Learning Curve 10

The blue kept bleaching out to that pale cream, across my shoulders and my chest as far as I could see; what it was doing across my face, I couldn’t tell. My yellow-striped white hair darkened instead to black with streaks of kelly green, and it grew thicker, without the short bits on each side turning it more mane-like, at least as long if not longer.

The greenish-black returned across my breasts, in a sort of band that was fairly flat across the bottom but dipped in the centre of the top, and wrapped around my back as far as I could see. Then it went back to pale again, down across my abdomen. It devoured the purple stripe and kept going, but the width of my palm below that, it switched back to green-black, and it stayed that way as it crept downwards. That seemed like an odd place for a change.

My arms tingled; I looked down. “Oh, this could get interesting.”

“Why?” Tavi asked anxiously.

I held up my arms again. The light glittered off the delicate shimmering scales that increasingly covered any dark areas of my skin—with the exception of my palms, as it turned out. “Scales.”


“Uh-oh? What, uh-oh?”

“Um… this is coming out of my head, and there’s one image in particular with scales that’s probably the strongest. Please don’t kill me. And I really hope I didn’t add much by way of behavioural effects to this one.”

“I’m not going to kill you, no matter what. Any hints?”

“Nope, I’m just going to keep my mouth shut and hope like hell that I’m wrong.”

“Not very helpful,” I sighed. I looked farther down, and found that not only had the green-black over my breasts also turned into gorgeous iridescent scales, but there was more for them to cover. Not ridiculously large or anything, but more than before, full and fairly firm without looking like they were made of silicone. “For the record, I can’t even imagine what the change back to two legs is going to look like.”

“Um… yeah. Me either.”

The green-black creeping downwards covered my forelegs by now.

It was, hands-down, the most disconcerting thing I’d yet seen, watching my pony forelegs shrink and melt away, the way my cat tail had but I could actually watch it and these were limbs, not an extra appendage. It didn’t really feel like much, though, since apparently my brain had disconnected from them first—it was more like just some pressure against my, well, somewhere below my waist, even if it was hard to map.

And while they did, the pony torso behind them narrowed and elongated, the scales flowing relentlessly along it. My pony hind legs merged together, simply becoming part of it, and it continued to grow longer and more slender. Mostly what I felt was pressure and a lot of muscles flexing and stretching and contracting, in ways difficult to map precisely. I wasn’t sure I could keep myself upright, so I let myself drop, catching myself on both hands, then rolled to my back.

“You overshot again,” I told Tavi. “You managed to turn fewer legs into no legs.”

“I’m sorry,” Tavi said mournfully. “You know I’ve been fascinated by mermaids and the snaky equivalent, by whatever name. That must have been where my mind went when I was trying to think about fewer legs.”

“Mostly right now I care about whether you managed to get the motor skills right. Otherwise I’m taking over your bed, whenever I can crawl to it, and not getting up until I can have legs again.”

“I really hope I did. And not because of my bed.”

I ran both my hands down my sides, trying to figure this out. Soft smooth skin from my ribs down over a surprisingly flat firm belly, and continued over my hips, which made no sense. The scales started below my pelvis, which was also where my tail started. Which meant… I did have normal human girl parts, although with scales instead of curly hair over the mound at the front, but I couldn’t reach them with my legs fused together like this. That seemed like a very peculiar arrangement, but I might be grateful when I had to use the bathroom. How on earth did snakes pass waste, anyway?

Experimentally, I tried moving my new tail—I got a bit confused, with my mind trying to handle it like legs. I found myself treating it like having legs that had been bound together from mid-thigh down, but that didn’t work, because this tail just didn’t work that way. I tried sideways, and that was more successful, enough so to give me a chance to recalibrate. That appeared to be quite a lot of tail, too. Then again, it would probably have to be, if I were going to get upright at all.

Speaking of which… now that I had some idea how the muscles worked, I needed to figure out how to position myself that would give me some freedom of movement.

Something as simple as sitting up turned out to be complicated.

“Do you need a hand?” Tavi asked.

“No. I’ll get it. Stay there and rest.”


“Stay there.”

“Um… okay.”

I tried rolling over, using my hands to push myself up as far as I could, and pulling a coil of tail under me for leverage; from there, it was all back and tummy muscles, but it worked. I swayed a bit, but some careful adjustment of exactly where my tail was helped with that.

“That’s gotta be, what, ten feet of tail? At least? You don’t do things halfway.” At least I was up, now. But how the hell did snakes move even when they were down flat? Could they move around with their heads raised? I really didn’t know much about snakes, except that they weren’t actually slimy and were frequently misunderstood.

On the other hand, my scales were actually really beautiful, shimmering between black and green as the light danced across them, with occasional hints of gold as well.

“Tavi, how do snakes move around?”

“I think it depends on the terrain, but mostly they just wiggle back and forth in ripply waves. I can call my mom or my brother and check, they would know. Or I could look it up online.”

“Nah, I’ll figure it out. This might need some serious coordination. How can one tail be worse than four legs?” I sighed. “Okay, I can get this. You can make this one up to me, though.”

“I’ll do my best,” she said fervently.

It took some intense experimentation and practice to figure out the sinuous undulating rhythm that would allow me to get around the apartment. I was fairly sure that it should have been a lot more frustrating than it felt. Mostly, all I felt was determined, and mildly irritated that the world was not falling in line with what I wanted to do. That wasn’t a normal sort of thought, but I was too distracted to waste much attention on it right now.

I heard a cry from the kitchen that sounded like pain, and then heard the water come on in the sink. How long had Tavi been up? And what was she doing, when she should have been resting? I told her to stay on the couch!

Getting to the kitchen fast was excellent motivation for putting my new skills into practice.

Tavi was by the sink, one hand under the stream of water, and I could see red staining the runoff.

The knife abandoned on the counter, with cold meat and cheese and rolls, told me enough.

“Let me see.”

“It’s not bad. The knife just slipped.”

I didn’t ask again, just seized her wrist and pulled it into range so I could examine the cut.

I grabbed a handful of paper towels, folded them hastily into a multi-layered pad and pressed it over the wound. “Sit. Keep pressure on that.”

“It’s not…”

“Get your ass in the living room and sit down, right now! And keep pressure on that finger!”

Tavi took a breath, then let it out and meekly obeyed.

I grabbed my phone and scrolled for Ben’s number, hoping he wasn’t actually with a patient right now.

I got voice mail.

“It’s Sky. Honestly, it is. Tavi just cut herself and it might be bad. Call me back as soon as you can, please?” I hung up and more or less repeated that as a text message.

Trying to distract myself, I shoved all the food back into its respective wrappers and tossed it back in the fridge where necessary.

It didn’t take more than two minutes for Ben to call me. “Hey. What happened?”

“Tavi was making lunch. I know she was tired, she might have been trying to give me a bit of space to figure out what she just changed me to, dunno. She cut her finger pretty deep. I know just enough to know that I can’t assess how bad it really is but there’s a lot of blood. I’d drag her down to emerg just in case but there is absolutely no way I can go anywhere right now without starting a riot.”

“If you keep pressure on it, does it slow down at all?”

“Not that I can see so far.”

“Maintain pressure on it. I’m just finishing with this patient, and I’ll be there as soon as I can. Text me the address?”

“I will. Um… this is going to be extremely weird for both of us. Tavi doesn’t just do superficial changes. She is seriously strong and seriously creative.”

“Don’t care. We’ll manage. Priorities, right? See you in a few.”

I took the phone with me to the living room. I wasn’t good enough at moving yet to do that and type in an address at the same time. I leaned against the back of the couch to send Ben the address.

“What are you doing?” Tavi asked timidly.

“Sending Ben the address here.”

“What? But you can’t…”

“Yes I can. You’re hurt. It might need stitches. Ben can make that call better than we can.”

“What’s going to happen when he sees you?”

“I trust him. It’s not necessarily going to be easy to handle this, but I’m more worried about you and so is he. What the hell were you doing in the kitchen anyway? A few minutes ago you were too tired to sit upright. You were just asking for an accident!”

“I thought it would be better… better if I got out of the way a bit so you could practice, and so I could have lunch done for whenever you’re ready. I was trying for fairly carnivorous because snakes are all carnivorous. I just slipped. It happens. I don’t think it’s really all that bad.”

“There’s blood soaking through the paper towels. It’s bad enough.”

“He’s going to kill me,” she sighed. “I turned his boyfriend into a scary-sexy female naga.”

“No he isn’t. It’s only…” I stopped. “Scary-sexy? Oh, I know what you mean when you combine those two. Tavi, did you seriously push one of your fantasies about dominant women on me?” I stopped and looked at my own behaviour. Taking charge in a crisis was one thing, but… “Is that why I’m acting so pushy? Is that what you meant about the one mental image you have with scales?”

“Uh… could be? I’m not totally sure, but… um, it’s possible.”

“I am not playing out your fantasies, Tav. I love you but that’s crossing boundaries.”

“I know! I don’t want… c’mon, Sky, you know that’s totally not a thing and never will be! It just crossed somehow with me thinking about fewer legs.”

“All right. As long as that’s definitely understood.” Although I might need to keep watch on my behaviour extremely closely. If Tavi’s projections could interact with my own natural inclinations, it might turn things up to eleven and remove the, ah, situational aspect.

“Yep.” She winced. “That’s really starting to hurt.”

“Ben won’t be long.”

“Are you really sure about this?”

“Yes. Stop arguing.”

She said nothing else until we both heard the buzzer.

I got up and went to the intercom. “Hello?”

“It’s Ben.”

“Oh, good.” I buzzed the outer door open. I made sure I was positioned behind the apartment door, so that when I heard him tap on it, I could open it without being visible from the hall.

“Before you turn around,” I said, on his way through the door, “brace yourself. Because it’s going to be a shock and there are no words to make it less of a shock.”

“You’ve made that pretty clear.” Ben closed the door, and as he turned, he came around to face me.

He froze for about three thumping heartbeats.

“Sky?” There was a note of disbelief in it.

“I warned you. There’s a reason for staying away from everyone else. Really strong morph witch over there. Possibly still bleeding.”

“Right. You’re okay?” He pulled his attention off me, kicked off his shoes, and strode across the floor to Tavi.

Yes, I’m okay. Why is it so damned hard for people to understand the concept of, it’s very weird but sort of interesting and I really am that adaptable?”

“Maybe the rest of us adapt less quickly.” He set the red nylon bag on the floor next to the couch, scanned the immediate area, and retrieved the small garbage pail from near Tavi’s desk before sitting on the edge of the couch. After unzipping the top of the red bag to expose a lot of compartments and equipment, he pulled on a pair of medical gloves. “Let me see your hand, hon. You’re going to give me back my boyfriend intact in a few days, right?”

“We’re on, um… the fifth day? I think?” she said. “And believe it or not, I’m gradually getting a better grip on it.” She hissed softly as he gently unwrapped the blood-soaked paper towel.

“Looks like you made a mess there. Kitchen knife?”

“Yes. Sky’s right, I’m probably too tired to have been doing anything with a knife. It’s only the first time I didn’t immediately pass out after a change.”

“You’re not controlling when, right? Just sort of builds up and happens?” He wiped blood away delicately.

“Pretty much. And I can’t control the effects. Just who I focus on.”

“Sky said you tried starving yourself.”

“Well, if I don’t have any energy, then it can’t build up and explode.”

“Very altruistic, but probably dangerous for you. You’re lucky you have a stubborn best friend who wants you safe. Ditto for this cut. I’m glad Sky called me. I don’t think it needs stitches, but I reserve the right to change my mind once I clean it up.”

I didn’t feel left out; I was relieved Tavi’s hand was getting proper care, and impressed that Ben could push aside the fact that I currently looked like this. I just experimented with how to coil all this tail in the equivalent of sitting on the floor. I finally settled on kind of sitting on one loop of my own tail, so I could watch.

I knew I was biased, but to me, Ben was perfect. I knew he was half Native, half general mongrel more-or-less-white Canadian like Tavi and I. When he was working, he had that rusty-black hair pulled back in a neat tail, and it looked good, but I liked it best when it was loose or, at most, just the front was pulled back. He was a little shorter than me, a little more slender, with better endurance but not better strength. I personally thought he looked good enough to eat whether he was in scrubs or jeans or nothing. Above all else, though, that smile could make me melt.

Ben made sure the wound was thoroughly cleaned and properly bandaged, and that she’d taken ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation and pain.

“Don’t use that hand for right now,” he said, stripping off his gloves to add to the rest of the waste in the pail. “Let Sky make lunch, or find something that doesn’t take prep.”

“This is frustrating,” she groaned. “It’s bad enough dealing with neoarcane, now I have to do it one-handed.”

“Tell you what. Tell me what you like on pizza, and I’ll come back after work with food that won’t require any cooking. My treat.” He zipped the red nylon bag back up.

“Are you sure you want to be around the current weirdness?” I asked. “Which, let’s face it, is mostly me but very weird?”

“At the risk of sounding like a bad love song, I want to be where you are. I’m glad you had the sense to believe me that I’ll do anything I can. At this point, well, I’m here, I’ve seen your currently imposing and sexy self, and I don’t think I’m freaking out.” Actually, the way he was eyeing me was pretty much the opposite of rejection; it looked more like appreciation.

“Hawaiian,” Tavi said. “And I’m starving. You two are just so sweet, and besides, I’m easily bribed.”

I said nothing for a moment, then sighed. “There’s nothing left to hide at this point, and I would rather have you here, weirdness or not, than deciding that it’s just too bizarre and you’re safer as far from me as possible. I think I can handle pizza, but make it heavy on less-spicy meats, please. Bacon, ham, maybe ground beef or chicken. I think I’m currently fairly carnivorous, although less so than I was as a cat.”

“A cat?” Ben repeated. “You two have been having adventures. All right, I’ll give you a call when I’m done work in case you want me to pick up anything else on the way. Tavi? Would you be horribly offended if I wanted about two minutes alone with Sky?”

“Of course not,” she said. “I’ll just duck in the bedroom, and maybe lie down for a bit. I was already tired and now it’s even worse. A nap sorta sounds like a good idea.”

“Possibly a little bit of shock, there. Keep warm.”

He didn’t even wait for her to leave the room: he came over to me. I got completely confused trying to sort out the muscles that would let me do the equivalent of straightening up, and sighed.

“These motor controls are ridiculous. And a little embarrassing.”

“Shouldn’t be.” He managed, somehow, to find places to plant both feet around my green-black coils, and wrapped both arms around me, pulling me in close against him. Instinctively, my snaky coils shifted to support much of my weight, but I had no interest in escaping. “Although it’s a shame, because you look like the fantasy empress of a lost civilization, or something. Someone who really should be obeyed. If not worshipped.”

“You’re as bad as Tavi,” I grumbled. “I’m not anyone’s kinky fantasy female dom.”

He grinned. And there it was, that look that made me weak in the knees—not that I currently had those—as his dark eyes went warm and soft, crinkling with just that hint of mischief and humour. “Too bad. Never know what I might be up for trying.” He kissed me, and he took his time.

Oh, man, I’d missed that. Life had gotten in the way for a few days even before I’d gone looking for Tavi, and then there’d been the past days here. I just couldn’t get enough of Ben, but the world frequently had other priorities.

“You’re honestly doing okay?” he asked quietly when he drew back, his eyes searching mine. “I do understand accepting something tough for the sake of someone you love but personally having trouble.”

I shook my head. “I swear, I’m okay. I’ll have this one all figured out by the time you get back. It just takes me a little time—more on some than others, and this one is complicated. Yes it does feel extremely strange, but also sort of interesting. There are always, so far, advantages to go with the hard parts. I’m not sure about this one yet. Nothing about it hurts, and I’m not feeling any of the negative effects people sometimes do.”

“Hm. Maybe you two are really just that deeply in tune with each other. It wouldn’t really surprise me. So does that mean it’s okay for me to enjoy the view?”

“The view or anything else, as far as I’m concerned. Since when do I object to you touching me? But thank you for checking.” It didn’t surprise me, though.

Those hands didn’t currently wander. That was disappointing.

He did kiss me again.

“Calling me was your first thought?” he murmured in my ear.

“Yes. Immediately.”

“Didn’t you say Tavi’s uncle is a GP?” He nipped gently at my earlobe. “You called me, not him. Thank you.”

“I… actually, he never crossed my mind.” I could have, now he’d pointed it out. I didn’t know whether he’d be able to come running, but it was lunchtime, so it was possible. Fewer explanations might have been needed.

I didn’t actually care.

He smiled again. ”I’ll see you after work. Although that image is going to stay in my mind so I keep seeing it all afternoon.”

With a last, fleeting kiss, he left. Back to patients that needed him. Me, I just wanted him. A lot.

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