After a few minutes the pair arrives at Nix’s hab. The door sliding open to reveal a surprisingly well maintained home, whether it was from lack of use, or Nix’s upkeep it wasn’t easy for Sola to tell.
“Just so you know, my painting room is kinda a mess right now, I didn’t have the energy to clean up last night. Then well, you know what I was up to this morning.” Nix walks over to the stairway, up onto the larger couch. Flopping down onto it, letting the tension drain out of her posture.
Sola smiles and nods. “That is perfectly alright, I understand.” She then takes out the covered canvas she was carrying on her back. “H-here, I made this for you.” She takes a moment to steal herself, and pulls the cloth off of it, revealing a series of colors situated in such a way to resemble a lizard girl. Surrounding her are vines forming a heart shape, various flowers blooming along their length against a sunset background. “I hope you like it, if you don’t I understand.”
Nix rolls over, looking at the painting. “Sola… why would I not like it? I mean, I’m kinda astounded at how much better you are than me at painting actual bodies, and flowers, but it looks absolutely beautiful!” She slowly gets back up, looking around her living room. “Maybe you can hang it up over there.” She points to the space next to her bedroom door. “That way I can see it, whenever I’m hanging out in here.”
Sola perks up, and if she had legs instead of the mass of vines she uses, she would be skipping with how bouncy she seems. Sola hangs it up, making sure it is just right, before flowing back over to Nix, and sitting down with her. Reaching inside her mass and pulling out a little blue flower, tucking it behind Nix’s ear, smiling softly down at her. “Thank you for inspiring me to give painting a try.”
“Hey it’s no problem, even if you’d decided it wasn’t something you wanted to do, I’d not have any issues!” Nix gently rubs the flower over her ear. Happy to have one on her head in general, at this point. “Honestly that painting is perfect to go along with the game, why don’t we pull a table over. Set it up, and then I’ll bring you in, to show off what I’ve been working on!”
Sola nods, and moves the smaller coffee table, starting to set up the game. She lays out the decks, and places the pieces in their respective locations. “I’m very excited to see whatever it is, Nix. I know you are a little tired, would you like me to carry you? Or are you feeling better now?” She grins at Nix’s look. “Also I think having a flower behind your ear on one side, and then the implant flower on your eye on the other will give you fun ways to accessorize.”
“Carry me Sola! We’re not in public anymore, and my back hurts!” Nix swoons slightly, reaching out and letting Sola pick her up. Finding herself quickly placed inside of Sola’s chest, being allowed to curl up to be accented by all of the flower grafts that Sola had gotten for her. “And I’ll keep that in mind.”
Sola walks to Nix’s art room and smiles, seeing the covered paints to ensure they don’t dry out, but nothing really beyond that. “I’m going to be honest, this is actually pretty cute. That and I imagine if you are doing work, taking breaks, and going right back to it, it wouldn’t make too much sense to fully clean up.”
“Yeah, just pull off the cover from that one.” Nix points out of her cubby at a medium sized canvas in her corner. That has a sheet covering it up. “That’s the one I’ve been working on this whole time. I’ve had to scrap a few while I was making it, but I think it turned out well.”
Sola nods and makes her way over, taking the sheet and pulling it off playfully dramatically.
The painting itself is remarkably simple. The canvas has three distinct segments, in the middle is a dark blue triangle that blurs at the edges. Being flanked on the right by a brilliant sunset, while on the left there's a crimson flame. Both edging in slightly on the middle but never quite piercing the blue.
She gasps and pets Nix as she looks over the painting. “Nix, it is beautiful, I’m so proud of you.”
"Ah come on Sola. It's pretty simple all things considered, but I am glad you like it. Mixing the colors to make the sunset look like your petals, took way more attempts than I'm willing to admit." Nix rolls her eye, blushing slightly at her admittance.
Sola smiles, and lets some of her vines give Nix little pets. “Do you know how many attempts I did before I was happy enough with mine? Yours is very unique, and I love it because of that. When I look at this, I see your emotions as you were working on it. There is one terran saying that I am positive that I remember correctly, a picture says one thousand words. And yours has so many to tell.”
Nix grumbles, simply relaxing and letting the vines pet her. "I guess I'm going to have to draw one of the red cards today." She looks over her painting one last time. "I'm glad you like it though, you're the motivation for a lot of my painting, so having you like it means a lot."
Sola takes a seat in the center of the room, letting her vines flow out a little bit before holding Nix close and resting her head on top of Nix’s “You are welcome Nix, honestly, I didn’t really focus much on things beyond the base recovery before I took you in. I either spent time with my patients, or hanging with one of my friends. Through you I’ve learned a lot about really looking at other things and appreciating them, from knowing when to just lay back and enjoy an hour of nothing, to skipping along a pattern on the ground.”
Nix blushes, shaking her head as she finds herself pulled tighter against Sola. "I didn't do anything special…" As Sola's gentle pulsing rhythm echoes all around her, Nix feels that itch in her chest start fighting again. Reminding her of her complete lack of importance, the fact she doesn't deserve the praise she's had heaped upon her. That she'd somehow lucked out, and made everything worse, by getting her independence. "I'm sure you'd find someone else eventually…"
“Nix… I don’t think I would have.” Sola sighs, resting a little bit of weight on Nix, just enough to be present without crushing the girl. “I’ve… spent a long time looking. I’ve worked mostly with florets in recent years, but I’ve been around plenty of independent sophonts. None of them ever really… connect with me. I’m always happy to help others heal, but they themselves didn’t make me… happy being me?”
Nix curls up deeper into her cubby, trying to pull away from Sola's head. Whimpering as Sola goes on about how important she is, how much she's affected the poor affini, and then denied her. She shouldn't even feel guilty about that fact, but the more Sola talks about it, the worse it feels. Nix is able to feel the desperate calls of the affini's rhythm, trying to get her to come. To kneel at Sola's foot, and be protected for the rest of her life. "Please stop…" She barely whispers out, tears welling up in her eyes. "Please, it hurts…"
Sola gasps, and pulls out of her thoughts. “I’m so sorry Nix!” She slowly pulls Nix out of her cubby, and supports the girl facing her. “I got caught up in my fears. I shouldn’t be doing that when we are supposed to be just enjoying our date. Do you feel up to painting? Or do you want to just find something else to focus on?”
Nix puts her hands on her head, starting to shake violently. Her new position in the room making her feel almost naked in comparison to the safety of her little compartment. "I don't know… I don't." She chokes on her own words, turning away from Sola. Internally berating herself for getting this upset, trying to figure out how to fix it and only leaving herself more confused. The minor pain emanating from her back, not helping matters in the slightest. "I'm sorry!"
Sola shakes her head, and pulls Nix in close, wrapping her vines around the girl. “It is ok Nix, I will keep trying to make you mine of course, but just getting to be around you makes me very happy. I don’t want you hurting though, you are far too special to hurt like that.” She takes a moment, before starting to hum a little bit, her own rhythm setting the pace, but it’s obvious she’s humming something more than that. “It will all be okay Nix, you don’t need to worry.”
Nix grips onto the provided vines, unsure if she should recoil. Assert herself, and make it clear that she wants independence, or simply melt into this embrace accepting the care she desperately craves.
In this moment, she can't hold herself back any longer, pressing her head into Sola’s vines, and openly crying. Doing the closest thing, she'll allow herself to beg for help.
Sola flinches, before simply holding Nix close and rocking her. “Nix, you are such a sweet and special girl. How long have you been holding back this hurt? If I brought this to the surface, I am so so sorry, I will do my best to make you feel better.” She stops holding back, her rhythm beating as normal, allowing herself to really focus on using her vines to keep Nix blanketed and supported. “You are such a special loveable girl, and I wouldn’t trade away any of our time, and experiences together for the whole wide universe.”
"Stop calling me special! I'm nothing, NO ONE, I… I didn't deserve all of this damn it!" Nix's arms are being kept down by the blanket of vines, but she's violently scratching them. Clearly not out of a desire to harm Sola, but just to get out the energy running through her. "I shouldn't have gotten any of this! I was meant to fail, just like the rest of my life! Why, WHY, did you have to believe in me!?"
Sola grabs Nix’s arms, and uses her vines to make Nix look her in the face, regardless of Nix’s aversion to looking others in the eyes. “Nix, you are special and worth believing in! You are a beautiful young lady who has had a hard life. You can push through and make a case for independence even with the cards stacked against you, regardless of what I believe your feelings are deep down. I believe in you, because I saw a spark to make a difference. I believe in you because everyone needs someone to believe in them.” She gently kisses Nix’s forehead. “I believe in you because I love you, and I believe in you, because it is obvious that you do not believe in yourself. You need a support structure, and if you can’t do that for yourself, I will ALWAYS be that for you.”
Nix shakes, looking in Sola’s eyes. "I need an owner. I know that's what you're saying." She clenches her fists, doing her best not to stab her palms with her nails. "Stars I can't even say you're wrong! And I hate that fact, I was doing well with the structure… and while I can survive like this, I'm just not as happy! Every part of me is pulled in a thousand different directions, all because of you…" She thumps her hand against one of Sola's vines. "Because you made me fucking care, you laid a hundred tiny traps without even knowing it, and now every time I look at you my heart breaks. It hurts me Sola… you hurt me, I look at you, feel your call, and I deny it. Knowing it hurts you, and that hurts me."
Sola looks down, and whimpers quietly. “I’m sorry Nix… I have been so worried about you. I know you can do things without an owner, but I’ve been worried about how much you value your life. Jason mentioned that… well, you remind him of himself before he was domesticated.” She shudders, trying to keep a calm quiet tone to help Nix calm down. “He gave me permission to talk about this if I ever got to a point I felt it to be relevant. He was forcibly domesticated because… he was a danger to himself. He had gotten to a point where he felt his life wasn’t worth supporting, like he wasn’t special in some way… and decided to try and take his life. If Anthurium had checked on him any later, we wouldn’t have a Jason to know.” She loosens her vines, keeping them on Nix, but enough for the girl to get out if she wanted. “I don’t want that to happen in the first place with you, but I feel like under your happiness, there is always this deep seated sadness. I can’t let that push you down that path. I would hate myself forever if I allowed it.”
"He'd told me… the first time we met." Nix stands up, pulling away from Sola. "But yes, under my happiness, I am sad. I am, and always have been, a lonely, bitter person, who sucks at fully opening up to people." She rubs her arm, gripping it tightly. "But I… I just can't accept domestication as I am now. It doesn't feel right, like I know that even if you don't mean to, you'll take my edges, and round them off." She looks over at the painting. "If you want me, I'm going to make this very clear." Taking a breath she turns back to face Sola, a sad but entirely calm expression on her face. As if she'd burnt out all of her emotions. "You will have to force me. That's why I genuinely believe Cel would have a better chance than you, because she's willing to make that call. To push my boundaries, when she sees me hurting myself, even inadvertently." She takes a step towards Sola. "Would you?"
Sola stares at Nix, her expression hardening. “If that is what it would take, I would. Before my time synching with Cel, I might not have… but hearing you say this, I am convinced.” She smiles softly, leaning in right in front of Nix’s face. “I consider you hurting like this, is a danger to yourself… but, I’ll tell you what, I’ll take turns with Cel in keeping a watch over you, especially if we both plan to share. I know I opened talking about the game, by nervously backing out of the rules, but with what you have told me, let’s fully play by the rules. I love you, and believe in you, but if you feel this way, if you don’t have faith in yourself, I don’t think you can win at the top. However, you have a very clear alternative win condition.” She gently reaches out, brushing Nix’s hair back, wiping some tears away. “So, does that sound fair, Nix? I will use how the game I had made goes in my full initial intentions, and you will show your improvements on your own through it. If you can get to a place where you are truly happy, I think you could win and be at the top of the mountain. But if you lose, one or both of us will sweep in and help you.”
Nix nods, leaning in and hugging Sola. "Honestly, this is more than fair." She slowly turns around, starting to walk towards the living room. "So what do you say we go grab the first card off of the pile, and see how this game goes?"
Sola nods, and stands to follow Nix. "I know I tend towards being soft, but if you need a firmer hand, I'll use it." She wraps a vine around Nix's waist to support her on the walk. "Here we go, draw a card, then let's take a moment to relax, I would like to do some painting with you today."
Nix reaches out, pulling one of the red cards. Flipping it over and being met with the chibi Nix this time being fed waffles by affini vines.
'Encounter Card! Let an affini feed you a meal, or take 6 steps down the mountain!!!'
Nix sighs, looking at the card, before looking back up at Sola. "You're going to make me do both aren't you?"
"I would heavily encourage it." Sola grins, gently rubbing Nix’s back. Overjoyed to be getting this chance to help Nix once again. "And I REALLY want to feed you again. And I think you need the extra tender love and care." She gently lets go, walking over to her basket and pulling out some waffles they never got at during the picnic. "So, come on over here, Anthurium helped me make these."
Nix groans, taking her piece and skipping it down Sola’s side of the mountain six spaces. The overwhelming numbness from her emotions having flooded out, causing her to resign herself to whatever Sola wants to do right now. As to not make things even worse on herself. "Fine…"
Once Nix gets done with her movement for the night, Sola gently wraps some vines around her, pulling the girl into her lap. "Nix I'll be doing my best to make you feel loved and appreciated. Just breathe deeply, relax." She brings up a piece of blueberry waffle to be eaten. "Go ahead, I'll bring you pieces as you are ready."
Nix grumbles, opening her mouth, and letting a piece be slid into her mouth. Taking a bite and swallowing, allowing Sola to repeat the process several times. Barely even noticing that over the course of the meal, it changes from her feeding herself. To each time a bite is provided, Sola slides a vine down her cheek, guiding her to open her mouth open, she takes a bite, and then Sola slides her vine up her cheek, causing her to swallow.
Sola gently pets Nix after the last piece is swallowed, reaching out with a smaller vine to get a napkin to wipe her face. “There we go. You are such a good girl Nix.” She proceeds to simply start to gently rock Nix. “Celosia and I will be alternating days we come in to check on you, and make sure you are playing the game. There will be a break day when you get your implant in, as I am unsure of how independent you will be able to be while it all connects, maybe there will be some drugs that will be working on you as it properly gets all hooked up. We will both be accompanying you to the vet to make sure you are fully cared for. Does this sound alright?”
Nix nods, quietly pressing herself against Sola's chest. Repressing her desire to shudder at being called a good girl. "Y-yeah, I was going to ask one of you to come with me for that appointment anyway." She starts stimming on a vine that Sola has positioned in her lap. Surprised at just how thoroughly Sola had taken control of the situation once actually pushed. "Thank you…"
Sola smiles and nods. “You are very welcome Nix. I love you, and I want to make sure you are okay. Would you like me to clean up your art room a little bit, or do you have things you are about to do with it?” She stares down at Nix with just the kindest smile, as her vines are already straightening up the kitchen, and living room, making sure everything is well organized.
"No, we should clean it up. I've been putting it off, and need to think of a new piece to work on anyway." Nix is gently pulled deeper into Sola’s vines, finding herself back in her cubby, but this time with vines wrapped around her. Making sure that she rests, and doesn't get out and interrupt Sola’s cleaning.
Sola begins to go into the art room, unraveling several vines to quickly begin cleaning. She gets all the paints properly sealed and set aside, before taking the brushes and palettes to the work sink in the room, washing the excess off before setting them on a towel to dry. Following this, Sola pulls up the tarp-like cloth off the ground, bringing it to the compiler to recycle into a new, clean one. Once finished, Sola begins to focus on the floors, making sure they are clean of any excess paint splatter. Finally she walks back to the living room couch and sits, turning on Nix’s favorite cartoon, before pulling out her datapad and messaging Celosia, giving her updates on how the game shall progress.
"Hey I said we! I was going to help with that." Nix tries to pull out from the vines, only to instead have her water bottle be placed in her hands. "I only agreed to let you help me eat, because of the stupid card…"
“Nix, this was me helping you, and no offense, you seemed to really be content to just be in your cubby.” Sola slowly reaches down to pet Nix. Pausing as Nix pulls away for a second, before continuing and starting to scratch behind Nix’s ear. “However, I will keep that finer wording in mind in the future. Now then, what would you like to do Nix? Because I think enjoying our show would help a lot.”
Nix nods, starting to position herself inside Sola’s chest, and taking a sip of her water. "Better than any alternative I can think of."
After a few more minutes of pouting, Sola can feel Nix start to genuinely relax rather than just not fighting. The girl's eye drifts shut as she starts to passively listen to the show, making a mental note of every time there is a change from the original cut that she'd watched as a kid.
Sola smiles, and quickly snaps a pic of Nix cuddled up inside her cubby. She posts that, and a picture of the board, before posting it to Celosia, Anthurium, and Resin. Once done she returns to enjoying the show, particularly at Nix’s occasional twitches. Once the episode was over, Sola leans down to check on Nix, carefully grabbing her water bottle, and seeing if she was asleep.
By the time that the episode ends Nix had fully drifted to sleep, using a few vines as a replacement for her plushies. Exhausted from both the trip to the park, as well as their fight in her art room.
As Sola shifts around to look at her, Nix rolls over onto her side. Mumbling a bit as the movement almost wakes her up.
Sola quietly moves to the bedroom, setting down the bottle, grabbing a plush to stick into the cubby, and laying down. She quietly asks. “Hab, nature sounds, forest edition. And adjust AI to floret mode…lets say 50% of the time Nix addresses you.” Once the various sounds begin playing, Sola leans her head back and unravels a little, deciding to take advantage of this chance to rest and decompress.