6: Better Halves

Anne Ambrose, slipped out of bed, the bed that her boyfriend thought of as his, but she thought of as theirs since her’s was always covered in snack crumbs, and scrunched scrap paper from when she was working. Because she ate when she worked, and she often worked in bed despite the office they’d purposefully set aside to operate her at home business in.


Which often got her nagged at. With each and every such argument usually just ending with Clancy walking off grumbling to himself, and then coming back later to quietly redo whatever attempts Anne had made, at cleaning up her room.


She picked up her panties when she came across them on the floor. Slipping them into her pocket rather than just slipping them on again, because she figured she’d just be taking them off again, if her boyfriend woke up in the next five to ten minutes, or when she got into the shower in the next fifteen.


As it would turn out Clancy wouldn’t wake up in either five minutes or ten minutes. It would seem that after they’d had enough sex to get his M-particle levels up past the critical state they’d been in, his body had pretty much just crashed.


Which annoyed Anne to no end. Not because of the sex, of course, since honestly she wasn’t “that” into it.


Of course, she wasn’t “not” into their racy bedtime fun ether, but the simple fact was that no one got into sex Lust-types got into sex. And Clancy was pretty much head and shoulders, a prime example of this trait.


Had he not been so dead tired, and beat up, the two of them would probably still be carrying on.


What annoyed Anne was the reason behind why they’d ended up stopping. The fact that he’d let himself get so exhausted and beat up annoyed her.


She knew it was perhaps just the littlest bit unreasonable to think it, but in Anne’s head there was a part of her that felt that the  only one allowed to half-kill her boyfriend was her.


Clancy had come back home, at around eleven in the evening, covered in a blood and leaves and grass. Stinking of gunsmoke and magefire.


The way he told it, he’d tried to do two jobs in one work week. Which in her opinion was pretty not-smart considered that his usual one job per every two week was already pushing things.


Supposedly the first job had just been a brisk one, involving him helping a friend redo some warding for one of the Foundation priority realms. She didn’t know why he’d tried downplaying how bad “that” went, considering he already knew that a part of her had been in his head, witnessing everything.


Then when the pay for that went south, disappearing after the job went sideways he’d gone and taken a job, to collect magical mushrooms in one of the Monochrome least hospitable haunted forests.

Even if the actual jobs only took an average of one to three days, the amount preparatory work and recovery required from both of them, to keep him alive and safe, pretty much kept the limit set in stone.


Of course, with most of their money being consumed by bills, taxes, their mortgage, the various purchases for them to proceed as mages, and those purchases needed for them to continue living their lives normally and safely…it was a given that the guy would try to “cheat” sometimes.


Doing just extra so that between the two of them they could live their lives in a reasonably comfortable manner instead of just paycheck to paycheck.


Either taking on jobs that were just a little out of his league, or doing as he’d done this week and taking on more than he could handle in one sitting.


The former was bad enough, adding additional risk, to a job whose hazards were so dire, that Anne generally had to do her best not to think of how anxious it made her.


Since all attempts to look for an alternative source of work that paid even half as well as what he was currently doing, had come up empty. And having either of them, not work at all, was simply just not an option.


The latter, taking on two or more tasks at once, was worse, because it meant that after the first job was finished all the spells, potions, protections and blessings, she set on the man, were usually exhausted.


Which meant that he was working with no safety. Walking the high wire with nothing to catch him. Which was just unacceptable because he too, would be exhausted. More likely to make mistakes. More likely to let someone or something get the drop on him. Like today, when a pair of barghest managed to tear one of his arms off.

While he’d definitely grow the limb back by the end of the week, that he’d lost it at all, was enough to tell Anne about how close he’d been to losing his life.


Thus her annoyance with the man. Doing too much, risking too much, as if he didn’t know that it was all for naught if they didn’t both survive to see whatever “transcendence” or whatever the hell their goal actually was, looked like.


Since Clancy didn’t wake up for a third round of lustful activity, Anne ended up just showering. After a hot shower she got herself a cold beer. After the beer, she headed to her room because her office was one of the few places where she didn’t feel comfortable making a mess.

Ironically she and Clancy’s efforts to make the place look professional, had ended up making it, nigh-unusable for her. Creating a sort of hallowed ground within the house, that no one entered accepted on very special occasions. Like tax season, or during the few times Anne had to dress up for work, instead of just hanging around in an overlong sweatshirt and sometimes neglecting to put on pants, as was her norm.


She sat at the little table by her bed, an old school anime played on her tv.

She opened up two main laptops, and after everything had finished loading, she saved and closed all the files and programs that were still up from her last sessions with them, just a few hours ago. Before Clancy came home.


Most of the files would be like half finished thoughts, their meaning forgotten, their importance lost. A few she’d come back to and those would be the one’s that actually became products. Being sold online for a fairly decent amount or being handed off to whoever ordered them.


Despite being a shut in, Anne Ambrose was a woman of business. A moderately well-known entrepreneur in magical world.


She did spells, wards and curses. She made custom artifacts, armors and potions. She gave consultations for grimoires and monochrome lore.


She had a Mu-tube channel that had fairly decent following which she used to advertise her services and skills. The small amount of ad revenue it generated also helping with her expenses.


Though she’d originally started off working on her own, she now had a small team that handled a lot of the video editing, pr and sales. Exploiting a niche that focused on practical uses of magic and nerd culture, she had developed a fairly decent following.


The products and the skills she showed through entertaining and educative videos, that were occasionally pulled down for giving the sort of dangerous information that might get one put on a watch list, had built her a reputation.


One good enough that there were governmental bodies and private corporations that often gave job offers that she couldn’t take due to her condition and lifestyles, and contract work that she did take, because it paid well.


As the proud owner of no less than twelve, impressive, if ultimately minor, patents for magical innovation, despite more or less being a shut-in, Anne’s interactions with outside world were both frequent and lucrative.


Yet it was still not enough, the money she made from her business was still not enough to support the cultivation of the pair. Or adequately pay for their unique needs.

Which meant, working even harder and progressing forwards, using all she saw and learned to break new ground.


Which meant more expenses because progressing as an artificer, spellscribe and alchemist wasn’t exactly cheap either.


And yet despite the all difficulty and the occasionally month where it sometimes felt that they weren’t going to make it, they somehow always did. Growing a little stronger in both a literal and fiscal sense with each passing day.



Anne gazed at the design software that was loaded up on both laptops screens. On the left screen was a graphical suite that she used for designing artifacts. On the right screen was an integrated development environment she used for drafting and testing magical code for future enchantments.


Initially Anne had thought she’d probably just end up spending today wrapping up a project that a client commissioned her to do.


Now, however, after seeing Clancy come home all beat up, she felt a need to work out her anxieties by doing what she always did. Making more gear to keep the man from getting himself killed.


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