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TO slipped into the crowd of other synths that were heading to their mental training classes. They followed along with them until they got to where the hallway split off, then turned and went down the hall. They got to the dormitories, crawled up into their pod, and closed the barrier behind them as they lay down on their side.

 

Why did I do that?

 

They wrapped arms and then their wings around themselves, pulling their knees up to their chest. Finally they allowed the tears that had been burning at their eyes to finally fall.

 

Why did I do that! They let a ragged sob escape their lips - they were alone, their barrier was closed, so trying to keep up appearances didn’t matter. Nothing mattered.

 

They Shouldn't have run off. They should have stayed! They knew that DH had noticed they were upset; they probably would have said something, right? The expression on their face - they definitely noticed it. They could have stayed. Despite the people around, DH probably would have rushed up to them and put an arm over TOs shoulder. They would have asked what was wrong.

 

They hoped.

 

Perhaps DH could have caught up to TO if they really wanted. It was a possibility, wasn’t it? Of course, TO had melted into the crowds very quickly. Unless DH had run up to them, barging past people… Of course, DH didn’t have to do that. DH had done nothing wrong, right? TO themselves were the ones who were upset for no reason.

 

Was it no reason though? DH hadn’t even noticed during their first meal that TO was upset, and they didn’t wait for TO for  second meal. Wasn’t that proof that they were right to be worried and afraid?

 

DH didn’t need them anymore.

 

TO's head spun. DH didn’t need them anymore. DH had GiDi now. GiDi was better suited to be DH’s friend than TO was. They wondered if they could find someone else; another synth that was strange like they were. The thought of even trying to do that, the thought of going out of their way to replace DH made them feel stomach sick.

 

They didn’t want to replace DH. They wanted their friend back.

 

They curled up and allowed themselves to cry. It didn’t matter. DH had GiDi. TO was skipping their training and would probably be approached by an Overseer soon. Maybe they’d just ask to be corrected. That was the only thing they could think of doing because the thought of being alone was too heavy for them.

 

Their thoughts spiraled as they lay alone in their bunk, which was silent save for their soft sobbing.

 

=========

 

TO didn’t realize that they had fallen asleep until they were woken up by someone knocking on the barrier. They sat up in their bunk and rubbed the dried tears from their eyes as they turned to look. They couldn’t see who it was - the barrier was frosted- all they could see was their outline.

 

They checked their implant, and saw the time - they had entirely missed their mental training, and their final meal of the day had started. Not that it mattered; TO didn’t feel hungry.

 

The knocking came again. They realized it must be an Overseer come to collect them. A tremor of fear ran through them as they realized that this was it- they’d be taken away, questioned, checked, and corrected. They took a deep breath to steady themselves, and opened the barrier. At least DH had GiDi now, no matter what happened to TO.

 

It was GiDi.

 

“Hello.” they said when the barrier lifted. TO stared at them in silence, unsure as to what to say. GiDi looked around the bunk awkwardly, and held up a plate of food, “I- uh- I sometimes eat in my bunk.” they said, “I’m not that hungry today. Do you want some?”

 

TO shook their head.

 

“Are you sure?” they asked, “You … Well, you haven't eaten since your first meal, right?”

 

“I am not hungry.” TO said, hating how small their voice sounded. A part of them wanted to be angry with GiDi, but GiDi hadn’t done anything wrong.

 

GiDi nodded, looked around the dormitory, then looked back to TO, “Can...” their ears flicked down, uncertain and afraid as they quietly asked, “Can I join you then?”

 

TO felt their ears flick out in confusion, but they nodded. GiDi climbed into the bunk, set the plate on the bed between them, and reached out to press the button that closed up the barrier. When TO looked at them in confusion, they just shrugged and said, “I thought you wanted it down.”

 

TO nodded and looked away. “Why are you here?” They asked.

 

“...DH went to the flight training room.” they said as they picked up a small cube from their plate, “And I didn’t want to be alone in the cafeteria.”

 

DH had gone to the flight training room? When GiDi said that, TO turned to look at them, confused.

 

“They didn’t eat with you?”

 

“They were worried about you.” GiDi said, “They could hardly focus during mental training. They wanted to be there when you got there.” They put their hand on another cube, but they suddenly pulled their hand away. “I am sorry.”

 

“You’re sorry?” TO turned to look at them, their ears quirking out in confusion, “Why?”

 

“Well…” They laced their fingers together, “It’s my fault. Second meal, I mean.” They looked away, their ears flicking down, “I don’t...I don’t get along well. With other synths, I mean.”

 

“Neither do I.”

 

“I really don’t get along well.” they said, “I don’t know what I do, but I seem to bother others. It’s like there’s just something about me that makes people angry.” They looked pointedly at the barrier in front of them, “I thought I was making you angry.”

 

“No, you weren’t!” TO said, leaning forward, “You didn’t do anything wrong.”

 

GiDi leaned back and gave TO a small, sad smile, “I got into trouble in flight training.” they said. “I was... I wasn’t paying attention, and I wasn’t watching where I was flying. Actually, I was talking to DH at the time.” They glanced up, “They get really excited sometimes. I don’t think they pay much attention to things around them when they’re really excited.”

 

TO chuckled despite themselves, “They don’t.” They agreed, “They get loud and animated. They don’t notice other people around them.”

 

“And I don’t think they noticed that you were upset.” They looked over at TO, “I didn’t want to say anything during the first meal. I mean, it wasn’t my place to say anything, and you two were actually talking to me so I didn’t want to pry and scare you off.”

 

TO shook their head, “I was being stupid.” they said. They knew that DH had been excited, but they thought that DH would have noticed how upset they were. DH always noticed when TO was upset.

 

“I mentioned to DH that I thought you might be upset when we were in flight training. DH was worried then. they said we’d rush to meet you for second meal.” They grinned at TO, “They talked about you for the rest of flight training, you know.” they said, “They look up to you a lot.”

 

TO felt their ears burn as they flushed blue, “I’m... I’m nothing to look up to.”

 

“You are!” Gidi insisted, “I’ve heard about you before all this. The Overseers talk about you sometimes.”

 

“Oh?” TO felt their stomach clench, “They do?”

 

“Clever, strong, and an excellent flyer.” they said, “Approaches puzzles with creative and quick solutions, among other things.” They looked aside, “The Overseers pay attention to synths that they think have potential, and to ones that they have concerns about. Ones that don’t stand out either way, they tend to ignore. Like me.” They gave a wry smile, “That’s why I get to overhear them.”

 

“Is that how you got in trouble?”

 

GiDi seemed confused for a moment, then their eyes widened in comprehension, “OH! Oh no. I was listening to DH, and I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I crashed into someone, and we fell. They got really mad at me, the Overseer got mad at me, and I was… Well, I was a little upset.” They looked away, “So we waited for you outside the Cafeteria, but DH was worried that you were mad at them, and maybe went in on your own. They were also worried about me, so we went in. they said you were always there first. They didn’t think you’d be running behind today.”

 

TO felt their ears flick with shame. Of course. If they had been in DH’s position, they probably would have thought  the same. They would have worried about DH being angry, and of course DH would have been confused by TO not being there first. TO was always there first.The only reason they hadn’t been is because they ran off to compose themself first.

 

“I think you should go to the flight training room.” Gidi said as they reached out for another piece of food, “DH got their meal and went off to find you. They were worried that you’d be hungry.”

 

TO nodded and opened up the barrier. They were halfway out of the bunk when GiDi stopped them.

 

“Here.” they said, passing them a handful of the small cubes, “Take these with you.”

 

“No no, that’s ok, I-“

 

“Please?” GiDi said, holding them out, “I’m not that hungry… And, do you mind if I stay here?”

 

TO gave them a quick smile, took the food, and nodded, “Stay as long as you like.” they said, “I’ll be back with DH later.”

 

GiDi looked around the pod, “Will the three of us fit?”

 

“We’ll make it work!”

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TheWitchOfTheRock

Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell

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