Chapter 235: The Walk Of Shame

on August 7, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Accounts Are Balanced


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The mirror conversation I had with Ian was short, though anything but sweet.

If it had been possible for me to have this conversation quickly and get it over with, I would have totally done that. If I’d gotten an echo trap, maybe I could have just told Ian the short version of what had happened… whatever that would be… and then ask him to share any reaction with a-mail. Wouldn’t that be nice? I knew it wouldn’t fly, with him or with Amaranth… and more, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

So what I said when he answered my reflection was what I would have said if I hadn’t got a hold of him: we need to talk.

The look on his face said of course we do in big angry letters, and then it changed to of course we do in utter exhaustion and defeat.

“Come on over, then,” he said.

“Ian, I’m sorry,” I started to say, but he’d already waved the reflection away.

“Don’t forget to tell him that in person, baby,” Amaranth said. “Come on, we can walk back to the tower together. I can do that much, if you want.”

“Of course,” I said, cracking up a little. “Love means never being alone.”

Amaranth steered me back towards Glory so we could say goodbye, which was not something I would have thought of but probably a good idea, however things ended up shaking out… I didn’t want to end things on bad terms with her, if they ended… and I wanted to continue things on bad terms with her even less.

“For whatever it’s worth, I had fun,” Glory said.

“I did, too,” I said. “For whatever that’s worth.”

“…huh,” Glory said.

“What?” I asked.

“Just realizing for the first time what that is worth to me,” she said. “It’s a bit weird, isn’t it? Anyway, good luck! Make sure someone tells me what happens, okay?”

“Okay.”

The walk back slow, not just because I didn’t want to face Ian… it was weird walking after having been basically hollowed out by Glory. What I felt was more numbness than soreness, but more strangeness than numbness. I felt like there was a really obvious swing in my hips that wasn’t normally there, too.

We were halfway back to the tower when Amaranth pointed out what Glory had meant by her parting remark, of having someone keep her in the loop.

“You realize that she’s not counting on you talking to her again, right?” she said.

“Do you think she was listening in on our conversation somehow after all?”

“No, but she’s smart enough to realize you might have a choice to make in the very near future,” Amaranth said. “And she’s not making any assumptions about her place in your heart… or your life… given that she’s kind of the new one.”

“I guess that might make things easier,” I said. “I mean, if I have to let her down, I guess the gently is already sort of built in? And if I have to disappoint someone, shouldn’t it be the person who’s hurt the least?”

“Baby, it’s your decision to make, but if you make it based on the path of least resistance, I think you’re more likely to disappoint everyone, including yourself,” Amaranth said. “Anyway, just because a person has no illusions doesn’t mean they’re not fragile. I think it’s more likely that she’s handling things that way because it would be painful to lose you than because it wouldn’t. It’s like she’s… she’s bracing herself, really.”

“Maybe I should be doing that,” I said. “Do you really think Ian’s… do you think he’s going to mind that much?”

“I think… I don’t think anything,” she said. “What I feel is worry. And I think you should be pre… well, no. I don’t think you should be prepared for the worst. Because when you brace yourself, you brace for an attack, and Ian’s not your enemy. Even if he’s so angry that he comes out swinging, his anger is something you’ll need to get past, not something for you to defeat.”

“So… let him vent,” I said.

“Let him say what he needs to say and do what he needs to do,” Amaranth said. “Let him know that you understand and that you’re there for him. It’s not a magic formula for fixing everything, but it’s what will give you and him the best chance.”

“Thanks,” I said. “Thank you… I’m sorry I snarked at you earlier. It really does make a difference, having you with me.”

“I’m glad,” she said. “Both that feel that way, and that you apologized.”

“I also said ‘thank you’,” I said.

“That’s my Mack,” she said. “What you don’t learn quickly, you still learn well.”

“I just hope I’ve learned it quickly enough.”

She didn’t say anything to that, because there wasn’t anything to be said. Instead, she wrapped her bare arm around me and leaned on me, pulling me close against her side as we walked.

“I think we should say goodbye here,” I said in the lobby. “I know we’re going to the same floor, but I’ve got to… I need to start getting my head together, you know? And you were right, Ian shouldn’t see you coaching me. This is him and me.”

“Alright, baby,” she said. “Good luck… to both of you.”

She kissed me, and then we went towards separate lifts, where she waited until I was on mine to call for hers.

The whole ride up, I was thinking about what I would say to Ian… I realized that it was pointless, because it would have to depend on what he had to say to me. I mean, I had explaining to do, obviously, but he clearly had some idea what was going on when I told him that we needed to talk after spending the night in the elven house, and the important thing was to let him know that I understood how he felt… after I knew how he felt.

His door was closed when I got to his room, but it opened as soon as I knocked. He looked at me, then stepped back and gestured wordlessly for me to enter.

“Well… I guess at least one of us is getting laid,” he said as I shuffled my way past him. He managed to sound completely beaten down and make it sound like the first salvo of an attack. With that, all of the resolve to take responsibility and be patient and listen to Ian that I’d built up on the way over snapped like a rubber band.

“And whose fault is it if you’re not?” I asked, turning around as quickly as I could. “You were going to sleep with me, but you wanted to wait until you weren’t pissed off. Remember? And you haven’t made a move since then. And don’t say I haven’t been around… yeah, I’ve been out a lot, but we’re in the same dorm for a reason, Ian, and I’ve been home every night right up until last. You could have come around anytime you wanted. So it’s a little freaking disingenuous that the first night I don’t come home… which wasn’t my choice… it’s suddenly a problem.”

“Mackenzie… number one, the problem isn’t that you were out,” he said, shutting the door.

“Okay, sorry, you’re right,” I said, putting up my hands. “It’s… reflex. I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to defend… I mean, anything I’d want to defend… but it’s just natural defensive.”

“Fine. But, number two… you didn’t fuck Glory because I wouldn’t sleep with you. If I could believe that was true, it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“I didn’t fuck her, she fucked me,” I said out of habit, a moment before I realized that the correction sounded like an excuse. “Sorry… I know that doesn’t actually make a difference, but the distinction matters to her, so I’ve kind of internalized it…”

“And that means I have to care about it?” Ian said. “Mackenzie, lately… lately everytime I think about you, I get pissed off, and crap like that elven shit is exhibit A for the why.”

“You don’t mean that,” I said. He couldn’t… angry all the time? I hadn’t noticed anything like that… I hadn’t noticed anything.

Hadn’t noticed anything…

Oh. Problem identified.

“Ian… I’m sorry,” I said.

“I know you are,” he said. “That’s the bitch of it, Mackenzie… I know you’re sorry, and I know you care.”

“I more than care. I love you, Ian.”

“I know that, too,” he said. “I’m just not sure what it means.”

“You don’t know how I feel about you?” I asked. The idea pained me, but I tried to sound more hurt than angry.

“I know what love means… I guess what I don’t know is what it counts for,” he said. “Whether it’s worth it, or not.”

Something in his voice in the the “or not” cut me open right to the bone. My eyes usually watered at least a bit whenever I started to get emotionally intense even if it was just anger, but I could feel actual tears welling up.

“How can you say that?” I asked.

“It’s the truth. If you want me to start lying, this conversation could be a lot shorter… and the sad thing is, I would probably do it. It would be easier, for a while, if I lied. Do you want that?”

“No!”

“Right… you don’t want lies. You just want the truth to be something more pleasant, something… convenient,” he said. “You just want to know that you can go fuck off whenever you want, go fuck whoever you want, and you want to know that I’ll still be there when you need me, that we’ll all be here to bail you out of whatever trouble you’re in.”

“I’m not in trouble now, Ian,” I said.

“Aren’t you?”

“No, and Ian, you asked if it’s worth it. Love… love isn’t a transaction,” I said.

“That’s easy enough for you to say when your balance is in the black.”

“That’s what I mean, though. You can’t treat a relationship like it’s just a column on a page of figures.”

“I don’t treat it as one column… Mackenzie, you are my whole damned ledger, but I’m not more than a line item to you,” he said.

“Can we ditch the accounting metaphor?” I said, trying to put on a smile. “Every time we end up arguing in metaphor, it just bogs down in semantics.”

“Yeah, but that’s not happening now. Because you know exactly what I mean.” He held up a hand to stop me before I could protest. “That’s what this is about… I’m not saying you don’t care, I’m saying you care about me and a lot of other stuff. People. And I just don’t know if it’s enough.”

“Love doesn’t get diminished if it’s shared,” I said.

“That’s Amaranth talking,” he said, and his tone of voice was enough to tell me that she had been right to send me to talk to him on my own.

“Well, I happen to think that she’s right.”

“What about time? Attention? People? I don’t care how big your heart is, there’s still only so much of you to go around.”

“Ian, I told you before… I don’t have a problem with walking away from Glory.”

“Really? One night with her, and it seems like you’ve got a problem walking anywhere,” he said.

“Like you’ve never left me in… okay, that’s not the point,” I said. “The point is, I told you: however fun or interesting Glory might be, it wouldn’t be worth upsetting anything in my life to be with her. You don’t know what anything is worth to you, Ian? Well, let me tell you, I know what’s worth it and what isn’t, and Glory isn’t worth it if it means giving up you.”

“But last night, you were thinking she was too good to wait even one night to talk to me or anyone else before you did it.”

“Last night, I wasn’t thinking,” I said. “It wasn’t a value judgment or a cost-benefit analysis, it was just… something I did.”

“And maybe the decisions we make when we’re not thinking show what we really feel,” Ian said. “But anyway, ditching Glory isn’t going to settle the problem.”

“I thought the problem was Glory.”

“The problem is what we value… what you mean to me, and what I mean to you.”

“If you’re worried that she means more to me than you, I told you… I’ll walk away from Glory in a heartbeat.”

“Yeah, and yet, until I put my foot down and say enough, you still ignore me for her,” he said. “So what’s that say about me?”

“That I took for you granted!” I said. “Is that what you want to hear? That doesn’t mean you’re not important to me, it means I’m… stupid. Short-sighted. And selfish. But I love you.”

“The thing is… the thing is, I think if you end it with Glory because I want you to, then we’ll just flip who resents who for a while,” he said. “And given that I don’t think I’ll magically get over how you made me feel just because you’ve stopped doing the thing that made me feel that way, it’ll just be more resentment, not even decent resentment. I’ll feel guilty for making you do it, you’ll be angry that you threw it away for nothing…”

“Have you seriously rehearsed every step of our relationship’s failure in your head, Ian?”

“What else was I supposed to do while you were off picking up her fucking dry cleaning?”

“I don’t know, find a job of your own?” I said. “Start another band, fight in the pit? Have more miniature battles? Fool around with Amaranth? I understand that I fucked up last night, Ian, but the real problem is that I’ve got a life that’s full of… not you. Other people, other things. You were already ticked off when I was busy with Acantha.”

“You still don’t think I have other interests?” he said. “This isn’t about who has time, it’s about… it’s about…”

“What is it about, Ian?” I asked.

“It’s about expectations,” he said. “Which one of us is expected to yield, which one of us is expected to put up with bullshit and pick up the pieces. You keep telling me that I’m your rock, Mackenzie. You know what a rock is? It’s something hard enough to take a pounding and heavy enough to stay in one place. No one can be a rock all the time.”

“So what do we do? What do you want?”

“I… I don’t know,” he said, and he sounded tired now… or maybe resigned.. “I really don’t. When I tell you I don’t know if it’s worth it, what I mean is I don’t know what I want. But… I think I have an idea what I need.”

“What’s that?” I asked, my mouth dry. The fire had gone out of me. There was no more heat to drive away the fear. This was it.

“Time,” he said. “Space.”

“You want a break,” I guessed, hoping that was all he meant.

He nodded.

“I need to figure things out,” he said. “I need to figure out what I want and where I stand.”

“And if you figure out that you don’t want me?”

“I don’t know, he said. “I can’t make promises, Mackenzie, not when I don’t know if I’d be able to keep them.”

“I’ll end things with Glory,” I said. “I know that’s not going to fix this or change what you need, but… maybe it will make it easier for you?”

“Mackenzie, if you want to help us… take the time to figure out what you want,” he said. “Don’t leave Glory because you think it’s what I want, or because you’re eleven hundred percent sure that you could walk away from her and not regret it. You need to figure out what you actually want and how you really feel about her.”

“I know how I feel about her, damn it,” I said.

“How can you, when you’ve been saying the same thing from the beginning, when you barely knew her?” he asked. “Mackenzie, you spend more time figuring out how you feel about crossing the street than you’ve spent actually dealing with what… if anything… you feel about Glory. You were so eager to impress this girl that you shot your whole day’s worth of magic all over her bedroom walls.”

“That’s not exactly how it works,” I said. “The whole reason I collapsed is that was way more magic than I could normally use in a day.”

“That’s worse, not better.”

“The point is, I made a giant, inefficient spell and then ran it through a conduit with a drain problem. It was just… carelessness.”

“Would you normally have been that careless?”

“No, but I think we’ve already established that I wasn’t thinking.”

“Right, but whether that’s because you’re really more into Glory than you realize or it’s because you made the decision to turn your brain off where she’s concerned, it’s a problem,” he said. “Look, if it turns out she really is just someone you can have a good time with, then I don’t care if you have a good time with her, as long as you can be there for me. And if it turns out that it’s more… maybe that’ll be okay, too, if you can be there for me. But as long as you keep pushing away the question… things will keep ‘just kind of happening’.”

“So, this isn’t… you aren’t just deferring breaking up with me,” I said.

“No,” he said. “That’s not my plan. I mean, like I said: I can’t make promises, and I don’t want you to go making any, either. We just really need to figure out what we want.”

“But what if… what if it turns out that we want different things, Ian?”

“That’s why we can’t make promises.”


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84 Responses to “Chapter 235: The Walk Of Shame”

  1. D. D. Webb says:

    Aww…

    Well, still, went better than I feared. This talk about the future makes me wonder what Mack’s life without Ian would be like. I mean, she’s got plenty of support, but…not much of it has his clear-headedness.

    Current score: 8
    • Glenn says:

      Could you cite some examples of Ian giving “clear-headed” support? Personally, I’ve never found him to be a very interesting character. He seemed designed, to me at least, to represent the ordinary, average human in the MU universe. While he did give the reader some insight into how normal people in that universe might react to Mack, his relationship with Mack never seemed to me particularly plausible, given how little they seemed to have in common.

      Current score: 6
      • Anon says:

        I’ve seen their relationship half-a-dozen times in the real world. People try to make it work with total opposites all the time. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.

        Honestly, I wouldn’t count on this one lasting much longer in the real world, but writer fiat could save it yet.

        Current score: 4
        • spess imvader says:

          Precisely. Some people are naturally monogamous, and Ian is one of them. The only way for this relationship to realistically continue would be for him to accept a submissive role. I’d love to see Mack pegging him, showing him who has the falus.

          Current score: 0
      • Mist42nz says:

        He played rescue a long while back when Mercy was chasing. He also offered Mack friendship away from Harlowe Hell. However Mack treats him a bit like most party girls treat their stable boyfriend…as a complete doormat. he’s expected to be caring, supportive, impressed, and have decent social standing, without wrinkling his mint packaging

        Current score: 2
  2. Order of Chaos says:

    Wow. I don’t know how to word what I feel. Good job AE.

    Current score: 2
  3. Oni says:

    I’ll be candid: Does anyone give two damns about Ian?

    Personally, I’ve never liked the character as a person. I wouldn’t be sad for him to not be around, or be around in a different way. None of this is a matter of story, of course; I don’t think that he’s badly written or an inaccurate depiction of a human being, he’s just not someone that I’d invite around for drinks.

    Current score: 10
    • Azum0n says:

      I do. For better or worse he keeps the story a bit grounded; As a character he’s ok but I believe we need someone who knows when to pull back and go “what the fuck” at just the right moments. Weather it’s the merfolk eating people or middlings having a bizarre hierarchy, he’s usually the one to come out and say that things have gotten kind of crazy and ask some of the right questions, and that plays off everyone else in a way I like. He’s Mackenzie’s rock, not just in a relationship sense but he reminds her(and us) that most of Mackenzie’s interactions we see are with outliers and that most of MU is just plain, mediocre humans, with all the baggage that comes with.

      Current score: 0
    • Order of Chaos says:

      I like him. I wish he stuck to his guns back when Amaranth issued the blow jobs on demand thing.
      I was sure Ian would say “so I need to tell Amaranth this was stupid.” Mack would say “Please don’t call Amaranth stupid.” One agreement about the black list saying Amaranth would not mess with their relationship and Ian being the only male in Macks love life later they would tell Amaranth who gets upset and tells them everything.
      It’s kind of his own fault he let it get this far but after that first step things slipped out of his control.

      Current score: 5
      • Ilya says:

        Yea, he played himself, all this stuff about not fucking her as punishment was stupid.
        I wouldn’t really care to loose Ian specifically, but then he’ll need to be replaced by other male. Mack is bisexual and deserves straight sex also.

        Current score: 3
        • Trent Baker aka Zergonapal says:

          One, technically everything Mack has been doing isn’t straight if by definition straight is vaginal intercourse minus the kinky stuff.
          Two, she is getting some D from Steff who is technically male.

          Current score: 0
          • Zukira Phaera says:

            Sure, she comes with the equipment, but Steff definitely is a girl. Not a well adjusted one, but she is one. I don’t think many of us would consider the technicality enough to consider her as male.

            Current score: 7
          • Mickey Phoenix says:

            I wish to hell people would stop saying “technically male” as if it actually meant something. Gender, sex, whatever you want to call it, the M/F on the forms? It is *socially constructed*. It is a *made-up binary*. Don’t believe me? Look up “intergendered” and “XXY” and educate yourself. If someone is born with a penis and ovaries, are they “technically male” or “technically female”? If someone is born with no vagina and no penis, are they “technically neuter”? You’d have a hell of a time convincing the young lady in England recently, who didn’t find out she was born without a vagina until she was 18, who still dreams of finding a man who will love her and marrying him and living happily ever after, who has a clit and breasts and a female name and has always used “she” and “her” pronouns, that she is “technically neuter”.

            We are all made out of the same fetal tissue. Everyone starts out with the same cells, and every bit of differentiation is based on hormonal influences. Influences which select between ovaries and testes, which select between clit and penis, which select between “I am a boy” and “I am a girl” and “I am a birdplane”. Why would you privilege, not even one of those influences, but one specific organ that is the result of one of those influences, as being your definitive, “technical” gender discriminator?

            Steff is a girl. Steff was born with a penis. Steff was born with a girl brain. Steff has grown breasts on her chest. Is the possession of a penis so all-important to you that it determines Steff’s gender more than her *brain* does? If you got into an accident, and your penis was cut off, would you suddenly stop being “technically male”? What if that accident happened when you were two days old, being circumcised? What if it happened when you were a two-month fetus, due to some hormonal quirk in your prenatal environment? At what point would you stop being “technically male”?

            I’ve assumed, in the above, that you identify as male, by the way. That’s mostly because the only people I have ever personally met who are so obsessed with the possession of a penis that they insist on using it as the defining characteristic of maleness, are those who were born with them.

            I’m a cisgendered male. One of my lovers is female. One is female-bodied but finds feminine identities uncomfortable. One is a birdplane (“no I’m not a bird, no I’m not a plane, I’m a *birdplane*!!!”), and uses the pronoun “they”. Technically? Technically, they are a person who sometimes experiences their gender as masculine, and sometimes as feminine, and who identifies as a birdplane. Technically, they are someone who at some times in the past has had straight sex with me, and at some times in the past has had gay sex with me, with exactly the same physical body.

            There’s nothing “technical” about trying to define Steff’s gender by her possession of a native-grown penis. It’s just an attempt to impose your social construction of gender onto someone else.

            Please stop.

            Current score: 4
    • Mike says:

      Yeah, I like his character, but I always felt the relationship was a little forced. I mean, if it wasn’t for Amaranth forcing Mackenzie to suck him off way back when as a way of getting her ready for Steff, I don’t think this relationship would have ever happened. And honestly, the whole Glory thing seems kind of forced, just all of a sudden they’re talking about being together. But if AE made this happen just to get rid of Ian, then I hope both relationships go away, not necessarily the characters tho.

      Current score: 5
    • zeel says:

      I’ve really never been an Ian fan. Or more accurately, never been an Ian/Mackenzie fan. I think it was pointed out early on about Mackenzie being in love with the idea of a boyfriend, and not so much Ian himself. And despite her protestations to the contrary, I think that has always been true.
      A combination of that, and Mackenzie’s fear of rejection means that she has forced herself to belive she is in love with him. But they really don’t get along well, have anything in common, or really do much together. The realationship has been doomed from the beginning – I am supprised it lasted this long.

      Current score: 8
    • Archis says:

      “He’s just not someone that I’d invite around for drinks.”

      I think Ian is one of the few common characters in this story I actually would invite for drinks.

      Oh, don’t get me wrong, the other characters are without a doubt interesting, fun to read about, often more so than Ian is in fact. Would I actually want to hang out with them though? Gods no, no way I need that kind of drama in my life.

      Ian is more of an average Joe, a stabilizing factor in Mack’s life and that might not be as interesting as Steff’s necromantic hijinks, or the intrigues of the elves, or mermaids who want to eat you, but it makes him significant story-wise and, as I said, one of the few people in these tales I would actually consider befriending.

      This doesn’t exclude the possibility of writing him out of course, since whether or not you’d actually want to hang out with a fictional character in real life has little bearing on how enjoyable that character is in story, but in this case I personally think it would be a mistake.

      The more colorful characters might be fun to read about, but without a character like Ian to provide them with a foil and a counterbalance, the story would run a high risk of falling down the rabbit hole of just being a succession of wacky stuff happening without any sense of it being a cohesive tale.

      Ian is the balancing factor here, the one that usually grounds the story and pulls it back into the realm of the reasonable. As such I would indeed be sad to see him go. It also doesn’t help that Ian is basically the only major male character in the story, which makes removing him even more troublesome.

      Current score: 2
    • Sapphite says:

      I like the character, not the relationship start, or present. I do think for a time it benefited Mack’s ego to “have a boyfriend”, but otherwise it’s just been a safe submission outlet for Mack. I don’t consider her bisexual at all really.

      Current score: 0
    • Silvertongue says:

      I like Ian. He’s not perfect, but I find him interesting to read about. And I’d much rather have someone like him around than Amaranth.

      Current score: 2
    • Iain says:

      I like Ian.
      No particular reason why.

      Current score: 2
  4. P says:

    -“But what if… what if it turns out that we want different things, Ian?”

    “That’s why we can’t make promises.”-

    Now I’m sad. :/ I bet they do work it out eventually but that this story line will focus more on Glory.

    Also, Oni, I agree with you. Ian is the least interesting person in Mackenzie’s circle to me, not because he’s badly written but because of my preferences in a character. I honestly like reading about Glory a lot more. If Mackenzie ditched Ian in favor of Glory then I would enjoy it, although I don’t expect that happens nor do I think it necessarily should.

    Current score: 3
  5. D. D. Webb says:

    I both agree and disagree. The fact that Ian is less “interesting” than the rest of Mack’s little group is precisely why she needs him. Mack is neck deep in interesting that she’s shown herself not adept at dealing with gracefully.

    Current score: 7
    • P says:

      I say Ian is less interesting to me because he is further from being the kind of character I like to read about (or want to know in real life, like oni says) than the others, although AE’s writing is good enough that I still find myself getting invested in him. That doesn’t have anything to do with what Mackenzie needs and everything to do with my preferences in reading a fictional story, since I like reading about, say, Nicki and she has not brought any serious trouble into Mackenzie’s life.

      On the other hand we are getting posts like erratio’s (Ian wants Mackenzie to be more actively involved in his life) and Daemion’s (Ian seems irrelevant and tacked on as a character), so I wonder if AE feels that way too and this is going to be her trigger to get Ian more actively involved in the story long term. Maybe if Ian was then those of us who currently aren’t big on him will start to anticipate Ian more because his impact would be more pronounced in the story.

      Current score: 1
      • Order of Chaos says:

        Ian has always suffered from a lack of screen time when not center stage. In book one Two (with 172 chapters that include her to date, i.e. not just book one) was Macks room-mate and Steff (with 185 showings) was at least present for breakfast and combat classes but Ian (167) only got class time (where they couldn’t even sit together) and when the story called him in.
        Numbers come from the Characters list on the left of the main page so include “other tales” ect.
        For context Mack has 547, Amaranth has 253 Dee has 103, Trina, The Man, Some Sort Of Ridiculous Owl Turtle Thing and Mariel all have 13 leaving them 1 below Iona who is unlikely to gain more.

        Current score: 5
  6. erratio says:

    It sounds a little like what he wants is for her to want to be around him more proactively. Not passively at meals, not just when he specifically asks because he wants to fuck her, but to actively choose to pay more attention to him and his feelings. Poor guy :\ I don’t think he’s going to get it, because while Mack’s been improving a lot in the self-centredness department, she’s not actually there yet.

    Current score: 10
    • Seth says:

      The thing is that he’s going about it completely the wrong way.

      He lacks self-motivation. He’s waiting for Mack to make a decision in a relationship where he is supposed to be a dominant partner. Instead of simply telling Mack what he wants, and then taking steps to make it happen, he complains and leverages on guilt.

      He strikes me as that special kind of whiny passive aggressive that makes my skin crawl.

      Current score: 4
      • Trent Baker aka Zergonapal says:

        I think Seth has nailed it, Ian is not a very assertive person. But I doubt that being in more control of Mack’s life is the answer. In fact I think Mack is growing out of her sub phase. She might enjoy pain and being a sub in the bedroom, but outside the bedroom she is being much more assertive much like how some private and public life of power brokers are portrayed in fiction.

        Current score: 3
        • Zukira Phaera says:

          Think you also nailed it.

          Also, Ian’s not grown out of his own submissiveness which is ingrained because of his upbringing and his relationship with his father. He’s the way he is for a reason after all. Mack’s starting to grow out of her childhood baggage a bit. Ian is still wearing most of the stuff he came to college packed with.

          Current score: 5
          • pedestrian says:

            ZP, you said what I was thinking and you said it better.

            Current score: 0
          • Seth says:

            I suppose that’s right. It comes down to that Ian has a High School attitude of entitlement, and still has some growing up to do.

            On a side-note, I consider it a mark of excellent writing to make people hate a character in such a specific way. 😉

            Current score: 3
      • Cadnawes says:

        A lot of people are sexual dominants who are not rest-of-the-time dominants. He’s decidedly one of them, and probably isn’t comfortable just outright saying “I’m in charge and this is what I want.” He seems to be working on that. If he were more dominant in life, he would be a bardic major by now and told his father to fuck off. Ironically, his fear of becoming his father stops him from doing that. I don’t think Ian knows deep in his soul yet that dominant =/= asshole. Mackenzie has a bit of a built in asshole tolerance, so I’m not sure she can help him with that.

        Current score: 5
  7. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    “Both that * feel that way, and that you apologized.”

    Missing “you” before “feel”.

    Something in his voice in the the “or not” cut me open right to the bone.

    Double “the”.

    “I don’t know, he said.

    Missing closing quotes after “know,”.

    Current score: 0
  8. Mack says:

    I very solidly do not like Ian as a person. It is actually worse because he is well written. Wasn’t his dad abusive? He has anger and entitlement problems, is whiny and sullen and bad at articulating his wants and needs in a timely fashion. It feels like he is barely contained from being abusive, physically, and his snarky passive aggressive remarks don’t help anyone.

    I’ve found him upsetting to read about from the beginning. I’m glad he has finally found the maturity to articulate the need for this break. And I really like Glory, though I’d rather Mack not mess up her business relationship.

    This chapter reminded me so much of some conversations I had recently that it sort of felt pointless for me to read it. Also sad, because my relationship is actually over, and not because of some exciting new person. Same feel of conversation, but none of the same problems. Yay anger and snark!

    Current score: 3
    • adsipowe says:

      I know what you mean. I’ve rather hated Mack as a person on multiple occasions for long stretches of this story at a time and shes even the main character. XP

      Current score: 1
      • adsipowe says:

        but yeah, he seems pretty decent here. i forgot to say that bit

        Current score: 3
  9. j-bronie says:

    little known fact. the trail of tears is also known as the walk of shame. wikipedia that shit bro

    Current score: 0
  10. John Neisser says:

    I think Mac needs to stay with Ian and yes Ian needs to be a bit more into Mac’s life. This thing with Glory will run it’s course as elves are distracted easy. She will move to some thing new and if Mac loses Ian over this it will be a shame. Now do I think she was right in letting it happen no and Ian has a right to be angry.

    Current score: 0
  11. Spartakos says:

    I like Ian…he has problems, but so do all the characters, and he actually strikes me as the one who’s most self-aware about his problems.

    Current score: 4
    • Order of Chaos says:

      Steff is aware of her problems. Ian handles his better and is trying to get over them.

      Current score: 6
    • Zukira Phaera says:

      That’s about what I was going to say as well.

      He isn’t my favorite, but I would definitely miss him.

      As for his problems and being self-aware, I wonder if he isn’t perhaps so self aware that he’s overly conflicted by them and stuck in a loop.

      I just hope he doesn’t get angry over anything that happens during said break, as if it had happened while the relationship was ‘on’.

      Current score: 2
  12. Daemion says:

    I am not Ian’s greatest fan, I can admit to that. Not because he is less exciting than other characters or “just human” but because he’s an 18 (19?) year old college student. He reminds me too much of young, stupid me. Only he gets laid way more often. 😉
    It’s not Ian’s fault, we all go through this phase. For some it takes years, some start earlier, some go through it more quickly. His family background isn’t an excuse but it is an explanation.

    I didn’t like how their relationship started, with Amaranth meddling the entire time and the emphasis on sex. Relationships like that usually don’t last once the initial lust and physical attraction diminish because that alone isn’t enough.
    Ian becoming Mack’s rock helped but they are still not there. They need to work out what they mean to each other, what they can do for each other, what they can share and so on.

    And here’s the problem with poly relationships: Even if you love everyone equally, you can’t spend equally much time with everyone. Different interests mean different schedules and you can’t sit half an hour on the couch next to A just because you sit next to B for half an hour every day while you drive to work together. What needs to be understood is that it is about needs being fulfilled, not about books being balanced.

    Ian seems to understand that. Or is beginning to understand that. He’s correct though… Mack didn’t really spend time with just him lately and he feels left out. He’s also correct in realizing that fucking Mack isn’t the same as spending time with her.

    Taking a break is a good idea, just the timing is kind of bad.
    Perhaps, in the long run, it will be better if Ian and Mack just stay friends (with benefits) if they find out they have not enough in common. It might make things easier in the future, once their different lifespans become more apparent.

    I think the reader’s dislike of Ian doesn’t stem from his character (well, maybe a little, he can be quite annoying) but because (to me) he always felt tacked on. Mack discovers she’s lesbian and then gets a boyfriend? I mean sure, we wouldn’t get much of a view of male campus life without Ian but outside of one class and later the minituare game his life didn’t overlap with Mack’s at all. Amy forcing them together (because that’s what she did) was a mistake. They might have ended up together, they might have become just friends or they might have spoken in class and then not seen each other again except in passing by on campus.

    Ian is becoming more mature and yeah… boys are usually slower with that than girls, so I’m not surprised it took him so long. He’s making the right decision though.

    Honestly, Mack should feel worse about her actions last night. She’s in a relationship with three people whose feelings got hurt when she got fucked by Glory. “It just happened” is the worst excuse ever. She has a responsibility towards her partners and if she can’t even muster the willpower to think of them before screwing someone else, then she really needs to sit down and think hard about her lovelife. “Amaranth would not mind” is a rationalisation. Mack knows that Amy is special in that way and she also knows that Amy’s view of sex is usually not relationship material. Ian and Steff mind. A lot. Mack knew that from the beginning and she still didn’t say stop when she could have.

    Glory is not to blame, she never made a move without checking for consent first. She’s not responsible for Mack’s relationship with others and while it might have been a good idea not to initiate anything to avoid drama, she probably realized that drama was going to happen anyway sometime in the future and this way she at least got to have fun first.

    Relationships are work. They don’t function without at least some effort. And Mack was slacking off. In a way, so was Ian. He gave her room because she has other relationships and more demands on her time and unusual circumstances but that also means he removed himself from the picture. Mack calls him her rock but in the end, how often did she think of calling him first when she needed help? This is why Ian felt tacked on to me. He just tagged along, he was just there but didn’t really change how things played out much. Anything he did or said could have easily be said by Steff and in quite a few cases, were.

    I really don’t see a reason why they should stay together. Ian can be the voice of reason sometimes but that’s not enough. He doesn’t have to be a lover to do that.
    But perhaps they will finally sit down and think about what they want and need. And maybe they will find they have enough in common to make this work. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    P.S. I wouldn’t mind if the story focus shifted back a bit to the fantasy/adventure parts. Aquiring social and business skills is neat, but it’s not exactly the kind of level up that is exciting.

    P.P.S. Holy wall of text. Sorry for that. Oo

    Current score: 19
    • Rey d'Tutto says:

      tl:dr

      Current score: 3
      • zeel says:

        In a world where even the most absurd profanities and slurs are common place and have lost their meaning, I can’t really think of a more offensive sentiment than “tl;dr”. It’s fine if it was too long to read, then don’t. But the audacity to skip the post and comment on it with that information is incredible.

        Now considering the second P.S. I understand you may have said this in jest. So I’m just going to assume you did. lol.

        Current score: 11
        • Daemion says:

          Thank you.

          In a world where people think Twitter is a tool to communicate I am no longer surprised that many people simply don’t have the patience to read long texts anymore. It is surprising to find them here though.

          Current score: 2
        • Mickey Phoenix says:

          A friend of mine once heard me singing, and said “Don’t quit your day job.” This was more than five years ago, and I’m still working on forgiving him. Because it still hurts. Far, far more than if he had said, “Please stop singing,” or even, “I’m sorry–I really don’t like your voice.” Because it was dismissive. He couldn’t even be bothered to criticize my singing in his own words.

          Current score: 0
    • Brenda A. says:

      “Glory is not to blame, she never made a move without checking for consent first.”

      I don’t think Mack was in any condition to provide consent. She was recovering from a physical and mental trauma. A magical version of a major concussion. Glory might not have thought she was doing anything wrong, but she took advantage here. Even if Mack doesn’t recognize it.

      Current score: 3
      • zeel says:

        I really don’t think so, she asked for and was given clear consent. Plus magical exhaustion isn’t like normal exhaustion, nor like a concussion. Mackenzie’s judgement was effected by only one thing: lust.

        Current score: 4
        • Brenda A. says:

          Seriously? She could barely move. She was recovering from a serious energy drain, which we know from previous events has a severe physical, mental, and emotional toll. It was totally inappropriate. Glory knew Mack needed to rest and recover, because they all just spent a whole chapter talking about it, and then she went ahead anyway.

          Current score: 2
          • Daemion says:

            It was at least mutual. Glory isn’t responsible for Mack’s decisions, she would have backed up immediately if Mack had said no.
            Mack may have been exhausted and not able to move much on her own but she had at least enough power left to say no. And to think. She didn’t and so they fucked.

            Current score: 0
            • Daemion says:

              Narf, stupid typo.

              *backed off … not up. ~justadminthings~

              Current score: 0
      • Mickey Phoenix says:

        I learned more than a decade ago (by the usual strategy, I.e. “fucking it up”) that I needed to consider myself responsible for safeguarding not only my own consent and my partner’s consent, but also my future self’s regret and my partner’s future self’s regret. Not only my own promises, but my partner’s promises.

        Glory, for all that she is chronologically almost 100, is still maturationally a teenager. She hasn’t learned this yet. Hopefully, she will find that she cares enough about Mack’s feelings in this situation that she will take this opportunity to learn it.

        Current score: 0
    • Trent Baker aka Zergonapal says:

      Can we get some cliff notes 😛

      Current score: 0
    • q says:

      P.S. I wouldn’t mind if the story focus shifted back a bit to the fantasy/adventure parts. Aquiring social and business skills is neat, but it’s not exactly the kind of level up that is exciting.

      qft

      Current score: 0
      • Daemion says:

        I’ve read this story since the first 10 chapters or so were online. It changed quite a lot since then and one change was the pacing. I mean, a lot more time passes now in the story but the characters just don’t do so much anymore. Back in the day (*leans on obligatory cane and squints at the audience*) we needed quite a few chapters just to cover one day. And somehow, it felt exciting.

        While magic theory, business lessons and relationship discussions are neat the problems Mack has with them don’t feel quite as dramatic as risking enslavement, risking her future or the struggle to find a source for virgin blood she could afford.

        It’s still an interesting story, otherwise I wouldn’t be reading it. But the days when I cheered for a protagonist are gone and I wish we could go back to them somehow.

        Current score: 0
    • not her, the other girl says:

      The breakdown of the wall’o text (and skipping over some):

      Ian is still just a 19 year old guy. He’s grown some, but his relationship with Mack started off as being mainly physical and hasn’t really expanded beyond that. Now that Ian is growing as a person, he’s starting to realize that the relationship he has with Mack isn’t the one he wants for himself – but he hasn’t grown enough to assertively say “Hey, I need you to be the one asking me out sometimes”.

      As for Mack, saying that “Amaranth wouldn’t mind” is basically saying that Ian and Steff would (and rightly so). She’s not being a good partner to her current three partners by acting first and thinking second (or third or fourth at best).

      ————-

      I think Ian and Mack will be really good friends for each other (and possibly friends with benefits), but as a couple it won’t work long term, not as they are now. I’m also really curious about Steff’s reaction to this, especially given her current post-Victor depression and elf-related baggage. Since a day and a half has passed I don’t know if she would’ve found out via breakfast/lunch or not.

      Current score: 1
  13. Barnowl says:

    It’s first year college relationships. The angst is obligatory. Mack just has them concurrently rather than consequetively, like most people. The only relationship that I ever saw any depth in is Amaranth. And even that…there may come a day when Mack doesn’t need a mother figure anymore.

    Current score: 6
    • zeel says:

      Totally agree on Amaranth, their relationship will probably evolve into something else down the line.

      Current score: 2
  14. tijay says:

    Ian is one of my favourite characters (I seem yo be in the minority there) and frankly I think he deserves to fell the way he does

    Current score: 8
    • Order of Chaos says:

      Ian’s like Marmite. Some find him too bland while others like the subtle flavor and relatable nature. OK Ian is nothing like Marmite (except for where he is) but he’s not alone in the love it or hate it department.
      In book 1 Amaranth could start a flame war between Amaranth is what people mean when they say “with the best will in the world” so everyone who dislikes her is a bad person and Amaranth puts her ego first every time and does not learn from her mistakes.
      Also Steff.

      Current score: 3
    • zeel says:

      I don’t dissagree that he is justified in feeling that way. Honestly I think his big problem is that he really isn’t nor ever has been comfortable with the polyamory. It’s not a fault, he just needs to understand that the relationship he has is not a good fit and end it. It’s not something wrong with him as a person or a charecter.

      Current score: 5
    • Order of Chaos says:

      I don’t think we’re that much of a Minority when you look at the likes for straight up I like/dislike posts. Allowing for time to gain clicks we might have numbers on our side but a lot of people feel his and Macks relationship needs to change in some way.

      Current score: 3
    • q says:

      yeah. +1 Mine is Celia(and Two and Dee), but she went away long ago. Of the lovers Ian seems like one of the good ones

      Current score: 0
  15. Zathras IX says:

    For what it may be
    Worth, it’s seldom worth it
    No matter its worth

    Current score: 5
  16. zeel says:

    Looks like Volume.1 is going to be six omnibus’ (plural?) long. Almost there, I can’t wait for the individual books.

    Current score: 0
    • Mike says:

      Yeah, I have the first 5 from Lulu.com and really wish everything else would go there. I just love the feel of a book in my hands, you know? Plus it’s easier tot ake them some places than a laptop.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        I just want the commentary. Kindle store for me since I use a tablet.

        Current score: 0
  17. JerK says:

    For me it’s simple. If you have a passive aggressive person in your life then ditch them. They’re not worth the headache. re: Ian

    Current score: 2
    • Order of Chaos says:

      That’s the best of the anti-Ian arguments I’ve seen. I still hope he comes back but that flaw could use work.
      Come to think of it a lot of the relationship problems in MU stem from the way people communicate, if Amaranth had explained the penis thing to Steff of Mack it would have been fixed, neither Mack nor Ian gave Amaranth any negative feed back about their relationship so all she could go on was her lust-o-meter, if no one took the time to learn how to talk to Two she would not be much of a character where as Steff for all her faults at least knew how to communicate most of the time.

      Current score: 2
      • zeel says:

        True, communicating poorly is one of Amaranth, Mackenzie, and Ian’s biggest faults. Mackenzie because she didn’t know how to have relationships, Amaranth because of her many personality quirks, and Ian because he’s argumentative and bad at understanding his own feeling.

        Current score: 5
  18. Burnsidhe says:

    The difficulty I have with Ian is that, basically, their relationship was forced.

    Amaranth sensed that Mack loved being dominated and having rough sex, and she sensed that Ian needed a woman to dominate that he could safely be rough with.

    That’s the basis of their relationship. They fill *a* need for each other, but apart from that, they really don’t share other interests.

    Current score: 7
    • Order of Chaos says:

      Amaranth hadn’t even met Ian when she started pushing them together.

      Current score: 2
      • q says:

        hated amaranth from those chapters. imo she had a real molesty vibe going for awhile and early ian was one of the clearest examples. find a random dude and blow him. ian asks “do you want to?” gets “doesn’t mater, she told me to” didn’t fit the rest of their dominance thing and at the time psychologically mac felt like a minor. i donno kinda squick

        Current score: 2
        • Order of Chaos says:

          Lots of the stuff early Amaranth did put me on edge.

          Current score: 1
          • Daemion says:

            I never liked Amaranth’s take on dominance because she clearly skipped several important chapters in the manual and tried to have a D/s relationship without having any actual experience with it.

            We were shown that some of those things were wrong and didn’t work (thank you, Coach) but they are still naively holding on to some ideas that will hurt them in the long run.

            For a couple that loves spending time together in a library or on the ethernet, they really should do more research.

            There are many things that annoy and upset me but the worst is this: As a dom/me you do not use your power to force your opinions, world view, religion, morals etc on your sub. You do not abuse D/s to have the last word in an argument or to “win” it. Being dominant doesn’t make you perfect or infallible. Mack was overruled by Amaranth several times because “I know what’s best for you, baby.”

            Making Mackenzie dress sexy and go on a date with Ian, then tell her Amy would be pleased if she fucked Ian… sorry, that’s just creepy and wrong. Not to mention way too rushed and not really in Mack’s best interest.

            My position on D/s is that as long as it works for the couple, outsiders don’t get to say it is “not right”. But in this case? Where both participants are fucking up left and right? Yeah. I think some education from an outside source would benefit both of them.

            Current score: 5
            • Order of Chaos says:

              To be fair to Amaranth it was Steff who said Amy would be pleased if she fucked or blow jobbed Ian and she caught herself.
              Now that’s been said that whole shopping trip was wrong. Amaranth had no business assuming she could order Mack to spend money and should have stopped when Mack told her she wasn’t comfortable trying on jeans without underwear (less than 24 hours after telling her “If an order from either of us is too far past your comfort level, you are ordered to say, clearly and distinctly, that this is the case.”) or got her some underwear from the shop they were in.

              Current score: 2
    • Mickey Phoenix says:

      Burnsidhe: yes, *exactly*.

      Current score: 0
  19. tijay says:

    Ian isn’t passive aggressive though.

    He’s snarky, but that’s just his character [I]and[/I] his relationship with Mackenzie

    They’ve both found their rhythm in this relationship

    Him and Mackenzie have more arguments over the semantics of an argument than they do arguments. They know that

    What I am annoyed about is that it looks like Erin is shoehorning in this relationship
    It feels flat

    Current score: 1
  20. Readaholic says:

    Some great comments offering insight into Ian and Mack’s relationship. It seems that Mack needs to spend more time being Ian’s friend, ie simply spending more time with him doing stuff that’s centred on stuff he likes. Basically, improved scheduling and prioritizing.

    Current score: 2
  21. Tapestry says:

    I hate to say it, but as soon as Ian “Nodded”, I’ve taken my own break. I recently became “single” because of lack of communication and misinterpreted futures… I spent the last 10 years single because I was tired of bullshit. I’m a male looking for a female, but in Ian’s place, I cannot fathom the fact he didn’t see this becoming an issue! He’s not compatible with poly amour. This wasn’t my issue but, Mack seems to have not seen his ability to “deal”.

    Current score: 0
  22. Tapestry says:

    If I was Mack, I would say, “This is me. This is how it is. It’s how I am. If you any deal with it, maybe we aren’t meant to be. It was fun. Good luck.”

    Current score: 0
  23. fedback says:

    Shit….i teared up

    Also es Vera inmortal¿¿

    Current score: 0