Log Title: A Patient Doctor
Summary: Doctor Tau has been tasked with managing the frag of one Jules 'Acorn' Eichhorn.
IC Date: Mon Feb 18 13:14, 2381
OOC Date: Mon Feb 18 13:14, 2019
Related Logs: None
winteracorn

 

 

* * *

Winter sees walk-ins, but since arriving and setting up their shop a few months ago (with the help… well, "help"… of Argos), they've acquired a number of regular clients with scheduled appointments. Winter is expecting one of those scheduled clients now, and they're currently in the front room considering the holographic fish tank and tapping on a palm pad. Within the tank, today, is a small, brightly color octopus who seems to be thoroughly enjoying figuring out the puzzle of how to unscrew a jar to eat the crab that's been placed within. The crab, on the other hand, seems less than delighted with its circumstances, pincers waving, darting from one side of the glass to the other with frantic urgency.

Winter's dressed semi-professionally in a fitted, light purple shirt with an asymmetric hem, and a pair of loose, flowy black pants that look more like a skirt until they move. A pair of black ballet flats poke out from the hems.

* * *

The door opens to emit a man who looks every inch a Grounder, down to the black eye he's sporting and the halo of cigarette smoke around him. He's wearing a pair of fitted but not skinny jeans. black combat boots, a long-sleeved t-shirt with a faint geometric pattern, and a 3/4 length black jacket with a high collar and various clasps and buckles. Something about the way it nips in at his not particularly narrow waist suggests it's a feminine silhouette on a sleeve that is anything but.

He pauses and looks around, then upnods at Winter. "You the doctor?" Rather than introduce himself, his ONI contact flutters, indicating he's revealed his personal information. Officially, he's listed as Jules Eichhorn, owner of Liquid Air.

* * *

"I am," Winter returns, looking over their shoulder and then turning more completely. "Doctor Wisteria Tau. Or Winter if you like, I don't stand on formality. Hello, Jules. It's nice to meet you properly."

* * *

"Acorn," he corrects, though not snippily. "Best you call me what everyone else does, yeah?" He's not American, not judging by the accent, which is distinctly German - if watered-down from years spent stateside. "Argos says you're better than my old doctor. So far my frag has not been worse, but it's early days in this sleeve." He stands relaxed, hands dug deep in the pockets of his jacket.

* * *

"If that's what you prefer," Winter replies with a small nod. "I've looked through your file, this is your fourth sleeve, yes? And you've been in it several weeks, now?"

* * *

"Six months," says Acorn. "Thereabouts." He steps further in and leans over to examine the holographic fish tank. He taps on the glass. Then he looks back at Winter. "Shouldn't we speak about this in private? It's no great secret I have frag, but what if someone walks through your door?" he cracks a grin.

* * *

"Well, then we'd probably stop talking," Winter surmises with a faint smile. The octopus pauses in its investigations of the crab jar to place an arm against the glass where Acorn tapped, skin shifting to a dark purple. "Shall we go into the office proper? I don't think one can get much more private than VR."

* * *

Acorn simply upnods and allows Winter to lead the way. There's such a swagger in his step that it's a little difficult to imagine that he spent seventeen years in a female sleeve. Then again, one doesn't need to be feminine or masculine to do just fine in different sleeves. "Have you dealt with many patients with frag before?"

* * *

"Very many," Winter replies as they lead Acorn into the back room, flicking on the light. There are two recliner chairs with actual chairs set into them, jacks resting on an arm of each. They step over to the console and keyboard, tapping in the passcode. If the doctor has any thoughts on Acorn's swagger, clothes or black eye, they don't voice it. Perhaps they know a thing or two about movement in different sleeves. "Do you have a setting preference? Any rooms or locations you find soothing?"

* * *

Acorn settles into the chair like he's fairly accustomed to VR. Given he's been in and out of psychosurgery treatment since his twenties, that's probably the case. He raises his hands, lets them drop. "I've learned not to try and exert too much control over these sessions. It hasn't worked well for me in the past. So I leave it to your judgment."

* * *

Winter nods. "Okay. We'll keep it simple, then." They load up a program and walk over to the other chair. "Go ahead and jack in. I'll see you in a moment." They pick up they own jack, settling into the recliner as they plug it into the base of their neck.

In VR, they're sitting at a table in a kitchen with a pot of coffee, two mugs and an assortment of pastries laid out.

* * *

The man that materializes in front of Winter bears some similarities to his current sleeve, but they're certainly not identical. His hair is dark instead of blonde, and there's something softer and gentler about his features. He's also older by at least ten years, though carrying the age well. He's wearing a pair of blue jeans and a plain white t-shirt. "My previous doctor encouraged me to spend time in VR in my birth sleeve as it would look now if I hadn't lost it. Do you see this as a good strategy?"

* * *

Winter sits across from Acorn, looking pretty much the same as in real life, though very faintly hazy around the edges. They glance at their hand, wiggle their fingers, and their edges sharpen into normalcy. "I think it can be, but it depends. Did it feel helpful to you?"

* * *

"I do feel slightly calmer like this, but not more myself, you know?" Acorn lifts a shoulder. "It's been a very long time since I was in this sleeve, and when I did," he motions to his face, "…it never looked like this." He does seem to be sitting more relaxed than his overall posture in the real, but that could just be a product of VR. "So in a sense, this man has never existed. He is an echo."

* * *

"A prediction of an echo, really," Winter says. "Meticulous algorithms creating changes based on age, genetics, metabolism, probability. If you ask me, if you'd really been in this sleeve, you'd have a few more scars. Maybe one or two fewer fingers." They rest their chin on their palm. "Can you describe what it feels like to you? Fragmentation?"

* * *

Acorn cracks a smile. "Probably so, yes." He flexes his hand. There's something warmer about this face, something less menacing. It's a little harder to imagine this man casually sleeve deathing someone over a late payment.

He thinks about Winter's question a minute, head canting. "It feels like…eyes losing focus when I look somewhere. Like I can't see the world for what it is. And my body…" he looks down at his hand. "Like my mind is rejecting it. Like it refuses to believe it is mine. And it brings great anxiety that I can calm by reestablishing control." With bouts of violence, in his case.

* * *

"With violence?" Winter voices what might have otherwise gone unsaid. "And with Dwell?"

* * *

"Yes," says Acorn. He leans forward subtly. There's something that shifts in that posture, something not threatening, but more of an aura of danger. "Does that bother you?"

* * *

"Not really," Winter replies, their gaze looking over Acorn as he leans in a touch, expression more thoughtful than concerned. "Does it bother you?"

* * *

"I find myself on a career path where a skill for violence is an asset, not a liability," as Acorn leans forward, his appearance flickers a little, momentarily growing larger and more muscled, before it flickers back to his first sleeve.

* * *

"Mmmhmm," Winter agrees, "and I'm sure Argos very much appreciates those tendencies. He's resleeved you three times, after all. But. That wasn't an answer to my question."

* * *

Acorn folds his hands on the table. "I don't like when I can't control it," he admits after a moment. "The Dwell does help. But it can make me…" he wobbles his head. "…manic. Or a bit too much in my sleeve. Have you tried it?"

* * *

"Or dead," Winter adds for the things that Dwell can make Acorn. "I haven't, though I'm curious. And I find it's helpful in my line or work, to be able to empathize with my patients. Dwell is not an uncommon means of coping with fragmentation."

* * *

"Not uncommon, but like most things of that nature, it creates a dependency. And higher and higher doses to have the same effect over time. I'm fortunate in this sleeve…" Acorn's appearance flickers to the blonde one he wears in the real, "…has not taken it before, so I have some time before I develop a resistance. But it allows me to feel grounded, and to stop my mind from rejecting my body."

* * *

"For a finite amount of time," Winter agrees with a small nod. "So. Therein lies our challenge, I think. Find a way to help you feel like your new sleeve is truly yours before it becomes resistant to Dwell or is killed by it. And, perhaps restore a modicum of self control in the process."

* * *

Acorn scratches the side of his nose. "I don't kid myself that I will live to be an old man, doctor. When you've died three times, and you're experiencing frag before fifty," he shrugs. "Not to mention, mine is not a profession one retires quietly from." His face flickers back to his birth sleeve, just in time to smile a little sadly. "So. What is your suggested treatment, then?"

* * *

Winter nods their agreement with this assessment of Acorn's current life trajectory. "All right. You're going to have homework. How often are you using Dwell, currently?"

* * *

An eyebrow lifts in amusement at 'homework.' He thinks on the question. "Hm. Hardly at all compared to my previous sleeve." He shifts, and his image flickers again, until it's replaced with a tall, reedy woman in her 40s with taut muscle, strong cheekbones and straight, shoulder-length hair and no makeup. She's, interestingly, wearing the same jacket that Acorn's current sleeve was wearing when he walked in. It looks better on her. "When I was in this sleeve, I was dosing myself four or more times a day towards the end. But now? Hmmm. Maybe once, twice a week at most?"

* * *

Winter smiles faintly as Acorn's other sleeve appears. "Ah," they say softly as they recognize the jacket. "All right. First, I'm capping you at once a week. If you feel you need something more frequently than that, you don't take Dwell. You call me. Agreed?"

* * *

Of all the faces that Acorn has shown Winter, this one seems the most dangerous. There's something clearly unsettled about her, or maybe that's just his memory of being her. Her nails are short, her knuckles are swollen. Her eyes are a bit sunken and haunted. There's silver filaments through auburn hair, and slight crow's feet at the corner of her sharp eyes. Despite the fact that the sleeve clearly presents at female, there's something androgynous at the core of it. So when Acorn leans forward a little more, it does seem more threatening - though unintentionally so. For a moment, it looks like argument might follow. "All right."

* * *

"Good," Winter approves with a small nod, their head canting a little as they consider Acorn in this sleeve, the way she's worn and more intense than his others. "Second, every time you use violence as a means to regain control, I want you to record it in a journal. Date, time, event, reason."

* * *

Acorn flashes a toothy smile. "That seems like a very dangerous journal for me, doctor. You can understand why I might hesitate to keep it. Does your doctor-patient privilege cover the kind of acts I might disclose to you?"

* * *

"Of course," Winter replies, "and I can give you a journal program that's encrypted for further security. Besides which, I don't think Argos would be very fond of me if I got one of his best lieutenants in trouble with the police. This isn't really about the things that you do. It's about self awareness."

* * *

The image flickers again, back to Acorn's birth sleeve. As soon as he does, a lot about him seems to be…calmer and less taut. There was something nervy about the female sleeve, something slightly coiled and almost predatory. His sleeve in the real seems to be somewhere between the two. There's a fourth sleeve in there somewhere as well, though it's clearly made less of an impression on him than the others. "And do you agree that it's good for me to spend time like this?"

* * *

"I agree that of all the sleeves I've seen you wear today, this is the one in which you're most at peace," Winter replies. "Do you think there's any form you could take where you would feel like your body belonged to you?"

* * *

"No. But that's the problem, isn't it? You switch too much and your brain stops being able to adapt. That's why we're not all meths, right?" Acorn chuckles and leans back in his chair. He reaches out for one of those pastries and pulls it apart. "Sex helps. Especially after a hit of Dwell."

* * *

"A different sort of body high," Winter muses, "or a continued one. All right, then. Third and final piece of homework. Yes, I think you should continue to spend time in VR in this sleeve. It provides peace, and you need that because the rest of the time your mind is getting slowly spooled out like taffy, and that's not a pleasant experience. I'm going to send you with a program on meditation, and I'd like you to try to spend a half an hour daily in VR, in this sleeve, meditating. And then another half hour, in your physical sleeve, performing the same meditations. Is that doable?"

* * *

"Meditation?" says Acorn with a toothy grin as he shoves simulated pastry into his mouth. "Really? Well, I'll give anything a try. But when you've got a mind like mine, sitting quietly tends to bring up these other faces. A lack of distraction seems to bring them out"

* * *

"Yes," Winter agrees, "and so you've become very good at distracting yourself. But, that doesn't help you come to terms with those other faces. It gives you a means to suppress them and get on with it. Effective in the short term. Not so much in the long term. It's okay, if they come out when you're meditating. And it's okay to feel… whatever that makes you feel."

* * *

"Like I've said, doctor, I've never been the most concerned about the long term." Acorn chuckles, rubs his jaw. He looks suddenly tired, like the cycling of sleeves wore him out. "I just don't want to lose control. I can't do my job when that happens."

* * *

"You're in the long term, Acorn," Winter says gently, "you're up to your eyes in frag and your coping mechanisms are wearing thin. Time to try something new."

* * *

"I suppose so," says Acorn after a minute. It's a note of vulnerability when he's otherwise seemed like he was only disclosing what he wanted to disclose. "So. Meditation. Journals. Less Dwell. Got it."

* * *

"Good," the doctor says with a soft smile, perhaps for that moment of admission than for his compliance to their instructions. "And you and I meet twice a week."

* * *

"I warn you now that I will periodically cancel on you, and sometimes on short notice. Not because I don't want to see you, but because my job can be…unpredictable and things do come up." Things that involve Argus' key lieutenant to be hands-on. Acorn looks Winter in the eye. "OK?"

* * *

"Okay," Winter agrees meeting Acorn's gaze and holding it calmly, "and meeting here in my office is ideal, but if you can jack in for a session elsewhere, that would be preferable to missing one. Should the option be available."

* * *

"It's not often my work takes me out of the city, but sometimes that might be required, yes," says Acorn. "Though I'd prefer to meet here for privacy reasons." A VR environment like this is far less vulnerable to dipping than casting out from elsewhere. And his mind does carry secrets.

* * *

"Mmm," Winter hums, the noise sympathetic. "I think that's everything I intended to cover today. Do you have any questions for me or anything else you'd like to discuss?"

* * *

Acorn extends his hands and shakes his head. "I don't think so. Is this where you say, 'I'm sorry, we're out of time,' hmm?"

* * *

Winter laughs. "This is where I say 'I'd recommend putting on your current sleeve before you jack out, because I think it will make the transition smoother'," they reply with a bemused smile.

* * *

Acorn smiles. It's actually fairly genuine and warm on his current features. When his features flicker, some of that warmth goes away, but not all of it. "I think we'll get along fine, doctor," he says in his current sleeve's voice, before he sends the signal to pull himself out of VR.