Shapeshifters

Integration

by dianevea

Tags: #f/f #Human_Domestication_Guide #scifi #dom:female #sub:female

(cw: reference to self-harm & abuse, casual transphobia, mind-altering drugs, and accidental but non-consensual hypnosis)

tenpo pini la tomo mi li ante. tomo ni li tomo mi ala anu seme? mi sona ala. tomo li jo e ijo mute, e kasi mute kin. mi lon e ijo lape meso pi laso jelo. mi lukin e ijo lipu pi leko palisa, e ijo pi lape noka, e ilo suno pi sitelen tawa… e jan ala. mi wile poka e jan Ila.

mi lukin sona pi tenpo pini. jan Ila en mi li tawa e ma. ona li toki e misikeke mi. mi toki e ni: mi wile ala moku e misikeke ni. mi wile ala pona ale; lon mi li pona ale la mi pona ala. pilin ike mi li suli mute… anu, mi sona e ni.

mi tawa tan ijo lape mi, tawa lupa. mi poka e lupa ni la ona li open li toki “Beep!”. mi tawa weka lili la, ona li pini. mi open e lupa li lukin e ma; mi awen lukin e jan ala, taso ma li jo e tomo suli mute e kasi pi kule nasa. taso kasi pi tomo ni li pona mute tawa mi. linja pi lawa kasi kule li len e sinpin; suno pi tomo sewi li kasi suno pi pona lukin.

mi la mi ken lukin e kasi ni tawa tenpo suno ale.

mi kute e lupa ni: ona li toki “Beep!” li open. jan Ila li tawa insa; mi pilin pona mute.

“Hello, little one! Apologies for the sudden change in scenery; I hope my apartment is treating you well?” toki ona li musi suwi mute; mi wile awen kute e ni.

mi toki: ‘ona li pona! sina jo e kasi mute.’ ona li kalama e kalama suwi.

“That’s right, petal!” ona li toki. “I’m a xenobotanist—someone who collects plants, basically—and I like to have lots of different plants in my home. It’s nice to be reminded of all of the different places that I’ve been, and I do quite like to have pretty plants about.”

‘kasi sina li pona lukin mute! sina alasa e ni tan ma seme?’

“Oh, all over! Let’s see…” ona li tawa musi lon tomo ona, li lukin e kasi mute. ona li lanpan e poki kasi li toki: “These are coralettes, from a little planet near the centre of this galaxy. Aren’t those little blue stems adorable?” mi tawa e lawa mi, ona li lanpan e poki ante li awen toki: “And this is a trickle moss, which was given to me by a dear friend; it likes to absorb water from the ground and carry it up into its leaves, so after it’s rained and everything else has dried out, this little friend will keep on trickling~”

toki ona ni la mi sona lili; taso, ni li pona kute. kama sona la mi pilin pona, mi wile poka e jan Ila. ona li jo e kasi mute mute; tan mute ni la, mi ken ala toki insa.

ona li tawa e luka ona tawa kasi suno sewi. “This is my favourite,” ona li toki. “They’re from the planet where I was born, someplace very far from here. I call them sunshowers; they’re naturally bioluminescent, and they grow in very dark places. Normally, other plants can’t grow in those sorts of places, but this light helps them stay healthy! So as long as one of these is growing, it can help lots of other plants grow too—which is why I always keep one around, to help out all my little flowers.”

mi toki sinpin e pilin pona li toki: ‘mi o kin!’ ona li lukin e mi li pilin nasa.

“Well, that’s just a figure of speech, petal. It’s not that you’re literally a flower—or a floret, for that matter—but you are a living thing that I’m helping to look after! Plus, you are living with me for the time being…” ona li pini pi tenpo lili. “If you don’t mind my asking, how well do you remember this morning?

‘mi en sina li tawa ma!’ mi toki. ‘sina open sona e toki mi. sina toki e misikeke? ona li ale.’

jan Ila li pilin ike. mi awen toki: ‘tenpo pini la mi lape ala lape?’

“It’s a little more complicated than that, flower.” toki ona li ante musi, li kalama lili. “You talked a little bit about your thoughts earlier? The ones that were sad, and mean, and scary.”

mi sona ala e toki ona ale, taso mi tawa e lawa mi. ona li awen: “How do I put this… I think that those thoughts are coming from other ‘you’s. And when you fell asleep, one of them showed up, and they were scared, so they tried to hurt me, and themselves. So, since I don’t want you to be hurt, I decided to bring you here so that I could keep a closer eye on you. …If that makes sense?”

mi lukin sona e ni. ijo mute li monsuta e mi; tenpo tomo mama mi la, ona toki e ni: mi pilin mute, li wile wawa pilin mute tawa ona. toki insa mi li nasa sona, li monsuta; mi ken ala lawa e ni. ijo ni la mi ken sona.

taso, mi sona ala e ijo wan. ‘mi wile pakala e sina tan seme? mi olin e sina.’

ona li toki: “That is very sweet of you to say, dear, but if that other you thought the same way you did, then they would just be you; as I said, they seemed very scared.

mi awen sona ala. mi toki: ‘taso, jan Ila o, sina monsuta ala! sina pona pali, li pona lukin, li kute pi kalama musi. mi lukin e sina la mi olin e sina.’

tenpo lili la jan Ila li toki ala. toki mi la mi toki insa. ni li tan pilin ike e ona anu seme?

“What sort of music?” ona li toki.

‘mi ken ala toki pona e ni… toki sina en tawa sina li musi mute. ona li pilin pona tawa mi.’

tenpo suli mute la ale li kalama ala. mi lili e mi.

jan Ila li toki pi kalama lili. “Would you like to go on a walk, dear? There’s another affini I’d like you to meet.”

apini a! mi toki ‘lon!’ li sewi e mi. mi pilin pona kama. mi kama ken toki e apini sin… mi ken ala awen.

jan Ila en mi li tawa ma.


Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Stars above, how could she have messed up so badly?

Now that she recognised what was going on, it was obvious that jan Sala was far more susceptible to Illaria’s rhythm than she had anticipated. Even just those first few steps to the door, the way she swayed as she walked was almost exactly in sync with the shifting feeling Illaria could feel inside her stems and vines. It was honestly a little cute, she thought… and then quickly pushed that thought back down. She didn’t actually want a floret, she was sure, and jan Sala was in no emotional state for that sort of thing—to say nothing of that other sophont, the one who had suddenly appeared and threatened her, who would definitely react badly to domestication.

Alophosia had warned her! She knew that this was a risk! She was even careful to keep her eyes out of jan Sala’s sight after that conversation, just to make sure she didn’t exacerbate the effect too much. She shouldn’t have kept her alone for as long as she was, she should have brought her onto this ship days ago, that was clearly safer and better for her than trying to take care of her entirely by herself. And yet…

Illaria was snapped out of her thoughts by her ward’s sudden gasp as the door slid open onto that wing of the ship. Right, she probably ought to explain that part.

“Impressive, isn’t it? This ship is called the Telluria; it’s the ship that brought me here.” She glanced down, and jan Sala’s eyes were fixed directly upwards at the transparent ceiling, through which the rotating mechanism of the ship dominated the sky—and then, behind it, the black void of empty space.

“It’s so big!” the young woman exclaimed. Illaria couldn’t help but giggle at that.

“It is, and it isn’t,” she replied with an audible smile. “Certainly, it’s much, much smaller than your planet is, but I suppose it’s a little easier for you to see all the way to the other side of a ship than a planet.” jan Sala was still in admiration; Illaria had to gently nudge her with a vine to get her to look forward and start walking again.

Oh, dirt; she was already acting like the poor girl’s owner. She pulled her vines back into herself, and then steadied herself for a moment and reached one back out, which jan Sala proceeded to hold in her hand as they walked together. Then, with another few vines, she pulled out a tablet and started tapping out a message, hopefully in such a way as to be inconspicuous.

“The whole ship can hold around a million sophonts at most,” Illaria continued, “but right now, there’s not nearly that many; most of the people on your planet were brought to an even bigger ship, so this one is still pretty empty.” She tapped a couple more characters, then slid the tablet back inside of her. “The affini I want you to meet, though, lives a little while away, so we’re going to go to the train station, so we can get to hir a little faster.”

The two of them walked a little longer, in silence. Illaria couldn’t help but shudder slightly with every step; the terran woman did still seem normal and present enough, but it wasn’t at all clear quite how far gone she was, and there was a lingering worry that she had already been pushed beyond her limit and that the last petal would drop at any moment.

Well, at least for now, that petal was conscious enough to pipe up with a question. “What kind of station?”

“Trains! Were they not on your planet?” she replied, and was met with a gentle shrug of her ward’s shoulders. “Well, you remember cars, yes? Trains are a little like that, but bigger and faster! And they’re not nearly as noisy; very good for getting around places.”

“Exciting!” jan Sala exclaimed. “I don’t know why my planet didn’t have them, they seem very good.”

Illaria squeezed her hand a little tighter. “Well, making things better is what the affini are here to do,” she reassured, to herself as much as to her ward. Then, feeling a gentle buzz from her tablet, she pulled it out and read the message on the screen with a silent sigh of relief.

The rest of the walk to the station was thankfully fairly uneventful; it was late enough at night that the streets were mostly empty, and none of the people they passed by seemed to recognise Illaria enough to ask any questions about why she suddenly had a terran at her side. Said terran, meanwhile, seemed to have been pulled out of her haze a little bit by the new surroundings, and while it was a little tedious answering the barrage of excited questions about why all the buildings were so tall, why there were lights on the roads, how they managed to grow so many big trees, and so on… she couldn’t deny that it was also a little bit cute.

By the time that the two of them were on the train itself, with jan Sala staring enamoured at the indicator lights and the speeding walls of the tunnel, Illaria had successfully managed to convince herself that everything was going to be just fine.

“Alright, petal, this is our stop,” she said after a few minutes of sitting together in relative silence. At that, jan Sala shook herself free from the stupor and hopped to her feet—and then held out a hand, which Illaria took in her vine. As they stepped onto the platform together, she continued, “It’s just a short little walk from here; are you doing alright, dear?”

“Very!” jan Sala replied, punctuating it with a little skip in her step. “Everything here is so pretty and cool.”

Illaria giggled a little in response. “I’m glad to hear it~”

It was a much shorter walk even than she had made it seem; once they were up the ramp to the surface, the office she was looking for was just on the other side of the street, the familiar sign out front still shining a hollow red diamond. Her ward froze for a bit when she saw that symbol, which Illaria couldn’t help but be concerned about, but it took no more than a second or two for her to snap out of it and the two of them to continue on their way, up the gentle ramp to the door and then through it and into the waiting room itself.

Upon entering, they were greeted by a young-looking terran floret dressed in a dapper blue suit and shiny new collar sitting behind a desk in the corner, who simply said, “Ms. Biflora?” To that, Illaria nodded, and the floret chirped back, “My name is Theodore Alba, Fourth Floret, they/them; we were a bit caught off-guard by your sudden request, but Salix should be ready for you both in just a moment. If you wouldn’t mind waiting here until then?”

“Not at all!” she responded. “Alright, little one, let’s sit down for a little bit.” Her ward did so, pulling herself up onto one of the large chairs and settling down into a cross-legged position.

This office had definitely been renovated since the last time Illaria was here. The walls had been repainted to a pleasingly pale shade of mint-green, with cold and glossy white tiles covering the floor, and all of the furniture—despite clearly being made of plastic—was coated in an artificial wood pattern. She glanced at the ceiling, which hummed and gently flickered as the lights above did their best to keep running, and then over at Theodore, who was sitting at attention in their chair, smiling and swaying their head to that same hum.

And then to the chair next to her, whose occupant was sitting unnervingly still, with a tense expression she couldn’t help but recognise.

“Are you alright, dear?” she asked, reaching a vine over only to have it forcefully pushed away. She didn’t resist, but by the same token did not pull it back.

“Other than the kidnapping,” her ward grumbled, and then moved over as far away from her as they could on the chair. “Is this a doctor’s office?”

Illaria offered another vine. “Darling, you threatened both me and yourself with a knife. I would be remiss if I didn’t have you talk to a mental health professional about that.”

“And alien doctors’ offices just happen to look exactly like Evean ones,” they sighed.

“Oh!” chimed Theo, who had stood up and started leaning over their desk at the two of them. “The redesign was my suggestion, actually; I wanted it to look more like Central Hospital, ‘cause I was kinda starting to miss the place.”

There was a moment of silence as the other two turned to look at them, which was quickly undercut with a shocked grumble of “Holy shit, there are other terrans here.”

“There are!” Theo answered. “Theodore Alba, Fourth Floret, they/them; I’m Dr. Salix’s secretary.” They punctuated that last point with a big smile, which was very much not reciprocated. The other terran paused for a moment, hands tapping as they processed this.

“…Fourth what?” they finally asked.

Theo excitedly opened their mouth, but was swiftly interrupted by Illaria holding up a single vine over her face before turning to her ward and answering on their behalf. “It’s not important, petal. What is important, though, is that you are here to receive care, and it would be much easier for you to do that if you were willing to talk to the doctor on your own.”

“Is that a threat,” came their response.

Illaria considered that for a moment. “It’s the truth, dear. Make of it what you will, but I am quite fond of you, and I think that you’re well aware of the lengths I’d go to if it meant preventing you from suffering.”

“Meaning that I don’t have a choice.”

She sighed. “Meaning, darling, that your choice is between doing this on your terms, or on mine.”

The ice-cold silence in the room at that point was mercifully broken by the swinging of a metal door, with a familiar voice calling out: “Illaria? Is this your patient?”

“Sure is,” the terran said in reply, before turning to face the affini next to them. “Okay. I can keep playing along. But if this is really on my terms, then I expect you to actually respect them. Which starts with letting me have enough autonomy to handle this appointment on my own; I’m an adult, I don’t need a caretaker.”

Illaria knew that there were plenty of ways she could have refuted that last statement, that her ward very clearly needed all the help they could get, that she was obviously doing the right thing. But instead, she simply pulled her vine back away from them, and watched as they made their way down from their chair and into the back room.


The first thing I did, as soon as I was out of sight of that plant alien, was grab my phone out of my pocket and check the time—about half past ten at night, apparently, on the 13th. I knew that without the Internet it was basically just a fancy clock, but it was one of the last things of mine that I still had with me, and I felt a weird pride in it being something that my jailer didn’t know about. Pulling out my notebook, it looked like the most recent note was from earlier today, reminding me to… check if banks still existed? This sort of bullshit was exactly why I usually never bothered to write in this thing.

“Are you alright back there?” came the call down the hall from the other plant alien, who for a brief and wonderful moment I had managed to forget about. Fuck. I put everything back in my pockets and then yelled back a quick affirmative, before continuing towards the voice’s source. After this morning, I was in no mood to try to fight the inevitable.

That said, for being inevitable, these aliens sure knew how to be unpredictable. I was expecting the awful fluorescent lights to be everywhere, but when I went through the giant door at the end of the hall, the room I ended up in was weirdly beautiful? The whole room was a soft wave of indigo, and it didn’t look like there was a single surface that wasn’t plush, but it was lit with a bunch of scattered lights from the walls and ceiling, like…

“Oh my god, stars.” I almost didn’t recognize them at first, but holy shit.

The plant chuckled from its chair at the back of the room. “Pretty, aren’t they? They’re not Evean stars, but I figured you might like them anyway. Could you sit down for me?”

Reluctantly, I made my way over to the sofa opposite it, and put my hand down on the armrest—and then, realizing how incredibly soft it was, practically jumped onto it and laid myself down. Sure, I was still basically being held captive, but I refused to feel guilty about comfortable sofas.

“So, let’s start with introductions,” the alien said once I finished adjusting myself. “Illaria has given me a name and pronouns already, but I suspect that they might not necessarily be ones with which you’re comfortable right now; if you wouldn’t mind telling me yours?”

“…Art.” It wasn’t a lie. It just was as much of the truth as I was comfortable telling it.

It picked up a pen in one of its vines and scribbled something down on a clipboard, then continued: “Alright, then, Art; it’s a pleasure to meet you. And your pronouns?”

I blinked at it. “Huh?”

“I believe, if I’m not mistaken, that your language has multiple ways to refer to sophonts using third-person pronouns, no? And that generally speaking, the way to refer to any particular sophont is determined by their personal preference, so I would appreciate it if you could tell me how best to refer to you.”

“…I’m not trans?” This just kept getting weirder and weirder.

The alien paused for a moment. “I’m not insinuating that you are, Art. I would just like to know how to refer to you.”

I rolled my eyes at it. “As a guy,” I muttered, and it wrote another thing down.

“Alright, he/him pronouns it is,” it replied. “Thank you very much for your cooperation! My name is Salix, by the way; ze/hir pronouns. How are you feeling this evening?”

…Well, now I felt bad calling hir ‘it’. This entire week was a torrent of making me feel bad for normal things; I was a little surprised ze didn’t judge me at all for being cis. Or maybe that would come later?

“Are you alright, Art?” Shit. Fuck.

“Yeah. I’m fine. What was the question?” I was even more out of it than usual, apparently.

The doctor tapped hir pen to her clipboard. “I was asking how you were feeling, and then you stared at the ceiling for a few moments and then started talking to yourself. Unless there’s more that you’d like to add…?”

I twitched at that. It was unnerving having my behaviors repeated back to me like that; usually, therapists were terrible at actually paying attention to me. “I’m fine. Like I said.”

Ze leaned forward in hir chair. “Art, with all due respect, you don’t seem especially fine; you seem quite a lot like someone who instinctively deflects from conversations that stray too close to his own feelings so people don’t worry about him too much.” 

That was… not called for.

“You haven’t said more than a few words since I brought you in,” ze continued, “and I can see the way you recoil every time I ask you something pointed. Those aren’t typically the behaviours of someone who’s feeling ‘fine’.”

Fuck.

Salix settled back down. “I don’t mean to interrogate you, Art, nor do I mean to make you feel overly stressed. But it is important that you be able to talk about yourself without being overwhelmed, and it’s clear that that’s something which is quite difficult for you at the present moment. If I might propose something which could help?”

I nodded hesitantly, and then ze rearranged hirself, some of the bright and slender leaves receding in favor of a pair of large flowers. Gesturing to them, ze explained: “These produce a fast-acting pair of xenodrugs, class D and E, as well as a similarly quick counter to their effects, to be administered by intramuscular injection. In concert, the two of them should provide you with mild relaxation, as well as making it significantly easier to communicate your thoughts; they do also induce minor and temporary deterioration of motor skills, though. Do you have any questions?”

…The thought of these aliens messing with my brain was more than a little terrifying, to say the least, but I wasn’t exactly going to say no when I knew the consequences. That said, I did want to make sure of one thing.

“When you say temporary,” I asked. 

Ze chuckled a little bit. “It will last until I give you the counter-agent, which I will do upon request—and the xenodrugs will not inhibit your desire or ability to make that request. Anything else?”

That was… wow. Reassuringly thorough. “That’s it,” I answered. “Go for it.” Ze stretched the vines with the flowers over to me, and I felt the petals brushing up against my lower leg followed by a brief sting, and then… it was like the plush surface of the couch just pulled me in deeper and deeper, every little bit of tension dissipating from my body as I sank down into the abyss until there was nothing left but me and the stars and the void that surrounded us both, like the most lucid dream I’d ever had in my life.

“Mild, my ass.”

From what felt like an infinity away, but still loud and clear, I heard Salix’s voice. “I take it that the xenodrugs have taken effect by now? How are you feeling?”

There was a part of me that wanted not to be too honest, was a little afraid of what ze would do if ze knew what was really going on in my head, but almost as soon as the question was asked, that part of me faded and I confidently said, “This is the most relaxed I’ve felt in my entire life.”

Ze scribbled a little on hir clipboard. “Do you generally find yourself stressed, then?”

“It’s kind of hard not to be,” I replied. The words were just flowing out of my mouth, but I couldn’t feel at all bad about it. “I’m pretty used to being taken advantage of, so relaxing means letting my guard down.”

“But you don’t feel the need to put your guard up around me?” ze asked.

I swirled the question around in my mind. “I guess I do a little bit,” I conceded, “but it felt like you deserved a chance. You have no idea who I am, and I like that that means you pay attention to me and not just who you think I am. And those drugs probably help too.”

Where… did those thoughts come from? Salix wrote down some more.

“Do people often think that you’re someone other than who you are, Art?”

“Oh, you have no idea.” A whole bunch of memories were all fighting towards the surface right now. “Basically everyone I’ve ever met knows my last name, so it’s a toss-up whether I get treated like a pariah or a spoiled moonboy. Online, people think I’m a girl all the time, and that sucks. Honestly, even as a kid my family had super high expectations, I never really had a chance to just be normal…”

A drop of water fell to my shoulder.

“Well,” Salix said, “you’ll be glad to know that helping you feel more normal is something I’d be more than happy to help with. I appreciate you being open about these feelings with me, Art.”

“Th-thank you,” I stuttered. “It’s a little hard to believe you can help, but thanks for trying.”

Ze smiled at me, and then asked, “Do you mind if I ask a few more questions?” I nodded as best I could, and ze continued, “You mentioned that people often treat you as a woman when you’re having conversations that aren’t face-to-face. But you don’t feel like you’re a woman yourself?”

I shook my head. “I try not to, at least.”

“That’s a rather unusual answer,” Salix commented. “There is a part of you that thinks differently than you’d like it to?”

“…I don’t know, exactly. It— she, doesn’t really feel like me. It’s like there’s a voice in my head that makes me think things sometimes? And it’s really scary, I don’t like thinking about her.”

Salix laid a vine on my leg. “Then I won’t make you do so,” ze reassured. “But may I ask one more question on this subject?”

“Only if you promise that I can stop thinking about this after you do,” I answered, only mildly conscious of how much I was trembling.

“Of course.” Ze held hir clipboard at attention. “Does this voice have a name?”

I froze up for a second, but then my body caught back up with itself, and I sank back into that deep relaxation and mumbled, “Not… sure. But when people think I’m a girl, they call me Morgan.”

“Alright, thank you very much, Art. You can take a rest now.” I heard those words, and it felt like my brain just folded in on itself. I was so relaxed, after all, and it would be so easy to just… rest.

“Morgan, do you mind if I speak with you for a moment?”

“Okay, Art; you’re good to go.”

I snapped back to consciousness with a start, and then realized I was still in Salix’s office. Still laying on the sofa, still right across from hir… what just happened?

Ze let out a quiet little laugh. “You had what seemed like a very nice nap, and I had a pleasant conversation with Ms. Morgan—though, for the record, she mentions that she generally prefers to go by Sara.”

“I… you… what?” I stammered, and ze pulled out a crisply printed sheet of paper and passed it to me. Skimming through it, it looked like it was a list of medications and effects and doses, with a little medical summary at the bottom. I read through it a couple of times, but the meaning of it still didn’t quite stick. “I’m… whatever a ‘sophont pluribus’ is?”

Salix nodded. “I believe the terran word would be ‘dissociative disorder’, but ‘pluribus’ is a little more broad than that. Regardless, it refers to anyone with multiple sophonts present inside of them, and you and Sara definitely fit that bill.”

“And that’s… normal?” I asked hesitantly. “That doesn’t seem normal.”

“Well, it’s certainly not a universal experience, but it is quite common!” ze answered. “In fact, you’re not even the first one from your species to whom I’ve spoken.” One of hir vines reached over and tapped the section on the paper labelled ‘Class-F’. “Though it seems that you get along less well with those other sophonts, so I’d like to continue you on the same dose of these with which Illaria started you; it ought to make communication between you all a bit easier, and assuming you’re willing to keep seeing me every so often, that should hopefully mitigate any major conflicts between you.”

I nodded, and then kept reading down the page. “And there’s also… anti-hypnotic class-Cs? What are those for?”

“Those are for mitigating the effect of prolonged exposure to affini biorhythms,” Salix explained. “They shouldn’t impact your physical or mental faculties at all, but they’re important for independent functioning, and probably would have been administered to you much sooner if Illaria had had access to them.”

“Sure,” I replied, not really understanding completely but willing to go along with it. “And then a nutritional supplement, which I probably don’t have to guess what that does… is that really it? You’re not gonna throw me on a bunch of drugs and see what sticks?”

Salix laughed. “Would you prefer it if I did?” ze queried, and I shook my head. “I’m not going to discount you needing more medications in the future, but by all accounts you’re a fine and very sociable young man once you’re out of your shell a little, and most of your troubles can be pinned to either those internal conflicts or to the machinery of capitalism; the former is what we’re working on, and the latter is extinct. So, if you can take those xenodrugs and come see me again in a few days, then you’re free to do as you like until then.”

“…And if I don’t?” I asked, more than a little tense.

“Then I’ll come to see you, and we can talk a little more about what you’re feeling and how I can help,” ze offered. “I know you’re a little apprehensive, but I have no desire to hurt you, and you’re under no obligation to take this medicine if you don’t feel comfortable with it—although I would highly recommend the class-Cs, if nothing else.”

…I wasn’t going to be punished for disobeying. I wasn’t stuck with another revolving door of shitty therapists. And money didn’t exist, and you could just make whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. And Salix… just wanted to talk to me, and make sure I was alright, and…

“Art, are you okay? You’re crying again.”

I barely heard hir. I could hardly process what was going on inside of my head, let alone out of it.

Eventually, I managed to let out, “Holy shit. I’m free.

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