42: Let Her Cry

on July 31, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Stuff Happens

“Hi, Mack,” Two said as I passed her on my way to the table at lunch. The golem girl was evidently headed back up for seconds of something.

“Hi,” I responded without thinking, then felt foolish. She hadn’t really meant the greeting. It was just a stupid thing Amaranth did. She could tell Two to say “hi” all she wanted, but it didn’t actually mean anything. We could hope that one day Two might be enough of a person that she’d think to greet people on her own, but this was just silly. I firmly made up my mind to think about saying something to Amaranth about it, if the subject came up in a natural way.

Amaranth had half a salad in front of her, but she still swung out an arm and scooped me up onto her lap when I tried to take the chair beside her. I took my place without complaint, though the feeling of warm and security she gave me was now tinged with a bit of heat and excitement… she’d become somehow less secure, but every bit as safe, if that made any sense. Steff was on the bench, directly across from us. Nobody else was there.

“Did you have a good class this morning?” Amaranth asked me.

“Yeah,” I said, and honestly, I had. After I’d got Ian to stop pestering me, I’d managed to clear my mind, and with a few nudges from Professor Bohd, I felt like I’d made some headway. I’d felt something… recoil… when I turned my mind towards the dirt, both within me and within it. I figured that had to be the element of water responding to my fire, and vice versa. “So, um, did you guys know anything about a dance this Saturday?”

“Um… I think I heard something about it, yeah,” Steff said.

“The guys in Pelinor were talking about it,” Amaranth said. “Actually, I got about a dozen invitations… I had to decline, of course. The weekend’s when I have to make up for all the sex I don’t have during the week. Spending the evening in the company of a single boy, and in public, would just be horribly irresponsible.”

“I think you should go to the dance anyway,” Steff said. “Do your ‘work’ out on the floor… you could start a whole new dance craze.”

Amaranth appeared to turn this idea over in her head before answering.

“Uh… I think probably no,” she said. “The nymph decency laws exist to protect my kind when we interact directly with the larger human society… without them, I couldn’t be going to school here, so I don’t want to push things too far, too often. Though… hmm. Maybe, as a public service, I could offer blowjobs to guys going in? You know, so they don’t get erections while dancing to the slow songs? As I understand it, many human women would be affronted by that, somehow.”

“Um… don’t you think those same women might have something to say about you going down on their boyfriends?” I asked.

“Oh, yeah, right… monogamy!” Amaranth said. “I always forget about that. Not that there’s not any back home, but it was always understood that what happened with a nymph was different… and a lot of the women were happy that I was there to do the things they didn’t want to.”

“You should scribe out some pamphlets, helpfully explaining that to the outraged girlfriends,” Steff said gleefully. “And then you could set up a tent or a booth or something.”

“Oh, that’s a good idea, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to do all that before Saturday,” Amaranth said, a little wistfully. “I wonder if Barley would…” She stopped suddenly, a look of pain in her eyes. “Oh, right. Um… has anybody… talked to her… lately?”

“Um… not since she crashed in my room,” Steff said. “I haven’t even really seen her around, since then.”

Two returned to the table with a piece of chicken and a bowl of banana pudding. I wondered again if it might not be a good thing that food was becoming the center of her independent life… but was anything really bad if it led her to developing a stronger personality, with likes other than “to obey”? I didn’t honestly know, and the ethernet hadn’t been a huge help in that department.

“Hello, Two,” Amaranth said. “Welcome back. Um… when somebody tells you something like ‘welcome back’, thank them. Welcome back!”

“Thank you,” Two said, automatically.

“Hey… do you think we should change her name?” Amaranth asked.

“What do you mean, change her name?” I asked.

“Well, ‘Two’ is what her creator called her, but it isn’t much of a name,” Amaranth said. “It’s kind of impersonal. I think we should change it.”

“She isn’t a pet!” I said, horrified. My reaction was probably a little overblown, but I was thinking of Sooni and her “Baby Kai-Kai.”

“Well, it was just an idea,” Amaranth said. She sounded hurt. I wasn’t sure what to say. I tried pressing myself in closer to her, but she shifted me onto her leg so she could pick up her fork and eat some more of her salad. Steff gave a little cough. I honestly think the meal might have finished in silence, except that Mariel and Puddy arrived.

“Hey, everyone!” Mariel said. The cheeriness in her voice sounded forced. When she climbed into the seat on the other side of Amaranth and me, I caught a glimpse of the skin around her eyes seeming to shimmer a bit, briefly revealing an ugly dark patch… bags under her eyes, or something else? I figured at the very least she had to be tired, for her glamour to be slipping.

Puddy slid onto the bench across from her, right next to Steff.

“C’mere, Mack,” she said.

I clung uncertainly to Amaranth for a moment, before she said, “Oh, don’t be silly,” and pushed me off her lap, giving me a little swat on the rear. “You know I don’t mind sharing, you little goof.”

“That’s my girl,” Puddy said, taking me onto her lap. I could tell by her breath that she’d been drinking heavily, even before she crossed her arms around me and started groping at my chest with both hands.

“So… um… we were just talking about Amaranth’s new social service organization,” Steff said. “She’s going to be offering libido relief to all comers, so to speak, outside the dance.”

“What dance?” Puddy asked.

“This thing on Saturday,” Steff said. “Mack was telling us about it.”

“I wouldn’t think a dance would be your scene,” Puddy said.

“Uh, yeah… normally,” I said. “But… this guy in my class kind of… asked me to it.”

Steff gave a little squeal.

“Really?” Amaranth asked. “That’s great.”

“Ha,” Puddy said. “That is great… I would have loved to see his face when you told him no.” Her hands, which had been kneading and caressing, froze in place. “You did tell him no, right?”

“I think she should go with him,” Amaranth said, with a little giggle. “Nothing’ll come of it, of course, but it’ll be good for her to expand her horizons a bit.”

“No fuckin’ way,” Puddy said. “Everybody knows Mack’s my bitch, so if she goes with somebody else, how’s that going to make me look?”

Across the table, Mariel bit her lip. She clearly wanted to say something, but thought better of it.

“You know, I’ve got a rule about sticking my nose into somebody else’s scene,” Steff said, getting to her feet. “But, Mack, if you ever wanna talk… about, you know, stuff… Amaranth knows where my room is.”

“Bye, hon,” Amaranth said. “We’ll see you tonight, okay? Anyway… come on, Puddy,” Amaranth said gently. “You do have more than one woman at your disposal. If you go with Mariel, nobody’ll think twice about why Mack’s not with you.”

“Maybe I don’t want to go to the stupid thing at all,” Puddy said. I would have said she sounded childish and petulant, except that her arms had got scary-tight around me, and she squeezed my breasts so hard I almost cried out in pain. “It’s the principle… she should have checked with me first, she should have thought about how this would affect me.” With each time she said “me”, she pulled me closer… it felt like my ribs cracked. I knew that they didn’t, but it still felt like they did. I whimpered a little, but I don’t think she heard it.

Amaranth mouthed the words “Are you okay?” to me. No matter how strong she was, Puddy could squeeze and squeeze and squeeze without doing any real harm… as long as I got to breathe every once in a while… so I gave a nod, but I tried to keep it small and discreet. For some reason, I was hoping Puddy hadn’t seen her asking, and I didn’t want to call her attention to what had happened.

“Puddy,” Amaranth said softly, “you know, one of the many reasons I love you is that you care so deeply about Mack… but I think maybe you’re a little bit insecure about…”

“What the fuck have I got to be insecure about?” Puddy asked.

“Absolutely nothing!” Amaranth said brightly. “Mack clearly loves you. She won’t let me anywhere near her pussy, for instance, but she didn’t complain when you fingered her.”

“That’s because she knows who’s in charge,” Puddy said. Her hand found my crotch, as if reminded of its existence by Amaranth’s words, and began pressing hard against the material of my jeans. I tried to shut down my mind, like I had before, with Barley. I tried to pretend like the conversation going on around me was something I was just overhearing; it had nothing to do with me. “She knows that I’m the big dog… and she’s my little bitch.”

I couldn’t help it; I whimpered, too loudly for anybody not to hear.

“Puddy,” Amaranth said, sweetly but firmly. “I know that Mack loves your attention, but I think maybe you’re scaring her a little.”

“I’ll scare anybody I want to, you nearsighted cum dumpster,” Puddy said.

“I’m going to try not to take offense at that crack about my eyes, because I know you’ve been drinking,” Amaranth said tersely. “I love the fact that you embrace your dwarven heritage, but don’t you think maybe you should find ways to celebrate it besides drinking so much?”

“What the fuck are you now, my mother?” Puddy asked. “That dumb bitch wouldn’t let me have more than two bottles a day, even after I turned sixteen.”

“Puddy, I’m not your mother but I am your friend,” Amaranth said. “And, as your friend…”

“As my friend, you can get the fuck off my back,” Puddy retorted.

“Um… Puddy?” Mariel said, her voice trembling.

“What?” was Puddy’s actual reply, though that single syllable managed to sound an awful lot like “Please consider very carefully the next words that you say.”

“I want you, even if Mack doesn’t,” Mariel said quickly, running the words together in her squeaky little voice.

“Oh, that is just fucking it,” Puddy said. She shoved me up and forward off her lap, slamming me into the edge of the table. Amaranth and Mariel scrambled back out of the way as it toppled over. Two was a little slower, and ended up on her ass, with the bowl of pudding spilled on her lap. The table ended up completely upside-down, with me between its legs. “I don’t need sympathy from a fucking sylph! I don’t need any of this!”

The dining hall manager moved to intercept Puddy as she stormed out, but she just yelled, “I’m fucking going already!” and stomped past him. He looked over in our direction like he wanted to do or say something, then turned and went back towards the staff door without a word.

I hadn’t noticed how or when, but Amaranth was already down with her arms around me, holding me close against her chest. She looked up at Mariel, and said, “Are you…”

“Don’t… don’t… even talk to me,” the sylph squeaked, and streaked off so fast it was like she had teleported. Amaranth made a hurt sound, but she was already turning to check on Two, who was making a little noise like a strangled scream in the back of her throat.

“Are you okay, Two, honey?” Amaranth asked her, still hugging me tightly.

“I… I need clarification!” Two said. She was sitting up and staring down at the ruins of her meal. Her eyes were big and almost luminously bright, shining with held-back tears. “Does it… does it still count as dessert if… if…”

“Oh, Two, honey, do you want to cry?” Amaranth said. Her impulse was still to be sympathetic rather than direct… she still hadn’t caught on that asking Two what she wanted was a bad idea.

“I want to do what I’m told,” Two said. “I want to do what I’m told… I want to do what I’m told.”

“No, see, it’s okay to cry, it really is!” Amaranth said. “Everybody does it, sometimes…”

“Two,” I said. My voice sounded hoarse, even though I hadn’t said anything since… well, almost since Puddy had shown up. “Cry. When you’re sad, when you need to… cry.”

It was like the words opened up a doorway. I hadn’t seen Two cry in the days since the semester had started, though she often looked like she wanted–or needed–to. Of course, she wouldn’t actually cry, without a clear order to… and now that she had one, she threw back her head and she wailed… she bawled… she poured forth what must have been a lifetime of hurt and neglect into a single continuous stream of sound and tears, only interrupted by great sobbing gasps for air.

“Oh, Two, honey!” Amaranth said despairingly, turning from me and reaching out towards Two. “Please… don’t…”

“No!” I said. “Let her… just let her cry.”

Amaranth turned back to face me.

“But, Mack…” she started to say, but she stopped when she saw the tears running down my own face. The look on my face seemed to break her heart, which made the look on hers break mine, and then I just broke down completely. She drew both me and Two in close to her and held the sobbing pair of us, until the dining hall manager finally returned with a trio of very awkward and uncomfortable looking guards and asked us to leave.

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3 Responses to “42: Let Her Cry”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Damnit! It’s their party and they’ll cry if they want to.

    Current score: 3
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    I think steff caught on to what was happening, and even Amaranth did a little. I think Puddy’s really starting to become an antagonist. Hell, Barley was the first one to really notice and say something, but that got attributed to “drunk n’ rapey”.

    I hope, and I don’t know why, but I really hope that Mack eventually explains to Amaranth that she lets Puddy do what she does out of fear, but doesn’t let Amaranth do what she wants out of love.

    Current score: 6
  3. Ryzndmon says:

    @Psi-ko: Actually, the dark elf Dee was the first to make comments about it (her hearing), then Cecilia was able to smell Mack’s discomfort and called the whole group on their obliviousness. And was told off for her efforts.

    Amaranth, sadly, is at this point incapable of understanding non-consent, or that not all love is healthy. Though it can be very reasonably argued that Puddy’s possessiveness is only tangentially akin to love.

    In a very real way, Mack and Two are the same. Neither one has had anything like a real life. Two is only more obvious about it, and therefore often protected more than Mack. If Puddy, or anyone, had treated Two the way Mack has been treated since the beginning of the story, they would have been dropped into the nearest Hellmouth (after being forced to watch all the episodes of Science Princess, dressed as Kai-Kai, while recieving Sooni’s undivided attention).

    Current score: 11