403: Coming Clean

on August 14, 2009 in Book 14

In Which Mackenzie Gets Her Piercings Off Her Chest

The pain and pleasure might have been indistinguishable in the moment, but unfortunately they didn’t both leave at the same time when the moment ended.

Once the rush faded, my whole body felt like one big bruise… with other, bigger bruises dotting its surface like islands of pain on a sea of soreness. I sank down onto the rug, getting a mouse’s eye view of empty cans, dirty socks, and pairs of boxer shorts under Ian’s bed.

Everything hurt. Well, almost everything… it seemed Ian had avoided my chest. The cold weight of my piercings stood out weirdly among the other sensations.

“You… you okay?” Ian asked me.

“Ow,” I said. I figured that covered it.

“I thought… I thought you liked it.”

“Did,” I said. I rolled onto my back to look up at him. “I do. I just… that was a lot, and you’re, you know, pretty strong.”

“Coming from a girl who could probably rip me in half if she wanted to…”

“I couldn’t do that,” I said. “I couldn’t want to. But anyway, that’s not real strength… it’s just what I am.”

He turned and sat down on the bed. I could still see his legs, but it wasn’t quite the same thing as being face-to-face, even at an odd angle. I just wasn’t ready to get up yet.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Though, I might need to wait a bit longer than you do if you still want to… um…”

“Fuck you in the ass?” he asked. “It’s an odd time to turn shy, Mackenzie.”

“I’m always shy,” I said. “I’m just a shy girl with odd hobbies.”

“Well… the thing is, I don’t have any… stuff,” he said.

“You mean lube?” I asked. I rolled over and propped myself up, then pushed myself into a sitting position. “It’s an odd time to turn shy.”

I just managed to catch him blushing, and it was beautiful.

“Um, yeah,” he said. “I’ve thought about getting some, but… it just seems like I’d be announcing to a store clerk that I’m into the buttsex, and I don’t want to come off… I mean…”

“I’ll ask Amaranth,” I said. “I’m sure she has it, or can get it.”

“I’ve got some lotion and stuff,” he said. “If you want to try…”

“No!” I said. “I mean, I think it’ll be better to wait until we have something actually designed for internal use. I kind of had an ouchy experience with Steff… she was feeling experimental.”

“Um, isn’t it always ‘kind of an ouchy experience’?” Ian asked. “I mean, it’s not like it’s exactly built for that kind of thing, and…”

“Are you trying to talk me out of it?” I asked.

“No!” he said. “I guess… I just thought maybe that was kind of the appeal, for you. I thought that was why some girls liked it.”

“Well… maybe it is part of the appeal for me,” I said. “But there’s good ouchy and bad ouchy, and getting tingly warming compounds in places they aren’t meant to be is not a good ouchy. Anyway, I’m told that it doesn’t hurt if you do it right, but I don’t know if that’s just something that people say to get you to do it or not.”

“Oh,” Ian said. “Um… I didn’t want to say anything about this in the moment, but… I like the elven look on you.”

“Oh, yeah,” I said. I put my hands on the top of my mound, which was just barely feeling a little stubbly. “Believe it or not, I did that for a dwarf.”

“You’re having sex with dwarves now?” he asked.

I decided to take that as him objecting to the idea of me adding more sexual partners, rather than a negative reaction to the thought of sex with another race. I was feeling reflective… reflective and sore.

Also, forgiving… that seemed fair, as I realized I was about to ask Ian to forgive me for quite a lot.

There was no sense putting it off. Amaranth could be mad that I hadn’t discussed it with her, but she’d made it clear she agreed that we needed to come clean about stuff.

“No,” I said. “You remember when I told you how I ‘bought’ my piercings?”

“Yeah, you’ve got to do a burlesque bondage thing tomorrow or something,” he said.

“Well, the woman who sold me the piercings doesn’t like body hair,” I said.

“And she’s a dwarf?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Aren’t dwarves known for having body hair?”

“Yeah,” I said. “So are humans and pretty much all mortal mammalian races. That’s got nothing to do with personal fashion. Anyway, it’s what she wanted.”

“That’s pretty far to go for body jewelry,” he said.

“You don’t know the half of it,” I said.

“I’d like to,” he said. “That’s what you and Amaranth were being all not-very-secretive about, right? The real story about tomorrow night?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“Mackenzie, I know it’s a turn-on for you to be called a whore, but I don’t…”

“I’m not having sex with anyone,” I said. “I was telling you the literal truth: we just have to put on a show. It’ll probably just be Amaranth parading me around and then spanking me. There may be semi-public orgasming involve, but that’s hardly a first… at least this time I’ll see it coming.”

“And so will everybody else,” Ian said.

“Yeah, well, it wasn’t the best decision I’ve ever made… and again, that’s not half of it. I told you that if we miss the show, I still have to pay, right?”

“Yeah,” Ian said. “How much do they cost?”

“More than I can afford,” I said.

“So… what’s the worst case scenario?” he asked. “You have to give them back? This is the Imperial Republic, Mackenzie… the most progressive empire on the face of the world. We haven’t had debtors’ prisons for almost fifty years now.”

“No, but we’ve had no-contest slavery contracts for over two hundred of them,” I said.

“Oh, shit,” he said. “You didn’t.”

“It seemed like an easy deal!” I said. “If somebody offered you something worth a ton of money in exchange for showing up and playing your guitar…”

“If the penalty for defaulting was slavery, no,” he said. “I wouldn’t. And I’d fire my agent. And how much is ‘a ton of money’? Those don’t look like platinum. I don’t think it’s even dwarven made.”

“Well… the real big expense was the binding enchantments,” I said. “Which was three gold.”

“Three gold? Mackenzie, you sold your ass for three gold?”

“I didn’t sell myself!” I said.

“Don’t you have any concept of self-worth?”

“At the moment? Not really!” I said. “Can you please… can you please just let me finish?”

“There’s more?”

“Ian, I’m trying to come clean with you,” I said. “The reason Caron set up these terms was… well, there’s a buyer out there who’s really interested in having a half-demon for breeding.”

“Great, so this Caron has no temptation to rig the bet,” Ian said.

“It’s okay, she already tried a little…”

“How is that okay?”

“It means she’s not trying very hard,” I said. “Her girlfriend is kind of against it.”

“Who’s the buyer?” Ian asked. “Is he after you in particular or just a half-demon?”

“It’s a she, actually,” I said.

“Oh, when you said for breeding…”

“With other half-demons,” I said. “I think the idea is something between an unstoppable army and designer pets.”

“I’m surprised no one’s done that before,” Ian said. “The army thing, I mean… the pet thing would just be weird.”

“Well, it’s not actually that practical,” I said. “How many could you get before you couldn’t support them or keep them under control? I mean, I can feed once a month and not kill someone, but imagine a hundred or two hundred of me… and that’s not getting into demons with other appetites besides blood. That’s the other problem with the idea: she tried it before, and apparently, her male half-demons… ate the female one. Which might actually be why this doesn’t happen more often. I’ve kind of got an idea that there’s something about us… girls with demon blood, I mean… that’s irresistible, to things that eat people.”

“Well, at least now I don’t have to stay awake tonight worrying about what’ll happen to you if you end up enslaved,” he said.

“If I hadn’t told you, you wouldn’t have to worry, either,” I said.

“Except I would have, because I knew something was wrong because of how secretive you were being,” he said.

“Anyway, Mercy wants to breed me, not serve me,” I said. “Though I’m not one hundred percent confident in her ability to do that without getting me killed.”

“Oh, well, take that into account the next time the opportunity comes up,” Ian said. He punched the pillow next to him, then got up and paced between the beds. “What were you thinking? Seriously. What were you thinking?”

“I went through this with Amaranth already, okay? I know it was stupid, probably the stupidest thing I ever did,” I said. “Anyway, there’s more I want to tell you.”


“Ian, I’m… I’m trying to come clean with you,” I said. “Every secret I keep from you ends up blocking off more of my life, and like I said… if you want to walk away from me when I’m done, I won’t blame you, but I want you to hear this. Unless, you know… you’ve heard enough.”

“I’m not going to kick you out of my room and leave you to walk back across campus in a skimpy costume on Veil Eve,” he said.

“If it were broad daylight and I had a change of clothes?” I asked him.

“No, but I don’t think I’ve heard the worst yet.”

“You haven’t,” I said. I got up and sat down on the bed, trying to decide what to tell him next.

I really wanted to come clean about everything, but now that I was faced with the prospect, I was remembering why I’d kept some things from him in the first place. It was hard to figure out how to tell him…

Of course, that was the rub. I was keeping secrets from him because it was easier than telling the truth. If there was ever a good reason for lying, that wasn’t it.

My mother and my grandmother had not had the same views on lying. My mother had explained to me once that the truth was a good thing, but that even good things could hurt if they got in the wrong place… but she’d been very firm on the point of doing the right thing and treating people decently.

It wasn’t decent to keep the truth from Ian.

“Okay,” I said. “This is going to take a little bit of a preface. You know how Feejee acts like she’s ‘gay for me’?”

“Yeah,” Ian said. “If this is about you fooling around with her at the party in the Underhall, I already figured that…”

“No, you didn’t,” I said. “Because we didn’t. Well, not like that.”

“Whatever you did, I think it made an impression on her,” Ian said. “Mackenzie, if this is your deep, dark secret… I really don’t mind how many girls you get with. The poly thing’s not… standard issue… to me, but I’m fine with the idea that you’re committed to me and open with girls. I’m not claiming to be one hundred percent adjusted about Steff, but…”

“Ian, stop being understanding and please just let me talk, okay?” I said. I swallowed. “You know that there are some races in Harlowe that have kind of… different… views on things, culturally?”

“Yeah, I think noticed a bit of that,” he said. “Once or twice.”

“Like how ogres consider anyone that comes into their territory fair game,” I said. “You know, as in, slaves and potential food sources. The thing is… mermaids are kind of like that, but without the slavery.”

“Metaphorically? Like you metaphorically ‘went into her territory’ at the party,” he said, putting air quotes, “and now she wants to ‘eat’ you?”

“Yeah, pretty much,” I said. “Except without the metaphorically or the quotes… or the part about going into her territory.”

“Are you shitting me? Feejee’s a maneater?”

“All mermaids are, apparently,” I said. “But please keep your voice down.”

“Why? Shouldn’t people be warned? Khersis, when I was in the fifth grade we had a unit about myths and stereotypes and one was that mermaids lured sailors to their deaths. That’s not a myth?”

“They consider anybody in the water… theirs,” I said. “But we’re in a landlocked province, so…”

“A landlocked province with rivers, lakes, and a university that has a Celestial-sized swimming pool,” he said. “Or does it have to be the ocean?”

“I think that might have been the original intention, but there’s some differences in interpretation?” I said a little uncertainly.

“Oh, well, that’s good, isn’t it? It’s what we come to school for, to be exposed to differing schools of thought and learn to… what the fuck, Mackenzie,” he yelled. “How can you sit on something like this?”

“I don’t want to make a big deal because I have to live with her,” I said. “I see her every day, I end up in the bathtub with… the bathtub that is next to the bathtub that she’s in.”

“That’s a great place to be, relative to someone who only eats people when they get wet,” Ian said.

“Look, she’s had her teeth all over me… they don’t do anything. She can’t break my skin. I’m the only one she’s interested in, and I’m pretty safe,” I said. “It’s just because… well, like I said, I think demonblood girls give something off, something that attracts… predators.”

“Are you sure about that?” he asked. “Because you’re nice to look at, but you’re not the best smelling girl I’ve ever known.”

“It’s just a theory,” I said. “And thanks so much for telling me that.”

“What happens if she grabs a magic knife and starts cutting pieces off you?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Her theory is that would make me… edible.”


“It… mostly… hasn’t seemed like a big deal,” I said. “I mean, she hasn’t gone around killing people, and it would take an awful lot of premeditation to get me into the water with her somewhere private, with a magic knife there…”

“Are you sure she’d only do it in the water? If you’re so ‘irresistible’?”

“It’s a religious thing, she takes it seriously,” I said. “The problem is, lately she’s been… premeditating. I was hoping the fact that Amaranth knows would be enough to shake her out of the idea, since Amaranth would be pretty hard to get rid of… but I think she’s starting to get convinced that I want to be eaten.”

“And of course, you haven’t done anything to further that idea, I’m sure,” Ian said.

“Hey, do you think I want to be beaten to death?” I said. “You know the difference between fooling around, even violently, and actual violence. I thought she could handle the same distinction.”

“So what do you do if she tries something?”

“I… I cowed her once,” I said. “She may be higher up on the food chain than me, but that’s only because demons don’t swim. I’ll remind her again, if I have to… I think if she gets a strong enough hint that she’s not the apex predator here, she’ll back off. I just don’t want to cause a big uproar, especially when it could just as easily fall back on me or on all of Harlowe, but I’m not about to let someone make a meal out of me. I was stupid with the piercings. I’m not about to be stupid again.”

“Fair enough,” Ian said. “I mean… well, I don’t know what I mean. This is a lot to take in. I don’t think I’d be so sanguine about it… I’m not sure I’m going to be able to be so sanguine about it… but… you’re an adult. Sort of. Ish.”

“I haven’t acted like an adult,” I said. “I’m trying to now. That’s why I’m telling you all this… and one more thing. One kind of big one.”

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8 Responses to “403: Coming Clean”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Mack keeps dropping those bombs on Ian. Hope he’s dug his foxhole deep enough. Incoming!!

    Current score: 2
  2. Anthony says:

    Guitar? I thought Ian played the lute…

    Current score: 5
  3. JerK says:

    She kind of left out the other mermaid. You know the less “moral” and crazier one. The one that seems like she already murdered someone on campus. Well maybe anyways. I guess I could be guessing wrong about that dude that was torn apart.

    Current score: 2
  4. Jechtael says:

    “…good things could hurt if they got in the wrong place.” Like warming massage oil!

    “Differences in interpretation”. Like how deepwater merpeople generally only kill and eat people if they’re in the ocean and/or drowning, but 100% of the shoreline merperson we’ve seen considers “rain” to be “in the water”.

    “Demons don’t swim”. And that brings me back to the thought of, what if there are oceanic demons, that hunt merfolk and cetaceans? Would they not count as demons? …holy craps, maybe cuttlefish or Giant/Colossal Squid are demons! *rereads what I wrote* …never mind, that’s stupid even among other completely unsubstantiated ideas.

    Current score: 3