78: Good Eggs

on October 7, 2007 in 03: Virginal

In Which Background Characters Are Given Lines

I showered and got dressed for the day, putting on my too-tight pair of jeans… they seemed the most appropriate for the course of action which had been laid out for me. It was too early for me to go to class, but I knew it would be no good trying to go back to bed for another hour or so… I was out of the habit of sleeping in. I figured I’d hit a ball room, or the library, to kill time.

Two was coming out of her room at about the same time I did, dressed in the fuzzy white sweater with matching bow that had touched off Amaranth’s interest in dressing her up cutely.

“Hi, Mack,” she said. “Ready for breakfast?”

“Hi, Two… I’m not going today,” I said.

“You are supposed to eat,” Two said, her eyes widening. “Amaranth said so. Your owner said so.”

“I’m out of punches,” I said. “And I don’t have any money, so…”

“You’re supposed to eat. We’re both supposed to eat,” she said, with the same fierce, earnest insistence of one preschooler telling another that they’re not a’posed to cross the street. “Go to the lounge. I will make us breakfast.”

I stared at her. Two was telling me what to do?

“Go!” she repeated, pointing.

I went.

Feejee was sitting on the couch with the human (or human-looking, anyway) guy I’d seen her with at the dance. They were talking quietly together, their heads bowed in low, as I came in. Feejee was wearing a studded leather jacket that I assumed was the boy’s. With her legs and other lower parts in their scaly form, she would have fit the human definition of decency, if the jacket was zipped up. She seemed to have toned down the sheer amount of sunken treasure that she wore at one time, too, though I noticed that she’d had her nipples done with little gold barbells. Her boyfriend gave me a weird look… I guess I’d stared a little too long at the new additions.

“Hi, Mack,” Feejee said, in a fairly neutral way. The guy’s eyes went a little wide. “This is Rick.”

“Uh, hi,” I said. I sat down on the chair. “Nice to meet you.”

“Hey,” he replied.

The TV was on, showing the morning news. Some self-proclaimed expert was talking about the supposedly looming peak loot crisis and how it wasn’t really as bad as everybody said. The sound was down really low. I don’t think Feejee and Rick had really been watching it.

It hit me that it was a little bit early for visiting and wondered if he’d spent the night… and where Celia had been, if that was the case. It was against the rules for boys to be in the girls’ dorms after hours, but I wasn’t so incredibly naive as to think that particular rule was never broken. I mean, I was pretty sure Steff spent most of her nights on the boys’ side.

Of course, it was always possible that the administration just didn’t care what the “Harlowe Harlots” got up to at night.

Rick kissed Feejee, in a kind of lingering way, though with out a lot of pressure or contact. It was kind of interesting. I wasn’t any kind of an expert on such things, but I’d kind of divided kissing into two categories, one with quick pecks and lip-brushes, and the other, full-on making out like what I’d done with Amaranth. This wasn’t really either. It was both intimate and sweet… and I was staring again… or still… and Rick caught me at it again.

“Fuck you gawkin’ at?” he demanded, starting to rise up off the couch.

“Oh, leave her,” Feejee said, tugging on his sleeve. “I don’t think she gets out much. Let’s go get breakfast, okay?”

“Fine,” he said. “You plan on covering your tits?”

“No… I like my tits.”

They bickered about this as they went away down the hall. I felt bad… they’d looked pretty cozy before I walked in. I wondered if Rick had given Feejee his jacket just to get her to cover up. I guess dating a mermaid “in the natural state” must be a pretty common male fantasy, but the reality of having a lover whose hidden treasures were constantly on display was probably grating.

That made me think of Ian. I suppose if he told his friends he was dating what he might describe as a “bisexual bloodthirsty demoness”, they’d all have a picture of me that looked a lot more like I had at the dance than my everyday attire… with bonus points if he mentioned my apparent S&M tendencies or the fact that I was the “sex toy” of a nymph.

That might lead to a lot of high-fives and congratulations… but was he actually comfortable with any of it? I mean, I wasn’t comfortable with a lot of it myself.

Two arrived in a bit, with a basket from which she produced a pair of skillets, a carton of eggs, some little cartons of milk, along with salt, pepper, and some other seasonings.

“How do you like your eggs?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said. I hadn’t had anything cooked to order for years… and in the intervening time, most of what I’d eaten had been snacks and treats. Regular food prepared for meals hadn’t been high on my priority list for a couple reasons, including limited opportunity. Then, I had a flash of memory… my mother, sliding a fried egg on her own plate, and spooning scrambled eggs on mine. “Scrambled. I like them scrambled.”

“Do you like pepper?” she asked.

“I really don’t know,” I said. The image in my head was little fluffy yellow clouds, without any bits or spots on them… but I really didn’t know if I would have preferred them with pepper, or if I would like them with pepper now.

“I will put pepper on some of them so you can try it and if you like it you can put pepper on the rest,” Two said. I noticed she had been smiling the whole time. Her smile had a kind of fixed quality about it, that on most people would probably have meant it was fake. It wasn’t a bad smile, for all that. A fixed smile was better than her normal default expression, the blank stare.

I shut off the TV and moved over to the table. Two bustled about the small counter and the stovetop. She radiated genuine happiness. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she started to sing. Actually, I would have been shocked as hell… but it would have fit somehow.

She pulled out a stick of butter and began cutting squares off of it to sizzle in the pan.

“You didn’t get all that at the corner store, did you?” I asked. I hadn’t gone in there yet, but my impression was that they carried mostly snack foods and instant meals… warmable burritos, noodle cups, and stuff like that.

“Just the milk,” Two replied. “The rest is from my room.”

“Why do you have eggs and butter in your room?” I asked.

“For baking,” she said. “For my classes.”

I felt a sudden shot of guilt.

“Won’t you need them for your class, then?” I asked.

“I will have money to buy more things when I start getting paid for working at White House in the evenings and on the weekends,” Two said.

“You got a job?” I asked.

“Yes,” Two said. “I work at White House in the evenings and on the weekends. I start next weekend.”

“That’s great,” I said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked, realizing as the words left my mouth that I was about to do a face plant smack in the middle of a terrible cliché.

“You didn’t ask,” Two replied, on cue.

“That really is awesome,” I said. “But… you know… if you try it and don’t like it, and have enough money to pay for what you need, quit.”

“Okay,” she said.

I watched her crack eggs into a bowl, add milk and some kind of little herbs, and whisk it around a bit with a fork before pouring it into the buttered-up skillet. As soon as the eggs were started, she pulled out a pack of bacon and began adding strips to the other skillet. She reached into the basket and then turned around to face me.

“This is for dessert,” she said, putting two yogurt cups on the table, one banana and one vanilla. She put them sort of in the middle, but I noticed that she put the banana one a lot farther from me. “You can have whichever one you like.”

“I’ll take the vanilla,” I said, reaching and pulling it closer. She’d already turned back to mind her skillets.

In no time at all, she’d served me up a plate with a single strip of bacon and a couple spoonfuls of scrambled eggs… one bit with pepper on it. I tried it. The taste was strong and strange to me… I passed on peppering up the rest. Whatever she’d used for seasoning was really good, though. I knew within a single bite that my mother hadn’t used it, but it was still good.

I finished the eggs pretty quickly. The bacon I had to eat more slowly. It was crispy and salty, with the flavor of the bacon itself strong beneath the salt. I liked it, but the salt was a bit much. I hadn’t actually intended on eating the yogurt… or not right then and there, anyway… but I opened it up anyway, to have another flavor to cut the taste.

“Hey!” an unfamiliar voice said from the direction of the door, though I hadn’t heard anybody approaching. I turned in my chair and craned my head around to see Honey and Hazel, the two burrow gnomes, coming into the lounge. One of them–I admit I didn’t really know which was which–was coming onward with comparatively long strides, an indignant look on her round, ruddy face. “Where do you get off makin’ that thing cook for you, then? She ain’t the bloomin’ maid, you know!”

“Leave it, Haze,” the other one–Honey, by process of elimination–said, grabbing hold of the back of her blouse and trying to actually physically restrain her.

“I didn’t… I mean…” I stammered, not actually frightened or intimidated by the diminutive girl’s show of bluster… but terrified that somebody could think I’d take advantage of Two’s subservience.

“I like making breakfast for my friends,” Two said very simply, dumping another small portion of eggs onto my plate along with a slice of bacon. The distraction had prevented me from refusing.

“Oh!” Hazel said, pulling out a chair beside me and climbing into it. “Well, that’s a different matter… you know, I’ve always considered myself a friend of every living thing, and the tallfolk in particular.”

“Haze…” Honey said warningly.

“I think it was very friendly of you to try to stick up for me,” Two said, handing her a plate with three strips of bacon and some eggs on it.

“How much did you cook?” I asked.

Two shrugged.

“I’ve always made large portions,” she said. “And I didn’t know how much you would want. I would not have liked to have too little.”

“Always a sensible attitude, that,” Hazel said. The table was not proportioned for someone of her height, and she held the plate over her lap as she ate. “Did you know this mad place only sets out three meals a day? We’ve been havin’ to lug ourselves downstairs for the spread they lay out and then hike over to the dinin’ hall just to keep body and soul together. You’d think they’d let you back in if you show up for lunch before and after a class, it allegedly bein’ all you can eat, and all… but they won’t even let you show your card twice for what they consider ‘the same meal.’ You pay cash, of course, and nobody minds, but that gets expensive.”

“It isn’t that far to the dining hall and a little exercise does you no harm, Hazel Willikins,” Honey said with a surprising amount of vehemence. It was the most words I’d ever heard out of her since she’d introduced herself on the first night, but I got the feeling that the only thing she found worth complaining about was complaints.

“Would you like some food?” Two asked her.

“I wouldn’t like to impose, thank you all the same,” Honey said.

“What’s the idea here, anyway?” Hazel asked. She jerked a thumb at me. “You after teachin’ her to eat people food so’s she won’t go around eatin’ people, then?”

“I don’t eat people,” I said.

“We are both learning how to be people,” Two said. “We teach each other.”

“That’s a bit like two people copyin’ off each other for a test, isn’t it?” Hazel asked.

Miss Hazel!” Honey said, emphasizing each syllable in turn. “Honestly, you’re as bad as that giant girl… I will not stand here and listen to your rudeness any longer!”

“Pull up a chair, then,” Hazel said.

Honey harrumphed… I mean, she really, actually harrumphed in a way that I previously thought only dignified old matron characters on TV shows did… and then turned and stumped out, muttering loudly.

“Giant girl?” I asked Hazel, confused.

“You know, your lady… or your ex, or whatever,” she said. “Need a bloomin’ score card around here. It’s just like the stories on the telly. That Puddy… she’s part giant, or didn’t you know?”

“Uh, yeah, I guess I did,” I said. Giant blood was merely one of Puddy’s wild claims about her ancestry. Given that she was a few inches shorter than me, I had found this hard to credit… but I guess she was a bit more imposing, from the shirelings’ point of view.

Actually, on the subject of things that were incredible, it was hard to believe that Hazel and Honey were the same pair that had looked so petrified at the first floor meeting. Hazel had come out of her shell in a big way. Honey had, too… just with an odd sense of propriety intact.

But… I guess people can change in a week or so, can’t they?

“Well, thanks for the bit of tuck, Miss Two… Miss Mack,” Hazel said, lifting her plate up and setting it on the table, then clambering down off the chair and heading for the door. I found it interesting that she used the formal address, even with her otherwise relaxed manners. It seemed that though you could take the gnome out of the shire, you couldn’t take the shire out of the gnome.

“You’re welcome,” Two said, collecting the empty plate. I handed her mine, too, though it still had most of the eggs and half of the bacon. She dumped the contents of the plate along with most of the rest of the eggs into a small container, which had her name written on a strip of paper taped to the side. I noticed she spelled her name in runes, just as they appeared on her forehead. Having taken care of everybody else and put the dirty dishes in the sink, she got herself a plate of eggs and the remaining bacon and sat down.

“Did your maker call you Two because of how your runes looked?” I asked Two. Since meeting her, I’d actually been trying hard not to dwell on the significance of her name being a number, as it seemed a very dehumanizing thing and could have some troubling implications. This explanation seemed a little kinder, though.

“My maker didn’t call me anything,” she said, and that big static smile faltered. “But some of the other equipment had labels and I thought ‘Two’ was mine. I was mistaken… but then I needed a name, and it was the only one I had for myself.”

“Other equipment.” The contents of my stomach decided to start a no-holds-barred wrestling tournament. I pushed away dire thoughts of what Two’s life must have been like before she was freed and focused on the present.

“Do you w…ould like another name?” I asked. Okay, it wasn’t grammatically perfect, but it got the idea across while avoiding a certain four letter word.

She shook her head.

“No, I do not would like another name,” she said, with so much childlike seriousness that I almost laughed. I didn’t. I felt bad about wanting to, though.

“Okay,” I said. “Two it is.”

I stopped and thought. I was considering something that I had once thought to be completely out of bounds: talking to Two about my sex life. But, she’d given strangely insightful advice before… and it might be that she enjoyed being asked… and anyway, I had nobody else to talk to. I supposed I could try to ask about a more general situation…

“Two, can I ask you something?”

“Yes,” she said.

“If you’re told to do something…”

I stopped. Of course, if she were told to do something, she’d do it… and, assuming the action itself didn’t distress her, she’d be happy to have something to do.

“Yes?” she prompted, when I hadn’t said anything for a while.

“Well, it’s just… Amaranth has told me to do something…”

“Do it,” she said, quickly and without thought.

“Because she’s my owner?” I asked.

“Yes,” Two said. She blinked at me a couple times, and then added, “and because it makes you happy to please her.”

“Okay, yeah, I guess it does,” I said. “But… is that actually a good reason to do something? To make somebody else happy?”

I felt like an insensitive jerk as soon as I asked this, as I’d basically called into question Two’s entire existence… but she didn’t seem to take it that way.

“If it makes you happy to do so then I do not see why that is worse than any other way of making yourself happy,” she said.

“Aren’t I supposed to do things that make me happy for myself?” I asked.

I watched Two think about this, her face going through its cute little contortions for longer than usual. Finally, she said, “If you only want things for yourself because you are ‘supposed to’ only want things for yourself, then I do not see how that is any different or better than wanting to please somebody else.”

I sighed.

“That makes sense… kind of… but I don’t know if it applies to this specific situation,” I said.

“What is this specific situation?” Two asked.

“I’d… rather not talk about it with you,” I said.

“It’s a sex thing,” Two said, nodding knowingly.

I smiled.

“Okay, yeah, it is,” I said. “A sex thing. Amaranth told me to do a sex thing.”

“I think you have done sex things with her before,” Two said. I put my head down on the table. This was not a conversation I wanted to have… but I was having it. “My understanding of sex things is that they are frequently done for pleasing other people.”

“Well…” I said, lifting my head but not able to meet her gaze. “This… sex thing… isn’t with Amaranth.”

“Is it with Steff, who is a girl?” Two asked.

“No,” I said. “This boy… Ian.”

“Do you not would like to do sex things with him?” she asked.

Damn it… had I permanently quirked her vocabulary?

“I don’t know,” I said. “I almost did before… I think I probably would eventually, anyway.”

“But you don’t would like to now,” she said.

“I don’t know,” I said again. “It feels weird to be doing so because Amaranth told me to.” I stopped, and considered. “Actually, it mostly feels weird that it doesn’t feel weirder. It made sense when I agreed to it, but again, I feel like I’m supposed to want to do something like this for my own pleasure.”

“I think a lot of sex things are done for somebody else’s pleasure,” Two said.

“I think this particular ‘sex thing’ is only done for somebody else’s pleasure,” I said wryly. “But usually for the person it’s being done to.”

“Do you think Ian won’t enjoy it?” Two asked.

“I don’t know how crazy he’ll be about the idea,” I said. “But… I think he could learn to live with it.”

“I do not see the problem,” Two said. “If it pleases Amaranth and it pleases you and it pleases Ian…”

“It’ll probably please Steff, too,” I said, mostly to myself.

“She’s a girl,” Two said.

“Yeah… uh… I know,” I said.

“Do you like pleasing Steff?” she asked. Again, I blushed. She apparently took that as a yes. “So, you can do something that will please Amaranth, and Steff, and Ian, and it will please you to please Amaranth and Steff and very possibly it will please you to please Ian…”

“It’s not supposed to work that way, though,” I said. “I’d only be doing it because Amaranth ordered me to.”

“Which is something else that pleases you,” Two said, nodding.

“It’s not supposed to be like that,” I said.

“What’s it supposed to be like?” she asked.

I didn’t have an answer for that.

“I really don’t know,” I said. “But thanks for listening, anyway… and for breakfast.”

“Thank you for talking to me,” she said.

“You’re welcome,” I said.

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6 Responses to “78: Good Eggs”

  1. pedestrian says:

    TWO continues to evolve into the Wise Woman of the village.

    Current score: 2
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      indeed. She is a little golem girl who is all heart. 2<3 … Rereading these early chapters is reminding me of things like that Two is taller than Mack. I had forgotten that. And to avoid making a spoiler comment I won't mention the other thing until I get to the later chapters.

      Current score: 1
  2. Lunchbox says:

    I’m going to be thinking “do not would like” all the time again… So cute, and awesome.

    Current score: 4
  3. Maesenko says:

    First and foremost…Huzzah for dialogue from other characters!!!

    Now, onto my main comment: While I am well aware from my understanding of tropes and clichés that it might/probably won’t stay this way, I love the relationship that Mackenzie and Two have. It’s a great mixture of cerebral and emotional, with a helping of “true friendship” mixed in.

    Current score: 0
  4. Mickey says:

    I do would like to be friends with Mack and Two. I do, I do, I do would like that.

    Also, the last two lines of this page made me sniffle, because of the contrast with the last time Two was grateful to Mack for talking with her about something. As Two and Mack grow individually, their friendship just keeps getting more…solid.

    I really like Mack and Two.

    Current score: 4
  5. uhhhh says:

    I find myself finding a lot of Two in myself and my own actions and so it’s nice almost seeing a bit of myself and some advise that I would give, in this story.

    Current score: 0