258: Havenwood

on July 23, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Steff Flirts With Death

While Steff hurried over to the boys’ side to get ready, Amaranth helped me out of my jeans and into my fishnets, then started bagging up my bath stuff and toiletries.

“Oh, I’m going to be soooo cold,” I said, looking at my miniskirt dubiously.

“But it’ll be so worth it,” Amaranth said, putting my jeans, a t-shirt, a sweater, and some socks and underwear into my book bag. “While I was talking to the Mercy’s representative, I had him confirm the delivery address so you’d know where you’re going.” She produced a bit of paper. “The Havenwood’s supposed to be fairly nice, so, um, if Steff feels like splitting the expense… well, you’ve been a little free with your money lately, and part of that’s my fault. Anyway, the delivery’s scheduled for eleven thirty, so you guys will have plenty of time for dancing.”

“Eleven thirty?” I repeated. “I guess that pretty much does away with the chance of getting to bed early and making it to my morning class anyway.”

“You’re sure you can miss it without hurting your grade?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Unless I blow another quiz later, I mean. But on the other hand, if I hang onto my free grade, I might never actually have an opportunity to use it.”

“Ultimately it’s your decision, baby,” Amaranth said. “I admit, I can’t be unbiased here because I’ve wanted to see you two get together. Your schoolwork and true love are both worthy causes.”

“I wish I could do make-up,” I said once I’d changed into the skirt and my spider shirt. “I’m going to look so trashy, next to Steff.”

“You’re going to look beautiful, with her on your arm,” Amaranth said. “And I think Steff will appreciate your look. Do you need anything before I go?”

“Go?” I repeated, feeling a bit of panic creeping in. “You’re not going to stick around? Make sure I don’t, you know screw up or something?”

She giggled, and pulled me close.

“Baby, it’s Steff,” she said. “You’re going to do fine.” She took a step back and looked me over. “Now, I want you to try your best to relax and enjoy yourself… and I’m talking about the whole thing, with Steff, and whatever you two decide to do with each other, and the food. Also, I want you to take this, for emergencies.”

She held out a single gold coin.

“Amaranth, I can’t take that!” I said. “I’m throwing enough money away tonight as it is.”

“I hope you don’t call it ‘throwing money away’ in front of Steff,” she said, looking at me over the top of her glasses. “And I know you don’t have a lot of extra spending money, which is why I want you to have this… for emergencies, like I said. You can give it back to me tomorrow if it turns out you don’t need it. In the mean time, I’ll feel better knowing you have it for coach fare, or whatever.”

“Okay,” I said, accepting the coin. “But I am giving it back.”

“I trust you, baby,” she said.

We embraced and shared a lingering kiss, and then she left me alone to wait for my date.

My date…

The knock on the door that came a while later was so soft, so tentative and unassuming that it was hard to believe it belonged to Steff. The sight of her in her dress… shyly smiling and with more and better make-up than she normally wore… didn’t just take my breath away… it stole the lungs from my body and left me gasping and paralyzed.

“Am I… is this alright?” she asked me, doing a slow turn in the doorway.

“It’s… you’re beautiful,” I said.

She giggled and blushed.

“Are you ready?” she asked me.

“Ready as I’m going to be,” I said. “Do you want to come in? Oh, or do we… I mean, should we get going?”

“Do we have anything we have to do here?” she asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. “Let’s just get going.”

“Are you bringing anything?” she asked, holding up her small overnight bag.

“Oh, yeah… I think Amaranth packed me some stuff,” I said.

“Are you going to bring it?”

“Right!” I said. I darted back to my desk, where Amaranth had put my bag. “Okay, now I’m ready to go.”

“Okay,” she said. She started to turn and back out of the door, but then she stopped. “Oh!”

“What?” I asked.

“I love you,” she said.

“Huh?”

“I wanted to say that, first thing when I saw you,” she said. “But I didn’t remember until now.”

“I love you, too, Steff,” I said, and we kissed.

Her lipstick—or more likely, lip glamour—didn’t smudge at all. It had an impressive number of shades blended together, as did her eye shadow and… more subtly… her blush. The gold-tinged cosmetics matched her elven-style gown so closely that I could easily have believed that they’d come with it as a set.

Our clinch ended with a jolt as something heavy slammed against the opposite door from the inside. We both stared at it for a second, but no more sound or explanation was forthcoming.

“Um, let’s just go,” I said quietly.

Steff nodded, I shut and locked my door, and off we went, hand-in-hand. We got halfway to the stairs when I realized I’d forgotten my coat.

“Oh, you don’t need to cover yourself up with that ugly thing,” Steff said.

“I do if you expect me to make it to the coaches,” I said.

Once I had my coat, we were finally set for real. We headed out past the union to the lot where the university coaches pulled up. I was glad for my coat and ended up putting my insulating spell on it when we ended up waiting for a second coach to avoid having to share one with a mixed group of guys and girls who were also headed into town.

“Sorry I didn’t think to get private wheels,” I said as we waited. “That I know of.”

“It’s okay,” Steff said. “You really went all out… for whatever reason. I’ve got no complaints. Do you mind if I squeeze under your coat, though? It looks plenty big enough for both of us…”

I considered for a moment… that would mean opening the front and letting out all the deliciously warm air that was building up inside of it. It would mean Steff’s body was pressed up against mine, but it would also mean exposing myself to the biting cold.

“Mack?”

“I’m thinking about it,” I said.

Fortunately, the next black coach came rolling into the lot then, saving me from having to make the choice. Steff and I scrambled up into it still holding hands, side-by-side, which was a little difficult. Once we were inside, I noticed that Steff was really shivering and felt guilty.

“Here,” I said, unbuttoning my coat and pulling one of my arms out of the sleeve. I draped half of the coat over her and held her close.

“Thanks,” she said. She put one hand on my chest, tracing the silver lines of the spider web… and feeling my breast, probably not coincidentally. “I really like this top.”

“I was thinking of you when I bought it,” I said.

“Really?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I wasn’t really sold on the whole shopping trip thing until I spotted it, but then… I thought, that’s something Steff would like.”

“It is,” she said.

“That made me excited about getting it,” I said. “Which made me a little more excited about the whole clothes-buying thing.”

“You should be excited about clothes,” Steff said. “There are only so many things you can do about your appearance, you know, but you can always change your clothes.”

“I think you should get more of those elven-style gowns,” I said. “They suit you.”

“Elven-ish dresses for an elven-ish girl-ish,” Steff said.

“Don’t say that,” I said. “You are a girl… my girl.”

I kissed her, and then we were all over each other… or as all over as we could get, fully dressed. Somehow my hand ended up on her crotch, rubbing against her stiffening dick.

Well, I said “somehow”, but I’ve got a pretty good idea how it happened

“A funny kind of girl,” Steff said as I massaged her groin.

“My kind of girl,” I said. “None of the icky parts.”

She laughed.

“I’d never say this in front of Amy or Dee, because, you know… stuck-up goddess worshipping bullshit… but vags really are pretty gross,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“I’ll do Amy in hers, because it’s her and I know it’s clean, but otherwise… seriously, no.”

“I really don’t blame you.”

She sighed.

“There’s a lot of shit I’d love to have been able to skip in my life,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I’m glad I have a cock, and somebody who appreciates it. I can’t wait to fuck you.”

I froze up, my hand still on her but not moving.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I… um… I didn’t actually remember to update my lists like I said I would,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “Um, do you want to go over that now, then? We can write it down when we get up to our room, or whatever.”

“You know what? Let’s forget about them,” I said. “I mean, this is date night, not crazy S&M night. We both know what we’re going there for.”

Steff looked at me hard for several moments, then slowly nodded.

“Okay,” she said. “But I’m going to want to hear you say it, in so many words, when it’s time.” She put her lips to my ear. “For more than one reason.”

We fooled around a bit more until the carriage rolled through the gates. Distracted as I was, I was totally unprepared for the probing divinations that assaulted me as we crossed the threshold.

“Shit, I’m sorry,” Steff said. “I always forget that.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I mean, it’s invasive and annoying, but it’s not your fault.”

The automated coach wouldn’t get us much further than the city gates, so we had to flag down a cab. Well, Steff did, anyway… I wouldn’t have known how to get one in a million years. She let out a truly ear-splitting whistle and an old-fashioned, boxy carriage rolled to a stop at the nearby curb.

“Evening, ladies. Where can I take you?” the driver asked as behind him, the door swung open.

“I have the address here,” I said, digging in my backpack for the paper Amaranth had written it on.

“Havenwood,” Steff said.

“I know where that is. Climb in.”

The ride was bouncier than I’d expected, after the well-maintained and more modern coaches the school used.

“This’ll be on me,” Steff said. “Since you’re paying for everything else.”

“Viktor’s picking up dinner,” I said.

“Yeah, well, I still feel like I should contribute something, myself.”

I didn’t remind her that… as Viktor had pointed out through Amaranth… Steff was actually broke herself, and spending Viktor’s money. She wanted to make a gesture. I wasn’t going to argue with that… the whole night was pretty much a gesture. Our attraction was very real, but the fact that we were building a whole evening around it was a way of showing how much more than base attraction it was.

“Thanks for taking care of that,” I told Steff after we’d got to the Havenwood.

“Not a problem, honey,” Steff said. “I’m just glad it’s not anywhere fancier, or it would have broke me… the nicer the place they drop you off at, the better tip they expect.”

We headed inside. Steff had led me to believe that Havenwood was a sort of mid-level inn, but even from walking into the lobby… with its elaborate parquet floor, fountain, and twinkling fireglass chandeliers that floated below the ceiling, their individual crystals writhing like flames… the seven-story building seemed pretty upscale to me.

The woman behind the desk in the lobby flicked her eyes very quickly over me and then locked on Steff. She smiled an industry-specific smile. Well, Steff in her dress probably did look more like a Havenwood guest than I did. At least, with my coat on, there could be the possibility that I was properly attired underneath.

“Hi,” I said, stepping forward. “Um, reservation for Mackenzie Blaise?”

“Last name Blaise?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I think it’s a suite.”

“Right,” she said. “Let me just find you here.”

She fiddled with something beneath the counter.

“Hey, is your ballroom open tonight?” Steff asked her.

“We have a wedding reception in there, actually,” she said. “But there are a couple of nightclubs down the street.”

“She’s eighteen,” Steff said. I thought about adding that Steff was only like nineteen, but it didn’t seem to actually matter. “Is there any place you can recommend, for dancing and stuff?”

“Um… not off the top of my head, but there are some tourist pamphlets in the display by the door.”

“I’m going to go check that out, okay?” Steff said to me.

“Sure,” I said.

“Okay,” the clerk said. “Looks like you’ve been upgraded to the Empress Suite.”

I didn’t like the sound of that… or rather, my need to purchase the necessities of life didn’t. I figured it would be really terribly gauche to just blurt out “How much does that cost?”… but that’s what I did, anyway.

“It’s been taken care of,” she said. “At the same time the room was changed.”

“Wait, what?”

“The reservation was originally for a deluxe balcony suite, but it was upgraded to the Empress Suite and paid in advance by a bank transfer,” she said.

“Really?” I asked. “Who did that?”

“It just says ‘paid by third party’,” she said. “The reservation’s still in your name.”

Amaranth might have had something to say about the way I turned and walked away without so much as an “excuse me”, but I felt a little blindsided. I went over to where Steff was looking at the pamphlets.

“Hey,” she said. “So far nothing’s looking too likely. Do you got our keys so we can at least check out the room?”

“Not yet. Did Viktor say anything about upgrading our room for us?” I asked.

“Um, no,” she said. “But you did say you’d booked us a suite.”

“Yeah,” I said. “But somebody apparently paid for it in advance, and bumped us up to a better one. I can’t think of who would have any reason to do that, except maybe him.”

“You know he doesn’t actually like you, right?”

“Uh, yeah, I kind of gathered that,” I said. “But he loves you, and somebody bumped us up to a bigger suite. That’s got to be him, right? Nobody else even knows we’re coming here.”

“Did he know we were coming here, in particular?” Steff asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I didn’t talk to him, remember?”

“I didn’t really talk to him, either,” Steff said. “Amy might have mentioned it to him, but I don’t think… well, I mean, he bailed you out of the Mercy’s thing, but he’s getting something for us out of that. I don’t think he’d go any farther out of the goodness of his heart… I mean, he actually kind of hates you.”

“Yeah, I figured that out about the time he bent the tongs on my skull,” I said. “I’m slow on the uptake, but I’m not that slow.”

“He keeps asking me if I’m sure I wouldn’t rather have your body than you, no matter how many times I tell him that I mostly am.”

Mostly?!?”

“Sometimes I get insecure,” she said. “And then sometimes when I can’t sleep, I start adding up all the things that I can do with you alive and all the things I could do if you were dead, or undead.” She smiled. “So far, there’s way more things in the ‘alive’ column, but I wouldn’t mind being able to take you apart sometimes… and frankly, there have been times when it’s hit me how much less annoying you’d be, dead.”

I stared at her.

“Sorry,” she said, blushing. “I didn’t mean to suggest that you’re annoying. I mean, you’re not that annoying… all the time.”

“Uh… considering we’re about to spend the night alone together, this would be a perfect time to bust out the ‘just kidding’,” I said.

“I said I was sorry,” she said.

“I don’t mean about the ‘annoying’ part. I meant about the ‘killing me’ part.”

“Oh, that?” she said. “I probably wouldn’t be so, you know, candid about this, but I really feel like I can tell you anything, tonight. Call me sappy.”

That wasn’t the word that was coming to my mind, but I didn’t say anything. I knew Steff had some creepy ideas about things… things which included me. I knew she had some sort of evilish tendencies. I could have wished that she wouldn’t choose our date night to express them, but… she was Steff.

“Also, it’s been on my mind since I got to watch Callahan squeezing the life out of you earlier today,” she added. “For a moment I really thought you were dead, and I was trying to figure out how I could get your signature on a release form.”

“That was your priority?” I asked. “You thought you’d watched a teacher murdering me and your first thought was how you could get your hands on my corpse?”

“It was the most productive thing I could think of… I love you, Mack,” she said. “I wouldn’t stop loving you if you died, and if you’re willing to admit that about somebody, I don’t really see the conflict between loving somebody and being okay with killing them… except that it’s a big permanent thing that can’t be easily undone. Like marriage… but more so.”

“And, you actually lie awake at night and seriously think about killing me,” I said. It wasn’t a question, because Steff wasn’t being at all ambiguous. “For real… you do that?”

“I idly think about it,” she said. “Just for something to occupy my mind.”

“And this is after you stopped Viktor from torturing me because you couldn’t stand to see me suffer?” I said.

It would have been hard to pin down how I felt about all this. Steff’s appeal had never been in safety, and while I was a little bit shocked, I wasn’t finding myself scared or repulsed by this conversation.

It was hard to say if the bit of excitement I felt was leftover from earlier, or if I was a little bit turned on by the subject.

“With death, suffering’s optional,” she said. “It’s kind of the definition of torture. Anyway, I wouldn’t do it. Aside from all the legal stuff, Amy wouldn’t understand.”

“Don’t overestimate my level of understanding, either,” I said.

She laughed, and kissed me.

“Oh, Mack, I would probably never kill you if you didn’t want me to,” she said. “And I’d definitely not do it inside the Imperium, while we’re both at school. That would pretty much be throwing away my life.”

“Where would you even have a chance to do it, if not here?” I asked.

“Well, I’m trying to talk Viktor into inviting you to visit us at Kilrest during the summer,” Steff said. “Would you be interested?”

“Yeah, um… I’ll have to think about that.”


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9 Responses to “258: Havenwood”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “nooo…don’t go down into the dark basement!”

    Current score: 0
    • JN says:

      “But there was this weird and freaky noise which happened as soon as everyone else was out of earshot…”

      JN

      Current score: 2
  2. Arkeus says:

    Mackie, this would be a good time to punch the light out of Steff and realize this guy isn’t ready for a relationship where he isn’t the sub.

    Current score: 0
    • Arakano says:

      Steff’s a girl. A somewhat disturbed girl, at times, but please stop calling her a “guy” or a “he”.

      Current score: 7
      • Athena says:

        Again I find myself seconding Arakano in a reply to Arkeus being insensitive… sure picked an interesting work to read buddy.

        Yes, I will definitely admit some of the things Steff likes are creepy, but the important factor is what she acts on, not what she fantasises about. I can’t really hold myself up as an example here since most of my fantasies, particularly the more extreme ones (I’d indulge in consensual non-consent, but I don’t think I could get my head into it properly and we’d just end up not getting anywhere) have me receiving rather than giving.

        I was with someone who really liked the idea of snuff play once, though. He would never have actually killed me, so I saw (and see) no problem with this. Might even have indulged him, except see above CNC problem.

        Granted Steff isn’t *as* certain on the never part, but we *are* talking about a world with necromancy and resurrection and the like. I also get the impression that her qualifiers are more closely related to my allergy to unqualified statements than to any real risk that she’d do it. She can’t see the future, after all. Actually, an allergy to dropping qualifiers makes even more sense given the Mechan thing, and the fact that interest in science is a big part of why I tend to qualify a lot of statements.

        Current score: 1
  3. WizardOne says:

    Jesus christ, steff is an absolute Psycho.

    Really having trouble enjoying their interactions, because wanting to murder rape and eat your ‘loved one’ does not in any way indicate love.

    Thats psychosis.

    Current score: 0
    • tordirycgoyust says:

      Love? Perhaps not. Attraction and lust? Definitely. I think also that she makes up for the love angle in other ways. Sex just happens to be such a big part of her identity that her ways of showing love take a bit of a back seat to her fetishes much of the time.

      Current score: 0
  4. Psi-Ko says:

    Steff really is my favourite character because of how out of bounds she is. You can’t define her in any clear way. The best you can do is try to wrap your head around her morals, and make another box for her next to “Male” and “Female”

    Current score: 1
    • nobody says:

      She already made & marked a “Steff” box so that part is solved.

      Current score: 4