Cervine Love
rating: +29+x

“He stinks.”

“No. It's from his roommate. It clings to his clothes.” Beatrice tried not to bristle. It's what she wanted her to do. Testing, needling.

“That means he's not doing his wash.”

“I can make him do his laundry.” Which was almost assuredly a lie. She would probably have to do it herself. She didn't want to do it herself. Beatrice had made fun of girlfriends who did their big idiot boyfriend's laundry. But shit, he just really didn't care, did he?

How had she bagged the only gay guy who had zero fucking hygiene?

A few of his shirts had been sweated through so thoroughly in that they were stained white with salt on the shoulders. He had told her that they were shirts he wore when he got the flu. But they were still good.

It boggled her mind.

“What kind of shit can his roommate be doing that's making him smell like fat dude BO?”

Beatrice wrinkled her nose. “Maybe some of it is fat dude BO.”

“Eighty percent is fat dude BO.” Her friend waved her hand. “What's the excuse?”

“His roomie is trying to cultivate, like, lab-grown and, uh, properly, like, living but still vegan flesh for use in Sarkic rites. Like some applied theology thing.” Some apptheo kids were weird as fuck, to be honest. Esther was okay.


“The dude has been leaving it in the room to rot. The failures. And it just stinks. He doesn't really throw them away. They're all in the corner of the room. I swear. I saw them.” She hadn't. But it was what Dante had assured her. It was gross. And she had met the roommate. His hair was white blonde, and he smelled like the room but worse. He wore a utility kilt and had a girlfriend that kept trying to get Beatrice to do a threesome with them before she started dating Dante.

“You know, that could be some of it.” Which was Esther's language for 'I was wrong there.' “I'm in some classes with his roommate.”

“He smells so bad.”

“All he does in class is play Starcraft. He doesn't even get good grades. I look at his papers when he gets them back.”

Esther's dorm room smelled like lavender in a way that was beyond cloying. Everything about the room was purple, at least on her side. The sheets. The cover on her laptop. The runes and impossible scribbles that covered reams of notebook paper on her desk. Beatrice didn't like looking at them. She knew Esther left them out as some weird power play. She loved someone hanging out in her room and accidentally seeing the command for “Stand up and sing” out of the corner of their eye.

Sure, most of them were little nothings. Not even notes intended for the casual viewer. But still, Esther was a bitch.

So Beatrice didn't look.

“Anyway, you know since I have a single, he's been staying with me. I'm sure it'll be fine.” He sweat. He sweat more than anyone she'd ever met. She'd never had to wash her sheets so often in her entire life. “He's fine.”

“What if you start smelling like him?”

“I've been making him take showers more.” It hadn't worked perfectly, sure. But he was coming along better than it was.

“In a sexy way? Like for sex?”

“He doesn't leave a lot of room for sexy stuff in the shower. He's, you know, he's a big guy.” Dante refused to even try. He said the shower time was his special alone time. Where he thought best. A sacred time. Really insistent about it. Obviously, Esther didn't need to know that one.

“Does he have a big dick?” Esther leaned forward. She looked like an evil little imp. Dark brown was already showing through in the roots of her purple hair.

“Since when are you interested in dicks?”

“Is it?”

“It's weird to talk about things like this. I—”

“That means no.”

Beatrice laughed.

“I think it's weird you picked the only gay guy without any sense of fashion. Or, like, hygiene.” A pause. “And he's ugly.”

“That's sort of a fucked up thing to say, Esther.”

“I'm gay, so I'm allowed to say that.”

“I don't know if it'll last super long anyway. You know, he's monogamous. And I don't know if college is, like, a time where I wanna do that. I should be dating as many people as I want.”

“Is he jealous?”

“No, but I don't think he understands relationships.”

“What do you mean?”

Beatrice sighed. Maybe it was the glyph that compelled her to tell the funny story. Maybe it was just real honesty.

“At lunch the other day, we were talking about maybe seeing other people. And he told me, fuck. He told me 'Intellectually, I'm okay with it, but my dick thinks it owns you.'”

Esther didn't stop laughing for the longest time. Eventually, Beatrice had to, too.

Dante blew the smoke through the toilet paper roll that had been stuffed with dryer lint sheets. It was a very untechnical method of hiding marijuana smoke, maybe. Magic ways were a little dicey, at least for someone who wasn't really good at spells or anything. More theoretical spells.

“She gives me homework, sort of.”

Dante and Virgo took generous hits of tangy, skunk weed in an expensive glass pipe that was just weeks away from shattering on the ground. The tang assuredly came from pesticide. It was a chemical smell, high up in your sinuses. They both assumed it was pesticide, probably going to kill them. Neither of them would ever draw attention to it, however.

“Do you do it?”

“No, of course not.” Yes.

“She is hot.”

“I wouldn't go to the dark side unless she was cute.” It felt weird to talk about women like that. A lump in his mouth. Didn't he used to be one of the girls?

Well, not really, but sometimes, they had let him smoke with them when they complained about their boyfriends. And wasn't that quite a bit to have given up for love?

“How's that going?”

“A lot of people are still weirdly mad at me.”

“How so?” Virgo coughed directly into the bowl. Ashes, still beating with orange life, settled on his shirt and in his facial hair and on the dresser they leaned over. “Shit, shit, shit,” he breathed, stomping it out and slapping his face before saying, “It was out anyway.”

“Bullshit it was out. If it's glowing, that means it's burning. That means there's smoke. That means we could've gotten high.”

“Fine, fine.” And Virgo slid to the desk under his lofted bed. To Dante, Virgo's grace was absolutely mesmeric. Dante's movements were clumsy. With every movement, Dante imagined great blocks of stone grinding against stone, ear splitting and heat intensive and wearing down to nothing.

But Virgo was sinewy trees in the wind. An elf. Jesus, did he have a crush on Virgo? He hoped not. Virgo always had food in the corner of his mouth. Dante couldn't've abided having a crush on someone like that. He packed a quick bowl at least. Quicker than Beatrice.

“This one girl just came up to me after Creative Writing, and she asked me—thanks—” and Dante took the bowl, “—she asked me how I had the nerve to call myself queer if I was dating a girl. Like mad. She spit at me.”

“She didn't spit at you.”

“She didn't spit at me. But she had a look in her eyes about it.” Dante passed the bowl to Virgo. “I was never good at being gay, but being with a girl is complicated.”

“Did you ever date a dude?”

“Once, briefly.” No. Absolutely not.

“She's kind of an annoying know it all.”

“I mean, be nice.” A sigh. “She keeps trying to get me to read, like, I don't know. Something called the Ethical Slut? Or something.”

“Is it a porn?” Virgo coughed. Phlegmy, ropy strings of spit fell onto the ground, and he wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “That's bullshit. I wouldn't read that. I'd break right up with her. Fuck that. What's that?”

“Don't be so fucking weird.”

“She's trying to change you. I don't like that shit. Liberal bullshit. Have you met her parents?”

“No, of course not.” Yes.

“They're doctors. Both doctors. Normal doctors, too. Non magic or witch or whatever. Like, I'm talking OGBYM.” Virgo twitched, just a little. “She's probably rich as hell.”

The clothes that covered every corner of the room smelled like cigarettes. The towel, plugging the space underneath the dorm door and the outside world, even smelled like cigarette smoke.

“They do well.”

“They fucking do great, I bet.” Another cough, another gob of phlegm on the floor. “Fucking doctors.”

“She's good for me. She has me smoking less weed.”

“She fucking keeps your weed from you like you're a child. Are you trying to fuck a mommy? You on that Freud shit?”

Dante sat on Virgo's roommate's bed. The dude was never there, so it was fine. There wasn't even a sheet on the bed. There had never been a roommate, but sometimes there had been the impression of a roommate. A slot where a roommate could be.

But mostly there weren't any sheets on the bed.

“You're no fun anymore.”

“I'm still fun.” Dante was already making sure his backpack together. It was about twenty minutes until class. “I still do fun.”

“I feel like you don't have as much of an edge anymore. Not as wild. Where's the dude who didn't wear a shirt during the blizzard last year? The whole three days? Where did he go?” Virgo crushed a small brownish orange pill underneath the heel of his shower shoes and the desk that was partially covered in ash. He stuck his nose to the wooden and took a sharp, quick snort. And then another. It was probably at least ten percent dust. He looked up at Dante with snot dripping down his face, “You want one?”

“No, dude. I think I'm gonna get a coffee before class. Meet you there?” A nice iced coffee. And, of course. He was going to see Beatrice. That was unspoken. But Virgo had to know. Virgo always knew.

Virgo shook his head. “She's got you cucked, man. Got you fucking cucked.” But he smiled, wide, and gently punched Dante on his shoulder.

Dante pretended to duck and fell against Virgo's closet. He took a second to right himself, kicked the towel from the door, and then left the room. His hoodie smelled strongly of weed, but Dante didn't notice.

Beatrice hated crying.

No one liked crying, sure. But Beatrice felt especially weak while crying. There wasn't a way to reason out of a good cry. No way easy. No way that she could graph or anything.

Crying was loss. Crying was helplessness. Crying was having to face the fact that there was a great failure.

Esther patted Beatrice on the back, and she said, “It was inevitable. It's okay. You'll get past this.”

This had been the third time they had broken up. The second time the breakup was instigated by Dante. Somehow, that had stung more. Shouldn't she have been the one to end this?

“Maybe stay away from dudes for a while,” said Esther. “I can fix you up with someone cute. You can join the roller derby team or something.”

Beatrice snuggled the cover around her head and sat on her bed like a sad little beast in some cocoon. It was unfair that someone could do this to her. Just a single person.

“He told me it was never gonna work.”

“Well, he was right for once, I think.”

Beatrice cried hard, and Esther sighed. The lesbian with her newly dyed purple hair crossed her arms and leaned back in Beatrice's desk chair. It creaked underneath her, just a little.

“I don't think I could ever be happy with just one person. I'm not like that.” She wanted to drink, to smoke, to trip, to do something. She had a necromancy exam in the morning, something that would really make her parents wince, and she didn't even have the energy to vibrate with excitement over that.

Instead, she felt nothing.

“He smells so bad,” said Beatrice. “And he smokes too much. And he's pretentious. And his friends are assholes. And he smells so bad.” But she sniffled. She still sniffled.

Esther sat on the bed next to Beatrice, putting her arm around her friend's shoulders. She set her head against Beatrice's. The two sat in silence.

Gradually, she stopped sniffling. No more strangled sobs.

“You feel better?”

“Yeah, yeah. I do.” And she pushed the blanket off of her. “I can do this. I'm good.”

Esther smiled, and so did Beatrice.

“You aren't going back?”

“No, never. I'm done with gay boys.”

Dante was a wreck. In more ways than one. The concoction was strong. It was beautiful, really. Everything was beautiful. Virgo was beautiful. The bead of snot that had dried underneath his nostril caught the evening setting sun in a way that made Dante weep, just a little.

The drugs were something special, sacred, but Dante and Virgo were just having fun. Well, right now, it was just Dante.

“Are you feeling better?”

“No.” The smile that stretched across Dante's face was a rictus grin, horrible and unnatural and something that his body was stretched into by forces outside of itself. Like death sources. Forces. The joy that permeated his body was in every atom, but it was painful. It was worse. It brightened around his suffering in a way that showed the lack like a shadow, like your hand pressed against a flashlight, and holy shit when did Virgo get an ass? “When did you get an ass?”


“This is really good.”

It was good. It was something special, but they had taken it. There was always a weird chemistry magician who just wanted to talk about drugs, about rituals, about touching. Well, maybe this one. He had always had a fascination with Dante. And Virgo had always pressed him to use this for getting fucked up.

And now, they were feeling the fruits.

Well, Dante was.

“I loved her, you know.”

“You've known her for seven months, tops.”

“She's my best friend. Why can't I be the best, only?”

“That hurts, big dog.”

“I'm hungry,” said a man who couldn't even imagine watching someone eat. But it was better than the dorm room. He had loved her in a dorm room, once. The light fixtures made him think of her. What didn't make him think of her? Even shitting alone in his favorite toilet stall on the floor made him think of her. “Is nothing sacred?”

“You, uh, you think you're ready to go eat?” But Dante was already standing, and Dante was large. Virgo was never going to be able to hold him back, so all he could do was pick up a hoodie and hold it out to Dante. “You're going to have to wear a shirt to get food.”

“I think if a troll took a rock, it would try to combine it with meat,” Dante said excitedly, putting his arms through the wrong holes at least four times. “The troll scientist would make the meat and rock, inorganic and organic. The perfect combination. The perfect. Shit, gotta tell my roommate. Shit.”

The shoes were easy. Birkenstocks just slip on. The hoodie wasn't zipped, but Virgo saw to that, sighing. And then Dante turned toward the door, a giant tripping toddler, almost literally tripping as he pawed at the door. It took him too long, but he did get out. And Virgo followed him, into the hallway.

Virgo and Esther had never truly spoken with each other before. But there was little else to do, as Beatrice and Dante sat about twenty feet away underneath a tree.

Her eyes were wide, wider than anything Esther had ever seen. At first, she hadn't approved of the drug use. It seemed that neither did Virgo, but for a different reason. But after some cajoling, they both had agreed that Beatrice would get the second dose of what had definitely been intended for some kind of deep meditation, spiritual emergency situation.

Esther sat at a bench, and Virgo paced nearby, his thin, yellowed fingers around a cigarette.

“Does this mean they're dating again?”

The two were like toddlers, in that moment. Dante and Beatrice both sat, cross-legged, facing each other. They both were crying. They were holding hands. Virgo had no interest in listening, but it was killing Esther.

“What do you think?” she said.

“I was going to get that dose.”

“You've said that.”

He took another hit of the cigarette and said, “Twenty on this one not even lasting a month.”

“Forty, and you're on.”

“Easy fucking money,” said Virgo.

As Virgo and Esther babysat, Dante and Beatrice stared into each other’s eyes, and both had never seen anything so beautiful before. Or else they would swear to themselves in the moment.

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