242: Disturbed Slumber

on June 20, 2008 in Book 9

In Which Sooni Walks All Over Mackenzie

We went to bed early, as soon as I’d waded through two chapters of The Warrior’s Handbook. The first chapter was a lot of bullshit metaphors comparing individual combat to armies moving on the field, and both of those to things in nature. The second one had some actual techniques in it, but my mind was burned out from the previous chapter and I wasn’t able to picture them properly, even with the diagrams. I decided I’d give the second one a quick re-read before going onto the third one, some time Wednesday.

Amaranth didn’t need the sleep and I wasn’t tired, except in an emotional sense, but neither one of us could think of a good reason to put off the pleasure of snuggling up against one another in the warm, enveloping darkness of my bed any longer once I’d done the required reading.

Tired or not, I had no trouble at all drifting off at once when we were wrapped up in the blankets and each other.

I woke up just as abruptly hours later, jarred out of the serenity of my slumber beneath Amaranth by the sound of hammering. The bed shook, and at first I thought it was because somebody was pounding on it, but then I came to the foggy realization that it was Two climbing down the ladder.

I gently disentangled myself from Amaranth—whose only response to the disturbance was to murmur “harder, harder”—and sat up groggily.

The pounding stopped, and there was a pause.

“Sooni, go to bed!” Two said sternly to the closed door. “We are trying to sleep!”

“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” Sooni yelled. “Let me in, you stupid thing!”

That got me out of bed.

“Stand back, Two,” I said.

“Okay,” she said, doing so, and I yanked open the door, not even caring that I was naked. It wasn’t anything Sooni hadn’t seen before or wouldn’t see again.

I was all set to tear the fox girl a new one, but the sight of her… her face soaked with tears and snot, her robe open, and her hair in an even bigger mess than it had been before… knocked the words right out of my mouth.

“Quick! Where’s your ugly naked girlfriend?” she asked.

“Sleeping, if it’s any of your damned business,” I said. Her continued rudeness to the people I loved the most knocked the words right back into my mouth. “What the fuck do you…”

“I got up to check on Kai in the night and she won’t wake up!” Sooni said. “I can’t even tell if she’s breathing!”

I barely had time to think oh, shit before Amaranth erupted from the bed so fast she pulled the curtain of blankets with her and hit the floor. She was kicking her feet free of the entangling covers when I reached her side. She pushed me away and bowled Sooni over on her way out of the door. We both followed her, after a moment of recovering from the shock.

With her glasses still tucked away wherever, Amaranth bounced off the doorframe on her way into Sooni’s room. I caught her on the rebound and steadied her.

“What are you…?” I started to ask,but she pushed me away.

“Baby, stay back,” she said, heading into the room. Heedless, I followed her. I realized my mistake when she reached the crib with the unconscious Kai and her whole body lit up like an exploding fireball. I shrieked and fell backwards out of the doorway, then lay there stunned.

The whole room was lit up with a pulsing light, white-hot and blinding in intensity. It battered me in waves, even in the hall. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. Sooni walked straight into it as if it wasn’t there, though, stepping on me the process.

“Sorry, baby, but I can’t fuck around,” Amaranth called from within the raging nimbus. “Go wake Dee. I’m getting a pulse… but…”

“I am already awake,” Dee said, from above me. Mercifully, she pulled me out of the path of the blazing light and helped me to my feet. “You may wait in my room, if that is more comfortable.”

“Thanks,” I said.

The light of Amaranth’s divine power flickered and failed even as she said this, but the air in the hallway was still charged, making my skin tingle uncomfortably.

Dee’s room was cool and dark as always, with only a small undercurrent of piety. I had no doubt she prayed regularly, but it seemed she did not throw around divine energy without a reason. Perhaps she’d even made a point of not blessing her room and belongings, out of deference to my proximity?

I waited there, feeling utterly useless. Whatever was happening in Sooni’s room, I couldn’t go near it, and even if I could, what could have I done? I told myself that my presence wasn’t needed, that Dee and Amaranth would have the situation well in hand, but that didn’t make me feel any better.

Kai didn’t deserve the indignity of being Sooni’s servant. She certainly didn’t deserve this.

After what was probably no more than a few minutes, Dee and Amaranth came into the room. Amaranth hung back by the door. Her skin seemed to be glowing a bit. She’d retrieved her glasses.

“We’d better stay away from each other for a bit, baby,” she said to me. “I’m, uh, not as practiced as Dee when it comes to directing my power. It might take it a while to dissipate. Do you mind if I turn on the light, Dee?”

“I do not,” Dee replied, and Amaranth did.

“How… how’s Kai?” I asked.

“She’s fine,” Amaranth said. “Dee brought her around.”

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I hadn’t realized it was there until it was gone, but… if Kai had died, I would have been responsible. Not because I had provoked Sooni… she was really too unpredictable for me to be sure she wouldn’t have done the same or more even if I hadn’t been there… but because I hadn’t made a stronger case for taking Kai to the healing center. Hell, I could have thought to tell Amaranth in the first place. She could have offered a quick healing… no fuss, no, muss.

“The child had a small fracture in her skull and a concussion. They both would have been minor matters if healed immediately, but Sooni allowed them to remain untreated,” Dee said. “Her life force had become badly depleted, and her mind was hanging on by a thread. I cannot imagine how…”

“Yeah? I can!” I said. Anger was flaring up inside me, fighting down my guilt. If I bore some responsibility, Sooni bore the most. “She’s done this before. Kai’s fingers were all bandaged up for weeks when we got here.”

“Those were not injuries,” Dee said. “This is a different matter altogether.”

“What the hell were they, then?” I asked.

“Something that is not any of our business,” Dee said. “I would not choose to know all that I know of the goings-on behind closed doors in this hall.”

There was a gentle note of chiding in her voice, and I didn’t press it.

“That poor girl… she doesn’t even know what she’s doing, you know?” Amaranth said.

“She thinks she does,” I said. “Or at least, she thought so. Maybe this will change her mind? I just know that I tried to talk to her once, about getting away from Sooni, and she gave me the brush-off.”

“Away from her?” Amaranth said. “Baby, I was talking about Sooni.”

“In that case, that is a succinct summary of the problem, yes,” Dee said. “She does not know what she is doing… to a dangerous degree.”

Amaranth looked like she was trying to frame an objection to this, but before she could say anything, Sooni came clattering up to the doorway in her sandals and threw her arms around her, planting kisses on her face and jabbering in Yokano.

Somehow, this marked the end of the crisis to me. Dee and Amaranth had told me that Kai was out of the woods, but seeing Sooni so ridiculously grateful made it real.

After she finished with Amaranth, she turned towards Dee, who stiffened and backed away, holding up her arms defensively. Sooni made a couple starts forward, before it fully registered that Dee was fending off her physical display of gratitude. This snapped her out of it. She straightened, wiped off her cheeks, and made an attempt to straighten the demolished wrap on her hair.

“Kai and I thank you for your kind attentions,” she said, bowing at the waist, all the way past the horizontal. Dee returned the gesture, bowing exactly as low.

“You may tell Kai that she is most welcome,” Dee said.

“I’m so glad that she is alright,” Sooni said, utterly oblivious to the rather pointed thrust of Dee’s reply. “If something ever happened to her, I wouldn’t know what to do.”

“Would you care to examine the premise of that statement?” Dee asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing ‘happened’ to Miss Kai this evening,” Dee said. “Rather, something was inflicted upon her. If the gods or fates beyond decree that some misfortune should come to pass, we can do nothing to avoid it, but there is a positive difference between the evils which befall us and those which we do.”

“I… I don’t understand,” Sooni said.

“You almost murdered your servant, with your selfishness and rage,” Dee said. “For all intents and purposes, you did. I believe she saw a glimpse of her reward before we returned her to herself.”

“Kai is my friend!” Sooni replied, apparently having only taken in a single word of what Dee had said.

“My friends are not always courteous, but I cannot believe they would leave me strapped inside an enclosure to die of wounds they themselves had inflicted upon me.”

“I will not listen to this!” Sooni declared, and she stormed from Dee’s room, stomping back to hers.

Once she had left, Dee turned towards us.

“I apologize that you were witness to my ru…”

“Don’t,” I said. “Just… don’t.”

I understood what Steff meant about Dee’s apologies now. She’d said what needed to be said, and she’d been way the fuck more restrained than anyone else would have been, and she still felt the need to apologize for being “rude”? And not five minutes after saving a life.

The door across the hall opened, and we looked to see Kai, still in a diaper, going inside and shutting it behind her. Moments later, we heard Sooni shouting in Yokano. I would have assumed she was yelling at Kai, if I hadn’t just seen her going into the other nekos’ room. A moment later, there was a loud crackling sound and then an explosive bang from Sooni’s room.

“Oh, dear,” Amaranth said. “We should go see…”

“I believe she is destroying her new furniture,” Dee said as Sooni began to chant again. “I must ask, do you know what was the purpose of that paraphernalia?”

“It’s for adult babies,” Amaranth said as another one of Sooni’s acquisitions was demolished.

“I would have labeled that a contradiction in terms, had I never met Sooni or others of our floormates,” Dee said.

“It’s a form of age play,” Amaranth said. Dee’s face registered no recognition at this term, so she elaborated. “Some people find solace or sexual excitement in taking on the role of somebody at a different stage of life, like regressing to childhood or infancy.”

“I… see,” Dee said. “And this practice is accepted and understood?”

It struck me that this was a pretty surreal conversation to be having, but then, the whole situation was fairly surreal.

“Well, not widely, no,” Amaranth said, picking at her lip with her fingernails. “Most people, I’m afraid, probably find it weird or disturbing, or assume it reflects a sexual attraction to children.”

“What does it reflect, if not that?”

“A desire for comfort?” Amaranth suggested. “Possibly a longing to shed responsibilities? Probably a lot of the same things that anybody who enjoys a submissive role are looking for. Granted, I don’t really understand why people would do it without including the sexual dimension, but it’s a harmless quirk, most of the time.”

“It might be harmless here, if Kai was doing it voluntarily and Sooni was a better ‘mother’,” I said.

“It is an interesting concept,” Dee said. “Of course, it would be wildly inappropriate for me to submit myself to my lovers, in any greater sense than the extent to which I must necessarily yield my body to them when we consummate our relationship.”

“Of course,” Amaranth agreed, her smile twitching a little bit. I’m not sure what amused her. I sure couldn’t have pictured Dee in a submissive role, no matter how much bowing she could pack into the course of a conversation.

The shouting and blasting in Sooni’s room had subsided. Out in the hallway, other doors were opening and there was a jumble of confused voices.

“Everybody, please be calm,” Sooni’s voice said. “I was merely disposing of some dangerously unsafe devices, before they could injure anybody.”

With the tone of voice she was projecting, my mind put her in a Science Princess outfit as she said this. I had a feeling I wasn’t alone.

“Her capacity to defer responsibility is truly bottomless,” Dee said.

“I’ll bet she’s going to regret wrecking those things when her dad gets the bill,” I said, shaking my head. “She probably could have returned them for a refund, since they were brand new.”

“She could always have them restored, if it came to that,” Amaranth said. “Right?”

“There’s a certain point where something stops being a broken chair and starts being a pile of wood,” I said. “At that point, it’s beyond repair spells. Using magic to put it back together would mean joining the broken pieces back together manually and reassembling it from scratch.”

“One of us should go talk to her,” Amaranth said. “I don’t think she should be left alone in her current state.”

“I do not think she would suffer being talked to in her current state,” Dee said.

“I could try,” Amaranth said. “Or Mack.” She looked at me. “She likes you, baby.”

“What am I supposed to say to her?” I asked. I could think of plenty of things I would have liked to say to Sooni about her behavior, but none of them would be helpful.

“I just think maybe she needs to know that she is loved,” Amaranth said.

“By who?” I asked. “I sure as hell don’t love her.”

“Physically, you do,” Amaranth said. “That’s a kind of love.” She sighed. “But, I can’t order you. I really wouldn’t blame you if you did cancel your date with her, at this point… though I’d still insist that you break it off properly, as far in advance as possible.”

“I cannot believe you would permit your amikan to accompany that… woman-child… anywhere,” Dee said.

“Well… she’s not in nearly as much physical danger from casual anger as Kai is,” Amaranth said. “And I can’t see how it can be anything but good for Sooni to explore a physical relationship with a peer.”

“Once again, you have succinctly summarized a problem,” Dee said.

“Excuse me?”

“I apologize,” Dee said. “You are as you are, but I do not believe Sooni has the necessary supports in place to go down that tunnel safely.”

“There has to be something we can do for her,” Amaranth said. “For all of them.”

“Anything we did would probably just get them all kicked out and sent home. They’re not even here legally,” I said. “The nekos, I mean. She holds a contract on them, or something. They’re not free beings.”

“And thus ineligible for a university education, and by extension, student entry visas,” Dee said. “I would imagine they had an easier time securing such things than I did, but if the authorities were to learn that they did so under false pretenses, they could do more than simply expelling them from the Imperium.”

“Well, we can’t do anything that would lead to that,” Amaranth said. “Maybe we should just let Kai and Sooni both know that we’re here for them, if they need healing or to talk?”

“I can’t see that doing anything but backfiring,” I said. “They’re both pretty proud about things.” I sighed. “I don’t see any way out of the date, honestly. I promised, and if she did anything because I broke it…”

“Terrorism is perhaps not the best basis for a relationship,” Dee said.

“Not a relationship,” I said. “Just… doing what I promised. And who knows? If I’m careful about it, maybe I can talk her into being careful about how she treats Kai, even if she won’t accept responsibility.”

“I just wish there was something more I could do,” Amaranth said. “I’ve just felt helpless since Mother Khaele told me to leave Barley alone… it’s not my nature to stand idly by when I know people are hurting.”

“Perhaps you should not think of it as idleness so much as a recognition of your own limitations,” Dee said. “In any event, I feel that I should return to my sleep.” As soon as she said this, I became aware of how tired I was. Anger and excitement had blasted my sleepiness away, but it was returning now that the crisis was over. “I do not wish my sleep pattern to deteriorate again to the point… well, I would like to get what rest I can, before morning.”

“Oh, that reminds me!” Amaranth said. “Dee, how would you feel about me becoming your new roommate?”

“I… do not know quite what to say to that,” Dee said. I figured the “…without sounding rude.” was implied.

“Oh, I don’t mean to actually live in here!” Amaranth said. “But, Mariel is saying that since I never sleep in my room and she’s apparently been hitting it off with Trina…”

“Why does that not surprise me?” I asked.

“Oh, hush, baby,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, she wants to move in there for real, which would mean I’d have to trade with her or move here, officially. I’m not at all sure how Puddy would take to that, even if I never actually slept there, but on the other hand, if I had a key to your room, I could check on you if something ever happened again.”

“I do not believe that it will,” Dee said. “But, I appreciate the thought, and so long as you respect my privacy, I have no objection to your status as my roommate. I… enjoyed the talks we had, following my episode.”

“Great!” Amaranth said. “I’ll talk to Kiersta in the morning! Or maybe Gwen… that’ll probably get faster results.”

“Incidentally, I never learned how you gained entrance to my room in the first place,” Dee said.

“Oh,” Amaranth said. “Um, apparently, the door wasn’t locked?”

“I am fairly certain that it was,” Dee said.

“I’d thought it was, too,” Amaranth said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure I checked it. Maybe some good samaritan unlocked it?” She didn’t sound terribly convinced. “I mean, maybe somebody knew that you were in trouble and didn’t want to get involved, but knew we were checking on you throughout the weekend… well, it’s an idea.”

“A secret benefactor who is able to arrange for my door to be unlocked,” Dee said. “I am uncertain if I should find this idea comforting.”

“Like I said, it was just an idea,” Amaranth said. “The simplest explanation is it was just unlocked in the first place. You were tired, after all.”

“Yes, I was,” Dee said. “And I am. Please forgive me, but I really should turn in.”

“Yeah, Mack probably should, too,” Amaranth said, putting her hands on me. “You’ve got a date tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” I said. “Goodnight, Dee.”

“Goodnight,” Dee said, bowing to us.

Sooni had closed her door by this point, and everybody else had gone back to bed, or at least back into their own rooms. Back inside our own, Two helped us fix the curtains, and then we all said goodnight.

It seemed as though there was less comfort in Amaranth’s arms, but I still found my way back to sleep.

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12 Responses to “242: Disturbed Slumber”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Many, many years ago, when i was just another stupidly arrogant young man i thought i could get away with dating two women simultaneously. When they found out about each other, there was hell to pay.

    Aside from the loudly public recriminations and throwing of whatever was at hand, was when each of them at different times, tried to run me over with their cars. Even when I was on a sidewalk or running for my life across a lawn.

    Since then I have carefully kept to my one-woman-at-a-time rule and it paid off with 25 usually wonderful years with my wife.
    Alberta would have channeled her inner valkyrie to to the detriment of my physical well-being if I had ever given her cause.

    Current score: 0
    • MackSffrs says:

      You might have been able to benefit from the… teachings(?) (knowledge?) of so called ‘pick-up artists’ some of whom have level theories(?) based around the introduction to each other of one’s woman friends who might, in practical matters, be in competition for a relationship, say girlfriend, while in social matters they would not see it in the light of ‘competition.’
      Many are the story of the fabled grail of social enigma, a non-violent or even productive meeting of those… competing. Honestly though it’s becoming slightly more common to see popular men giving the air of “one is not enough” and seeing potential suitors choosing to compete long term even rather than give up.
      Usually these illusions of competitiveness fade when interpersonal relations get too… deep, but some have even at that pointed, spent unhealthy amounts of time balancing, measuring, and correcting the dynamic that keeps two (or more) in check.

      This is where I see Mack sort of going, except for one big difference, instead of Mack’s partners seeing “one is not enough,” they are instead hit with Mack’s owner’s attitude of “have sex with everyone!”

      Current score: 0
  2. Nightboy says:

    Dee has a real talent for understatement.

    Its getting to the point now where I just can’t forgive Amaranth for stopping Mack from telling Sooni to fuck off. I mean holy hell, Sooni is a freakin’ BLIGHT, who refuses to learn any better.

    Any ONE of the several bullshit stunts she’s pulled would more than justify being completely cut out and ignored by Mack. All of her behavior so far added together justifies something in the realm of a demon-strength facepunch.

    But she just KEEPS. GETTING. AWAY. WITH. SHIT.

    Current score: 1
    • Arkeus says:

      Yeah, it’s getting to the point where Amaranth is the number one cause of trouble for Mack, because her desire to believe that sexual love is above anything else means she will force Mack to follow any fantasies both of Mack and other people, no matter the repercussions for anyone’s mental states.

      Amaranth is, so far, the biggest villain of the story.

      Current score: 4
      • Anthony says:

        So far, maybe. We still haven’t met the deceptively-named Mercy yet, or been introduced to The Man. But we will soon, and you’ll see. There’s some real evil out There that ends up taking a scary level of interest in Mackenzie…

        Current score: 0
  3. Arakano says:

    @Arkeus: I would say a rapist and abuser such as Puddy qualifies as more of a villain… not to mention some persons revealed as villainous later on.

    Also, Sooni seems to be simply mentally ill. Of course, nobody even considers having her examined and possibly treated for that, and if they did, they’d probably refrain from it to allow her Nekos the change of a university education…

    Current score: 1
  4. Konso says:

    @Arkeus: Have you read Amaranth’s creation story yet? She was created with an overriding impulse to love anyone, with a specific ideal of loving anyone no mater what other people thought of them. She has built in blind spots, yes, but that’s not an excuse to call her a villain.

    @Nightboy: It’s easy to criticize in hindsight, but I don’t believe there are many people in this world who would have done anything about Sooni’s actions in this situation.

    Current score: 2
    • zeel says:

      I think many readers have failed to see that Amaranth’s personality is as inherently ‘defective’ as Two’s is. Both can, with effort, overcome their issues – but just as Two will always want to do as she is told, Amaranth is incapable of interpreting the actions of others in anything but the best light.

      Dee even says this above: “You are what you are.”

      Of course , that doesn’t mean her actions might not have a negative effect on Mackenzie.

      Current score: 2
  5. Hoopla says:

    First, let it be known that every time we get a good glimps of Dee, I fall in love with her all over again. She is almost to the point of being exactly what I would want in a woman… almost, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Second, I feel that it has been obvious for quite some time to both readers and certain characters in the story that Sooni is diagnosably, mentally ill. In regards to Sooni, my perspective is between Amaranth’s and Delia Daela’s. I do feel sorry for her, and I wan’t her to get help. She is a danger primarily to herself, and it saddens me. BUT even with the mental problem,—and this I actually blame mostly on the parents that felt a need to spoil their mentally ill child (I am almost 100% sure the parents are aware of her deficiencies)—there is no excuse (besides bad parenting) for her narcisism and selfishness that is so severe it effects not only her paradigm but her ability to reason and make decisions that actually benifit herself as a person. She is damaging herself emotionally an psychologically without even realizing it.

    HOLY CRAP, I just wrote my heart out about a character that doesen’t even exist! Bravo Alexandra. Bravissimo!

    Current score: 4
  6. Jechtael says:

    This clinches it. Delia Daella D’Wyr is officially my favourite ToMU character.

    On a mostly-unrelated note: You can just SEE the wheels turning in her head regarding Dehsah and surface opinions (or the lack thereof) regarding ageplay as a source of social comfort.

    Quote: “The first chapter was a lot of bullshit metaphors comparing individual combat to armies moving on the field, and both of those to things in nature.”
    Oh, Hazel could REALLY use a copy of The Warrior’s Handbook. And maybe the Monster Manual and some kind of dungeon-creator’s guide, to more efficiently construct game settings with more verisimilitude. I DEFINITELY think that she would do well to play a version of Celia’s war games where each player focuses on controlling a single delver instead of an entire army.

    Current score: 3
  7. Anon says:

    If Dee were a couple shades less polite, there would be a great deal less drawing out of conflicts in this story. But it would be significantly less hilarious.

    Current score: 0