Learning Curve 13

“Uh… Sky?” Tavi said hesitantly.

I raised my head from Ben’s shoulder. Somehow, in my sleep, I’d wrapped myself around him again, but like the previous night, he appeared to be fine with that.

“Need help?” I asked her, barely managing both syllables before I yawned. The apartment was washed with golden light, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t way too early at this time of year.

“It woke me up. I could try to push it longer, but…”

“Nope, probably better to do it early instead of fast and desperate. Yo, Ben?”

“I heard,” he said sleepily, and stretched, or tried to. “Hmm. Snakey bondage. And my clothes are around here somewhere, they seem to have gotten lost.”

Tavi giggled. “Not asking, but hope you both had fun. I’m going to go put the kettle on. I won’t look.”

Ben and I untangled ourselves, and he pulled his shorts back on, at least.

“Do you want me out of here for a bit?” he asked.

I shook my head. “If you feel safer out of range, that’s understandable, but you don’t have to leave for my sake, and Tavi is absolutely sure that you’re safe here. I can’t predict what this is going to look like, though. I’m feeling things more than seeing them.”

“My job involves seeing some of the least-appealing things in the world, because someone has to and people desperately need someone who cares enough to not care how ugly it is, y’know? I’m pretty sure I can handle anything. And nothing is going to make me lose interest in you.”

I stole a kiss. “Good. Because I could be anything in half an hour.”

“Nah. In half an hour you’ll still be my awesome Sky. Just might look like anything.” He grinned and headed for the bathroom.

With bathroom trips sorted and tea at least started and all of us some version of awake, we gathered back in the living room.

“If I can’t see you,” Tavi told Ben, “then I can’t catch you by accident. Maybe if you stay over by my computer, so you’re mostly behind me, that would be safest?”

Ben nodded, and perched on the computer chair.

I settled myself in the middle of the rug, and Tavi sat on the couch, legs crossed.

“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath with her eyes closed. “I can do this. Get rid of the scales and the dom instincts. I don’t need a protector, just my friends. Two legs, not four, not none. No fur, no metal. I can do this.”

“Of course you can,” I told her. “I’m not worried.”

After cat and robot and pony and snake, I honestly wasn’t. Ben was probably right: I was too attuned to the inside of Tavi’s head, after a lifetime together, for her to be able to hit me with anything I couldn’t adapt to.

She opened her eyes, and I saw her hands clench.

A heartbeat later, she shuddered violently, her slow steady breathing suddenly breaking up, and she slumped against the back of the couch.

“That’s it,” I told Ben. “Tavi? You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said breathlessly. “Give me a sec.”

“Or all day. Whatever.” I looked at my hands, then held them up so Ben could see the backs of them. Smooth red was replacing the green-black scales. “Not regular human yet, apparently.”

“Damn,” Tavi muttered. “My mind must have wandered. I have really got to get better at holding one image and not letting anything else intrude.”

“Any idea where it wandered to?”

“Haven’t the foggiest.” Her forehead furrowed. “I think I remember thinking for a second there that it’d be cool to do something nice for Ben at some point. That was not the best moment for that, really.”

“Oh, you think?” I shrugged. “Oh well. We’ll see in a few minutes.”

Ben moved over to join Tavi on the couch. Being him, of course he took a moment to check on her before anything else.

Tavi opened her eyes to look at him, and smiled. “I’m all right. It takes a lot. But the first couple of times I passed out hard right after, so I’m getting better.”

“You passed out after a rather scary whole-body spasm that didn’t look far from a seizure,” I said. “Just as happy if that doesn’t happen any more.” The red kept spreading. My nails stayed long but darkened to black; my hands stayed slender, as did my arms, so I probably wasn’t back to being a boy yet, but I could be wrong. “Hey, I’ve been orange, silver, pink and blue, and green and black, I guess we’re going with red this time. Extremely red.” That wasn’t just shower-too-hot red, or even nasty-sunburn red, and definitely not coppery; it was a deep saturated crimson that certainly didn’t look like anything naturally found on the broad spectrum of human skin colours. “In case you’re trying not to ask, or how to ask, or something, nope, this bit doesn’t feel like anything at all, it’s completely visual.” It was probably across my entire face by now; I reached up, careful of my nails, and could no longer feel scales across my upper face. My hair had lost the green streaks and highlights, darkening to an absolute but glossy black, and it shortened itself to just past my shoulders, thick and wavy—except across the front, where it ended just above my eyebrows. That was different.

The scales vanished across my chest. In the wake of the crimson, my breasts grew a bit larger, though they still stayed firmly on the side of plausible rather than cartoonish or fetishy. I looked down, and rolled my eyes. “Tavi, what is this thing you have about me being a girl?”

“Idunno… I mostly like girls better, so that’s probably most of the imagery in my head?”

“Not really a surprise, then,” Ben said. “And you didn’t seem too upset about it last night.”

Even if some extra acrobatics had been necessary to work around my inconvenient physiology, I really couldn’t complain. With some lovers, it would’ve just been frustratingly awkward. Ben, on the other hand, had a more exploratory and experimental approach.

“Maybe things are about to get simpler, at least.”

“Hey, I’m always up for a fun challenge.”

The red cascaded down across my lower torso, over my hips, and onwards. Just in case, I carefully rearranged myself so I was lying on my back. Tavi threw me a cushion; I crossed my arms on it and rested my head on them, so I could still see what was happening.

My miles of scaled tail were shortening rapidly, and I could see a kind of shallow indentation down the centre that gradually deepened. I freed a hand so I could run my fingers along it, and discovered that it mapped to a touch on my inner thigh, a sensation that had been absent for several days now. I tucked my hand back under my head.



“The base of my spine feels weird. Like when I turned into a cat. So I think I’m about to have a tail again once I’ve actually got legs. Deep red skin and a tail. Were you thinking of something demonic?”

“Uh… I think I might have been. You have horns. Sort of. Except I think they’re also keeping your hair back, and they’re kind of pretty. A kind of old-ivory colour.”

I freed my hand again to check. Just above my ear was a sort of ridge, fused to the bone beneath, that extended upwards into a proper horn, a delicate curl arching back a short distance over my ear.

“Okay then. I was halfway expecting something more cute or fluffy, since you keep whiplashing back and forth. Oh, hey, look, legs. I wonder if I remember how to walk.” I rolled onto one side so I could reach back to check the base of my spine, and sure enough, there was a tail growing there.

Why was a stripe around each wrist, the width of two of my fingers, darkening to black, and I couldn’t feel contact on it properly anymore?

Why did I feel a similar sensation around my neck?

Why did it feel like I was wearing shoes? (Hi, feet! I missed you! Welcome back!)

And what the hell was tightening around my lower ribs and abdomen?

I rocked up to my knees as fast as I could, and held up both arms so I could see that, at least.

The black differentiated itself neatly from my skin, and formed into what looked for all the world like leather cuffs, each with a D-ring, but no buckle or other kind of fastener to take them off.

I groped at my throat, and found basically the same: a collar that could pass for smooth leather, with a single metal ring dangling at the front.

“And there’s the whiplash,” I said.

“Sorry,” Tavi said weakly.

“Well, you got basically humanoid this time,” Ben said. “Aside from the cute little horns and whatever that tail’s doing, and all in all, anything we could cover with a long hooded coat is pretty minor. That’s probably a substantial step. Morph witches can do clothing?”

“Sometimes, and sort of? Only really strong ones. Generally not anything that can be removed, but it’s not exactly an extended body part or extra layer of skin either. There are still toes and all inside shoes, and that kind of thing.”

“So is it organic, or not?”

“Depends on which way you apply the definition and the purpose for it? Damage to clothes won’t translate to physical injury when it’s undone, but it can’t really be separated, so…”

“So, magic. Gotcha.”

While they were discussing the theory, I was experiencing the practical aspect: I was now wearing glossy black shoes that looked a lot like basic pumps except for the straps around my ankles that lacked any way to unfasten them—but they did each have a D-ring at the front. The heels were higher than I’d ever tried, but at least they were moderately chunky ones that tapered somewhat towards the bottom, not insane spiky ones.

Plus I was now wearing a sleek black corset that pulled my already-narrow waist in further—although my hips were wider than they had been, I noticed. Like the rest, there seemed to be no way to remove it; there were ridges that were probably the boning, though, with stitching done in red instead of black. The bottom extended into a short flouncy skirt that felt more like soft drapy fabric of some kind, long enough to reach mid-thigh and that was about it. The top cupped around the lower half of my breasts, supporting them, but I could still slide a hand down between skin and leather.

There were no more changing sensations coming from my tail, so I pulled it around into sight with one hand.

It was sleek, and utter black, and cylindrical, and the very end… well, the shape was familiar, but mine had been unavailable for several days.

“Tavi, you have a seriously perverted mind,” I informed her. “Of course, since I’m not freaking out, I guess that means I do too. And Ben’s not running for cover, so…”

“Oh, I already knew that about myself,” he chuckled.

“You might want to brace yourself. Given the usual pattern so far, I’m about to start finding it harder to keep track of what’s normal me and what’s just gotten rewired in my head, and y’wanna lay any bets what kind of behaviour impulses I’m about to get?” Carefully, I stood up, and stretched.

Crimson skin, with ivory horns and absolutely black hair and tail, shoes and corset-dress, collar and cuffs, nails and probably lips and eyes if I knew Tavi.

“Don’t get all anxious about consent,” I added to Ben. “I’m completely clear-headed right now and you have blanket consent to take me up on anything I happen to suggest that sounds reasonably safe and sane, and to suggest things ditto. Given the way these behaviour changes seem to work, I might be climbing walls in frustration if I don’t have some kind of outlet.”

“Such a sacrifice,” Ben said, offering a hand.

I was a bit unsteady, between the leg situation for something over seventy-two hours plus the heels, but I made it over to him, and let him draw me down to sit on his lap. I was smaller, I discovered—if I had to hazard a guess, it would be that I was now about Ben’s height or a little less, and that included my considerable heels, which would mean that without them I’d be shorter than Tavi. That was mildly unsettling, having been on the taller end of any group since my late teens. That faded away, though, into an unfamiliar feeling of being secure and protected with Ben’s arms around me.

This might be an educational couple of days.

Ben kept one arm around me, and used the other to explore contours and textures.

“So,” he said to Tavi. “Part of your mind thought that turning my boyfriend into a ridiculously sexy and probably submissive pinup demon girl would equate to doing something nice for me for whatever unnecessary reason?”

“Um, I think so,” Tavi said, blushing.

“Definitely submissive,” I said, and I could hear the purr in my own voice as I snuggled closer. “Wanna know what’s sneaking into my head right now, the more you touch me?” It really was. It reminded me a little of the way I’d reacted to Tavi scritching cat-me, which felt like a million years ago, but it wasn’t the same. This was filling my mind with fantasies. They weren’t exactly unfamiliar, but they’d all shifted at least somewhat to involve me in my current form and mindset. That was fine. I never was much into sharply-defined labels or roles.

“Man, and I didn’t even have to bribe you with pizza,” Ben said. He hooked two fingers into the ring on my collar and pulled me into position for a fierce kiss. It was all I could do not to whimper audibly. “This could be fun.”

“I’m probably vulnerable enough right now that I should logically be worried,” I observed. “There’s a rather strong desire in my head to do anything that will make you happy. Both of you. Not necessarily a sexual thing, just basically anything. If it works like the others, then I’ll be able to override it if I try, so I bet anything that pushes boundaries too far will snap it, but it’ll get exhausting if I keep constantly second-guessing every thought and word and action and try to keep it all under control. I think I’d rather just trust you two to keep track and keep me safe while I just take the path of least resistance and go with it.”

“I think we can do that,” Ben said, and glanced at Tavi. “Right?”

“Oh, absolutely,” she agreed. “But right now, I’m not really awake yet. So ‘scuse me if I grab my tea and, Idunno, some oatmeal or something, and go crash on my bed until I feel ready to declare myself conscious. I might even fall back asleep. You two can do whatever you want. You can assume you have at least a couple of hours. Y’wanna make me happy later, Sky? Make more of those yummy cookies. Or the muffins. Or both.” She got up, stretched, and started for the kitchen.

“We don’t have any more chocolate chips,” I said regretfully. “Or blueberries.”

“I can do a quick run to the store later,” Ben said.

“Or I can go for a walk,” Tavi said, pausing in the doorway. “I haven’t been out of this apartment for a week, and I haven’t even got much of a balcony. You’re gonna need some alone time, otherwise what’s the point of a sexy submissive demon who wants to do anything to make you happy?”

“Just out of curiosity, you aren’t feeling any doubts at all about leaving your dearest friend, whose judgement might currently be somewhat impaired, alone with me?”

“Uh… no? I mean, with a lot of people, then yeah, wouldn’t take my eyes off you, but I trust you and Sky trusts you so, y’know, look after her, eh?” She tilted her head, and her expression changed. “And if we’re both wrong and she gets hurt, I know who you are.”

Ben nodded. “Fair enough.”

“No fighting,” I said pleadingly.

“Not fighting, beautiful. Making sure we’re on the same page about looking out for you right now, after you’ve been trying so hard to look after everything for the past week.”

“Exactly,” Tavi said. “I think we both value you enough to be glad there’s someone else who does. Be good. Have fun. I’ll have music on so I won’t be listening.”

“Possibly, breakfast before sex,” Ben said drily.

Whatever he wanted felt good and right at the moment.

Wow, this was going to be an intense couple of days.

I wondered idly what would have happened had Ben not been here. This form with only Tavi present would have been madly frustrating, but if she’d been thinking of a present for Ben when inadvertently creating this form, then presumably without him I’d be something else right now.

It didn’t matter. The two people who were most important to me—aside from my parents and all, which was different—were both right here, and understood what was going on. Ben could help with looking after Tavi, who was in much better condition anyway and needed it much less. Which meant I could just let go of the feeling of responsibility I’d been clinging to and allow myself to experience and enjoy.

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