VALENCE – Season 2, Episode 8: ‘Perennial’

RELEASE DATE: 05/15/2021

Tough times make for strange dreams. Liam and Mahira train, but Liam has trouble processing himself anymore.

VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast meant for adult listeners. You can find more information, including our full cast list and transcripts, at You can support us on Patreon and get access to inspo images, bonus audio, and more.

VALENCE is brought to you by Changing Hands Bookstore. You can use our link at to support this podcast and indie bookstores. This episode, we recommend their care packages.

Content warnings:

  • Fetishization, 8:40-10:07
  • PTSD flashbacks, 14:22-14:45 and 16:42-16:58
  • Familial trauma, unreality, 19:26-22:58


  • Our theme was made by Travis Reaves,
  • With production by Raul Vega.
  • Additional music provided by Loyalty Freak Music and Kai Engel.
  • VALENCE was created by Wil Williams.
  • VALENCE is edited and sound designed by Wil Williams.
  • VALENCE is directed by Katie Youmans and Anne Baird.
  • VALENCE is produced by Anne Baird.
  • This episode was written by Katie Youmans and Wil Williams.

Performances by, in order of appearance:

  • Josh Rubino as Liam and Liam’s Inner Voices,
  • Reese Patterson as Novak,
  • Izzy O’Connell as Cass,
  • Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,
  • Brynna Youmans as the Young Girl,
  • David S. Dear as Richard Alden,
  • Sarah Rachel Evins as N-414,
  • Alex Welch as Noel Alden,
  • Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,
  • John Westover as Nico Salvai,
  • Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa,
  • and Nadine Amami as Erica Alden.


[[A door handle turns and clicks open. Soft wind chimes tinkle.]]

ANNE: Brought to you by Hug House Productions

AD (Katie): This season of VALENCE is sponsored by Changing Hands, a local, indie bookstore in Phoenix, AZ that is dear to all of us here at Hug House, and not just because we’re all trash for a good book. Anne, Wil, Ely, and I have all given and received their book care packages, where you can select a specific book, or answer a few questions and let the staff choose for you, and with it, you’ll receive several themed items to round out the care package, and give the recipient – or yourself – an extra surprise in the mail. We’ve missed being able to see each other over the last year and change, and these care packages were one of the ways that we made the distance feel a little smaller.

You can check out the various types of book care packages at Changing Hands by using our link, That’s–like Hug House–changing hands. 

Wil: VALENCE is a serialized fiction podcast with discussions and depictions of struggles with mental health. You can check our show notes, or the transcripts on valencepod dot com for a full list of content warnings and their timestamps. It’s important to take care of yourself — especially here in New Candler.

[[theme music – bright, synthy beat with airy, flowing strings that fade into a brief moment of a darker synth more reminiscent of the Season 1 theme]]

Scene 1

CWs: Fetishization from 8:40-10:07


We hear LIAM coming up the front walk, fidgeting with his phone, checking messages. It’s breezy out, rustling the leaves of the trees along the side of the quiet street. 

LIAM: [to himself] . . . text from Mahira, “are we still on for later?” 

[while typing] “Yes . . . that sounds good . . . see you then”

LIAM sends the message as SOLEDAD opens a second story window and leans out

SOLEDAD: [calling down from the window] Liam! You’re early! Come on in, the door’s unlocked. I’ll meet you in the kitchen.

LIAM: I, ah, I picked up croissants. To share.

SOLEDAD: [laugh] I should hope to share! See you in a sec.

SOLEDAD closes the window. LIAM takes the last couple steps to the door, opens it, steps inside. There’s a kettle just starting to whistle as SOLEDAD hurries into the room.

SOLEDAD: Can you start the kettle?

LIAM: Of course.

LIAM sets the kettle on the burner and clicks the flame on. SOLEDAD rummages around a cabinet of glass jars.

SOLEDAD: Perfect, thank you. Tea? We–I have Earl Grey, English Breakfast, gunpowder, hibiscus . . .

LIAM: Oh, may I — the hibscus sounds-

SOLEDAD: Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too. 

SOLEDAD takes down the glass jar with the hibiscus and sets the jar by the teapot on the counter. As they’re doing this . . .

SOLEDAD: So, would you be comfortable discussing what we talked about the other day?


SOLEDAD: The ethical quandary.

LIAM: Ah, I actually did want to bring that up. I think — I think I may have found a way forward with that.

SOLEDAD: That’s good to hear! Ok, start from the beginning.

LIAM: First, I . . . one moment. Is it alright if I–?

Very brief, soft magic crackle

SOLEDAD: Of course. The old protections on the place are. They’re not still there, obviously.

LIAM: I understand. Thank you.

LIAM puts up a quick bit of warding magic, similar to the Don’t Look At Me magic, to make sure their conversation stays private.

LIAM: So, part of my job has been running tests of products in development. With volunteers who . . . are Muses. 


LIAM: And they’re willing, and they’re paid, but it still feels . . . it feels wrong. I worry that I’ll become. Accustomed to it, I think? That I’ll start seeing them only as data. As numbers on a sheet, rather than people.

SOLEDAD: Understandable. And I can see how it would sit especially badly with you based on your–

LIAM: My everything? [rueful chuckle]

SOLEDAD: Mmm, mhmm! But you’ve found a good way forward, you said?

LIAM: What if I. What–what if these sessions that I’m running could be. Me mentoring them. In secret. I’m not sure if it’s a good idea, or a smart idea, and I know it’s not a safe idea, but . . .

SOLEDAD: But it would help you? And them?

LIAM: [audibly relieved they get it] Exactly.

SOLEDAD: I’m proud of you. Worried, but proud. It feels like something, absolutely. Just . . . please use your head while you do this. Not just your heart. I’m a little bit attached to you. Un poquito. 

LIAM: [chuckle] I’ll try. And . . . the feeling is mutual.

SOLEDAD: Ay mijo. That’s all I can ask. But on a lighter note, because today is too beautiful for only heavy talk: how was your date with . . . Zoe, right?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Flynnnn, come on.

LIAM: Flynn mentioned that, did he?

SOLEDAD: [laughs] I hadn’t realized it wasn’t public knowledge–


The kettle starts to whistle. SOL turns off the burner and pours the water into the teapot before setting the kettle on a cork trivet.

SOLEDAD: — but yes, he mentioned there was a planetarium date. That sounds pretty romantic — a night under the stars. At least, the closest we’ll get to seeing stars in a big city. 

LIAM: It was . . . hmm. I’m not sure romantic is the word?

SOLEDAD: Bring the croissants and follow me — I want some sunshine while we talk.

SOLEDAD picks up the tray with the teapot/mugs and LIAM has his paper bag, and they walk over to the sliding door out to the balcony.

SOLEDAD: So if it wasn’t romantic, how would you describe it?

LIAM: There was. Well. I’m not entirely sure it felt like a date. Though, admittedly, I have very little experience with dates. Or with knowing that’s what they were while they were happening.

SOLEDAD: [bursts out laughing] Oh, Liam. I don’t even know where to start with that. Bien, then tell me more about Zoe. You were light on details last time. What sorts of things do you two have in common? Is she a Muse as well?

SOLEDAD takes a sip of their tea.

LIAM: Ah, she’s not a Muse, but she’s very interested in organizing community outreach type things for us.

SOLEDAD: That’s not how you met though, right?

LIAM: No, no, she works at Firecreek.

SOLEDAD: Ok, ok, tell me more — I like that she’s involved in a cause that is so close to home for you, but that’s not a personality, and that’s where Flynn was especially vague.

LIAM: She’s . . . fun?


LIAM: And very forward. [laughs] I suspect that’s also part of “my type”

SOLEDAD: Does she have other interests, outside of the activism?

LIAM: I–I’m sure she–huh. I can’t recall her mentioning any.


LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Feels an awful lot like an interrogation, doesn’t it? And like the answers you have aren’t satisfactory.

LIAM: To be fair, we haven’t really done all that much together yet! Apart from–

[embarrassed] Apart from . . . the planetarium.

SOL: Right, but that’s something you like, Liam. Or was that something she was excited about as well?

SOLEDAD picks up the teapot and pours the tea into the two mugs, sets the teapot down with a clink, and picks up a mug. LIAM takes a mug and sips, buying himself time to think. 

LIAM: I think she was? She seemed to want to talk about . . . natal charts? Which isn’t astronomy so much as astrology, but is. Well. It’s still stars and planets? Which seems close, as far as interests go.

SOLEDAD: I’m sorry for pressing like this. I just–from what Flynn said, I was a little worried that — how should I explain? I was worried that you might be “her type” as well. And not in a good way.

LIAM: I’m not sure I understand?

SOLEDAD: Hm. Esté . . . did Luis ever mention the partner he had before me?

LIAM: Not that I remember, no.

SOLEDAD: Everything you’re saying about Zoe is reminding me of her. Tara, I think her name was? But she was only ever interested in talking to Luis about his magic, and seeing him use it, and finding out more about how he learned to use it. I met her once — she was sweet — but she wasn’t dating Luis so much as she was dating a muse. Does that make sense?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: [muddied overlapping with Soledad] You were wrong — this isn’t an interrogation. This is an intervention. Just what you didn’t need. 

LIAM: It does, but I don’t think that’s what Zoe is–

SOLEDAD: And my read may be wrong! You know her better than I do. But that’s not all that has me worried. Hearing that you don’t seem to know much about this person that you’re dating . . .

LIAM: [bristling, but trying to hide it] I understand this is coming from a place of caring, but could we — could we not discuss my relationship further?

SOLEDAD: Ay claro. Of course, of course. I want to see you happy, but I know unprompted advice can be . . .

LIAM: No, it’s . . .I-I appreciate the thought?

SOLEDAD: [laughs] You don’t have to lie to me, Liam! I’m not going to be mad.

LIAM: No, no! I wasn’t-

SOLEDAD: You’re allowed to be annoyed — I know too well what it looks like when someone’s biting their tongue. I’ve made that face enough myself.

LIAM: [small chuckle] I’m not used to people looking out for me . . . in that way. 

SOLEDAD: No? Not even Flynn?

LIAM: It feels different coming from him.

SOLEDAD: [poking fun] Because I’m older?

LIAM: Oh! No, I wasn’t implying-!

SOLEDAD: [laughing throughout] If you keep making it this easy, I’m just going to keep teasing you, Liam.

Scene 2

CWs: PTSD flashbacks from 14:22-14:45 and 16:42-16:58


The lobby is empty, save for LIAM and the FRONT DESK PERSON, Novak, who is on the phone.

NOVAK: . . . a package arrived for you, Mrs. Murtwaithe. You can come pick it up any time before 8 tonight.

LIAM: [whispered] Hello-

NOVAK: [whispered] Just a moment.

[normal voice] Yes, I’ll be here ‘til then. See you soon, Mrs. Murtwaithe.

NOVAK hangs up the phone and turns to LIAM. In the background, we hear one of the elevators start running

NOVAK: Yes, can I help you?

LIAM: I’m here to see Mahira Varma, apartment 17D?

NOVAK: You can sign in there — is she expecting you?

The elevator arrived and the doors ding open. MAHIRA steps out with someone we don’t know — the waitress mentioned back in season 1, CASS, who is in a wheelchair.


CASS: -and I still don’t get how he became some kind of martial arts master in zero time at all! He had no training! The girl training him would have [made way more sense as a chosen]–

MAHIRA: Yeah, no, the trope is bad and — oh, Liam, hi! 

[to Cass] Sorry, I’ve gotta cut goodbyes short. But I’ll talk to you tonight?

CASS: Yeah, absolutely! [singsongy and excited] We’ve still got the whole next season to watch.

MAHIRA: Wouldn’t miss it.

MAHIRA walks with CASS to the door and hits the Door Open switch, kisses her goodbye, and turns to Novak. 

MAHIRA: Hey Mx. Novak, is the roof court free?

NOVAK: All afternoon, Ms. Varma. You want me to mark it down as reserved?

MAHIRA: Yes please!

Novak starts typing, changing the court to reserved in the spreadsheet

MAHIRA: Thanks! Take care.

NOVAK: You, too

MAHIRA and LIAM head to the elevator, MAHIRA taps her keyfob against the sensor and presses the button marked ROOF, and the elevator starts up with a chime.

LIAM: So . . . ?


LIAM: [teasingly] Who was that? You two seemed very familiar with each other.

MAHIRA: Ugh, I don’t like you like this. I’m only allowed to do this to you — not the other way around.

LIAM: [laughs] I’m not sorry.

MAHIRA: She’s . . . you remember how Sarah and I got blacklisted from that one bistro?

LIAM: That’s her?

MAHIRA: I ran into her last week and. It’s still new, so if you could . . .

LIAM: I won’t say anything until you do.

Elevator dings and opens, MAHIRA and LIAM step out onto the roof. We can hear the noise of the city distantly, twenty stories down.

MAHIRA: Thanks. So, here we are. I tried to get us one of the enclosed spaces, but there’s some kind of swing dance club in there instead.

LIAM: Are you sure it’s ok that we practice in the open?

MAHIRA: One of the perks of a building like this — there’s enough muses here that nobody cares, and enough of us hold office in the tenants’ association that we got some decent protections in place. It’s totally safe.

A beat.

MAHIRA: Are you . . . are you planning to leave your Halo on?

LIAM: Am I–oh! I forgot I was wearing it. No, leaving it on would defeat the purpose of today, wouldn’t it?

LIAM takes off his Halo and sets it on a folding chair by the wall. He flexes the hand and twists the wrist that had had the Halo on.

MAHIRA: It gets comfortable, doesn’t it?

LIAM: It does. And I don’t hate it. Which is the part that I hate. I hate that I genuinely feel safer with it on sometimes.

MAHIRA: Makes sense. I never really got that when I had to wear mine, but I can see it.

LIAM: When did you have . . .

MAHIRA: When they first launched. Back with Berkowitz.

LIAM: Aah, I didn’t know if your parents were-

MAHIRA: If they’d existed when I was a kid, absolutely. In a heartbeat.

[Flashback from S1E1 with young muse being taken to get a Halo]

CHILD: I don’t need help! Please, please, don’t take me in there. I don’t want a Halo, I will get better, I–

FATHER: You’ve already set two couches on fire. We can’t risk you setting the whole place on fire.

MOTHER: What if it happens when you’re sleeping? What if you have a nightmare and burn everything up?

GIRL: I won’t! I won’t, I promise, I promise. Please. Please don’t make me get one. I’ll learn how to control it better. Please.

[end flashback]

MAHIRA: [getting gradually more choked up] I assume they made my brother get one, but that was after they made him stop talking to me. No phone, no email, nothing.

[clears throat] But back to the task at hand. You ready?

LIAM: Ready??

MAHIRA: Come at me. You said you wanted better control — this is how you get it.

LIAM: And you’re sure it’s safe? I won’t hurt you?

MAHIRA: No thunderstorm, no power lines nearby, nothing to jazz you up more than normal. Should be fine, yeah?

LIAM: Yes . . . should be. Alright.

LIAM adjusts his footing, sinking into a fighting stance. MAHIRA does the same. He takes in a deep breath and blows it out slowly, and we hear his magic crackle start to build.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Of course she should be, with all the training she’s had, but then again, the woman you killed had had plenty of training too, hadn’t she? You were a hazard then and you’re a hazard now. Imagine everyone’s faces if you kill her here because you can’t control yourself enough to be around anyone without that Halo on your wrist.

LIAM: [clearly uncomfortable] Here goes nothing.

The crackle builds, and LIAM’s heartbeat becomes much louder in the mix. He fires it off with a sharp crack. MAHIRA’s magic sound cuts in cleanly, mixes with LIAM’s for a moment, and she deflects the lighting up and away from herself.

MAHIRA: [laugh] Told you so. Again. And try to focus it into a smaller, more specific point. You use your magic like a club right now, and I want you to treat it like a scalpel.

LIAM: Any advice on how you expect me to do that?

MAHIRA: Trial and error, unfortunately. Everybody’s got different methods that work for them and for their focus.

LIAM: [uneasy chuckle] Thanks. I’ll do my best.

MAHIRA: Take your time. Deep, slow breaths to start. The human body already has electrical impulses in it — maybe start with that?

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: She makes an interesting point. The electricity is inside of you, even with the Halo on.

LIAM’S OTHER INNER VOICE: That’s why you’re here. To learn, and to practice. So practice already!

Much sharper, faster, cleaner magic sound that zings up and out of LIAM’s hand and across the roof at MAHIRA. Again, she deflects with her own magic.

MAHIRA: Better! Again!

Again, quicker and cleaner

MAHIRA: Again!

Again, cleaner still

LIAM: [exhilarated laugh]

MAHIRA: Now you deflect! Up and away!

MAHIRA summons up her own magic and directs a spout of flame at LIAM. He throws up a wall of magic and the flames hit it, sizzling before sliding up and dissipating.

MAHIRA: Good, but make it smoother! I don’t want it to catch and burn out — I want it to slide like glass!

[flashback from earlier]

N-414 (memory): [chipper] Hi there! Good morning, Mr . . . ?

LIAM (memory): Glass. Mr. Glass.

[end flashback]

MAHIRA sends another burst of flame, and LIAM goes to put up the wall, but his magic stutters. It deflects some, but enough makes it through that he is knocked to the ground and the hand that had been outstretched to block is burned.

LIAM: [pained, surprised] Aah! Fuck!

MAHIRA: Shit! I’m so sorry — are you ok?


MAHIRA crosses to LIAM and takes his hand, turning it over and looking at the burn. LIAM yelps as she touches it.

MAHIRA: Liam, I’m so, so sorry–

LIAM: It’s– [hisses in pain] It’s ok. I’m–fuck

MAHIRA: It’s not ok. I . . . I’m not as good at this as I should be, but–

MAHIRA holds LIAM’s burned hand in her palm, holds her other hand over it, and uses her magic to draw the heat out of the burn. It’s not healed, but it’s definitely better than it was.

LIAM: [small sigh of relief] Thank you.

MAHIRA: I’m sorry — I pushed you too fast.

LIAM: No, that wasn’t it. It . . .ah . . .

An uncomfortable beat

MAHIRA: [prompting gently] It . . . what?

LIAM: Nothing. It’s not important.

MAHIRA: [skeptical] I just burned the hell outta your hand there, Liam. I think it might be a little important. If only so it doesn’t come up again in a situation with someone who isn’t on our side.

LIAM: Well. Yes, I suppose.

MAHIRA: It looked a little like your Noel face for a second.

LIAM: My what?

MAHIRA: The face you make when you’re thinking about Noel. Or beating yourself up about Noel, if you want to be specific.

LIAM: [shutting down] I see.

MAHIRA: You already know my feelings on–on all of that. But if you plan to keep on doing what you’re doing–

LIAM: I do.

MAHIRA: I’m just saying, it couldn’t hurt to talk to someone. A third party. 

A beat

MAHIRA: A professional third party.

LIAM: [thoughtful] Mm.

MAHIRA: And. Well. We’ve got the roof for the whole afternoon. Did you want to train more? Smaller stuff, maybe.

LIAM: Hmm . . .

LIAM flexes his burned hand and tries to summon up a few experimental sparks of magic.

LIAM: [yelp of pain]

MAHIRA: Oof, ok, better not. If you wanted to get home, put some aloe on that, I wouldn’t blame you.

LIAM: [hesitant] Could I — actually, could we just. Sit here? For a bit? I don’t have a view of the river from my building, and it’s . . . calming. From this high up.

MAHIRA: [chuckle] Sure. We can do that.

Scene 3

CWs: Familial trauma and unreality from 19:26-22:58


A short loop of a piano piece coming from downstairs, Noel at the piano. The loop is clipped and strange, incapable of being played in such a way by a person.

NOEL: How long do you think she can keep doing that?


NOEL: Noel. Listen. Here, take these.

Noel hands Liam headphones. He takes them, puts them in his ears, and the piano loop plays more clearly–but now, in reverse.

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: I think she’ll make it to the next part, don’t you?

Heavy knocks on the door.

NOEL: Get it.

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: I–I don’t think I should. I don’t think I should.

ZOE: [In a Nico pastiche] Well c’mon, Vamps, when has that mattered?

GRACE: [dreamily] You should get the door.

ZOE: Wait, there’s a door? Since when has there been a door? Glass, you should get it!

NICO: Fuckin’ yikes.

LUIS: Do you want to get the door, Liam?

FLYNN: [derisive] He doesn’t.


Heavy knocks on the door; a cork popping and glass clinks in the room

LIAM’S MOTHER, ERICA: [Takes a sip] It doesn’t matter either way. Here, dear, drink up.


She hands him a glass; he drinks. The door opens slowly, creaking heavily.

RICHARD: It wasn’t yours to open anyway. Don’t ever act like I didn’t give you the option to open it on your own terms. Do you understand?

ERICA: Drink up, dear.

NOEL: Why did you open it, Glass?

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: I didn’t–or–I mean, I didn’t mean to—

RICHARD: Of course you did. The Aldens aren’t liars. But you’re hardly even an Alden, are you, Glass?

ERICA: Drink up, dear.

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: I didn’t mean to open it. I didn’t mean to. I can’t keep it locked forever. I can’t.

The piano loop stops abruptly

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: No! Nonono, she can get to the next part. She can. I know it.

[To Noel] Can’t you? Can’t you try? I know you can get to it.

RICHARD: No, no, she can’t. No you can’t. None of you can. You have the blood of an Alden, Glass. I own it. It’s mine. I gave it to you, and I’ll take it back. She can’t do it because her hands aren’t hers. I made them out of clay and bones and blood and more words than you’ll ever, ever know. You don’t know the words I gave her. You’ll never know.

LIAM’S AND LIAM’S INNER VOICE, SIMULTANEOUS: It’s okay, Noel. It’s okay. I’ll teach you. I know I have the sheet music here somewhere—

ERICA: Drink up, dear. You won’t be able to keep this up forever. You already opened the door, and you’ll keep opening it. Someday, you’ll have to stop trying to keep it closed. You can’t keep this up forever.

[Takes a sip] You know who you are, Glass. 

Liam’s phone buzzing

LIAM: [Gasps and breathes quickly, heart racing]

Liam scrambles to grab his phone, unlock it, and answer the call.

LIAM: Hello?

ZOE: [Over the phone] Hey, morning! So I just saw an ad for . . . this new barcade? Which seems pretty cool, and I was–yeah, hi, you okay?

LIAM: [Unconvincingly] Um. Yes, yeah, I’m–I’m fine.

A beat.

ZOE: Okay! So I was thinking, like, wanna hit it up after work tomorrow? I know that’s not really your scene, but I figured like, I’ll wear something cute, and I’ll even let you win at air hockey, maybe. Maybe.

LIAM: Um . . .

The piano loop starts playing again.

LIAM’S INNER VOICE: Ignore it. Just ignore it.

LIAM: Oh. Hm . . . sure. Sure, I’ll see you tomorrow.



Valence is a Hug House production. You can find more information at Hug House dot Productions.

VALENCE is created by me, Wil Williams. This episode was written by Katie Youmans and Wil Williams. This episode was edited and sound designed by Wil Williams. This episode was directed by Anne Baird and Katie Youmans, and produced by Anne Baird.

This episode was performed by, in order of appearance:

-Josh Rubino as Liam and Liam’s Inner Voices,

-Reese Patterson as Novak,

-Izzy O’Connell as Cass,

-Ishani Kanetkar as Mahira Varma,

-Brynna Youmans as the Young Girl,

-Sarah Rachel Evins as N-414,

-David S. Dear as Richard Alden,

-Alex Welch as Noel Alden,

-Giancarlo Herrera as Luis Acebo,

-John Westover as Nico Salvai,

-Miracle Fonmanu as Zoe Kafoa, and

-Nadine Amami as Erica Alden.

-Our theme music for season 2 was written and performed by Travis Reaves,

-with production from Raul Vega.

-Other music is provided by Loyalty Freak Music, a trans composer who we love and who makes music people can use for free. You can find their work at

-You can find our full cast list and information on how to support this indie podcast on valencepod dot com. There, you can find a link to our Patreon.

-Until next time, protect your magic.

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