TALK TO YOUR MOIRAIL, GALLEY.
==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

lackadaisicallimpet:

bustedcrankshaft:

"Yeah, that sounds okay."

You send LL a flurry of quick messages before she can get the wrong idea:

BC: stop that face you wexrdo x’m not up to anythxng

BC: xt’s just that

BC: xf x make a bxg deal xt wxll be a bxg deal

BC: can’t thxnk lxke that

BC: especxally not xn here

BC: shhh only survxval xnstxnct now

Your back pocket buzzes. You blurt a strangled whine and twitch, your butt clenching up reflexively, and you turn up your suspicious palemate frown a couple watts. 

You read the message. You want to protest—this IS a big fuckin’ deal, he did more than just claw back up from death’s hivestoop, he kicked its ass!—but you also don’t wanna rush him into anything that would overwhelm him. Your instincts tell you that these are not words that are going to haunt you later.

You let yourself sag, all resigned. “Okay, bro, we’ll take this shit slow.”

BC: thanks

BC: dxd x do okay

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

askcrossfirehurricane:

lackadaisicallimpet:

bustedcrankshaft:

askcrossfirehurricane:

You give Galley a congratulations hug while Sigmah starts putting away his medical gear. “I’m so proud of you,” you beam. “Would you like to do something to celebrate?”

"No," you say, carefully picking little bits of lint off the Domo-screambeast. "Nothxng to celebrate. Thxnk X’d lxke to just be alone for a whxle. Maybe we can meet up later, though?"

You sneak a glance at LL to see if she’s giving you the “suspicious palemate” look.

You are indeed giving him the suspicious palemate look. You have it down to an art; it is just the right amount of squint and side-eye to stop him in his tracks most times.

It’s not so much him wanting to be alone as it is the fact that he doesn’t want to celebrate. That smells to you of Galley’s unique brand of fuckery.

"Aww, c’mon man, you deserve yourself a reward. I dig you wanting to go decompress somewhere and want you your vines and shit, but c’mon, you been doin’ all this medicine shit and physical therapy for how long? At least let us put a grue loaf in you or somethin’."

"Let’s meet up later," you say, diplomatically agreeing with both of them. "Do something nice to mark the occasion. Something mellow, I can see you’re tired. Movies and drinks, maybe."

"Yeah, that sounds okay."

You send LL a flurry of quick messages before she can get the wrong idea:

BC: stop that face you wexrdo x’m not up to anythxng

BC: xt’s just that

BC: xf x make a bxg deal xt wxll be a bxg deal

BC: can’t thxnk lxke that

BC: especxally not xn here

BC: shhh only survxval xnstxnct now

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

askcrossfirehurricane:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

lackadaisicallimpet:

There’s something in you that wants to giggle fondly at Galley’s snooty words. You will drag the story out of him later, but for now, you are proud as hell watching him kick that treadmill’s ass. Watching him, it hits you how far he’s come from the stick-thin sulky specter who used to float everywhere—now look at him, with some solid weight on him and muscle and he takes that walk like a fucking champ.

You grin broader and broader as Sigmah announces his findings, and oh, oh this is better than you ever would have dreamed. You exchange a delighted glance with Bel and do a happy little spinny dance right there, like you’re some kinda drunk, happy bee. “And a fuckin’ BITCHTITS MEDIC.” you add. You’d hug them all, but the checkup shit ain’t over yet so you settle for just bouncing excitedly on your toes and beaming. “Shit yeah, you did it, you’re a fuckin’ superhero Galleybro!”

You grumble. “Look out, crxmxnals of Alternxa. Here comes Perforated Man. Powers xnclude bexng able to bleed on command, and stuffed screambeast dandlxng.”

"Let’s just make sure you’re no more perforated than expected," you suggest. "Clothes off, please. You can leave your underwear on."

He strips down to his shorts with no sign of embarrassment, and it’s only the work of moments to examine each scar for complications. You find none. You straighten up from checking his feet and give him a delighted smile. “It’s all fine. You can get dressed again.”

When he’s clothed again, you offer him a handshake. “Congratulations on your recovery, Galley. It’s been a pleasure being your doctor. You’ve given me a great deal of hope for others in similar predicaments. Um, you can keep the stuffie if you like.”

You consider. On the one hand, you have this hard impulse to sneer and refuse it, lest accepting it be seen as a sign of weakness. On the other hand, why does that even matter? You’re done with medics, aren’t you?

But it’s wigglerish.

But you want it.

Yeah, but…

You really want it.

You decide on Option C: Solemn Acceptance Of Soft Toy. You nod and wave the stuffed screambeast in thanks. You shake his hand as casually as you can manage, but privately, you’re thinking: yesssss.

You give Galley a congratulations hug while Sigmah starts putting away his medical gear. “I’m so proud of you,” you beam. “Would you like to do something to celebrate?”

"No," you say, carefully picking little bits of lint off the Domo-screambeast. "Nothxng to celebrate. Thxnk X’d lxke to just be alone for a whxle. Maybe we can meet up later, though?"

You sneak a glance at LL to see if she’s giving you the “suspicious palemate” look.

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

lackadaisicallimpet:

There’s something in you that wants to giggle fondly at Galley’s snooty words. You will drag the story out of him later, but for now, you are proud as hell watching him kick that treadmill’s ass. Watching him, it hits you how far he’s come from the stick-thin sulky specter who used to float everywhere—now look at him, with some solid weight on him and muscle and he takes that walk like a fucking champ.

You grin broader and broader as Sigmah announces his findings, and oh, oh this is better than you ever would have dreamed. You exchange a delighted glance with Bel and do a happy little spinny dance right there, like you’re some kinda drunk, happy bee. “And a fuckin’ BITCHTITS MEDIC.” you add. You’d hug them all, but the checkup shit ain’t over yet so you settle for just bouncing excitedly on your toes and beaming. “Shit yeah, you did it, you’re a fuckin’ superhero Galleybro!”

You grumble. “Look out, crxmxnals of Alternxa. Here comes Perforated Man. Powers xnclude bexng able to bleed on command, and stuffed screambeast dandlxng.”

"Let’s just make sure you’re no more perforated than expected," you suggest. "Clothes off, please. You can leave your underwear on."

He strips down to his shorts with no sign of embarrassment, and it’s only the work of moments to examine each scar for complications. You find none. You straighten up from checking his feet and give him a delighted smile. “It’s all fine. You can get dressed again.”

When he’s clothed again, you offer him a handshake. “Congratulations on your recovery, Galley. It’s been a pleasure being your doctor. You’ve given me a great deal of hope for others in similar predicaments. Um, you can keep the stuffie if you like.”

You consider. On the one hand, you have this hard impulse to sneer and refuse it, lest accepting it be seen as a sign of weakness. On the other hand, why does that even matter? You’re done with medics, aren’t you?

But it’s wigglerish.

But you want it.

Yeah, but…

You really want it.

You decide on Option C: Solemn Acceptance Of Soft Toy. You nod and wave the stuffed screambeast in thanks. You shake his hand as casually as you can manage, but privately, you’re thinking: yesssss.

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

lackadaisicallimpet:

negativeepsilon:

askcrossfirehurricane:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:

"I only need a few cc’s, but thank you for your generosity," you smile, and draw two tiny vials of yellow from the cannula.

After you start the blood analyzer, you turn on the treadmill and beckon to him. “Just stand at first, you can use the armrests for balance but don’t lift yourself by them, it’s going to weigh you. Then you can use these buttons to control the speed. I want you to go just fast enough that it feels like a bit of effort.”

You stand as elegantly as you can manage and give LL a little hair-scruffing headpat (not just because you need to stabilize yourself without it looking weird, either). You catch Bel’s eye to make sure he’s watching as you limp with determination to the treadmill. You’re feeling so saucy you even feel for the master switch that controls your punishment subroutines, and switch them off. You don’t need them. You have something better. You have the power of negative thinking!

"Ever notice how some people,” you say with a sniff, “are ruled by thexr emotxons.”

You stumble getting on the treadmill, but it warrants restating that, at the moment you do so,

  • Nothing in the vicinity detonates, catches quietly on fire, or is reduced to atoms from panic-induced psionic freakout
  • You do not make a sound, other than a bit more hyperventilating, but that doesn’t count, because you technically do need to breathe.
  • You pick yourself back up instead of launching yourself out of the room at cruising speed, never to return, with phantom monsters on your ass

Your only goal in life is to comport yourself with dignity during this (hopefully final) invasion of your personal… person. You will prove that you are not worse at something than any glistening saline foamtard. You will prove yourself, and everyone will finally stop worrying about you. Including yoursel.

After that’s done you will go hide somewhere green and secluded far away from the security grid and have the complete sobbing breakdown where no one will see. You are the king of plans that cannot possibly go terribly terribly wrong. It’s you.

You stand on the treadmill, beaming and shaking. You have the Domo-Kun. The world is your snot-textured shellfish to cut from its sandy shell and ingest.

"Proceed."

You gaze at your matesprit, starry-eyed with admiration, as he breaks through his phobia by iron willpower alone and mounts the treadmill with such regal dignity. It will cost him later, you know him well enough by now to predict that. No doubt he knows it as well. But he’s grasping his autonomy by teeth and claws anyway.

Someday, maybe, you’ll be able to make him understand that you see this in him, and that it makes you stronger too, that his determination is an example you strive to follow.

For now, you’ll just smile at him proudly and be ready to help him when his battle’s over.

You’re not sure why Galley stopped flipping out, but whatever he did or thought of seems to be working. You record his weight, keep an eye on the monitors while he ramps up the speed to a fairly brisk limp, and call time after five minutes.

"Excellent," you say as you jot down the results. "Your cardio health is very good for someone who’s been through an illness that severe, and you’ve put on weight despite the restricted diet. Physical therapy is paying off for you. Pulmonary volume and gas exchange are better than average; you’ve got a great set of lungs. I think I heard the blood analyzer beep, just a second — oh, you can take those off, the chest strap and — yeah."

After studying the analyzer readout, you turn to give Galley a surprised look. “Your bloodwork is very good. Considering how long you survived with only a partial helmscolumn, I suspected the technicians left you enough renal tissue to regenerate, and now I think we can confirm it. It probably won’t regrow completely, but in time you might reach the point where dialysis can just be an occasional thing, or even replaced with another treatment.”

You plop down in the chair and give it a spin to express your enthusiasm. “I’m really pleased, Galley. You’ve made the best recovery of any patient I’ve ever had. I chalk it up to your natural toughness, fighting spirit, and helpful quadrants.” You beam. “Last step is to check your scars and make sure they’re properly healed, and then we’ll be done!”

There’s something in you that wants to giggle fondly at Galley’s snooty words. You will drag the story out of him later, but for now, you are proud as hell watching him kick that treadmill’s ass. Watching him, it hits you how far he’s come from the stick-thin sulky specter who used to float everywhere—now look at him, with some solid weight on him and muscle and he takes that walk like a fucking champ.

You grin broader and broader as Sigmah announces his findings, and oh, oh this is better than you ever would have dreamed. You exchange a delighted glance with Bel and do a happy little spinny dance right there, like you’re some kinda drunk, happy bee. “And a fuckin’ BITCHTITS MEDIC.” you add. You’d hug them all, but the checkup shit ain’t over yet so you settle for just bouncing excitedly on your toes and beaming. “Shit yeah, you did it, you’re a fuckin’ superhero Galleybro!”

You grumble. “Look out, crxmxnals of Alternxa. Here comes Perforated Man. Powers xnclude bexng able to bleed on command, and stuffed screambeast dandlxng.”

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

lackadaisicallimpet:

You bite back a hiss and hunch your shoulders up to your ears when Galley accidentally sparks the machine and Sigmah makes a sad face at it. You should have seen that coming. Oooh, you’re an idiot.

But before you can berate yourself, your bro is all huddled up and making incredibly distressing wheezy noises. “Heeey, hey, shhh.” You rub his back as unobtrusively as possible. “S’okay man, you’re doing just fine.”

He goes still and quiet and you feel a little pang of relief as he seems to recover a little. You’re quiet while Sigmah gets him hooked up to the other monitoring equipment. Galley is wearing a face you know well—it’s the same expression he gets sometimes when he sees certain scenes in grubvids featuring highbloods getting sucked out into space or eaten by monsters. It’s the face you’ve seen him wear when he talks about his shitty last captain and how he’s feeding bone eating snot flowers now.

You wonder what exactly he’s thinking about in there, and there’s a twingy part of you that’s weirdly jealous you can’t see.

"Man, I wish I brought me a book,” you say when things settle down. “You got any porn in there, Galleybro?”

You snort. “Close enough” is what you want to say, before sending her the photo. But no, you used up your insults for the perigee and  spreading that picture counts as a putdown. You send her a couple ashen smut clips that you downloaded purely for research a few days ago instead.

You are giddy. So giddy. You look Sigmah right in the eye and ask, “are you goxng to take my blood next? Go for xt, knock yourself out. Have a lxter.”

What do you care, this is nothing.

"I only need a few cc’s, but thank you for your generosity," you smile, and draw two tiny vials of yellow from the cannula.

After you start the blood analyzer, you turn on the treadmill and beckon to him. “Just stand at first, you can use the armrests for balance but don’t lift yourself by them, it’s going to weigh you. Then you can use these buttons to control the speed. I want you to go just fast enough that it feels like a bit of effort.”

You stand as elegantly as you can manage and give LL a little hair-scruffing headpat (not just because you need to stabilize yourself without it looking weird, either). You catch Bel’s eye to make sure he’s watching as you limp with determination to the treadmill. You’re feeling so saucy you even feel for the master switch that controls your punishment subroutines, and switch them off. You don’t need them. You have something better. You have the power of negative thinking!

"Ever notice how some people,” you say with a sniff, “are ruled by thexr emotxons.”

You stumble getting on the treadmill, but it warrants restating that, at the moment you do so,

  • Nothing in the vicinity detonates, catches quietly on fire, or is reduced to atoms from panic-induced psionic freakout
  • You do not make a sound, other than a bit more hyperventilating, but that doesn’t count, because you technically do need to breathe.
  • You pick yourself back up instead of launching yourself out of the room at cruising speed, never to return, with phantom monsters on your ass

Your only goal in life is to comport yourself with dignity during this (hopefully final) invasion of your personal… person. You will prove that you are not worse at something than any glistening saline foamtard. You will prove yourself, and everyone will finally stop worrying about you. Including yoursel.

After that’s done you will go hide somewhere green and secluded far away from the security grid and have the complete sobbing breakdown where no one will see. You are the king of plans that cannot possibly go terribly terribly wrong. It’s you.

You stand on the treadmill, beaming and shaking. You have the Domo-Kun. The world is your snot-textured shellfish to cut from its sandy shell and ingest.

"Proceed."

==>Galley: Overdo it A Little Bit.

lackadaisicallimpet:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:


It hasn’t been quite five minutes, and you very much doubt he’s remotely calm, but you think this is probably the best you’re going to get. “Okay, give me the arm that doesn’t have the cannula.” You wheel the blood pressure machine over, attach the cuff to his arm, press the button… and nothing happens.

The screen says 8888 and is flickering slightly.

"Ah," you sigh as you un-velcro the cuff. "That was kind of an expensive machine, Galley." You captchalog it and get your the manual blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. You’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.

You fold into a ball with a creamy traumatized plush animal center. You are impossible. Utterly impossible. You can’t even make the sparks clear up. You, the key mechanism of the Sunslammer, are leaking from the horns like a wiggler.

You think about more dumb screensaver scenery shit but it’s no good. You call up a memory of doing it with Bel. Nice, but not really helpful. Snuggling with LL? You try that. Try to recapture how calm feels. Maybe it helps, you don’t know.

You may or may not be hyperventilating a little bit.

Unbidden to you comes a flashed image of another troll holding a stuffed animal—the same screaming face—in Sigmah’s care.

HIM.

That fucking violetblooded garbage.

What reason does he have to be afraid of a medical professional? Did him get an owie and they pulled the adhesive medical strip off too hard and hurt him’s little boo-boo?

Cold fury floods you, and you surface from your ball of woe with something like a sneer.

"Well?" you prompt Sigmah. "It’s not gonna go down any lower."

"Yes, I’m getting that," you say sadly. "Well, we’ll do what we can, and maybe Pancho can take your blood pressure at the kitchen table a few times and send me the results." You put the cuff on him, tuck the stethoscope bell under the edge of it, and pump it up with the little black rubber bulb.

The result is a bit high, but you were expecting that, and it’s the relative numbers you’re most concerned with. “Good,” you say as you release the cuff, “That’s pretty normal. Now I’m going to put this strap around your chest, it should fit snugly but not inhibit your breathing.” You fasten the respiration monitor around his ribs, making sure it doesn’t bunch up his t-shirt uncomfortably, and test that you can get a finger in under it easily enough. “Feels all right? Okay, just breathe normally. And this is the blood oxygen monitor, it just clips to your finger.” Clip!

"And now we sit around for a few more minutes. I should’ve told you to bring something to read, sorry."

"He’s got books in his head," Bel points out, as if you’re a bit slow, and you have to concur that you are being a silly butt to forget that.

"Don’t need ‘em," You say flatly. You are staring intently at a certain photograph in your head.

You are, for the first time in your life, experiencing a horrible, wonderful feeling that is both completely illegal and so powerful that it’s distracting you from your own anxiety.

The name of that feeling is smug superiority. You may not be able to control your own sparking, but by god you can be better than the violet-blooded carp.

You bite back a hiss and hunch your shoulders up to your ears when Galley accidentally sparks the machine and Sigmah makes a sad face at it. You should have seen that coming. Oooh, you’re an idiot.

But before you can berate yourself, your bro is all huddled up and making incredibly distressing wheezy noises. “Heeey, hey, shhh.” You rub his back as unobtrusively as possible. “S’okay man, you’re doing just fine.”

He goes still and quiet and you feel a little pang of relief as he seems to recover a little. You’re quiet while Sigmah gets him hooked up to the other monitoring equipment. Galley is wearing a face you know well—it’s the same expression he gets sometimes when he sees certain scenes in grubvids featuring highbloods getting sucked out into space or eaten by monsters. It’s the face you’ve seen him wear when he talks about his shitty last captain and how he’s feeding bone eating snot flowers now.

You wonder what exactly he’s thinking about in there, and there’s a twingy part of you that’s weirdly jealous you can’t see.

"Man, I wish I brought me a book,” you say when things settle down. “You got any porn in there, Galleybro?”

You snort. “Near enough” is what you want to say, before sending her the photo. But no, you used up your insults for the perigee and  spreading that picture counts as a putdown. You send her a couple ashen smut clips that you downloaded purely for research a few days ago instead.

You are giddy. So giddy. You look Sigmah right in the eye and ask, “are you goxng to take my blood next? Go for xt, knock yourself out. Have a lxter.”

What do you care, this is nothing.

==> Sigmah: Give Galley a checkup.

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:


It hasn’t been quite five minutes, and you very much doubt he’s remotely calm, but you think this is probably the best you’re going to get. “Okay, give me the arm that doesn’t have the cannula.” You wheel the blood pressure machine over, attach the cuff to his arm, press the button… and nothing happens.

The screen says 8888 and is flickering slightly.

"Ah," you sigh as you un-velcro the cuff. "That was kind of an expensive machine, Galley." You captchalog it and get your the manual blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. You’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.

You fold into a ball with a creamy traumatized plush animal center. You are impossible. Utterly impossible. You can’t even make the sparks clear up. You, the key mechanism of the Sunslammer, are leaking from the horns like a wiggler.

You think about more dumb screensaver scenery shit but it’s no good. You call up a memory of doing it with Bel. Nice, but not really helpful. Snuggling with LL? You try that. Try to recapture how calm feels. Maybe it helps, you don’t know.

You may or may not be hyperventilating a little bit.

Unbidden to you comes a flashed image of another troll holding a stuffed animal—the same screaming face—in Sigmah’s care.

HIM.

That fucking violetblooded garbage.

What reason does he have to be afraid of a medical professional? Did him get an owie and they pulled the adhesive medical strip off too hard and hurt him’s little boo-boo?

Cold fury floods you, and you surface from your ball of woe with something like a sneer.

"Well?" you prompt Sigmah. "It’s not gonna go down any lower."

"Yes, I’m getting that," you say sadly. "Well, we’ll do what we can, and maybe Pancho can take your blood pressure at the kitchen table a few times and send me the results." You put the cuff on him, tuck the stethoscope bell under the edge of it, and pump it up with the little black rubber bulb.

The result is a bit high, but you were expecting that, and it’s the relative numbers you’re most concerned with. “Good,” you say as you release the cuff, “That’s pretty normal. Now I’m going to put this strap around your chest, it should fit snugly but not inhibit your breathing.” You fasten the respiration monitor around his ribs, making sure it doesn’t bunch up his t-shirt uncomfortably, and test that you can get a finger in under it easily enough. “Feels all right? Okay, just breathe normally. And this is the blood oxygen monitor, it just clips to your finger.” Clip!

"And now we sit around for a few more minutes. I should’ve told you to bring something to read, sorry."

"He’s got books in his head," Bel points out, as if you’re a bit slow, and you have to concur that you are being a silly butt to forget that.

"Don’t need ‘em," You say flatly. You are staring intently at a certain photograph in your head.

You are, for the first time in your life, experiencing a horrible, wonderful feeling that is both completely illegal and so powerful that it’s distracting you from your own anxiety.

The name of that feeling is smug superiority. You may not be able to control your own sparking, but by god you can be better than the violet-blooded carp.

==> Sigmah: Give Galley a checkup.

negativeepsilon:

bustedcrankshaft:

askcrossfirehurricane:

lackadaisicallimpet:

You settle in on Galley’s other side, squeezing in between him and the arm of the couch, and fold your hands in your lap. Yes, okay, so, relaxing. What’s a nice calming topic? “So hey Galley, why’d the tech support trainee get his finger all stuck inside the computer?” You rush on before he can answer or object. “He was tryin’a put in his THUMB DRIVE.”

You groan and roll your eyes. “Oh god, are we telling computer jokes? Okay, um… there are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.”

Somewhere, a row of lights goes “Vworp.” There is a popping sound.

"Erf. ‘Scuse me," you say into the screaming bear-creature. "The jokes are dxstressxng. X wxll use vxsualxzatxon xnstead of tauntxng my thxnkpan wxth punch lxnes."

You think calm thoughts. You imagine flop-eared nibble-beasts ushering their potato-shaped lagomorph babies through shining green meadows. Dusk on the sea. H-happy songs.

"Okay. Try it now."

It hasn’t been quite five minutes, and you very much doubt he’s remotely calm, but you think this is probably the best you’re going to get. “Okay, give me the arm that doesn’t have the cannula.” You wheel the blood pressure machine over, attach the cuff to his arm, press the button… and nothing happens.

The screen says 8888 and is flickering slightly.

"Ah," you sigh as you un-velcro the cuff. "That was kind of an expensive machine, Galley." You captchalog it and get your the manual blood pressure cuff and stethoscope. You’ll have to do this the old fashioned way.

You fold into a ball with a creamy traumatized plush animal center. You are impossible. Utterly impossible. You can’t even make the sparks clear up. You, the key mechanism of the Sunslammer, are leaking from the horns like a wiggler.

You think about more dumb screensaver scenery shit but it’s no good. You call up a memory of doing it with Bel. Nice, but not really helpful. Snuggling with LL? You try that. Try to recapture how calm feels. Maybe it helps, you don’t know.

You may or may not be hyperventilating a little bit.

Unbidden to you comes a flashed image of another troll holding a stuffed animal—the same screaming face—in Sigmah’s care.

HIM.

That fucking violetblooded garbage.

What reason does he have to be afraid of a medical professional? Did him get an owie and they pulled the adhesive medical strip off too hard and hurt him’s little boo-boo?

Cold fury floods you, and you surface from your ball of woe with something like a sneer.

"Well?" you prompt Sigmah. "It’s not gonna go down any lower."

==> Sigmah: Give Galley a checkup.

askcrossfirehurricane:

lackadaisicallimpet:

askcrossfirehurricane:

bustedcrankshaft:

negativeepsilon:

Beaming, you hand over the plush. Finally, your taste in soft toys is appreciated. “He’s been through his share of troubles, but he’s as squishy as ever. His squish is undaunted.”

You gesture to the couch and go back to the spinny chair.

"Xt’s all rxght," you say, not wanting to admit that the frozen scream of agony is actually soothing you. "Got nothxng on LL’s Lords and Saviors, smxlewxse, but then, who does."

You sit heavily on the couch, skin already crawling with phantom sensations. No vivisections, you tell it, but your stubborn epidermis gives you a sea of tiny fuck-you goosebumps.

That plush immediately stopped being creepy once Galley was holding it. Love is a strange, strange thing.

You sit beside him on the couch, arm around his shoulders. “Now we just wait?”

"Yeah, give it five minutes or so," Sigmah says. "I know you’re nervous, Galley, but being freaked out is going to kind of throw the blood pressure reading off, so if there’s anything you can do to calm yourself a bit that’d be good. Like play tetris or talk about something that interests you."

You settle in on Galley’s other side, squeezing in between him and the arm of the couch, and fold your hands in your lap. Yes, okay, so, relaxing. What’s a nice calming topic? “So hey Galley, why’d the tech support trainee get his finger all stuck inside the computer?” You rush on before he can answer or object. “He was tryin’a put in his THUMB DRIVE.”

You groan and roll your eyes. “Oh god, are we telling computer jokes? Okay, um… there are 10 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who don’t.”

Somewhere, a row of lights goes “Vworp.” There is a popping sound.

"Erf. ‘Scuse me," you say into the screaming bear-creature. "The jokes are dxstressxng. X wxll use vxsualxzatxon xnstead of tauntxng my thxnkpan wxth punch lxnes."

You think calm thoughts. You imagine flop-eared nibble-beasts ushering their potato-shaped lagomorph babies through shining green meadows. Dusk on the sea. H-happy songs.

"Okay. Try it now."