You Ain't No Family
rating: +62+x

Dreaming of her past…

The as-of-yet unnamed girl insulated herself from the cold in a thick hoodie, having no idea what to expect from the game. Silent Hill 3. A fascinating name for a game. There wasn't much she could go off of beyond what the disc looked like in the banged-up plastic sleeve her friend at school packed it in (where was she gonna hide it in her closet of a room?) and what he told her.

"You should play this! It's violent, but that's fine since the main character is a girl. She rules. You'd probably appreciate that," he said. And it was true. She did appreciate that. Somehow, she appreciated it despite it being horror. Violent horror.

At the crack of dawn, long after finishing the game, she still couldn't figure out what had enthralled her about it. Was it that she was playing a game she could hide from her parents? Maybe it was that it was more than just a violent game, in some way. It was surprisingly fun. Perhaps it was the perfect form of escapism; a game where you could fight (religious) monsters and kill (a) god while being a badass teenage lady up against evil adults. That was the main thing she had kept coming back to as she tossed and turned in bed, fidgeting with her secret hair bow.

Heather Mason. Heather Mason. What a gorgeous name. Heather Mason was only three years older than her. It was the first time she could recall playing as a cool female lead character, rather than just a cute one. And she won on her own strength. That was the most important part.

Heather Mason. She was everything she had wanted to be. In a way, if she could manage to be more feminine, they'd probably even look alike. Maybe cosplaying her in the future wouldn't be out of the question. Heather Mason. Heather Mason…

That would make for a nice name, she thought.

From then on, she fully shed her internal identity as a boy. Now she would be, forevermore, Heather Mason.


"Nnnn…" Heather woke up, groggy from a rough night of sleep. It took her a few seconds to realize that the two figures in her room were, in fact, Dahlia and Andressa, mom and mommy. They both held multiple numerous presents for her. "Wh —"

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!"

"Aaah!" She jumped out of bed in shock. She never heard them yell that loud. She never heard anyone yell that loud — not in a positive way. It was disorienting. "O-Oh, right, June 4th. You remembered!"

"Of course we did, Mags!" Dahlia beamed. She was always proud of that nickname. "We obviously weren't gonna forget it for the world. All of us pooled money together to get you some neat shit."

"You didn't have —" Before she could speak anymore, the both of them leaned in to kiss what was approximately her forehead.

"No way we weren't going to get you stuff," Andressa reassured. "Me, Dahlia, all our friends, we wanted to treat you to something special. You can look forward to this every year." They smiled. It was a feeling she still hadn't gotten used to, even after all this time.

"Thank you both!" A radiant, blushing ASCII face popped up. "I'm really thankful and happy, but uh… if you don't mind, I still need a half-hour to get myself out of bed. Even on my birthday." Heather added a heart alongside the face. It was too overwhelming to take in at that moment; she might need a whole hour this time.

"Sure thing. We'll be making breakfast, so feel free to join us whenever you want. Do you want us to leave your presents here?" Andressa asked.

"Oh! Probably just in the living room. I'll open them later, I think?"

"Will do, Mags." With that, the both of them had left the room. It was tempting to fall back asleep right then and there; she already felt a lot of energy gone.

She collapsed and turned towards the window. The sun wasn't as bright today as it usually felt. Did that mean anything in particular? Probably not, though she could probably go outside without needing to turn down her brightness settings. If she had that desire. No clouds was good, though that was more expected. There was humming drifting in from the kitchen, and sizzling; Andressa was most likely making eggs. The sound of guns meant Dahlia was getting mad at first-person shooters, most likely. It seemed like any other day. Nothing to prepare for, or to steel against.

Since Dahlia was actually home from college for however long, on her birthday no less, it was tempting to ask if she could go out somewhere. Two months in, and she still had no idea about even the immediate area and where a nice place to go would be. Surely either mom would have an idea of where to go. The conversation was already playing out in her head:

"Mommy, is there anywhere here we can go to have fun? It's my birthday after all."

"It might be a bit tricky to swing that with your head, Heather…"

"Is there really no way to disguise it?"

"Ah, I'm sure we can think of something, but —"

"If you have any ideas, Dahlia, they better be super inconspicuous. I really don't want to risk anything, especially today."

"But mommy…"

"Ughhh." She rolled around, thinking. They might not have any ideas, or even want to risk any ideas. Was there really nothing? She got up and looked out the window. It was nice that their rooms were entirely on the second floor; the view was pretty good. Birthday views out the window seemed to be more magnificent, but they could only be so pretty each and every day.

Out in the distance was where Heather spotted it. There were a bunch of people at some kind of establishment. An arcade? Pizzeria? Some kind of combination. And all the kids and teenagers, for whatever reason, were dressed up in ridiculous costumes. It took ten seconds for her to burst out of her bedroom door and shout, digital voice cracking at the excitement of it.

"I KNOW WHAT TO DO FOR MY BIRTHDAY!" Andressa and Dahlia blinked, taken aback.







Andressa Santos dressed up as Lisa Lisa. Dahlia Price dressed up as Winry Rockbell. Heather Mason dressed up as the Arcade Hare.


Dreaming of hurt…

There was only one person in outside of the internet that Heather entrusted with knowledge of her true self. He seemed trustworthy enough. His name… it was always out of reach. Nothing but garbled unicode characters and corrupted data.

She had told him two weeks after he gifted her Silent Hill 3. That was a scene she could never forget.

"H… Hey, รภ̴ץєгค๔ς͟๏̶เ͝ђ̕?" He turned around to look at her. "I need to tell you something. Can you keep it a secret between us?"

And so he did, and she felt the safest she ever had up to that point. At least around one person, she felt that she could be herself more often. That was all she really needed. They only knew each other since 7th Grade, but they hung out enough and were close enough that she felt she could at least tell him most things. She had even seen him defend social justice stuff before, so he had to be fine.

"Check out this game that кรเє๏гђгภย gave me during lunch today!" It was two months later when she successfully begged her parents to let him spend the night at his house. He held the copy of Grand Theft Auto V triumphantly in the air, like he had pulled off the biggest heist of all time.

"Oh… how did she manage to get it anyway?"

"Well, let's say she knew a guy who knew a gal who doesn't give a shit about GameStop policy. Only took two months but it's here. Apparently this is mine to keep. Sick, huh?"

"Ah…" Heather fidgeted with her hair bow. She couldn't even pretend to be enthused about the game, but so long as her friend was happy, it made her feel happy. "You just can't let your parents find out, or you'll probably be grounded until college." He got panicky at the thought; she couldn't help but laugh.

"Yeah, well! They won't! I'm super good at hiding my M-rated games, so they'll never find — oh, wait! This is for you to play as well." He rolled over to his backpack and started rummaging through it. "She also managed to get the new Mario game. I know how much you wanted that; it should be here somewhere…" She had to resist tearing up in front of him.

"Are you sure? You know I won't be able to take it home."

"Yeah, yeah, I can keep it here. I can also keep it safe from my parents. You can play it however much you want!"

While the rest of the night was hard to fill in from memory, she did stay up almost the whole night on his Wii U playing it, long after he had gone to bed. So this is what safety felt like. It felt like gaming far away from the trappings of regular life. If only รภ̴ץєгค๔ς͟๏̶เ͝ђ̕ was a girl.

A few days later, Heather's friend had gotten in trouble. So that's why he hasn't been at school, she thought. Later, news had spread through the grapevine of every clique in their minuscule class. Someone had their hands on stolen copies of games, and it didn't take long to follow the trail. Around the same time, Heather's life became even more of a trial to endure. It was months later that she had realized that the hair bow she lost might have also been found at his house. Of course that's how the secret got spilled; it's better to confess to being a thief than to be a tranny.

The rat bastard modern-day Judas Iscariot had sold her out, never to look her way again even as school became her second Hell.


"I have something I want added to me."

That was how these conversations usually started. Whenever Heather wanted some new ability, she would bug Andressa and Dahlia about it. It didn't happen often, but there was no reason to fight off the temptation.

She cheated death once already, and now had both looks and abilities no other human could achieve, so what would be the trouble with anything new? Usually, both moms were fine with it. She never really gave much consideration to that; if they were both okay with it, then why wouldn't it be fine?

So far, Heather had requested pretty minor things. The ability to make graphics look nicer in games. An icon of her in games that she could control and talk through. The ability to have it automate certain tasks (reminders not to play for too long, for example). Nothing big, certainly nothing that could hurt anyone. There wasn't much else that she could think of. Except for…

"Hmm?" Andressa replied, distracted as she programmed. "What do you want us to add?"

"Something that lets me modify games to —"

"No." They shook their head. "You never seemed like the kind of girl who wants to cheat, so I figure you have another reason for it. My answer will still be no."

"I don't think it'd be a step too far though. I can already make graphics look better, so wouldn't something like removing blood or making skipping forced cutscenes be a natural next step?"

"Would those be the only changes you'd want to make?"

"Even if I said yes, you would still say no…" A frowning face made out of question marks appeared on her screen. It was the first time she got turned down; she had no idea how to proceed from there.

"Doesn't Danganronpa have pink blood anyway?"

"Yeah, but it's… too much for me even then."

"Hah, you must really like dating sims, Miss Mason." Heather couldn't help but laugh a little. "It's just a matter of principle. That could break games, or glitch things out too hard. And it might actually tempt you into wanting to cheat. No go."

"Buuuut…"

"You can learn how to mod and program. Dahlia has a pretty powerful laptop she almost never uses for those purposes that we can give you."

"If that was the only reason, you wouldn't be so immediately firm about it on every level." Andressa paused. They seemed unsure on how to react. Ten seconds passed, then twenty, then thirty. It was the first time Heather experienced an awkward silence with either mom, so she didn't know what to do. The screen was replaced with an exclamation mark and teardrops. "U-Uh, I'm sorry if I touched on a nerve! I didn't mean to, if I did anything wrong I can apologize for that! Um, I-I'm sorry m —"

Andressa reached out a hand to stop her from spiraling into a neverending apology loop. She had gotten better about not doing that, and she was only able to catch herself when someone snapped her out of it. She felt her mother's arms wrapped around her. Warm and secure.

"You're fine. I just don't want anything wonky to happen to you," Andressa quietly spoke. They tried to be as calm as they could for Heather. "I don't know if having something like that can accidentally fuck you up if we're not super careful about it. The more we add, the greater a chance something might go wrong. Maybe it'll be better if I ask Dahlia and we can see what she says, alright?" She looked up at them and nodded, feeling a little more relaxed. There were probably more unspoken reasons, but she had come to understand that they weren't the best at being communicative. Fitting of a friend.







"Hell yeah."

"You didn't even think about it!"

"Look Andy, it shouldn't be a big deal. We're both smart enough to try and figure out ways it can go wrong and prevent it. It shouldn't hurt Mags at all." Heather shrunk a bit into the couch. She never had the heart to tell Dahlia that it always embarrassed her a little to hear that nickname. "We can spend weeks working on it, and it shouldn't be an issue, alright?"

"I… guess. You sound supremely overconfident, love." Dahlia grinned, and Heather couldn't help but smile seeing her mom beam with pride.


Dreaming of an end…

Heather ran away from home at the age of 16.

She woke up in a panic, body shaking. She didn't like to think about it. She didn't like to dream about it.


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"Can we?"

"Mags… that's so far away from where you and Andy live. Jesus. Why?"

"It's the Switch! It'll be so fun to play, and it's free, and I should be good at whatever game they announce! It's no big deal, right?"

"She has a point though. That's pretty far away. Are you willing to travel and stay at a hotel overnight?" A buffering symbol appeared on her screen. "We can only do so much. We can stay over there for one night, and we'd have to travel by car if you wanted to go, so it'd be pretty difficult."

"That… should be fine. I think." Heather wasn't sure; the journey seemed grueling, and maybe there was someone who'd be better than her. But then again, the prize was so tantalizing… how could she refuse? She felt more bothered by their reactions; she was worried they were annoyed, even if that was less likely than surprise and fatigue. That anxiety always stuck with her now.

"Heather, you'd have to take this seriously if you wanted to go. Once we make the plans, we can't afford to back out, especially since Dahlia will come as well." They sighed. "At least they can afford to miss classes for a bit."

"Yeah. I wouldn't mind, I'd just have to rearrange some stuff and suck up to some professors. My grades are good enough now that it'll be fine. Really, it's whether you two can handle it, especially Mags."

Heather looked down at the floor, twirling around a non-existent object. There was the possibility of being overwhelmed, but they've been better at dealing with sensory overloads at home. Going to the arcade for her birthday went well enough. And it was only a GameStop. There shouldn't be much of an issue. The tournament wouldn't last too long as well if she could be quick enough and good enough to beat everyone. And they seemed to be on-board now, at least.

"I can do it, no problem."

"Then I should be fine as well. Can you come down two days before we head there, dear?"

"Yeah, should be no problem. I'll have to send you all my weed as an extra safety precaution since I just bought some, but that's not gonna be an issue for you I hope."

Heather grinned. Now she was pumped. She never felt so excited in her life.








Dreaming of birth…

Heather didn't remember how long she had spent in nothingness. There was no reason to keep track of time at that point. Maybe there was something, but whatever called her from the living world had wiped the memory of it. Maybe it was because she was destined to come back that she spent her time in nothingness.

"…ink this could work?"

"I dunno, Armand said it'd be fine like this."

Her existence pulsated, and the two ladies immediately went on alert.

"Hey, anyone there?" Heather didn't know how to respond in this state. All her thoughts could do was pulsate, with no meaning carried along. "Shit, Andy, do you know what to do?"

"I'm thinking Dahlia… Hey, whoever you are. Keep… keep pulsing your thoughts. Until you can form words with them! It shouldn't be too hard. We have all night anyway."

Night? Right. It was night. The opposite of day. Day was the period of time roughly defined as 'the sun being up'. Night was the period of time roughly defined as 'the sun being down'. And the sun was a giant star that radiated light and heat. Alright. What were they doing talking to her at night? How were they talking to her? What sort of state was she in?

"Don't worry. Take your time to figure it out," the other lady reassured.

She pulsated. Her energy and soul and being pulsated as she worked out universal concepts when she was a human being. There were four seasons. The planet she lived on was Earth. People had ages. She was 16 years and some months old. There were games. Digital games. Video games. People had names. She was a girl. Heather. Heather Mason.

"H.. eat… her…"

"Is that your name?" one of the ladies (Andressa) replied.

"Y… Yes. Heather. Heather. Heather M… ason."

"Oh, like the Silent Hill Chick!" The other lady (Dahlia) seemed excited at that prospect. A warmness ran through the words spoken, and the warmth reached her being, as it were.

"How do you feel right now?"

"Feel?"

"It's hard to explain… what are your feelings right now?"

"That might be too abstract for her, Andy. Let's see. Do you know where you are right now?" Heather thought. They were in night. So they weren't in nothingness, like her. So if they were alive…

"Hell?"

"Fuck no. We just reached out to your soul, that's all." Dahlia sounded like an adult, and swore like one, but she didn't sound… angry. "We're still pretty new to this thing. It's, uh… have you ever seen Fullmetal Alchemist?"

"No…"

"I'm out of ways to explain it already. I might just get some coffee. Do you want some, sugar?" Pause after some, before sugar. Sugar… that goes in coffee. But there was a pause. So she called Andressa "sugar". Were they…?

"I'm good, but you can't be out of the room for too long. Please be back in less than five minutes. Or we may lose Heather." Lose… they didn't want to lose her. Heather couldn't hear anything but words, but the pause in speaking probably meant that Dahlia had left the room that they were in. She tried to catch up on concepts again. Math. History. Alan Turing, Paris Is Burning, Fox News, pool cues, climate —

She experienced what she could only think of as a 'twang' in the area where her thoughts had gathered.

"It's alright, Heather. You can relax. You should be fine. Listen… I don't know what happened to you, but I can't imagine it was anything good."

"No." A pause. "How are you talking to me?"

"We… that's a long story. Um… my girlfriend and I work on this project with friends. And we decided that we wanted to contribute to it. But everyone else's project is like… Hmm." Pause. "For this thing our friend group works on, we bring back lost souls. People that life just screwed over. And we put them into fitting bodies that other souls no longer are able to inhabit. Um, that's a long story. Jeez Dahlia, you'd explain this so much better."

"Am I lost?"

"I don't know. Do you feel lost?" Heather couldn't answer that. Possibly…?

"Did you pick me on purpose?"

"Not really. We just sort of. It's like when you go fishing, and you throw some bait out into a crowded lake, hoping to catch some fish. Like that, but less dangerous. So we do that, and configurate their souls and bodies to do cool shit." Configurate? Oh, configure. Like a computer? Or was it magic? It felt magic. "We want them to feel useful when they didn't feel useful in life. This is only one way to do it, but it's the easiest and most consistent way. But…"

"But?"

"Stuff keeps going wrong, and they get lost all over again. I always feel the worst about it. I think my bitching in chat has finally gotten to them, I hope."

"Huh?"

"Human souls are still human. They don't stop being human because they no longer have a body. It's hard for us to think of it like that while we're alive but it's morally grey. We just didn't realize it until a certain point. But we still wanna help. And Dahlia and I… it wouldn't really be a bad idea to be a mother, right?" Heather didn't know how to respond. She would have disagreed in her lifetime. "So… if you want to come back, we can find a way. It's not alchemy, so I don't think any laws of natures are going to be broken. We just care a lot, I guess. Maybe too much," Andressa's voice cracked. Heather could tell how serious she was.

"I…"

"Hey, I'm back! See? Turbo quick."

"Hey!" Heather could hear a kiss; she pulsated as much as she could without realizing. "Hey, Heather, is everything okay?"

"Huh? Y-Yeah, yeah! Yeah… I think so. Family would uh… would be nice. It just sounds too convenient. I've never really had a family… I want to be cool, and cared for, I just want a family. A real one…"

"Hey, you're talking to us, so we must already be doing something right!" Dahlia giggled. Heather could have sworn she heard Andressa smile. Their radiance warmed her. So that's what safety felt like after all.


She wasn't sure where it started to go wrong.

Maybe it was her fault.

When Heather won, she realized it was partly due to all of the other contenders acting weird. She didn’t fully grasp the situation. The employees were suspicious and wanted a picture of her without her "costume". The reasoning still eludes her. Something to do with a photo for the store, whatever that meant. She didn't have a script prepared to head off the situation before it became an issue. She was too bewildered to give a good answer, and awkwardly declined to do so.

If she only prepared for this situation, maybe things wouldn't have been so confusing. All it took was an impatient 12-year old to try take off her head before confusion took place. When she panicked and took it off herself, chaos set in.

Maybe it was bad timing that both of her mothers left early.

Dahlia wanted to get some groceries for the hotel that night as well as snacks for the way back, and Andressa had to check in with the hotel to see if they could check out super early. Plus, their old dealer was right next to the hotel too, so it would be a super quick and lucky break for weed.

If they had left 20 minutes earlier, maybe they would have been back in time to help her. If they had left 20 minutes later, maybe all of them could have left by the end of the tournament. Maybe things would have played out differently. But she said it was okay for her moms to go, so she was to blame there.

Maybe it was her fault.

If she never went in the first place, things wouldn't have turned out to be a mess. If she threw or did poorly on purpose, maybe she would have never been asked to take a picture. If she knew what exactly was affecting everyone, maybe she could help them instead of being so engrossed in the game. If she hadn't experienced massive sensory overload during the tournament, no one would have even been affected in the first place. If she knew beforehand that her anomalies were likely to cause an issue, maybe her mothers could have solved everything beforehand. If she wasn't into games, maybe none of this wouldn't have happened.

And now she's stuck, locked outside of a GameStop waiting for the police to come, no way to contact her mothers. The sign that she made on her own and a reminder of what she is, tucked away in her sweatshirt for the police to find, are all she has now.

It's like sweet sixteen all over again.








Dreaming of family…

The first thing Heather had asked for before coming back to life was a TV head. "I think it would be cool" was the only reason she gave, and no real other reason was needed.

Over the course of the next week, there was a lot of information she had to absorb from her new mothers. Not like she didn't expect it; if she could be brought back to life, anything was possible. It just didn't occur to her the scope of the information she had to learn. After many questions and conversations, she learned some important things.

  1. Going outside with a TV head would be bad unless it was to costume parties, conventions, meetups where cosplay was allowed, or on Halloween. Heather realized this when asking for it, which was fine, but still a problem at times. Neither mom could figure out a workaround for now, but they'd try.
    • If she goes outside, she had to be careful no one tried to "take off" her head. Nothing good would come of that. They felt very protective on this matter, enough to not even tell her what this was protecting her from.
  2. Homeschooling would be a thing, but the both of them would be lax about it. They understood how stressful high school was.
  3. Dahlia Price used she/her pronouns. Andressa Santos used they/them, though she/her wasn't out of the question for Heather if she ever forgot.
  4. She was anomalous by the very nature of her existence now. That meant if she wanted anything cool, she could ask either of them. They'd just have to approve it.
    • There were other anomalous things out there, but they wanted to be careful about what she got exposed to. Just in case.
  5. She had to stay with Andressa in New Mexico. Dahlia would be at college most of the time, and aside from any occasional visits to leave Ohio that she could score, she'd talk to the both of them over video calls. In a year, they'd have to see what the living arrangements would look like since Andressa would be coming back from her year off.
  6. Neither mother would let her smoke weed. The logistics of that were hard to figure out, so really, she just shouldn't get high from any method, period. There was a room in Andressa's apartment where they'd smoke away from her, and outside as well. This was fine with Heather; she had no plans to do so regardless, but she appreciated this rule being there in the first place.
  7. They'd let her know about anything else important.

It felt sturdy. There was stability and a structure of some sort, reliable housing and food and water, and most of all, her two parents loved each other. It felt nice. They were kind and lovely. They were her parents, her mothers, her best friends. New Mexico didn't seem bad. Apparently, heat wasn't an issue because her head could cool herself off. Everything seemed fine.

And yet, she could never get a nagging thought out of the back of her head. She felt guilty every time she felt it. After all, she couldn't really pick her parents. And why should she doubt herself with such a nice family when her last one was, in hindsight, horrible?

Still, it never really left her. Andressa and Dahlia… they felt more like her friends than her parents. They weren't that much older than her. Andressa was only 21. Dahlia was 20. She was still technically 16 (does her body even age? Does she mentally age? How does that work?), but even accounting for a difference in maturity and experience, they almost always felt like older sisters rather than parents. It was disorienting sometimes. She always felt ashamed to see it that way, but it's not like she couldn't.

It didn't quite feel like family.








Heather found herself outside on the pavement.

Right. She remembers now. It wasn't some bizarre dream after all… she went through her own punishment time at the jailers' place. (Not too far off from the police, really.) And yet she ended up back here. At this cursed GameStop.

It took a little bit before she realized the full scope of the situation.

"R-Right… shit… it's night. Las Vegas… GameStop… so I'm free. So what do I… do… I guess I just should sleep behind the store. Yeah. I guess…" It was nighttime, and yet this part of the city was surprisingly empty. She always assumed Las Vegas was another one of those Cities That Never Sleep. Thankfully, everyone got some shuteye for her. She got up and walked behind the GameStop, body aching and head spinning, a dizzy face plastering the screen.

As she sat down next to a garbage can to better hide herself, she at least felt thankful nothing actually broke. Her head was intact. Body was okay. No bones broken. Now she had to wait. Wait for… what?

"I don't know. I don't know." What a horrible night to have a curse, huh, she thought to herself, and she giggled even if it was pained laughter, because she could at least find some solace in the situation. "Suffering is a fact of life. You deal with that or you go under, Heather. Don't go under like you did today. Don't go under like you did long ago. Just… stay intact. They'll find you soon enough, right? Soon."







The sound of feet running at her snapped her out of dreamless sleep. Two pairs of feet. Four feet. Cleats and flip-flops. In the winter. Someone was wearing cleats to run, but flip-flops in winter. Her mommy told her a joke about how she was fine wearing nothing in even the coldest weather because of her Brazilian blood, so that would mean —

"HEATHER!"

She barely had time to process it before arms linked around her, tears running down her clothes and screen.

"M — M —"

"H-Hey, hey, i-i-it's okay, we found you, y… you're safe, hoooly fuuuck." Dahlia was the closest to losing it. Heather never asked for the ability to cry, if that was even possible. She'd done enough of that. But she almost wanted that back now.

"We got you. We need to take you home. I'm sorry. We're sorry. We shouldn't have been so irresponsible."

Irresponsible.

Irresponsible was the word pinging around in her head as they picked her up and carried her to the car like a queen, as they started to drive home, as Dahlia put on Megadeth to get herself to stop crying, as Andressa played Have a Nice Life to calm themself down, as they switched seats so Dahlia could sleep. Irresponsible.

She wanted to agree. She wanted to tell them that wasn't true. Which of the two was it?

"Heather. I'm sorry. The both of us are." Some hours later, enough that the sun started to breach the landscape, and mommy brought her back down to Earth. She wasn't sure if she was supposed to be mad, or disappointed, or relieved. Andressa's tone felt like a kid apologizing to their mother. Her mothers didn't feel that different from her after all.

"It's okay." Maybe half-truths would help. Andressa sighed, and nodded. They probably felt the same. "I think… right now, I just want sleep."

"That's alright, sweetie. Sleep as much as you want."

Heather leaned onto the window and closed her eyes. It was hard to power down with a road so inconsistently bumpy as the one they were traveling on. It was an hour before she got to overhear a brief conversation her mothers had, presumably thinking she had fallen asleep.

"Hey… Andy."

"Hmm?"

"We have no idea what the fuck we're doing."

"Yeah."

"Let's stop fucking acting like kids."

"Right…"

"Yeah…" Dahlia sniffled.

"We're raising a kid. We can't be her friend. We need to be mothers."

"Mmhmm… love you, hun."

"Love you too, darling."

It was the best rest she got in months.








For her (technically) 18th birthday, Heather got a Nintendo Switch. She let herself believe that she earned it this time.

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