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Shadow Weaver’s touches are such a convincing imitation of motherly care that you’ve never longed for the real thing. The only other Horde child she gives her direct attention to is Catra, although those encounters are a far cry from affectionate. When you enter the Black Garnet room and the steel door closes at your back, there is a moment where you can feel your heart expanding-- too large and too loud to be anything but fear. It is better off quashed, better to not let her see any uncertainty in the face of her appraisal, lest it sour.

There is a version of this memory where your trepidation is warranted, but you can’t be bothered to extract it. It doesn’t occur to you that it’s strange to be limping, without any obvious cause to your injuries. An hour, maybe two have passed since you entered Shadow Weaver’s sanctum, but the details of your visit become hazy the moment you are dismissed. She caressed your face-- that memory is real, and warmth spreads through your chest when you think of it. Her hands against your skin, softer than they ought to be. And you allowed her to fix your hair too, you think, because your scalp tingles where her nails scratched at it, and your hair is soft from being freshly combed through, pulled into a more perfect ponytail than your inexperienced hands could ever manage. It doesn’t matter what she said to you, only that you know it was praise, for being an outstanding cadet, for being a good girl. She likes you obedient, compliant, submitting to her touch without a second thought. You’ve never had to guess what will earn Shadow Weaver’s affection.

There is a version of this memory that finds you when you are half-sunk in slumber, and the dream knits it back together-- the reason you ache between your thighs, why your wrists and ankles are bruised. She peels your clothes off slowly, your body so weightless and warm that you hardly notice what is happening until you are naked in front of her. She guides you up onto the examination table and coaxes your knees apart. It aches, this touch, but not unpleasantly. And her other hand really does stroke through your hair, scratching that tender spot at the nape of your neck. She asked you to hold still but it feels too good to roll your hips into the touch, and you are lucky she does not scold you, lucky all she does is move her fingers faster.

There is a version of this memory that twists your sleeping body in a tangled panic, warning you not to trust, not to submit, not to keep giving yourself away to her without hesitation or limit. No. It is your brain that is the liar, crying out against shards of glass that puncture you even though you know nothing has shattered. You wake, heart pounding and jaw clenched, but after a moment of reflection, refuse to consider it a nightmare. After all, she wasn’t hurting you. Not like she hurt Catra, crushing her in the cold, crimson grip of her magic. Sending her back to the barracks bloody and bruised, tear-stained and terrified. Catra has nightmares. She wakes up in a flurry of sweat and anguish, and runs to the bathroom to heave over the toilet. She cries there too, you’re sure of it, even though you’ve never dared to follow her. Some wounds must be licked in private. There is an unpleasant tightness in your chest, a sense that something is missing, something you should feel in the aftermath of such abnormal dreams, but you never feel much like crying. And you never eat enough to be sick. 

Another time, you are in the Black Garnet room, standing patiently at attention while she conjures her shadows. They are cold against your skin-- naked, though you don’t remember how or when it happened. There is another version of this memory too-- something so sharp and strange you are sure you must have dreamt it. It is hard sometimes, when two versions of the same experience are superimposed like this, to tell which is the original. Much safer to tuck away the unsettling, the grotesque, and chalk the nausea up to the ration bar you ate before bed, the hit that you took during training because you know your own mistakes are far more easily forgiven than your fellow cadets. 

Shadow Weaver prefers to admonish you in private, and leave behind only the impression that you were scolded and the sticky remnants of tears on your cheeks. You know she edits things-- tangible reality mostly but you know memories are not above reproach. And you have doubts, which take the shape of marks that cannot be redacted from the skin as easily as thoughts from your head. But if she isn’t hurting you-- and the bruises you find are nothing compared to your training injuries-- than what would be the point of altering your mind to begin with? Sometimes, you’ll notice flecks of blood in your underwear even though your time of month is far off still. And you realize that you are sore there, have been for days, but noticing it and puzzling over why just never occured to you.

She loves you enough to spare you the details, she calls this mercy. Catra calls it something uglier, though never when she thinks you are listening. You don’t agonize over what could be missing, or what Shadow Weaver has changed. You know she hasn’t really hurt you, because you are loyal, you excel as a cadet, you are good and compliant and everything else she demands of you. And it feels so, so good to sink down onto her fingers and show her how good you are, how willing to obey. It’s puzzling at first, when she starts to touch you like that, but by the time she is inside of you, you always remember. And the muscle memory lingers in your body-- the same reflexive recollection that allows you to excel in combat drills-- knowing exactly how to move for her even though she wipes the slate clean every time.