The first thing Yvonne noticed was that she couldn't move her arms or legs. She strained to lift her head enough to look, and found that they'd been secured to the sides of the bed with heavy leather straps.
The room she was in had bland walls painted in tan and cream, with some wood accents, a wide door at the opposite end, and not much else as far as she could tell. There was an antiseptic tang in the air, and she thought she could hear murmurs from outside.
She wasn't sure how she got here. She figured it had to be a hospital, but where? Why?
Her mind felt fuzzy, but she was almost certain she'd been going out for a date tonight with Clay. She'd put on a nice dress, grabbed her purse and caught a cab. She tried to think past that, but it was all hazy and grey. Had something happened with the cab? An accident?
Why would she be tied down like this from a car accident?!
Before she could go too far down that path, the door opened and a slim figure in a long white coat came in. Neatly combed black hair, a beaky nose, brown eyes that looked oddly familiar.
"Ah," they said with a smile. "You're awake. Hello there."
"...hi?" Yvonne tried to shift herself to sit up more, but the doctor(?) put up a hand.
"Easy - just lie back. I can help with that."
Something about their voice was soothing her ragged nerves, and it did feel good to sink back down against the pillow.
They reached out to adjust the bed, raising her torso up so she could see them without straining. "DR. CALIGARI, NEURO" their ID badge read, with a picture of their face and a red cross printed on the badge itself.
"I'm Doctor C. Do you know where you are right now?"
"I'm in a hospital?"
"Close enough," they said with a smile. "You were brought into our ER earlier tonight - the cab driver said you were having a seizure."
That explained the fuzzy brain and the restraints, she supposed.
"What kind of seizure? I don't think that's ever happened to me before..."
"Well, that's what I'm here to help figure out," Dr. C said in a soothing voice. "We're going to do some tests and take a few scans and images, and see what needs to happen next. Is that OK?"
"Yeah, sure, I guess."
"Great." Dr. C smiled at her, and Yvonne felt her stomach flip. She thought they were trying to be reassuring, but it came off as oddly predatory. "Now, first things first - I need to ask you a few questions."
"What day is it?"
"Friday. November 30th."
The doctor's expression became a bit more neutral as he ticked off something on his tablet.
"What's your full name?"
"Yvonne Elaine Sinclair."
"OK - and what's the year?"
Her mouth started to open, then closed as she frowned. "I...don't know."
Dr. C made another note on their tablet. "Can you tell me who the president is?"
She drew a blank on that, too.
"What did you have for lunch today?"
"Um...I think it was a salad."
Her stomach was twisting into knots now. Why couldn't she remember?
The doctor tapped their fingers against the tablet.
"Seems like we might need to try something to jog your memory. Would you mind if I tried to hypnotize you?"
Part of her thought that sounded amazing, but it was drowned out almost instantly by the sudden wave of panic.
Dr. C. frowned. "No, I can, or no, I can't? I need you to be clear with me, Yvonne."
"No, no, no!" Her mouth felt like it was moving on it's own. "HEDGEHOG!"
It was like a switch had been flipped. Her arms and legs were suddenly free, and she curled into a protective ball.
She wrapped herself in the blanket that smelled like Clay and shook, not even realizing they'd joined her on the bed until she felt their arms wrapping around her.
"It's ok, Vonnie. It's ok. You are safe here. I'm right here for you."
She shifted so she could put an arm around them, burying her head against their neck and inhaling the scent of them, feeling their flat, firm chest pressing against hers and clinging to it like an anchor.
"Good girl," Clay murmured softly in her ear. "Take all the time you need. Ground yourself and let yourself come all the way up when you're ready, ok?"
She made a soft acknowledging noise, her breathing slowing gradually as the sudden tension and fear began to drain away.
After a few more minutes Yvonne slowly uncurled and looked around.
She was in Clay's bedroom, on their bed, with a bunch of pillows stacked up against the headboard to prop her up. The walls were the blue-ish grey they'd always been, with posters and photos hung around the room. She could see where Clay had shrugged the lab coat off and tossed it away, and where they'd dropped their tablet, a game of Sudoku still open on the screen. It had all been in her imagination. The straps, the bed, the noises. Everything.
Memories slowly surfaced. They'd had dinner at Vincenzo's, split a slice of cheesecake for dessert, and come back to try a new idea for a roleplay...
"I feel so stupid," she murmured as she let herself fall back onto the pillows.
"Please don't," Clay said as they reached out to gently touch her shoulder. "Your deep self didn't feel right, and it kept you safe. That was exactly what it's supposed to do."
"I wanted this. I wanted it to be fun."
Clay leaned over and kissed her forehead. "I know. It's OK. Sometimes things happen - we stir up stuff from deep in our brains we didn't know was there. It's OK and I am proud of you for stopping me."
Clay smiled at her, and she could see the love and pride shining in their eyes. "Absolutely. You were a very good girl. Vonnie. You did exactly right."
She sighed and turned to snuggle into them again. "Thank you, Keeper."
"You're welcome, Pet."