“What about you?” Atlas asked Amadhay, who was on the loveseat beside him, attempting to avoid making direct eye contact with anyone in the room.
Ribbon and Kimiko were on the couch, on either side of Nico. The dirty blond wolf-kin, Accelerated, was seated in Amadhay’s preferred seat, across from Atlas. The arachin that she had been avoiding since recognizing him, Sha’adahk, was partially propped up by the wall, his back two pairs of legs raised up above his front pair and torso, which were on the floor, with his torso braced by his elbows. Nico’s dead-vampire partner, Vlad, was sitting on Kimiko’s arm of the couch, looking comfortably casual while Stefan was sitting in a hardwood chair beside Johannes who was in a similar one.
All of them were laughing and joyfully exchanging ‘first time’ stories. It had gone through the room once already and Amadhay was the only one not to have contributed to the conversation. She had focused on not flushing from embarrassment of the topic. While she had regularly had to hear about Essie’s sex life for the past two years, she had never been in a room where everyone was talking about sex in casual tones. People just didn’t talk about their intimate lives in the Phoegani or at court functions, which were the only other places she was usually around this many people. Or rather, more accurately, she didn’t have many people close enough that they would feel comfortable telling her about their blunderlust days, least of all their current sexual exploits.
And now all the attention was on her. Her first impulse was to deflect, to get their minds back on the last story, which had been Johannes’. She could even have gone back farther, to the most amusing one, which had been Kimiko’s and make some vague comment to imply that her first time had been like that. Except she didn’t because instead, she was flushing a deep red that she knew would make them all focus on her even more.
She hated conversations like this. Even if this was her first, she knew she hated it. With Essie, it had always been one-sided. Essie knew already that she didn’t have anything to talk about. These people didn’t, and she found it incredibly embarrassing to admit that her blunderlust days were, so far, more blunder than lust. So she didn’t.
“Is it hot in here? I think I’m gonna go swimming,” she said quickly, jumping up and using her Gift to get out of the room before anyone could say anything to her. She stopped outside of the room, bracing herself against the wood of the door as it closed, listening to them as they laughed.
“I guess we found what makes her uncomfortable,” Kimiko joked.
“Who’d have thunk?” Ribbon replied. “She acts like sex, but can’t talk about it.”
Amadhay scrunched up her nose at that as the others laughed. What did it even mean to act like sex? She wasn’t sure she wanted to know, so she didn’t think too hard on it. She was just happy that they assumed she was simply uncomfortable telling them about her lust partners. If they knew the truth, then she was sure that she’d never hear the end of it.
Was it her fault that it was hard to trust anyone enough to give in to love or lust and give any part of herself? No. She’d been emotionally unavailable for flings since she turned ten, which was when the blunderlust started. She’d never had a chance to explore between love and lust, like most of her fellow agemates were doing. Those things got people like her killed on missions. Monkey’s lust had gotten him nearly blinded. Benjy’s lust had gotten him turned into a phantom and his love had left him broken. Rea’s love had left her unable to reproduce or love again. The one time she’d even considered lust or love or whatever it was she’d felt for Lizu, it had made her fail a mission and nearly killed her. Amadhay was pretty sure she was safer off not exploring blunderlust.
It was only a cultural thing, after all. Only in Roadesia was everyone between 10 and 23 expected to go out and fall in love and lust impulsively. Sure, listening to the Palnokians was telling her that apparently they had similar practices Over the Water, even if they weren’t called blunderlust. But that still didn’t mean that she had to just give away her body. It wasn’t just about love and lust for her. It was about trust. It was always about trust. All of them had trusted their first partners, in some way, be it trusting them to give them a good time, trusting them to stay afterwards, trusting them to love them.
She might have loved enough to have sex. But there was no one but Monkey that she trusted enough.
“Oh my Splinter,” Accelerated exclaimed as Amadhay was about to walk away, seeming to come to a revelation. The others had already continued on to talk about their most memorable times. “She’s never had sex!”
“What? No!” Kimiko exclaimed at the same time Ribbon exclaimed, “No way!”
“She is clear. She totally is,” the wolf-kin insisted. Amadhay flushed again, wishing that the wolf-kin wouldn’t use that term. It wasn’t a compliment. “I mean who would she have even been with?”
“The phantom?” Johannes suggested.
“No. She’s never been with him,” Atlas said, sounding incredibly sure of himself.
“She can’t be,” Kimiko argued. “She’s too…I dunno. She doesn’t act like a clear.”
“What’s a clear act like?” Sha’adahk asked, Amadhay recognizing his voice because of the click of his mandibles in the middle of his question.
“I mean, they act all, you know? Like scared of sex and stuff,” Kimiko said, sounding unsure of herself. “I mean they don’t do it either because they’re incapable of love, or because they’re muddle headed and don’t understand sex. She’s not like that. I mean, I don’t think she is.”
Someone snapped their fingers and since Ribbon spoke after it, Amadhay assumed it was her. “She did get all weird when I said we all wanted to kiss her for getting us out of the Ice Castle.”
“So? I wouldn’t want a bunch of weird people I barely know kissing me either,” Kimiko argued, defending Amadhay. “I know she’s been kissed before. We definitely talked about it before, right Rib?”
“But her kissing people doesn’t mean she’s had sex before,” Vlad pointed out, his booming voice hitting her ears harder than the others did.
“What? How could you kiss someone and not be intimate enough to have sex?” Kimiko asked, sounding genuinely horrified.
Amadhay flushed. She’d heard that before. Tairyn had once called her a clear fairy jokingly because she would kiss people, but wouldn’t have sex. She wasn’t sure which word she hated more. Being a clear meant that she didn’t love anyone and didn’t care about lust or other people in general. Being a fairy meant that she didn’t care about love, only lust, that sex was only a useful thing for her, a way for her to get what she wanted. To be called a clear fairy was an ultimate insult, even if it had been playful. She wasn’t that way, not really.
“That’s just wrong.” Kimiko continued, “That’s…that’s worse than having sex with someone you don’t feel anything for. I mean that’s not even being a fairy.”
“Seriously?” Johannes drawled. “Isn’t that the entire point of their blunderlust?”
“Not really,” Atlas pointed out. “Blunderlust is about learning to differentiate love and lust. Sex is rampant. Kissing is simply foreplay.”
“See?” Kimiko pointed out. “Foreplay without sex? I don’t get it. How could she kiss someone she didn’t want to have sex with?”
“Easy,” Nico said. There was a smack of lips that Amadhay assumed meant he kissed her. She wasn’t really sure if he was defending her or just trying to annoy Kimiko. “But I’m not going to have sex with you now.”
“Ugh. Vlad, kill him. Literally all I can think is that your mouth has probably been all over Tenshu,” Kimiko muttered, sounding disgusted. The others laughed. “I’m gonna go scrub my lips either until they bleed or I think they’re clean.”
Amadhay took that as her cue to leave and used her Gift to speed to her room. Once in her room, however, she tripped over the pile of books Ribbon had dropped off earlier and went flying across the room. The speed she had been going combined with the force she had hit the books sent her skidding to the bed, hitting her head on the metal frame of the canopy bed. The force with which she hit the bed made it shake for a moment, making her new chandelier-like overhanging look pretty precariously close to dropping.
Luckily, nothing fell. Unluckily, she was definitely bleeding. While she was used to blood and she knew that head wounds bled ridiculous amounts regardless of whether they were bad or not, she still couldn’t help the whimper when the hand she pressed to what she thought was going to be a bump on back of her head came back covered in blood, her blood. Swallowing back another whimper, she forced herself to stand up, ignoring the spinning room as she did.
“Bandages. Bandages,” she muttered, weaving her way from the bed to the vanity table. She had put bandages in one of the table’s drawers despite Kimiko’s claims that she wouldn’t need them. Now she was glad that she had.
She was still attempting to wrap her head when she heard footsteps and Kimiko’s voice calling for her. “I’m in my room,” she called, not looking away from the mirror. She wished, for a moment, that she didn’t have so much hair, because not only was it keeping her from seeing the wound itself, it was making it difficult for her to wrap the wound.
“I thought you were going swimming,” Kimiko said as she walked in. In the mirror, Amadhay watched the symmetrical girl take in, first the knocked over pile of books and then her sitting in front of the mirror with bandages.
“What the Water?” Kimiko demanded, rushing over to her. Amadhay tried to wave her away, but the other teenager was firm in taking the bandages. Kimiko pushed Amadhay’s head forward, tilting it so that she could see the wound better. “What did you do to yourself?”
“Tripped over the books, ran into the bed, smashed my head against the bed frame and somehow hit hard enough to start bleeding.” Amadhay shrugged and immediately wished she hadn’t. Just that one small action had made pain radiate from the wound. Now that she wasn’t busy trying to bandage herself, she was able to focus on the pain, which was the last thing she had wanted to do.
“Yeah, well you’re going to need stitches,” Kimiko stated. “You should have come get one of us or yelled or something,” she scolded Amadhay, who rolled her eyes.
“All I need is a quick heal. Head wounds always look worse than they are.”
“Yeah, no, I can assure you that this is going to need more than a ‘quick heal.’ You just can’t see how bad this looks,” Kimiko corrected her. “Did you at least wash it?”
“I got dizzy getting this far,” Amadhay admitted. “The bathroom is too far away and I didn’t want to drown even if I could get there.”
“Which is why you should have asked someone to help you,” Kimiko said, helping her up out of the seat. Amadhay allowed the taller girl to take all of her weight and hobbled to the bathroom with her assistance. “Come on, get in. I won’t let you drown,” Kimiko assured her as she led her to the tub in her bathroom. It was the farthest thing in the room, but with Kimiko’s help, she made it there without falling. Once there, Kimiko helped ease her down into the tub.
They were both silent as Kimiko washed the wound, taking care to keep Amadhay’s hair out of the way. She was gentle enough that Amadhay relaxed, but thorough enough that Amadhay knew she could trust her not to miss anything. It was strangely comforting having someone else wash her hair, even if it was just part of cleaning the wound.
“Thanks,” Amadhay muttered softly once Kimiko was drying.
“Don’t thank me until after Scarlet stitches you up,” Kimiko said, helping Amadhay stand back up. The smaller girl looked up with exasperation.
“I don’t need stitches. I can heal it myself.”
“Forgive me, but I’d rather not take that chance.” When Amadhay gave her a stubborn look, Kimiko gave her one right back. “You can’t just heal head wounds. If the healing isn’t done right, and let’s be real, you’re not exactly known for your healing magic, it could screw you up. And sorry, but I like you as you are.”
Amadhay frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I like you all whiney and full of innuendo and everything,” Kimiko replied.
“No, not that. What do you mean that healing head wounds could screw me up?”
Kimiko sighed, shaking her head. “This is exactly why Ribbon gave you those books, Mayday. It’s too close to the brain, which is one of the main focal points of your magic. If the healing isn’t perfectly right, magic can enter the brain and alter it. That’s why healers refuse to heal head wounds, because even with all their training, there’s a chance they’ll screw up and use too much or use too little. Use too little and the body’s innate magic will try to pick up the slack, which would do worse than using too much and have magic soaking into the brain.”
Amadhay blinked at her in surprise. She had never known that. Rea had never mentioned that to her, in fact, the dragon had healed her head wounds various times before. If it was so dangerous, Amadhay wondered, what did that say about her supposed friendship with the woman? Apparently, she had found yet another place where the Phoegani seemed to have come before her in her friendships.