33: Asking For It

on July 18, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Steff Does Not Turn Into A Pumpkin

With class periods being a half hour longer on Tuesdays and Thursday, none of us had to leave for our next class immediately after lunch. Instead, we just kind of hung out on the broad plaza in front of the union.

Puddy and Mariel drifted off by themselves, talking excitedly about something between the two of them. Steff and Amaranth were talking about sex… what else? I’d had my fill of anything that even bordered on sexual for the day, so I did my best to tune them out.

Unfortunately, Two wasn’t much for chit-chat and the less attention I tried to pay to the others’ conversation, the less I had to distract me. I was starting to feel very dirty… no, worse than dirty.

Unclean.

Somehow, Puddy’s messing around had seemed to have both magnified and spread out the ordinary, everyday filthiness. I felt like everything below my waist was positively foul. Puddy’s comment about wetness had made me very conscious of just how moist I’d got down there, too. There wasn’t really time for a shower–not the sort of heavy-duty scrubbing it would take to get clean again–before my afternoon class, but if I couldn’t get clean, the least I could do was cover my nastiness up.

“Uh, Amaranth?” I asked, haltingly. I hated breaking in on her conversation, and I knew the answer to my question already… it hadn’t changed any of the other times I’d asked. I wasn’t looking forward to hearing it again, but I needed to cover myself up somehow. “Can I please… have my jeans now?”

“Okay, sweetie,” she said, leaning forward and kissing me on the cheek while pressing my jeans into my hands. Once again, I’d missed the trick. As soon as she disengaged me, I pulled them on. It felt… slightly better. I’d have to wash everything I was wearing, though… and I’d hoped to go at least a week before doing any laundry.

“Thank you,” I said.

“All you had to do is ask for them back,” Amaranth said.

I looked at her incredulously.

“I did ask,” I said, my voice rising outside of my control. “I have been asking! Ever since you…”

Amaranth stopped me with a finger on my lips. The touch alone shocked me silent.

“Shh,” she said gently. “You really need to find a volume between terrified stammering and outraged yelling.”

She removed her finger.

“I’m not ye…” I started to say, but just like everybody in the history of the world who has ever claimed not to have been yelling, I in fact was. I ducked my head, my cheeks coloring slightly. “I mean… I didn’t mean…” I mumbled.

“See?” Amaranth said, raising my head. “Now you’re too quiet. It’s like I told you, there is a middle ground. You just need some help finding it.”

“But, the thing is, I really was asking for my pants back,” I said. “I’ve been asking.”

“No,” she said, smiling but shaking her head emphatically. “You asked me if I was going to give them back. You listed reasons why it would make sense for me to give them back. You never actually said that was what you wanted, much less actually asked for them.”

“Yeah, but, like I said…” I said, but my voice was raising slightly. Amaranth’s smile twitched as she put her finger against my lips again.

“If you hadn’t told me no more public spankings, I’d swat your butt every time you did that,” she said wryly. “But this will do when we’re not alone. Try again.”

She removed her finger again, and I tried to force myself to keep my voice calm without retreating back into myself.

“I was just… I was just trying to show you that there were good reasons for you to give them back,” I said.

“I think maybe you’re a bit overfond of reasons… you’ve got reasons for everything,” she replied. “Every time you back down, every time you turn away, every time you swallow your words… you’ve got a reason, or maybe a dozen. Good reasons, I bet… ones that make perfect sense to you at the time… or else you wouldn’t be doing those things in the first place, would you?”

“If I have good reasons, doesn’t that mean I should be doing those things?” I asked.

“Well, you’re a very smart girl,” Amaranth said. “You could probably come up with a good reason for just about anything you’d already decided to do.”

“You’re making it sound like I decide first and then make up a reason,” I said. “Anyway, you knew I wanted them back.”

“I like being able to anticipate your wants and needs, but the only person actually responsible for them is you,” she said. “Not everybody in this world is going to be nice, but if you won’t tell people what you want… or don’t want… you aren’t giving them much choice.”

“Okay, but what’s wrong with giving you my reasons for wanting something?” I asked. “Doesn’t that just make a stronger case?”

“Maybe if it was a situation where you were asking for a favor or imposition, but… they’re your pants, Mack,” Amaranth said in an infuriatingly matter-of-fact tone. “The only reason you need for wanting them back is that they’re yours.”

“Then why did you take…”

Her finger was on my mouth again. She held it there for a while this time, smiling brightly. She turned to Steff.

“This is kind of fun,” she said. “It’s like having a mute button.”

I started to say something in protest, but Amaranth turned her stern, over-the-glasses look at me as soon as she felt my lips moving.

“You’re muted,” she said, mock-harshly. “Um… where was I? Oh, yeah. You were about to ask me why I took your jeans in the first place, right?”

I nodded.

“Go ahead, then,” Amaranth said, taking her finger back.

“Go ahead and what?” I asked, confused. I had thought she was going to explain.

“Go ahead and ask,” Amaranth said.

“But you just said what I…”

I was really worked up, worked around by this point, or else I really would have seen the finger coming.

“If I have to take you somewhere private to spank you, you’re not going to enjoy it,” Amaranth said sternly. “Now, let’s try one more time…”

“Why did you take my pants in the first place?” I asked when she lowered her finger.

“So you’d ask for them back,” Amaranth said.

I kept my cool.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” I said, shaking my head. “What’s the point, other than making me walk around in my underwear?”

“Honestly, sweetie, that’d be enough of a point in itself if you weren’t so uncomfortable with it,” she said. “The point was for you to learn something.”

“But I haven’t learned any…” I began before being cut off. I couldn’t blame Amaranth for fingering me this time… I wasn’t just raising my voice. I was shouting. She’d kept my pants from me, paraded me past the lunch crowd, put me in a position where Puddy had… okay, that one was more my fault for sitting on her lap in that state. But, as near as I could tell from what she was saying, it had been for nothing.

So, yes, I was having some control issues with my voice.

“She learns so slowly, but trains so quickly,” Amaranth said to Steff, keeping her finger in place. “This could get fun.” She giggled.

“Yeah, Viktor did something real similar with me when he was training me,” Steff said. “Only, he didn’t use his finger.”

“And as for you, missy,” Amaranth said, “the point of this exercise was for you to learn to ask for what you want, instead of repressing it, or fumbling towards it indirectly, or getting yourself all upset and flustered just to get up the nerve.”

If I was going to be honest with myself, I could have agreed with her appraisal of my usual methods for dealing with wanting something from somebody… but I’d already put up with a lot that morning, so I just glared sullenly at her past her restraining finger.

I could have said something. I really could have. Okay, I wasn’t very assertive when dealing with other girls, but I really wasn’t submissive… not the way people with the hobbies Amaranth and Steff shared meant it. I didn’t feel some need to obey. I certainly wasn’t being turned on by being shut up every thirty seconds.

Still, she enjoyed the “muting” game so much, I couldn’t quite bring myself to ruin it.

“But, since you really haven’t learned,” Amaranth went on, “if you want another spanking, you’re going to have to ask for it… and I mean really ask for it. Not just let it slip out. No matter how obviously you want it, no matter how much you might need it… you won’t get so much as a love-tap until you learn to ask for what you want.”

“Oh, that is good,” Steff said approvingly. “Very good.”

I wouldn’t have said so even without the finger, but I privately agreed. Whatever semblance of enjoyment I’d got from the spanking hadn’t been worth the embarrassment, or the exposure to the crowd. That beside, there had to be less fucked up ways for me to enjoy myself. If Amaranth was going to wait for me to ask before repeating the experience, she’d be waiting a long time.

“Thanks, I guess this dominance stuff is mostly instinct, huh?” Amaranth said.

“Oh, you might be surprised… you should really talk to Viktor about this,” Steff said. “He’s a really good Dom.” She put special emphasis on the last word, like she was capitalizing it with her voice.

“What do you think about that, Mack?” Amaranth asked, lowering her hand.

“The guy who puts you in the healing center every other week?” I asked Steff, seriously alarmed. If Amaranth wanted to keep dominating me, I did not want her taking lessons from a homicidal half-ogre.

Amaranth waited until I’d finished the question, then placidly reached out and laid her finger against my lips again.

“That’s the last time I’m doing this today,” she said. “The next time you yell, we’re going somewhere private. Understand?”

I nodded meekly behind her finger.

“Good,” Amaranth said, though she kept me “muted.” She nodded at the half-elf. “Steff?”

“Yeah, he does rough me up a lot, but only because I really need it that rough sometimes,” Steff said to me. “He tops all his lovers, though, and he never gives them harder than they want… or can take.” She turned towards Amaranth. “I think you could learn a lot from him.”

“Yeah, that would be great,” Amaranth said… still keeping her finger in place. Being shushed like a child wasn’t quite as embarrassing as being spanked in public… okay, it was a distant second, but I was getting more self-conscious by the second. Plus, it was hard to hold myself in place like that, and I was guessing Amaranth wouldn’t have liked it if I moved away from her fingertip. “I’ve read a lot, of course,” she went on, unconcerned, “but… it’s a little different to practice, I guess. I think I’m doing a pretty good job, though.” She cast an anxious glance back my way. “I mean, you really seemed to enjoy that spanking.”

She dropped her hand again, but before I could say anything, Mariel broke in.

“Hey, guys… Puddy and I were talking and we decided it would be fun if instead of coming over here for dinner, we had kind of a girls’ night tonight, in my room… kind of celebrate the fact that we’ve all made it through each of our classes for the first time,” she said. “Well, um, I guess except for you, Mack, since you got kicked out of two of them. But you’re still invited! We’re going to get some pizza for dinner, and some dirty movies, and I’m going to do everybody’s hair…”

“Ooh, that sounds fun,” Steff said. “Can I come, or is this strictly a fifth floor function? “

“Well,” Mariel said, wringing her hands in a succession of different combinations. “It’s not so much a floor thing as it is that it’s a girls’ night, you know?”

“So, why can’t Steff come?” I asked testily. I hated seeing somebody snubbed or excluded. I really did. I would rather have been called every nasty name in the book or physically assaulted than cut dead and ignored. It was the worst feeling in the world.

“No, Mack, it’s okay,” Steff said. “I’ve got to be me, but I’m not going to force my company on anyone. See you later… and don’t forget, you promised to come to my circle meeting!”

“We won’t forget!” Amaranth called after her as she left.

“Okay, well, anyway, I’ll see you guys there?” Mariel said to me and Amaranth.

“Oh, I can’t,” Amaranth said. “Barley and I were going to go across to Pelinor Hall and do some of their boys tonight. We figured on getting an early start since we don’t know how many will be interested.”

“Well, Puddy was planning on Barley coming, too,” Mariel said.

“She’ll be disappointed,” Amaranth said, shaking her head. “Barley’s got work to do.”

Mariel looked like she was going to say something like that, then thought better of it. “Okay, Mack, then I guess I’ll see you for sure, though,” she said, before heading back to Puddy and walking away, arms-in-arm with her.

I would definitely be there. I wouldn’t be eating much pizza, but a break from the dining room? Nobody around me but friends?

Anyway, my social life at college thus far had been better than my high school one had been, but a girl’s night with pizza and movies was normal. I’d been putting up with Puddy’s quirks, but now was the payoff… maybe it was just a gathering in a dorm room, maybe it would be smaller than the group we’d just had together for lunch… but it was a party!And I was invited!

But Steff wasn’t…

“I wish I knew why Mariel wouldn’t let Steff come,” I said to Amaranth.

“Oh, I’m sure she isn’t trying to be rude,” Amaranth said. “But don’t you think this little get-together’ll probably last into the wee hours?”

“So?” I asked. I couldn’t see what that had to do with anything.

“As in, past nightfall?” she clarified… in theory, anyway. I was still mystified.

“What, does she turn into a pumpkin or something?” I asked, thinking Steff might have been under a curse.

I thought that might also explain peoples’ reactions to her, as some people viewed the accursed with suspicion or disdain, as if it were somehow their fault, or as if curses were normally catching. A girl I’d gone to high school with had been put under a powerful fainting curse… every time somebody clapped, she passed out. She’d only lasted a couple weeks before her parents pulled her out and homeschooled her. Even when they got the money together to have the curse broken, she hadn’t returned.

I couldn’t blame her… those two weeks had been the only time somebody had found a rung beneath me on the social ladder.

I wish I could say I’d reached out to her, but I had been as bad as anybody else… worse, since I should have known better. I couldn’t change the past, but I’d still be a friend to Steff if she was cursed.

“You really don’t know?” Amaranth asked, sounding a little surprised. “I mean… still?”

“Know what?”

“Oh, you are so cute!” Amaranth said… practically shouted. “I honestly can’t believe that somebody as precious as you even exists!”

“Will you please tell me?” I asked, blushingly madly.

“Oh, I want to… but I really couldn’t! You’ll catch on sooner or later, anyway, and if I tell you, it would be destroying something adorable… like murdering a kitten,” Amaranth said. “But I’m very proud that you remembered to ask directly instead of getting upset or beating around the bush.”

“Can I ask something else, then?” I asked.

“You can ask anything,” Amaranth said.

“What exactly is this ‘circle’ thing Steff keeps talking about?”

“Um… maybe I should wait and let you find out for yourself,” she said nervously. “So you can keep an open mind. But, really… very good job with asking.”

My stomach knotted. That didn’t sound promising.

“I…” I started to say, then faltered.

I needed to put my foot down somehow, find a way to convince Amaranth in no uncertain terms that I was not interested in some kind of group sex ritual with her and Steff.

The key was to be direct. I still didn’t see that it made a difference, but Amaranth liked directness and she would respond well to it. So, I just needed to tell her exactly what I felt.

As usual, my mouth had everything worked out perfectly the moment I opened it.

“I really don’t want to have sex with people besides you,” I said, then immediately clapped my hand over my mouth.

Why did things keep coming out wrong around Amaranth? I really needed to slip off to the library or the ball room and do some research on nymphs. I’m sure she wouldn’t use some kind of magic to bespell me on purpose, but it could be a natural effect she wasn’t completely aware of.

“Oh, you are the sweetest little thing,” Amaranth said, throwing her arms around me. “But don’t worry… the circle isn’t sexual in nature, won’t make you the center of attention, force you to talk to cheerleaders and sorority girls, or make you take off any of your clothes.”

“Then… why,” I said, remembering to keep my voice calm, “won’t you tell me what it is?”

“I told you… so you’ll have an open mind going in,” Amaranth said. “I promise, if we get there and you don’t like it, we’ll go. Okay? It’ll just mean so much to Steff if we’re both there…”

I couldn’t refuse, after she said that. Mariel might cut Steff out, and Professor Ariadne might be rude to her, but I was going to be her friend no matter what.

“Okay,” I said. “When is it, though?”

“Thursday night,” Amaranth said. “It’ll be a lot of fun! Just… remember to keep an open mind.”

The fact that a nymph would feel the need to say that about anything… repeatedly… and with that much nervousness in her voice… did nothing to put my mind at ease.


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7 Responses to “33: Asking For It”

  1. BMeph says:

    Ooh, this is really good writing. It must be, because I’m upset with all of the characters here; Mack, for being such a sheltered innocent that she doesn’t understand what happened to her…and all of the other yahoos because those that do know what happened are too worldly to notice that Mack doesn’t know.

    Current score: 0
  2. Jake says:

    Oh, it is Definitely well written. The characterizations are completely believable, if slightly twisted towards the realm of magic. I have known, or known of, individuals much like nearly all of the ones in this story. It is written well enough that it is nearly impossible to Not find both ones you sympathize with and/or hate.

    Current score: 0
  3. Maesenko says:

    …Nope, still not a fan of the active public domination thing.

    It kind of reminds me of slavery or something similar, and it drums up a good bit of fury in me.

    Current score: 0
  4. ElectricHarpsichord says:

    Typo report: “but it was a party!And I was invited!”
    There should be a space between “party!” and “And”.

    Current score: 0
  5. Shrikethrush says:

    Re-reading this years later, I’ve figured out why reading this bothers me so much, but at the same time is compelling:

    The way Mackenzie thinks about and acts about being abused is the same way I thought and acted about being abused. The same “I don’t want to cause anyone trouble” and that “I could stop it if I wanted” and because I didn’t stop it I though it was my fault it happened.

    This is an excellent tale abut unexcellent happenings.

    Current score: 0
  6. Curio says:

    Okay I haven’t read ahead but are they gonnah do the whole ritual sacrifice shtick cause that would be fucked up even for this web serial

    Current score: 0
  7. Ciss says:

    I like what Amaranth was saying about asking for what yu want right out.
    I am, like Mackenzie, uncomfortable about Dom/Sub-games and sex in public. Mostly because the world is full of Ian’s and Puddy’s – people that don’t understand and misinterpret your actions, sometimes in a very negative light.

    Current score: 1