43: (Be)longing

on August 1, 2007 in 02: Love In The Time Of Magic

In Which The Purchase Of Pudding Is Arranged

Two’s wails subsided to an occasional hiccupping sob shortly after we got back to Harlowe. Amaranth, having discovered that Two shared the room between ours with Delia Daella, went with her to help her change into clean clothes. I was sure this wasn’t necessary… I couldn’t imagine that the dark elf helped Two get dressed every morning… but Amaranth seemed to need somebody to fuss over, and I didn’t require a lot of fussing.

I sat alone at the table in the fifth floor lounge. The little traveling case with my Mecknights and other valuables was in front of me… walking past my room, I’d been seized with the urge to check and make sure they were all okay. They were, but I didn’t feel comfortable leaving them anywhere that Puddy had easy access to. She’d threatened to mess with them before, and I had a feeling she hadn’t been joking.

The floor seemed to be pretty empty. That wasn’t too surprising, as everybody else was likely in class or at lunch. It wasn’t too long before my afternoon lab class was supposed to start, but somehow, I didn’t think any of us would be going to classes.

Amaranth came into the lounge, Two following behind her like a puppy. She’d dressed Two in a fluffy white sweater with some kind of sparkly stuff in the material, with a matching bow clipped to her hair.

“Look what I found in her dresser,” Amaranth said, gesturing to the bow. “Doesn’t she look pretty?” she asked. I nodded, still feeling a little numb. “Tell her she looks pretty, Mack.”

“You… you look pretty, Two,” I said, feeling stupid. Amaranth beamed.

“When somebody compliments you, Two, thank them,” Amaranth said. Two, her body still wracked with sobs, simply nodded. “Well, thank Mack,” Amaranth said, a little impatiently.

“Th-thank you,” Two chirped.

“She interprets commands going forward,” I reminded Amaranth. “My compliment came before you told her to thank people for them.”

“Oh. You know, I think they sell pudding in that little convenience store,” Amaranth said. “Do you think it’d be safe to ask her if she wants some?”

“Maybe we should ask her if she would like some pudding, instead,” I suggested. When Amaranth visibly repressed a scowl, I explained, “Asking her what she wants seems to trigger an ingrained reaction because she’s not comfortable wanting anything but to obey… but we know she has likes and dislikes, at least with regards to food.”

“Two, honey, would you like some pudding?” Amaranth asked.

“Y-yes,” Two said.

Amaranth produced a silver coin from somewhere and pushed it into her hand.

“Go down to the little convenience store in the hall between the buildings and buy yourself some pudding cups, hon,” she said. “And anything else you w… would like.”

“Okay,” Two said.

“Where’d you get that coin from?” I asked, finally having given up on seeing how Amaranth was able to mysteriously store and retrieve items.

“Oh, there was a little fund set up for us, when we decided to come here,” she said, settling down into the chair across from me. “We were given a certain amount of spending money… not a lot, but then, I don’t have a lot of needs, you know? Anyway, we need to talk.”

“Yeah, I guess we do,” I said.

“Um…” she said, a little uncertainly. “When Celia said that Puddy was… well… um.” She closed her eyes, and a look of anger passed over her face like a storm cloud. “I hate having to ask this, having to even think this way,” she said, looking at me imploringly… though what she was imploring me to do, I couldn’t say. “But with what Celia and Barley said… and what just happened… well, I’m not even sure what just happened, to be honest.”

She looked about ready to start pulling out her hair… or clawing at her skin, the way she had before when the subject of Barley had come up. She forced herself to be calm.

“I still love Puddy, of course,” she said. There was a desperate edge to her voice, and she looked at me as if for support.

“Yeah,” I said. “She’s… she’s fun, most of the time. She just gets like that when she’s drunk.”

Amaranth looked as if I’d slapped her.

“She’s… she’s… got like that before?” Amaranth asked.

“Uh…” I said,

“Was she the one that hit you? Oh, goddess… she was, wasn’t she?” Amaranth said, not even waiting for me to answer her questions. “And I told you to tell me or Puddy if it happened… and then I thought it was Barley. I actually thought… I thought…”

‘You know, we don’t have to talk about this now,” I said, starting to rise.

Sit,” Amaranth said, in the voice. My ass hit the chair so hard it invoked my memories of being spanked. Now that she’d employed her commanding tone, Amaranth apparently decided to go with the direct approach. “Mack, tell me honestly, yes or no… did you like the way Puddy touched you, the other day? The way she was touching you at lunch today?”

I did not want to answer. Even more so than I didn’t want Puddy to get in trouble, or for Amaranth to know how deeply ashamed I felt, I simply did not want to hear my own answer. I closed my eyes and my mouth, and tried to close my ears and anything else I could, too.

“Yes or no, Mack,” Amaranth pressed.

“…no,” I finally said. “I didn’t. But… she’s my friend, and I let her, so it’s okay, right? I mean, it’s not… it isn’t anything bad.”

“I… I see,” Amaranth said, after a while. Her voice was so completely different that I opened my eyes and looked up. She was kind of looking off to the side, and I could see her eyes tearing up behind her weird glasses.

“It isn’t a big deal,” I said quickly. “I’m okay, and she told me she only meant it to be friendly…”

Amaranth wasn’t listening.

“So, that means, when I… when I took off your pants… and… and… and spanked you,” she said, a look of horror growing on her face. “And I told you to say no if you didn’t want it, and you… you didn’t say no… you didn’t say no, but…”

“No!” I said. “It wasn’t like that…”

“But… oh, Mother Khaele, what did I do to you?” she cried, the tears now spilling down her face. “I forced myself on you…”

“No, you didn’t!” I protested. “Amaranth, you didn’t do anything wrong.”

“No, I did!” she cried. “I’m a terrible nymph… I’ve disgraced the gifts that Mother Khaele gave me.”

“Amaranth, I… I liked what you did,” I made myself say, even though the words bunched up in my throat and my cheeks burned.

“I’m worse than… you what?” Amaranth asked.

I tried to repeat the admission, but I found my body almost entirely paralyzed… except the parts that were responsible for slinking low in the chair and lowering my gaze to my lap. They were still capable of moving, albeit very slowly.

“Did you say you liked it?” Amaranth asked. I could tell from the closeness of her voice that she was leaning in over the table. “Mack, please answer me… did you like it when I punished and humiliated you?”

She had to throw in the “and humiliated” part… that made it a hundred times harder to admit, and maybe a thousand times more… can I actually admit this?



I forced my frozen body to nod.

“I… I need more than a nod from you here,” Amaranth said. “If I’m ever going to trust you to, um… if I’m ever going to trust myself around you, Mack, I need to hear you say it.”

“I… I liked it,” I mumbled.

“Look at me and say it,” Amaranth said. “Look. At. Me.

I started, and looked up into her face, into her wide, tear-rimmed eyes.

“I liked… being punished and… and… humiliated by you,” I said. The intensity of her gaze prompted additional honesty from me. “I… loved it, actually.”

“But would you say that even if you didn’t, because you like me and don’t want to upset me?” Amaranth asked.

I shook my head.

“I… well, I might have still let you do it,” I said. “But… I wouldn’t lie to you. I couldn’t. And…” I swallowed. “I don’t just like you. I… I… think I love you. I mean, I think I’m in love with you.”

“You know I love you, too, Mack,” Amaranth said.

“But you love everybody,” I said, turning my head away from her gaze.

“Everybody isn’t here,” Amaranth said. “I’m talking to you. I love you, Mack, and not just because you’re part of everybody.”

“So… what do we do now?” I asked. “I mean, are you my girlfriend? Am I yours?”

“What do you want to be?” she asked.

“Yours,” I answered, automatically.

“My girlfriend?” she asked.

“Not your… anything, really,” I said. My tongue was getting twisted trying to describe something I wasn’t sure existed, using words that I was pretty sure did not. “Just… yours. Belonging to you.”

“I see,” Amaranth said, nodding. I was glad she did. I didn’t understand anything that was happening, least of all within myself. “Well, I think I should probably take Steff’s advice and talk to Viktor about all this… but, I think I might like you being… mine.”

I blushed. I was still blushing with the embarrassment and effort of telling a beautiful nymph… a beautiful girl… that I wanted to belong to her, but this was a different blush… it was a happy one, tinged with a touch of pride. If I was learning nothing else at college, I was learning that blushes came in a lot of different shades.

“What about that boy?” she asked. “Who asked you to the dance?”

“I… oh,” I said. I felt like I’d just been knocked off a cloud I hadn’t known I was riding. Ian. Dating. Normalcy. What had happened to those things? “Can I… can I date boys even though I belong to you?”

“Well, yes,” Amaranth said. “We can talk… we should talk… about specific limitations and boundaries and things for all the parts of our relationship, but I have a feeling I’m going to need some help there… but for now, I’ll just say yes, you have my permission to date boys.”

“Um…” I said, feeling really stupid as the sentence formed itself in my head, “what I actually meant is, do you think I could be yours and still be…”–normal–“…straight?”

“I’m not going to be the one who tells you that you can’t,” she said, smiling a little ruefully.

It wasn’t exactly the answer I wanted, but given my own difficulty with bending the truth, I guess it would have been unfair of me to expect her to lie.

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8 Responses to “43: (Be)longing”

  1. Nezumi says:

    *tears up* Wow… soooo good! I loved the way Mack asked to belong to Amaranth. Its so perfect! *hugs* You rock.

    Current score: 3
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    And amaranth finally wakes up, to more things than one. Mack owns up to several things, and they begin a polyamorous relationship.

    I’d dreamily sigh and ask for this to be the happy ending, but I don’t want it to end. So I’ll just keep reading instead!

    Current score: 10
  3. MackSffrs says:

    I would not have posted, at all, been content to read everything if it hadn’t been for this chapter.
    The author is brilliant at portraying various emotional problems with absolute consistency. I am not sure how, but I have found all of the major characters so far to have absolutely followed their character rules.
    Mack continually shocks me. Her thought process, not her thinking, but the pattern of rationale that explains her perceptions to herself is absolutely consistent with someone suffering some form of long-term childhood brainwashing. Her psyche displays brilliance both by third hand (merit based scholarship and acceptance to top-tier school) and a second hand description (where she does her school work, logic classes etc). Despite this brilliance, he psyche has horrible reasoning routines and triggers that grab certain thoughts, emotions, and ideas and ‘punishes’ her with various bad feeling for experiencing them (like her, “Dirty.” reaction).
    I am most horrified by her ability to diagnose and handle Two’s situation rather well, I suppose out of either sympathy or a logic loophole in her brainwashing, and how she cannot relate some, or really any, of Two’s problems with free will to her own.

    Current score: 10
    • Anthony says:

      I don’t see anyting odd about her interaction with Two. Two is essentially a magical Robot Girl, and Mackenzie is into Applied Enchantment. She’s analyzing and directing Two about how you’d expect a halfway decent computer programmer to in an analogous situation.

      Current score: 1
      • Ryzndmon says:

        True enough, except Two is NOT a robot. She has feelings. Feelings that Mack understands far to well. Both of them have been essentially brainwashed their entire lives. What Mack is doing is applying magical (scientific) logic and empathy to aid the externalization of her inner, stunted self.
        If I was her student advisor, I would strongly encourage her to seriously consider at least minoring in the Subtle Arts (which I gather is this fictions version of psychology).

        Current score: 5
  4. Downside says:

    ‘You know, we don’t have to talk about this now,” I said, starting to rise.
    At the beginning there should be a ” not a ‘.

    Current score: 0
  5. Sengachi says:

    I don’t feel shame. Put simply, I’m a psychopath, so in addition to having to quench the occasional murderous urge, I don’t feel shame. I always used to think of shame as some cross between pain and embarrassment. A negative reinforcement which could be pushed past if one must.

    This story has helped me learn that I was horribly, horribly wrong. Shame is more than that. I’ve never had any negative thoughts about sex either, so I never really understood why my boyfriend has such a hard time with his bisexuality in public. But I think this story is helping me to understand him more. I get what the shame his father imprinted about it does to him, even if I can’t feel it. I understand that just pushing past it doesn’t make it go away. And … I think that even just hugging him in public may be too much for him. I didn’t understand that before this story. I think, next time I see him, I’ll ask straight out exactly what he’s comfortable with and if there’s anything I can do or not do to help him be comfortable.

    Thank you for this story.

    Current score: 18
  6. Curio says:

    I’m still waiting for a wakey scientist from a alternate universe to show up and just start playing skrillex I think that would just be the funniest thing ever

    Current score: 0