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Silver Spoon is an Expensive Friend - last updated a while back

By twilightgamenight
Created: 20th December 2020 12:15:16 AM

  1. ** Ch. 1 **
  2. ** AND SUDDENLY: Flat Chested but Totally Not Loli Silver Spoon Time **
  3.  
  4. >"You seem pretty nice, mister. Wanna be friends? As long as you're not poor, that is."
  5. “That’s a weird pitch for a club.”
  6. >You’re pretty sure she’s asking because of a club.
  7. >Gotta be, right?
  8. >It’s club recruitment week on campus.
  9. >So it’s gotta be that. Why else would she approach you?
  10. >Silver Spoon shrugs.
  11. >”Yeah, but, you aren’t like *poor*, are you? If you’re poor, then it doesn’t really matter how nice you are.”
  12. “Um.”
  13. >This was not how things were supposed to go.
  14. >There is a natural order to school. All schools, even college.
  15. >One that doesn’t involve girls talking to you. Particularly the popular ones.
  16. >Unless they were bullying you.
  17. >Which is pretty natural, all things considered.
  18. >Therefore this must be bullying.
  19. >This is bullshit.
  20. >The bottom floor of the student life building has been taken over today by clubs trying to recruit new members. Mostly incoming freshman, but APPARENTLY some clubs aren’t picky.
  21. >Or are going after lone, easily bullied sophomores.
  22. >Well this time the joke is on her!
  23. >You came up here to avoid this bullshit. And to sleep.
  24. >There’s a niiiiiiice comfy sofa right around the corner with your name on it, soooooooo…
  25. “Sorry, but I think I’m going to… um… skip out on whatever’s going on here.”
  26. >”No, wait!” she shouts, stepping in your way to block you from walking around her. “You don’t have to be *rich* or anything. Just not poor.”
  27. “Um.”
  28. >This strange, semi-passive form of bullying is weird and disturbing.
  29. “Is this where you demand I give you my lunch money, but don’t want to feel guilty about stealing from a poor kid?”
  30. >”What!? No.”
  31. “So you want to get off on stealing from a poor kid because it’ll hurt them more? Well, I’m on a lunch plan so unless you really want to steal my card, then -”
  32. >Silver rolls her eyes.
  33. >”Uh,” she groans. “No. Stop being weird. You need money to *buy* things. Just… just come with me.”
  34. >She grabs your hand.
  35. >And she didn’t even offer you any beer or hard rock cds.
  36. >Not that those would appeal.
  37. >You’re way too young for that.
  38. >Like… maybe a year older than her? If that?
  39. >Just barely into college.
  40. >And not because you flunked out or were held back like a stupid jock or something.
  41. >You’re a perfectly reasonable age for your grade, which coincidentally happens to also be a perfectly reasonable age for a perfectly reasonable relationship with a girl of *her* age.
  42. >NOT THAT YOU’D BE INTERESTED IN SUCH THINGS.
  43. >Not after The Incident.
  44. >Girls are weird.
  45. >Particularly ones demanding to know if you’re poor and then grab your hand when they (apparently?) decide you aren’t too poor and can *buy* things.
  46. >Doubleparticularly ones that can catch you so off-guard that you’re being dragged through the hallways of Ponyville University’s student life building like a… like a… like a kid being dragged by a slightly smaller and younger kid.
  47. >”Hurry up! I have a bunch of new toys to play with.”
  48. >Oh.
  49. >OH.
  50. “Um. So. This club.”
  51. >”It’s fun. You’ll enjoy it.”
  52. “Is it… like… a… um…”
  53. >”What?”
  54. “One of *those* clubs?”
  55. >”Huh?” she grunts, taking a corner particularly sharp and dragging your arm out at a weird angle that makes it pretty obvious to everyone else in the hallway that you’re holding hands with a girl.
  56. “You know. *Those* clubs.”
  57. >”You’re going to have to be more specific.”
  58. “Like… a Comfort Club?”
  59. >”Huh?”
  60. “Public Morale Club?”
  61. >”Uh… like I said, it *is* fun. So I don’t know about the public – or care – but it helps with *my* morale.”
  62. “I mean… what do I need money for?”
  63. >”To *buy* things. Maybe you *are* poor if you don’t get that.”
  64. “But just things? Not… y’know… *people*?”
  65. >”Uh, Di pays people to do stuff for her all the time. She’s not that great with her hands so she pays some of the other girls to do stuff with her toys.”
  66. >That settles it.
  67. >You’re absolutely certain.
  68. “So. Uh.”
  69. >What’s that fancy term you read in your backwards Chinese comic books?”
  70. “Compensated dating?”
  71. >”What? Okay, maybe you *are* poor.”
  72. >She drops your hand about as suddenly as she stops running toward wherever it was she was running towards.
  73. >BUT WHAT AMAZING LUCK.
  74. >"What does it matter if he’s poor?" Silver Spoon’s co-bully sneers your way as she leans out the doorway of one of the multi-purpose meeting rooms this side of the building is dedicated to. "She said she doesn’t care who it is, as long as it’s a guy."
  75. >”Yeah, but he’s saying stupid stuff about compensation and public morals.”
  76. >”What does that even mean? Oh, *whatever*, Sil. Just get him in here.”
  77. >”But I think he’s poor.”
  78. >Diamond sneers your way.
  79. >You shrug.
  80. >”Whatever,” she mumbles. “You can give him the boyfriend discount, Sil.”
  81. >”But –“
  82. “But –“
  83. >”Fine.”
  84. >OHDAMMIT.
  85. >Now you’ve got a girl pulling on each hand.
  86. >And apparently you have a girlfriend now?
  87. >How does that even work?
  88. >Aren't you supposed to fall in love or at least get drunk or possibly horny and one of you needs to ask the other out or start making out but feel too awkward about it to talk about it like responsible adults or pretend it never happened like realistic adults so you just start calling each other your boyfriend or girlfriend as applicable until things fall apart?
  89. >At least that's how you got your last girlfriend.
  90. >It’s confusing enough that you somehow end up not stopping the pair from pulling you into the room where SUDDENLY EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE.
  91. >There’s a couple of folding tables – unfolded, of course. A few folding chairs, similarly unfolded, though there are some others flattened out and leaning in the far corner of the room.
  92. >Then there’s Moondancer (sitting at one of the tables, on one of the chairs). Yes. Her. You remember her. Antisocial twat.
  93. >And there’s a pile of gun cases on the table next to her.
  94. >And on the other side, there’s this other fat, chubby nerd girl.
  95. >And more gun cases.
  96. “Oh, I get it now. You’re not loli prostitutes.”
  97. >”Not *what*?” Diamond and Silver gasp in unison.
  98. “No, nah, I get it. I jumped to conclusions and I’m wrong and I’m very sorry.”
  99. >It’s obvious now.
  100. >Moondancer is way too busty to be a loli.
  101. “You’re *actually* the school shooter club.”
  102. >She seems the type. A little surprised about Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, but fits Moondancer to a T. Probably the other girl too. She looks like the kind of girl to be bullied until she either takes her own life or goes on one kind of spree or another.
  103. >Most likely an ice cream binge that empties a dozen stores but other possibilities exist.
  104. >”Who the hell is this!?” Future Miss ‘And Then Took Her Own Life’ (red and purple hair edition) shouts, quickly slamming one of her gun cases shut before you can figure out that there’s – surprise! – guns in there.
  105. >So she doesn’t remember you from that mandatory intro class last year?
  106. >Well, that’s not surprising. You weren’t always making an ass of yourself like she was.
  107. “Okay then. Soooo I appreciate the invite, but –“
  108. >”Don’t be such a *bitch*, Moondancer,” Diamond – surprisingly, of all people – leaps to defend you. You guess.
  109. >Or maybe she’s just using her being a bitch to you as an excuse to be a bitch to her?
  110. >But since when has Diamond Tiara ever needed an excuse?
  111. >”He’s alright.”
  112. >WELP.
  113. >”I think he’s poor,” Silver counters. “But –“
  114. >So here you are. Trapped in a room with two girls you were fairly certain were going to be the *cause* of some shit thanks to all their bullying, one girl you *know* is going to start it all what with basically being abandoned by the friend she transferred in following after like a loyal little puppy dog, and a fourth girl that alternates between being a shyer, fatter, darker Moondancer with messier hair and round glasses and being a shyer, fatter, darker Moondancer with messier hair and round glasses who glares angrily at Diamond Tiara for no reason except what’s probably the obvious reason that Diamond’s a bitch, always has been a bitch, and always will be a bitch, when in walks the university’s absolute hottest faculty member.
  115. >A lady, coincidentally, but you don’t think it would really matter if she wasn’t.
  116. >And she’s totally the kind you think would be all about shooting shit up.
  117. >But probably drugs, not people. Well, people, but with drugs. Not guns.
  118. >Unless there was like… a reason. Then sure, yeah, guns too.
  119. >But she’s still hot.
  120. >In that slutty, trashy, slutty, hot, covered in tattoos but no one seems to mind, slutty kinda way.
  121. >Maybe it’s her hypnotic walk, maybe it’s the way she’s so fucking confident all the time, or maybe it’s how she absolutely owns her Mistress of Evil look, from the dark skin to her darker hair to the black lipstick that you were probably 100% certain wasn’t University Faculty Dress Code Approved.
  122. >But. Okay. So.
  123. >Enough staring.
  124. >She’s noticed and she’s smiling and that smile is very disturbing for a very wide range of reasons.
  125. >A *very* wide range.
  126. >So. Drug ring?
  127. >Yeah, that makes more sense.
  128. >This is a drug ring.
  129. >Since when do femcels offer a ‘boyfriend discount’? That’s what Diamond said, right?
  130. >Okay.
  131. >So.
  132. >Yeah.
  133. >That makes more sense, right?
  134. >You were brought here as a customer. Just like you thought.
  135. >Just, you know (*now*), for drug. Not prostitution.
  136. >Well.
  137. >That’s… disappointing…? Maybe?
  138. >”Thanks girls,” Miss Chrysalis smugs in your direction, which is somewhat confusing and mildly conflicting because at first you thought she was talking to you because she *is* looking at you and you were kinda happy for her praise, despite the fact you did nothing to deserve it, nor are you a girl. At least you weren’t last you checked, but are you rambling in your own head because it kinda seems like you’re rambling in your own head, “it was a total taco festival in here. Seriously, I was considering changing the meetup day to Tuesday, because -”
  139. >“Moooooom,” CHUBBY LITTLE FATNERD whines, earning herself an ugly look from… well… what you’re *hoping* is her mom in addition to being Ponyville U’s hottest faculty member (even the gay dudes and straight girls agree).
  140. >Because if Miss Chrysalis isn’t her biological mother, this just got double kinky as fuck.
  141. >But now that you look, you kinda see the family resemblance.
  142. >But not really.
  143. >Except in the way they sneer at each other. And the way their eyes narrow angrily.
  144. >And maybe bust size. Skin color. Hair color. General appearance.
  145. >So maybe this just got triple kinky as fuck.
  146. >”I told you not to call me that at work, Novella,” Miss Chrysalis snarls. “Right now, I’m your club advisor. And if you can’t handle that, you can leave the club. You can go do your homework in the library and -”
  147. >”Sorry, *Miss Chrysalis*.”
  148. >Okay. So. Biological Mother. Huh. Never would have guessed someone with hips like that would –
  149. >Uh, no, nevermind. That makes *perfect* sense.
  150. >”Better,” she smugs again. Damn she is good at smugging. “So, Diamond, who is your friend?”
  151. “Um –“
  152. >”Hey!” Silver shouts. “I’m the one that brought him! I should get the credit!”
  153. “Wait, what –“
  154. >”He’s… uh… Anonymous,” Diamond speaks over you.
  155. >”Is that really his name or did you forget it?”
  156. “Hey! You can –“
  157. >”That’s his real name,” CHUBBY MINI-HOT TEACHER answers for you.
  158. >”Ooooooooooh? Is my little girl finally noticing boys?”
  159. >“He’s in my math class!”
  160. >You are?”
  161. >”And if I can’t call you ‘mom,’ then you can’t -”
  162. >”Of course I can. The rules are different for me.”
  163. “Uh, isn’t that favoritism?”
  164. >Miss Chrysalis waves her hand in a way that makes you feel things in places. And makes her daughter feel other things in other places – like frowny in the face.
  165. >”It’s only favoritism if she likes it.”
  166. >That sounds reasonable.
  167. >This isn’t favoritism. It’s harassment. Totally different.
  168. >”Well, Anonymous –“
  169. >Oooooh, Miss Chrysalis saying your name makes your spine tingle.
  170. >”- welcome to the Tabletop Gaming club.”
  171. “What.”
  172. >”What?”
  173. “Wat.”
  174. >”Are you confused about something?”
  175. “Yeah.”
  176. >”What?”
  177. “Wat.”
  178. >Miss Chrysalis groans and throws herself backwards into a chair and you didn’t quite realize how short her skirt was and yet somehow is just long enough to cover –
  179. >”It’s the Tabletop Gaming club,” she repeats, derailing your train of thought like the opposite of a flat penny on a railroad track. “Though these *nerds* mostly just want to play around with their little toy soldiers. I blame Novella.”
  180. >“You’re the one that asked me to paint those figures for your weekly RPG night.”
  181. >”Well I didn’t know you’d *enjoy* it,” Miss Chrysalis sneer – no, smugs – no, *smiles* back.
  182. >And not a sexy evil smile. It’s kinda almost motherly, even if she does sound mean and bitchy and sexy about it.
  183. >There’s a moment of almost familial warmth until you have to clear your throat because what the fuck.
  184. “So. There aren’t guns in those gun cases?”
  185. >”Obviously not,” Miss Chrysalis laughs at you.
  186. “And not drugs, either?”
  187. >”Nope.”
  188. “So…”
  189. >”Novella, why don’t you show him? You’ve got the most painted, after all.”
  190. >”Yeah, but –“
  191. >”All of *mine* are painted,” Diamond says proudly, getting more angry frowny faces from GLASSES GIRL VOL. 2.
  192. >”You didn’t paint them yourself,” Nov…uh… something snarls. “It doesn’t count.”
  193. >”Does too! I *never* field an unpainted model.”
  194. >TEACHER FROWNY TIME – and yes, you do still see the family resemblance.
  195. >”Just do it, Novella.”
  196. >You’re going to try to remember that name now.
  197. >MINI-TEACHER 2: THE RETURN OF THE FROWN.
  198. >You’re not too proud to admit a rapid failure on that name remembering thing.
  199. >But she gently puts one of the gun cases on the table and pops the latches.
  200. >And pulls out…
  201. “Fuck is that…?”
  202. >”It’s my Flyrant,” NEEEEEEEEEEEERD says with more pride than you would think that statement could possibly be said. “My first one. I want to get another. Maybe two more, but no more than that. The Rule of Three really makes it pointless to –“
  203. >”Oh shut up about your Tyranids, Novella,” Diamond scoffs and walks over to another pile of cases. “And that’s not even a real thing. It’s a Hive Tyrant. You don’t even know your own army.”
  204. >”Yeah, but they’re called Flyrants. You’d know that if you were part of the *hobby*."
  205. >"Whatever. Besides, Tyranids are an NPC army. *I* play Astra Militarium.”
  206. >From the way she says it, you guess that’s supposed to mean something to you.
  207. >And from the way Moondancer calls her a ‘wack’ under her breath, you guess it means…
  208. >Okay, you have no clue.
  209. >Fuck does ‘wack’ even mean in this context? Like… wanker? But for women?
  210. >That makes sense. According to your exhaustive scientific research on the internet, that’s entirely possible.
  211. >”Don’t be like her,” Busty McTits says as she reopens the case she had snapped shut earlier. “See?”
  212. >You don’t exactly know what you’re seeing, just that there’s a lot of grey, but what isn’t grey is blue with lightning bolts and batwings.
  213. >Yep.
  214. >You wonder where she’s hiding her fedora, katana, and trenchcoat.
  215. >”Play *Chaos*,” Little Miss Antisocial Personality Disorder tries to… what? It’s not convincing enough to be encouragement, nor demanding enough to be a command. “They’re a real army. My Night Lords aren’t slaves to anyone.”
  216. >Novella – holy shit, you remembered her name! – nods along.
  217. >Well, fatty solidarity stands strong.
  218. >”Now if only we’d use the 3.5 rules instead of 9th –“
  219. >”You never *played* 3.5,” Novella whines. “That ruleset is older than *you* are.”
  220. >”So what? It’s the only codex that really portrayed Chaos Space Marines properly –“
  221. >”You mean it was broken. You’re as big a ‘wack’ as Diamond Tiara, except you try to pretend you’re a fluff player.”
  222. >What language are they even speaking?
  223. >”I mean, your army is mostly grey tide because you keep swapping out your units to fit the meta.”
  224. >”Look, just because I don’t want to lose every game –“
  225. >”No, you want to *win* every game.”
  226. >”And what’s wrong with that? Not everyone is –“
  227. >Okay, you can recognize pointless bickering when you see it.
  228. >Attention diverted to… uh…
  229. “So… Silver?”
  230. >”Huh?” she gasps. And then drops your hand.
  231. >Huh yourself. You’d kinda forgotten she was still holding it. And so had she, you think.
  232. “What… um… what group do you use?”
  233. >”Oh, I… uh… do you wanna see?”
  234. >You shrug.
  235. “Sure?”
  236. >Everyone else wanted to show off.
  237. >Except Diamond, you realize, a moment too late, after Silver walks over to the biggest case in the room.
  238. >There’s three more the same size.
  239. >compensatingforjusticemuch?
  240. >”I… um…”
  241. >The case seems deceptively light, the way she easily picks it up with her little stick arms and puts it on the table for you to see.
  242. >”I play Imperial Knights.”
  243. >The latches pop and she swings open the lid.
  244. “Oh. Cool.”
  245. >Big stompy robots.
  246. >You can understand big stompy robots. At least the general concept.
  247. >And they’re bigger than the other stuff. Like… eight inches tall or so?
  248. “Those look pretty nice.”
  249. >You guess?
  250. >There’s only three in the box. One is grey. One is white. The third is… well… you guess the others aren’t painted judging from everything you just heard, at least not all the way, but the third robot is.
  251. >It’s pretty, going by the standards of a guy who has no idea what’s going on here or what the norm is when it comes to painting these little toy soldiers.
  252. “Cool. So. Uh…”
  253. >The fatties are still arguing. So much for chubby solidarity.
  254. “Why am I here?”
  255. >You don’t ask Silver. Not really. But you’re not exactly asking anyone. Yourself, maybe? Or Miss –
  256. >”Because I wanted another member for the club.,” Miss Chrysalis – yeah, her – answers. Guess you were talking to her after all.
  257. >That’s not ominous at all. And fucking hell, why would she look so damn hot in a Nazi outfit!?
  258. >”So, Anonymous,” she hums, “what do you think? Would you like to join the club?”
  259. >You… shrug.
  260. “Sure…?”
  261. >Have you mentioned to yourself that she’s the hottest member of the faculty at Ponyville University?
  262. “But… Silver? Why did you ask if I was poor?”
  263. >”You’re going to need an army.”
  264. >You lean over the table to look at her big stompy robots again.
  265. >Aaaaaaaaaaaaand cue shrugging.
  266. “Okay. These guys cost… what? Twenty, thirty bucks?’
  267. >Aaaaaaaaaaaaand cue eye rolling.
  268. >Yeah, that was stupid. There’s no way they cost that much. It’d be insa-
  269. >”Try more like over 150. *Each*. If I tell daddy you’re my boyfriend, he’ll let you buy them for maaaaaaybe half that, but you’ll still need at least four.”
  270. “I don’t think I can afford to be your friend.”
  271.  
  272. ** Ch. 2 **
  273. ** Wait, I - **
  274.  
  275. >"It's not as expensive as you think," Novella says before you can leave, and the girl opposite her quickly nods.
  276. >"A little proxying and kitbashing can go a long way if you pick the right army," Moondancer explains. "Like I've been thinking about adding a Hellforged Leviathan Dreadnought to my army, but instead of buying one of the official models from Forge World - even though they *finally* released a Chaos version and it's even *for* Night Lords - I'll probably use a Redemptor Dreadnought instead and scratch-build the weapons. Not only will I not have to deal with resin, I can *probably* do three that way for the price of one of the official Leviathan models. Two for sure. Hell, I could assemble a full 2000 point army out of a couple boxes of Chaos Space Marines if I raid my bits box for spare parts and wanted to do an entire force of Chaos Lords, Exalted Champions, Dark Apostles, and other characters. It would suck, but it can be done."
  277. >You have the feeling that most of, if not all, of those sounds she made have some sort of meaning attached and aren't just hollow buzzwords.
  278. >It's a scary feeling, like those dreams you have where you sit down for your Portuguese final but you're actually taking Spanish.
  279. >"I mean, you can't really do that for *Knights*," Silver says, trying to look as smug as her club advisor and - well - *failing*, "but for some armies, I *suppose* that's possible."
  280. >Four sets of eyes turn to you.
  281. >Waiting.
  282. >For...
  283. >Apparently some kind of response?
  284. "Uh... huh."
  285. >And then you nod like you understand *anything* that's happening here.
  286. >Ooooh, there's a hand on your shoulder.
  287. >It's *her* hand.
  288. >Miss Chrysalis
  289. >When did she get up?
  290. >And can you see just a hint of a tattoo peaking out from under the cuff of her coat's sleeve?
  291. >"I think you've lost him, girls."
  292. >You think so too.
  293. "Yeah, this all seems a little -"
  294. >"Why don't you see if he even likes the game first?" she continues, like you hadn't even oh she's squeezing your shoulder gently. "Diamond, you have some spare units Anon can use, don't you?"
  295. >"I didn't bring everything," the girl shrugs, "but if we're playing a small game and it's just this once, then sure."
  296. "I... guess I have time to try it out."
  297. >Your next class isn't for another... well, tomorrow.
  298. >Fuck yeah, morning-heavy schedule.
  299. >"Free-for-all?" Novella asks. "Or a team game? A team game might be better so we can help him out. Imperials versus... well..."
  300. >She sighs.
  301. >Moondancer sighs.
  302. >The other two girls grin. Evilly.
  303. >"Chaos and Tyranids aren't very fluffy allies," the fatnerd mumbles, "so instead of having Astra Militarium *and* Imperial Knights together -"
  304. >Sounds like there's some reason those two shouldn't be allies, but you also know better than to ask when you wouldn't understand whatever answer they try to give you.
  305. >"- maybe we should roll off for it instead?"
  306. >"No," Novella's sister-in-chub says with a shake of her head, "let's do Imperial Guard and Tyranids against Knights and Chaos. That's fluffy, right? Guard as brood-brothers?"
  307. "Imperial Guard?"
  308. >"Yeah, Diamond's army," Moondancer says offhandedly. "Imperial Guard."
  309. "I thought she said she played...um... Astra...?"
  310. >"They're Imperial Guard," the nerd snorts. "I don't care what the new name is."
  311. >And Diamond... shrugs.
  312. >"Whatever," she mumbles back. "They kick your ass all the same."
  313. >You don't know how they can both look so satisfied and smug, like they both won the same argument.
  314. >"Points or power level?" Silver cuts in. "Either way, it'll have to be big enough for me to field at least one Knight, so..."
  315. >"Points," Diamond answers. "If we go power level, Moondancer is going to cheese the hell out of it with her Chosen."
  316. >The fatty in question groans, but nods. "Fiiiiiiiiiine, not like I expected anything else. So we'll do -"
  317. >"And the new guy can use my Adeptus Astartes," Diamond continues.
  318. >"You mean *Space Marines*?"
  319. >Another shrug from the former high school bully.
  320. >Moondancer rolls her eyes and keeps on.
  321. >"Whatever. As long as I get to play alongside the Knight. Good luck killing it."
  322. >"Good luck holding objectives."
  323. >"Five hundred points of *Space Marines*," Moondancer ignores her, "five hundred of Chaos, and five of knights against..."
  324. >"Five hundred of Tyranids and a thousand Astra Militarium?" Diamond finishes. "Seems fair."
  325. >Doesn't to you, but - yeah, okay. Novella is getting frowny again, so maybe there is *one* part out of all of this that you're understanding.
  326. >"Why not seven-fifty each?" the chubnerd asks. "Why do you get a thousand points and I only get five hundred?"
  327. >"Because my army would use those points better," Diamond shrugs. "Face it, I'll be doing all the real work anyway."
  328. >Moondancer shrugs.
  329. >"Well, whatever. You two can figure it out between yourselves. Now, are teams going to share CP, or -"
  330. "Child porn? Goddammit, I knew coming here was going to end in jail time."
  331. >It's just a kneejerk reaction.
  332. >An attempt to make *some* sense out of all the terms being thrown around.
  333. >You don't even realize what you said - dammit brain, start acting faster to stop mouth from saying stupid shit! - or that it was said *aloud* until Novella and her mother snigger.
  334. >And Diamond Tiara rolls her eyes.
  335. >Silver Spoon pretends you didn't let something probably incredibly stupid escape your mouth - for that, you think she might be your favorite.
  336. >And Moondancer?
  337. >"Yes. Absolutely. How every clever of you," Moondancer drones. "We've never heard and/or made that joke before."
  338. >Well fuck you too.
  339. "Sorry, but you're saying a *lot* of stuff and I don't understand *any* of it, so excuse me for being a little bit of a jackass here.
  340. "I don't mind sticking around to try out the game, or maybe even joining the club, but could I... I don't know... I don't think it's too much to ask that you explain shit in a way I can understand, is it? Otherwise what's the point?"
  341. >Besides having a good excuse to hang out with Miss Eyecandy?
  342. >And getting a certain SOMEONE off your back about making new friends because she can't hang all the time and is starting to worry about you?
  343. >And possibly getting involved in a hobby that seems... well... these four are all pretty different, yet they all seem to enjoy it - hell, some of them are *passionate* about it, so it stands to reason that you might come to see the appeal too?
  344. >If they fucking *let* you, that is.
  345. "Want to try running this all past me again but maybe *including* me this time around?"
  346. >Silver Spoon nods once.
  347. >"That's fair. It's not like I have to build an army list, so I'll explain everything to you while Moondancer, Novella, and Di get set up, okay?"
  348. "I'd prefer it if -"
  349. >Oh, Miss Chrysalis is sitting down again. And she's reading a book.
  350. >And it seems like she doesn't really care what happens unless you try to leave.
  351. >Okay then.
  352. >While certain other men might take that as an reason to act out, you like to think you have a little decorum.
  353. >And it's not as if... well, Silver Spoon *is* being polite. And aside from the kidnapping that you probably could have stopped if you had tried, she's being nice.
  354. >It's only common decency to respond in kind, right?
  355. "I'd prefer it if you could take things slow, if you don't mind."
  356. >She smiles.
  357. >Have you ever seen her smile before?
  358. >Well, specifically when she *wasn't* bullying someone?
  359. >The whole explanation takes a bit, but you think you get the gist of it.
  360. >The game is complicated, but not *that* complicated. Make an army, roll dice, victory conditions depend on the mission.
  361. >Honestly it's the "making an army" part that seems most involved, but *basically* all of your soldiers have to come from the same army. Basically.
  362. >Luckily, Diamond Tiara is taking care of that for you today.
  363. >As for everything else, none of it really sticks but they'll walk you through it.
  364. >It involves lots of dice. You remember that. Like... rolling three or four times whenever your dudes shoot someone else's. That seems excessive, but whatever.
  365. >At least the game's setting is simple. In the grim darkness of the far future, everything is shit, everyone hates everyone, and the only good guys are the Imperial Knights.
  366. >You're fairly certain Silver Spoon might have been showing a little bias there, but you'll allow it.
  367. >Certainly every other army is one-hundred percent card-carrying baddies.
  368. >Novella's Tyranids want to eat everything (judging from her waistline, kinda like her), Diamond Tiara's Astra Whatsits will march troops to the slaughter just to drown the enemy in the blood of their fallen (which you imagine is exactly how she has her family's servants deal with anything from washing dishes to buying groceries), and Moondancer's Night Lords are outright evil edgelords.
  369. >Gee, doesn't that seems fitting.
  370. >So yes, the big stompy robots that fight to protect their feudal serfs or in crusades against the baddies seem the best of the batch.
  371. >You can't help but wonder what that says about Silver Spoon.
  372. >Oh, and the Space Marines you're playing?
  373. >Apparently they're vampires. Space vampires. In power armor, like from Fallout. With chainsaw swords, fully automatic grenade launchers, rocket packs, and more gold deco than Scrooge McDuck. Who aren't exactly averse to eating civilians.
  374. >So... shut up, self. It doesn't mean anything. They aren't *your* dudes. They're just loaners.
  375. >And yes, that seems pretty fitting for her.
  376. >But actually...
  377. >You pick up one of the models Diamond handed you and examine it.
  378. "So... where's the rocket pack? And chainsaw sword? Aaaaaaaand power armor?"
  379. >"I told you already," Diamond sighs, "that's a scout. You've got three squads of five scouts each and three captains."
  380. "The captains are the guys with the armor and rocket packs?"
  381. >"They're called jump packs."
  382. "And the chainsaw swords...? Not that I'm not a big fan of huge hammers, but aren't they a little low tech?"
  383. >"The *Slamguinius* -"
  384. >Bullshit, that's not a real word.
  385. >"- is your warlord, remember? He's armed with a Thunder Hammer and a Storm Shield," Diamond snorts. "*Remember*? He can't be targeted by overwatch -"
  386. >Which is...?
  387. >"- and his hammer does four damage per hit."
  388. "Cool, cool. And most dudes can take how much damage?"
  389. >"One. Use him to take down Novella's Carnifexes, Hive Tyrants, or -"
  390. >"Point him at the big ones and watch them get turned to mist," Silver Spoon translates.
  391. "Okay, got it. But isn't it a little... uh... I mean, I would have figured captains would be a little rarer, right? There's only... *ten* ...?"
  392. >Silver nods.
  393. "Yeah, ten of them for each Space Marine army, right? And they're each supposed to lead a hundred regular dudes, but I've only got fifteen, so -"
  394. >"That's just fluff," Diamond snorts. "It doesn't mean anything. Three HQ choices and three minimum sized squads of troops is a perfectly valid battalion detachment."
  395. >Okay, okay. You remember detachments from Silver's explanation. They're supposed to limit what you can take to make things more realistic. As realistic as dudes flying hundreds of light-years through hell in space cathedrals to beat other dudes with chainsaw swords can be.
  396. >You also remember her saying detachments don't really do anything, because there's a detachment for everything.
  397. >Like how she's putting down one big stompy robot. No HQ or troop choices there.
  398. >And how Diamond Tiara is setting up...
  399. "Wait, how many dudes do you get?"
  400. >"Ninety."
  401. "But -"
  402. >"The basic guys are only worth four points each."
  403. >Ah. Right. Points. To make things fair, each guy is worth a certain number of points and armies are supposed to fight against other armies of the same point value.
  404. >That part was simple enough to understand.
  405. >It's still a little overwhelming when you see your opponent setting up more than four times as many dudes as you.
  406. >Of course, you've got eighteen times as many as Silver Spoon, but hers is huge.
  407. >Moondancer has more than you, but not much. Only like... twice as many.
  408. >And none of them have huge hammers.
  409. >Guess Space Marines must be pretty awesome.
  410. >"Here's the plan," she says once she's put away her apparently-not-a-gun case. "Silver's Knight Crusader will take out any serious threats with its big guns. Your Slamguinius makes a straight line whatever it misses. Your other two captains are geared for clearing chaff -"
  411. "Chaff?"
  412. >Silver shakes her head.
  413. >"Point them at the little ones."
  414. >Thanks Google Translate!
  415. >"Chaff is weak shit like Diamond's Guardsmen. Throw them at her infantry squads - no, wait, the mortar squads. Take out the mortar squads first."
  416. >That all seems reasonable. And even if it didn't, what the fuck do you know?
  417. >You nod.
  418. "What about my scouts?"
  419. >"Normally they'd be used to hold objectives," Moondancer answers, "but since we're only placing one objective right in the center of the table and your scouts aren't very durable, use them to clear a path for your captains. Jump packs won't mean shit if Diamond screens properly, so -"
  420. "Screens?"
  421. >Silver holds up a hand to stop Moondancer before the other girl can even open her mouth. She gives a little apathetic shrug and turns back to her little army.
  422. >"Screening is a term for blocking enemy units from shooting or assaulting your important units. For example, Di is probably going to put an infantry squad in front of her mortar teams to stop you from charging in with those captains."
  423. "But..."
  424. >You pick up one of the captains and point to his rocket pack.
  425. "... rocket pack."
  426. >"He can move over other units with that," Silver patiently explains, "but it won't do you any good if there's no space for you to set him down."
  427. "Oh."
  428. >"So that's why Moondancer was suggesting you use your scouts to clear the way for your captains. Their guns aren't very powerful, but you only have to kill a few to make room for the captains."
  429. "Got it."
  430. >Somewhat.
  431. >Okay, maybe this game is slightly more complicated than you thought.
  432.  
  433. >In the end, you win.
  434. >Your very first game, you win.
  435. >And you know just enough to know that victory wasn't the result of your tactical genius.
  436. >No, it was the big stompy - utterly unkillable - robot that walked up the middle of the board and parked itself on top of the marker the teams were fighting over.
  437. >"So, what did you think?" Silver asks as the others start packing away their little soldiers.
  438. "Well..."
  439. >"Did you have fun?"
  440. "Yeah, I guess so. It was an experience - and not one I'm totally against having again, but maybe after I get a chance to really read over the rules."
  441. >"So... you'll join the club?"
  442. >There's that smile again.
  443. >How can you say no to that?
  444. "Sure, I'll join."
  445. >For a smile like that, you'd -
  446. >"Miss Chrysalis!" Silver shouts, turning away as soon as you agreed. "I got him to join, so I get the credit, right?"
  447. >- regret saying yes. That's what you'd do.
  448. >"Sure, why not?"
  449. >Silver whirls around and grabs your hands.
  450. >"Okay, tomorrow we'll go down to the Games Workshop store and I'll get my Master of Recruits card for bringing in a new player - and while we're there you can pick out an army you'd like to start collecting, so what time are you free? My last class is at -"
  451. >Well, she's still smiling. That's something.
  452.  
  453. ** Ch. 3 **
  454. ** So who are these fuckers? **
  455.  
  456. >"So... what? Is this supposed to be a date or something?"
  457. >You shrug. Your friend's got her eyes on the road and isn't watching you, but you do it anyway.
  458. "Yeah, no. I seriously doubt it, Cloudy."
  459. >"I had to ask."
  460. "Do you really think I'd ask you to come along if it was?"
  461. >"With a manipulative bitch like this?" your best friend in the whole world snorts. "No, but you should."
  462. "Well -"
  463. >"Yeah, yeah, you wouldn't put it that way," Cloudy snorts, "but that's fine. I'll say it for you. She's a manipulative bitch!"
  464. >You wiggle your hand in one of those wishy-washy-doesn't-quite-mean-anything hand gestures.
  465. "She was nicer than the other girls."
  466. >"Because she was *playing* you so she can get this... whatever it is. Do I get off now or stay on -"
  467. >You check your phone again.
  468. "Yeah, take the next exit. I could have driven, you know."
  469. >"But then I'd have to navigate," Cloudy says, shooting you a smile. "I like this setup."
  470. >You shrug again.
  471. "GPS is a thing, you know."
  472. >"Yeah I know, but I like this setup."
  473. >Works for you either way, so long as you've got an actual friend along for moral support. Plus...
  474. >"And no, I won't do the nerd stuff with you."
  475. >Nevermind.
  476. >You kinda knew there was no way she would.
  477. >"Not that I don't want to spend time with my best buddy, y'know? But I've got soccer practice and all this other stuff going on.
  478. >"I'll *pretend* if this thing you get for bringing in new people is worth it, but let's see what it is first and if this isn't just some kind of nerd-based pyramid scheme."
  479. >You nod.
  480. "Fair enough."
  481. >More than fair, but... eh.
  482. "Okay, now stay in this lane and take a left, then..."
  483.  
  484. >You kind of expected something grander.
  485. >This is just a semi-upscale shopping center. There's a few restaurants, a couple of specialty places. Movie theater at one end.
  486. >And the store itself?
  487. >The one you're here for?
  488. >"Wow, she's tiny."
  489. "Huh?"
  490. >"Tiny and adorable and I don't like her."
  491. >Cloudy kicks shut her door - like she *always* does when she's trying to be intimidating, and coincidentally why the driver's side is all dinged up - and points to the girl standing in front of the store.
  492. >A little off to the side.
  493. >Actually in front of a burrito place, not the game store.
  494. >Wearing a knee-length blue skirt. Creme-coloured button-down shirt. Practical running shoes with what you assume are ankle length socks since you don't actually see any socks. Brown leather - is that leather? You're going to assume that's leather - purse strung over her left shoulder.
  495. >Playing with her braid with one hand, checking her phone with the other.
  496. >"That's Silver Spoon, right?" Cloudy asks. "Looks like her. I mean, I *vaguely* remember her from high school, but I kind of thought she'd have... y'know, *grown-up* a little. And she always wore those dorky purple sailor outfits. That's not a dorky purple sailor outfit. You sure that's her?"
  497. "Yeah, I'm sure. You haven't seen her around campus before?"
  498. >Cloudy shrugs.
  499. >"Guess I'm just not used to seeing her without her friend."
  500. "She probably didn't want to risk Diamond trying to steal the credit for bringing me in. She should be here, but..."
  501. >At least... you *thought* they were all going to be here. That's why you're meeting up so late in the day instead of carpooling over after your last class.
  502. >There were reasons, you assumed. That some of the others had stuff to do, or had late classes.
  503. >*Reasons*.
  504. >"Hey Anon, you sure you want to do this."
  505. "I guess?"
  506. >"She hasn't noticed us yet. We could leave."
  507. "Nah."
  508. >Cloudy chuckles softly and walks around to you, shaking her head the whole time.
  509. "What?"
  510. >She puts an arm around your shoulder and sighs.
  511. >"If you were really that desperate..."
  512. >She leers.
  513. >EW.
  514. "No. What? You would - no, I... *No*."
  515. >"Not *me*, dork. I could have set you up with one of the other soccer players, you know. Some of them are total sluts."
  516. "I thought you wanted me to make *friends*, not get laid."
  517. >"Tooooootal sluts *for friendship*, I meant to say. How about it?"
  518. >You shrug her arm off of your shoulder and - you weren't exactly raised to never hit a girl, but Cloudy's more your best friend than she is a girl.
  519. >If she minds you punching her arm, she doesn't say anything.
  520. >Ditto for even *noticing*.
  521. "We're already here. We might as well see what this is all about."
  522. >"Right, we can totally leave if it's boring."
  523. >She puts her arm around your shoulder again and - lets it drop without ever actually touching you.
  524. >"C'mon, let's see what she wants."
  525. >You're halfway there - which is practically *there* since Cloudy practically got front row parking - when your phone rings.
  526. >About three things happen at pretty much the same moment.
  527. >Silver Spoon looks up and sees you.
  528. >Your phone stops ringing.
  529. >She smiles.
  530. >All at pretty much the same time, or at least so fast you don't have a chance to react to any of them.
  531. >"Oh, good, you're - you brought someone," Silver says, her smile dropping away as she puts her phone in her purse. "Good. Let's go inside and -"
  532. "Yeah, give me a sec."
  533. >You struggle to get your own phone out of your pocket.
  534. "I wanna see if that was anyone important."
  535. >"Probably not, or they would have let it ring more than once," she says quickly. "Undoubtedly it was a wrong number."
  536. >Eh.
  537. >You look at Cloudy. Then Silver. Then...
  538. >Shrug.
  539. "Probably. Who would call me anyway? So, where are the others?"
  540. >She grimaces.
  541. >"Oh, I'll -"
  542. >Cloudy laughs as Silver frantically pulls her phone out again and -
  543. >"- I'll text them. They're finishing dinner at the roadhouse."
  544. "Oh."
  545. >You exchange looks with Cloudy, who wobbles her head from side to side before nodding.
  546. >"Sure," your friend says, reading your mind perfectly. "I could eat."
  547. "Cool. We can meet them there and come back after."
  548. >"I already ate," Silver says quickly as she pounds away at her phone. "I finished early. Di says they're nearly done. You can eat after - I mean..."
  549. >She looks up and smiles, though nowhere near as quickly as earlier.
  550. >"... I mean if you don't mind waiting. We can stop somewhere afterwards and get something to eat. My treat."
  551. >You're a poor college student; you're not going to turn down free food.
  552. "Cool. Cool with you, Cloudy?"
  553. >No, not cool. Cloudy Kicks is not cool with this *at all*.
  554. >"Yeah, that sounds fine," she lies.
  555. >Convincingly enough that Silver Spoon relaxes, but you know her too well.
  556. >Free food doesn't compare with looking out for her friend, and you're okay with that.
  557. >"Then let's get started," Silver smiles and grabs your hand.
  558. >And Cloudy is less cool with this than she was just seconds ago.
  559. >"This is all just about some stupid card, right?" she asks as Silver pulls you towards the game store. "You seem kinda desperate for it. What's it even do?"
  560. >"No, it's... I just... I want Anon to find the right army."
  561. >"Yeah, but what about that card you're -"
  562. >Silver jerks open the door right about then. The jingling bells don't exactly - or even come close to - drowning out Cloudy.
  563. >No, that's the clerk/employee/staffer/schmuck in a black shirt that practically pounces on you.
  564. >Between Cloudy's protective bitching, that dude and his greeting/salespitch, and Silver's eager talking, everything goes kind of white noise for a minute until Silver yanks on your arm.
  565. >"He'll pick up a starter box before he goes!"
  566. >Wait, you will?
  567. >"I swear."
  568. >Huh!?
  569. >"Uh... yeah," the staffer grunts. "Sure. Let me get that for you."
  570. "A starter box?"
  571. >He hesitates. And grins.
  572. >"Do you know what faction you'd like to -"
  573. >"I'll walk him through it. The card, please."
  574. >Another second of hesitation, but he nods.
  575. >"Alrighty! I'll let you talk your boyfriend through it. I've got the cards in the back, so give me just a sec."
  576. >Boyfriend?
  577. >Oh.
  578. >Right.
  579. >She's still holding your hand.
  580. >"And what about you?" the man asks, talking past you to Cloudy. "Before I go, is there anything I can help you with?"
  581. >"Nah, dude. I'm just here for moral support. I have literally *no* interest in this stuff."
  582. >He seems to take that pretty well, going so far as to give her a thumbs up.
  583. >"That's okay. The hobby isn't for everyone. But if something does catch your eye or you have any questions, I'm here to help."
  584. >THANKFULLY, Cloudy nods politely.
  585. >Dude's just doing his job, after all.
  586. >He heads off towards the back - which isn't far.
  587. >The store is *maybe* forty feet deep, at least this front part is, and about twenty across?
  588. >Roughly.
  589. >Noooooot very big at all.
  590. >Boxes along the long sides, a small section of books every few feet.
  591. >Three tables down the centre, one set up like a diorama with soldiers fighting over some sci-fi gribbly junk, another with some fantasy looking dudes in a similar setup.
  592. >Silver pulls you to the left, past the -
  593. >"We won't worry about paints for now."
  594. "Why not?"
  595. >"Because you need to decide what you want to play first."
  596. >Oh, right.
  597. >So past the paints, paintbrushes, dice - oh, cool, you can get customized dice for your dudes - to the... ah. You recognize these. Kind of.
  598. >Space Marines.
  599. >Fuck yeah.
  600. >But wait.
  601. "What about that section that says 'start here?'"
  602. >"You don't want to get one of those boxes," Sil says absently. "Those are the core games with two armies in them. You're going to get one of the Start Collecting boxes today."
  603. "You seem pretty confident about that."
  604. >"Yeah," Cloudy adds. "What if Anon doesn't see anything he wants?"
  605. >All three of you turn away - well, Cloudy more like bends her head back far enough she's half backflipping and wow it always is a shock how flexible she is, as the door jingles and in comes the rest of the Kidnap Young Men And Turn Them Into Nerds club, Diamond Tiara first, followed by Novella, Moondancer, and - surprisingly - Miss Chrysalis.
  606. >"Is he done yet?" Diamond sighs. "I don't like wasting my time here unless there's something going on, you know. There's not even anyone else here today, so what's the point, right?"
  607. >"I know, Di," Sil sighs. "No, we just started."
  608. >"Let's do this as fast as we can," Diamond groans. "Anon should play Grey Knights."
  609. "Who...?"
  610. >"No way," Moondancer says, shaking her head. "Grey Knights suck."
  611. >"Uh, yeah, that's why he should play them."
  612. >"No, he should pick an army that isn't an autolose. Something like... Eldar."
  613. >"You mean *Aeldari*?"
  614. >"No, I *mean* -"
  615. >"You should pick an army based on their background," Novella shouts over the others. "I can tell you about them all, if you want."
  616. >Eh. That seems better than picking an army that sucks just because they suck.
  617. >Or an army that's powerful just because they're powerful.
  618. >One of those is outright stupid, the other... from what you remember, the rules change pretty frequently. What's good today might suck tomorrow.
  619. "That'd be handy, thanks. What about you, Miss Chrysalis? How do you think I should pick an army?"
  620. >She shrugs. Violently.
  621. >"I don't care. Do I look like a *dork* to you?"
  622. >Cue Cloudy-initiated brofist.
  623. >"And I don't know who this girl is, but I like her. She thinks you're all nerds too."
  624. "But Miss Chrysalis, you *run* the tabletop gaming club."
  625. >"Yeah, but I thought we were going to play boardgames and rpgs, not *this*."
  626. >She holds out her fist again.
  627. >"Oh, *come on*."
  628. >Cue reluctantly reciprocated Cloudy brofist.
  629. >"*Thank you*. But if I had to suggest something, I'd say pick something that fits your playstyle. That's usually good advice whatever game you're playing."
  630. >Not that you -
  631. >"Not that you know what your playstyle is," Miss Chrysalis reads your mind.
  632. "Yeah, I was just thinking that. Maybe I should wait before I buy anything.
  633. "Diamond wants me to pick an army because it sucks, which is stupid."
  634. >Most of the girls nod. A certain someone doesn't.
  635. "Moondancer wants me to pick one because it's good, which - thanks for not trying to screw me over there - but the rules change. I could get something that's good right now but gets shafted soon."
  636. >Again most of the girls nod.
  637. "Miss Chrysalis suggests going for something that matches my playstyle, which sounds smart but I don't know *anything* about how the armies play or how I'd *want* to play. I doubt Monopoly or Exploding Kittens is a good milestone for that."
  638. >Still most females present are making socially recognized head gestures of confirmation.
  639. "Novella says I should go by the background, which... isn't a bad idea, really, but from what I've seen much of the appeal of this game is that you can make your own dudes, so... I mean, if I don't like the background for an army, I can always do my own version, right?"
  640. >Must be a fair counterpoint, because even Novella nods in agreement. Eagerly.
  641. >Found the girl with the donut steel OCs.
  642. >So none of that's really useful.
  643. >You look over the rows of boxes on the wall, until your gaze settles on Silver Spoon.
  644. "Silver, what do you think I should base my decision on?"
  645. >"I think you should play whatever looks best to you."
  646. >Okay, I pick you.
  647. >But you don't actually say that.
  648. >Just... it's the cheesiest thing you could possibly say right now so OF COURSE it comes to mind.
  649. >It's a gift - and a curse.
  650. >Besides, it's not even true. Mostly.
  651. >Silver Spoon is very pretty. *Objectively*. But not your type.
  652. >But mostly you don't say it because occasionally you're capable of not saying the random shit that pops into your mind.
  653. >"What I mean is," Silver continues, "rules change, and play style with them. Anyway, some armies - most, I mean - have several different ways they can be run. Some more competitive than others, but still..
  654. >"And background material? That only matters if you *think* it matters. Some players ignore it completely."
  655. >Yeah, you kinda figured that.
  656. >"But your models? Your models are forever. Pick the ones you like the look of."
  657. "Is that how you picked your dudes?"
  658. >Silver nods her head.
  659. >"What can I say?" she giggles. "I'm a fan of mecha."
  660. "Uh... huh."
  661. >"And their heraldry gives me a chance to be as creative as I want when it comes to painting without violating their background material, so long as I follow a few simple rules."
  662. >You don't think she should be allowed to say 'violating'.
  663. >When you become president, you're going to make that illegal, just for her.
  664. >"I suppose that's not a bad idea," Diamond confirms. "You can always buy a new army when you know what you *actually* want to play."
  665. >"Except Anon doesn't have money to burn," Cloudy responds before you get a chance.
  666. >"Then he better choose carefully, I guess," Diamond shrugs. "Who the fuck are you, anyway?"
  667. >She's a good friend.
  668. >You pull your hand free of Silver's and step between the two before your impulsive buddy can do something stupid.
  669. >Not that she would or you even *think* she would, particularly not over something so petty, but that's usually when she *does*.
  670. "This is my friend Cloudy Kicks and I asked her to tag along."
  671. >"So not even your -"
  672. "But you're right. I better choose carefully. I've got just enough for one of these starter boxes, and that's it for the month."
  673. >Next month too, unless you're really careful.
  674. >You look up and down the wall.
  675. "Soooo..."
  676. >Damn. This looks hard.
  677. "Which of these guys use big stompy robots?"
  678. >You walk along the wall - wait, what's on the other side?
  679. >You turn to see if there's something -
  680. >"Don't even bother," you can hear Moondancer visibly frowning behind you. "That's all Age of Shitmar. Different game. I can't believe the Old World *died* for that absolute piece of crap."
  681. >"You never played Warhammer Fantasy," Novella snarls back.
  682. >"I *would* have!"
  683. >Maybe they hate each other?
  684. >Fat nerd girls are like highlanders?
  685. >Yes, you would pay to watch them swordfight to the death.
  686. >But since that seems unlikely, you tune them out.
  687. >Ooooh.
  688. >The Blue and Black Space Marine boxes each have a stompy robot. Nowhere near as big as Silver's Knights, but very stompy looking.
  689. >Mildly appealing, though you don't get why they seem have a dozen starter boxes when every other group only has one.
  690. >Maybe those skinny red guys...? Nah. Their box has one big dude and a bunch of little ones, but are they even robots? Paaaaaaaass.
  691. >Too skinny.
  692. >Not stompy.
  693. >A couple others have small things too, but... meh.
  694. >Two boxes kind of catch your eye. T'au (oooooh, look at the fancy apostrophe word!) have the most - three - but they're the smallest. Orcs have the biggest, it looks like, but only one.
  695. >You're about to give up and go with one of the Space Marine boxes, or maybe the Orcs, when the staffer comes back out.
  696. >"Sorry, it's been a while since someone wanted one of these. I guess I kind of lost them."
  697. >Ooooh. The card he hands to Silver has fancy gold lettering on it and... meh.
  698. >You're here for robots.
  699. >"Hey, Anon, what about this?" Cloudy asks and holds up something that isn't one of the starter boxes.
  700. >Ohhhhhhhh.
  701. >Stompy.
  702. >Like a walking pyramid covered in guns and chainsaws.
  703. >Yes.
  704. >Very Stompy.
  705. >It says so right on the box.
  706. >STOMPA.
  707. >You might need new pants.
  708. >"I know you like giant robots and shit, so how about one of these?"
  709. >"Stompas *suck*," Moondancer answers for you.
  710. >Moondancer can go fuck herself with a harpoon.
  711. "Howmuchisit."
  712. >Cloudy flips the box over.
  713. >"I really think you should get a starter set," Silver tries TO HINDER YOUR DREAMS.
  714. "I can play with just one dude if it's a big one, right? Like you did in that game?"
  715. >APPARENTLY YES, because the game store staffer starts nodding.
  716. >"Absolutely, you can field an Ork Super Heavy Auxiliary Detachment for now -"
  717. >Oh, yeah, it does match up aesthetically with that one starter you were considering.
  718. >"- and move on to either a Supreme Command or full-fledged Super Heavy Detachment later."
  719. >"It's..."
  720. >Oh, shit. Cloudy is making her "you're not going to like this" face.
  721. >"... one twenty-five."
  722. >Damn.
  723. "O...kay. But... I guess I could start Orcs -"
  724. >"You're pronouncing it wrong," the staffer interrupts. Also: what? "It's spelled with a k."
  725. "Oooookay. Sorry."
  726. >But not really.
  727. >Not your fault their spellchecker didn't catch their fuckup.
  728. >"Still, you could save up and get it later?"
  729. "In two or three months? No... I should probably get something now."
  730. >"Then what about -"
  731. >Cloudy holds up another box.
  732. >Less stompy looking, more shooty.
  733. >And if you had to guess, it's from the T'au faction.
  734. >"Riptides are a good choice too," the staffer says. "Three of them and an HQ choice and you can field a Vanguard Detachment. For the HQ, I'd recommend -"
  735. >"One-ten," Cloudy laughs and put the box back. "Yeah, no. He's not buying this."
  736. "Not right now, anyway."
  737. >"And I'm guessing this other one..."
  738. >"Oh, the Stormsurge?" the staffer lights up. "That's a Lord of War, so can be fielded as -"
  739. "It looks *stupid*."
  740. >"It's also one-seventy," Cloudy says, unnecessarily. Because it looks stupid. What kind of giant stompy robot doesn't even have gunarms!
  741. >It's just a stupid pile of missiles and guns on legs, but not in the right sexy combination.
  742. >Wait. No. It's got *some* guns mounted under the shoulder missiles.
  743. >Tiny, little t-rex gunarms.
  744. >Eeeeeeeeh...
  745. >Well...
  746. >The Riptide looks cooler.
  747. "I don't suppose there's any way to use Or*k*s and Tau together?"
  748. >"Absolutely!" says the staffer.
  749. >"No," says Diamond.
  750. >"Kind of," says Silver.
  751. >"This is why *seventh* was better," says Moondancer.
  752. >"YOU NEVER EVEN PLAYED SEVENTH!" screeches Novella. "You're so full of shit! You can't pretend you're -"
  753. >"Honey, don't get us banned from the nice game store."
  754. >ANGRIEST NERDETTE FACE - she's even got a little fangy snarl and everything!
  755. >"Fine, but I'm still going to hate *everyone*."
  756. >"That's acceptable, just do it quietly."
  757. "Soooooo...."
  758. >Yep, just pretending you didn't just see the warning signs there.
  759. "... I heard a yes?"
  760. >The staffer doubletakes and - sensing a chance to boost his sales - ignores everything else that just happened.
  761. >"Yeah! narrative and open play allow you to -"
  762. >And to no surprise, Diamond scoffs. Literally scoffs.
  763. >You don't think you've ever heard someone really do that before, but it still doesn't surprise you.
  764. >"No one *uses* those. Matched Play or *nothing*."
  765. >"You're -!" Novella blurts out, before snapping her mouth shut and shaking like a berserking vibrator.
  766. >Or more accurately, a berserking bowl of chunky jello with a vibrator shoved in it. Probably lime, going by the colour of her sweater.
  767. >Everything stops until she does. You don't know about everyone else, but you kinda figure that if you open your mouth to say anything, she'll blow up.
  768. >"Well..." Silver tests the water "... we could *start* doing more narrative games. I don't there's anything unbalanced about combining T'au and Orks."
  769. >"Certainly nothing worse than Imperials can do already," Moondancer agrees.
  770. >You expect Diamond to argue, but she shrugs.
  771. >No, it's Novella that objects. Which shouldn't surprise you, seeing as how she loves arguing with everyone.
  772. >"As long as the Orks are Blood Axes," she sneers. "And you better convert them appropriately."
  773. >Well...
  774. >You don't know what that means, but if the guy that works here says you can do it... he's the expert, right?
  775. >So it's just a question of which one you get first.
  776. >You look between the two starters.
  777. >Three stompy dudes or one stompier dude?
  778. >"If you're planning on getting a Stompa eventually," the staffer says, pointing to a totally different box, "or - as you seem a fan of big robots - perhaps a Gorkanaut or Morkanaut, I suggest going with the Ork box.
  779. >"All three of those are also transport vehicles and can carry infantry.
  780. >"There's nothing quite like watching the look on an opponent's face when you replace the walker she just blew up with a fistful of Nobz."
  781. "What about the T'au?"
  782. >He shakes his head.
  783. >"None of their walkers are transports, though they do have Devilfish."
  784. "Are they big stompy robots?"
  785. >"Afraid not."
  786. "That settles it. Orks first."
  787. >Might as well get something you can use later, right?
  788. >Futureproofing, to use one of the buzzwords some of your business professors like to throw around.
  789. >"Meganobz or tankbustas would be better," Moonie bitches.
  790. >Hmmmm... you ignore her but also file that away for future reference.
  791. >You stick with just grabbing the Ork starter box and heading to the register.
  792. >"Since you're new to the hobby," the staffer starts up, matching your stride, "you're going to need some paints and glue. Probably a mould line scraper, sprue snippers -"
  793. >Oh. Shi-
  794. >"Just the Start Collecting box, please," Silver interrupts both his pitch and your panic. "The club has tools he can borrow for now."
  795. >Oh. Yay.
  796. >"Fair enough. Speaking of your club, where's your other member?"
  797. >You shrug.
  798. >The girls all look at each other.
  799. >Miss Chrysalis sighs.
  800. >"She's busy. Apparently there's -"
  801. >Her whole face changes.
  802. >Not literally.
  803. >It's just a little change of expression, the way she raises her eyebrows, the set of her head, and then the voice that comes out that sounds totally different from her norm.
  804. >"- nothing more important than helping out a new club member, except there is."
  805. >You have no idea how she did that.
  806. >With a roll of her eyes, Miss Chrysalis's face - and voice - go back to normal.
  807. >"You'll meet her eventually, Anon."
  808. "Cooooool."
  809. >Or not. Whatever.
  810. >You put it out of your mind, hand the starter box over to be scanned, and pay the man all the disposable money you have for nineteen little toy soldiers that don't even come assembled, let alone painted.
  811. >This is a horrible idea.
  812. >But at least you won't starve. Yaaaaaay, meal plan.
  813. >You take the bag and try not to immediately regret everything.
  814. >The other club members will help you build and paint them, right?
  815. >At least show you how, surely.
  816. >So instead of immediately asking for a refund, you calmly take your bag, say pleasant goodbye sounds to the man on the other side of the counter, and walk out surrounded by our new "friends".
  817. >"Cool, that was... fun," Cloudy mumbles as the door swings closed. "Where are you taking us for dinner, Silver?"
  818. >Oh. Right. Food.
  819. "Hopefully not someplace expensive. I've got literally -"
  820. >"She's paying, remember?"
  821. >Oh! Right!
  822. >Silver nods.
  823. >"Yes, I'll pay for you two," she says, and looks over to her friend. "Did you -"
  824. >"Uh, no," the girl snorts. "I just ate. So did you. So..."
  825. >"Then I guess I'll ride with them. You two do live on campus, right?"
  826. >Cloudy nods first - you follow along with her out of routine before realizing what Silver's saying. And meaning.
  827. "Oh, uh, yeah, we can drive you - if that's cool with you, Cloudy?"
  828. >Her car, after all.
  829. >"For a free meal? Sure thing."
  830. >"Novella and I'll be heading home," Miss Chrysalis smiles, putting her hands on her daughter's shoulders and steering her away - probably before she can try to jump in on this because you can't really imagine her ever missing a meal. "The usual meeting room isn't ours tomorrow, but I'll try to swing something for you. I'm sure you're eager to get your toys put together."
  831. "Thanks."
  832. >So. Novella lives with her mother.
  833. >That's... not surprising. At all.
  834. >Moondancer heads off with a simple wave - and Diamond chases after her.
  835. >"She drove us," Silver explains with a shrug. "So, where would you like to go?"
  836. >There's a brief discussion, a few suggestions quickly shot down for being too far away in the wrong direction (Cloudy vetoed those), a few for being utter trash (Silver wanted someplace comfortable), and some were just not the kind of place that three underage college students without fake ideas could get into.
  837. >(You're not sure why you brought those up, at least not at first one. The following suggestions were mostly about annoying Cloudy.)
  838. >Eventually a compromise was arranged, you stopped loitering in front of the game store, and instead piled into Cloud's car - Silver in back.
  839. >She insisted.
  840. >Shorter legs and all that.
  841. >Well, you're not one to argue with someone buying you food.
  842. >And on the way, the conversation slowly turned from continued renegotiations of the restaurant to how stupidly expensive some of Silver's suggestions were (even if she *was* paying), to Cloudy bitching about how much money you just wasted on *toys*.
  843. >She's a good friend, doing that so you don't have to.
  844. >And then it hits you.
  845. "Wait."
  846. >Cloudy stops right in the middle of a sentence you weren't even listening to in the first place.
  847. "Silver... that was full price, right? What about that boyfriend discount -"
  848. >"Boyfriend discount!?"
  849. >You ignore Cloudy and continue because fuck you could have gotten the Stompa!
  850. "- that Diamond said you'd get me?"
  851. >"Seriously? Boyfriend? Explain this to me right now, Anon. You said this wasn't a date."
  852. "It's not, but -"
  853. >"It's just something Di said," Silver sighs. "This isn't a date. My father has a small hobby store - it's a passion project of his - and since he's not really into it to make a profit... sometimes he... *does* things like that. If I ask nicely. That's all it is. He's not my boyfriend."
  854. >Nice of her to explain all that for Cloudy's benefit, but that's not really your concern right now, is it!?
  855. "But it wasn't *that* place? We went to a different store?"
  856. >"That's correct. We never go to this store except for events - and we *never* buy anything, except as a courtesy."
  857. >She snorts most unladylike and rolls her eyes.
  858. >Yes, despite her sitting in the backseat and you in the front, you can see her roll her eyes.
  859. >Because you've turned around to glare at her.
  860. >What the fuck.
  861. >"After all," she continues, "no one in their right mind charges full MSRP for Games Workshop products or *pays* full MSRP. My father's shop has a base discount of ten percent."
  862. "Then why didn't we go there!?"
  863. >"Because I wanted to get my Master of Recruits card," Silver casually shrugs. "I could only get it from an official Games Workshop store."
  864. >Wow.
  865. >Cloudy was right.
  866. >What a bitch.
  867. >What an absolute bitch.
  868. "You owe me."
  869. >"I know."
  870.  
  871. ** Ch. 4 **
  872. ** Dinner with Friends **
  873.  
  874. >It's not a long drive to the diner you'd all settled on.
  875. >*Objectively*.
  876. >But subjectively it's a very long, very silent trip.
  877. >What an absolute bitch.
  878. >At the very least, you could have gotten that Stompa.
  879. >Or one each of the Tau and Ork starter boxes.
  880. >Or doubled up. Or gotten some tools of your own. Or paint. Or -
  881. >Or not blown through all of your spending money in one go.
  882. >Maybe saved a little for eating off-campus? Or for other shit?
  883. >You *used* to enjoy catching a movie with friends - well, Cloudy and whoever else she dragged along - every once in a while. Now that's completely off the table for the next couple of months.
  884. >Yes, it's a very long, very silent trip.
  885. >But every time you glance back at Silver to glare at her, she's smiling happily.
  886. >Mostly looking at that stupid card. Sometimes doing something with her phone.
  887. >Probably chatting with her friends about how she duped this stupid guy into doing stupid stuff so he can get a stupid card that -
  888. >"What does that card even do for you?" Cloudy asks. "What's so special about it?"
  889. >"Nothing. I mean, it can be used as a pass to go to an event at the Citadel, but I've no intention of going to that."
  890. >- stupid card that lets her go to a stupid event that the stupid girl doesn't even *want* to go to.
  891. >"Then why did you want it?"
  892. >"Because I have the others."
  893. >And that's where that conversation ends.
  894. >It's a very long drive.
  895.  
  896. >You get out of the car first, though Cloudy is hardly a heartbeat behind you.
  897. >And her door closes with a slam that - yeah. She kicked it shut. Again. Silver is staring with wide eyes.
  898. >Pretty sure the driver-side door has another dent in it.
  899. >Silver waits a moment longer, just long enough you're wondering if she expects you do be her butler or something and open her door for you.
  900. >But no. She manages. Somehow.
  901. >"Did she really...?"
  902. >Something about the grin you and Cloudy share makes Silver stop questioning and start walking.
  903. >"Wow," she mumbles as she rounds the car and makes for the restaurant's doors, "And I thought *I* was impulsive."
  904. >That gets a chuckle out of Cloudy. A *somewhat ominous* chuckle.
  905. >If you weren't her friend...
  906. >"Yeah, I *might* have a little trouble controlling myself when it comes to people hurting my friends."
  907. >... well, enough said. Right?
  908. >"I'll keep that in mind."
  909. >But for Silver that's it. Just calm acceptance. No freaking out, not even a flinch as she walks past Cloudy.
  910. >Well.
  911. >Except for a little glance over her shoulder. A little smirk.
  912. >Her purse swings freely on her shoulder as she half-turns.
  913. >Checking to see if you two are following? Maybe.
  914. >(You hadn't been yet, and it's free food, so you put one foot in front of the other and get to it.)
  915. >But was that the real reason? Naaaaah, you don't think so.
  916. >Her eyes aren't exactly on you or Cloudy, not the entire half-second or so she's looking back.
  917. >They drift a little lower, probably around dent-level on Cloudy's door - and coincidentally there's probably a reason her face makes this whole silent 'oh shit' expression.
  918. >Not an open-mouthed 'oh shit', but with a tight mouth. Tense. With a sudden intake of breath that makes her chest rise.
  919. >It's not the 'oh shit' of someone who's had a bad day or gotten unfortunate news, but the 'oh shit' of someone who has just turned her head and noticed the semi barreling out of control straight towards her.
  920. >Yeah, that kind of 'oh shit'.
  921. >The kind that's one of those last thoughts kind of 'oh shit'.
  922. >And then she turns away and keeps going like nothing happened, but there's a bit of stiffness to her gait.
  923. >Why yes, you *can* be particularly observant at times.
  924. >Anger-fuelled, laser-guided focus helps with that.
  925. >It *doesn't* help with you not almost tripping and faceplanting.
  926. >Curbs are *hard*.
  927. >In several ways. Hard not to trip over when you absolutely aren't paying attention to your feet and also the kind of hard where you really don't want to trip and fall on one.
  928. >So you put that focus to better use and *walk*.
  929. >Somehow that gets you to the doors first, just in time to accidentally open the door for Silver.
  930. >And, well, you hold it open for Cloudy too. Not because you're a gentleman or anything, but because she's a good friend and that kinda stuff is just basic courtesy even to people who aren't.
  931. >You're angry, not rude.
  932. >The smell of meat and beer and food that's too salty for anyone's own good hits you as you follow the two in.
  933. >Familiar, expected, and not in the least unpleasant. That's just the kind of place this is - the kind of place you assumed it was.
  934. >And, thankfully, you were right.
  935. >You haven't been here before, but when the hostess waves you on and tells you to pick any table you want you head straight for...
  936. >... nowhere.
  937. >"Anywhere good with you?" Cloudy asks because you're kind of stumped.
  938. >Too many choices.
  939. >It’s too early slash too late and there aren't many other people present. The after-work rush has already come, gone, and their tables bused, the evening families and late-night diners are yet to arrive.
  940. >Or so you assume.
  941. "How about... that booth over there?"
  942. >Cloudy nods.
  943. >"Far enough from the bar we'll be able to hear ourselves talk -"
  944. >Empty or not, the TVs mounted above the bar are blaring away at full volume for anyone who gives a shit about whatever game is on now.
  945. >"- and not too far from the restroom, but not so close it's gross. Looks good to me."
  946. >She nods again. Cool.
  947. >Cloudy goes directly to one side of the booth, you to the other. Just like... oh... ah.
  948. >Aaaaaaaaand here's the problem.
  949. >Silver's still standing, her purse clutched in both hands.
  950. >Her eyes darting back and forth.
  951. >The booth only has two sides, after all, though seats wide enough to easily accommodate two.
  952. "Fine, I'll -"
  953. >You start to slide out, but Silver sits down beside you.
  954. >Guess you'll do nothing.
  955. >If she thinks it's safer to sit with you than Cloudy, she's forgetting that Cloudy's a kicker.
  956. >She tucks her purse between the two of you and smiles.
  957. >"Mind passing me a menu?" she says politely. *Casually*, but politely.
  958. >So... okay. There's a couple tucked between the salt and pepper shakers at this end of the table.
  959. >You take one for yourself and pass the other to Silver. It's only polite, after all.
  960. >Cloudy, though...
  961. >"I thought you already ate."
  962. >"Just a small appetizer," Silver explains, flipping through the menu. All four pages of it. "A few avocado eggrolls. Diamond had the rest. I didn't want to keep Anon waiting in case he arrived early. Come to think of it..."
  963. >She frowns.
  964. >"... I think that's all I've eaten today. I was just so excited."
  965. "For a card that does literally *nothing*?"
  966. >"Well..." she glances up from the menu and flashes a quick smile your way. "I have all of the others. You know, if you go back and ask Black Shirt will give you your starter cards, but he'll make you sit through a sales pitch and make you play demo games.
  967. >"No one else in the club was interested, so I just assumed you wouldn't be, but -"
  968. "I think I'll pass."
  969. >"I thought you would."
  970. >"Could have at least asked," Cloudy sneers. "Kind of a dick move."
  971. >Silver snaps her menu shut and passes it across the table.
  972. >"Yes, I know," Silver sighs. "I'm sorry, but I got focused. Have you decided what you want to order or would you like to stop glaring at me for a minute and take a look at the menu?"
  973. >Oh. Right.
  974. >You grabbed one, but haven't even opened it yet.
  975. >"Order whatever you want."
  976. >"What if I order the whole menu?" Cloudy smirks, voicing your own thoughts. "That cool?"
  977. >"I'd... pay for it," Silver answers slowly. "I said I would."
  978. >She almost reaches for her purse but stops just short of opening it, instead doing this little finger wave and shakes her head to herself.
  979. >"I'll just have to use the emergency card," she sighs, "but..."
  980. >She's just about to say something else when Cloudy snorts and points her menu at Silver like - well... like it's a knife, you guess.
  981. >"It's no different than what you did to Anon."
  982. >Eh...
  983. >"What I did was callous and selfish," Silver shakes her head. "I didn't stop to think about how it would affect Anon. You ordering the entire menu would be outright malicious. You couldn't even eat it all."
  984. >You nod.
  985. "It's one thing to..."
  986. >Well...
  987. >It's one thing to naturally be a bitch, and another to intentionally be one. And pointing that out while Silver is smiling at you for backing her up would definitely fall on the intentional side of that equation.
  988. "Let's not go overboard, Cloudy. Dinner, dessert, and a drink."
  989. >"Nah, fuck that," Cloudy sneers. "I'm getting an appetizer too. I wanna try these steak nachos."
  990. >Silver's eyes pop open and she pulls your menu - is it even really yours if you haven't even opened it yet? - over to look at the appetizers.
  991. >"Yes," she nods, "that sounds reasonable. Steak nachos."
  992. "So dinner, drink, dessert, and steak nachos -"
  993. >"Maybe two servings of those," Silver amends.
  994. "- and that's it. But you still owe me. Dinner doesn't -"
  995. >"I know," she cuts you off firmly. "Dinner was an entirely different deal. I still owe you and will try to be more thoughtful in the future."
  996. >It's so matter-of-factly said, it takes you a minute to process.
  997. >Cloudy's a bit quicker to recover.
  998. >"Soooo... you two good now...?"
  999. >You look over at Silver and... she looks back.
  1000. "I guess so? She owes me and she knows it, so... if I can get that menu back...?"
  1001. >She slides it over.
  1002. "Yeah, we'll be good."
  1003. >"Cool. So..."
  1004. >Cloudy leans forward until she practically crawling onto the table.
  1005. >"Seriously. Why did you care so much about a card?" she asks - surprisingly without any hostility. Well, surprisingly for Silver. You're used to Cloudy's sudden changes in mood.
  1006. >Not like... *bipolar* or anything, but switching from protective friend to normal friend mode.
  1007. >"Well, like I said -"
  1008. >"Yeah, yeah," Cloudy says, waving her hand dismissively. "I know you said you had the others, but why do you want *any* of them if no one else does? They're kinda... like... *pointless*, right?"
  1009. >Silver has to stop for a moment while she thinks it over - long enough you stop staring and start reading the menu.
  1010. >Oooooh. Bacon burger. Can't go wrong with a bacon burger.
  1011. >"Well..." Silver hums, just before her silence goes from 'thoughtful' to 'rude', "I suppose, it's because if something's worth my attention, then it's worth obsessing over."
  1012. >Creepy. As. Fuck.
  1013. >"Or maybe I should be on one kind of ADD medication or another," she giggles. "Sometimes I really do lose track of my priorities."
  1014. >"Soooo... you're not evil," Cloudy says after a moment, "just kinda... insane?"
  1015. >"I wouldn't say that -"
  1016. >"So you *are* evil."
  1017. >The two girls stare off until Silver throws her head back and sighs.
  1018. >"I'm not insane. Maybe a little evil."
  1019. >She holds her left hand up, index finger and thumb about a half-inch apart.
  1020. >"Just a little. But can you blame me?"
  1021. >That gets Cloudy to raise an eyebrow.
  1022. >Probably you too, but you're pretending to read your menu and not looking in a mirror.
  1023. >"You *know* what Diamond Tiara is like," Silver groans. "You went to high school with us -"
  1024. >Cloudy's head bobs in time with yours.
  1025. "And she's never gotten any better."
  1026. >"Oh, she *has*," Silver sniggers, "that's the sad part. If she hadn't, we wouldn't still be friends. Even so, if I'm not at least a *little* bit selfish, she just..."
  1027. >She does this adorable little exasperated shrug hand gesture thing and snorts.
  1028. >"You know how I got into this game? When we came here for orientation and heard about the tabletop gaming club, Di thought it'd be an easy way for her to be the center of attention.
  1029. >"Too bad for her the club turned out to be all girls, but still..."
  1030. >Waaaaaaait a sec.
  1031. "*That's* how you got into it? I thought your dad had a game store?"
  1032. >"I mean, I've been around this kind of stuff all my life," Silver shrugs, "but it was *his* hobby, not mine. I didn't really care much about it until Di decided we'd join the club."
  1033. >Huh.
  1034. >"Wow," Cloudy sneers, her whole face twisted in undisguised disgust. "What. A. Bitch."
  1035. >Silver sighs and nods and shrugs and shakes her head.
  1036. >"Yeah, Di can be," she agrees, "but I don't mind too much. Sure, she's always dragging me into things, but at least it usually turns out to be pretty fun - one way or another.
  1037. >"I'm really enjoying the club more than I thought I would. And my father's happy I'm finally showing an interest in his hobbies so..."
  1038. >Another shrug, just as your waiter comes up to get your drink orders. Courteous words and little pleasantries are exchanged while you scramble for a minute because holy shit you haven't actually looked at the menu at all have you?
  1039. >Is this a Coke or Pepsi place?
  1040. >Once you've gotten that settled and your drinks are on the way - and the steak nachos, too - you actually, earnestly look at your menu and -
  1041. >"So... yeah..." Silver hums. "High school. Crazy times, right?"
  1042. >You make a polite, non-committal sound.
  1043. >"That's one way to put it," Cloudy chuckles. "I never thought college would be *easier* than high school, but so far it's no contest.
  1044. >"We haven't had any deranged classmates trying to take over the world, no apocalyptic school rivalries, no mass brainwashing..."
  1045. >"Sure, I haven't had much time to hang out with Anon, but other than that... I am *so* glad I'm done with Canterlot High."
  1046. >Silver smiles - sadly? Why sadly? - and nods.
  1047. >"I guess you're busy with the soccer team, aren't you?"
  1048. >"Heeeeeck yeah."
  1049. >"Is that why you two broke up?"
  1050. >The sound you make now is not quite so polite or non-committal. You blame surprise.
  1051. >"Everyone thought you were a cute couple," Silver ignores your strangled gasp. "I'm glad you two remained friends, at least."
  1052. >"Huh?" Cloudy grunts. "Oh. *No*."
  1053. "What makes you think we broke up?"
  1054. >"Oh, I thought..." Silver mumbles, suddenly putting her hands in her lap. "At the store, Di asked if you were Anon's girlfriend and -"
  1055. "She did?"
  1056. >"I don't remember that," your GOOD BUDDY backs you up. "Pretty sure she didn't."
  1057. >"Anon interrupted her," Silver explains, which is good because you don't have a clue why or - "but he introduced you as his *friend*. Not his girlfriend. I just assumed - I guess I was reading too much into that."
  1058. "No, wait - let me rephrase: What makes you think Cloudy and I were ever *dating*?"
  1059. >Silver gives you a weird look.
  1060. >So does Cloudy, though hers is less 'I don't believe this' and more 'this dumbfuck forget a VERY IMPORTANT THING'.
  1061. >Why...?
  1062. "I was her *beard*. Obviously. I can't believe anyone actually fell for that, but..."
  1063. >Oh. Good. Cloudy's nodding.
  1064. >THANK FUCK.
  1065. >For a second you were worrying that your entire past had been a lie or something.
  1066. >But no, this isn't some goddamn manga.
  1067. >If your childhood friend wanted your dick, she'd outright tell you.
  1068. >That's a fact you have absolutely no doubt about.
  1069. >Silver's jaw drops and her head snaps around to stare at Cloudy.
  1070. >"You're... a...?"
  1071. >"No, I'm straight," Cloudy laughs, rolling her eyes and grinning.
  1072. "Yeppers."
  1073. >Again, something you have absolutely zero doubt on.
  1074. >"But -"
  1075. >"I wanted to focus on my training. Do you know how *hard* it is to qualify for athletics scholarships? Particularly when it's not for something like boys' football or basketball?"
  1076. >"Uh... no."
  1077. >"Hard enough I didn't need to deal with cunts like Rainbow Dash or Flash Fucking Sentry trying to get in my pants every five minutes."
  1078. "That's where I came in - not that it stopped everyone."
  1079. >"No," Cloudy agrees, "but it helped. Gave me an easy excuse to turn people down. Thanks for that."
  1080. "Not like it was a hassle. You're my best friend. We were going to be hanging out anyway, so..."
  1081. >"It was... easy. And I guess..."
  1082. >She snorts and glares at Silver.
  1083. >"... people thought Anon and I were a cute couple?"
  1084. >The girl beside you nods and Cloudy gives her a satisfied, cocky smirk.
  1085. >"Then I guess it *really* worked."
  1086. "Gee, no wonder I haven't been able to get a girlfriend."
  1087. >"Except for -"
  1088. "I try not to remember her."
  1089. >NOPE.
  1090. >Cloudy laughs, followed by a nervous little giggle from Silver.
  1091. >She has NO IDEA and preferably that won't ever change.
  1092. >"But... yeah," your best friend sighs, "sorry for that, but it really helped me out."
  1093. "True enough."
  1094. >You can forgive her and you show your lack of animosity with a shrug.
  1095. "I mean, Dash gave up pretty fast when she saw you weren't into girls."
  1096. >"Yeah..."
  1097. >Wait.
  1098. >Crap.
  1099. >There's a moment of silence where you think everything is going to be okay - before Silver gasps.
  1100. >"Oh."
  1101. >Shit.
  1102. >"I think I heard about that."
  1103. >"You *definitely* heard about it," Cloudy giggles. "I made sure *everyone* did. After that, none of Dash's group bothered me."
  1104. >"Well, yes, but I didn't believe... that *really* happened!?"
  1105. >Cloudy nods.
  1106. >You would too, but you're pretty sure you're blushing AND GEE YOU REALLY NEED TO GET A GOOD LOOK AT THIS MENU BEFORE THE WAITER COMES BACK TO TAKE YOUR ORDER.
  1107. >"But maybe it didn't happen *exactly* like you've heard," your *former* friend says. "There ended up being a couple of versions of the story floating around, most of which were *way* worse than what really happened. If you want the *truth* -"
  1108. "Cloudy!"
  1109. >"- you'll just have to find a time machine. I'm not telling. Anymore."
  1110. "Thank. You."
  1111. >"Anything for you, buddy. You can stop hiding behind the menu now."
  1112. "NOPE. NEED TO DECIDE WHAT TO ORDER."
  1113. >"I was talking to Silver."
  1114.  
  1115. >The rest of dinner comes and goes without... well, without anything quite so embarrassing coming up.
  1116. >It's normal chitchat about the classes you all are taking (some pretty interesting, actually), how the food is (it's pretty good), and funny stories about high school that are actually funny and not cautionary tales about why your best friend has a serious problem with impulse control.
  1117. >Cloudy paces herself on the fancy grilled fish dinner and Silver only gets about halfway through her steak, but you tear through your bacon burger like the Kool-Aid man through a brick wall.
  1118. >Ehhhh.... nah, you won't feel like a glutton for that.
  1119. >Silver filled up on the nachos, after all.
  1120. >Poor girl doesn't even seem to have room for dessert.
  1121. >You and Cloudy have to eat the giant sundae by yourselves.
  1122. >Even shared between the two of you, it's a bit much, but Silver seems insistent at picking at the remnants of her mashed potatoes.
  1123. >Every time you offer her some, she shakes her head.
  1124. >Maybe she really did eat too much, because she looks... not great. Pretty uncomfortable, really.
  1125. >Like.... like she's intruding.
  1126. >Wait.
  1127. >How long has it just been you and Cloudy talking about old bullshit from high school?
  1128. >Too long.
  1129. >Yeah, no - you're not some stupid harem anime protagonist.
  1130. >You can notice basic shit like that - but just because you eventually realize what's wrong doesn't mean you know how to solve it.
  1131. >An attempt is made to include her in the conversation more, but every time Silver gives you a short response and goes back to looking awkward and trying to nibble on cold potatoes.
  1132. >Well... you tried.
  1133. >That doesn't mean you stop, not until she puts her hand on your arm and smiles faintly and shakes her head.
  1134. >Oh.
  1135. >Okay.
  1136. >So... everything's fine?
  1137. >Silver just doesn't feel like talking?
  1138. >Because that's what it seems like she means with all that.
  1139. >Even Cloudy noticed and she's got her head tilted over to the side like she does when she's confused.
  1140. >You shrug.
  1141. >She shrugs.
  1142. >You *could* ask Silver, but...
  1143. >But you've run out of sundae and she's politely sitting at attention for the waiter.
  1144. >Not waving her hand or trying to flag him down or anything, but still clearly waiting for service. *Patiently*.
  1145. >It works.
  1146. >Soon he's here and then off to run her card and get a to-go box for the rest of her steak and the second he's gone, Cloudy's dam breaks.
  1147. >"What's going on? You okay?"
  1148. >"Everything's fine," Silver nods. "I've just been thinking."
  1149. >"About?"
  1150. >Silver gives a little shake of her head.
  1151. >"Everything's fine."
  1152. >And then a little hesitation.
  1153. >And then a smile.
  1154. >And then she looks away.
  1155. >"You two really are a cute couple."
  1156. "But we're not dating."
  1157. >"But you're still a cute couple."
  1158. >"But we're not dating," Cloudy says because maybe it'll make a difference if *she* says it?
  1159. >Silver dips her head.
  1160. >"I know," she murmurs, "but you have a history together. It was nice to listen to you two reminisce about high school."
  1161. >If she hadn't said it so smoothly, you'd think that she meant something other than 'nice', but no. There's no hesitation, no change in tone, nothing like that.
  1162. >"You were both smiling so much when you were talking about that prank you pulled on Spitfire."
  1163. >Did you really talk about that?
  1164. >It was just chatter. You don't even remember the *last* thing you said to Cloudy, let alone all of it.
  1165. >"I know what that's like," Silver continues. "I have similar stories with Di, though those are usually a little more..."
  1166. >"Evil?"
  1167. >Silver shrugs.
  1168. >"According to my father's lawyer I can't answer that."
  1169. "Seriously?"
  1170. >"Maybe."
  1171. >Huh.
  1172. >Cloudy and you stare at her.
  1173. >That doesn't answer anything.
  1174. >You exchange awkward glances.
  1175. >Not helpful either.
  1176. >You resume staring at Silver.
  1177. >It's... well... you... can't tell.
  1178. >Silver looks smug.
  1179. >Very smug.
  1180. >Smug like she's tricked you? Or smug like...
  1181. >Well.
  1182. >*Smug*.
  1183. >When she laughs, you decide to laugh along because... she's joking, right?
  1184. >She's got to be?
  1185. >What's the worst those two ever did?
  1186. >It can't be that bad.
  1187. >After all you went to *Canterlot High*.
  1188. >There were *lots* of bad girls.
  1189. >Downright, absolutely evil.
  1190. >Maybe you're jaded, but you've got some pretty high standards when it comes to this kind of stuff.
  1191. >You're fairly certain your entire graduating class is like that.
  1192. >"But... um... oh, thank you," Silver murmurs, turning away at just the right moment as the waiter returns with her to-go box and check. "I really was enjoying listening to your stories, though. I hope..."
  1193. >She thinks better of whatever it is she was about to say and shakes her head.
  1194. >"I think we should get going," she says instead. "It's getting pretty late."
  1195. >Cloudy stares for a bit longer before sliding out of the booth.
  1196. >"Yeah, you're probably right. I've got an early-morning practice tomorrow."
  1197. >She's willing to let it be, but nah.
  1198. "Hope what?"
  1199. >You're having none of that.
  1200. >Partially because you think you know what she was going to say and want to find out if you were correct.
  1201. >And partially because... well, it's obvious, right? You don't need to explain this to yourself.
  1202. >Silver glances over at you for a heartbeat.
  1203. >Long enough to rethink what she was going to say, but not long enough for it to feel like she's hesitating.
  1204. >"She hopes you get some new stories," Cloudy interrupts Silver before she can speak. "This is why I wanted you to make some more friends. We can't keep swapping the same shit over and over."
  1205. >Well *yeah*.
  1206. >That's obvious.
  1207. >Silver nods quickly.
  1208. >"I hope - eventually - you have stories like that from... you know. The Tabletop Gaming Club."
  1209. "Yeah, me too."
  1210. >Silver's eyes flicker towards you again and the corners of her mouth twitch for a moment.
  1211. >And then opens the check and scribbles her signature down.
  1212. >She steps out of the booth and - and the smell of a roadhouse hits you again.
  1213. >The meat, the beer - you hadn't noticed any of it while she was beside you.
  1214. >Huh.
  1215. >Maybe when -
  1216. >She leans over - towards you - to grab her purse, and...
  1217. >Ah. Lavender.
  1218. >You hadn't even noticed until it was gone.
  1219. >Huh.
  1220. >Oh.
  1221. >You're staring.
  1222. >Nope.
  1223. >You turn away quickly before Silver thinks you're trying to look down her shirt.
  1224. >Not that it - or that you - or that you would - but - well - or -
  1225. >Yeah. You keep looking straight ahead until she straightens up.
  1226. >There's nothing there to see anyway, but... yeah.
  1227. >Well.
  1228. >It's just polite not to look, even if her button-down is snug and the neck high enough that it didn't hang loose.
  1229. >Silver's gone a second later - at least from... y'know... *right there*.
  1230. >Hovering a few feet away, waiting for you to follow, though Cloudy's already heading for the doors.
  1231. >So.
  1232. >Yeah.
  1233. >Time to stop fucking around, right?
  1234. >You get up and follow.
  1235. >Silver waits for you to catch up before continuing, walking side-by-side all the way to - oh, is she just doing this so you'll get the door for her?
  1236. >Well, you would, but Cloudy's already got it.
  1237. >"Y'know, Silver," she says as you two file through, "I have an idea. You know how you owe Anon?"
  1238. >"Hmm?"
  1239. >"You could just pay him the difference, you know."
  1240. >Silver pauses right outside the door and pretends to consider it for a moment.
  1241. >"No, that's a little impersonal," she says, looking up at the sky with a sly grin. "I have a better idea."
  1242. >Nah, you think you'd be okay with the money.
  1243. >But Cloudy... she *nods*.
  1244. >"So... by *that*..." your friend hums, "you mean you're going to suck his dick?"
  1245.  
  1246. >FOR SOME REASON, everyone is mostly silent on the ride back to campus.
  1247. >Mostly.
  1248. >At some point, someone coughs.
  1249. >All you know is it wasn't you.
  1250. >Nope.
  1251. >It's a good thing you found out which dorm Silver is in earlier in the evening because this way no one has to talk to anyone else and say anything else stupid.
  1252. >Cloudy just drives up to the Clover Dorm and parks in front.
  1253. >You half expect - no, *fully* expect - Silver to get out without a word and never leave her room or at least never speak to you and Cloudy ever again, but she hesitates after popping the door.
  1254. >"I have a theater class with Miss Chrysalis in the morning," she says softly. "I'll find out when we can use the meeting room and text you later."
  1255. "Cool."
  1256. >She nods and... yeah.
  1257. >So.
  1258. >It's dark out, what with being night at all and the lights outside the dorm kinda seem to be on the fritz.
  1259. >You can barely see Silver fishing around in her purse for her student ID and swiping herself in before Cloudy drives off.
  1260. >But you see enough to know she gets inside okay.
  1261. >Cool.
  1262. >Yeah.
  1263. >Wait.
  1264. >How does Silver have your phone number?
  1265.  
  1266. ** Ch. 5 **
  1267. ** Pass the Cyanoacrylate **
  1268.  
  1269. >Morning classes come and go without a text from Silver Spoon.
  1270. >So. Yes. Disappointing, but at least you can stop wondering about how she got your number - clearly she forgot that she didn't have it when she said all that stuff last night.
  1271. >And yeah, you fully intend to make sure she has it by the end of today, but for now...
  1272. >You check your phone again because you're stupid like that and of course still no text, so you shove it back in your pocket and your books and notebooks into your backpack (harder done than said, on account of backpack currently being full of ORK).
  1273. >Time for breakfast. Lunch. Brunch?
  1274. >No, brunch is a fancy meal for fancy people.
  1275. >You're just a college student too lazy to wake up early enough to eat a real breakfast at a real time but too classy to think of any meal eaten after 10 AM as breakfast.
  1276. >It's a real challenge, being a man with strong morals like this.
  1277. >Forced to eat a meal you don't even believe in.
  1278. >Well...
  1279. >Yep.
  1280. >You head towards the student life building and the cafeteria that takes up the majority of its ground floor.
  1281. >That's the best place for Silver to bump into you, after all. Or any of the other club members. They probably all have each others' contact info, right?
  1282. >Yeah.
  1283. >Everybody on campus goes through there at least once or twice a day.
  1284. >So.
  1285. >Taco time.
  1286. >Yes, taco time.
  1287. >In addition to the generic unnamed school cafeteria and it's huge seating area (which probably has a name, but you've never learned it and it certainly isn't in bright shiny letters anywhere) there's a couple of fast food joints scattered around.
  1288. >Some are just holes in the wall, some have a couple of tables of their own, some are nothing but a counter, but basically... in a way, it kind of reminds you of a mall food court only with fewer options.
  1289. >And more teens.
  1290. >You go right past Subway and the dinky little Papa John's to say hello to your favorite food service worker.
  1291. >Yes.
  1292. >Taco Bell.
  1293. >*fucking fite me, intestines*
  1294. >It's one of the more hole-in-the-wall spots, just a counter and a sign - and whatever is in the back.
  1295. >The food never takes long to make, so there's not even really space for people to wait.
  1296. >And as you expected, Sonata is there to greet you with a big grin and frantic waving.
  1297. >You think you've almost gotten used to her suspiciously positive disposition after a year of knowing her.
  1298. >And this isn't even peak cheer.
  1299. >That usually happens around midterms/finals time when everyone's stressed.
  1300. >If you didn't know better, you'd think she was trying to cheer people up, but no - you notice things.
  1301. >Like how she'll give people the wrong order and giggle when it's the final straw and they flip their shit.
  1302. >No, she's clearly some kind of sadist who finds joy in the suffering of others.
  1303. >You're okay with that.
  1304. >It can be amusing to watch.
  1305. >Like the two guys ahead of you in line.
  1306. >You've no clue who they are... but you're going to call them Steve and Count Jockula.
  1307. >They look like a Steve and a Count Jockula, though you do mildly question the competence of their parents.
  1308. >What kind of cruel trick of fate ends with naming a kid Steve?
  1309. >Sonata's going through all the steps, taking their order, asking them if they want any hot sauce...
  1310. >"Yeah, I'll take some of that super hot shit."
  1311. >"Just give me one mild," Steve says.
  1312. >Exactly what you'd expect from a Steve.
  1313. >"Okie dokie!" Sonata grins wide. "If you wanna go sit down, I'll bring that out to you in a sec!"
  1314. >"You'll bring it to us?" the Count gasps, as if such a thing is impossible to his little brain.
  1315. >"Uh-huh!"
  1316. >The two guys look at each other and shrug.
  1317. >"We'll just wait," the Count says.
  1318. >"Oooooh, okay, but the guy who's normally making the stuff is sick," Sonata says. "So it might take a while. I mean not *long*, but -"
  1319. >They look at each other again.
  1320. >"Yeah... okay."
  1321. >"I swear, it won't be very long! I just don't want to make you wait here 'cuz classes are about to get out and everybody'll be coming for lunch and there might not be any seats left so -"
  1322. >"Oh, right," the Steve nods. "Thanks."
  1323. >"Coolio!"
  1324. >She waves as they leave.
  1325. >And she waves as you step up.
  1326. >"Hi Anon!"
  1327. "Hey, Sonata."
  1328. >"Two tacos?"
  1329. "Yep."
  1330. >"No sauce?"
  1331. "Nope."
  1332. >"M'kay, I'll -"
  1333. "Bring it out?"
  1334. >She bites her lip and giggles.
  1335. >What a weirdo.
  1336. >"Yep!"
  1337. "Cool. Are you really working alone today?"
  1338. >"Nah, I couldn't leave the counter if I was."
  1339. "Cool."
  1340. >So you swipe your meal plan card and fuck off to grab a seat before the cafeteria fills up.
  1341. >She wasn't joking about that.
  1342. >You find yourself a small table near those two - and that's not just coincidence.
  1343. >It'd be a lie to say you weren't mildly curious.
  1344. >And It's not long before Sonata saunters past with a hand full of tacos. Like... *totally full*.
  1345. >Huh.
  1346. >Why didn't she put everything in bags? Or use both hands? That's got to be hard to carry.
  1347. >And why does she flash you an empty mild sauce packet hidden in the palm of her apparently not actually empty hand...?
  1348. >Oh.
  1349. >You don't know how she keeps a straight face as she drops off their food.
  1350. >"*So* sorry about the wait," she says, giving Count Jockula his stuff.
  1351. >He's already unwrapping the first taco before she sets down the second - and flicks the empty packet under... ah... under the abandoned wrapper.
  1352. >You're pretty sure she handed him his food first just for that.
  1353. >"And here's yours..." she says to the Steve. "No, wait. Oh, *sorry* that's for *him* -"
  1354. >She points at you with his food.
  1355. >A minor shell game ensues until the Count is on to his second taco.
  1356. >*Then* suddenly everything is in order and Sonata's giving them a big grin.
  1357. >"Aaaaaaand here's your hot sauce!" she says with a little demented giggle.
  1358. >"Where's my mild sauce?" the Steve asks.
  1359. >"It was... it was *right here*," she gasps, looking around the table. "I *swear* I just... oh - uh..."
  1360. >The empty packet is in plain sight.
  1361. >"Dude," the Steve whines, "You took my mild? If you wanted mild you should have just asked her for that instead!"
  1362. >"I swear, I didn't -"
  1363. >"But -"
  1364. >Yeah, you've lost interest now.
  1365. >The *how* was more interesting than the consequences - and you've got food.
  1366. >Sonata sets it in front of you with another giggle.
  1367. "How come you never fuck with me like that?"
  1368. >She grins and sweeps her ass into the chair opposite you.
  1369. >"Wanna know a secret?"
  1370. >You shrug.
  1371. "If it answers my question, then I guess."
  1372. >"I *tried*, don't you remember?"
  1373. "I thought you just kinda sucked at your job."
  1374. >"Maybe that toooo," she giggles, "but you're just *way* too chill. It's like you don't really care about anything so it's impossible to piss you off."
  1375. "That's not true."
  1376. >"Oh really?"
  1377. "Maybe it's a little true."
  1378. >"It really is. You just... go along with stuff. So I figured I might as well be friends with you since you're nice to me."
  1379. "We're friends? When did this happen?"
  1380. >Sonata makes a non-committal gesture with her hand.
  1381. >"Maybe not friends, but close enough."
  1382. >You shrug.
  1383. "Close enough, I guess."
  1384. >Your newest friend smiles.
  1385. "I'll have to tell Cloudy. She'll flip her shit over me getting two new friends in a week."
  1386. >"TWO!?"
  1387. "You sound surprised. Should I be insulted?"
  1388. >"I dunno," Sonata shrugs. "If you wanna be I won't stop you, but yeah I'm totally surprised. You aren't reeeeeeally a makes-friends-easily kinda guy."
  1389. "That's true. Fair enough."
  1390. >"So who is it? Someone that comes to Ponyville U? It's gotta be, you don't go out much, so -"
  1391. "Silver Spoon. Don't know if you know her."
  1392. >Sonata's eyes slowly grow wide.
  1393. >"Ooooooooooooooh," she moans. "Yeaaaaaaaaah. *Her*. Nooooo, I don't know who she is."
  1394. "Just some girl in the tabletop games club."
  1395. >"Ah!"
  1396. "So you do -"
  1397. >"Nope! Still don't know who she is, but I shouldn't be surprised it's a girl."
  1398. >Why is she laughing?
  1399. "Okaaaay, and *why* aren't you surprised about that?"
  1400. >"Because you're such a weaksauce pussy that girls don't see you as a threat," Sonata grins. "You're like... uh... like a gay best friend, but without having to put up with them being so *gay*. And you don't give a shit about anything. It's pretty awesome."
  1401. "Awesome, yes I am, but now I've definitely been insulted."
  1402. >"And I have to get back to work," she says and sticks her tongue out at you.
  1403. >She can be such a child at... *always*.
  1404. >"Guess I'll see you for dinner?"
  1405. "Yeah, probably."
  1406. >Taco Bell is cheaper than anything else on campus, so unless Silver wants to take you out again...
  1407. >Sonata waits a moment longer but doesn't say anything. Instead, she smirks - and that slowly grows into a quite disturbing ear-to-ear grin before she giggles, gives you a little wave, and jumps up.
  1408. >"See ya!"
  1409. >That was a mistake.
  1410. >Her voice is shrill. Can be, at times.
  1411. >Certainly loud. Clear.
  1412. >You've heard it carry across the cafeteria on a busy day.
  1413. >Conversations stop.
  1414. >Arguments are dropped.
  1415. >Heads pop up.
  1416. >"Hey!" the Steve calls out as soon as he sees Sonata. "Miss, could you bring me some more mild sauce?"
  1417. >EVIL SMIRK.
  1418. >"I'm sooooooo sorry, but I *can't* leave the counter unattended."
  1419. >Ah.
  1420. >So that was her game.
  1421. >Petty - petty as *fuck* - but it makes them frown.
  1422. >That girl sure does love messing with people, no matter how trivial.
  1423. >She loves it like... like normal people love food.
  1424. >And speaking - uh, *thinking* - of food...
  1425. >You eat your tacos.
  1426. >It is their destiny, what they were *forged* to do.
  1427. >To be eaten.
  1428. >It is... *satisfying*.
  1429. >But doesn't take long.
  1430. >And that leaves you in a bind.
  1431. >Still no sign of anyone from the club.
  1432. >And there are people in need of tables.
  1433. >Sure, you could stay. Be a dick. Take up space.
  1434. >But... nah.
  1435. >So much for hoping you'd bump into one of them.
  1436. >You could -
  1437. >Your phone buzzes.
  1438. >Well.
  1439. >Isn't that coincidental.
  1440. >From an anonymous number, too. Giving you instructions. A time. A place.
  1441. >GEE THIS DOESN'T SOUND LIKE INSTRUCTIONS FOR A RANSOM MONEY DROP.
  1442. >You should call your parents and make sure they haven't been abducted, but that seems like something of a stretch.
  1443. >Who would want you to do that kind of thing in your college's student life building?
  1444. >Probably the same kind of idiot who would forget to tell you how much money to bring.
  1445. >Hmm.
  1446. >If this turns out to not be the gaming club you'll explore that possibility.
  1447. >It's been a while since you've given them a call anyway.
  1448.  
  1449. >Well, that's a bullet dodged.
  1450. >For now.
  1451. >You really should call your parents sooner or later. Maybe tonight.
  1452. >Definitely tonight, but for now -
  1453. "How did you get my number anyway?"
  1454. >You're pretty sure you would have remembered Miss Chrysalis asking for it.
  1455. >Oh, yeah. You *definitely* would have remembered.
  1456. >"It's listed in the student directory," she yawns and leans back in her chair. The lapels of her jacket spread apart as she stretches her arms back. The shirt underneath swells as unseen forces work in mysterious ways. "*Someone* forgot to opt-out."
  1457. "Huh...?"
  1458. >"Of the student directory."
  1459. "Oh."
  1460. >Yeah. You *were* talking about that, weren't you?"
  1461. >"The *public* student directory," she emphasizes. "It's also got your phone number listed, so you might want to get around to that sooner or later."
  1462. "Oh."
  1463. >Whoops.
  1464. >She sits up.
  1465. >Well.
  1466. "I'll look into that later."
  1467. >Or not, if it's too confusing.
  1468. >It's been listed for over a year now and... what? A faculty member used it to text you info about your new club?
  1469. >And that's it?
  1470. >That can wait.
  1471. >BUT THESE DUDES?
  1472. >You pull your box of Orks out of your backpack and drop it on the folding table, *finally* getting Novella to look up from the toys she's working on and glare at you.
  1473. >"Hi."
  1474. "Hi, sunshine."
  1475. >She's going to go apeshit on you sooner or later. Might as well deserve it.
  1476. >And besides the mother/daughter duo, there's no one. So it's definitely going to be you.
  1477. >Plus it makes Miss Chrysalis snicker.
  1478. >Worth it.
  1479. "So..."
  1480. >"What?"
  1481. "... what do I do with these?"
  1482. >Novella flicks a surprisingly slim finger at a small box without letting go of her toys or stopping glaring or anything.
  1483. >"You can use those."
  1484. "Oh...kaaaaay."
  1485. >It's a small box. Purple. Plastic. Like... a tackle box?
  1486. >Hooooly shit, how long has it been since you've seen one of those?
  1487. >You haven't been fishing since...?
  1488. >Well, it's been a while.
  1489. >There's a strip of wide masking tape along the top with 'Club Tools' written in sloppy black marker.
  1490. >You flip the latches open and -
  1491. >No, like a *toolbox*.
  1492. >Tackle boxes have those trays on swivels or whatever. Toolboxes have a tray that comes out.
  1493. >Usually.
  1494. >Right?
  1495. >Always...?
  1496. >Whatever.
  1497. >It's holding tools. It's a toolbox.
  1498. >There's a selection of xacto knives in the top tray. A... something. Metal tube thing? Some files. A small box of replacement blades for the xacto.
  1499. >All a little bit not in the best condition, except the replacement blades, of course, but you suppose they'll do.
  1500. >Not like you're going to be producing works of art to start - you're realistic enough to understand that.
  1501. >Well.
  1502. >You take a seat and pull your box of dudes over to you.
  1503. "Okay, so..."
  1504. >With glee you start pulling out your models. Or what *will* be models.
  1505. >Right now they're just bits of plastic on this weird plastic frame.
  1506. >And step one...
  1507. >You look at the instructions that fell out when you pulled the frames from the box.
  1508. >Nah.
  1509. >You read through them enough last night, looked over the frames over and over.
  1510. >It's not hard. Just find a body, find some legs... glue them together.
  1511. >You grab the regular Ork Boyz frame, pick a random torso, and start to push.
  1512. >Nothing.
  1513. >Except a sore thumb.
  1514. >Okay, *twist*.
  1515. >Yeah, that'll -
  1516. >"STOP."
  1517. "What? Why?"
  1518. >"Don't *tear* pieces off the sprue," Novella barks. Yes, barks. There's teeth exposed and everything. And they're uncomfortable sharp looking.
  1519. "Okay... *why*?"
  1520. >"It'll fuck them up, idiot."
  1521. "How?"
  1522. >That seems like a more important question than what the hell 'sprue' is. Context clues help you figure that one out right away.
  1523. >"Because sometimes it - it just will, okay? *Cut* them loose or they'll get fucked up and you'll have to fill in the holes with greenstuff."
  1524. "Okaaaaay."
  1525. >Worked well enough for the board games pieces when you were a kid, but then again... she's the expert, you guess.
  1526. >You pick up one of the knives and pop the cap off.
  1527. >"No. Wrong."
  1528. "Huh?"
  1529. >"I said *wrong*," Novella sighs. "Only use those for parts where the gates are in hard to reach places. Get the nippers."
  1530. "Kay..."
  1531. >You don't see anything in the toolbox that could be described as nippers.
  1532. >So you lift up the tray like a reasonably intelligent individual.
  1533. >Ah.
  1534. >There's a coping saw with a super-thin blade (broken), a small assortment of pliers of various kinds, and... well... one of them looks like what you'd assume nippers to be.
  1535. >Besides some kind of weird term for nipples.
  1536. >So you grab the tiny wire cutter thingies by their little orange handles and hold them up.
  1537. >Novella doesn't start swearing at you or tell you to stop, so you must be on the right track.
  1538. >Cool.
  1539. >So you take those nippers and...
  1540. "By 'gates' I assume you mean -"
  1541. >"The part of the sprue that connects to the pieces."
  1542. "That's what I thought."
  1543. >You slip the cutting blades over one of the gates on the torso and them right up against the piece.
  1544. >That'll give you the smoothest cut, you hope.
  1545. >Time to find out.
  1546. >You give it a squeeze.
  1547. >Snip.
  1548. >And then the other side...
  1549. >Snip.
  1550. >There's still a bit of a rough patch where the gates were.
  1551. >Well...
  1552. >You look up but Novella is focused on whatever she's doing.
  1553. >Using a file on a piece.
  1554. >And sure, you *could* ask her anyway. You could even make some assumptions.
  1555. >But you set the torso aside and go after the next piece.
  1556. >Legs next, one arm, and then -
  1557. >And then there's that sigh you're starting to so love to hear.
  1558. "What am I fucking up this time?"
  1559. >"Be careful with the arms. You're building them with shootas -"
  1560. >You nod.
  1561. >Big guns seemed slightly more appealing than pistols and axes.
  1562. >"- so they're holding the gun with both hands. The shoota arms only work in specific pairs."
  1563. "Yeah, I know."
  1564. >And you snip the second arm free.
  1565. "I read the instructions. If I try using the wrong left arm with the wrong right arm then they won't fit because they're holding the guns at different angles."
  1566. >"Oh."
  1567. "Pretty simple stuff, really."
  1568. >"... yeah."
  1569. >Now for a head.
  1570. >Hmmm. Maybe the one with the -
  1571. >"But you know, if you *wanted* to, you could use the wrong arms on purpose," Novella blurts out. "Like... to make them hold the gun at a different angle for some variety. Since you're playing Orks, you're going to *want* variety because you're going to have so many boys."
  1572. >Huh.
  1573. >She has a point. You guess.
  1574. >Sure, Big Stompy Robots all the way, but everything you read said you need lots of basic boyz for a competitive army.
  1575. >Not applicable at the moment, but you'll keep it in mind.
  1576. >But -
  1577. "If I didn't match up the arms right, the shoulder wouldn't line up with the body - or the left hand wouldn't fit the gun."
  1578. >That's pretty obvious. Some of those arms are in wildly different poses.
  1579. >"Always fit it to the gun," Novella answers quickly with a nod, making her ponytail jump and the rest of her hair flounce wildly for a moment before settling it in a new mess. "If there's a small gap at the shoulder, you can hide it with one of the shoulder pads - or fill it with greenstuff. And you can cut the wrist and glue it back on if you have to twist it - or use salt to heat it and -"
  1580. >Novella speeds up and get louder with every word she says.
  1581. >"- and that's probably a little too advanced for you, but on some small parts hot water can be enough to reposition them, so -"
  1582. >It's almost hard to understand her at this point, so you just nod.
  1583. "Cool, I'll keep that in mind, but I think I should assemble my first few guys by the instructions. Get the basics down, you know?"
  1584. >"Well, you can, but -"
  1585. >"Novella," Miss Chrysalis interrupts, "dear, you're getting loud."
  1586. >The girl's mouth flaps wordlessly for a bit before she coughs out "Fine. I was *just* trying to help."
  1587. "And I appreciate it."
  1588. >IS THAT A BLUSH?
  1589. >No, really, it's hard to tell. Novella's cheeks are already kind of dusky pink anyway, so you can't say for sure.
  1590. >She mumbles something - probably a series of insults at you, her mother, or possibly herself as she seems the type - and goes back to work filing away.
  1591. >You look over the sprue and - oh, what the heck. Might as well use the head with the furry helmet.
  1592. >It looks fun.
  1593. >You snip it free and - right, you'll need a base.
  1594. >There's a little bag of them in the box still.
  1595. >Shake it free and you'll need a... um... you don't remember the size, but that it'll be the smaller one for this guy.
  1596. >Cool. Now.
  1597. >Glue?
  1598. >You reach for - there's no glue in the toolbox.
  1599. >LIES.
  1600. "Um..."
  1601. >Novella doesn't look up.
  1602. >More than that, she actually turns away. A little bit. Like... 15 degrees?
  1603. >DARN IF ONLY YOU HAD A PROTRACTOR.
  1604. >... 'kay...
  1605. >Guess you broke her.
  1606. >And Miss Chrysalis - yeah, she's swivelled around in her chair to PRETTY FIRMLY stare out the window.
  1607. >... double 'kay...
  1608. >"The other girls should be here soon," she says, not quite to you but you're fairly certain the birds outside don't care.
  1609. >Well.
  1610. >You push all those bits into a neat little pile and clip out another Boyz' worth of parts.
  1611. >And another. And another.
  1612. >And -
  1613. >Something scrapes on the table surface.
  1614. >Oh. Glue.
  1615. >Novella must have noticed you need some and pushed it over to you.
  1616. >From wherever she was hiding it.
  1617. "Thanks, Novella."
  1618. >She makes a loud mumbling noise that could have been an acknowledgement or instructions to piss off and die in a fire.
  1619. >You'd give it 40-60 odds, favoring pissing off.
  1620. >Eh. Whatever.
  1621. >You didn't join the club to make *her* happy.
  1622. >And you've got glue.
  1623. >*Super* glue. You're assuming.
  1624. >Probably.
  1625. >It doesn't say that on the label, but you're still assuming. What else would use a tiny bottle like this?
  1626. >You twist off the lid and -
  1627. >"Oh!"
  1628. >You jerk your head back. Well, more like tilt it back.
  1629. >Hadn't even heard the door open.
  1630. >Did you close it behind you?
  1631. >No, it's propped open.
  1632. >Ah. That explains why you didn't hear the door open.
  1633. >Silver Spoon steps quickly over to you and drops her backpack on the floor.
  1634. >"You're already this far along?" she asks, leaning over uncomfortably closely to look at your piles of dismembered Orks. "Sorry I wasn't here earlier, but I forgot my phone this morning - which is why I didn't call you, sorry but Miss Chrysalis said she would - and I had to go back to my room for it, but -"
  1635. >Does this girl not need to breathe?
  1636. >The rich really *are* different.
  1637. >"- you've cleaned everything now and we - and you haven't cleaned *anything*."
  1638. >Silver takes a sharp breath in.
  1639. >And then she frowns.
  1640. >You done fucked up.
  1641. >Somehow.
  1642. >"Novella," Silver rumbles in a way you didn't think her slender build could manage, "I thought you were... oh, what am I saying."
  1643. >Her purple eyes roll back in her head and she gives it a little shake that makes her shoulders sway back and forth.
  1644. "Novella helped."
  1645. >Fair's fair. She did.
  1646. >"Yes, but..." Silver murmurs and reaches out for - for...
  1647. >... for something she can't quite find in arm's reach without looking.
  1648. >So she stands up - and there you go, missing the scent of her shampoo again - grabs herself a chair from another table, and drags it over next to you.
  1649. >"Okay," she says, looking you firmly in the eyes. "Some people will do things differently, but -"
  1650. "They're wrong?"
  1651. >"Yes." You need to clean your pieces before assembling your models."
  1652. "Cool."
  1653. >You grab the torso from the leftmost pile.
  1654. "Tell me what to do."
  1655. >Like something involving bending her over and - NOPE.
  1656. >THAT'S NOT AN APPROPRIATE LINE OF THOUGHT.
  1657. >Silver looks around for a moment, examining the toolbox, its tray, the table, looking for and pulling over a few tools from where you'd left them.
  1658. >The xacto blade is the first - she pushes it into your open hand - followed a pair of tiny files she leaves on the table between you two, one round and pointy, about as thick as a toothpick - probably larger, but that how it seems right now.
  1659. >The other is flat and straight.
  1660. >Neither as long as the palm of your hand.
  1661. >About the length of Silver's, though.
  1662. >You resist the sudden and idiot urge to grab her hand and measure to see if your estimate is right.
  1663. >Silver looks about for a moment longer before giving the toolbox a frown of 'this will have to do' and sighing.
  1664. >"I'm sorry, I should have brought my tools," she says softly. "I even went back to my room and everything, but..."
  1665. "I'm sure these'll be fine."
  1666. >You won't really know any better, after all.
  1667. >Silver smiles agreeably.
  1668. >"I hope so," she says, leaning over awkwardly close to point at the piece in your hand. "See the part where you clipped the body from the sprue?"
  1669. "Yeah?"
  1670. >There's still a little bit of excess plastic there, right on the flat part where you're supposed to attach the right arm. Guess you didn't get the cutters quite close enough.
  1671. >"If you don't remove that, then the arm won't sit right and you'll have a gap you have to fill."
  1672. "Makes sense."
  1673. >"You could use a file," Silver continues, "but I prefer to use a blade at this point - and then come back with a file."
  1674. >Novella snorts.
  1675. >Sounds like there are *other* opinions out there, but you decide to let it slide.
  1676. >You uncap the xacto and cut -
  1677. >"No, no," Silver says, shaking her head. "Don't try to... to *force* it like that. It's not a cleaver. *Slide* the blade along it, or you'll use too much pressure and you'll hurt yourself."
  1678. >Another snort from Novella, but this one more cynical.
  1679. "I... take it you learned that the hard way?"
  1680. >Silver doesn't answer.
  1681. >Unless biting her lip counts.
  1682. >And clenching her hand - not in a fist but hugging her index finger.
  1683. >Well.
  1684. >She's right.
  1685. >It cuts way easier sliding the blade along the nub than it did trying to just slice through.
  1686. >Huh.
  1687. >And huh.
  1688. >You see why she said to use a file after.
  1689. >It's still not *quite* smooth.
  1690. >"Okay, now take the flat - yeah, just like that."
  1691. >You run the flat file over it until -
  1692. >"That's good enough," Silver says. "Now... the *other* spot..."
  1693. >Yeah, the torso was connected to the frame in two spots, the other being the bottom.
  1694. >Right where it'd attach to the legs.
  1695. >You flip it over and -
  1696. "Fuck. I cut too close."
  1697. >It's supposed to be rounded, but there's a flat spot.
  1698. >"That's fine," Silver says, with a little shake of her head. "It's a ball-and-socket type joint so it's not visible. But use the file to round it back out anyway."
  1699. >That takes you all of five seconds.
  1700. "Cool, so now I do the same for -"
  1701. >"Wait - you're not done."
  1702. "I'm not?"
  1703. >"Uh-uh. See the mould line all around the piece? It's where the two parts of the mould come together and there's always a little line left."
  1704. >You look closer.
  1705. "Um..."
  1706. >"On the side," Silver says. And then takes the bit out of your hand, holding it between her thumb and middle finger, and turns it so -
  1707. >Her nails are a pale blue.
  1708. >And then you see what she's trying to show you.
  1709. "Oh. Yeah."
  1710. >"You need to scrape or file that off. It seems like a small thing, but it'll be really visible once you paint your Orkz."
  1711. "Cool. Can do."
  1712. >You reach for...
  1713. > There are too many curves. The flat file won't work, not without filing off half the folds in the Ork's shirt.
  1714. "You can use the backside of the xacto blade," Silver suggests, "or the round file. There are a lot of different kinds of mould line scrapers you can use, but either of those will work for now."
  1715. >Hmm. Well.
  1716. >You feel bad for the round file. It hasn't gotten used yet.
  1717. >"Just lightly go around the part until that line is gone."
  1718. >Easily done.
  1719. "All done now?"
  1720. >Looks like it's done.
  1721. >No it doesn't.
  1722. >You run the file through one of the creases again.
  1723. "Okay, done?"
  1724. >"Looks like."
  1725. "Nice."
  1726. >"Legs next?"
  1727. "Sure."
  1728. >You follow the same steps as the first piece but try using the back of the xacto blade instead of the round file when you get to the final step.
  1729. >Might as well try it out, right?
  1730. >"Gently scrape it along the edge," Silver urges you. "You don't want to dig into the plastic, just remove the mould line."
  1731. >Easier said than done.
  1732. >"I never could get the hang of that either," Silver grimaces. "I'll bring my scraper next time; it works *much* better."
  1733. "Cool..."
  1734. >On to the next piece - and then the next after that.
  1735. >Occassionally Silver hands you a new file, telling you to give it a try.
  1736. >A triangular one to get into sharp angles.
  1737. >A sharp, oval file for the wider curves.
  1738. >A tapered file to get into narrow, flat spaces.
  1739. >You never thought so much work would go into assembling a single model.
  1740. >Even the base.
  1741. >A simple disk of black plastic.
  1742. >Silver has you run a file around the sloped flat side and then take the backside of the xacto blade around the very rim.
  1743. >Sure, it smooths out slight imperfections, but isn't it overkill?
  1744. >Still, you follow her instructions.
  1745. >You spent enough on these toys that you better do it *right*.
  1746. >Better to figure out what you're doing before you start deciding what steps you can skip.
  1747. >You get so caught up in cleaning parts that you don't realize you've moved on to the next pile of bits before your halfway through it.
  1748. >Well, might as well finish.
  1749. >*Then* you'll glue together your first dude - and the second, of course.
  1750. >You're one part from finishing when Diamond Tiara comes in.
  1751. >Without looking up, you can tell it's her immediately.
  1752. >Because she starts bitching immediately.
  1753. >"He isn't done *yet*!?"
  1754. >"No, Di," Silver sighs. "He's almost got his second model cleaned."
  1755. >"But they're assembled, right?"
  1756. >Huh!?
  1757. >You look up as Diamond throws her backpack onto one of the other tables.
  1758. "That's an option?"
  1759. >BECAUSE IF THAT'S AN OPTION DOT DOT DOT
  1760. >"Of course!"
  1761. >"Definitely not!"
  1762. "I'm kinda getting some conflicting answers here..."
  1763. >"It's *not* an option," Silver insists, but YOU SEEM TO RECALL HEARING SOMEWHERE IT WAS AN OPTION.
  1764. "What do you mean, Diamond?"
  1765. >"Well, how do you know what parts you need to clean if they aren't assembled?" she sneers. "Don't tell me you're scraping off *every* mould line."
  1766. "Well, yeah."
  1767. >"I'm teaching him how to do it *right*, Di."
  1768. >Diamond snorts and stomps over, sandwiching you between her and Silver.
  1769. >She grabs the torso you were working on right out of your hands and points to the rough bit on the shoulder.
  1770. >"See, you probably don't need to worry about that," she frowns. "The arm will cover it up."
  1771. "But it won't fit flat."
  1772. >"Use plastic glue," Diamond counters. "It basically just melts the plastic so it'll go flat fine."
  1773. "Plastic glue?"
  1774. >"Just like Di said, it melts the plastic," Silver explains, leaning over towards you until you can *almost* see both her and her friend at the same time.
  1775. >"It also takes longer to set," she continues, "meaning you have time to repose your model if it doesn't fit quite right, but -"
  1776. >"And it's neater, too," Novella interrupts OUT OF NOWHERE. "Depending on brand it's usually applied with a brush or fine point dropper."
  1777. "Oh. Huh."
  1778. >Sounds like no downside.
  1779. "So why use superglue at all?"
  1780. >"Because plastic glue only works on *plastic*," Diamond sneers before the other girl has a chance to bitch you out for something so obvious.
  1781. >Yay?
  1782. >You're going to make some logical leaps here and stop yourself from asking questions that get you yelled at.
  1783. >Non-plastic models exist.
  1784. >Fatty is working on some of those.
  1785. >You'll... ask about them later.
  1786. >Okay, logical leaps successfully navigated.
  1787. "Got it."
  1788. >"If you want... we can hold of on putting them together?" Silver asks hesitantly. "I can bring some plastic glue and -"
  1789. "Nope. I'm getting at least one of these guys put together."
  1790. >"Yeah, and that's probably *all* you'll get assembled," Diamond sighs. "I wanted to kick your virgin ass today, but *fine*."
  1791. >"You wouldn't have had time anyway," Miss Chrysalis chuckles from her spot by the window.
  1792. >Oh.
  1793. >She's got her legs up.
  1794. >Those are some nice legs and you aren't going to let yourself pretend anything otherwise like they're just objectively nice or something and you admire them on some kind of standards or something.
  1795. >No.
  1796. >Those are *nice legs* and her skirt shows them off *very* well.
  1797. >You wonder for a brief moment what they'd look like without the black stockings, but you think you've got enough hints to figure that out relatively accurately.
  1798. >"- in fifteen minutes."
  1799. >Aaaaaand she was still talking.
  1800. "What?"
  1801. >Silver groans.
  1802. >"Okay, we'll get one model glued together and then we'll pack up."
  1803. "What?"
  1804. >"Okay, first step..." Silver mumbles, ignoring your repeated and rather politely phrased whats. "First step... it's been so long since I've assembled infantry and Knights are totally different. Um..."
  1805. "Let me rephrase: wat?"
  1806. >"Hmm? Oh, sorry, what?"
  1807. "Yes, what. We have to pack up?"
  1808. >"In fifteen minutes," Silver answers. "Miss Chrysalis could only get us the room for an hour. The... um... some other club has it booked."
  1809. "How long have we been working on this!?"
  1810. >"About 45 minutes."
  1811. >Without even getting one dude assembled.
  1812. >And she's just been sitting here watching you for most of that time.
  1813. >That's... creepy?"
  1814. >Endearing?
  1815. >Um...
  1816. >Confusing. It's confusing.
  1817. >You know how it'd fall if the roles were reversed, but with her...?
  1818. >With a *girl* doing it?
  1819. >Yep. Confusing.
  1820. >*As fuck*.
  1821. "Well..."
  1822. >Fuck.
  1823. >You push that aside for now.
  1824. "... all I have to do is glue him together, right? I'm going to get at least *one* of these guys done before we leave. It can't be that hard."
  1825. >You grab the glue and twist the cap off.
  1826. >"There's a... *better* method to it," Silver hums, "than just glueing the parts together. If you do it in a certain order, it naturally creates a better pose.
  1827. >"For example, the head is *always* last."
  1828. >Huh.
  1829. >Well.
  1830. >Not like you expect your first little overpriced army dude to look great, but...
  1831. >"Glue the gun arm to the body," Novella snaps. "Then the other arm."
  1832. >"Ah, right!" Silver nods.
  1833. "Why not glue the body to the legs first, or the legs to the base, or..."
  1834. >Those would make more sense, right?
  1835. >"You could, but... it's always best to glue it to the base last because you want to put the center mass over the middle of the base."
  1836. >"Usually," Novella snarls.
  1837. >"Right, usually. There are exceptions."
  1838. "Like?"
  1839. >"Like... like if you're - "
  1840. >Everyone jumps as the door slams open and in stumbles a slender girl with her arms full of cardboard boxes.
  1841. >The fancy kind with lids.
  1842. >Why are you bothering to notice that...?
  1843. >She drops them on the ground before and stretches like a very satisfied cat before her eyes flare open wide.
  1844. >"Oh, shit. Sorry," this strange new person gasps. "I didn't mean to interrupt."
  1845. >"Well you fucking *did*," Novella growls, half-rising out of her seat.
  1846. >If she wasn't such a chubby ball of a girl, she and the craft knife she's holding would probably be at least mildly terrifying.
  1847. >If it wasn't so small.
  1848. >Like... if you *heard* that in a dark alley and couldn't see her...
  1849. >"I said I was sorry," the other girl answers. "No one ever books this time so I thought I could set up for my club early."
  1850. >"Then you should have fucking booked it, you-"
  1851. >"We're almost done," Silver interrupts, though a well-placed hand from Miss Chrysalis over her daughter's mouth helps. "It shouldn't be a problem if you wanted to start setting up."
  1852. "Um... thanks."
  1853. >"I think you girls have it from here," Miss Chrysalis nervously laughs in a way you never thought she could.
  1854. >No one as confident as her could ever sound like that.
  1855. >And yet...
  1856. >"Novella and I should probably head out now."
  1857. >Before she snaps and kills us all, but that part's left unsaid.
  1858. >"Take the club toolbox with you, Anon. That way you can work on your models at - at your own pace."
  1859. >Novella's mild flailing and gesturing of the craft knife make her opinion on all of this VERY CLEAR while Miss Chrysalis packs up her daughter's things with her one free hand.
  1860. >Yeah... that girl's got problems.
  1861. >Everyone watches in stunned silence, heads slowly turning to watch as they leave.
  1862. >Except you.
  1863. >You've got problems of your own.
  1864. "Okay, so how do I do this, Silver?"
  1865. >"Hmm? Oh, right. Um..."
  1866. >You turn to look. And then to look where she's looking.
  1867. >New Girl (or so you're going to name her for now, in your head at least) backs up hastily to give Novella and Miss Chrysalis some space.
  1868. >There's no knife now, but Novella's still waving her hands like a sperg.
  1869. >Oh shit, maybe she *is*.
  1870. >You should be more -
  1871. >Meh.
  1872. >Though you can't help but notice that New Girl has a nice butt.
  1873. >Still meh.
  1874. >Butts are temporary.
  1875. >Little toy soldiers are eternal.
  1876. >Or damn well better fucking be considering how expensive they are.
  1877. >You glue the damn arms on without the help of senpai.
  1878. >"Don't forget to -"
  1879. >And the arms together, where one is cradling the gun.
  1880. >"- perfect," Silver smiles. "Now what kind of pose are you going for? Walking forward or -"
  1881. "Shooting his gun."
  1882. >"Okay. Glue the torso to the legs. Try... try to get the gun parallel to the feet. I know it'll be hard without the base, but it doesn't have to be exact."
  1883. "Orks probably aren't the best at actually aiming anyway."
  1884. >"Exactly!"
  1885. >You do your best.
  1886. >Your best involves gluing a pair of disembodied legs to your middle finger for a few seconds, but in the end you think you get close to what you were going for - which does *not* involve a bizarre melding of your flesh and cheap plastic to create the ultimate in orkish technology.
  1887. "Okay, now -"
  1888. >"What club are you from?"
  1889. >You jump.
  1890. >Silver jumps.
  1891. >Your unnamed Orkish new best friend (sans head) jumps. So does the table.
  1892. >Fucking hell.
  1893. >Your knee hurts.
  1894. >Bashed it on the table. Might be why it jumped. Wuss can't take a hit without flinching.
  1895. >Meanwhile, New Girl has sat her ass down where Novella was and is staring at you in... wonder?
  1896. >What the fuck?
  1897. >This new trend is unnerving.
  1898. >What is it about you holding bits of plastic that makes girls want to stare at you?
  1899. >Except... Diamond Tiara, you realize.
  1900. >She seems to have fucked off at some point and you'd never noticed.
  1901. >Huh.
  1902. >Nor will she be missed.
  1903. >"We're the Tabletop Gaming club," Silver answers, as politely yet distantly as possible. "Now glue the head on. It should be facing the same direction as the gun - or if you were doing a different pose, the same as the feet.
  1904. >"As a rule of thumb, the head should always point the same direction as an arm or foot. It makes it more -"
  1905. >"So what are you doing now?" New Girl butts in.
  1906. >You think you might hate her a little, even if the attention is somewhat flattering.
  1907. "Assembling a fancy toy soldier."
  1908. >"Oh, so like a model building club?"
  1909. >"Yes," Silver snaps. "Exactly. Except we play games with them instead of -"
  1910. >"And do you paint them, too?" New Girl asks with far too much excitement.
  1911. "Eventually, but -"
  1912. >"First he needs to assemble them," Silver says, cold as ice.
  1913. >You've never heard her like that, even at her worst in high school.
  1914. >"We only have a few minutes left," she continues, "but if you're interested in the club you can contact Miss Chrysalis in the theatre department for our next meeting time."
  1915. "You know what..."
  1916. >You don't know why she's getting so pissy about this.
  1917. >Or why you *aren't*.
  1918. >Probably because she *is*.
  1919. "... I think we can finish this in the cafeteria or lounge or -"
  1920. >"I have to get to my math class after this. You wanted to get one of your models done and -"
  1921. "Okay, so I glue the head on."
  1922. >"Sorry, I'll shut up," New Girl mumbles.
  1923. >You nod/wince/apologetically smile her way.
  1924. >Silver outright ignores her.
  1925. >Unless you count a tightening of her mouth and a narrowing of her eyes that without context would make you think she was pissed at you and/or the model you're trying to assemble judging from the direction she's glaring.
  1926. >You're... just going to forget that expression and focus on your futuristic murder man.
  1927. >This isn't hard. Just one step. You can do this.
  1928. "Same direction as the gun."
  1929. >"Yes, give it a little twist to the right if you want to make it look a little wilder."
  1930. >Well, the glue does that for you. Dries before you can straighten the head.
  1931. >So... perfect.
  1932. >You guess.
  1933. >It does look a little wild and crazed like this.
  1934. >"And now for the base."
  1935. >Right, you'd forgotten that.
  1936. >You put a couple of drops of glue on the bottom of the Ork's feet and start to slap him on the center of the little black disk.
  1937. >"Wait, set him towards the back of the base."
  1938. "I thought you said to center it?"
  1939. >"But he's naturally leaning forward and the gun extends out even further. The center mass is towards the front, so put the legs further back."
  1940. "Oh."
  1941. >"Now, accessories..."
  1942. "He doesn't get any."
  1943. >She somehow manages to look even angrier.
  1944. "Yet."
  1945. >"But -"
  1946. "I thought it over, Silver."
  1947. >You actually had. Last night.
  1948. >That's why you only clipped out the essentials. None of the shoulder pads or pouches or grenades.
  1949. "I'll get these guys built and *then* I'll start putting the accessories on. If I start now I'll use them all up on the first few guys."
  1950. >Her face suddenly relaxes and she nods.
  1951. >"That's wise, Anon, though it might be hard to glue some of them on at that point. However -"
  1952. >She checks her watch.
  1953. >She's wearing a watch?
  1954. >Watches still exist!?
  1955. >"I - I have to get to class, Anon," Silver mumbles. "I'm sorry. I'll... I'll call you later, okay?"
  1956. "Uh... sure?"
  1957. >She touches your shoulder in a way that's weird as hell.
  1958. >As in she's not punching you like Cloudy does.
  1959. >That bitch.
  1960. >Cloudy, not Silver.
  1961. "I mean, yeah. That's -"
  1962. >Oh crap. You've got to get all your crap put away.
  1963. >You start scrabbling to throw everything into the toolbox.
  1964. "- wait, you don't have -"
  1965. >She's gone.
  1966. "- my... number..."
  1967. >Fuck.
  1968. "Sorry. I'll get out of your way, N-"
  1969. >Wait, her name isn't actually New Girl.
  1970. >And she's laughing at you.
  1971. >Silently, BUT YOU CAN SEE IT IN HER EYES.
  1972. >"That's fine," she says. "Everyone else always shows up late because they *know* I won't have it set up on time."
  1973. "Oh. Good. Cool."
  1974. >You - you throw your Orky bits back into their box.
  1975. >Seems smarter than putting them in with the tools.
  1976. >"That was interesting to watch," New Girl says as she stands up and starts mucking about with the boxes she's brought in.
  1977. >You try not to watch because YOU'RE A LITTLE BUSY.
  1978. >Even if she is bent -
  1979. >"I mean, I've never done anything like that," New Girl rattles on. "Your girlfriend really seems to know what she's doing."
  1980. "She's not -"
  1981. >"And she's very protective."
  1982. >Huh?
  1983. >"It's cute."
  1984. >HUH!?
  1985.  
  1986. ** Ch. 6 **
  1987. ** On the pleasures of solitude. **
  1988.  
  1989. >You're in luck.
  1990. >Your roommate is out.
  1991. >Good.
  1992. >He's annoying.
  1993. >Well, he's not that bad.
  1994. >Okay, Double Dip is a decent guy and you're lucky to be rooming with him.
  1995. >Much better than the asshat you were stuck with last year.
  1996. >He keeps his side of the room clean, doesn't mess up what you two have declared the shared space.
  1997. >Even brought a nice sized TV he doesn't mind you using, and a pair of camp chairs that you've supplemented with one of those cheapo folding dish chairs - your one concession to extravagance.
  1998. >But when Double Dip is here, he's usually got a friend or two over or he's doing something and it just makes it hard to do anything yourself.
  1999. >Always trying to rope you into the conversation, or get you to go out with him and his buddies to some show or bar.
  2000. >So you're glad he's out right now.
  2001. >The common area on this floor is shit.
  2002. >Full of old sofas that are so worn out they hurt to sit in, an old TV that never seems to be working, tables that are always - somehow - sticky, and worst of all people seem to fucking love it so it's always crowded.
  2003. >The common areas on the other floors must be worse - you haven't bothered to check them out.
  2004. >Luckily... you don't have to deal with that today.
  2005. >You sigh in relief and close the door behind you, cutting off the noise from the common area, and walk past the chairs to drop your backpack on your bed.
  2006. >Toolbox too, and your box of Orks. Your desk is a bit of a mess right now.
  2007. >Fuck that history project.
  2008. >You shouldn't have to be making dioramas in anything beyond elementary school.
  2009. >Maybe you should have bought a bigger desk, but... nah.
  2010. >This works. Comes with the room.
  2011. >And if you'd bought a desk of your own, you'd have less space.
  2012. >The rooms in Purple Dart Dormitory are pretty big, but not that big.
  2013. >Originally meant for four students, they were refitted for two the year before you'd moved in, leaving you with a pretty decent sized room.
  2014. >More than you'd originally expected when you'd signed on for this dorm your first year.
  2015. >You'd just seen the cheapest option and figured you'd live with it, but it turned out pretty well.
  2016. >Your room is large enough for the two beds, two desks, a mini-fridge, and the three chairs, all without feeling too cramped.
  2017. >And while Purple Dart may be one of the campus' older buildings - the new ones are either studio-style apartments like Clover or a 4-5 private rooms with a shared common area like Pansy and Crocus- it's a hell of a lot cheaper than those.
  2018. >Particularly Clover.
  2019. >Fuck that.
  2020. >This works.
  2021. >You look over your desk and... maybe...
  2022. >Nah. That shit's not due until next week.
  2023. >You gather up your diorama supplies and shove them into a corner of the desk.
  2024. >And then you decide that was a mistake for a number of reasons and put them back where they were.
  2025. >But...
  2026. >The light in here isn't great, so you open the blinds on your one lonely window.
  2027. >But the light outside isn't that great either.
  2028. >So...
  2029. >You might as well be comfortable.
  2030. >No more classes for the day.
  2031. >Double Dip will probably be out until around midnight, between his mid-day classes and hanging out with friends.
  2032. >Worst thing that might happen is he'll swing by to drop his books and shit off so he has more room in his car for some extra girl.
  2033. >It always seems to be a girl.
  2034. >So you grab the toolbox and move it to the mini-fridge-slash-what-passes-for-a-table (yeah, a coffee table or whatever would really be pushing it space-wise, so the mini-fridge pulls double duty).
  2035. >Orks next, though they've got to chill in one of the camp chairs.
  2036. >Except your one finished dude.
  2037. >He goes on a place of honor on the mini-fridge.
  2038. >And then you sit your ass down.
  2039. >Turn on the TV and scroll through Double Dip's streaming services to find something you've seen before. A dozen times. With a million episodes.
  2040. >It fades into the background, and you've half-forgotten it's on before you've pulled the rest of your Orks out of their box.
  2041. >Still.
  2042. >Occasionally you look up at a joke you already know and chuckle as you set the nob and dreadnought sprues aside.
  2043. >They go on the floor - no, wait, stupid.
  2044. >You throw them onto your bed.
  2045. >Perfect. Now you won't step on them.
  2046. >Now you can use the box's cardboard insert as a lap tray and keep all the little pieces corralled instead of losing shit all over the place.
  2047. >You clip out all of the basic boy parts, grab some tools, and get to work.
  2048. >One dude assembled is enough for now -
  2049. >You pat his head with your pointer finger.
  2050. >Wow, that was fucking stupid.
  2051. >You pat it again.
  2052. >- and just focus on cutting out all the parts, dumping them on one side of the tray, cleaning them up with the file and knife, and pushing them to the other side of the tray.
  2053. >You're not sure how many episodes have passed when SOME ASSHOLE knocks on your door - though you're about a third of the way through the pile of pieces.
  2054. "WHAT!?"
  2055. >"DUDE, DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO ANSWER YOUR PHONE!?"
  2056. >Oh. Shit.
  2057. >Double oh shit.
  2058. >Cloudy's vaguely pissed.
  2059. >But you may have missed a call from - where *did* you put your -
  2060. >Right, lap full.
  2061. >You set your makeshift tray on the mini-fridge and -
  2062. >Oh. Pocket.
  2063. >Right.
  2064. >That's a stupid place to put a phone when you're in your room.
  2065. >You check it.
  2066. >Cloudy knocks again.
  2067. >Oh good.
  2068. >Just texts from her.
  2069. >"C'mon, Anon!"
  2070. >Right.
  2071. >You make for the door.
  2072. >"Just tell me if you need to finish your fap and I'll come -"
  2073. >You swing the door open.
  2074. >She smacks you in the shoulder.
  2075. "That's an awkward place to stop that sentence."
  2076. >"Huh?"
  2077. "You'll cum if I tell you I need -"
  2078. >She smacks you again.
  2079. >"You know what I meant."
  2080. "You started it. Want to..."
  2081. >Cloudy pushes you aside and throws her backpack onto - oh shit, yes, she missed your bed and it lands on the floor.
  2082. >She seems unperturbed and - ohshit - ohgood. She throws her *ass* into the empty seat instead of the one with - oh, nevermind. You'd moved your box of Space Men.
  2083. >"You're watching this again?" she sighs, with a jerk of her chin towards the TV.
  2084. "Yeah, I -"
  2085. >You reach for the remote.
  2086. >"No, leave it on," she waves you away. "I like this episode. So, how was your meetup?"
  2087. "I got one guy built!"
  2088. >"One?"
  2089. "Yeah."
  2090. >"Just one?"
  2091. "Yeah, it takes more time than I thought."
  2092. >"But *one*? Was it at least the big thing?"
  2093. >You shake your head and take your seat.
  2094. "No, I'm saving that for last."
  2095. >"But isn't that the only one you really care about? Y'know, the... shit, what did you call it?"
  2096. "Big stompy robot."
  2097. >"Yeah, that."
  2098. >You shrug.
  2099. "I don't *not* care about the others - they were expensive as fuck, after all, but you're right. The Deffdread is the one I care about the most.
  2100. "That's why I'm doing it last. I want to know what the heck I'm doing before I get to it so I don't fuck it up."
  2101. >"I guess that makes sense," Cloudy frowns. "You always have been too patient for your own good. But still..."
  2102. >FROWNS HARDER.
  2103. >"... you only got one built!?"
  2104. "I'm learning, okay? And I kept getting interrupted!"
  2105. >"By what?"
  2106. "Who. I don't know. Some girl from some club."
  2107. >Cloudy snorts and rolls her eyes.
  2108. >"I really hope you mean someone from a different club, because -"
  2109. "Yeah. Whatever club had the room booked next. I don't know. She showed up early and we let her stick around, but she kept asking me questions."
  2110. >"Like what?"
  2111. "What I was doing. Shit like that."
  2112. >"Maybe she was into you," Cloudy shrugs.
  2113. "She was asking about the models."
  2114. >"Yeah, okay," she snorts. "Maybe she was into you."
  2115. >GLARE.
  2116. >Cloudy laughs.
  2117. >"It's not *impossible*."
  2118. "Yeah, but *still*..."
  2119. >"Fine."
  2120. >Her eyes dart towards the TV and she laughs at some joke you'd missed.
  2121. >And then back to you.
  2122. >"Still, just one?" she asks, looking over the tools and mess of plastic scattered around. "I'm guessing that's why they let you borrow their tools.
  2123. >"They *are* letting you borrow them, right? You didn't have to pay for it, did you? Because if they're taking advantage of you -"
  2124. "No, I'm just borrowing them. Miss Chrysalis told me to when she..."
  2125. >Um. How exactly do you describe what happened without coming off as being full of shit?
  2126. >Because that'll turn into a whole *thing* and you don't feel like dealing with a *thing* right now.
  2127. "... remember her daughter, the girl from the store?"
  2128. >"The mouthy, annoying cunt?"
  2129. "Yeah. She got really bitchy and Miss Chrysalis basically ran off with her before shit got real."
  2130. >"Ah."
  2131. "Exactly."
  2132. >Silence.
  2133. >"Well..."
  2134. >Canned laughter from TV.
  2135. >"... aren't you going to show me your *one* finished toy?"
  2136. >ohshit
  2137. >wait
  2138. "You just want to laugh at me, don't you?"
  2139. >She turns to face you full-on and raises an eyebrow.
  2140. >"I don't think I need any more reasons for that, do you?"
  2141. "Um -"
  2142. >"Like your last girlfriend and -"
  2143. "Pointmadeshutup."
  2144. >You grab... shit, you need to name this little fucker... uh... Gunzy the Gunguy... no, that's stupid. You'll think of something later.
  2145. >Whatever his name will be, even if it's just Cannon Fodder Ork Number One, you pick him up by the base and hold him out to Cloudy.
  2146. "Here."
  2147. >"Huh."
  2148. >You shake Gunsy - fuck! no! it's stuck in your head! he's named that forever now! - until Cloudy takes him from your hand and looks him over.
  2149. >She slowly spins him around between her fingers.
  2150. >"Huh," she grunts again and hands him back.
  2151. "What?"
  2152. >"Well, aren't you supposed to paint them?"
  2153. "One thing at a time."
  2154. >You don't *have* any paints, after all.
  2155. >"Wouldn't it be easier to paint them and *then* put them together?"
  2156. >Hmm.
  2157. >Well...
  2158. >Yeah, you can see how it might be hard to paint some pieces once it's assembled.
  2159. >Or at the very least easier to paint the arms without messing up the shirt, or the shirt without messing up the arms, or worrying about other coloring-within-the-lines type issues.
  2160. >Huh.
  2161. >You'll have to ask about that.
  2162. >Maybe it *is* easier that way and Silver just went along with showing you how to put a guy together because that's what *you* wanted to do.
  2163. >Fuck.
  2164. >That's probably it.
  2165. >She was just trying to be nice.
  2166. >You ruined everything.
  2167. >*Obviously* they should be painted before being assembled.
  2168. "No, of course not. That's stupid."
  2169. >You laugh and set Gunsy on the minifridge.
  2170. "Why the heck would I paint them *before* assembling? If I did that -"
  2171. >"You're thinking you fucked up, aren't you?"
  2172. "No."
  2173. >"Yeah you are."
  2174. "No!"
  2175. >She grins.
  2176. >"Okay. Cool. Good to know I was wrong."
  2177. >Silence as the show's closing credits play.
  2178. "At least I started with a random schmuck -"
  2179. >That's no way to refer to Gunsy.
  2180. >You pat his head to apologize because doing it out loud would be stupid and there are witnesses who would hold it over you at a later point - maybe in front of Silver Spoon, and you'd like her to think you aren't a total incompetent.
  2181. >"Yeah, no, great call saving your stompy robot for last."
Silver Spoon Anon Diamond Tiara Moondancer Warhammer 40k In Progress /tg/ Traditional Games NSFW

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