ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This is spillover from the February 2, 2016 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from LJ user Paantha. It also fills the "first kiss" square in my 1-23-16 card for the Valentine's Day Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Antimatter & Stalwart Stan thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes consensual romantic activity that abruptly goes awry due to nobody's fault, nonverbal revocation of consent and prompt halting of activity, a minor panic attack, sexual confusion, some very awkward conversation trying to figure out what's going on, and other challenges. They do make up quickly, but don't go back to kissing in this scene. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Wonderful in Its Own Way"


If there is one thing that
Lawrence has learned about Stan,
it is that Stan takes a while to warm up.

To Lawrence, this is an asset,
not a liability, because he is
a patient young man himself,
and he views this relationship
as an adventure worth exploring.

This is something to savor,
and the last thing he wants
to do is rush through it.

So he enjoys the fact that
Stan is a cuddly little puppy and
happy to share intimate space,
romping around with people whom
he likes and sprawling on the couch
and holding hands in public.

Lawrence takes time getting to know Stan
now that they're boyfriends instead of
nemeses, and waits for Stan to start
leaning into his bisexuality now
that he finally knows it's there.

When Lawrence told Stan that whatever
direction their relationship took would
be fine with him, he meant it. He just
knows where it's likely to head, and
he's really looking forward to it.

So Lawrence relishes each new step,
wonderful in its own way, the slowly growing
length and depth of the touches that they share,
and Stan's adorably bashful approaches.

For all that Stan leads most of
their adventures, when it comes
to romance, he often sits back
and lets Lawrence take the lead,
appreciating his greater knowledge.

Lawrence is flattered by that trust,
and determined to be worthy of it.

He teaches Stan about some of
the subtle differences in dating that
crop up when both people have grown up
with the same set of cultural programming,
and they navigate the challenges of sorting out
who does what when all the standard advice
is designed for boy-girl couples instead.

Lawrence also does everything
in his power to make it fun for Stan,
little touches softened with affection,
teasing smiles out of his boyfriend.

They are sitting on Stan's bed
the first time that the signals Lawrence
has been watching so patiently
add up to kiss me.

Stan has his knees tucked
against Lawrence's, he keeps
moving his gaze from eyes to mouth,
and if he licks his plump pink lips like that
one more time, Lawrence is possibly
going to come in his pants.

Stan's eyes are dilated enough for
the blue to look more midnight than sky,
and yes, all right, they're doing this today.

Lawrence tucks his hair behind his ear so that
the silver strands will not get in the way
at the most inopportune moment.

Then he leans in just a little, and Stan
moves into it enough that their breath bounces
off of each other's cheeks, warm and moist and
smelling of the supplemental buttermints that
Stan keeps in a dish on his nightstand.

Their palms press together, providing
an anchor for the delicious sensations.

Lawrence raises his eyebrows
and catches Stan's eyes.

Stan holds his gaze for a moment,
blushes and looks down at his lap, then
glances up again. When he breathes in,
a subtle flex of his shoulders tightens his shirt.

Lawrence wants to make this perfect.

He closes the distance between them
and brushes his lips softly over Stan's,
then increases the pressure just enough
to work their lips together a little.

Then he draws back a fraction
to gauge Stan's response.

Stan's lips fall open, and Lawrence
leans in again to give the lower one
a gentle, teasing nibble.

Lawrence knows that
the main key to great kissing is
always leave your sweetie wanting more.

It is perfect.

And then Stan panics.

Lawrence can feel it in
the sudden catch of breath
that has nothing to do with desire,
the tension in muscles that could
easily tear him in two, the flare of
energy sending pins and needles
rippling all across his skin.

Instantly Lawrence leans back
and asks, "What went wrong?"

"I don't know I don't know," Stan says,
talking too fast and starting to pant.
"It was great and then -- it was different.
Why did it feel so different?"

"I'm not sure," Lawrence says.
"We can figure it out later. For now,
let's just work on calming down.
What was the last thing we did
that felt really safe for you?"

"Holding hands," Stan says,
and yes, he's got a death grip on
Lawrence that could very well leave
bruises if it gets any tighter.

"Okay, we'll go with that,"
Lawrence says. "Can you
ease up a little, though?"

Stan lets go as if Lawrence
is suddenly red hot. "Sorry,
I'm sorry, I didn't mean
to squeeze so hard!"

"You haven't hurt me,"
Lawrence assures him. "I know
a safe hold from SPOON.
Could I show you?"

"Please," Stan said. "I really
don't want to be alone right now."

"I'm not going anywhere,"
Lawrence says. "First, turn
your palm down. You can grab
the blanket if you need to. Now I
lay my hand over yours, and
this way even if you clench
your hand, you can't hurt me."

"Yeah. That helps." Stan's voice
is still too faint and breathy.

Remembering all the EFA
about coping with panic attacks,
Lawrence takes a deep breath, and
Stan follows suit with no further prompting.

Lawrence talks him through it anyway.
"Slow your breathing. It'll help."

"I'm trying," Stan says, who is
diligent at following instructions,
even in an awkward situation.

Lawrence thinks back over
what he knows about Stan and
what Stan finds soothing.

Then he knows.

"Here, you can hold onto this,"
he says, leaning down to tickle
Stan's hand with the ends of his hair.

"I don't want to hurt you," Stan says.

"As long as you don't yank on it,
you can't hurt it by squeezing,"
Lawrence points out.

By now, though, Stan is
aware enough that his hand
closing over Lawrence's hair
is exquisitely gentle.

Stan is a lot more tender
of Lawrence's weird hair than
Lawrence himself usually is.

"I'm sorry I freaked out on you,"
Stan says miserably.

"It's okay," Lawrence says.
"I'm sorry that something
spooked you, but I'm glad you
showed me instead of trying
to pretend everything is fine.
If you tell me what I did wrong,
I can avoid repeating it."

"I don't know," Stan says,
his voice turning thoughtful.
"I'm not sure it was wrong.
It felt fantastic, but ... not
what I was expecting."

"You've kissed people before,"
Lawrence says, because he's seen
Stan with Angelica a few times.

"Yeah, and it was real sweet,"
Stan says. A fond smile curls his lips.
"Soft and mellow and -- what you did
was just -- electric, or something."

"Hmm," Lawrence says, trying
to sort through all of the variables.
"It could be because I'm a boy, or
the time we've spent together,
or even our superpowers."

"How do I tell which?" Stan asks.

"Think back to other boys you've --
oh wait, you didn't know that you're
into boys before me," Lawrence says.
"You'd need to explore a little more."

Stan shakes his head hard enough
to muss his perfect hair, then rakes it
back into position with his free hand.
"No. I am not kissing anyone for --
for some kind of experiment."

Lawrence has suspected that Stan
might be demisexual, as well as bisexual,
but hasn't made an issue of it because
Stan has had his hands full just
processing the bi part.

"If you don't want to, then you don't
have to," Lawrence says. "It just
means you may have to leave
some questions unanswered."

"I can live with that," Stan says.

"Okay. You don't seem bothered
about kissing," Lawrence says.
"What was so different about it?
Why did that make you flip?"

"It felt, I don't know, intense or
something. I'd been kissing
Angelica for a while before it
really heated up nice," Stan says.
"This was deeper, stronger, it hit me
so fast -- I wasn't prepared for it,
and that threw me off balance."

"Not bad then, just unexpected,"
Lawrence says, nodding. "So it's
basically a processing error. Okay.
At least now I know that I didn't
misread your signals or do
something you disliked."

Stan smiles, slow and soft.
"I wanted -- I wanted you
to kiss me," he says. "I know
it doesn't always show, but I'm
kinda shy. It's nice that I don't
have to take the lead every time."

"Well, that's good to hear,"
Lawrence says with a sigh
of relief. "I was worried that
my technique sucked."

"Just because it was different,
doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it,"
Stan says. "What you did was
wonderful in its own way."

He's blushing again,
and it is adorable, and
Lawrence is determined
not to push him too much.

"What would help you relax
and feel safe?" he asks.

"This," Stan says, one hand
petting Lawrence's hair.
"I like how it feels, and
that you let me touch it."

They're at Stan's house, so
Lawrence's silver brush isn't here,
but he has a spare in the bathroom.

"Do you want the hairbrush?" he asks.
"Will you be okay while I go get it?"

"Yeah," Stan says, and
waves him off of the bed.

So Lawrence fetches the brush
and comes back to sit on the bed
where Stan can reach his hair.

The bristles move steadily over
Lawrence's scalp and then down
the silvery length to the ends, following
the slow, steady rhythm of his breath.

It is soothing for both of them,
this intimate little ritual that they
have been doing for some time.
Lawrence realizes, suddenly,
just how much it's coming
to mean to him now.

"I want to do it again,"
Stan whispers against
the pale, swaying curtain of
Lawrence's hair. "Just not
right away. I need a little time
to think about what I'm feeling
so that I don't trip over it again.
But I really, really want to."

"Then we will," Lawrence promises,
"whenever you feel ready to."

As first kisses go, he realizes,
Stan put it just right: it wasn't perfect,
but it was wonderful in its own way.

* * *

Notes:

“It wasn't that long, and it certainly wasn't the kind of kiss you see in movies these days, but it was wonderful in its own way, and all I can remember about the moment is that when our lips touched, I knew the memory would last forever.”
Nicholas Sparks, A Walk to Remember

Gay teens face a lot of problems but it can actually be worse for bisexuals. This complicates getting a boyfriend and dating. Another issue is that homophobia has robbed many men of healthy touch and friendships, which can impact how men interact with other men.

Bisexuals have commented on the differences between flirting with and dating guys and girls, and dating rules. Gay and straight relationships can be different too.

Fat-soluble vitamins and other nutrients are trickier to manage because their storage method. It's easier to overdose on them, but people with minimal fat may have difficulty storing them. Strongmen and speedsters use so much energy that they have trouble retaining fat -- even if they can put it on, they tend to burn it right off again. There are ADEK supplements, and in T-America it's possible to find low-dose ones that are meant to mixed into fatty food for a minor boost. Healthy buttermints offer a good way to get high-quality fat, and they make a perfect carrier for the minor supplements. Stan uses various flavorings in his. The white ones are wintergreen, the blue are peppermint, the green are spearmint, the yellow are ginger, and the pink are cinnamon.

Kissing spans many types. A first kiss tends to be awkward, especially for gays. Understand the preparations for a memorable first kiss that will leave your partner wanting more. Lawrence has a little experience and a lot of knowledge; he actually did everything right under very challenging circumstances.

Attraction and interest and consent can be communicated through body language. These displays may indicate consent if they cluster together and testing for closeness yields further invitation. Stan and Lawrence are actually having a very detailed conversation, it just doesn't involve words until after things get tangled. Watch for open and receptive body language to say "go ahead," and closed or defensive body language to say "slow down" or "stop."

Sexually receptive body language
includes proximity, pointing, eye contact, the mouth, and tucking hair. The last one is almost exclusively a feminine gesture, which in this context balances Lawrence's use of mostly masculine/active gestures.

Sexually active body language includes raising eyebrows, gazing, leaning forward, and flexing muscles. The last one is almost exclusively a masculine gesture, which offsets the largely feminine/receptive stance that Stan is taking.

Panic is a normal thing when it happens occasionally in unusual circumstances. It only becomes a disorder when the intensity and/or frequency go so high as to interfere with everyday life. Here Stan panics during a kiss, which has happened to a lot of people, and it's pretty straightforward to resolve given a sensitive boyfriend. There are mental and physical skills for getting through a panic attack. Understand how to help someone through a panic attack and stop panic attacks. There are ways to analyze fears and overcome fear of kissing.

Know what it looks like when someone revokes consent; stiffening up is a common example.

Some animals have erectile spines, and the aura can behave similarly. Stan is not the kind of person to have a permanently spiky aura, but most people's energy will respond that way when they feel threatened or crowded.

Mishaps occur in any relationship. Know how to calm an upset friend and help them into a better mood. Then cope with any mistakes in constructive ways.

Bisexuality is complicated by the fact that some bi folks perceive both genders similarly and fall in love regardless of gender, while others perceive men and women very differently and fall in love based on those unique traits. Stan is firmly in the latter category, and had no idea how different it could be until he hit an area with major parallax. That can be extremely disconcerting.

Demisexuality can complicate dating too. Stan hasn't made an explicit statement about this, but his actions clearly lean in this direction. He's outgoing, but forming an intimate connection takes time for him, and the sexual attraction doesn't warm up quickly.

Touching hair is among the most intimate things people can do. It can be platonic or romantic. Stan and Lawrence have used it both ways, and their primary focus is simply on the intimate contact. This is especially a concern for people whose superpower resonates through their hair the way Lawrence's does -- it makes their hair even more personal, and sometimes more sensitive. That raises issues because strangers are more attracted to it and some of them are prone to grabbing it. So letting someone touch it ventures into emotional vulnerability, especially for people like Lawrence who feel like their hair is weird.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 11:23 am (UTC)
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
Psst! DreamWidth ate you span code, again...

Re: Fixed!

Date: 2016-02-10 08:11 pm (UTC)
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
No prob!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 12:08 pm (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: A pale-skinned woman in fancy clothing, with her nose stuck in a book. (!Reading)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
Oh, Stan. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 03:19 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
>> Stan and Lawrence are actually having a very detailed conversation, it just doesn't involve words until after things get tangled.<<

I love this. The nonverbal communication here is written really well, and I love seeing concrete examples of it.

>>supplemental buttermints<<

Mmmmm. Also, good idea.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2016-02-10 11:32 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
>>One reason I wrote it this way is that I am getting incredibly fed up with people disrespecting nonverbal communication, which is about 80% of how we communicate.<<

Sing It! \o/

I make buttermints anyway as a seasonal treat. Dunno about trying at-home fortification without doing some serious research first, but ginger flavor sounds delicious.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2016-02-12 04:22 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
A quick search found powdered supplements of several different fat-soluble vitamins, but I'd need to be able to measure to milligram precision to avoid ODing a whole batch of mints. That's beyond my kitchen capabilities right now. :(

Re: Yay!

Date: 2016-02-12 08:32 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
*nodnod*

The next thing I want to look into is oil-based preparations, on the thought that oils generally blend better into buttermint mix than powders anyway. (I could put the powders in with the sugar, yes. Several of them are described as chalky-textured, though, and grit is just not what I want out of a buttermint.)

If they come in conveniently-packaged doses anyway, well - so much the better. I can cut open a few capsules much more easily than I can weigh to milligram precision.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 07:03 pm (UTC)
capriuni: Text: If you want to be a Hero, be Good to the Storyteller. (Default)
From: [personal profile] capriuni
Copy-Pasted from a link at the end of your demisexuality link:

When the conversation turns to hot celebrities, for example, demisexuals may feel confused, and wonder what it is their friends see and feel.

*Nod* Yup. The statement: "[X} is so hot! Don't you think they're sexy?" gives me the same perplexed feeling as: "That lamp is so hot! Don't you think it's sexy?"

I'll freely agree that Person X is pleasing to look at, and does their work well. But sexy? ... No...

Now, I do engage in sexual fantasies. But even then, most of my brain power is devoted to imagining the emotional complications that develop between my characters, rather than the physical details depicted in porn.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 10:17 pm (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Oh good, I've been waiting to see this one! And I'm pleased to see that nothing in it is going to necessitate a change in my (still in progress) first-time fic. Also, it may even help me with that scene that's been giving me fits.

This is really nice, and I agree with redsixwing about the nonverbal conversation being very well described.

On the topic of being able to obtain consent by means of body language, I both agree and partially disagree -- because that only works if both parties (1) have a decent grasp of body language and (2) are genuinely invested in the concept of consent, and if either of those doesn't hold true, then you have a potential disaster in the making.

I still vividly remember one very frustrating party conversation with a guy who first insisted that using words at all "ruins the mood", and then went on to complain bitterly about how "women make all the rules about sex, and men are supposed to guess what they are". My reaction to that was, "And you know how you get around that problem? USE WORDS!" -- but to no avail; I don't think he ever got the point.

Or maybe he did.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2016-02-11 03:26 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Russ and I did something very similar to the process described in that book when we were first getting to know each other and it was a long-distance relationship and it became obvious that I was going to have to move. It was less formalized than the author describes -- more a case of each of us volunteering information (especially of the not-so-flattering variety!) and the other asking questions if they wanted more data. We were specifically trying to minimize the number of unpleasant surprises that would occur once we were living in the same space, and it worked pretty well. Not perfectly, of course; there were still some things that took being FTF to identify and deal with -- but much better than if we hadn't done it at all.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-11 05:11 am (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Very well done.

The article about dating as a demisexual was interesting. Being demiromantic has its own -- different -- set of problems. It's unfortunate that the concept didn't even exist back when it would have been useful for me to know about it.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-11 07:34 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I like this a lot.

I'm getting the feeling that part of Stan's problem is that he kissed Angelica before he was sexually attracted to her, because that's what you do with your girlfriend, and so his first kiss with her didn't have that zing of sexual attraction. But, because he and Lawrence are taking their relationship slower, he's already got to that point with him, and so he wasn't expecting that zing, but got it anyway. Like, in his experience, first kisses just don't have a lot of oomph, but, nope, there it is.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 02:51 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Oh, yeah. Flippin' *aftercare*.

Wait. They teach this in *school* now? (EFA) or where did Lawrence learn it?

Well...

Date: 2016-02-10 07:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Oh, yeah. Flippin' *aftercare*. <<

An important life skill for everyone, and crucial for folks in some activities.

>> Wait. They teach this in *school* now? (EFA) or where did Lawrence learn it? <<

It depends on the school. In general, T-American schools teach more about healthy relationships and mental health compared to L-American ones. An average school will teach things like "If you're playing and your friend isn't having fun, you have to stop" and "how to know when someone is upset" starting in preschool. By high school they are up to things like knowing what you want from a boyfriend and safety tips for when things go wrong. The good schools go into even more detail, like age-appropriate techniques and how to treat minor emotional injuries. Stan and Lawrence have gone to decent schools, and Lawrence has looked up a lot of extra stuff in the sex/gender area. Stan knows more about physical and emotional first aid because of his Activity Scout work. T-America also has EFA books only a little behind the physical first aid books, so it's not too hard to find if you go looking.

Put the two together and a situation that could have gone very badly ended up as nothing worse than a minor wobble. It's the difference between falling off a stepstool to splat on the floor, vs. falling off a stepstool and having someone catch you. That moment of *ohshitFALLING!* doesn't have to end in disaster if you know what to do.

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-02-10 08:32 pm (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
*nods* and if anything there will be *more* trust between those two...

Re: Well...

Date: 2016-02-10 08:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Yes, exactly. Trust isn't about things never going wrong. It's about how people respond when things inevitably go wrong. Lawrence didn't make any actual mistakes. He and Stan just stepped on something that nobody knew was there. So they dealt with it, and they're okay.

Lawrence is still a bit bemused about the depth of trust that Stan has in him, because Lawrence has a much smaller appreciation of himself and is not a trusting person. But Stan rarely makes mistakes in judging character.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
Oh, well done! Both of them. And wow, I wish L-America were saner about things.

Yay!

Date: 2016-02-10 07:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> Oh, well done! Both of them. <<

I'm glad that worked for you.

>> And wow, I wish L-America were saner about things. <<

I wish that too. But I hope that showing examples can teach people replicable skills. The basics of EFA are straightforward to learn and apply, the equivalent of "wash your hands."

And of course, Stan is a superhero not just because he's got super-strength and all, but because he's the kind of guy who responds to a romantic mishap with "ack ack ack" instead of punching his boyfriend. That fundamental moral fiber is what enables him to do things like pull Lawrence out of supervillainy.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-10 04:03 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (Murphy's Law)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
The warnings are not hidden, at least on LiveJournal on my smartphone using Firefox. They have been masked in all your other posts I've read on this phone where you say that they are.
Edited Date: 2016-02-10 04:12 pm (UTC)

Alas!

Date: 2016-02-10 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
It looks like the blog ate my graybar. >_< I have pasted it back in; hopefully it will stay there.

Re: Alas!

Date: 2016-02-10 08:12 pm (UTC)
ext_12246: (plus)
From: [identity profile] thnidu.livejournal.com
Yup, good now, on laptop and phone. Thanks.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-02-11 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] paantha.livejournal.com
OMG *much squeeeing* That. Was. Awesome. *beams*

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