98: Guess Who’s Coming…

on November 15, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which The Majestic Lowland Gorilla Is Admired

“Hi, Mack! Hi, Ian!” Two called out cheerily as we came into the lounge, carrying the desk chairs from my room. I was trying very hard not to think of the one in Ian’s arms as Puddy’s chair. I don’t think she’d ever sat in it, anyway.

“Hi, Two,” I said.

I nudged Ian in the ribs until he said, “Uh, hi, Two.”

All the actual work of cooking was apparently done, and Two was now sitting at the table with a couple of textbooks and her notebook while Hazel lay across one cushion of the couch, watching TV.

“Hello, you two,” Hazel said, not looking up from the infomercial she was watching, which touted the benefits of self-heating cookware.

“That would be Hazel,” I told Ian.

“Dinner isn’t ready yet,” Two said, closing her notebook. “But you can move the table and help me set it.”

“Okay,” I said.

Two stood up, and we set down our burdens and pulled the table into the center of the kitchen area, then arranged all the chairs around it.

“I think that you should sit in the middle of one side,” Two said to me. “So that Amaranth can sit next to you and Steff can sit on the other side and Ian can sit across from you. Then, Dee can sit in the corner that is furthest away from Steff.”

“Where are you sitting?” I asked her.

“I should sit next to Ian,” she said. “So Celia does not have to. She can sit on one of the ends.”

“Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Ian asked. “‘Doesn’t have to’?”

“It’s nothing,” I said. “Two’s just trying to… minimize issues.”

“Why am I an issue?” Ian demanded.

“It’s not a big deal,” I said. “You saw how she was in the hallway. She’s not a big fan of humans.”

“Well, that’s her problem, not mine,” Ian said.

“And it shouldn’t be a problem for you,” I said. “It’s as much so you don’t have to put up with her… anyway, it’s not like you’re the only one. We’re keeping Dee and Steff apart, too. They just rub each other the wrong way, because Dee’s a pious dark elf and Steff’s…”

“Wait, we’re having dinner with a drow?” Ian asked.

“Hey, watch your mouth!” I said sharply, glad we were in the lounge and not in my room or out in the hallway.

“What?”

“That term is offensive,” I said.

“Offensive to a race of murderous zealots?” Ian countered.

“Don’t let the actions of a few extremists color your perception of the entire race,” I said. “Their religion is actually one of peace.”

“Anyway, Mack is mistaken,” Two said. “Dee is not a dark elf.”

“Two, yes, she is,” I said.

“No, you are mistaken,” Two said again. “She is a normal elf.”

“No, Two, I am not mistaken,” I said, a little testily. “Normal elves look like Steff, with alabaster skin and pale silver or gold hair.”

“No,” Two said. “Those are only faint elves.”

“Faint elf?” Ian repeated.

“That is the term for elves whose skins were bleached of their natural color after millennia of exile to the surface,” Two said.

“Two, that’s not how it happened,” I said, but she shook her head.

“It is,” she said.

“Okay, I’m not going to argue with you,” I said, though I privately resolved to give her a primer in real elven history in a less public place. I turned to Ian. “The point is, Steff and Dee don’t get along, and Celia doesn’t get along with humans, so we’re just trying to avoid conflicts as best as we can.” I smiled at Two. “And Two has done a really good job figuring out where everybody should sit, though it’ll probably defeat the purpose if we make a big deal out of it.”

“Well, then… why don’t I get to sit next to you, anyway?” Ian said, turning his irritation to a different subject. “If you’re in the middle, there’s two chairs next to you. Why does Amaranth get to sit by you and I don’t?”

“Because you are a gentleman and she is your lady and my friend Hazel says that’s how it’s done at dinner parties,” Two said.

That answer made both of us blush for some reason, and we busied ourselves putting plates, cups, napkins, forks, and knives around the table while Two, at Hazel’s instruction, checked the pan in the oven.

“The chicken is white all the way through,” Two reported.

“It’s not overdone, is it?” Hazel asked, standing and peering over the back of the couch. “If it is, we need to take it out earlier.”

Two’s face scrunched up and her eyes began to drift slowly from side to side as she tried to work out the logistics of this.

“It’s a joke, love,” Hazel said. “But go ahead and take the food out now, anyway.”

Two used a pair of big oversized oven mitts to handle the oven tray and the roasting pan. I had to admit, there was something innately adorable about her in them, bustling about… even more so when I imagined her with a cook’s apron, too. I made up my mind to get her one, if she stuck with the cooking thing. It was a shame golems didn’t really have birthdays. I wondered briefly if she knew the date of creation… or maybe the day she’d been set free would be more appropriate, as in her mind, that had been when she’d become a person. Though, considering how traumatic that had been, it was doubtful she’d want to mark the occasion with presents and cake.

“I am going to make Amaranth’s rice,” Two announced, when she’d got the foil-covered pan out and set it on a towel on the counter to cool. “You should let everybody know that dinner is almost ready.”

She had a pair of measuring cups out, and was scrutinizing them carefully in order to make damn sure she was about to mix equal parts water and instant rice.

“Is that all we have for Amaranth?” I asked. “Plain white rice?”

“I… I can season it for her?” Two said a little doubtfully.

“What’s the problem?” Ian asked. “Doesn’t she like chicken?”

“Amaranth’s a nymph,” I said. “They don’t eat animals.”

“Isn’t there a little store in the lobby?” Ian asked. “I can run down and see if they’ve got a fruit cup or a carrot tray or something.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that,” I said.

“No, it’s not a big deal,” Ian said. “They take meal cards, right? I’ve got the full plan… if I don’t use a punch tonight, it’s just wasted.”

“That’s good,” Two said. “Ian can do that while you tell everybody and I make the rice. That way, everybody is doing something, and it’s fair.”

“Yeah, what’s Hazel doing?” Ian asked skeptically.

“She is supervising,” Two said.

“I came up with the dish, didn’t I?” Hazel said. “I can’t be expected to do everything, can I?”

Ian looked like he was going to say something, but I gave him a dirty look. Two and her new friend had apparently found a dynamic that worked for them. I didn’t want to see it fall apart because of hurt feelings.

“I guess I’ll just pop on down to the store, then,” Ian said. He gave me a quick kiss on the cheek and hurried away.

Dee didn’t open the door when I knocked, but merely spoke through it. I let her know that the food was ready and she thanked me. Amaranth’s room was the next one over. I heard her let out a startled squeal when I knocked on it.

“Don’t come in!” she cried. More quietly, apparently to Steff, she said, “Is the door locked?”

“I locked it,” Steff said.

“It’s me,” I said.

“Really, hon, don’t try to come in,” Amaranth said again. “Are you sure it’s locked?”

“I’m sure,” Steff repeated.

I tried the knob, experimentally. I wouldn’t have opened the door. I was just seeing if it would turn. It wouldn’t.

Don’t!” Amaranth shrieked.

“Are… are you okay?” I asked, worried.

“Yes,” she said. “I’m fine. I just… um… go away!”

“I just wanted to tell you dinner was ready.”

“We’ll be there in a minute,” Steff said, laughing.

“Quit laughing,” Amaranth hissed at her. “It isn’t the least bit funny. Help me get all this stuff off.” Stuff? What “stuff” was she talking about? As far as I knew, a nymph’s inherent cleanliness prevented any residue from sticking to them after sex. “You’d better not still be standing there, Mack,” she yelled, making me jump. “Because I know I told you to go away.”

I hurried off towards Celia’s room. The door was open. Celia was at her desk, sketching something in her notebook. Feejee, Celia’s mermaid roommate, was making out with her human boyfriend, Rick, on her bed. None of them had noticed me step into the doorway.

I knocked on the door. Feejee and Rick both turned and glared at me. Rick immediately went to cover his girlfriend’s bare breasts, but Feejee brushed his arm away and started glaring at him instead. I blushed, more out of a sense of having made a social blunder than from any sexual excitement, and cleared my throat.

“Um, Two says it’s dinner time,” I told Celia.

“Finally!” Celia said. “Last half hour, it’s been like trying to formulate a spell while listening to somebody getting devoured by a gelatinous cube in the background.”

“Hey, it’s no picnic living with a potion popper, either!” Feejee spat back as we left.

“Can you believe the nerve of… well, I guess you probably can,” Celia said. “By the way, your breath tastes like balls.”

I put my hand up to my mouth. The need to brush after going down on Ian had totally flown my mind, somehow, but of course now it came flying right back.

“I have to go brush my teeth,” I said, darting for my room.

By the time I finished in the bathroom and put my toothbrush away, everybody else had gathered in the lounge. Amaranth had cleaned off whatever “stuff” she’d found so alarming, and had taken a seat on the back of the couch, leaning against the wall and facing the kitchen area, where the rest of the group milled around. Except for Dee, who’d already sat statue-still in her seat.

I’d been worried that Ian might offend her by staring, but of course, that wasn’t where he was staring.

“Oh, look, sweetie… he likes big breasts, too!” Amaranth said to me. She gave her chest a little bounce. “You can touch them, you know. They’re not just mine… they’re here for everybody.”

“Uh… I… uh…” Ian said.

“Maybe later,” I said.

“I think we are ready to begin,” Two said. She started directing people to their chairs. Hazel had the other end chair, across from Celia, as the desk chairs were a bit higher than the normal dining room chairs. She supplemented this with a couple of textbooks. When everybody else had taken their seats, she removed the foil from the roasting pan, exposing golden-tinged rice with the tops of moist, white chicken breasts poking out and a savory aroma of herbs.

“The decadence of the sun-blighted races is easier to understand when one considers the immense bounty of the skydomed lands,” Dee said. I think it was her idea of a compliment.

Two insisted on standing and serving everybody, using a large serving spoon to transfer a piece of chicken and a large portion of rice to each plate, except for Amaranth’s, which already had white rice flecked with herbs, an apple, and some carrots and celery on it, and Celia’s, which had half a dozen raw eggs on it.

“So, Ian,” Steff said, once everybody had settled down. She had a particularly lascivious undertone in her voice, which made me dread what she might be about to say… but she behaved herself. “Our little Mack tells me that you’re something of a musician… and didn’t I hear you say something about bringing your instrument with you to favor us with a song or two?”

“Uh, yeah,” he said. “I left it in Mackenzie’s room, but I thought… maybe after dinner… you know, if anybody wanted…”

“Oh, we want,” Steff purred, nodding her head. “We do want.”

Ian blushed and ducked his head. I knew the feeling.

“Are you perhaps majoring in music?” Dee asked politely.

“No,” Ian said. “I… uh… well, my dad’s a pretty big time fire mage, so I pretty much had to be an elem major. I’ve always liked music, though. My grandpa was a bard… I think. I mean, Dad doesn’t really like to talk about him.”

“And what does your mother do?” Dee asked.

“She doesn’t really do anything,” Ian said. “She stays home.”

“I see,” Dee said, a little coldly.

“You’re better off in elementalism,” Celia said. “Music’s such a soft option.”

“Says the illusionist,” Steff said.

“Bite me, treefucker,” Celia said. “Then I’ll bite you and we’ll see who’s standing.”

“Treefucker? Oh, because I’m part elf, and elves love trees,” Steff said. “That’s great. That’s clever. Really. I never heard that one before, ever.”

I was about to say something… as soon as I figured out what to say and got up the courage to say it. Before I could do either, though, poor Two must have had just about enough.

“You are not supposed to fight at the dinner table!” she shrieked, banging her admittedly tiny and delicate fists down on the table. Her voice cracked and jumped about an octave. I guessed she hadn’t done much yelling in her life.

“Sorry,” Celia said.

“Sorry, sweetie,” Steff said, genuinely abashed.

“My deepest apologies,” Dee said. Evidently she considered her “I see.” to have been pointed enough to qualify as fighting.

After that, everybody was more or less stunned into polite conversation about classes and plans for the rest of the semester, and things like that. Amaranth horrified the people who knew her best and enchanted the others by going on and on about recent discoveries regarding the intelligence levels of certain species of lowland forest ape.

The food was really good. Two had made some lemonade that was perhaps a little sweeter than might have been expected. When Steff remarked on this in surprise, Two explained that the recipe had said “sugar to taste.”

I liked it, anyway.

Hazel might have been flying by the seat of her undersized pants, but it had worked. The chicken’s meat was amazingly moist, and the chicken and rice had both taken flavor from the herbs and the soup. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish mine, but I looked forward to offering Ian the rest of it. That was something girlfriends did, I was pretty sure.

All in all, the meal was going about as well as it could have. Barring the brief outbreak of squabbling, it was actually going pretty damn good. Ian’s eyes kept drifting over to Amaranth’s chest, but at least he looked embarrassed when he saw me watching him do it.

A couple of times, I was even surprised to look up and find him looking at me. That was exciting and tingle-making in its own weird way.

I had just decided that things couldn’t possibly get any better when fate decided it was my turn to be right for a change.

“What the fuck is this?” a voice asked from behind me, the direction of the door. I turned to see Puddy, my not-quite-former roommate, my self-professed best friend… my… well, the girl who’d done things some people would consider abusive to me, for the better part of a week. “Did you guys decide to have a party and not tell me about it?”

“No, we are having dinner,” Two said, matter-of-factly. “And I invited all of my friends.”

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8 Responses to “98: Guess Who’s Coming…”

  1. Aurael says:

    Hot damn, TWO! Tell that (insert female-deprecating expletive here) what’s what!

    Current score: 6
  2. MackSffrs says:

    Two, in probably the only way, and at that, the grandest way, she possibly could, told Puddy to [expletive] off!

    Current score: 8
    • nobody says:

      Two probably intended to just to answer Puddy’s questions.

      Current score: 0
      • Athena says:

        No… she specifically told Puddy she invited *all* of her friends. And she didn’t invite Puddy.

        That is definitely Two’s version of “fuck off”

        Current score: 4
  3. Erm says:

    “It isn’t the least bit funny. Help me get all this stuff off.”

    Ooh, Amy’s trying on clothes, isn’t she? Naughty… 😛

    Current score: 7
  4. BountifulHarvest says:

    OH SNAP

    Current score: 0