65: Dance

on September 12, 2007 in 03: Virginal

In Which… Oh, Just Read

The dance was in a large room on the ground floor of the student union, directly beneath the dining hall and about the same size. There was a weapon check table right outside the entrance, with posters bidding welcome from the Campus Social Committee and congratulating us all on having survived one week of classes. They didn’t know the half of it. I slid my knife out of the belt and traded it for a claim ticket. Ian did the same with his short sword.

“Aren’t you going to check your… that thing?” Ian asked, pointing to the leather paddle.

“I need that,” I said, stiffening a little at the suggestion. He didn’t press it.

I kind of regretted our decision to show up at the beginning of the dance. The room was sparsely populated, with most people hanging out by the walls, bunched near the door or the big three-foot sound crystals the pair of DJs were still setting up. There were more clusters than couples. Heads turned as we entered, and I was sooo glad I’d kept the paddle, the token of Amaranth’s love, with me.

I was interested to see I wasn’t the only Harlowe resident in attendance. Honey and Hazel, the two diminutive shirelings, were there… looking more relaxed and comfortable in their surroundings than I’d ever seen them. Feejee the mermaid was there, with a guy who seemed to be her date… or just a passing stranger staring fixedly at her large, bare breasts.

There were a few other obviously non-human students here and there, but those three were the only ones from my floor. I didn’t go over to talk to any of them… I didn’t know the gnomes, and my last conversation with Feejee hadn’t exactly gone swimmingly.

Ian and I made awkward chatter. I don’t think I’d reproduce it here even if it had stuck with me. I wondered if he’d gone to dances in high school, but I didn’t ask. He probably wouldn’t have admitted it if he hadn’t.

It was a couple minutes after seven when one of the DJs went over and turned down the lights. Multi-colored lights had been strung from the ceiling like garlands, and the sound equipment gave off a soft aqua glow in the semi-darkness. There was some grudgingly forced enthusiasm in the response to the way-too-cheery “Is everybody ready to have some fun?”, and the music started, a disgustingly bouncy ballad which had been shoehorned into just about every movie that had come out in the past three years.

I took a certain fierce pride in not knowing the name of the song or the band that played it… but… we were kind of there to dance, so…

“Um… well,” Ian said, gesturing vaguely in a direction sort of away from the walls.

“Yeah,” I said. “I guess we… should…”

We kind of edged our way out, keeping our bodies facing each other. I’m not sure if that was because we were trying to dance together, or because we couldn’t bear to look at anybody else in case they were pointing and snickering. Well, I don’t know about Ian, anyway… I was actually pretty sure about myself.

For a while, we just kind of… walked sideways, in small steps, and not in any way in sync with each other. Very much not actual dancing. More like trying to prolong the act of finding the right spot on the floor. The song ended, and we were still looking.

A slow song came on next.

“Uh… do you want to… I mean, we can sit this out,” Ian said. “If you want.”

I closed my eyes. This was lame. By “this”, I meant “we”… if we went to sit down, I was pretty sure we’d end up sitting there making more awkward conversation over the music for another fifteen or twenty minutes and then say goodnight. I told myself that this was a dance.

We were supposed to be dancing.

I looked around at the other couples… okay, I wasn’t just lame, I was so lame I had to get a visual reminder of how couples stood when they danced together… and then put my hands on his shoulders. He put his hands on my waist, cautiously… like he was afraid I’d be hot to the touch.

Well, maybe he was.

We were still pretty much just shuffling around on the floor, but it worked out a little bit better. When the slow song ended, there were a couple more fast ones, and we let go of each other, though we stayed in close. For moral support, if nothing else. Songs came and went. I was trying to watch other people without being too obvious about it. I wasn’t really moving my arms… was that the problem?

I tried a couple of different things.

Okay, it had been part of the problem. It wasn’t just that other girls were using their arms… they were somehow using their whole bodies. I was just moving mine one part at a time.

I look like an idiot.

No, I thought back at myself… I look like a slut, a hot slut. I thought it fiercely. I thought it proudly. I’m wearing fishnets, I thought. I’ve never worn pantyhose and I’m wearing fishnet tights and thong underwear… how can I worry about what I look like when I’ve actually gone out dressed like this?

I started to loosen up a little, and I thought I might have actually hit my stride… but then the song ended. A slow song started, and Ian’s hands closed on my waist. I moved in closer, and they slid around to my back.

“Put your hands on my ass,” I whispered.

“What?” he asked, pulling back to study my face. I could see his had a look of puzzled skepticism on it. I’d seen the same look on the face of the paranoid nagakin Celia before, the “I know there’s a deadly trap in your words somewhere, I just haven’t seen it yet.” look.

I dropped my face a degree but kept my eyes fixed up on him. I meant this to be a sort of token-but-not-really act of submission, though I suppose it might have just looked kittenish to him.

“Please,” I said softly, but urgently.

After nearly a week of taking some sort of comfort away from being spanked… and after the night when Amaranth had bitten me… it was becoming clear even to me that I liked having physical attention paid to my butt. Not that way… never that way, but the outside, the soft, fleshy part was fine. It wasn’t really a sexual part of the body, but it was close… it was adjacent to sexual. It was near enough to be thrilling, but there was nothing to penetrate, no border to defend from invasion, no sick juices to spread around.

He slid his hands down, gently… no, gingerly. I felt his indecision. He was reluctant to touch. He didn’t know how far he should go.

I thought of Two, and myself… I thought that on some level, Ian might be our kind of dork. Not as bad as either of us, but still hopelessly adrift when he found himself unsure of what was expected of him.

Of course, he had an impulse to say something stupid in those situations, where mine was to do nothing at all… but the root of the behavior was the same.

I had a sudden flash of intuition. The boundaries I set aren’t just for my benefit. They were like the lines in a coloring book, or a paint-by-numbers picture… or the exacting structure of an elven poetic form. Within the rules of the form, you can express yourself freely. They’re a skeleton, a framework for building on as much as they are a cage.

I also suddenly wondered what Two might do with a coloring book, or a book of puzzles and games. Instructions to follow. Page after page of them. She’d like that. But… save that thought for later.

“Ian,” I said. “You… you can do whatever you want with your hands as long as they stay outside my clothes and around back of my body.”

“Are you serious?” he asked.

He had to ask… I’d been sure enough of myself to say it, but I could just barely manage to nod my confirmation. I hoped he wouldn’t need further prompting… and he didn’t. His hands cupped and squeezed in the roughest, most unsubtle fashion… prodding and fanning the embers of dull ache into fresh pain. I moaned and pressed in against him.

His… well, his… thing, it was… it was…

His dick was hard again.

I could feel it.

It pressed against me, but our clothes were between us and it wasn’t quite in that place, and when I started to draw back I just pressed myself into his hands, which took the motion as an encouragement to grip tighter… reassuringly tighter… and pull us close together again.

I like having my butt played with. I mean, I really like it. The thought made me blush, but nobody could see in the darkness. Well, that’s one definite item for the whitelist. That thought was downright dirty… but it was, for lack of a better description, Steff’s kind of dirty.

It was only when I thought to wonder if we were even still dancing that I realized we were, in fact, moving and swaying with the beat in a way that neither one of us had before when we’d really been trying to dance. Of course, as soon as I realized this, I hit a kind of a hitch and fell out of what rhythm I’d fallen into… but Ian’s surprisingly strong hands on my ass brought me back, or took me away, or whatever…

The music, the crowd, the closeness of it all, of Ian… the night itself… was making me drunk. Every time we turned or moved to the side too suddenly, the Strap of Smiting clapped me on the leg; a tangible reminder of Amaranth’s loving ownership. I remembered what Steff had tried to skirt around while giving me the safe sex pep talk: Amaranth wants me to…

Steff had been concerned–and probably rightly so–that knowing this, I would do something I’d regret… or not do something and regret it. But, what if… what if I wanted to do something? Not like going “all the way”… I couldn’t pull off that phrase, much less the act. But, there were other things I could try… and… maybe it would be okay. It would. It would. Amaranth wanted me to, too.

“Ian…” I breathed.

“Uh huh?”

“Tell me the truth,” I said.

“Uh huh,” he repeated.

“You’re really a virgin, aren’t you?” I asked.

Did I expect him to blush, to laugh it off, to get indignant or even angry? I might have expected any of those things… I didn’t expect him to give a really, truly manly high-pitched shriek, he tore himself away from me and got his legs tangled up with each other, toppling backwards onto the floor.

I went to stoop down and help him up, but he screamed “Don’t eat me!” and threw his hands up in front of him. I flinched in anticipation, but he stopped himself from putting his index fingers together in the familiar warding X of the Arms of Khersis. I stood up and stepped back, anyway.

“What the fuck?” I asked, aloud.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t… reflex… I’m sorry!”

People were staring. Of course they were. My date had just screamed that I was trying to eat him. Amaranth’s name written in glowing gold letters all over my body wouldn’t have protected me from the attention I was receiving. I fled, sure that if I didn’t I would be crushed away to nothing beneath the weight of eyes.

“Mackenzie!” Ian called after me as I streaked across the plaza outside the union. “Mackenzie, wait!”

It struck me that only two people on the entire campus called me by my full first name: him, and Professor Bohd. I’d asked Amaranth to call me Mackenzie once, but she’d forgotten almost immediately. I wondered what she would say if I asked her again. I wondered what it would feel like to not be Mack. Would I still feel like I was hers if I wasn’t her Mack?

That thought kind of stopped me in my tracks, mentally and physically… and even though I totally wasn’t stopping because I wanted him to catch up to me, he did anyway.

Fuck off, Ian!” I said, turning… I must have been crying the whole time, but I was only just now noticing the tears dripping down my face.

“Don’t we each get one freak-out excused per night?” he asked. “I mean, you over-reacted a bit earlier…”

“This is a little different to me freaking out at the idea of… stuff on my hands,” I said.

“Yeah, well, I agree. I mean, I’m dealing with thousands of years of ingrained survival instincts here,” Ian said. “Give me some points for effort here… it wasn’t so easy for me to ask you out, knowing you’re actually a… actually related to dangerous monsters.”

“I am not a… I’m not… okay, I am a dangerous monster,” I said, unable to make myself say anything but the truth. “But I’m not dangerous to you.”

“Because you know I’m not a virgin?” he asked. There was something pathetically hopeful about his face when he said this.

“Because I like you,” I said, the words spilling out with no forethought or conscious decision… and thus, without indecision. “You’re st… kind of a dork,” I said, remembering how hurt Amaranth had been when she’d thought I was calling her stupid. I wasn’t going to use that word casually again if I could avoid it. “But you asked me out, even if you were afraid of me, and that’s something.”

Saying this, I realized it was a huge thing. Nobody in my circle really “got” what being a demon meant. Ian did. I couldn’t say he didn’t care, but he… well, he didn’t care that he cared. He didn’t let it stop him.

“Don’t give me so much credit,” he said, shaking his head and turning away. “I didn’t have a lot of options, remember? You’re the only girl I know.”

“You could have gone alone,” I said, shaking my head. “You could have skipped the dance. It’s the first one of the year. There’s like a hundred different student groups on campus… you could be pretty sure somebody would throw another one, sooner or later.”

“Well, should I just tell you that I thought you were cute so you can chew me out for being shallow?” he asked. “Or that after I got interrogated about you in the healing center, I felt a little bit like protecting you so you can chew me out for being chauvinistic? Or that I thought… well…” He blushed. “The whole ‘maybe-she’s-secretly-out-to-devour-my-soul’ thing seemed… um… sexier… when I was alone in my room.”

Don’t think about what he means. Don’t think about what he means. Don’t think about what he means. Don’t get distracted by stupid stuff. Deal with this.

“I don’t eat souls,” I said bluntly. “I eat blood. Virgin blood. Once a month or so, my grandmother used to collect it from her other grandchildren. She had a lot of children, and they had a lot of children, so she didn’t need much from any one of them. She always reminded me that my cousins had to be cut and bled for me to live. She told me which ones cried, which ones hid when it was time… I never even met most of them, but I knew their names, and their faces from pictures. She wanted me to have a sense of… of gravity, I think. Of the enormity of my existence. She didn’t want it to become a casual thing.”

“I… I didn’t know,” he said.

“I told you I didn’t kill to feed,” I reminded him. “I told you I’d never hurt anybody before.”

He turned away.

“I’m such an idiot,” he said.

“You are,” I agreed. “And I’m a fuck up. I’m going back to the dance now… I’ll feel less stupid if I don’t have to walk in there alone.”

“You’re serious,” he said. It was a statement. The question was in his eyes.

“Yes,” I said. “One free freak out… ever. Not per night. If I have to go through this again, it’s over.”

“So… there’s going to be other nights?” he asked. Pathetically hopeful again.

I gave him half a smile.

“Let’s finish this one,” I said.

We stayed until the last song, and the last song after that, and the one after that, and then the absolutely final last song, after which they kicked everybody out. The dancing was… comfortable. Nice. He kept his hands on my ass, but he didn’t squeeze. He didn’t go all hard again. I didn’t have to ask him to walk me back to my dorm… but… we didn’t kiss. I didn’t know if I was supposed to say or do something, or if he was. It was usually described as the guy kissing the girl goodnight, but… well, maybe I’d have time to figure it out.

There would be other nights.

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8 Responses to “65: Dance”

  1. BMeph says:

    Attention, attention:

    Squee.

    That is all.

    Current score: 3
  2. pedestrian says:

    Children hate bleeding injuries, it totally terrifies them, not even counting the pain. And we adults have to stand there pretending to be calm and in control of the situation. Our hearts breaking at our child’s distress.

    Having to do this each and every month for a year for nine years. Each time Mackenzie’s grandmother’s spirit must have shrunk a little more each time.

    Current score: 2
    • JPR says:

      That’s assuming her grandmother even HAS a soul.

      Current score: 4
    • Arakano says:

      Yeah, well, not really feeling sorry about Grannie Blaze regarding this stuff… more about the child she traumatised.

      Current score: 5
    • Eli says:

      Yes, her *poor* sweet old abusive shit bag of a grandmother. How dreadful that must have been for her.

      Obiously it’s okay to hurt, having to deal with terrified bleeding children who you love, but it’s not *close* to okay under *any* circumstances to twist all of that pain into *hate* and direct every bit of it towards another perfectly innocent child.

      Parents and grandparents are supposed to have the strengh to deal with this *basic fucking stuff* so the people they have a *responsibility* to look after don’t have to. If they *can’t*, then *fuck* them. They shouldn’t have had children.

      Current score: 4
    • Kanta says:

      When I was a kid, I used to cut my fingers open every couple of days just to see the blood. I kept it in jars and ziploc bags. Maybe I was kind of a messed up kid, in retrospect.

      Current score: 5
  3. pedestrian says:

    I know, Brimstone Blaise’s character has come off as extreme and bigoted. But like I said in my early posting, unless you have faced equally challenging circumstances, you cannot comprehend the effect upon each of us.

    Helplessness erodes your self-image. It is too easy for us readers to jump to assumptions and act out our own prejudices.

    Current score: 1
  4. Maesenko says:

    Okay, This is my current favorite post thus far. Surprising to me, it’s above the ones where they have built Two’s personality.

    Current score: 1