I was so not expecting to see Anastasia Luccio when I walked into mom's forge. It was horrible on so many levels-- a) judgmental warden bitch, b) hypocritical heart-breaking bitch and c) bitch called me fat.
"What," I said, and then "get out."
The tiny lady gave me a humorless look, and went back to banging on the sword-- looked like a scimitar-- she was working on.
"Seriously. Where's mom. Why are you here. Get out."
"Charity has gone to pick up your youngest brother from little league," she said, with her usual quiet yet stick-up-the-ass attitude. "I am here at her invitation. She is helping me regain certain skills."
"Sorry, Mom doesn't know how to murder people for fun."
"Nor does she know how to invade the mind of a wounded woman," Luccio said, sweetly. Sweet like antifreeze. "And yet you learned it somewhere."
I sneered at her. "Yeah. Saved everyone's ass too, because you were being mind controlled. I was right."
"But of course. I had forgotten how that eases the sting of a second violation. How silly of me." Her big eyes narrowed, and she set aside the metal to cool slowly. "When you think on those you have left your mark on, does it ease your shame to think that you were right?"
"When you tricked Harry into fucking you even though he knows young wizards shouldn’t have sex, did it get the sand out of your vagina?"
Her mouth twisted into maybe half a smile, and she plunged her tongs into hot water, making them hiss and squeak. "I tricked him, did I?"
"Yeah. Why else would he have? Young wizard, young magic, no sexy. Those are the rules that he taught me."
"My body is young." Her smile evened itself out, but it wasn't a happy smile. "My magic is older. And I still would not have risked it if I had been myself."
"Oh yeah. Convenient, that mind control. Fantastic excuse."
She looked me straight in the eye, and I jerked my gaze away just in time. "Girl," she said. "I hope you never know what it is, to have your pleasure used to shame you, to have joy used like a bludgeon."
"Hey, drama ho?" And I guess I was pretty angry, because I usually don't talk about this, but seriously, it was LUCCIO. "I totally already have. I enjoyed the ride, came out the other side, and I'm FINE. You're just weak."
But her expression changed all of a sudden-- she looked at me with this pity in her face. "Child, so young?"
"God, don't EVEN-" I'd cooled off just enough to realize what I'd told her and oh god my parents didn't even know about that and Harry knew but he had disappeared-
"There are ways you can heal. There are things you can do," she interrupted me, talking quickly. "Whatever you do, do not act rashly and do not act without council."
"SHUT UP!" I screamed, and we might have gotten into another fight right there, but I heard the minivan door slamming outside, and I ran.
So I didn’t see her again for like, three months. It was right after Harry went missing and I’d blown all the breakers in the house having a nightmare about … stuff. I guess I thought she could tell me how to fix it, how to make nightmares go away, and then we’d never speak of it again, and she could go back to being a bitch and I would go back to being awesome.
I had to track her down: she was staying in one of the Wardens’ little safe houses. I bullied Carlos into giving me the address and stormed right in.
“I can’t tell you who did it,” I said, as soon as I was in the door. She looked up from the yoga mat she was sitting on, and cracked one eye. “But there was some stuff with the White Court and I need to get it fixed, so if you know how to fix it, pony up.”
She opened both eyes, and smiled this lopsided smile. “You seem very convinced that I would have said ‘no’ if you had asked politely.”
“I don’t ask wardens politely.” I crossed my arms.
“You’re lucky. I don’t know the answers. I only know those who can give them to you-- not wardens. Some of the women of the Ordo, and some healers. I can give you names. Perhaps you’ll be polite to them.”
I felt a sting of betrayal. “So you were lying, when you made out like you had any idea what I was going through-”
“Being wounded doesn’t make you a healer, Wizard Carpenter,” she said sharply. “What happened to me happened to me. It was never the White Court.”
“But you said not to do anything drastic. What were you talking about?”
She closed her eyes again. “Nothing I trust you enough to speak about. I’ll leave the names with your mother.”
“HEY-” but a wall of force, like the air had turned into foam rubber, started to shove me towards the door. I pushed back at it, but I suck at combat magic and she’d messed with the friction in the floor too, and before I could say ‘holy lack of traction, batman’ I was through the door and it was slamming behind me.
So it had been a couple weeks. No word from Harry. I tried to get on with life, catch up with some friends... sort of making plans to have a normal life just in case he never came back. Seriously, the more I found out about the White Council, the less I wanted to be a part of it without Harry to protect me. I didn’t talk to anyone on Luccio’s list of names.
Also the dreams were still going on. They mostly sucked. The ones about Thomas were worse, somehow. But they were the only orgasms I was going to get for the forseeable future, and that made me feel extra-super-special shitty.
Luccio kept coming over to work at mom’s forge, and I started pestering her for answers.
“So. If Harry’s dead, does that mean someone else has to take up my Doom?”
“No. It means you’re on probation, as he was.”
And a few days later:
“So why don’t wizards have schools?”
“Too many styles of magic.” Bang, bang, quench. “A good teacher can teach a handful. But master to apprentice has been best.”
And after that:
“When do I get to start having sex?”
“When you’re ready.”
“Why aren’t I ready now?”
“Because I seriously doubt you can control your magic once your mind and body are bent to one purpose, and it is dangerous to channel such energy with an unsuspecting partner.”
Okay, maybe that made a little sense. I thought of Nelson and twinged inside. I’d... done him... during a makeout. Because it was so easy and I felt like I was right inside his skull when we were together like that.
“But what about masturbation, then?”
Luccio didn’t bat an eye. “It’s good for you. I recommend it early and often.”
“WHAT? Harry told me hands off!”
“Then do as he said.” She shrugged. “I’m not here to retrain you.”
Like this wasn’t an ISSUE. Like this was NOT A BIG DEAL. “Why would he tell me that,” I stammered.
“Because it is how his master taught him, and how his master taught him, I assume. It is not uncommon, especially from man to man.”
“Because there are old superstitions that a release of fluid is a release of strength. Because it generates power and it is dangerous to use that power to fuel your magic. Because arbitrary restrictions are a way that masters remind apprentices that they are in charge. Because he did not want to interact with the sexual energy of a young woman and put the burden on you to restrain yourself. Pick one.”
“That’s terrible,” I said flatly. Seriously. Not one single one of those reasons made me happy.
“I tend to agree. But you are his apprentice, not mine. If you were mine, I would suggest you know yourself better. But you aren’t.” She kept hammering the breastplate she was working on. In the time I’d known her, her muscles had gotten a lot better developed; she didn’t have to take as many breaks as way in the beginning. She wasn’t built like she was ever going to be super-muscular, but she was getting better. Not as good as mom, obviously.
“Did you masturbate?” I pressed.
“No. I had sex.”
Okay, wow, awkward.
“And that... worked for you?”
“No.” Bang. Bang. Bang. “I gave of myself extremely freely. I loved both the pleasure it gave me and the ease with which my magic came when I was satisfied. My master disapproved. He punished me.”
“Like... caning?” Okay, put Luccio’s kinky schoolgirl adventures out of your head, Molly. You can do it.
“Like beating me in a magical duel to show me that raw energy cannot defeat technique. Like threatening to abandon me if I did not curb my womanly urges. It was no mild threat. He was one of a few in Italy who would have taken a female apprentice at all. I had him or I had nothing. He held my dreams hostage.”
...so maybe I would have preferred kinky schoolgirl adventures to that. I mean. I get that it was medieval or whatever but that wasn’t okay.
“Couldn’t you have struck out on your own? I would have,” I said.
“Not and become a warden, as I desperately wished. He was well respected. His censure would have meant my exile to the very fringes of the White Council.” She set down the breastplate and hammer and rolled her shoulders, turning left and right to make her spine pop. “He did not do it out of malice. He did it because he was used to male apprentices. He did not know what he had done.”
She looked over at me, and I felt us drifting into uber-serious territory that I didn’t know if I was ready for. But she was feeling sharing.
“When he defeated me, he struck at the root of my magic.” She patted her lower stomach. “There was an injury there. It might have healed. But I was ashamed; ashamed at what he thought me to be, ashamed of finding pleasure in men and women. I forced myself to give up desire-- and where the mind goes, Molly, you will find your body follows. We are wizards; things are different.” She sighed. “You will be fertile well into your centuries. I was not. I withered my womb inside me-- I chose to. It was the early nineteenth century, who knew what an endocrine system was? I only knew that my desires faded away. And that my monthly cycles stopped when I was barely fifty.”
“Is that going to happen again? Because... your magic is still all anti-womb?” and I winced, because that was a horrible way to say it.
Apparently I hadn’t offended her too badly. She looked down at her young body. “I don’t know. I don’t believe so. In later years I tried to regain what I had lost-- but the damage was already done. I would not choose that path again. But I’m lucky, I suppose: few get the chance to make such a mistake twice.”
I guess it would have been pretty great if she hadn’t been mind controlled into throwing herself vag first at Harry. I bit my bottom lip: I’m not a total irrational bitch. I had figured out since our first fight that what had happened to her hurt her a whole lot more than she lets on. The way she talked about shame, pleasure being shameful, made me uncomfortable-- it reminded me of early mornings crying because what kind of sicko ditz gets off because she dreamed about a vampire raping her? What, I just wasn’t satisfied that Mouse had stopped Thomas before he could actually start, and I was just gagging for it? Huh?
“I didn’t mean to upset you,” she said gently, and I realized that she was standing close. She had her hand out, but she wasn’t touching my arm. I think was waiting for permission. I nodded, and her warm, calloused hand covered my shoulder, over the badly-done chaos symbol tattoo. If you have to settle for artists who will do you at sixteen without your parents’ permission, you get a lot of basement tats from somebody’s older brother and his homemade gun. Sad. But true.
“You haven’t talked to anyone about what happened,” she said, giving me a semi-accusing look.
“I don’t want to. I’ll be okay, right? I’m not going to do something-” I flailed around for a way to finish that sentence without sounding too much like I was saying I’M SMARTER THAN YOUUU.
“Drastic,” she finished for me. Ouch. Oh well. So much for polite. “Your body will heal. Your will, certainly. But do you understand, Molly, truly understand that what happened to you was not of your making?”
“Obviously not. But I can’t stop dreaming about it. And it’s-- I mean the dreams, they--”
“They’re pleasurable? How could they not be, when pleasure is the weapon of the White Court?” She shook her head. “That’s nothing to do with you, either.”
“I’d just. Like to know that I could ever get off normally again. At this point, I’m actually a little afraid to masturbate, I mean I want to but what if my mind Goes There, and I can’t have sex-- I mean, after what happened, why don’t I DESERVE sex with a good guy? Someone who wouldn’t hurt me? Not even. Sex-sex. Just.” I threw up a hand.
“It’s still dangerous for you to mingle your power with another that way. It will leave you vulnerable to new hurts,” she said seriously. “But I may have to gainsay Harry anyway. You feel that you no longer control the seat of your magic. Take it back under your control. ...I hesitate to say, but Charity has let me use the shower here, and I know--” she made a motion that sort of lewdly evoked our shower wand.
“What if he’s pissed when he gets back?”
“If he even notices, I’ll talk to him,” she said. And, you know, she’d never once told me ‘you may have to accept that Harry is gone’. And she’d always talked to him in the present tense around me. And that was really really nice of her. “I’ll tell him it was training. May I show you?”
I nodded, and she carefully put her hand right at the top of my pelvis. “This is chakra point that is fed by arousal. It is... bruised, let’s say, because of what has happened. So be gentle, and feel your Will in it, healing you.” Not-warmth spread out from her hand as she brushed her aura against mine, touching the spot she meant.
I’m good at auras. I’m a sensitive. I feel people touching me all the time, and sometimes it’s pretty skeevy, and with Harry it’s a little scary and frustrating, but Luccio’s aura was so deliberate that it felt safe. She knew what she was doing, and her power was... strong but yielding. Like a soft current of water bubbling up against me, right against my groin. I felt my aura push back, remembered all the shielding exercises to keep people out, but I couldn’t help but feel like if I let this in it would feel-
And it was gone. Luccio had pulled her hand back and was giving me a Look.
“I’m sorry,” I muttered.
“Oh, Molly.” She sighed. “I know you yearn. I know. I did, too. But it really will serve you, to guard this a while. You’ll be stronger. And better at your craft. And perhaps, once you know yourself, Harry will have a different answer.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I said awkwardly. It probably wasn’t the time to discuss ‘I don’t think I’m in love with Harry, I just have an authority figure kink, and I just now figured this out because wow I think I’m bi for you.’ Enough awkward discussions for one day. For like, a decade. Really.
But maybe... if I tried, when I tried. Maybe I could remember the gentle swell of her against me, and it could push the cold White memories away.