Chapter 197: Dropping TrousersAlexandra Erin on January 15, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 6: Career Counseling, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort
In Which Mackenzie Doesn’t See The Appeal Of Pegging
“Soon” ended up being a bit after dinner.
We both had work that we needed to keep on top of, and while there would be the same number of hours in the evening whether we did homework first or played first, racing to finish the homework and then letting the play expand to fill the rest of the available hours was more satisfying than the other way around.
Also, I was trying to remember my priorities, even while I was mindful of what Steff needed. The present belonged to her, but my future still depended on my grades.
Not only did the immediacy of that night suit Steff’s needs, but it was the only night I could be sure would be free of outside entanglements. It wasn’t that I’d be busy every single night, but it could be any night and I really hated making plans with someone and then having to disappoint them because I knew what it was like to be disappointed.
Steff and I had done the dating thing a couple of times, but to say that it usually didn’t go well was such an understatement that calling it an understatement was also an understatement. So most of the time, we just got right down to business.
I never knew exactly what business would be until we got down to it, though. Sometimes Steff really just wanted to hold me and be held. Sometimes she needed someone she could hurt without injuring. Sometimes she just wanted to, you know, fuck… hard and fast and raw. Sometimes she wanted literally nothing from me, at least not as an active participant. Sometimes she wanted all of those things in turn.
Well, I guess to put it accurately, she always wanted all of those things in turn… sometimes the turns were just more widely spaced than others.
What did I want from Steff?
Part of it was that I wanted to protect her and make things better for her, even though I knew I couldn’t… not the way I meant it. Part of it was just that I liked feeling liked, and I wanted to feel wanted. The directness with which Steff pursued her passions threw those sorts of things in pretty sharp relief.
It’s not that Amaranth was a blushing school girl, but… well, there was a difference. I’m not sure exactly what it was, at least not in a way that can be put into words. Maybe it was the difference between someone who didn’t hesitate to head in the direction of what they wanted, and someone who ran for it… somebody who would make a flying tackle and dive onto it face-first.
That was pretty much Steff.
Which wasn’t to say that she couldn’t be shy in her own way, in the moment. That was nice, too. Compared to anyone who wasn’t an elf, Steff seemed to exude effortless grace. When it came to sex… or, for that matter, love… she could be as clumsy and awkward as anyone else. It was endearing.
“I wish we had a place to do this that wasn’t Amy’s room,” Steff said when we were alone together.
“It’s my room, too… technically,” I said, though without a lot of force because I thought I knew what she meant. I didn’t mind that Amaranth had put her stamp on our dorm room, because if furnishing it had been up to me… I wouldn’t have. The standard dorm furnishings were functional, and that was all I demanded of them.
“I know,” Steff said. “But this is where you do things with her.”
“It’s also where I do things with Ian and you,” I said. “Because it’s the only place I have. You’re not… jealous, are you?”
“A little envious, maybe… but not of the fact that you do things with her, or that she has you more often. It’s more just… a crushing awareness that you were hers first, and you’ll always be hers most.”
“I thought we weren’t predicting the future,” I said.
“I don’t mean always as in always-and-forever, but it’ll be true for however long we’re together… you and I will fall apart long before you and her.”
“Maybe… maybe not,” I said. “I can’t imagine my life without her, but we’ve come pretty close before. I mean, I wouldn’t be with Amaranth if it weren’t for you. What we have is great, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take work.”
“I don’t remember introducing you to her,” Steff said. “You were floormates with her. Did she maybe introduce you and me, even?”
“I don’t think so… we had class together,” I reminded her. “I’m not talking about introductions, though. You remember the night with the Mechans… and the ghouls?”
“That’s not something I like to look back on,” she said. “But then… I don’t really like to look back, you know?”
“Well, maybe you should, sometimes… it’s not all worth re-living, but Acantha told me I should make sure I know the value of something before I throw it out,” I said. “I don’t think there’s any value in trying to peg which relationship I’m in right now is most likely to fall apart the fastest… but it’s definitely worth something to think about the times that they could have and didn’t. After the night where I yelled at Amaranth and she ran off… it would have been so easy. All I had to do was nothing. We were both sure the relationship was over, both sure that the other one wanted it that way… and probably both sure that it didn’t matter what we wanted because it was over no matter what. It took you telling me to realize it didn’t have to end like that, that neither one of us was happy.”
“It’s funny, I remember that when you tell me about it,” Steff said. “But it still doesn’t completely sound like something I would have done.”
“Maybe you’ve spent too long thinking the worst of yourself,” I said. “Maybe that’s the danger in not thinking about the past.”
“If that’s where the best of me is, then how much good can there be?”
“Well… that’s where the most of you is,” I said. “The present’s just one moment, one tiny slice of your life. We can’t really leave the past behind, because there’s always going to be the stuff that stays with us, whether we want to face up to it or not… and if you try to just push it all away and forget it, the only things you’ll remember are the parts you can’t forget.”
“How’d you get so freaking wise about this, of all things?”
“I have things that I can’t forget, too,” I said.
“Then let’s find something to remember,” Steff said. “Get the lights.”
I did, for all the good that it did.
When I was with Amaranth or Ian, we usually left the lights on unless we were actually getting into bed for the night. Ian couldn’t see in the darkness any better than an ordinary human, and Amaranth’s night vision was even worse… hell, she couldn’t see very well in the light without her glasses.
Steff preferred the darkness… and with her, I did, too. I don’t think it was just another grim affectation of hers. Some acts just didn’t look nearly so good when framed by light. The problem was that the outside of the tower was lit up like a bonfire at night and quite a bit of light got in around the edges of the curtains… more than enough to ruin the ambiance for anyone with eyes like ours.
Steff had been practicing, though. A few guttural words and a gesture at the window, and the curtains were enveloped in inky, impenetrable blackness. She repeated the gesture with her other hand, and the door to the hall was also wrapped in darkness, blotting out its lighted outline.
“Impressive,” I said. “Are you going to do the bathroom door?”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” she said. “Unlike you, I might need to find it in a hurry… anyway, even full elven eyes need some light to see more than shapes. Presently neighboring company excluded.”
“I guess it would be pretty dark without all the entrances wrapped in darkness… you know, as surprisingly useful as it is, I’ve never understood what darkness has to do with necromancy,” I said.
“Haven’t you ever heard the phrase ‘the dying of the light’?” Steff asked. She giggled. “Though it’s not actually a necromantic spell… just a helpful protective utility for working with materials that can’t stand the light of day.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you throw around magic like that,” I said.
“You think I wouldn’t have been slinging shadows around if I’d known how to do it before now?” she said. “Thinking about what I could do with my new spells is a big part of what got my wheels turning. It’s funny, it’s only when you get to the higher-level necromancy stuff that you learn the kinds of cantrips and things that most mage-majors cover early on. ”
“The fact that most of it involves desecrating the body and/or spirit of a dead person probably cuts down on the opportunities for casual necromancy,” I said.
“Oh, I love it when you talk dirty,” she said. “There’s nothing sacred about bodies, though… believe me, I’ve been up close and personal with enough of them to know.”
“Don’t let Amaranth hear you say that.”
“She knows what I like,” Steff said. “I mean, obviously. She knows what everyone likes.”
“I meant the part about bodies not being sacred,” I said.
“Religion is just one of those areas where we agree to disagree,” Steff said. “Which is a trick you might want to learn, one of these days.”
“Do we really have to talk about this now?” I asked.
“Only if you really want to,” Steff said. “I didn’t come here to talk.”
“What did you come here for?” I asked.
“You,” Steff said. “You want to see something else I’ve learned how to do?”
“Yes, please,” I said.
“What are your thoughts about magic bondage?” Steff asked.
“You know I’m leery about magical rope play,” I said.
My body was impervious to mundane harm, which meant that even if I felt rope burn, it wouldn’t do any lasting harm. I could even theoretically survive being hanged with an ordinary rope… a theory Steff had wanted to test for ages. The problem with magical rope, though, was that even if its enchantment included safety features that ordinary rope lacked, it was still magical and could thus inflict actual harm on my semi-invulnerable skin.
It’s not that I didn’t trust Steff, but sticking with unenchanted toys meant that I didn’t have to trust her… and she didn’t have to hold back, which ultimately was better for her, too. But since magic could do things that were impossible otherwise, the attraction never quite went away for her.
“Who said anything about rope?” she said. “I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I think I’ve figured out how to bind your limbs, using magic… but without using magic on you, or using any enchanted objects.”
“Go for it,” I said, then immediately started thinking of all the ways this could go wrong. “Wait, when you say ‘bind’… you’re not talking about that soul-binding stuff, are you?”
“No!” she said. “You’d have to be dead for that. Mack, I’d tell you if that was what I had in mind. If you don’t believe me, we shouldn’t be doing this.”
“I believe you,” I said. “I just… don’t know all the parameters for that.” The subject of death had brought another grisly possibility to mind. “But… you’re not going to, like, kill my arms and re-animate them somehow?”
“Khersis, Mack! I said no killing, and no magic on you or your body,” she said. “Do you want me to just tell you what I have in mind? I was going to try to make it a surprise, but if you’re not comfortable…”
“No, don’t tell me,” I said, feeling bad. “Just… do it. Whatever it is, go ahead and do it.”
Then, Steff said something that made my pants come to life.
That’s not a really bad attempt at describing the effect of what she said next. That’s what happened. Well, not life, probably, given that she was a necromancer… but somehow or other, she animated my jeans.
I didn’t figure that out right away. It took me a couple of seconds, during which the only thing I knew was that the legs of my jeans had suddenly gone rigid, hugging my body in a way they didn’t normally do. The way the middle bits writhed and pressed against me was… stimulating… but it made me think a little bit about being waist-deep in a monstrous gullet.
“…I’m not sure how I feel about this,” I said.
“Trapped?” she said. “Helpless? Under my control?”
“A little worried that my waistband is going to bite me in half,” I said. “Steff, you said no magic items.”
“It’s not a magic item,” she said. “It’s undead.”
“My jeans were never dead to begin with!” I said.
“Yeah, but the fibers were once living matter,” she said. “There was enough life there to work with.”
“So you summoned the ghosts of cotton plants?”
“No, that would be silly,” she said. “When you do simple animation, you’re binding a very minor spirit to a vessel that once held life. All those skeletons that you see marching around in the old news clips aren’t the tormented souls of the people who once used those bones. Hell, probably very few of the complete skeletons all came from the same person. It’s the same principle here… basically. And the magic is in the spirit, not the material, so it’s totally Mack-safe.”
“I’m glad you thought that through,” I said. “But… uh… I feel like I’m going to fall over. Like, I need those legs to balance.”
“Oh, right,” Steff said. “Would you like me to release you from my grip?”
“I think you had probably better.”
“Your wish is my… oh, damn it!” Steff said.
“I was going to make them slide down off your legs, but when I was picturing this in my head, I forgot your dorky belt,” I said.
“It’s an enchanter’s tool belt,” I said. “Or it will be.”
“Yeah, that dorky belt,” she said. “Also, now that I’m actually working my way through how I’d do this, I’m a little hazy on what happens when I get them down to your ankles.”
“Really? I think you’d be pretty clear on that part by now,” I said.
“I mean, how I get them off your feet,” she said. “Even without the shoes, it would be tricky. I mean, you could step out of them, but that kind of defeats the purpose of making them move under my power.”
“I think the lesson here is that clothes jus t make things complicated,” I said. “So, kill your spell and I’ll get undressed for you.”
“Okay, but… um… just so you know, there’s a small chance that dissolving the spell will backfire,” Steff said.
“The spirit I’ve bound to your jeans might not want to leave,” Steff said. “It doesn’t have much of a will or mind to begin with, but… you know, sometimes you get a tenacious one. It doesn’t matter that much when you’re just making skeletal servitors, because you just keep those until you work them to pieces. If you get sick of one, it’s easy enough to knock them to bits, anyway.”
“What happens if it doesn’t want to go?” I asked.
“Then I lose control over it and it just continues to exist as an undead pair of pants until something disrupts its hold over the fibers,” Steff said.
“And what does a directionless, mindless pair of undead pants do?”
“At a guess? Probably try to eat you,” Steff said. “But it’s okay! It would like the ghouls.”
“Nothing was okay about the ghouls trying to eat me!” I said.
“I mean the part about no magic in the body, so It would just be kind of… toothless gumming you ,” Steff said.
“How do we disrupt the spirit?”
“Well, the easy way is by destroying its vessel.”
“How do we do it without destroying its vessel, which happens to be one of my favorite vessels?” I asked. “And please don’t tell me it involves having Dee casting turn undead on my pants.”
“It definitely does not involve Dee casting turn undead… or anything else… on your pants,” Dee’s voice said from the next room over.
“…would you be interested in hearing that it involves Amy casting turn undead?” Steff asked. “Because, really, such a simple spirit like this would just be driven out and then vanish into the ether.”
“Amaranth can’t turn the undead,” I said.
“Really? But she’s divine,” Steff said.
“Not actually a priestess, though,” I said. “If she could turn the undead, we wouldn’t have had to rescue her from the ghouls.”
“She can beam life energy at them, though,” Steff said. “She was just… panicked.”
“That would be a really great solution if I wasn’t wearing them,” I said. “Couldn’t you just reverse what you did?”
“Yeah, that’s how I would undo the spell,” Steff said. “The problem is that giving up my control of the spirit is a necessary step. There are arcane exorcism and banishment rites, but that’s like 400 level stuff, and it’s… kind of specialized? Most necromancers are more interested in conjuring spirits and creating undead than, you know, getting rid of them.”
“And you didn’t think of this before you animated my pants?”
“I did… but I was pretty sure that your pants would be off you when it was time to cut the spirit loose, which, you know, makes the side effects a little less pressing? And anyway, it’s a very slim chance… only worth bringing up at all because the fact that you’re wearing them”
“Let’s get them off me, then!” I said, tugging my belt out through the loops.
“Okay, okay!” Steff said. “We’ll need to work together here…”
It was one of the weirder experiences of my life, pushing a garment that didn’t exactly struggle put writhed and moved in my grip down my legs. Steff’s mental guidance was the only thing thing that made it possible, but apparently she couldn’t just make the fibers go limp. When we got to my feet, I suddenly realized I’d forgotten about my boots. Getting them off while the zombie pants puddled around my ankles was more difficult than it needed to be.
“I’m so sorry,” Steff said, when I finally able to kick the not-quite-literally accursed things over into a corner. “This is not at all how I envisioned this going, honestly.”
“It’s okay,” I said. “It’s not quite what I was expecting for sexy fun time… but I kind of see what you were going for, and it probably would have been pretty hot?”
“We just need to bite the shield and get some actual non-magical bondage gear for you,” she said.
“Yeah, improvising has not worked out well for us,” I said. “But let’s just kill the spell and then we can get on with… um…”
“Getting off,” Steff said. “Okay, here I…”
“Wait!” I said. “Shouldn’t we brace ourselves or something? You could cast a circle… that way it’ll be contained even if it goes rogue.”
“I don’t have the materials to make a circle of containment,” she said. “You could maybe trap it under your staff? But honestly, the most likely thing is that nothing will happen. It’s seriously just because you were so uncomfortable with it sort of incidentally gnawing your parts that I mentioned it at all.”
“I appreciate that,” I said. “On the subject of better safe than sorry, I think I will pin it down, though.”
“Okay,” Steff said.
My staff was hanging off my belt, in abbreviated form. I unhooked it and discharged the spell that nullified its shortening. It wasn’t the most efficient way to have a size-changing weapon, but it was the one I could manage and it gave me plenty of practice weaving charged spells. I stood a safe distance back from where the suspect garment was silently gibbering in the corner and brought the end of the staff down.
After a moment’s thought, I did a tactical enhancement on it, upping its weight to something no human… and hopefully, by extension, no human garment… could hope to lift.
“Ready when you are,” I said.
“…now I’m a little nervous,” Steff said.
“Well, like you said, it’s a slim chance,” I said. “I’m invulnerable and I’m between you and it, I’ve got a magic weapon on it, and if push comes to shove I think between your knives and my fire, we can take on a pair of jeans. But honestly, after this much preparation and talking around it, I’ll be very surprised if anything happens. ”
I meant it, too… the way my life had been going, it seemed like the things I worried about never actually came to fruition. It was the wild, out there things I’d never think to worry about that got me… things like having a giant psychic building spirit take a dislike to me, or having my jeans turned into undead bondage gear in the first place. I’d had no precautions in place for either of those things, and hadn’t lost any sleep worrying over either of them, so of course they’d happened to me.
The spirit going rogue and refusing to lay down and re-die, though? This we had a handle on, so of course it wouldn’t happen.
“Okay, then,” Steff said. “Here goes nothing… hopefully.”
There wasn’t a bang or a whimper. The pants just… stopped. Stopped moving. Stopped being, at least actively… they certainly seemed to stop being anything other than a perfectly ordinary pair of jeans. I heaved a breath of relief too heavy to call a sigh, and relaxed my grip on my quite heavy staff…
Just as the jeans lurched back to hideous unlife and wrapped themselves around the other end.
“Shit!” I said.
They may not have been strong enough to lift the thing, but they didn’t have to… in order to keep the thing from wriggling out from underneath the weight, I’d stuck the staff through the open gap of the waistband. The jeans clambered up it like they were… well, there’s no other way to put this: like they were gobbling their way up its shaft.
Unfortunately, I was at the other end.
I threw the staff away… well, down, really, given how heavy it was… but not quickly enough. The jeans bunched themselves up and made a desperate leap right at my face. I threw out an arm to catch them, but given that the thing was made of fabric the length of my legs, this didn’t stop it from wrapping its arms… legs, I mean… around the back of my head.
“In my defense,” Steff said, “this isn’t the worst or weirdest thing that’s happened because one of us didn’t think something through.”
I might have argued, but I was too busy completely losing my shit. I knew it couldn’t actually harm me, but you know, knowledge is one thing and instinct is another. Over the sound of me screaming my head off, I just barely heard a whooshing sound, and then suddenly the denim beast was gone from right in front of my face. Instead, it was pinned by one knee to the wall by a vibrating dagger.
“You could have hit my head!” I said.
“Easily,” Steff said. “So, you know, the jeans were no challenge.”
Meanwhile, the jeans had begun to thrash violently around, trying to pull free. There didn’t seem to be any danger of them yanking the dagger out of the wall, but in their struggles, they were sawing their way loose.
“They’re still alive,” I said.
“Undead,” Steff said. “Rip ’em in half… I’ll buy you new ones.”
“I love those jeans, though.”
“Save the label, then, I’ll get the same brand,” Steff said.
It was completely irrational to argue against destroying the jeans when they already had an ever-widening hole and one way or another, they had to be taken down. What could I say? I was in an irrational frame of mind. My desire to not have the jeans get loose and attack me again was greater than my desire to save them, though, so I didn’t have to make a rational decision… I just took the raging garment in my hands, got a good, firm grip, and started tearing.
The weird thing… okay, the weird thing is that an experiment in bondage had led me to a situation where I was fighting my own pants in the first place, but the really weird thing nestled in the center of everything else that was weird about the situation was that I could feel when the thing died in my grip. It had been flailing around the whole time, and it went into convulsions when the ripping began… and then it just went limp. Like it was canvas, not a writhing mass of fibers that could move and flex like muscles. It looked the same, barring the sudden lack of movement, but it was like… well, like it had died. In my arms. Because I’d torn the life from it.
“Did… did it suffer, do you think?” I asked Steff, letting the torn garment fall from my hands. “I mean, could it feel pain?”
“Oh, no, definitely not,” Steff said. “I mean, it might have been in torment, generally, but not from anything you were doing, and opinions kind of differ on that, or even if torment means anything to that kind of diminished spirit.”
“Yeah… let’s never do this again,” I said.
“Deal,” Steff said. “But let’s look on the bright side.”
“What’s the bright side?” I asked.
“I did get your pants off you.”
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