Resin looks down as a new floret edit cartoon plays on the tv, this one she’d taken far more precaution regarding the contents of this series. Its eyes remain locked on Pearl’s bundled up form, finally fast asleep in its vines.
Its form starts to slowly unravel and slump down, relieved to have managed to get Pearl to sleep at all after the rude awakening earlier.
A tingling core of pain sitting in its chest, as it goes over every possibility that Pearl choosing to show it her vulnerability could be.
Figuring that the intent at its base must be something related to weaponizing her pain against it. While that’s nowhere near optimal, the fact that she’s doing it at all is still progress.
With heavy vines, Resin slowly forces its way off of the couch, trudging back into its bedroom to lay Pearl down to sleep, and hopefully get some rest itself.
Once they are back in the room, Resin takes the blanket and pillow, wrapping Pearl up in the blanket alongside Twig, before laying her down on the opposite side of the bed and on the pillow. “Sleep well petal.”
With that, Resin flops over onto the bed. Its vines making a circle around where Pearl is resting, without touching her, the instinct to protect her worming its way even closer into Resin’s chest.
Pearl’s eyes slowly force themselves open, the crust from crying herself to sleep being quickly scratched off by her remaining hand. “Bleh…” She slowly forces herself out of the bundle of blankets, only to realize that Resin isn’t touching her.
Pulling Twig up against her chest, Pearl looks over at the doorway. Wondering if this would be her best chance to just try and walk out, before shaking her head reminding herself that would be too rash. “Alright I’m bored, WAKE UP!”
Resin’s vines all shoot together around Pearl, pulling her into a massive nearly suffocating in its pressure hug. “I’m right here petal, you don’t have to yell.” Wiggling Pearl around in its hug, Resin starts to slowly drag the pair of the bed. “Did you sleep well at all?”
Pearl squeaks, her bones crunching slightly as she’s crushed down within Resin’s embrace. “I’d have slept better if you weren’t crushing me.” She wiggles around, trying to escape the affini’s embrace.
“Oh yes, my apologies.” Resin gently places Pearl back down on the bed, slipping off of the side to give the girl a bit of space. “Now today is going to be a little bit more of the same… but, I did want to ask you if you’d like to go and meet one of my friends, and her floret today?”
Pearl inhales, squeezing Twig as she considers the offer. “I…” She hums, glancing around the room for a minute. Realizing the trip to the other affini’s hab may give her a better idea of the ships layout. “Yeah, that sounds good, at least then I won’t be alone here with you.”
“After last night… fair.” Resin’s form tightens up as it turns around and goes to grab Pearl an outfit to wear for the day. “Her floret is the one who recommended the show, but generally means well in my experience.”
“Oh… okay then.” Pearl shrugs, watching as Resin pulls a black and purple flower dress. Alongside a pair of more bulky almost combat boots, with white flowers on the sides of each. “Oh nice shoes gimme.”
Resin shakes its head as it turns around and puts them down on the bed. “You really are getting bold today, petal, are you sure you’re feeling alright?”
“I’m feeling fine enough, mostly just trying to adjust to the daily schedule you shoved me into, maybe I’m being open because last night hurt so much, maybe you did something to me in my sleep to make me behave this way, either way I’m acting the way I currently find most natural.” Pearl rolls her eyes, stripping her pajamas off, and tossing them over the side of the bed. Quickly slipping into the dress, and boots, as she eyes Twig.
“Ah, I guess that makes sense, it is just unusual to see you treat me this casually. Lacking a certain… venom, to your words.” Resin gently pats Pearl’s hair down, brushing it into place to make sure everything looks right. “Now would you like to take Twig with us, or do you think you’ll be fine without him until you get home?”
Pearl rolls her eyes, repressing the urge to scoff at the concept. Begrudgingly allowing Resin to brush her hair out of the mess of bedhead, and into something more reasonable. “It’s just a toy, I can go a day without it. You’re the one who’s dragged it around with us everywhere.”
“I guess you’re right, I just wanted to make sure you’d not gotten too attached and accidentally upset you, again.” Resin gently picks Twig up, making a show of placing him down on top of the dresser. Making two of the toys arms wave goodbye to Pearl. “There we go, he’s no in a nice safe spot until we get home.”
Pearl winces as Twig is for the first time in two days, pulled away from her. A pang of longing flaring up in her chest as she eyes the plush, surmising that she’s allowing herself to get too attached to her possessions again. Just like when she was little…
Resin simply watches as Pearl shudders, a small smile finding its way onto its face. Satisfied that she’s finally gotten Pearl attached to something here, thus decreasing the likelihood even by a few percent of an escape attempt. “Alright, let’s head on out.”
Pearl nods ever so slightly, sliding her way off of the side of the bed. Landing with a slight thud, and being caught by one of Resin’s vines, watching as it slides up and around her collar. “Ugh, is this absolutely necessary?”
“It’s either this, or I’m going to be carrying you during the entire walk. What do you think?” Resin raises an artificial eyebrow as it looks down at Pearl, tapping its finger against its left hip, to gesture for where Pearl needs to stand.
“I think I’d rather have you carrying me, than to be forced to walk at your side.” Pearl rolls her eyes, slowly walking over to stand next to Resin. Unsure why, but feeling even a little bit less bad about being away from Twig at this proximity to Resin.
“What’s the right way to ask me, dolly?” Resin kneels down next to Pearl, putting its arms out to force Pearl to willingly crawl into its embrace.
“Please, carry me to your friend’s house.” Pearl frowns as she looks at Resin’s vines, feeling more than a little indignant about being forced to climb her way closer to her warden.
“Good girl! Just hop on in my arms, and I’ll get us there quickly.” Resin leans in a little bit closer, its vines moving around to make a little seat for Pearl up against its chest. Its core sliding up as close to where Pearl will be sitting as possible.
“Fine, fine.” Pearl huffs, grabbing onto the vines and pulling herself forward to get up on Resin, only to stumble forward further as the affini leans back. Obviously tripping her, and forcing her to fall into its vines.
Resin laughs as Pearl’s face slams down onto its vines, moving swiftly to scoop her entire body up, and get her into a more cradling position. “Awww, you are just so cute!” It squeezes down on Pearl a little, as it turns around and walks towards the door to the hab.
“I am not cute, and I will bite off your vines!” Pearl squeaks out, flailing around in Resin’s embrace as she tries to get herself seated in a more dominant position.
“Oh will you now? I guess I’ll need to reconsider getting those vines for you after all.” Resin laughs, vines descending down on Pearl from all sides, starting to pet her, and heap torturous levels of affection onto its floret.
“No, no nevermind, you’re just agitating me!” Pearl as vine after vine presses down on her, petting her in all different spots, some more or less sensitive than others. “Please stoooooop.”
“Hmmmm…” Resin’s vines press down on Pearl a little harder. “You did threaten my vines…” It gently runs one over Pearl’s cheek, placing it right in front of her mouth. “So, you’re officially grounded until we get to Anthurium’s hab. If you’re that upset, here’s a nice vine to bite until we arrive.”
“Oh you-” Right as Pearl opens her mouth, Resin’s vine finds its way in. Leading to her biting down with it, being met with a coarse chewy bit of vegetation. Reacting initially with shock, before almost out of instinct biting down once again, in the back of her head feeling as if a long held off on itch is being scratched.
For the few seconds that Pearl seems to absentmindedly space out, Resin sneaks a hand down to rub the back of her head. Silently encouraging more of the same, partially as a way to keep her distracted while they are on the way, and also to draw Pearl closer and closer to genuine docility.
After the few cursory bites are over, Pearl tries to pull back away from the vine. Only to notice the hand holding her very firmly in place, her cheeks starting to burn furiously as they pass out into the halls of the Equabloom.
“Mah- hrmmmh- aaa!” Pearl speaks around the vine, assumedly spouting no end of pejoratives at Resin’s behavior. Her eyes darting from side as they move through the halls, instinctively shrinking down from the view of full hallways, and worse yet affini other than Resin looking at her. Judging her, knowing exactly what type of sophont she is, which means if they see her during her grand escape she’ll be busted.
Whether it be a convenient excuse, or a genuine factor, Pearl pulls her knees up to her chest and presses her head down against them, doing her best to hide every major detail that she can manage. Who cares if the affini think her to be a scared floret, if they can’t see the important details about her appearance that’s all that really matters.
“Oh you poor dear.” Resin sighs, starting to move its vines around to conceal Pearl just a little bit more. “Mixtress has you Pearl, it’s a real short walk I promise.” Its vines move to ‘inadvertently’ block the remainder of Pearl’s view of the halls. Keeping her entirely isolated in her own world.
Pearl feels a scream get caught in her throat as Resin talks to her this way, an unnatural comfort welling up in her chest in its place. As if Resin’s words were able to carry a level of implicit truth that can genuinely affect her.
In the dark cocoon of Resin’s protective vines, Pearl’s eyes sit wide open. A hidden expression of pure horror on her face, trust, genuine trust, the thing she’s managed to hide, and withhold for nearly ten horrible torturous years in the cosmic navy, this monster has begun to worm its way into that slot in barely three days.
If she’s been exposed to the creatures corrupting rhythm in her sleep is irrelevant, it’s the mental games. The carefully thought out actions, all the way down to that stars forsaken stuffed animal.
There has to be something she’s missed, a place that she’s missed having her guard up in…
Just as she’s about to continue this train of thought, light hits her curled up form. “Pearl sweetie we’re here, you can come out of your little hidey hole.” Resin’s vine slowly slips out of the girl's mouth, being reintegrated into its form.
Pearl squeaks, losing her train of thought entirely due to Resin’s sudden movement. Looking up to see an open door, and an unfamiliar affini standing before her, this one far more actively gendered, leaning more femininely with a swath of purple petals and flowers running down her back as hair, in comparison to Resin’s general attempt at androgyny. Even more confusingly, this one has vines that seem to glow blue in some places, running all the way up to a pair of deep ocean blue eyes that Pearl doesn’t dare look in for more than a millisecond.
“Oh roots, you must be so upset, come inside.” Anthurium slides out of the way, allowing Resin to quickly hurry inside and over to the couch to put Pearl down.
Resin gives Anthurium a slight nod, as it places Pearl down on the couch, and gives her a few gentle pats on the head. “Pearl really hates crowds, and the public as a whole, so walks through the ship can be a bit hard on her.” Its form detangles slightly imitating a sigh. “And she’s not quite comfortable enough yet to trust me with giving her xenodrugs during the trips.”
Anthurium gives a slight nod. “Well you two all the time you need to calm down, Jason’s been real excited about having Pearl and you visit finally.” She slowly walks over to the door to her bedroom, sliding through the door and disappearing for a moment to give Pearl space with Resin to calm down before anything else.
Looking up from her little world, Pearl’s gaze slides over this hab. Immediately noticing that unlike Resin’s hab, everything in this room is hand crafted to a nearly comical degree. The chairs all have different vines or flowers carved into them, the compiler has paintings lining its sides. She starts to go out of her way to find something that isn’t handmade. If only to find something in the hab that she finds reasonable, and only really managing to notice one terran sized chair that isn’t finished being carved, as it sits in front of a massive stack of old terran board games.
The boardgames cause Resin to exhale slightly, reminding her of killing time on board the Falling Stars. And giving her a stable object to ground herself with. “Okay… I’m fine now.” She takes a deep breath, glancing up at Resin. “Thank- you- for- keeping- me- comfortable.” She manages to spit out in short choppy, incredibly disingenuous bursts.
“Of course Pearl, it’s my job as your owner, and more than that I simply don’t desire to see you suffering.” Resin loops around and sits down on the couch, starting to maintain a bit of distance again to see how Pearl does without it or Twig close to her.
Pearl shudders, turning her head away and towards the door to the bedroom. Running the name of the boy who this affini ‘owns’ through her head, a sudden tension rocketing through her being. Captain Jason Linza they surely wouldn’t risk bringing her this close to him again would they… unless this is just another trick to try and break her down, that’s why he gave her that damn show. To secretly brag about what he’d done to her best friend.
“Hey… I wanna go meet the other floret now.” Pearl’s voice shakes slightly, as she starts to crawl down the couch. Resin’s vines actually helping her with the process.
“Alright petal, I know meeting new people can be hard, so I’ll be right behind you just in case you get nervous okay?” Resin gently pats Pearl on her back, slowly leading the way towards the door. Half anxious about how Pearl will respond to a new sophont, but also hoping despite her normal behavior that its floret will genuinely behave after the last few days she’s had.
As Pearl walks up to the door, it slowly slides back open, Anthurium standing confidently on the other side. While out from behind her leg, a short boy, wearing a black companion dress with a glowing red heart on its chest, with all too familiar brown hair, and despite his anxiety the same emerald eyes as the commander who had taken Pearl’s best friend away.
For Pearl, the world around her broke down, all of the logic that normally informs her actions fading away. It didn’t matter that there were a few minor details that didn’t line up, like the boy being shorter than her commander, or the fact her commander always exuded arrogant confidence.
Due to his tragic similarities to her captain, Pearl only saw one thing in front of her. A chance for a small speck of vengeance, even if she can’t actually kill him, she can leave a mark, make sure he knows how much she hates him for what he did.
It takes less than a second, both affini being caught off guard by the formerly anxious, barely able to move Pearl, throwing herself at Jason. The boy having shakily raised an arm to introduce himself to her, Pearl immediately biting down on it. Her jaw locking down as she collapses on top of him.
For a few glorious seconds, Pearl experiences pure jubilation, one spiteful hurrah, hurting someone who’d taken everything that mattered from her, and doing something that in her mind will lead to the affini justifying putting her down.
Beep. A sharp sting hits Pearl’s neck, and wrists as she’s flooded with xenodrugs. Her eyes immediately drifting from wild to completely out of focus, the girl flopping to the ground on her side, the thoughts of violence only moments prior, feeling like nothing more than a distant memory. The girl’s jaw distressingly not unhinging itself, and instead she simply begins to lick where she’s bitten him.
Resin is the first to move in, looking down between Jason and Pearl. Trying to figure out both what had caused Pearl to not only openly attack someone, but do it in front of two affini she knew could stop her. “Jason, I’m gonna pull her off of you, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened, just stay very still.”
Resin’s vines slowly slide into Pearl’s mouth, gently unhinging the girl’s jaw, before slowly pulling her off of Jason fully. “This is… very unlike her.” Its vines shaking vines slowly wrap around Pearl, pulling the squeaking wiggling girl up into its arms.
Anthurium is of course immediately on the ground with Jason, bundling her floret up, and quickly rushing into the bathroom with him. Both to stop the bleeding, and also to remove him from what had turned out to be a very violent sophont. Glancing up at Resin with a look of pure confusion, bleeding into a slight amount of contempt.
Resin slowly walks out of the bedroom, electing to simply place Pearl down on the couch. Given finding out why this happened is now its prime priority. “Okay, I’m going to give you something to clear your head up, alongside some D’s. Nod if you can understand me Petal.”
Pearl giggles to herself slightly, nodding as her eyes lazily drift in and out of focus. As she reaches out and wraps her arms around a few of Resin’s vines, just to elicit more contact.
Resin frowns, preparing two injections out of Pearl’s eyeshot. “Alright, deep breaths, good doll.” One after another, Resin injects Pearl with the shot to clear her thoughts up, and then the class D’s.
Over the next few minutes, Pearl’s eyes regain a level of focus, her heart dropping into her stomach as she becomes yet again actively aware of her surroundings. Immediately scampering backwards onto the couch, a look of pure rage being launched at Resin. “How could you?! Why would you make me look at him again!”
Resin’s vines slowly wiggle their way around to make a cage, blocking Pearl from escaping her little corner on the couch. “Who are you talking about Petal, from my knowledge you’ve never met Jason before.”
“Lier!” Pearl slams her arm down on the closest vine. “Captain Jason Linza, the man who killed my Isaac! You brought me here just to parade around the man who took EVERYTHING FROM ME!”
Resin’s form bundles up around itself at this accusation. Genuinely distressed that Pearl believes it would do that to her. “Petal, I need you to listen to me, that was not your Captain. That was Jason Syrium, he has never been in the cosmic navy, he’s too short to be your captain, and I would never force you to see that man again, after what he did to you Pearl.” It keeps each of its words slow and deliberate, making sure not to move on from a concept until Pearl understood exactly what it meant.
Pearl rubs her eyes, a casam of emptiness ripping its way open inside her chest, not only had she wasted all of the progress she’d made in gaining Resin’s trust, she’d not even gotten a little bit of vengeance. Instead she’d just hurt some random victim of the affini just as helpless as she is.
Resin very gently pulls Pearl into its vines, bundling her up enough to make it clear that she’s restrained. “I’m going to take you to talk to Jason, and you’re going to explain yourself and apologize, am I understood?”
Pearl silently nods, slumping down into Resin’s embrace, both of her legs, her arm, and her neck surrounded by vines. Her entire body shaking, and feeling as if she’s nearly about to float out of it, only being held within by Resin’s vines.
As the pair slowly walks into the bathroom, they’re met with Anthurium gently petting Jason. The boy sat firmly on the edge of the counter, while she applied everything necessary to make sure that he heals from the bite quickly.
Noticing Resin’s arrival, Jason squeaks. Flinching a bit as he slides backward deeper onto the counter. His eyes locked on Pearl’s slumped down form, half anxious about if she’ll attempt to attack him again, and half worried about how absolutely dejected the girl appears and why she’d even attacked him in the first place.
Resin pauses as Anthurium’s gaze flicks over towards it. Making sure to have its back against the wall on the opposite side of the room. “Pearl here has an explanation for what happened, don’t worry. She’s not lying, I put her on some D’s in the other room.” It then gives Pearl a few pats on the back, gesturing towards Jason and Anthurium.
Pearl opens her mouth slightly, the piercing gaze that she’s getting from Anthurium nearly stopping her in her tracks. “I… I thought that Jason, was-” She bites her lip, tears yet again finding their way into her eyes. “I thought that your floret was the man who killed my best friend. I thought the show you sent was to mock me for how he died, I’m so so sorry.” Despite her intense desire to hide her emotions, this mistake was just one step too far for her. Causing her to break down into a fit of tears, internally berating herself for getting another innocent person hurt.
Anthurium watches the breakdown, wrapping one of her arms around Jason. Begrudgingly accepting that she’ll simply have to trust her floret’s judgment on if he is willing to forgive this transgression from Pearl or not.
Jason watches Pearl cry, his hand drifting up to rub the spot that now has a small flower growing out of it, starting the process of repairing the bite wound. Having to take a moment to take a deep breath, before standing up on the edge of the counter. “Hey… uh, Pearl right?” He laughs to himself, forcing a small smile. “I can see why you did that now. Honestly if someone did that to me I’d get pretty mad too.”
Jumping over into Anthrium’s vines, he uses his affini’s vines to slide down to the ground. Starting to slowly walk up to where Resin is standing. Putting his hand out for Pearl, as he stands as confidently as he can manage in the bedroom. “Sooooo, do you wanna be friends?”
As Jason’s offer hits her ears, Pearl’s posture locks up. Her cries of anxiety and despair being completely undercut, by the immediate understanding that the boy she had just attacked, is providing her. She slowly uncurls herself, looking down at him with an expression of raw shock. “I… don’t really deserve to be your friend…”
“Well it’s a good thing I didn’t ask if ya deserve it now did I?” Jason takes another step closer, watching as Resin slowly sits down on the ground in front of him. Clearly keeping a tight hold on Pearl in case she tries anything else, but allowing him access to her.
Pearl weakly laughs at herself, shaking her head. “I… guess you didn’t, did you… but yes, I’d like to have a friend again.” She weakly presses her arm forward, being met with a lot of resistance from Resin, but eventually managing to put her hand out for Jason to shake it.
Without a second of hesitation Jason jumps past the hand, throwing his arms around Pearl, and pulling her into an absolutely massive hug. “Well then consider me your first new friend, why don’t ya.”
Resin’s form shudders slightly, more than a little bit anxious watching the florets as they hug. Obviously concerned about even the miniscule possibility that Pearl will attempt to get another bite in at Jason.
Pearl instead simply slumps forward into the hug, the simple warmth of Jason’s compassionate touch driving her to use all of her strength to pull away from Resin’s vines, knowing better than to believe that she can beat out Resin’s grip if it really wants to hold her in place, despite this she forces her arm forward wrapping it around him, and returning the hug. “Thank you…”
Anthurium very slowly kneels down behind Jason and Pearl. Appraising Pearl during the pair’s hug. “You should be happy that Jason is so compassionate.” She barely whispers out, a tone just harsh enough to unsettle Pearl coating her voice.
Pearl ducks her head down even further, clinging to Jason as genuine fear rocks her senses. Unable to hide behind any of the lies that she’d normally tell herself about how she feels, her desire to live in particular finding its way to the front of her thoughts.
“Mistress!” Jason huffs, squeezing Pearl a little harder, nearly enough to crush the girl with surprising strength. “You’re obviously scaring her.” Sliding his way deeper into Resin’s vines, he pulls Pearl’s back against his chest. “And you and I both know, I did stupid things because of my trauma when I first showed up, she said sorry! Annnnd clearly means it, so she should be forgiven!” He puffs his cheeks out as he looks in Anthurium’s direction.
Anthurium’s vines pull together, bundling around her chest. “I know petal, but you’ve never attacked anyone like that, and she’s from a farelist ship.” She slowly reaches out, petting Jason lightly a few times. “I promised I wouldn’t let anyone who could hurt you again near you.”
“I… yeah, I gotta agree with your owner.” Pearl’s expression at this point as she’s held by Jason is nearly entirely blank. Not due to a lack of emotion being felt, but more so because of how many emotions are coming up, and being completely unequipped to handle even the smallest one of them. “I’m a horrible person, I trick people, I lie constantly, but… I’m not violent.”
“Well you heard it here first, Pearl isn’t violent, so you don’t need to worry about me!” Jason sticks his tongue out at Anthurium. “After all, the lying and tricks are no danger as long as she belongs to Miss Resin. I swear I’ve seen it beat even you at chess.”
Not violent, that phrase runs through her head over and over, but isn’t she though? Sure she’s never attacked someone like that before, never gotten so physical with her aggression, but she still did things to hurt everyone who she mistrusted in the past. Just in more subtle ways, setting them up to be hurt by others, because she was too scared to do it herself.
“I… must agree with Jason and Pearl this time, Anthurium.” Resin puts a gentle hand on the back of Pearl’s head. “I… should have been more cautious about introducing Pearl to Jason, but now that you’ve seen how she acts when she’s not having a ptsd episode… I do hope you’ll allow her to come and see Jason more after her implantation.”
Anthurium nods ever so slightly. “After she’s gotten her implant there won’t be anything to worry about in the first place, and even with your shortsightedness today, you’re still one of my best friends Resin. Of course you can visit more.” She reaches a vine out, slowly tracing it along Pearl’s cheek. “And I expect to see you be on your best behavior in the future Pearl.”
Pearl’s head tilts up slightly, her eyes shaking as they lock onto Anthurium’s. Not even having enough time to consider the implications of Resin’s last statement, as she starts to become enamored with the beauty of Anthurium’s rippling ocean blue eyes. Fractal upon fractal building upon one another, too much for her to even pretend to comprehend as her breathing starts to steady itself.
Just for a moment, everything for Pearl goes quiet. Similarly to her few experiences with class M’s, the normal flood of thoughts that overwhelm every single one of her waking moments, are forced into a calm quiet through her raw fascination with the affini’s eyes.
Then, there’s an injection on her thigh, her eyes quickly becoming as heavy as lead, as her body slumps back and she’s dragged down into sleep.
Resin pulls the injection of class Z’s away. Sighing as she starts to pull Jason very slowly off of Pearl. “Okay… I think that’s more than enough excitement for one day.” It gently pets Jason a few times. “Thank you for helping her, but for now I need to bring Pearl home, and think about how I’m going to handle her going forward.”
Jason nods, hopping down off of Resin’s lap, before rushing over and allowing Anthurium to scoop him up into her vines. Nuzzling into her vines ever so slightly. “Of course, everyone needs a friend eventually after all…” He chuckles a bit, as vines start to carefully bundle him up.
Anthurium’s more protective impulses running rampant, cocooning him away from the universe to make sure nothing can even dare touch her precious floret.