108: Water And Fire

on November 30, 2007 in 04: The Body Politick

In Which Tired Old “Eating Out” Jokes Are Eschewed In The Headline

After I said goodnight to Ian but before I went to bed, Amaranth administered what she called a “moderate correction” for my anti-Arkhanite outbursts, to show that it had been wrong but that she knew I had learned and was sorry.

She called it a “moderate correction”… and it was definitely somewhere in between the brutal punishments I’d received with the studded side of my paddle and the tender, almost caressing spanks Amaranth gave me with her bare hand… but somehow “moderation” wasn’t the word it brought to mind.

When it was over, there was a slow, lingering kiss. Our bodies were close together, her breasts pressed up against me, but I hardly noticed; I was too wrapped up in the feeling of her lips, her breath, her warmth on me… in me. It was achingly good, though not without a small pang as I reflected on the fact that Ian still wouldn’t kiss me. We did fairly intimate things. We’d danced close and slow. He’d let me sit on his lap.

Was a kiss too much to ask? Maybe it was.

“You have it within you to be very tolerant,” Amaranth said after we broke the clinch. “I know it. I see it in you all the time. You’re such a beautiful, kind person, when you want to be.”

“I’m really not…” I started to say, but she held up a finger and shushed me.

“Shh,” she said. “I’m not going to argue your better qualities with you, baby… not tonight. I’ve got to run. Work, work, work, you know?” She giggled and gave an exaggerated sigh and heave of her shoulders, which did wonderful things to her chest. “It’s such a grind. Sleep well, okay? Goodnight, Mack.”

“Goodnight,” I said as she released me.

That night I dreamt about lying in Amaranth’s arms, kissing her, as we rolled around in a field of corn. I think it was supposed to be a field of amaranth, but I don’t really know what that looks like, and I’d spent the first nine years of my life around cornfields. They wouldn’t be my first choice for a place to roll around in. But, it was a dream, and all I felt was warmth, and comfort, and love.

The next day in my invocation class, I wasn’t terribly surprised to find that all the limpid, liquid feelings in my head just sort of flowed out of me into my pot of soil and were answered by a puddle of water bubbling up from its surface. The absorbent earth soaked it up fairly quickly. It took me most of the rest of the class before I got the hang of calling forth the water consistently, on purpose, and with a fair measure of control. I even managed to make the water squirt up in a tiny spurt, like a miniature geyser or a little fountain.

I showed the trick to Ian, thinking he might find it funny or cute.

“Will you quit messing around?” he snarled. “You’re wrecking my concentration.”

“Sorry,” I said, shrinking back. Even in the fight before, during, and after the first time I went down on him, I’d never seen him get quite this mad. If being hot under the collar was conducive to fire-calling, his log should have been ablaze… but it was inert, cold as ever.

Professor Bohd asked him to stay behind after class. I had a pretty good guess what it was about: there was only one more day left to drop or change classes, and if Ian hadn’t shown any progress after two weeks, there was a good chance he wouldn’t be able to pass the class.

I waited outside the classroom for him to come out. He nearly stormed past me when he did.

“Oh,” he said, when he saw me. What a greeting, huh?

“So, um… what’s up?” I asked. It seemed less nosy than “What did she say?” and less presumptuous than “Let me guess…”

“She wants me to get some tutoring,” he said.

“Oh,” I said.

“From you,” Ian said.

Somehow, the pronouncement of that simple second person pronoun made me feel lower than “bitch” or “cunt” did, and without any of the associated tingliness.

“Well… that could be fun,” I said, trying not to take his anger personally. He was majoring in elementalism. He needed this class. Of course he’d be upset.

“Fun? My dad is an invested disciple of the Crimson Tongue!” Ian raged. “Do you know what he’d say if he found out I can’t call fire without my girlfriend’s help? He’d freaking disown me! After he killed me.”

“Well, it’s a good thing he probably won’t find out until parent-teacher conferences,” I said, trying to take a light tone. I wouldn’t lose my temper. I wouldn’t. “Unless the professor sends you home with a note pinned to your overalls.”

All thoughts of my anger flew swiftly away in the face of Ian’s. He looked mad enough to hit something. Actually, he looked like he was mad enough to hit me… but then he turned away and went rigid, his arms at his side, his hands clenched in fists.

“It’s a big joke to you, isn’t it?” he said, once he’d calmed down a bit.

“No!” I said. “I just meant, college is different… your parents are far away and they’re not going to find out this stuff if you don’t tell them.”

I watched him struggle to control himself a bit more.

“I’m sorry,” he said once he’d cooled down more or less completely. “It’s just… you don’t understand how it is. With my dad, I mean.”

“I don’t,” I agreed. “I never knew my father, but I hope to hell he’d be disappointed if he knew how I turned out.”

“Why?” Ian asked, momentarily puzzled. “Oh! Because… he’s… yeah. Sorry. Sometimes I almost forget you’re not human. Fully human, I mean.”

“I wish you could forget it all the time,” I said. “No, strike that. I wish I could forget it.”

“Hey, do you want to go get some lunch?” he asked. “My treat.”

“Okay,” I said. “I suppose everybody’s probably wondering where I am, anyway.”

“Um… I actually meant the two of us,” he said. “Like, get a burger in the food court or something.”

“Oh!” I said. That did sound nice and boyfriend-and-girlfriendly. Though, Amaranth and our friends might wonder where I was. “Um…” I stalled, trying to figure out the best way to convey this concern to Ian without making it sound like I wanted to get out of eating with him.

“You need Amaranth’s permission to go to lunch with me?” he guessed.

“No!” I said, defensively. Of course I didn’t. Wait… did I? “Um… I don’t think I do. I don’t know.”

“Great,” Ian said scathingly. “Well, you go find her and ask her if it’s okay, and I’ll just wait here for you to get back.”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” I said. “I mean, she’s never had a problem with me dating you. She likes it.”

“But you’d dump me if she did have a problem with me,” he said sourly.

“You know, most girls listen to their friends’ opinions about who they date,” I said. I was fairly sure this was true. Television said so. Television promised dire karmic consequences for girls who dated guys against the instincts and advice of their friends. There had to be some kind of basis for that, right? “So it wouldn’t be anything weird or strange if I did.”

“Most girls aren’t so dependent on their friends’ opinions that they let them lead them naked up and down the halls on a leash,” Ian retorted.

“Just where the hell did you hear that?” I asked.

“It’s all over campus, Mackenzie,” he said. “Everybody knows the kind of shit you get up to with Amaranth, and I have to listen to them talk about it.”

“Well, sometimes what ‘everybody knows’ happens to be wrong,” I said sharply… though I did an impressive job of modulating my voice. I did an even better job of modulating it when I hastily added, “She only made me walk naked up and down the hall by myself, once.”

“Great, well, next time I hear somebody saying the part about the leash, I’ll be sure to correct them,” Ian said.

“You could tell them it’s none of their business,” I said.

“That stops working when you start doing things in public,” Ian said. “You make it everybody’s business.”

“Are you going to tell me you didn’t go bragging after I went down on you?” I asked.

“That’s different,” he muttered, having the grace to be embarrassed instead of angry.

“How?” I asked.

“I’m a guy,” he said. “When the talk turns to sex, I need to have something to say.”

“You couldn’t just talk about one of your endless conquests from your high school days?” I asked.

“Well, um,” he said, his cheeks and the tips of his ears flushing a delicate pink. “The thing is, that’s in the past… and… now is… I mean, high school can seem a long time ago, you know?”

It should have bothered me that he was lying to me… that he kept lying… but like he’d said, it was different for guys. Besides, it was cute to see him flustered, and at least he was on the defensive instead of the offensive.

“Um, do you still want to get lunch?” I asked. “I honestly wasn’t thinking about getting Amaranth’s permission, until you mentioned it. I don’t know why I got so defensive.”

“Sorry,” Ian said. “And yeah. Where do you want to eat?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “What’s good?”

“Well, what do you like?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I admitted, and laughed. “I’m kind of still figuring that out.”

“Oh,” he said. He got a weird look, and then smiled shyly. “I know one thing you like…”

“What?” I asked, blushing. I don’t know why I blushed. Part of it was definitely the sorts of things I liked which flashed through my mind… but a lot of it was just something in his voice, in the way he smiled.

“This,” he said, taking my hand in his.

“We’re in public,” I reminded him as we set out, hand-in-hand, towards the student union.

“So? Let the whole world watch a little public hand-holding action,” he said, and I giggled. “I’ve always been a bit of a voyeur, anyway.”

“Exhibitionist,” I corrected him. “Voyeurs would be the people doing the watching.”

He stopped walking so suddenly I almost pulled him off-balance. I turned to look at him, and saw the look of irritation at having been corrected… watched him biting something back, then stop and reconsider, arguing something inside of himself.

“You don’t have to be such a bitch about things,” he said finally, and letting the words out seemed to relieve a lot more tension inside him than could be accounted for by this single puff of irritation. Then he just started forward again, like nothing had happened.

Me? I melted. I melted into him, practically hanging off of him for the rest of the walk.

I’d felt a sick, hollow feeling when Puddy had called me her bitch… but I liked the idea of being Ian’s. Really, though, was it so strange that I might enjoy it, when you considered everything else that I seemed to like? I mean, I actually sort of liked licking his balls… well, no I didn’t. Nobody could actually like that. But I didn’t mind it very much, and I liked the fact that he enjoyed it. Though, it was weird that he did.

Ian had got a pair of cheeseburgers from White House. I had chicken strips. At first, I was just sort of sitting there while we ate, wrapping myself up in that wonderfully awful word, and Ian ended up telling me about how back in middle school, he’d wanted to go out for band but his dad had forbidden it. He ended up buying his first lute–used–with his own money the summer before his sophomore year. He still hadn’t been allowed to take any music classes. His dad had told him he didn’t have time, with all the advanced classes and things he needed to get ready for college. But, he’d bought books and practiced by himself.

I told him a little bit about my own high school experience… like the fire in the girls’ room that I’d been blamed for, despite the fact that everybody and their sister threw their cigarettes in the trash can there, and the time I got stuffed into a locker and hadn’t dared to move because I was afraid I’d be expelled if I broke it.

Afterwards, I felt kind of bad. Ian had said he wanted to have more meaningful conversations, and then we went and wasted an hour on trivial, inconsequential bullshit about high school and stuff.

It was oddly enjoyable, though, even considering that my story basically consisted of me confessing that I was and always had been a loser. The food wasn’t bad, either. People like to dig on fast food, but… well, the chicken wasn’t anywhere near as savory or flavorful as Hazel and Two’s had been, but it was good, and there was honey to dip them in.

In fact, there was more honey in the two shallow little dipping containers they gave me than I could use on the strips. Ian watched in something between amusement and amazement while I licked and sucked out the rest. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever had honey before, but it was amazing.

“What?” I said, suddenly self-conscious. “I don’t like to waste.”

“If I go get you another one, will you do that again?” he asked, a little bit awed.

It was actually a couple hours later that I figured out what that had been about.

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