175: Dinner Date

on March 12, 2008 in 06: A Period of Conflict

In Which Mackenzie Can Check Out Any Time She Wants

I ended up spending most of the rest of the day asleep. Hey, I was stuck in bed… what else was I going to do? It wasn’t any sort of solid, satisfying slumber, though. It was more a matter of drifting in and out of a state of semi-consciousness, with confused half dreams of me lying in bed but being unable to move or in some cases open my eyes.

The healing center could get to be a busy place in the afternoon, and little sounds from the hallway outside the room kept intruding into my consciousness. I couldn’t believe that being trapped in such an uncomfortable place was actually more conducive to my rest than being cozily ensconced in my own warm, relatively quiet dorm room would have been. Did Lynette think I was going to start chaining fireballs together as soon as I was out of her sight?

I brought this up to her when she checked in on me around four and reported my energy recovery was “disappointing”.

“At least here I know you’re recovering at all,” she said. “Have some more tea and we’ll get you out of here yet.”

“What exactly is my energy level at right now?” I asked. “Fifty percent? Sixty percent?”

She rolled her eyes.

“Enchantment major, right?” she asked.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It’s always the enchantment majors who think in those terms, like the hum… like one’s body is a magic wand with so many charges built into it,” she said.

“But there is some amount of energy,” I said. “And you can obviously measure it.”

“I can estimate it,” she said. “I’m not a diviner. I can get a very general sense of your well-being… not as much as I could get if I could use my gifts on you directly.”

“So what’s your general sense of my well-being tell you?”

“That you’re getting better but not as fast as I’d like,” she said.

“So send me home,” I said. “Cut me loose. I swear I’ll just go back to my dorm room and sleep all day.”

“And then stay up all night,” Lynette said. “At least here I can give you a sleeping potion.”

“I’ll take one with me,” I said.

She shook her head.

“Those don’t leave the center under any circumstances,” she said.

“Let me leave and come back, then,” I said.

“Look, if we let you go and you end up seriously hurt then we’re in a lot of trouble,” Lynette said.

“What if I die under your care?” I asked. “How would that look?”

“Didn’t your girlfriend make you promise to behave or something?”

I blushed.

“She’s not exactly my girlfriend.”

“Whatever,” Lynette said. “Anyway, threatening to die isn’t going to work. If I truly believed you were a danger to yourself, I’d have you asleep so fast your head would spin.”

“Okay, but if you had to estimate what my energy level is, what would you guess?”

“What do you want me to say?” Lynette said. “It’s bigger than a bread box? It’s over nine thousand?”

“Just as an approximate percent of what it should be,” I said. “So I know how much further I have to go.”

“Well, this is just a very rough guess, but I’d say you’re in the neighborhood of eighty percent,” Lynette said.

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I said.

“Anything below ninety percent is terrible,” she said. “Most routine magic use won’t cause you to dip below ninety-five, though a lot of students manage to work their way lower. Most of the time, though, you’re actually using a small portion of your own energy to start a reaction.”

“Okay, I guess I kind of knew that,” I said. “But I just assumed if I was in such bad shape, I must have been close to zero, and anything that much over fifty percent would mean I was good to go.”

“Look at it this way,” Lynette said. “You’re missing something like twenty percent of your body’s vital essence. Do you think a responsible healer would let you leave in that condition?”

“No, ma’am,” I said.

“Good,” she said. “So that’s the end of that argument. Your friends are bringing your supper?”

“Yeah,” I said. “If that’s okay.”

“One less thing for us to worry about,” she said. “Just make sure they don’t tire you out.” I blushed. “You have a filthy mind, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised… er, because you hang out with Steff, I mean. I should get back out front. Don’t forget to finish that tea.”

“Right,” I said.

It seemed like Lynette was determined to treat me like any other patient, but she couldn’t quite forget what I was. Oh, well. It was probably safer for all involved that way.

Amaranth, Steff, and Dee arrived at half past five.

“Where’s Two and Ian?” I asked.

“The pseudowench is helping H.F.H. bring the food,” Steff said.

“H. what?”

“Her Friend Hazel,” Steff explained. “They cooked up a storm. Chicken soup, fresh rolls from scratch.”

“Ian said he had to run a few errands,” Amaranth said.

“I have been gathering nuts and mushrooms in the forest at night,” Dee said, holding up a large clay bowl. “They should provide adequate sustenance for those who do not ingest meat or grains.”

“That’s very thoughtful, Dee,” Amaranth said.

“Is Celia coming, too?” I asked.

“I’m afraid not,” Amaranth said.

“She said ‘people like us go into healing centers and never come out’,” Steff said, rolling her eyes.

“She’s right,” I said. “I’m living proof.”

“Oh, baby, don’t exaggerate,” Amaranth said. “It’s only been one day. Is Lynette letting you come home tonight?”

“Don’t know for sure yet,” I said. “She’s having a diviner come by to check me out later, but I’d say probably not. If she thought I was doing well enough to leave, she’d probably have got me out of here before dinner time.”

Sooni showed up shortly after Hazel and Two had arrived and started apportioning food. She was dressed in a black and red sort of robe/dress with an even higher hemline on the bottom than most of her skirts, and she’d somehow added red highlights to her long looped braids. She carried a woven bamboo basket. My first thought was that she’d decided to join the party after all, but she apparently had other ideas.

“What is going on?” she shrieked, her shiny black eyes flashing around the room.

“We’re having another picnic,” Amaranth said. “Didn’t Mack tell you?”

“You promised me we could have dinner together!” Sooni said to me. “Just the two of us!”

“Aren’t you a fast worker?” Hazel said to me.

“Sooni, I told you not tonight,” I said. “Weren’t you listening?”

“I listened when you promised. I told you I would be back tonight,” Sooni countered. “Weren’t you listening to me?”

“Sooni, I promised you some night next week,” I said.

“Well, I did not hear that,” Sooni said. “You should learn how to speak more carefully in the future!”

“Sooni, I promise you I was very specific.”

“I just bet that you do, since your promises do not appear to mean anything!”

I sighed.

“Name any day next week,” I said. “Write it down. In the mean time, if you want to join everybody else…”

“I did not bring enough food for everybody,” Sooni said. She sounded flustered, and even blushed slightly as she admitted this. “If I had known… if you had told me…”

“I did,” I said.

“If you had told me better,” Sooni said. She held her basket up in front of her like a shield. “I will go now, but do not forget your promise again. Everybody heard it this time.”

“Pick a day,” I said again. “Write it down and give it to me, so there’s no confusion.”

“Any day?” Sooni asked.

“Any day,” I said.

“Next Friday, then,” she said. “We can go to a nice restaurant in Enwich.”

“I didn’t really mean…”

You promised!” Sooni shrieked, giving a little hop and stomping her sandal down so hard one of her piles of braids started to unwind. “You are a liar and a cheat and a horrible person and that’s why you are going to lose tomorrow!”

Hazel exchanged a knowing look with Two… or rather, she gave Two a knowing look and then turned and gave it to Steff instead.

“Sooni, please calm down,” Amaranth said. “Mack didn’t mean anything…”

“She never means anything she says, apparently!” Sooni yelled. A pair of male healers appeared in the door.

“Sooni, we’ll do whatever you want,” I whispered fiercely as they entered. “Just calm the fuck down before you get everybody kicked out, okay?”

“Do… do you mean it this time?” Sooni asked, in a much quieter tone.

“Anything reasonable, subject to my approval as owner,” Amaranth said.

“Yeah, okay,” I said, grateful for the caveats. In my desperation to get the situation under control, I hadn’t thought to add any. “What Amaranth said.”

“Okay, but do not try to weasel out of it.”

“What’s going on in here?” one of the healers asked.

“Some of us just got a little overly excited,” Hazel said. “Nothing big.”

He looked around the room doubtfully.

“Lynette says you’re supposed to keep calm and rest,” he said.

“I am,” I said.

He cocked an eyebrow at me and then looked at his coworker for support.

“Well, just try to keep things down in here from now on,” the other healer said. “And remember everybody needs to clear out of here by eight.”

With that, they left us alone.

“So, Sooni, would you like to stay for soup?” Amaranth asked.

“I was not prepared for such a large group,” Sooni said, recovering some composure and haughtiness. “I will go, but I will hold you to your promise, Miss Mackenzie.” She gave a stiff, shallow bow. “All of your promises.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked, but she was already heading for the door and did not stop to answer. “All what promises?”

“Now, what exactly was all that about?” Hazel asked. “The last time I saw that vixen, she was stomping you into paste, wasn’t she?”

“Sooni is sort of… complex,” Amaranth said.

“What’s complex about it?” Steff asked. “She wants to bang Mack, obviously.”

“What?” I asked. “That’s insane. She hates lesbians more than just about anything.”

“Insane’s the word for it,” Steff said. “The sort of comics she reads, girls don’t have to be lesbians to wind up in bed with each other. Anyway, haven’t you ever heard that the most homophobic people are the ones who are afraid of being gay themselves?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “I think it’s probably remotely possible for somebody to hate gays because they hate gays. Anyway, Amaranth would know, right?” I looked to Amaranth for support. “You could see right away if she was into girls, or me.”

“Well… um…” Amaranth said, blushing.

“What?” I asked. “She isn’t, is she?”

“I can’t exactly get a feel for her,” Amaranth said. “Like I said, she’s complex. And I think her sense of sex is very underdeveloped. I get the feeling that she might fantasize about dating and marriage and things like that, but… any actual sex in her mind is very abstract and nebulous.” She shrugged. “I wish I could tell you, baby, especially since I know you want her so badly.”

“I do not!” I said, at the same time Two said, “She does not!”

“I see what I see,” Amaranth said, shrugging.

“In the nymph’s defense, you were coming pretty hard when she kicked you in the head,” Hazel said.

“What I would have given to see that,” Steff said. She sighed. I could be wrong, but I think she might have been imagining herself in Sooni’s position.

“Let’s wait until Mack’s out of the healing center before we start thinking of that kind of thing,” Amaranth said.

“And let us further wait until the telepaths are out of mindshot,” Dee added.

“Sorry,” Steff said, making a heroic effort at seeming embarrassed. “Mack inspires a vivid imagination in me. I’ve got a notebook full of… well, never mind.”

“Notebook full of what?” Ian asked from the door.

“Sonnets,” Steff said. “Sappy elven poetry.”

Somehow, I don’t think she was being completely honest.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said. He looked nervous about something, and he was trying to keep something off his face. “I had to take care of something.”

“Everything okay?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said. “Only…”

“Only what?”

“Only I’m in a band,” he said, breaking out into a smile. “There was an ad on the bulletin board for a lute player… I didn’t want to mention it before, in case I jinxed myself or something, but I just finished my audition, and they said I’m in.”

“Rock!” Steff said. “At least, I assume rock.”

“Rock,” Ian said. “They’ve got kind of a… well, their sound is… well, actually they don’t have much of a sound yet because it’s a new band but everybody seems to know how to play. We just have to play together a bit to find out what kind of band we’re going to have.”

“That’s cool,” I said. It sounded underwhelming and lame, but it was cool. Any question that Ian was just a dork with a lute had been settled after I’d heard him play for real.

Now it was official, though. He was in a band.

He was the center of attention for the rest of the meal, happily trumping all talk of Sooni and her weirdness, or our supposed mutual crushes.

Everybody left well before the appointed hour, in order to not walk back to the dorms in total darkness. The scuttlebutt was that the campus had been heating up at night, but I wasn’t worried for anybody’s safety, with Steff and particularly Dee along for the walk.

Dee might have been a little overly quick to remind people just how dangerous and unforgiving her homeland was, but she did have a point. Only the very strong and the very skilled could survive for long in the subterranean depths.

Lynette brought a divination professor in for a consultation at around seven-thirty. I tried not to roll my eyes when she predictably declared my aura was dangerously dim and predicted another night of total rest would restore it.

“Can I get that in writing?” I asked.

“Divination is not a precise art,” she said. “But if our head healer does not declare you fit for duty tomorrow morning, I’ll serve you breakfast in bed myself.”

“You don’t know what you’re getting into there, Genevieve,” Lynette said. “She’s a real bitch in the mornings.”

“Hey!” I said.

Lynette shrugged.

“What?” she said.

“You shouldn’t talk about patients like that,” I said.

“I’m off duty,” she said. “And you earned it.”

I didn’t really have an answer for that.

“Anyway, here’s your potion for the night,” she said, putting a vial on the table. “I recommend you take it sometime before ten, if you want to get out of here bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, like your excitable friend.”

“She’s not exactly my friend,” I said. “Anyway, my first class is at ten fifteen. Can you make sure I’m awake in time to get to it?”

“I’ll have somebody wake you up, if it comes to that,” she said. “But if you don’t wait too long to take the potion, it shouldn’t be an issue.”

“Is Candace really going to be here alone all night?” I asked.

“She’s not going to bother you,” Lynette said. “I’ve spoken to her. Multiple times. She’s more afraid of you than you are of her.”

“People who are afraid of me can do a lot of damage,” I said.

“I’ll talk to her again before I leave,” Lynette said.

Somehow, I didn’t find that wholly reassuring.

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10 Responses to “175: Dinner Date”

  1. Kevin says:

    I didn’t realize it the first time I read this chapter but Lynette made a Dragonball Z quote when talking about power levels “It’s over nine thousand” I got a kick out of that.

    Current score: 0
    • BMeph says:

      Then shame on you. “Over nine thousand” is as popular an Internet Meme as any of Suzi’s lolcat quote.
      …You _do_ know that Suzi almost exclusively speaks lolcat Pax, right? 😉

      Current score: 0
  2. karasu says:

    Oh, there are so many allusions to internet memes and other works all throughout the story… There was “The cake is a lie” in history class, “partialtongue” in the last bonus story, … And, of course, “I can haz cheezburger?” ^^

    Current score: 2
    • HollowGolem says:

      And, I think on a more constructive note, I like the way the author puts them in. Not the fact that she does, but -how- she does.

      They are done in such a way as to not really break the flow of the narrative, so that someone who does not understand the meme would not be thrown off. So many nuggets for intended audiences end up alienating peripheral readers, but not ones in prose this well-planned.

      Current score: 4
      • zeel says:

        Very true, she works them into the dialogue in such a natural fashion that you don’t always even catch them the first time. I know I first read this before ever playing Portal, and the cake thing seemed like a perfectly reasonable analogy at the time. Now it’s extra perfect since I know the reference.

        Current score: 0
  3. pedestrian says:

    My favorite phrases are:

    “to know the unknowable, to tange the intangible,
    to eff the ineffable.”

    “You are such a hypocrite! You would have sex with anyone who is willing. And the rest of you aren’t even that picky!”

    Current score: 3
  4. fragzilla says:

    row row scrye the power! … level… of your patient.

    Current score: 1
  5. Grant says:

    It’s fun seeing all the sprinkled internet memes in here, but I immediately came down to comment after reading the Subtitle.
    “In Which Mackenzie Can Check Out Any Time She Wants”, being a song lyric which is followed up by “but you can never leave”.

    Haha, man I should be working on a project but I can’t stop reading. Oh dear.

    Current score: 0
  6. Anon says:

    “Those don’t leave the center under any circumstances”

    The potions which will instantly put somebody to sleep for a full eight hours and prevent waking from anything other than a kiss? It is a very good thing people are not allowed to leave with those. Just imagine Puddy with one. Or Greg.

    Current score: 3
  7. Jechtael says:

    Ian! Play Wall of Wonder!

    Current score: 2