196: Domestic Disturbance

on April 12, 2008 in 07: Pitched Battles

In Which Steff Rubs It In

“Get the fuck away from her!” I yelled… or those were the words in my head. What came out of my throat was a good deal less articulate, a good deal less human.

Puddy wheeled around mid-stride, bringing her axe up and catching me in the forehead with the flat of the head. She didn’t have the space for a good swing, so it was more my momentum than hers, but it was enough to send me reeling with pretty colored lights exploding inside my eyes.

Shaking my head as though to clear my vision, I snarled and flexed my… well, my whole body sort of contracted in one powerful spasm. When my arms came up into my field of vision, I became aware that they were on fire.

I wasn’t terribly surprised.

I reached out one burning hand towards Puddy. She swiped with her axe and I took half a step back.

Two yelled something. Puddy twitched as if she wanted to turn around to face her, but she kept her eyes on me. I took a step to the side, trying to circle around. Puddy said something, but her words made no sense to me.

They were just a low, dull rumble. Sounds without sense.

They infuriated me, all the same.

She jabbed forward with the axe. It wasn’t a real attack, just a prod. I wanted to get that axe away from her. It was the only thing keeping me off her. I reached for it, and she swung at my hand.

I pulled back.

The axe could hurt me. It could kill me. Puddy knew it. She wasn’t letting me get close. If I got close, I could end it.

Fast.

Forever.

If Puddy would let me past the axe. That didn’t seem likely, though. She was watching me too closely.

She should have been watching Two.

The cute little mace came down on the back of Puddy’s head, with whatever strength Two could muster with both of her arms. More potent was the electrical jolt which lifted Puddy off of her feet and sent the axe flying from her hand.

She fell forward, landing heavily on the floor… unconscious, or at least stunned.

I wasn’t seeing her lying on the ground, though. I was seeing her standing over my bed, “jokingly” smothering me. I saw her leering at me, beckoning to me. I saw her hands on me… those same hands reaching for Two. I saw her leading me to the basement for the first time.

I fell on her, teeth bared.

“Baby, no!” Amaranth cried from behind me, her words cutting through the fog in my head. A heavy form crashed into me and long arms circled around me, knocking me down onto Puddy’s downed form and then wrenching me away to the side.

We rolled and wrestled around a bit. I howled in rage and frustration, and my flame increased threefold. A cry of pain and anguish from the soft form which had ended up beneath me which was choked off as my fire-wreathed hands found a throat and closed in around it, squeezing the life out of the stupid thing that had come between me and my target.

Suddenly half convinced that it was Puddy beneath me, I squeezed harder.

There was screaming all around me. Something jabbed me in the side, and pain shot through me with an explosive snap. All my joints seemed to pop at once, and my jaw locked tight.

The world went away for a bit, and I was laying on my back on the floor twitching and covered in water. There was a smell in the air… something cooking. Something burning.

“What…?” I murmured. My arms and legs were numb. Somebody was screaming their head off. I couldn’t sit up. I managed to turn my neck a little.

“Oh, fuck, Mack, don’t look,” Steff said, grabbing my head and turning it back towards the ceiling. “Don’t look. Two, get Dee. Don’t tell Kiersta. Mariel, shut up or I will shut you up.”

I could see Mariel helping Puddy unsteadily to her feet.

“If she dies, I swear to fuck I’ll kill you,” Steff said. “I don’t care if she comes back. You don’t get away with that.”

“I didn’t start this,” Puddy said. “And I didn’t even touch her.”

“I’m not dying,” I said feebly, though I wasn’t entirely sure. I still didn’t seem to have full control of my limbs. I started to sit up. Steff pushed me down.

“Don’t move,” she said. “Don’t look around.”

“Where’s Amaranth?” I asked. My voice sounded thick and slurred. There was a slight echo, but that might have just been in my head.

“Shh,” Steff said. “Help’s coming.”

“I’m okay,” I said.

“Shh.” Steff said.

There was a gasp from the doorway.

“Mother of mothers!” somebody said, and it took me a moment to recognize it as Dee. I’d never heard her with that much emotion in her voice. “Get her out of here. I will tend to Amaranth as best I can.”

“What’s wrong with Amaranth?” I asked. Had I been knocked out? Had Puddy done something else while I was oblivious?

“Nothing, hon,” Steff said. She ducked down beside me and pulled me up into a sitting position, then helped me to my feet. To Dee, she said, “If you can bring her around, she should be able to help.”

“What’s…” I started to ask, twisting around and out of Steff’s grip. I was still a little shaky, but I was able to get free and see what she hadn’t wanted me to.

Amaranth lay on the floor. Her stomach, chest, and parts of her thighs were covered with fresh, angry burns, as was her neck. The neck was the worst. Dee knelt beside her, chanting quietly.

My knees turned to water.

“Come on,” Steff said, tugging me towards the door. “You need to get out of here if Dee’s going to help her.”

“What did I do?” I asked, though I knew exactly what I had done.

“Help me, Two!” Steff said.

“Okay,” Two said, and there were two sets of arms supporting me and taking me out into the hall, which was now deserted except for Celia who looked totally lost. They leaned me against the wall, and then I collapsed crying against Steff.

“Hon, it’s okay,” Steff said. “The worst… she’ll just have to catch a coach back to school. That’s all.”

“You had to fucking interfere,” Puddy said, coming out into the doorway.

“Fuck off,” Steff said.

“Me fuck off? You come to my room spouting a bunch of bullshit, you attack me… nothing that happened is on me,” Puddy said.

“Oh, right,” Steff said. “You were just minding your own business, innocently beating the shit out of your girlfriend…”

“She w-w-wasn’t beating me,” Mariel said, and I could see that, though her eyes were puffy and irritated, there weren’t any bruises or other injuries. She hiccupped. “I w-wish she would. It would be b-b-b…” The words turned into a sob, and she threw back her head and wailed. Four arms reached out to Puddy, who stepped back and turned aside, and Mariel collapsed on the floor, pounding her tiny fists and crying.

“What the fuck did you do to her?” Steff asked, handing me over to Two who put her arms around me without a word.

“Nothing,” Puddy said.

“Bullshit!” Steff said.

“We broke up!” Puddy said, which only made Mariel wail more loudly. “Not that it’s any of your business, but we broke up!”

“I left my boyfriend for you,” Mariel said, getting to her feet. “I did everything for you. Three weeks we’ve been going out… three… weeks… and I’ve done everything you ever said!”

“The hell you did,” Puddy said. “We both agreed to vote for Mack. After I stopped drinking for you, you turn around and stab me in the fucking back and make me look like an idiot in front of my friends!”

“They aren’t your friends! They hate you! I hate you! And I am so fucking sick of Mack!” Mariel shrieked, her speech becoming faster and higher pitched as she spoke. “Ever since we got here, it’s been nothing but…” and after that it was an incomprehensible squeak.

A door opened up the hall. Kiersta poked her head out.

“Can you guys please … holy shit, what happened to your clothes?” she asked.

I reached up and felt the ragged, charred collar of my t-shirt that hung around my neck. It was all that was left of the garment. My bra was a twisted ruin. My jeans had fared only a little better.

“You’re dripping all over the hallway,” she said. “What the fuck did you guys do now?”

“Whatever we did, it’s your fault,” Steff said. “And if any of this gets out, I’ll make sure everybody knows.”

“Fuck it,” Kiersta said, and she disappeared back into the Leightons’.

“Hey, send Fin down here!” Steff called just as the door closed. It opened a moment later and Finbar stepped out, a little hesitantly.

“Hey, man, what’s up?” he asked.

“Healing potions,” Steff said.

“What?”

“Go get healing potions,” Steff said.

“You know that shit doesn’t come cheap,” he said.

“Do I look like I care?” Steff asked. “Go!”

Finbar went.

The twins popped out of their room.

“Hey, what’s…?” Sara started to say, but she took one look at Steff and they disappeared, too. I didn’t blame them. Steff looked like she didn’t know whether she wanted to break something or stab somebody, and was probably willing to do both.

A short while later, Dee came out into the hallway.

“I have done what I could,” she said. “That is not as much as I would like. The burns are slightly resistant. I touched her mind and put her into a healing slumber for now. As impolitic as it would be, we may have no choice but to take her to the healing center.”

Steff shook her head.

“I sent Fin for healing potions. There’s no way I’m letting anybody at the healing center see this… especially not when they’re afraid of a lawsuit from Mack,” Steff said. “There’s no way they wouldn’t put it together. I’m not handing them any ammunition. Not when Amy can just, you know, come back.”

“Ian… Ian said they asked him about his burn,” I said. “After my flare-up in class. He lied about it.”

“They asked Two about hers, too,” Steff said. “Though luckily you had nothing to do with that.”

“What was that about, anyway?” I asked Two, who was still holding me. I’d stopped shaking enough to notice that she was shaking, too. “Why did you summon a demon?”

I’d meant to ask her that long before, but it had never seemed like the right moment. I didn’t think this particular moment could be any more wrong, but it didn’t look like the right moment would ever come, and the subject was up.

“I had questions,” she said quietly. “The library book didn’t have the answers.”

“Like…” I started to say, but then Finbar arrived with a duffel bag over his shoulder.

“Luckily I keep all my legal stuff in one place,” he said. “I brought everything.”

“Come on,” Steff said.

“You stay the hell out of my room,” Puddy said to Steff.

“Fuck you,” Steff said and breezed past her. I pulled away from Two and followed.

We all piled in, even Celia, who’d been standing dazedly in the hallway the whole time.

Amaranth looked a little better. What had been black was now red, and what had been red was pink. Her breathing was steady and peaceful. Though I could see the dried and cracked skin breaking as her chest rose and fell, her face was serene.

“Fucking cock balls,” Celia said.

“Oh, shit,” Finbar said. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“I know,” Steff said. “Fix it.”

“This is gonna add up,” he said. “You know that?”

“Know,” Steff said. “Don’t care.”

“Right,” Finbar said. He set the bag down on one of the beds and rummaged through it. He handed Steff three small jars of unguent. “Rub this on her… well, anywhere that’s bad. Slather it on.”

Steff nodded and took the jars from him. She unscrewed the lid from one and began to daub the yellowish contents around Amaranth’s burns.

“Don’t be fucking dainty! Rub it in!” Fin said.

Steff grimaced, looked at Amaranth’s sleeping face, and began to massage the thick paste directly onto her wounds. She stopped when the scorched skin began to peel away.

“Keep going,” Fin said. “It’s supposed to do that… I think.”

“You think?” Steff asked.

“I’ve never used it,” Fin said. He turned and rummaged around some more while Steff continued to rub the unguent over Amaranth, using up one jar and then another. Her skin sloughed off. It was unsettling to watch, but I couldn’t look away.

I did this.

It was my fault. I’d done it to her. My rage at Puddy had overwhelmed me, and I’d nearly killed the first person who’d truly loved me in years.

Two’s arms were around me before the first tears spilled from my eyes.

“Tip her head up,” Fin said. Steff did, and he poured something down her throat. She coughed and spit up the bluish liquid. “Shit.”

He tipped her head back and poured some more of the potion in, then held her mouth closed. Steff tickled the front of her neck, and she swallowed. Finbar went and grabbed two more potions, which they force-fed her. Steff took another of the potions and gave it to me. I started to protest, but she gave me a look and I took it. I hadn’t realized how fuzzy my head really was until it cleared up.

Some of the burn ointment was on the floor with bits of skin dissolving in it, but the front of Amaranth was clean. There were a few pink spots where the worst of the damage had been, but other than that it looked like nothing had even happened.

“She should be awake,” Fin said. “Why isn’t she awake? Shit.”

“Her mind isn’t allowing her,” Dee said. “I will awaken her.”

She stepped forward and reached a shaky hand out towards Amaranth. Amaranth’s eyelids fluttered and then flew open. She gasped and a blue bubble popped out of her mouth.

“Amy?” Steff said.

“Um… hi?” Amaranth said. “What’s everybody standing around for?”

I threw myself down on her and clung to her like a lifeline, sobbing. There was a faint, slightly painful tingle from the residual divine power of Dee’s healing, but I didn’t care.

“She’s fine, okay?” Puddy said. “Can everybody please get the fuck out of my room now?”

“My room,” Mariel said. “This was my room first!”

“Yeah, well, it’s mine now,” Puddy said. She threw her head back. “Fuck!” she screamed. “What the hell do I have to do to catch a break? I’ve saved your ass how many times now, Mack? And you turn around and lead a fucking raiding party to my door…”

“I’m sorry,” I said. I got to my feet, and helped Amaranth out. “I was wrong about the circumstances… but I’m not going to let you keep hurting people.”

“What hurting people?” Puddy said. “I told you that wasn’t me. I’m sober now.”

“It was you,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m glad you stopped drinking…”

“If I’m not going to get any credit for it, maybe I should start again,” Puddy said.

“Come on, baby,” Amaranth said. She kissed the side of my head. “There’s really nothing else to say.”

“Everybody out!” Puddy said.

“I want you out, too,” Mariel said to Puddy, who ignored her.

Fin was the first one out the door, hightailing it back to his girlfriends’ room. The rest of us followed. A shriek from behind us turned us back around to see Puddy hauling Mariel towards the door by her upper forearm and throwing her out, slamming the door behind her and locking it.

Mariel’s scream was too fast to decipher as she hammered on the door with her four fists, tears streaming down her face. She seemed to exhaust herself in seconds, then kicked the door feebly and turned away.

“You can sleep in my bed if you want,” Amaranth said, holding out her key.

Mariel looked sullen as she took it, but said, “Thanks.”

She glared at me before she headed to Amaranth’s room. She obviously blamed me for everything that had happened. Was she wrong? I didn’t know.

Amaranth had stretched away from me to hand Mariel the key, and I clung all the more tightly to her when her arm was back around me.

“I’m sorry,” I said, hugging her. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

“I did it,” Amaranth said. “Not you. And I’d do it again.”

“Don’t say that,” I said. “I couldn’t live if I ever… if I…”

“I’d come back,” Amaranth said. “I have that. Most people don’t. If I have to throw my body away to stop you from hurting somebody else, I may be saving your life as well as theirs.” She kissed me. “Remember that, baby. If it ever happens. Promise me you’ll remember that.”

“I promise,” I said.

“I’m sorry I maced you, Mack,” Two said.

“It’s okay,” I said. “You had to. Who put me out?”

“I did that, too,” Two said.

“Thanks,” I said.

“Let’s get to bed,” Amaranth said quietly. “Steff, you sure you don’t want to join us?”

Steff shook her head.

“I think I need Viktor,” she said. She looked pale and drawn, and was shaking now that the crisis was over without fighting.

“Okay,” Amaranth said. “Good night.”

“Night.”

“What the fuck happened?” Celia asked, still sounding out of it.

“We’ll tell you tomorrow,” Amaranth said. “Come on, Two… come on, baby. It’s been a long day.”

As understatements went, that one pretty much won. I think I was out before we actually got into bed.

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9 Responses to “196: Domestic Disturbance”

  1. pedestrian says:

    TWO gets to be the heroine. Yayyy!!

    And by the way that’s some mace she’s swinging there. Where can I get one like that? I can think of a couple of jerks I wouldn’t mind electrocuting.

    Current score: 7
    • Hoopla says:

      Isn’t Two always the hero? That’s what I’ve come to grasp from this story. Mack may think of herself as the center of the group, but any sensible person can tell that Two is the real main character. It’s only written from Mack’s perspective, to make that less obvious. I am writing from a VERY biased perspective, and I don’t regret it.

      Also, the moral of the story is always remember to vote.

      Current score: 10
      • anonymus says:

        this seems to be one of those rare moments when a biased perspective is the same as an objective perspective
        (you could use the nametags and just read those chapters including Two^^)

        Current score: 0
  2. MackSffrs says:

    Seriously people, remember to vote. (*cough* Celia, *cough*)

    Current score: 5
    • dracayr says:

      meh, if Mack’s betrays her voters like that, she didn’t deserve the position in the first place.

      ..Though of course Sooni is hardly any better.

      Current score: 3
  3. zeel says:

    “. . .I saw her leading me to the basement for the first time. . .”

    Um, I think Mackenzie is thinking about her grandmother for a second here?

    Current score: 6
    • nobody says:

      That should tell you how similarly she perceives her Grandmother and Puddy.

      Current score: 6
  4. Sher says:

    Mack finally stands up for something but she still manages to mess up. I’m starting to hate her just a little.

    Current score: 0
  5. Anon says:

    In which Two takes down a giant-blood and a raging half demon both in a matter of seconds with no effort.

    Next round: Two versus Callahan. Accepting all wagers. After that the pseudowench is probably going to brawl with a Great Wyrm or two, for good measure.

    Current score: 8