The woods were dark, and cold, and everything hurt. His head pounded and pounded and pounded, and a million voices seem to whisper at him from the shadows in the trees. Image after image filtered through his mind. There was blood, there was pain, and there was hundreds of thousands of funny jokes that wouldn’t be funny if told to the wrong person. Somewhere, a small part of him knew that things were meant to be like this. That order was supposed to balance out the chaos. To offer a lifeline when the darkness became too strong.
But he was drowning now.
He let out a broken laugh that wasn’t ever supposed to be his, and wrapped his arms tight around his body.
There was a dragon in the forest.
A big, hungry man-eating dragon, with poison-tipped fangs and flames so hot it could burn him with nothing left. He could hear it moving through the woods, shifting in and out of the shadows. It didn’t sneak so much as blend, hiding its heavy footsteps within the frenzied chattering of the birds fleeing across the horizon.
“Dragon, dragon,” he whispered. It sounded a little bit like a song, so he decided it was going to be one. Songs were nice, weren’t they? He gave a little giggle - though it became a hiccup as tears slid down his face - and perked up a little when he heard the brush move. “Dragon, dragon, come out wherever you are. Dragon, dragon, you can’t run far~”
He gave another broken laugh. A maniacal grin danced across his face, his heart pounding in his chest. He hoped the dragon would come soon. He hoped it would come soon and swallow him in one big, painless bite, because then the chaos would stop ringing in his ears and pressing on him from every side.
The brush parted.
He leaned up against a nearby tree, the song dying on his lips when he realized it wasn’t a dragon that he was looking at.
It was a person, and a very, very familiar one.
“Dee…!” he said. Tears were streaming down his face now in thick, heavy bucketfuls. But it was alright, because another side was here! He took a step forward, reached a shaking hand out, and then promptly fainted because of the poison coursing through his veins.
It just made sense to grab the sword when he woke up.
His head felt clearer than it ever did, which absolutely reeked of the Dragon-Witch's weird magic. There was also the somewhat familiar voices talking about kidnapping him, which was a good enough reason to grab the sword on its own. And, sure, the last thing he remembered was passing out fighting a dragon, but it wouldn't be the first time the quest changed when he wasn't paying enough attention.
"We can't kidnap him!" the first voice said. Its owner was worried, nervous and a little bit scared. He resisted the urge to smile - he must have heard of his exploits.
"It's not kidnapping," the second voice said. It was calmer, cooler and lacking emotion.
"We took him from the forest!"
The second voice's owner let out a sigh. "We moved him because he was bleeding, Patton. I don't think it counts as kidnapping."
There was a pause. Feigning sleep, he rolled over on his side and peeked an eye open to see his captors.
He resisted the urge to frown. Both were too close for him to get a good look at their faces. But he did see the person right beside his bed fold his arms with a disappointed noise. "It doesn't feel right."
"Would you feel better if we let him bleed out in the forest and watched him there?"
There wasn't a response.
He was starting to think it was because the second voice's owner had reluctantly come to the same consensus as the first's, but then he felt someone hesitantly prod him in the face.
He bolted up, hands reaching for a sword they carelessly had left at his bedside. He would have jumped out of the bed, too, if the two captors weren't sitting at his bedside.
He pointed his sword at the one who had poked him. "How dare you touch me, foul-"
"...Morality?" he hesitantly said. His gaze traveled over to the other captor - who, like Morality, wasn't actually a captor. "Logic?"
The two exchanged a look as he lowered his sword.
"Hi, kiddo," Morality said. His voice was hesitant, still, and surprisingly wary.
He frowned. He had actually been frowning since he tried looking at them, but he hadn't even noticed. He was too focused on figuring out why they had interrupted his quest and brought him away from the dragon - didn't they know he had a damsel to finish rescuing?
Morality's own smile faltered.
"What's wrong?" he asked Morality. The other side faltered, a nervous look flickering across his face as he shot Logic another look. He decided to follow Morality's lead. Morality and Anxiety were terrible with giving answers; he always went to Deceit and Logic when he needed an explanation on something.
"Who are you?" Logic asked.
He faltered. "Did you get poisoned, too?" he slowly asked. Sides could heal injuries like that without any problems - he had healed his cuts the moment he realized who he was with - but Logic might not have known that the poison fangs had nasty side effects.
"Poison…?" Logic questioned.
Morality bit his lip. "We don't know what you're talking about," he said. "Can you please tell us who you are?"
He frowned again, finally getting back to his feet and looking the two over. Logic was studying him. Morality was, too, but not in the same way. Morality was scared like Anxiety usually was; Logic was studying him like Thomas had studied that owl pellet the last week of school in his science class.
He held out his sword and puffed out his chest with all the bravado a side like him was supposed to have. "I'm Creativity!" He didn't know what game they were playing right now, but he could play it. He loved games.
(He just wished this game had some kind of rule set, even though he had never cared about rules during impromptu games before -- he needed rules to give his part in the game structure.)
Logic and Morality shared another look, though it was mostly Morality giving the look. He was starting to fiddle with his glasses, too. It seemed like the last thing he wanted to do was confront what had just been said, even though it was very much the answer they were looking for. This wasn’t some quest in his imagination; they just wanted his name.
“You can’t be Creativity,” Logic bluntly said.
He lowered the sword.
“I am Creativity,” he slowly insisted.
Logic shook his head; Morality stared down at his glasses with an intensity Creativity didn’t even know was possible. Still, something weird was going on. And while he normally didn’t have any trouble coming up with unique solutions to situations like this - ignoring how they were usually wrong unique solutions - his mind felt disturbingly bland when he searched it for an explanation. Maybe they were right. Maybe he wasn’t-
No. He was Creativity! He just felt a little weird. Maybe he hadn’t gotten all of the poison out of his veins, or maybe their reactions were throwing him off. He wasn’t the logical side -- he couldn’t come up with an explanation as fast as Logic could.
Better yet, maybe this wasn’t Logic and Morality. Or, at least, maybe Logic wasn’t Logic. Morality did seem like Morality, but Logic being someone else would give this a very convenient explanation…
He crossed his arms.
“Are you Deceit?” he asked. Logic looked appalled at the suggestion, but maybe that was part of the act. “Is this some kind of weird payback for me not helping you find Anxiety before? I told you, I had dragons to slay, damsels to save, and kingdoms to rule.”
Morality and Logic-or-Deceit shared another look.
He really wasn’t liking those looks.
Morality bit his lip. “Have you seen what you look like?”
“Of course I have,” he said. He altered his clothes, sometimes, for the sake of a good quest, but he knew what his usual outfit was. There was the basic gray uniform, with a brilliant sash and gold embellishments. He had that little gray streak in his hair, too, though it was always hard to tell if it was a very light gray or a piercing white. And his eyes were Thomas’s, obviously. Those never really changed for any of them.
“How recently?” Logic-or-Deceit-but-probably-Logic asked.
He screwed his face in concentration. “Before I fought the dragon?” he hesitantly guessed. He wasn’t really sure - it wasn’t exactly the type of thing he regularly did.
“You should look now…” Morality suggested, trailing off into an uncomfortable silence.
Frowning, Creativity did as requested. He glanced down at his outfit. He didn’t get what the fuss was about. The only change he had made to the outfit in the past five minutes was fixing all of the cuts in the fabric he had gotten from the dragon’s talons-
“Why are my clothes white?” he asked, giving a surprised yelp at his change in appearance. He glanced up a little further and was horrified to realize that his rainbow sash had been swapped with a bland red one. (He was even more horrified to realize he liked this simplified outfit.) He glanced back up at Logic and Morality. Logic’s face was devoid of emotion; Morality’s was full of too much.
Feeling a pit settle in his gut, Creativity conjured a mirror in his hand.
He held it up and stared at his face.
The white streak was gone.
His hair was the same boring shade of brown that Thomas’s was.
And while every side shared Thomas’s face, there was always something different about it. It was like with their voices. They were all a part of Thomas, but they were a specialized part. And Creativity was terrified when he realized that he couldn’t recognize himself in his reflection.
“We felt another side appear in Creativity’s forest,” Logic said. He hated how Logic was saying it like he wasn’t Creativity. Even if he looked different, he was still him! He wasn’t some stranger. A stranger wouldn’t remember being someone else, and wouldn’t know that Logic and Morality were, well, Logic and Morality. “When Morality and I went to meet the new side, we found you bleeding on the ground. We brought you back to the main room in Thomas’s mindspace.”
“His bedroom,” Morality quietly explained. “Do you need to sit down?”
He shook his head. He did, but he really didn’t feel like moving right now. “I’m Creativity,” he weakly insisted. “I-I have to be. Who else would I be?”
Logic, for once, looked uncertain of the answer.