I stared at my tablet. A chat was up with people talking about relationship things I couldn't understand. Vulnerability. To let oneself be vulnerable with another person. I wanted that. I wanted that but I couldn't let myself. It required trust I yearned to give but refused to.
The affini who had taken over the Accord seemed to be able to give everyone what they wanted. The problem was you needed to know how to ask for it. I didn't know how. I think I did once, when I was young. I gave out trust freely and it was always… betrayed. Sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot.
I had a home where one was expected to never discuss personal things, intimate things. Vulnerability was taboo. I needed it, but was deeply conditioned to never let myself have it. Knowing the problem didn't fix it. The feelings, the thought patterns were there. Etched in and controlling like that implant the affini put in their pets.
Outside my home, school taught me to just conform and say whatever is needed of me. I'd try to interact with others, but I was different. Not just the lack of vulnerability, but a more fundamental social disconnect. Learning to overcome that disconnect… I was still trying.
Adulthood gave me the space to sift out the friendships that were performative from the ones that were true. I even slowly over the years let myself be a little vulnerable with my friends. Maybe a lot vulnerable, but only in specific ways. There were deeper vulnerabilities that I knew I could never share with anyone but with a trusted partner. There were no trusted partners. There never were.
Without the burden of capitalism, I was left with myself and time. Time stuck wishing for the thing I can't have. I indulged in the Compacts gifts. Superficial things. Serious things.
Class-Gs were near and dear to my heart, as were the body mods. The ability to reshape oneself from who you were born stuck as, to who you truly were meant to be was a dream come true. At least, on the outside it could be done. The inside didn't have a xenodrug to shape and fix it, or at least not one I was willing to ask for and take. That would require me to admit the vulnerabilities exist and that was forbidden.
I went every night to sit on the roof of my hab unit apartment tower and ponder. Who am I? What do I want? And why can't I just be happy?
I heard a faint sound of a door opening and closing behind me. My black feathered wings twitched. My attention fell onto the affini that came to sit across from me. Each affini was a towering indestructible bastion of imperial might. Thankfully they were very friendly. I could do friendly. Friendly was nice and I liked doing it even if I was constantly terrified of messing it up.
The affini themself or maybe herself was as big as the rest. She had white petals with a blurred line of purple down them acting as a sort of suit collar. She had long verdant leafy vines as a sort of hair. Her stamen-like appendages appeared as antennae off her head. The same white petals as her collar collated into a pencil skirt shape.
I gave her a small wave. "H-hey."
"Hello to you too, little one. It's another lovely night isn't it?" She sounded as beautiful as she looked.
I sort of missed some of the actual words, but I could vaguely make out the gist of the sentence and reply in kind. I did it all the time. Conversations were very hard to follow so one had to get good at acting like you didn't miss everything they said. "Uh… yea." Generic light responses worked. I just had to be careful not to over use them lest someone notice. They might get upset and I hated making people upset. I wanted everyone to be happy.
"I'm Lilium. Lilium Regale, First Bloom, she/her." She continued to fill the silence. Lilium did for that moment then silence fell. It was not a comfortable silence.
Oh, I remembered I was supposed to introduce myself back. "I-I'm Skye. Uh, she and her, um please?" I don't know why I turned it into a question. Fumbling words and sentences was my thing. Suddenly shifting topics as a new barely related thought popped up was another idiosyncrasy that made proper conversation rather difficult or sometimes impossible.
The affini had this patient smile as she watched me think with her big blue alien eyes. "What brings you up to this fine rooftop so late at night, Skye? I believe little terrans need their sleep, do they not?"
Little terrans. Affini constantly wove into their speech how much smaller we were. I mean yes, I am a little terran compared to her, but she doesn't need to point that out. She's done it twice. At least Lilium hasn't started on the whole cute nicknames thing.
Wait, she said something and now I forgot. I-I can't just ask her to repeat it, but if I don't respond I'll come off as rude… I think it was a question and that had a noncommittal generic response. I shrugged and made a 'I dunno' adjacent noise.
There were a lot of small non-word noises that could make it sound like I was paying attention and following along. I could do it so well, I sometimes felt like I was actually making conversation instead of pretending to. Question and answer stuff was far easier, but it didn't feel very normal person-esque the way I did it.
"Well, if you want assistance getting sleep I have a xenodrug that could give you some lovely dreams." Oh wow, she was offering me drugs… That had such different connotations with the affini, but it still felt weird to just have someone ask 'hey girl, you want drugs?' I think it was Lilium's casualness that threw me off.
"N-No thanks." I was twitching my wings and hands. It felt uncomfortable to be put on the spot and I needed to stim a little. Having two additional limbs did give me more things to move. The only thing was that flapping wings was… I couldn't fly with them but I could definitely knock myself over with a gust.
So the affini came up here when she never did before just to sit across from me and talk. I knew affini well enough to have a big question on my mind. The words slipped out, "Are you trying to domesticate me?" It wasn't an accusation, or anything. Just an honest query. Sometimes my voice held emotion that I not only didn't intend but had nothing to do with what I felt. I guess it was perceived emotion.
"Do you want me to be?" Lilium answered my question with a question and that wasn't fair. Her question required a lot more though to answer honestly. I didn't want to lie but also sometimes I was deeply uncertain of my own truths.
"No." It was the conclusion I reached first. Digging deeper into the whys and how were not working. I couldn't logic my way into understanding my own emotions. I felt those emotions but they were often really hard to figure out. Worse, some emotions were wrong. Morally, logically, some simply useless and unrelated to what was going on.
"Then maybe I am." She sounded so whimsical about it. I hated that answer because it wasn't an answer. There was uncertainty and I needed the certainty to know the answer. If I acted like she was and she wasn't I'd be messing up my attempts at communication and feelings could get hurt. The same was true of the inverse.
Of course, I couldn't call her out on this. I didn't know her and that might be rude to her. Everyone was different and it made things really hard to figure out the rules for conversing. I could say something to a bunch of people and it'd be fine but then I could say that same stuff to other people and it was not fine. I spent time learning each person I interacted with to figure out how to best approximate conversation with them.
Groups were a nightmare. I couldn't follow the conversation. I had to take into consideration what was appropriate with all of them for each thing, and by the time I figured it out they'd have moved on without me. I'd have no idea what the conversation would be at that point and couldn't participate or even pretend to.
"You seem to be in rather deep thought flower. Can I ask what you're thinking about?" Her questions seemed so reasonable but also… off. My gut was rarely wrong about whether someone was good or bad. I liked to trust it but with her… I was not understanding what my gut reaction to her was.
She asked a question again. Something about thinking… I stole quick glances over to her as if looking at her would remind me of her words. Looking failed to help.
"Little one?" Lilium asked, yet that wasn't even a proper question! It asked nothing, it should have been a statement, but then that would be utterly meaningless too.
My hands were shaking repetitively while my wings twitched to a similar beat. I couldn't get the feeling out fast enough. The anxiety was clutching my heart painfully. I meant that in a literal sense of feeling like a hand was in my chest squeezing my heart.
I wanted to get up and leave but that'd be rude. Staying here silent would be rude. I needed to talk, but then I needed to know what the right thing to say was. There was no right thing to say. I had no options left. I was paralyzed by indecision and silenced by anxiety.
Large hands slotted in under my armpits and hoisted me up into a soft but strong hug. Vines pet my hair. "Shhhh, it's okay little one. Everything is fine. You are safe. Follow my breath. Gently in, and gently out." A flower was held in front of me and it drifted up and down to her breathing.
I did my best to follow along. I breathed to the rhythm of the flower. Steady and gentle. Repeat over and over and over. Time passed without observation.
She shifted and sat down on the roof with me cradled in her arms. Her vines never stopped gently petting me and holding me. Lilium managed to position my body in her grasp to not get sore or cut circulation.
"Feeling better now, Skye?" My name. It made it feel so much more direct. Little one and flower were soft and general, but I was Skye. It drew my focus and attention in a way other words didn't.
My words didn't come. I tried but they never made it out of my thoughts. I nodded a little.
"Good. You're an anxious little petal aren't you?" Lilium's words held no judgment I could feel.
I nodded again.
"Can I give you something to help you with your anxiety?"
I shook my head.
"We'll work on that." What did that mean? Her words there were confusing and unclear. Was she referring to the anxiety, or the drug use? What did working on it entail? Why was it we?
I got anxious at the uncertainty of it all.
Lilium reacted to my increased fidgeting and movement with tightening the hug. "You are safe in my arms, and there is nothing to fear while I am with you." The words were concrete, solid, defined, and she had absolute certainty in her words. I needed that.
Held in her certainty, I thought back to the discussion on vulnerability. Some mentioned the difficulty of letting oneself be vulnerable. I understood that. I couldn't be vulnerable in certain ways too, but being held like this in the affini's arms showed me something else. I was always vulnerable. I was living, walking vulnerability that had a thin layer of coping mechanisms to keep it all together.
I couldn't not be vulnerable. My life was shaped by that fact. I limited the opportunities and vectors by which that vulnerability could be used against me. Almost entirely through remaining socially distant and physically isolated.
I yearned to be close to someone, and yet I couldn't let anyone close for risk of being hurt. Others had hurt me, and the scars healed over to now be enshrined on my heart for eternity.
Letting myself be held by this affini was a mistake. The more I let her in, the more she could and eventually would hurt me. She'd make a deep wound and might not survive it.
I didn't want to leave Lilium's grasp. There was immediate safety with her that a deep distant pain couldn't quite override.
I felt tears and heard sobs. I had been crying. Gentle vines pet me, and gentle words assured me that everything was fine and that I was safe. I wasn't supposed to be this weak. Breaking down like this wasn't me. Not when others were around. Not when I wasn't allowed to be.
"You poor flower. You've held onto this pain of yours for so long haven't you? It's okay. I'm here now and I will take care of you. You'll always be safe with me." Lilium was unfair. She can't just say that. Using that certainty, that empathy. I wasn't allowed to let her in and she was forcing her way in anyway. All it took was the right words spoken with honesty and certainty. Stars, I was so weak.
Tears streamed down my face as the affini got up and carried me back inside the building. Lilium hummed a soothing tune. Her hug never loosened, and her vines never stopped petting me.
She arrived at the door to my habitation unit and brought me inside. My home was messy at first glance. Most of the mess was semi intentional. Organizing stuff was hard, but I knew where everything was. Of course, there was an actual mess mixed in. things I needed to decompile but left scattered about. I didn't really clean but the habitation units were really good at filtering dust out of the air, and sucking debris out of the carpet. In a place that was partially self-cleaning I still had trouble keeping it clean.
"Skye, it's time for you to get some sleep." A vine brushed the bags under my eyes. "But rest assured, I'm not going to leave you."
Crying exhausted me and I did need sleep, but there was something strange about her not leaving. She didn't need me weighing her down. Worry that she would leave and that she was domesticating me set in.
She set me down in my bedroom. "Now little one, get dressed to sleep and I'll be in shortly to tuck you in." The affini left my room but remained humming that melody of hers. I could hear it the whole time.
I looked around my room. A pile of clothes lay on my dresser that continually grew. The affini wanted me to get dressed for sleep but that was just me in my underwear. I couldn't let her see me like that… She wasn't even supposed to be in my home.
The ethereal melody of the alien filled my home while I undressed. I took off my black jacket, my gray shirt, my black A-line skirt, my black and gray striped leggings, my leviathan cross necklace, my meddle of rings, and my upside down platinum cross earrings. The jacket and shirt were always the hardest because of the way they are all modified for my large black feathered wings.
I stood near my bed listening to a song while adjusting my wings into a good position to lie down in. She said she'd be back, but like I didn't need to wait on her. It was just going to bed. A thing I did most nights. Why was I hesitating?
The door to my room opened. I always wondered why habitation units were so big and with such large doors. It was for them. For her. The affini had shifted her appearance to look less business formal and more casual like she was wearing a white and purple sundress.
Her hand came to rest on my pitch black hair. "Good girl~" My cheeks felt a little warm. "Now you've had a long night, and you deserve some restful sleep." Her vines picked me up as her form melted into a mass of vines. She carried me into my queen-sized bed.
Oh… OH she was sleeping with me. My cheeks got warmer. I'd never slept in the same bed as someone before… She basically was a bed. Her vines were draped over me like a warm blanket and under me like a soft mattress.
"Relax little one, it is time for rest." Her body thrummed with a comfortable but quiet sound. My body relaxed into it. In record time, I fell asleep held in the clutches of an affini.
That little terran I caught staring at the domestication center yesterday sat up on that roof. Her little face looked so sad. I pestered a friend to get the camera records and found out the sad little terran's name was Skye. I was hoping to visit her tomorrow, but now that I found her…
It only took a few minutes to take the lift up to the roof. I saw her adorable little wings shift as I came out the door and strode to sit across from her perch overlooking the city. The little one stole a look and stewed in her thoughts a bit.
The cutie seemed to love her body mods and class-Gs. Her right eye implant was pitch black and the other eye had turned a lovely shade of purple. Large feathered wings sprouted from her back. Around her eyes the pigmentation had turned very dark from permanent skin coloration to mimic cosmetics. The thick dark outline made her lovely purple eye stand out so much. She was drowning in black, from her wings, to her clothes, to her right eye, to her make-up, to her chin length hair. All of the black contrasted with her very pale skin. She also wore noticeably more jewelry than most other little terrans, almost every finger had a ring, both wrists had bracelets, her neck had a necklace, and ears each had their piercings. She even had a single silver cord bound lock of hair that went an extra foot down on her right side.
Skye seemed to have an obsession with controlling her adorable little appearance. Like her body was a canvas to be painted on, and she wanted to paint it black.
Finally pulling out of her thoughts she gave a little wave, "H-hey." Oh she was so shy! Just like when we spoke the day before.
I gave her a nice calming smile. "Hello to you too, little one. It's another lovely night isn't it?"
The poor flower seemed to get lost in her head an awful lot. She heard me enough to give a simple uncertain, "Uh… yea." Her eyes even when stealing looks seemed to avoid direct eye contact. Skye seemed to be looking at the space next to me rather than at me.
She kept slipping back into her thoughts and she looked ever so sad when she did. Her body language gave her away as a seed. Her looking longingly at a domestication center was simply the cherry on top of the horse. I would love to have a little cutie like her as my first floret. The thought of replacing her sorrow with happiness made me want to grab her and take her home with me right then.
The flower was silent leaving me to introduce myself to what would one day be an affini's floret, hopefully mine. "I'm Lilium. Lilium Regale, First Bloom, she/her."
"I-I'm Skye. Uh, she and her, um please?" She seemed so uncomfortable using speech to communicate. Still, her hesitant little voice was as adorable as her and I wished to have recorded her introduction to listen to on repeat.
"What brings you up to this fine rooftop so late at night, Skye? I believe little terrans need their sleep, do they not?" My attempt to pry into her little mind was met with her getting lost in thought before I even finished.
Her wings shifted and fluttered in minute amounts, while her delicate little fingers twitched. The cutie shrugged and made a noise. A response without meaning. Her record said she had communication troubles, but not quite like this.
I decided to give her a gentle reminder and an offer to help. Gosh the little cutie needed help. "Well, if you want assistance getting sleep I have a xenodrug that could give you some lovely dreams."
"N-No thanks." She responded quickly that time which was progress! But I wished she'd have accepted.
She took a small moment to think before asking me a very surprising question. "Are you trying to domesticate me?" The little one was observant and oblivious in all the strangest ways.
That question was a rather interesting one. Was I trying to domesticate her? I think so. The adorable terran really needs an owner and I would more than love to be hers. I had doubts that answering her question honestly would help so I decided to tease her. "Do you want me to be?"
Oh gosh! Her face when the question was turned around on her was the cutest. I even started pulling out my tablet to take a picture before realizing that was a foolish idea. She came to a conclusion but her little heart wasn't in it. "No." She sounded disappointed in herself.
I wagered a bet and responded. "Then maybe I am."
I waited. Little Skye fell into such deep conflicted thoughts plastered all over her face. She didn't know how to take that. Her stimming increased in intensity. I was worried for her. "Little one?"
It turned from stimming into simply shaking. She shook like a leaf! Her thoughts were spiraling and getting worse the more I left her alone. I couldn't stop myself from gliding over on my vines and pulling her into a hug. She was hyperventilating so I assured her. "Shhhh, it's okay little one. Everything is fine. You are safe. Follow my breath. Gently in, and gently out."
I brought up a little flower to help her focus and breath. Slowly and steadily she calmed in my hold. "Feeling better now, Skye?"
Her head gave a weak little nod and I felt so relieved. I couldn't imagine what I would have done if I had made her feel worse than I already had.
"Good. You're an anxious little petal aren't you?" She gave me another nod. What a sweet little seed. I couldn't wait to bloom her into a floret.
"Can I give you something to help you with your anxiety?" She shook her head. My little flower didn't know what was best for her. "We'll work on that."
Her shaking picked up again. Oh no I got possessive. I messed up, she was so happy before and now her anguish was bringing out tears. Skye was so hurt and sad I needed to do something. I couldn't dose her without proper cause as she was an independent sophont. All I had left was words.
"You poor flower. You've held onto this pain of yours for so long haven't you? It's okay. I'm here now and I will take care of you. You'll always be safe with me."
Her tears turned to a wailing cry of a wounded animal. She didn't struggle against me. She clung to me tight. The little one wasn't upset with me, she wanted me. She clung like she needed me.
My precious flowers' reaction steeled my resolve. I'd make her a floret, she needed me to. I was going to give her so much care, love, and happiness. My little one did not yet know what was best for herself, but I would show her.
Skye was much too tuckered out by the time she finished crying for me to break her tonight. The little one needed sleep and I was going to help her get it. I carried her in my arms back down to her habitation unit and it recognized her and allowed us entry.
Her place was rather messy and filthy. I'd need to tidy this place up but first the little one needed sleep. I set her gently down in the little one's bedroom and told her. "Now little one, get dressed to sleep and I'll be in shortly to tuck you in."
Skye heard me and I gave her some privacy while I started tending to the whole mess. I started with the actual trash, dust, and other things that were to be gotten rid of. Then I moved on to grabbing and sorting her things into neat little organized piles. I hummed a tune brimming with the intensity of my rhythm, to both reassure the little one and slowly attune her to it.
The most curious bits I found were her works of art. Drawings and sketches on physical paper. Bits and pieces of metal printed into shapes and designs shown on her papers. The most fascinating of all was an ornately carved ring coated in platinum. The ring was flattened and had a beautiful artistic script of no language I had yet seen. The symbols came up in her sketches.
I left her works of art back where I found them. They meant a lot to her and I assumed she would feel more comfortable if every bit was exactly where she'd expect.
Having finished up my work and given the little one time to change, I entered the room to find her staring at her own bed in only her bra and panties. She was waiting. My little one had been waiting for me to tuck her in.
"Good girl~" The words came with a pat on the head. "Now you've had a long night, and you deserve some restful sleep." I scooped her up and turned into a bed of vines atop her normal small bed. I wove myself around, draping my vines over her like a blanket.
Little Skye relaxed into a quiet slumber so very quickly. Such a wonderfully obedient little thing full of so much heartache. No more. It was time for this adorable angel girl to be happy and loved like the beautiful little pet I saw inside of her.