161: The Lunch Period

on February 20, 2008 in 06: A Period of Conflict

In Which A Mealtime Mix-Up Becomes Heated

I felt the first twinge of pain in the union, going up the stairs to the dining area. Twinge? More like stab.

“Are you okay?” Ian asked, when I stopped and nearly doubled over.

“Stomach pangs,” I said. I was guessing. It wasn’t very likely I was sick. “I’m still getting used to the whole solid food thing.”

“Do you need to lay down or something?”

“I just need some food and I’ll be okay,” I said.

“If you say so,” he said, offering me his hand.

“I do,” I said. I thought about refusing his touch, but didn’t. Why waste the opportunity because I was feeling shitty? I liked holding hands. Why did I have to be in physical pain before Ian would offer to do it? What did that say about him? About me?

About us?

We took the steps one at a time, slowly. Amaranth met us before we made it all the way up. Evidently, she’d been watching from the upper level.

“Oh, Mack, baby, are you okay?” she asked.

“She’s fine,” Ian said.

Two asked the same thing when we got to the top of the stairs, and Ian deflected it for me again. I leaned against him, drawing some comfort from the heat of his body against me. Not just comfort, either… I felt like shit, but something in me wanted to be fucked.

“So, I guess you made up your mind?” Amaranth asked Ian, with a gigantic, self-assured smile. I wanted to wipe it off her face.

“Uh, no,” Ian said. “Sorry.”

“Oh,” Amaranth said. Her smile fell, but not all the way. “Well… I hope you know you’ll be more than welcome to take advantage of Mack’s body, no matter what you ultimately decide.”

“Um… thanks?” Ian said. He gave me a look, searching for a cue, but I didn’t really have anything to say. I wanted to die and I wanted to take Ian with me, but I would have loved for him to take advantage of my body, too.

I just shrugged and he shrugged back.

“I mean, I’d love it if I could convince her to share her body with all comers, so to speak,” Amaranth went on, giggling a bit, “but I know that’s not going to happen. So, instead of dwelling on what–or who–she won’t do, I’d rather stay focused on the positive. She’s willing to put out for you, so I want you to consider her mouth and pussy yours, regardless of your actual relationship status.”

Ordinarily that kind of talk would have made me blush. I felt a little hot, but I don’t think I was actually blushing. If I hadn’t wanted Ian to be my boyfriend so badly, I probably would have been excited at the prospect of being his to use and discard casually.

Actually, I was excited by it… I was also worried, though. I wanted to be his girlfriend. I wanted to be at his disposal, but I didn’t want to be disposed of.

I didn’t think Ian would take Amaranth up on it, anyway. He’d been interested in no-strings-attached sex in the time between finding out I wasn’t human and finding out I was a person, but I didn’t think his core streak of decency would let him take advantage of me like that, outside an actual relationship.

“Um, so… we gonna get lunch?” Ian said, after several long moments of awkwardness had passed.

“We’re just waiting on Steff,” Amaranth said. She curled her upper lip back around her teeth, chewing on it.

“Is she okay?” I asked.

“Excuse me, Ian,” Amaranth said. She took my arm and drew me away from Ian. “I need to borrow my toy back for a moment.” When we were a bit away, she said quietly, “She went back to the center this morning.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“I think maybe it was just her adjustment wearing off?” Amaranth said. “But, she just started crying in the middle of her class, and then she pulled her daggers out. I heard about it from a boy I have healing arts with.”

“Um… is everything okay, guys?” Ian asked us.

I nodded to him then turned back to Amaranth. I wasn’t trying to cut him out of the loop, but Steff didn’t want her personal troubles spread around and I had to respect her privacy.

“Is she going to be in trouble?” I asked, feeling suddenly sicker than ever. Amaranth knew the rules regarding this kind of thing better than I did.

“Well, she didn’t actually attack anybody,” Amaranth said. “There might be some kind of hearing? I guess… I guess I really don’t know, baby.”

My heart sank. If there ever had been a time for Amaranth not to admit ignorance, this would have been it. I wanted to hear that everything was fine.

“Here she comes,” Two reported, looking over the railing towards the entryway below. A woman with a similar taste in clothes to Steff had just come in with the stream of lunchtime traffic.

“No,” I said, shaking my head. Steff skipped, swayed, or glided… she didn’t trudge around with her head down like a dull human. “That’s not her.”

“I think you’re mistaken,” Two said. “Hi, Steff!”

The girl looked up and waved, and I saw to my shock it was Steff.

I noticed she was wearing a pair of blue flower barrettes in her hair that she hadn’t had at breakfast. When she got up the stairs, I could see there were tiny butterflies on them. I remembered her wearing another set of butterfly hairclips before. I’d have to remember that for the future, for birthdays and stuff… it would be nice to know there was something Steff liked that didn’t involve dead body parts.

“Hey, everybody,” she said.

Two leaned forward expectantly. Her face twitched when Steff didn’t respond.

“Hugs, Steff,” she prompted. “You’re supposed to hug me.”

“Oh, sorry, pseudowench,” Steff said. She sounded tired, and leaned against Two instead of doing her usual quick, firm clench. “It’s this potion they’ve got me… well, I mean, it’s something I’m trying.”

“Now do the kisses,” Two said, turning her head, and Steff obliged her with a peck on each check. She seemed to be a bit golem-ish herself at the moment. “Good. Oh, pretty,” Two said approvingly, noticing the barrettes.

“What?” Steff said. She reached up and touched her head, feeling the hair clips. “Oh. Viktor… Viktor gave them to me.”

She said it so matter-of-factly, no sense of pleasure or pride. That struck me as so wrong. I’d become used to hearing her say Viktor’s name like he was some kind of demigod, and I knew she treasured the things he gave her.

“Steff… are you really okay?” I asked.

“Good as gold, glitterbug,” she said. Her eyes fell on Ian. “Oh. Hi.”

“Um, hi,” Ian said. “Seriously, are you okay?”

“People keep asking me that,” Steff said. “I’m fine. I don’t feel anything.”

That was it. It wasn’t that she was tired. It was like she was numb, through and through. It was disconcerting. Steff was feeling. I felt a pang of sympathy… or maybe more like a cramp or spasm of sympathy.

Ian was at my side.

“Can we go on inside?” he said. “Mackenzie’s having some kind of… uh… stomach thing.”

It wasn’t really just my stomach, though, it was more kind of… all over, really, in my lower body. The base of my spine, my thighs, and everywhere in between were all getting in on the act.

“Oh… sure,” Amaranth said. She was still looking at Steff, and nearly worrying a hole through her lip now. “You have meal points, baby?”

“Ian’s buying for me,” I said.

“Oh,” she said with a hint of smugness, a radiant smile flooding her face. It seemed that she was drawing the same conclusion from Ian’s generosity that I had. Her smugness was infectious, and I found myself smiling, too, as we went through the line for the cash register.

Of course he would stay with me. He wouldn’t have bothered to comfort me after class if he didn’t intend to. It was so obvious. He could have just left things as they were, with his last words being angry. Why would he bother making up if he planned on breaking up?

I fought back a wave of despair that seemed to come out of nowhere, riding on the certainty that he was going to dump me and I’d be completely alone… he would somehow manage to dump me so hard it would negate Amaranth and Steff. It felt like somebody was using my whole lower abdomen as a pin cushion.

“Baby!” Amaranth said, grabbing my arms like she thought I was going to fall, and I realized I’d let out a moan. “Do you need healing?”

“I’m fine,” I said. “I just need food.”

“You don’t need… your food?” she asked.

I shook my head.

“It’s only been a couple days,” I said. “My body’s just messed up today.”

She tugged at the corner of her lip.

“Okay,” she said. “But you let me know if you’re still feeling like this after you eat. We’re not taking any chances, understand?”

“I don’t think it’s that,” Ian said, and I shot him a dirty look.

Celia joined us a bit after we’d got our food and had ourselves situated at a table.

“‘sup, mammals?” she said, setting down a plate with three fried chicken drumsticks on it and a glass of milk. She seemed almost manic. I wondered if she was hasted. “Who wants to hear all about how awesome I am? Wait, wait… I’ll show you.”

She flicked her forked tongue out, hissed a few syllables over her closed fist, then opened it explosively, sending a shower of green and purple sparks arcing over the table.

“Pretty,” Two said.

“That’s very nice, Celia,” Amaranth said.

“Hairballs! That was supposed to be an animated snake,” Celia said. “I did it in class.” She repeated the gesture, and this time only produced a momentary green glow. “Damn it.” She turned her slit-pupiled eyes towards me. “I’d kill for your energy reserves, even if they came with the bad press.”

“Deal,” I said. I pushed my plate away. The few bites I’d eaten hadn’t seemed to help my pangs. In fact, I had an uncomfortably full sensation.

“Baby, are you okay?” Amaranth asked me.

“I’m just having a bad day,” I said, leaning up against her soft, comforting warmth. I mentally cursed the stupid “one person per seat” rule. All I wanted was to climb into her lap and curl up… or better still, climb beneath a blanket with her and go to sleep.

And maybe have some hot chocolate first.

“Oh, baby, is it your period?” Amaranth asked. “I wondered when that would start.”

“It’s not my period,” I said, sitting up. Suddenly Amaranth’s soft warmth was a lot less comforting.

“Not yet,” Celia said. “You’ve got less than a day to go.”

“How could you possibly know that?” I asked.

She flicked out her tongue.

“The tongue, she does not lie,” she said.

“You can not taste when somebody’s going to have their period,” I said.

“Yes I can,” Celia said. “It drove me crazy before I figured out what it was.”

“Um, when exactly did you… taste… Mackenzie?” Ian asked.

“It’s her sense of smell,” I said. “Anyway, it’s not my period, guys. I don’t have bad periods. I never have.”

“Okay, if you say so, baby,” Amaranth said, reaching across and stroking my hair with the arm I wasn’t pinning to her side.

“Don’t say it like that,” I said, jerking my head away from her touch. “I’d know if it was that. Can’t you guys usually tell?”

From all around the table came blank stares.

“Um, actually, baby, I think… you’re the only one here who has that particular, um… racial ability?” Amaranth said.

Of course. Ian was a boy. Based on her stray comments, it seemed like Celia’s lower levels were even more reptilian than her outer appearance suggested. Two was a golem. Most of her body seemed to be functional–this made for better spellcasting golems, since it let them replenish energy naturally–but nobody could make a fertile golem. Steff, of course, lacked the equipment. Amaranth’s “fertility” was of a different sort entirely.

“Man, where’s Dee when I need her?” I said, giving a feeble laugh. “I could use some solidarity here.”

“Dee celebrates menstruation and all the gifts it brings,” Two said.

“I hate you all,” I said, then buried my face against Amaranth’s shoulder. I heard the sharp intake of breath and knew I was a colossal bitch.

“I… I… I n-need…” Two sputtered. “I need clarification.”

“She didn’t mean it,” Steff said at the same time Amaranth said “She didn’t mean it, Twoey.”

“I really didn’t,” I said. “I just… I feel like crap. I don’t think I want to go to my fighting class today.”

I knew as I said it that Amaranth would never let me get away with skipping, though. Pacifist or no, she didn’t trust my ability to defend myself on my own. It had been her insistence that I take a real weapons class, and go every day.

“Oh… weeellll,” she said. “I suppose it would be okay to skip this once, if you go to the healing center and let them give you some herbs.”

“What for?” I said. “I’m not sick.”

“If you’re not sick, then it’s pretty obvious you’re having… problems,” Amaranth said.

“I don’t have that kind of ‘problem’,” I said sourly. “Other than my fucking filth-hole leaking blood and nastiness all over the place. That’s a big enough problem on its own, I think.”

“You’ve had a very stressful week,” Amaranth said. “You threw your natural feeding cycle off, and on top of that you’re using magic more heavily than you probably ever have in your life. It’s only natural that you might have some kind of reaction…”

“I eat blood!” I said. “There’s nothing natural about me!”

Ian coughed into his fist. Celia tipped her head back and pushed one of the drumsticks down her throat, big-end first.

“Baby… volume,” Amaranth said, though she sounded more hurt than reproving.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my eyes tearing up. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today.”

“Right there with you, babe,” Steff said, and sighed.

“Is there anything I can get you?” Amaranth asked, putting her arm around me. I started to throw it off, then stopped. Something popped into my head, something I’d thought of earlier.

“Hot chocolate,” I said.

“What, baby?” Amaranth asked.

“I haven’t had it since I was little,” I said. “When the weather got cold… I hate the cold, but I loved hot chocolate.”

“I don’t think they have hot chocolate,” Amaranth said. “There’s chocolate milk.”

“They, um, put hot chocolate packets out with the instant oat meal and tea and stuff at breakfast,” Ian said. “They usually run out pretty fast, but I could go see if there’s some left.”

I turned my face to him with an insanely pathetic amount of gratitude.

“Could you, please?”

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

I watched him head over to the coffee counter. There were big bins of different packets that I’d never paid a lot of attention to. From where we were sitting, they looked pretty picked clean. I saw right away that the one he checked was empty. He went through the others anyway, but came back empty-handed.

“Sorry,” he said. “I could ask somebody at the counter if they can open up the cabinet…”

“I… I think I can make hot chocolate,” Two said, uncertainty painted across her face. It vanished and she stood up. “I’ll be right back.”

She got up and hurried away before I could say anything. I watched her get a glass. She took it over to the dessert island, where she spooned chocolate syrup into it, then went back to the beverage area, where she filled it with milk.

She brought it back to the table, a glass of milk with a thick gooey mass of dark sludge in the bottom.

“That’s not hot chocolate,” I said, wondering what she was thinking. “That’s chocolate milk.” I hated the edge in my voice. Two didn’t deserve it at all. I gave her some more of it. “And actually, it’s chocolate and milk.”

Two wasn’t listening, though. She was staring at the glass, frowning and wrinkling her brow in concentration. Her eyes were flicking around like they did when she was puzzling over something, and her lips were moving like she was memorizing lines.

The liquid in the glass began to swirl, the white milk changing color as the chocolate dissolved in it. Then the whirlpool stopped, the surface frothed and bubbled just a bit, and a little steam rose off it, carrying with it the scent of cocoa.

“There!” Two said proudly. She let out a big breath and wobbled a bit in her seat. “That was harder than I expected it would be. Here you go, Mack,” she said, lifting up the glass and setting it down closer to me. “Hot chocolate.”

I looked at the glass, then looked up at Two, looking at me with her big, pale blue eyes.

I started crying again.

“If she doesn’t want it, I’ll drink it,” Celia said.

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7 Responses to “161: The Lunch Period”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Okay, everybody at the table sympathize with the little demon girl bleeding out of her twat. Sounds like she caught the wrong end of half human.

    Oh I just remembered a routine my wife and I would do at gatherings when someone wanted to discuss that awful book, women from venus men from mars.

    she would complain:”I used to think men could try to be sensible but they are all lunatics!”

    i would reply: “No way! Women are from Luna. Men are from Uranus.”

    her reply:”Listen asshole, we women may be lunatics a few days a month but you men are assholes every day!”

    Current score: 12
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    Oh, Pedestrian. Your comments leave me feeling dazed, confused and laughing all the same.

    Current score: 4
  3. Hoopla says:

    ‘“I… I… I n-need…” Two sputtered. “I need clarification.”’
    This line broke my heart into a million pieces. Two is such a great and reliable girl. If I ever have a daughter, I wan’t her to be like Two… in only the good ways of course.

    Current score: 10
  4. Jechtael says:

    I’m fairly certain Mackenzie doesn’t just send food nowhere like Amaranth does. I have a strong suspicion that good old Brimstone denying her food as of the “coming into her nature” meant she stopped defecating because there was no reason, not because demons never defecate.

    Current score: 6
    • Kanta says:

      If you’re saying that this feeling is her needing to poop, then I agree completely, but I guess we’ll find out.

      Current score: 1