Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "Wanting a Little of Everything"

This poem is spillover from the July 2, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from Dreamwidth users Dialecticdreamer and Siliconshaman.  It also fills the "Just Friends" square in my 7-1-19 card for the Winterfest in July Bingo.  This poem belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem features detailed discussion of kink, so please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.

This microfunded poem is being posted one verse at a time, as donations come in to cover them.  The rate is $0.25/line, so $5 will reveal 20 new lines, and so forth. There is a permanent donation button on my profile page, or you can contact me for other arrangements. You can also ask me about the number of lines per verse, if you want to fund a certain number of verses.
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"Wanting a Little of Everything"

[Monday, March 16, 2015]

Shiv and Lucy had agreed
to meet Bennett at the Finn house.

Everyone else would be out doing
other things today, so they'd have
the basement to themselves for
a quiet little conversation that
didn't need an audience.

Shiv still felt weird about that.

Bennett had gotten in touch with him
some time ago, and Shiv hadn't felt
comfortable just belting out private stuff
about his favorite kinks right away.

So they'd gone out to public places
a couple times, swapped a bunch
of e-mails, and that had helped.

Shiv had been startled by
the warm note of approval
in Bennett's voice when Shiv
had suggested that they meet
at the Pho Real food truck park
the first time they got together.

Bennett had explained about
first meetings and safety calls
and some other useful tidbits
about kink culture that Shiv
had never heard of before.

He wasn't used to approval.
It still made him antsy inside,
even if part of him craved it.

Shiv knew he needed
to learn more than he had
about kink, if he wanted to keep
playing with Gray, and especially
with Luci and Gray together.

And he ... wanted.

So there they were,
Shiv and Luci packing up
what they'd need for a day out
and waiting for a teleporter to pop
them over to the Finns' place.

That was weird, too, being told
that he could just go hang out at
the house with nobody else home,
like he lived there or something.

Never mind that Bennett had been
in and out of their place for years --
Shiv wasn't Bennett. It wasn't the same.

Catching a ride with a teleporter still
felt a little strange, but Shiv was
starting to get used to that.

Popstop arrived with a POP!
and a soap-bubble shimmer of
forcefield pushing everything
out of his way, although they
had cleared a landing zone.

"New tip," Shiv said, handing
him a tin. "I made a batch of
Lavender Vanilla Dream Balls.
Let me know what you think."

"I think you're awesome,"
Popstop said as he clutched
the tin like it was full of gold
instead of energy bites.

"These are good, but I
still like the matcha ones
better," Lucy said.

"Yeah, but those have
a bit too much kick for
teleporters," Shiv said.
"They eat by the handful."

"It's all good," Popstop said,
and hopped them to California.

Bennett was already there,
chatting casually with Dr. G.

"Morning," Luci chirped,
trotting over to collect hugs.

Shiv followed at a slower pace
and just brushed against people
before sidling away again.

"I was just telling Bennett
that I need to head out,"
Dr. G said. "Today I have
clients booked for a field trip
that will take several hours.
Make yourselves at home."

Yep. Definitely weird.
Kinda nice, though.

Shiv would maybe
get used to it by
the time he retired.

Luci scampered down
the steps to the cluster
of couches and cushions
that served as sort of
a downstairs family room.

Shiv followed her, and
Bennett brought up the tail.

It was quiet downstairs in
the way that only underground
could make it, the lighting dim
until Luci flipped a switch and it
filled the space with soft warm light.

It felt cozy and safe, a good place
to talk about touchy topics.

Shiv tucked himself into
a corner of the couch and
waited for Bennett to begin.

"So, we're dipping into
deeper water today?"
Bennett asked them.

Even after all this time,
Shiv still hesitated.

Luci jumped right in.
"Yes, please," she said.
"Gray is fun to play with,
but I barely know what
I'm doing, and I don't
want to hurt him."

"Yeah, he's ... a bit
banged up right now,"
Shiv said, and winced.
"Something went wrong
with him and Chyou."

Bennett held up a hand.
"I've heard as much from
Molly, who asked if I might
help, but I don't want to hear
any more about it unless
Gray tells me himself."

That was ... different.

Shiv was used to swapping
gossip, and the Finns' thing
about 'privacy maintains'
was nice but unfamiliar.

"You don't need to know
about that?" Shiv said.

"I would if I were helping,
but Gray needs to make
that decision on his own,"
Bennett said firmly.

"Okay, um, some of it's
about me and Luci too,
though," Shiv said.

"You can talk about
things that involve you,"
Bennett assured them. "Just
be gentle with Gray's privacy."

"All right," Luci agreed.

"I dunno," Shiv said.
"I mean, I'm not a rat, but
I ain't had good examples
when it comes to privacy."

"Would you like me
to backstop for you?"
Bennett said. "I could
tell you when you start
straying into areas better
left alone, like I just did."

Shiv thought about that.
"Yeah, that should work."

"So you know that ... things ...
happened around Christmas,"
Luci said. "We've all been
struggling to deal with
the aftermath of that."

"No shit," said Shiv.
"Gray and I were doing
okay before then, I think.
Can I say that much?"

"Yes, as long as you focus
on yourself," Bennett said.

"Gray was teaching me about
kink, and I've really learned a lot
from him, but then he got hinky,"
Shiv said. "Plus I got all rattled too,
and everything is just ... harder, now." 50

"That's understandable," Bennett said.
"Luci, what about you? Similar issues?"

"Some, but different too," Luci said.
"Back in January, Gray came to me
for comfort. One thing led to another,
and all three of us wound up entangled."

"Sensual, sexual, or both?" Bennett said
without batting an eye over the trio.

"We're friends, just friends,"
Shiv said, shaking his head.
"Well, I am, anyway. Luci ..."

She blushed hard enough
to see even in the soft light.

"I can't help it, he's yummy,"
she said. "We haven't done
anything more than play, but you
can't blame a girl for daydreaming."

Bennett chuckled. "I'm not blaming
anyone for anything," he said. "It
would just help to know what page
we're on when I'm giving advice."

Luci laced her fingers together and
stretched. "At first I thought Gray and
Shiv were boyfriends, but they said not.
I like Gray, and I'm thinking about trying
more with him, since Shiv isn't interested.
But ... I'm worried about Gray too, because
of those things that you don't want to hear
about. I don't want to risk hurting him."

"That's a good thought," Bennett said.
"What brought up those concerns?"

"It's the way that Gray approached me --
well, approached Shiv, but Shiv didn't
have the right stuff so he came to me,"
Luci said. "I have all sorts of rope and
scarves, only they're for dancing! I love
bondage, but I'm really just a novice."

"Everyone is at first," Bennett said.
"That's okay. You can learn. I can
teach you if you're interested."

"Yes, please," Luci said instantly.

Shiv took a minute to think about it,
before he tried to answer Bennett.

That time when Gray came home
all shook up, Shiv had done a little
light bondage with silver to help him
settle, and it had worked out great.

Shiv hadn't really known what he
was doing, though, which had been
nerve-wracking. He'd just tried
to mimic things that Gray or
Dr. Bloch had done for him.

"I think I better learn more,
if I'm gonna keep doing this,"
Shiv said. "Gray was teaching
me, but he's touchy about it now.
"I think something made him feel --"

"Whoa," Bennett said, holding up
a hand. "I need to know that you've
run short of teaching, not how Gray
feels unless he tells me that."

"Sorry," Shiv said, scrunching
into the corner of the couch.

"It's okay," Bennett said. He
looked at Shiv, looked away,
then said. "I get the sense that
people haven't always been
careful with your boundaries."

Shiv gave an ugly laugh.
"Try never," he said.

That remark made
Bennett sit right  up.

"Never, including people
you know now?" he said,
his gaze sharpening. "That
doesn't sound like the folks
I know you hang out with, but
I'm listening all the same."

"Uh ... not when I was
growing up, but some later,"
Shiv said. Counting laboriously
on his fingers, he added up the time.
"It's coming up on three years I've
been with Boss White. He's good.
Almost a year for the Finns."

"All right, so you've got
good examples now, but
you didn't before and need
to make up for it," Bennett said.
"No problem, we can work with that."

Shiv heaved a soft sigh of relief.
He always hated feeling broken.
Bennett made him feel like,
even if something had been
broken, it could be fixed.

Luci nodded too. "I've used
silk for work, not play," she said.
"So playing with Gray is new."

Two kinds of work, in fact.

Shiv couldn't tell whether
Bennett knew about Silk
or just about the dancing,
so he kept his mouth shut.

"Well then, why don't you
show me a little of what
you know?" Bennett invited.

Shiv grinned at the words.
This oughta be good.

Sure enough, a ribbon
of silk slithered out of
Luci's sleeve and wrapped
around a cushion, even
tying itself in a bow.

"That's a good start,"
Bennett approved.
"What else can you
do? Demonstrate on
my wrists, if you like."

The silk slid off of
the cushion and around
Bennett's wrists, slowly
pulling them together
into a mummy tie.

"Well done," he said,
his voice warming. "You
kept the tension even and
it's not too tight." He flexed
his hands a little. "I couldn't
break free easily, either."

"Silk works best for
bondage," Luci said.
"I can do cotton too,
though, or linen or wool."

"If you're willing to splurge
a little, then I recommend
B&B Capery Tape -- it's ideal
for people with superpowers,"
Bennett said. "That makes it
expensive, but you're using silk,
so I gather you're not broke."

"Capery tape?" Luci said,
her eyes brightening. "I've
never heard of that! I bet
I could --" The silk stirred,
slithering over Bennett's arms.

"You haven't explained how
your ability works, only shown
me, but capery responds well
to superpowers," Bennett said.

"I can control soft things, like cloth
and natural fibers," Luci explained.

"We're kind of opposites," Shiv said.
"She does soft things, I do hard things."

"Complementary angles," Bennett said.
"Each of you completes the other.
It makes a good partnership."

"Yeah," Shiv said. "Our powers --"
He laced his fingers together.

"They just fit," Luci said.
"When we played with Gray,
then they all stuck together!"

"We uh, kind of had a powergasm,"
Shiv said, scratching behind his ear.
"All three of us. At once. Didn't
know you could do that."

Luci giggled. "Now we do."

"People don't know a lot about
superpowers yet," Bennett said.
"They're so uncommon that it's hard
to study them, even if the soups are
willing, which most aren't. So we
learn slowly, and rare things don't
make it into view very often."

"We know," Lucy said, and
looked down at her hands.

Shiv remembered the awful fight
they'd gotten into, that ended with
him covered in bruises from Luci
bouncing him against a wall and her
covered in cuts from flying glass.

"That's something else that we
can explore together, if you want,"
Bennett said. "Meanwhile, I'd like
to see what else you can do."

Luci showed him a few more
of the ties that she knew, and
Bennett gave her feedback on
everything from style to security. 100

She seemed to enjoy it, even if
Shiv couldn't follow half of that.

Then Luci swirled the silk
around Bennett's body
and picked him up.

Shiv saw the moment
when Bennett stopped
thinking like a teacher
and let himself go,
eyes fluttering shut.

The next moment,
though, he shook it off.

"How the hell did you
do  that?" Shiv demanded
as Luci put Bennett down.

"Do what?" Bennett asked.

"I saw you start to go under.
You were really falling for it,
the whole suspension thing,"
Shiv said. "Then you just --
just put it away somehow.
So how did you do that?"

"Ah," Bennett said. "I have
years of experience. It is not
always safe to drop into subspace,
and sometimes it would be safe but
not appropriate. Luci and I haven't
negotiated a scene, so I felt tempted
but I pulled myself back out."

Shiv sighed. "Day we met,
Gray and I fell into a scene
because I couldn't pull out, and
he said it was less risky to play with
me than just let me fall on my own."

"Probably true," Bennett said.
"Did the scene go all right? It's
hard to handle if you don't know
each other well or have time
to negotiate in detail."

Shiv shuffled in place.

"Well ... we figured out
some fun stuff," he said.
"Hit some bumps, too, but
that was because of what we
didn't know. Gray wasn't aware
of my hangups, and I didn't know
powergasm was even a thing."

"That sounds unsettling,"
Bennett said. "How did you two
handle the aftermath of that?"

"Not very well, at first, but it got
better," Shiv said. "I kinda freaked,
and that upset Gray. I wasn't ready
to deal with all the negotiation, but he
helped me through it -- found pictures
for me instead of just talking."

"What kind of pictures?"
Bennett asked. "That might
help me see what you need."

Shiv took out his phone and
brought up the images that Gray
had given him on implements
and hand signals. Then he
showed them to Bennett.

"When I told Gray that
talking about some things
is hard for me, he gave me
these," Shiv said. "It helped."

"That's good," Bennett said.
"Have you found more since?"

"Yeah, now that I know to look
for them," Shiv said. "Gray still
finds some for me, too." He
showed the one on bondage.
"This thing came up after, uh,
something happened between
Christmas and New Year."

"Good infographic," Bennett said.
"I've used that one before."

Shiv hesitated, then scrolled
to the one on kink vs. abuse.

"We needed this after stuff
that happened to both of us,"
he said quietly. "We're still
trying to work through all of it."

"That's important," Bennett said.
"Looping back to what you mentioned
earlier, learning to 'put away' feelings
of submission or masochism will help
you stay in control so that you don't
get hurt more than you want to be,
or hurt anyone else either."

"That would be good," Shiv said.
"Right now, it's just ... I go for a ride."

Bennett nodded. "That's how
most people feel at first. Control
is a skill, Shiv, you have to practice.
That's not fun, but it is worth it."

"Should I practice too?"
Luci said. "Or just watch?"

"Whichever you like,"
Bennett said. "Generally
I recommend practice if
people have the tolerance."

"Then I'll give it a try," Luci said.

Shiv wasn't sure that he could
learn to push down any of what
he felt. He used to be good at
stuffing things, but he'd lost
a lot of that ability somewhere
over the last few years.

Gray had taught him
a few tricks for 'staying up'
but they were aggravating.

Shiv would try whatever
Bennett suggested, though.

He didn't want a repeat of
the embarrassing first scene
with Gray ... although it had
introduced him to powergasms,
which was an awesome outcome.

"Could I borrow your ribbon
for a minute?" Bennett asked.

"Sure." Luci unwound it
and then handed it to him.

"Thank you," Bennett said.
Then he turned to Shiv.
"Would you like a turn?"

"What?" Shiv said, startled.

"Do you want to tie my hands,
show me a little of what you've
learned so far?" Bennett said.

"I could try," Shiv said, and
took the ribbon from him.

Shiv struggled to remember
what he'd seen Gray and Luci
do with rope, ribbon, and such.

The end result was sloppy,
but it didn't look uncomfortable
and Shiv felt pretty sure that
Bennett couldn't wriggle
out of it too easily.

"Not bad," Bennett said.
"You have a basic grasp
of bondage and safety.
You can learn more of it."

"It's not really my strong suit,"
Shiv admitted. "Usually I
work with metal instead."

Bennett smiled. "Now that
I would love to try out."

"I didn't bring cuffs
or chains or anything."
Shiv thought longingly
of his hideaway box
full of different metals.
"Besides, you don't even
know that I won't hurt you."

"A different demonstration,
then," Bennett said. "Take
the penny out of my pocket."

"What?" Shiv frowned.

"I have a handful of change
in my pocket, but only one penny,"
Bennett said. "Pass me the penny."

"Okay," Shiv said, baffled. He
slipped his superpower into
Bennett's pocket, fondled
the coins, removed the penny,
and then held it up in the air.

"Thank you," Bennett said
as he took it. "That's why I
didn't worry about you hurting
me with your superpower, Shiv.
Your control is impeccable."

"I could have --" Shiv protested.

"You could, but you didn't, and
you won't," Bennett said. "I've
seen you use it. I've also heard
the Finns talk about you. Everything
tells me that you have fine control.
I know from talking with Graham that
finesse is admirable in superpowers."

"It really is," Luci said. "I practiced
a lot before I dared to wrap up
anyone other than myself!"

"Your control is impressive,
too," Bennett said. "Soft and
hard -- you two really do match."

"Yeah, we do," Shiv said.

"So there you have it,"
Bennett said. "Gentleness
is controlled strength. I know
you're not going to hurt me."
He held out a handful of coins.
"Care to show me more?"

"If I do that, I can't put
the coins back like they are,"
Shiv warned. "I'm not that good."

Bennett shrugged. "A couple bucks
is a cheap price for superpowers."

"Yeah, Tolli's still trying to teach me
how to price what I make," Shiv said.
"What the hell, it's your change."

He scooped the coins out of
Bennett's hand and studied them.

Copper, nickel, silver ... the metals
swirled together in Shiv's grasp,
then flowed over Bennett's skin,
careful to avoid the leather band
already snugged around one wrist.

The older man gasped, and that
made Shiv pause. "What?"

"It's just startling, is all,"
Bennett said. "Keep going."

Shiv wrapped the metal
around each wrist, forming
two solid but separate cuffs.

"Beautiful jewelry, but not
much bondage," Bennett said.

Gently Shiv reached out and
touched the bands together.

They stayed put.

"Wow," Bennett said.
"This is just amazing."

He gave Shiv a look of
such admiration that it
made Shiv's breath catch.

"It's just, um, what I do,"
Shiv muttered, looking away.

"It's a wonderful gift, Shiv,"
said Bennett. "Thank you
for sharing it with me."

"Welcome," Shiv said.
"Should I let go now?"

"Whenever you're ready,"
Bennett said with a smile.

Shiv peeled the metal off.
As he had warned, there was
no way to return it to coins.

It was pretty, though, silver
swirled with copper and tones
of gold and bronze in places.

A few of the motifs from
the former coins had survived
as faint impressions on the surface.

"Hmm ..." Shiv said thoughtfully,
turning it over in his hands.

He shaped the metal into
a wide, curved cuff with
an opening. A bracelet.

"Here," he said, handing it
to Bennett. "For your trouble."

"What trouble?" Bennett asked.

"Putting up with me," Shiv said.
"I know I'm a pain in the ass."

"You are not!" Luci protested.
"Bennett, tell him he's not.
Maybe he'll believe you."

"That sort of belief takes time,"
Bennett said gently. "Shiv will
learn it when he's ready." Then
he looked at the bracelet. "This
is beautiful, Shiv, thank you."

"Eh," Shiv said, not knowing
what else he should say.

"Would either of you like
to try this from the other side?"
Bennett offered, tilting his head.

"Yes, please," Luci said at once,
holding out her hands to him.

Bennett borrowed the ribbon
again, using it to make a pair
of very credible cuffs with
a narrow strand in between.

"This would take time to get
out of, even for me," Luci said.

"That's the idea," Bennett said.
Then he pulled ... something ..
and the cuffs simply unraveled.

"Wow," Luci said, grinning.

"Shiv, what about you?"
Bennett asked, holding
up the loose ribbon.

Shiv hesitated. He was
curious, but the thought
of having his hands tied
still made him twitchy.

"That looks like a no,"
Bennett said. "You're
rocking back and forth,
but leaning mostly away.
Body language matters."

If body language mattered,
Shiv would've gotten banged
over a bench a lot less often.

But it was nice of Bennett
to act like that counted, and
not make Shiv say it out loud.

"Of course, we have the option
of negotiating," Bennett said. "If
you feel ambivalent about me
binding your wrists together, is
there something else we could
do that would be less alarming?"

"I don't know, maybe?" Shiv said.
"I have to be pretty far down before
it stops bothering me that I can't
respond to things if I need to."

"Ah," Bennett said, enlightened. "You
don't want me to tie you up, because we're
not there yet. What if I just tie one wrist,
and don't tie you to anything? That is
a good rule for a first kink scene anyway."

This wasn't exactly a scene, since
they were just demonstrating and hadn't
negotiated anything in detail, only outlined
the conversation and a few things they might
try, but it wasn't exactly not  a scene either,
since they'd taken turns tying each other.

"Just one hand, okay," Shiv said.
What the hell, he was curious.

Bennett was deft and gentle,
tying a cuff that didn't tighten
even when Shiv pulled on it.

That made Bennett smile,
and he tugged on the loose end.

Oh. Shiv felt the funny flutter in
his belly that he got sometimes
when he played with Gray.

"You felt it that time, didn't you?"
Bennett said, watching him.

"Yeah," Shiv said. "Didn't
mean to, really ... but yeah."

Bennett put the free end in
Shiv's hand. "There you go."

It was like something had
thrown a switch in Shiv's head.
Just like that he felt normal again,
rather than wanting to float away
and let Bennett do things to him.

Shiv shook himself, unsettled,
and peeled the silk off his wrist.

"That was weird," he muttered.
"What the hell just happened?"

"It looks like you're a switch,"
Bennett said. "Luci too, perhaps."

She nodded. "I like doing things
to people, but I'm shy about showing
it in public because I don't know much
yet," Luci said. "Sometimes, it's nice
to relax and just let someone else
make the decisions for a while."

"Yeah, Gray told me that he's
a switch, he likes giving and getting,"
Shiv said. "Mostly I just follow his lead."

"Have you ever been in a situation
where you took charge of someone
instead?" Bennett asked him.

Shiv flashed on that time when
Mr. Vanburen had held still and
let him push the staples into
the chair with his superpower.

"Yeah," Shiv said, licking his lips.
"I dunno why he did it. He was
supposed to be in charge of me.
But I think he liked what I did."

"Then it sounds like your friend
is a switch too," Bennett said.
"It's more common than people
realize, even if most of them
never explore the possibilities.
What did you like about it?"

"The look on his face," Shiv said.
"The way he just ... let me do."

"If you'd like to tell me what
you were up to, in general, then
maybe I could tell you more about
what you experienced," Bennett said.

"There was this chair we were fixing,
and he was sitting in it when I pushed
the staples back in," Shiv said. "He
looked, I dunno, excited and scared
at the same time. I liked that."

"It's normal to feel nervous.
A little fear can be fun, too,"
Bennett said. "Nobody should
be really scared, though."

"I wasn't," Shiv said. "Not
with him ... well, not by then."
He waved a hand, not wanting
to get into the awkward backstory
of Mr. Vanburen pounding him.
"I think he felt the same, like I
might tease him a little but
I wouldn't really hurt him."

"That's the game," Bennett said.
"What you're describing is a kind
of edge play, or sensory play. It can
get very intense, but it shouldn't be
dangerous for anyone involved."

Shiv thought about that.
Mr. Vanburen had ... trusted
him, for some reason, to let
Shiv push the staples into
the chair all around him.

It had balanced something
between them, which had been
the point, but it also woke up
something in Shiv that he
hadn't even known was there.

Something dark and edgy,
like Gray had described later.
Something a little ... hungry.

"Yeah, like that," Shiv said.
"It felt weird, but I kinda liked it?
And I think that he did too."

"That's good," Bennett said.
"You've done quite well,
for a switch who doesn't
have much experience."

"What is switching, anyway?"
Shiv said. "Gray tried to explain,
but it didn't all make sense to me."

"I think being a switch is one
of the hardest things in BDSM,"
Bennett said slowly. "Dominants
and submissives, tops and bottoms,
all have their established places,
but a switch is different from them."

"Different how?" Luci asked.
"Don't we do the same things
that everyone else does? We
just do more of the things."

Bennett gave a wry laugh.
"I suppose," he said. "But
a switch often gets ostracized
from the community because
no dom wants them, thinking
they’re not a real submissive,
whatever the hell that means."

"That's bullshit," Shiv said hotly.
"I've seen  Gray go down, and
when he does, he really needs it."
Then he bit his lip. "That was
one of the things I shouldn't
have said, wasn't it. Fuck."

"You're learning," Bennett said,
waving his hand. "If you goofed,
that's between you and Gray."

Like Shiv was going to tell him.

"Gray needed it with me, too,
though," Luci said. "That's part of
what got us in over our heads a bit.
We came out okay, but both Shiv
and I felt a need for more guidance.
So how do subs fit into this?"

"Few subs want to submit to
a switch because they think that
we can’t really know what we’re doing
if we enjoy being on the receiving end
as well." Bennett shrugged. "They've
forgotten their history. Used to be,
everyone started on the bottom, and
the best worked up to topping."

"Huh," Shiv said. "I wonder
how they lost track of that."

"Well, some people are
exclusively one or the other,
so the old system didn't work
for them," Bennett said. "But
a few folks still practice it."

"Just doms and subs?"
Luci said. "Or you mentioned
tops and bottoms as well?"

"Tops and bottoms play with
a switch only on occasion, because
a switch is still someone who wants
something with a deeper dynamic,"
Bennett said. "I'm not sure how
you two feel about that."

"I cosplayed a spider,"
Luci admitted. "I should've
warned about that first, but
Gray really got into it."

"Wow," Bennett said, then
reached into his pocket and
handed her a square of
clinical-grade chocolate.

"What's this for?" Luci said.

"You win the prize for describing
a kinky activity I hadn't heard of
before," Bennett explained.

"Yeah, she's really out there,"
Shiv said. "That costume
was so amazing, though.
She had extra spider eyes!"

"And you?" Bennett said,
turning to look at Shiv.

"I'm not into the roleplaying
as much, but I like ..." Shiv
paused, trying to think of how
to describe it. "I like a good boss,
I guess. People used to say I had
no respect for authority, but Dr. G says
that's baloney because of Boss White."

"It sounds like you just have high standards
for authority, and if they don't measure up,
then you don't respect them," Bennett said.
"That's very sensible of you, Shiv."

"Majority of one," Shiv snorted.

"No, I agree," Luci said. "You
shouldn't follow a bad boss.
You deserve someone who
treats you well and appreciates
what you give them -- yourself."

Shiv thought about how Gray
always treated him as something
precious. "Yeah, maybe," he said.

"That's part of the issue with switches,"
Bennett said. "People struggle to grasp
how the same individual could enjoy
both holding someone's service and
giving their service to someone else."

Shiv shrugged. "It's like food," he said.
"I like cooking, and I like eating too."

"That's a good analogy," Bennett said.
"The issue with switches reminds me of
how the queer community looks on bisexuals –
wanting a little of everything and not quite
fitting into any of the prepared boxes. For
some people, it’s a lot to overcome."

"Everything but sex," Shiv said.
"I know most people mix it in,
but --" He shuddered. "Not me."

"You don't like sex?" Bennett said.

Shiv's face twisted. "Not the way
that most people seem to," he said.
"I'm not ... exactly ... ace, not like
Heron describes it, but kind of."

"You've had bad experiences?"
Bennett said, watching him closely.

"All of 'em, up to the last few years,"
Shiv admitted. "Even when it's my idea,
though, it's not what I'd call fun. Fucking
is just something I have to do occasionally
to make my goddamn dick leave me alone."

"That sounds awful," Bennett said.
"Have you tried solo lovemaking?"

Shiv had heard a zillion terms
for what guys did in the shower,
some of them downright ridiculous,
but he'd never heard that one before.

"I can --" He waved a hand vaguely
downward. "-- you know, but that
only works for so long before I
have to give up and do it for real."

"I'm sorry to hear that," Bennett said,
and sounded like he meant it.

Shiv had never heard that before.
Usually people just laughed at him.

"Maybe sex really isn't your thing,
or maybe you simply haven't found
the right person," Bennett said. "It's hard
to figure out which when you've had a lot
of bad experiences. Don't let anyone push
you either way. Figure it out for yourself.
Maybe Luci can help you with that."

"No," Shiv said, shaking his head
so his bangs flopped. "Luci is my sister."

Bennett spread his hands. "Sorry,
I didn't know that. It doesn't have to be,
ah, physical help. I just thought that
since you two are here, talking about
pretty intimate topics together, you
might be able to assist each other."

"I don't mind helping, but Shiv-ya
needs to decide if he wants help,"
Luci said. "People push him too much."

"That is the opposite of helpful,"
Bennett said. "Part of becoming
a good switch means learning how
to read people so you don't do that."

"The hell would you know about it,"
Shiv snapped. "Your life is perfect."

"Close to that now, but it wasn't always."
Bennett unfastened the tooled leather cuff
that hugged his right wrist, peeling it off.

Underneath, the milk-pale skin told
Shiv that the cuff almost never came off.

He could see why. The scar was old,
but still thick and ugly, silently telling
the story of a serious wound.

Shiv let his superpower sneak out,
finding a long-healed chip in the bone.

"Some wounds go deeper than
you can see," Shiv said softly.

"Yes, they do," Bennett said,
then put the cuff back on, fussing
with it until the edges lay just so.

"Thank you for showing us that,"
Luci said. "I think that you don't
let very many people see it."

"I don't, but Shiv needed
to see my ... credentials,
if you will, on the topic of
difficult history," Bennett said.

"Yeah," Shiv said. "Sorry
for being a dick about it,
but a lot of people talk big
and then can't back it up."

"Now that you know I can,
what would you like to learn?"
Bennett said. "I'm at your service."

"If I'm gonna do this switching thing,
I need to know how to do it right,"
Shiv said. "So far, I'm kinda lost."

"Me too," Luci said. "I had
some idea what I was doing
before, but now a lot is new."

"First you have to think about
your needs and your partner's needs,"
Bennett said. "Then you have to assess
whether those needs are getting met,
both during the scene and after
reflecting a day or two later."

Shiv thought about the way
that Gray always asked him
how he felt after they finished,
and would touch base later on.

"Yeah, that makes sense," he said.

"Looking closer at those needs,
how much overlap do you see
between what you like giving and
receiving?" Bennett asked. "What
are your limits as a top and a bottom?
Are those the same or different?"

"I don't like taking my clothes off,"
Shiv said. "I don't think that's
going to change with my role."

Luci nodded. "You never want
to take anything off," she said.
"Me, I love changing clothes!
I think it would matter more as
a top, though. As a bottom, I'd
want to feel the air -- or the ropes."

Shiv chuckled. "Yeah, I can
see you getting into that."

"So then you consider what style
of play you like as a dom or a sub,"
Bennett said. "Which way do you lean,
if you favor one role over the other?"

"I think mostly sub," Shiv said.
"But that may be just chance."

"I tend to dominate people,"
Luci said. "Like Shiv pointed out,
though, it could be more about
what opportunities I've had
than how I feel inside."

"Well, if the two of you
need wider options, we can
look for ways to explore those,"
Bennett said. "I'm happy to help.
Consider whether you'd prefer
a relationship where you can
switch roles, or stay the same."

"I don't know," Shiv said thoughtfully.
"I'd never try to tell Boss White what to do,
but I liked taking care of Gray, at least
once I stopped freaking out because
he was kinda falling apart on us."

Bennett cleared his throat.
"You're oversharing a bit."

"Sorry," Shiv said, wincing.

"I might ask Gray if he'd like
to tie me up," Luci said. "If
he's willing, that would give me
a chance to try it both ways."

"Good idea," Bennett said.
"Just be gentle with him, and
I hope it works out for you two --
or three. Did you try putting
one person in the middle, or
did you share authority?"

"Gray came to me first, and
when I didn't know what-all to do,
we went to Luci," said Shiv.

"Shiv and I wound up topping
Gray together, but as long as Gray
could still talk, he told us a lot about
what he needed from us," Luci said.

"So two novice tops working on
a more experienced bottom, rather
than a switch in the middle," Bennett said. 300

"How do you even know which mode
you're in, or your partner is?" Luci said.

"That's a smart question," Bennett said.
"For yourself, feel inside and try to tell
whether you're seeking to take on
more power or give it away. For
a partner, watch body language."

"Like what?" Shiv said. He wasn't
exactly great at that sort of thing.

"Watch me," Bennett said. "I'll
show you how my body language
changes to match my mindset."

He got up and walked away,
then turned and came back.

Something had shifted, but Shiv
wasn't sure what it was until Bennett
put a hand on Shiv's shoulder and
pressed gently downward.

Shiv felt that flutter again,
and slid down in his seat,
looking up at Bennett.

"Okay, that was dominant,"
Bennett said. "I stood over
Shiv and leaned on him a little,
and he responded by sinking down."

"I saw that," Luci said. "Will you
show us the other version too?"

"Of course," Bennett said.

He walked over to Luci,
but this time he kept his eyes
down and his shoulders rounded.

When she touched him, he
folded to kneel at her feet.

Luci stroked a hand over
Bennett's hair, then said,
"Tempting, but we should
talk before doing more."

"True," Bennett said,
rising gracefully to his feet.
He sat back down on the couch.

Shiv's head was starting to spin
from having stuffed too much
into it all at once, without
time to absorb it all.

"Getting tired?"
Bennett asked him.

"Yeah, kinda," Shiv said.
"I know we've just been
sitting here, but I think
I'm wearing out anyway."

"We've been thinking a lot,"
Bennett said. "That's hard work."

"Yes, we should take a break,"
Luci said. "Get something to eat,
or lie down and relax for a while."

Shiv's belly rumbled. "I vote
for the food," he replied.

"Food it is," Bennett said
as he got up. "Come on, I
know the kitchen well enough
to make lunch for all of us."

Shiv followed him to the stairs.

It seemed weird to eat when
the Finns weren't there to join them,
but maybe the three of them could
make enough to leave extra for
everyone else later on.

Cooking and eating,
Shiv thought with a smile.
Yeah, if he could learn how
to balance those, he could
figure out this switch thing, too.

There was nothing wrong with
wanting a little of everything.

* * *

Notes:

This poem is long, so its notes appear elsewhere.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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