125: Filling Time

on December 28, 2007 in 05: The Weekend Shift

In Which Mackenzie Is Not Accused Of Lesbianism

“Bye, Two!” I called from the entrance of the food court while Ian took care of our tray and trash. “Have a good rest of the day at work!”

“Bye, Mack!” Two shouted back. “I’m not supposed to chat!”

“Oh, relax!” somebody–Kyle, I guessed–yelled from the back of the store.

“Okay,” Two said, visibly doing so, then added more quietly, “but I’m still not supposed to.”

Her face, so remarkably and precisely expressive, made it easy for me to make out what she was saying even at a distance, and I had to laugh.

Yeah, I laughed. I laughed at Two, and somehow couldn’t make myself feel bad for it. Maybe I was still suffering the after effects of my earlier… uh, turn for the worse. I did feel a little bad for not feeling bad, though.

That was something.

Or was I just trying to justify myself?

Anyway, there was no way I could bring myself to tell her about her missing hair band or the other events of my horrendous day… not while she was working.

The “no chatting” rule was only part of it. It was her first day and I figured things couldn’t be going too horribly, since she was out front by herself. I didn’t want to be the thing that broke her stride.

“Doesn’t she get bored?” Ian asked, following my gaze to where Two stood, serene and unmoving, behind the counter.

“I don’t think she does,” I said. “Not like we do. She just… she needs something to do, you know? To fill the time. If she’s got something to do–and it’s not something bad–then she’s happy.”

“But she isn’t doing anything right now,” Ian insisted. “She’s just standing there.”

“She’s manning the register,” I said. “That’s something. She’s waiting for the next customer.”

“With everybody watching the match, she probably won’t have another one all night,” Ian said.

“I don’t think it matters,” I said. “She’s right where she’s supposed to be.”

“That makes her happy?” Ian asked, sounding a little dubious about the concept.

“It really does,” I said. I started to feel uncomfortable that we were standing there staring across the floor at Two talking about her, but of course, she didn’t mind.

“I wish things were that simple for me,” Ian said.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Nothing,” he said. He put his arm around me and turned us away from the sight of Two, happy and fulfilled by doing absolutely nothing. We headed in not entirely uncomfortable silence down the stairs and out of the student union.

Once we were out on the plaza, he spoke again.

“Look… um… do you want to go do something?” he asked.

“Like… what?” I asked, hoping against hope that he wasn’t about to press me on what I’d offered to do before. I liked the feel of his arm around me, and I leaned into him as we walked, but that was about as close as I wanted to get for a while.

“I don’t know,” Ian said. “Hang out, or something.”

“Just… hang out?” I said a little doubtfully.

“Well, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t… oh, wait! I know!” I said, so excited by the brilliant idea that had just struck me that I stopped in my tracks.

“What?” Ian asked.

“We could go to the library!”

To answer your question: yes, apparently, I am that big of a dork.

“Is it even open now?” he asked.

“It’s always open,” I said, wondering how he could not know that, since it said so right on the library doors.

“Do you have a paper you have to get done or something?” he asked, looking puzzled.

I was starting to get the feeling that he didn’t completely see the appeal of the library as a hangout.

“No,” I said. “I just like to, you know… gaze and read.” Yeah, that sounded real cool. “Um… they might have a graphic novel section.”

“I was hoping for something we could do together, actually,” he said.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” I said. “We go and get some books and grab a table and read for a bit…”

“That’s not together,” he said. “Together is you with me. What you’re talking about is you with a book and me with a book.”

“But… together,” I said.

“Nearby,” Ian said. “In proximity. That’s not the same thing.”

“How isn’t it?” I asked.

“Okay… well… imagine that hypothetically, you had to share a bed with Two, for some reason,” Ian said.

“Um… okay,” I said, straining my imagination to envision a hypothetical situation in which exactly what had happened the night before actually came to pass.

“Would you say that you slept together, or you slept next to each other?”

“Nothing happened!” I blurted. “We just talked for a while and then we fell asleep! Or she did, anyway… I couldn’t get comfortable.”

“Um… you’re still having a problem with the whole ‘hypothetical’ thing, aren’t you?” he asked.

“I did share a bed with her last night,” I admitted, blushing a bit even though nothing had come–or could have come–close to happening. “But only because I kind of had an accident in mine.”

“Oh, Khersis… you didn’t wet the bed, did you?” Ian asked.

“Why is that the first place you go when you hear somebody’s had an accident?” I asked.

“Because it’s usually what people mean when they say somebody had an ‘accident’ at night,” Ian said.

“I didn’t,” I said. “I… uh… moistened it. With water I conjured.”

“You conjured water in bed?” Ian asked. The edge of disbelief in his voice and the slight tilt to his head suggested to me that maybe he thought his first guess was slightly more plausible.

I fought not to snap at him, though.

“I told you it was an accident,” I said calmly. “I was asleep.”

“So now you’re invoking elements in your sleep,” he groused. “Great.”

“It’s not like I was trying to,” I protested.

“Oh, that makes me feel so much better,” he said. He turned away and sighed, then turned back to face me. “Look, don’t… please don’t start crying again or anything… but… I’m not sure we’re even cut out to be friends, much less… I mean, if we can’t even figure out something to do together on a Saturday night without getting into a stupid fight…”

“Well, I don’t hear you suggesting anything,” I said quickly. “I mean, I came up with one idea and just because you hate it…”

Hate? Where had that come from? That sounded unfair, even to me.

“I don’t hate it,” he said. “It’s just not my idea of a good time.”

I grabbed hold of the impulse to tell him that Amaranth and Steff both loved going to the library, and permanently filed it away under “Not Helpful.”

“Then, what is your idea of a good time?” I asked.

“Well… um… do you play cards?” he asked.

I snorted.

“Hey, I didn’t laugh at your library idea,” he said. “A lot of people would have, too.”

“No!” I said quickly. “It’s just… if I had brought a deck of cards into the house, my grandmother would have sent me to the basement.”

Ian stared at me and I had the feeling I’d somehow said more than I should have.

“Because that’s where the rec room was?” he prompted.

“Something like that,” I said. “Well, nothing like that. But… yeah. I never was allowed to play with anything but dolls and things like that. Lucky for me, she didn’t see a difference between enaction figures and dolls… which gave her quite a bit to say about the boys in the neighborhood.”

“Your grandmother sounds like a real queen,” Ian said.

“She’s actually very highly respected,” I said defensively. “Anyway, I’m eighteen now, so I officially no longer have to deal with her.”

“What about your parents?” Ian asked. “Or parent, I guess, whichever is…”

“We’re not talking about that,” I said.

“Okay,” Ian said. “Your call. Anyway, though, somebody’s probably got a cups game going somewhere, and if they don’t, I’m sure we can get one started. It is the weekend, after all.”

“I don’t know how to play cups,” I said.

“Well, you can watch me,” he said. “And join in when you get it. It’s really not that complicated. I’ll even give you some coppers to get you started.”

“Coppers?” I asked, not getting it at first. “You’re talking about gambling.”

“It’s not much of a game if nobody’s winning anything,” Ian said.

“What’s wrong with just winning the game?” I asked.

“An hour ago you looked ready to bite the head off a puppy and now you’re outraged about the idea of people playing for laundry money?” Ian asked incredulously.

“I’m not outraged,” I said. “I just don’t know if I’d be comfortable…”

“Look, it’s just a game,” Ian said. “But we can probably find something else…”

“No, it’s okay,” I said. “I guess it won’t kill me to come along and watch, anyway. I just don’t know if I’ll actually play.”

“Okay,” Ian said. “That’s fine.”

“Oh, but I really should probably…” I said, then stopped.

“What?” Ian asked.

“Nothing that can’t wait,” I said.

I had been about to say I needed to find Amaranth and tell her what had happened and where I was going, but this was my time with Ian, and he’d been kind of weird about me doing things like asking Amaranth for permission and checking in with her.

Anyway, she was a nymph, and the weekend was her prime time for “work.” The more time she had to have sex with other people, the more attention she could give to me during the week. Besides of which, I figured that a little more time and distance between me and the events of the day would make it easier for me to get through relating them.

“Okay. Well, can I ask a question about your… uh… accident?” Ian asked.

“What?” I asked.

“Why didn’t you just move to the other bed?” Ian asked.

“I did,” I said. “But that’s Two’s bed now.”

“You got a new roommate?”

“Yeah, Two,” I said. “She moved in yesterday… we’ve had a little bit of friction over stuff like sleepwear, but I think it should be… what?” I asked, realizing he was staring at me.

“You didn’t think you needed to talk to me about this?”

“About what?” I asked.

“Getting a roommate,” he said.

“I thought you weren’t big on the whole ‘asking permission’ thing,” I said.

“I don’t mean you needed my permission,” Ian said. “But, if you wanted our relationship to keep going… like it was…”

“Oh, you’re worried about how this affects your happy fun time,” I said.

“I’m worried about what it says about you that you didn’t feel the need to even casually mention a change in your living situation to the guy you’re supposedly serious about dating,” Ian said.

“I try to help out my friend and you call me a lesbian!” I said.

“I didn’t call you a lesbian!” he said.

“It’s what you’re thinking, though,” I accused. “Isn’t it? You might as well say it…”

“Mackenzie…” he said.

“Oh, and now I’m hysterical!” I cried… literally, with tears streaming from my eyes again. “Isn’t that just typical? I’m expressing my feelings, and because I’m a woman that makes me hysterical!”

Okay, so, maybe I was getting a little hysterical. That was still no excuse for him… not to have actually said anything about it.

What the hell was wrong with me?

“What the hell is wrong with you?” Ian asked.

“What, something has to be wrong with me?” I asked. “I can’t just have feelings that I’m expressing… I can’t… just… I…” I faltered, and then fell… inside myself, I fell hard. “I tried to eat somebody today, Ian!” I cried, the admission ripping itself out of me and leaving a jagged tear behind it. “I actually bit off her finger. I crunched it up and… and… swallowed it like it was a piece of candy.”

“Shit,” he said softly.

“If she hadn’t been a fighter, I would have killed her,” I wailed. “I would have killed anybody else… like Two, or you…”

“I know how to fight,” Ian said.

“Oh, this is so not the time to be macho,” I said. “I’m bad, Ian… I’m dangerous. You don’t even know…”

“You have snot running down your face,” he said.

I automatically wiped my mouth with my arm.

“I’m not j-joking, Ian,” I said, my earlier hiccups resurging. “You… you should have stuck to your wands. You should just leave, and forget about me… before… before I hurt you.”

“You were dangerous, earlier,” Ian said. “I could see it, just like I can see you aren’t now.”

“I am!” I said, clutching at his shirt in my desperation to make him understand. “If you’re too stupid to realize that, I’m afraid I’m going to end up…”

He slapped me.

“You slapped me,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said. He was shaking, especially his hand. “And what are you going to do about it?”

“I… I… you slapped me.”

“We have established that,” he said, his voice and face perfectly calm. “I asked, what are you going to do about it?”

He had slapped me.

My own hand went up to trace the outline of the tingly spot on my cheek. I looked up into his hazel eyes… somehow, he seemed to be, not really taller or bigger, but… fuller. He was still a little unsteady, but was doing a good job of mastering himself, and somehow… well, it was like his whole body was made out of his voice, the way it sounded the few times he let himself get really commanding.

I felt a sudden, fierce urge to wrap myself around his body, to feel the weight of him on top of me…

Yeah, I think I was probably still hysterical.

He was looking at me, waiting for me to say something.

“You… slapped me.”

“You aren’t dangerous,” he said. “You had a bad… I don’t know… episode, or whatever, but you aren’t bad.”

“You don’t know me,” I said.

“I really don’t,” he said. “Not as well as I should, but I know that you’d sooner let somebody walk all over you and push you around than fight back.”

“You make it sound…” I said, but I didn’t know how to finish the sentence, so I didn’t. Ian had slapped me. I felt giddy, almost dizzy.

“Look, I’m not about to do that again just to prove the point,” he said. “Do you still want to hang out?”

“I… um… you know, with Two working, there’s nobody in my room,” I said.

“And what exactly do you want us to do there?” he asked.

“What… whatever you want,” I said, and in that moment, I meant it. My hand was still fingering the spot where he’d struck me. My other hand wanted in on the action, only not on my face.

“Let’s go play cards.”

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4 Responses to “125: Filling Time”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Sorry but I sort of vaguely remember myself at Ian’s age, with a rather permanent hardon, ALL the time!

    Considering the few offers I received. Paging Master Clueless, phone call for Mr. Oblivious. Two weeks later and a few hundred miles of distance, all of a sudden I would stop, slap my forehead and exclaim. “OH Shit! That’s what She meant. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!

    I am damn well certain I never, voluntarily, on my smarter days, delayed my gratification.

    Current score: 2
    • capybroa says:

      Maybe I’m not reading this right (we’ll find out soon, I bet), but I think Ian’s deliberately not taking her offer. Maybe he’s realized that he needs to cement his relationship with Mack outside of what Two would call “sex things.”

      Props to the author for writing an authentically complex character. Ian is infuriatingly adolescent one moment, and surprisingly mature the next.

      Current score: 9
    • C says:

      I can relate to this.

      However even back then my “need” did a pretty good imitation of the tide. There were days, weeks even, when it seemed like I just could not get enough and then when it got out of my system there would be weeks, sometimes months, when I didn’t even think of sex at all.

      Current score: 1
  2. Psi-Ko says:

    Out of all the reasons to go into hysterics, accidentally givimg im to your primal nature and trying to eat another living sapient being is in the upper 1% in my humble opinion

    Current score: 14