144: The Long Journey

on January 25, 2008 in 05: The Weekend Shift

In Which Mackenzie Is Pushy

“So… um… do you want to know what I did last night?” I asked Steff as we headed across the ground floor hallway towards the boys’ stairs. Because of the stupid sex segregation, we’d had to go all the way down to the first floor and then back up the other set of stairs to get to Steff and Viktor’s room.

“What?” Steff asked, without much interest.

“It was with Ian,” I said. “And Amaranth.”

“Huh, a three-way?”

“Um, kind of,” I said, surprised by the lack of inflection in Steff’s voice. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if what we had done actually counted as a “three-way” since Amaranth had mostly been there in a support role. “I decided I was ready to, um, be fucked, and Amaranth…”

“You know what? I don’t really want to hear about this right now,” Steff said. “Okay?”

Was she jealous, too? I’d wondered how the hell polyamorous relationships worked without running into this kind of problem, but Steff had made it sound like juggling the commitments was as natural as anything else. I hated to think that it might turn out to just be talk, when I was starting to come around. Maybe I was greedy, but I didn’t want to have to choose.

“We didn’t… I mean, I didn’t let him… the thing that you want to do is, um, still there,” I sputtered, feeling my powers of articulation growing within me like a thing that doesn’t grow very well at all inside a person. I had a hard enough time talking about sex when I could feel it, and I wasn’t feeling it now. “We just, you know… the regular way. In front.”

“I said I don’t want to hear about it!” Steff said, backing away from me almost as fast as she’d jumped away when Dee had startled her. She looked near tears. “Fuck, will you quit being so damned pushy?”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I… I didn’t know this would upset you. I thought you’d be happy.”

“I’m happy,” she said. “Okay? I’m thrilled. I’m ecstatic. But I’ve got stuff on my mind… like… you’re about to meet Viktor. That’s big.”

“Okay,” I said. I decided to use this segue to throw Steff a bone, so to speak. “Um, you know how I keep telling you I want to wait until I can give you a surprise before we go any farther?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” Steff said. “Whatever.”

I stared at her.

“What?” she said, growing more and more agitated as she spoke. “I said it’s fine. I can wait. You think I’ve just got to fuck everything I see? Just because I have a cock, that means we’re going to fuck?”

“I’m sorry, forget it,” I said.

“I wish I could,” Steff murmured.

“Um, so… Viktor?” I said, trying to bring the conversation back to where it had been going before I’d somehow knocked it off course.

“Oh, yeah,” Steff said, settling down quite a bit in an instant. She got kind of a dreamy look in her eyes, the kind that was almost a sigh in itself, when she thought about Viktor. It was the only time her eyes didn’t look hungry… or, right now, haunted. “Viktor.” She turned to me, full of earnestness. “The thing you have to know, Mack, is that Viktor’s… well, he’s kind of integrated the whole dominance/submission thing in with his native culture. There’s some protocols you’ll want to know about, just so there’s no misunderstanding.”

“Protocols?” I repeated.

“Mmm hmm,” she said. “Courtly decorum, ogre-style. There’s a couple of big rules. Don’t look him in the eye, and don’t speak unless directed to… not if you’re spoken to, not even if you’re asked a question. Wait until you’re told to answer, or to speak freely.”

“That’s going to make it hard to have a conversation,” I said.

“Honey, you have to understand that if we were all out in the hinterlands, you’d be so far below him you barely exist,” Steff said. She stopped walking, so she could turn and face me directly as she spoke. The set of her face was serious, the way it was when she talked about the importance of self-defense. “You’re a furnishing, okay? You’re a rug or a wall hanging.”

“Or a table,” I said, thinking of my bizarre dream. I ducked my head, and in doing so noticed Steff’s dick twitching, growing hard beneath her skirt.

She made a frustrated sound, turning and trying to flatten it in what I assumed had to be a painful manner. I turned my head and didn’t say anything until she turned back, her erection visibly receded but not gone. There were tears on her cheeks, but she pressed right on.

“It’s not like he goes around challenging strangers to grappling matches before he’ll let them talk to him, but… you’ve submitted to Amaranth, Amaranth submits to me, and I am submitted to him,” Steff said. “That creates a relationship. I’m his… well, I can’t say the ogre word without hurting myself and spitting on you, but it basically means I’m crushed beneath the sole of his foot. Amaranth’s position would translate to “beast”, and legally she’d have the same status and lack of protections as any animal. You… you’re a thing, an object, and fuck!”

She’d sprouted an erection again, and reacted much the same way as the first time.

Okay, I have to admit it would have been fucking hot as hell to have Steff tell me I was an object with no rights, if it wasn’t disturbing to see the way she kept getting upset by her own arousal. That wasn’t Steff. I wondered if it had something to do with Viktor… another protocol? Was Steff not allowed to be erect in his presence, or without his permission, or something?

“Um, if you need to take care of that we can… do something,” I said.

“Just back the fuck off, okay?” Steff said. She’d turned to face the wall and seemed to be… well, hurting herself. “Gah… I need to make a stop.”

“Okay,” I said.

I followed her into the stairwell and up the stairs. She stopped at the third floor landing and darted into the hall. I followed, with an odd sense of vertigo mixed with déjà vu. The male juniors’ hallway was laid out identically to my own freshmen girls’, though of course reversed… but the doors had quite a few more decorations, many of them involving musicians, popular fighters, or women of different races in various states of undress. There was also an undeniable yet subtle difference in the atmosphere.

Steff went to a door and knocked. It was answered by a naked girl. Not a nymph, not a nude non-human, but a naked human girl, covered in sweat and… well, probably more than sweat. Her hair was matted to her skin.

“Who is it?” a gruff male voice said from inside the darkened room.

“It’s Steff,” the girl said over her shoulder. “Come to play with us?”

“Um, I kind of want some time to myself,” Steff said. “If you don’t mind.”

“No, it’s cool,” the girl said. “My ass’s starting to get pretty sore. I could use a break.”

“Thanks,” Steff said, and she went in, closing the door behind her. The naked girl leaned against it. She gave me a quick glance which ended in a rather unimpressed look.

“Hi,” she said, smiling politely.

“Hi,” I said, trying and failing not to look at the mess between her legs. It was… well, a lot more like what my mental picture of a pussy was than the neat little folds of flesh Amaranth sported.

“My fucking vibrator got stolen,” she said, as if this explained everything. “I left it in the bathroom once and it just vanished. Blessing in disguise, living next to Harlowe. These guys are animals… and it doesn’t even count.”

“Whose room is this?” I asked.

“Rorick and Jay’s,” she said.

“The faun?” I asked. I’d met Rorick once, at the same time I’d met Viktor.

“And satyr,” she said. “I’m Kyla, by the way. You’re the psycho skank, right?”

“I’m what?” I asked.

She laughed.

“The demon girl,” she said. “I heard you led a caravan in Weyland yesterday and then tried to kill everybody. This guy who’s a friend of… well, he’s not really a friend of anybody but he hangs out with anybody, you know? He called you the psycho skank.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said. Well, I had some idea but I could honestly say I didn’t know what “leading a caravan” had to do with anything.

“Whatever,” Kyla said. “You got a cigarette?”

“I don’t smoke,” I said.

“That’s the only problem with this place,” she said. “Nobody does. They look at me like I’m the freak when I do.”

“You smoke inside the dorm?” I asked.

“Not mine,” she said. “But here? Nobody cares what happens here. It’s fucking great.”

“So, you just hang out here and… fuck all the time?” I asked.

“Just a couple times a week, but it’s a great way to kill time,” she said. “It’s hard to masturbate when you have a roommate, you know? But I guess you’re bi and shit, so you probably don’t let that stop you.”

She looked at me with so much disgust that I couldn’t contain my own any more.

“Have you looked at yourself?” I asked.

“So what?” she said, glancing down at her body. She waved her hand as if it would brush away the accumulated bodily fluids. “None of this counts.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked.

“They’re not human,” she said. “You’re not human. Nothing here matters.”

“What, we’re not real people?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she said. “No offense. Fuck… I wish I had a cigarette.”

“How do you think your partners would react if they knew how you felt?” I asked.

She laughed.

“They don’t give a shit,” she said. “Partners? They like to fuck. I like to fuck. It’s no more real to them than it is to me. Steff’s the same. He or she or whatever likes to fuck and doesn’t care about anything else. But I guess you know that.”

“I don’t think you know her as well as I do,” I said.

“Whatever,” Kyla said. “Sweet fucking Khersis, you’re touchy for a harlot.”

I didn’t say anything. I was done talking to her.

A few minutes later, the door opened behind her and Steff came out, looking a little flushed in the face, and shaking quite a bit, but also looking quite a bit calmer.

“I think your friend needs a screw, too,” Kyla told her.

“Oh, fuck off, Kayla,” Steff said, giving her a shove back into the guys’ room.

“Touchy!” Kyla said. “And it’s Kyla.”

“Um, you… better?” I asked.

“Loads,” Steff said. “Worked out some… stress.”

“What exactly…”

“Look, Viktor’s waiting for us,” Steff said. “He didn’t give me a time frame… he just told me not to come back without you… but I’d rather not keep him waiting.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Oh, um… also, he may want to play a bit first,” Steff said as we headed back for the stairs. “If so, just try to, you know, shut it out and just wait till it’s over.”

“Uh, I don’t think Ian would like that,” I said. I was fairly sure I wouldn’t like that, for that matter.

Steff gave me a double take.

“Wow, does he have some crazy jealousy issues or what?” she asked.

“Hey, not everybody’s as open as you are,” I said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you do things, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody.”

“Yeah, but… to not even let you listen to another musician?” Steff said. “I don’t like to judge another person’s dynamics, but that’s pretty fucking nuts, Mack.”

“Wait, when you said ‘play’, what were you talking about?” I asked.

“Viktor’s music,” Steff said. “Such as it is.”

“He plays music?” I asked, making sure I was understanding.

“Well, he’s got a keyboard,” Steff said. “I don’t think he’ll ever be very good at it, but it makes him happy, you know?”

I kind of remembered Steff making a passing comment about Viktor taking a musical composition class, but my mind hadn’t attached any particular significance to that.

My mental image of Viktor came entirely from Steff’s almost bragging stories about being sent to the healing center, and one brief encounter in the main hallway when he’d propositioned Amaranth. He’d just walked up to her and said “hey,” as if that was all that needed to be said. Though, in this case, it had been. “Hey.” It didn’t take much of a line to pick up a nymph.

“What did you think I meant?” Steff asked.

“Well… um… I thought you meant ‘play’ as in, you know… play,” I said, blushing and turning away.

“Talk about a one track mind,” Steff said, leering wickedly and leaning in. “Don’t you ever think about anything else, you dirty, fi… um… filthy…”

“What?” I asked when she seemed to get hung up. “Why’d you stop?”

“Anyway, the point is that if he tells you to tell him what you think of his music, try to say something nice,” Steff said. “I always pretend I can’t understand it but that I know it’s good. If you can’t bring yourself to lie, be vague.”

“You lie to Viktor?” I asked, shocked.

“Only about this one thing,” she said. “But it’s the whitest of white lies. He cares so much about it, and it’s not like anybody back home is going to be able to tell how bad he is. Anyway, let’s get a move on.”

Steff headed briskly down the hall and I followed her. I almost ran into her when she stopped just past one of the doors.

“Hold on,” she said. “I have to make one more quick stop.”

She knocked on that door. Finbar, the canine alchemy major who was dating one or both of the Leighton twins, opened it about halfway. He stood in the opening. Behind him I could see a curtain. Considering that he did a thriving trade in homebrewed potions, I could understand why he valued his privacy.

“Hey, uh, Steff,” he said, a little nervously. “What’s up?”

“Can I, um, come in?” she asked.

“You know I can’t sell to you,” Finbar said. “Even leaving money out of it, the big man says I can’t give you anything that isn’t strictly for healing purposes.”

“This is for healing, believe me,” Steff said. “And… maybe we can work out some kind of… trade?”

“Sorry, but I’m not really interested in your kind of trade,” Finbar said. “Even if I didn’t have a girlfriend… or maybe two.”

He blinked and tilted his head to the side as if thinking. Apparently he didn’t know for sure, either.

“Look, if I can just come in and explain…” Steff said.

“Somebody sees you coming out of my room?” Finbar said. “After the big man told me you’re off limits? Not worth my life, buddy.”

“But…”

“Sorry, Steff,” Finbar said, and he closed the door.

“‘Big man’?” I asked.

“Oh… Viktor’s got this silly idea that I can’t be trusted with potions,” Steff said.

“What were you looking for?” I asked.

“Nothing,” Steff said. “Just a stray thought. It’s not important.”

“You said it was for healing,” I said. “That sounds important.”

“Oh, I… I just said that to try to convince him to deal with me,” Steff said, wringing her hands. “It’s really nothing.”

“Okay,” I said. Steff was lying, and she was nervous and visibly upset about something. Well, if I got a chance to be alone with Viktor… and I was even allowed to speak… I’d talk to him about it. “Um, is there anything else I need to know before I meet Viktor?”

“Oh, right,” Steff said, calming again. “Well… I could spend hours drilling you in specifics, but just remember the whole ‘object’ thing and you won’t go wrong. Try not to move unless you’re moved or told to move, stay where you’re put, don’t react if he handles you.”

“‘Handles’?” I repeated.

“Yeah. Not like sex play, per se, but more like… well, inspection. He will respect your safeword but it’s not in his culture to respect your space,” Steff said. “Oh, and we’ve got this neat soundproofing trick set up… partly so he won’t be disturbed when he’s ‘experimenting’ but it also comes in handy when we have guests… so, if you feel the need to scream, go ahead.”

“Scream?”

“Yeah,” Steff said, smiling. The familiar hunger was starting to come back into her eyes, mixed with the wistfulness she showed when she spoke about Viktor. It was… well, kind of a disquieting mix, actually. “He hasn’t said anything one way or the other, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he’ll want to watch me, you know… hurt on you a bit, to prove you’re sturdy as I said.”

“Oh,” I said, shrinking back a little. Instead of being encouraged as she normally would have been, Steff reacted to this as if cold water had been dashed in her face.

“Shit, honey, if you don’t want to… I mean, you know your safeword, right?” Steff said. “Anyway, I’d never actually harm you… though considering your nature, that leaves quite a lot of things wide open… oh, shit.” She’d managed to get hard again. “Fuck! Why the hell won’t this stupid thing just lie down and die?”

“I thought you loved your thing,” I said.

“I hate it!” Steff said, turning away. “I hate it so fucking much!”

“Steff, seriously… are you okay?” I asked, reaching for her shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” she said, whirling around. I watched her compose herself with an effort, though she was still breathing hard. “Okay… I’m okay.”

“Steff…”

“I said I’m okay,” she said. She smiled. “Let’s go meet my man.”

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4 Responses to “144: The Long Journey”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”

    Current score: 0
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    Back when I first read this story in February or so, I skipped most of the bonus stories, including the Fountain-Swan Princess one…

    Let’s just say that I can see clearly now.

    Current score: 2
  3. Downside says:

    See, Steff, this is why wearing baggy jeans is a good thing. ‘Visibly erect’ just doesn’t happen that way.

    Current score: 0
    • Anon says:

      Prior experience indicates that she has no problem with the visibility.
      I suspect that the problem here is that she keeps going over that night in the fountain in her mind, and her body keeps reacting accordingly even though she’s consciously disgusted by and terrified of what happened. The automatic physical reactions seem like her body betraying her, reacting in a way directly opposing her actual emotions and making her second-guess everything.

      It’s a common reaction among rape victims, especially male victims or those who orgasmed during the assault. They know they didn’t want it, but their body’s reaction looks like they did even to themselves. Which inevitably leads to a tendency toward victim blaming, probably some level of self-loathing, and possibly full on depressive symptoms on top of all the other trauma.

      Current score: 9