"Tempering the Impact"
Fortressa tried to ignore
the recent revelation about
Socket, really she did.
She had liked the way that
things were, and didn't need it
complicated by sticky emotions.
The problem was, it hadn't ever been
quite the way she thought it was, and
thanks to Blue Blaze and Ilyana, it
was no longer something that
Fortressa could overlook.
She gave up trying to read
and tossed her magazine
onto the ebony coffee table,
then wandered into the kitchen.
Mouthwatering steam poured from
the oven as Socket turned the pieces
of lesbian chicken. It was supposed
to be called "lavender chicken" but
Fortressa had cracked a joke and
the sillier name had stuck.
"That smells amazing," she said.
"Thanks," Socket said quietly.
She had been unusually subdued
ever since those idiot superheras
had let the cat out of the bag.
She scraped an enormous pile of
root vegetables from a cutting board
into a roasting pan, tossed them with
seasonings, and put them in the fridge.
"It's nice of you to make supper,"
Fortressa said. She was not much of
a cook herself, with a tendency to eat
out of packages unless someone else
went to the trouble of cooking.
Socket sighed. "Let's go into
the living room," she said. "We
might as well be comfortable
while we talk about this."
"Who said anything about
talking?" Fortressa asked.
"You did, just not in so many words,"
Socket said as they sat down, Fortressa
on the brown couch and Socket in one
of the tan easy chairs across from it.
"We've tried ignoring this, and it's not
working. It's time to try talking."
Fortressa wilted. "I'm not ...
actually very good at that," she said.
"I know," Socket said, opening her copy
of Lesbian Love and Relationships. She
took out a sheaf of worksheets. "That's
why I brought some extra help."
"I don't know what you want," she said.
"I want you to be happy," Socket said.
"You haven't been, since Blue Blaze
opened her big fat mouth. So we are
going to find a way to fix that."
Fortressa had seen rusted-up engines
that looked more fixable than this mess,
but she couldn't deny that she had been,
if not happy, at least happier before
Blue Blaze exposed Socket's crush.
"It's just ... weird," she said.
"I never asked for this. That's
why I threw out the idea of love,
it's too messy and complicated."
"You keep saying that," Socket said.
"What do you mean, threw it out?"
"At the time my last relationship blew up
in my face, I had this old video game console
that used to play great but didn't work right
anymore," said Fortressa. "So I wrote LOVE
on the stupid thing, and labeled all the controls
with things like DATING and SEX. Then I took
a chair and smashed the console into scrap.
When it was in splinters, I swept all the bits into
a dumpster along with what was left of the chair."
"Wow," said Socket. "That's pretty extreme."
"It's how I felt," Fortressa said. "It's also why
I don't say I'm celibate. That would be like
ignoring my sexuality, not pulverizing it
and throwing it out of a window."
"Okay, I get that," said Socket. "I'm not
asking you for sex, or even romance."
"But you're a lesbian," said Fortressa.
"Yes, but I'm also woman-identified,
and I think you are too," said Socket.
"Most of my close relationships are
with other women, including friends
as well as lovers. I don't connect
nearly as much with men."
Fortressa frowned. "Okay ..."
"You didn't get a very good introduction
to relationships, I think," said Socket.
"You've been floundering along, you
managed to put together a group of
girl geeks which is fantastic, but you
don't know what you're doing and
you don't know why you're doing it."
"Men suck," Fortressa said firmly.
"That's exactly why I'm doing it.
They take advantage of women,
they squeeze us out of the workforce,
and I won't put up with it. I don't have to."
Socket smiled. "Of course."
"Then why all the ..." Fortressa
waved a hand. "... relationship woo?"
"Because you won't get anywhere solid
by defining your goals in negative terms,"
Socket said. "What do you want from me,
from us as the Pit Group, not just what
you don't want from men?"
"I want someone to work on the car
with me," Fortressa said. "People to make
noise in the garage so it's not too quiet.
"Gals to hang out with, and preferably,
ones who won't run off with the first guy
they take a liking to. People who don't
freak out over my superpowers or
pressure me to become a hera."
"Okay then," Socket said. "I can do that,
we all can do that. What do you want
from a relationship?" She held up a hand.
"Not sex, doesn't even have to be romance.
If you wrote a description of a best friend,
what would you want that to be like?"
"I don't know," Fortressa said,
but she couldn't help thinking of
Socket scrubbing her back.
A timer chimed in the kitchen.
"I need to put the veggies in the oven,"
Socket said. "I'll be right back. Why
don't you try the worksheets? There
are pages on friendship, romance,
sex, and all kinds of stuff here."
"Okay," Fortressa said as Socket
padded away toward the kitchen.
There was a worksheet on values,
which she almost set aside, but then
she realized it was a lot more open-ended
than the ones SPOON usually handed out.
Fortressa jotted down some of her ideals,
even adding "woman-identified" based on
Socket's earlier description of that one.
There were workbooks and packets
about what you wanted from a relationship,
and what you liked to do in bed. Fortressa
crossed off almost everything, but then noticed
that not all the activities were necessarily sexual.
She missed cuddling, damn it.
Socket used to flop all over everyone
when they piled into the living room
to watch movies. Now she took care
not to crowd Fortressa, which ...
kind of sucked, actually.
When Socket came back, she looked
at the worksheets Fortressa was filling out
and said, "Let me know if you'd like
to share any of those with me."
Fortressa startled. "I thought
that was the whole point of this."
"No, it's about you knowing what you
want and need from people," said Socket.
"I'd love to know that, but only if you
feel comfortable sharing with me."
Fortressa pushed the values worksheet
across the coffee table. The whole group
knew most of that stuff already. She
hesitated, then said, "I miss cuddling."
"Me too," said Socket. She rummaged
in the pile. "There's a cuddle buddy application."
Fortressa thought it was silly, but she
filled it out anyway. She hesitated over
some of the body-map pages.
"Those aren't just for sex," Socket said.
"They're for social touch too. You can
put down whatever you like, or don't like."
Fortressa was starting to realized that
her boundaries were, in fact, somewhat
different with Socket. Nobody else had
offered to scrub her back, but Socket had
done it the first time they got oil all over,
and it had just become a habit.
So had the food. Socket wasn't
an expert, but she could cook without
triggering the fire alarm, and she
made good comfort food.
"Do you really think this will fix what
the superheras fucked up?" Fortressa said,
looking at the colorful worksheet and
then turning it toward Socket.
"It's not about fixing everything,
or pretending that it didn't happen,"
Socket said as she leaned over to see.
"It's about tempering the impact so
it doesn't wreck our whole lives."
Fortressa thought about that.
It would be nice to get back what
they had before this mess started.
Maybe they could even explore further
and find out if there were things they
would both enjoy that they hadn't tried.
Mostly, she was just appreciating the novelty
of someone who wanted her but wasn't
actively trying to pry her panties off.
"In case you were wondering, I have
done this before," Socket said. "I had
a homoromantic girlfriend for a year.
It was really sweet while it lasted."
Fortressa wasn't any happier about
romance than about sex, but she liked
the idea of friendship and it felt good
to know that Socket wasn't as fixated
on sex as most people tended to be.
If nothing else, the situation seemed
a little less weird after going through a pile
of worksheets on a lot more weird stuff.
The timer chimed again.
"Supper's ready," said Socket
as she tucked all the worksheets
back inside her lesbian book.
"If you'll buzz the garage, I can
have it on the table by the time
everyone gets up here."
So Fortressa summoned
the rest of her Pit Group and
then sat down at the table.
The chicken thighs swam in
fragrant broth dotted liberally
with lavender flowers.
The other pan held chunks of
beet, parsnip, carrot, and turnip
along with sprigs of rosemary.
Everything was delicious and
practically melted in her mouth.
Fortressa realized that she
really didn't want to give up what
she had with Socket, even if it
wasn't exactly a relationship,
but wasn't not a girlfriend
as she had thought earlier.
Stealthily, Fortressa reached
her long legs under the table
to rest her feet against Socket's
the way they used to do.
Socket's answering smile was
as brilliant as an arc welder.
* * *
See the exterior of Fortressa's garage lair and the building layout. This is the garage apartment located above the machine shop. The living room is defined by an ivory shag area rug. The kitchen has a nice industrial look.
Lesbian Chicken is a nickname for Lavender Chicken. Here's the recipe for Balsamic-Rosemary Roasted Root Vegetables.
Browse the book Lesbian Love and Relationships.
Woman-identified means that your loyalty and affinity focus on women. Homosocial means that most or all of your important relationships are with people of your sex/gender. Many lesbians are like this, although you don't have to be a lesbian to feel most closely connected with other women. Fortressa and her minions are woman-identified, even the ones who also like men.
Here are several worksheets about values.
Socket also a bunch of stuff about relationships. This Healthy Relationship Workbook helps people think about what they want from their interpersonal connections. Socket brought the easy version because she knows Fortressa is not fluent with relationships, despite being a mechanical genius. A yes-no-maybe list is helpful for sexual activities, but you can just as easily make one for platonic activities. These worksheets on sexual communication help people enjoy consent and erotic exploration. Again, you can use the same model for nonsexual stuff. The Compassionate Preference Flow Chart facilitates examination of your own feelings. Here are some activities for exploring relationships with an eye toward mental and emotional health. These activities about friendship help people find and be good friends. This stuff is typical of T-American education about personal choices and mental health, which help people find satisfaction and avoid the kinds of problems that can lead to mental illness or injuries. And they know to bring it out when something knocks a formerly functioning relationship into a wobble. Even if one person doesn't think of it or isn't good at it (Fortressa) someone else often picks up the slack (Socket).
A Cuddle Buddy Application helps people navigate the parameters of platonic touch. While not often needed among friends, it's very useful for strangers who need skin contact, and it's also good for stabilizing a friendship after parameter stress like this. Think about what you want, and then discuss that openly and specifically. Socket is very flexible and responsive, so the real weight falls on Fortressa to define what she wants.
Cross-orientation relationships happens when friends or spouses have different tastes in sex/romance. The descriptions are often unflattering, because such relationships can go badly wrong if people are not compatible and/or do not know how to compensate for the differences. (The same is true of cross-anything relationships: politics, religion, race, etc.) Where there is overlap, such as a bisexual person with a gay or straight partner, that common ground makes it easier to build and maintain a relationship. In any case, clear communication and other social skills raise the chance of success. Socket is a lesbian, but open to more types of relationship than just that; she has always cared more about being close with Fortressa than how that happens. Fortressa has done something with her sexuality that isn't even on the standard map, which makes the situation complicated to explain; but she has not been a lesbian, so they're cross-oriented.