210: Wake Up

on May 6, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Ian Is Exposed

Sunday, Calendula 4th (early morning)

I woke up shivering, and found the room painfully bright. It felt like the skin on my head had shrunk several sizes and my brain had swollen up by an equal measure, and it was a struggle between them to see whether my skull would be crushed or exploded outward by the pressure.

I pulled the blanket over my head to shield my eyes. It helped, a little bit.

“Two, will you please turn off the lights?” I said.

At this point, I didn’t have much recollection of what had happened the night before. I remembered throwing up. If I hadn’t, the taste in my mouth would have been a great reminder.

“They are off,” she said sleepily.

Squinting against the glare, I uncovered my eyes and peered up at the ceiling. The light globe did seem to be dark, and no more painful to look at than the rest of the room.

In fact, the source of the unearthly brightness seemed to be the crack under the door… a fact I learned when my head whipped around in that direction in response to a series of sharp and unnecessarily noisy raps.

“What the fuck?” I asked. It was still dark outside. “Who the hell is that knocking?”

“It’s… hmm… probably Sooni,” Two said, stifling a yawn mid-sentence. “You… always watch TV with her on…”

She trailed off, apparently falling asleep. I looked over at her. She was lying on her side for a change, and I had to smile in spite of the throbbing in my head, my burning eyes, and the really gross feeling in my mouth. She really was priceless… a perfect, innocent little doll in her inappropriately sexy underwear.

My eye caught on the decorative bow and the memory came flooding back to me. The smell of vanilla and almost-human flesh, the sight of Two’s neck stretched out in front of me.

Oh, shit.

My mouth fell open. I dropped my gaze and covered my eyes so I wouldn’t see her. There was another set of insistent knocks on the door, but I wasn’t paying them any attention.

“Two?” I said. “Two,” I repeated a little louder, when I remembered she’d fallen back asleep.

“What, Mack?” she murmured.

“Two, do you remember what happened last night?” I asked. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Maybe it had only been in my head, I’d only thought about… no, that was still horrible. “What I did?”

“You were drinking,” she said. “Which… you’re not supposed… butterscotch.” There was a sound like she was licking her lips, and then the deep, noisy breathing that wasn’t quite snoring but only happened when you were asleep.

I opened my eyes and forced myself to look at her, sleeping serenely and securely. If there was any doubt that she was still perfectly comfortable with me in the room, there was the fact that she’d abandoned her rigid sleeping-princess posture and rolled over onto her side, where a tiny bit of drool could trickle down onto the pillow.

Symbols carved into her forehead aside, she looked downright human, and I found myself smiling at her again for a moment, before my memories lurched back into focus.

What would I have done, if Ian hadn’t been there? I had some recollection that he’d intended to stay the night, but apparently, he’d felt the crisis had passed when I fell asleep, and had gone home.

I wished he hadn’t. What if I’d woken up? What if…

As I thought this, the piled-up mass of blankets behind Two shifted, and an arm slipped out, draping itself over her.

No.

My eyes went wide. I shook my head, refusing to believe what I was seeing. A strangled gasp slipped out of my mouth.

“Good morning, Mack,” Two said, opening her big, icy blue eyes and waking up properly. “Don’t forget we’re going to Enwich today.” She smiled beatifically, as though nothing were wrong in the world… while Ian spooned against her from behind, stirred some more, shrugging the blanket off and exposing his head and shoulder to me.

I felt like the ring on my finger, long since inert, had sprung back to life and was once more wrapping me within its deathly chill. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was shuddering against the inside of my ribcage and my pulse was pounding in my head but the rest of me was carved from ice.

This was betrayal, in every sense of the word.

How could he? To her? To me? He’d seemed so decent… okay, horny and tactless some times, but…

“Ian, how could you?”

“Huh?” he said, shaking awake.

“How could you?” I repeated. I wanted to leap across the gap between the beds and help him wake up. All thoughts of my misdeeds had fled my mind. What I had almost done, what I had tried to do… it paled by far when compared to what he had actually done.

He looked at me in confusion, then looked down at the back of Two’s head in more confusion. After a moment, I saw recognition dawn on his face.

“Mackenzie, it isn’t… she made me!” he said, scrambling to sit up.

The absurdity of the claim shocked me out of my body-locking stasis.

“Oh, I just bet she did!” I roared, leaping out of bed without quite clearing my legs of the blankets.

I didn’t fall on my face, but the landing was a bit jarring, and it took me a moment to regain my focus. I didn’t think I was drunk any more, but the room kept moving a bit after I’d stopped.

“Two, tell her… tell her what happened,” Ian said.

“Ian stayed up until he was sure you were asleep and the ring wore off and he was going to sleep on the floor,” Two said. “But I told him that’s not what floors are for.”

I looked at her, taking in the words and not taking them in. I looked at Ian, expecting him to say something lame and trite like “…and one thing led to another,” but I only had to look at his face, at the look of horror and disgust which probably mirrored my own, to see that it hadn’t led to another. Hijinks had not, as they said in the TV listings, ensued.

He saw my expression softening, and nodded, quietly encouraging my thoughts along those lines.

“Why didn’t you get in my bed?” I asked.

“Didn’t want to wake you,” he said. “For a variety of reasons. I didn’t mean to actually go to sleep, but I was too tired to stand and I was falling asleep in the chair.” He yawned. “I didn’t want another stupid fight… I was just too tired to argue. What time is it, anyway?”

I glanced at the timepiece on my dresser.

“Five past four.”

“Oh, man, too early,” Ian groaned, and started to sink back onto the pillow. I seconded the motion.

Two got out of bed and turned on the lights.

“Ow, shit!” I said, covering my eyes.

“My friend Hazel says that when everybody’s awake, it’s time for breakfast,” she said. “I would like to make pancakes, I think. Pancakes with raspberry syrup and also raspberries.” She giggled. “Alligators. They don’t eat raspberries.”

Ian snickered at this non sequitur. I giggled and looked over at him. Our gazes locked. I felt horribly guilty for what I’d just suspected him of doing, and now that my anger wasn’t there to push it away, my guilt over what I’d almost done the night before was reasserting itself.

“I’m sorry,” I said, breaking the contact. I retreated, sinking back onto the bed. My chest shuddered. My eyes teared up in the corners, but they felt too dry to cry, somehow. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Ian said quietly. He started to get up, then stopped and groped around under the covers. “Aw, shit,” he said. “Don’t freak out, but… I kind of kicked my shorts off in the night.”

I looked at him and for a moment the horror and outrage threatened to return… naked, next to Two? I stopped myself, though. He’d done so much for me. He didn’t deserve my scorn for something that he’d probably not even been conscious of, something which wouldn’t have even registered with Two beyond her annoyance that he was sleeping without pajamas.

“It’s okay,” I said.

He was trying to dig around beneath the blankets, but without much luck.

“Um, is it okay if I…?” he asked.

“Two, don’t look at Ian for a bit, okay?” I said, but she was busy lining up ingredients and cooking stuff on her desk.

“Okay,” she said. She picked up a bag of flour and looked at it, frowning. “Do you think my friend Dee would like fried eggs, since she can’t have pancakes?”

“Um… has anybody seen her yet?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Two said.

There came another set of knocks. Now that I was more awake, I could tell they weren’t coming from our door but from one of the nearby ones… very possibly, Dee’s. They only seemed to have been coming from our door because of the way they had been enchanted to drill through my soul.

“Oh, my head,” I said, rubbing my temples, as if that somehow did something.

Ian turned on the lamp and switched off the overhead light.

“Thanks,” I said. “I feel like the whole skirmish team’s been practicing formation marching on my head.”

“I’d think you would enjoy that,” Ian said. “I told you to drink the water.”

I gave him a dirty look, but my gaze caught on something a bit lower: he was sprouting a massive hard-on.

“Oh, that’s not for… it just does that!” he said, seeing me looking.

“It does,” Two said, nodding, and I saw with a moment of horror that she’d decided “a bit” was passed. “It did several times. But… Ian never did anything,” she said, in the same breathless tone of unabashed awe and wonder with which she’d once informed me that teddy bears don’t do anything. “All night long. He didn’t do any sex things. He didn’t even try.”

“You invited him into your bed thinking he was going to do stuff to you?” I asked.

“That’s what boys do when they get in your bed,” Two said, nodding. “But he didn’t.”

I stared at her. There was no mistaking the unadulterated joy she felt at this. I knew there had been times in her life when she’d been routinely taken advantage of, and these had apparently left her with the impression that such a thing, while not good, was no big deal compared to somebody sleeping on the floor when a bed was available.

Two had been created vulnerable, a victim by design. I hoped there was a special place in hell reserved for those who took advantage of her, but the sad fact was most of them probably thought nothing of it. Either they wrote her off as not really being a person, or they assumed that not saying no was the same thing as being willing.

It made me sick.

And I had almost…

I tore my gaze from her, and looked at Ian, who was still hunting the wild underpants.

“Ian,” I said. “I’m sorry I… well.” I blushed. “Thanks. Just… thanks. And I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “We’ll talk about it…”

There was a thunderous knocking, definitely on our own door this time. The echoes resounded in my skull so hard I wondered how I could have been so mistaken about the earlier knocks. There was just no comparison.

“Oh, fucking hell!” I yelled.

“Baby, are you actually awake in there?” Amaranth’s voice said.

“Answer her,” Two prompted when I sat there, rubbing my head.

“Yes!” I said.

The doorknob rattled.

“Can you come let me in?”

I got to my feet and tottered over to the door. The hall was a rectangle of white light with an Amaranth-shaped shadow standing in it.

“Hey, baby,” she said. I stumbled back into the relative comfort of the room as she came in, and closed the door behind her. “You look nice,” she said, looking me up and down, and I became aware for the first time since awakening that I was wearing a fur-lined babydoll and white thong panties. “Did you let Two dress you up?”

“She was asleep,” Two said proudly. “Hi, Amaranth.”

“Hi, Two,” she said. She looked at Ian, who was still naked, and half-hard. “Were you guys having some fun?”

“No!” Ian and I said at the same time.

“Yes,” Two said. She held up a big mixing bowl with a whisk, spatula, measuring cup, and all her ingredients sitting in it. “I’m making breakfast. That’s very fun.”

“That’s great, Two,” Amaranth said. Her smile seemed a little ragged around the edges, like she was making an effort to prop up its corners.

I glared at Ian and pointed emphatically to his shorts, which were on the floor by the foot of Two’s bed. He dived for them and pulled them on, hastily arranging the front to minimize the, uh, protrusion. He mouthed “thanks”.

“Baby, I’m getting really worried about Dee,” Amaranth said, turning to me and letting the smile she’d pasted on for Two fall right off her face. “There’s still no answer at her door. I’m going to talk to Gwendolyn once it’s properly morning, and if she won’t do anything, I want you to break her lock.”

“Okay,” I said. I wasn’t crazy about the idea, but frankly, after my behavior the night before, I wasn’t going to balk at the chance to maybe do a bit of incidental goodness with my strength. If I got expelled over it… well… at least Two would be safe.

“I wouldn’t ask, but she could be hurt or sick and I don’t know how else to get inside,” Amaranth said.

“Um, have you thought about summoning emergency services?” Ian asked. We both looked at him. “I mean, I’m assuming they come here… but I’m kind of surprised nobody called them on us last night.” He gave a nervous chuckle. “Or the campus guards.”

“Oh!” Amaranth said, covering her mouth with her fingertips. “I didn’t… I mean, I never thought of that.”

“I didn’t, either,” I said, and felt stupid. There’d been so much crazy shit happening in our dorm without any outside response or intervention—except from the maintenance department—that it had completely slipped my mind that there were people there to deal with that kind of thing.

“Do you think we should get a hold of them now, or wait until I have a chance to ask Gwendolyn to open her room?” Amaranth said. “Because if we say somebody won’t answer her door at four in the morning, I don’t know if they’ll take it seriously… and anyway, I’ll feel so silly if she just wakes up and goes about her business, you know?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I knew what she meant about feeling silly, but on the other hand, we’d feel worse than silly if something happened and a couple hours could have made the difference.

But then again, if time was of the essence we were probably too late already. Oh, now that was a happy thought.

I shook my head to clear the negativity away, and winced in pain. Sudden movements were not a good idea.

Amaranth suddenly leaned in close and peered at me through the thick lenses of her glasses. I turned my head away, but she grabbed my ear and turned my face back towards herself, sniffing and looking into my eyes.

“Baby, have you been drinking?”

A mere positive response seemed utterly inadequate to convey the profound depths of my shame at what I’d done and how I’d acted, and what I’d tried to do, but the words “Yes, ma’am,” were all I was capable of.

“Ian!” she said, letting go of my ear and spinning to confront him.

“Hey, this was all her,” he said.

“It was,” I said quietly. “It’s not his fault. It was mine. And… there’s more, but I’ll tell you later.”

Amaranth shook her head and clucked.

“I just hope you didn’t do anything you’ll regret.”

“No!” I said quickly. “Well, I did… but… nothing that…” I swallowed. “I’ll tell you later.”

“Ian said she had sex with Feejee and another mermaid,” Two said.

“Oh, baby, that’s nothing to be… I mean, you shouldn’t, drunk, because there’s, you know, consent things… but… I’m still proud… but…” Amaranth sputtered, seemingly unable to reconcile conflicting impulses.

“It’s not that,” I said. “I mean, seriously… I think it’s best if I tell you what happened later, when we’re alone.” My eyes flicked to Two, unwillingly. It may have been my imagination, but Ian seemed to be avoiding looking at me. “And after I’ve had some real rest… I feel like I could sleep all day.”

“Oh, no you don’t, missy,” Amaranth said, shaking her finger. “You have an appointment at Pendragon and Associates this afternoon, and we’re shopping for room stuff with Two. We can skip the bookstore if you’d rather sleep in than have a special treat, but you don’t get to shirk your responsibilities because you were out partying.”

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

“Now, what was this about breakfast?” Amaranth said to Two. “I was just going to head back to my own room after I checked on Dee, but since we’re all up…”

“I’m making pancakes,” Two said. “They have eggs and milk in them. But there are also raspberries.”

“I’ll just have some cereal, then, with raspberries on them,” Amaranth said. She turned towards me. “Baby, go brush your teeth, and take a shower. No offense, but you smell awful.” Her smile was growing in size and radiance again. “We’ll have a little breakfast, and then I can check on Dee again before we make up our mind. Only, we should be quick. Mack’s got her shows with Sooni this morning… right, baby?”

“Right,” I said. My headache seemed to double in intensity all at once. After Amaranth’s talk about shirking responsibilities, I knew better than to suggest giving it a pass… and anyway, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble. A tantrum from Sooni would probably be about enough to shatter my skull. “Just let me grab something to change…” I trailed off, vaguely remembering Ian’s declaration that I’d ruined another shirt. I was going through my limited wardrobe way too quickly.

“Oh, baby, keep the PJs,” Amaranth said. “You look cute. Doesn’t she, Two?”

“She looks pretty,” Two said, with an air of correction.

“Right,” Amaranth agreed, beaming at me. “You don’t smell very nice, but you look just about good enough to eat.”

My stomach lurched. I looked at Two, also still in her pajamas, though I didn’t really want to.

She’d have to trade rooms with Amaranth, I realized. Amaranth was functionally immortal. Amaranth could heal herself if injured and muster enough holy magic to repel or hurt me, even if she lacked the finesse to hold me like Dee could.

Or else Two could move back in with Dee, and leave me alone. That was probably the best. That was probably the safest.

I knew the alcohol hadn’t made me want to eat Two. It had just let out the feelings that I tried so hard to keep buried. Even if I never drank again, something else could happen. I could get tired or distracted. I could get hungry, especially close to my feeding time. The concentrated smells of humanity around the steamroom had been getting to me before I’d had more than a few sips of lager.

As long as somebody was rooming with me, they were in danger. In fact, the safest thing for all my friends would probably be if I just went away… dropped out, moved out of the dorms. I knew that wouldn’t happen, though. In my heart, I was just too selfish.

I liked being in school. I liked having classes I was good at and teachers I could impress. I liked being surrounded by people who loved me… however foolishly, however dangerously.

I loved them all, too much—and yet not enough—to ever leave them.


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7 Responses to “210: Wake Up”

  1. pedestrian says:

    It is difficult to make the adult decisions when you lack mature experience.

    Current score: 0
  2. BlackWizard says:

    I just love how every time MacKenzie needs clothing, which seems to happen fairly regularly, Two ends up either dressing her adorably or sexy. It’s just too funny! 🙂

    Current score: 1
    • tordirycgoyust says:

      It started to occur to me when it was noted that Mack is starting to fill out (and therefore, alas, too late), that with longer hair and a willingness to wear dresses, she could pull of a lolita look; y’know, for extra kinkyness.

      Current score: 0
  3. elhood5 says:

    If anyone saw firefly, those people who took advantage of TWO are going to the place reserved for child molesters and people who talk in the theater.

    Current score: 8
  4. Daniel says:

    That reference sounds a lot better in Shepherd Book’s voice than in print, with the way he says it both seriously and threateningly.

    Current score: 6
    • Leila says:

      I think just about anything would sound better in Shepherd Book’s voice, lol.

      Current score: 3
  5. Cadnawes says:

    I still think this is Ian’s fault to a significant degree. Leaving your young and sheltered ladyfriend alone at a beerbash could NEVER go wrong!

    Current score: 4