381: Outward Appearances

on May 18, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Issues Are Skirted

“What exactly did you give her?” Amaranth asked Dee.

The raw edge of panic which had seeped into Dee’s voice seemed to be contagious… if anything concerned her enough to make her lose a fraction of her cool, that was downright worrying.

“Nothing dangerous!” Dee said. “So long as it’s taken properly…”

“And what if it’s not?” Amaranth asked.

It seemed like a good question to me, since Dee had just made it clear that Steff had not followed her instructions. I looked at Steff, who still just looked sleepy… or maybe exhausted would be the better term. Yeah. She looked like she’d been up all night running a marathon. The bleary smile made her look a tad delirious… was it a fever, I wondered?

“Then… I do not know,” Dee said. “At most, I think it would simply fail to function as intended.”

“Does that mean it won’t do anything, or that it will do something bad?” I asked.

“Let’s all calm down,” Amaranth said excitedly. “Dee, why don’t you tell us what you gave her.”

“It’s a potion of transformation,” Dee said. “I suppose you would say of… feminization. It is what we use to treat our halfkind, to give them bodies reflecting their nature.”

“Steff, I thought you liked your body how it is,” I said.

“Like my bits where they are,” Steff said. “Wouldn’t mind if something says I’m a girl with my shirt off.”

“I’ll say you’re a girl with your shirt off,” Two offered.

“Thank you, sweetie, but that’s not helpful,” Amaranth said.

“It’s true, though,” Two said. “I would.”

“Yes, thank you,” Amaranth said.

“I told you it won’t make you more of a woman than you are,” Dee said.

“And I agreed,” Steff said. “You say vagina, I say potato.”

“Mother of spiders, she’s delirious,” Dee said.

“No, it’s actually kind of clever, in context,” Amaranth said. “Though… it could be clever delirium. Dee, should we get her to bed or to the lunchroom?”

“Have you eaten anything at all since you took the potion?” Dee asked her.

“No, knocked me on my ass,” Steff said.

Dee sighed. She pushed me aside, slipping under Steff’s arm and putting her arm around Steff’s waist.

“Then let us get some food into your stomach before you burn out,” Dee said, striding insistently forward. Amaranth, on the other side of Steff, followed suit. “But then you must rest.”

“Hold on,” I said as we set off for the union. “This isn’t adding up. A permanent transformation potion? Where’d you get something like that, and why does it require food and rest?”

“The effect of the potion is not to alter the body’s shape, but to induce the body to alter its own shape,” Dee said. She seemed to be struggling to measure her pace… eager to get Steff there, but perhaps being overly careful about it. “That impetus vanishes when the potion fades, but… if the process is carried out properly… the results thereof remain. I might emphasize ‘if the process is carried out properly’… Steff, I thought I had stressed to you the importance of this. It’s exceedingly unlikely I can acquire another dose, if you get a disappointing result.”

“How in the world did you get something like that in the first place?” Amaranth asked.

“I spent some time in the surface outpost at Ceilos,” Dee said. “It is a blended community of elves, gorgons, and other subterranean cultures, including a coterie of halfkind. They were given the task of caring for me during my period of acclimation… when I met Steff and perceived how unhappy she was in her incomplete state, I… I prayed to the goddess for guidance, and when I received no contrary indication, I wrote to my friends at Ceilos.”

“And they just sent you a bottle?” I asked. “Isn’t it kind of expensive?”

“I am not certain… it is not something that is usually offered for sale,” Dee said.

“Priceless, in other words,” I reasoned. “They seriously just sent it to you, no questions asked?”

“The halfkind administer the elixir to their newly selected siblings themselves. I do not suppose it has ever occurred to anyone to forbid them from giving it to anyone else,” Dee said. “However, the supply is limited, and a comparatively large quantity is needed to effect the full transformation. Ideally, the one undergoing the process will have ample rest and a steady supply of food. Scarce foodstuffs such as red meat and milk are stockpiled for the occasion. Steff, you should have waited. I was willing to spend my weekend aiding you, if your lover was not.”

“Dee, have you ever done anything like that before?” Amaranth asked.

“I have heard my Dehsah describe the process many times,” Dee said. “It is not complicated, merely demanding.”

“Listen,” Steff said. “I thought about it. I’m half-human, and human women… more womanly than elven women, right? Anyway, I don’t need big gross bags like you and Amy have. Look all wrong on me. Want more like Mack or Two.”

“You think it merely pastes some extra weight on your chest?” Dee said. “Steff, it resculpts your entire body… your hips, your buttocks… even your facial structure is subtly altered.”

“Elf girls don’t have hips,” Steff said.

“We most certainly do,” Dee said. “And you may very well end up with them, as well… or you may starve to death as your body cannibalizes itself trying to give you them! I don’t believe this concoction has ever been administered to any but a full-blooded elf before. We have no way of knowing whether the human body’s tendency towards greater sexual dimorphism will make the potion work harder for a lesser result, or if the same dosage will result in greater growth. I should never have put the potion into your hands… I should have kept it, and administered it myself.”

“Dee, honey… I’d like to say it’s the thought that counts,” Amaranth said. “But… I think maybe you shouldn’t have done this at all.”

“Yeah,” I said. “You’re talking about a drastic, permanent change to her body…”

“You can’t tell me you wouldn’t view it as an improvement,” Dee said. “Mentally as well as physically. You’ve seen how conflicted our Steff is. You’ve see how deeply she needs.”

“But you admit you don’t know what it will do to her,” I said. “And if it works the way you’re saying, then by the time we know for sure it’ll be too late to dispel or undo it, unless your people have come up with some kind of potion of inducing-the-body-to-undo-the-changes-the-other-potion-did.”

“We have not,” Dee said. “But… I could not sit back and do nothing. I kept the potion to myself for over a week after it arrived, unsure if I dared to use it. After the incident with the knife, I knew I had no choice. I intended to wait until the weekend to put it into her hands, but this morning… I felt I could contain the secret no longer.”

“Wait,” I said. “You gave it to her under the influence of the…”

“It was my decision,” Dee said. “I may have acted rashly, but I believe that even suboptimal results will be better than leaving Steff as she was.”

“It’s cool,” Steff said. “I can handle this. Just… hungry and tired.”

Talking as we went, we’d made it to the front of the student union when I heard my name being called. I was glad I’d been relieved of helping Steff, because in instinctively turning at the sound of Ian’s voice, I stubbed the toe of my shoe on the pavement and banged my elbow pretty badly trying to stop my face from damaging the plaza.

“See,” Two said cheerily, “this is why I gave you the rubber dish.”

“Yeah, I get it,” I said.

Ian caught up to us as Amaranth, having disentangled herself from the other side of Steff, helped me up.

“Oh, kheez, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d startle you that bad.”

“Gotta be careful,” Steff said airily. She giggled. “She’s vulnerable to greetings.”

“Uh, what’s with her?” Ian asked.

“Our little Steff is becoming a woman,” Amaranth said. “Maybe.”

“She’s doing nothing of the sort,” Dee said. “A potion could no more make Steff into a woman than a tan could make you into an elf.”

“Dee, if this works and she’s okay, I’ll be as grateful as she is,” Amaranth said. “But it is really not okay for you to decide other people’s sexual identities.”

“My apologies,” Dee said. “My concern for her well-being has left me… frazzled, I suppose the word would be. I realize my culture may have a stricter construction of what it is to be a woman than certain more liberal interpretations…”

“Don’t think I want to lean on you any more,” Steff said, stepping on wobbly legs away from Dee.

“Steff, I assure you I only have your best interest in mind,” Dee said.

“Seriously, someone needs to clue me in,” Ian said.

“Dee gave Steff a potion to make her more… womanish,” I said. “But Steff didn’t follow the care instructions.”

“Where’d she get something like that?” Ian asked.

“The underground elves apparently have potions like that,” I said.

“Is that why they’ve got more curves than the regular type?”

“I assure you, my ‘curves’ did not come from a bottle,” Dee said.

“Oh, hey, I wouldn’t know… I’ve never seen them,” Ian said, throwing up his hands. “I just meant, you know, in general, according to… other examples.”

“Where have you seen naked dark elves?” I asked. I knew elfbloods were a common enough subject for pornography, but I couldn’t imagine anybody from Dee’s society submitting to something like that.

“There was a book on world religions in my high school library,” Ian said, blushing. “It was, you know, cultural.”

“Hold on,” Amaranth said. “Can we please just stop for a moment? Dee, I am still appalled that you would take it upon yourself to decide that Steff needs this kind of body-altering… life-altering, really… potion.”

“My decision to take it,” Steff said.

“Yes, but don’t you think that maybe you should have thought about it a bit?” Amaranth asked. “Spoken to Teddi?”

“Don’t you think I have thought about it?” Steff retorted. There was a touch of anger, a hot spark among the cool ashes, and it flared up as she spoke, bringing her out of the slurred stupor she’d been languishing in. “I mean, I didn’t know there was a potion like this, but don’t you think I’ve fantasized about it?”

“Not everything that makes a good fantasy works out in real life,” Amaranth said. “This is going to change things, Steff.”

“All the guys in my dorm know how it is with me anyway,” Steff said. “All my professors know. What are they gonna care if I suddenly fill out my clothes better?”

I bit my tongue, but I had a suspicion that one professor at least might care if Steff suddenly showed up with an undeniably feminine body. Assuming I understood her relationship with Callahan at all, I figured that the coach preferred to think of Steff as a really swishy guy.

There was no sense in borrowing conflict, though. Not when we had enough for the moment. Also, I wouldn’t exactly lose sleep if Callahan suddenly lost all interest in Steff.

“Look… I’m sure this is all very… very something,” Ian said, speaking to the rest of the group but putting his hand on my arm. It wasn’t like I got all tingly, with the thick padding of my coat between his hand and my skin, but… okay, I did get all tingly when he grabbed me like that. “But I really wanted to talk to Mackenzie. Is it okay if I borrow her for a walk?”

I looked at Amaranth, not sure what to say… I felt guilty about leaving Steff, but I didn’t really have anything to contribute to her well-being and nothing I said would change the situation. No matter how much Amaranth and Dee hashed things between themselves, it was essentially a done deal, for better or for worse, and here was Ian. The phrasing borrow her was probably completely innocent, but… the connotations… well, it did something for me.

“Oh, sure… baby, go on with Ian,” Amaranth said. “We’ll get Steff taken care of.”

“Okay,” I said. She gave me a kiss, and I gave Steff a kiss on the cheek. Her skin felt hot under my lips. “I’ll see you guys later. Be well, Steff.”

“I’m gonna be awesome,” she said.

“She’s supposed to eat lunch,” Two complained as Ian and I walked away.

“Two, will you please leave it alone?” Amaranth said.

Ian shook his head as we headed down a random path.

“It’s always something going on with you guys,” Ian said. “I’m not even going to go into the rumor that’s been going around this morning.”

“It’s probably true,” I said. “And if it’s not, the truth is worse. Anyway, what’s up?”

“Nothing much,” he said. “Just starting to wonder if you ever check your mirror.”

I immediately reached up to touch my hair and face, to see what he was talking about… then I realized. My mirror, not a mirror. I’d let it slip out of mind, stopped checking it and carrying it with me.

“Oh crap!” I said. Realizing that I’d forgotten it made me realize something else I’d forgotten: finding my planner. “I meant to find my datebook before lunch.”

“Because you’d written down a reminder to check your mirror?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “You just reminded me that I’d forgotten. Things have a way of slipping my mind.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” he said. “I wanted to tell you I’m fighting on Saturday.”

“On Saturday?” I said.

“And you’re doing something,” he said. “Great.” He sighed. “This was why I tried to let you know sooner.”

“You could have told me at the party on Tuesday,” I said.

“Things slip my mind, too,” he said, grinning ruefully.

“You could also just come over and see me,” I said.

“You’ve always got something going on,” he said.

“I don’t think Amaranth would complain if you joined us,” I said.

“So what are you doing tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow is Saturday,” I said, thinking he was trying to set something up since I couldn’t make his match.

“Yeah,” he said. “And you’re busy.”

“I’m… going to a thing in town with Amaranth,” I said. “For Veil.”

“Oh,” he said. “Sounds cool.”

“Yeah,” I said guiltily.

“Also, you suck ass at lying,” he said.

“I’m not lying!” I said.

“You’re not telling the truth,” he said. He ran his fingers through his hair, leaving it kind of half-spiked and adorably disheveled. “You know, it’s hard enough to take this stuff when you’re not hiding inside that ugly-ass coat.”

“Why does everybody hate this coat?”

“I’m trying to keep in a good mood,” he said.

“Ian… I don’t want to lie to you, it’s just… this is kind of complicated, and hard to believe. Amaranth and I did something stupid,” I said. “I did something stupid.”

“Yeah, so far, you’re really beggaring my imagination,” he said.

“Oh, hush,” I said. “Look, this isn’t something we’ve spread around… I got my nipples pierced a couple nights ago.”


“Yeah,” I said. “But to pay for it… well, we made a deal with the shopkeeper to put on a show at a, uh, bondage club, I guess you’d call it.”

“Oh,” Ian said.

“Oh, what?”

“Oh, oh,” he said. “I mean… I guess I’d kind of like to see that, but honestly, I expected… that’s kind of…”

“Kind of what?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “It kind of sounds like the plot of a lame porn story, but you’re dating a nymph, so I don’t know if that’s even that weird.”

“Well, there’s a little bit more to it than that!” I said indignantly.

“Like what?”

“Well… we’ve still got to pay for the jewelry if we don’t show,” I said.

“Is that a big deal?”

“Pretty much,” I said.

“They must be some piercings,” he said. “When do I get to see them?”

“Dunno,” I said. “It’s a little cold out now.”

“We’re still going to the Veil Ball tonight, right?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not sure what I’m doing for it, but I’m pretty sure my nipples won’t be making an appearance… I’m pretty sure my entire floor got a good look at them this morn… um, anyway, Two came up with the idea of going as a golem.”

“That could be kind of sexy,” he said. “Do you think you could find a maid uniform?”

“Um… I wasn’t actually thinking sexy golem,” I said irritably. “And I’m not sure what’s so sexy about a domestic servant with no free will.”

I meant what I said, but I had to admit that I felt a flush of heat down below as I said the words. Okay, maybe Shiel had been somewhat adjacent to having a point about dressing up like a golem being fraught with problems.

“Oh, well, good luck, then,” Ian said.

“With what?”

“Not being sexy,” he said.

It took me a few seconds to figure out he was being flattering.

“Oh,” I said. “Um… so… what about you?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Figured I’d throw something together.”

“You haven’t decided either?”

“Well, you know, guys have it easy,” he said. “Nobody expects that much from us. Probably half the guys there won’t be in costume, and the other half will just throw something together out of regular clothes. I mean, I can borrow a skirt and go in drag. I can take off my shirt and be a barbarian. I can make a robe out of sheets and be a wizard.”

“I could do that one, too,” I said.

“I guess you could,” he said. “But girls usually have better costumes.”

“You’d go in drag?”

“It’s Veil,” he said. “Why not? Anyway, to get back to your nipples…”

“Smooth segue.”

“…what are they and you doing after the dance?”

“Nothing, I guess,” I said, realizing with a pang that Steff would be in no shape for our tentatively planned assignation… and then considering for the first time the implications of the shape she might be in after the weekend. Steff with breasts… Steff as feminine outside as she was inside. With breasts.

“That must be some exciting nothing,” Ian said, breaking in on my thoughts.

“Oh, sorry,” I said. “Lost in thought… I guess I might do something with Amaranth, if she’s not working, otherwise… oh.” I realized where he’d been leading. “I guess I’m wide open.”

“You guess,” he said, shaking his head.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Little slow on the uptake.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Why change now?”

“Brat,” I said, but without much force… this had become an established rhythm for us. It was comfortable. I had an idea. “Hey!”

“Hey what?”

“We should do something together, like… as a couple,” I said.

“Uh, that’s the idea,” he said.

“For the dance, doofus!” I said

“I love it when you talk dirty to me.”

“I’m serious,” I said. “We should dress up together.”

“As what?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“I’m not doing anything where we share one big costume,” Ian said. “I’ve seen you walk.”

“Funny,” I said.

“We could swap clothes?”

“That’s a thought,” I said. “But we both just wears jeans and t-shirts.”

“Well, obviously, I’d have to wear one of your skirts for anybody to get it,” he said.

“One of? How many of them do you think I have?” I asked. “And you’re really into this crossdressing idea.”

“It’s Veil,” he said again.

“I don’t know,” I said. “We should have worked this out in advance… maybe I should just stick with the golem idea. I mean, that’s something easy to pull off.”

“Well… you don’t have to be anywhere for a while, do you?”

“No,” I said.

“Then let’s go over to the Lazar Center,” he said. “I’ve got friends in the theater program, they’ll help us come up with something.”

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7 Responses to “381: Outward Appearances”

  1. pedestrian says:

    The most imaginative I ever got for a costume was dressing up as NKVD/CHEKA/SMERSH field commissar. But no one else could get what was so horrifyingly obscene about it.

    They just notice the guys in SS uniforms. I was so pissed off at losing that contest to some swastika banded jerk, who to make it worse, was some taller blonde junker pollack.

    After a few good shots of vodka {in character, right?}It was a good thing that it was a fake AK47 I was carrying. Cause I was in the mood to go all bolshevik on their sorry asses.

    Current score: 3
    • Daezed says:

      I haven’t dressed up for Halloween more than some cat ears and whiskers in years…. But I’ve had this dream-costume in mind of Rainbow Brite that I’ve been thinking about for more than a decade.

      Maybe some day….!

      Current score: 0
    • capybroa says:

      I did some of my best drag work at my very liberal high school instead of at college, which in retrospect was probably a mistake since my college had a very enthusiastic contingent of queer kids who would gladly have helped me get my floozy on. Ian is right; girls DO have better costumes.

      Pedestrian, you should totally have smacked that kid around for dressing up as a Nazi officer, especially if he was Polish. That is some shameful shit.

      Current score: 5
  2. Ryzndmon says:

    The scariest costume I ever say was when a guy went as a used feminine hygiene product for Veil. Nobody would stand next to him, or even look him in his redwinged face.

    My ex keeps the pictures of that night for blackmail purposes. I am very polite to her.

    Current score: 1
    • keyonte0 says:

      There’s a billion potential jokes in that story.

      Current score: 0
  3. Jechtael says:

    Aw, Ian can be so sweet sometimes 🙂 …but I have GOT to see an example image of that coat. I can’t think of anything that would be that unanimously hated, unless it’s some kind of paisley in /shades/ of brown…ish.

    I would love a potion that would give me proper birthing hips and less masculine facial structure. My hips were wide as a guy, but despite my vaguely hourglass-esque figure (a very chubby hourglass), my hip-to-upper-body ratio is… disappointing.

    I find myself giving up hope as of this chapter that Dee’s people treat “halfkind” with anything resembling respect. Apparently, there’s no such thing as a full MtF, only hijra or two-spirit (seems more hijra to me, but Dee did ascribe Steff a dual-soul nature), and apparently no FtMs.

    Current score: 2
    • Kanta says:

      As somebody who’s felt your hips, there is nothing, “Disappointing,” about them.

      Current score: 1