Scorpia had always prided herself on her ability to be positive no matter what happened. Now that Etheria- and the entire universe- were healed from the Horde, growing greenery and flowers and beautiful magic, she was supposed to be overflowing with positive feelings. That, however, was not the case.
It was like she’d set down some giant weight, but her muscles were still clenched in the position of holding it. And now that she didn’t have to worry about keeping the weight up, she felt the pain of straining her muscles stronger than it’d been before.
Mermista had awkwardly invited her to a group therapy session for everyone who’d been possessed by Prime. Perfuma, She-Ra, and a couple of others helped to run it, using their healing powers or general expertise on mental health. “Mental health” had not really been a thing in the Horde, and Scorpia had been having frequent nightmares about being trapped in Prime’s grip again, so she thought she’d try it out.
She made it through one session. She would have left before it ended, but she didn’t want to make an embarrassing scene. By the end, she felt nauseous. Clearly, therapy was not for her. Tapping into your emotions sounded nice, until you remembered that emotions included anger, sadness, bitterness, regret, grief, jealousy, and white-hot rage. Scorpia’s general modus operandi had always been to replace those emotions with positive ones. Anger? Turn that into excitement. Jealousy? Turn that into admiration.
The only time she hadn’t followed that practice was when she’d been under Prime’s influence. Then, all her emotions had been erased and replaced with pure clarity. Prime had called it peace, but as far as Scorpia could tell, it was just violence. And the clone chip had clawed its way into Scorpia’s mind and memory to find fuel for that violence, and it had found anger.
She was not going there again.
After the therapy session was over, she sank onto a bench in the hallway near the room where they’d held it, and took a deep breath.
“You are Scorpia,” she said to herself. “And today is gonna be a great day!”
Spinnerella left the room, talking to Adora, who was still in She-Ra form.
“So, sweetheart,” she said. “How are things going with you and Catra?”
Scorpia stared down at her claws.
“They’re pretty good,” Adora said, blushing, then spotted Scorpia on the bench. “Scorpia! Hey! You sorta rushed out of there.”
“Oh, ha,” Scorpia said, waving. “Don’t worry, it was a very good therapy session. You did a great job!”
“Honestly, Perfuma did most of the work,” Adora said. “She’s really great with all this feelings stuff. I mostly just bring the She Ra healing magic.” She waved her arms around awkwardly, saying “pew pew” and nearly stumbling over herself. Scorpia and Spinnerella laughed.
Catra strolled out of the room and said, “Nice dance moves, Adora.”
“They’re healing moves,” Adora said.
“Mm-hm,” Catra said, and flicked a bit of lint off her shirt in Adora’s direction. Adora batted it out of the air.
“She-Ra slice! I defeated your puny attack!”
They both started laughing, and Catra playfully bumped against Adora’s shoulder.
“You two remind me of me and Netossa at your age,” Spinnerella said, smiling.
Scorpia figured no one would notice her leaving.
She made her way into the Bright Moon gardens. They were one of her favorite places to hang out. She’d have to get in her flyer and head back to the Fright- the Scorpion Kingdom- soon. There was lots to do there, and the work made her happy. A little sad, sometimes, seeing the ruins of her family’s home, but the kind of sad that was easier to turn into happiness. Because she was fixing it. She could fix that.
Herself, she could not fix, but she could fix everything else.
That made her sound unhappy, but she wasn’t. Lots of things made her happy. Helping others. Spending time with friends, both old and new. She didn’t get to spend much time with her old friend Catra or her new friend Adora, since they were busy being in love with each other, but she liked seeing them happy, and she liked spending time with Entrapta, or Perfuma, or Sea Hawk, Swift Wind, anyone who was willing to put up with her, really.
Sometimes she preferred being alone. That way she didn’t have to worry about annoying people. No, reframe that- she had the benefit of spending time with things she liked that were not people! Like flowers. There hadn’t been any flowers in the Fright Zone. There were flowers there now, though- Bow’s dads had helped her research what plants had originally grown in the Scorpion Kingdom, and she’d started a project to replant them.
The flowers in the Bright Moon garden were much brighter and more variant, though. She especially loved the rosebushes. Bright red and spiky, just like her.
“Hey there, roses,” she said, crouching down near the bushes. “Been about a month since I last visited, I know. Sorry about that. But you guys look great! That She Ra healing magic really did the trick, huh?”
“Scorpia?” a voice said, and Scorpia toppled over backwards, landing flat on her back on the lush grass.
Hovering over her was Perfuma, wincing.
“Sorry if I startled you!” she said. “Need a hand getting up?”
“Nah,” Scorpia said, launching herself up to standing easily. She ran a claw over her hair and looked down at Perfuma, who looked a bit flustered.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked.
“Oh my gosh, no,” Perfuma said. “I just wanted to check on you. You were a bit quiet in group.”
“Yeah, I… I don’t really know if therapy’s my scene,” Scorpia said. “I mean, you did a great job! Seriously! I just think…” How could she put this without hurting Perfuma’s feelings? “…I don’t really need therapy. I’m a pretty happy person.”
Perfuma’s face fell a little. Damn it, Scorpia had managed to hurt her feelings after all.
“I can still come if you want me too, though!” Scorpia said quickly. “It’d be fun just to see you being such a good therapist.”
Perfuma laughed. “Oh, Scorpia, you don’t have to worry about my feelings. I know I’m a good therapist. I’m worried because I think you might be running away from your feelings.”
“No, that’s not true,” Scorpia said automatically.
And even if it was, wasn’t that a good thing? If she had bad feelings, wasn’t running away from them the solution, not the problem? She didn’t want to tell Perfuma all that, though. Perfuma was very good at her meditation and feelings and Scorpia didn’t want to burst that bubble.
Perfuma looked sad again, so Scorpia said, “Well, maybe it’s true. Do you want me to come to group therapy again?”
“I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with,” Perfuma said. “But if you ever want to talk about your feelings, you can come to me. Remember that, OK?”
Scorpia smiled. No one had ever told her to not do things that made her uncomfortable.
“Thanks, Perfuma,” she said. “You’re really nice.”
Perfuma smiled, turning a little pink- well, she was already very pink- and said, “Um- ha- I guess you probably have to go back to the Scorpion Kingdom.”
“Oh, right!” Scorpia said. “It was really nice talking to you!”
“Same!” Perfuma said.
As Scorpia headed toward the field where she’d left her flyer, Perfuma shouted, “Wait, Scorpia!”
Scorpia turned around. “Yeah?”
“I like talking to flowers, too. You should do it more often. It’s good for you!”
“Good advice!” Scorpia said.
See? she thought. It’s easy to be happy.
But you’re not happy.
That was the voice coming from that horrible acid-green liquid spilling its way through her veins. Those first few days after the raid at the underwater club, when she and all the innocent bystanders had been locked in cells. Mermista had been turned quickly, and Double Trouble seemed to have escaped, but Scorpia kept fighting. She kept remembering that image of Perfuma and the others disappearing behind the elevator doors. She knew she had to fight for them. Every command Prime gave her, she lashed out and did something different.
Aren’t you tired? Aren’t you tired of being good, Scorpia? Of being patient and kind and letting them walk all over you? Don’t you want to just let it go? Come home into the light. Step out of that darkness.
“Hurting people is not good!” Scorpia shouted. “I don’t care what you say! I- am- not- hurting- my- friends!”
You won’t be hurting them. You’ll be healing them. All this time, they’ve been hurting you. That’s over now.
“I don’t care!” she sobbed, and she tore through a metal beam in the Fright Zone. When the hell had she arrived in the Fright Zone? She’d just been in a cell in Mermista’s old palace…
“Oh, you are strong, aren’t you?” said a voice, and it took her a second to realize it wasn’t in her head.
She gazed up, mesmerized, the green overtaking her, standing in the light of Horde Prime.
“Prime sees all. Prime knows all. The darkness wants you to push down your strength, princess. I can see the signs of you fighting your nature. You are strong. You are powerful. You no longer need to hold yourself to their standards, drown yourself in their darkness. Come in. Come in to the light of Prime.”
“Join us,” chanted voices around her. “Join us, join us, join us…”
She was surrounded by green-eyed clones.
“Let it all out,” Prime whispered. “They hurt you, didn’t they? End them.”
Lightning ripped through Scorpia’s body and then out through the air.
Prime sees all. Prime knows all. I am in the light. We are in the light.
The scar where her chip had been was all but healed. The Horde didn’t even exist anymore. She no longer heard those voices in her head. But she still had the desires they’d brought out in her. To hurt. To break things, to scream, to be angry. What was wrong with her?
Maybe she did need therapy. But she’d been so good at getting rid of those feelings before.
The silliest things bothered her now. She missed her moms, even if she’d never really gotten the chance to know them. She missed the Fright Zone sometimes, but it was unbearable to sleep in the old buildings. She’d been sleeping in tents, and then the new housing that the Organization to Reclaim Scorpion Kingdom (the ORSK) had built. Her work upset her sometimes, making her think of what the Horde had done to her people. She’d found a few scorpion folk scattered around the planet, and some of them hadn’t been happy to see her.
Crabby was the most outspoken about this. They were an older scorpion who’d been living in the Crimson Waste and who’d been encouraged to come over by Huntara.
“Let’s get this over with,” they said, the moment they stepped off the ship onto the ground where Scorpia was eagerly awaiting them.
“Yeah, let’s get right to work!” Scorpia said, immediately launching into a speech as they headed over to the worksite. “Tell me everything. I want to make sure we can get everything right with rebuilding our culture. Pincer over there has already told me tons about his favorite classic scorpion foods. I never knew there were so many ways to season food! Back when I was in the Horde-”
“Back when you were in the Horde,” Crabby snapped, “you were shitting all over your people’s legacy, yeah. So I’d imagine you weren’t enjoying any spicy grub stew.”
“I- I didn’t- what are you talking about?”
“Your family handed our people right over to those monsters,” Crabby said. “Those of us who didn’t roll over and let them take our land, we were driven out by force. They killed my parents. I grew up as an orphan in the Waste. I had to cling to the parts of my culture that I remembered. I had to fight to survive.”
“I am so, so sorry,” Scorpia said. “I never wanted any of that.”
“Didn’t you?” Crabby said. “You knew what the Horde was doing. I know you knew, because I saw you. I saw you come into the Crimson Waste just over a year ago, with that little cat girl. You could have left that army, started over, but instead you took soldiers and weapons and you went back and you ripped a hole in reality. You let the Horde do that.”
Scorpia’s eyes were welling with tears.
“You’re right,” she said. “I did know. But I was trying to be positive. Looking on the bright side of things-”
“What the hell are you talking about? There is no bright side to the Horde. What is wrong with you? Aren’t you angry at the army that destroyed your land and-”
“Of course I’m angry!” Scorpia shouted.
The worksite went quiet. The other people gathered around were staring- they’d never heard Scorpia raise her voice in anything but glee and excitement.
“Whoops,” she said quickly, waving her claws around. “Lost my temper a little there- sorry, folks- didn’t mean-”
“What did they do to you?” Crabby said, their voice quieter now.
“I need to be alone,” Scorpia said. “But uh- I am sorry. I’m not just saying that. Look, this is your land. You should talk to some of the other scorpions here. I think you’d like them.”
And then she ran off.
She stopped running when she reached a part of the Fright Zone that hadn’t been renovated yet. It was still a bit overgrown with some of the greenery that had erupted from She Ra’s healing magic, but a lot of it was just grey metal. She’d never noticed how violent that architectural style was before- soulless, cold, meant not just for practicality but for the purpose of grinding down a person’s will and individuality.
She let out a long, terrible, frustrated scream.
She let out an unrecognizable sob.
She let lightning tear through her body, like she’d done while standing in front of Horde Prime. Only this time she wasn’t his weapon. This time she was her own weapon, and she was lashing out at him.
Hurting people is not good, she thought. Letting them hurt others might be worse.
When she returned to the campsite that evening, Crabby was sitting and laughing with the other scorpions around the bonfire. She tried to avoid them and rush to her tent, but they broke off from the group and ran over to her.
“Hey, listen,” they said. “The others have been telling me all day what you’ve been doing here. All the work with the ORSK- I want to help with it. This is good work. And they told me about how you left the Horde during the war and fought against them.”
“I’m still sorry for the bad things I let happen,” Scorpia said, finding it hard to look them in the eye.
Crabby nodded. “You should be. I don’t know if I’ll be able to forgive you for that so soon. But I can still work with you. I can know someone did bad things, and I can understand that they’re working to make up for it, and well- growing up in the Crimson Waste, you learn how to work with people that you have issues with. I think I can definitely work with you.”
Scorpia’s eyes welled up with tears again.
“Ohhh! Oh, thank you!” she shouted, this time out of glee. “Can I give you a hug? I’m a hugger.”
“No, thanks,” Crabby said.
“No problem,” Scorpia said. “I am just thrilled you’re gonna help rebuild our kingdom! This is gonna be great, I know it.”
“Yeah, let’s hope,” Crabby replied, and headed back to the bonfire.
Message from: Princess Scorpia
To: Princess Perfuma
I hope you’re doing well. I’m doing great! Huntara sent over some scorpion folks from the Crimson Waste, and they’re helping with the rebuilding movement. Every day I’m learning something new about my culture. You should visit! You would love all the plants. I’m thinking of starting a garden.
You’re probably wondering why I’m messaging you. Well, it’s because I thought about what you said. I think you were right. I’ve been running away from my feelings. Specifically the bad ones. Like anger. I think that actually isn’t such a good thing. The thing is, I don’t know if I like group therapy. Don’t get me wrong- I love my friends! And you did a really good job running the group! But it's hard to talk about these things in front of everyone. You know? If you’re still up for talking about feelings- you don’t have to be my therapist, but just as a friend- if you are OK with that- cause you are really good at feelings stuff? Only if you want!
Thanks a million!
Message from: Princess Perfuma
To: Princess Scorpia
I love getting messages from you! Definitely feel free to message me anything you want…
I would love to talk about feelings with you anytime! I am so proud of you for acknowledging your emotions. A lot of people aren’t totally comfortable with group therapy. Catra even told me that she felt weird sitting with the whole group, and I know lots of people who find it better to talk one-on-one. Plus, we’re already friends, so it’s probably weird to have friends as your official therapist. I would LOVE to talk just as friends though! Please come over to Plumeria any time you’re free.
Or I can visit the Scorpion Kingdom and see all these plants you told me about! Either way.