Afraid to Love: First Splinters

Chapter 1

By Black Rose

why are we afraid to be in love?
i can't explain it...
- Michelle Branch, "I'd Rather Be In Love"

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience of life-threatening events such as military combat... sufferers of PTSD often experience nightmares, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged...

It's a definition, a string of words written in psychological medical journals, something I memorized by rote during a class. Back then, that's all it was. Words.

The reality of active Garden duty is the PTSD index, a battery of physical and mental tests they run us through on a not infrequent basis to grade our suitability for front line combat under pressure, for duty patrols, for all of the things we do every day. Gauging the psychological breaking point, when taking leave stops being a voluntary vacation and becomes a medical requisite.

Reality... Reality is that my own PTSD index is top of the scale, and that Kadowaki is usually just itching for a reason to run me through the tests again, just waiting for it to inch into the red so that she can slap me on medical leave.

The other reality would be if you asked me, in which case I'd tell you there's nothing fucking wrong with me, I'm fine, I've been fine, and yes, that includes up to, through, and after the damn Sorceress war. This is how I am. I'm *fine*.

That's what I've told everyone. That's what I've told myself. And I was right - when it comes to a job I can fucking handle it. When push comes to shove, I can do it. Whatever it is. You do the job, you move on. Life continues.

Until now.

I never understood before. I've seen people snap under pressure, I've seen the others lose it during a crisis. I've talked them through it, rallied them out of it, done what needed to be done myself if there was no one else. The medical journals lay it out on the pages of textbooks - it's natural, it's to be expected, it's a human fallacy. But I never understood.

I'm falling apart. It feels like bleeding inside but there's no wound, no tangible thing that I can classify, nothing that a bandage or a cure spell can staunch. There's no relief, no cure, and no end in sight. I don't know what to do with this.

Kadowaki has warned me a hundred times over in the last year - I work too hard, I'm too close to snapping. I didn't believe her. It didn't mean anything... until now. When it's too late, when something's already broken.

When I don't know how to fix it.

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