263: Meat’s Expectations

on August 5, 2008 in Book 10

In Which Steff Stretches For Comfort

After our bath… and that second, less blistering bout of sex… we hung out in the living room, munching on the crackers and cheese and fruit bowl that had been delivered at some point while we’d been on the other side of the suite.

Steff hadn’t thought to specify any beverages with the snacks, but there were three carafes of fruit juice anyway: something pink and sticky sweet, something orange that wasn’t orange, and something kind of blue-green that I couldn’t bring myself to try, so Steff swigged it without even getting a glass.

We’d put our now-dry underwear back on, and Steff had found a chest full of blankets that hadn’t once been intelligent, noble creatures for us to spread out on and snuggle under. She had a big cheesy grin that wouldn’t fall off her face no matter how hard she tried to hide it, and every time I looked over at her I couldn’t help laughing, which made her giggle and hide her face.

It was like we were drunk on each other… I’ve probably used the word “giddy” a bunch of times in my life, but I felt like I hadn’t known what it really meant before.

Yeah, my butt still hurt… but it was mostly settling down into the “pleasant reminder of fun times had” category.


“What do you think Two’s going to do when she gets done with school?” Steff asked once we’d got a little bit more under control. “I mean, where do you think she’s going to go?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know if that group home she came from like has custody of her, or if she was there voluntarily but didn’t have anywhere else to go. I mean legally voluntarily… obviously, she didn’t have much choice at the time.”

“Yeah,” Steff said. “I was thinking… well, kind of daydreaming, actually… about her setting up shop with Hazel. You know how she was talking about setting up a bed and breakfast, or something?”

“Yeah,” I said. “Sounded like a bit of a pipe dream, though.”

“Well, yeah,” Steff said. She stretched out, then started curling her long, platinum blonde hair around a finger. “But it’s a nice one. Do you think she’d take Two on, if Two wanted?”

“Has Two said anything about this?” I asked, wondering where she was getting all this from.

“No,” Steff said. “It’s just something I was thinking about.”

“Maybe by the time we graduate, she’ll be ready to make her own plans,” I said.

“Hopefully,” Steff said. “It’s just a daydream, anyway… but it’s nice to think she might have a future like that, with her friend. I see the two of them carrying groceries, or Two writing notes on Hazel’s door, or whatever, and I just think… that’s nice. It looks nice. I like to think about them going on like that, forever… or however long the footwear-impaired live.”

She crawled closer to me and put her arm around me, and then pulled another blanket on top of us. We sat there just watching the fire pretend to burn, and I listened to Steff breathe and smelled the scent of her skin mingled with the peppermint bath.

I had to admit, it was a nice image… Two and Hazel cooking together in a cozy little inn in the side of a hill. I felt a small pang to realize that I was picturing a future for Two that didn’t have me in it, though to be perfectly honest, that was probably accurate. I was going to be an enchanter, making TVs for a big workshop… or maybe toys.

I’d kind of thought vaguely about making my own enaction figures, as a hobby… why not do that for a living? My only thought in going into enchantment was that I had an aptitude for it and it could make me boatloads of money… but if we were going to dream, I might as well dream of something I’d enjoy.

The question was, how would Two and her domestic arts degree fit into that?

Then again… hadn’t she essentially been an enchanter’s assistant for most of her life? But she loved to cook, and she’d never given any indication that she’d enjoyed her old work in particular, except insofar as it had been doing what she was told.

It probably wouldn’t take much pressure on my part to get her to ditch whatever plans she might otherwise make and set up shop with me… but for that reason, it wouldn’t be right for me to put any such pressure on her. It had to be her decision.

Still, it was nice to think we might stay connected after we graduated…

The real question was why was Steff thinking about this, though? She was planning on running “a thousand miles from anything she’d ever known”, as she had put it, and not looking back. She had her future all mapped out and there wasn’t any place for someone like Two in it.

Of course, that might have been it.

“Steff… are you happy?” I asked.

“Oh, completely,” she murmured. I pulled away and turned so I could look into her face. The grin was back, and she laughed behind her hand. “I feel like I should be completely deflated right now, but I’m feeling good.”

“I don’t mean now… I mean, are you happy with where your life is going?” I asked. “With Viktor and Kilrest and all?”

“I love Viktor,” she said.

“But is that really what you want for your life?” I asked. “Going to live in a mountain fortress, ruling over a bunch of slaves and ogres that are probably just going to try to kill you guys and take over?”

“Honey, don’t ask me to choose you over him,” she said. “But I’m sure there’d be a place for you, if you wanted to join us when you graduate. Or, you know, you could just come with us when we do…”

“Okay, but what’s he going to do with his music way the fuck out there, though?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Steff said. “Maybe he’ll get bored with it and give it up, so he can focus on defending the throne?”

“Why should he, though?” I asked. “Don’t you think it makes him happy?”

“Not really,” Steff said. “Mostly it makes him frustrated and mopey.”

“Do you really think that?”

“I know it,” Steff said. “You just have to watch him to see it.”

“I watch you going all intense when you’re drawing,” I said. “The first time you started doing it in history class, I thought you were really wrapped up in the class and taking notes.”

Steff snorted so hard, she hurt herself.

“Ow,” she said. “Don’t make me do that again.”

“Sorry,” I said. “But, my point is… how do you feel when you’re doing it?”

“Horny, usually,” she said. “I mean, they’re only doodles…”

“Don’t say that,” I said. “They’re good.”

“Oh, stop,” she said. “Let’s not talk about this… it’s been such a wonderful night… and there’s so much more to come.”

The reminder of our impending dinner hit me in the stomach like a very cold brick. In my mind, the highlight of the evening was past… whether it was finally “doing the deed” with Steff, the water dance, or just the simple fact that we were on a date together was kind of up in the air… but any way you sliced it, a chance to indulge my demon side wouldn’t have been my first chance for an attempt to top things.

“Steff, how do you feel about… this whole thing? I mean, with Tender Mercy’s?”

It took her a few moments to answer, but then she said, “Um, good. I’m really excited. Honestly, I’m getting… I’m hungry just thinking about it.”

“But you’ve had… it… before, and you didn’t like it,” I said.

“But all the meat I had at Kilrest was pretty bad,” Steff said. “Some merchants gave them a bunch of prime rib to pay the tariff one time, and half of it came out like shoe leather and the other half was basically raw. I’m sure that with professional cooks working in an actual kitchen… anyway, isn’t it just, you know… hot? The idea of it?”

“You said it was just materials,” I said. “Not a person, just meat. How can you get hot over it if it’s just meat?”

“Well… it is just meat,” she said. “But the idea is… I mean, I’m just trying to get into the spirit of it. I think if we’re in the right mood going in, we’ll enjoy it more, you know?”

“You thought the idea of torturing me was hot, too, but when the time came and Viktor was actually going to do it…”

“Okay, that’s way different,” Steff said.


“I always had second thoughts about really seeing you hurt, but there was no reason to say anything about them until it was going to happen for real,” she said. “This time I don’t feel anything like that.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Totally,” she said. “Although… you know what would be even hotter?”


“If I just watched you eat,” she said.

I drew back and looked at her, long and hard.

“What?” she asked.

“You have seen me eat before, right?” I asked. “Apparently, ‘sexy’ is not the first word that springs to most people’s minds.”

“Well, sure, not when you’re dropping gobs of waffle and syrup down your front,” she said. “But, this would be different.”


“You know, it’ll be all… feral… and stuff,” she said. “I think it might be fun to watch. Oh, sure, I’ll eat some of it… I mean, my share, but if you wanted to… if you got really into it, it might just be safer for me to stand back and watch, right?”

Steff’s eyes were gorgeously reflective, and at that moment I could see the fire reflected in them… and that was the only fire I saw there. No matter what she said, she wasn’t the least bit turned on by what we were set to do.

“Um… Steff?” I said.


“Do you not want to eat this stuff, either?”

“Wait, what do you mean, ‘either’?” she asked, jerking upright. “You ordered it, not me!”

“Uh, yeah, while I was possessed!” I countered, propping myself up.

“You said that isn’t possible, you’re already half-demon,” Steff said, getting to her feet.

“You said it was!” I countered, leaping to my feet as well… well, sort of. My legs were kind of wrapped up in multiple blankets. I kicked them off, tearing them a bit in the process. “You were sure I was possessed!” I said once I was free and upright.

“Well, what the hell do I know about it?” Steff asked. Our faces were inches away from each other now. “I’m a necromancer, not a diabolist!”

“Maybe it was voluntary,” she said.


“Some people sell themselves into slavery,” she said. “You know, like that Master guy in the market was talking about? People who don’t feel like they can handle modern life, or… or they get off on it, or something?”

“That doesn’t mean they signed up to get butchered,” I said.

“Well, in a way… I mean, if they didn’t insist on some clause in their slave contract, that means, in a way, that it’s their fault… maybe they even wanted it? They might even have been excited by the idea.”

“That’s stupid,” I said. “Who… that isn’t functionally immortal… would actually get off on something like that?”

“I’ve fantasized about it,” Steff said.

“Fantasies,” I said. “Would you… really?”

“Well, no,” she said. “But somebody else might.”

“So, we’re supposed to enjoy eating a random person on the idea that they might have enjoyed it, too?” I asked.

“That kind of person’s more likely to end up on a plate than somebody who doesn’t,” Steff said.

“But there are way more people who wouldn’t want that, so the odds are still against it,” I said.

“Hey, don’t yell at me!” Steff said, even though I wasn’t yelling… any more. “I’m trying to… to…”

She didn’t finish the sentence. I knew what she was trying to do, and so did she. She was trying to find a way to make it alright… but to say that out loud would be to admit that it wasn’t to begin with. She looked at me, and her eyes were pleading… pleading for a way out, or for absolution. I didn’t know which, and I couldn’t give her either.

If she would admit that she didn’t want to go through with it, we could… well, I wouldn’t throw the stuff away. Maybe we could bury it, or Amaranth could… I don’t know, put it back into nature somehow?

If Steff could just admit it.

I felt like I should hug her. I felt like I should throw up.

“Anyway, who said they were actually butchered?” Steff said, suddenly.

“You don’t think the person is still alive?” I asked.

I had an image in my head of somebody chained to a wall, with one person cutting stuff off them and another person pouring healing potions down their throat. Well, that would be another way of explaining the expense… it would almost have to be potions. Healers of most sects would treat injuries without a lot of questions, but I couldn’t imagine any god lending their energies to directly aid that kind of enterprise.

I didn’t want to imagine such a god.

“Well, no… but there are only so many slaves to go around,” Steff said. “And they have to die sometime anyway, you know, and when they do, I’m sure their owners aren’t going to want to pay for a funeral… and then there’s indigents, too. Some of them end up going to the school of necromancy. Who knows if Mercy doesn’t have a connection?”

“That’s not the impression I got from talking to you,” I said.

“Oh, sure, they sell people on the image of slaughtering an intelligent being on your whim and all, but really, the profit margin on that has got to be pretty low,” Steff said. “Think about how long it takes to raise most races to adulthood, how much they have to be fed, and all? If you’re not actually going to pay for the live entertainment in person, why would they go through all that?”

“I don’t know…” I said. It made more sense than her previous idea, but it still felt like she was reaching for a justification. I didn’t think what we were about to do deserved justification.

“No, think about it,” she said. “It makes sense, doesn’t it? If you think about it, it’s the only…”

She was cut off by an ominous gong-like toll that made both of us jump out of our skins. We stared at each other, then looked around the dark room to see where it had come from.

“Was that… something on the music?” Steff whispered, her jaw motionless.

I shook my head.

“I don’t think so,” I said.

It sounded again… but this time, alert for it, we both realized it was coming from the direction of the lift. We both noticed what we’d missed before: an orb set into the wall by the doors was lit up. We’d been on the other side of the suite when our crackers and stuff arrived, so we’d never heard the bell.

Steff went up and put her hand to it. There was an audible hum.

“Uh… hello?” she said.

“Hello, Ms. Blaise? We have your food in the lift. Is it okay to come up?”

Steff looked at me. I looked back, then nodded.

“Okay,” Steff said. “Wait… is this room service, or… the delivery?”

“This is room service.” I breathed a sigh of relief, which sounded in stereo along with Steff’s. “But your outside order’s here, too.”

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