238: Incensed

on June 15, 2008 in Book 9

In Which A Slip Of The Tongue Is On The Nose

The good news, I learned from the library’s ethereal card catalog, was that they had a dozen copies of The Warrior’s Handbook.

The bad news was, they were all checked out. Five of the copies were listed as being past due.

“It’s a three week check-out period,” I said. “How the hell can so many copies be overdue already? Anyway, I guess that’s that.” I waved the list away, annoyed but not really terribly disappointed. “I could put my name on the waiting list, I guess.”

“Didn’t you say Jill wanted you to read the first five chapters by Thursday or something?” Steff asked.

“Yeah, but she can’t really do anything if they don’t even have a copy in the first place,” I said. “Can she? And don’t call her ‘Jill’. That’s creepy.”

“I will call Jill by whatever name I please,” Steff said.

“Seriously, don’t,” I said.

“Maybe I can be like Two and call her ‘my girlfriend Jill’ all the time?” she said, smirking.

“I will pay you not to do that,” I said.

“Jealous?”

“No, because I’m not your girlfriend,” I said. “You’re my girlfriend.”

At first, I thought I’d broken her. Her face went utterly blank. Had I said something wrong? Was “girlfriend” too much, considering we hadn’t even dated yet?

Then her face began to do a slow transformation, as gradual and beautiful as the sun first peering over the horizon, and then she was giving me a bone-crushing hug.

“You’re welcome,” I said with a grin. “Does this mean I don’t have to pay you, after all?”

“Oh, honey, you couldn’t afford my rates, anyway,” Steff said. “Anyway, you should save your money for the bookstore.”

“Probably,” I said. “I think we’re probably going to be spending a lot of time there, now that we know where it is.”

“I meant the campus one,” Steff said. “If they don’t have the handbook here, we’ll have to go there and get it.”

“Oh, no fucking way,” I said. “I am not buying a copy of a fighting textbook.”

“Well, they don’t rent them by the hour,” Steff said. “You can return it at the end of the semester and get some of your money back.”

“It’s not the money,” I said. “I just… I don’t want to own something like that.”

“Oh, don’t be such a fucking snob,” Steff said.

“How am I a snob?”

“Acting like you’re above this stuff,” Steff said. “You just fought Gloria. Assuming I’m remembering right and you’re not full of crap, you beat her.”

“I did, but I only fought because I had to,” I said.

“Exactly,” Steff said. “We all have to fight sometimes, so don’t act like you’re above it.”

“I’m not,” I said. “I just… I’m not.”

The idea that I was being a snob with regards to warrior jocks was ludicrous to me. They were the ones who thought they were above everybody, not me. If I didn’t want to be associated with that kind of asshole, that didn’t make me a snob.

“Didn’t…didn’t I want to go to the bookstore anyway?” Steff asked. She scrunched her face in confusion. “For… something?”

“Oh, yeah. You said something about getting Two a present,” I said, grateful for the distraction. “But then you said we should throw her a party.”

“Oh!” Steff said. “I did?”

“You were a little… out of it,” I said. “But it’s a good idea.”

“It’s an awesome idea,” Steff said. “Do you think Dee might know when her birthday is?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure Two would consider her date of creation to be her birthday, or the date she was set free… but I’m not really sure she would appreciate being reminded of either one.”

“Yeah, I guess not,” Steff said. “Maybe we can just celebrate the fact that we met her?”

“Maybe,” I said. “But do you want to wait a year for the anniversary of that.”

“Not really,” Steff said. “How about next Tuesday, instead?”

“Okay,” I said. “That’ll be good. It gives us a week to plan.”

“Yeah,” Steff said. “Also, it fits.”

“How?”

“Two’s…. day,” she said, grinning.

I shook my head.

“What?” she asked, grinning even wider.

“You’re such a dork.”

“Don’t even start, you,” she said. “Don’t forget that I have spanking privileges.”

We had to head back to Harlowe first, since I’d left my coin pouch in my other jeans. Once we were there, I suggested we just wait until dinner time and get the book then, since we’d be over at the union anyway, but Steff would have none of that. She asserted the authority Amaranth had given her over me and ordered me to get it right away.

We headed up to my room, where I had to retrieve my previous outfit from the hamper.

“You fold your dirty clothes up before you put them away?” Steff asked me.

“Two does,” I said. “I don’t even put them in the hamper, most of the time.”

“Oh, that is so precious of her,” Steff said. “And so gross of you,” she added, looking at me. “You’re cute anyway, and you’re doing a lot better, but… hygiene, missy. I know you can’t help the way you smell, but every little bit helps.”

“Hey, you keep pieces of dead people in your room,” I said. “And what do you mean, the way I smell?”

“The body parts are mostly class related, technically,” she said. “And it’s only a little bit worse than most humans.”

I sniffed my arm. It smelled like… nothing. Like me. I was probably a bit sweatier than normal, after the fight with Gloria. Maybe I could have stood to take a shower or a bath.

But I didn’t smell bad.

Did I?

I was starting to get an all-too-familiar, skeezy, uncomfortable creeping feeling all over my skin.

Dirty.

“Oh, don’t be like that… I don’t actually mind it,” Steff said. She looked hurt, which was weird considering I was the one who’d been insulted. “I thought you knew. I mean, others have mentioned it, too.”

“Who?” I asked.

“Um… let me think,” Steff said. “I know I’ve had conversations about this.”

“You just talk about how I smell behind my back?” I asked. I’d thought the Leightons were acting with all their typical maturity, but what if they were just the only ones mean enough to tell me the truth?

What if that was why nobody had wanted to sit by me in the lecture hall?

“I didn’t know you didn’t know!” Steff said. “Dee… and Celia. That’s who else said they’d noticed.”

Celia had actually said something about me “tasting like” rotten eggs, but she’d said it was really subtle. Dee had certainly never said anything to me.

I pulled my shirt off and buried my face against it, trying to see if I could smell what she was talking about.

“Honestly, it’s not a huge thing. Humans don’t smell like flowers, period. I mean, I know I smell like a wet dog, as far as most elves are concerned. You’ve just got a little bit extra,” Steff said. “I thought I was imagining it until Viktor said something about it.”

Viktor?

“The bookstore can wait,” I said, dropping the shirt. I went to the closet, moved the pitchfork aside, and got my bathrobe out. “I’m taking a bath,” I announced.

I smelled the bathrobe. It didn’t smell like anything to me, either.

Why couldn’t I notice what was so obvious to everybody else?

Was I just that filthy, that it was normal to me?

“You need that book!” Steff said.

“Punish me if you want to,” I said. “Or take my pouch and go buy it for me. I’m not going anywhere until I’ve taken a bath.”

Some of my bath sets had come with body spray. I hadn’t bothered with them… but then I hadn’t known that I stank so bad that half-ogres complained about it. Maybe I could find something to cover it up?

“Honey, it honestly isn’t going to help,” Steff said.

“That makes me feel so much better,” I said. “You know, some people like the way I smell.”

I wasn’t about to tell her that Feejee had said I reminded her of fish cooked over an ocean vent, but I was clinging to what scraps I could.

Steff looked like she was about to cry, but I couldn’t bring myself to care. Much.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I shouldn’t have said…”

“No, you should have kept talking behind my back,” I said. I took off my bra, slipped my robe over my shoulders, and finished getting undressed, then went to the dresser. Two had left the stuff from my pockets on it again. “Here’s my money,” I said, tossing Steff the pouch. “Go get the book… and see if they have any demon-strength deoderant, or whatever.”

“Honey, I didn’t mean…”

“I’m not mad,” I said angrily. “Now that I know there’s a problem, I want to fix it. Seriously, find the strongest deoderant they have. I’ll even take the guys’ kind.”

I turned back to look at the different bath scents I’d bought. Peppermint seemed like it might do the job, but I’d already used that one. Had it worked at all? I wished I could smell what Steff was talking about.

“Honey, I’m sorry,” Steff said, and her voice had changed. I turned around to see that her cheeks were wet with tears. My throat constricted. So did my heart.

“I’m not mad,” I said, and this time I meant it. “It’s just, I feel dirty… all the time. Or I used to, until recently. Being told that I smell…”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “I just have to go do this, so I can try to feel clean again. Anyway, I’d probably at least need a shower, anyway, after the fight with Gloria. You just reminded me of that. Not the way I’d have liked… but… it’s not that bad.”

“Okay,” she said. “I really didn’t mean anything.”

We shared a quick kiss, and then she hurried out of the room. I closed the closet door, and then went to look at my bath stuff. There was one that was called “amber incense” that had a kind of strong, spicy smell that had appealed to me in the store.

I had no idea why amber was supposed to smell like that, but it came with a little scent spritzer. I’d take a hot bath in the stuff and then use it to cover up whatever didn’t wash away.

Feejee’s door flew open just as I’d gone past it. I jumped and spun around to see her standing there, breathing in through her nose.

“You smell really good,” she said, smiling.

“I really don’t want to talk about that right now, Feejee,” I said.

“Sorry. Hey, I was thinking… you don’t seem to be bad at the writing stuff,” she said. “Would you mind taking a look at a paper for me? I’ve been speaking Pax since I was four, but my spelling’s not always the best.”

“You can’t just run it through a check spell?” I asked.

“I did, but I’m not sure I did it right. I’m not really comfortable with all that fancy stuff,” she said. “I’d really appreciate it if you could just take a quick look over it and make sure it’s alright.”

Well, that was a good deal less creepy than what she could have asked. She was a pretty nice person, and had been patient with my inadvertent bits of rudeness. It wouldn’t kill me to stay on a friendly basis with her, while I figured out what to do about… the other stuff.

“Sure, okay,” I said, stepping towards her door. “What’s the subject?”

She froze, like a startled deer.

Feejee!” I said.

“I’m sorry!” she said. “I’m sorry, I just… I want to, um, talk to you.”

“Yeah, I bet,” I said. “I’m taking a bath.”

“Do you want some company?” she asked.

“No,” I said.

“Oh,” she said. “Well, I was probably going to take one anyway.”

“Okay, fine,” I said. It wasn’t like I could stop her. The bathrooms were there for everybody.

“Awesome,” she said. She stepped out into the hall and pulled the door shut. She didn’t have to change or get any bath stuff… though she did change her legs from scales to naked flesh, right there in the hall.

She stretched them a bit.

“You know,” she said, seeing me watch her, “if you promise not to get too gay about it…”

“I’m not coming into your room, okay?” I asked. I wasn’t exactly completely opposed to the idea of another session of play like the one we’d had, as long as we were sober and we set some ground rules, but I was creeped out by how badly she wanted it. “Stop pushing.”

“I’m not pushing, exactly,” she said. “I’m… fishing?”

“Yeah, that’s so much better,” I said.

Feejee followed me into the bathroom and started her bath alongside mine, but didn’t say anything until after I’d filled the tub with hot water and piles of fragrant bubbles.

“I don’t want this to be weird,” she said. I couldn’t help but notice she’d kept her legs bare, despite the fact that she usually came to the baths to let her tail out for a while.

“Then just… back off a bit,” I said. “Okay? We can talk about it later… and I want to talk about it first, not just jump in. You were talking about how I never ask you to hang out or anything, but you haven’t asked me to do anything except… come to your room.”

I had few regrets about my relationships with Steff and Amaranth and Ian, but things seemed to go better with them when we talked about stuff a bit more.

Not that I was sure you could call it a “relationship” if you were letting somebody pretend to eat you.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to push. It’s hard,” she said. She dropped her voice. “It’s like… I’ve got your scent now, and I can’t let it go.”

“Can we please not mention my scent?” I asked. I squeezed some body wash onto the little scrubby bubble builder thing that came with the bath set and started squeezing it, then began rubbing it all over my arms and legs, willing away the dirtiness.

“What’s with the scrubbing mania?” she asked. “You usually don’t seem to care if you get clean or not.”

“Feejee, shut up!” I yelled. I did my scrubbing in the shower, normally, but it was really none of her business when I scrubbed or why.

“Okay, okay,” she said. “Sorry. Can I just say that soap smells nice?”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath… which, incidentally, brought with it the soothing aroma of the spicy, allegedly amber bubbles.

“Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled.”

“Well, it does smell nice,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“You know… maybe you really did need a bath,” she said.

“Excuse me?” Hadn’t she said she liked the way I smelled?

“You always seem more relaxed getting out than you do coming in,” she said. “That’s all.”

“Oh,” I said. “Sorry. Yeah. I don’t mean to snap. I’m just having a… complicated afternoon.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “Are you starting to feel better?”

“Yeah,” I said. “A little bit.”

“That’s good,” she said. “Do you want to come over for a bit when we get done?”

I threw the scrubber at her.

“Touchy!”


Tales of MU is now on Patreon! Help keep the story going!

Or if you particularly enjoyed this chapter, leave a tip!


Characters: , ,





11 Responses to “238: Incensed”

  1. pedestrian says:

    I think the lack of scent is why I have considered most pornography to be boring and tedious.

    Current score: 2
  2. MadnessMaiden says:

    I kinda wouldn’t mind seeing something happen between Mackenzie and “Fiji.”

    Current score: 2
  3. MackSffrs says:

    Until the half-ogre complained…

    Current score: 6
  4. Moridain says:

    I got a funny look when I burst out laughing at ‘Check Spell’ in on a public computer.

    I love the little touches like that. 😀

    Current score: 6
  5. Rynhold says:

    Mack didn’t mention grabbing her pitchfork after fighting class, or mention putting it in the closet. And yet she mentions moving it out of her way. Am I missing something here?

    Current score: 1
    • Jimmy Joe III says:

      It’s fucking following her, I bet.

      Current score: 5
    • Jechtael says:

      I’m just waiting for the mirror to be mentioned again. She never said she took it out of her pocket before class, unless I’m forgetting it, and she hasn’t mentioned it since the end of class.

      Current score: 3
      • Anon says:

        It did say she changed before melee class, so the mirror was presumably among the things Two took out of her pockets when she put the dirty clothes in the hamper.

        But yeah, the pitchfork seems to just conveniently not happen when she’s not thinking about it, and then coincidentally be right where it needs to be (regardless of where it was left). Such a helpful, faithful, convenient little cursed implement of rage and death!

        Current score: 4
        • zeel says:

          The big question: is she carrying it around without actually noticing, not carrying it but ir’s still there, or just not mentioning it because it isn’t pertainant to the story?

          Current score: 0
  6. Jechtael says:

    Brimstone, girl. You’re never going to get rid of that hint of egg and lactose intolerance flatulence. It’s probably leaking straight from the not-so-human part of your soul.

    Current score: 4
    • Anon says:

      Just gotta find a perfume that goes well with sulfur. Like… uh…

      Current score: 2