Sitting in the middle of her garden, covered in mulch and sweat from the last few hours of working over each and every plant to make sure they’d be okay while she’s healing. Crim places a hand on her mask, rubbing it lightly as she considers the possibility that today will be one of the last days that it will fit her. One of the last days that she’d be able to hide behind a wall from the universe, and more tumultuous than that, it will also be her first time meeting Delfi since her not so grand escape from Helios.
There’s a small chime that plays over their hab, alerting her that someone’s at the front door. Azalia is already away for the day at a lecture, and bramble working the Honey Pot. There’s only one possible option of who the arrival is. “Hab, let them in please.”
Slowly, she lays down in the middle of her garden, the familiar comfort of her plants surrounding her and protecting her from a soaring heart rate. She’d already taken a hit from her inhaler, leaving her with little defense from the encroaching anxiety without compromising her mental state by taking another puff too soon.
Crim closes her eyes, taking deep breaths while the sound of quiet steps echo through the hab, walking over to the garden room’s door and sliding it open. The all too familiar shadow of the first affini she’d ever met creeping across the room and looming over her.
"Hey Crim, it's been a while.” Delfi kneels down next to Crim while looking over the garden. “I really like what you have done with all of this.” She rubs Crim’s back with a smile. “You are looking really good by the way, I’m happy for you.”
Crim winces at the feeling of Delfi's hand against her back, her wings fluttering ever so slightly as she keeps her head looking away from Delfi. "Thank you…"
She pushes her hands against the ground to sit up, before curling her legs up against her chest. "So… why do you even wanna see me at this point? After abandoning you on Helois I figured you'd be sick of me right now."
“You may have hurt my feelings a little by just leaving and not asking me for help regarding getting the body mods you wanted, but I still care about you Crim.” Delfi smiles and keeps her hand on Crim’s back, between her wings.
“Despite our introduction, I do really like you, and I care for you a lot. I want you to know that nothing will change that.” She laughs lightly, looking over the garden again. “I’m looking into doing things I enjoy, and it was my time with you that made me realize that being a caseworker, while helping others, was spreading my care out a little too thin.”
"Well I'm glad I managed to do one good thing for you." Crimson keeps her head tilted down while they talk, unable to bring herself to face Delfi. Taking a deep breath, lacking any of her normal bravado. "So why are you here, what do you want from me? You never come unless you want something."
"I want to spend time with you, I want to have you as a friend. Also I think you are mistaking some of the time we spent together on Helios. I tried to have my unofficial visits have fun things for us. Although I could have done a better job setting more time and having more fun things." Delfi sighs and moves her hand up to Crim's head. "I'm sorry if I made you uncomfortable ever, I misread things quite a bit, and even affini are prone to mistakes. I would really like for our experiences together to be better moving forward."
"Yeah… I guess so." Crim tenses up at the pressure of a hand on top of her head. "I just… I don't know how to trust you, I don't hate you for what and why you did it, but that first few weeks together… you had an agenda, one that Ipheon and Azalia never did. Or at least not, while having the same level of power over me."
“I won’t lie, I was really positive you needed domestication, and Raven peeking through with her wants didn’t help my opinion.” Delfi sighs while looking down. “You were so close to death when I first found you, and I was absolutely terrified at what could happen if you had gone just a little bit longer without being found.”
She moves her hand back down Crim’s back. “I’ve never found anyone even close to your condition before in my experience as a wellness worker.” She rubs in little circles. “I just…I’m so sorry for how poorly I reacted, and focused on you. I should have been more compassionate, and patient with you, and I should have never made you feel that way, or like you couldn’t trust me to help you with something like your body mods.”
“I didn’t avoid you because I didn’t think you could be trusted with them.” Crim mumbles out, slowly turning around to look the affini as close to in the eyes as possible. That same spark from their first conversation coming back once again.
“I left because I didn’t trust me with you, whether it be Raven coming out during the healing process, and finally dragging us into your vines permanently, or just… genuinely connecting with you.” She slowly stands up, wings buzzing slightly due to anxiety. “Delfi I’m scared of you, I’m scared of what you mean, I’m scared of us caring about you, I’m scared of the potential for you to convince me, or Raven, to throw away everything I’ve ever wanted. That is why I ran.”
Crim takes a deep shaking breath as she stands as tall as she can manage. Her bottom set of arms wrapped around her waist, while her top stayed locked at her sides. “And I know it’s selfish, and I know it’s not fair to Raven, but it’s true. I live a life where I will never be out of the running for domestication, because me and the other woman in our heads have entirely separate desires, so I wanted to… I don’t know, start over. Have a chance to even only for a day, believe I could be a normal independent sophont, who doesn’t need someone babysitting her.”
She lets out a weak laugh, like the idea was just a poor inside joke for just herself, shaking her head as tears well up in her eyes. “And ya know what, I did, for the first day here I was just Crim. Just a slightly weird bee loving sophont who really wanted to be as close to bees and beeple as possible.” Her lower set of arms tighten around one another. “It was nice… but it was just a sad self centered dream. Raven woke up the next day, met Azalia, and now there’s three affini who want my attention or to always be around me, in case she needs them.”
Crim shakes her head, as a few tears smack against the inside of her mask. “And it makes me feel like a monster to be mad at that, to be upset at my own god damn sister in our head, simply for wanting to have people who can care for her, but I just… can’t stop being angry with it, because it’s not something I can even understand. I’m meant to be the one who cares for us!” She stomps her foot. “WHY AM I NOT GOOD ENOUGH ANYMORE!?”
Delfi slowly brings her arms forward, pulling Crim into a hug. “You are not a monster, systems are…complicated. Both your wants and needs, and Raven’s, are valid and important. You both want different things, but due to how you exist you cannot be apart. A big portion of growing as individuals who have to share, is compromise. When I saw Raven on my first day here, she actually seemed pretty happy with the set up. And from my talks with the others, it sounds like you have all the affini after you wrapped around your little fingers like little globs of honey.” She pulls back a little bit, letting some of her vines playfully tap Crim’s fingers.
“Things are happening fast, and I know a lot of that has been healing and adjusting to your new body, but from a mental health standpoint,this all has been really fast, and that can be scary. Once you are done recovering from the last of your body mods, if you want my advice, I think you and Raven need to just relax, communicate with each other, and reach whatever compromise you both need and want.”
“Then, as fun as playing and messing around with affini can be, and I believe you have had fun, I think you should be fully clear that while Raven enjoys the attention, when it is you, unless you ask for it, you do not want the attention. They may playfully pout, but I am sure they will respect your decision. After that, you just need to find what your normal is, as a whole system. I know Raven still needs you, and you need her to need you. That is what you are and that is what she is, that line of mutual reliance has just gotten blurred through all of this.”
Delfi smiles lightly at Crim. “I respect you and your tenacity Crimson, and I want to be there for you. There is no shame in needing or asking for help, all I want is for you to ask someone when you need it, and not when you don’t. If you want to go to the doctor all on your own, I understand and will just help you home as the help will be needed then, but if you want me to go with you, I’ll go with you. There is no wrong answer, there is no wrong choice.” She playfully ruffles Crim’s hair.
Crim just stands there, letting Delfi get her pets out, as she tries to process everything she's being told by Delfi of all affini. A few tears falling out from the bottom of the mask as she takes deep breaths. "I think this is the first time we've both agreed on anything."
Taking a few steps closer, Crim wraps all of her arms around Delfi in the tightest hug she can muster. "Thank you for uh… letting me get that out." Exhaling she takes a few steps back, looking up at Delfi. "As awful as it sounds, given how rude I tend to be to you, you're the only affini who I've never felt the need to… pretend around, you already know all the messy parts of me, so it's easier to be… honest."
Delfi nods slightly, tightening her grip on Crim ever so slightly. “Well, that is one thing about being a wellness worker is having to dig down to see the worst in someone, and helping them see if they can build up. Some of us just need to be ready to help with any problems. Right from the beginning, refeeding syndrome was probably something I should have been taught about before in regards to our first meeting. I could have been a bit more put together and calm, and that is on me. As for you, I appreciate the honesty, and as much as I would…like to have you as my floret, I also wouldn’t want to take away the independence you showed you earned and desired. If you feel like being rude, I won’t take it personally…in fact it means a lot that you shared this with me.” She rubs Crim’s shoulders. “So, how are you feeling, around me, with everything?”
“I still feel like I wanna do this!” Crim throws two of her arms against Delfi’s vines in a mock punch, something that she’d done a lot during their time together whenever she was just about to stop giving Crim wellness checks. Not in an attempt to harm the affini, but instead as an attempt to show Delfi how strongly she makes Crim feel, without using words.
“I mean it wouldn’t be a reunion without it.” Crim laughs to herself, before pulling back and dusting her hands down her overalls. Starting to walk out of the garden, mostly just trying to clear her head after that outburst of emotion. The admittance of Delfi’s continued desire for her, not Raven but actually her hitting like a punch to the gut. “Now do you wanna go help me get this last set of mods or what?”
Delfi’s vines all tighten around one another causing her to squeak as she nods. “I’d love to help you Crim!” She follows closely behind Crim, a vine draping down to rest on her shoulder.
“If you would like to ride my shoulders, just let me know, or if there is anything you would find more comfortable, I will do my best to accommodate our travel to your vet.” She lets her vine wiggle a little bit, tickling Crim’s neck. “I can’t wait to see the end result of your body mods, I’m sure it will be amazing for everything to fully come together.”
“Neither can I, maybe I’ll be able to look you in the eyes once it’s all said and done.” Crim’s wings buzz as they walk, the girl obviously taking her time with the trip, to have a chance to spend a little more time with Delfi like this.
“And I’ll walk myself thank you very much, knowing you, you’d rush us there and miss out on enjoying a lovely day on the Equabloom.” She gestures out over one of the parks they are passing by, a few groups relaxing, and enjoying picnics. “Or was that just the old overworked Delfi.”
“Well, I’d get you there as fast as you wanted, but overworked me… my schedule was incredibly tight on Helios. I wanted to give the help needed, but multiply that by me effectively having an hour for each Sophont I worked with before I had to get onto others that needed me.” She brings one of her hands to her face to rub it. “Just thinking back to it makes my petals shrivel.”
“Well then I guess it’s a dang good thing I ran away!” Crim laughs, for the first time since Delfi’s arrival regaining a little bit of her boisterous energy.
“Got me at least a day of pretending to be normal, dragged you away from work that while important, was crushing your core to ash. I mean I swear the one time you had… What was her name… fuuuuuck.” She groans to herself, rubbing her forehead for a moment, before snapping. “Right, tulip! When you came over with tulip and her owner a year ago, I swear that was the longest you ever spent with me.” She chuckles. “Even if that was because I was having a dysmorphia induced breakdown.”
Delfi chuckles, and looks around the park. “Yeah, I really wish I could have gotten time scheduled out a little better. I would have felt better giving you even more. Honestly if we had even a few more case workers, I could have lightened my load enough to have a couple solid days off to get to spend with you as friends, or whatever you wanted. I just hope that I was able to help you enough.” She then glances down. “Mind you, as you have shown, you certainly know how to get what you want with or without my help. I’m proud of you Crimson.”
“It honestly didn’t take much.” Crim snickers, shaking her head. “I mean all I did was act a little bit cute, and hyperfixate on beeple, everyone else worked their way around me and Raven all on their own.”
As they walk through the park, Crim gestures to a beeple hive on the far end. “Speaking of, that’s where I met a bunch of super sweet beeple, who have been helping me adjust to my changes. blossom, clover, and indigo are all suuuuper sweet, and even their owners have been pretty cool the few times I’ve met them.”
Delfi squeals and bounces happily. “I’m so happy that you have been meeting more sophonts who can be friends. One of the things that got me so worried was how guarded and reserved you seemed to be even when I tried to introduce potential friends to you.” She takes a moment to get herself under control. “I’m sorry, I just admire everything you have going on. I can’t wait to see all your friends too.”
“Well while we were still on Helios, the issue was…” Crim bobs her head from side to side trying to find a good way to phrase it. “I really… don’t like other terrans?” She shrugs as they continue past the hive.
“Or at least not other independent ones, I just can’t force myself to trust them, but with beeple, and Affini to a lesser extent, well I’ve never even heard of a mean beeple! And y’all affini take care of them, so of course I’m gonna trust you.” She chuckles a bit, slowly starting to slide her mask up, still covering half of her face, but letting a little of her guard fall away as she glances up at Delfi. “Bees, and plants, have always been how I’ve related with the world, so beeple and affini… I guess I can treat you all as equals without as much implicit distrust as I harbor toward other terrans.”
“I may try to see the best in everyone, but I can’t deny that I ran into…a lot of very…spicy sophonts on Helios.” Delfi weakly smiles, looking down at Crim.
“I can understand your distrust, that is for sure.” She lets her vine gently brush against Crim’s cheek, not daring to touch her mask. “So, are there any movies or shows you like? I especially want things on you will enjoy while you are recovering.”
"Azalia just started putting on beeple videos from the overnet. They keep my drugged up attention well, and for the most part wiggling one of my plushies, or having one of my friends over, keeps both me and Raven docile." Crim tenses up as the vine rolls down her face, having to take a moment to calm down, before nuzzling it slightly.
"That and you could watch Azalia’s course on affini, me and Raven during one of our recovery weeks actually were special guests, she did an entire lesson on terren pun conversations!"
“That sounds adorable! I’ll make sure to come over plenty to watch over you.” Delfi keeps her vine low as they walk, giving little cheek touches from time to time. “When you finish with your recovery, I’ll make sure we get to do something fun for us, whatever that may be. I wouldn’t want it to be anything that would make you uncomfortable though, so just make sure to speak up if you don’t like any of my ideas.”
"Well, we could always go to one of the low gravity segments of the ship, and you could watch me and my friends fly around?" Crim buzzes her wings slightly, as she speeds up her pace each step going from short strides, to little hops taking no end of pleasure in the feeling of her wings against open air. Both to escape the contact, and because they are now only a few hundred feet away from the entrance to the medical wing. "But for now let's gooooo, I wanna get ahead of the game!"
“That would be wonderful, and alright, let's go indeed!” Delfi giggles and removes her vine, but keeps pace with Crimson. “I’m right with you, but go ahead and walk through those doors all on your own. Be the best pretty bee girl you can be.”
Passing through the doors into the front waiting room. Crim and Delfi are met with Anemone as always, alongside an affini that Crim genuinely was never expecting to see again. Immediately recognizable due to her six arms, and eyes, Vinca.
"Oh my hives and honey, Vinny!" Crim immediately affixes her mask back into place, as she buzzes, running over and throwing all four of her arms around Vinca with the same reckless abandon as always. "What brought you all the way out here?!"
Anemone silently watches Crim crash against Vinca. Both surprised, and genuinely impressed that Vinca's presence alone had managed to capture Crimson’s attention on the same day as one of her surgeries. "Well Crim, I'll have you know that Miss Vinca here has been talking to me about starting to work with me personally, on both sophont body modifications, and implantation, isn't that right?"
Vinca grins and pets Crim a few times. “That’s right, I also may have been partially responsible for helping your cute case worker get herself over here.” She waves over to Delfi. “I figured I haven’t done long term work on a ship in a while, and this would fit with my skill set well. I heard about your appointment and just had to make sure I got to see you. And look at you, you are getting so small!”
“Yes I am, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Crim continues to nuzzle her way up against Vinca’s vines, mostly blocking out the fact the only reason she’s here is because of Crim’s reckless behavior. “I missed you, sorry about the disappearing act.”
Anemone looks between Vinca, Crimson, and Delfi. Her mask locked into a perplexed frown, entirely due to the level of excitement Crim is displaying in regards to Vinca’s arrival. Fairly certain this is the type of response that would normally be reserved for beeple exclusively, and even then only beeple Crim had met before.
Delfi takes a few small steps around Vinca, to move over and place a vine on Anemone’s shoulder. “Vinca was the one who plucked Crim up after our little argument on our first day together. I… embarrassingly attempted to get her to adopt Crimson for our first year together, but as you can see they work much better as friends.” Her vines rustle slightly, as she looks away from the embrace. “That and I started to take interest in her personally.”
“Ah, I suppose that makes sense, it is still a little odd to see Crimson being the one that is this cuddly, but as long as she is happy, I’m happy for her.” Anemone leads Delfi over to show her some paperwork.
“I have been informed that you will be taking Crim back home after her appointment today, and that you will be aiding during her recovery. I have prepared some notes on special needs that they will need with this final body mod for the ‘beeple set’ as Crimson and I have dubbed it. This one will take about 50% longer to recover from than her previous mods, specifically given how close to her brain some work we will be doing today.”
Anemone pulls up another page, showing it to Delfi. “She is going to be blind for a bit after this one as well. I will make sure they understand, but extra help will be needed. Crimson and Raven WILL need the extra help whether they want it or not, and it could very well do good to always keep a vine on them from anyone during this recovery until they can see again.”
Delfi picks up the packet, shocked at the assertion that she’s going to be the one caring for the system while they heal. “Uh… isn’t Azalia their caretaker now, don’t you think that they’d be in better vines if she handled this like the previous set?”
Vinca slowly leans down, wrapping three of her arms around Crim, and lifting her up. “There ya go sweetie, and Azalia is going to be busy for the first week of the recovery process, she’s doing a small sumet that I believe Crim or Raven should have mentioned to you by now.”
Crim nods a few times, as she leans back and lets her wings buzz ever so slightly against Vinca’s chest. “Yup, and we figure you could take better care of us than Solosia, given they’re the only other affini than you, who has the time to dedicate to taking care of me full time during my healing process.”
She slowly slides her mask all the way off, pulling it into her top set of hands. “So uh… If you wanna do this I’d really appreciate it. Solosia has a… very high energy floret.” Her left eye twitches as she admits this.
Delfi smiles, and nods. “I’d love to, I’ll make sure you always have me there during all of this.” She brings her hand forward, making sure Crim is okay with a little cheek rub, before closing in. “I’ll be as close as I can during the operation, reading up on any special things I will need to do during your recovery, and then when we are out of here, I’ll make sure you can enjoy the sounds and smells on our way home.” She slowly leans forward to give Crim a little kiss on the forehead. “Is that alright with you?”
“Yeah, just uh… maybe call Solosia, they can probably do another house call, and she knows a whole lot about the process of healing given this is going to be your first time.” Crim flashes a timid grin, pressing the mask into Delfi’s vines. “So uh… just take care of this if you don’t mind.”
Vinca nods, patting Crim on the head. “I must agree, while I believe you’re fully capable of handling the healing process, they will be able to provide you supplies that you may not consider beforehand.” She very slowly pulls Crim back once the mask is out of her hands, looking over at the hallway. Watching as Anemone walks away to get the surgery, handing back for a moment to give Delfi a chance to get a few last words in.
Delfi smiles and pulls the mask into her chest, briefly showing Crimson her core where the mask is put. “I’ll keep your mask safe, and while you are in there I’ll make sure to call Solosia and schedule her to come over. I’m thinking tomorrow morning and from there she can help figure out our best times with her.” She gives Crimson a small pet with a smile. “I’ll be waiting for you to get out.”
"Well, then see ya on the other side." Crim nods and leans back, kicking her legs out as Vinca pulls her closer. "Welp ya heard the plant, let's get buzzy!"
Vinca nods, moving Crim into a fully lying position, and starting to pull off her boots, and unbuckle her dirty overalls as they head into the back.
Once she arrives in the operating room, Crim has to blink a few times, surprised to see the back of a third affini, with rippling blue petals flowing down their back, working on this set alongside Anemone and Vinca. "Uh… hello there!"
The affini turns around, their form rippling with movement like it was a river standing in the middle of the room, a demure smile on their face. "Ah you must be Crimson, I'm Nem Timna, I'll be doing all of the work on your precious little eyes!"
Anemone smiles, and brushes back Crim’s hair. “Sorry for not telling you earlier Crimson, but I did need to call Nem in as a specialist. Now for about a week, you will be blind and blindfolded. The following week, you can have the blindfold off in low light rooms, Delfi will have the specific light levels, and recommended maximum time until you should rest your eyes again. This will take a bit longer in general for your eyes to recover given the changes they will be undergoing.” She guides Vinca to lay Crim on the operating table. “Are you ready? Or do you need a minute?”
“I’ll never need a minute when it comes to my mods, and I’ll be too high to mind the blindness the whole time so it’s no big deal.” Crim flops back onto the table, allowing the affini to start strapping her down. “And thanks for agreein to come on to help out with this Nem I appreciate it.”
Nem nods, slowly having a vine drift over and press up against Crim’s thigh getting ready to give her an injection to put her under. “Of course, it’s always my pleasure to assist on projects this experimental.” They look up, getting a nod from Anemone, and injecting Crim. Watching as the girl goes from slightly tense from excitement, to an easily movable ragdoll on top of the table.