Chapter 134: A Walk Along The Boundary

on March 12, 2013 in Volume 2 Book 5: Nasty Disturbing Uncomfortable Things, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which The Weather Is Discussed


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There are some things that are sure to be better in your head than they could ever possibly be in reality. Standing under a bower of trees in the rain sharing a kiss with a loved one isn’t one of them.

Sure, okay, there are probably some people out there who could manage to be disappointed that it didn’t happen exactly the way they pictured it… that some improbable sunbeams didn’t happen to break through both the cloud and tree cover at just the right moment, that it was colder and damper than they’d wanted it to be, or even just that their lover hadn’t moved their head just so or said the right words before or after it.

Some people are easily disappointed, not because they expect too much but because they expect too specific. I might have been one of them, once upon a time, but having spent a lot of time up close and personal with people who suffered from even worse cases had helped cure me of that.

Also, if you were going to allow yourself to be dragged out into the cold and the wet to fulfill an assignment you hated for a class you resented, you might as well enjoy yourself. Right?

Not that it was hard to enjoy a long, lingering kiss with Amaranth. When we were in public… I mean public public, not on a disused forest path on an afternoon when anyone with any kind of sense would be indoors… we were actually fairly chaste when it came to kisses. She’d kiss my forehead or cheek, or I’d kiss hers. Sometimes we’d brush lips. Longer kisses happened, but they weren’t the rule.

This was mostly due to my sense of boundaries… Amaranth was more than willing to engage in more intimate behavior in front of a crowd, but I wasn’t. The mixed blessing of her nudity was that the line between public displays of affection and public exhibitions of intimacy was pretty thin. There weren’t a lot of places to rest one’s hand during a lingering embrace that weren’t at least skirting the line, and the longer the embrace went on the less my hands wanted to remain in those places.

Now, three or four hundred yards from the nearest sapient soul and with who knew how many walls and trees between us, I gave myself over to the embrace completely.

“You want me to hold onto your jacket for a while?” Amaranth whispered in my ear when our lips finally separated.

“Why?”

“You’ve been so worried about messing it up,” Amaranth said. “I thought that it might be… inhibiting you.”

“Do I really seem all that inhibited to you?”

“Not at the moment, but we’re just warming up,” she said. “But you might recall, our first time together was underneath a tree and here we are, surrounded by them. I thought maybe you’d like me to, oh, I don’t know… shove you up against one?”

It wasn’t exactly a stab in the dark, not with her nymph senses guiding her… more like a carefully aimed thrust at a well-lit, well-marked, and completely immobile target.

Nevertheless, the suggestion made my blood run cold as I suddenly had an image of my back making contact with one of those mossy trunks, and a fast-growing parasitic variety enveloping the two of us in a yellow-green cocoon.

“I… uh… what’s wrong with what we’ve been doing?” I said.

“Maybe a roll on the ground, then?” she asked. “You’ve never been shy about outdoor sex before.”

“If it was just a bit drier, maybe…”

Amaranth sighed.

“Really, Mack, where’s your sense of adventure?”

“Sex outdoors isn’t an adventure,” I said. “Especially since, like you said, I’ve done it before… I just… well, my comfort zone can only take so much punishment in one day and we’ve already bruised it. I was enjoying the, you know, the making out, but I really don’t want to stay out here any longer, and I definitely don’t want to start taking off layers when it’s just going to get colder and darker.”

“We’ve got another hour and a half before sunset,” Amaranth said.

“That’s all the more reason we should get inside, because it’s definitely been getting darker,” I said.

“I suppose you’re right,” she said, and she began to head back. “I’m sorry, worrying about being out in the weather is still pretty much an abstract concern for me. It doesn’t hurt me at all, I can mitigate a lot of damage my field might take, and they had spells to keep the worst off of us in the fist place.”

“Do you know what the weather’s like in your field right now?”

“Raining,” she said. “Steady, but not as hard as this, even before taking into account any magical intervention. We’re… that is to say, they’re… on the outer fringes of a big chain of storms that we’re right in the middle of here. It’s not going to get any worse for Paradise Valley, since they’re not actually in its path. They’re going to see some flooding in Blackwater, though, since they’ll get this same kind of rain plus our run-off.”

“Nothing they haven’t seen before,” I said.

“No, I suppose not,” Amaranth said.

So it had come to this… in the space of a few minutes, we’d gone from hot and heavy and rapidly accelerating levels of intimacy to talking about the weather.

Was I really so unreasonable for not wanting to get down and dirty with a slightly larger than normal emphasis on dirty? I didn’t think so, but that didn’t mean I was happy with the outcome.

There are some things that are sure to be better in your head than they could ever possibly be in reality. The complete list of them is sure to involve lots of varieties of outdoor sex, especially those involving water and/or weather.

That didn’t make the idea of them any less appealing, though. Imagination didn’t tend to focus on the details that were off-putting or inconvenient when it designed a sexual encounter… hell, part of the mental skill of having actual sex with another person was to not focus on those details, and it wasn’t like that took a lot of work once you were in the heat of the moment.

It would probably be a long time before I was comfortable letting my guard down enough to have sex anywhere close to where moss lived, but it was possible that I’d protested too much.

“I’m sorry if I ruined the mood earlier,” Amaranth said, breaking into my thoughts just as I’d been on the verge of saying something similar. “I was trying to reward you for completing your assignment and trusting me about going farther, but I didn’t really think about how the circumstances would affect things, especially when you didn’t even want to be out here.”

“It’s okay,” I said. “On another day, in different circumstances, I probably would have been all for it. I was just… overthinking the logistics. Which I do tend to do, when left to my own devices. Hair full of wet dead leaves isn’t exactly my idea of a good time, even though I don’t mind the process of getting them there.”

“The process is the fun part!” Amaranth said. “After that, they’re just… happy reminders. But it’s okay to have boundaries.”

“This is less about boundaries and more about… contexts,” I said. “Even just the moss thing having been hammered into my head recently is looming kind of large in my head, but that doesn’t mean it will always and forever put me off the idea.”

“Boundaries can be contextual,” she said. “Consent itself is contextual. And even if it’s something you’ve done a hundred times, you don’t have to explain why you don’t want to do it this time. Letting someone throw you down on the ground once isn’t an open invitation.”

“You know… the floor in our room is kind of like the ground,” I said. “At least in terms of general horizontalness and relative solidity… there are some differences in the area of mud and dirt and leaves and things.”

“And in the area of wandering moss attacks, I suppose,” Amaranth said. She giggled, a sound that started out girlish and then… elongated, I guess… into something more sultry. “But, baby… now it sounds a bit as though you want something from me.”

“I want everything from you,” I said.

“Ambitious little toy!” she said, wrapping one arm around me… a gesture that I appreciated for the added warmth. “But if you would be so bold, you’ll have to do something to earn the privilege.”

“Anything,” I breathed.

“It isn’t for you to say,” she said. “It’s for me… and I say, everything.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I said.

“I did tell you that I had plans for you, didn’t I?” she said. “Things started piling up on top of things, the way that they do… and I’ve never had to learn the skill of juggling them before. It was easy to convince myself that I was an exceptional multitasker when my life consisted of sex and recreational reading. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of skill involved in pleasing people in groups of two or more, but it’s not something that actually carries across other spheres of life experience.”

“Color me surprised,” I said.

“I’ll color your backside red and raw if you want to be a smart ass, missy,” Amaranth said. “That might sound obvious to you, but… my world really was that small.”

“It’s weird to think of myself as the less sheltered one of us,” I said. “Or maybe it’s not a matter of more or less… maybe we’re just differently sheltered.”

“I would say that we have different experiences,” she said. “Keep it positive! But I did mean what I said earlier, about how you’ve done a better job of managing what life throws at you than I have. I don’t know how you do it.”

“Well, let’s be fair,” I said. “A big part of how I do it is you… you and everyone else. You deal with my stuff on top of your own. That has to be harder.”

“Well, dealing with someone else’s problems… no matter how emotionally involved I am with you, it’s still your stuff. No matter how much I feel like your problems weigh on me, you’re always going to be the one shouldering most of the burden,” Amaranth said. “I helped you get to know Emily, but if that hadn’t worked, it would have been your class schedule and grades that would have been in danger. No matter how worried I might be about your father prying around the edges of your life or infiltrating your dreams, you’re the one who actually deals with him. I know that I can be a little… self-important… but I’d have to be really full of myself to look at all the things you need my support with and think of them as bad things that happen to me.”

“That’s true, I guess,” I said. “And if you are a little full of yourself… I can think of worse people to be full of.”

“Yeah?” Amaranth said. “I can think of a better one.”


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17 Responses to “Chapter 134: A Walk Along The Boundary”

  1. Zathras IX says:

    Weather discussions
    Are better when the weather
    Isn’t disgusting

    Current score: 0
    • Stonefoot says:

      Disgusting weather
      Is much more enjoyable
      Watching from inside

      Current score: 1
  2. Julian Morrison says:

    Squee, Amaranth/Mack love. Those two are just cute.

    Current score: 1
  3. Alico says:

    It is good to see Amaranth growing as well, not just Mack. For the longest time, her biggest problem was her unwillingness to admit that she had problems in the first place. I was feeling a bit like Mack’s relationship with her was going downhill. But now it is starting to look healthy again, with both sides growing, as they should be.

    Keep up the good work, these chapters are quite enjoyable!

    Current score: 1
  4. Not her, the other girl says:

    “It doesn’t hurt me at all, I can mitigate a lot of damage my field might take, and they had spells to keep the worst off of us in the *fist* place.”

    I think this was supposed to be first – but since Amaranth was the one to say it I’m just going to giggle like a twelve year old. Hee, fisting.

    Current score: 0
  5. zeel says:

    I am enjoying the slower pace in the last few chapters, just meandering along and talking.

    Current score: 0
  6. Matt says:

    I have to disagree with zeel, I’ve found these past few chapters’ languid pace frustrating, especially after the fast pace of Melanie/Samuel’s story. I remember two years ago, when Volume 2 began with a promise of a story that didn’t drag, and yet here we are, what, three weeks later story-time? Personally, four chapters (at least) of moss-gathering make for a long, boring return to the main story and characters I love.

    Current score: 0
    • pedestrian says:

      Now Matt, trying to gather moss while simultaneously rolling the boulders of Our Mack’s life is a tedious labor of love.

      “Patience is a virtue practiced by those intent on vice.”

      Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      The story may be slow moving action wise.
      But it is moving at a brisk clip emotionally for the relationship between Mackenzie and Amaranth.

      Current score: 0
  7. Krey says:

    Please please please don’t skip over the generally horizontal and relatively solid bits.

    Current score: 0
  8. Kaila says:

    Sometimes I wonder if Mack isn’t a bit ADHD. Her tetchiness, the *way* she flies off the handle the times she does, and some of her issues – ie it’s all fantastic…until she thinks about it too much.

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      I am more inclined to ascribe it to abuse survivors syndrome.
      Half her life Mackenzie was told by her guardian that she was some-thing- too evil to live and that real virtuous people were making monthly sacrifices to allow her to survive.
      At school she could be and was bullied. As long as the teachers could pretend they did not witness pretty much anything was allowed.
      An upbringing like that may produce (young) adults who overanalyse everything trying to figure out where the next blow (physically or emotionally) will be coming from.

      Remember how Mackenzie was when we first met her? Always busy to keep a low profile, folding into a (metaphorical) fetal position at the least suggestion of aggression aimed at her. Self loathing.
      No matter her flaws, I will forever love Amaranth for beginning to draw Mackenzie out of that shell and for showing her that she is not an unlovable monster.
      I only wish our world had more Amaranths because there are so many victims suffering the same general way as Mackenzie did.

      Current score: 0
      • Kaila says:

        Possibly. I would have to have an in-depth discussion with such a survivor, though. I have the distractable/absorbed, with the occasional freak-out down, but not that lingering self-doubt.

        I think having Amaranth for Mack is(pardon the pun) a miracle. I needed what she needed most was more people like Nicki – friends that just treat her normally – but Amaranth was a bonus. A kickstart in the self-worth?

        Hey, if someone like Amaranth loves you, you have to be worth something incredible, right? I wonder if that’s the purpose of Nymphs?

        Current score: 0
  9. readaholic says:

    If I’d been sent out to gather moss after a lecture on dangerous mosses, I’d find concentrating on lust a little difficult too.

    Current score: 0
    • erianaiel says:

      *dryly* I did not get the impression that Mackenzie had any difficulty concentrating on the lust. She could (almost) feel the scenaria Amaranth suggested to her.
      If anything she had difficulty with letting go of the fear.

      Current score: 0
      • beappleby says:

        I thought she was more concerned with the discomfort of the scenario – she’d be horizontal with Amaranth, but she’d be lying in the leaf-mold in the rain getting muddy.

        Current score: 0
  10. Ermarian says:

    It was easy to convince myself that I was an exceptional multitasker when my life consisted of sex and recreational reading.

    That’s a fun mental image.

    Current score: 0