284: After The Ending

on September 13, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Mackenzie Can Has A Hangover

You might have expected that I would have had all kinds of crazy dreams after falling asleep drunk and horny in a strange place, but the lights in my head stayed off all night.

In retrospect, even if sleeping with Sooni had been a good idea, the situation wouldn’t have been ideal for it. I hadn’t exactly come into Friday well-rested… pouring a bunch of alcohol on top of that was like a recipe for crashing early and crashing hard. Well, at least I had made my stand before falling asleep.

Consciousness came back to me grudgingly. The darkness turned gray, and I became aware of my body. I regretted it immediately… my limbs were leaden, and my head was full of a dull, persistent thudding. I let out a groan.

“Good morning,” Sooni said, in a neutral but pleasant tone from the space next to me. I cracked open my eyes and glanced over. She was laying on her back the way Two did, princess-style. I wondered if that was uncomfortable, with her tail. Her gaze was fixed on the ceiling. “After thinking it over, I decided it wasn’t the right time for us to have sexual relations. I hope you aren’t too terribly disappointed.”

“Uh, I think I’ll live,” I said. I spent a few moments trying to spit out the wad of cotton in my mouth before I realized there wasn’t one.

“Good,” she said. “I’m glad you’ve decided to be mature about this.”

She rolled over and climbed out of bed. I stared at her bare back for a second before realizing she was topless. She’d taken off everything but the thong, in fact. What did I talk myself out of? I closed my eyes, rolled over, and pulled the blanket over my head when she started to turn around. There was no sense tormenting myself with visions of what I couldn’t have, after all. I’d made my choice.

I felt a little better with my eyes closed and covered, too… since when did light carry tiny little knives to stab you with? Things were much better under the covers.

“Are you going back to sleep?” Sooni asked a few seconds or several minutes later.

“I’m just resting,” I said.

“Well, don’t. We have to talk about how we’re going to get back to school now.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, lifting my head and opening my eyes. She’d put her bustier back on at some point. I hoped that my headache was making me misunderstand her.

“Well, I only ordered the carriage for last night,” she said.

“What, you don’t have money for cab fare?” I asked.

“No, I spent all… that is to say, not right at this moment, I do not,” she said. “I just assumed everything else would work itself out after we… before I changed my mind, I mean.”

Strangling her wouldn’t get me out of Enwich, I told myself. If anything, it would prolong my stay. I supposed I couldn’t blame her entirely, though… who bothers to plan past a happy ending?

“Well, I guess we’ll have to go for the school coaches,” I said, sitting up. “We might look a little weird strolling across town in evening wear, but…”

“We couldn’t walk that far!” Sooni said.

“I’m sure we… oh, shit. It doesn’t even matter… I don’t have my ID, remember?” I said.

“You are hopelessly irresponsible,” Sooni said. “Well, help me braid my hair and put it up, and then we’ll figure out what to do next.”

“I don’t know how to braid hair,” I said.

“What do you mean, you don’t know how to?” she said. “You just… braid it!”

“I could probably work it out if I had somebody with less of it to practice on,” I said. “But there’s no way I could do your hair.”

“Ooh!” Sooni said. She kicked at the wall, seemed disappointed in the sound, then went and put on her sandals before she did it again. “What good are you?”

“Sooni, I’m sorry… I’m sorry that this didn’t work out how you expected,” I said. I felt bad for her, as she’d evidently staked so much on this… but it was difficult to work out how to make a proper apology when she insisted on taking credit for nixing it.

“It isn’t your fault,” she said quietly.

“Anyway, your nekos all have their own mirrors, right?” I said.

“Yes,” she said. “I suppose I could get Kai to come help us… it isn’t as though any of your friends can afford mirrors.”

“Ian has a mirror,” I said, not wanting to drag Kai away from her private time to come rescue us. “Why don’t you let me try him first? It can be like my contribution to the trip.”

“Oh, very well,” Sooni said.

She pulled a compact out of her handbag and handed it to me. I tried to summon Ian up in it, but there was no answer. The only other person I knew that I could have tried was Viktor, but… well, I’d rather disturb Kai, all things considered.

Not that there weren’t other alternatives…

“I guess he must be out. Why don’t we try… uh… Suzi?” I asked, wishing there were more options. She seemed to be the least hostile of the nekos… at least towards me personally… but she didn’t seem that bright. Of course, that might have been personal bias talking. She wasn’t as fluent in Pax as the others, but that didn’t necessarily mean she was stupid.

“Suzi? She’s worse than useless,” Sooni said. “And I want my… I would very much like to see Kai, I think.”

It was the first glimpse of how Sooni was really feeling, underneath the act she was putting on. She needed a teddy bear. She needed someone like Amaranth to hold her close and make everything alright. All she had was Baby Kai-Kai, a furry little slave who resented the hell out of her but put up with her for her own purposes.

I missed hating Sooni. It had been easier than feeling sorry for her.

“I suppose we can give Suzi a chance,” Sooni said. “It isn’t as though I need it to be Kai.”

“Yeah,” I said.

She flipped open the mirror. The only thing I understood in her address was “Suzi”. She tapped her sandaled foot on the carpet while she waited. I watched her and lamented the fact that it probably wasn’t possible to suck somebody’s toes casually, as a friend. Then I heard Suzi’s voice.

“Oh, hi!”

“What is that all over your face?” Sooni demanded. I got up from the bed and came around to see what was going on. Suzi’s face was huge and distorted… she was sticking it way too close to her own mirror. There was some kind of goopy stuff stuck on her chin and all over her whiskers.

“I eated a butter,” Suzi said. “We’re baking!”

“You are what?” Sooni asked.

“Baking!” Suzi repeated happily. I winced… her level of joyful exuberance was physically painful. “I made you a cookie! But… I eated it.”

“Don’t be stupid!” Sooni said. “You do not know how to bake cookies! Now quit goofing off and listen. I am at the inn with Miss Mackenzie and…”

“Hi, Mack!” a familiar voice called from out of the frame.

“Hi, Two,” I said.

“I am at the inn with Miss Mackenzie and we need money and street clothing,” Sooni said. “And somebody to help me with my hair. How soon can you get here?”

Suzi turned her head to the side, then started speaking in Yokano.

“In Pax, you stupid thing!” Sooni yelled. “How are you going to learn to speak correctly if you don’t even try?”

My poor head… I couldn’t take it. I needed to do something quick, and I wasn’t ruling out smashing either the mirror or my own skull into itty bitty pieces. I’d try something a little less drastic first.

“Sooni, can I please see that?” I asked, and Sooni handed me the mirror. “Suzi, could you please give the mirror to Two?” I asked. I didn’t really relish the chances of Suzi understanding what we needed and making it down to us, with her limited command of the imperial language.

The image shifted to show Two, wearing a white lacy apron over her clothes. This seemed to be entirely for show, as there wasn’t a speck or a spot on it.

“Hi, Mack,” Two said. “Hi, Sooni.”

“Hello,” Sooni said. “Stop what you are doing and get money…”

“Don’t tell her what to do,” I said.

“Don’t tell me what to do!” Sooni countered.

“I can’t stop what I’m doing,” Two said. “There are cookies in the oven, and we already mixed more frosting.”

“Two, we could really use your help,” I said. “Please?”

“I’m sorry, Mack, but I’m busy,” she said. “If you can wait, I can come when all the cookies have been made.”

“Can’t you finish the next batch and then do the rest later?” I asked.

“I promised Steff I would make cookies for her bake sale,” Two said. “And I have to work later.”

“Steff’s having a bake sale?”

“The Prism Pride Coalition is,” Two said. “They are running the concessions at the arena tonight.”

“Well, this is kind of important,” I said. “We’re going to have to check out eventually.”

“Nothing is more important than promises, Miss Mackenzie!” Sooni said. “Miss Two, do you have a few moments to help Suzi find suitable clothing for Miss Mackenzie, as well as her coin purse and her identification card?”

“Yes, I do,” Two said. She turned her head and looked down. “Hazel, I’m sorry, but I have to leave for…”

“It’s fine, love,” Hazel said. “Help your other friends.”

“Sooni isn’t my friend,” Two said. “Just Mack.”

“Well, even so, go do what you have to.”

“Anyway, yeah… we both need clothing, and I need my ID and money, and my mirror,” I told Two. “Then I guess we’ll give Suzi the address… oh, and make sure the clothes you pick out are mine.”

“Okay,” Two said. From the crease in her forehead I knew I’d spoiled her fun.

“Two, you know I always end up messing your stuff up,” I said.

“I know,” she said. “I wish you were more careful, but I also would like to see you dress better.”

“Well, wait until you see the dress Sooni made me,” I said. “Um… after I get the stains out. Anyway, I guess I’d better let you get going, so you can get back to your baking and we can get out of here.”

“Yes, you should,” Two said. She shifted the mirror up to the side of her head while they walked down the hall. “We have to get clothes for Sooni,” she said to Suzi. “Can you get into her room?”

I couldn’t make out the reply, but whatever it was, there didn’t seem to be a problem.

“So… what kind of cookies are you making, Two?” I asked.

“Iced sugar cookies,” she said. “In different shapes. It’s my friend Hazel’s recipe… if it’s still a recipe when it isn’t written down and you don’t really measure things.”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” I said.

“I’m writing everything down,” she said. “So that next time we can do it right.”

“Are you saving me any?” I asked.

“If you want some, you have to pay for them,” Two said. “Because they’re for the bake sale.”

“I hope Suzi didn’t give you any of my money!” Sooni said over my shoulder.

“No, my friend Suzi gets cookies because she’s helping,” Two said.

“And why is Suzi your friend and I am not?”

“Because she’s helping.”

“Put Suzi back on,” Sooni said.

“Okay,” Two said, and she handed off the mirror.

“Why are you helping the golem, Suzi?” Sooni asked.

“For cookies!”

“Well, don’t,” Sooni said. “Cookies will just make you fat and stupid.”

It was pathetic watching Suzi’s ears droop. I was feeling less and less sorry for Sooni… jealous that her purchased playmate had made an outside friend? She didn’t have any bodyguards following her around and rushing her to and from school here… nothing stopped Sooni from making her own friends, except for Sooni herself.

“Look, I’m going to take a shower,” I said, not really wanting to be a witness to any more of the conversation. A chill was beginning to intrude through the painful fog that filled my head. “You might want to give Suzi the directions to get here in Yokano, just so she doesn’t get lost.”

“I suppose you are right,” Sooni said.

“You know… when I was in that basic knife class, you seemed to be pretty popular,” I said. It was about half a charitable impulse towards Sooni and half one towards Suzi. If Sooni felt better about her social life, she might not clamp down on Suzi’s.

“Of course I was,” Sooni said. “I mean, I am. Everybody loves me, because I am so exotic-looking.”

“Of course they do,” I said. That had pretty much seemed to be the shape of it, from what I’d seen… they’d been cooing over her like she was a fancy poodle. It wasn’t the best basis for a friendship, but it might give her an inroad. She just needed to take it a step further. I wasn’t some sort of social savant, but Suzi bonding with Two and her friend Hazel gave me an idea. “I bet they’d love trying some of your Yokano food sometime.”

“Of course they would!” Sooni said. “Go take your shower, if you’re going to.”

“Hello?” Suzi said from the mirror. “Hello? I’m in your room, getting your clothes.”

“Yes, now listen carefully,” Sooni said, and she turned away from me and began speaking in Yokano. I watched her for a while… too long, probably, before I turned and headed towards the shower. The bathroom wasn’t properly separated from the bedroom… it was just sort of screened off with a frosted glass wall. I was almost bothered by that, but Sooni wasn’t paying any attention to me.

Had we made any kind of progress the night before? It had seemed like she’d opened up quite a bit, but now she was back to business as usual. In fairness, though, it was possible that she could just be hungover, too.

I tried not to take too long in the shower… Sooni probably wanted one, too. I realized I didn’t even know what time it was, or when exactly we had to check out.

I didn’t have my bathrobe, but there were a pair of towel robes. The Crystal Palace wasn’t as plush as the Empress Suite, but it certainly wasn’t bad.

“I’m done in the shower,” I said, peeking around the corner of the glass. Sooni was sitting in a chair, staring off into space with a look on her face that was between exhaustion and resignation.

Finally,” she said, without looking over. “I know you’re dirty… but…”

She trailed off. I guess it was too much effort to finish the sentence.

“Sooni… after we’ve checked out, we don’t have to rush back to campus,” I said. “We can, you know, hang out… go window shopping, or something. I’ll buy us lunch. If you want to, I mean. Just, hanging out… as friends.”

She scowled, then frowned, then scowled. It was like she was going through responses and rejecting them. Finally, her expression calmed, and then she turned to face me.

“I think that might be acceptable,” she said.

Whatever… it was progress. I hoped I wouldn’t end up regretting it too much. I also hoped Kai would appreciate the extra personal time I’d just given her.


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5 Responses to “284: After The Ending”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “Sleeping With the Enemy” was an interesting choice of title, considering that the movie was also about an abusive relationship.

    Current score: 3
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    “I’m in your room, getting your clothes.” Suzi is a meme cat. XD

    Current score: 2
  3. Anonymoose says:

    Really? THAT’S the meme you recognized?

    Current score: 2
  4. Grant says:

    “It isn’t your fault,” she said quietly.

    No one is commenting on this? Isn’t this.. kind of huge? This one statement was an admittance that things did NOT go the way Sooni planned, and she did not blame Mackenzie. The only person left for blame to fall upon is herself; and the fact that she said it “quietly” seems to me to carry the full impression that she understood this entirely.

    Sooni, for all her posturing about changing her mind when they woke up, appears to be aware she was “wrong”. I think the armor is well and truly cracked.

    Current score: 10
  5. Jechtael says:

    Mackenzie needs to learn some cleaning and mending spells. Perhaps Two could tutor her. If Steff and Hazel are better at learning them than Mackenzie, given their experience in practical spellcasting, Two could tutor the two to tutor her.

    I’ve been wondering all morning if Mackenzie was carrying that gold piece Amaranth gave her. Apparently not.

    Current score: 3