Chapter 233: Surfacing

on August 1, 2014 in Volume 2 Book 7: Courtly Manners, Volume 2: Sophomore Effort

In Which Glory Manipulates Mackenzie

I woke up confused, and in the strangest combination of incredibly sore and unbelievably comfortable I had ever found myself in.

I had a strong sense of being upside down, which seems odd in retrospect given that I normally sleep on my stomach anyway. Being face down against a pillow or even several pillows is a very different sensation from being suspended facedown in a cloudbank of pillows, apparently. I could feel them against my skin, satiny and smooth and cool, but I also felt… suspended. Like I wasn’t anchored to anything.

Glory’s hand snaked down and grabbed my hair. She pulled my head up to the surface, where I saw that she was wearing her silk pajamas. They had voluminous sleeves like an old-timey wizard’s robes, though other than that, the lack of a plunging neckline, and the fact that they opened in the front they weren’t that different from the typical gowns she wore.

“Um, good morning?” I said.

“I wonder… I know your skin won’t break for anything but magic,” she said. “What about your hair?”

“No,” I said. “It’s… still me. Still semi-invulnerable.”

“Is it possible to pull your hair out?” she asked.

“Under ordinary circumstances, no,” I said. “You’d have to have some kind of magical strength, because either the skin or the hair would have to break.”

“I wondered if eventually it wouldn’t just slide out, intact,” she said.

“I promise you it wouldn’t… I’m pretty sure hair is actually rooted somehow,” I said.

“It’s just something I thought about. How is your ass?”

“I feel like I’ve lived through some of Steff’s drawings,” I said. She had something of a fondness for impalement fantasies. “I’m not sure how often I could take that.”

“That’s not something I would do very often,” Glory said. “With most people, it would require suitable preparations beforehand… even elven perfection doesn’t leave one sufficiently immaculate in every intimate area, and of course I couldn’t possibly settle for anything less.”

“To be honest, I’m kind of surprised you don’t have gloves for something like that,” I said. “Well, actually, I would have been surprised by the glove… it’s not something I would have thought about. But now that you’re talking about it, it makes a lot of sense.”

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Of course we have gloves. I wouldn’t think of touching one of my follower’s insides barehanded. But you’re so clean, and I was feeling so dirty… I liked being able to be spontaneous like that.”

“I’m not used to thinking of myself as being… clean.”

“Oh, in a very superficial way, of course you aren’t,” she said. “I mean, the human tract is sort of dingy in general, the way human skin is. Anyway, gloved or ungloved, there’s still the potential for coming out of that sort of encounter somewhat humbled if one is not careful of mess, so I’ve had to be sparing about that level of intimacy with my followers.”

“And I don’t suppose you could have received… actually, I’m not sure how that works,” I said. “I mean, there was and is a fuckton of pain, but I’m the only one who got off.”

“You didn’t get off,” she said. “I got you off. There’s a difference. If I ever occasioned to take your hand in a similar fashion to how I gave you mine, I would be getting off on it. Dominance is not about who receives pleasure. It’s about who directs passion. Did you feel in control?”

“No,” I said, blushing and shivering with the memory. “I felt… under control.”

“Exactly,” she said. “It is something I chose to do, and something I may in the future choose to do… but I would not expect it with any frequency, even if we do decide to transition my relationship into a physical one.”

“I think that ship has already kind of sailed, hasn’t it?” I said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Uh… the tree has fallen? I’m not sure what the elven idiom would be…”

“I understand the idiom, Mackenzie Blaise,” she said. There was a touch of annoyance in her voice, which did nothing to diminish the little thrill of hearing her say my full name. “But I don’t recall having made any decision about my relationship.”

“So, wait… you’re saying that as far as you’re concerned, it’s not just the… fisting… that’s a one-time thing?” I asked.

“I am saying that as far as I’m concerned… as far as I’m aware… we haven’t decided anything,” she said. “Beyond what we decided to do last night, of course, but that is done.”

“I… guess I understand that,” I said. “I was just… I kind of thought that when that happened, that was us sort of… moving along. Progressing. Towards the next level.”

“Well, I think it was progress,” she said. “We now know at least one thing that we both enjoy, and and we have established some basic level of compatibility. But it’s more of an appetizer than the first course of a meal.”

“So… should we be discussing the relationship now?”

“Do you feel like discussing it?”

I thought about that, and realized that one of the reasons I had been working on the assumption that our relationship had just sort of ascended was that it would mean I wouldn’t have to think about it or talk about it, or figure anything out. We could just go with the flow. So on that level, I wasn’t eager to hash things out. On the other hand, though, I’d also felt ready to take things up a notch with Glory. I hadn’t arrived feeling that way, but when it had happened, it had felt right… natural. Maybe now was the time.

“I really don’t know,” I said.

“We do have the same basic problem, of course,” she said. “For me to be physically intimate with you on a normal basis, we would have to figure out what normal physical intimacy would look like, between us.”

“Yeah, but we’ve never actually talked about that… just around it,” I said. “I feel like if I could take what you did last night, then maybe it won’t be a big deal.”

“So, would you be comfortable performing oral sex for me?”

It was a good thing that request would have given me pause anyway, because my hesitation in answering gave me a chance to translate it into elven terms.

“…probably not anytime soon,” I said.

“I thought as much,” Glory said. “This may be what dooms any progression. It is possible for two people to each find the other attractive and enjoyable, but still be incompatible. Of course… there is something else we need to discuss.”

“What’s that?”

“Your lovers,” she said. “I feel Amaranth is likely to ultimately forgive our transgression, as it’s in her nature to be forgiving and because she would approve of it in general. But that does not mean she won’t have anything to say about my moving forward without consulting her. i do not know what Steff would think, but I suspect that Ian will be far less gracious about it.”

“Shit,” I said. “You know, I wasn’t even thinking about them last night.”

“I would hope you weren’t!”

“I mean, I didn’t forget they existed or anything, but I was thinking about their feelings, or my obligations,” I said. “I guess the best defense I can give is that we didn’t plan it, but… I don’t know how that’s going to play.”

“For my part, I intend to offer no defense,” she said. “I will explain what happened, and they may take it as they will. If they feel their rights were infringed,… they are right to do so. It’s only a question of how much offense they take.”

What else could we do? We’d made the right decision for ourselves, I was sure of that, but I wasn’t a lone individual. I had other people to think about, and I hadn’t thought about them. I could say honestly that it had just sort of happened, but the fact that we’d checked in with each other about it before doing anything meant that I couldn’t claim to have been completely swept away with passion.

Actually, Amaranth probably would have been more likely to be disappointed with me if I had been carried. But just because I hadn’t been blinded by emotion didn’t mean I had been thinking… or thinking enough, or thinking about the right things, or at least not all the right things.

Apparently, there was more to this sort of thing than an either/or thing. Like how I’d asked Glory what she’d had in mind, and she’d told me, but I had misunderstood.

Even when you do things right, you can still get things wrong… and even when you get things wrong, they can still come out alright.

But even though they’d come out alright, we still had to face the consequences.

It’s really no wonder so many people prefer fiction to real life. Who needs this kind of recursive complexity, this pointless, anxiety-raising ambiguity?

In a story, either we would have negotiated everything quickly and clearly in textbook fashion, or… more likely… we would have just let loose and ran wild and coincidentally things would have worked out exactly in such a way that we were both pleased with the results, both knowing what the other desires and desiring it, too.

In reality, even with a partner who does know what you desire and does desire little more than to please you, things still ended up complicated.

Really, the only advantage reality has ever had over fiction is that it’s real. If this weren’t the case, I don’t think anyone would ever bother with it.

“Is Amaranth still in the building?” I asked Glory, figuring she would have a pretty decent idea about the whereabouts of non-elves in her building. Amaranth could be as quiet and unobtrusive as a gnome outdoors on a natural surface, but she had real weight and presence against artificial surfaces and structures, and while her bare feet kept them quiet, she still had ordinary footfalls on floors.

“Oh… yes. Yes, she definitely is,” Glory said. There was something in her voice that I didn’t understand. I wondered if she was more worried than she let on about the others’ reactions. “So is Nicki.”

“Well, that’s something, at least,” I said. “She’ll be easier to face than anyone else, and the others will be easier to face after I’ve talked to her. She’ll probably have something to say, but I think she’ll be on our side after that.”

“I expect we’ll find out soon,” Glory said. “They’re on their way up.”

“They?” I repeated. “Did Steff and Ian come back already? What time is it even?”

“You should get dressed,” Glory said, helping me up out of the pillows. “Unless you care to be naked in front of my sister and her love.”

“Oh, Amaranth is with them?”I said, as Glory guided me to the edge of the bed.

Once I had my feet swung over the edge, I could move under my own power, though standing after a night of floating motionless was an exercise made all the more challenging by the reaming I had received.

Glory didn’t help me dress at all, which I kind of expected… the only scenario in which I could see her dressing me was if she was actually dressingme, the way one would dress a doll.

Once I started seeing that, of course, I couldn’t stop seeing it. It was… compelling.

If Glory really wasn’t ready for a physical relationship or we couldn’t figure out how to make one work, maybe we could talk about something more generally… service-y? There was more to the world of sex than just having it. I mean, I was already basically her assistant. There was no reason I couldn’t become her… “assistant“, with, you know, a significant pause and quotes around it, and italics for emphasis.

“Enter,” Glory said when I was finally dressed, which was my first indication that someone was waiting outside the door. Grace opened the door and slid in, followed by Nicki and Amaranth.

Nicki and Grace both wore nearly identical expressions of worry, with Grace’s being only a little more subdued. Amaranth looked a little frazzled, at least in terms of facial expression… of course her cascade of golden hair was as perfect as ever, and she didn’t wear or need any make-up to have a flawless complexion.

Seeing the three of them looking so concerned made me remember belatedly with a guilty start that I was supposed to have been convalescing from an energy drain. I did feel okay, mostly, and it hadn’t actually been physical exhaustion… everyone tended to overestimate the need for and benefit from actual rest in the aftermath of that kind of thing… but still, they’d been worried while I’d been having a good time, and that made me feel bad.

“Hey, guys,” I said, trying to smile in a way that I hoped was reassuring. “I’m okay, just a little wo…”

“I’m so sorry we fucked your girlfriend!” Nicki blurted out.

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22 Responses to “Chapter 233: Surfacing”

  1. Anthony says:

    …of course. Did anyone really think that would *not* happen?

    Current score: 16
    • Xicree says:

      Not a single one of us.

      Current score: 12
      • Not her, the other girl says:

        Pretty much, given that in my head I immediately went “Well of course you did, but that’s not what we need to talk about [goes on to talk about Mack and Glory]”

        Now we know Mack will probably get side tracked, but will Glory? Will her queeniness need to get Her Business out of the way before this nonsense, or will she accept the grace (ha! unintended pun!) period given to her by her sister et al?

        Current score: 1
      • Lunaroki says:

        Well, I might not have considered that angle ahead of time, but it’s not at though it was any kind of a shock to hear it. I can see Mack with a puzzled expression going “Wait, that’s what you’re worried about? You do know what Amy does for a living, right?”

        Current score: 3
        • TheTurnipKing says:

          she doesn’t really do it for a living. More like that’s what living IS for her.

          But there’s a difference between knowing about it in the abstract and having it shoved in your face, as the high priest said to the vestal virgin.

          Current score: 1
          • Lyssa says:

            I’d say Mack’s had both since Day 1, just about. Amaranth’s never been particularly subtle about it. That said, I can see how it might feel a bit awkward all around given current circumstances.

            Current score: 1
      • LukeLicens says:

        I was kinda hoping we’d get to ‘see’ it though. I’m really curious how that ball got rolling. Maybe as a flashback or aside, when there’s time for those.

        Current score: 0
  2. Mack says:

    Poor nicki. She worries about EVERYTHING. Why on earth would Mack care about Amy, the nymph, fucking people? Other than to be happy about it.

    Current score: 2
  3. Mack says:

    I over process things. I’m going to try to take glory’s angle from now on.

    And leave the door open for bad jokes always.

    Current score: 2
  4. Zathras IX says:

    Does “seduction
    Of the innocent” apply
    With a half-Demon?

    Current score: 4
  5. D. D. Webb says:

    Glory is becoming a character I hate to love.

    For some reason, her dynamic with Mack is making me nostalgic for Tales of AU. There are overtones of what was developing with Alea and Kegan.

    Current score: 2
  6. freeone3000 says:

    Well, good thing the whole nymph-ownership dynamic was hashed out back in book one. This entire encounter will be resolved with only one side of drama, instead of the cliche double-cheat.

    Current score: 2
  7. moridain says:

    Wait, do you mean Amerynth has stuck with purely Male/Female relations outside of mack this whole time?

    I always assumed she slept with anyone.

    I know the ‘meal’ isn’t as filling with a female, but it never occurred to me that this would stop her.

    Anyone else honestly expect Mack to think the same? To be surprised they think its an issue?

    Current score: 0
    • arsenic says:

      She’s fucked other women too, and Mack knew about that. I think the concern here is the fact that she fucked *friends* of Mack’s, without Mack giving prior consent or being involved. If nothing else, Amaranth might just be responding to Nicki’s anxiety about the situation.

      And you’re right: she does find it less fulfilling to be with women, at least in terms of her nymphly duties. I remember that being mentioned in book 1.

      Current score: 1
      • zeel says:

        Actually I think it’s more that Grace and Nicki feel like having slept with Amaranth is some kind of violation of friendship. Too Amaranth, or to Mackenzie, I doubt it’s even a concern. Amaranth is a Nymph, she has sex with anyone who wants to, she made this clear to Mackenzie after that first finger-bang in book one.

        Current score: 4
  8. Computer Mad Scientist says:

    …why would they be sorry?

    Current score: 0
    • zeel says:

      Nicki (and Grace) are socially awkward and not polyamorous. In her head she can see Mackenzie being upset about it, as the audience we know that’s not likely.

      Current score: 7
  9. Lunaroki says:

    Typo Report

    and and we have established some basic level of compatibility.

    Doubled “and”.

    i do not know what Steff would think,

    “I” should be capitalized.

    “I mean, I didn’t forget they existed or anything, but I was thinking about their feelings, or my obligations,”

    Pretty sure that “was” should be “wasn’t”, unless I’m badly misreading this somehow.

    Actually, Amaranth probably would have been more likely to be disappointed with me if I had been carried.

    Thinking there should be an “away” after “carried”?

    “Oh, Amaranth is with them?”I said,

    Missing space after closing quotes.

    the only scenario in which I could see her dressing me was if she was actually dressingme,

    Missing space between “dressing” and “me”.

    There was no reason I couldn’t become her… “assistant“,

    The comma should perhaps come before the closing quotes? The way it stands, the closing quotes come out looking like opening quotes. Also, while this situation is kind of ambiguous, I think technically maybe the comma should be inside the quotes anyway. Maybe.

    Current score: 0
  10. Ilya says:

    Forgot Amaranth in characters list.

    Current score: 0
  11. JS says:

    Aside from Glory saying one thing and doing another, classically manipulating Mack, she’s now got Mack thinking she made the right decision for her despite not having thought through everything required to make the right decision. Definitely still don’t like Glory.

    Current score: 1
  12. Arancaytar says:

    It’s really no wonder so many people prefer fiction to real life. Who needs this kind of recursive complexity, this pointless, anxiety-raising ambiguity?

    That poor, poor wall.

    Current score: 1