41: Lab Chemistry

on July 30, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which Ian Stands By Mackenzieย 

I only freaked out a little when I woke up naked next to Amaranth, and only a tiny bit more when I realized the back of my hand was brushing up against her little patch of curly amber hair. Actually, it probably would have been a full-fledged fit, except Amaranth put me over her knee and gave me another spanking. This one was briefer than the other two, and so though I felt the same sensation budding within me as I had the other times, it didn’t quite fully rise or break over me, but it calmed me down all the same… at least enough that I could walk normally to the showers instead of running headlong.

Breakfast was uneventful. Puddy and Mariel were at our table, as was Two. I sat with Puddy, and she was… her usual self, but I was just happy that she apparently hadn’t heard about my night with Amaranth, and Amaranth didn’t raise the subject. Even though we hadn’t done anything, I wasn’t sure how Puddy would take it.

I walked a bit slowly to my elemental invocation lab, as part of me still dreaded walking back into that room after what had happened on Tuesday. Running into Ian outside of class had helped a little bit… it was impossible for me to picture him with the entire right side of his body covered in hideous burn scars or something when I’d seen him, whole and hale and hearty, without so much as a blister left.

I was one of the last ones into the room. Professor Bohd was standing by the door as I entered.

“Ah, Miss Mackenzie… your energy levels seem much more manageable today,” she said, favoring me with a thin smile. “Good for you.”

“Thanks,” I said, trying to keep my blushing down to a level that would be appropriate for having just received a minor compliment from an instructor.

I had to remind myself that she didn’t actually know what had happened to so drastically alter my energy level… and for that matter, I didn’t really know, either. It could have been a simple coincidence that both times she’d said something like this had been after I’d been spanked by Amaranth.

Yeah, coincidence. That seemed really plausible.

Professor Bohd walked with me towards my lab station. I noticed with a pang of remorse that Ian wasn’t there. I didn’t see him at any of the other tables, either. Had I scared him out of the class entirely? He was kind of… well, kind of a dipshit, but I’d still feel bad.

“Here is the subject you’ll be working with,” Professor Bohd said, gesturing towards the pot of dark, moist soil on the protective stone plate on my lab table. “Now, your intuitive grasp of fire could be a hindrance to you in this exercise, but I believe if you can keep such a firm handle on your emotional energy throughout the next few weeks, you’ll still be able to make that connection work for you, in a roundabout fashion.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I mean that your relationship to water should be just as strong as your relationship to fire,” she said. “By virtue of their opposition. This will not necessarily aid you in invoking or controlling water… but, if you keep an open mind, it can give you an avenue for relating to the element.”

“So, in other words,” I said carefully, making sure I understood the professor, “I should try to open my mind to the element in the earth that is the least like me?”

“I would say, ‘the most unlike’, but yes, that’s essentially it,” Bohd said. “I won’t crowd you during your initial attempt, though I’ll be back to check on you throughout the period.”

“Okay,” I said. “And… thanks.”

“It’s really nothing,” she said. “I’ll be checking in on everybody. I am the teacher, after all.”

With that, she went off down the row, heading towards those students who seemed the most lost in their attempts to forge a bond with the elemental fire within their logs. I took a few deep, cleansing breaths, and closed my eyes, trying to make my mind as calm and as placid… as much like water… as I could.

“Hey!” Ian said suddenly. His voice echoed loudly in my ear, though when I opened my eyes to glare at him, I saw he was actually standing at the end of the lab table, by the corner furthest from me. “I… I wasn’t sure you were going to be back.”

“Funny, I was just thinking the same thing about you,” I said.

“Oh, I couldn’t stay away,” he said. “I’m… uh, well, I’m majoring in elementalism, so… but… uh… good to see you here.”

“I’m equally glad to see you,” I said, scowling. “So, let’s just agree to pretend that we are neither one of us actually here, and try to do our lab work, okay?”

“Hey, look,” he said. “I know I can be a bit, well…”

“Stupid?” I supplied.

“I was gonna say ‘slow on the uptake’,” he said. “Like, yesterday, when you were telling me you weren’t a lesbian. I kind of only now figured out what you meant.”

“That being, that I’m not a lesbian?” I asked.

“That you’re bi,” he said. “Which, you know, is very cool… I mean, I’m totally cool with it.”

“You’re cool with it, but you still won’t come within five feet of me,” I said.

“Yeah, well, you’re still a… you know,” he said. “Not that I judge! But… I mean… I am human. Though, not a virgin.”

“You know, whatever,” I said. “I don’t know if it somehow escaped your notice, but we’re actually in a lab class right now, and I’d kind of like to just work on my project.”

“Okay, okay!” Ian said. “I can take a hint.”

I closed my eyes again, and tried to force myself to be calm. When was I the most calm? When Amaranth finished spanking me… oops. Now I was thinking about Amaranth. Not calm… very not calm.

“But, you know, I can’t help but ask myself…” Ian’s voice broke in on my attempted reverie.

“Do you think you could maybe help but ask me?” I said through gritted teeth.

“…why you took such pains to let me know that you do find men attractive,” he said. “I mean, I was already accepting that you were a lesbian, and there you were with one of your girlfriends…”

“Two is not one of my girlfriends!” I said.

“It’s cool, it’s cool,” Ian said hastily, taking a step backwards. I wondered exactly what he was saying was cool… the idea that she was, or the idea that she wasn’t? And why did he think I needed his permission or approval or whatever, anyway? “It’s just… given all that, is it so crazy for me to think I might have a shot with you?”

“A shot at what, exactly?” I asked. Was he actually hitting on me, while cringing and cowering at the other end of the table?

“Um… for starters, there’s that dance on Saturday,” he said. This was the first I’d heard of any such thing, but then, I had been kind of… involved… in various things. “Would you… maybe… want to go to it… with me?”

“Oh, kee, Ian, I don’t know,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Are you going to be standing ten feet away from me the whole time?”

“You swear you only attack virgins?” he asked.

“I don’t attack anyone,” I said. I thought about adding, “Though I can be tempted,” but that seemed like adding fuel to the fire, so instead, I said, “Why ask me, anyway? Why not ask a girl you’re not afraid of?”

“Well… I don’t actually know any other girls here,” he said. “I’m stuck in a dorm full of guys, and all the girls I see are either already hanging off of another guy or traveling around in impenetrable little packs, you know? I don’t know how I’m ever supposed to meet anybody, under the circumstances…”

“It’s only the first week of classes,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, but the dance is this weekend,” he said.

“What is this dance, anyway?” I asked.

“You haven’t seen the posters?” he asked. “They put them up in all the dorms… I’m not sure who exactly’s sponsoring it, the Campus Social Club, or something like that… to celebrate the end of the first week of classes. I guess, as college students, we’re supposed to celebrate just about any milestone, huh?”

That made me think, with a pang of longing and an aftershock of sick horror, of the aborted “girls’ night” that Puddy had organized to celebrate the similarly arbitrary milestone of having made it through all of our classes once. I’d been looking forward to that in large part because it was something normal girls my age would do… like going to a dance, or going out with a boy… or going out with a boy to a dance.

“Come around to this side of the table,” I said.

“Why, are you going to hit me?” Ian asked.

“No, I want to see if you’ll stand next to me,” I said.

“Is that a yes?” he asked.

“It’s a no if you can’t bring yourself to stand next to me,” I said.

Gingerly, like somebody gradually lowering themselves into a pool of water of uncertain temperature, he slid around the corner and inched his way closer to me. He still stayed closer to the end of the table than to the center, but… it was progress.

“If I say yes, will you slow dance with me?” I asked. I wanted to get that guaranteed upfront. It wouldn’t actually be going to the dance with him if I didn’t actually dance with him… and it wasn’t that Ian was some sort of prize or anything, but the idea of going to a dance with a boy, any boy, was too strong to ignore.

“Um…” he said, uncertainly.

“There are… um… there’s girls who would probably want to take me who would slow dance with me,” I said. I had to push the words out quickly, to stop them from bunching up in my throat. I knew, on one level, that it was true… but on another, I didn’t quite believe it, and either way, I hated saying something that would heighten the impression that I was a lesbian. It was the only bargaining chip I had, though.

“No, no, if you want to slow dance, I’ll slow dance,” Ian said. “Though I’m not going to be, you know, selfish… if one of your girlfriends wants to dance with you, I’ll totally watch. I mean, I won’t stand in the way.”

“You’re a real prince,” I said. “What time is this thing, anyway?”

“I think it starts at like seven,” he said. “Do you have a mirror? I could call you when I’m ready to go over.”

“No,” I said. “You could just pick me up at my dorm… um, there’s like a common area in the basement.” I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to expose him to the environment of the fifth floor, or vice versa. He might not survive an encounter with Celia.

“Or we could just meet at the dance,” he said. He said it a bit too quickly, like he really didn’t want to go to Harlowe. That bothered me, aside from conflicting with my dream ideal of what it was supposed to be like when a guy took you to a dance.

“I don’t know,” I said stiffly. “If we’re going together, I think we should… go… together.”

“I could meet you outside your hall,” he offered.

“Maybe I should wait and see what other offers come my way, before I settle on you,” I said, feeling like an unbelievable phony… but it did the trick.

“I can meet you there at like a quarter till seven.”

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5 Responses to “41: Lab Chemistry”

  1. ElectricHarpsichord says:

    โ€œOh, gee, Ian, I donโ€™t know…”

    Shouldn’t that be “Oh, Khee”?

    Current score: 2
  2. BMeph says:

    I just want to let you know: I love you writing, AlexandraErin!

    I couldn’t be pissed off at these characters if you didn’t portray them so well. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Current score: 2
  3. pedestrian says:

    Nice to see Mack take charge of discovering what the hell it is she actually wants to do.

    Current score: 4
  4. Psi-Ko says:

    I hate it when someone wants to do something with you, but doesn’t want anything to do with you.

    Current score: 0