“As my bottom, or submissive.”
I shook my head. “I’m not your submissive, I’ll agree to the term bottom, but I’m not submissive to anyone.”
Richard fought not to frown and almost succeeded. “I could argue that you are to other people, but fine.”
Ellen was watching us closely. “Okay, why did you say one thing and Anita the other? What’s the difference between bottom and submissive?”
“To me,” I said, trying not to frown at Richard, “bottom is someone who just submits, or wants to be dominated, in the bedroom, or dungeon, but outside of that they are dominant and in control.”
“That’s not a complete answer, Anita. Some people who are very dominant in every other part of their life are submissive in the dungeon and bedroom, and are still okay with the term, and say they have a dominant.”
“I’m not, because I may like to be physically dominated, but no one dominates me by will, or force of personality. To me a submissive is more than just physically dominated, it’s about giving up your will to someone else and letting them control you more completely,” I said.
“I think what you let Asher do with you is submissive,” Richard said.
“I disagree and since I’m the one getting tied up, it’s my call.”
“I don’t understand how either of you can let a vampire touch you, but Asher is submissive to Richard, so how can he also be dominant, or top, to Anita? If the two of you can’t even agree then how am I ever going to understand this?” Ellen asked.
I didn’t know what to say to her remark about vampires, so I let it go.
“It is confusing,” Micah said, with a smile and an attempt to ease her discomfort. He was ignoring the vampire remark, too. We’d take the maze one twist at a time, I guess.
I was uncomfortable, too, but if it was “make this work or give up Richard” as a part of our social group I’d muscle through it. Richard had worked his therapy hard to come to a place where he could admit what made him happy, all of what made him happy, and try to find a way to incorporate all of it into his life. He’d found the woman he wanted to have the white picket fence marriage with, but he wanted to keep the black metal spike gate, too. I wasn’t sure you could have a white picket fence with a Gothic gate, but hey, it wasn’t my life. I was only a small part of Richard’s life, as he was a small part of mine now.
“And I am totally lost that Richard says that Asher is his submissive, but he’s also Anita’s top, and Richard is her top, too. Richard says that Asher is his submissive, but Anita is only a bottom. How can you have more than one of each?”
“May I?” Micah asked.
Richard and I both said, “Yes.”
Micah smiled at Ellen. “First, Asher and Anita are both switches, which means they switch between top and bottom, but it’s more complicated than that, I’m afraid. Asher gives up almost all control to Richard in the dungeon/bedroom. He wants to be dominated in every way. Anita just wants Richard to dominate her physically with his superior strength, so she thinks of it as just bottoming.”
“But Richard says that she lets Asher do a great deal more than just use his strength. Asher . . . well, he . . .” she seemed acutely embarrassed.
“He ties me up and does nefarious things to me,” I said.
Ellen nodded. “Yes, that.” She actually blushed.
Since I used to blush at the drop of a hat, I sympathized. “I maintain that it isn’t what a person enjoys in the bedroom, or dungeon, that makes them submissive, but the mindset that goes with it.”
“You go as far into sub mindset as Asher does sometimes,” Richard said.
“What’s sub mindset?” she asked.
I suddenly despaired of ever explaining this enough to her. It was like explaining color to the blind: they accept that there is such a thing as color, but they have no basis for understanding it as a reality. Either you enjoyed being tied up, or you didn’t, and if you didn’t you were just never going to understand it.
Micah stroked my thigh with his free hand as if he’d felt some of my frustration. “I don’t honestly understand that personally, myself,” he said, “but I’ve seen Anita do it. Her eyes, face, body language changes. It’s as if some tension leaves her that she holds onto in every other part of her life, except in the bedroom, or the dungeon.”
“Richard told me it’s not a real dungeon.”
We actually did have access to a real dungeon at the Circus of the Damned, but I couldn’t make myself use it for fun. I’d seen friends chained in the place for real torture when evil vampires had been in charge of things. I knew that Richard had taken Asher to it for fun and games, but at my request Nathaniel would not go with Asher to play without me. I still had nightmares about a friend dying chained to one of the walls, and Nathaniel in there for anything was just too close to that memory.
Micah smiled, softly. “It’s just a term for the bondage side of things that go beyond just rough sex.” We’d all agreed not to cloud the issue with mentioning we did have a real dungeon.
She winced, I think at the term “rough sex.” Again, it wasn’t a good sign. How vanilla was Dr. Ellen Radborne? The thought of Richard married to someone who thought just saying the phrase “rough sex” was embarrassing, or bad in some way, made me sad for him. I knew that Richard was capable of enjoying gentler lovemaking, but he was so well-endowed that there was an element of roughness in most of his sex. How could you enjoy sex with him if you didn’t like it a little rough? Or maybe, how would Richard be able to enjoy it if she didn’t like a little rough? It just seemed sad. Why was he doing this to himself?
Some of what I was thinking must have shown because Richard looked at me. I stared into that handsome face with those high, perfect cheekbones, and male model face, and thought, he should have been able to have almost anyone he wanted, why Ellen?
“Ellen is willing to try and let me keep you, Asher, and Jean-Claude in my life, Anita. That’s a lot.”
I nodded. “Yes, yes it is.” I sounded tired even to me as I said it.
Micah hugged me, placing his face next to mine. I cuddled into the warmth of the skin on skin contact; sometimes even touching through clothes wasn’t enough. My hands found his and one hand slid up his arm until we were half-hugging.
“Richard explained that excessive touching in public is a sign of stress, or need for reassurance between lycanthropes. What happened just now to stress you, Anita?”
I opened my eyes where I was cuddled in against the warmth and pulse of Micah’s neck. I looked at her, and it might not have been an entirely friendly look, because her eyes widened just a bit. I switched the look higher to Richard, and said, “What do you want me to say, Richard?”
“Ellen, honey,” he said, her hand in his, “that’s not excessive public display of affection for Anita and Micah.”
Ellen turned and looked up at him, eyes wide. “You’re teasing me.”
Richard shook his head and looked down at her at the same time, so that his hair fell forward and hid most of his face from me.
Ellen stared up at him for a few seconds and then turned back to us with an almost horrified look on her face. I had no idea what we’d done to earn that look.
Micah sat up a little straighter, doing more of a standard arm across the shoulders half-hug with the other hand just holding mine on the table top. I sat up straighter, too, though part of me wanted to do something even more up close and personal just so Ellen would have a real reason for looking shocked, but I wasn’t a child, and this was Richard’s problem, not mine. As one of our newer vampires, who was originally Polish, would say, “Nie Moj Cyrk, Nie Moje Malpy - Not my circus, not my monkeys.”
Of course, the fact that he was still my lover, and still with Jean-Claude, and Asher, meant that in a way he was still a part of our circus and he, at least was still our monkey, but Ellen wasn’t. Unfortunately, one thing I’d learned about being poly is that just because you’re not having sex with someone doesn’t mean they can’t screw it all up; everyone’s lover can affect the emotional side of things and Ellen had all the ear marks of being a pain in everyone’s emotional poly ass.