Learning Curve 9

A discordant screech, followed by, “Oh my god!” woke me.

I opened by eyes and yawned.

Tavi, in just tanktop and shorts, had stopped, barely in the living room, eyes wide.

“’Morning, Tavi.” Wait, was my voice higher? I hadn’t had any reason to say anything before and hadn’t thought to check.

“I’m a terrible person. And a terrible friend. And you’re going to totally hate me.”

“None of the above. You’re a very creative person and a wonderful friend and I absolutely do not hate you.” Yes, my voice was definitely higher. I couldn’t really hear it properly; I could only hope that it wasn’t childish. Trying to remember how I’d done this before, I rocked upright, stretched and yawned again, then staggered up to all four feet. It took multiple tries, but it was better than my first attempt, and I was rather pleased with myself for that. I brushed that lock of hair out of my face again, with about as much effect as the last twenty times. “You’re nuts, but I knew that a very long time ago and it never stopped me from loving you anyway. However, we gotta talk.” I did my best to give her a stern look instead of the laughter I could feel trying to escape.

“I… uh… yeah…” she said faintly. She looked extremely apprehensive, as she came over to perch on the edge of the couch. I could see her bracing herself, muscles tightening.

“See these colours?” I pointed at my arm, then my horsey torso, then grabbed a handful of hair. Mane. Whatever. “Let’s get this straight right now. I realize I am not exactly the most macho masculine man in the world. I realize there have been a few, maybe more than a few, incidents involving girl clothes and Pearl getting me into that drag show fundraiser and all. But really, Tavi, pink and blue and white? This is not an online story. I am not going to somehow discover that I’m actually happier as a girl and I’m really trans but didn’t know it. If I was seriously trans, I’d have figured that out after three years with Justine, helping her. The yellow stripe for the pan flag colours, okay, but don’t get any ideas about some kind of big revelation, ‘kay? Possibly I’m even less binary than I thought, dunno, but I’m not going to be suddenly concluding that I’m really a girl. We clear on this?”

“What? That’s the only thing you want to yell at me for? The colours?”

I considered myself thoughtfully, and shrugged. “They’re pretty colours. Just don’t get any ideas, eh?” I couldn’t contain it any longer: the mirth finally got away from me, and I just had to laugh. “God, Tavi, stop looking like you expect me to start screaming at you or something. Do I look like I’m freaking out?” I offered both hands; she looked a bit dazed but she let me draw her in for a hug. I couldn’t give her a proper hug in my robot form, but I certainly could now. I was substantially taller, which put the top of her head just below the level of my shoulder; she held back briefly, then snuggled close.

“How are you not mad at me?”

“Because I was expecting weirdness, because weirdness is better than you risking your life, because I’m weird, and possibly because I feel like I’ve had a few drinks. Not enough to be really impaired, just enough for it to be easier to see how silly things are. Stop angsting on my happy.”

She sighed, letting her head rest against my upper chest. “I was trying to concentrate hard on something softer and brighter that would be fun.”

“Well, you did get that, for sure.” I kissed her forehead. “Possibly I’m going to have a little trouble taking things seriously right now, so you might want to keep an eye out for that. Not sure my concentration will be great either.”

“Well, that’ll be interesting. Vegetarian?”

“Extremely. More vegan, I think.”

“Gotcha. Lots of veggies it is. Um, do you want me to find you a top of some kind to wear?”

I chuckled. “Why, is something bothering you? If anyone but you sees me right now, we have much worse things to worry about than whether they see boobs.”

“Well, that’s definitely true. All right, your call. Sleeping on the floor does look like the only option, I guess… did you figure out the bathroom yet?”

“Oh, you just had to mention that.”

“Um, sorry.”

“I’ll be back in a minute. Or several minutes. Whatever it takes. At least washing my hands will be easier.”

“Um… I really doubt you’ll get the door closed. I’ll just stay in the kitchen and look for breakfast, okay? Yell if you need me. Do pancakes sound okay?”

Sweet, no meat, bready stuff… “Yummy.”

The less said about contortions in the bathroom, the better—although I still couldn’t keep from finding it all hilarious. I wanted to make beep-beep-beep noises when reversing like a tractor-trailer trying to back into the loading zone for our store.

And hey, I saw myself in the mirror. My lips and eyes being the same pink as my lower body seemed like a nice touch, like my blue hooves mirroring my upper body. Absurd colours, but pretty. Even if there was an awful lot about my current anatomy that I really did not want to think about too closely, like exactly where various vital organs might be. I’d survived without them for a while as a robot, so avoiding the subject mentally actually wasn’t all that hard.

But the pancakes—with, of course, real maple syrup—were delicious.

“So…” Tavi said hesitantly, gathering up plates, “how would you feel about me sketching you like that, or taking a bunch of pics I can use for reference later, or both?”

I pondered that. “I don’t know how long I can stay still. I can try.”

“I did notice that. You’re constantly rocking in place, playing with your hair, drumming your fingers, whatever.”

“I am? I didn’t know I was.” Once I looked for it, I discovered that I really was. When I tried experimentally to keep everything still, I immediately felt like I was going to explode with all the extra energy brimming inside. That was an awful feeling, so I went back to shifting my weight from side to side and twining my very long soft white mane around my fingers. “Yep, too bouncy. That kinda makes sense with finding everything funny. Okay, that might make staying still to model for you a problem. But we can do photos.”

“Fair enough.”

“But no sharing any of these.”

“Sky! I wouldn’t!”

“Not unless I get due credit and half the profits.”

“Man, you’re in a silly mood.”

“I’m a pink and blue female pony centaur at the moment. Just how non-silly do you really expect me to be? If your own associations with the forms you’re inventing are messing a bit with how I feel…”

“Then it’s my own fault?”

“’Course not, we covered all that. No control, yada yada. But you’re just going to have to put up with it. Well, I guess I have to put up with it too. But that’s no big deal.”

“The feline behaviour was cute, but even knowing that no morph witch can do anything that will outlast hitting Undo All, I’m really not sure how I feel about messing with your mind.”

I shrugged. “No one’s the same all the time in all situations. I’m still me and I’m pretty sure you can’t make me do anything that I would genuinely object to or anything. I can override whatever it is for a while when I need to. I am right now, it’s just a little bit uphill. Has it occurred to you that you want so badly for me to be okay with everything that you’re adding a sort of enhanced version of having more or less the right motor controls already? That you’re adding an extra bit that helps make everything feel natural and normal but it spills over as influence on mood and energy and that kind of thing?”

“Uh… no, hadn’t thought of that.”

“Now you have. Enough with the serious. Pictures?”

Even if I had been struggling with any of these forms, I would have pretended otherwise so she wouldn’t know. Tavi was already stressed enough, and to me, my job was as much about her mental state as it was about giving her a volunteer target. From the sounds of it, each time she was trying her best to focus on traits that would counter the previous form—aiming for a happy medium, probably, although I wasn’t really expecting much success on that right away. Most likely, what I could look forward to was further whiplashing back and forth.

So I might as well enjoy giddy-and-silly while I could, since I might very well be facing emo-and-angsty next time.

I saw absolutely zero reason not to be a complete ham while Tavi was taking pictures. It got her giggling, which was a bonus. Bouncing around to the dance tracks I put on as background actually felt good and let me work off a bit of that overflowing energy. The tricky bit was trying to stay on the big braided throw rug so I wouldn’t either bother the downstairs neighbour or destroy Tavi’s flooring.

Once she had enough, we faced the question of what to do with the rest of the day.

Staying busy was a very different issue at the moment than it had been in my robot form. We eventually settled on games again, but the music stayed on, and I kept wandering around the room, which meant Tavi spent a lot of time moving my pieces for me. I just couldn’t keep my attention on any one thing for very long, apparently.

I couldn’t cling to a movie plot either. I kept getting distracted by background details, noises outside, or my own long white mane that kept falling across half my face. I could just about keep up with the short simple plots in cartoons though. It occurred to me only after it was far too late that I had decided to keep Tavi away from cartoons from now on.

Tavi dealt with another round of messages, this time by texting them all back except Tim, and reminded me to text Ben to let him know we were still okay. He must have been with a patient, because it took a while for him to reply, thanking me for the update and reminding me that he’d help if we needed him.

Tavi threw me out of the kitchen while she was making supper. She was probably right, it was safer to keep me away from heat sources and sharp objects with my mind wandering around unsupervised and only irregularly dropping by to check in.

When we finally decided around midnight to sleep, Tavi insisted on sleeping on the couch next to me.

Oatmeal for breakfast was even more yummy than the pancakes.

Tavi came out of the kitchen, where she’d been making lunch. I looked up from the adult colouring book of weirdly artsy cats that was currently trying to hold my attention—if my colour choices were a bit exuberant, well, cats didn’t normally look like those ones anyway—and her expression told me everything.

“I’ve only been awake for, like, five hours,” Tavi sighed. “Half of which involved food prep or eating. And I suppose now I’m about to pass out again. I’m sorry about lunch.”

“I might not even be hungry,” I pointed out. “And if I am, god knows what I’ll be hungry for. Just do what you gotta do.”

She came over to the couch and sat down in the middle of it. I rearranged myself so I was facing her, in easy reach—I was getting better at manoeuvring with four legs.

“Okay,” she said, after a slow deep breath. “Fewer legs. Better control. Less childish. No trans colours. I can do this. And just maybe, since I’m doing it as early as I think I possibly can, I can keep from falling asleep immediately. I can do this.”

“Of course you can. I have absolute faith.”

What I had faith in, I didn’t bother to clarify. I knew she could and would change me, and I knew she had a decent chance at gaining a bit more control. Neither of those involved faith at all. And really, neither did my certainty that I was going to end up in yet another peculiar form for the next couple of days. My ability to cope might need faith, though. All of this was interesting, as an experience, but could she inadvertently hit me with something that would be too much?

No, I wouldn’t let anything be too much for me. I could rock with anything in Tavi’s head.

Her breathing slowed further, deep and steady, with her eyes closed.

I tried to keep my own breathing calm too.

She opened her eyes, her gaze fixed on me—not that I would be easy to miss, given my current size and colouring.

A powerful shudder ran through her, but it stopped short of those alarming spasms I’d seen so far. She swayed, and let herself slump against the back of the couch, but she didn’t fall over.


“Give me a sec…” She sounded rather breathless. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I am.” I looked down at my hands, watching as the blue changed to green, and began to darken even as it spread upwards. It didn’t do it evenly, though: some skin paled instead. “I have no idea what this is going to look like, all I know is that it feels pretty strange but I think it only takes a few minutes.”

“Hey, maybe I can stay awake this time.” She curled up on her side; she looked exhausted, but she was definitely alert.

“Did you do something different this time?”

“Not really. It just didn’t feel as bad. It still dropped the level of that humming chilly warm feeling the same amount, but it just wasn’t as much of an effort. Or something.”

“That’s probably a good sign about starting to get a grip on it.”

“Your voice is getting deeper. Back towards normal, but not exactly.”

I held up my arms to show her the dark green along the backs up to just above my elbows, the creamy skin above that, the long pale fingers with nails turning rich green, then reversed them so she could see that much the same was happening on the underside—even my palms were dark. “No more bright colours, either. I guess you’re along for the ride this time. Let’s both hope it doesn’t look too weird.”

“Hey, if you can handle it, so can I.”

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