382: A Slow Journey To The Center

on May 21, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Ian Scores

The Lazar Center was to the south of the union, near the eastern edge of campus, along with all the more public-facing parts of the college operation. That made sense, since apparently it included a theater and performance hall for events that were open to the general public.

The design was more modern than a lot of the class buildings, like the union and admin building were, but it stood out more. They sat low and blended in more with the landscape, cutting into gently sloping hillsides. The bardic arts building sat on top of one.

Not being very interested in architecture or theater, I’d paid more attention to the history behind the building than the building itself. The late Professor Lazar was one of the most prestigious faculty members in the history of the university… he had been an adventurer and explorer, but one of those figures that almost everybody recognized as a hero rather than a delver.

He’d been an enchanter of renown as well as a bard… back in the days before the philosophy of applied enchantment had been articulated, he’d managed to churn out magical harps and horns and lutes at a rate even modern masters couldn’t match without a workshop full of assistants. He’d done it alone… he’d simply had a knack for the art. Almost as impressively, he’d done most of it on the road.

When he retired from exploring, he’d taken up teaching, and then only because he was absolutely too old to handle the rigors of the roads. Actually, the story was that he’d enrolled in Magisterius University as a student at the age of one hundred and eight because he wanted to learn about all the sights he had yet to see in person. Even after he was made a professor, he’d continued to audit his colleagues’ classes up until the day he died, during the… well, what they called the Demon Riot.

That was the other reason I’d paid more attention to the living historical figure of Lazar than his legacy on campus. It was way less depressing to think about his life than his death.

“This should be great,” Ian said as we made our way towards it, moving upstream against the lunchtime crowd heading for the union. “I’m sure we’ll be able to come up with something awesome. This was a really good idea.”

It was easy for him to say that, since it was his idea, but I was feeling the prickles of apprehension that came from going somewhere new, heading into the unknown. The fact that we seemed to be the only ones going south along the paths just magnified those feelings. I didn’t even know exactly what Ian had in mind… were we just going to go in and raid a prop closet?

“So… can we just, like… walk in there?” I asked him as we drew near the edifice.

“Well, you don’t have much luck with teleporting,” he said. “And I left my wings in my other pants. So I guess we’re gonna have to.”

“I mean… there’s not a show or anything going on right now.”

“Yeah,” he said. “But even if there was, you just show your student ID. We don’t get charged admission to most on-campus events because we’re paying for them even if we don’t go.”

“No, I mean… it’s allowed? It’s just open, even when nothing’s going on?”

“Mackenzie, they have classes there,” he said.

“Yeah, but we’re not in them.”

“What, does somebody check your class schedule to make sure you have business in every building you go into?”

“No,” I said.

“Same thing.”

“But I actually do have classes in those buildings,” I said.

Ian gritted his teeth and rolled his eyes.

What?” I asked.

“Wait, maybe I’m the one who’s confused,” he said. “Did we just leave your friends arguing over something about a secret dark elven sex change potion?”

“Um… it’s kind of in the neighborhood of that, yeah,” I said.

“And did you not have some kind of blow-up in your dorm this morning about magic bubble bath making people crazy or something?”

“That’s one way of putting it,” I said. “So, what’s your point?”

“You have the craziest life of anyone I know, and you’re all worried about… ‘oh, no, what if we’re in a building designated for classrooms when we are not currently scheduled for classes’?”

“Okay, I did not say any of those words,” I said.

“Yeah, but that’s totally how you’re being.”

“How can be that way when I didn’t say that?” I said.

“It’s what you’re thinking.” Ian said. “School buildings. We’re students. There’s more to them than just classrooms. There’s, you know, vending cupboards and bulletin boards and resource rooms… and bathrooms. Some of them even have coffee stands.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t have to use bathrooms,” I said, fully aware on some level that this was a lame rebuttal to something that didn’t even really cry out for refutation.

Ian just laughed.

“Hey, maybe it’s a joke to you but I’ve got to seriously worry about getting into trouble,” I said. “I’m involved in arbitration against the school. Also… half-demon. I have to watch my step.”

“Yeah, well, being afraid to go into a public building during its listed hours isn’t going to make up for the fact that most of the time, you don’t,” Ian said. “If you really just want to stay out of trouble, to be treated like a… pardon the term… normal… student, you need to stop acting like everything’s a la carte.”

“What?”

“A la carte,” he said. “Like in a restaurant where…”

“I know what a la carte means,” I said.

“Oh, okay,” he said. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” I said. “So…?”

“So what?”

“So what the hell do you mean, I act like everything’s a la carte?”

“It’s like… you can’t be all, ‘Oh, I was bad and I had an extra large serving of being all up in people’s face with my sex life for lunch, but I can make it up by just having a low-fat stay in my dorm and not go out to see what’s going on around campus for dinner.'”

“That’s not like an a la carte menu,” I said. “That’s a diet plan. You don’t order off the same menu for lunch and dinner. For your analogy to work, you’d need to say something like, ‘oh, the getting up in people’s faces with my sex life is so expensive, but I guess I can just order the cheapest…’ Hey! I don’t get all ‘up in people’ faces’ with my sex life. I just… have my sex life, and people pay attention to it.”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you have your sex life in the middle of the pent,” he said.

“It was actually at the fountain and only once and only tangentially sexual,” I said.

“But you obviously get my point, even if I’m not quite the analogy-smith you are.”

“It’s a stupid point,” I said. “And not true. Do you actually think there’s some kind of conscious thought process going on in my head?”

“Um…”

With regards to the thing you said,” I said icily. “I’m just being me, Ian… awkward, inexperienced me. I’m not good when I don’t have a clearly marked out path in front of me, and whether that means I act inappropriately or I’m not comfortable poking around buildings that don’t have a great big sign over the front door welcoming me, it still comes down to the same thing.”

“Okay, well, two things,” Ian said. “First… whatever’s going on inside your head, the rest of us can’t see that… we only see the results. And I don’t know how much you really care about the campus rumor mill and popular opinion, but if you do care, you should know that being quiet-weird half the time and obvious-weird the rest of the time doesn’t balance out, it multiplies. If you were out and about letting people get to know you, they’d already have an impression of you when they heard about your latest exploit.”

“I have exploits?”

“Your entire floor saw your boobs.”

“Yeah, but they’ve seen them before,” I said.

“I rest my case,” he said. “Oh, and, secondly…”

He pointed to the entrance. On the glass panes over the double doors, somebody had painted or soaped or something a big stain glass window looking pattern that said, “WELCOME, STUDENTS!” As if to further emphasize the pointlessness of my nervous dithering, the doors opened and a crowd of boys and girls came out.

“Jerk,” I said.

“Okay, I confess,” he said. “I spent all night decorating the window so I could get you here and manipulate you into giving me a set-up line to use it.”

“You know… there are literally two other people I can have sex with that aren’t you,” I said.

“Oh, if it’s a contest…”

“Oh, shut up!” I said.

“You shut up,” he said, and even without more than a tiny, playful bit of force behind it, I felt a tiny, playful quiver and blushed, which made him blush. “I guess,” he started to say slowly, “I guess… we’re never not going to…”

“What?” I asked.

“I mean, the djinni’s out of the bottle. Or djinn. Whichever one’s singular.”

“Actually, I think it’s just a transliteration difference,” I said. “They both mean the same thing. In fact…”

“Mackenzie, shut up,” Ian said, and I did. He took me by the arm and pulled me off the path, to the side. “I’m trying to talk about something serious here for a minute. We’re… we jumped into something, and I don’t think we’re going to be able to jump out of it.”

“You mean… our relationship?”

Within our relationship,” Ian said. “I’m pretty sure we could find a way out of the basic arrangement if we wanted to. But as long as we’re together… there’s always going to be this dynamic, underneath it all. And sometimes on top of it.”

“Would you… do you want to get rid of it?”

“I don’t know,” he said. He shook his head, then said, quietly, “No. Not really, I guess. I want to… I want to be more in control.”

“I… I want you to be in control, too,” I said.

“Of myself,” he said. “I don’t want to use your… durability… as a substitute for self-control. That’s why I’m sticking with the arena. One reason, anyway.”

“So… you’re saying you’re not done with the rough stuff after all?” I asked. I meant to sound hopeful and optimistic when I said this, but it came out a little accusatory.

“I’m saying I might choose to… as long as it’s an actual choice,” he said. “Coach Callahan’s really given me a lot to think about, that…”

“Why are you talking to Callahan about our sex life?”

“I’m not!” he said. “She talks to me, about me. Excuse me if that’s appealing.”

“Sorry,” I said, ducking my head.

“Anyway… we can talk about all this more later,” he said. He took me by the arm and started pulling me back towards the sidewalk. “Right now, there’ll be people hanging out in the theater department… if we wait too long everyone’ll be gone to classes.”

“Would that be so bad?” I asked.

Ian gave me a sharp look.

“I came to your party,” he said. “I come to your dorm. I eat lunch with your friends.”

“I’ve been to your dorm,” I said. “I went to your match. I’d say we’re about even.”

“Oh, well, we’re all tied up then?” Ian said. “I guess that means I’m about to score the winning point.”


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5 Responses to “382: A Slow Journey To The Center”

  1. JerK says:

    I guess I don’t completely dislike Ian himself at least not as much as I do Steff but I really dislike who Mack becomes around Ian. It really skeeves me out.

    Current score: 1
  2. JerK says:

    It’s not just the submissiveness either. It’s that they can’t even communicate. Every conversation is an argument and the only thing Mack seems to want from Ian is to be physically hurt to fulfill her lust for that sort of thing. I don’t get that sense of love that seems to be there underlying every interaction when Mack is submissive with Amy. Just seems icky and unhealthy.

    Current score: 5
  3. Lunchbox says:

    I get Ian and Mack’s relationship. They like to poke fun, they argue about simplistic shit, and generally do it with a smile.
    Some people like that. If it’s not your thing, I don’t blame you. But personally, I love the nonsensical arguments I have with my partner. I love that we can bug each other. I adore that he’s my rock. I find it attractive.

    Current score: 5
  4. brianna kelly says:

    mack is so irritating sometimes. i see why people would beat on her

    Current score: 0
  5. Jechtael says:

    I like this Lazar guy. I hope he doesn’t turn out to totally suck.

    Lunchbox: Ian and Mackenzie are cute together when they are being cute. When they’re having unfriendly arguments, it’s not so cute. But Mackenzie and Ian are both getting better in their own ways.

    To you who have been saying Mackenzie should be beaten up for being an unworthy protagonist, be you plural or singular:
    1: It’s happened plenty of times, and she usually liked it.
    2: When she didn’t like it, it didn’t help, and, most importantly,
    3: Do you even realize how assholish those statements are?
    (Brianna Kelley: I’m not lumping you in with them, unless you have been one on other pages. You’re just making an observation. I misread your comment and didn’t feel like waiting until someone said the actual thing again. I apologize, to everyone who deserves it and not just you, for this tangent.)

    Current score: 5