AN: Yup! Athena and Lycoris are back by popular request, this time in a much longer story. It's all about how they go from a friends-with-benefits arrangement to full-on love, and will probably coincide with a rewrite of Starcrossed Lovers at some point. I dragged psychotic-cat into this project and forced her to give me her much-appreciated help. She is awesome. If you have suggestions for scenes, you can leave them in the reviews. I've got a skeleton down but we love reader input!

Warning: You know the drill. All the stuff in my Aria/Tevos fanfics? Some things are inherited, I guess. ;D Expect bondage, dirty talk, spanking, cock stuff, vanilla stuff, adorable first-time fumbling, and grand, sweeping confessions of love. But although psychotic-cat and I are looking forward to torturing and embarrassing these kids A LOT, we promise that Lycoris and Athena will not find out their respective parents are swingers. That's just TMI for the poor dears.

. . .

Fortune's Fools

. . .

Chapter One:

"As much as I complain about Diana and Nezzy, I almost miss them now that we're over at your apartment," Athena sighed as she lounged back against the pillows. "I guess I'm used to having a bit more noise around. I keep expecting Benezia to burst in like she usually does."

While she stared lazily at the ceiling, Lycoris took the opportunity to steal an unnoticed glance at her reclining figure. Her gaze lingered on the soft strip of skin just beneath Athena's shirt, trying and failing to keep her expression neutral. She only allowed herself a few seconds to look before she averted her eyes and shifted on the edge of the mattress, crossing one leg over the other. "Tell me you're joking. The whole reason I invited you over was so we could get some time away from them."

Athena stretched her arms above her head, and Lycoris swallowed as the gap of skin grew wider. "I don't know, maybe I'm just bored. There isn't much to do in your parents' apartment. I keep imagining how angry your Mom will be if I break something."

"There's as much to do here as there is at your house," Lycoris said, a little defensively. "Just fewer annoying sisters to get in the way." But the more she thought about it, the more she had to admit that she missed Athena's sisters, too. Not because she actually liked them, but because they provided a convenient buffer. Spending time alone with Athena had started to feel awkward lately, and without Diana and Benezia around, uncomfortable thoughts kept creeping into her head. They were mostly pleasant, but they also made her nervous.

One of those thoughts struck her, and it flew from her mouth before she could think better of it. "Actually, there is something interesting here I'm sure you don't have in your apartment."

"Really?" Athena abandoned her relaxed pose and sat up on the bed. Lycoris privately mourned the loss of that strip of beautiful skin, but moved to sit up as well. It was replaced with something better when Athena's face lit up with a smile. The strange fluttery feeling she had experienced several times over the past few months started up again in her chest. "I don't suppose you'd care to elaborate?"

Lycoris gave a careless shrug of her shoulders, trying to appear nonchalant. "I dunno. You said you were worried about pissing my mom off..."

Athena's eyes gleamed with interest. "Try me."

Lycoris considered her options in silence, but it didn't take long for temptation to win out. She stood up, shifting her weight to one hip and crossing her arms over her chest. "You sure you can handle it? I don't want you freaking out."

"Oh, I can handle it." Athena scooted across the bed, hovering closer by her side. "You have to show me. Please?"

Lycoris barely managed to stifle a shiver of delight as Athena's fingers curled around her crossed forearms. She pretended to think about it for a few extra seconds, knowing the entire time that she couldn't resist. "All right, I'll show you."

The grip on her elbow tightened, and Lycoris's face burned when Athena's arm slid into hers. "Lead the way. I'm dying to know what it is."

"Where it is," Lycoris corrected as they made their way out of her bedroom. She led Athena down the hall, past the kitchen, and through the living room, only stopping when they reached the small closet beside the front door.

Athena's brow furrowed. "Your 'interesting secret' is hidden in a coat closet?"

"Sort of. Just wait for it." Lycoris let go of Athena's arm and opened the door, revealing several mundane items of clothing. She pushed aside one of her father's many cropped leather jackets to show the very back of the closet. A glowing green pressure pad was tucked into one corner, and there was a seam where the wall should have been.

"It's an elevator," Athena gasped. "A secret room?"

Lycoris grinned as she keyed in the code. "Better. It's an entire secret floor! My folks own the apartment below this one as well, and... well, you'll see."

Athena rushed past her and into the elevator without any prompting, dragging her along behind. Lycoris laughed at her excitement and stumbled in beside her. She didn't have to press any more buttons, since the elevator only went between two floors, but she could sense Athena's impatience as they began moving. Lycoris wasn't entirely sure why, but she felt a little nervous herself. She already knew what was down in the secret floor beneath her family's apartment, but this would be the first time she had shown it to someone else. And that someone was not only her best friend, but a person she had become more and more aware of over the past few months.

Finally, the elevator came to a stop. Athena clutched tighter at her arm, and she had to stifle a gasp. Although they were used to touching each other, their physical contact had taken on a different dimension lately. Sometimes Lycoris found it hard to breathe when Athena was so close. Fortunately, the doors hissed open a few moments later, offering a convenient distraction. Dim lights flickered to life as they stepped into the room, and Athena's eyes went wide with surprise. "Oh, Goddess..."

'Oh Goddess indeed,' Lycoris thought. She had been similarly surprised the first time she had visited the room. It was much larger than expected, but filled with all kinds of interesting furniture, including a large, intimidating 'X' on prominent display near the center. Wide, comfortable couches were positioned at strategic locations, and the far wall was covered in various paddles, crops, and restraints, all organized by shape and color.

Athena's eyes followed hers, and she did a double-take at the sight of the wall. "Corrie? What is this place?"

Lycoris grinned. "Come on, The. There are at least twenty different paddles on the wall and a giant Nos Astra Doublebar in the middle of the room. You know exactly what this is."

"A giant... what?" Athena stammered. "You mean that?" She pointed at the large X. "I didn't even know it had a name, and I've seen a fair amount of... Wait, how do you know what it's called?"

Lycoris was thankful for the muted lighting in the room, because it hid most of her blush. "I looked it up, of course." While it was true that she had looked up what the contraption was, she had been hunkered protectively over her omnitool at the time with a terrified expression on her face. She had carefully erased her browser history after she finished as well, just in case either of her parents were keeping a closer eye on her extranet activities than she realized. She sauntered up to the 'X' and ran her hand over the gleaming frame. Before she could lose her courage, she cleared her throat and asked the question that was bursting to get out. "So, wanna see how it works?"

It was as bold a proposition as she could force herself to make, and she made sure to modulate her voice so that Athena's 'no' would roll right off her. But to her surprise, Athena didn't immediately refuse. She pulled her lower lip between her teeth instead, worrying the soft, supple flesh. A pulse of pleasure hit Lycoris directly in the gut, so intense that it nearly doubled her over. She had to clamp her legs shut to keep from embarrassing herself. She knew the basics about sexual pleasure, but had never experienced it like this. Even the limited experimenting she had done on her own hadn't produced such powerful reactions, and she was afraid of ruining her pants, meld or no meld.

"I - I'm not sure," Athena murmured. Her eyes stayed on the floor, but they kept darting guiltily toward the x-frame every few seconds. "It seems fairly self-explanatory."

Lycoris did her best to conceal her disappointment, but the fluttery feeling in her stomach and the pounding between her legs refused to go away. She struck a casual pose, folding her hands behind her back. There was still one option left. Although she was hesitant to use it, Athena's uncertainty had left her desperate. "What? Are you afraid?"

Athena straightened her shoulders. "Of course not! Why would I be afraid of a silly piece of furniture?"

"A Nos Astra Doublebar," Lycoris reminded her. She was very pleased with the reaction she had gotten, although the purple tinge spreading across Athena's cheeks made her pants feel even more constricting. She suddenly wished she hadn't copied her father's look quite so much. Leather had its disadvantages. "If you're not afraid, prove it."

Athena remained hesitant, but Lycoris knew she had her when she lifted her head and stared at the large 'X' with a determined look in her eye. She marched around the couch in the middle of the room and walked fearlessly up to the frame. Lycoris knew Athena well enough to see that she was too proud to stand down from a challenge. While she felt a little underhanded for using this particular tactic, it was effective at getting her what she wanted.

Once Athena was standing with her back against the x-frame, the flash of courage seemed to desert her again. Lycoris didn't have the heart to start barking orders at her. Instead, she leaned close and whispered, "Lift your arms over your head." She didn't turn away when Athena looked at her, searching for something in her eyes. Lycoris wasn't certain what Athena found, but she must have been reassured, because she settled more comfortably back against the frame and lifted her hands after taking a deep breath.

There were already restraints attached to the frame, and Lycoris was thankful that they were padded cuffs instead of metallic ones. She didn't want to make Athena any more uncomfortable than she already was, and she certainly didn't want to hurt her in any way. She tried to be especially gentle as she reached up and attached one wrist, cinching it closed so that it wasn't too tight, but Athena still couldn't get free without help.

"This isn't hurting you, is it?" she whispered beside Athena's cheek as she tested the restraints.

Her stomach lurched a little as Athena flexed her fingers, exploring her range of movement. "No. It just feels... funny, I guess."

"Funny how?"

"I'm not sure," Athena murmured. Her blush grew deeper beneath her freckles. "Maybe I'm afraid I look strange with my arms stuck up over my head."

It took an effort of will to move away, but Lycoris forced herself to step back and take in the view. Athena was absolutely breathtaking. With her wrists attached to the x-frame, her shirt had ridden up once again, revealing that same tantalizing strip of skin. The muscles of her stomach were taut, and her breasts were on even more prominent display than usual. It might have been wishful thinking, but she thought she could even see the outline of her nipples through the fabric of her shirt. "Um..." she said, swallowing to work moisture into her dry mouth. Apparently, it had rushed everywhere else instead. "You... you don't look strange, I promise. Maybe a little uncomfortable, though."

"Not really." Athena kicked the lower part of the x-frame with the back of her heel and grinned. "It's not as bad as I thought."

Lycoris suddenly remembered that she had forgotten to restrain Athena's legs. "That's because I'm not finished yet." She dropped to her knees, and her heart began racing faster as she drew level with Athena's hips. Resisting the temptation to reach out and feel their shape was not an easy task. Instead, she fumbled with the loose cuffs near the base of the x-frame, looping one around Athena's bare ankle and cinching it tight. "Still doing okay?" she asked, gazing up from her crouched position.

Athena responded with a look that Lycoris couldn't quite identify, but she could feel herself growing uncomfortably aroused because of it. Even as she worried that Athena might soon be able to read her true feelings in her gaze, Lycoris couldn't look away. She had always known Athena was beautiful, but she looked absolutely breathtaking from this particular view, and Lycoris had to fight the urge to lean forward and run her tongue over that soft strip of skin that had been tempting her all day.

The intimate thread between them was broken when Athena glanced away and cleared her throat. "It's fine," she said softly. "Not too tight."

"Good." Lycoris brought Athena's other ankle to the last padded cuff and pulled it closed. She took a deep breath before standing back up. It took all of her willpower, fueled by the uncertainty of whether or not her touch would be welcome, for Lycoris to keep her hands at her sides as she took her time looking at Athena. She had to swallow past the lump in her throat before she could speak. "So, that's how it works. Of course, the person in your position is usually naked..."

The light purple flush on Athena's cheeks began spreading down from her collarbone, and Lycoris couldn't help but follow it with her eyes. She desperately wanted to step closer. Close enough to press her lips against Athena's throat and taste the salt of her skin. Close enough to find the place where her pulse point pounded.

"And what would you be wearing?" Athena asked. Lycoris thought she heard a slight catch in her voice, but it could have been wishful thinking. "Latex?"

Lycoris grinned. "Leather, of course. You've seen my closet." This time, she was certain that the shudder rolling through Athena's body was not a result of her imagination. Her heart pounded harder in the cage of her chest, but she couldn't resist teasing Athena a little more. "Besides, I know how much you like my jackets."

Athena rolled her eyes. "You wish. I bet you wouldn't have a clue what to do with a girl even if you talked her into trying this thing."

Lycoris felt her own face burn with embarrassment, but she managed to keep a little of her composure as she stepped closer. "I did manage to talk a girl into trying this thing. You."

"Well, yes," Athena admitted, lowering her eyes to the floor and hiding behind her lashes. "But I don't actually like it..."

"Really?" Lycoris leaned forward, deciding to take the risk. If she was wrong, it might completely ruin their friendship. But if she was right... "Then why are your nipples showing through your shirt? Why are you breathing so hard? I'm sure if I put my fingers on your pulse, it would be racing."

Fortunately, Athena did not react with anger. Instead, she looked almost embarrassed. "I – I'm just uncomfortable. No one's ever tied me up before."

Lycoris's heart surged with hope. So far, Athena wasn't shouting at her or asking to be released. Maybe her wishful thinking wasn't quite so wishful after all. "You asked what I would do if I ever managed to talk a girl into trying this thing," she said, walking over to the display wall. "Well, I'll show you." She knew that Athena's eyes were following her every move, and she deliberately took her time as she touched a couple of different items, including an intimidating looking whip that she had no real desire to use.

Eventually, her hand moved on to a riding crop. That earned a soft gasp from behind her, and she stopped to test it out, gently plying the leather loop at the end. She had never held one before, but using it couldn't be too hard. Carefully, she took the crop down from the wall, gauging the weight in her hand. It was fairly light, and she gave it a few test swings, enjoying the look of surprise on Athena's face. "What? I'm just answering your question."

Athena began to squirm against the x-frame, obviously testing her bonds. "I... um, I wasn't expecting that choice." Her tone was nervous, but Lycoris suspected that the darkness swallowing up her eyes wasn't a result of fear. "I've known you my whole life. You don't seem like the type that enjoys hurting people."

Lycoris's confidence faltered, but she tried not to let it show on her face. "Who says I want to hurt anyone with it? There are plenty of other ways to use it."

"Other ways?"

"Duh. You don't think my Dad uses this room to torture mercs, do you?" She took another step forward, enjoying the way Athena's spine arched subtly as she lifted the riding crop. "Actually, scratch that. I don't want to think about what she does here."

"I don't know," Athena teased. "I've always thought your father was very attractive."

Lycoris froze, unsure whether Athena was telling the truth or just trying to provoke her. Instead of going with her first instinct, which was to cringe and say, "Gross," she decided to tease Athena right back. "Then I guess it's a good thing I look like her."

She tried to suppress a smirk as Athena's jaw dropped, but she was only marginally successful. Before Athena could think of another comeback, Lycoris focused on what she had been trying to do before. "Anyway, we were talking about other ways I could use this..." She lifted the riding crop, pleased when Athena's eyes zeroed in on the movement.

"I'll believe that when I see it." Athena straightened against the frame, and when her gaze shifted back up from the tip of the crop, Lycoris noticed that blackness had already started to swallow the vivid green of her eyes. "What are you waiting for? If you're as good as you say you are, you should have no problem making me beg you to stop."

Lycoris swallowed. She had spent more time than she wanted to admit thinking about what she would like to do to Athena if she ever got the chance, but now that her dream was literally spread out in front of her, she wasn't sure if she would be able to follow through. She clutched the handle a bit tighter, hoping the crop wouldn't slip from her shaking, sweaty palm. This was her big chance, and she didn't want to blow it.

After a few deep breaths to calm her racing heart, she extended the crop, dragging the hard leather tab along the bare strip of skin she had admired earlier. Athena flinched slightly at the first contact, and the small, involuntary motion instantly worsened the heavy pounding between Lycoris's legs. At last, she found her voice. "Oh, you won't beg me to stop," she said, tracing a line back and forth over Athena's abdomen. "I know what I'm doing. Once I get started, you're going to beg me to keep going."

Lycoris was more nervous than she had ever been about anything in her life, but she refused to show it. She knew she couldn't put Athena at ease about her knowledge and prowess if she was as jumpy as a virgin – a fact she had no intention of admitting if she could help it. Instead, Lycoris visualized one of her favorite fantasies and worked on making it a reality. She dragged the tip of the riding crop up along the center of Athena's torso, a little sad when the dark, well-crafted leather bumped over Athena's shirt instead of the beautiful skin she'd always admired. It didn't have nearly the same effect, but Lycoris was still pleased with the hitch in Athena's breath as the crop rose higher.

"You can say you don't like being strung up on this thing all you want." She drew the crop across Athena's chest, just below the underside of her breast. "But your body seems to like it." As she moved to do the same on the other side, Lycoris made sure the leather brushed against Athena's breast. Her loud, indrawn breath was heard throughout the room. Lycoris would have given anything to hear it exhaled on a moan, but apparently, Athena had more self-control than that.

"You're full of yourself," Athena said, but her stammered response didn't sound very convincing. She bit her lower lip, and Lycoris couldn't look away. She had spent countless nights wondering how soft Athena's mouth would be. How it would feel under hers. How it would taste. As tempting as Athena's breasts were, she found herself dragging the leather tab up past the neckline of her shirt instead, brushing along the curve of her throat.

"You're such a liar. " She leaned even closer, pressing the crop underneath Athena's jaw and tilting her chin up. It took all of her willpower to keep from surging forward and latching on to the soft place where her neck met her shoulder. "Come on. Admit you like it."

Athena jerked back a few inches, pulling away from the crop to shake her head. "I don't!"

Lycoris froze. She didn't believe that for one second, but she didn't want to take any chances either. She let the crop fall back to Athena's chest, sliding down over her collarbone and resting it directly between her breasts. "Then ask me to untie you. Say the word and I'll let you down. Promise."

Athena simply stared at her with wide, dark eyes. Silence stretched between them.

A slow smile spread across Lycoris's face. The fluttery feeling in her stomach erupted in a surge of warmth that spread through her chest. She hadn't been wrong. She dragged the edge of the crop lower, circling the curve of Athena's left breast deliberately this time. The outline of her nipple was obvious beneath the fabric of her shirt, and she couldn't resist teasing it. It hardened even further as she flicked over it, and this time, Athena did not manage to swallow back her moan in time.

"Tell me again that you don't like it," Lycoris said smugly as she circled the nipple before flicking it again, a little harder this time. Athena jerked against her restraints, and Lycoris hesitated for a second, hoping that she hadn't caused any pain. It was only when Athena opened her eyes and Lycoris saw the swiftly growing blackness in them that she was certain she hadn't gone too far.

This time, Athena couldn't even muster a protest. "Speechless already?" Lycoris asked. "I can't say that I'm surprised. You can barely catch your breath, and I can see you trembling. But you're not afraid, are you?" Lycoris slowly slid the tip of the crop across the valley between Athena's breasts until she got to the other nipple, lightly flicking that one as well.

Since Athena didn't seem willing or able to respond, Lycoris kept up a running commentary, as much to convince herself that this was really happening as to tease Athena. "No, I'm not hurting you. Every time I touch you, your body arches toward me, toward the pleasure. You like this. There's nothing wrong in admitting to it."

"I'd like to see you make me," Athena said, but her body gave her away. She shivered as the hard leather tab teased the tip of her breast. Lycoris let the edge of the crop drag lower, wondering what other reactions she could coax from Athena's vulnerable body while it was on such enticing display. She craved the soft little whimpers that Athena was trying desperately to stifle, and her head swam at the thought that she had caused the beautiful purple flush crawling across Athena's smooth blue skin.

Part of her wanted to throw the crop aside and remove the rest of Athena's clothes, but she knew it was too soon. Before she did anything else, she needed to hear Athena admit that she was enjoying herself. She didn't want to be alone in this feeling, this powerful desire that made her ache in ways she could not begin to describe. The only thing she wanted more than to learn every inch of Athena's body was confirmation that Athena needed her just as much. Slowly, she dragged the crop down the middle of Athena's stomach, stopping just below her navel and waiting for several breaths. "Oh, I can make you," she whispered, hiding her nervousness behind a confident grin. "But I'm not sure you're ready for it."

Athena's dark eyes fixed intently on her, and Lycoris gasped. Even though they weren't touching, she could almost imagine another consciousness pulling against hers, trying to draw her in. "Go ahead. Do your worst."

Lycoris couldn't manage a clever comeback. She could scarcely believe that Athena had given her permission to go further, but she wasn't going to waste the opportunity. She pulled the tip of the crop down, down, down, so slowly that every inch seemed to take a year. Athena sucked in a breath as the leather loop of the riding crop grazed across her stomach once again, this time only fleetingly as it continued on its exploratory journey. Lycoris only realized that she was holding her own breath when she noticed that Athena had suddenly stopped breathing.

As soon as the tip of the crop reached the top of Athena's pants, Lycoris used a little more pressure, wanting to make sure that she felt it through the material. She didn't deviate from her path straight down the center of Athena's body. The challenge had bolstered her courage, and she was determined to keep going until Athena was begging for her to continue.

Even without knowing exactly what she was doing, Lycoris could read the signs of Athena's body well enough to know when she grazed her clit. Her hips jerked, and a sharp cry exploded from her throat. "Admit you like it," she whispered, trying to ignore the fact that her own pants were unquestionably already ruined. "I could make you feel so good. Just say the word."

Instead of protesting as she had before, Athena tugged her lip back between her teeth. Her eyes were impossibly wide and dark, and her hips pushed subtly forward into the pressure, making soft, broken sounds each time it rubbed over the right spot. Lycoris couldn't help herself. She pressed a little harder, and her heart skipped when another surprised moan tore from Athena's throat. "Corrie!"

Heat surged between Lycoris's legs at the sound of her name. She had never heard Athena say it this way before, with an uneven edge of desperation. And she was already well past desperate herself. Everything she had ever wanted was just inches away, right at her fingertips. All she needed to do was find the courage to reach out and touch.

She tossed the crop aside, dropping it to the ground and closing the last few inches of space between them. Her fingers stroked down along the quivering flesh of Athena's abdomen, and even though she couldn't feel the warmth of her skin through the material of her gloves, her hand still trembled. "The...?" Her voice escaped in a hoarse whisper, and she found herself staring down at Athena's parted lips. She could feel the warmth of her breath, could almost taste the sweetness of her mouth, so tantalizingly close as it formed her name again.


Lycoris's lips were a breath away from Athena's when she heard the door upstairs slam shut and at least two muffled voices talking. The first thing that flitted through her head was that she'd thought her parents would have sound proofed their playroom. But less than a second later, Lycoris jerked back, and a horrified look replacing the mask of need and desire. "Fuck, that has to be my parents!"

That seemed to snap Athena out of the same haze. She struggled against her bonds, trying to free herself. "Let me down," she hissed, pulling at the restraints even though they both knew it wouldn't help. There was panic in her eyes that Lycoris wanted desperately to assuage, but all she could manage to do was focus on unbuckling one cuff at a time. She still had both of the ankle cuffs to take care of when they heard the elevator whir to life. "Hurry!"

The last restraint finally loosened, and Lycoris ran for one of the couches, only stopping when she remembered the riding crop. She pushed Athena forward before dashing back to where she'd let the crop drop to the floor. She almost fell as she screeched to a stop before sprinting to the wall where she'd found it. Luckily, it was easy to find where it usually hung since everything was in a particular order. She barely managed to hang it up before the elevator doors slid open.

Not knowing what else to do, Lycoris dropped to the floor and crawled behind the nearest piece of furniture that would hide her entire body, a chair that was angled for a good view of the middle of the room. She looked across the dungeon at Athena, once again struck by the panicked look on her face, but knew she'd have to wait to make it across to her. For a moment, Lycoris was tempted to stand up and give herself away, gambling on the hope that her parents would go easier on her if she admitted her mistake rather than if they found her lurking around their playroom, but she didn't want to betray Athena as well.

She held her breath as she heard her parents' voices getting closer. They were instantly recognizable. "I thought Lycoris said she was inviting Athena over here today?" Tevos said.

"You just must have heard her wrong, Thea," Aria said, obviously exasperated with a conversation that had been carrying on since before their arrival. "Lycoris is old enough to go where she wants without telling us. Why don't we just enjoy our good fortune and take advantage of the kid being out of the house?"

The sound of footsteps grew louder, and Lycoris's eyes widened when she caught a glimpse of two moving shadows along one wall. She could just make out the familiar silhouettes of her parents as they left the elevator and walked further into the room. The first shadow stopped and cocked its hip to one side, one of her mother's instantly recognizable poses. "Oh? And I suppose you have something in mind?"

"That depends." The two shadows began to overlap, their distinct figures melding into one. "Do you really want to keep worrying about our grown-up daughter's playdate, or would you rather play with me?"

A hitch of breath and a low, surprised moan told Lycoris everything else she didn't want to know. She screwed up her face and turned away, unwilling to hear anymore. Even though she couldn't really see her parents, and had witnessed worse displays of affection between them when they were actually aware of her presence, the fact that they were in the dungeon made the awkwardness a thousand times worse. She needed to make her escape before anything serious started.

She caught Athena's eye, and her friend began slinking quietly toward the elevator, slipping between the doors just before they started to close. She held her hand in the gap, keeping them open as she tucked herself out of sight.

Lycoris knew she didn't have much time. Even though her parents were wrapped up in each other, probably kissing or worse, she only had a few moments before one of them noticed the elevator was still open. She dashed for freedom as quickly and quietly as she could, wincing with each muffled footfall. At last, she scrambled onto the lift, plastering herself against the far wall.

Before she could let out a sigh of relief, however, her mother's voice came floating through the doors. "Aria? Did you hear..."

A light slap and another loud moan followed. "Oh, come on. You're just asking me to gag you now..."

Lycoris didn't breathe a sigh of relief until the elevator doors had closed and the lift started into motion. Her parents couldn't call the car back until she and Athena were dropped off, so even if they had any suspicions about whether she'd been down in the dungeon or not, they couldn't prove it. As much as she didn't want to think about what her parents were doing downstairs in their secret room, Lycoris hoped they were planning to stay for a while.

She couldn't look at Athena the entire elevator ride back up to the living quarters. Not only was she horribly embarrassed at overhearing the start of one of her parents' legendary sexual encounters, but she wasn't certain where her friendship with Athena stood. What had happened down in the dungeon had definitely changed their relationship, and she only hoped that it wasn't in a detrimental way.

They both stepped off the elevator and through the closet to stand together in the foyer, Lycoris with her arms crossed firmly over her chest as she stared intently at the floor and Athena with her arms hanging stiffly at her sides, her fingers flexing nervously. Finally, after a couple minutes of unfamiliar uncomfortable silence, Athena cleared her throat and said, "I should probably go home."

Lycoris's eyes shot up. She might have been a little uncomfortable, but she certainly didn't want Athena to leave. But when she looked into Athena's eyes, she saw that her friend really did need space. "I'll walk you," she said softly, not wanting to let her go just yet.

Athena's fingers briefly against her upper arm. "It's only a short walk to rapid transit. I'll be fine."

"See you tomorrow, then?" she mumbled, trying not to look too hopeful.

Lycoris practically sagged with relief when Athena nodded in agreement. "Of course. You can come over in the afternoon."

"I will…" And then Athena left, disappearing out the front door as she stood in confused, worried silence for several moments afterward.