“You really shouldn’t be so hard on yourself.” Isaac laughs, kicking his legs off the side of his bunk. Sitting across from Pearl onboard the Falling Stars. “I mean you had a pretty shit life, lying to make your way here doesn’t make you an irredeemable devil, or anything.”
“Isaac what the fuck is a devel?” Pearl laughs to herself, looking away from the boy as a failed attempt at deflecting from the topic of their current conversation. “And I’m pretty sure in a lot of people’s eyes, I am.”
“Oh it’s a weird red thing holding a pitchfork.” Isaac snickers to himself, jabbing at Pearl’s side with three fingers to emulate a pitchfork. “It tortures all ye sinners!” He snorts at the concept. “If they were real, I bet we’d both be seeing one someday.”
“Oh don’t you get started on that again, Isaac you’re about as harmless as a kitten. You’d never see something like a ‘de-vol’.” Pearl does weak air quotes, before hitting Isaac on the shoulder. “I swear the shit your family sold you in that book is fucked. And that’s coming from me, Mistress of parroting Cosmic Navy slogans.”
“Eh, no weirder than a species of invading plant people who wanna turn us all into slaves.” Isaac shakes his head, flopping on his side, and pretending to die from Pearl’s punch. “So if a demon man ripped a hole in reality, and promised eternal torment… well it’s not the biggest stretch.”
“No, the plant monsters have a scientific reason for them to exist, they aren’t extra dimensional monsters. They’re just as fallible as the rest of us.” Pearl rolls her eyes, groaning at the fact that Isaac has committed to pretending to be dead. “Well you keep being dead over there, I’m gonna try to get some fuckin sleep.”
Isaac sticks his tongue out at Pearl, as he flops over onto his back, and decides to take Pearl’s advice and just get some sleep. Ever since the start of the invasion, the time to rest each night has been getting shorter and shorter, as ship after ship is succinctly captured.
Peal on the other hand rolls over on her bed, and starts to pry a loose panel off. Pulling a small blackmarket communicator out, shoving it under her covers, and starting to reread everything her grandmother taught her about sewing. Hoping that at the very least it will keep her conscious of the fundamentals once this hell of a war ends.
Pearl sits down on Isaac’s bunk, a simply blank expression on her face. The room around her is entirely turned over, Isaac is gone, and she’s going to be on guard to keep him and the rest of the detractors in their cells until the captain decides what to do with them.
Meaning there’s only one thing left for her to do, plan out the biggest most convincing lie that she can possibly find, and get Isaac the hell out of this ship, and this whole war as a whole.
That or hoping foolishly that the affini would arrive, see him as a hostage, and not send him into the mines. At the very least then the only person on this forsaken ship worth saving would be safe.
With a groan, Pearl pushes herself off of the bed, dragging her feet as she walks towards the containment cells. Unable to draw out even her normal fake enthusiasm. The genuine possibility that Isaac could be executed because of her looping in her head.
Everything feels heavy, more so than even the normal exhaustion, and depression that greets her every morning, worse still the pressure on top of her feels warm.
One eye tentatively cracks open, to garner intel on exactly how fucked she is. Only to find she’s no longer on the opposite side of the cell from Twig, and instead has been pulled inside of Resin’s chest.
It takes everything in Pearl’s power not to scream right there, the raw horror of being tangled up inside of Resin hitting her in waves. It had already cut her on accident once, and now she’s inside that writhing mass of spikes, even the slightest move could risk a thousand tiny punctures.
Which brings a bigger question, how did she get pulled in here in the first place? Resin was blatantly avoiding contact yesterday, switching up on a dime yet again doesn’t seem like it.
Cracking her second eye open, and taking a closer look at the area reveals the most probable cause of her predicament. Resin’s datapad has fallen down, and is running a new show she can’t quite draw out of her groggy memories of the previous evening. She’d fallen asleep while fucking with the shows, and Resin likely took it as an open invitation to pin her down like this.
“Resin?” The word barely escapes her lips in a murmur, the striking fear of her warden possibly discovering her plan of escape rolling down her spine. “Are you awake?”
It only takes a minute for the vines to start moving ever so slightly, pressing down against Pearl, and keeping her pinned down on the bed, while carefully avoiding crushing her. “Good morning petal, I’m so happy you elected to join me on this side of the bed last night.” Echos quietly right behind Pearl’s ear, vines gently running up, and down the girl’s side.
“It… was a mistake, I was tired and trying to switch shows.” Pearl squeaks as she’s pinned down, a vine coming up under her chin to keep her gaze locked on the datapad. “I fell asleep over here, on accident.”
“Awww, on accident was it?” Resin’s entire body purrs as it presses down a little harder. “And here I was thinking you were finally warming up to me, little doll.”
“I will-” Right as she’s about to continue, a few vines slide Twig up and in front of Pearl’s face.
“Oh I know you will sweetie, after all, if you weren’t you’d have tried to escape by now? Maybe thrashed a bit for fun?” Resin’s voice comes in waves, each possibility being described with the cold precision of a vet observing a fearful pet. “Is there something you’re scared of?”
Pearl shudders, biting the inside of her cheek to keep herself from breaking out into a panic. “The spikes Resin. Like the one that got me the first night.” She barely whispers each word into the back of Twig’s head, being left lingering in silence for several minutes after they come out. Unsure if Resin heard, or is simply still waiting for a response from her.
Then, there’s laughter, surrounding every inch of her as Resin’s form dances around her. All of the vines detangling, and reformatting themselves, in a dance that could be nothing less than showing off for the sake of it. Leaving Pearl flat on her spot in the bed, as Resin twirls around and does a small bow. “Oh Pearl, I clipped all those stray spikes the day that you got hurt.”
Pearl simply lays there with wide eyes, watching as the spiked thorns that comprise Resin’s teeth twist into a smile. Deeply unsure of if this is the affini taking out its frustration on her, or if this is what Resin giving what it views as affection is like.
Resin continues to smile as it steps away, and walks over to the dresser. “Well get up then petal, we’re a bit more restricted in options when it comes to how to spend our time, but I refuse to give up on getting you to an accepting state, before the implantation.” It pats its thigh, and points down at where it wants Pearl to stand.
“Oh yeah, you want me calm, before you destroy my brain, that seems achievable.” Pearl grumbles to herself quietly, instinctively pulling Twig up against her chest.
“It’s just as achievable as cohersing your attachment to Twig was, I’ll have you know.” Resin uses her free hand to flick through clothing options for Pearl, eventually selecting a bright pink outfit, with little white flowers in the shape of lilly’s dotting along the shoulders. “Now come on over here, or do you want me to start helping you with everything again?”
Pearl shakes her head, forcing herself up onto her feet, as her arm wraps tighter around Twig. Last night she’d made the mistake of allowing herself to let Resin get ahold of him, and that’s not a mistake she’s willing to make again. Even if being teased for her attachment to him is absolutely tortuous.
Once she’s at the edge of the bed, Pearl uses the steps and walks over to the dress. Gently placing Twig on the ground next to the bed, to keep a bit of space between him and Resin, before putting her hand out for the dress to be given.
“Not feeling talkative anymore?” Resin raises an eyebrow as it places the outfit into Pearl’s hand. Taking a few steps away to give her space to change.
Pearl shakes her head, turning around and starting to meticulously change her outfit. Ditching the fluffy pajamas, for the relative exposure the dress puts her in, having no sleeve to hide the patch of green biomater where her arm should be.
“That’s alright, I’ll be in the kitchen making you breakfast, you may join me at your leisure.” Resin then simply walks away, opening the door to the bedroom, and heading over to their hab’s kitchen.
Once she’s done changing, Pearl exhales sharply. Twig’s presence thankfully allows her to not deal with any discomfort from Resin’s absence as she takes another look around the room… and notices that Resin’s datapad has been left both on, and with her.
“Fuck…” She just can’t help herself as she turns back, and scurries up onto the bed, pulling the datapad into her hand. “It’s fucking testing me.” She clinches the pad in her hand as she starts to march towards the door, pulling Twig into her arm and against her chest. This is going to be humiliating.
Passing into the living room, Pearl glances over to see Resin working in the kitchen. Whipping some unseen mixture together, that is wafting out the smell of fresh baked pancakes, and strawberries. “Hey!” She wiggles the datapad in her hand. “You forgot your datapad in bed.”
Resin pauses her cooking, flipping the pancake before dumping it down onto a plate. “Oh did I now?” It laughs to itself, electing to leave the small stack of warm pancakes behind for a moment to deal with Pearl. “I’m glad you noticed little one, I would have hated to not have it on hand, when you wanna watch your shows again.”
Pearl sighs, holding the datapad out while Resin wraps a vine around it, and plucks it out of her grasp. Going out of its way to avoid touching her yet again. “Yeah that would have been the worst.” She mumbles out, voice a dead monotone. “Is food ready yet?”
“About to be in a few minutes, why don’t you get up on your chair, and I’ll finish cooking.” Resin slowly slides the datapad into its chest, obviously making a show of it slowly sliding in, and disappearing.
“Alright, and then is there anything you want me to do, after that?” Pearl shrugs, tossing Twig up onto the chair, before starting to attempt to scramble up onto it on her own. Huffing and puffing by the time she flops down on top of it.
“Oh, nothing in particular, any trip outside of the hab would have you on class M’s anyway, so unless you want to spend time around me, I’ll be in our bedroom catching up on some work that I’ve fallen behind with.” Resin goes back to preparing the meal, putting whipped cream around the edges and on top, before cutting up pieces of strawberry and dispersing them around the top.
“You’re just… leaving me alone?” Pearl raises an eyebrow, leaning back in her seat. Her chest feeling like it's collapsing around her heart. “I don’t buy it. Not after what happened with Jason, you aren’t even allowed to leave me alone.”
“While that’s what they’d like, yes. But I would prefer you to bond with me willingly, opening yourself up, and allowing me to help you with your struggling emotions.” Resin frowns slightly, placing the full plate, and fork, in front of Pearl. “But I will not attempt to force it any further, your implantation is inevitable, and you will eventually warm to me.”
“So you’re just giving up, eh?” Pearl shrugs, picking the fork up, and starting to poke at the stack of pancakes. “Can’t blame you, everyone’s always said I had a head as thick as steel.” She sighs onto a piece she cuts off of the stack, before shoving it into her mouth and swallowing.
“Well I must disagree, you’re not dense, you simply don’t allow yourself to be affected by those you don’t trust.” Resin goes over to the compiler, and compiles a cup of chocolate milk, before placing it down on the table. “Hence my constantly evolving strategies when it comes to handling you, I want to do everything in my power to help you understand me, given you can empathize more with things you understand.”
“I don’t empathize with anyone.” Pearl shrinks down a little more, poking at and taking little bites of her meal. Trying to make herself small enough to disappear, or at the very least shake Resin’s attention.
“Oh don’t be like that, you clearly care a bit about little Jason don’t you?” Resin sits down across from Pearl, but keeps its back to her. Leaning slightly against the table as they talk.
“I felt guilty for attacking a victim of your… corruption.” Pearl clenches her fist around the fork, frustrated about having her behavior around Jason called out in any positive way. “And how could you prove that my supposed remorse, wasn’t just another of my lies.”
“Because you cried.” Resin slowly stands up, walking around the table and towards the bedroom. “So unless you’re the best terran actor I’ve ever met, I chose to believe that was an all too rare moment of vulnerability with you.” As it stands in the doorway, Resin glances back at Pearl, slowly propping the door open so she can come in whenever she wants. “I’ll be in here if you get lonely, ask the hab if you wanna watch one of your shows.”
As soon as Resin passes into the bedroom and disappears from sight, Pearl drops her fork and just sits there. Eyes locked on her breakfast, but unable to find the energy to take another bite. What’s wrong with Resin, it’s giving her opening after opening to plan more of her escape, it’s… it’s just so careless!
Which doesn’t make any sense, everything Resin has done ever since meeting her has been so detailed. Meticulous plans, and tricks to get under her skin, and this- well it’s just nothing!
She slams her fist against the table, an aching pain shooting its way through her arm from the impact. Why does she even care that Resin is giving up? Shouldn’t it be a good thing that the massive weed doesn’t want to bother anymore.
So why does it hurt so badly? It’s not fair, none of this is fair. She blinks rapidly, tears forming at the edge of her vision.
It’s because you miss him, echos through her brain, her arm jolting to the side as she grabs Twig by his neck. “You…” She growls out, tossing the plush onto the ground. “I shouldn’t have ever entertained this.”
Hopping down onto the ground in front of Twig, she takes slow shallow breaths as she approaches the plush once again. “So that’s it, I give up.” She allows her legs to simply give out under her, slamming into the ground with a crunching thud. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts. “No more plans, just spite.”
She slowly puts her hand on Twig’s neck, before sliding her knee over both of its legs pulling it taught. Before leaning in with her mouth open baring her teeth, and finding one of the seams of the neck of her plush.
In one swift motion she bites into the plush, locking her jaw down as tightly as she can manage. The unpleasant taste of fluff and floral scents flooding her mouth, as she starts to tug on the weak point of Twig’s design.
Despite how unpleasant it tastes, Pearl only starts to thrash harder. Her head shaking from side to side, the sound of ripping echoing in her ears, as stuffing starts to flood down onto the ground. Her hand pressing upward as hard as humanly possible to worsen the damage.
Her knee pressing down as hard on the legs as possible, as the head in its entirety popps off of Twig’s body. Leaving it dangling out of her mouth as the decapitated beeple plush lays flat on the ground, a small disk shaped device, that has vines and flowers identical to resin’s inside of it, sitting in the middle of the plush mess. Only barely noticing it through the fog of tears messing with her vision.
Pearl spits the head out of her mouth, as she crawls over and grabs the disk. Starting to laugh wildly, as she pulls it into her hands, a feeling of immense warmth burgeoning on her fingertips, causing her to drop it. Hissing at the spot where it landed. “I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!”
Standing up, she instead elects to stomp down on it, each hit causing her to shudder as a shot of warmth from the rhythm echos through her bare foot.
This fit is only stopped when a firm pressure lands on her back. “Pearl.” Resin loops a finger around the hook on Pearl’s collar, pulling the girl’s gaze up, and away from the mess on the floor.
Pearl’s eyes struggle futally to stay locked on the ground as her head is forced up, refusing to acknowledge what she’d just done or why she’d done it.
“Pearl Wils, what is wrong.” Resin slowly kneels down in front of Pearl, using its free hand to start to sweep what remains of Twig into a little pile. Wanting to have the plush hidden from Pearl as quickly as possible. “I thought you wanted me to leave you alone, was I incorrect?”
“I just wanted to hurt you by destroying it.” A lie, but a believable one. She takes a sharp shallow breath, nailing her eyes shut to keep tears from continuing to leak out. “After all you’re the one who got me him just to manipulate me in the first place. You should have expected me to do this eventually.”
Resin shakes its head, slowly reaching around and scooping Pearl up into its arms. “Alright, so you’re going to lie for now, that’s okay.” She slowly pulls the remains of the plush away, and hides him inside of its vines. “But until you’re ready to tell the truth, I’m going to be holding you.”
“I’m not lying, I wanted to hurt you!” Pearl hisses out, her body holding itself rigid against Resin’s form. Only barely holding herself back from throwing what would be an all too pointless punch at Resin’s vines. “I was angry, I am angry, and I want to hurt you so badly. But I can’t do it physically… so you saw what I did.”
“But this doesn’t hurt me Petal, it only hurts you.” Resin slowly walks over to the bed, and sits down on the corner. “You know, to me it feels like you were trying to get my attention, do you have any idea why you’d want to do that?”
“Because you’re driving me insane day by day, and fostering the need for constant dependance, before abandoning me just like everyone else!” Pearl’s hand clinches into a fist, doing everything in her power to push what’s left of her nails into her fingers. “You’re a monster…”
“Pearl, you made it very clear you didn’t want anything to do with me, I was simply respecting that. I left the door open for you, if you were lonely you just needed to tell me.” Resin gently runs her hand in circles along Pearl’s back. “Perhaps the others were right, having you on M’s while I’m not around would be safer.”
Pearl shudders, pressing herself ever so slightly against the affini’s massive palm in an attempt to back away. “N- no, please, I can’t…” She chokes on her own words, the concept of being left alone as that pathetic rag doll. Nothing to distract her, just… nothing.
Resin winces, pulling Pearl all the way against its chest. “What can’t you do Pearl?” It gently runs its free hand through Pearl’s hair, remorseful it took Pearl pushing herself this far for her to actually accept Resin comforting her on any level, without already being drugged.
“Not alone, please, no.” Pearl grabs the vine closest to her hand, tugging it down as she allows herself to look up at Resin, both of her eyes red from tears. Simply begging for this tiny mercy. “Please, I don’t wanna be like that alone…”
Resin looks Pearl in the eyes, its face locking into a fully neutral expression to avoid worrying the girl about its headspace, or to risk allowing Pearl to convince herself that opening up like this is a bad thing. “Well then… I guess we’re going to be together at all times now then?” It allows its voice to hold a slight amount of hope as it speaks. Trying to guide Pearl to the correct answer.
Pearl winces, closing one of her eyes as she looks over at the edge of the bed. “I… guess we will, if that’s what it takes.” Despite looking away, she doesn’t try to move herself out of Resin’s embrace, allowing the affini’s arm to wrap more tightly around her. “I’m… sorry I ruined Twig.”
“Don’t worry, Twig isn’t ruined, while you did a lot of damage, yes, we will put him back together once you’ve got your other arm back.” Resin starts to gently massage both of Pearl’s shoulders. “He’ll be good as new.”
Pearl shrugs, as Resin’s hands dance down her sides. “I guess, it’s not like that’ll really be me though. Just… a husk.”
“Pearl.” Resin unciols its vines, before tightening them again and sending air rushing out. “You will be the same person even after getting your implant, that’s what I’ve been trying my hardest to ensure for you.” She gently squeezes Pearl. “While yes, I tricked you by leaving details out regarding Twig, I have gone out of my way to never lie to you.”
Pearl squeaks as the air rushes past her, starting to think back on everything that Resin has ever said to her. Something that at first she’d believed to be a never ending cavalcade of lies, but at this point the consistency of everything is becoming too overwhelming. There’s normally flaws, mistakes, inconsistencies in thinking, something, anything! To cling onto and allow her to find the lie, but there’s just nothing.
The first day was a cavalcade of explanations about what happened, questions about-
She shakes her head, the second day consisted of Resin openly admitting every manipulation tactic that it is employing against her without a moment of hesitation. Giving her Twig-
She shakes her head, the third day she was brought to visit Jason-
She shakes her head, the fourth day she met Celosia, and Resin did everything in its power to protect her from Anthurium-
She shakes her head, finally today, it seemed like Resin just… gave up.
Taking a deep breath, she tries to dig into the rage of abandonment. Only to be met with smoldering ash in her chest, rather than a roaring flame, after all how could she blame Resin for giving up on even pretending to care, when every single day she has done nothing but yell at, and insult it.
A gentle pressure starts pressing against Pearl’s cheek a few times, causing her to pause her thought process to actually start processing the room around her, and see what’s happening.
Resin’s pointer finger is gently prodding at her, wiping away tear after tear, and obviously trying to get her attention back after witnessing Pearl start to internally spiral.
“Bwa…” Pearl shakes her head, as Resin shifts her around for them to be sitting across from one another. “Where were we? I kinda… got caught up in my head again.”
“We are talking about trust Pearl, specifically your capacity to trust me.” Resin gently places a palm on Pearl’s cheek, holding it just enough to make sure that Pearl doesn’t try to look away again.
“Oh… yeah right, I mean. How do you expect me to be able to trust you?” Pearl’s expression turns to a grimace, pulling her arm in front of her chest protectively. “Even if you haven’t been lying to me about any of the things you affini do, that you’re really that much infinitely better to be under the boot of instead of the accord. You still… you still took Isaac from me.”
“Pearl, do you really think that?” Resin pauses, wondering if saying what what it’s thinking is going to do any good, or if it’s just going to hurt Pearl more. “Or… are you mad that we didn’t let you die?”
A shiver shoots through Pearl, her spine locking into place as she’s forced to sit as straight up as possible. “I’m mad because it should have been me, I’m mad because if I’d done more than just put my dumbass arm out, then Isaac might be alive!” She throws her hand over the vines on her shoulder, grabbing onto them. “I deserve to be dead, he doesn’t.”
“Pearl, we can’t… go back in time. That’s the one thing even us affini have been stuck with for as long as I can remember.” Resin flashes a small smile, making sure not to allow her mask to crack wide enough for the thorns that comprise her teeth to look jagid. “But even if you think you deserve death, I… can not, will not, agree and I would say that Isaac felt the same way.”
“Shut it!” Pearl snaps out, slamming her body up against Resin’s chest. Only getting two body slams in, before Resin’s vines manage to tighten back up around her, pinning every inch of her body down against Resin’s chest, as even then she attempts to do anything in her power to hit Resin. “Shut it, shut it, shut it!”
Resin squeezes down on Pearl, making sure to get her thigh still enough to put together a class M injection, before slipping the needle in. “Shhhhh, Pearl… We looked over everything that was on your datapad, as well as getting reports from other sophonts aboard your ship. Isaac had openly admitted to everything, he didn’t just refuse to talk, he covered for you.”
Suddenly everything feels wrong, so horribly wrong. She can’t see anything but Resin’s bright green vines, but it feels like the world around her is shifting, cracking, breaking.
It was bad enough when she was just a bad person, hurting an innocent man for her own selfish gain. Especially given no one would believe a thing he said anyway, but Jason actively chose to protect her. It could have been someone else they tried to use as an example if he hadn’t protected her.
It’s all your fault, it’s all your fault, it’s-
Her body involuntarily goes limp, the feeling of a blanket being tossed on top of her thoughts. Still able to hear the muffled cries of murder, monster, devil. But it’s more distant now, held away from the forefront of her thoughts, as she’s left floating in Resin’s embrace.
Her body being tossed around, from vine to vine, limp like a ragdoll, and bearing witness to every inch of Resin’s distress. Vines dancing around, typing on its datapad, glancing down at her repeatedly with all the concern she’d lacked for the majority of her life.
Just one more person making the same mistake with her, bothering to care. It would have been so much easier if she’d been right about the affini, if she’d been right about Isaac, if she was right about Jason, if she’d just been allowed to… die.