Everything is terrible.
I might die, and I mean it this time. Death, destruction, dismemberment... several other words that start with D and mean bad things.
"Youch!" I pulled my head away from the wretched contraption that had pulled it back hard enough to give me whiplash. The hand that was attempting to keep my head in place warmed as though healing removed the pain.
"Sorry, sorry, but you know, if you did this more often it wouldn't hurt so much," Evelyn sang as she pulled the brush through the bird's nest on my head that should be hair but was probably too far gone to even be called that now.
I grumbled back at her, even I wasn't entirely sure what all I said, but she was probably used to that by now.
"Oh, don't you worry," she said ignoring my moody grumbles. "You're going to look so pretty all the boys we pass will just have to stare as we pass by."
I didn't doubt that everyone would be staring, though it wouldn't be because I'm pretty, rather it would be the sight of a half-crazed tiefling walking down the street with a construct in a dress that would leave them all speechless. It certainly had left me and Diath speechless when she and Paultin had returned to our lodgings last night one more drunk than we’d ever seen him and the other looking more like her son than her (kinda) boyfriend. Since then everyone's danced around the subject of her new body as though Evelyn was likely to break if anyone so much as mentioned it. Even Paultin hadn't said anything, despite being one hundred percent plastered all night long, almost as though he was drinking specifically to avoid dealing with the problem.
He'd still been drunk when he left an hour ago to get me an outfit for Evelyn's special brand of torture.
"Oh, they'll be staring all right," I said, a hint of panicked laughter bubbling out of my mouth.
"I'm so glad you agree," I could almost see the naive smile on her face as she ripped her brush through my hair again.
I'm pretty sure she gave up in defeat rather than finished when she finally let go of my hair and allowed me to stand. I refused to look in the mirror she offered me. She shrugged it off and peeked out the door to the common room and I heard her ask if Paultin was back yet. I didn't hear the answer but it must have been yes since she gave a perky little cheer before dragging me out of the room and into another.
Paultin was inside looking just as tipsy than he'd been when he'd left, meaning he was still drinking. He was going to kill himself drinking non-stop like that.
"I thought it was going to be blue." Evelyn pouted as she examined the dress that I was determined to hate no matter what it looked like.
"They didn't have any blue," he slurred, not even trying to make the lie convincing. If Evelyn wasn't determined to believe every word Paultin said was made of solid gold, she'd have noticed too, however...
"Oh, well that's too bad, but you could have picked something besides black. I mean she wears so much black already-"
"Nothing else would fit."
"Well, alright. I suppose it's a good thing you're just so pretty then." She said patting my head and picking up the dress, that I still hadn't even looked at, and taking it out of the room calling for me to follow.
I stayed behind and looked at Paultin. "They didn't have any blue?"
"That's what I said," he offered a cup to me and I made its contents disappear. He looked annoyed.
"You have got to stop drinking, you've been doing it all night. Why did you lie to Evelyn?"
He rolled his eyes at the drinking comment. "Wellll, I figured this whole thing was probably, maybe, a little, my fault-"
"Try entirely your fault."
"Well if you want to start pointing fingers..."
I looked at him through narrow eyes, "Paultin, is this your way of apologizing?" I asked, hardly able to believe it myself.
"Heavens no," he gave a look that could only be described as drunken shock. "More of a way of saying 'please don't kill me in a fiery rage."
I nodded, that was a little bit more Paultin. It wasn't entirely his fault, I can't even remember whose idea the whole stupid thing was.
"Stop drinking for the rest of the day and I'll consider it," I looked around the room, no doubt he had some wine somewhere, however, I didn't see any.
Paultin gave a sarcastic huff. "Yeah, I think I'll take my chances with the fiery death, thanks," he said before walking out the door with a yawning stretch.
I followed him out the door and watched him as he left the common room, no doubt headed to the nearest bar. Paultin drank a lot, like far too much normally, but this was a lot even for him. I couldn't help but wonder if it was Evelyn's body that had triggered it, or if it was just a delayed reaction to Simon being crushed.
I tried to put it out of my mind as I returned to Evelyn's room. Paultin was a big boy, I shouldn't mother him. He's had a hard... week? month? life?
I dunno, I just hoped he felt better before his kidneys shut down altogether.
Plus Diath's been all quiet and mopey and now Evelyn's a robot and WHY IS THE DEMON GIRL THE ONLY ONE THAT'S NOT ALL BARMY AND STUFF!!!!!!!
I let myself into Evelyn's room still whining to myself, about ten seconds from throwing myself onto the ground in a tantrum. Evelyn's cheery voice put me right on the edge.
"Come on, come on. I can't wait this is going to be so much fun, and you're going to be so pretty." She pulled me over to the bed. The dress laid flat on top, it almost made me wish I'd thanked Paultin back there. It wasn't ideal, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected it to be. It was long, likely down to my ankles with layers of cloth that almost looked like they'd been ripped too short over the main skirt. The sleeves also were full length, they were lacy with little spiders woven into them. The neck was modest and the bust unpronounced, thank god. The entire thing was black except for some embroidery on the midriff that was designed to look like a spider web, that was green.
Where exactly Paultin had gotten a tiefling sized gothic evening gown in the middle of a dwarven city and why he'd bothered to spend so much for one that I might have been able to be comfortable in were questions I doubt I'll ever find an answer too, but I was severely relieved that I wouldn't have to walk around all day in a dress that matched the bright yellow sundress Evelyn had hanging in the wardrobe.
"It's not exactly what I pictured when I sent him out, but it does suit you," she said not sounding as disappointed as I'd expected.
"It's not awful," I concluded, a little disappointed, I'd been looking forward to hating the dress, but if it had been someone else wearing it, the dress really would have been nice. Still would look horrible on me though.
Evelyn helped me into it since I’m not accustomed to clothes with corsets and so many strings. I drowned out her constant chatter by looking in the mirror for anything I could rip or mess up to make the dress feel less like a dress and more like my robes. The corset was, sadly, sewn into the dress really well, so I couldn't rip that out, and I actually kinda liked the sleeves, so not those either.
I eventually settled on just shaking my usual robes over top of me and letting it's dirt and grime fall over me. That helped a lot, even if Evelyn was a bit upset.
The knock on the door startled us both, leaving me hiding behind the mirror. Diath called through the door and I breathed a sigh of relief. Evelyn was in the process of donning her own ridiculously bright dress, so I opened it as little as possible and stepped outside to see what he wanted.
He just stared at me. It was really weird.
"Well, what do you want?" I nearly yelled at him, it was super awkward, him just staring like that. I didn't like it.
"Oh, ah," He looked around and shook his head. "Evelyn said you were going shopping."
He fumbled around in his coin pouch, "can you pick up some more blankets while you're out? Waffles kinda... Well, let's just say that Paultin no longer has one, and mine, eh, isn't exactly usable anymore."
He handed me more than enough to get two more blankets and I agreed unnerved by how distracted he seemed.
"You look nice," he managed, "not that you don't always look nice, but y' know."
I gave a nervous sort of chuckle and said "yeah, okay. Whatever you say," before popping the door open just a hair and letting myself in.
God that was awkward, and weird. Diath was weird sometimes.
"We need to pick up some blankets, I think Waffles peed on some of..." my voice trailed off as I looked at Evelyn in her bright sundress.
Now I was staring, but it wasn't because of the dress, or not directly because of the dress. Unlike her armor, the sundress was sleeveless and only down to her knees leaving quite a bit of skin exposed. Except, Evelyn didn't have skin, not anymore. She had metal, and leather, and other robot bits. The joints showed gears from inside her new body, and you could see them moving. She was staring into the mirror, frozen at the sight of her own body. Her face was unreadable.
It wasn't a pleasant sight.
She'd tried so hard to not let it bother her, to hide her discontent from the rest of us, but that didn't mean it didn't exist. I suddenly remembered why I had volunteered to hang out in this ridiculous dress all day. The tone of her voice and the barest hint of sadness on her face had been enough to tell even Paultin, in his drunken stupor, that she was not okay. I had to do something, and maybe a girls night out would help her... somehow.
"Well, are you ready, or not?" I asked in a huff, not wanting her to know I'd been watching her for like a minute.
She jumped out of her trance and put on a big smile.
"Yes, of course, what did Diath want?" she asked as though I hadn't told her just that a minute ago. Normally, I'd have assumed she was just that focused, but Evelyn didn't listen to anything... ever, except for Paultin, sometimes.
"The boys need new traveling blankets." I put Diath's money in my purse, committing how much he'd given me to memory so I could give him the correct change back.
"Oh, we'll have to grab them some while we're out." She took my arm and bodily pulled me out of the bedroom. I noticed her eyes flicker to Paultin, who must have made his tavern orders to go as he was back already. She was ignored. The bright dress not even catching his attention. I felt kinda bad for her then. She seemed determined to not let this bother her, but I knew better than that. I wondered if this entire endeavor would only cause her to become even more upset about her body than she already was.
I whined as she dragged me down the street causing Evelyn's prediction of stares to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though to my surprise it wasn’t clothes or weapons we were shopping for, they were Evelyn’s usual target. We spent the bulk of our time surrounded by food. Evelyn asking about different ingredients and how to tell what was fresh. After a while, I started having fun. Shocking I know. I liked teaching her about the different kinds of flour or why raisin cookies were the cruelest joke ever played on mankind. I even forgot I was all dressed up when I tried to sell something I keep stored in my robes, only to realize I wasn’t wearing them.
We returned to our host’s house with all the ingredients to make a couple of batches of cookies. I knew that my attempt to make Evelyn feel better was also her attempt to make me happy too. That was a weird feeling. We avoided the boys, not wanting them to know what we were up to. Evelyn wanted to surprise them. I figured we’d have surprised them even if they saw us come in. The cooks of the house were content to leave the kitchen to us so long as we cleaned up after ourselves. I promised to magic away any mess we made as Evelyn set out all the ingredients we’d acquired.
“What’s first?” Evelyn asked practically bouncing on her metal heels.
I blinked at her. “What?”
“What do we do first?”
“Have you never baked cookies before?”
She shook her head and I felt my brain shut down. How can anyone go their whole life and have never baked cookies before? That’s just like… What?
“I watched St. Claris make them once, for a bake sale,” she tried to remember as my brain started to reboot.
“Um, okay. Well, we mix the wet ingredients first.” I showed her step by step how to make the first batch of cookies and let her do the second batch mostly herself, interjecting when she made a mistake only if it would ruin the cookies. She wasn’t terrible, but her attention span was lacking and she was forgetful. Pretty much what I would have expected.
“Why did you want to learn how to bake anyway?” I asked as we started on the third batch. I wondered if it would be bad for the gears in her new body to get covered with flower. It was too late to prevent it though. She was still getting used to being a construct and her dexterity wasn’t quite up to its usual standard. She’d spilled so much stuff that I was nearly as dirty as every other day. And she hadn’t complained about it once. That’s how I knew she was having fun.
“Oh, y’ know, I just thought it would be fun. We hardly ever spend time together.” She was evading the question. Her body may have been made of metal, but her heart still hung on her sleeve.
“And the fact that Paultin’s drinking himself into a coma has nothing to do with it, I’m sure.”
She spluttered a bit denying it but looked worriedly at the door before returning her gaze to the cookie mix she was stirring.
“He’ll be okay. It’s not like he’s never had anyone die on him before.” The second the words came out of my mouth I regretted them. It had sounded a lot better in my head before it had time to pull up memories of that overturned Vistani wagon in Barovia. She didn’t say it but I knew she was thinking the same thing.
“It’s not just Paultin,” she said with a sigh, relenting to my curiosity. “Somethings wrong with Diath too. He says he’s fine, but…”
“He’s not fine,” I said with a huff. “He thinks I’m stupid, but I’m not. I know when Diath’s not fine, and he’s not. I don’t know what happened and he won’t tell me.”
“None of us are fine,” Evelyn said softly, looking at her hand. “We all nearly died in that mountain. Simon did die. Then when we finally get out of there you and Diath get sick and nearly die again. I’m starting to think Paultin’s trying to die,” she hesitated before continuing, “and I think I might have died myself.”
I stared at her for a long while before looking back at the cookie mix. “But you’re still here. We’re all still here. We’re together. And as long as we’re together we’ll all be fine.”
She giggled her annoyingly cheery giggle. “Of course we will.” She hugged me and for once I didn’t protest, more for her sake than because I wasn’t horrified by being touched. “That’s why we’re making cookies.” She waved a mechanical arm over the plate of cookies we’d already baked. “To show everyone that we’re all still friends, and everything’s going to be fine.”
I muttered under my breath about mood swings and optimists, but she ignored me and started humming as she stirred the cookie dough. I wouldn’t admit it to Evelyn, but I decided, maybe the whole, girls day out wasn’t such a bad thing as I watched her pour chocolate chips into the mix that as a construct she probably wouldn’t even be able to eat. I thought that, maybe, we should do it again sometime.
But not for a long, long time.
And no dresses… Ever.
The boys looked like strangers sharing a living space when we brought the cookies out. Diath on one side of the room sharpening one of his daggers, and Paultin on the other side of the room pouring another bottle into a plastic cup. Neither of them so much as acknowledged the other’s presence. I didn’t think they were fighting. Paultin had stopped blaming Diath for what happened to Simon after Diath had paid for him to be rebuilt, but it was always awkward talking to someone so plastered out of their mind that more of the alcohol was ending up on the table than in the cup. And Paultin didn’t look like he cared about anything but the bottle in his hand. Not a good atmosphere for friendly conversation.
However, they were both very attentive when we announced that we had cookies. Which I took as a success for both our moody boys.
“I was wondering what you two were up to all day,” Diath smiled it looked genuine, which pleased me. There wasn’t much I could do for my friends, fireballs and pies are my only real skills. But if it was enough to make them smile, then well, maybe I wasn’t such a bad friend after all.
Evelyn brought some to Paultin I didn’t blame her I didn’t think I trusted him to walk across the room to grab some himself either. Naturally, she began talking his ear off, I doubt he was paying attention to anything she said, but he’d put down his plastic cup in favor of the cookies. And that was victory enough.
We all had fun chatting and eating the cookies. Diath cheered up over time and Paultin fell asleep on his chair before Evelyn half pulled me back into her bedroom.
“That was nice,” she said sitting on the bed, my robes were still thrown haphazardly on her sheets.
“Yeah, it was… actually kinda fun.”