131: The Way The Cookie Crumbles

on January 4, 2008 in 05: The Weekend Shift

In Which A Nekoyokai Is Taught Some Manners

Two knocked on the door of her former room and explained the situation to Dee in an embarrassingly straightforward way, and Dee agreed to help watch me until Ian got back with Amaranth.

Our lounge was empty, so we decided to stay there. It was Saturday evening and there was a skirmish match, so there was a decent chance we wouldn’t be disturbed. It sounded like the twins and/or Twyla were hosting some kind of gathering in their room. I hoped they’d stay there.

The waiting was hell. There wasn’t really anything for the three of us to talk about, so we sat on the couch and watched TV. Two selected a cooking show when neither Dee nor I expressed any preference. Somehow, the elaborate preparations that went into preparing the orange duck and its sides weren’t holding my attention.

That pretty much left me alone with my thoughts… and my nebulous but dark urges.

When I’d made up my mind to go out on my own, I’d done it with the idea that I could contain my evil. I knew how bad somebody like me could be… my grandmother had made sure of that… but it had always seemed so easy to keep that in check before.

Of course, I’d also always been well-fed. I had thought that my grandmother had made me wait until the last possible minute to feed, but now I could see how wrong I’d been. I’d had no idea what real hunger could do.

Eventually, instead of watching the TV, I found myself watching Two. She was concentrating so hard on the show, memorizing each step. Her face was so expressive, so responsive. When the host made a joke, her eyes darted to the side while she worked it out. When he advised the viewers to “use their own judgment”, her forehead wrinkled in disapproval; his job was to tell her what to do and he was not living up to the responsibility.

I smiled. Two wasn’t funny, I decided; she was cute. There was no other word for it.

Not sexy cute… oh, fuck no. There was no way I was going there. Cute nonetheless, though, and that was why I couldn’t help feeling happy to see her happy, and sad to see her sad… and occasionally amused to see her frustrated or perplexed.

It seemed to me that I could keep feeling guilty about that last part, or I could embrace the fact that it was part of what I loved about her. After all, she never took offense to it.

If nothing else, being hungry seemed to give me an odd clarity about that sort of thing, as if it sharpened my thoughts. It would almost be worth going without sometimes, if it let me work out things like…

I gave my head a jerk, shaking off that line of thinking. I’d already decided that it didn’t matter if my creeping hunger had factored into my recent personal growth, but that didn’t mean I was going to deliberately put my friends–or anybody else–in danger.

Looking at Two, I realized that if I ever hurt her in particular, I wouldn’t wait for anybody else to make up their mind about what to do about me. Assuming I got myself back under control, I’d take care of things on my own.

The possibility that I could hurt Two had once been unthinkable, but now it seemed terrifyingly real. No matter what she said, it was in my nature to destroy innocence… and if anybody I’d met–at MU or anywhere else–qualified as innocent, it had to be Two.

I reflected that this might make her taste oddly satisfying, even if she didn’t qualify as food. Then there was the shock of betrayal, magnified by her inability to comprehend what was happening.

I could almost hear her voice in my head: “Mack, you aren’t supposed to do this!

I wondered how many words she’d actually manage to get out before…

I closed my eyes and whipped my head around, forcing myself to stop staring at her.

“Two, I don’t think I should be sitting next to you right now,” I said, keeping my face to the wall. “I mean, you know I love you… but…”

“Okay,” Two said, very calmly. “I’ll trade places with Dee.” I felt the weight shifting on the couch as she rose. “And I do know that you love me. That’s what sisters are for.”

So innocent.

“Maybe I should go sit in one of the chairs, actually,” I said. “Where I’m not in arm’s reach of anybody.”

“You are no threat to me,” Dee said, taking the spot on the couch beside me. “Demons traditionally hunt humans. You’re only half a demon and I am not any portion of a human.”

“I don’t think that makes you safe,” I said, turning back to face her as I spoke. “I’ve been getting… urges… that go beyond simple feeding. If I lose control, everybody around me is in danger.”

“You misunderstand me,” Dee said. “A full-blooded demon is more than a match physically or mystically for a human, but so is an elf. With the power of my goddess and the gods of my people behind me, I am confident of my ability to contain an untrained half-demon.”

“Oh,” I said. I kept my doubts, but hoped it wouldn’t come down to a test.

“We should have cookies,” Two declared out of nowhere. “If you’re getting hungry they might help you block out the pangs.”

“Okay,” I said, though I doubted anything but the real thing would help at this point.

How much blood had I drunk already? There wasn’t any real way to tell. For that matter, I didn’t know exactly how much I needed. My grandmother had always fed me out of a plain tin cup. How much had it held?

Two hustled out of the room, humming to herself as she went. If I didn’t know that she was one of the smartest people I’d ever met, I would have guessed that she didn’t understand the reality of my situation.

Then again, she had summoned a demon… maybe she didn’t understand. I’d really have to press her on that subject, once the current situation was resolved.

After a few moments reflection, it occurred to me that there were other areas where Two’s understanding seemed to be limited or flawed. Her grasp of elven history was one, though since she’d got her biased information from Dee, it would probably be impolitic to try to correct her.

On the other hand, there was another of Two’s odd ideas that Dee might have some insight into, as we were alone for the moment.

“Uh, Dee, when you were rooming with Two, did you find anything odd about her taste in… um… pajamas?” I asked.

“Her sleepwear is more or less in keeping with my impression of the standards I have been able to observe in effect within the skydomed lands,” Dee said. “And while I found her difficult to live with for other reasons, I generally found Two to be a model of modesty and restraint in that area.”

“Yeah, I guess she kind of is that, in most areas,” I said. “But the people up here don’t usually dress like that to bed, unless it’s for somebody else’s benefit.”

“Really?” Dee asked, arching one silver-white eyebrow.

“Yeah,” I said, though her skepticism gave me pause. I had made a lot of assertions in the past about what I thought was normal or about things that everybody knew or did. I really didn’t think most people would share Two’s taste in casual night clothes. “I mean, as far as I know.”

“I’ve been told that most surface dwellers sleep in the nude and when circumstances force them to sleep alone, they pleasure themselves until they pass out from exhaustion,” Dee said. “That information came to me second hand. However, though the walls do muffle things somewhat, I’ve found there is at least a spore of truth at the center of it.”

“Mack passes out first and then pleasures herself,” Two announced cheerfully, returning with a glass plate loosely covered with a dish towel. “Though she does not sleep in the nude.”

“That… um… wasn’t quite normal behavior for me,” I said.

Two shook her head.

“I think you may be mistaken. I think you did it last night, too, before you invoked the water,” she said. “I couldn’t tell what you were doing for sure, though.”

“Well, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t that,” I said, blushing madly. Of course, I had no way of knowing for sure… but… as long as there was any doubt…

“I’m pretty sure that it was. Here, Mack,” Two said, flipping the towel over to uncover half the plate and holding it out. “I’m sorry that there isn’t any frosting but we ran out after the first tray.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking one of the sugar cookies. They were not as large as the one she’d decorated for me, but thick and soft.

“Take two,” she said, and I did.

“Thanks,” I said, and lifted the first cookie to take a bite. A sweet fragrance hit me before I put it in my mouth, to my surprise. I didn’t really expect sugar cookies to have a smell, unless they were fresh baked.

“We put vanilla extract in the dough,” Two said. She put her plate on the coffee table and then took her seat on the end of the couch. “That wasn’t actually in the recipe but my friend Hazel said it was okay.” She said this in a way that made me think she wasn’t so sure she trusted Hazel’s word on this. “It tastes good, anyway.”

“It does,” I agreed, after trying it. There was a rich, creamy sweetness underlying the taste of the cookie that I thought must be the vanilla.

When I was younger, I’d always thought of “vanilla” as just meaning plain. I hadn’t really been aware that it was a proper flavor… I’d thought of vanilla ice cream as just being ice cream with nothing in it.

By the time I knew any differently, I was at my grandmother’s and I had to sneak and scrape for a taste of anything outside of my monthly feeding, and I’d never bothered doing that for anything “plain”, so I’d never really acquired much of a taste for vanilla. I had noticed that it seemed to be growing in popularity, though, with vanilla flavored coffee, vanilla flavored soft drinks, and even the seemingly paradoxical (at least from my childhood point-of-view) vanilla flavored hot chocolate now available on shelves.

“Would you like a cookie?” Two asked Dee as I finished my first.

“No, thank you,” Dee said. “I have discovered that wheat products disagree with me.”

“Oh,” Two said. “I’m sorry. I could make some pudding for you instead.”

“No, thank you. I am fine,” Dee said. “Really.” She looked over towards the front of the lounge. “Can we help you?”

I looked up to see Suzi, the biggest and least linguistically skilled of Sooni’s nekoyokai “friends”, standing in the open door and looking unusually demure. Her nostrils twitched as she sniffed the air.

“I can has cookie?” she asked, stepping forward a little hesitantly, her hands slowly reaching out in front of her as if drawn by the aroma of the vanilla-scented baked goods.

Two rose and picked the plate up, holding it up but not quite proffering it to the neko.

“‘I can please has cookie’,” she said.

“I can?” Suzi asked, confused, half-reaching before pulling her paw-like hand back.

Two pulled the plate aside.

“You’re supposed to say ‘please’ when you ask for something,” she said, in the sort of confidential aside that one child would make when telling the other that they’re supposed to groan and fall over after being stabbed with a cardboard sword.

“Please when you ask for something?” Suzi repeated thickly.

I snickered.

“Yes,” Two said, nodding.

“Yes I can has cookie?” Suzi asked, craning her neck forward hopefully.

“I can please has cookie,” Two said again more insistently.

“You can has cookie?” Suzi asked, her eyes just about crossing as she tried to work out what was being said.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake… Suzi,” I said, my amusement with the exchange turning into frustration as it dragged out. “Just say ‘please’.”

“Please?”

“You certainly may can has cookie,” Two said, beaming. She held the plate out. Suzi snatched one of the cookies and crammed it directly into her mouth. “Now say ‘thank you’.”

“Thank you,” Suzi said, dropping crumbs down her blouse.

“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” Two said, adding to Suzi’s confusion.

“More please?” Suzi asked when the cookie was gone, seconds later.

“You may have one more if you don’t put it all in your mouth at the same time,” Two said. “And say ‘thank you’ before you put any of it in your mouth.”

“Thank you,” Suzi said, taking another cookie. Her teeth weren’t really suited for taking a bite out of it, and it was kind of funny to watch her nibbling on it with the side of her mouth.

Through the glass wall, I saw Maliko coming out of their room, wearing a one-piece bathing suit. She spotted Suzi in the lounge and came hurrying towards us.

“Suzi!” she said. “What are you doing?”

“I has a cookie,” Suzi said, holding it up for Maliko to see as she ran to meet her at the door.

“Well hurry up and eat it… Sooni wants to go swimming,” Maliko said, putting her hands around her throat and gagging herself as she said this. “And from where did you get a cookie?”

“I tell her please and she give me cookie!” Suzi said, pointing to Two, who was sitting back down and arranging the towel over the cookies again.

“Idiot!” Maliko said. “You do not tell a golem please! You tell her ‘give me a cookie!'”

“Yes,” Suzi said, shaking her head emphatically. “You has to be saying please now.”

“Stupid!” Maliko said, swatting the sugar cookie out of Suzi’s hand. It shattered on the floor. “Watch,” she said, though Suzi’s eyes remained on the floor, her mouth hanging open. Maliko stomped over to the end of the couch, sparing not a single glance for the others in the room before she addressed Two. “Give me a cookie, you stupid thing.”

“No,” Two said. She said it in her normal, even tone of voice, without any hesitation or the merest hint of conflict.

This uncharacteristic response froze me, shocked me into inaction… I’d been all ready to come to Two’s defense, but had she really grown so much that she didn’t need it?

Maliko’s eyes narrowed.

“Did you not hear me, stupid thing?” she hissed, spitting mad.

“Yes,” Two said, nodding. “I did.”

“I told you to give me a cookie,” Maliko said.

“Yes, you did,” Two agreed.

“Well… you have to do what people tell you,” Maliko said.

“You are mistaken. I want to do what people tell me,” Two said. “But right now I’m doing what Amaranth and Mack told me.”

“You told her to give stupid Suzi cookies but not me?” Maliko asked me, but I was just as confused as she was.

“They told me to disregard any orders that you give me,” Two said, adding to my growing surprise.

I’d never given Two any orders relating to Maliko. I wondered if Amaranth had… in a way, that could explain why she said “Amaranth and Mack.”

Amaranth had a habit of not thinking things through before giving Two instructions, but she also didn’t like being corrected… so I’d given Two the order to mentally re-word Amaranth’s orders to match the way she thought I would have given them.

Then I remembered one of the first times I’d had to correct Amaranth. It had been early in the first week of classes, when Two had gone to the labyrinth with the intention of “getting lost” per somebody’s orders… and just in case there could be any doubt that this was an act of deliberate malice, she’d also been ordered not to reveal who’d told her to do this.

Between the two of us, we’d ordered her to disregard all orders from that unnamed person…

…and now Two was calmly disregarding Maliko’s orders, based on an order from us.

I also thought of the time when Amaranth had asked “who could be so mean” as to make fun of Two.

Two had immediately answered “Maliko.”

This time, I could actually feel the flames filling my eyes.

“You filthy little beast,” I growled. “You evil… vile…”

Dee was on her feet, her hands up over her head. I’d say she stood up and raised her arms, but I didn’t actually see movement. One moment she was seated, her arms hidden with the folds of her robe, and the next she was standing with her hands extended in the air.

I was on my feet, too, and moving towards Maliko as Dee pronounced a word or two in elvish, and then there was sort of a flash of blackness and I froze in my tracks, utterly motionless.

Maliko’s eyes were wide and fearful, her fur sticking out like needles. Her terror fed my rage… I wanted to pound, to rip, to burn for reasons that had nothing to do with my outrage.

I fought against the binding magic, but then screamed in pain… I was not so much paralyzed as I was encased in an invisible field, and of course that field was composed of divine energy. When I was still, I was merely uncomfortable… when I struggled, it was agony.

Maliko literally turned tail at my feral cry, fleeing the lounge and yowling bloody murder. Because of the angle at which I was frozen, I couldn’t follow her progress… she left my line of sight shortly after she ran past Suzi, who was still staring at the crumbly shards of her smashed treat.

“My cookie broked,” Suzi said, turning her round, luminous eyes over each of us in turn. “I can has another? Please?”

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5 Responses to “131: The Way The Cookie Crumbles”

  1. Daezed says:

    The picture in my head, of this big-eyed little snip of a kitten when suzi looks at her broken cookie (dropped I’ve cream cone from childhood, anyone?) And the way I picture her asking for another one always half-breaks my heart, and half sends me into a giggling spasm, lol.

    I love it!

    Current score: 1
  2. Adam Barnes says:

    Reminds me of my tiny cousin Oliver. He has diabetes so he doesn’t get much in the way of sugary snacks but when he does its so precious <3

    Current score: 0
  3. pedestrian says:

    Dee is very smart in her method of controlling Mackenzie. Again another domino effect of Our Mack’s original act of kindness towards TWO. Pay it forward!

    Current score: 0
  4. Daniel says:

    After so much of the anti-stereotype writing in this story, my first thought when reading Suzi’s “I can has cookie?” and remembering her earlier question about a cheeseburger was annoyance at the author for perpetuating stereotypes. I hope that translates into real-world behavior with regards to real prejudice and not just to innocent meme propagation.

    Current score: 0
    • Grant says:

      Let us not forget the date stamp on these, 2007, and reflect on the fact that this is probably where that meme was born. I know the time between when I first read Tales of MU and the the first time I saw the stupid cat pictures online was years apart, MU being first.

      Current score: 2