75: Chicken Soup For The Soulless

on October 1, 2007 in 03: Virginal

In Which Two Is Slow

Dinner was just me, Amaranth, and Two again. I missed Steff’s presence sorely. Other people kind of drifted in and out of our little circle, but in my mind, the weekend had forged the four of us into some kind of super-tight circle. Steff’s absence made the circle seem lopsided.

Were we as close as I thought, or was this my own relative inexperience with having friends making me mistake one level of acquaintanceship for another? I didn’t think so. I hoped not.

Though, on another level, I could have wished it was just Amaranth and me… because that would have made it easier to tell her about my encounter with Barley. I faced a bit of a dilemma there. Amaranth would want to know that Barley was still at school, but wouldn’t like hearing about her ongoing conduct.

Actually, given that Amaranth had ordered me to tell her if anybody abused me regardless of whether I thought she needed to know or not, it wasn’t really a dilemma so much as something I had to do that sucked because I knew it would distress her. She realized that something was wrong when I declined a seat on her lap. I needed to be facing her when I told her this. It would be easier if I wasn’t… and easier still if I was in my place of comfort and safety… but I felt that this kind of thing wasn’t supposed to be easy.

I felt a guilty twinge when I told Two to take her time getting her food, but I didn’t want her to have to listen. Two, always eager to please, walked away from our table with exaggerated slowness. When she was out of earshot, I launched into the story, telling Amaranth what had happened as quickly as I could… both to stop the stream of words from drying up in my throat, and to get through the whole thing before Two finished and returned.

Amaranth listened with an expression of deep concern which came to be overshadowed by one of despair as I spoke. I told her everything, except for the part about the headband and armbands. They weren’t relevant… the key elements was that Barley was still in school, and what she’d said and done… not what she’d worn, or the fact that she’d worn anything at all.

“But… she stopped when you told her to,” Amaranth said. “She stopped, right? I mean, she’s… so… it’s not… do you think I should find her? Talk to her?”

“Amaranth… I don’t think that’ll help,” I said. “I think the best thing you can do for her is give her some space.”

“You’re… you’re probably right,” she said. She shook her head, took off her glasses, blinked a few times, put her glasses back on, took them off again, put them back on once more, and then gave a profound sniffle. “Let’s… let’s not talk about Barley any more. You… you didn’t let her take advantage of you, like I told you to… and you stopped her without yelling or getting violent. I want you to know that, whatever else I’m feeling, I’m proud of you for that.”

“Thanks,” I said, looking down. I wasn’t blushing, though, because I didn’t actually feel like I’d done anything special. I’d let Barley back me up against the wall, I’d let her touch me… I’d only been able to say anything at all because Amaranth had ordered me to.

“What would you like for your reward?” Amaranth asked.

“What?” I asked, confused and surprised.

“Your reward,” she said. “You may ask for anything that is mine to give you.”

I hadn’t been expecting this and had absolutely no idea what to say. I still felt the need to make up the spanking I’d missed the day before, but that was punishment… not a reward. Though, since I had my elemental lab on Tuesday, and since the release that the punishment brought with it seemed to be the key to getting me into the right frame of mind, maybe it could almost count as a reward, under the circumstances.

“I… I don’t know,” I said.

I realized that in the time we’d been together, though my body had been pressed close against Amaranth’s many times, I’d very rarely actually touched her… put my hand on a particular part of her, felt and squeezed her the way Ian had done to me. I could have drawn the shape of her breasts with my eyes closed, and had taken comfort in burying myself against them, but could think of only one occasion where I’d touched them with my hands.

But, I could hardly have said that to her. “I want to feel your breasts.” On top of any difficulty inherent in getting those six little words out of my mouth, it would sound lame… lame and childish. Amaranth had actual sex with multiple people, multiple times a day. Letting me play with her impressive accessory set was tame even compared to our non-sexual discipline sessions.

For the same reason, asking to kiss her was right out.

Amaranth watched the outward signs of my inward struggle with an air of quiet patience, looking at me through the lenses of rather than over the top of her glasses. If it had been anybody else–if she’d had any other expression on her face–the attention would have made me more uncomfortable and made it harder to think. When I hadn’t said anything for a long time, she prompted me.

“What do you want, more than anything?” she said. “Don’t think… just answer. What do you want to do?”

“Sleep with you tonight,” I said. As she had commanded, I spoke without thinking… then felt stupid. It was too much to ask for. She couldn’t just skip “work” to sleep with me whenever I felt like it, or I had a bad day. I tried to figure out how to take it back in a way that made it clear I knew I’d asked for too much and was sorry, but then she gave a slow, careful nod.

“Okay,” she said. “I think we can both use some comfort tonight.”

“But… your work,” I said. “Your field. You can’t just…”

“I won’t know what I can or can’t do until I try,” Amaranth said. “I’ve had over a week of some pretty intense fucking going on, including with partners who have greater-than-human strength, virility, and stamina… and our last night together gave me a pretty good idea of how draining such a thing is. I’m fairly comfortable with the idea of spending one night a week just being with you… as long as you accept the condition that I may have to run out for a quickie in the middle of the night.”

“I… yes,” I said. “Of course.”

“And, of course, our first night together was fairly cozy and restful,” she said, giving me what I can only call a hungry smile. “Tonight, maybe we can find something that doesn’t conflict with your list, that’ll still give me a little… boost.”

If Steff could make the harshest words sound sexual, Amaranth could do the same with the most innocent ones. I shivered.

“Twoey, dear, go ahead and come sit down,” Amaranth said. I followed her gaze to see Two, creeping towards us as though she were wading through molasses.

“Yeah, it’s okay, Two,” I added. By Amaranth’s own instructions, Two wouldn’t accept anybody’s word over my own orders… but there was no need to explicitly remind Amaranth of that.

I winced to see her almost pitch forward and dump her tray as her legs obeyed the order a bit faster than her brain. There was something almost reflexive about her obedience, so inherent it was to her personality.

“I require clarification,” she said as she set her tray down and took her seat. She was smiling. Her tone and expression made it sound more like an announcement than usual. It was as though she had something exciting to tell us rather than a question about something which confused her.

“About what, Twoey?” Amaranth asked indulgently.

“About Mack,” she said. Turning to me, she asked, “Which part of you has trouble eating human food?”

I stared back at her, confused.

“What do you mean, ‘which part’?” I asked. “My stomach, I guess… my mouth can obviously handle it, but I start to get nauseous if I eat more than a little bit of it, and the slightest little thing brings it all back up.”

“No,” Two said, shaking her head. “I mean, which part… you are part demon and you are part human. Humans can eat human food. Demons can eat most things, though it gives them no sustenance to do so. So why could you not eat salad, or a hamburger, or pudding, if humans and demons can both eat those things?”

I looked at her, digesting–no pun intended–her words.

“Two, it sounds like you’re telling me that I should be able to eat whatever I want without getting sick,” I said, finally, when I thought I had the shape of it.

“I might be mistaken,” she said, though her voice and her strangely confident smile left no doubt that she didn’t think she was. I found myself once again cursing the fact that Two had achieved another moment of uncharacteristic self-assurance in a matter where I knew for a fact she was wrong. “But I think you should be able to.”

“I’m afraid you are mistaken,” I told her, trying to sound more regretful than reproachful. “I haven’t been able to eat normal food since I came into my nature. It isn’t fit for my body… that’s what my grandmother told me, and she knew more about demons than anybody else I’ve ever met.”

Actually, I think what she had meant was that my body wasn’t fit for normal food, though I kept that observation to myself.

“I think I am not,” Two said. “If a demon can eat something and a human can eat that same thing, then a person who is both demon and human and nothing else should be able to eat that thing.”

“Two, it… it just doesn’t work that way,” I said.

“You know, I think she’s right,” Amaranth said. “I feel a little silly for never having thought of it myself. I mean, full-blooded demons can eat human food for pleasure or in order to blend in, and they’ve been known to eat livestock and other animals in order to create an atmosphere of terror… which isn’t exactly the same thing as eating a hamburger, but the implication is clear: meat other than their particular need still does them no ill.”

“I’m not a full-blooded demon,” I said.

“Of course not,” Amaranth said. “But, when two races interbreed, the offspring never has any trait not present in either of the parents, so why should a half-demon gain an intolerance for regular food?”

“Did you miss the part of my story where I threw up the cookie I had for lunch?” I asked. “My body does not like human food. Two, I love the fact that you want to help me… but telling me that I should be able to eat whatever I feel like doesn’t make it so.”

“I’m sorry, I was mistaken,” Two mumbled half-heartedly, looking down at her lap. Damn. She was getting more expressive in more ways than simply being outspoken, and it was breaking my heart to argue with her.

“Two, honey, I think it’s too early to say that you are,” Amaranth said in a comforting tone, though she was giving me a rather shrewd look out of the corner of her eye. “Mack’s grown up with one assumption…”

“It’s not an assumption…” I said, but Amaranth hushed me with her finger.

“Twoey, would you please go get Mack a bowl of soup?” Amaranth asked. “Chicken noodle if they have it, or whatever is the lightest soup they’ve got tonight.”

“Okay!” Two said, scurrying off to obey.

“When she gets back, you’re going to try the soup,” Amaranth said, in her tone of command. “Even if you just drink the broth. Do your best to keep it down… if you won’t for your own sake, then think of poor dear Twoey and how she’ll feel if the research she’s been doing comes to nothing. Got that?”

She removed the finger from my mouth.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said automatically. “But… you make it sound like I throw up on purpose.”

“Not exactly ‘on purpose’,” Amaranth said. “But, the more I think about it, the more I think the ‘part of you with the problem’ is your head, not your stomach.”

Two returned, with two bowls of chicken soup. She put one down in front of me.

“Here, Mack,” she said. “I got one for me, so that we can eat together.”

“You are such a darling, Two,” Amaranth said.

“I got us crackers, too, but I can eat yours if you don’t want them,” Two said.

“Thanks,” I said feebly.

“Well, go on,” Amaranth said expectantly.

I picked up the spoon, and tipped it so that a noodle and a nearly transparent piece of celery tipped out of it, along with about half of the broth, then raised it most of the way to my lips.

“This is such a waste,” I said. “Even if I can keep it down, I don’t need it.”

“I’m sure they toss out gallons of the stuff at the end of the night,” Amaranth said. “They’ll make more tomorrow. If you enjoy what might otherwise be thrown away, then it’s hardly going to waste.”

“This is enjoyment?” I asked.

Eat,” Amaranth said.

I closed my eyes and brought the spoon to my mouth, sucking the liquid in through almost-closed lips.

It was hotter than I had expected, though of course that didn’t bother me. The taste caught me by surprise. I hadn’t had soup… or any real food… for years, though of course, the aroma of boiling soup carries. The actual memory of the flavor had muted and mutated in my head over the years, so that the taste of the chicken soup was almost nothing like what I expected… but I found that once it hit my tongue, I recognized it all the same. The memory of the taste came back: oh, yeah… that’s what chicken soup tastes like.

I had another spoonful, and another. Two watched with an expression of glee that would have been worth a bowl full of holy water. Once she was sure I was really going to keep eating, she tucked into her soup with a vengeance. I passed her the rest of mine after I’d finished half the broth and a few vegetables and miniscule bits of chicken.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” I said, feeling absolutely shitty for raining on Two’s parade, but feeling it was necessary to be realistic. “I’ve managed to hold little things down before.”

“But, even that’s kind of telling,” Amaranth reasoned. “I mean, if you weren’t able to eat food at all, that would be one thing… I want you to keep trying. Not just half a cookie or a spoonful of ice cream, but some actual food at every meal. You can scale back if you have a bad, you know, reaction to it… but I think we just need to get your body and especially your mind accustomed to eating.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I said.

She tilted her face and looked at me over the top of her glasses.

“Yes, ma’am.”

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6 Responses to “75: Chicken Soup For The Soulless”

  1. pedestrian says:

    TWO is so smart. She understands things for which other people let their prejudices blind them.

    Current score: 7
    • MackSffrs says:

      Yes, she most certainly is, I think Two may also actually be one of, if not the most intelligent of all the characters.
      And yet Mack keeps trying to correct her…
      about things she KNOWS is wrong:
      Food
      Evil
      Girl

      Current score: 1
      • Arakano says:

        Ehm, no. Mack does not know she is wrong about those things. Mack is very smart, as Two correctly noticed, but also has been conditioned to keep her mind closed and “certain” about many things. Seriously, I think she is WAY less fucked-up than most people would be with her background.

        Current score: 3
      • Leishycat says:

        But Steff IS a girl. That’s something Two was actually wrong about.

        Current score: 5
  2. zeel says:

    Weird, I don’t think any other writing has complled me to eat chicken soup before. But damn I need a soup break now. . .

    Current score: 2
    • Lara says:

      I had the exact same response, haha. I’m about to go make myself some.

      Current score: 0