267: Newsflash

on August 13, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Words Are Inadequate

The next morning was… I don’t have a word for it.

Well, I kind of do, but the word which would do it the most justice was kind of underwhelming by its nature.

That word was “nice”.

Waking up in a great big bed but with Steff pressed so close and tight up against me that we might have been pinned in by the hanging blankets on my dorm bed was nice. Realizing that check-out time wasn’t until noon… and we didn’t have oodles of luggage or anywhere to be… was nice. Going into the kitchen area and finding the rice and chicken we’d put in the stat box the night before ready to eat without even needing reheating was nice.

Looking across the table and seeing Steff, her eyes half-lidded, babbling behind a napkin about how she can’t believe she’s eating breakfast before she’s even put her make-up on…

Nice.

The Empress Suite was a completely different sight by day than it had been at night. Sunlight flooded in through the glass top, transforming the space, making it bigger and brighter. The Havenwood seemed to be the tallest building in the neighborhood, and from the kitchen and dining area we could look out and see nothing but blue sky and clouds.

“I could really get used to this,” Steff said, when she’d had a chance to wake up a bit more.

“Yeah, well, I have a feeling we won’t be coming back here any time soon.”

She threw a bit of chicken at me. I let it bounce off my forehead.

“I don’t mean this place,” she said. “I mean this feeling. Do you know what it’s like when a word can so perfectly sum something up and yet not say half of what you need it to?”

I smiled. Did I know what that was like? Yes… yes I did.

“Mack?” Steff prompted.

“What?”

“You went all quiet again…”

“Sorry,” I said. “Too many years without anybody else to talk to… I’m still a little, you know, in my head most of the time.”

“Yeah, but it’s cute,” Steff said. “When it isn’t annoying… now that I think about it, that kind of sums you up, actually.”

“Yeah, like you’re cute when you’re not creepy,” I said. She stuck out her tongue, and I stuck out mine. “What’s the word?”

“Huh?”

“You said one word could sum this up perfectly,” I said.

“Oh… yeah,” Steff said.

Seconds went by, and she just sat there, picking at her rice.

“Steff?” I said.

“What?”

“Now you’re doing it,” I said.

“Sorry,” she said. She pushed her plate away and looked down at her lap. “Do you remember when I told you I wasn’t in love with you?” she asked. I nodded. “Well… I wasn’t lying, but I don’t think I was exactly telling the truth, because that’s the only word that fits. Love.”

My mouth felt very dry. I took a sip of the fizzy pear juice and licked my lips. Yes, I knew that Steff loved me… we’d said as much to each other weeks ago, after our first trip to Enwich. This was different, though. Even if she hadn’t actually brought herself to say in so many words “I’m in love with you,” she was telling me that all the same.

It wasn’t exactly a newsflash… but it meant the world to me that she’d stopped denying it.

“What about Viktor?” I asked. My voice cracked a little.

“I love him, yeah,” Steff said.

“But, the whole thing with Kilrest?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “I really don’t know, Mack. This morning, I’m a lot less sure of what’s going to happen three years from now than I was last night.”

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I don’t have any plan for what I’m going to do after college,” I said.

“What are you talking about?” Steff asked. “You’re getting your applied enchantment degree… you don’t need a plan, you can walk into a workshop and get a job right out of school.”

“A job’s not the same thing as a plan,” I said. “Anyway, I had a kind of an idea about making toys… but an idea isn’t a plan, either.”

“Well, we have time,” Steff said. She shrugged and pushed her chair back. “I don’t know… maybe it’s silly to think we’ll know what we want in three or four years, you know? Who knows what could happen in the mean time?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Who knows?”

After breakfast, we explored the rest of the suite’s amenities… we tried out the appropriately ostentatious TV, though neither one of us were big TV watchers and there was nothing on but the morning shows. We left it playing while we wandered through the sunlit suite.

There was a door I hadn’t noticed in the pool area, leading to a small rooftop garden. I grabbed Steff’s arm when she reached for it.

“Let’s not go and let the warm air out,” I said.

“But it looks so pretty,” she said. “We could have an early lunch on the terrace, before we check out,” Steff said.

“We just ate a dinner-sized meal for breakfast,” I said. “Are you really going to be hungry again in a few hours?”

“Sure, why not?” Steff said. “We can order pancakes for lunch, just to fuck with their heads.”

“Pancakes?” I repeated, brightening at the prospect. “Well… maybe. I’m not sure it’ll be warm enough to eat outdoors, though.”

“Oh, don’t be such a wuss,” Steff said. “Look, the sun is out, the sky is blue… you’re acting like there’s snow on the ground.”

She opened the door, and I braced myself for a rush of cold air that never came.

“Huh,” I said. I reached out to the open doorway and extended my senses. There were a variety of security spells laced through the frame… they repelled my mental “touch” with a firmness that couldn’t be accidental, so I backed away from them. There was no trace of anything like an insulating spell, though.

“See, it’s nice and warm out,” Steff said.

She stepped outside, and I followed. The garden was a mix of bushy plants in concrete planters and small sculptures of classical elven figures. The evidence of the previous night’s storm was pooled on the pebbled floors.

“Oh, wow… this place is cool,” Steff said.

“It’s a little… sepulchral,” I said, looking at the graven image of a stern-faced centaur.

“Yeah, I know,” Steff said. “Actually, I’m pretty sure these are all replicas of funereal icons… it reminds me of a memorial garden I used to go to when I was staying with my dad.” She reached out and touched the face of an elven woman, holding a rose between her fingers. “You know, most of the monuments were there for volunteers… the vogue for leaving statues behind is part of the whole big romanticism-of-death thing that comes and goes. Only part of elven culture I’ve ever really liked.”

“What about the music?” I asked.

“Okay, yeah, the music, too,” she said. She sighed. “I guess, at the end of the day, I really am half an elf, aren’t I?”

“You’re you,” I said. “And you grew up with this stuff… some of it would have to rub off on you.”

“I guess,” she said.

“Anyway, I love you… and everything that went into you,” I said. I went to kiss her, but she tried to turn her face away. I ended up kissing her on the chin.

“There have been some pretty freaky things going into me,” she said.

“I love you anyway,” I said. “Though, I don’t necessarily want to hear about those.”

“Heh,” Steff said.

“Anyway, have you noticed that there’s no wind up here?” I said.

“It’s a very calm day, I guess,” Steff said.

I went very cautiously towards the edge of the walled-off patio area, relaxing when I realized it didn’t go quite up to the edge of the building. Of course, we were on some kind of a setback anyway, so even if I did somehow go plummeting off the edge, I wouldn’t plummet far.

As comforting thoughts went, that one wasn’t very.

I went to the edge, where a short hedge was planted along the top of a knee-high barrier, and reached out again. There it was… there was a spell like my insulation enhancement, but more comprehensive and free-standing.

“They’ve got some serious weatherproofing up here,” I said.

“Didn’t keep the rain off,” Steff said.

“No, but it’s keeping wind and cold out, and that’s good enough for me,” I said.

“So… breakfast on the terrace for lunch, then?” Steff asked.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sold.”

“I really hope you aren’t,” Steff said.

“Uh, yeah, I guess that was a poor choice of words,” I said. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay… let’s go inside and see what kind of sticky, mess-making syrup they have in a dive like this,” Steff said.

“Yeah,” I said.

We headed in and went to the entertainment center in the living room. The news was showing some kind of press conference or something. We invoked the Havenwood’s internal information stuff and found an interactive menu for the kitchen.

“Ooh, waffles and pancakes,” Steff said. “See?” She tried to point to the corner of the menu showing them, but as soon as she acknowledged it, it filled the entire expanse. “Wow, this thing’s responsive.”

“Oh, but look,” I said. “It says they only do breakfast until nine… we’d have to order like now and put it in stasis for later.”

“Or we could give them a shout at eleven and tell them the Empress Suite wants pancakes,” Steff said. “Do you really think they’d say no to us?”

“Oh, let’s not be difficult,” I said. “We know what we want, we’ve got the stasis box… there’s no reason we can’t just order now.”

“You don’t want to pretend to be rich and entitled for just a little bit longer?” Steff asked.

“When I am rich, I’m not going to act like that,” I said.

“When?” Steff repeated. “So, you do have a post-graduation plan.”

“‘Have more money than I have now’ isn’t a plan,” I said. “It’s a goal.”

Steff snorted.

“If that’s your benchmark, it’s barely even that,” Steff said. She fished out a copper coin from her pocket and pressed it into my hand. “There… mission accomplished.”

“Bitch,” I said, pocketing the coin with a smirk.

“I notice you’re not giving it back.”

“It’s from you, and I’ll treasure it always,” I said. I stuck out my tongue, and she nipped at it with her teeth.

“Come on. If we’re going to be goody-goodies, we’d better get ordering while the ordering’s good,” Steff said. She gestured towards the menu floating inside the TV. “Do you think we can order from here?” The pancakes highlighted themselves and a total appeared in the corner. “Oh! I guess that answers that. What else do we want? Eggs? Bacon?”

“Just pancakes for me,” I said. I looked at the syrup choices. “What does boysenberry taste like?”

“I don’t know… kind of like blackberries but not?” she said. She grinned. “How about butter pecan?”

“Okay,” I said, smiling, “but only if we can also get…”

“…hot chocolate!” Steff finished along with me. “Whatever gods care bless that crazy little golem,” she said. “Her and all her friends.”

“Speaking of, I wonder if Amaranth ever tracked down Dee,” I said.

“Oh, honey, if anybody can take care of themselves, it’s Two’s friend Dee,” Steff said. “Though I wouldn’t lay odds in a fight between her and Two’s friend Hazel.”

“Heh,” I said. “Neither would I.”

We finished our order… pancakes for both of us and some eggs over easy and sausage for Steff. She’d looked at something called “blood sausage” with a little interest, but whatever she saw on my face must have changed her mind.

After the TV thanked us for ordering, we backed out of the information system and started to turn away when an image caught both of our eyes… we turned as one to see a very familiar looking cloak gliding down stone steps, flanked by a woman in a suit. A newscaster’s voice provided narration.

“The dark elf, identified only as a Magisterius University student, was held overnight and then released. There has been no word about possible charges.”

We looked from the TV to each other, and then back at the TV. Steff’s mouth opened and closed. Mine was frozen. I think we both wanted to say something, but there just weren’t any words.


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7 Responses to “267: Newsflash”

  1. pedestrian says:

    a poem a friend once quipped

    Do a good deed
    for a friend in need
    makes you a good friend,
    indeed.

    Current score: 1
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    I noticed that Steff blessed Two “and all of her friends”. Yet Mackenzie didn’t shriek and reel back as if she’d exploded.

    Is Mack not Two’s friend because she’s her sister? Is she not affected.because of the indirectness of the blessing?

    Current score: 1
    • Pamela says:

      From what I gather, idle blessings with no piety involved are harmless. As Steff isn’t exactly pious, I’m going to assume that is the case this time around.

      Current score: 2
    • Mugasofer says:

      I’m not sure “whatever gods care” counts … Mack prayed to “nobody in particular” to avoid getting burned like she was by Khersis, remember?

      Of course, Steff’s not exactly a paragon of faith, either.

      Current score: 2
      • Anon says:

        Well, if Steff is an Arkhanite, then it stands to reason that the deity which cared most about her prayers would be among the Neutral Powers, and therefore not cause any negative reaction in a demonblood.

        Current score: 0
  3. capybroa says:

    No breakfast after nine AM? And these people call this place a “nice hotel,” sheesh…

    Current score: 2
  4. lunchbox says:

    IIRC, Arkhanos is a neutral god.

    Current score: 2