AN: So, I was recently going through some old files and it turns out that I had an unpublished chapter of the 2012 edition of Different Eyes just sitting around in an old folder. It originally would have been longer by a couple thousand words, but I don't remember where I was going with it so I cut it off at the most natural point, before it got into messy, directionless chaff I hadn't quite finished at the time. When I abandoned this fic, a lot of things were going on in my life. I suppose I must have been too stressed out to post the chapter, although it feels a lifetime ago now. Sorry again for leaving people hanging indefinitely. I don't intend to leave the new edition incomplete, though, so check that out.


Five

Pensive and apprehensive - even more so than usual - Salem decided to find her way to her team's quarters. Thankfully, she was now adept enough at walking as a biped that she barely needed to concentrate, and could think about other things while doing so. The journey to the billet let her come to terms a little with her situation. She realised this was the first time she'd been both alone and awake as a morph, and therefore the first time she'd had a chance to pause, to think, to be free of any pressing concern.

She surprised herself by thinking mainly of Dusk. It seemed more rational to her to consider her strange and bewildering circumstances, and to piece together information about her new life, but when she invited any thought to enter her head, she found her chiefest concern was for her sneasel friend. It wasn't as if she didn't feel inquisitive about her material uncertainties, but she'd been materially uncertain since waking up in a new body with a new mind. Being uncertain about a friend was the unfamiliar feeling.

She forcibly put the thought out of her mind, choosing to leave social worries until later. Besides; who was she, a former housecat, to fret about the wellbeing of someone so comfortable in her own skin as Dusk? The pragmatic thing to do - she decided - was to look over the copy of her dossier Mark had given her, or perhaps peruse her supply of books. She'd also been itching to pour her mind into her notebook since she'd left the library.

She found the door to her team's female quarters easily enough, sighing with the reassurance that her sense of direction was apparently intact. There was no answer when she knocked, so she entered into an empty room. She noted with relief that her belongings, such as they were, lay at the foot of the second bed.

The quarters, though not especially spacious, contained three folding wall-beds, each with a locker, in the main room. There were a surprising number of amenities, including a large shower in the en-suite bathroom and even a medical kit. She expected she'd have to use the shower now that she was no longer flexible enough to reach every part of her body with her tongue. Hopefully it was adapted for use by morphs.

She seated herself on the edge of the bed - just a mattress, really - and reflexively kneaded the pleasantly soft covers with her paws... hands. She still couldn't decide if her paws were now hands. She flexed her fingers, interlocked them, fanned them, steepled them, curled them into fists. It felt right. It felt wonderful. It felt alien.

Salem reached for her dossier first, eager to do something more useful than indulging her conflicting feelings about her still-new hands. Its pages were loose inside a blank folder, numbered one through twenty-three, but many seemed absent. From this, Salem supposed this was an abridged copy. She flicked through, scanning the larger text for the most significant subtitles.

Her medical report was unremarkable, but she read through it anyway for caution's sake. It did, however, contain two pictures. The first was of herself as a meowth, looking unimpressed for the camera as most felines do. The second was of a young human woman, smiling warmly. Salem guessed instantly that this was the person whose form provided her human half. The human was referred to in the dossier as her genetic donor, which she supposed meant the same thing. She pocketed the pictures on an impulse.

Her psychological report did not surprise her: 'introverted, low social competence, nervous'. She was 'unusually intelligent' too, which she delighted at for a moment. Her background section was disappointingly bare. She'd been a domestic Pokémon, then a stray after some traumatic incident, things she knew or had guessed. She thumbed through the pages awkwardly, impatiently, trying to find something, anything, more enlightening. She found that something in her recruitment interview.

It was surreal to read the ungainly translation of what she, as an unaltered meowth, had said for herself before accepting the offer of hybridisation. The poorly rendered clauses - [to breath - it was impossible - in that place - a bad past] - were not so much amusing as they were chilling, for what they implied. [Departure - I had no choice - helpless - departure was too important.] That is what she'd managed to communicate, the report informed her in crisp sans-serif. She chose to leave. She blinked, read the text a second, and then a third time. She had definitely chosen to leave her master.

The transcript continued. The interviewer - a human linguist, she seemed to faintly recall - was fairly quiet compared to her. As a meowth, it seemed, she was much more verbose - or had it just been an attack of anxiety making her babble? Regardless, the babbling was very clear. Her master hadn't smashed her pokéball, she had. She'd shattered it and walked out in the night without saying a thing. For a moment Salem curled her lip in contempt at herself, then she flicked her tail in worry that the interviewer had failed to ask why at the time, and she would not find out in the present.

Salem-the-meowth answered that before the interviewer needed to ask, however. The reason was very simple. Her human, enthusiastic as he was about training Pokemon, even challenging the league, was unable to do so. Not unwilling, not forbidden, not bound by word to do otherwise. Physically unable. He was disabled, paralysed from the waist down, due to an accident in his early teens. And Salem, unable to accept his incapability, had abandoned him.

Salem did not flinch, or cry. She closed her eyes, trembling quietly, and sunk her claws deep into her palms. She shuddered at a sudden pang of nauseous guilt.

She remembered, vividly, as the suppressed, painful memories burst - no longer dammed up in her subconscious - into her mind. They were thoughts cold enough to burn. She flung the dossier away from her with a yowl, and buried her face in her hands. She remained like this for some time, perfectly still as all cats are when in pain, until the waves of remembrance - and regret - had passed. It was with a hiss and a bristling of her tail, directed at herself, that she finally unfurled herself and rubbed at her eyes. They were dry, though they stung with the promise of tears should she dwell on the sour misery of guilt.

She found she didn't feel like reading her books.

She turned to her notebook and the private expression of thought she'd been anticipating, but minutes passed and most of what she thought of to write was too strongly coloured by regret. She sobbed in frustration and clawed her palms. When the surge of remorse ebbed away, she turned halfheartedly to her books, in search of distraction.

First of all, someone in the Syndicate had been thoughtful enough to make a thick pamphlet for literate morphs about basic knowledge, like human etiquette, that they wouldn't find in an encyclopaedia. It had everything from a simple guide for the food intake she'd probably need, to a glossary of colloquial terms. Whoever had been responsible for it was fairly witty, and Salem couldn't help purring amusedly. She made a mental note to pass on its information to Dusk, Pyre, and Haze... unless he turned out to be yet another exceptional morph with the improbable ability to read.

Salem pawed through the first few pages of some of the more interesting books, eventually settling on a treatise on pokémon-human relations to read. She was able to speak to humans fairly fluently, of course, given the amount of practice in speech she'd had as a meowth, but this book had detailed, sophisticated information on the body language of many pokémon, general aid in interspecies bonding, that sort of thing. She felt she would rather read that than go through troubling trial and error.

Salem surprised herself when, no more than three hours later, she'd reached the midway point of the book. She put her newfound speed-reading down to her morph-hood and, seeing that the next chapter was a heartwarming but useless commentary on raising orphaned pokémon, put the book away in her locker. Her watch only read "20:34" but she felt exhausted. Her stamina was still recovering after the hybridisation process, she supposed. She killed the lights and tried to sleep.

Salem found almost instantly that her body really wasn't suited for curling into balls any more. She would miss that, she was sure. She straightened herself out and tried the sphinx-like position that was her second most preferred posture - she couldn't quite achieve it, for her legs were now far too long, and she found herself with her rear raised in a most embarrassing fashion. She hastily rolled over onto her back, but the swift movement trapped her tail underneath her and bent it sharply. She yelped, and turned over on her front. It took a while longer to find a completely comfortable position for her awkward body.

She growled in frustration when she found she still could not be entirely restful in her clothing, which was not especially soft and tended to bunch up irritatingly underneath her. She flung herself from the bed and pulled off the fabric, tossing it at the locker, before sitting back down and pulling at her face in sheer annoyance. To her relief, she did feel much more at ease wearing just her fur. She wondered absentmindedly how she looked, now. Remembering there was a mirror in the en-suite, she made her way there.

Staring at her reflection, Salem found she rather liked her new face. She played with a few expressions, her muscles being so much more versatile than before, finding the range of not-quite-human smiles and frowns more surreal than anything else. She pulled back her upper lip in a snarl and considered it appropriately aggressive. She hadn't been gifted with human lips, she noticed, thankful for it. She grinned toothily. On an impulse she put the ball of her thumb to each of her teeth in turn; they'd remained sharp. She licked the back of her paw; her tongue was still rough. Wiping it along her ears - also unchanged - out of habit, she realised something else: she could scratch her own ears now. She did so, and purred softly at the feeling. What a relief, to no longer need a human to do it for her.

There was more. She had an almost wholly different jaw structure. Her whiskers remained, but she had newly grown eyelashes. Her eyes were just as blue as they were before, with the same slit pupils. Now, however, Salem could turn them to look at things without moving her head with them. It was so subtle she hadn't noticed until she saw them in the mirror. She smiled appreciatively.

After a moment's pensive thought, Salem fumbled inexpertly in her pocket for the photos she'd acquired from her dossier. She compared them each in turn to her current face. Her old self, gazing with feline disdain at the camera, still well-groomed despite seasons as a feral and so, so tired. Her human donor, sharing with her the same jawline, the same shoulders, the same smile. It was difficult for Salem to compare or contrast her own feature's with the human. She was either identical - in the case of bone structure - or wildly different - in having whiskers at all - to the woman. On a whim, Salem parted her fur. Her skin underneath its pale cream was black, or dark brown. As she'd expected, her skin was the same colour as the skin of 'her' human. It somehow delighted her that this link between them would be known only to herself.

She took a step back, and looked at the rest of her body in the mirror. She looked more human than feline now, despite her fur and tail and so on. Even her legs, which still bent the same way as before, which still put her weight on her toes as before, were more like a human's than the perpendicular legs of a cat. She ran her paws - hands - over her shoulders, her ribs, her pelvis, feeling the way they fit together just as before and yet not at all like before. They felt so familiar in their newness. She was used to that sensation by now.

Her arms bent in entirely new ways, as did her fingers - and her thumbs! - her spine, especially, was totally wrong in the way it now curved. Or rather, it was different, in that it failed to curve properly. Her chest had grown a little, but not so much as to be discernible when wearing the loose-fitting shirt she'd been issued. She decided not to concern herself with that particular triviality so long as it didn't cause any discomfort. She took a hold of her tail and pulled it to test its strength. If anything, she discovered with a grin, it had become more robust. Balancing carefully on one leg, she examined one of her hind paws. Although she had developed fingers, she had no toes, and had kept her pads. All in all, she was satisfied with the ensemble. Her new body could have been so much more frustrating than this, after all.

Nevertheless, she foresaw it taking some time to get used to.

Laying again on the bed, finally finding that stretching out on her side was most comfortable, Salem thought about her new body, her current circumstances, and her possible futures. After replaying the events of the last few days over in her head, and feeling scarcely anything, she concluded she was simply too tired to feel. Then her mind was freshly pierced by the minor revelation she'd received from her dossier, and she sat up abruptly, blinking away the threat of tears. She clawed her palms deep enough to bleed.

The door opened, and Dusk entered the room. Her fanged smile vanished in an instant, and she darted to Salem's bedside. Grabbing the meowth's paws, Dusk hissed with concern at the blood. Kneeling, she began to lick at Salem's cut palms, earning a wince, but no whimpers. The sneasel shot a questioning, anxious look up at Salem, who sighed, and after a moment to compose herself, explained.

"Don't worry about that, Dusk. Really, please don't. It's just a habit... I barely notice it really."

"That is the most alarming thing I've heard all day," said Dusk, "and I was threatened with murder by a six-foot morph from Kyushu less than ten minutes ago."

Salem smiled weakly at the obvious exaggeration. "It's a stress thing, I think. Surely you bite your claws or chew your lip, something like that?"

Dusk raised a brow incredulously. "I yank my ear sometimes, but that's nothing like this. Just look at your paws, kitten, you're bleeding like you've been mauled!"

She was bleeding, sure, but Salem felt that was hardly fair.

"So I was stressed worse than usual. It's not that bad, anyway," insisted the feline.

Dusk ignored her denial. "What stressed you so bad you opened up a pair of gashes in your hands, then?" Finished with her ministrations, she took a seat beside Salem on the bed.

Salem shrugged. "I remembered some things."

Seeing Salem's eyes screwed shut, Dusk asked nothing more, and quietly embraced her. Shortly, Salem twisted out of her grip, tail flicking back and forth.

"I need sleep," she said, softly.

Dusk put a hand to her head and turned Salem round to look at her. "Well, I think you need to talk to someone," she said. "This is too serious for me not to worry about, and I want you to at least accept some comfort, if nothing else."

"Am I that obviously miserable?" asked Salem, without humour.

"You clawed your palms enough to bleed. Clearly you are."

Salem chuckled drily. "What kind of comfort, then?"

"Care to share a bed tonight?" she offered, confident as always. "You sound like you need company, and I know I always appreciated my siblings' warmth on tough days." Dusk was met with a dispassionate feline gaze. "I guess not, then," she sighed. "Well, the offer is still there if you're lonely. Though, I wouldn't know if meowth ever felt loneliness."

Salem averted her gaze. "I do. But I've always slept alone."

Dusk nodded, but didn't press the issue. Five minutes later, she was asleep in her own bed, while Salem shifted uneasily in restless guilt.


Salem looks down at her paws. Her fingers are gone. A dream? Probably. Vivid, for a dream. Maybe this lucidity is how humans dream. A quick examination shows she is a meowth again. She makes a discontented growl and sets to licking filth off her fur. Being in a dream is no excuse not to groom.

Wait. Where is she? The streets? No, not quite. The Street. Singular. This was where she met the persian who threatened to murder her. He nearly had.

For some reason, Salem's fur does not bristle. How odd, to feel so detached in the place where she might have died, or worse, even if it is a dream.

She hopes, absentmindedly, that this will not become a recurring dream.

Salem looks up and sees that it is night. Her moon is gibbous, not quite full yet. (What does she mean, 'her moon?') A noise! A rustling? There. Another pokémon. She stalks towards it, compelled by a vast confidence... (Her? Confident? How odd.)

The feeling of detachment tugs at her mind uncomfortably. She realises she isn't really choosing to walk towards the noise, that isn't something she would do. She is too cautious to do this. Yet, she can't seem to stop. This is a dream, she remembers.

The pokémon is a meowth. Young, smells female. Smells afraid, now that she knows Salem is there. How funny that she did not hear the approach earlier, like a real cat. (Her hearing isn't perfect, don't mock her. How did she know that?) Salem's paw snakes out and bats the other meowth round the head hard enough to make her fall.

"You should know better than to be here, housecat," she hears herself say, using the wrong voice; too deep, too masculine.

Then Salem sees herself reflected in the wide and fearful eyes of the other cat and understands.

She's the persian.

She yowls herself awake.


AN: And that's the lot. After this, due to difficult circumstances online and in person, I didn't pick up DE properly again for years. Chapter Five needed a little polish, and I don't like all the choices I made for the story at the time, but it's not as bad as I remember. I'm proud of my brief stint six years ago, and anyone who enjoyed DE at the time is welcome to send me a shout and catch up. Cheers, and all the best to everyone.