Pearl’s eyes stay locked on the ceiling, having been laid down on the couch with the beeple plush atop her chest. The constant beating vibrations feeling more like a constant mocking now that she’d woken back up.
Why would they bother making a plush that literally buzzes exactly like a bee? Another of the seemingly infinite wasted resources the affini are willing to waste on anything they find slight entertainment in.
The fact it does feel calming being mostly lost on her, as her body slowly regains its normal level of tension from her anxiety.
Dragging her arm over to the plush, she starts to slowly drag it off of her chest and over to the edge of the couch. Considering simply tossing it across the room as a way to get even the smallest ounce of catharsis in the moment.
Her hand tightens slightly around the top arm, as a small bud of something she’s becoming all too familiar with grows in her chest. Guilt, and a kind that she couldn’t place the reason for.
Stopping her from tossing the bee, and simply electing to shove it over to the opposite corner of the couch. It’s dark beady eyes always finding a way to make contact with her, as she kicks it several times, trying to get it to turn away from her.
“Pearl petal, are you awake?” Before Pearl has any time to think about the situation, Resin comes flowing out of the bedroom. Datapad in its vines, as it looks at its floret curled up on one edge of the couch, while the plush sits head burrowed down into the opposite corner. “Did something happen?”
“If by something you mean taking me somewhere to be publicly humiliated, then yes. Something did happen, and it’s your fault.” Pearl barely holds herself back from hissing at the affini, each word chosen to point out how every inch of her anger and suffering is Resin’s fault.
“I’m sorry petal, I wasn’t aware that we’d be talking to someone from your ship. I promise that your humiliation was never my intent.” Resin slowly steps up to the base of the couch, testing how close she can get without outwardly agitating Pearl any further. “Did the M’s help?”
“Ah yes, the M’s, because being unable to control my mind or body is exactly what I needed.” Despite herself, Pearl keeps still. Not backing away from Resin, if only to avoid the affini trying to press even closer.
“To be fair little one, you needed to be given something to stop that episode you were having.” Resin grabs the beeple plush, slowly moving it back over closer to Pearl, as a substitute for attempting to touch the girl itself. “And I’ve been trying to avoid using E’s and A’s on you, so this was the best option. That is unless you want me to pivot my strategy?”
“No, definitely not.” Pearl shudders slightly, shaking her head as she looks over at the plush beeple. Electing to grab and hug it, if only to take control of the plush in the situation, to avoid the risk of it becoming a bargaining chip. “So, you promised me free time once we got back here if I behaved, I do not believe I’ve done anything to deserve your ire today. So can you leave me your datapad and let me just watch something alone?”
Resin raises an artificial eyebrow, humming lightly as it pulls out its datapad. “I could, but I also don’t want you to be getting into anything you don’t need right now petal. How about you tell me what you wanna watch, and I’ll turn it on for you.” It carefully holds the pad just out of Pearl’s reach, watching as its ward’s eyes immediately lock onto the device. Without a doubt planning something that is bound to blow up in her face.
Pearl huffs, flopping her head down against the back of the bees head. The soft fluff hiding the bottom half of her face, her scowl particularly. “Fine, just turn on that show I was watching yesterday. It’s better than the rest of your garbage programming.”
“Alright petal, if you say so.” Resin taps a few times, turning the show on, and reaching out to give a gentle pat on Pearl’s plushies head. Making a note of not touching its ward in the slightest. “You have fun with that, I’ll be just over in the kitchen working on dinner, and doing some paperwork. Maybe you can give me your new friends name when I come back.”
Pearl groans, shoving her head into the back of the plushy as Resin walks away and into the kitchen. Resigning herself to watching the show, and maybe coming up with a name for the bee to appease her warden. Figuring that if she starts behaving more after a breakdown, it could be genuinely believed by the affini.
As the show passes her by, Pearl groans, frustrated by the overly trusting nature of all of the characters, and especially it being presented as a good thing. “Fuuuuck… how much longer is this gonna last.” She mutters while running her hand across her face, the notable lack of calluses on it acting as a reminder of how the affini are trying to soften her up.
After another episode, the smell of warm food starts to drift out of the kitchen and over into Pearl’s nose. A series of smells that she’d never experienced before hitting her all at once, making her unsure if she wants to wretch or if she wants to hop down and go devour whatever it is. “What are you cooking in there!?”
There’s a small click, as the oven turns off and Resin starts to walk back over to the couch holding a bowl. “I made ramen for you petal, do you want to eat it now?” It smiles ever so slightly, vines shifting inside of its chest as it taps its pad and pauses the tv show.
Pearl blinks a few times, looking into the bowl. Noticing the noodles, an egg, and some meat. “I don’t think I can eat that with only one hand-”
“Indeed you can’t, I figured this would be a good time as any to help you adjust to me helping you with meals.” Resin slowly reaches around, getting ready to lift Pearl up as it taps the beeple plush on its nose. “Anyways, I wouldn’t want you to have to let go of your little friend there.”
“His name is Twig.” Pearl announces with as much enthusiasm as she can muster. Her arm involuntarily squeezing down on the plush as Resin leans down around her, taking the comment about removing it from her possession as more of a threat than a playful remark of her growing attachment.
“Oh that is the most precious name, I’m so proud of you!” Resin’s smile goes from a small smirk, to fully beaming down at Pearl, the affini’s satisfaction thrumming through its entire form. “Alright let's bring you to the kitchen and get eating.”
Pearl queaks, her arm at this point clenched so hard down on the beeples head that it could have popped it off. “Fine, just be careful, I don’t want you spilling that on me or the plush.”
Resin laughs lightly, pulling Pearl up against its side, sliding a few vines under Pearl’s ass to more thoroughly support her. “Oh you should really call him by his name, it’s only polite.” She shakes her head slightly, making a show of holding the bowl as far away from Pearl as possible to ease her anxieties.
“Fiiiine, don’t spill anything on Twig.” Pearl groans, speaking through gritted teeth, her head swinging back slightly to avoid the affini’s ever present smile. “I swear if you do, I’ll…” She pauses for a moment, trying to think of the worst thing she can threaten without drawing ire. “I’ll… I dunno, start biting again.”
“Well then I guess it’s a good thing that I will not be allowing a single drop to fall down onto your adorable companion.” Resin sits down in the chair instead of simply setting Pearl down, putting the bowl down on the table and slowly adjusting their positions to be more comfortable. “I would be fine if we need a special vine for my bitty doll though.”
Pearl’s hand closes around the fluff on Twig as hard as she can manage. Ending up with a fist full of neck fluff as she endures Resin’s teasing, her cheeks turning bright pink from the mix of rage and embarrassment.
“Alright, I’m done teasing.” Resin grabs a fork, electing to use it given its simplicity. “How this will work is, I will take a bite, tap your cheek, then you’re allowed to chew and swallow, repeat. Am I clear petal?”
“Cristal.” Peal pulls the plushy out of her lap, starting to press it up against her side, and nearly wedging it between herself and resin. Both to add an extra layer of distance there, and to make sure that none of the liquid spills down onto it.
“Good girl!” Resin gently uses a vine that splits off of its chest to pat Pearl on the head. Relishing in using this opportunity to push a little harder for Pearl to behave. Once she’s done administering pets, Resin taps Pearl on the cheek, watching as the girl leans forward to take a bite out of the meal.
Pearl sniffs the food a few times, a lingering paranoia from her time in the military. Despite knowing that even if there are drugs in this, she’s not getting away with avoiding eating, before taking a large bite of the noodles. Almost immediately gulping it down, the mix of salt and the different flavors of the broth making the meal damn near irresistible for Pearl’s standards.
Once Pearl’s gotten her first bite, Resin pulls the fork away. Watching as the girl pulls back and eyes it, nodding her head at the bowl several times as if to silently demand she be allowed more of the meal.
Resin instead simply leans back in its seat, getting another bite on the fork, but not giving Pearl the tap on the cheek to approve her eating yet. “So… do you like the meal?”
Pearl huffs, glancing at the fork several times. Her legs pulling in and bumping up against Resin’s vines. “Yes, now PLEASE let me continue to eat, I’m starving and don’t feel like playing your games right now!”
“I’m not playing any games petal. I’m simply trying to teach you to ask for things you want.” Resin taps Pearl on the cheek to give permission, watching as the girl immediately lunges forward to get her next bite of the meal. Biting down, and swallowing it as quickly as possible, if only to prevent the permission from being rescinded.
This quickly evolves into a small game for Resin, seeing exactly how long Pearl will wait before starting to squirm around in her seat impatiently. Hoping to push the amount of time she’ll wait longer and longer with each bite.
At first its one or two extra seconds, then six to ten, and finally a grewling fifteen second wait between each of the bites that Pearl is provided with. The girl’s patience wearing ever thinner with each extension of the wait to eat more, her leg bouncing as a way to get her energy out without simply shoving her head down to the side of the bowl to slurp it up.
Resin right as it bundles up the last bite around the fork, pulls it up right in front of Pearl’s face, without giving her the tap of approval, just to see if Pearl will actually hold herself back with the food close enough for her to steal whether Resin would want to move it away or not.
Pearl huffs as she eyes the last bite, counting the seconds before she gets approval, only even playing along at this point due to the sunk cost of not resisting sooner. Hoping that this combined with begrudgingly naming the beeple plush, will be enough to get Resin to loosen its leash on her.
Resin finally relents, giving Pearl the little tap on her cheek, and watching as she immediately bites down and eats the last bite of her meal. “Good job Pearl! I never would have expected you to be so well behaved during dinner time after only a few days.” It gently runs a vine up and down Pearl’s cheek, watching its floret squirm around in its lap.
“I’m only behaving because I have one arm.” Pearl reaches around, grabbing the plush with her remaining arm to make sure she has definitive control over her possession. “How in the world was I meant to eat that meal with one arm?”
“I guess you have a point, although it couldn’t be helped.” Resin laughs, its vines pressing up against Pearl’s spine, wiggling from side to side as it stands up and starts walking through the hab. “Now how about we get you all cleaned up for bedtime, and since you’ve done your best to behave since we got home, I’ll let you watch your shows to sleep again.”
“I’ve done my best to behave, all stars forsaken day, you just don’t trust anything I do.” Pearl huffs as they pass out of the living room and into the bathroom. “And have stated several times that you have no intentions of starting.”
“That’s untrue, I do genuinely want to trust you, I simply also understand that you have a habit of manipulating the truth, to protect yourself.” While Pearl is pouting, Resin snakes up a vine under her chin and starts to gently scratch it. “But I also know you’ve had a very hard day, and need to feel trusted, because if you’re not trusted by those around you, you struggle to understand the world.”
Despite how innocuously Resin presents the comment, Pearl feels her chest tighten, having to briefly wonder if her heart had stopped in its entirety. The crushing weight of being observed so casually yet again immediately crashing back down onto her.
“You know, saying shit like that doesn’t really help me.” Pearl groans out, having gone back to clutching Twig passively. Starting to take genuine comfort in the plush despite her better instincts, given it’s the only scrap of genuine comfort she’s obtained. “Pointing out someone’s foibles tends to make them more insecure, not valued.”
“Ah yes, my apologies, I was simply attempting to explain to you why I’m behaving this way.” Resin squeezes vines down around Pearl, imitating cuddling its floret as they enter the bathroom. “But I will do my best not to dig anymore at your insecurities, now I’m gonna need you to hand over Twig for a minute. I’ll give him back riiiight after your bath.”
Pearl glances down, eyeing the plush as anxiety wells up in her chest. The idea of parting from the plush genuinely upsetting her more than Resin’s treatment. “I… uh yeah, okay.” She slowly holds the plush out into the air, watching as Resin’s vines very gently wrap around the plush and pull it away.
“Awww, I’m sorry petal, but we don’t want him getting soaked in the bath now do we?” Resin slowly places the plush down on the counter across from the tub. Using two of its vines to make the plush wave at Pearl from a distance. “See, he’s right there waiting for you when you’re done.”
Pearl’s cheeks turn crimson, as Resin’s playful teasing rains down on her. Forcing herself to swallow her pride regarding the teasing as Resin peels her outfit off. “Yeah, great, let’s just get the bath over with, okay?”
“Okay okay, just stay calm.” Resin ruffles Pearl’s hair, before placing her down in the bathtub. Pressing a few buttons and filling the bath up halfway, to make sure Pearl has enough warm water to get cleaned in, while not risking its ward being unable to swim without its assistance.
Pearl walks over to the shampoo, flicking it open with her thumb, before dumping a large glob on top of her head. Starting to hum to herself as she works her way through cleaning up, explicitly going out of her way to not pay attention to or talk to Resin during the process after what had happened last time.
Resin of course simply sits outside of the tub, watching Pearl closely, but not moving or speaking the entire time. Always ready to step in if anything goes wrong, but unwilling to act until absolutely necessary. Evaluating how Pearl’s behavior around it has shifted in only these past few days, going from screaming, to attempted manipulation, and now landing at an awkward acceptance that traditional manipulation wont work on Resin. Causing the affini’s mind to wander on to the topic of what its floret is really planning, given there’s no way that she’s already given up.
While any plan or attempted rebellion can be easily overcome, the desire itself to rebel is much more difficult to remove. At least in ways that Resin would find satisfying, just for a moment its mind wanders to simply injecting Pearl with some A’s and C’s, and watching her melt away into bliss.
It shakes its head, dismissing the thought, while it would be oh so easy to ingrain that dependance. It would fail at actually solving the puzzle that is its florets behavior, an easy shortcut, not a true conquering of the girl on her level.
Just for a moment it looks over at the plush, satisfied with the effects that even just one day of having it around constantly is having. While Pearl can instinctively attempt to resist its rhythm when it’s just Resin, the small vibrations of the plush are a different story.
Taking note that Pearl has obviously developed a near immediate attachment to it, despite her initial attempts to throw it away, seeing it as a harmless bribe. She didn’t consider the implications of what could be inside her plush companion, didn’t guard herself from the replication of Resin’s rhythm.
By the time that Resin returns from its introspection on how to best proceed, Pearl is flopped down on the side of the tub. Impatiently tapping on the edge of the pool, as she waits for the affini to help her out. Obviously attempting to avoid being the first one to acknowledge the situation.
“Oh my, I’m so sorry Pearl. It seems I’ve gotten a bit caught up in my own head.” Resin laughs to itself, patting Pearl on the head. “I’m sure you know how that is don’t you?”
Pearl begrudgingly nods, her head being squished down a bit as she tries to minimize the petting. “Yes I do, now please pull me out of the tub so I can dry off and sleep. Today has been long enough as is.”
Resin nods, looping its vines under Pearl and pulling her out of the tub. “Alright I’ll leave you in here with Twig to dry off, I’m gonna go grab you some new pajamas.” It gently places Pearl down on the ground, handing her a towel, and placing Twig down on the ground next to her.
Pearl watches, almost baffled at how out of it Resin had become over the course of her bath. Wrapping the green towel around her waist as she looks down at Twig. “Fuckin weird.”
She takes a few minutes to dry herself off, before eventually getting impatient with how long Resin is taking. Picking Twig up, and marching out into the bedroom.
Using the plush to cover herself up, she looks over at Resin, who’s incredibly slowly going through each outfit. “Hey, snap outta it, I don’t wanna be nude longer than I need to, it’s cold.”
Resin’s vines all tighten up as it looks over at her. “Ah yes, I was having a hard time deciding on what to have you wear.” It pulls out two sets of clothing, one white and black pajama set with flowers similar to Resin’s, and the other a more uniform green outfit with a few red flowers. “How about you pick out whatever one you want?”
“I’ll take the first set. Thank you very much, it fits with my hair better.” Pearl sighs, walking up and grabbing the white outfit. Doing her best to put it on alone, awkwardly stumbling around and avoiding Resin’s vines as she does it.
Resin stands there and watches as Pearl stumbles around, keeping its hands at the ready to catch her if she should fall, but allowing her the chance to to handle this herself. “I must agree, your hair is lovely. Is there a particular reason for the white? Or just a fashion sense thing.”
“When I turned fifteen, I started getting white hairs, and decided to just dye the whole thing white after that.” Pearl shrugs, bundling up the sleeve that doesn’t have an arm to go in it, to keep it from dangling around. “Also it works well with my name. Why are you planning to dye it or something?”
“Oh absolutely not, I just want to make sure that it’s able to be maintained if it wasn’t natural! I think your white hair looks lovely, Petal.” Resin grins as Pearl finishes putting her pajamas on. “I can very easily give you medication to make your hair more uniformly grow in white, so you won’t have to go through the process of dying it.”
“Oh good, you can change even more things about my biology, just what I was hoping to hear.” Pearl huffs as she finishes up with the folding, reaching down and grabbing Twig. “Alright, get me up on the bed, I’m exhausted and just wanna watch something until I fall asleep.”
Resin nods, scooping Pearl up, and drinking in the fact that she’s not squirming or resisting in the slightest. “Alrighty then.” Its body slowly unravels, pulling Pearl down to lay in a little nest made out of its vines, as it slides its datapad out and turns the show on. “Anything else you need before bed Pearl?”
Pearl grumbles a bit, avoiding verbally responding, as she reaches out and grabs both the blanket and a pillow off of the bed. Putting the pillow under her head, and bundling herself up in the blanket to get a second layer of protection between herself and Resin, but pulling the plushy in with her and starting to casually snuggle it. “Nope nothing else, go to sleep and leave me to my rest please.”
Resin nods slightly, hiding its head to avoid Pearl noticing how pleased it is with her behavior. Knowing that any positive response from it, will cause Pearl to react and try to avoid the behavioral pattern to avoid making it happy.
Despite her own exhaustion, Pearl forces her eyes to stay open. Trying her best to pay attention to the show to try and stay awake, entirely counter to this desire. The gentle pressure of Twig against her chest, keeps tempting her to simply rest, Resin’s scent still annoyingly calmingly wafting up into her face due to the plush being coated in it.
Minute after minute, Pearl’s eyes blink one after another, each getting heavier and heavier with each blink. Becoming more and more difficult to force open with each minute that passes by, her thoughts starting to slowly drift over to the events of the last two days.
Resin’s self admitted manipulative behavior, the attempts at kindness, her own attempts at getting one over on it. The seemingly pointless game of cat and mouse the pair are playing during the days, only for Pearl’s plan to exclusively take place right over Resin’s nose.
The fact that she can’t seem to think about anything regarding her capture without freezing up and breaking down, how even if she manages to escape Resin’s oversight before her implantation day she doesn’t even know how to get off of this ship. She glances over at the datapad as the next episode starts, seeing an overly wordy content warning for Affini with easily startled florets that the upcoming episode has dark events, and that they might need to skip the episode, or get extra cuddles.
Rolling her eyes, and ignoring the warning, Pearl flops onto her back. She shakes and simply looks up at the ceiling as the show prattles on beside her. Letting this one last episode go by as she waits for it to be safe to continue her plan, the episode seemingly goes on forever, only to out of the corner of her eye, right near the end, to see one of the new characters get hurt. A hit straight through the chest, falling to the ground in front of the rest of the cast.
Right as the show cuts to credits, Pearl bites her tongue, tears starting to pool at the edges of her eyes. Trying to force herself back into the present to avoid dissociating, the fact that this is upsetting her at all, making her feel just as pathetic as the florets that she’d heard of.
Spurred forward by her self loathing, Pearl grabs the datapad. Flicking out of the app, through blurry eyes, she goes over to the app that’s linked to her collar. Seeing her slightly elevated heart rate on display, alongside the rest of the data that it’s been gathering on her.
Ironically, the only thing holding her back from tipping over into a complete breakdown is the gentle vibration of Twig against her chest. Providing her with a small core sense of safety, as she presses forward and studies the app further.
Despite the language barrier, there’s still things that Pearl can pick up on. Consistencies in affini UI design in particular, after all they want to make things seemingly both overly simplistic, while still being capable of complete complexity.
Taking this into account, Pearl is left assuming the main page she’s left on is the simple options. While clicking around will likely bring her into the more complex pages, meaning the release to her collar and cuffs should be on this page.
Sniffling and pulling tears back, she forces a small shaking smile, having a horribly ill advised idea. If she can see the affini version of the show names she’s watching, she can figure out what button is designed to release her cuffs.
Having gotten one step closer on her plan, Pearl flicks back over to the show and its next episode. Getting an even better, albeit rash, idea as she shrugs the blankets off of her, slamming her elbow against the vines to wake Resin up.
Resin’s vines all wiggle around, pulling its head around to look down at Pearl. Noticing how shaky its floret has become, and that she’s holding the datapad. “Oh dirt, Petal are you verbal? Can you tell me what happened?”
Pearl swallows hard, rewinding the video and showing Resin the final scene. Playing it on loop in front of the affini, weaponizing its negligence about its awareness of this show against it.
Resin’s expression drops from concern, to the closest Pearl has ever seen to defeat. “Oh my…” She gently plucks the datapad out of Pearl’s arms, before reforming its body and cradling Pearl against its chest. “I’m so sorry I didn’t know that was in this show… I never would have-” Just for its own comfort, it rewinds to the beginning of the episode, seeing the content warning and having its vines vibrate slightly. Relieved that there was at the very least some kind of warning to prevent florets from running into this on accident.
Pearl simply looks down, pulling Twig against her chest and just letting herself sob. Only able to even pretend to process or feel her own emotions while it was able to be weaponized in some way.
Resin huffs, getting up fully and walking into the living room. “Don’t worry Petal, I’m sure they’ll be okay…” Sitting down on the couch, Resin quietly rocks Pearl, vines bundling up around its core and tightening out of shame and embarrassment. “I know you probably don’t want anything right now… and given this is my fault I will respect it.” It places a hand on the back of Pearl’s neck. “But I promise it’ll be okay, I’m so proud of you.”