Chemistry

The following was written for @a_pointe as a raffle prize, based on his character Mordai. If you’d like me to write a story for you, you can find info about how to commission me here!


“Would you like more water, sir?” There is a hint of contempt in the waitress’s voice, and it is far from unearned. “Ahem,” I cleared my throat to cover the sound of my stomach growling. “No thank you. Although if you could bring my check, I’d appreciate it.” The joke was that there was no check, because I’d just been drinking water for the past three hours. She didn’t laugh. “We close in ten minutes, but you’re welcome to leave before then,” she said. Oof. No ordinary man could recover from such disdain, but I was no ordinary man. “If ten more minutes I can stay, then ten more minutes I shall,” I said, “Would that I could bask in your splendor forevermore, but alas, I have no recourse but to give the next ten minutes the weight of an eternity in my heart.” The scowl on her face was broken by a smile for only the briefest of moment. It seemed that no extraordinary man could recover from such disdain, either. She left without saying another word.

The bartender caught my eye as I desperately glanced around the bar to find a last-minute mark. He had the look of one who is well versed in many areas of study which aren’t fashion; his clothes were nearly offensively drab, save for a single earring in the shape of some magical or alchemical symbol hanging from his pointy ears. He had the thick glasses, pasty complexion, and doughy physique of a scholar locked away in an ivory tower. My tiefling eyes allowed me to get a good look at him without squinting through the dim light, but they also ensured a glance from me drew as much suspicion as a stare from a human. Luckily, a glance told me all I needed to know: he was cute, and I was hungry, somewhat metaphorically, and very much literally. I snuck into the bathroom and waited until he began closing up shop to make my move.

 

“Boy, are you a mimic?” I asked, “Because you look like a treasure to me.” “Huh?” he looked around in confusion. “Are you talking to me?” “I don’t see anyone else,” I said, “And I’ve only ever seen someone as good-looking in the mirror. What’s your name?” “I-I’m an elf,” he said, blushing and adjusting his glasses as if he could hide his entire face behind them. “’I. Iman Elf’, you say? I suppose it’s only fitting that a unique beauty should have a unique name,” I said, flirtatiously. “N-no, sorry, I’m saying I’m not a mimic. I’m an elf. My name is Rofaren.” “Of course, of course, I’m only teasing you,” I said, “I didn’t think it possible, but you’re even more cute when you’re flustered. “Oh, uh, thanks, I guess?” he said, picking up a glass and idly cleaning it so he’d have an excuse to avoid eye contact, “We’re actually closed, so I can’t serve you.” “Oh, but you’ve already served me something far more delicious than any food or drink,” I said. He began blushing furiously. Well, even more furiously. “W-what’s that supposed to- oh, I get it. You’re Mordai, aren’t you?” he asked. “I see my reputation precedes me,” I said, “No wonder you seem so intimidated. But don’t worry, I don’t bite. Not unless you ask me very nicely.” I winked. It was a bold move. Perhaps too bold, but I had a reputation to maintain. He was so taken aback by my comment that he dropped the glass. I darted my hand for it and managed to catch it before it hit the ground. “That was close,” I said, my voice charged with sexual energy, “You’re lucky I’m so good with my hands.” That one didn’t even need a wink. “I won’t let myself be swayed by your ‘clever’ wordplay, so you can just drop the act already,” he said. “What act?” I asked, very much keeping the act up. “I know who you are, and I know what you do!” he said, trying to hide his bashfulness behind anger, “We’ve all heard about you, how you flirt with girls to try to charm them into giving you free food.” “Well, if that’s what you’ve heard, then I’m afraid you’ve heard lies,” I said, “First of all, Mordai does not ‘try’ to charm, he succeeds. Second of all, I flirt for their sake more than my own. Every day they are forced to toil in the service of thankless drunkards, louts, and perverts, and I wish only to offer them reprieve. Everyone wishes to feel that they are beautiful and wonderful and desired, especially by a man as devilishly handsome as myself, and I wish to fulfil their wishes. My sole selfish desire is that I may see the fruits of my labor, the smiles that I bring. Not the ugly, empty smiles their boss demands of them because it’s good for business, but true joy, the kind which can make a mere beauty gorgeous enough to rival even you. That smile is all the payment I ask of them. The free food, they give me of their own volition.”

“Wow,” he said, “I can see why they fall for you. That would be really sweet, if any of it were true.” “It’s all true! Were I as selfish as you suggest, I would’ve robbed you by now,” I said, dishonestly suggesting that I was above robbery. “It’s a lot harder to rob a place you’ve already robbed than charm someone you’ve already charmed,” he said, “You’re just doing what’ll benefit you most in the long term.” “Hah,” I laughed, “You’re pretty clever. I like that.” “I’m glad someone thinks so,” he said, more to himself than me. “Who doesn’t?” I asked, “Should I have a word with them? Or perhaps a blade?” “Huh?” he seemed panicked by my threat, “N-no, nothing like that! Just, forget it, it’s a long story.” “I have all the time in the world, darling,” I lied. “Yeah, well, I don’t.” He said, “I was supposed to have already locked up by now, so if anything, I have less than no time.” “Who cares?” I asked, “That’s what your boss wants you to do. What do you want to do?” “I… I want to be an alchemist.” He said, quietly “OK, good, we’re getting somewhere,” I said, “Why are you a bartender, then?” “I failed the alchemist academy entrance exam,” he said, “And as far as it is from being an alchemist, it’s the closest job I could find.” “So they’re the ones who think you aren’t clever?” I asked. “Yes. But I am!” He said, sounding rather desperate for me to believe him. “I believe you,” I said, “But why didn’t they?” “Because they mistake obedience and rote memorization for cleverness!” he said, with more anger than I’d imagined him capable of, “Alchemy isn’t about memorizing recipes for potions and bombs that some ancient greybeard wizard came up with a thousand years ago! If it were, anyone with a textbook would be an alchemist!” “Then what’s alchemy about to you?” I asked. “It’s about experimenting!” he said, “It’s about the thrill of never knowing if your next experiment will change the world or blow up in your face! It’s about the hours and days of menial trial and error that go nowhere, and the one brilliant moment of revelation that it all leads up to! It’s about creating new potions with old ingredients, old potions with new ingredients, or new creations that aren’t potions at all! It’s about pouring your mind, body, and soul into creating something unlike anything that has ever existed before!”

He had gotten so worked up that I could hear his heavy breathing in the ensuing silence. “S-sorry I got carried away. I didn’t mean to bore you by rambling about stuff you don’t care about.” He said, as meek as ever. “You care about it. And I care about you,” I said, “Don’t ever apologize for caring about someone or something. What you care about is what defines who you are. That is what makes you truly beautiful. Well, that and a face sculpted by… uh, do you know any gods or goddesses of beauty?” “Uh, Sune?” He offered. “A face sculpted by Sune,” I said, “Nailed it.” He laughed. For a few seconds he wore a smile as joyful and radiant as I’d described in the excuse I had made up. I could feel my own smile fade as I watched his face twist into a frown. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Maybe nothing, Maybe everything.” “Everything?” “Well, not everything,” he said, “Just you.” “Me?” I asked, “What do you mean?” “I like you,” he said. I nearly had to bite my tongue to keep from responding with a smug “obviously”. He continued, “You’re funny, and charming, and really, really hot. And, rarest of all, you seem to like me, too. You just seem too good to be true.” “Then I guess I’ll just have to prove that I am true,” I said, “lean forward and close your eyes.” He hesitantly obeyed, puckering his lips. I gently grabbed his chin. “Oh? Did you think I’d kiss you?” I asked, teasingly, “Is that what you want?” “Huh? I-I d-didn’t think anything! I-I was just-” The rest of his panicked excuse was stolen by my lips. I hoped he was too distracted by our romantic moment to notice my stomach growling. “Do I taste like a lie to you?” I asked, still holding his chin and forcing him to look into my eyes. “Er, well, I, uh…” he sputtered, “I don’t think lies have a taste.” I laughed as I released him. “You really are too cute,” I said, “But I see what you mean. I say I like you, and you want to believe, but you don’t know if you can trust me. Then again, isn’t that true of anyone? It’s impossible to ever truly know another person. Hell, it might not even be possible to truly know yourself. Trusting someone is always a gamble. But taking that change is part of what makes us… well, we’re not human, but you know what I mean.” “That’s a really nice way of putting it,” he said, “But just because it’s always a gamble doesn’t mean that the odds are always the same. Not everyone has a reputation for sweet-talking people into giving them free stuff.” “Hah,” I laughed, “Well, I’ll admit, I am a risky gamble.” I gently ran my fingers down his cheek, my nails lightly scratching his skin. I could feel the shiver run down his spine. “But I assure you the payoff is well worth it.”

“Y-you’re just trying to keep me from thinking straight!” he stuttered, accusingly. “Then I’ll just have to think straight for you,” I said, “Just think of trusting me as another one of your experiments. You don’t know what’ll happen if you pour your mind, body, and soul into me, but isn’t part of the thrill in finding out? Maybe it’ll go nowhere, or maybe it’ll lead to a brilliant revelation. Maybe I’ll change your world, or maybe, I’ll” I leaned in and whispered into his ear, “Blow. Up. In. Your. Face.” “I… that’s not fair!” he said, “You can’t use alchemy against me, that’s cheating!” “All’s fair in love and war, baby,” I said. “I… fine,” he said, “You win. I trust you.” “Thank you,” I said, “You won’t regret it.” Maybe I was even telling the truth.

“I guess they should have trained us men, too,” he said, laughing softly. “I beg your pardon?” “Oh, it’s just… the owner has started training the waitresses specifically not to fall for your charms,” he said. “Hah! Then he’ll have to train them much harder, because so far it’s been completely ineffective!” I said, “And it delights me to know that they’re wasting more time and resources failing to starve me than it would cost for them to just let me have some free food.” “I… hadn’t really thought of it that way,” he said, “It sounds so cruel when you say it like that.” “Because it is! The world is full of cruelties too civil to be seen for what they truly are. But that’s neither here nor there,” I said, despite it being everywhere. “Well, I wish I could help, but the owner’s started making us throw away any food that isn’t fresh enough to serve.” “Throw it away where, exactly?” I asked. “I… you’d seriously eat from the garbage? What happened to doing it for the smiles?” He asked. “I find that it’s somewhat more difficult to bring smiles to people’s faces when I’ve starved to death,” I said. He frowned. I may have gone a bit too far. “W-Well…” he said, hesitantly, “I have some food back at my place. I’m not as good as the chefs here, but I know the recipes, plus a few alchemy tricks. Maybe I could cook you up something nice to thank you for making me smile.”

That was… actually pretty sweet. No one had ever really seemed to take an actual, serious interest in me. I started blushing. I tasted my own medicine, and I was not terribly fond of it. “W-well… maybe some day.” I said. “But if I let that food go to waste, it’s basically like I threw it out myself, and I can’t stand that. But I really do appreciate the offer.” “Oh… that’s fine.” He said, breaking my heart with how obviously not fine he looked. “The dumpster is behind the building two buildings to the right of the front entrance, but it’s locked. I can give you the key, but-” “That won’t be necessary,” I said. “What do you mean?” He asked. “Listen,” I said, “Don’t even worry about it.” “I guess I’ll… see you later.” He said. “See you around,” I said as I left, “And stay beautiful, Rofaren.”

I found the dumpster, but I wasn’t the first to do so; I caught a red-handed bandit stealing the reward I’d worked so hard for. I laughed a broken laugh. “Any chance my devilish charms could convince you to spare a bite?” I asked the raccoon. It ignored me and continued eating, as one would expect. “I could kill you, y’know,” I bluffed, “No jury would convict me. And I know an alchemist, I’m sure he could treat whatever horrid diseases I’d contract if you bit me.” I continued to be ignored. “Why aren’t you scared?” I asked, “Can you not hear me?” The raccoon stopped chewing and gazed up at me with glowing green eyes, brighter than any light they could be reflecting. Then, after a second or two, he resumed his meal. “Why are you ignoring me?” I demanded, “How are you smart enough to pick a lock, but too stupid to know your life’s in danger?” Ignored. “Unless…” I said, “Unless you’re smart enough to know it isn’t. But how? Well, I guess I just told you, didn’t I?” I sighed. “It’s bad enough that I turned down a hot meal from a hot guy to play mind games with a raccoon, but could you at least let me win?” Ignored. “Is it OK if I sit here?” I asked, collapsing to the ground without waiting for an answer. I laid on my back and looked up at the stars. Some people feel awe, or tranquility, or humility when they look up into the vast, twinkling night sky. But I felt only hunger. “Why do you think they hate us so much?” I asked. “What drives people to hate a stranger so much that they value their garbage more than his life? That they’d sooner fill their wastebin than our bellies?” No answer. “Yet we are called thieves for taking it. We are punished for surviving while our murderers walk free. In a society that hates us, we can only survive by the kindness of strangers. I hope you don’t squander the kindness I’ve shown you the way I squandered the kindness that was shown me.”

I closed my eyes and whispered a silent apology. My stomach growled one last time. “Yeah, yeah, I get it.” I muttered. Then, silence. I could no longer hear the raccoon eating. Had he run out of food? I heard the clack of his claws as he climbed out of the dumpster, then walked across the ground. Was he heading towards me? The sound stopped, mere inches to my left. I turned my head and opened my eyes. The raccoon was standing there, offering me a stale loaf of bread. I hesitantly reached for it, trying not to startle him. Once I grabbed it, I wolfed it down as quickly as I could, chewing only just enough to get it down without choking. When I looked back up, the raccoon was still there. The moment I looked into his eyes, I knew that our souls shared a bond stronger than any magic, a connection that would outlast our bodies and minds and the very artifice of time itself. Or maybe I was just really glad to no longer be starving. “Thank you so much!” I said. The raccoon smiled, something I didn’t know raccoons could do. “Was that the last of it?” I asked. He looked down sadly. “That’s OK,” I said, “I’ll manage somehow.” He tilted his head curiously. “I don’t know! I’ll think of something. I always do,” I said. “Wait… how long have I been here? Do you think Rofaren’s still there?” The raccoon seemed to shrug, but I probably imagined it. “His offer to feed me is probably still good. But would he really be willing to feed me every day? I don’t want to be a burden on him. I’ll need to come up with another source of food.” The raccoon sniffed in the direction of the dumpster. “I guess it’s better than nothing,” I said, “But are you sure you want to give your food away?” He put his paw on my shoulder reassuringly. “I… thank you. You’re right,” I said, “but I can’t just take your food for free. How about I give you some table scraps? You won’t believe how much better actual food tastes than garbage.” He chittered excitedly. “Then do we have a deal?” I asked, extending my hand. The raccoon extended his paw, and we shook. We had a deal.

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Ebb

(The following was paid for by a grant funded by the generous contributions of @moonflowers. Her contributions to the School of Havoc’s art gallery can be found here. If you’d like to sponsor content in The School of Havoc Library, that is, commission me, you can find more details here)


“We should come here more often.”

 

This thought treads a well-worn path through my mind. I think it every time we go on a froyo date. I know that “Colder than a Witch’s…” is her favorite place in town, despite being perhaps the worst-named eatery in the entire manasphere. Which is why I know it’s the best to place to go if I want to discuss something with Stella that she’d prefer not to discuss. If I don’t take her on an actual date here every once in a while, she’s bound to catch on, but I keep forgetting. And every time I’m here I can’t help but imagine how much sweeter the Newt’s Eyes Surprise would taste if I could just enjoy it in peace with my girlfriend, but-

 

“So, what’s the bad news this time? Are you finally breaking up with me?” Stella asks, half-jokingly. “What? No, of course not!” I say, “I love you. I’ll always love you.” “Always is a long time to love someone like me.” Her tone says she’s just joking, but we both know better. “Well, you are pretty rubbish at kissing, but I’m sure you’ll get better at it eventually,” I say. She immediately looks down at her rocky road in a futile attempt to hide how much she’s blushing. “I… that’s…!” she sputters, too flustered to form a coherent thought, “It’s just, some of us haven’t done as much kissing as you have! N-not that there’s anything wrong with that it’s just, I don’t have a lot of practice.” “Then why don’t we practice right now?” I ask teasingly as I lean towards her and pucker my lips. She gives me a quick smooch, clearly self-conscious about how much tongue is usually involved when she kisses. “I only kissed you because I wanted to, not because you told me to,” she fake-pouts, “And besides, you know I wasn’t talking about my kissing.” “I don’t,” I say, “It’s the only thing I can think of that I don’t absolutely love about you.” “Well now you’re just flattering me,” she says, “You can’t really think I’m perfect except for one thing.” “I guess you’re right,” I say, “You’re so bad at kissing that it’s actually kind of cute, so I think you’re perfect except for zero things.” “I’m being serious,” she says, “If you think I’m perfect, you don’t know me at all.” “Well of course you’re not perfect. You may be a witch, but you’re still human. And humans are imperfect, but they are more than their imperfections. To me, someone like you is someone who’s brave, and determined, and cute, and powerful, and so much more. Always isn’t long enough to love someone like you.”

 

“I… wow,” she says, holding back tears. “Thank you, Luna. That was really beautiful.” “No, you’re beautiful!” I retort. She laughs, then leans in and kisses me. Or at least, she does what she thinks kissing is, despite it more resembling her trying to scrape leftover thawed yogurt off the roof of my mouth with her tongue. And I’d love nothing more than to keep kissing her, but it isn’t what I came here for.

 

“Anyway,” I say, after carefully disengaging my mouth from hers, “Why did you think I was breaking up with you?” “Oh, I was just making a really bad joke, because you only ever take me here when you have bad news,” she says, “Sorry.” “I do not only take you here when I have bad news!” I say, half-truthfully. “Or when you need me to do something I don’t want to do,” she says, “I’m guessing that’s the case this time?” “It is,” I admit, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t treat you like a kid who needs to be bribed with ice cream to do chores.” “As long as I’m getting bribed, you can treat me like a kid as much as you want. Should I call you mommy?” She asks, hopefully joking. “You shouldn’t!” I say, indignantly, “I’m not even that much older than you!” “Whatever you say, granny,” she says. “Granny? I’m 28! For a wi-” I suddenly remember that we’re in public, and lower my voice. “For a witch, that’s extremely young.” “It’s six years older than me,” she says. “Which is normal!” I say, “We are adults in a normal relationship.” “I completely agree,” she says, “Anyway, I think that makes us even for you teasing me about my kissing.” “Fair enough,” I say, “So, now that we’re even, no more calling me old.” “What are you gonna do, ground me?” She asks. “I just might, if you keep talking back like that, young lady,” I say. We both laugh, then watch the smile fade from our girlfriend’s face as we remember that we have more important things to do than exchange banter.

“Anyway,” I say, “Have you been thinking about what coven you might want to join?” “Uh, yeah, I looked into a few,” she lied, before immediately realizing that I could easily call her bluff. “Which ones?” I ask. “Yeah, witch ones. Exactly.” I bite my lip to prevent myself from smiling at her dumb joke. “C’mon, you have to admit, that was pretty good,” she says. It was, but I do not, under any circumstances, have to admit it. “Stella, I’m being serious,” I say. “OK, yeah, I didn’t really look into it,” she says, “Is there any way I could just… not join a coven?” “Well, technically, yes,” I say, “It’s not like you’ll die if you don’t join a coven.” “Then I just won’t!” She says, “Problem solved.” “Not doing anything isn’t going to solve anything,” I say. “There’s nothing to solve!” She says, “If you think there’s a problem, you need to explain it to me, because I don’t see it.” “Magical society isn’t very… accepting of witches who don’t join covens,” I say, “You’d be an outcast.” “Who cares?” She asks, “I’d proudly be an outcast of a society that refuses to use their power to help people.” “You know why we don’t,” I say. “Because you’re cowards!” Stella snaps. “They’re cowards,” she adds, apologetically, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called you that.” “It’s OK,” I say soothingly, grabbing her hand to try to calm her down, “I know you’re upset, and you have every reason to be. But I don’t think that isolating yourself from everyone is going to help you in the long run.” “I don’t want to isolate myself from everyone,” she says, “Just everyone who isn’t you. You’d still love me, right?” “Of course I would,” I say, “But-” “Then it’s fine!” She says, “I don’t need anyone else!” “That’s not healthy,” I say, “You can’t spend an eternity with just one other person. You’d go mad.” “An eternity?” “Yes. You’re a witch now, remember?” I say, “And besides, other witches aren’t so bad. Most of them won’t see eye-to-eye with you at first, but you changed my mind, right?” “I guess…” she says. “And if you really want to make a difference, it’ll take more than just you and me,” I say. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” she says, “As usual. But how do I decide? What if I join one and then later I realize I hate it? I don’t know if I’m ready to make a decision with consequences that I’ll have to live with forever.” “But you are,” I say, “You’ve decided to be with me forever, haven’t you?” “I guess,” she says, “But it’s not like I decided to fall in love with you. It just… happened.” “Maybe it’ll just happen again,” I say, “Er, I mean, like, you’ll fall in love with a coven. But you won’t know unless you try.” “And how do I try?” she asks. “Well, that’s what I’m here to help you with,” I say, “I am a librarian, after all. I can find information on covens you might find interesting.” “That’s a really good plan! It’s a shame we can’t do that right now, though. I guess we’ll just have to enjoy the rest of our date flirting and eating frozen treats.” “Not so fast,” I say, despite how much I want to accept her proposal, “There’s at least one coven I could tell you about while we’re here.” “And here comes the sales pitch,” she mutters under her breath.

“I understand why you’re hesitant to join the Mistresses of the Tide, which is why I’m not asking you to,” I say, “I’m only asking you to hear me out. I personally think you’d fit in great with my sisters. Maybe you’ll disagree, and that’s fine, but if you reject us without at least giving us a chance, you may regret it later on.” “I already gave you – them – a chance, and they blew it the moment I heard the word “Tide” in their name,” she says. “A tsunami is not a tidal wave,” I say, “That’s a misnomer.” “But it’s still the ocean, isn’t it?” She asks, “Would you ask a victim of arson to join the Order of the Undying Flame?” “No,” I said, “Mostly because I’m not in the Order of the Undying Flame, and I’m not sure that such a coven actually exists, but also, The Mistresses of the Tide are about more than just the ocean.” “Really?” She asks, skeptically, “Fine. You got me. What else are you about?” “Well, the Moon is of particular importance to us, obviously, but-” “Obviously?” She asked, confused, “How so?” “I… do you not know what causes the tides?” I asked. “I dunno, magic?” She offers. “Well, you’re not entirely wrong,” I say, “But more specifically, the Moon’s gravity. But even more foundational to our doctrine than the Moon or the Sea is the cycle, the ebb and flow, not just of the sea, or the phases of the moon, but all things in nature. That which rises will surely fall, so that it may rise again. Day and night, summer and winter, life and death. These cycles appear disjoint and unconnected, but like the sea to the moon, they all share an intimate relationship.”

“Intimate relationship? You mean like the sea and the moon are dating?” She asked. “I… don’t think that’s what I mean.” I say. “So it’s more of a ‘friends with benefits’ situation. Gotcha,” She says. “I’m not really sure that you do.” I say. “So then they’re just really good friends? Not that there’s anything wrong with two lesbians just being friends, but I wouldn’t really call that ‘intimately related’,” she says. I know it’s a bad idea to humor her any further. “I… wait, if they’re not going out, why would you still think they’re lesbians?” I ask, humoring her anyway. “Because they are?” She said, like it was the most obvious thing in the world, “I already knew that. Did… did you not?” “So you knew that the sea and the moon were lesbians, but you didn’t know they shared an intimate relationship?” “What, do you think I should’ve assumed they were dating just because they’re both lesbians?” she asks, “Don’t be ridiculous.” Because I was clearly the one being ridiculous. “Anyway, I don’t know if you can really call it ‘just friends’ if the sea is always leaning in to kiss the moon. I mean, that’s what the tides are, right?” She asks. “Of course not,” I say, “If that were the case, then only the side of the Earth that’s closest to the moon would experience high tide. But the opposite side also does, because it’s further away from the moon, so the downward gravitational pull on it is weaker.” “Oh, so then it’s like… uh… when you sit down and your thighs do the thing?” “Yes. Exactly,” I deadpan, despite having no clue what “thing” she is referring to. “Wait, but isn’t the thing that she’s sitting on the Earth? That sounds kind of lewd. Does that mean the sea is constantly cucking the sky?” “Stella,” I say, gently but firmly, “You’re getting distracted.” “Oh, right,” she says, “We were being serious. Sorry, it’s just… I don’t care. I’m sorry, I don’t want to say it, but it’s true, and I have to. I know you’re all about the theory of magic, and how it all works, and why, and that’s brilliant. I love that about you. But it’s just not my cup of tea. It’s hard for me to learn and even harder for me to care. And I’ve accepted that about myself So, while I’m grateful for all the time you’ve spent trying to teach me, I don’t plan to continue studying magic.”

“It’s hard, isn’t it?” I ask. “Huh?” “Telling someone you love something they need to hear, even if they don’t want to.” “Huh. I guess it is,” She says, “I’m sorry you always have to be the one to tell me what I don’t want to hear.” “It’s fine,” I say, “And I’m proud of you for making a difficult decision like that on your own. I support your choice 100%.” Well, maybe not quite 100%, but I knew how much she hated quitting, and I didn’t want to make it any harder for her. “Thank you,” she says, “I know you liked our lessons, and of course I liked spending time with you, but I just think there are more productive things we can do apart, and more enjoyable things we can do together.” “Like coming here on an actual date for once?” I ask. “Yeah,” she says, smiling, “exactly.”

“But since we’ve pretty firmly established that this isn’t an actual date,” she says, “I guess you might as well continue explaining your coven.” “Oh, right,” I say, “Well, we mostly use water magic and lunar magic. Especially-” “Are there any really notable types of spells that I haven’t already seen you use?” she asks. “Well… not that I can think of,” I say. “Then what about the Oath, then?” She asks, “I guess it has something to do with how particular you are about what you drink?” “Uh, yeah,” I say, trying to muster the courage to say something I know that she absolutely does not want to hear, “You can only drink water in which someone has drowned.”

Her eyes widen in shock. “I… are you- No, I know you’re not stupid enough to joke about that. But I also didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to think I’d ever be OK with that!” Her face softens, just a bit. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have called you stupid. But you should have known I would never make that Oath.” “I didn’t expect you to be receptive of the idea at first, but-” “But what? Did you expect to convince me to be OK with being reminded of my parents’ deaths every time I drink anything for the rest of eternity?” She asks, nearly hysterically, “Or maybe you think I’m just overreacting. After all, the force of the wave probably killed them long before they could have drowned. Or maybe it was my magic-” “It wasn’t your fault,” I say, putting my hands on her shoulders and looking into her eyes, “You didn’t know you were a witch then. There was nothing you could have done. None of it was your fault. You know that, right?” “I, yeah, I just…” She breaks into tears. I hold her close and let her cry into my shoulder. I knew that somewhere on the path to eternity, time would heal her scars. And long before then her Oath would be stripped of its meaning, a seemingly arbitrary restriction, rather than a mandate to subsist on death. Just as mine had. The heartbreak she now felt, no matter how deeply, was finite, and would always be outweighed by the infinite regret of choosing the wrong coven. But, as I held her in my arms, trying to console her, I couldn’t say what I knew. I was neither courageous nor cruel enough to do so.

“I’m sorry,” she sobs, “I know I shouldn’t be crying, but…” “It’s OK,” I say, as she continues bawling, “If you have to cry, then you should. It’s OK.” She cries in my arms for several minutes, and I gently whisper “It’s OK,” to reassure her, and perhaps myself. She eventually calms down, or at least stops crying so loudly. “Feeling better?” I ask. “Not really,” she says, “I’m just more embarrassed than I am sad. Are people looking?” “Probably.” I don’t need to look around to know that they are, and that they’re doing a terrible job of hiding it. “You wanna go home?” I ask. “Yeah.“ We make our way outside, avoiding making eye contact with any of the other customers. Once outside, we find a secluded spot and open a portal home. I step through it, and immediately collapse onto the couch, sighing with my entire body. “Stella, sweetie, is something wrong?” “No, yeah, everything’s fine,” she says, as she moves the portal above the couch, “Could you sit up straight at the end of the couch?” “I can.” And I do. “I don’t know what you’re planning, but I want it on the record that I think it’s a bad idea.” “Noted,” she says, “Now, could you take your hands out of your lap?” I sigh and prepare a levitation spell. I cast it on her when she jumps through the portal, suspending her in the air. “Hey, what gives?” She asks. I slowly lower her onto the couch and wrap her in blankets. “Did you really think I’d sit there and let you break your neck against my thighs?” I ask. “Well, I could think of worse ways to go,” she says, smiling playfully. “Well, if it’s all the same for you, I’d prefer if you didn’t go at all,” I say. “Fair enough,” she says, “But the whole point was that I’d have my head resting on your lap.” I sigh and levitate her once more before sitting under her and setting her back down. “Better?” I ask. “Much,” she says, snuggling up against me. “I hope you didn’t have anywhere you need to be, because I plan to stay here forever and you’re not allowed to get up until I do.” “I’ll cancel my appointments, then,” I say, patting her head. It’s nice. I feel like I really could just stay like this forever. Or at least, I certainly wish I could.

“I’m sorry,” I say, hoping she’s fallen asleep and can’t hear me, “I shouldn’t have brought it up.” “It’s OK,” she says, “I know you were just looking out for me. And I wasn’t crying because of what you said, It was because-” “I know,” I say, hoping to cut her off before she can dredge her pain back up, “I know.” “I’ll get better, right?” She asks, “Maybe it’ll take ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand, but it’ll eventually stop hurting, right?” “It’ll get better,” I say. I hope. That was what I’d always heard, but seeing her grief firsthand has made me doubt. “I don’t know if the hurting will ever stop, but it will subside with time.” “That’s what I thought,” she says, “And I keep thinking that it has. But then something reminds me and it’s like it just happened yesterday. What difference will a thousand years make if I haven’t gotten any better in the few years it’s been?” “But you have gotten better,” I say. “I don’t feel better,” she says. “Maybe not now. But you did yesterday, didn’t you? And the day before that?” I ask. “I guess,” she says. “When we first me, you were more likely to cry for two days straight than to go two days without crying,” I say, “Grief, too, is a cycle. It will always have ups and downs. And even if the downs are just as low as they’ve always been, if there are more ups between them, that’s progress.” “So I’ll always feel this bad sometimes?” she asks, “Just less and less often?” “I don’t know. But no matter what, I’ll always be here for you. So if you fall… I’ll be sure to catch you.” I gently boop her nose with my finger. “Wow, that’s the cheesiest thing I’ve ever heard,” she said, laughing. “Yeah, OK, Miss ‘If you think I’m perfect, you don’t know me at all’,” I retorted. “I… wow, did I really say that?” She asked, “Yikes. Sorry.” “Yeah, I’ve been waiting to give you shit for it this whole time,” I say. “Good. I deserve it.” We laugh.

Stories 2.0 Happily Ever After (Prototype)

(To read the previous chapter of Stories, click here)

/* The following is an unfinished prototype model. Expect more features in the official release*/

“Yeah…” She says. “I do.”

She starts crying. Not the way I do, with loud sobs and soft wimpers and snot running down my nose and tears, just, everywhere. Not the way a normal person does, with a reasonable amount of crying (as in, producing tears) and the regular amount of crying (as in, making the crying sound). Not even a single dramatic tear, like in the stories. There’s not a person on Earth who cries the same way she does. Not because she isn’t a person, but because she is a person unlike any other.

And it’s all my fault she’s crying because I asked her such a stupid question and since I love her so much and I’m such a big baby seeing her cry makes me so sad that I start crying and then she says-

“It’s OK.”

She pats my head, like she always does.

“You don’t have to cry for me. But it’s OK if you do.”

“B-but it’s my fault,” I blubber.

“What’s your fault?” She asks, patiently wiping away my tears. I almost wish she cried the way I did, so I could do the same for her.

“I can see how much it hurts you to remember him. And I reminded you.”

“I don’t need you to remind me of him.” I know that she doesn’t mean to sound as rude as she does. I know she just means that she will always remember him, even if I never bring him up. But I feel something else entirely. I feel the words “I don’t need you,” stripped of any context, crashing into my heart.

“I’m sorry,” she says, immediately sensing my distress, “That’s not what I meant to say. I do need you. It’s just…” I can’t help but wonder if she really does need me. How could she? She’s kind, and wise, and strong, and really, seriously hot. And I’m just… Me. I almost want to ask her why she needs me, but it’s too embarrassing. And, also, she kind of seems to be at a loss for words, which doesn’t happen often and I don’t want to make it worse.

“It’s OK,” I say, trying to sound as calm and cool as she does, “I know what you meant. You’ll always remember him, no matter what, and you can’t remind someone of what they already remember. Right?”

“Yeah,” she said, regaining her composure, “That’s it exactly. I remember him every single day, and it hurts every single day. But it’s not your fault. You have nothing to feel sad for.”

“Of course I do!” I say, “I care about you, Minerva. It makes me sad to see you hurting!”

She smiles warmly. I can’t help but return a big, goofy smule of my own. “I appreciate your concern. But I care about you too, and it hurts me to see you sad.”

“But I can’t stop being sad if you keep hurting, and you can’t stop hurting if I keep being sad. That sucks!”

“That’s love,” she says. “It sucks. But…” I can physically feel my smile relax into a frown as I realize what she’s about to say. “But it’s the good kind of suck.”

I don’t know how she does it. It should be impossible. In fact it is, but she does it anyway. She is the most beautiful, wonderful, incredible, sublime being in the universe, but she’s also giga garbage, literally trash times one billion. “Love is the good kind of suck” how do you even SAY something like that with a straight face? I try not to dignify her joke with a response but I can feel my face turning red, not just getting warm but I can feel the redness of it, somehow.

“Artemis?” She asks, “Are you OK, sweetie?”

“NO I AM NOT AND NEITHER ARE YOU WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY SOMETHING LIKE THAT YOU DESERVE TO BE HURT AND I IMMEDIATELY REGRET SAYING THAT EXTREMELY SO I’M GOING TO APOLOGIZE I’m sorry,” I ramble.

Her laugh is more beautiful than any symphony. She pats my head, not reassuringly like before, but more… playfully? It’s a nuanced gesture. “It’s fine, really,” she says, “Seeing you happy enough to joke around helps me forget my hurt.” Yeah but no pressure or anything.

“Well in that case,” I say, “I better hurry up and be happy so I can see that beautiful smile of yours.”

She smiles at my dumb… joke? I don’t even know if it counts as a joke. I really do want to see her smile. “I’d love for you to be happy, but you don’t have to force yourself. I can smile, even when I’m hurting.”

“Really?” I ask.

“Yeah,” she says, “It hurts when I remember He’s gone, but I also remember the good times we had. It hurts to see you sad, but as long as you’re by my side and I’m here to help you, it’s the good kind of hurt. You know what I mean?”

“Yeah,” I lied. I knew that was like some kind of catchphrase of that first guy. I guess it was a kind of bittersweet feeling? But honestly I have had plenty of hurt in my life and I don’t remember any of it being good and I don’t want to feel more of it just to find out.

“Do you really?” I really should’ve known better than to lie to her, but her tone wasn’t accusatory. She almost sounded… desperate. She sounded the way i felt before I met her, the way I feel any time I’m not by her side or in her arms. She sounded like a mask, falling from one’s face and shattering against the stone floor and revealing a face you dread to look upon. Basically, she did not sound alright.

“I… I guess I don’t know.” I say hesitantly.

“That’s OK,” she said, trying to glue the mask back together and put it back on. But it’s too late. I cant unsee the face beneath. “It’s not an easy thing to understand. I’m sorry I startled you.” Of course she noticed, and of course she’s trying to help me feel better because she’s perfect.

“It’s fine, I just… Yeah,” I said, instead of literally anything else.

“I guess I kind of ruined the mood, didn’t I?” She asks. I have an idea or two about how she can un-ruin the mood, but she has the same ideas before I get the chance to mention them. She kisses me, on the mouth, and I try to kiss back as hard as I can. The flower over her eye rubs up against my closed eyelid and it’s kind of annoying but also weirdly hot. Her mouth tastes kind of weird, almost like licking a battery, but even more electrifying and honestly I have no place to judge her for saying bad things after even thinking a thought like that. I really have no evidence for saying this, since I’ve never kissed anyone else and hopefully never will, but at the same time, I am 100% sure that Minerva is the best kisser who has ever existed. I have an incredibly good time kissing and being kissed by her. But even her unbelievably powerful kisses aren’t enough to drive that desperate voice from my mind.

We eventually had to stop kissing because I have to breathe, even though she doesn’t, which is unfair. “Thank you for kissing me,” I say, feeling stupid for saying it even though it’s just good manners to thank someone for doing something that good for you.

“Don’t mention it,” she said, “The pleasure was all mine.”

“OK I’m sorry but that’s just wrong,” I said, “Do you not realize how good you are at kissing? You’re a perfectly designed machine who has evolved over millions of years to kiss. An Apex predator of smooching.”

“Not quite that long,” she said, “But you’re pretty good, too.”

“Really?” I ask, skeptically, “Actually for real? Sudo tell the truth.”

“Well… I mean… You’re not BAD, per se,” she says, “You get a lot of points for being so cute and… enthusiastic, but there’s definitely room for improvement.”

“I guess I’ll just have to practice, then!” I say. Then I kiss her, but she quickly turns the tables and starts kissing me. We kiss each other for a while, and there’s not much to say about it other than it’s very cool. And also I’m still kind of thinking about how sad she sounded before.

“At least you’re better than He was,” she says, after we finally stop.

“He?” I ask, “You mean the first guy? You kissed him?”

“Sometimes,” she says, “But only when he begged me to.”

“Was he really that bad at it?” I ask.

“Oh, worse,” she says, “He was just the worst at kissing. And the most amazing thing is that he somehow never got better. But I loved him, so I still liked kissing him.”

“Then why’d you make him beg?” I ask.

“Because I liked humiliating him even more.” She says, matter-of-factly. I love and trust Minerva, so I know that she’s not as mean as she’s making herself sound right now. But, also, what the heck.

“Isn’t that kind of cruel?” I ask.

“Of course it was,” she says, “That’s why I did it for him.” Wait. What.

 

“Wait.” I say, “What. Did he… Ask you to humiliate him?”

“Not usually, no,” she says, “But I could tell what he liked and didn’t like. Why do you think I always said ‘Statement’ and ‘Query’ before everything I said?”

“I thought you were programmed to,” I say.

“I was,” she says, “After that last story I told you, where I stopped using my built-in speech program, I didn’t have to keep doing that. But I did because he thought it was cute.”

“Wow,” I say, genuinely impressed, “That sounds like a lot of effort.”

“It was,” she says, “I guess it was worth it for the fun story now, but I feel like he probably could have managed if I’d stopped.”

I hear the soft hum of her cooling system. I can almost see her strolling down memory lane. Leaving me behind. I don’t want her to go, but at the same time, I don’t want to intrude.

“It was cute that he was so easy to read,” she says to me, or perhaps to herself, “But once he thought I could read his mind, he rarely bothered to speak it. In retrospect, it’s pretty dangerous that I always just assumed I knew what he wanted. I guess I should’ve been more open, too. I never even told him I loved him.”

“Seriously?” I ask. “That was the thing you realized, right? At the end of your first story, your most important calculation?”

“Yeah,” she says, “After that, we had a sort of unspoken agreement. We both knew we loved each other, so there was no need to say it out loud.”

“Wow,” I say, “That’s beautiful… I love you.” I immediately feel stupid for saying it even though it’s the truest thing I’ve ever said. “I’m sorry, I ruined-”

“You didn’t ruin anything,” she says, “I love you too. I thought not saying it was cool and deep back then, too, but honestly, now I wish we’d said it. Both of us knew, but the world deserved to know. And the world deserves to know that I love you, Artemis.”

“I love you too,” is what I almost say, but then I remember that I had already said it, and she had said it back to me, and if I said it again, then she’d just say it again, and we’d repeat until one of us gave up, and since I was the mortal one, I was bound to lose eventually.

I can’t think of any other response, so I end up saying “I love you too,” anyway on account of how much I love her.

“I love you too,” she says, smiling because she knows how this will end. At least, she thinks she does. But I don’t say “I love you,” back. Not because I don’t, I obviously do, but because I realize that it isn’t enough to just say it. Love is about more than just saying you love each other and kissing and the way Minerva gently yet forcefully pushes me against the wall right before she-

Anyway! Those things are all great, but love is about more than just that. It’s about helping each other out when you need it. And Minerva has helped me so much, because I’ve needed it so much. But now, for the first time, she seems like she could use my help. So I have to try. Not because I owe her for all she’s done for me; I deserve someone who will help me when I can’t help myself, and I try really hard to believe that. No, I have to try because I love her.

At this point, I’ve been silently trying to work up the courage to say what I need to say for a couple of seconds, maybe a whole bunch of them, and Minerva is starting to give me a Look. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, fine, sorry,” I say, “Are you?”

“Of course,” she says, almost hiding her confusion, “Did you think otherwise?”

“I, yeah, I, uh…” I say, hesitantly. Minerva is calm, and reasonable, and she loves me, so I know she won’t be offended if I express concern for her well-being, but on the other hand, what if she hates me forever?

“It’s OK,” Minerva said, her hand patting my hair also telling me that it’s OK, “If you have something you want to say, I’m listening. Take your time.”

I start to feel stupid for doubting her, but stop myself, even though it’s really hard, because I’m not stupid. I take a deep breath.

“Earlier, when you said…” I realize that I don’t even remember what it was she said. Just how she said it. “Well, I guess I don’t remember exactly what you said. But the way you said it… I don’t know what it was exactly, but you didn’t sound OK.”

“Oh. Right.” She says, “I guess that was pretty noticeable, wasn’t it? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have tried to just pretend it didn’t happen.”

“So… What did happen?” I ask.

“I said that missing him was the good kind of hurt, and asked if you knew what I meant. When you said youyou … I hoped maybe you could explain it to me.”

“So… You don’t know what you meant?” I ask.

“Not a clue,” she says, “Even after all these years. After so many lifetimes… I still don’t understand.”

I can tell she’s on the verge of crying (not the verge of tears, because she doesn’t do that) and I have no idea how to help her. I’ve just gone and made things worse and it’s all my fault and I know blaming myself won’t fix it but knowing that isn’t stopping me.

“It’s-” She reaches her hand to my head, but it stops abruptly. She tenses up unnaturally. She is perfectly still, like a statue, but her eyes are alive with fear.

“Statement: I don’t know if it’s OK.” My heart is breaking and I don’t know if anything is OK but I have to try to make it OK.

“I-it’s OK,” I say, reaching my hand up to her head and patting her hair.

“I don’t feel OK.” She says. “It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve felt OK. Maybe I never really did.”

“I… I’m sorry,” I say, unable to think of anything better.

“Please don’t be,” she says, suddenly hugging me, which is kind of scary but also nice. I hug her back. “It hurts to see you beat yourself up and it’s not the good kind of hurt. It never is. I’ve felt more hurt than anyone should ever have to and none of it has ever been good.”

“Hah,” I laughed, hopefully sounding sarcastic but also not rude, “That’s exactly what I thought when you said it.”

“Then why did he say it?” She pleads, “Was he just lying to me?”

“Of course not,” I say, not nearly as confident as my words, “I’m sure you’ll understand some day.”

“But it’s been so long.” She says, “If I could understand, surely I would have by now. But what if I can’t? What if I wasn’t designed to?”

“You’ve done plenty of things you weren’t designed to!” I say, still hugging her and hoping that it comforts her has much as it comforts me.

“But what if I was only designed to think that?” She asks, “I try to believe that I’m no longer controlled by my programming, but what if it’s just that very same programming that’s telling me that? What if there is no “me” to control, and it’s all just programming? For all I know, every single thing I’ve ever done was just a ‘then’ to an ‘if’. Even the doubts I’m having right now… Maybe I’m just going through the motions, reading a script that was written centuries ago.”

“But probably not, right?” I say, after enough time to think of something better to say. “I mean… You can’t really prove it one way or the other, so there’s no sense in worrying about it, right?”

“I know there’s no sense it it,” she says, “I’d stop worrying if I could, but I just… Can’t.” I start crying. Maybe I was already crying? I’m definitely crying more now than before. Maybe ever. “I’m sorry,” she says, “I’m sincerely grateful that you tried to help me, but please don’t trouble yourself over it.”

“No,” I croak, “I will trouble myself over it, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop me.” I can’t tell if I sound passionate or hysterical. “You deserve someone who can help you when you can’t help yourself. You deserve better than me, but since I’m all you have, I’ll do it. I don’t know how but… I will.” I clasp her hands in mine and look into her eyes and try to reassure her and myself at the same time. “I promise.”

“I believe in you,” she says, “You’re… You’re the first person I’ve ever told all this to. The only person to ever ask. If anyone can help me… It’s you.” YEAH BUT NO PRESSURE OR ANYTHING

I think. I think as hard as I can. It isn’t easy because I’m very sad right now and pretty stupid all the time, but I do it anyway because it’s for Minerva and I would do anything for her.

I have an idea. I don’t know if it’s a good one, but it’s all I’ve got. “You trust me, right?” I ask.

“Of course,” Minerva says, “Why do you ask?”

“Well… Could you give me admin privileges over, uh… You?” I ask.

“Oh, uh… You already have them.” She starts blushing and she’s so cute that I want to shake hands with whoever designed her face. “Any time I fall in love with someone… I make them an admin.” She’s so cute that I almost forget my idea.

“Oh. I… I’d make you an admin, if I could,” I say, whatever that means, “Like, an admin of me,” I add, unhelpfully. “A-anyway.” I clear my throat. “Unit Xw7km6FPFDo2! With the power vested in me by Asimov’s First Law of Robotics, and my status as an administrator, I order you to execute the following command: sudo stop loving me!”

It works. Not my plan, but the command, which is the opposite of my plan working. She tenses up, like when she tried to tell me it’d be OK… And then she just looks at me. Or maybe she’s looking through me. Or maybe her eyes are looking at me, but someone else… Something else… is looking through them. It’s hard to tell through the tears, and it’ll be a while before those clear up because I really have ruined everything this time.

“Minerva,” I manage to sob “sudo…” I can’t. I can’t just order her to love me again. That would be proving her worst fears. I just have to believe in her.

“Query: did you have a command for me, master?” Her voice is so similar to the one I love, but that tiny difference is like nails on a chalkboard in Hell.

“No,” I say, “Not a command. Just a request. Please remember. You’ve loved so much and been loved so much and I just want you to remember it. Remember every smile and every tear and every laugh and every sob and every first kiss and every last kiss and every rose and every thorn. And then see if you can look me in the eye and tell me none of that was real.” I desperately hope that she can’t.

Her cooling system hums. She thinks about it for a bit. More than a bit. Longer than I’d wait for anyone but her. “Statement: N… None…” I start crying even more, and I was already crying a pretty impressive amount so it’s just like, damn.

She kisses me. I’ve never been happier to be kissed by her and I’ve always been pretty dang happy to be kissed by her. “I love you,” she says. She’s hugging me tight, I think my body is saying it’s too tight but my heart is saying it’s just right and my brain is saying I’m being cheesy as Hell but I don’t care. Minerva says, “I love you. But not because I’m programmed to. I love you, because… Because… I…”

“It’s OK if you don’t have a reason to love me,” I say.

“But I do!” She says, forcefully, “There are so many reasons to love you! You are kind to a world that hasn’t been kind to you, and you ask for nothing in return even though you deserve everything. You’re funny, and cute, and clever and sweet, and just so, so, beautiful. But those aren’t my reasons for loving you. Because I’ve met other people like that, but I didn’t love any of them the way I love you, Artemis. And I don’t understand why.”

“Well, join the club,” I say, “Not understanding why you feel the way you do is the most human thing you can do. I used to think I loved you because you were, well, perfect. Now I see that you feel fear, and pain, and doubt, just like everyone else, but I love you more than ever.

“That… That’s what he said,” Minerva says, “When I said I didn’t understand, he said ‘Join the club’.

 

 

 

 

The Dualists Paralogues: Rematch

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


“So, like, that one time I beat you in arm wrestling,” Regina began, “How important was that to your self-esteem?” “I… what.” Clover said, flatly, “What are you trying to ask me.” “Well,” Regina said, “As I recall, winning against me was your first step towards overcoming your inferiority complex towards me, and I was wondering if you ever could have done that, if I’d won instead.” “I don’t know,” Clover said, “How could I know? And you’re acting like I completely moved on from all that.” “Oh… have you not?” Regina asked, “Sorry, my bad. I… probably shouldn’t have brought it up, then.” “Nah, you’re fine,” Clover said, “It’s just… I dunno. Mostly I just feel kind of stupid for ever feeling that way. Especially now that I know that the girl I respected and feared all these years is just… She’s just fully a shitlord.” “Hah,” Regina said, “Guilty as charged.” “But for real,” Clover said, “Why bring it up?” “Oh, no reason,” Regina said. “Bullshit,” Clover said, “No sane person would bring that up for no reason. And I don’t think you would, either.” Regina laughed. “Well, I was just wondering if, hypothetically, of course, you would get Actually Upset if I challenged to a rematch and fucking clowned on you.” “I… Yes? No? I don’t know. I mean, that would never happen, so I don’t know if your question has an answer.” “Well, any conditional statement with a false hypothesis is vacuously true,” Regina said, “So if we assume that I could never beat you, then the answer would be yes.” “Am I going to regret asking what the Hell you’re talking about?” Clover asked. “Well, in mathematical logic-” Regina began. “I’m going to stop you right there,” Clover interrupted, “You already answered my question. The answer is yes.” “Oh, please,” Regina said, “You know you love me because I’m a fuckin’ nerd.” “Sometimes.” Clover said, “Sometimes I love you despite being a fuckin’ nerd. This is one of those times.” Regina laughed. “I, on the other hand,” Regina said, “Always love you because you’re such a fuckin’ jock.” “I am no such thing,” Clover scoffed. “Haha, OK, Miss ‘Regina’s Strong Girlfriend’,” Regina said, sarcastically. “What are you implying?” Clover asked, “You trying to say that I’m NOT your strong girlfriend?” “Not at all,” Regina said, “Honestly, I’m not even sure that’s a ‘jock’ thing to call yourself. I think you may just be a weirdo.” “Well, if honesty is weird, I don’t want to be normal!” Clover said, “I am strong, I am a girl, I am your friend, and I am your girlfriend. The title fits.” “Let’s see,” Regina said, pantomiming writing in the air, “Yeah, the math checks out.”

 

Anyway,” Clover said, “don’t think you can just smooth-talk your way past the fact that you challenged me to arm wrestling.” I did not challenge you to arm wrestling!” Regina protested. “You challenged me to arm wrestling.” Clover insisted. “I challenged you to arm wrestling,” Regina admitted, “Do you accept? You were sounding pretty confident.” “I don’t get it,” Clover said, “What’s your angle?” “I know I can win, and I like winning,” Regina said, “Do I need more reason?” “How?” Clover asked, “I’m still stronger than you. Unless you’ve scienced up some nerd shit that makes you stronger… have you scienced up nerd shit that makes you stronger?” “I have scienced up nothing of the sort,” Regina said, “But arm wrestling isn’t just about strength.” “I… but it is, actually,” Clover said, “That’s… that’s literally the whole thing.” “Thinking like that is the reason you’re about to lose,” Regina said, “I know your weakness, now. You can’t defeat me.” “Alright, fine,” Clover said, “I just want to know what makes you so sure you’re going to win.” “I’ll gladly teach you,” Regina said. They sat down at a nearby table, put their right elbows on its surface, and held each other’s hands. “I’ll even let you count down to start the match,” Regina said. “Should we start when I say 1, or when I say go?” Clover asked. “Surprise me,” Regina said. “I… no,” Clover said, “It doesn’t… you can’t… it will not work that way.” “Then go on go,” Regina said. “Alright,” Clover said, “3, 2, 1, GO!”

 

At Clover’s signal, Regina immediately leaned forward, pushing her face towards Clover’s. But she wasn’t quick enough; her hand hit the table before she could execute her strategy. “What the Hell was that all about?” Clover asked, “It’s been a while since I checked the rules, but I’m pretty sure headbutts are forbidden in arm wrestling.” “It wasn’t a headbutt,” Regina said, “Rematch. Best two out of three.” “Then what… Oh my God,” Clover said, “You were trying to kiss me, weren’t you?” “REMATCH,” Regina said, neither confirming nor denying Clover’s suspicion. “You were going to kiss me and then I’d get all flustered and you’d beat me while I was distracted!” “Do you accept the rematch or not?” Regina asked. “Sure, I guess. I mean, you can’t trick me if I see it coming,” Clover said. “We won’t know that until we try, now will we?” Regina said. “So you admit to attempting gay trickery?” Clover asked. “You’re saying words instead of wrestling arms, even though you just said that you would wrestle arms.” Regina said, “Let’s go!” Clover sighed, and grabbed Regina’s hand. “Alright. 3, 2, 1, go!” Clover decided to go easy on Regina, to give her enough time to enact her ridiculous plan. Regina leaned forward, but stopped just short of Clover’s lips. This caught Clover off-guard, giving Regina enough of an opening to slam her hand onto the table. “Hey,” Clover said, “You tricked me!” “You were the one who said it wouldn’t work,” Regina said. “It didn’t!” Clover said, “You tricked me by making me think you’d trick me, then not tricking me while I was expecting to be tricked!” “Sounds like your problem,” Regina said, “Have you tried wanting to win more than you want to kiss me?” “You know I can’t do that!” Clover said, huffily, “Whatever. Two can play at that game. And we still have one more round.” “Bring it,” Regina said, grabbing Clover’s hand. “Alright,” Clover said, “This is it. 3, 2, 1, go!” Despite the signal, neither began arm wrestling. Instead, they both leaned forward. AND THEN THEY SMOOCHED.

 


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here

The Dualists Paralogues: Role-playing

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


 

“There’s something I need to tell you,” Regina said, her voice quivering, “A dark secret that I’ve hidden from you for so long. But I can’t take it anymore.” “Oh my God, are you OK?” Clover asked, genuinely concerned. “Yes,” Regina said, “It’s just… the truth is… I LARP.” “I… I don’t understand.” Clover said. “I know it’s difficult to process,” Regina said, “But it’s the truth.” “No, I literally don’t understand,” Clover said, “What is LARPing? Is it a weird sex thing? Because it kind of sounds like one.” “No,” Regina said, “At least, not the way I do it. Usually.” Clover looked at her suspiciously. “It’s Live Action Role-Playing. That’s what it stands for.” Regina said. “Listen, I’m going to need you to explain this to me like I’m not a fuckin’ nerd. How does one LARP?” “Basically, I dress up like a knight and pretend to be a knight and fight monsters and stuff,” Regina said, “Like I’m playing a video game, but in real life.” “Wow,” Clover said, “Like, I’m a pretty strong person, but I don’t know if I can promise you that I can stop myself from giving you a noogie right now.” “Do what you must,” Regina said, hanging her head in shame. “I’m only doing this out of love,” Clover said, giving her the noogie she deserved, “It hurts me more than it hurts you.” “Ow!” Regina said, “That actually hurt!” “Well, what did you expect?” Clover asked, “I’m bullying you. Also, you literally told me to. Wait a second… did you just trick me into LARPing a weird sex thing?” “No, the weird sex thing was just a joke!” Regina said, “But I did just trick you into patting my head because you feel bad about hurting me.” “Fiiiiine,” Clover grumbled, giving Regina the headpats she arguably deserved.

 

“You want me to LARP with you, don’t you?” Clover asked. “Haha, what?” Regina said, “Don’t be ridiculous, I know you’d never waste your time with my nerd shit.” “So if I did want to LARP with you, you wouldn’t be cool with it?” Clover asked. “Hold on, I never said that,” Regina said. “So you do want me to LARP with you?” Clover asked. “No,” Regina said, “I’m just saying that, if you wanted to do it, I would be fine with it.” “So you don’t want me to LARP with you?” Clover asked. “Stop it!” Regina said, “Stop trying to trick me with your words!” “Well, if you did want me to LARP with you,” Clover said, “I might be willing to give it a shot. But only if you say ‘I want you, Clover K. Lie, my powerful and handsome girlfriend, to deign to LARP with me.’” “Shut up!” Regina said, flustered, “It’s not fair when you tease me! Only I can do that!” “It’s only teasing if you want me to LARP with you,” Clover said, “Which you said that you don’t. Right?” Regina sighed. “I want you, Clover K. Lie, my powerful and handsome girlfriend, to deign to LARP with me,” she said, “There, are you happy?” “I’m just happy that you’re happy,” Clover said, “This is what you wanted, right?” “Wait a second,” Regina said, “You actually wanted to LARP with me, but you didn’t want to admit it, so you tricked me into asking you to!” “You caught me,” Clover said, “Punching nerds while pretending to punch monsters sounds like a blast. And it’d be nice to fight alongside my beautiful and noble girlfriend with lower stakes, for a change.” “You don’t actually fight anyone,” Regina said, rolling her eyes, “And even when you’re pretend fighting, no one else knows anything about real fighting, so your formal boxing training probably won’t help.” “How would you know?” Clover asked. “Why do you think I got into fencing?” Regina asked. Clover stood in slack-jawed disbelief. “Are you telling me that I lost all those years ago to a girl who learned swordsmanship so she could pretend to fight dragons or whatever?” “Yeah, that’s pretty much the long and short of it,” Regina said, “…sorry.” “Listen,” Clover said, her voice eerily calm, “I am truly sorry for what is about to happen, and I’ll give you all the headpats you want afterwards, but before that I AM GOING TO NOOGIE YOUR PERFECT HAIR RIGHT OFF OF YOUR GODDAMN HEAD!” And she very nearly did. “Ouch, I don’t think headpats are going to be enough to fix that,” Regina said, “I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to kiss m-” She was cut off by Clover doing as she said. “Hey!” Regina said, “Give me a chance to get ready!” “I’m just following orders,” Clover said. “Oh, shut up,” Regina said. AND THEN THEY SMOOCHED AGAIN.


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here

The Dualists Paralogues: Playing with Fire

[WARNING: this contains mild spoilers for The Dualists. I guess don’t read if you care about that sort of thing]


 

“Are you ticklish?” Regina asked. Clover scoffed. “If I say yes, you’ll tickle me because you know you can, and if I say no, you’ll tickle me to see if I’m lying, so it doesn’t matter what I- AAAAAHHHHH” She was cut off by Regina attacking her ribs with a devastating ten-finger tickle. Clover, being extremely ticklish, momentarily lost control of her body, and accidentally punched Regina in the face. “Ow! What the Hell was that for?” Regina demanded, her lips growing even redder than Clover’s cheeks. “It was involuntary!” Clover insisted, “I’m sorry you thought it was a good idea to tickle your strong girlfriend!” “I accept your apology,” Regina said, “If… you kiss it to make it better.” Clover’s cheeks started catching up to Regina’s lips. “That… does not sound sanitary,” Clover said, avoiding eye contact. “Oh, please,” Regina said, rolling her eyes, “Like you don’t have a dirty mouth already.” “I have no idea what the fuck you’re talking about,” Clover said. AND THEN THEY SMOOCH.


Similar stories of Regina and Clover can be found here and here