Halophele’s work often consisted of self-assigned projects. She very rarely had a queue of things she needed to do that weren’t her own choice. Piles of materials to translate, read through, and analyze grew the more proficient in her work she became. The speed and quality of Halophele’s work were unmatched, and she took great pride in this fact. Halophele also tended to assign herself work that was mere millimeters beyond her ability. She would miss self-assigned deadlines by a day, fail to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and confuse herself with the sheer amount of cross-referencing she engaged in. Then she would do all of those things over and over again until she crashed.
Gortha’s serpentine body relaxed along the back of Halophele’s moon-shaped sand-couch. The Affini was half-buried in the sand. Her form was relaxed, almost appearing as a vague tangle of vines and wood draped across a stone. Gortha’s leaves rustled and shifted as she perked her head up to look at Halophele.
Halophele was swimming across her kitchen preparing a nutrient mix diffusion for the pair. She emulsified nuts and grains in a rotary device resembling a blender, then transferred them to a small vat. After that, she added fruity flavoring from another emulsification chamber, all whilst keeping it separate from the water around her via a series of tight sealed chambers and tubes.
“You’re like my little Terran housewife running around in the kitchen!” Gortha said.
“What do you mean?”
“Uhh— so I think Terran houses used to fall apart all the time because they’re awful? So the housewife would repair them! And also cook.”
“Oh. That is quite interesting. I suppose Melvol is closer to a ‘housewife’ than I.”
When Halophele was finished, the mixture was deposited into a plant-tech tube. Halophele retrieved the tube and swam over to her hab-computer, tapping a few buttons with a vine until a panel beside it slid open. She placed the tube inside and locked it in place, then closed the panel.
The mixture was sucked out of the tube and disseminated through the hab’s water so the pair of Affini could passively consume the nutrients. Halophele loosened her vines, allowing the flavor-filled water to permeate her body.
Gortha hummed to herself, shaking her leaves. The Affini could feel her vines soaking in the nutrients as the scent and taste tickled her senses. Wonderful and earthy, like her roots were deep in the most fertile soil after a rainstorm.
“Oh, that’s the stuff,” Gortha said, “Now come snuggle me before I drag you onto the couch, cutie!”
Halophele swam over the back of the sand-couch and slammed her body into Halophele’s. The two collapsed into a mass of vines, weaving between each other’s forms and constricting around numerous appendages. Gortha’s leaves flattened against her vines as she felt Halophele’s coral-covered extremities wrapped around her own.
Gortha shivered, feeling Halophele’s core close to hers. Their rhythms felt almost in sync with each other, playing a beautiful song that sent Gortha into an endorphin-fueled trance. Halophele constricted. Gortha could feel pressure on her vines and core which shot pleasure through every centimeter of her form. From the outside, the pair looked like a single entity. A tangle of vines, coral, and leaves of green and white.
“You’re so sodding hot. Dirt, you’re hot,” Gortha whimpered.
Halophele hummed in response, constricting Gortha tighter. Clod, her core was right there, rubbing against Halophele’s.
“I am sorry I left you so long, Gortha. You are a good friend,” Halophele said, “It hurts to be separated.”
“You won’t go dark like that again, don’t worry.”
“Why are you so confident in this statement?” Halophele let some pressure off of Gortha.
“Because you’ll never be able to let go of Amida,” Gortha said. Her tone shifted to one of devious delight.
Halophele loosened her grip, allowing Gortha to slip a vine around her core.
“I’ve seen the way you look at her. You want her. She completes you, and you complete her. Even if she doesn’t want to be your pet, you two cuties are bonded for life,” Gortha said before assuming her typical bubbly tone and continuing, “Which means you can’t escape from cuddling with me anymore!”
“I have only known Amida for three days now. It is too early for—”
“Halophele, the way your biorhythm resonates with her is amazing! You have already imprinted on her, girl!”
Halophele’s grip was weak. She kneaded one of Gortha’s vines and played with a leaf as she formulated a response. “I worry I would weigh her down. She is so adventurous, she would enjoy life with you far better.”
“I think you can be adventurous, Hal! You just get a little lost in your work sometimes. I think a little floret to help you remember that there’s more to life than working would do wonders for you.”
The two women’s bodies draped across each other in a limp mass.
“It is more than that, Gortha. I have routines and schedules. I am a rigid person. Amida is not a rigid person. You know this.”
“I get your point, but mine still stands.” Gortha remained silent for a moment. She rubbed her vines across Halophele’s. The aquatic Affini’s vines were thicker than her own, and a bit squishier as well. “Halophele, if Amida asks you to domesticate her, what will you say?”
“She will not.”
“I would domesticate her,” Halophele said, “Gortha, I would give Amida anything she wanted. I would give her the whole sodding Cladophor.”
“And yet it’s ‘too early’,” Gortha giggled.
Halophele stayed silent. Gortha could tell the sad sack of vines was tired of the conversation. She wrapped her vines around Halophele’s, squeezing tight. The Affini coiled around her companion’s core and constricted.
“Mm, your turn,” Halophele murmured.
Gortha ran a vine across Halophele’s core, causing the Affini’s entire body to shiver. Her vines attempted to retract, but Gortha held them in place. Gortha pulled on Halophele’s vines, stretching the appendages and inspecting their every detail. She squeezed her vines tighter around them, watching them sink into the squishy surface and displace it. Halophele was larger than Gortha, she was allowing Gortha to have her way by keeping some of her vines wrapped within her core.
“Will I ever figure you out, Halophele Marit?” Gortha whispered, “I’ve explored every inch of your body as many times as I can count and you’re still a mystery. An incredibly sexy mystery.”
“Then you still have work to do,” Halophele said. Neither of them were putting up faces, but Gortha could hear the smirk.
Halophele wouldn’t ignore her friends per se, but it was obvious when the woman was absorbed in her work. ‘I should be working’ and ‘I am behind on a deadline, please excuse me’ were common. She would go out less and relegate conversations with friends to text messages. This would get worse until she crashed, then it would reset. Work would keep her grounded, but then she would start sinking into the ground. When Halophele met Amida, that changed. Halophele was the most energetic Gortha had seen her in years and took off work for two days just to be with the Terran.
Hiren hadn’t been a prime candidate for domestication. She didn’t think so at least. The Affini seemed to disagree for the exact reasons Hiren denied florethood. The Mielyu was flighty, unsure of her body, and afraid of intimacy. She refused to acknowledge any of these things and seemed content to live as an anxious ball of fins and gills for the rest of her life. Melvol was fine with giving Hiren her space when it came to intimacy, but her anxiety and discomfort were not things he was willing to let slide. Mielyu didn’t have a societal concept of gender, and they were biologically hermaphrodites. When the concept of pronouns gained popularity, most Mielyu were privy to neutral terms. Hiren, however, found comfort in she/her pronouns.
“Wow, this is really amazing. I mean, it’s completely new to me, but this has to be a chart topper or something, right?”
Amida leaned her head against Hiren’s shoulder and attempted to hum the note she was listening to. She never had good pitch, but Hiren seemed to find it cute, so she kept on. The pair were sitting on the floor in Hiren’s room. It was a pleasant, cozy little area filled with aquatic audio equipment and books on shelves. Her walls were adorned with posters and art of musicians, bands, and other things that Amida didn’t even recognize. The water was warmer than Amida’s own hab, making the room feel that much more cozy.
“In Slogatch? Yeah! When we fly close enough to be in the local data cluster I download a ton of music,” Hiren said.
“I’ve never heard aquatic music, we don’t really have an equivalent on Terra. We do have some weird sorta instruments that work underwater, but they’re one-offs.”
The music was indeed unique, designed to be played and listened to underwater. As such, it would sound strange and bloated above water. As a whole, the music was slower and had a different fundamental scale from Terran music. The transient aspects of the audio were concentrated around the mid-frequency range. All of the stringed instruments were used as plucky leads as they carried very little resonance. It all made for a sound that wasn’t particularly pleasant, but Amida could see herself getting used to it. Above all, it was unique, and Amida was enjoying the experience.
“So, uhh, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what’s the relationship between you and those two Affini?” Hiren asked.
Amida shuffled back and cocked her head at Hiren. “What do you mean? Like— romantic or friendship or…?”
“No, no! I mean— are you looking to be one of their florets or, like…?”
“Oh! No, not really, to be honest. I mean I appreciate them a lot, but I’m too fickle. I can’t settle down for the life of me,” Amida laughed.
“I don’t really wanna dump my baggage on you Hiren.”
“I don’t mind, girl, trust me. I have literally nothing to worry about in my life and I doubt this will change that.”
“Well, I just have a fear of getting stuck in a routine, y’know? I left Terra for a reason. My life felt like nothing, I wasn’t happy and I was sinking into a depressive state. It feels like I’m just— delaying that from happening again.”
“Maybe you just need a more pleasant routine!” Hiren said.
“What do you mean?”
“Like friends to visit, a hobby,” Hiren continued, “It sounds like you really weren’t enjoying your life beforehand. I mean, not to make assumptions, but you weren’t really all that into your job, right?”
“Mm-mm,” Amida shook her head.
“I think as long as you’re taking steps to make sure you aren’t actively forcing yourself to do unpleasant things, you’re golden!”
“I guess that makes sense. Halophele told me earlier the best thing to do was just soak in the experiences. She’s so mellow, it feels like she always knows what to say.”
“And to be fair, if you are domesticated you don’t have to live an identical life to your owner. Me and master are very different, but we still love each other.”
“I know, I’m also worried Gortha will get jealous, and—”
Hiren leaned her body across her smaller companion. She gave a low rumble and nuzzled Amida’s head. Amida blushed, feeling Hiren’s smooth skin rub against her own. The Terran reached her arms around the Mielyu’s back and pulled her body close. Amida’s face was buried in the fish woman’s chest. She filtered water, taking in her scent. Hiren had a light fishy musk hidden by what Amida assumed were the aquatic equivalent of perfumes. She smelled wonderful. The smell was briny and odorous, but for some reason Amida was entranced by it.
“Ooooooooh— you have so many excuses, just go kiss a plant already,” Hiren groaned. Amida giggled in response. “But don’t let me push you, if you don’t wanna be domesticated then, like, I’ll lay off!” Hiren ran her fingers through Amida’s hair, scratching her scalp with long webbed fingers. The Terran whimpered in response.
Hiren laughed, “Oh, can you smell my pheromones?”
“I’m sorry, I just-” Amida stammered. a blush filled the Terran’s cheeks as she pulled away from Hiren.
“No, it’s fine. I’m surprised you like it, most other sophonts think it's stinky!” Hiren guided Amida’s head back against her chest, “Mielyu usually put on strong scented lotions to hide our pheromones so we don’t make each other horny and stink other sophonts out.”
Amida shivered. The natural musk was strong, she tried to pick it apart and single it out from the scent of Hiren’s perfume. It was an intoxicating aroma, and the more it flooded the Terran’s brain the more she wanted Hiren to pin her down and fuck the shit out of her and—
“Hey Amida, are you horny?”
“Uhh— shit, I’m sorry I—” Amida stuttered, pulling her face away from Hiren’s chest, “I-I don’t know what came over me.”
“No, no! I actually think this is interesting! I mean, we may be the first Terran and Mielyu pair to snuggle, like— ever!”
Amida’s pupils dilated, and a blush filled her face. “W-wait, do you think Mielyu pheromones work on Terrans?”
Hiren nodded, her mouth twisting into a wide smile.
“Hiren, stars, I— I’m so gay.” Amida whimpered.
Hiren lifted her arms and gestured toward her body, “Wanna do some experiments, cutie?”
Amida pressed her face into Hiren’s chest and took in as much water as she could, savoring the scent of the Mielyu’s briny musk. Hiren moaned in response, wrapping her arms around Amida’s body and pulling the Terran against her lithe form. Amida nuzzled her companion’s chest and ran her tongue across the smooth white surface.
“Aah—!” Hiren moaned, tilting her head backward.
Amida’s tongue lapped at the oils clinging to Hiren’s skin. Her body shivered, but Amida continued to run her tongue from the Mielyu’s stomach to her chest, and then back down again. The bitter taste mingled with the musky scent until they became one, flooding Amida’s brain until Hiren’s body was all she could think about. She was an angel with fins for wings and her body was excreting the sweetest ichor Amida ever tasted.
Amida’s nose found its way to the woman’s armpit. The Terran huffed and licked and kissed like she was at the feet of a goddess. Hiren placed a hand on Amida’s head and palmed her skull, pressing it deeper into her armpit. The smell was overwhelming here, acrid and all-encompassing. Even if Amida tried to pull away, Hiren’s hand kept her firmly in place.
“Stars, yeah— huff it,” Hiren moaned, grinding Amida’s face against her pit.
Every time Amida filtered water she felt pleasure explode through her body. It was as though Hiren’s musk was being pumped into her bloodstream and firing every nerve in her body that it reached. Amida’s vagina quivered, dripping through her panties and compression shorts and onto Hiren’s crotch. Every breath in and out was a blast of pleasure to her brain, chipping away at the Terran’s ability to fight back against Hiren’s smells and tastes. Her head stopped moving, and her motor functions were reduced to wiggles and grasps against Hiren’s body. Amida let her head’s weight rest on Hiren, tongue hanging out of her mouth against her companion’s armpit.
Hiren removed Amida’s face from her armpit and cradled the girl against her body. Amida’s expression was locked in a smile, and her eyes were glazed over. The Terran was blushing and giggling. Hiren wagered that Amida was, in that moment, the cutest thing she had ever seen.
“Are you okay? You went limp there for a bit!” Hiren said, pressing a hand against Amida’s cheek.
“Stars, I’m more than okay,” Amida said, “Hiren, what the hell was that?”
“I dunno! I think you were right, you had some kind of psychoactive reaction to my musk,” Hiren giggled, “I have to reiterate, it’s really unusual for someone to not be repulsed by Mielyu musk.”
Amida blushed and crossed her arms, “I know you’re calling me nasty.”
“No-no!” Hiren laughed, and Amida joined her. “I’m just saying it’s— it’s interesting!”
“I mean it doesn’t not stink. It’s just— the good stink, y’know?” Amida looked at Hiren and scrunched her face up.
“I— I don’t follow, but this is probably just a Terran thing, and you’re like, totally valid,” Hiren said. She was struggling to come up with words. “Do you want to ask about this in some floret chat rooms tonight? Maybe we can reach out to this ring’s Xenobiologist? If this is a new phenomenon we have to tell someone about it.”
Amida blushed and clenched her jaw. Something told her this was going to be an embarrassing process.
Mielyu mating was the culprit in the case of Hiren’s bodily discomfort. Having dual sexual organs made her uncomfortable, and the concept of becoming pregnant induced intense fear in her. Floret sterilization helped these fears, as did therapy. Hiren was beginning to feel like her body was her own. This process also eliminated her fear of intimacy. Much to Melvol’s pleasure, snuggling his beloved Hiren was now on the table. The pair went slow at first, but eventually, Hiren came to adore the touch of her master, then the touch of her master’s friends, and now, thanks to Amida, other florets.
Amida had been working for years to increase her knowledge of business administration and economics. She had studied it in school, had a master's degree, and had published articles in multiple journals. Amida’s library work was just an in-between job, she had dreams of becoming a corporate big-wig with a cool car, a huge mansion, and a shitton of money. She would be the CEO of the fucking universe. All of that was shattered when she began to question the ethics of just what her goals in life were. She was living paycheck to paycheck, watching as all of her friends were strong-armed into the military to fight some ‘evil bloodthirsty aliens’ that she was having trouble even caring about. She had entered a limbo; Amida did not want to continue with her career path but had very few options otherwise due to systems that restricted her unless she was willing to take out more loans and go back to college.
Now Amida was a biologist.
In a bout of pure sexual passion, Amida had shoved her face in an alien fish woman’s armpit and made a discovery about her entire species.
“Wow, Amida! You’re a real scientist!”
“Not really, I’m more of a patient zero,” Amida said to Gortha. She floated in a sterile room not too dissimilar from a Terran doctor’s office, but with more plant-tech and bizarre jagged devices that Amida assumed were meant for creatures that weren’t Terrans. The room was also huge, meant to accompany the immense size of the Affini. The table in the middle of the room was taller than Amida herself. Scanning the room, Amida could tell that the spears near the top and center of the chamber were meant for serpentine creatures to wrap around and relax. Gortha and Melvol were resting on a couple. Everything else, though? Things to probe around in serpents? Tools to check fish temperatures, maybe? Amida had no clue.
“Hey, what? My pheromones aren’t like— some kind of disease,” Hiren said.
“No, you’re healthy and beautiful, Hiren. I just mean we’re going to be poked and prodded for being weirdos.”
“Hiren loves being poked and prodded,” Melvol cooed. The Affini extended a vine and poked Hiren in the ribs. The Mielyu giggled and slapped at the vine as another flanked her, wrapping around her hand and squeezing. Hiren blushed. “Even though she’s stinky.”
“Hey!” The Mielyu exclaimed before another vine poked her belly.
“Thanks for coming out, Gortha,” Amida said.
“No problem! I wasn’t doing much today, so I couldn’t turn down hanging out with a couple cuties!”
“I’m still a little weird on, y’know, this.”
“It’s amazing what you two discovered, Amida!” Gortha exclaimed.
“No— I mean, the way we discovered it was,” Amida took a deep breath, “I mean we were—”
“Oh, cutie, you shouldn’t feel bad about intimacy! I can assure you, not one person on this station would shame you two for getting up to some sexy times together!”
“I know that! I just have a lot of anxiety about this stuff. It’s irrational, yeah, I know!” Amida barked. The Terran took a moment, then sighed, “I’m sorry.”
“No, no. I understand, cutie. And it’s okay to want to keep your sex life private. I think it’s admirable that you were willing to come out here with Hiren and share this,” Gortha said. The Affini swam closer and wrapped a vine around Amida, then placed another in her hand.
“But I shouldn’t lash out that easily,” Amida continued, “And— Gortha?”
Amida craned her head to look at Gortha. Her beautiful green face was stretched into a smile, and her gemstone eyes sparkled in the white light of the room. Amida clutched her vine and smiled back at the Affini.
“You’re right. This is pretty cool.”
Gortha’s excitement was infectious, and Amida couldn’t deny that the situation she was in was an experience she never would have had on Terra.
“How has your day been though, Gortha?”
“Oh, It’s been great! Thanks for asking. I hung out with Halophele earlier today, and before you two cuties called me I was doing a little maintenance once-over!”
“Oh, was that important?” Amida winced.
“Not as important as my favorite Terran biologist making the scientific discovery of the century!”
Amida giggled and smiled at Gortha. The Terran imagined some complicated device catching fire somewhere and 12 Affini rushing to fix it, all because Gortha ran off to hang out with her. “Gortha, I know they’re calling me a biologist because they think it’s cute, but they’re just drawing our blood today.”
“I have to admit, it is very cute,” Gortha cooed. Amida blushed, leaning against Gortha’s thin ropey vines.
“What were you and Halophele up to?”
Gortha’s expression dropped for a moment like she didn’t know what face to make at the question, then she continued.
“She cooked a nutrient mix for me because she’s a sweetie pie. Then we cuddled!”
Amida perked up, “Oh! Are you two, uhh— what is it? Unified?”
“No, cutie! We’re just good friends!” Gortha said. Her expression dropped again.
“Is there something wrong?” Amida asked
“What gave it away?” Gortha murmured. Amida pointed to her face, and the Affini nodded.
“Well, we were going to unify for a time! Then we sorta grew apart. She gets really into her work,” Gortha said, dropping her typical happy demeanor, “Then that creates a loop where she falls into a depressive state, it’s— it’s not great”
“Oh stars, I’m sorry Gortha.” Amida pulled the Affini close and tried to wrap her arms around Gortha for a hug. The Affini let out a whimper.
“No, no,” Gortha said as she accepted the hug, pulling Amida in close, “That wasn’t supposed to be so sad! I wanted to segue into telling you—I’m really happy she’s back.” Gortha paused, formulating her words, “Amida, since Hal met you she has been less bogged down in her work. I’ve barely heard her complain that she needs to be working or that her workload is huge, I think she’s finally giving herself some room to breathe.” The Affini placed a vine under Amida’s chin and tilted her head until she was staring into Gortha’s eyes again. “I don’t know if you were even aware of how much she values you, but thank you, Amida.”
In college, Amida was on the swim team. She would swim every opportunity she got, and she was good at it. Competitive swimming was a repetitive process, but one that could be honed to a perfect art. Every day, from 5 am to 9 am, she would swim laps over and over without breaks. After college, it became hard for Amida to find time and money to swim. Public pools weren’t actually public, and Amida rarely had money to get in. The only swimming Amida participated in was watching professional swimming on her computer monitor which she occasionally tilted towards her bed and used like a television. Oftentimes, this just made her sad.
And then the compact won the war, and Amida immersed her body in water for the first time in years.