357: Short Fuse

on February 25, 2009 in Book 13

In Which Dee Beds Hazel

It can be hard to get to sleep when you’re fuming over injustice, when your skin is tingling from the feel of sharp teeth, when your nipples are throbbing with a strange new sensation that won’t go away, and when the physical memory of how good one of your friends can make you feel is competing with the knowledge that she plans on cheerfully killing you as soon as she works out all the niggling little details to be the one thought that drowns out everything else that’s bouncing around inside your head.

I was treated again to fragmentary nightmares: running across the penthouse pool towards a rapidly fading Steff while dark shapes bit and slashed at my legs and pulled me down, Caron trussing me up to an X-shaped frame and hammering great big spikes through my parts of me, Mercy chasing me on a motorcycle.

My sex dreams had been strange and frightening to me before I’d been able to accept what many of them actually were… I would have hoped that being more at peace with my desires would allow me to enjoy them, but it seemed like I just plain didn’t remember them as often, if I was still having them… and in their absence I was getting these fun little scenarios.

None of my nightmares were complete stories. They weren’t even complete scenes… just snatches, vignettes. That made them worse. They could start at any time, repeat at any time, and they never ended. There was no conclusion until I finally woke up… or in this case, until Two woke me up with some less-than-gentle shaking.

It was a good thing sleep wasn’t ready to release me completely when she did, because it startled the fuck out of me to have a tiny, feminine hand grabbing my shoulder roughly at the same time when Mercy caught up to me and grabbed hold. I could barely manage a hoarse scream, much less a physical reaction.

“I’m sorry, Mack,” Two said. “I did not mean to frighten you, but you were shaking the bed. Also, it’s almost time to meditate with Dee.”

“Huh?” I said. “Oh… Dee.” I sat up slowly and yawned. “I haven’t really been keeping that up, have I?”

It was a rhetorical question, but Two didn’t even seem to hear it. Her eyes were locked on my bare chest. My first thought was that she was going to chastise me for not wearing anything to bed, despite Amaranth’s insistence that it was none of her business.

“You need to go to the healing center!” she said, her eyes huge as moons and luminescent in the darkness.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re hurt!” she said. She pointed at my nipple piercing. “You have metal stuck through you. You need to get healed.”

“Two, those are piercings,” I said. “Like earrings.”

“No they aren’t,” she said. “Earrings go in the ears and are pretty.”

“These are kind of pretty,” I said, trying to look down at my heart lock.

“No they aren’t!” Two said. “They’re stuck in your nipples. That isn’t pretty at all.”

“Well, thank you for your opinion, Two,” I said. “But these were a present from Amaranth, and they’re supposed to be like that.”

“Oh, okay,” Two said. “Are you going to come meditate today?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said. “Has Dee asked about me, other mornings?”

“No,” Two said. “I asked her if she thought we should wake you up and she said you would wake up or you wouldn’t.”

“Oh,” I said. “I guess that makes sense.”

“It does make sense,” Two agreed, nodding sagely. “You would have to.”

“I’d have to what?”

“Wake up or not,” Two said. “I don’t think you could not do that.”

“I suppose you’re right about that,” I said.


It was just past five thirty in the morning… Two’s interruption of my troubled sleep meant we had time to shower beforehand, which I chose to do because I’d woken up all sweaty.

When we got to the bathroom I kind of wished I’d decided to forego it… the place was a disaster area. One of the sinks had been plugged up and left on, resulting in a swamp centered around the drain in the middle of the floor. There were sodden wads of toilet paper stuck to the walls and rolls draped over the stalls and the curtain rods of the bathtub. The mirrors had been smeared with soap and lipstick and what looked like blood but didn’t smell like the kind that came from a vein. The artists responsible had written “FEEJEE PLUS MACK 4 EVER” in soap across all the mirrors. There was water all over the floor around the far right stall that couldn’t have been from the sinks, and the place smelled like… well, like a toilet.

Not a place with toilets in it, but an actual toilet.

Two looked like someone had punched her in the gut, there was so much wrongness all around. I didn’t want to keep walking, even in my flip-flops… there was too much moisture on the floor between us and the shower and I didn’t trust that all of it was water.

“Feejee is going to be in big trouble,” Two said, looking at the mirrors.

“Feejee didn’t write that,” I said.

“You did?”

“No,” I said. “I’d bet platinum to peanuts it was the Leightons, but see if Kiersta lifts a finger to punish them. You might as well go back to the room.”

“I want to take a shower,” Two said, looking across the bathroom at the open curtain. I could tell from the conflicted look on her face that she didn’t want to keep walking any more than I did.

“You should be okay using the next one down,” I said. I figured I’d skip it… I was more likely to encounter hostility for simply being out of perceived bounds than she was. “Don’t take any orders from anybody while you’re doing it, if anybody asks what you’re doing there tell them that ours is out of order, and if anybody gives you a serious problem just leave and come back up here.”

“Okay,” she said. “You aren’t coming, too?”

“No, I’m going to have a little talk with Kiersta,” I said. “Probably best if you’re not around, that way she can’t hold a grudge against you.”

“Okay,” she said.

We left the wreckage of the bathroom, Two turning left and heading downstairs while I turned right. I waited until I couldn’t hear Two’s footsteps and then knocked, firmly enough that I figured it would rouse even a drunken resident advisor.

There was no immediate response, so I knocked again. This time I heard blankets moving and the bed shifting, and then a crash of breaking glass followed by a groan.

“Kiersta?” I said through the door.

“Fuck off…” she moaned.

“You need to come out here,” I said.

“I’m sleeping.”

“You’re the R.A.,” I said.

“What the hell do you want from me?”

“I want you to come look and look at what your drinking buddies did to the bathroom!” I said.

I heard her coming closer and thought she was going to open the door. Instead she stopped at the other side of it and said, slightly more clearly and awake-sounding, “That’s your problem now.”

“No,” I said. “It’s not my problem. Cleaning the bathroom is one thing, but that’s just nasty.”

“It’s a bathroom,” Kiersta said.

“It’s vandalism,” I said. “And it’s disgusting.”

“You should have thought of that before you had sex in the shower.”

“I don’t even want to guess what they did in the shower,” I said. “And don’t forget, you’ve got to use it, too.”

“Do you think I would actually go in there? I shower in the fitness center.”

“Do something about it, or… I’m going to report you for drinking.”

“Good!” she yelled. The door ripped open inward and she was screaming in my face. “Do that! And when you find someone who gives a shit what anybody does in this hellhole, let me know!”

She stepped back and slammed the door so hard it bounced back from the frame instead of latching, then did that again before finally closing it forcefully but with her hand on the knob and locking it. Other doors were opening down the hall… Mariel, Maliko and Suzi, the twins, and both of the gnomes.

“Oh, of course,” Maliko said, looking at me before turning and going back into her room while Suzi stood there blinking sleepily. Sooni’s door opened and Maliko jumped and turned right back around, but it was Kai.

“Will everybody be the fuck quiet?” Kai shrieked. “Some of us have an examination this morning!”

Suzi’s head lolled to the side and she looked at Kai for a second before lashing out with one paw-like hand and swiping at her face. It was so random it seemed instinctive. Kai just stepped back out of the way and glared at her. She looked around the hall and spotted me, her lantern eyes locking with mine. Kai had no subtle arts that I knew of, but she might as well have been a telepath for how loud and clear I got the message: this is your fault and if it affects my grades, I will kill you for it.

“What in Owain’s name is going on?” Hazel asked.

“Hazel Willikins, bite your tongue!” Honey said, pinching her elbow and then making a tossing gesture over her shoulder.

“Er, I meant Owain,” Hazel said. I must have misheard her the first time, because I was sure she’d said that.

“Of course you did,” Honey harrumphed.

The Leightons, of course, could barely contain themselves through all this.

“You think this is funny?” I asked, stomping over towards them. Sara got a gleam of panic in her eye while Tara looked defiant. “Other people have to use that bathroom!”

“Oh, yeah, I guess you’ll have to find somewhere else to take Feejee out,” Tara said. “Hopefully your next date spot will be almost as classy.”

“People are going to have to start getting ready for class soon,” I said.

“Oh, wow, better get cleanin’, then,” Tara said. “And, in case you haven’t seen the shower yet… brace yourself before you go in there.”

“I didn’t do that!” Sara said. “That was all…”

“Oh, shut your mouth,” Tara said. “We didn’t do anything… we just got up early and saw it.”

“Wait a tick,” Hazel said, which I guessed was like shire slang for “a second” or something. “What did you two do to the lav?”

“The lav?” Sara repeated, and they both snickered.

“They wrecked the place,” I said. “Water, toilet paper… other stuff. It’s disgusting. You wouldn’t want to go in there with your bare feet.”

“Oi!” Hazel said, turning scarlet and smoothing down the front of her floor-length robe. “You don’t have to tell the whole world about that!”

“I thought you said ‘everyone does it’,” Honey said, rolling her eyes.

“Not the point!” Hazel said.

“We don’t know what she’s talking about,” Sara said. “We didn’t do anything. It was like that when we got there.”

“Yeah, all I know is that I’d hate to be the one who has to clean it up,” Tara said.

“Well, you’re going to be, because I’m not doing it,” I said.

“Kiersta said…” Sara said.

“Fuck Kiersta,” I said. “What’s she going to do? One shout to my lawyer and she’d lose her job,” I said, not having any clue if this was true or not but pretty sure Kiersta could hear every word. “I’m not cleaning up your mess, and if you don’t clean it up, nobody’s going to be able to use the showers.”

“That’s not our fault,” Sara said. “You’re supposed to clean it up. Kiersta…”

“Shut up about Kiersta,” I said.

“Hold on,” Hazel said, shuffling over. “I have a headache, I’m queasy, I ache all over, and I’m not a big fan of being woken up early in general. I have to get up at the crack of eleven today and the first thing I’m going to want is a shower. Is it going to be fit to use then, or isn’t it?”

“Don’t talk to us, bunny,” Tara said. She pointed her thumb at me. “Talk to the help.”

“I’m talking to you,” Hazel said. “Call me bunny again and I’ll kick both your arse.”

“‘Arse’,” Sara repeated, and they both giggled.

“What is wrong with you? Were you born in a barn?”

“Were you born in a dollhouse?” Sara asked.

“I was born on a boat,” Hazel said.

“Hazel!” Honey said, more urgently than she had objected to Hazel’s evidently profane pronouncement earlier.

“I don’t care who knows,” Hazel said to her. “I’m proud of it.”

“Honestly, I wish you could hear how you sound,” Honey said.

“I am!” Hazel said. “I’m proud of where I come from.”

“Why in the world would you be proud of your mother’s smelly, rancid cunt?” Tara asked.

Hazel turned a shade of purple-red normally reserved for eldritch abominations.

“Hazel… think about your condition…” Honey pleaded, sounding terrified.

I took a step back. As I did, I remembered Steff’s description of Hazel “going orcshit” over the term “motherfucker”… but that was only after I’d started backing away. I didn’t have to know anything about Hazel or her past behavior to see where this was going. I’d step in if things went too poorly for Hazel… the twins seemed pretty athletic and she was no fighter, though I thought the way Sara seemed to be trying to turn and scramble away while Tara tried to stand their ground might take away some of her disadvantage

“Hazel, they didn’t mean it!” Honey shrieked.

“Oh, I fucking meant it,” Tara said. “What are you going to do, bunny? Dig me to death?”

With an angry howl, Hazel charged forward, barreling into their legs and knocking them down. Tara’s arm punched her in the face while Sara’s flailed around, but she might as well have been punching an ogre or a dwarf’s skull for all that it slowed Hazel’s fury. She pulled herself up until she was straddling the twins’ torso and started punching at Tara’s head with alternating fists.

“Kiersta! Kiersta!” Sara shrieked as Hazel pretty much beat Tara’s face in.

More doors had opened. Everybody who lived on the floor was out in the hall except for the skirmishers, Celia, Leda, Amaranth, and Dee… and Kiersta, naturally. I was trying to figure out how to get Hazel off of Tara without hurting her, especially given her “condition” as Amaranth had diagnosed it. Tara was trying to push her off with her one arm; Sara was useless, sobbing with her eyes squeezed shut.

Before I could decide what, if anything, to do, a powerful force wrapped itself around me and yanked me backwards off my feet. I flew down the hall away from the melee, passing the swishing robes of Dee as she flew forward.

“Hazel Willikins!” she called as I landed on my butt halfway down the hall. “Be at peace!”

That worked about as well as you might have expected it to. Dee waved her arms in the air and became too bright to look at. When my vision cleared, Hazel was floating up off of the twins, a placid expression on her face. Dee guided her mentally back towards Honey while she herself crouched by the fallen form of the Leightons and grew bright once more as she gave them healing energy they didn’t deserve.

“Hazel, I wish you’d think about your daughter!” Honey said.

“I am not having any daughters!” Hazel said, snapping out of the divinely-bestowed serenity at once, but fortunately not reverting back to her state of unreasoning rage.

Sara suddenly started shrieking and kicking spasmodically. Dee stepped back at once. Tara groaned and touched her head.

“I apologize for any unexpected familiarity,” Dee said to them.

“Get away from us, you cowl headed freak!” Sara said.

“Somebody provide a concise summary of events, please,” Dee said, looking around the hall. Her eyes settled on me. “Mackenzie?”

“They trashed the bathroom,” I said coming forward. “Because Kiersta said I have to clean it.”

“Why under earth should that task fall to you?” Dee asked. “Never mind. I think I can surmise.” She looked around. “And then one of the twins said a word against Two’s friend Hazel’s departed mother, I suppose?”

“Hey, that’s right!” Hazel said.

“Let it go,” Honey said, grabbing Hazel’s sleeve.

“I believe you owe Miss Hazel an apology,” Dee said to the Leightons. “And then she will apologize to you.”

“Like hell,” Tara said, as they got to their feet. She groaned and clutched at her head with her hand.

“That goes for double for me,” Hazel said.

“I can’t force you to apologize,” Dee said. “But I’ll ask again once I’ve finished healing you, as duty…”
“You’re not touching us!” Sara said.

“Please,” Dee said. “I would not be offering if it were not dire. The most superficial portion of your wounds healed first. I do not believe the underlying damage is…”

“Go fuck yourself, drow bitch,” Tara said. “I’m not letting you do any more black-ass demon witchcraft on me.”

The twins turned to go back into their room.

“Go to the healing center, then,” Dee said. They both flipped her off. “Don’t let her fall asleep!” Dee called after them as they closed the door. “Willful… willful idiots!” Dee shouted at their door, then let off a stream of what certainly sounded like swear words. She turned around to face Hazel, her eyes narrow and her nostrils wide. “And you! Your kinswoman has the right of it! Does avenging the memory of your mother take precedence over the safety of your daughter?”

“I… don’t… have… a… bloody… daughter!” Hazel yelled. “I can’t have a daughter, I won’t have a daughter, I don’t have a…”

There was a pop and a flash of light and Hazel was asleep on her feet. Dee’s mental powers caught her mid-slump, tilted her gently back, and then floated her past a very stunned looking Honey into their room, where I have little doubt she continued floating until she reached her bed.

“Please try to keep her calm when she wakes,” Dee said to Honey, who snorted. “And, out of curiosity, how do you know she’s having a daughter?”

“Oh… um… how do you?” Honey asked.

“I was merely repeating what I heard from you,” Dee said. “But it’s the default assumption… or it is, among my people.”

“Oh… the same,” Honey said. “For mine, I mean.”

“I did not realize gnomish culture was so gynocentric,” Dee said.

“Oh, well, if a woman’s expecting we say it’s a daughter and if a man is, we say it’s a son,” Honey said.

“Indeed,” Dee said.

“I should get back to bed,” Honey said, hurrying into her room and shutting the door, then locking it.

Other people, apparently deciding the show was over and realizing just how fucking early it was, were also drifting back towards their beds. Mariel was still standing in front of Puddy’s room, staring at the bathroom door and then whipping her head around in a dizzying pattern down the rest of the hall before staring at the bathroom.

“Don’t be so fucking dainty!” Puddy grumbled sleepily from the depths of her room.

I sighed.

“We’ve got to do something about the bathroom. Or I guess I do,” I said. “They only did it because of me.”

“That doesn’t make it your responsibility,” Dee said. “Is it simply untidy, or have they… befouled… it?”

“I think it’s beyond befouled,” I said.

“I will see to it then,” Dee said.

“Dee, you don’t have to,” I said.

“Somebody must… I have never cleaned anything beyond the chapel floor, but I believe I can remove the mess without having contact with it,” Dee said. “No one else, perhaps save for Two, could do that, and she does enough cleaning after others as it is. Do you intend to join me this morning?”

“Uh, yeah,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “Please go downstairs and reserve us a chamber. I will join you shortly.”

“Thanks,” I said. I hesitated, torn. “Uh… are you sure you don’t want any help?”

“I need not touch your mind to see that you are hoping I will say no,” Dee said. “Your offer is appreciated, but your efforts would not combine effectively with mine. Thank you, but no.”

“Thanks,” I said, and I turned and I headed past Mariel for the stairs. Dee followed behind me. I glanced back from just inside the stairwell and saw that she was turning to face Kiersta’s door.

Part of me wanted to know what she was going to do or say, but most of me didn’t want to be anywhere near the kind of ass-chewing I thought Dee just might be able to administer.

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7 Responses to “357: Short Fuse”

  1. pedestrian says:

    The absence of leadership requires authority and when both have failed the center cannot hold.

    Current score: 6
  2. zeel says:

    “Wake up or not,” Two said. “I don’t think you could not do that.””

    But you could be doing either, neither, or BOTH. Never know until Two comes to check. Schrödinger’s nap.

    Current score: 2
    • dracayr says:

      Actually, even Schrödinger’s cat can’t be neither alive nor dead. Every state must be normalized.

      Current score: 2
      • Zany says:

        Hate to be pedantic, but in this universe, it could be undead. Goes for both too…

        Current score: 3
  3. jarsin says:

    Dee is by far my favourite character. She’s not completely useless, for starters. She can discuss things calmly and respectfully. She genuinely cares for her friends. She prioritises things like Steff-maybe-killing-herself and evil-possessed-pitchfork-of-unknown-whereabouts and half-demon-with-poor-self-control. She is relatively open to the possibility her culture’s moral standards might be imperfect.

    Well done, Dee.

    Current score: 7
    • sanityoptional says:

      Pretty much the only character I don’t want to punch some sense into.

      Current score: 0
    • capybroa says:

      Delia Daella d’Wyr: Head Bitch In Charge

      Current score: 6