legal department of a Fortune 500 company based in Atlanta. That way, Stacie was able to see her, even after the blonde graduated. 

 

Stacie sighed in contentment and brushed her fingers through the blonde’s hair. She never thought she could love someone as much as she loved Aubrey. Sometimes the fear of losing the other woman was almost paralyzing; memories of her father’s death would overcome her, and sometimes her dreams would put the blonde in his place. When those nightmares occurred, Stacie would jerk awake and stare at the other girl, fighting off the urge to run. Her place was with Aubrey now, and she knew she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

 

“I can hear you are thinking, go to sleep,” Aubrey mumbled into her pillow. Stacie peered at the other girl and allowed a slight smile to curl her lips upwards. Green eyes squinted at her in the dark, and Stacie felt the urge to kiss Aubrey at that moment, so she did. Leaning in, she brushed her lips against her girlfriend’s and felt the soft press of Aubrey against her body. Long arms wound around her waist and squeezed tight for a moment. Stacie could feel Aubrey’s heart beating next to her’s, steady as ever. “Did you have another one of your nightmares?” Aubrey asked through a thick yawn. 

 

“No, this dream was a good one,” Stacie smiled. The pair had shifted, so Stacie’s lips were now pressed against Aubrey’s hairline, and the blonde’s nose was grazing her neck at certain angles. “If it was good, why did you wake up?” Aubrey grumbled. Stacie smoothed a thumb over Aubrey’s jaw and considered the question. 

 

“I never thought I’d have this; I always thought I didn’t need it,” Stacie said slowly. 

 

“And now?” Aubrey hummed. 

 

“And now, now I think I don’t want to go a single day without knowing what it’s like to love you, and that terrifies me,” Stacie admitted. Aubrey remained silent, so silent that Stacie wondered if the girl had fallen asleep. She continued anyway, “After my parents got divorced, I thought love was kind of pointless, y’know? They got along better as friends anyway, so I always thought maybe platonic love was more important. But then my Dad died, and I realized how much it hurt to love someone that much and lose them. So, in my dreams, when I lose you, I freak out because that’s my entire reason for not wanting to do this in the first place.” 

“But we are doing this,” Aubrey murmured. “

 

“Yeah, we are. We’re doing this, and I love you so much, but I don’t know the first thing about keeping you. Maybe I did in the past, but now it’s just fear and improvisation. It’s like an experiment that I’m just adding chemicals to, and there’s a part of me that’s just waiting for it to blow up.” Aubrey rubbed her thumb in circles on Stacie’s hip, effectively easing some of the tension in the brunette’s body. 

 

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘Maybe in the past, because so far you’re doing an amazing job. You’re more romantic than all my exes put together, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t either; that’s why people date. They’re just figuring it out, and considering you’re the first person I’ve dated that hasn’t been a complete and total narcissistic ass, I’d say you’re doing a great job.” Aubrey must have been tired if she was casually cursing. Stacie pressed a kiss to the crown of the blonde’s head and smiled at the praise. 

 

“You’re not going anywhere;” Stacie’s words were more for her own benefit, but Aubrey answered them anyway. “Yeah, I’m not going anywhere.” 

 

Stacie closed her eyes and wrapped an arm over Aubrey’s shoulders. She never thought she would be in love, but she wouldn’t have it any other way if it were Aubrey. Aubrey’s breathing eventually evened out, sleep claiming her once more. Aubrey laid motionless, enjoying the warmth and comfort that Aubrey supplied. 


“I think I’m going to marry you one day,” Stacie said more to herself than anyone else. Aubrey’s breathing didn’t falter, so the brunette knew she was still asleep. Stacie took the time to study her love’s features. Her nose, the point of her chin, and the curvature of her brow. The way her lips curled upward in her sleep and the absence of worry lines. Yeah, you’re going to marry her one day. Stacie pressed another kiss to Aubrey’s forehead and closed her eyes to join her girlfriend in slumber. She knew she was right; of course, she had seen it in her dreams.

Chapter Text

Birkin bags and Balenciaga coats filled Stacie’s days as she traipsed from one part of New York to another. Aubrey hadn’t let up her assault since the incident, and Stacie didn’t have the heart to argue anymore. Some part of her felt as though she deserved it. She was on her fourth or the fifth stop of the day when her phone rang. The blaring ringtone raised pure dread in her now; her past excitement had faded to beleaguered wariness. 

 

“Hello, Aubrey Posen’s office,” she said immediately. 

 

“I know who I’m calling Anastacia,” Aubrey sneered. Stacie felt a stab in her heart at the use of her full name; the fond use of her nickname had become a bittersweet memory. You could have defended her better when talking to Beca and Chloe. Stacie winced at the voice but pushed the guilt away. Instead, she concentrated on the new supply of directions the blonde was giving her. 

 

“I need the finalized seating chart on my desk; we moved Donatella and Remo Ruffini to table three. I want a new headcount, and I need another seat at my table.” Stacie rushed to make a note of all the new requests on her reminders app. “Aubrey, your table is full,” Stacie reminded the other woman gently. 

 

“Move Snoop Dogg and Fat Amy then; I don’t want Amy near my father anyway,” Aubrey snapped. Stacie startled at the news, dropping a couple of bags of merchandise in the process. She scrambled to pick all the items up as words poured from her mouth. “Your Dad is coming?” Stacie balked. She scooped up another white and gold emblazoned bag, hoisting it over her shoulder; she straightened to her full height. The crowd moved around her; she saw Pieter pull up out of the corner of her eye. 

 

“My Father is Mr. Posen to you, and you’ll remember that, Anastacia,” Aubrey said curtly. Stacie shrunk at the other woman’s tone but didn’t argue. “My brother will also be attending; he was given leave for the holidays. His wife will be staying home with Matthew and Josie; she’s not in the right shape to be attending the Winter Showcase.” 

 

Right, Maria Posen was supposed to be eight months pregnant with twins at the moment, eight months after Jason’s last homecoming. Stacie sometimes wondered why Aubrey was expected to run the business when her brother stayed so far away from it, but she decided not to ask. It wasn’t as though the blonde would answer her anymore, anyway. “I’ll get right on it, Aubrey,” She said instead; she didn’t even finish her sentence before she heard the tell-tale sound of the dial tone. 

 

Stacie arrived back at the office with piles of clothes in her arms. Benji, CR, Ashley, and Denise rushed to help her. “Damn, what did she have you do? Buy the department store?” Cynthia Rose grunted. Stacie allowed the other women to take the bags with a sigh of relief, her arms already feeling that much lighter. Traipsing to her desk, she groaned dejectedly upon spying a yellow Saint Laurent coat on her desktop, paired with a Balenciaga purse. Chloe smiled at her sympathetically from across the way and offered the Starbucks in her hand. Stacie took it gratefully and hung up Aubrey’s discarded items with little aplomb. “Anastacia!” Aubrey shouted through the glass walls. Stacie looked up with wide eyes, her lips an inch from the cup’s opening. “Throw that out and come here; I need to speak with you.” Stacie froze, her eyes staring blankly in the direction of her boss. Throw it out? It took her a moment, but she managed to reluctantly relinquish the cup, dropping it into the trash with a pitiful whine. 

 

“Anastacia!” Aubrey growled from the other room. 

 

Stacie trudged inside, phone in hand and at the ready to take notes. Aubrey was sitting at her desk, papers and sketch pads laid out in an orderly fashion across the large oak tabletop. The computer monitor was on and softly glowing. Stacie tried to stare anywhere but at Aubrey, unable to meet the blonde’s soul-piercing gaze. The New York skyline was breathtaking from Aubrey’s back wall of windows, especially at that particular time of day. 

 

“The Gala is tomorrow, along with the winter fashion showcase. I expect you and Chloe to be there, and I expect you to be on your best behavior. No gossip, no snide comments, and no attitude.” Stacie opened her mouth to point out that she hadn’t given the other woman attitude in weeks but fell silent at the look Aubrey gave her. 

 

“This is Bella Magazine’s biggest event; I expect everything to be perfect. Especially, with my father there;” She punctuated her words with a fierce glare. Stacie nodded amiably. “Send Chloe in when you leave; I expect you to report to Cynthia Rose in the closet.”

 

“Oh, do you need me to get more skirts or jackets for the run-through?” Stacie inquired politely. 

 

“Go,” Aubrey snapped in answer, so Stacie went. 

 

 

Stacie was bustling down the hall when she ran into someone substantial. Stumbling back a step in her five-inch heels, she latched onto something that felt a lot like a shoulder. “Careful there, love,” Luke exclaimed in his British accent. Stacie let out a deep breath in relief that she hadn’t nearly knocked over someone holding something important. “Hi, Luke.”

 

“That’s not a very fond welcome for your favorite brit? Something wrong?” Luke asked, not unkindly. Stacie groaned, “Yes, no… well yes, but no. I just-” Stacie stopped for a moment to collect her thoughts. “Aubrey heard me say something a bit ago, and she hasn’t been happy with my work since. It’s fine, but I have been doing a lot more lately, and sometimes I get really drained, and… I shouldn’t even be saying this because what if she hears me.” Stacie took a paranoid glance around the office, but no one was in sight. 

 

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that you got on her bad side. I know how hard that can be; she always had a talent for the cold shoulder. Must’ve learned it from her Dad.” Luke chuckled softly as his eyes glazed over with an old memory. “She used to be a lot of fun, but her temper was always pretty bad. I think she once flew to Paris to get away from me after a bad argument.” 

 

Ignoring the completely unrelatable comment, because who the fuck could just fly to Paris to avoid someone? Stacie asked the one question that had been running through her mind for days on end. “How did you make it up to her?” 

 

Stacie watched as a series of emotions flitted across the man’s face. He pulled his bottom lip between his teeth and fingered his chin, “I’m not really sure. I can’t say anything has a one hundred percent success rate, considering we broke up. But I do know that she melted a little whenever I brought her ice cream and watched The Nanny with her. She always loved old sitcoms. Friends, Frasier, Seinfeld, Everybody Loves Raymond; we would always turn one of those on, and things would start to go back to normal.” 

 

Luke gave her a sheepish grin, “Not that any of that will help you, considering she’s your boss, and absolutely all of it would be seen as deeply unprofessional fraternization. It would be a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. So, my professional advice is: ride it out. See what happens; she might get over it in her own time.” 

 

Stacie pouted at the prospect of putting up with Aubrey’s wrath for another couple of months. The words, eight more months, echoed in her head. Could she put up with Aubrey’s constant nagging for eight more months? Did she want to? Is she worth it?” 

 

“I was wondering if you’d like to accompany me and some friends for drinks after the Gala,” Luke’s question barely registered with Stacie at the moment, but eventually, her brain caught up with her ears. 

 

“Huh,” She grunted, quite articulately. 

 

Luke grinned, “I have a friend, he’s an editor for Smithsonian Magazine, and his husband is on the editing staff for National Geographic. I believe you mentioned a desire to work for Nat Geo as a traveling reporter, correct?”

 

His accent was adorable, and his expression was so earnest; Stacie wanted to say yes immediately, but something held her back. “Didn’t you say that fraternizing with the boss isn’t allowed?” She reminded the man. 

 

“That would be true if I was the boss of your department. However, I am not. Since you’re Aubrey’s personal assistant, she is the only boss you answer to. I head the legal team and most of the building’s management, which is why I am quite free to ask you to come with me for drinks,” Luke said with a charming grin and a wink. Stacie felt her lips quirk upward into a slight smirk. “Come on; it’ll be fun. I promise I can get Aubrey to let you go; it’ll be an early release from your own personal bedazzled hell.”

 

Stacie had to admit that she was tempted; a meeting with an editor from National Geographic was an opportunity she would have previously killed for. Now it was being offered up on a silver platter, free of charge. “Fine, if you can convince Aubrey to let me go, I’ll be there,” Stacie acquiesced. Luke beamed at her and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “Perfect, it’s a date then,” Luke quipped before slipping past her and down the hall towards Aubrey’s office. Stacie stood stock still in confusion as to the realization that she had just agreed to a date with Aubrey’s ex, washed over her.  Fuck. 

 

 

The opening of the Gala floor to the masses was imminent, and Stacie desperately needed a drink. The ice sculptures had arrived late, the flowers were gardenia’s (Aubrey’s least favorite flower), and the baker had used peanut oil in his cake. Stacie was positively incensed.

 

“What do you mean you put peanut oil in the pasta. Aubrey Posen is deathly allergic to peanuts; get it out of here. Now, before she gets here and you get a lawsuit to put your great-great grandkids in debt. Get out!” Stacie shoved the caterers out the door, a tray of pasta in hand. Chloe was already dialing the number for Le Bernardin and Capital Grille. Talking fast, the redhead stepped out into the hall of the ballroom. Stacie shut her eyes for a moment and breathed deeply, appreciating the five seconds of silence she got. 

 

“Hey, you! Girl with eyes closed, where do I put this?” Kommisar shouted upon entry. The woman was accompanied by three large men carrying a large ice sculpture. The blonde german had come to help set up a favor for Aubrey, which basically meant that she stood there glaring at them while doing all the work. “Over by the main buffet table Ms. Sorensen,” Stacie answered quickly. 

 

The three men struggled towards the mentioned table, ice sculpture in hand, while Kommisar supervised them hawkishly. Chloe burst into the room with a relieved smile on her lips; the clacking of her Louis Vuitton shoes never sounded so wonderful. “They had the wrong order; they’re going back for the right one. The baker has an extra cake that never got picked up for a wedding, he just has to ice it, and it’ll be here in the next hour,” the ginger informed her. Stacie nearly jumped for joy at the news, wondering if Beca would kill her if she kissed Chloe in celebration. 

 

“Thank god, I was about to have a conniption on behalf of Aubrey,” Stacie stated emphatically. Chloe patted her on the shoulder comfortingly. “Well, good thing it’s been handled, now we just have to talk to the Met staff before she gets here.” 

 

The Met’s event coordinator was a peppy woman named Gail Abernathy-McKadden-Fineburger, or just Gail for short. She smiled a lot, spoke endlessly about her past husbands, and often became distracted by anything that moved. Stacie felt as though she was talking to a cocaine-addled squirrel. 

 

“Of course, we appreciate the Posen’s business, even though we would have preferred the event took place in a smaller ballroom. However, the main floor is yours to do with as you wish; I know how important Aubrey Posen is to the world of fashion. We wouldn’t want her to be unhappy under our care,” Gail sniffed irately. Clearly, using the biggest ballroom was a big deal, and she did not particularly like Aubrey. At the moment, Stacie couldn’t really blame her. 

 

The event was the largest of the season; the entire fashion world was coming to the Bella winter showcase to view the work of Aubrey’s tapped predicted protege's. Up and coming fashion designers all over the world longed to be there. The veteran designers often made appearances to catch a glimpse of their future competition while remaining in the Bella CEO’s good graces.  

 

The full horror of the night kicked off when Aubrey arrived. Trailed by a team of stylists and designers, she wore a beautiful white Alexander McQueen suit. Her hair was up in an elegant bun, and the green of her eyes stood out sharply against the eyeliner. Stacie knew she looked good, but she also had to admit that Aubrey looked better. Perfect nose, pouty lips, and wonderfully high cheekbones. Stacie couldn’t take her eyes off of Aubrey, even if she wanted to. Kiss or punch? Kiss or punch? 

 

“Oh my god, that suit hasn’t even been released to the masses yet,” Chloe squealed in awe. Stacie only grunted in response, still completely enraptured by Aubrey’s appearance. “He must have custom-made it for her and then made a mass production design. It’s gorgeous; look at the silk cape and how it hangs over the shoulder. Oh my god, her boobs look amazing too; god, I’m jealous.” 

 

Stacie really didn’t need to be told about Aubrey’s boobs; she was already fighting everything in her to prevent her eyes from dropping lower to the perfect cut of the neckline. “I think I need a drink,” Stacie managed to choke out before hightailing it from the room. 

 

She made it three steps before a sharp call of, “Anastacia!” Beckoned her back. Stacie spun around and faced Aubrey once more, trying her best to avert her gaze from the perfect slice of cleavage on display. Her own dress was a strappy black number that had a low neckline that accented her assets. She tried not to read into the look Aubrey gave her, only squirming a little when green eyes skimmed across her face and downwards briefly. She also tried her best to ignore the blonde’s slight inadvertent lip bite. Does she want you to? 

 

“We have secured most of the decorations, and the cake is ready in the kitchen for the big reveal. The guests are set to arrive promptly.” Stacie informed the CEO as professionally as she could manage under the blonde’s lingering gaze. 

 

“Good,” Aubrey said, snapping out of it. Stacie let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding. “You’ve memorized the guest list, correct?” 

 

Stacie had indeed memorized the guest list. Apparently, because of her important position, Aubrey could not keep anyone’s name and appearance in her head without assistance. Chloe and Stacie’s job was to identify all the approaching guests so Aubrey could greet them by name. Stacie thought it was all incredibly fake and tacky, but Chloe just shrugged and told her that Aubrey met so many people every year that it didn’t make sense for her to remember all of them. 

 

At first, Stacie thought that was a cop-out, but she realized that Chloe might have had a point as the party picked up. There were more than two hundred guests at that party. Actually, the number of people in the building seemed to be nearing full occupancy. This, of course, meant that Stacie and Chloe were whispering names into Aubrey’s ear constantly in an attempt to keep up with the encroaching masses. 

 

They greeted CEOs, designers, famous authors, Film Producers, talk show hosts. If they were rich and snooty, they were present at that party, and Stacie was getting progressively more sick of it. “How many people did she invite,” She grumbled to Chloe while Aubrey chatted amicably with some Ambassador’s mistress.  

 

“Four hundred and seventy-nine,” Chloe answered with a forced smile. Stacie’s falsetto grin dropped in horror. “Four hundred and seventy-nine?” She frowned. 

 

“Oh, wait, subtract two. Four hundred and seventy-seven,” Chloe chirped. “Mr. Posen called five minutes ago and said that he and Jason aren’t coming. Jason was held up with Maria because of the pregnancy, and Mr. Posen decided to stick around with them.” 

 

Stacie stopped and stared at her fellow assistant, mind whirling with the consequences of this new information. “Does she know?” Chloe shook her head, “No, I haven’t told her yet. I was waiting for her to have a free moment. I filled her table in, though, so it won’t have a single empty spot. I put Donatella there since I know she doesn’t always talk a lot. Anna Wintour as well. Between the two of them, Aubrey should be left alone.” 

 

Stacie winced. She didn’t think that Aubrey should be alone at the moment, the exact opposite, in fact. “Put me at her table,” Stacie blurted out. She didn’t know who looked more surprised, her or Chloe, at that moment. “What?” Chloe hissed. 

 

“Put me at her table, move Anna, and put me there,” Stacie said again. What was with her? Asking to be moved closer to Aubrey? Was she crazy?

 

“Her Dad and her brother just bailed on her; she’s going to be really upset. Put me at her table,” Stacie reiterated. Chloe looked at her at that moment, their eyes meeting. She didn’t know what the other girl saw in her eyes, but whatever it was, it was enough. “Okay,” Chloe said simply before turning around and disappearing into the crowd, presumably to move the designated table placements before Anna Wintour arrived. 

 

Aubrey returned to Stacie with an imperious look about her, clearly ill amused by Chloe’s absence. “Where’s Chloe?” Aubrey snapped. 

 

“She had to change the seating chart,” Stacie told her; she figured honesty was the best course of action in this instance. Aubrey raised a single eyebrow but remained silent; Stacie took it as her queue to keep talking. “Your father and brother couldn’t make it, so she had to fill your table.” A flicker of disappointment in Aubrey’s eyes was replaced quickly by feigned indifference. “I’m assuming it was important,” Aubrey said through gritted teeth. 

 

“Maria was feeling uncomfortable because of her pregnancy, so Jason decided to stay with her, then your father decided to stay with them.” Aubrey’s face fell like a windblown house of cards for a single second. Stacie saw the flash of a tear, heard the blonde choke back a sob, but just as suddenly, there was nothing. Simply an indifferent sullen face looking back at her, in a constant state of disdain. 

 

“Who will be filling their seats?” Aubrey sniffed. 

 

Now, here comes the tricky part. Donatella would be a nonissue since the woman was a renowned fashion designer and owner of Versace. On the other hand, Stacie was a lowly assistant with zero credit or reputation amongst these higher-up elites. However, something had occurred to her over the past two days. Something that Luke had mentioned. 

 

When Stacie had asked the man what helped thaw Aubrey’s cold shoulder, she had paid attention. After all, this was her very severe and demanding boss. She needed to find some way to survive the next eight months, and she thought she had found it. Or at least, she had a hunch. A hunch that was either going to get her screamed at in the middle of the biggest fashion Gala of the season or a moment of redemption with the icy CEO. 

 

“Donatella will be on your left,” Stacie said slowly. “And I will be on your right.” 

 

She waited with bated breath once she finished the sentence, bracing herself for the blonde’s fury, but none came. Instead, the blonde stared at her testily as though daring her to continue. “And what, pray to tell, makes you think that you’re important enough to be at my table?” Aubrey’s words lacked venom. Instead, they sounded almost curious, as though she were a professor asking for clarification from one of her students. 

 

Stacie took a deep breath, honesty. She knew what to do. She’s just like one of your radios; you’re just having some trouble tuning in to the signal. “You’re like a radio,” Stacie blurted out. Aubrey stood straighter and crossed her arm, unimpressed. “What I mean to say is that sometimes I don’t understand you. Sometimes you’re tough to read, but with some patience and attention, the message is there. I’m sorry that your dad can’t be there, but I know I would like to be if you’ll have me.” 

 

Aubrey considered her for a moment while Stacie’s heartbeat out of her chest. “I know I messed up in the past, but I’m still here, and I want to help tonight if you let me,” Stacie urged the other woman. Aubrey’s continued silence was really freaking her out. The only sign that the other woman was listening was the slight glimmer of curiosity in green eyes: curiosity and something else. 

 

“If I’m at the table with you, I’ll be on my best behavior, and I promise not to speak unless spoken to. I’ll do whatever you need; I know it must not be easy with your dad not showing and-”

 

The light vanished briefly at the mention of Aubrey's father, but the following words distracted Stacie from that sudden dissipation of brightness. “Okay,” Aubrey said. 

 

Stacie’s brain stalled. Okay. She had gotten an ‘Okay.’ 

 

Almost disbelieving, Stacie followed Aubrey on her way to their designated table. The crowd pressed around them in their designer gowns and expensively tailored suits. They flashed forced smiles at all that approached while Stacie whispered the guest’s identities into Aubrey’s ear. Upon taking their seats, the stage lights lit up, sending the room into a flash of white light briefly. Music began pumping through the room’s sound system while an announcer began introducing all the designers and models present. 

 

Over the boom of the music and announcer, Aubrey leaned in. 

 

“This is Kenneth Ize’s collection; he’s an up-and-coming designer I found. He’s expected to go very far.” Aubrey informed her. Stacie listened intently and felt the beginning of a genuine smile creeping onto her face. It really had been a long time since Aubrey had spoken to her like she was a real person and not just her assistant. 

 

“Were you always into fashion?” Stacie asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. 

 

Aubrey paused for a moment, contemplative. “My mother always believed that a good day was incomplete without a good outfit. ``It's your armor before the war that is life,’ she would say. I was born for the carrying on of the family name. Jason is following in my father’s footsteps as a member of the Marines, and I’m ensuring my Mother’s legacy.” 

 

It wasn’t really an answer, and Aubrey knew that, but Stacie could see the message buried beneath. It was a load of static, but something was definitely breaking through. “So instead of donning a bulletproof vest and carrying a fifty-pound pack, you arm yourself with Jimmy Choos and Chanel?” Stacie teased; she didn’t want to sound like she was prying. That would be a good way to shut Aubrey down when the blonde was just starting to open back up again. 

 

Aubrey shrugged slightly, eyes never leaving the stage where the latest amazonian model strutted the catwalk. “Fashion is art and expression, Stacie; it’s another way of showing who you are to the world.” 

 

“It’s also a good way of hiding yourself from the world,” Stacie countered, ignoring the flutter of her heart when Aubrey used her preferred name. “The world of beauty is wonderful and enticing, but I still don’t really understand this stuff..” 

 

She knew she had said something wrong as soon as the words left her mouth. The sudden stiffness of Aubrey's posture was enough to make Stacie's jaw clench. Her fingers tightened into a fist on her thigh.

 

“I don’t expect you to understand ‘ this stuff,’ Stacie,” Aubrey said testily, “I expect you to do your job. Nothing more, nothing less.” A smattering of applause arose as the designer took a brief bow at the end of his collection. The announcer said something into the microphone, and the music resumed, allowing the next designer to have their turn. “I had your background checked, you know? I know that you modeled in your earlier years. I know you were expected to be big, but you never went anywhere. Fashion just didn’t interest you. Your father was an Imagineer; your mother was a physics professor at Stanford. When your dad died, you quit the fashion industry and focused on your science and writing full time.”

 

“What you haven’t realized, Anastacia, is that there’s a moment for everyone where their life goes left or right. One way or another. You’re a smart girl; you have degrees in journalism and astrophysics with a minor in writing and rhetoric. You were your class’s valedictorian, and you have survived five months as my assistant. So make no mistake, you have chosen not to understand fashion. It was a decision, a moment where your life went one way or the next. But in doing so, you ensured that you would never belong in this world.” In my world, or with me. Because that’s where they had been heading, right? Before the incident with Beca and Chloe, back when they were two girls in a fountain, inches apart. 

 

The message was clear, and Stacie felt frozen in her place; the whisper of Aubrey’s apathetic tone wore at her. She didn’t belong here. Sure, she looked the part. Tall and fit, Stacie cut an impressive figure in any room, but she didn’t have the same priorities as half the people at that party. She didn’t understand the jargon or the anxiety. The stress of overeating or the absolute despair when a Balenciaga bag wasn’t the right shade of green. She didn’t get it, and Aubrey’s insinuations were clear in that: She was not good enough for Aubrey. Stacie felt the urge to leave but stopped herself; she couldn’t just leave a seat empty at Aubrey’s table. 

 

“You may leave Anastacia; I will have Luke fill your place. You don’t belong up here anyway, and you didn’t really want to be, regardless. The only reason you took that seat is because of pity, and I don’t want that.” Aubrey leveled her with an ice-cold glare that would have sent lesser women running. “Never treat me like a sad, abused puppy again, and maybe you won’t get bitten.”

 

Stacie took her to leave the table, withholding the tears in her eyes as she stalked away.

 

Stacie marched into a side hall and finally let the tears fall. Uncaring if anyone saw her. She slid down the wall and let it all out, feeling a slight tinge of relief in getting some of her pent-up feelings out. She heard footsteps against the hall floor; turning, she saw a blonde man with familiar green eyes approaching. Jason?

 

“I thought you were in South Carolina?” Stacie said dumbly. She had memorized Jason’s face in preparation for the Gala, assuming that she would have to greet the Posen heir. 

 

“I was until I heard my father wasn’t coming because of me, which would leave my poor little sister alone on her biggest night of the year, so I got a jet,” Jason replied meekly. Stacie stared at him, her surprise still evident. 

 

“You’re probably wondering why I’m here instead of sitting with my dear sister?” Jason chuckled. “You see, I saw this beautiful woman running away in tears, and the southern gentleman in me just had to offer some aid to a lady in trouble.” The man turned on a deep southern drawl, his lips curved up into an impish smile. 

 

“Well, I’m sure your sister would object to you calling me a lady,” Stacie snorted in response. 

 

Jason let out a sharp snort in return, almost as though it were in mockery. “She thinks a lot higher of you than you realize. She thinks a lot higher of everyone than they realize, actually.” 

 

Stacie looked at him skeptically, waiting for him to continue. 

 

“Your name is Anastacia Conrad; you’re 22 years old, you’re an astrophysics and journalism major from Columbia University. You bend over backward for my sister and make her laugh even though she has a terrible sense of humor and can be a bitch and a half most of the time. And I say this all with complete love, as her older brother.”  

 

Stacie blinked in surprise; she hadn’t expected Jason to know who she was or the name of her college. “How-”

 

“Aubrey may have mentioned you a couple of times over the phone. It stopped recently, but I still remember how she talked about you on Thanksgiving. Which, sorry, by the way. I didn’t realize my Dad didn’t tell her about London. I just assumed she would get the memo. I appreciate you helping her out with the ring, though. I know it must have been cold that day; diving into the fountain was really above your pay grade.” 

 

“She pays for my entire apartment,” Stacie admitted. 

 

“Oh, in which case, never mind. And you’re still making forty thousand? Without dealing with rent? Wow, maybe Bree is an angel. That’s as much as I make now, and I have a chance of getting blown up for a living.” 

 

“I sometimes get close with her; I really wouldn’t be surprised at this rate,” Stacie quipped. Jason laughed; his laughter was loud and booming. A deep bark had Stacie wondering what Aubrey’s laughter sounded like. 

 

“She likes you, more than any of her past assistants, even Chloe, which was astounding in itself since she once brought Chloe with her to our Christmas trip in Aspen. She really doesn’t like being alone.” 

 

“She doesn’t?” Stacie exclaimed, skeptical. 

 

“No, when we were younger, when Mom was alive, she was never alone. She and Mom were always doing something together. Getting cloth shipped in, contacting designers, planning events. Mom used to do it all herself, and she insisted on showing Aubrey the ropes since Aubrey had the business mind that I lacked. She was the favorite. Dad adored her and groomed her to take over the family business; Mom was fighting and winning in her scheme to make Aubrey the next Editor of Bella. I guess when Mom died; she never got used to the quiet. I swear, every assistant I know says the same thing. She calls them in to do some inane task, whether it’s at her home or the office, just because she’s terrified to be left alone with her thoughts. After it happened and her relationship with Luke broke off, I thought maybe she’d never be the same again.” 

 

“How has she changed?” Stacie scoffed; the blonde’s words to her just a moment ago still rang loud and clear in her head. 

 

“Oh, she's definitely changed, trust me. You just can’t see it yet. She’s stubborn, rigid, and a little crazy, but deep down, she really likes you. Actually, you might be her first real friend since Mom died.” Stacie had to fight down the flutterings of hope she felt at Jason’s words. No, she wouldn’t line herself up for further disappointment. 

 

“Whether she liked me or not, it doesn’t matter now. I messed up, and she hates me. It’s just a matter of time before she fires me.” 

 

Another bark of laughter had Stacie whirling to look at the man, eyes filled with indignation and chagrin. “She won’t fire you, Stacie,” He smirked. 

 

“How do you know?” Stacie glowered at him; she wondered how intimidating she looked with mascara smeared from tears. 

 

“If she fired you, that would mean you would have to leave, and I don’t think she’s ready for that.” 

 

“Ready? So there might come a day where she is ready?” Stacie inferred. Jason shrugged and gave her another impish grin. 

 

“That, my dear Anastacia, is for you to find out, although if my hunch is correct, you’re not quite out of the running yet.”

Chapter Text

Christmas approached, and Stacie’s job was not getting any easier. Whatever had broken between her and Aubrey was nowhere close to fixed, and the brunette was at a loss on what to do. It didn’t help that Jason’s words of wisdom were proving quite useless in the endless onslaught of Aubrey’s irate behavior. Stacie was almost apt to give up. That is until it happened. 

 

“I’m going where?” Stacie spluttered. 

 

“Aspen,” Aubrey answered tersely. Stacie stood still in shock at the news; Aspen ? Why would Aubrey take her to Aspen? Aubrey hated her. “Why am I going to Aspen?” Stacie snapped; she was supposed to drive down to Pennsylvania, where her Grandparents expected the entire Conrad clan to gather. How was she going to explain her belated business trip to her mother?

 

“Aubrey, it’ll be Christmas. I have plans with my family,” Stacie argued. 

 

“No, you have a job. You’re to attend to me in Aspen during the Elias-Posen Charity event. We usually reserve it for January, but it’s been moved up this year because of Maria’s pregnancy. The entire family is expected to be there, and I won’t stand to be placed with some inane assistant with no clue what they’re doing.” 

 

Stacie tried to take it as a compliment that Aubrey preferred her over a random attendant, but she was still balking at the idea of telling her family she would be missing Christmas. “Isn’t the senior assistant supposed to attend to you outside of the office?” Stacie said. Hopefully, she felt bad for attempting to foist this new task on Chloe, but at least Chloe seemed like she actually wanted her job instead of merely tolerating it. 

 

“She has fallen ill, don’t think I haven’t noticed the pile of kleenex in the trash; I won’t have her infecting Maria with a baby on the way,” Aubrey scoffed. Stacie had never wanted to be sick more in her life, damn her immune system. “Aubrey, I told my family that I would be there for Christmas dinner,” Stacie implored the woman. She searched the blonde’s eyes for a single trace of their prior fondness but found none. 

 

“You’ll do your job Anastacia, or your last task will be finding your replacement,” Aubrey threatened. She had a fist clenched at her desk while the other hand tapped out a rhythm with long dexterous fingers. It looked as though Stacie was going to Aspen. 

 

 

The deterioration of their nonexistent relationship was something of a curiosity to the other members of Bella. When Stacie walked the halls, she could hear the stifling of whispers and gossip following her. One-half of the rumors theorized that she and Aubrey had slept together, while the other theorized that she had led Aubrey on and then slept with Luke. Neither of those rumors did her any favors in the grand scheme of things. 

 

It also wasn’t particularly great when one of her coworkers had seen her leaving with Luke for drinks. If everything works out, Luke’s friend will have her resume on the desk of the National Geographic Editor and Chief in no time. Stacie simply had to wait it out, she would get hired somewhere else, begin writing, actually be valued as an employee, and maybe she’d never had to see Aubrey again. Maybe she could pretend like the last thing was something to look forward to, as well.

 

Drinks had gone fantastically, at least. She had pulled herself together enough to be clever and charming, wowing Luke’s compatriots with her intelligence and charisma. When Stacie walked out of the bar with a pocket full of business cards, she felt she had won that night. Despite her failures with Aubrey, that is. 

 

The only complication had been when Luke insisted on seeing her home. The pair loaded into the back seat of a town car, where Luke slung an arm over her shoulders and began a conversation of barely concealed flirtation. Stacie entertained it for a little, laughing along and flirting back; after all, the man was gorgeous. But something felt wrong. His arm felt too thick and heavy; his eyes were the wrong shade. 

 

When the car stopped, she gave him a peck on the cheek and slid out of his grasp. He let her go, a boyish grin in place as he waved her goodbye. She wondered what was wrong with her for a moment, watching the sleek black car pull away. 

 

 

The issue with Aspen was that Stacie had no clue what to wear, so of course, she decided to run to her local fashion expert for advice. Suppose that fashion expert happened to be the Fashion Director at an International Fashion magazine, all the better. Cynthia Rose was standing before a model, finger caressing her chin as she contemplated the mysteries of chiffon. 

 

“CR, hey, can I ask you for a favor?” Stacie hissed; she tried to keep her voice low not to break the concentration of any of the designers in the room. 

 

“Give me a moment,” Cynthia Rose said; her eyes narrowed, and she thumbed a piece of lime lace sticking up. “This shade of green isn’t working.” Stacie watched as CR snapped her fingers and a small huddle of assistants shuffled into view. “Get me every shade of green we have in this material. Everything but lime, if I see lime again, I’ll sick Aubrey on you.” The assistants rushed to do as they were told; the threat was a common one around the office but effective. 

 

“What do you need, Legs?” CR grunted, finally. 

 

“What kind of clothing would one wear to Aspen with their highly selective boss?” Stacie forced a chuckle, although the humor of her situation hadn’t really arisen yet. 

 

“Oh, shit, she’s taking you to Aspen?” Cynthia Rose gawked. 

 

“Yeah, I don’t have a choice. They’re throwing a Charity event at their winter estate, and she wants someone familiar.” Stacie muttered all of this, mostly under her breath, so her friend had to strain to hear it. 

 

“Hey, from what I heard, Aspen with the Posen’s is amazing. They basically own their own ski lodge, just for the family. It’s located on a cliffside with a fantastic view of the town below. I google earthed it; they have a jacuzzi outside on a makeshift deck overlooking the mountains. It’s insane.” 

 

“What’s insane is that I have to spend Christmas with a fashion-obsessed nutcase instead of my family,” Stacie grumbled. 

 

“That is a drawback,” Cynthia Rose snorted, conceding the point to Stacie. “Think of it this way, imagine how many women would kill for your job. Kill even to walk these halls. I know Aubrey’s a pain, but she’s our pain, and I know you at least enjoy the free stuff.” 

 

Stacie rolled her eyes but ceased her whining; she really did enjoy the free stuff. 

 

Cynthia Rose set about collecting all the possible garments she would need in Aspen. Ranging from fur coats to underwear, Stacie was carrying several large bags of closet items when she made her exit. She stumbled towards the makeup section of the closet immediately and came upon Jessica for hairstyle advice, followed by Ashley for makeup. 

 

Jessica and Ashley were amazingly prepared for Stacie’s arrival. The pair each handed her a three-ring binder with a large collection of sketches, photos, and ‘How to’ directions for the perfect look for any social occasion. Once they tucked those books under Stacie’s already over-encumbered arms, the brunette made her way back to her desk, where she immediately called a driver to bring her new items to the apartment. 

 

“Aspen?” Chloe questioned. The redhead was holding a kleenex to her nose, and her eyes were slightly red. Stacie nodded in reply. 

 

“It won’t be too bad. They have staff on hand to take care of your every need. You really only have to deal with Aubrey’s phone calls, but I’ll be dealing with some here until Christmas Day,” Chloe said as cheerfully as she could plausibly muster. 

 

“Wait, until Christmas day? How long am I in Aspen?” Stacie sputtered. 

 

“Oh, she didn’t tell you? Your ticket is a red-eye tomorrow. I suggest you’re not late; it's her family’s private jet so that they won’t leave without you, but if you’re late, she’ll still kill you.”

 

Stacie froze in utter horror at the news. She thought she would be spending maybe two to three days with the financially saturated family. “I have to stay with her for a week?” 

 

“Actually, more like a week and a half. They don’t leave immediately; they usually stay for at least three to four days after to enjoy the slopes.”  

 

Stacie was going to kill Aubrey. 

 

 

The next day had Stacie standing bleary-eyed and grumbling in La Guardia Airport. She had one large luggage case and a duffel bag; her carry-on was a small Fendi backpack that CR had snagged for her a month or two ago. She had arrived at the airport right on time, 7 AM to be precise, and she had never had this particular dilemma before. Do I murder before or after coffee? 

 

Aubrey arrived at 7:30 AM wearing her yellow Michael Kors coat, Dior sunglasses, Balenciaga jeans, and black winter gloves. Her feet were adorned by stylish black boots that she used to make a clicking noise against the linoleum airport floors. “Anastacia, hurry up;” She barked at her family’s private gate. She seemed particularly irritated that morning. 

 

Stacie dropped her bags with the airplane staff and followed Aubrey through the gate. The blonde sped through the tunnel with astounding speed. When they finally emerged onto the plane, Stacie was slightly winded from attempting to keep up. However, she quickly caught her breath upon seeing the inside of the jet.

 

The seats were beige and leather, the floors were carpeted in a rich red. Legroom was a nonissue, with each seat having more than enough space to recline and nap. The flight attendants were wonderfully attentive, immediately fetching Aubrey a glass of champagne and Stacie a glass of sparkling water. Stacie watched Aubrey down her glass of champagne, eyes closed, in one go. 

 

“Please turn off your cellphones; we’ll begin to take off immediately, Ms. Posen,” The flight attendant said. 

 

Stacie shut off her phone and turned to watch Aubrey down another glass of champagne, a third bottle and glass at the ready for the blonde. It really was a party if Aubrey was actually relaxing. Stacie wondered if she could order some champagne for herself but thought better of it. Just because Aubrey allowed herself something did not mean Stacie was allowed as well. 

 

 

Stacie spent the plane ride in silence. Aubrey imbibed more alcohol than Stacie thought the blonde could take, so instead, she watched her boss oscillate between conscious and unconscious. Grateful for the quiet, regardless, Stacie used the time to catch up on her reading. She assumed that if Aubrey wanted her to do anything, the CEO would simply ask. After all, Stacie was stuck several thousand miles in the air with her; it wasn’t as though she was going anywhere. 

 

Four hours and six minutes later, Stacie felt the plane’s landing gear meet the tarmac and allowed a sigh of relief. She had managed to get through several chapters of her book, take a small nap, enjoy the view of the earth passing by below them, and eat some prime pieces of steak, all without having to take a single glance at her phone. In fact, Aubrey seemed to tense every time her hand went near her mobile device. After seeing the heiress’s hands twitch anxiously for the fourth time, Stacie simply stopped reaching for it. The behavior was absolutely odd, to say the least. 

 

Aubrey, who was about six glasses of Champagne, three rum and cokes, and a daiquiri or two in, seemed lethargic and clumsy compared to her usually alert self. The blonde walked well enough for someone of her BAC level, but her movements lacked their usual confidence and swagger. Now she almost lumbered through the tunnel and out into the airport. Stacie followed her bleary-eyed boss all the way past the gate and into the Posen’s private waiting area. 

 

Upon their emergence, Stacie immediately spotted Jason standing ramrod straight as only a soldier would. He grinned widely at the pair and waved excitedly. “Well, well, look who made it!” Jason greeted them merrily. Stacie couldn’t help the smile that broke across her face when she saw the blonde boy grab his very drunk sister and spin her around. “Hey Bree, get through the flight, okay?” 

 

His question was met by a mellow nod and a sudden yawn. Stacie almost wanted to coo over the sleepy blonde and how cute the woman appeared. It was only the woman’s fearsome reputation when not inebriated that halted Stacie’s urges in their tracks. “She was drinking on the flight, I assume,” Jason sighed. 

 

Jason took the blonde’s carry-on and wrapped a supportive arm around Aubrey’s hips. She sagged into him with the familiarity of a well-loved sibling. The two made quite the endearing pair.

 

“Yeah, is that bad?” Stacie worried for a moment about whether she was supposed to stop Aubrey. She dragged her bag and followed him out through the airport; the heavy buzz of activity and the flood of people blocked his response. 

 

“No, no, you couldn’t have stopped her if you wanted to. She just hates airplanes, it's a part of the job that she puts up with, but she hates it,” Jason finally answered as he waved away Stacie’s attempts to assist him with Aubrey. A sleek black car pulled up in front of them with a stranger driving. She watched as Jason dropped his sister into the back seat of the car; Aubrey seemed to pass out as soon as her head met the leather headrest.

 

“Why?” Stacie asked, quite dumbly, if Jason’s answer had anything to say about it. Because she knew this story already, she had just forgotten. 

 

“Our mom died in a plane crash, lightning hit the tail, and they went down on an island somewhere in the Atlantic,” Jason reminded her. Not that the man knew that she knew. To his knowledge, she had never heard this story before. Yet, Stacie felt incredibly stupid for not putting the two things together. 

 

Of course, Aubrey would be afraid of airplanes, just like Aubrey was scared of thunder. Stacie couldn’t imagine what it would be like to be scared of flying when flying was a primary form of transportation for her career. Stacie felt a brief urge to hug the other woman but pushed it back guiltily. How could she forget a detail like that?

 

“Does she do this every time? I’ve never seen her like this before.” Stacie inquired. 

 

Jason shrugged, “Has she ever called while on a plane before?” 

 

Stacie dropped into the back seat beside Aubrey while Jason walked to the car's front, she thought for a moment. Wondering. No. She hadn’t ever received a phone call while Aubrey was mid-flight. The blonde was always about to take off or at the airport when she called. Usually, if the flight were due to take off at a particular time, Stacie would take note of when that occurred because that was the longevity of her break. 

 

“No,” She murmured low enough that she wasn’t sure if Jason had heard her. Jason gave her a look through the rearview mirror to say, ‘See what I mean?’ But Stacie’s eyes were now focused entirely on the slumbering figure of the CEO beside her. 

 

The Posen’s Aspen Lodge was elegantly decorated with warm green and gold tones. The walls were paneled with thick wood, as though they were in a log cabin that interchanged with sharp, rugged stone that mimicked the mountain’s rockface. Thick glass windows made up the far-facing wall overlooking the town. Two of the panes transitioned into doors that open out onto a large terrace. A jacuzzi sat beneath the overhang, and a glass wall fenced in the stone jut out of the balcony. A flat-screen television ran parallel to a red leather couch above a built-in fireplace. 

 

Servants ran up to greet her immediately, grabbing her bags and leading Stacie to her room. Of course, the bedroom the servants led her to stuck to the decorative theme. She had a king-sized four-poster bed with a mountain of plush pillows, a royal crimson rug, and a dark wood dresser with a mirror mounted to the wall above it. The closet was a walk-in, and a bathroom was attached to the far wall. The room didn’t have a window, but it did have a sunroof. 

 

To Stacie’s knowledge, Aubrey’s room was direct across the hall from hers, which meant that she would be running into the blonde in the mornings during breakfast. If she were eating breakfast with the family unless she was expected to eat with the servants? 

 

That question was quickly answered when Jason popped his head in and informed Stacie that she was expected at the dining hall. When Stacie entered the beautifully furnished room, she was met with the stern gaze of one Dean Posen, co-owner of Elias-Posen and Aubrey’s father. Stacie noted that Aubrey definitely got her piercing gaze from her father, along with the green of her eyes. Although, Dean Posen’s hair was closer to chestnut, and his shoulders were twice as broad as Aubrey’s would ever be. He assessed Stacie’s person quickly before pursing his lips. “You’re the assistant, I’m assuming?” 

 

Stacie nodded cautiously, waiting for the man’s verdict. “Hmm, you’re a pretty one, that’s for sure. I hope you’re not just a nice face.”

 

“Dad!” Jason protested. 

 

“What? Aubrey needs smart people around her, not slackers. This one looks like she should be one of the models, not Aubrey’s assistant. The other one was pretty too, but I haven’t seen her for two years,” Dean Posen muttered gruffly.

 

“Dad, Chloe still works for Aubrey; you just haven’t been to any Bella event in years,” Jason admonished his father. 

 

“I’ve been busy; I can’t just appear at every cocktail party for Bella; other businesses need my attention. I’m sure Aubrey has everything handled; where is she anyway? Still sleeping off the flight?” 

 

Jason flashed Stacie an apologetic look before turning to his father. “You know she is; she never comes to dinner the day of the flight. We won’t hear from her until breakfast.” Jason’s answer was not one that Stacie expected, yet she was hardly surprised. Aubrey seemed to be positively corpse-like on the ride there, barely stirring as the servants helped Jason bring the blonde into her room. Maybe it was better the blonde was unconscious anyway, what with the current state of their professional relationship. To make polite conversation, Stacie decided to ask after Jason’s wife, Maria. That's how she learned that the other woman was expected the next day on account of the children’s extracurriculars. Jason had been sent ahead to prepare their rooms. 

 

Stacie sat down to dinner with Jason and the Posen Patriarch, albeit awkwardly. It was a large table, so the three clustered near the head, where Dean Posen sat. Despite Jason's efforts, the conversation barely concerned her, so Stacie patiently sat in silence and ate the three-course meal that the Posen’s professional chefs had curated. At the end of dinner, she politely took her leave and crept back to her room. She could see the snow falling in heavy clumps through the window and the beginning swirl of a storm. Jason and Dean Posen’s voices followed her down the corridor. She could tell it was going to be a long week and a half. 

 

 

Stacie awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of a scream and a crack of thunder. Stacie leaped out of bed, her hands scrabbling for something to defend herself with. Her fingers curled around her hardcover copy of Environmental Meteorology, where she brought it up over her shoulder in preparation to brain the incoming attacker. She was contemplating her chances of survival when she heard another crack of thunder, and the entirety of her brain’s faculties caught up to her. 

 

Thunder, screaming, alone in the dark. The answer was quite clear when Stacie thought about it, and after her earlier mistake, she wasn’t likely to forget again. Quickly, Stacie sprinted from her room and barged into Aubrey’s, forgetting the textbook was still in her hands. She heard a terrified and entirely endearing squeak followed by the ruffling of many blankets. “Aubrey?” Stacie whispered. 

 

“Go away,” A muffled reply came back through sniffles. It sounded almost like the blonde had been crying. Stacie hit the switch for the light on the wall, hoping the placement was a mirror to her own room. When the lights turned on, she saw a lump under a large comforter and a pile of pillows. Stacie withheld a snort and approached the proverbial lump; she made sure to drop the textbook and kick it under the bed with her barefoot. “Aubrey, you can come out; it’s safe.” Her words were punctuated by another pound of thunder that reverberated through the mountain. Aubrey shook under her blankets, giving away her position. 

 

Stacie sighed, she knew Aubrey would kill her for it, but she felt a strong dose of pity for the woman at that moment. Not only had she just flown four hours, but now she was subjected to the echo of thunder across the mountain peaks of Aspen. Driven by concern, Stacie did something she didn’t expect. She climbed onto Aubrey’s bed and started to peel back the blankets. 

 

“Aubrey, come on, get out from under the blankets,” Stacie urged the woman. Finally, she managed to pry the sheets from Aubrey’s fingers and was met by quite the sight. Aubrey curled in her average clothes one would find in target, hugging a pillow, eyes shut to the world. Stacie barely suppressed a grin at the image; who knew Aubrey was a cuddler? 

 

“Aubrey, come on, open your eyes,” Stacie hummed soothingly. Unknown to the brunette, she had moved her hand to cover the blonde’s, rubbing a thumb in circles across Aubrey’s knuckles. “Did you know that lightning helps plants grow?” Stacie whispered. Aubrey remained silent, but her sniffling stopped, so Stacie continued. “Yeah, plants rely on a process called nitrogen fixation. The extreme heat of a lightning strike causes nitrogen to bond with oxygen and later creates nitrate-rich water. Lightning is an imperative part of the ecosystem. I know what happened was terrible, but the chances of it happening again wouldn’t-”

 

“Why do plants need lightning?” Aubrey asked quietly. 

 

Stacie startled for a moment at the blonde’s question but rushed to answer. “The process of nitrogen fixation is usually done by algae and other parts of the environment, but lightning helps a lot by creating enough heat. The nitrogen wouldn’t bond properly without it. It’s actually kind of cool. I learned about it in my meteorology class.” Aubrey was pouting as she stared hard at her pillow, so Stacie changed tack a little. “Did you also know that until the late 18th century, people thought bells could prevent lightning strikes? They would inscribe the bells with the words fulgura frango, which means ‘I chase lightning.’ For the longest time, people have disliked and fought against lightning storms. It’s okay, and it’s a common part of humanity. But we learn and grow from it.” 

 

Another crack of thunder shook the room, and Aubrey let out another ear-splitting cry as a flash of light split across her window, followed by another rumble. Stacie sprang forward and wrapped the other girl in her arms, holding so tightly that she could feel Aubrey’s heartbeat pumping erratically in the other girl’s chest. “It’s okay, you’re safe,” Stacie murmured into the crown of Aubrey’s head. 

 

She had never expected this level of fear from the other woman. She had seen Aubrey in a thunderstorm before; the hurricane seemed minor compared to their current situation, and clearly, science facts weren't helping. “What do you usually do during thunderstorms?” Stacie inquired as gently as she could. Aubrey hesitated for a moment before murmuring one word, ‘Music.’ Stacie paused and thought hard about what she could do about music. Finally, she came to a decision. 

 

Clearing her voice, she began to sing. High and clear, she started the song. It was a song she had heard Chloe humming along to, but it’s one she knew. “ I’m doing good; I’m on some new shit. Been saying yes instead of no; I thought I saw you at the bus stop, but I didn’t, though.” Stacie felt Aubrey’s arms tighten around her. She also heard a slight hitch of the other girl’s breath; Stacie kept singing. 

 

“We never painted by the numbers, baby, but we were making it count. You know the greatest loves of all time are over now.” Aubrey started to hum the tune with her, the sounds of the storm were starting to lessen, or maybe they were distracting themselves. “ If one thing had been different, would everything be different today?”   It was a good question.

 

Stacie wondered idly whether things could have been different between her and Aubrey? Were they heading in a direction unknown to both of them? Did she want to start something, something different? Could they after Stacie messed up? “We were something, don't you think so? Rose to flow with your chosen family, and it would’ve been sweet. If it could’ve been me? "  Could've been me? Stacie wondered what she was getting out of this confusing mess of a relationship, but her thoughts were interrupted when Aubrey started to sing the lyrics as well, their eyes meeting as they sank into the moment. 

 

“It would’ve been fun if you would’ve been the one.” Their voices harmonized, and Stacie felt the strong urge to lean in and capture Aubrey’s lips. Despite the cold shoulder that had lasted for weeks and despite the frustration of having her family Christmas interrupted. She couldn’t deny the unadulterated chemistry between them at that moment. Aubrey’s eyes stared unblinkingly at Stacie as the blonde pulled a bottom lip between teeth. Stacie thought she might have stopped breathing. 

“Thank you,” Aubrey mumbled. Stacie’s lips quirked up at the corners, and the blossoming of hope returned. Hope for what, she still wasn’t certain. “Of course, just doing the decent thing.” It was the wrong thing to say. As soon as the words left Stacie’s lips, she saw a shadow cross the blonde’s face. Disappointment? Irritation? Frustration? Whatever it was, previously soft green eyes had hardened back into their regularly piercing glare. 

 

“Right, you would help anyone, even your boss from hell,” Aubrey snapped. Stacie jerked back, her arms leaving their place from around the blonde. “I didn’t mean that; how long are you going to hold that over me?” 

 

“How long are you going to look at me like I’m damaged?” Aubrey argued back. Stacie scoffed, “I’m not looking at you like you’re damaged, Aubrey. It’s called empathy; maybe you should try it sometime.” Stacie scooted off the bed as gracefully as she could manage and stood to her full height; Aubrey knelt on the bed, arms crossed. “Please, every time you help me out of an unseemly situation, you get this look in your eye, and you stare at me like there’s something on my face.” Stacie made a completely unbecoming sound in response that was a cross between a snort and a scoff. “Look? What look? You must be joking. That or delusional.”

 

“Delusional? Do you think I don’t notice how everyone looks at me? What everyone thinks of me? I do my job every day, and all I get is dirty looks and disdainful mutterings. I know perfectly well what everyone thinks of me; I just don’t have the time to care because I have a business to run. So I’m sorry, Anastacia, if I don’t wait for you to spit out what you really feel while I try to keep my mother’s legacy afloat,” Aubrey was practically snarling at the end of her tirade. Her chest was heaving, and tears had sprung back to her eyes. Her hair was tousled, and her nose was slightly red from crying. Stacie really wanted to kiss her, at least to shut the other woman up. 

 

“There’s that look again,” Aubrey scoffed. Stacie’s brain stalled at that moment, the realization hitting her. That look. It wasn't pity she was seeing; it wasn't sorrow or bitterness. At that moment, Stacie was contemplating kissing the other woman. Stacie almost laughed. Almost.  Instead, Stacie did the one thing she had been thinking of doing since their moment in the fountain. If Aubrey was going to be blithely unaware of what simmered between them, Stacie was going to make it as obvious as possible. 

 

Stacie slid back towards the bed and leaned in as close to Aubrey as she could without actually brushing her lips against the blondes. She needed Aubrey to realize for herself what was going on between them. “You really think it's a pity,” her breath played across the blonde’s lips; their mouths were millimeters apart. She saw Aubrey gulp; she felt the trail of Aubrey’s eyes on her lips before flitting back to Stacie’s unwavering gaze. 

 

“What else could it be?” Aubrey replied resolutely. Stacie paused, her body buzzing with the tension of the moment. “What do you want it to be?” Stacie questioned in return. Confusion lapsed across Aubrey’s face, a pout like no other appearing firmly on her face. Stacie wanted to suck on that bottom lip. A loud clap of thunder grabbed Aubrey’s attention, jerking the two away from each other as Aubrey shook slightly. “Do you think the storm will let up soon?” She asked hopefully. Stacie pursed her lips and considered the sky. Snow was drifting down in large clumps, and frequent flickers of lightning were crackling across the sky. She had a feeling the storm was set to linger for quite some time. When she told Aubrey as much, the blonde frowned and stared worriedly out the window. 

 

“Is there any way we can table our argument and get back to it at a later date?” Aubrey implored. Stacie rolled her eyes but assented. She wasn’t going to pull a confession out of her anal-retentive boss in the midst of the girl’s worst nightmare. That just seemed excessively cruel. “What would you like to do instead,” Stacie said with amusement.

 

“I need to go to sleep, we have event planning to handle tomorrow, and I need to be well-rested,” Aubrey answered. 

 

“Oh, okay,” Stacie exclaimed; she looked at the time and scowled. It was 4 AM; she really should go back to sleep. “Alright, I’ll go back to my room, if you need me, call-”

 

“Well, I was actually wondering if you could stay here with me. I don’t sleep well during storms, and it’s worse when I’m alone. It's better if you stay here, so I don’t have to call one of the live-in maids.” Aubrey’s request was a surprising one, but Stacie couldn’t find it in herself to argue. After all, no more than five minutes prior, she had been debating the merits of kissing the blonde. Sleeping next to Aubrey certainly wasn’t too far of a stretch, especially if it was for practical reasons. Such as Aubrey’s sleep schedule. It was, after all, Stacie’s job to help Aubrey function professionally, right? This was just another way to be a good assistant.

 

Stacie climbed into the bed beside Aubrey and pulled up the covers. She felt Aubrey shift beside her. The heat of the other woman’s body was quite gratifying. “We’ll continue this discussion later, Anastacia,” Aubrey said curtly. 

 

“Aubrey,” Stacie groaned. She turned over towards the object of her ire, their faces inches apart.

 

“Hmm?” 

 

“If you call me Anastacia again, I’ll get up and leave;” Stacie’s threat was half-hearted, and Stacie didn't think she would actually manage to crawly out of the softness of the bed and the warmth the other woman provided. Still, she heard a resigned sigh emanate from beside her. “Of course, Stacie,” Aubrey said begrudgingly. Stacie smiled as the lights turned off, settling in for the night with Aubrey’s head nuzzled into the crook of her neck, pulling her close in the dark. 

Chapter Text

It started with a voice. 

It was common knowledge in the world that everyone had the other half. Whether that other half was meant to be platonic or romantic was up to you, but everyone had a person. This phenomenon was called a soul link and usually developed as a person matured. It would start lightly, revealing itself in different ways in different people. Some people would have colors and drawings appear on their skin to match that of their far-off soulmate. Others would have dreams where they would interact together. The rare lucky few would have instant knowledge of that person’s name, allowing the alert parent to write the name down if their child should meet that important person later. 

Whatever the various signs were, people had them. The signs would appear at different ages as well, coinciding with the birth of that child’s soulmate. For Aubrey, it started when she was four. She had just turned four a little more than three months prior when she felt it for the first time—the Link. An onslaught of urgency overcame her, and her parents watched in utter bewilderment as she began to doodle a new set of initials in her coloring book. AC. AC, AC, AC. Her parents smiled and picked their daughter up, pleased to see that she did indeed have a soulmate out there in the world. 

As Aubrey grew up, she kept a customary ‘AC’ scrawled on the inside of her wrist. Her parents had placed it there to keep the important initials in her mind; after all, one didn’t want to miss their chance at eternal happiness. As time passed, more signs appeared. Swirling doodles on her legs or a song she couldn’t get out of her head. A tall brunette sometimes visited her dreams with the most beautiful eyes Aubrey had ever seen. 

All of these signs were remarkably normal, especially the song sharing. In fact, Aubrey tried her best to keep away from any songs that were painfully annoying out of pure consideration for her soulmate. God forbid she gets ‘First there is a Mountain’ by The Bob’s stuck in her head. 

However, it had been a particularly frustrating day for her 19-year-old self when the strangest thing happened. Her soulmate spoke to her. 

Yes, Aubrey was aware that soulmates were linked inexorably for the entirety of their lives, but usually, telepathy strong enough to encourage conversations was unheard of. But clear as day, Aubrey heard a wonderful voice sound in her mind, and it was not saying the nicest things in the world. 

Hey, soulmate, if you can hear me for whatever reason, please turn off your terrible music, or I’ll find Ace of Base and kill them myself.” 

Aubrey froze, pausing mid scrawl as the voice disappeared and images flashed in her head. One of which showed the lead singer of Ace of Base being hit by an electric guitar. It would have been quite comical if the situation wasn’t so odd. “ Hello?” She said mentally, dumbfounded at the day’s turn of events. 

She felt sudden tension between her shoulder blades and a pinch of panic that wasn’t quite her own. Or at least she didn’t think it was; she still had trouble figuring out who’s emotions were who’s on certain days. (Yes, periods were a nightmare) 

“Did, what? Hello?” The voice responded quickly and loudly. Aubrey felt the urge to wince, even though her eardrums were definitely not affected. The sensation of someone else speaking in her head was definitely a new one, and it came with an uncomfortable pressure on her skull. It almost felt as though someone had taken a finger and poked it into her head, hard. “ Hello? Soulmate, person? AC?” The voice came again. Aubrey paused for a moment in confusion, ‘AC?’ Those letters were supposed to be her soulmate’s initials. Why would they refer to her as AC? 

“I have AC written on my wrist almost every day,” The voice answered. Aubrey blinked and sucked idly on the back of her pen; the realization made sense, of course. Her soulmate would not incur the same Link symptoms as her; there would undoubtedly be some confusion. “ My initials are ARP, actually,” Aubrey relayed the message as best she could. If she were, to be honest, she wouldn’t be surprised if her message didn’t quite send. It wasn’t as though she knew what she was doing. 

Oh, ARP? What does that stand for?” Her mystery soulmate inquired. Curious. Aubrey suppressed a spike of excitement at the prospect. “ Oh, my name is Aubrey-” Aubrey’s thoughts were harshly interrupted by a sudden sensation of being very winded. The blonde shut her eyes and inhaled deeply at the unpleasantness of the feeling; it was almost as though someone had punched her in the stomach... 

 

 

Stacie had been hit very hard in the stomach. You see, she was currently in the middle of volleyball practice for her High School when the lyrics of The Sign started playing through her head. While Stacie was not a violent person by any means, she seriously wondered if hunting down your soulmate to slap them was out of the question. Yet, when her displeasure was internally expressed, she received a shocking reply. 

Absolutely taken aback, Stacie managed to lose herself in the developing conversation and forget that she was indeed in the midst of Volleyball practice. This also meant that Stacie was unaware of the white ball hurling through the air in the direction of her head. Bouncing off the side of her head, she fell onto the ground hard, knocking the air from her lungs upon impact. However, that initial impact would have been fine if the ball didn’t get spiked back into her gut. Whatever air was left in her stomach immediately left her body, and consequently her, gasping and coughing. 

By the time the coach’s whistle sounded, and Stacie got her breath back, the full feeling in the back of her head had dissipated. Instead, she was left feeling highly conscious of just how empty her brain felt without her supposed soulmate’s thoughts. Once the silence settled, she was left with one thought. Her soulmate’s name was Aubrey. 

Chapter Text

“Aubrey…” Stacie whined. She was lying in bed, trying not to move; the usually soft feeling of the blankets was only painful now. Aubrey walked into the room with a mixture of amusement and concern on her features. “Still hurts?” The blonde inquired. Stacie nodded her head slowly and let out a big sigh. 

 

“Come cuddle and make me feel better;” Stacie’s request was a relatively easy one, but that didn’t stop Aubrey from shaking her head no. 

 

“If the blankets hurt, I don’t want to know how much it would hurt if I touched you,” Aubrey said. 

 

Stacie groaned. Stupid sunburn. 

 

Stacie had gone to the beach with Cynthia Rose, Lily, and Flo the day before while Aubrey was busy. When Stacie came back, she was bright red and quite uncomfortable, much to Aubrey’s chagrin. 

 

“You do realize that sunblock is a requirement for white people, right?” Aubrey pointed out exasperatedly. 

 

“But I did use sunblock,” Stacie griped back. 

 

“Did you reapply often?” Aubrey snorted. 

 

Stacie let out a pitiful moan and promptly face-planted into the bed, no. She had not reapplied; in fact, she had only used the 30 SPF that CR, Flo, and Lily had provided. Her very not white friends had the gift of tanning within their gene pool. Stacie, on the other hand, did not. Breaking from her reverie, Stacie turned back to look at Aubrey, who was resolutely standing at the door with an eyebrow raised. 

 

“Come cuddle, please,” She implored her girlfriend. She knew it would hurt, but if it meant Aubrey was holding her, Stacie was sure that it was worth it. Aubrey sighed and approached the bed cautiously. Climbing onto the mattress, Aubrey laid a hesitant hand on Stacie’s arm. 

 

“Ouch,” Stacie yelped, shifting away at the burning sensation out of reflex. Aubrey leaped away from the bed quickly and crossed her arms. “See, I told you cuddling was a bad idea,” Aubrey snorted. 

 

Stacie turned over and stretched her arms out towards the blond needily. “No, I was just surprised; it was a reflex. Please come back.” Aubrey looked at Stacie sadly, sorely tempted to do as Stacie wanted, but the idea of causing the brunette pain was obviously too much of a drawback. 

 

“How about some aloe?” Aubrey offered instead. “We have some aloe gel in the fridge; if you take your shirt off, I can rub it into your back.” 

 

“That sounds nice,” Stacie hummed. She quickly rushed to discard her shirt and turn it onto her belly. The feeling of her tight and red skin was incredibly uncomfortable, but the offer of an aloe massage was incredibly enticing. 

 

Aubrey returned with a bright green bottle of aloe gel and squeezed a generous amount onto her palms. “Where do you want me?” She asked courteously. 

 

“Well, usually I like you underneath me, but something tells me you won’t go for it,” Stacie teased. Aubrey rolled her eyes and crawled onto the bed to straddle Stacie’s thighs. The brunette winced slightly at the settling of the pressure, but the immediate feeling of cool gel-covered hands on her back was instantly soothing. 

 

“Mmm, more please,” Stacie moaned. 

 

Aubrey’s cheeks colored at the intonation, “I’ll admit that this is not how I pictured hearing those words today.” 

 

Stacie laughed, “I’m sorry I got sunburn on the one day off you’ve had all week.” 

 

Aubrey lathered more gel on her hands and settled them on Stacie’s oversensitive skin. “I can’t say I pictured this scenario when I planned today out, but I can’t say I’m not at least entertained.” 

 

“Are you laughing at my pain?” Stacie pouted. 

 

“No, I’m laughing at how ridiculous you are. Most people don’t want people to touch them when their skin feels like it’s on fire.”

 

“Hey, you always make me feel like I’m on fire when you’re around,” Stacie grinned. 

 

“That sounds painful,” Aubrey quipped. 

 

Stacie rolled her eyes, “You know what I mean.” 

 

"Are you saying you burn for me, Stacie?" Aubrey teased.

 

"What if I am?" Stacie challenged.

 

To her utter surprise, Stacie heard the ruffle of clothing and turned her bed as best she could to see what Aubrey was doing. Aubrey’s shirt hit the bed beside her head along with a bra, just as she managed to rest her cheek against the pillow. Stacie’s grin widened as she felt another layer of gel squirt out onto her back. “So we are cuddling?” She said hopefully. 

 

“Yes, but we’re going to have to wash the sheets tomorrow; we’re going to need a lot more aloe to make this work.” Aubrey laid out on top of Stacie, pressing her bare front to Stacie’s naked back. The couple sighed in contentment as the cooling effect of the gel seeped into their pores. “I love you,” Stacie hummed. 

 

“I love you too,” Aubrey whispered the words into the shell of Stacie’s ear, causing the younger woman to shiver. 

 

“When I get better, you’re getting so lucky,” Stacie mumbled; her eyes were beginning to feel heavy with just how relaxed she felt. “I look forward to it,” Aubrey mumbled back.

Chapter Text

Aspen was a bright sheet of white when Stacie awoke. Aubrey’s window revealed snow-capped mountain peaks and an equally snowy town far below. Stacie felt incredibly warm and comfortable wrapped up in Aubrey’s bed; the pair had fallen asleep curled together and had consequently stayed that way. Currently, Aubrey’s breath was tickling the crook of Stacie’s neck, and the brunette was loath to move. 

 

A knock on the door broke Stacie from her reverie; her eyes widened when she saw the door begin to open. How would it look if she was found in Aubrey’s room, in her boss’s bed nonetheless? It didn’t help that the blonde’s arms were firmly wrapped around her middle, holding their bodies tight against each other. Stacie began to wriggle away, doing her best to keep the CEO sleeping peacefully. She barely managed to pry herself away and tumble over the edge of the bed before the door was thrown open. Stacie slid under the large gap beneath the fourposter as she saw shiny polished wingtips appear. 

 

“Hey, Aubs,” Jason’s voice sounded, presumably the owner of the wingtips. Why he was dressed so sharply so early in the morning was a mystery to Stacie, but she wasn’t in a position to comment. “Aubrey,” Jason said more insistently.

 

Stacie heard the ruffling of blankets and a disgruntled groan from what could only be her bedmate. “Sis, we need you to wake up. The caterers arrived early; they wanted to know the preferred menu.”

 

“What time is it?” Aubrey grumbled. Stacie suppressed a smile; the other woman's voice was downright adorable, half asleep. Who knew her anal-retentive boss could sound so cute?

 

“It’s ten; the meeting is in thirty minutes. Time to get dressed;” Stacie watched the wingtips retreating. They reached the doorway before they turned back around to face Aubrey’s bed. “Oh yeah, that includes you too, Stacie. Feel free to get out from beneath the bed whenever you want. I’m sure it’s not comfortable down there.”

 

Stacie flushed in slight embarrassment at the man’s words. How did he know she was in here? With a sigh, she slid out from beneath the bed and dusted herself off. Wincing a little, she rubbed the spot where something had dug deep into her ribs. Aubrey was sitting up in her bed, hair tousled and eyes still filled with sleep. Her bottom lip was held firmly between teeth, and her cheeks were a bright red. Stacie thought the sight was quite endearing, not that she would tell the other woman that. 

 

“Morning,” Stacie offered Aubrey an awkward smile that the blonde quickly matched. 

 

“Morning, I expect there’s no need to mention this back at the office,” Aubrey sniffed peevishly. 

 

Stacie sighed, back to the daily grind it was. “Of course, Aubrey.” 

Aubrey rose from the bed and wandered over to her massive walk-in closet. Stacie took the blonde’s blithe ignorance of her presence as her dismissal and promptly left. Instead, she crossed the hall to her room and began to pick out the day’s outfit. Stripping quickly, she donned the matching lace bra and panty set she had packed before turning to figure out the remainder of the day’s clothing. 

 

“Anastacia, did I say you could -” Aubrey let out an odd noise that sounded like a cross between a squeak and a cough. If Stacie didn’t know better, the brunette would have thought the CEO swallowed her tongue. Turning around, Stacie met her boss’s gaze with a self-satisfied smirk. She did not miss the lingering of Aubrey’s eyes on her body. 

 

“Yes, Aubrey?” Stacie simpered for effect. She crossed her arms, only increasing her already ample cleavage. Aubrey’s cheeks colored, and the other woman stumbled back a step, eyes flickering to the ceiling. 

 

“Um, I-” Aubrey stammered. Stacie couldn’t help the Cheshire grin that split across her face. 

 

“Yes?” She took a step forward, and Aubrey tripped backward, catching herself on the door, which snapped shut. Effectively trapping Aubrey against the door with Stacie half-naked in front of her. “Did you want to tell me something, Miss Posen?” Stacie teased the other woman lightly. Aubrey shut her eyes and swallowed, centering herself. 

 

“Stacie, I did not dismiss you from my room. I had a list of tasks for you to complete, and when I turned around, you weren’t there,” Aubrey said very quickly. Her eyes remained closed after the words left her lips. Stacie drew closer and raised a hand to rest against the door. Grateful for her height advantage, Stacie leaned down, so her nose was within a half-inch of Aubrey’s. Just because she wasn’t going to kiss her boss didn’t mean she couldn’t have any fun. 

 

“What would you like me to do?” Stacie’s breath played against Aubrey’s lips; nails scrabbled slightly against the door. 

 

“Anastacia, be professional,” Aubrey snapped. Stacie laughed and backed away, unwilling to push further. If anything were to happen between them, not that Stacie wanted that, Aubrey would have to make the first move. She would fitz with the channel, but the message had to be loud and clear, just  like a radio. 

 

“What did you need me to do?” Stacie reiterated. Finding an appropriate shirt for a meeting, she pulled on the white button-up. “I have a shirt now,” She announced, smirking when Aubrey chanced a look at her and flushed red again. Just because Stacie said she had on a shirt didn’t mean she had procured pants. She did love how long her legs were sometimes. 

 

“I need you to procure the list of bands that are auditioning, the guest list, and the table centerpieces. I also need you to get a confirmation for the venue, catering, and -” Aubrey paused and bit her lip. Stacie chanced a flirtatious wink at the other woman, loving how Aubrey simply flushed a deeper red. “Just- put some pants on,” Aubrey finally grumbled before dashing from the room. Stacie’s laugh followed the blonde down the hallway. 

 

The Christmas Fundraiser was set to go off without a hitch. Stacie had spent the past three days finalizing the details before the big night finally arrived. The next day was Christmas Eve, and if everything went off without a hitch, Stacie was hoping to persuade Aubrey to allow a family phone call in the middle of the Posen Family Christmas Eve dinner. If the fundraiser went really well, maybe Aubrey would let Stacie go home to spend Christmas with her own family. Perhaps the blonde would even pay for the flight. 

 

Stacie left her room that evening in a long red Versace gown and a thick black faux fur. It was snowing in Aspen, and the Posen’s weren’t apt to forgive a fashion faux pas during one of their high-profile events. Jason sat in the driver’s seat of his large black SUV; his hands were planted firmly on the wheel. Maria, who had arrived the day before, sat in the passenger’s seat with their son and daughter in the back. 

 

Aubrey stepped past the threshold and onto the lodge's front lawn, dressed in an emerald green dress and white fur, which Stacie assumed was real. Catching Stacie’s gaze, Aubrey offered her assistant a small smile and a quick, “I inherited it from my grandmother, Dad’s side. Grandpa Desmond hunted the foxes himself.” Stacie wasn’t sure how alarmed she looked, but Aubrey promptly ignored it. Her father was from the deep south, after all. Stacie spent a small portion of her time battling her conscience about animal rights, but how amazing Aubrey looked seemed to win out in the end as her dominating thought.

 

Stacie was packed into the car with Aubrey, while Aubrey's father opted to linger in the lodge before joining them later. It seemed the man would do anything to avoid being alone with Aubrey, a pattern that Stacie had noted throughout their stay with them. When Aubrey walked into a room, Mr. Posen would suddenly become incredibly busy, springing to his feet and taking a phone call that hadn’t yet rung. When Jason was there, the man would often remain in the room, talking to Jason about Matthew and Josie. When forced to speak with Aubrey, Mr. Posen would usually revert to business talk. The most in-depth conversation Stacie had heard between Aubrey and the girl’s father was about company stocks. Every other time, wherever Aubrey was, Mr. Posen wasn’t. 

 

The Posen Charity Fundraiser was located in an exorbitant ballroom in an exorbitantly expensive hotel. The tables were evenly spaced, a stage stood across the hall from the great oak double doors, and a chandelier dominated the decor with a million shimmering lights. Stacie had already set up the live band and was in the middle of a soundcheck when Stacie entered with Aubrey at her side. Jason led Maria to a table and pulled a chair out for his increasingly pregnant wife. 

 

“Do they have the”

 

“Mozzarella sticks? Yeah, I got them just for you; they’re in the kitchen;” Jason finished his wife’s thoughts and kissed her on the forehead before streaking off in search of the catering staff. Aubrey busied herself discussing business with her father; they were currently running through the order of their speeches while Stacie traipsed over to Maria’s side. 

 

“Is this seat taken?” 

 

Maria looked up at her and smiled. She was a pretty woman, thick lips and long brown curly hair, olive skin, and a dainty mole above her lip. It was all very Marilyn Monroe of her. “Seat’s open as long as you don’t expect me to use baby talk with you.” 

 

Stacie laughed, “I’ll try my best to keep up with an adult speech.” 

 

“Atta, girl,” Maria chuckled. “So, how long have you been working for Aubrey now?” 

 

“Hmm, I’m going to have to offer my own rule here. No talking about my job,” Stacie said, feigning a dramatic groan. 

 

“Fair, fair, so Stacie, correct?” Stacie nodded. “Stacie, what do you want for Christmas?” 

 

“Really? That’s what we’ve resorted to?” Stacie chuckled. 

 

Maria shrugged, “I can’t ask about your job, and that’s the only thing I know about you.” 

 

Stacie considered the other woman’s point and sighed. “Fine, you’re right. Ask away.”

 

“No, no, now I want to hear about what you want for Christmas,” Maria exclaimed. Stacie groaned. 

 

“It’s not interesting, I swear,” Stacie argued. 

 

“Humor me, I’m fat, I’m cranky, and I haven’t had sex in weeks,” Maria grumbled. 

 

Stacie’s jaw dropped, and she looked around frantically for any eavesdroppers before she remembered that Maria wasn’t an employee; she had married into the family. It would be tough to fire her. “Well, on the sex thing, it’s been months for me,” Stacie admitted. Maria gasped. 

 

“Really? But you’re young and gorgeous.”

 

“I also work every available hour of the day when I’m not unconscious,” Stacie pointed out. “What’s your excuse, though? Jason’s here, and he seems attentive.”

 

“Oh, he is; I just haven’t been in the mood lately, what with the baby and all,” Maria shrugged. “I usually am by now, but this time all I want to do is sit on a couch and eat six pints of Ben and Jerry’s.” 

 

Stacie continued to lament her lack of a sex life with Maria until Aubrey called her over to assist in the setup. Bidding Maria goodbye, Stacie made a note that not all of the Posen family were clinically insane. The ones that married into the family were alright. Stacie came to stand beside Aubrey as the first guests arrived. Stacie would whisper the person’s identity into Aubrey’s ear before each greeting so the other woman could greet them by name. It was strange not having Chloe there, but Stacie had to admit she enjoyed the feeling of leaning in close to Aubrey’s ear and letting her breath tickled the shell of Aubrey’s ear. Sometimes she would set a hand upon Aubrey’s shoulder and allow her voice to drop an octave or two, low and lascivious. Other times she’d be the picture-perfect assistant and even smile in place as she murmured their name quickly and concisely. 

 

Her lack of predictability meant that Aubrey flushed a light pink every time Stacie leaned in, regardless of her tone. When greetings were over, and all the guests had arrived, Aubrey flashed Stacie a warning glare but said nothing. Instead, the blonde led Stacie around the ballroom, schmoozing all the one-percenters. 

 

When dinner came around, Stacie was seated beside Aubrey at the Posen table. To say she was suspicious at first was an understatement considering the last time she had been given a seat beside Aubrey, but the blonde's behavior soon assuaged her trepidation. To Stacie’s utter amazement, the heiress seemed to be almost polite? While the waiters milled about with serving trays, Aubrey would provide side commentary about the food being served.

 

“That’s gnocchi in a sage butter sauce; it’s quite the delicacy, you should try it,” Aubrey exclaimed. Stacie took a tentative spoon full and placed it in her mouth; she instantly let out a satisfied moan at the delectable taste. “See, told you,” Aubrey beamed for a moment, her eyes softening as she stared at the dish. “My mom and I used to make a simpler version.” 

 

Aubrey quickly collected herself, “Get the caterer to give you the recipe so I can pass it on to my private chef.” Her orders were brisk and lacking in all previous endearment, but Stacie didn’t have it in her to get mad. This was, after all, one of the few times she had seen her boss’s compassionate side. “Of course, Aubrey,” Stacie said instead between bites. 

 

Aubrey’s stream of commentary dropped off after that. Instead, Aubrey turned to talk to Maria about the upcoming baby while Stacie polished off her meal. Jason spoke to his father excitedly about something while the Posen grandparents leaned in to listen, and two chairs sat empty beside them where Luke and his father were supposed to sit. However, the pair were running late since their flight got delayed from Japan. 

 

Just as Stacie was wondering whether she had to find someone to fill those seats, Luke and his father walked in wearing Dolce Gabbana suits; the two men cut through the fundraiser guests and took their seats with matching smiles and glimmering hazel eyes. “Hello, sorry for the wait; the traffic to get here was hard with the snow and all;” his usual charming grin accompanied Luke’s apology. Mr. Posen waved away the younger man’s concerns with a genial chuckle and a pat on the shoulder. 

 

“No worries, son, you can’t control air traffic,” the billionaire said. Luke gave Mr. Posen his own pat of the shoulder and pulled his chair closer to the table. Stacie didn’t miss his quick wink in her direction. “Thank you for understanding, Dean. How was Quebec?” The two men launched into a discussion about business while Jason struck up a conversation with Luke’s father about hunting. Stacie sat silently at her seat, picking through the food on her plate. 

 

Stacie had finished her food and was demurely sipping at her drink when an announcer’s voice filled the banquet hall. “Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for attending the twenty-first Elias-Posen Scholarship fundraiser….” 

 

The announcer continued speaking while Stacie tuned them out. The waiters had just dropped off a new plate of dishes. “West African Chicken Stew,” Luke said excitedly. Stacie looked at the bowl of chicken and rice covered in red sauce with interest. “I got the caterer’s number from Chloe and requested it special,” Mr. Elias explained when Aubrey’s brow furrowed in confusion. The dish was not on her list of approved food items. Stacie smirked when Aubrey poked a piece of chicken tentatively with her fork. 

 

“Stacie, try it,” Luke urged. 

 

Stacie turned her attention from Aubrey and stuck her fork in the bowl, spearing a piece of chicken. Scooping up some rice with it, she popped the fork into her mouth and chewed slowly. It was good, the flavor was incredible, and Stacie immediately dug her fork in for more. She saw Aubrey take a tentative bite as well out of the corner of her eye. That’s when things started happening very quickly. 

 

The announcer called out Aubrey’s name for her speech during the auction, and Stacie watched the blonde rise. Aubrey made it five feet from the table when Stacie noticed her shaking a little. Something was wrong. Stacie rose as well and found herself rushing to loop her arm through Aubrey’s, helping the other woman weave through the tables and chairs. The lights were bright, and someone had shone a spotlight on them; it followed them as they walked. As they were climbing the steps of the stage, Aubrey’s breathing sounded sharp and wrong. Almost as though she were wheezing. 

 

“Aubrey?” Stacie whispered, just as the woman took a step towards the podium and collapsed. Stacie’s eyes widened as she dropped to the ground beside her boss. Aubrey’s breathing was coming in short gasps before stopping altogether. Stacie watched in horror as her boss’s eyes rolled back into her head and fell shut. Peanuts, the dish had to have had peanuts. Stacie gasped at the realization, her hands moving on autopilot. She laid Aubrey out and tilted the girl’s head up; checking the other woman’s pulse with two fingers, she called for her purse. Chloe had drilled her on how to use an Epipen and had insisted that Stacie carry one just in case Aubrey came in contact with one of the many substances she was allergic to. 

Jason ran over and handed her the bag; as she dug out the Epipen, he began chest compressions. “What happened?” He grunted between each press of his sister’s chest. 

 

“I’m pretty sure Mr. Elias’s special dish had peanuts in it,” Stacie informed him. 

 

“Figures,” Jason muttered. The hall was rumbling with activity around them as guests stood to get a better look. Stacie tried her best to tune it out. She could see Mr. Posen attempting to distract the crowd with Luke. Aubrey's Grandparents were holding each other in abject horror, and  Maria was soothing her children, who had tears in their eyes after seeing their Aunt on the floor. Mr. Elias was speaking calmly to an emergency operator. “Do you know how to do rescue breaths?” Jason inquired. Stacie nodded. 

 

“Good, thirty.” Stacie slid closer to Aubrey’s head and leaned down. Tilting the other woman’s head back. Aubrey’s lips were soft and supple, warm too. This is not how Stacie pictured her first time kissing the blonde, but it would have to do. She puffed twice into Aubrey’s mouth before Jason resumed his chest compressions. Stacie truly hoped that he didn’t break any of Aubrey’s ribs. They repeated the process for some time before finally, Aubrey retook a shuddering breath. Stacie almost wept from relief when she felt the other girl exhale into her mouth.

 

Aubrey’s eyes fluttered open and green eyes met seafoam. “Thank god,” Stacie chuckled in relief. When Aubrey sat up, Stacie didn’t think before she wrapped her arms around Aubrey’s shoulders and pulled the woman into a hug. She could feel Aubrey’s heart beating rapidly against her own; the sound was music to her ears, especially when paired with deep, rasping breaths. She felt Aubrey cough into her shoulder slightly before the blonde slid her arms underneath Stacie’s and squeezed her back. 

 

“You’re okay,” Stacie murmured; whether it was for herself or Aubrey, she couldn’t be too sure. 

 

“What happened?” Aubrey mumbled. 

 

Stacie started to reply, but the EMTs suddenly arrived and began checking Aubrey over. The blonde was hauled onto a gurney, leaving Stacie’s arms regrettably empty. Instead, Stacie explained the situation to another EMT while Jason followed the paramedics out of the hotel and towards the ambulance parked outside. When she heard the blare of the sirens, Stacie tried not to wish she was the one in the ambulance with Aubrey. 

 

The rest of the night seemed to drag on after the commotion of Aubrey’s near-death experience. Luke took over Aubrey’s welcome speech, and the charity auction continued. One percenters bid on luxury vacations, cars, and a host of other items that they definitely did not need. All the proceeds were supposed to go to students in need all over the country. Once the auction was over, the band struck up a tune, and people began to twirl around the designated dance floors with their well-dressed partners. 

“Care to dance?” Luke’s request was a mere whisper in her ear, his breath playing against her neck. She tried not to visualize a very different breath ghosting across her lips. 

 

“I should go check on my boss; I was part of the menu planning; I don’t think she’d be too thrilled with me now, so I need all the brownie points I can get,” Stacie replied quickly; she slung her purse over her shoulder and started for the door, but Luke was too quick. His hand fastened around her wrist smoothly, and he tugged her back. “Come now; it’s just one little dance. Besides, Dean ordered me to escort you home; he left early along with Maria and the Grandparents so Aubrey could have a private moment with her family. You don’t want me to get in trouble, do you?” 

 

Luke’s eyes shimmered under the light of the ballroom, a light hazel that Stacie would normally be entranced by. His Dolce and Gabbana suit had a shiny sheen to it, the fabric clinging to his muscled form. He looked quite the dashing prince that night, Stacie wavered. “I don’t know; I think I should check on-”

 

“Aubrey will survive another hour without you, and if she is mad, there’s no reason you shouldn’t give her time to cool off. She’s a big girl. Besides, her family is there to dote on the little princess anyway,” Luke said with a smile.

 

Stacie hesitated a moment and pulled out her phone, half hoping there would be a message there from Aubrey. Alas, the screen was blank—the  one time I wanted her to call me. Stacie sighed and placed her phone back in her purse. “Alright, one dance,” Stacie sighed. Luke beamed and pulled her towards the dance floor. 

 

The pair made quite the couple as they spun around the dance floor. Stacie, while in heels, stood as tall as Luke as they moved to the music in a bit of a waltz. “So, my friend from National Geographic wants a sample of some of your writing; he wants to show it to the Editor in Chief of the magazine.” 

 

“Really?” Stacie wanted to squeal in excitement at the prospect. Her dreams were inches away; she just had to reach out and grab them. 

 

“Yes, maybe you could show me what you have, and I can help pick out what would impress Susan the most,” Luke replied. Stacie nodded distractedly at the proposal, “Yeah, that sounds great. When?” 

 

“I can send you my address, and we can go over it during dinner. My chef makes a wonderful quail with fig and chutney, paired with a bottle of wine. It would make for quite the exquisite night.” The music lulled, and Stacie spun away from Luke for a moment before he tugged her back. Her mind continued to buzz with thoughts of Aubrey. At the end of the song, he brushed his lips to the back of her hand. Her brain finally processed his words. “Are you trying to bribe me into going on a date with you?” Stacie chuckled. 

 

“Why? Is it working?” Luke grinned. 

 

Stacie shook her head good-naturedly and stepped away from the man. He was charming and handsome, chiseled and wonderfully wealthy. Why didn’t it feel like enough?  " I should probably get going; I have another early start tomorrow; I need to check in with Chloe to prepare for Spring Fashion Week in Paris.” 

 

“Are you going?” Luke inquired; Stacie shook her head. ‘No’ once more. 

 

“No, that’s Chloe’s job. I just have to help plan Aubrey’s itinerary, especially now that she’s not in any state to do it herself.” 

 

“What’s the rush? Paris fashion week isn’t for months,” Luke snorted. 

 

“Yes, but Chloe wants to start planning early, so I really should go.” Stacie excused herself; she ignored the man’s scowl as she extricated herself from his grasp. Instead, she headed for her purse and cell phone. Jason had sent her a text containing a single address. 

 

“I’ll call a driver for you then,” Luke recovered quickly. Replacing his previous frown with a smile. 

 

Stacie turned to him with a matching grin, “No need. I’ll get it myself.” She texted Aubrey’s personal driver in Aspen, her destination clear. “Stacie, I promised Dean that I would get you home safely,” Luke argued. 

 

“And I’m saying I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself. I’ve lived in New York by myself for years now. I can handle a car ride.” Stacie brushed him off. She felt her phone buzz with the driver’s reply. “I’ll see you when we get back to New York, thanks, Luke;” Stacie brushed her lips against his cheek and bustled off. 

 

 

The hospital was cold and clinical. The air was steeped in antiseptic as Stacie marched through the halls with a hastily bought bouquet in her hands. Aubrey was supposedly staying in room 305 until they cleared her to go home; Stacie was hoping to visit her. 

 

When Stacie reached the room's door, she stopped; she could hear voices coming from the room. 

 

“Aubrey…” Jason began, but something Aubrey did must have broken him off. Stacie stayed to the side of the doorway, awkwardly clutching the flowers to her chest. 

 

“I know what you’re trying to do, Jason; it’s not going to work.”

“If cheering you up isn’t working, then I’m not doing my job right as your big brother, especially since Dad's still busy.” Jason chuckled. 

 

Stacie heard Aubrey’s embittered laugher leak through the doorway, "He couldn't get out of here quicker if he tried."

 

"He doesn't mean anything by it, Bree; Grandpa Joe needed to get back to the hotel for his meds. I'm sure he'll come back. Besides, I sent Stacie the address. She'll be here soon, and I'm sure you'll want some alone time with her." A sharp snort punctuated Jason's teasing of Aubrey. "What are you suggesting, Jason?" Aubrey sneered.

"You were in bed with her today; I saw you two cuddling last night when I came to check on you for the storm."

"It didn't mean anything, Jay," Aubrey said. Stacie frowned and hung back. For a moment, she debated whether it would be more prudent to come back later. “She’s good for you, y’know? After tonight she probably deserves a nice raise, too,” Jason chuckled.

Aubrey sighed in response. “Yeah, I probably owe her an apology as well, huh?” 

 

“Probably, you can be a bitch sometimes,” Stacie could hear Jason’s grin followed by the sound of a slap. 

 

“You should be nicer to me; I did almost die,” Aubrey pointed out good-humoredly. Stacie smiled a little at the teasing lilt in the other woman’s voice. It was new, different. Carefree, almost? Jason let out a yelp followed by loud tinkling laughter. Stacie stood entranced as she listened to the high clear giggles, accompanied by Jason’s lower timbre. The siblings continued to laugh for some time before lapsing into silence.

“You don’t have to live and breathe, Bella, Bree. Mom would want you to have a life outside of work; Stacie could be that something else," Jason suggested.

 

Aubrey mumbled something in reply that Stacie couldn’t quite make out. The blonde's muttering was quickly followed by a groan and the creak of a chair from  Jason as he, undoubtedly, settled into a seat beside the hospital bed. “It wasn’t your fault, Bree. You don’t need to keep punishing yourself.” 

 

“Maybe I do... Besides, I’m nothing to Stacie but her mess of a boss.” Jason let out an unattractive snort that was followed by the rustling of blankets.

“Brie,” the man let out a sigh of exasperation that his sister matched.

“Jason,” Aubrey returned. 

“When are you going to let yourself live? Mom died seven years ago. It’s time you learned how to live without her.” It was the wrong thing to say. 

 

“I am living without her, Jason. Every day I’m reminded that I’m living without her. I live in her city; I shop at her stores, I use her driver. I even stay in her office, sit in her chair, and write at her desk. I am living the life she should be living. I’m maintaining the company and magazine that she loved for her. I know she’s gone. I live with the fact that she’s gone every time someone sends me a god damned letter with the words Editor in Chief, and they’re not meant for her. So don’t tell me I need to learn to live without her because I am. I’ve been doing it since the moment her plane didn’t land in La Guardia. I planned the funeral, organized the household finances, I handled the legal matters and the press. I have done everything for this family -”

 

“And I’m telling you to do something for you!” Jason snapped. Stacie heard the movement of blankets and footsteps on the linoleum floors. “You didn’t have to do any of that stuff. You’re the youngest. You should have grieved, with us, your family. We could have had our accountants handle the finances, and I’m sure Luke could have handled legal, but you shut us out. You moved permanently to New York instead of staying at the estate in South Carolina. You stopped calling; you sent us to voicemail with the same excuse of “work” every time. You’re not living Aubrey; you’re - you’re drowning just as much as Dad is, but you just can’t admit it. You're just as stubborn as he is, and now you've got this girl that I can see it, I can see how much you like her in your eyes, but you're doing nothing about it. You're pushing her away. You're shutting everyone out, and you're making yourself the loneliest person I've ever met.” 

 

“So what if I am?” Aubrey scoffed.

“You deserve better!” Jason snapped.

 

“But I don’t deserve her!” Aubrey shouted back. Stacie could picture the widened eyes the siblings were giving each other. The revelation that followed that statement was incredibly worrisome. An awkward silence followed Aubrey's words, then a sniffle. “I don't deserve her. I felt something the first day I met her, but it won’t be enough. I can’t be enough, not if I want to make Mom proud. Not while she’s meant for so much more than being my assistant.” 

 

“So, what are you doing?” 

 

“I don’t know;” Aubrey’s reply wasn’t the one that Jason wanted, and Stacie wasn’t too sure if it was the answer she wanted either. But it was one that Stacie understood because if she were going, to be honest, she had no clue how to go about keeping someone like Aubrey Posen. Because Aubrey was wildly rich and successful. She was smart and world-renowned—an heiress and progeny. Aubrey was Fashion, the voice, and face of Bella. And Stacie was just Stacie. She was a junior assistant to her, admittedly intimidatingly accomplished boss and just making her way in the world. If their life experience was so vastly different, could a relationship ever survive? She didn't want the answer to that question.

 

So, Stacie left, she left to spare herself the long list of reasons that they could never be and spare herself the list of arguments on how they could. She dropped the bouquet with the little card beside the door and left. She knew they would undoubtedly circle each other for the rest of the year, Stacie would flirt, and Aubrey would play coy. Aubrey would mess up, and Stacie would indelibly rush to help her, but that’s all they were fit for. Their worlds were too different; it would never be enough. Nothing they created could subsist in their current environment. Not while Aubrey was chained to the past and Stacie was running full pelt towards her own future. 

 

So they were at an impasse where neither could obtain happiness without the forfeiture of the other’s dreams. As Stacie walked down the hall, aiming to vanish into the elevator, she just barely caught the tail end of a whispered question. “Do you love her?” Jason inquired.

Stacie pretended not to hear Aubrey’s answer.