354: Driving Rain

on February 20, 2009 in Book 13

In Which Amaranth And Mackenzie Go Around In Circles

It was really coming down by the time we got to the coach stop, and there was no little shelter to wait under. I hadn’t spelled up my coat before leaving Caron’s shop and by that point it was a little late to think of that.

My nipples were aching… I wanted to get home and look at them in the mirror so I could convince myself they weren’t that heavy. I was strong enough that I could have flipped the carriage over with one hand… I ought to have been able to lift some little steel and pewter adornments with my breasts.

Actually, I wanted to lie down on my back so they wouldn’t be pulling. I didn’t think a bath would be a good idea… definitely not with bubbles and salts.

I felt a little sick in my stomach, too. I didn’t know if that was from the piercing, or…

What the fuck had I done?

It seemed so simple: get free stuff, show up at some club. The consequences for failure had seemed like no big deal because I wasn’t being asked to do much to avoid them. But considering the way my weekends had gone so far…

At least it wasn’t my feeding time for another week.

Wasn’t it?

Shit.

I was so fucked, I might have been pregnant.

Amaranth was saying nothing, just standing there in the pouring rain that couldn’t seem to quite drench her hair… pale and trembling, even though the chill air couldn’t have touched her like it did me. The carriage arrived and we climbed in.

“I want you to sit on the bench this time, Mack,” she said, pointing to the back-facing one as she sat on the other. I obeyed, after taking off my dripping coat and putting it down on the floor. My seat was going to be pretty wet no matter what, but there was no sense soaking it. Amaranth let out a sigh. “Did you not hear me trying to get your attention?”

“Yeah, but it was my decision,” I said. My terrible decision, my potentially catastrophic decision… my decision that I had been ruing the whole time we were waiting at the coach stop, but she tried to call me on it and my reaction was to defend it.

“You couldn’t have talked about it first?” she asked. “I would have been happy to just pay for the piercings.”

“You could have ordered me,” I said.

“I was trying… I might have been more forceful but I couldn’t believe you would actually do it,” Amaranth said. “You hate slavers. You hate slavery. Of everything you hate, that’s the one thing I really can’t disagree with… the hating the institution, I mean. Why, Mack… why would you sign that paper?”

“I felt like Caron was counting on me being stupid,” I said.

“And what… you didn’t want to let her down?” she asked, then immediately blanched. “Sorry. But… you should have let it go.”

“I… it was insulting,” I said. “Like when you thought I was calling you stupid, you know?”

“Don’t you dare compare that to this,” she said.

“You ran away from campus into the night,” I said. “Blindly… literally blindly… and right into the arms of ghouls.”

“I was hurting,” she said. “I hurt, because you thought I was stupid… not some random shopkeeper who’s looking to strike it rich.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t apologize to me,” she said. “It’s not me that’s going to be hurt if… oh, you know what? It is going to hurt me. Maybe it’s horribly selfish to be thinking about how it would affect me if you were dragged off by slavers and made to serve a seriously misguided woman’s misplaced maternal instincts, but that’s all I can think about right now… which is silly, because I’d be no worse off than if we just broke up, but you’d be… but it’s true. Did you even think about how it would affect me? Or Steff? Or Two?”

“I… I wasn’t planning on getting enslaved,” I said. “And hey, you’re the one who wanted to go with piercings!”

“But we didn’t need a binding spell,” Amaranth said. “I had enough set aside that we could have gotten something nice and simple…”

“So, not the ones you really wanted,” I said. I lightly touched the front of my shirt, over where my nipples were. “Not these ones.”

“Well… no. The deal was for any set, so I got the ones I liked the most, but… you’d already signed,” Amaranth said.

“And if I hadn’t, you would have gone with, what? A couple barbells? Some little rings?” I asked. “I could have got those for myself.” I put my hand over my heart. “I wanted you to pick something out that would mean something. Because of Caron’s offer, you got the choice to really do that. ”

“What’s it going to matter what they mean if she sells you to Mercy?” Amaranth asked. “Do you think she’ll let you keep them? Or that she won’t find a way to use them against you? Don’t you get it, the point was to give you something you could keep with you forever, no matter how far apart we were… and now if we screw up on Saturday, not only will I lose you but we’ll lose that last tiny little bit of connection. And all that isn’t even getting into what you’re going to go through… but I can’t even face that.”

“I… I’m sorry,” I said. “It wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve done, okay?”

Amaranth laughed… a sharp, short, bitter laugh, not her usual golden tinkling.

“Not the smartest?” Amaranth asked. “You’ve only maybe thrown your whole future away, baby…”

“Yeah, well, as far as we know, we don’t have one,” I said.

“Not together,” Amaranth said. “And that… that kills me. It tears me up. It eats me out from the inside and it leaves me empty and cold. But… looking at it realistically… you have a future, and I have a future, and I like to think that those futures would be better because we met each other.”

“The thing is… lately… I’m not sure I do have a future,” I said. “I mean, my plan in high school was always get away, go to college, become an enchanter, make good money and live a quiet human life. I failed on the last part already, so I don’t know how I’d make the rest of it work. I can’t exactly go live in the mountains with Steff…”

“She’d be happy to have you,” Amaranth said. “She’s talked about it. I was going to suggest it, if… well, you know.”

“It wouldn’t work,” I said. “I don’t want to be Viktor’s pet any more than Mercy’s.”

“Oh, you wouldn’t be anything near a pet. Viktor doesn’t like you that… um,” she said. “Okay. So, Kilrest is out. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a future. As much as I hate to say it, a lot of freshmen relationships don’t work out in the long-term. You don’t have to think of your future in terms of the people who will be in it, because you never know… you could study hard and get your degree…”

“And spend the rest of my life bumping into people who saw my face on the news and know what I am,” I said. “That’s got to limit my options.”

“Why’s it got to?” Amaranth asked. “Half-demons scare people, but so do half-ogres, and they don’t have any chance to pass as human.”

“Yeah, how many half-ogres do you suppose run enchantment shops?” I asked.

“Maybe you would have failed no matter what you did, but you had a chance, anyway,” she said. “If this… if it happens, I’m going to spend the rest of my life knowing that chance is gone, and it probably wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t met.”

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “It was my decision.”

“I picked the piercings!” Amaranth shot back.

“Yeah, and I picked the store,” I said. “I don’t think Caron’s game with herself went as far as betting that we’d want piercings… you could have been like, ‘Okay, baby, go pick something out!’ and whatever it was, she would have dangled something shiny in front of me to get me to deal.”

“But you wouldn’t necessarily have fallen for it!” she said. Somehow we’d flipped around… in an effort to make each other feel better, we were still biting at each other, but now we were fighting for the blame. I didn’t like it any more than the other way, and I could tell it was tearing Amaranth apart, too.

“Yeah, um… have you not met me?” I asked. I made myself sound just as angry when I said this as the other things… snappish, like it was a real retort. After a few seconds, Amaranth laughed and so did I.

“The thing is… the thing is, baby,” she said, more calmly, “you were awfully eager to please, and maybe you wouldn’t have gone along with the deal if I hadn’t encouraged that in you.”

“Okay, yeah,” I said. “Seriously. I am eager to please… that didn’t need any encouragement. If it wasn’t for you, I’d be pleasing Puddy eagerly. Or maybe I would have bumped into Mercy and I’d be her little lapdog already.”

I wasn’t planning out what I was saying… I’d pretty much meant to stop after didn’t need any encouragement… but now that my mouth was open, it wouldn’t stop moving. I felt like I did when I went off at somebody, but it wasn’t anger that I was feeling.

“You didn’t make me who I am,” I continued. “If anybody did, it’s my grandmother, but maybe it wasn’t even her. Maybe I would have been like this if I’d had my mother my whole life and never met her. I don’t know. I don’t know why I’m like this. However it happened, it did, and my life is a lot better when I have someone loving and fairly fun to please instead of going around sick to my stomach with fear because I can’t figure out what people want from me and who I should be pleasing. You aren’t always perfect, you aren’t always… as smart as you could be… but I love you, and that means I… I crave your approval. I crave it like I crave the touch of your hand, the feel of your skin. It makes me feel warm and secure, and I don’t see how I can not be eager to get that.”

The torrent of words had caught Amaranth off guard, and that made two of us. I had tears running from the corners of my eyes, not because I was angry or sad but because I was passionate. It was passion that I was feeling, passion that was pouring out of my mouth like a hot spurting jet, splattering over Amaranth and leaving her…

You know, I’m going to leave that metaphor where it is.

She caught her breath and leaned forward, reaching out with both arms and beckoning me forward. I went into her arms willingly… eagerly, and she held me close.

Fuck Caron,” she said, stroking my wet hair. “And fuck Mercy. I am not giving you up.”

“What about Mother Khaele?”

“Fudge her, too,” Amaranth said. A blinding flash of lightning struck so close the carriage-rattling crash of thunder arrived right on top of it. We both jumped, and Amaranth screamed. “Um… that was probably a coincidence,” she said, then laughed nervously. “I’ll listen to what she has to say, and then she will listen to what I have to say, because I am an adult being and however I am, she made me.”

There was another peal of thunder, more distant this time.

“Coincidence,” she murmured. “Just a storm. When we get home, we’re getting right on the ethernet and finding out where this club is. And how to get there. And if the invitations don’t arrive tomorrow, I’m going back to the shop and making a scene that Caron’s girlfriend will hear. And if something goes wrong on Saturday, I’ll… we’ll… I don’t know. Maybe her business wouldn’t survive if somebody made a big enough stink over her shoplifting penalties.”

“Amaranth… Mercy wants me in a name-your-price kind of way,” I said. “Caron won’t need her shop if she lands me.”

“The dwarven culture puts a pretty high premium on work,” Amaranth said. “A lot of them get pretty wealthy by human standards with a couple centuries of hard work and frugal living, but they don’t retire even when they have everything they could possibly need.”

“I’m not sure Caron was raised in the dwarven culture,” I said.

“I’m just thinking,” Amaranth said. “Maybe if she knew what Mercy wanted you for…”

“She thought Mercy wanted me for hamburger,” I said.

“Actually, she couldn’t sell you as hamburger, because under Imperial law, only one hundred percent beef can… okay, wrong time for fun facts,” Amaranth said. “But Caron seems pretty young. I doubt she’s much more than a hundred. If she knew that she was handing Mercy an unstoppable demonic army a century or two down the line, she might reconsider.”

“She seemed pretty good at rationalizing what she was doing,” I said. “Really, I don’t blame her… with the kind of money Mercy was talking about, I’m surprised she even tried to make it fair.”

“Oh? How much money would it take for you to sell Two?” Amaranth asked.

“That’s different,” I said. “Caron doesn’t know me. She doesn’t owe me anything.”

“What do you owe Two?”

“Probably about sixty silver in laundry and tailor services,” I said.

“Okay, what if you had Sara and Tara legally under your power,” Amaranth said. “How much money would someone like Mercy have to offer you before you’d sell them to her?”

“For breeding, or for… you know?”

“You don’t know,” Amaranth said. “That’s the thing. Once you sell them, they’re in Mercy’s hands. Even if she promises to do nothing worse to them then put them in a cute dress and make them dance, that’s not legally binding. How much money would it take?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “And it’s a pointless question because it would have to be a lot, whatever it was, and there would be no reason for Mercy to pay that much for a couple of humans with some pieces missing.”

“Assume she has a reason,” Amaranth said. “She’s crazy. She wants a two-headed girl.”

“Technically, they’re two one-bodied girls,” I said.

“You’re avoiding the question.”

“I don’t know, okay?”

“I don’t think you would,” Amaranth said. “You’re all ready to excuse Caron but you wouldn’t do the same in her place.”

“It’s a stupid hypothetical situation that would never happen,” I said. “And I’m not excusing Caron… I’m sure as hell not going to trust her any time soon… I’m just saying, I can see where she’s coming from. I understand her motivation for doing it more than I do her motivation for giving me so much wiggle room.”

“Well, don’t look a gift horse in the cock,” Amaranth said.

I searched the entire repository of the Pax language that was in my head for a reply to this, and found nothing, so we lapsed into silence. After a moment, Amaranth put her hand on my face and turned it up to face hers, and we were kissing.

The world fell away, and my shirt joined it. Before long I was naked, and we were making love in a way we hadn’t before. I don’t mean we were trying some new technique or position… it was a lot of kissing and holding and touching, and not a lot of words. The closest thing I could think of to it was our first time, in the shade of the tree, but that had been frantic and furtive and this was… it was passionate, but it was also deliciously deliberate. I knew her body now, not quite the same way that she instinctively knew mine, but I knew what I was doing. We knew what we were doing with each other.

She stayed away from my breasts, mostly, but they couldn’t help being stimulated… agitated, even… no matter how careful our ministrations were. I didn’t mind. The pain was in a better context now.

The carriage came to a stop before too long… before nearly long enough, but we stayed where we were and after a few minutes it headed back towards town. I felt a tingle of apprehension when I realized we were approaching the walls. There would be the probing spell, but there was also the possibility of a random stop.

“It’s okay,” Amaranth reminded me. “I’m a nymph.”

The second trip into town wasn’t the most productive or the longest, but it was memorable, and the ride back was as good as the ride out had been.

I got dressed before we made it back to school, throwing a lot of energy into waterproofing my mostly-dry clothes before I put the coat on. I looked at Amaranth. We were smiling shyly at each other, like we hadn’t known each other over a month now, like we’d just met and decided that maybe we kind of liked each other. It was a nice feeling.

“Well,” she said. “I don’t know if we’ll make a habit of it, but this was one way of getting some private time without displacing Two.”

Just like that, we had a future again. Maybe we were fooling ourselves, but I’d take it. It was hard to even have a present if you couldn’t pretend you had a future.

“Yeah,” I agreed.

The coaches were a lot nearer to the union than they were to Harlowe, so we ran for there after we got off. I had been expecting it to be empty, considering the relative lateness and the rain, but there were people sitting in the big open lobby and chatting. I guessed they were waiting out the storm, or maybe they just hung out there. I had to admit I didn’t know much about the habits of my fellow students.

“Hi, Leda!” Amaranth said. I looked to see where she was waving at, half expecting to see the big silver-white swan roosting somewhere indoors. But Leda was in her more human-like form, sitting with her legs out across the bottom step of the wide staircase leading upstairs. She was very wet, and very naked, her mane of feathers matted down like hair.

Predictably, she was surrounded by guys

She flipped Amaranth off.

“That’s a nice look on her,” Amaranth said, ignoring the rude gesture. She tugged on my hand and started walking. “Let’s go to the ballroom.”

“It doesn’t seem like the safest thing in the world,” I said.

“What, the ballroom?”

“Leda… out and about, naked and alone,” I said.

“She isn’t alone, she had friends.”

“That’s what I mean,” I said. “Though it does make me wonder why you don’t get more attention… I mean, I know it’s not scandalous and maybe people are just used to it by now, but you don’t get approached for work very often.”

“Oh, well… I do when I’m not with you,” Amaranth said. “I think maybe people realize now that we’re together-together?”

“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it,” I said.

“Don’t get mouthy, missy,” Amaranth said. “You’ve still got your paddle. I wonder if the food court is still open. We didn’t ever eat, did we?”

“I’m not actually hungry,” I said, though I did have some awareness of the emptiness in my stomach now that I was used to eating. I might have called it hunger, but it was nothing like the real thing as I experienced it.

“It’s a nice habit to have, all the same.” Amaranth said as we got to the ballroom. “You’re better at this stuff… it was called Tomb of Horrors.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said.

It didn’t take long to find their weavesite, which had a “H18 Warning” on it, with a table listing other common races and their ages of legal majority, if they were different. They not only had the street address, they had a map and directions. I tugged on that thread and it came up. The location that was circled was on the other side of the river canal. “Whoa,” I said. “It’s in the high city? I would have expected the low quarter.”

“Kinky doesn’t mean scuzzy,” Amaranth said. “You’re going to get a whack for that. If we make this work, I think you’ll probably enjoy this more if you can check your prejudices a little. Remember your little speech about this being who you are, too.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said, dropping my head.

“Just to be sure, we’ll go into town again tomorrow and check it out,” Amaranth said. “Make sure it’s there. Your last class is mixed melee?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Fuck, don’t remind me.”

“Baby, that’s an important class.”

“I know it is,” I said. “But Callahan… she’s got no business teaching it. She just likes hurting people, and for no good reason. Watch, I’ll bet you anything she sends me to the healing center tomorrow when I show up without a quarterstaff.”

“You’re supposed to get a quarterstaff?” Amaranth asked.

“Yeah… nobody else, just me,” I said. “She says it’s going to make a big difference in my fighting, but I don’t see how. When I have my pitchfork back…”

“You… were… supposed to get a quarterstaff?” Amaranth asked.

“Uh… she said so, but I…”

“Your teacher told you to get a quarterstaff,” Amaranth said, “and then we went into town… twice… and you didn’t think to mention this?”

“I… don’t we have bigger things to worry about?” I asked. “The Tomb of…”

“Baby… how could you be so stupid?” Amaranth asked.


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7 Responses to “354: Driving Rain”

  1. pedestrian says:

    It does move the storyline along when Mackenzie keeps blundering along from one spanking to the next.

    Butt at least she is becoming better coordinated, she is not tripping & falling down quite as often as she used to?

    Current score: 4
  2. Anthony says:

    Wow! Amaranth just used the S-word?! *gasp*

    Current score: 0
  3. Duke says:

    Amaranth has no problem with the “s-word” as long as it’s not directed at her.

    Current score: 0
  4. Lunchbox says:

    @Duke,
    Did you not read the chapter when they are in Caron’s shop and Amaranth corrects Caron when she calls Mackenzie stupid?

    In this instance, I would say Amaranth is simply emphasizing just how irresponsible it was of Mackenzie to NOT mention the staff.

    Current score: 1
  5. scourgeofpandas says:

    Privilege status: checked.

    Also, mack deserved the s word. This is a major personality flaw, and although it creates a metric shitton of plotlines, it would be nice if the character could grow to at least meet the challenge.

    Current score: 1
  6. zeel says:

    “Well, don’t look a gift horse in the cock,” Amaranth said.

    I searched the entire repository of the Pax language that was in my head for a reply to this, and found nothing,

    Okay, I think “don’t look a gift horse in the cock” might be my new goto phrase for replying to absurd comments – whatever it is they are saying is so absurd, any meaningful reply is impossible.

    Current score: 0