211: Pain And Pancakes

on May 8, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie Devours Messily

A hot shower didn’t do anything to dull the ache in my head, though it did distract me a bit from it. The steamroom had been so nice. I wondered if I would be allowed to go back. I wondered if it would be a good idea to accept such an invitation.

Possibly it could be okay, if I could avoid the alcohol… and quite possibly, the mermaids.

It was disturbing to learn that they preyed on humankind, even if it was only back in their homeland. Was that hypocritical of me? I didn’t know. Of course, I’d never killed anybody… and if I’d understood them correctly, they had. But then, I had apparently been pretty drunk.

It was possible that I’d misunderstood something. I’d have to try to get them to clarify.

Or did I actually have to? It really might be for the best to avoid the topic. What they did away from school, outside the borders of the Imperium, was… well, not quite their own business, but it wasn’t mine.

I knew that demons killed and ate people, but… evil. Ogres had a lot of cultural baggage, and while circumstances like war and slavery hardly gave them a pass, it at least put it in context with the sorts of evil that humans did to each other. Merfolk, though, apparently were just plain predatory… but did that make things worse, or better? If it was in their nature… but then, they were intelligent. They could make choices.

It was just too much to think about. It was too big for me. I ended up cutting my shower short because I couldn’t stand being alone with my thoughts.

Breakfast was already getting underway when I got to the lounge, still wearing Two’s “pajamas”, as Amaranth had specified. Considering the company, I didn’t particularly mind. Despite the throbbing in my head, I had to smile when I saw Two serving Ian a stack of pancakes with butter melting on top and raspberries piled around the sides.

Had one night been enough to mend her dislike of him completely? It was probably too early to tell, but she was certainly more willing to share with him.

Ian gave me a little kiss when I sat down next to him, across from Amaranth.

“Thank you,” I said.

“For that?” he asked.

“For everything.”

“How many pancakes would you like, Mack?” Two asked.

“Um… how many can I have?” I asked.

“Three is a serving but my friend Hazel says it’s okay to have two servings at once for reasons of efficiency,” Two said.

I giggled a bit.

“Two servings, then,” I said. Amaranth gave me a look over her glasses and I added, “Please.”

The dark red syrup was a little bit too sharp for my tastes, though that may have just been because all my senses seemed extra sensitive that morning. The pancakes were fluffy and light, though, and the raspberries themselves were delicious.

Amaranth’s oatmeal, which had the syrup and berries mixed in, looked really good. I wondered if the oatmeal would dilute the syrup enough to cut the tanginess down to a manageable level.

“Are there any more raspberries?” I asked Two.

“No,” Two said, shaking her head.

“Baby, don’t make faces,” Amaranth said, though I hadn’t realized I was. “You had twice as many as anybody else.”

“Sorry,” I said.

“Don’t apologize to me, apologize to Two,” Amaranth said. “She doesn’t have to share her food with us.”

“I like to,” Two said.

“I’m sorry, Two,” I said.

“It’s okay,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had any raspberries left over, but the man in the fruit stall gave me too many.”

Knowing the berries had been excess put my mind at ease a tiny bit. I figured fresh fruit had to be expensive, compared to the stuff that went into pancake batter. I knew Two genuinely did enjoy cooking for us, but I hated to think how the costs added up.

“You know, there’s supposed to be a fund for floor activities,” Amaranth said, apparently thinking along the same lines. “If Kiersta’s having a hard time coming up with ideas for it, maybe you and Hazel could volunteer to do a weekly breakfast or something? That could be fun.”

“Yes, it could be fun,” Two agreed.

“Our R.A. does stuff like movie nights,” Ian said. “When he remembers, or when something comes out that he wants to see.”

“Ours hasn’t done anything yet,” I said. “On several levels.”

“Well… it’s been an adjustment for her, I’m sure,” Amaranth said. “I’m sure she’ll get her bearings eventually.”

“Um, is there any more oatmeal, then?” I asked. Even without raspberries, there was plenty of syrup.

“Yes,” Two said, nodding. “It’s on the stove.”

Amaranth was looking at me thoughtfully.

“What?” I asked, suddenly very self-conscious.

“I remember when you could barely get a doughnut down,” she said. “Only weeks ago.” The wistful expression gave way to a brilliant smile. “You’re making real progress in becoming more… well… human.”

“Yeah, human,” I said, glumly. Suddenly I didn’t feel like having oatmeal. There was nothing human about my appetite. Now that I was past “raspberries… yum!”, I realized I wasn’t actually hungry. I wasn’t full, either. Without my stomach guiltily rejecting the food, I could have kept eating forever just because I liked the taste of things, but I didn’t need to on any level.

Maybe my grandmother had had a point.

“Head bothering you, baby?” Amaranth asked as I folded my arms on the table and put my face down.

“A bit,” I said.

“Do you want some oatmeal?” she asked.

I didn’t. I didn’t need it. It wouldn’t do me a bit of good.

“Yes, please,” I said.

“I’ll get it,” Ian and Two said at the same time.

“It’s my oatmeal and I will serve it,” Two said, with just a touch of her former petulance.

Ian held up his hands.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “I just thought I’d offer.”

“Can you put just a little bit of syrup in it?” I asked Two.

“Yes, I can,” she said.

It really was pretty good, and I forgot my guilt for a while as the hot-from-the-stove oatmeal warmed me from the inside.

“So,” Amaranth said, “the question is, would you rather sleep all morning or do you still want to go to the bookstore?”

“Can’t we go after the lawyer thing?” I asked.

“Maybe, but I don’t know how late the stores will be open on Sunday,” Amaranth said. “And we need to get you more clothes and cold weather gear. Two fixed your shirt, by the way.”

“Thanks,” I said, blushing.

I had a lot to be embarrassed about, but the fact that I’d managed to literally tear my shirt off without realizing what I was doing was pretty bad. It wasn’t anywhere close to being up there with almost biting Two… or almost biting anybody else… but it was a good illustration of the things that could happen if I wasn’t careful.

And now I was thinking about Two again, with her neck stretched out like she was offering it. My stomach did a flip-flop. I pushed the oatmeal away, half-finished.

What had I been thinking about, judging the mermaids for their eating habits? They weren’t going around snacking on their closest friends. Better people could condemn them for their actions, but I didn’t have a leg to stand on.

“Not hungry, baby?” Amaranth asked.

“Not really,” I said.

“Well, I’m about done, too,” Amaranth said. “Mack, help Two clean up, okay?”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“I’m going to go try Dee one more time,” Amaranth said, and she headed out of the lounge.

“You can clear off the table and wash it,” Two said, handing me a damp sponge. “Since you made most of the mess, that’s fair.”

Ian snorted.

I looked at the spot in front of me. There was syrup and oatmeal and butter and even bits of pancake here. Other than a few spots of syrup, the rest of the table was fairly clean.

“You are kind of a messy eater,” Ian said.

“Well, I don’t have a lot of recent experience,” I said, miffed.

“It’s cute,” he said.

We’d used disposable plates and tableware, but Two stopped me when I went to throw the forks away.

“I reuse those,” she said, taking them and adding them to the dishes she was washing.

“Oh,” I said.

“And you should save one of the plates so you have something to wipe the crumbs onto,” she said.

“Okay.”

“So, you’re talking to a lawyer today?” Ian asked as I wiped the table down.

“Apparently,” I said.

“I left a message with my dad but he hasn’t got back to me yet,” Ian said.

“That’s okay.”

“I just thought I could help.”

“I appreciate it,” I said. I sat down in the empty chair across from him. “You know, I so don’t want to do this.”

“What?” he asked. “Go see a lawyer?”

“Any of it,” I said. “I’ve got so much on my mind, so much going on… I just plain don’t want to deal with this shit.”

“But if you don’t, doesn’t the school win?”

“What’s ‘winning’?” I asked. “There’s a billion things I’d change about the school if I could but I don’t think they’re going to come out of a settlement from my case. I could stand to have a bit more money, but… I just don’t know if it’s going to be worth it. Classes have been pretty easy so far, but that can’t last forever, and I’ve got you, Amaranth, and Steff…”

“Thanks for putting me first,” he said, and I could tell from the tone of his voice that he was sure I really didn’t.

I sighed.

“I don’t rank you,” I said. “I couldn’t make comparisons. I mean, okay, I’d be lost without Amaranth… but I don’t like to think what I’d be like without you. You guys do different things for me.”

“Yeah, for one thing, you won’t catch me sticking my tongue in your butt.”

“I don’t let her do that,” I said.

“Really?” he asked, sounding surprised.

“I am allowed to set limits, you know,” I said.

“Yeah, it’s just… well,” he said, blushing a little, “you might want to try it.”

“It sounded like you thought it was gross,” I said.

“It is,” he said. “I mean, I think it is. I wouldn’t do it, but…”

The clatter of dishes in the sink reminded me that we weren’t alone, and I cut him off. “Can we talk about something else?” I asked.

He glanced over his shoulder, where Two was washing the dishes.

“Do you remember?” he asked. “What happened last night?”

Boy, did I need to learn to be more specific.

I nodded.

“I don’t think you should drink unsupervised,” he said. “By me, I mean.”

“I don’t think I should drink at all,” I said. “Ever.”

“Will you actually hold to that, though?” he asked. “You were all ‘beer bad’ last night, but it didn’t take you long…”

“Yeah, well… lesson learned,” I said.

“I just think it might be more productive if you got a handle on it,” he said.

“I’m not even old enough to be drinking,” I said. “And neither, for that matter, are you.”

“Don’t make this about me,” Ian said. “I don’t have a problem drinking. My dad taught me how when I turned thirteen. He let me drink myself absolutely sick on my birthday and then taught me how to handle beer once he knew I had proper respect for it.”

“How did he not win Father of the Year for this parenting innovation?” I asked.

“Don’t start,” he said, his voice full of warning.

“I had the feeling you didn’t like your dad,” I said. “Why so defensive?”

“He’s my dad,” Ian said. “I know him. You don’t. Lay off.”

I looked at him, the urge to snap back at him almost overwhelming, and rising in time with the pounding in my head.

I dropped my gaze.

He’d taken enough shit from me in the past twenty-four… well, ever.

“Sorry,” I said. “I’m tired, and I’m cranky, and my head hurts, and I know that’s all my fault anyway, and I know that I probably deserve to be in worse shape than I am, and…”

“Mackenzie,” Ian said. It was still in the same tone of voice, but when I looked up, I saw he was hiding a smile behind a closed hand. “Shut up.”

My face glowed bright red, and I melted from the heat.

Voices behind me, coming from outside the lounge, told me that my headache was about to get worse.

Sooni was awake.


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7 Responses to “211: Pain And Pancakes”

  1. WsntHere says:

    “Beer bad.” Buffy and McKenzie sitting in a tree…..

    Current score: 9
    • Anonymous says:

      k.i.s.s.i….yeah you’re a demon and I think not.

      Current score: 3
      • capybroa says:

        Most. Difficult. Ship. EVER.

        Current score: 3
        • Arancaytar says:

          Exactly; Buffy would never date anyone with the slightest bit of demon in them. 😛

          Current score: 6
      • Jechtael says:

        Angel and Spike are both demons inhabiting human bodies… And Mackenzie probably has a full-time soul. And Buffy’s bisexual. So… Not the most difficult crossover ship to believe.

        Current score: 5
        • Arancaytar says:

          > And Buffy’s bisexual.

          Wait, did I miss a remark in the commentaries somewhere or is this from the comics?

          As much tension as one could interpret into her interaction with Faith, I don’t remember the series ever canonically stating that.

          Current score: 1
    • Anon says:

      I crackship it.

      Current score: 1