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Oct 31, 2020 5:48 AM
an exploratory vessel is stranded in a dreadfully prismatic bit of space
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“- okay great,” he chirps, shifting to be less despairingly clingy and substantially more cheerful. “I could go drop off Sira and Rakaskem, and then we could go do that?”

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"Alright! I'll familiarize myself with what's already been talked about, at least a bit, the captain pushed something to our devices."

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Eeeeee- he is still not totally adjusted to how pretty his smile is-

 

He drops off Rakaskem, and Sira, as promised, and then they’re in the palace clearing. A question occurs to him.

”... should you be there while we try to iron relationship details out?” he asks Runla. “I’m still not entirely sure how chaperoning works.”

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"Ideally. I'm also older, better traveled, and have more of an idea what I'm doing, so I'll have useful insights. I promise to not be too much of a little shit during the conversation."

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“That sounds reasonable enough,” he agrees.

And then- since it’s been less than five minutes, and the spell tweaking his tornados to be pleasantly petite is still active- he can just pop all three of them directly into Ateshai and Runla’s (still exquisitely pretty) room. 

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Ateshai has pulled up a projection of the safe-for-viewing-in-front-of-natives summary document. "You guys have roles?" he asks after a bit of skimming. "...Oh, and, uh, any questions for me? This's pretty summarizing, though, you might want to look at your version?"

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“Yup! I got the idea that you didn’t or had them differently, after a while, it might bother me if we were being monogamous but as is it doesn’t particularly- I’m submissive, you could probably tell- and I suppose I should probably do that-“

He flicks out a little compact mirror from nowhere in particular; its surface turns white, and acquires a visual texture pleasantly reminiscent of paper. He fiddles around on it for a while, and then spends a little bit reading.

 

“Um, nothing but the fact that you don’t have roles and the way where you’re less- casual about physical intimacy?- seem super relevant to dating? It also says that we have substantially higher median sex drives, but that’s another thing that would only matter if we were monogamous...”

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"Because it has to be said, I would draw your attention to the section on legal differences. I don't know if legality reflects general acceptability, it doesn't always, but coercion, especially sexual, especially against stated wishes, is unacceptable where we come from. We had a great-aunt who ate someone who coerced her son, and she was arrested but the general community consensus was 'good,' and the rapist's family chose not to have said rapist resurrected."

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Kadlawen gestures helplessly. 

 

“It- we both have a word that translates as rape but I think we think of it really differently?” he says, to Ateshai. “I found that section really confusing. But- it all sounds weird to me, in the same way that it would be weird if you permanently executed people for throwing tomatoes at other people, but I’m not even slightly tempted to throw tomatoes at you? And- and if you were worried that I would throw tomatoes at you, I would be willing to do anything to make you more comfortable that I wouldn’t, I- that’s the point of me, making people happy and comfortable and better-off- and I would rather be dropped at the bottom of the sea than do something you didn’t want me to do? The only way it’s going to be relevant is if you want me to- I don’t know- if you wanted me to wear a bracelet that’d make me fall unconscious whenever you wanted me to, because it would make you more comfortable? I could do that.”

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Ateshai makes Of Course I'm Not Worried noises, while Runla tilts her head, slightly stern hackles lowering.

"Well, I'll try to make it make more sense. Not all species share that taboo, but it's pretty common - especially in sexually reproducing species where accidental pregnancy is easy, and where pregnancy and childcare are major investments. Our world's species are usually highly invested in pregnancy, children start moving around while still helpless and require a lot of work, impregnable people can usually get pregnant on accident easily and without a lot of rigmarole, so from back before the first dawn anything that could lead to an undesired pregnancy is taboo, anything that could lead to a forced pregnancy is variably traumatizing, and instincts and culture are a cludgy mess so that transfers to related activities. And of course we have intense instincts towards individualism and personal freedom - doing things to people against their singular will is in general bad and the type of thing that used to cause blood feuds. 'Having laws' was a very strange transition for us, which is why I wasn't clear on legality versus morality."

"There are, by the way, species that would consider tomato throwing to be a major offense, but that's usually for scrupulosity reasons - they very obviously have general prohibitions against all forms of intentional mess-making. Which is why we usually send trained people for first contact, and prefer to spend a while observing a population before interacting - that wasn't feasible here, since we very obviously appeared in your space."

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Kadlawen appreciates Ateshai's Of Course I'm Not Worried noises; he relaxes, visibly.

"That makes sense- um, at a guess, we probably lack the involved strong taboo because of how submissives generally lack strong individualism and personal freedom drives and stuff, and because we mostly don't have unwanted pregnancies? It's not, like, impossible, and it'd be pretty easy if someone specifically set out to give someone an unwanted pregnancy, but the way our genders work makes that really hard to do on accident. Our children also don't start off helpless- you mostly just have to make sure that their egg has a constant supply of nectar, for the first six years, and then out pops a child who's capable of going to school and such; it sounds like a much less all-consuming investment."

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She lays her head on her fore-paws. "That sounds strange to me, but I suppose it is a species difference, or at least a cultural one."

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Kadlawen nods, and- surprising no one- glances adoringly at Ateshai. It’s becoming a lovely little habit.

”Um, I suppose we should also think probably think about standard relationship-stuff, in addition to interspecies stuff... um... I mostly spend my middays with Lalvien, helping him out and doing relationship-y-stuff, my evenings with Sasha doing the same, my bloom-time with Dato, and the rest of my time ends up divided however seems prudent? So within the constraint of doing things at other times I’m- I get the impression that you might not believe me if I said ‘up for whatever’ but I think it might be pretty completely true? You can de facto assume that I will do whatever you want me to and that you can do whatever you want with me? That’s- not even totally a cultural thing, I think, I’m just genuinely really oriented around the wants of other people?”

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"Uh, I believe you, I know people like that, but - I'm not actually. Sure. What to be doing? And 'whatever I want' isn't a super helpful answer? Like, it's not as bad as it used to be, but I still sometimes get decision paralysis, even if I knew enough about what's available to be done and was big into never having that push-pull?"

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Kadlawen privately considers the question of whether Ateshai’s culture mightn’t find declarations of unending obedience terribly romantic. 

 

He also privately questions how much of his current decisionmaking is based on ‘what would be terribly romantic’, as opposed to ‘what do I actually want to do’. He isn’t accustomed to asking the latter question: he feels the existential dread of someone delving into an unexplored oceanic cavern, of looking into the abyss and having the abyss look back, of staring into the eyes of a tiger and not knowing if you’ll be devoured or adored.

 

“... Okay,” he says, eventually, trying to put his incoming existential breakdown on hold. “Um, I can probably have preferences, if you’d genuinely prefer that I have preferences? I’m having some trouble disentangling that from the thing where I’m not being pushy- I’m okay with making decisions, and I’m okay with initiating things, but- I don’t think I could avoid ever initiating something that you didn’t like? I would stop but- I’m not sure how horrible it would be if I accidentally escalated too much and you had to pull away, or something. Would asking ‘can I such and such’ whenever I want to such and such still be putting too much- decision-based pressure- on you?”

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"Horrible for you or horrible for me? Because accidentally bumping up against my boundaries really wouldn't be horrible for me. Runla's just dramatic. Asking might be a good move in the near term, though? And for preferences - uh, I want you to have the extent of preferences you want to have?" A pause, and, "This is also unfamiliar territory for me, my last few relationships were either explicitly very non-serious, or involved a lot of pushing back and forth, and I also feel like your species might - do front-loading seriousness more than mine usually does."

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“We probably do,” says Kadlawen, who’s internal monologue continues to be an incoherent mess of screaming, unworkably confused cliff metaphors, and question marks. “We do have casual relationships but any given relationship is pretty firmly slotted in the ‘serious’ or ‘not-serious’ slot from the start... and I think I’ve been mentally slotting us in as ‘serious’, and it probably would’ve been more appropriate to slot us in as ‘casual’? I think that I might’ve been- misinterpreting signals?”

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"We usually try to know each other for a while before deciding that? At least ideally. Initial slotting tends to lead to mistakes a lot? Uh, I think long-term trajectory we run a higher chance of not working out for serious than for casual, so if defining things is important to you it might be better to define things as casual."

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Time to not conspicuously turn into an unpleasantly gelatinous mess of emotions-

 

“Okay,” he manages to say; he isn’t, quite, capable of keeping every little bit of waveriness out of his voice. “Does, um, does anything else come to mind as something that we ought to straighten out?”

 

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"...Are you okay?"

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“I am- disappointed- and trying not to unload that on you. I will be fine.”

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"I'm not opposed to something eventually serious, I just - do not know what to do with up-front serious when I don't already know someone very well."

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“I understand. I will be fine. Is there anything else you- want to discuss?”

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"...I'm sure there was something but I, uh, got distracted? Uh. How do the roles. Like. Impact things?"

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“- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that question, I don’t think that I can continue this conversation without getting even more irrecoverably upset, I’m sorry, I can- I can come back, later-“

And then he’s just going to march over to the door, have it lead somewhere other than the traditional hallway, exit it, close it, collapse, and cry.

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