Chapter 28: Clear And Present Assent

on September 5, 2011 in Volume 2 Book 2: The Trouble With Twyla, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which There Is Much Hand-Holding

There was no mass rush of suggestions for next class’s subject. I wondered if anyone was considering Professor Hart’s somewhat barbed offer of racial politics as a topic… if so, no one was brave enough to say so yet.

“If we’re talking about things that shaped the modern world, why not the Shift itself?” someone said into the silence. “There’s the effect it’s had on geography, climate, biology… and then there are the geopolitical implications, with the Chaos Wars and everything that came after.”

“And before,” Hart said. “Could definitely be an interesting topic. You’re probably part of the last generation that got to hear about the Chaos Wars as a current event in elementary school, with the Horde Alliance falling apart in 215. I don’t know what kind of coverage you got of it in high school… at a guess, there was probably some confusion about what the curriculum should focus on after that.”

“Of course, history has ever been confused when it comes to the shifting lands of the Khazarus,” Fenwick said. “Happily, there is plenty of lore on the subject of the region’s peculiar properties and its origins.”

“So, what do you say?” Hart said.

There seemed to be some general agreement on the subject, and with no other ideas forthcoming, it was officially set as the subject for next week’s class.

I didn’t really have an opinion on it… or rather, I had multiple conflicting ones. It was bound to be a pretty interesting topic, especially as it was one where the “official history” had always been shaded in a very obvious way… Professor Hart had shown his frustration with and disdain for the sanitized and propagandized stories of the Imperial Republic’s founding in the class he taught on the subject. I imagined he would have similarly strong thoughts about this subject.

But I had a feeling that the discussion was going to focus specifically on the Chaos Wars, as that was the major point of reference most people had for the Shift. Or it would focus on Leda, the doomed princess from the petty kingdom of Mariinsky Lake whose murder had set off the whole chain of events last year that had ended with my face-to-face with our resident greater dragon.

It wasn’t that I wanted to veto any topic that could somehow tie back to that. I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to. But with a memorial to Leda replacing the fountain where she’d died, it was already hard enough to escape her ghost. The fact that there were now dining options on campus that didn’t involve going to the student union had made it easier for me to avoid having to look her ghostly image in the eye, at least.

Leda wasn’t even the main reason I felt conflicted about the subject, anyway… that was my grandmother. She had apparently actually fought in some of the Chaos Wars, during her younger days. During the early part of my first year at MU, I’d found myself thrust into the public eye and the connection had been screamed all over the campus newspaper at one point. Did anybody know, care, or remember? I didn’t really know and wasn’t too keen on finding out, but it didn’t seem beyond the scope of reason that I might find a bunch of eyes on me and a bunch of people expecting me to come armed with anecdotes about the infamous Brimstone Blaise.

If that happened, I would have to disappoint them… I hadn’t even known my grandmother was a paladin, much less one with a history, until I read it in the paper myself.

But I hadn’t had any better ideas to suggest, and my reasons for disapproval weren’t really relevant to anyone else so I’d just have to get through it. It was one day in class, an hour and a half of my time… even if it ended up being all about things that made me uncomfortable, it would hardly be the worst thing I ever suffered through.

I found Ian waiting for me on the path outside the history building… or maybe it would be more accurate to say that he found me. He was looking for me, while I was looking at nothing in particular… the ground in front of me, mostly.

Making real friends… including multiple lovers… and getting over a double load of shame hadn’t broken me of the habit of keeping my eyes cast downward a lot of the time. Maybe it was just too deeply ingrained. Maybe it had always had more to do with general introversion than with all my negative feelings about myself.

That was one thing that had been a little disappointing at first: a shy, introverted person full of hang-ups and self-doubt can get over any number of those hang-ups and self-doubt and still be shy and introverted. It had been kind of depressing to realize I would never reach the magical tipping point where all the experiences I’d had would accumulate to the point where I could somehow take things to the next level and become like those, confident, assertive, and bubbly people I’d always found so intimidating and alluring.

I’d come to understand that they were just in a class than I was, and that the next level of me was still me… better and stronger, but not transfigured beyond the point of all recognition.

Also, it became less depressing when I realized that meant there were introverts who loved themselves and who had probably done so every day of their lives. It was a little late for me to get in on the ground floor with that, but it wasn’t too late for me to start.

“What’s up?” I said after he gave me a kiss on the cheek.

“I just wanted to see you,” he said.

“I figured, that’s why I asked you what’s up,” I said.

He had a way of managing to catch me like that when he had something on his mind, or wanted to see me away from the others. Our social circle wasn’t large, but it was sort of dense… that is to say, tightly interconnected.

“Nothing, really… but do you realize we’ve only spent the night together once since we got back?” Ian sad. “Well, since I left, I mean. I made peace with the idea of sharing you a while ago, but intrinsic in the idea of sharing is the part where we, you know, share.”

“Well, it has been less than a week,” I said. “I mean, not that twice a week would be too much… but I kind of got used to being on my own over the summer. Not that I haven’t missed you, or sex… but I kind of had to learn how to miss those things. Didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I had a pretty full summer… I guess you did, too. But summer’s over, we’re together again… unless when you say that you learned how to miss me, you mean you’re over me.”

“Definitely not,” I said. “And you know. you’re welcome to come over any time.”

“It helps when you actually say that,” Ian said. He sighed. “It was simpler when you were rooming with Two.”

“Seriously?” I said.

“Yeah, seriously.”

“How did having an asexual roommate who’s been sexually traumatized make things simpler than having my girlfriend who’s a nymph there?”

“With Two, I knew where I stood,” Ian said. “The default status was that your room was off-limits for sex. Any time it wasn’t, it wasn’t because of anything I did… and since sex was off the table, that meant I could just pile in the bed with you and Amaranth without worrying about butting in, so to speak.”

“You know Amaranth’s philosophy is the more the merrier,” I said.

“That’s not necessarily my philosophy, though,” he said.

“And here I thought your favorite part of sharing was the part where you shared,” I said.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” he said. “And I also don’t mean to say that I don’t like it when Amaranth is there. But… things haven’t exactly been working out the way I expected them to, with the new living arrangements. Now that we don’t have to worry about crossing the campus grounds to see each other, I thought it would be basically like living together. And when I saw the bed Amaranth brought in to replace the bunk beds… well, there were some nice points to piling three to a dorm bed last year, but it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if you weren’t tiny and invulnerable.”

“So come over,” I said. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

“I don’t want it to be a big one, but I do think there needs to be a deal,” Ian said. “You know, an understanding.”

“Do we really need to thresh out boundaries again?” I said. “We’ve been dating for almost a year now.”

“We have boundaries,” Ian said. “What I’m talking about is clearly marking the border crossings and putting up big signs about the rules and requirements.”

“Me saying ‘come on over’ isn’t clear enough?”

“Well, it’s not your room… entirely, I mean,” he said.

“You think of it as Amaranth’s room,” I realized.

“No! Okay… sort of,” he said.

“Well, I guess it is sort of more hers in my head, too,” I said. “But I have the right to be there, and that means you do, too.”

“The night I arrived, when it was still the standard dorm furnishings and the awful bunk beds I wasn’t thinking of her at all. Since then? Well, she did kind of make herself at home… I mean, I know her intention was probably to make the place more comfortable for everyone, but I feel less like I’m visiting my girlfriend in her dorm room and more like I’m visiting her in a very small house where she’s crashing. It kind of multiplies with the ‘ownership’ dynamic you two have to add up to an extra layer of awkwardness.”

“Why would it be adding up to something if it’s multiplying?”

“You always seem to pick apart my metaphors when you want to argue but can’t,” Ian said, shaking his head.

“Well, I can’t argue that it’s not awkward if you think it’s awkward, but I just don’t see why it has to be,” I said. “College is the only place she’s ever lived indoors… back in Paradise Valley, she lives in a field that is technically part of herself. It’s only natural that she’d want to put some of herself into her environment here, too. Anyway, would it make a difference to your mental perception if I told you that I don’t feel like I’m just crashing? It’s her room, but I feel like I… well… belong there.”

“Yeah, in multiple senses of the word,” Ian said.

“All of them good,” I said. “I’m comfortable there, and I’d like for you to be, too. Anyway, this doesn’t have to be all hairy and complicated… Amaranth isn’t going to spend every night with me. She sees it as her nymphly duty to get out and… mingle.”

“True,” he said. “But it’s something we should talk about.”

“Then why aren’t you talking about it with her?”

“I’m not not talking about it with her,” he said. “I just wanted to tell you first, so I’m not talking to your girlfriend behind your back, hashing out… sexual access schedules.”

“Oh,” I said. That honestly took me by surprise. Amaranth could be so very matter-of-fact about that sort of thing, and while I’d never forgotten how to blush I was past the point of being more than physiologically embarrassed about anything having to do with sex.

“What?” Ian said.

“You’re not some stranger Amaranth is pimping me out to,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “That’s why I don’t want to act like one.”

I took his hands… both of them… and then immediately felt awkward. Before I did it, it had seemed like it would be a really touching and reassuring gesture. Right after, it felt like something someone would do in a book or movie just to sell a moment, and I had his hands in mine and no idea what to actually do with them. So I just ignored them and hoped the moment felt really touching to him.

“So act like you’re my boyfriend,” I said. “Act like you’re entitled to come around and sleep with me.”

“No one’s entitled to…”

You are entitled because I say you’re entitled,” I said. “Just like Amaranth is the boss of me because I say she’s the boss of me, and you can slap me around a little and call me… things… if it gets you hot because I say you can.”

“When you put it like that, I’m actually less sure that those things are okay,” Ian said.

“Why? Because I’m being blunt about it?” I asked. “It’s blunt but true. I mean, you can’t go around sticking your dick into random girls but you can do it with me. What makes it different? Consent… nothing more. It’s like an alchemical process for converting assault into mutual pleasure.”

“Okay, granted,” Ian said. “But we’ve been away for months… I think it’s worth, you know, checking in. Consent is nice and all, but if it’s passive it’s kind of invisible and you never know if it’s actually lurking around or if it got bored and wandered off during the summer. I don’t just want consent, Mackenzie… I want assent, clear and unambiguous. I can’t do… the kinds of things we’re into… if I’m not one-hundred-percent sure you’re into it.”

“And me telling you clearly and unambiguously that you can come over and rock my material plane any time you want to isn’t clear or unambiguous enough?” I asked.

“It’s at least a good start,” he said. “But I still need to talk to Amaranth… being a nymph doesn’t mean she’s not entitled to her space, and I can’t just come in and use it without checking with her. And don’t ask me why I’m talking to you. I told you.”

“So why are we still talking about it?”

“Um… because we haven’t stopped yet,” he said. “And also, you’re still holding my hands.”

“It’s kind of awkward, isn’t it?” I admitted.

“A little,” he said. “I feel like you’re about to tell me that my mom died, or I’m cursed, or something.”

“I was worried you’d feel like you were in a movie.”

“I do,” he said. “A movie where someone’s about to tell me bad news.”

I let go of his hands. He took my hand… one of them… and then we headed off towards lunch.

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32 Responses to “Chapter 28: Clear And Present Assent”

  1. Short chapter, but hopefully “short and sweet”. I’m trying to shift gears here from posting bigger chapters every once in a while (it’s not always so much that they take longer to write because they’re big… they also end up bigger because they take longer to write) back to more regular updates. I’ve said for a long time that I’m going to be varying chapter length more according to the needs of the story, but I have a hard time convincing myself that ~2,000 word chapters are “worth it”.

    Anyway, enjoy! And check back here Wednesday night.

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    • Ducky says:

      ~2000 word chapters are totally worth it. Thanks!

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    • Rin says:

      Yes, it’s worth it. Even if it were just 200 words, if they are the right words, it would be worth it.

      I once read a book (the title of which I regrettable forgot) which consisted of just 20 or so one to one-and-a-half page long chapters, no more than 25 pages in total. The author of said book was so good in saying everything that needed to be said in those few pages however, that by the end he’d told a more complete and compelling story in those 25 pages than many books manage to do in 250, or even more.

      Quantity is not what matters.

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  2. 3023ogilvyd says:

    “I’d come to understand that they were just in a class than I was…” might have a word missing.

    Also, the bit about alchemically tranforming assault into mutual pleasure. That one’s pure gold. Not sure how much lead that used, mind.

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    • Lunaroki says:

      Typo Report

      Yep. Was gonna mention that one myself. Missing something right before “class”, quite possibly “different”.

      “And you know. you’re welcome to come over any time.”

      The period after “know” either needs to be a comma or should be removed entirely. Or maybe the Y on “you’re” should be capitalized to properly start the sentence.

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      • fka_luddite says:

        Or tye period could be made into an ellipsis.

        Although a comma is the most likely intent; comma is an adjacent on the qwerty keyboard after all.

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  3. Iason says:

    Short and sweet is very accurate. I enjoy both kind of chapters and I don’t really mind wating for a chapter like the last one.
    As always thank you for writing.

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  4. Zathras IX says:

    Featuring hardcore
    Elven-style uncensored more
    Mature hand-holding

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  5. Zergonapal says:

    “You always seem to pick apart my metaphors when you want to argue but can’t,” Ian said, shaking his head.
    I had to laugh, I realized Mack is always doing that.
    Also, suddenly Mack is starting to sound like Mur Lafferty to me.

    Current score: 1
  6. Meeks says:

    a shy, introverted person full of hang-ups and self-doubt can get over any number of those hang-ups and self-doubt and still be shy and introverted.

    An introvert is not just a defective extrovert, and I’m glad Mackenzie is finally starting to realize it 🙂

    I also liked the conversation between Ian and Mack. It was cute, and the awkwardness of trying to communicate was very relatable.

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  7. readaholic says:

    Awww. The awkward cuteness is, well, cute. 🙂 A delicious sweet morsel of MU. Nom nom nom.

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  8. Burnsidhe says:

    I like this a lot. 🙂

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  9. Ermarian says:

    Horde Alliance

    Heh, I don’t even play World of Warcraft and still get the reference. 😛

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  10. Ariel says:

    “I mean, you can’t go around sticking your dick into random girls but you can do it with me. What makes it different? Consent… nothing more. It’s like an alchemical process for converting assault into mutual pleasure.” – My new favorite Quote 😀

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  11. Ky says:

    Aw, yay! loved this one, and excited for more of a view of ian and mackenzie’s interactions 🙂

    Also, that website problem is finally gone now 🙂

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  12. Aalten says:

    “You always seem to pick apart my metaphors when you want to argue but can’t,” Ian said, shaking his head.

    Mackenzie isn’t the only one growing as a person. Last year he would have gotten angry over these things, now he’s pointing out what she’s doing.

    Woooh! Character growth!

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  13. Kaila says:

    This was adorable. It’s wonderful to see them talking without either of them losing their cool. Occasionally awkward, sure – but hey, it is them we’re talking about.


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  14. anon y mouse says:

    “I’d come to understand that they were just in a class than I was, and that the next level of me was still me… better and stronger, but not transfigured beyond the point of all recognition.” – are they in a different class than her, or in a class that she wasn’t in, or something else?

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  15. Dashel says:

    Just for the record folks, the Horde thing is not unique to fucking Warcraft.

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    • I hate the way things sometimes take over the popular perception like that (see: Supernatural and any references to salt or crossroads), but when “Horde” and “Alliance” are put together that’s not just one common word, that’s two specific ones that share a context. Yes, it was a Warcraft reference. I don’t play it, either, but it’s an inescapable part of the same milieu as Dungeons & Dragons so it’s going to get references.

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      • Zergonapal says:

        heh, maybe you could break out the Thesaurus 🙂

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  16. Tomo says:

    I’d come to understand that they were just in a class than I was,

    supposed to be a “different class”?

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  17. Brenda says:

    Is it just me, or is the Twitter feed not showing up on the main ToMU page?

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    • It shows for me. Could you please tell me your browser and operating system?

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      • Brenda says:

        Internet Explorer. I just updated it recently, and the Twitterbox has always shown up before.

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        • Do you have any ad-blocking software/plugins? That’s the only thing I can think of.

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          • Brenda says:

            It’s showing up now, at least on this computer. I’ll have to see if it’s working on the other computer.

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  18. Kalistri says:

    Hey, nice chapter. I also came here to pass on this link that I thought you might be interested in. I discovered these guys by way of the Melbourne Writer’s Festival.

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  19. Barnowl says:

    could be a double entendre

    “I just wanted to see you,” he said.

    “I figured, that’s why I asked you what’s up,” I said.

    that’s where my mind went anyway lol 😉

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  20. maybe you will tell me who is really original author of this text? if you are the author i got to say you have got good taste

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