Andrew Stevenson smiled as a cool breeze ruffled his blonde hair. While the dog days of summer had passed, it was still a bit warm outside- a minor drawback to what was otherwise a perfect day for hiking. The trees were all a vibrant green, and last week’s rain made sure the ground was pleasantly springy. Best of all, Andrew hadn’t seen a single person that day. It wasn’t surprising- most people worked on Tuesdays. But, since Andrew worked at a sporting goods store, his off day was on Tuesday, rather than the busy Saturday. This trail was one of his favorites. It was only a mile and a half in but it had a few uphill portions, which provided good exercise without dominating the entire day. Those who completed the path were rewarded with a large rock that could be climbed for a good view off the mountain and into a forested valley. On a lonely day like this one, though, the best sights were found along the trail. No hordes meant nothing to scare the wildlife. So far, Andrew had seen several squirrels, three woodpeckers, and even a young deer, but the best find so far was right as the 20-year-old approached the lookout rock. A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye and he slowly turned towards the source: a scarlet kingsnake. The small reptile slowly slithered around a sassafras sapling- completely ignoring the large human that was slowly approaching.
“Hello beautiful!” Andrew cooed as he leaned in, unable to contain himself. “Aren’t you a gorgeous snake.”
As soon as he spoke, a startled and distinctly feminine gasp came from the other side of the boulder, followed by hurried scuffling and the chatter of small rocks being dislodged. Andrew watched the colorfully banded serpent for a few more seconds until it slithered under some leaves, at which point he turned to the source of the gasp. Standing on the rock was the most beautiful woman the man had ever seen. Long blonde hair flowed over her shoulders and a red crop top showed off her toned stomach along with some generous cleavage. Oddly, she was wearing a khaki skirt that went down to her mid-thigh. This might have been the first time Andrew saw someone hiking in a skirt, but she certainly pulled off the look.
“You startled me,” the woman called out as she tried to catch her breath before nervously asking. “What was that about a snake?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Andrew replied dismissively. “Just a harmless little kingsnake. He’s gone now.”
The woman sighed in relief before frowning. “Kingsnake? That’s a pity, I love those little guys.”
Andrew looked back over where he last saw the snake, but it seemed to truly have disappeared. “Maybe he’ll show up again. Sorry for scaring you, by the way.”
“It’s fine. I shouldn’t have assumed I’d be the only one on the trail on such a beautiful day.” She jumped off the rock and walked up to Andrew with a friendly wave and a stunning smile. “I’m Serena,” she introduced herself with a slight accent. It was hard to place, but it almost sounded Greek.
“I’m Andrew. And yeah, this trail is usually pretty empty during the week, but it’s my day off and this is one of my favorite places to spend it.”
“It’s actually my first time up here,” Serena admitted. “But it’s definitely as good as I heard.”
“And it gets even better as the seasons change,” Andrew started climbing up the rock and waved for Serena to follow. When he reached the top, he turned around to help the woman up- inadvertently getting a rather good view down her shirt. It would have been hard to look away if she didn’t also have hazel eyes that, while not necessarily vibrant, still seemed to draw him in. He quickly broke eye contact, hoping his stare hadn’t been too uncomfortable, and looked out into the valley. “So, uh, see those trees over there?” he asked, desperate to move on as fast as he could.
Serena followed his pointing finger to a small grove of rather large trees. “I think so.”
“Those are oak trees,” he told her. “They’ll turn a gorgeous orange in a month or two. The whole forest turns into a beautiful rainbow, but that spot always sticks out.”
“I’ll have to come back here, then,” noted Serena. Andrew sat down and pulled a bottle of water and a baggie full of trail mix out of his backpack. After taking a large gulp of water and a generous handful of goodies, he offered the bag to Serena. “Thank you,” she smiled as she reached in. “Thish ish really good,” she gushed, mouth still full of food. “Are those pretzel pieces?” she asked after she swallowed.
“Yep!” Andrew grinned. “I’ve found they add a really good crunch.”
“Definitely.” Serena returned the bag to him before taking a swig from her own water bottle. The two sat there in silence for a few minutes as they took in the scenery. The forest before them stretched out for miles, with any signs of civilization only being a speck in the distance. Views like this always made Andrew feel small but also like he was connected to the bigger whole. “Hey look! A hawk!” Serena’s voice snapped him out of his introspection. Sure enough, a rather large bird was soaring overhead.
Andrew squinted for a moment. “I think that’s an eagle. It’s too big to be a hawk and the silhouette of the wings is a dead giveaway.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real eagle before,” Serena marvelled. “I only recently moved here.”
“Oh?” Andrew looked over, intrigued. “Where from?”
“New York, eh? Guess it’s a lot warmer down here in the south.” Andrew chuckled and wadded up the now empty trail mix bag, which he stuffed in his pack. As he did so, he noticed a strange teal dot on the rock. “What’s this,” he mused as he picked up the strange disk. He was vaguely reminded of a scale, but, at that size, it was a ridiculous thought.
“Litterbugs,” quickly dismissed Serena. The object didn’t feel like plastic, but Andrew supposed it didn’t matter and also stuffed it in his pack. He looked at his watch and realized it was a bit later than he expected.
“Well, I’m afraid I have to start heading back,” Andrew announced.
“Mind if I join you?”
“Sure! I usually hike alone, so a change of pace will be nice.”
Even though the two had exchanged phone numbers after their hike, Andrew never expected Serena to actually text back. To his surprise, when he checked his phone after work one day, he found he had a message from her.
Hey! Have you heard anything about a restaurant called “Orexi?” I was wondering if you’d want to go with me for dinner there.
Andrew’s dating life had consisted of a few movie dates that never really went anywhere and that one time he was stood up at a pricey Italian place. But he’d always asked the girls out, not the other way around. Not that it mattered, he supposed as his fingers moved over the keyboard. One did not turn down a knockout like Serena.
That sounds like fun. My boss was just telling me he went there with his wife. They thought it was good and the prices were very low. He suspected they were trying to attract a customer base.
He was just getting in his car a few minutes later when his phone dinged. A grin subconsciously appeared on his face when he saw it was from Serena.
Great! When would you want to meet up? Hopefully they’re still keeping the prices low.
Tuesdays are always good, and I’ve got an early shift Thursday, He replied.
Thursday is perfect for me. How does 6 sound?
I can do 6.
Awesome! See you then! 🙂
“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.” At the sound of Serena’s voice, Andrew stood up off of the bench he had been relaxing on and quickly slipped his phone into his back pocket. His eyes widened when he saw his date. She was wearing a nice red dress that hugged her figure and showed off just enough to be flirty but still tasteful. Her hair was worn down, framing a face that didn’t have any obvious makeup. It was likely she was wearing a bit to touch up, but the fact he couldn’t easily tell was a good thing in his opinion.
“Oh no. I just got here a few minutes ago. I’ve just been looking at reddit.” He swiftly walked over to the door and held it open for his date. “You, uh, look really good in red.
“Thank you,” she flashed him a smile that took his breath away as she walked by him and into the restaurant. Andrew followed her and was immediately hit by the scent of sizzling meat and Mediterranean spices. The decoration reminded him of the Overwatch map Ilios, though he seemed to recall the real life place was called Santo-something. Regardless, it really made the place feel more open and, when combined with the upbeat music in the background, made the atmosphere feel rather lively. Serena seemed just as impressed, though she recovered faster and strode up to the hostess. “I have a reservation for two under the name Mitera.”
The hostess looked down at the tablet mounted on her podium, “Ah, I have you right here. Please follow me. “She grabbed a pair of menus and led them to a corner booth where they sat down. “Can I get you anything to drink?”
“I’ll have a sprite,” Serena replied.
“And I’ll take a coke.” Andrew usually just went for water, but this wasn’t the time to be cheap.
“Excellent, I’ll have someone bring them right out,” the hostess answered before leaving the two alone.
Andrew picked up the menu and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the entrees were around ten dollars. “Wow, this place is a pretty good deal.”
“I know,” Serena exclaimed. ” it’s incredible! Feel free to get anything you want, I’ve got you covered.”
“Oh, no no no. My mom raised me right. I’ll cover. Besides,” Andrew added, “I just got a raise.”
“No, really. I’ve-” Serena paused for a few moments. “Tell you what. You get the appetizer, I’ll get dessert, and we can both cover our meals.”
“Deal.” The table was quiet for a minute while the two continued looking at their menus, before Andrew broke the silence. “How do the pita chips and hummus look as an appetizer?”
“Oh, I love hummus!”
“We hear quite a lot of compliments from our guests about our hummus,” a man in waiter’s attire said as he walked up to their table, two full glasses in hand. “My name’s Marc and I’ll be your server today.” He set the glasses down and pulled out a notebook. “Do you know what you’ll be ordering?”
Andrew waited for Serena to go first. “I’ll have a gyro,” she requested.
“Lamb or pork?” Marc queried.
“Pork, please- no, actually I’ll go lamb.”
Marc scribbled something down. “And for you?” he turned to Andrew.
“We’ll take an order of hummus, and I’ll try your souvlaki. Lamb, please.” He took Serena’s menu and handed both to Marc.
“I’ll have both your meals out soon,” he told them before disappearing into the kitchen.
“I’m gonna be honest, I haven’t really eaten any Greek food except gyros,” Serena admitted. “I have no idea what souvlaki is.”
“They’re basically kebabs,” Andrew explained. “It’s funny, I was actually wondering if your family was Greek. I can’t quite place your accent”
“I’m pretty sure some of my distant family is Greek, but I’m not positive. I’ve not really gone to many restaurants.” Serena tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. “I’m really glad I’m getting to do this with you.”
“Me, too.” Something about Serena was different from all of his other dates. She had a magnetism about her that made Andrew feel they just clicked. He hoped that Serena’s relaxed posture meant she felt the same way. His eyes lit up as he had an idea. “Hey, I was thinking. It’s supposed to storm pretty hard on Sunday. There’s a trail to a cave about an hour from here that has a little waterfall running out of it, but after a rain it shoots out pretty far. Are you available Tuesday?”
“That sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll have to ask my boss, but I don’t think she’ll mind me taking the day off.” Serena grinned fondly. “She’s pretty chill about stuff like that. I’ll let you know what she says tomorrow.”
“Where do you work?” Andrew inquired.
“I work part-time at Lythe- the new factory that opened up here.”
“Oh yeah, I’ve heard of them. You guys make beds, right? My buddy Kyle works there.”
“Kyle’s a muscular guy with short brown hair, right?”
“That sounds like him,” Andrew nodded.
“I know him. He’s Angi’s partner.”
“I’ve met Angi. She’s quiet, but she seems nice. I didn’t know they worked together.”
“Angi’s a bit shy,” Serena chuckled. “I’m glad Kyle got her out of her shell. They work a stitching machine for the mattresses.”
“And what do you do?”
“I run the lathe that makes the bedposts. It’s a bit monotonous, but it’s only part time and the job pays pretty well.”
“Excuse me.” The two turned to see Marc walking up with a platter of pita chips and a bowl of hummus, temporarily interrupting their conversation as they dug in.
“So besides hiking and work, what do you do?” Serena asked as she scooped up a generous serving of the dip before popping it into her mouth.
Andrew didn’t answer for a few moments as he enjoyed the creamy but sharp flavors of the hummus. Not quite as much garlic as he’d like, but that very few restaurants shared his obsession with the pungent flavor. “I’m currently working on a business degree online, but besides that I play some video games and DnD.”
“Do you watch any shows or anything?”
“Nothing currently. I just finished the Witcher series. It was pretty good.”
Serena grimaced. “I tried the show but couldn’t watch past the first few minutes. The Kikimora…”
“Not good with gore?” Andrew asked.
“No. It’s just I’m-” Serena looked away for a few moments. “Not good with spiders. Especially big ones like that thing.”
“That’s understandable,” Andrew reassured her. He tried to think of another subject, but Serena beat him to it.
“What about anime?” She asked. Andrew froze, not sure what to say. “I saw your wallpaper when we exchanged numbers,” she continued. “Fullmetal Alchemist? I haven’t seen that one, but I’ve heard it’s good. Have you ever heard of Spice and Wolf?”
Andrew’s face went from embarassed to eager. “Oh, I love Spice and Wolf. Pity we haven’t gotten a third season, but it’s one of my favorites.”
“Mine, too. I love stories where the girl has some sort of hidden secret,” she said wistfully, then suddenly seemed to catch herself before drinking a big gulp of sprite.
“Well if you like secrets then you’ll love Brotherhood, er, Fullmetal Alchemist. We should watch it some time. Might take a while, though. It’s like sixty-four episodes long.”
“Maybe we could start meeting up on Sundays and watching it for a few hours.”
“I think I’d like that.” Andrew’s grin took up most of his face.
It had been three months since their first date. Since then, they’d gone on a few hikes, several more dates, and finished both Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and another show Serena recommended called Maoyu (it was like Spice and Wolf but with a big-tittied demon lord). During this time, their relationship had started getting a lot more physical. What started off as hand-holding on the couch had continued to snuggling up and eventually some pretty heavy make-out sessions, though they had never gone all the way. They were currently at Serena’s apartment and were putting up the dishes from dinner. Serena had made orange chicken and Andrew his homemade brownies. As Andrew was rinsing off his plate, he felt a pair of pillowy lips on his cheek and a tongue lapping at something.
“Hey!” he yelped.
“You had some brownie on your cheek,” Serena explained with a coy smile as she licked her lips.
Andrew placed his plate in the dishwasher and closed the door before turning to his girlfriend, pulling her into a deep kiss, and sliding his hand down her hip. “So what are we going to do tonight?”
“I have a surprise,” Serena whispered coyly before pulling back and locking his gaze with a smoldering stare. “But you need to get into the living room and close your eyes.”
Andrew cheerfully complied with the request. Whatever it was, it didn’t take long, but he heard a lot of sliding around.
“Y-You can open your eyes now,” Serena nervously stammered.
Andrew was expecting she had bought some fancy lingerie and was ready to make a move. He was only half correct. The first things that caught his eyes when he opened them were the two large breasts that were indeed barely covered by a strip of burgundy fabric held together by snake-themed clasps. However, his girlfriend’s skin had taken on a strange blue hue and, as Andrew’s gaze dropped past her toned belly with it’s ruby piercing, he realized that her long, slim legs had been replaced by four yards of teal snake.
His eyes widened as they snapped back up to meet Serena’s and in her now reptilian orbs he saw fear that morphed into despair at his horrified expression. As her face fell, part of him felt indignant that a monster would expect anything less, but another part of him realized that Serena was opening up everything to him. As he looked deeper into her eyes he realized that, despite their change in appearance, the soul they windowed was still the same wonderful, flirty, sometimes dorky girl he suspected he might have fallen in love with. Whatever she was, it didn’t look like she wanted to hurt him, just be accepted by her boyfriend.
Forcing a smile he hoped would soon become natural, Andrew stepped forward and embraced Serena who, after a moment, returned the stiff hug. They stayed there for a minute before Andrew whispered into Serena’s now elfin ear, “This is a lot to process right now. But I- I still care about you and I hope you’ll be patient with me.”
“I’m so sorry for springing this on you. I’m not entirely sure what I expected to happen but,” her shoulders heaved as she babbled, “I should have realized what a shock this would be. I can change back if you want and I’ll understand if you want to leave and never see me again.” She heaved again and Andrew could feel drops of water falling on his shoulder and he rubbed a circular pattern on her back.
“Let’s take this slow,” Andrew suggested as he pulled back and started guiding Serena towards the sofa. “We can sit down and you can tell me what the hell is going on while I try to process,” he gestured to Serena’s lower half, “this.” At the serpent-woman’s frown he added, “It’s not too bad the longer I look at it.” He couldn’t tell if his words helped or hurt.
Serena took a deep breath as she reclined on one end of the couch. “I’m an Echidna- a descendant of a type of Greek monster. Most of the monsters in myths are real. They were cruel, violent beasts who roamed the earth wreaking havoc on humans until a cabal of sorcerers banished them to another dimension known as the demon realm. There, with no humans to fight, they waged war amongst themselves for centuries until the Demon Lord and most of the other contenders to the throne were slain, allowing a powerful Succubus to take the title. Desperate to stop the fighting that had claimed the life of her lover, she used all of her life force to cast a spell that permanently altered every single monster, giving them and all their descendants some of the characteristics of a succubus and replacing their desire to kill with a desire to love. Unfortunately, the spell went a bit overboard and made it so that every monster born since The Casting has been female. After thirty years and the acceptance that, in order for male monsters to be born, the entire spell would have to be reversed, the Ruling Council decided to attempt to return to the Human realm. They started efforts to create a bridge between dimensions the year I was born, and it took them seventeen years to complete it, with the first monster crossing over just under two years ago. So far they’ve just been sending monster girls who can change shape to appear human, like me.”
“So you’re a scout,” Andrew finally spoke up. “Am I just breeding stock?”
Serena flinched as if she had been struck. “No! I love you.” She blushed at her sudden admission. “We monsters are emotional creatures. It’s what made us so violent before The Casting and it’s why we’ve been so careful about how we integrate ourselves into your society. After everything we’ve done together, how could you accuse me of that?” she demanded as tears poured down her cheeks. “If I just wanted your dick, I would have taken it. I want a relationship. I- I want-“
“I’m sorry, that was unfair,” Andrew looked down contritely. “I can’t look at any of the past few months and say you ever treated me as anything but a friend and a lover.” He picked up part of her tail and began stroking it before meeting her eyes, this time with a look of resolve. “I want to make this work. I want you. You’re the only woman I can say I’ve loved, and that’s something too valuable to throw away.”
“Y-You love me?”
Andrew plunged forward. “Yes. I do. Human, Snake, or Echidna, you’re still Serena Mitera. The wonderful girl who loves hiking with me, makes incredible fish, has a wonderful rack,” he glanced down at the one part of her that hadn’t really changed, “and shared her deepest secret with me. If you can forgive me, I want to be with you.”
Serena grinned as she slithered over to him. “A wonderful rack?” she repeated as she pressed her ample chest against him. “Will you stay the night?” She asked huskily. “I can change back into a human form if you’d prefer.”
Andrew ran his hand down her hip and past the junction where flesh met scale until he was cupping something that felt suspiciously like her ass. “No, I’m really starting to like this.”
The sound of his bird calls slowly increasing in volume told Andrew that he had two hours to get to work. He tried to reach towards his phone to silence the naturalistic alarm before realizing that he was wrapped up in scaly coils and laying in someone else’s bed. Both his surroundings and his mind came into focus as he saw Serena’s sleeping face inches away from his own and all the events of last night came rushing in. He struggled to escape but quickly found his wriggling wasn’t getting him anywhere, so he decided to try a different approach. Leaning his head as far forward as he could, he was able to barely place his lips on Serena’s nose. It twitched cutely before her eyes slowly opened. Reptilian eyes he once found disturbing now seemed to sparkle with a warmth and happiness that was rather sexily still dulled by the grasps of sleep.
“Mornin,” Serena mumbled as she squeezed her coils tighter.
“Hey.” Andrew kissed her nose again, prompting Serena to shift her body enough that he could properly kiss her lips. When they separated, he murmured, “I’ve gotta get ready for work.”
“But you’re so warm,” she argued as she reluctantly freed him from her coils. As Andrew extricated himself, he caused the sheet to slide down her body and reveal a perfect breast. Now that his hands were free, it was all Andrew could do to resist the urge to grab it and rub his thumb over the dark blue nipple. Unfortunately, he knew that they wouldn’t leave the bed for another hour if he tried that. Instead, he made a counter offer.
“You know what else is warm? A nice shower.” He ran his hand down her shoulder. “Care to join me?”
“Nothing in either world could stop me.”