"You could hide in here with me, and then when we get to Mistress we'll be free." I whispered to my friend while we sat in the back of my prison cell. I wanted to save her so badly. Anya didn't seem to understand how terrible the affini were, and all the horrible things they'd do.
"Viv, I like it here. Mxtress is here. My other friends are here. I don't want to be free! I want to be Mxtress's cute little kitten and help her with work and go on dates and learn more medical stuff too." They got her bad. The affini pulled the wool over her eyes and tricked her into thinking she wanted to be owned. Anya was like the Elvira woman from that one affini broadcast the captain showed us. Drugged, dazed, and spouting off nonsense about how controlled she was. About how they filled her with obedience, about Domestication.
I looked at her with sullen pity and she did the same to me. She didn't even know what was best for her. She was so hopelessly deluded that she'd continue on the path that'd only lead to more suffering. Worst of all, there was nothing I could do about it. I had to just keep my mouth shut and let her live in her little fantasy. Poor Anya.
I glanced down at my leg. More plant matter engulfed my right ankle. The affini said I had a panic attack and dislocated it but it was clearly lying. Lying about the dislocation. I admittedly had a panic attack, but was it a panic attack if my fears were rational and justified? The affini were conspiring against me, I knew it. They got to my other crewmates, brainwashing them or eating them.
Fuck they even got Issac- I mean Sandi! Even if she was enslaved I needed to respect her new name and pronouns. From what I remembered she did seem bothered hearing her deadname, so she wasn't forced into it like me. Fuck, I can't believe I never knew Sandi was trans. If only the war had gone differently she could have transitioned in the Accord rather than as an enslaved thrall of the Compact.
Anya was still looking at me. We both sort of avoided eye contact. It felt weird with other terrans even if I had learned to fake and force it. Affni eyes were… Well, Mistress' eyes were stunning but nothing like a terran's in that weird sorta painful way.
I started, "So uhm…" Words were hard and I didn't even know what to say. If I couldn't save her I at least wanted to spend the last bit of today with my best friend.
She pulled me into a hug. "It's okay Viv. I know you mean well. You're really kind and sweet like that."
"Aaaa?AA?a?" The confused noise leaked out. "I-I'm not kind and uhm, sweet."
"Viv, you constantly think you're about to die and you're focused on helping me." She let the words hang in the air for a moment. I mean I was constantly worried I was going to die but why would that make me not want to help? Helping others was fun and good and made me feel good. Yeah! I was being selfish because being nice and helpful made me feel good.
Anya pulled back from the hug and booped me on the nose. "Viv you're making that face where you misunderstand everything."
"What? I-I don't have a face where I misunderstand everything!" That didn't even make sense! "Besides, I'm not nice for helping. Helping makes me feel good and that’s selfish!"
"Wow, I was right!" The cat smugly grinned. "Gosh Viv, enjoying helping others isn't selfish. Am I selfish because I enjoy helping you?" That was… a good question. It felt like she was being selfless showing up every day to hang out and check my meals for affini poison. But logically if she was getting good brain chemicals for it then maybe it was technically selfish?
But if I applied that to everyone then the concept of selflessness would only apply to like, doing stuff you don't enjoy… that doesn't seem right. It'd invalidate a lot of acts normally considered kindness. Aaaa! Why was this philosophy stuff so hard? Anya was clearly the nicest sophont I'd ever met. Something was off here.
A cat poked me in the cheek. "You're allowed to enjoy helping others. I think it's actually pretty cool that helping others makes us feel good. It's like our brains give us little head pats for being good girls!" She did her little head pat squirm despite no head pat being applied. Stars, Anya had such a weird and interesting way of looking at things. I was almost jealous of how positive she was. Also head pats…
I squirmed as she pat my head. "A-Anya!"
"Viv, since your brain isn't giving you enough head pats, I'll give you some!" She kept patting me on the head and I melted into a puddle on my bed. "Is it selfish that I like seeing all the cute faces you make when I pet you?"
I mumbled with a pout, "Mmhm."
"Well then I'm going to be extra selfish and make you really happy." Anya was making me sound dumb. Also the pets were divine. Her soft fingers tickled my scalp, inflicting wiggles and shivers upon me. Every touch seared a burning path of raw bliss across my flesh. My heart raced as she increased the tempo of her attempts to subdue me with pleasure. She leaned down and whispered in my ear. "You're such a cute fox."
The words slew me. I'd been struck. Broken into a mewling whimpering little thing. Into a moaning yipping little fox puddle. Heat seared through my body as a burning need for more touch.
The touch left me! She took back her hand. "Viv, say that you're sweet and kind and not selfish."
"Viv" She gave me a look and I broke.
"I'm-sweet-kind-and-not-selfish!" My slow doped up mouth bits stumbled over themselves.
Her hand returned to my needy flesh and indulged me again. "Good girl." A hand continued to supply head pats as the other used a gentle finger to trace a delicate line down my weak spine. I practically spasmed once she reached the sensitive little plant bit that'd hold my tail. Every bit of touch for an entire tail concentrated into a single sensitive spot. She made little swirling gestures around it.
Then she withdrew once more. "Say you're a cute little fox."
"I'm a cute little fox!" I chirped in desperate need of more pets. Soft hands stroked along my head and back. I sank a little deeper into the bed.
Her hands didn't stop, but she still ordered. "Say you're a good girl."
"I'm a good girl!" My mind sank deeper and gentle hands rewarded me further. The dance of the cat's delicate little fingers played across my body.
She scritched under my chin. "Say you're a cute little pet."
"I'm a cute little pet!" My deep blissful haze wrapped my mind in a soft tingly hug. Stroking, patting, petting, and all manner of touches wildly overstimulated my body until I was left panting, moaning, whimpering, and squirming. My body was aflame. Raw ecstatic sensation reduced me to a cute little fox. A cute little pet.
I sank deeper and deeper until I lost track of everything in the onslaught of touch.
"I-I'm not a pet." I mumbled in Anya's lap. Memories came back after the haze ended. Blush inducing recollections of-of- "aaaaaaa"
A single finger drifted down my cheek eliciting a squeak. "I'm sorry Viv. I got a little carried away. I really should have asked first." Fuck, now I was making Anya feel insecure. I was being a bad friend. I-I did really enjoy it…
"I-It's okay. I uhm, enjoyed it I just… words hard." Words were really hard. I didn't even know what just happened. Processing it all was really hard.
"Words hard." Anya agreed. "I just didn't get your consent first and that was a huge mistake."
Right consent. I mean I was a prisoner of war. I didn't really get the choice to consent to anything happening to me. Coleus, the vile plant, forced many things on me even if they also had praised me for asserting boundaries. I threw the thoughts of the affini away. This was about Anya and me. She was worried she violated my consent and uhm…
Words assembled and almost came out of my mouth before I reconsidered. I enjoyed it and uhm… I didn't ask for it but if the option came I'd say yes to doing it again. I trusted her even if I didn't trust the plant controlling her. It was okay with me because it was her.
With great care for my best friend I tried my best to comfort her. "It uhm, felt good when we did that because I trust you. You didn't do anything I didn't want."
She let out a held breath. "Thank you Viv. I really like you and spending the last, uh I'd have to ask Mxtress how long, with you has been great. I really wish you were going to stay here so we could maybe date?" Her voice trailed into a very high pitched squeak at the end and I definitely didn't hear that right.
"What?" I heard silence and felt her holding her breath again. "A-Anya what was that last bit?"
"I wish you weren't leaving." The cat was leaving out the last bit…
"The part after that? It sounded like you, uhm, said…" I couldn't say it. If I heard her wrong then that'd be too embarrassing to say! AAAAA! Feelings were hard and words were hard and Gah!
The cat placed her scrunched up hand on the side of my face. Like a cat pawing someone. She blurted out. "I said I wanted to date you!"
My face heated up. She couldn't like me like that. I-I was unlikeable. My only friends were a fox plushie and her.
Anya continued, "I know you're about to leave and stuff, and I don't even know if you're poly too. But you've been super fun to hang out with and you're cute and I like you okay?"
I did a dumb and responded, "Okay." automatically. My mind then attempted to catch up with all of that while I felt her get uncomfortable underneath me. "but I'm me…"
Her tone sounded a lot more confident the moment she heard me say that. "And you are a cute girl I have a crush on. Viv, I've been flirting with you for like a week!"
"W-What?!" I stammered. She hadn't flirted with me… had she? What even was flirting? "When?"
"I keep calling you cute. I've been kissing you on the cheek. We've held hands. Viv, we spooned! Stars, I thought you were flirting back the whole time… do you even know what flirting is?"
That was- Those were flirts?! "N-No…"
Anya started giggling before erupting into laughter. "Dirt, how do you keep getting more adorable?"
My face flushed. "I-I'm not…"
Anya plucked the fox from my arms and held it in front of my face. "Little fox, is Vivian a super cute and adorable girl?" She made the fox do a nod. "Yup." Her tone didn't even sound like fox thoughts. She was too cat. "So Viv, now that we've established that as fact. Uhm could I get a response to my confession before I panic?"
Stars, I didn't want her to panic! I snatched the fox from her hands and hugged it to give me the comfort I needed to like, say things back. "I sort of maybe also like you a lot and want to date you too… But we can't since I'm leaving and I don't know if-"
Her hand silenced me. "Alright. Cool. We like each other and I wasn't imagining stuff. Uhm, Viv this is the part where I guess I ask about your feelings on a long distance thing, and how okay you are with poly stuff."
Long distance and poly stuff… "What do you mean poly stuff?"
"Polycules. Like I already have a girlfriend, Ranni, and also Mxtress which well, you've seen us. I'd date them and you."
"Oh." Of course, Anya had a girlfriend already. How could someone as cool and cute as her not have a partner? She was offering to date me too as a long distance thing. I wanted to say yes, but the uncertainty was killing me faster than the affini.
A finger poked my cheek and reminded me she deserved answers. "I feel anxious because I don't know anything about relationships and don't want to like, mess up." I paused. I didn't actually answer her question about polyamory. "I'm not against uhm, trying."
"Eeeeee! Stars, I have a new girlfriend!" She wiggled happily under me. My mood soared until… Fuck, Anya thinks I'm a girl! What if she's a lesbian and realizes I'm not a girl and-and- "Shhh" her hand patted me on the head. "Viv what's wrong? I thought you wanted to be my girlfriend."
"I-I'm not a, uh…"
"Not a what?"
"Viv, you're a girl. You light up when you get called a girl, or cute. If you don't want to be a girl tell me right now and you can be my partner or boyfriend or whatever. Otherwise, you have to say the words 'I Vivian am a girl'." Th-that wasn't fair! Anya couldn't just do that…
I was still looking off to the side while my head rested on her thighs. "I-I'm not…" I felt her glare. "I V-Vivian am a- a- a girl." The admission washed over me and for a brief moment I felt it. Then my mind immediately backtracked. "But I don't feel like a girl."
My new girlfriend's hands plucked my head from under her thighs and dropped me onto the plush bed. By the time I got up, she moved to kiss me on the cheek. "Yeah, it takes a while to sink in, but you're still my cute new girlfriend."
"And I'm leaving in like two hours…" That made me feel really bummed. I wanted to escape the Compact, and there was Mistress. Mistress was waiting for me and I wanted to be with her so so badly. I needed to be with Hedera or I felt like I'd implode. It didn't make leaving Anya any easier.
She pulled me into a cuddle. "Then that means we have one and a half hours to cuddle."
I nestled into her hold and wrapped my own arms around her too. "What about the last half hour?"
Vines placed me at the table against my will. I told the blasted awful plant to not touch me and yet they kept insisting I wasn't allowed to walk… or even crawl now! The plant matter was still engulfing my right ankle. More tech to enslave me and make me helpless.
"Flower, this will be the last properly cooked meal you'll have until you reach the Meandrina. Lucky for you, I got you your favorite!" Sure enough, chicken tendies sat on a plate in front of me. Coleus was acting like everything was fine. Like they hadn't chased me down yesterday and tried to murder me until Mistress told them off. I couldn't forget that.
It sucked because before that I thought maybe we could be like, friendly enemies. Something like that. I had gotten used to them but now. Now every time I felt their vines it was a reminder of how betrayed I felt. I shouldn't even feel betrayed! They were my jailer. I didn't even know their name until yesterday. For a brief time, I thought I understood them. Understood the dorky affini that insisted on looking as dramatically menacingly as possible while being oddly gentle.
My eyes landed on the food. If there was ever a time to kill me it was now. Right before I escaped their clutches. They might even use a slow acting poison so Anya wouldn't know. I'd die in transit and she would be left thinking I decided to never message her. I couldn't do it.
I shoved the food away and Anya took a nibble. "Seems good to me, Viv!"
My eyes glanced at the affini. The inscrutable mass of vines still feigned ignorance. "Anya checked it. You need to eat Vivian."
"I know!" My voice raised in strained frustration. "I can't eat it."
"Because it's poisoned?" My girlfriend tilted her head in curious confusion.
"I just tried it and I'm fine! None of the others were poisoned. This one is safe, Viv." Anya didn't get it. Her Mxtress wanted me dead. Fuck, they were in a relationship. Coleus probably wanted me dead so they didn't have to share. Because I knew and I'd show Anya one day how awful they were.
The affini sat cross-legged on the floor next to the terran sized table. "Vivian, we've been over this. You need to tell us the intrusive thoughts so we can help you work through or around them."
I pulled my legs up and hugged them while the fox plush got crushed between my chest and thighs. "Stop trying to gaslight me! I'm on to you. I know what you're trying to do. It won't work!"
"Tell me then." Anya cut in. "I want to help. If we're going to be dating I need you to communicate with me Viv."
I wanted to scream in frustration! Anya was already deceived and she wouldn't get it… but I couldn't just not answered her. I liked her too much to be a fuck up two hours after we started dating. Messing up that bad would be par for the course, but I wanted to do right by her. I wanted to do the right thing. "Coleus poisoned the food but made it a slow acting one so I'll die in transit and then give you the antidote leaving you to think that I just abandoned you because they want to keep you all for theirself. Also because of the stuff I told you earlier."
My girlfriend's cat ears twitched a bit. She sighed. "Alright let's start taking that apart. Mxtress absolutely doesn't mind us dating. If anything they are excited. Right Mxtress?"
"Exactly! I love it when my little kitten finds partners that make her happy. Vivian you are an utterly adorable delight and I am so glad you and my floret bonded." The enthusiasm sounded real but they had fooled me yesterday too. "Now for the poison comment. I must once again state, I'm not poisoning you, flower. I'm your veterinarian. My job is to keep you happy and healthy. I'm sorry the class-F I was trying didn’t help with your intrusive thoughts, but once you're on the Meandrina Hedera will handle your medications so she'll help you find one that works best."
Intrusive thoughts. That's what they kept gaslighting me with. That they were stray paranoid thoughts rather than just knowing they are evil and out to enslave and murder me. I knew better. I saw what they did to Sandi. To Hawkins. If it wasn't for Mistress they'd be doing that to me too. Turning me into some kind of weird pet slave…
"Stars, Viv, you do not know how much I want to just talk about that stuff you said earlier. But I promised Coleus not to tell you a few things, and I promised you not to tell them about what you said… This is really hard for me, but girl no one is going to keep you and your Mistress apart. I think that's like an actual Compact crime or something." Almost everything my girlfriend just said to me didn't make any sense and left me more confused and concerned.
The red cloak patted the cat on the head. "Kitten, crime is a harmful concept invented by your culture and is not a part of the Compact. However, you are right in saying that if anyone attempted to keep them apart, there would be a large number of inquiries, paperwork, and an intervention to rectify the situation."
The comment on crime was beyond confusing. Gah! It was another one of the creature's mind games. Confusing me and then spouting stuff in an attempt to placate me.
"Girlfriend, you need to co-mun-i-cate." Anya emphasized each syllable. She was right. I needed to use words. I was being too silent.
"I didn't understand the crime thing, and Coleus is lying to get me to lower my guard."
She sighed again. "I brought up the thing about you two not being separated. Trust me on it, and then remember that they said the same thing and thus weren't lying. Second, you know about how in the Accord if you broke the rules they'd throw you into a prison where you suffered until they let you out?" I nodded. The accord was pretty awful like that. "Well, here they have some sophonts talk to you and figure out what's wrong so they can fix things and make them better! If someone is a danger to themselves or others they end up as a floret. Like you and me. Well I volunteered to be one but that's not the point. It's rehabilitation and problem solving here."
Rehabilitation was much more valid than punishment. Crime basically was just punishing poor people for being poor, because the wealthy made the rules to protect their wealth. Everyone knew the ultra-wealthy owned the government, like the Altair family. Everything sounded nice until she got to the part about being made into florets.
"What do you mean I'm a floret? Is that the word for slave?" The affini were slavers, but normally slaves had owners. I had Mistress but Mistress wasn't like that. She was really nice.
Coleus cut in. "The closest word is pet. Little Anya here is my pet. You will belong to your Mistress." Yea I knew that was a lie. Mistress would never make me some weird pet slave. She'd keep me safe and help me save the galaxy and stuff. Well, we hadn't really talked about it much because I didn't want to get overhead but she was definitely willing to help.
"Yup, I'm a pet cat! I get to lounge around all day cuddling cute girls and getting pet. Like I said earlier I love it and well… you'll see when you meet your Mistress." Now Anya wasn't making sense.
I needed to talk because of communication and stuff. I didn't really know what to say since neither of them seemed to understand Mistress very well. The poisoned food thing… I looked at it and I wanted to eat the delicious food but I couldn't. "The food is poisoned."
"Viv, I will personally run out and get you a meal and make 1000% sure that it's not poisoned. Just promise me you'll eat it if I do."
"O-Okay." I glanced at her owner.
They gave me a gentle smile. "I won't touch it. I only got that meal because I didn't want you two to get up earlier from your cuddles." Now they were making it sound like they did us a favor. Did me a favor.
Anya ran off leaving me alone curled up in my chair hugging the plushie that kept me from getting too panicky close. Just me and the big murder slaver plant that owned my new girlfriend. Just me and the plant that chased after me yesterday in an attempt to kill me. I was helpless and at their mercy.
"Flower, I'm sorry I triggered your anxiety just now, and I'm sorry that yesterday went so poorly. I should have guessed that seeing your crewmate like that could cause you to panic. I thought seeing her would reassure you that I wasn't lying when I said they were all alive and happy." The evil awful vile plant kept trying to convince me that they were sorry and not evil. Or as evil as I thought. They were making me second guess my memories and instincts as a free Terran.
I consulted the fox. "They keep trying to like, apologize when I remember them trying to hurt me. What do?" My plushie did its best impression of an armchair psychologist. I shouldn't judge a sophont by the exception to their behavior. Coleus was being friendly because my plan to trick them into friendship worked too well. The plant was just blind to how evil it was and was probably genuinely trying to act friendly even when its innate evilness was making it do things. Anya liked them so their redeeming qualities were probably legitimate. Also I was definitely transgender and should have just admitted that years ago when I was questioning stuff then.
I pouted at the fox. "You really just wanted to rub that last bit in, didn't you?" My fox thoughts agreed with the sentiment. I looked up at the plant with their barely hidden thorn fangs tucked away behind their smile. "Uhm… Anya said you two were a couple?"
The evil dork brightened up at my attempt to once again feign friendship. "If by couple, you mean a loving relationship, then yes! Before being sent to hunt down more little fishies like you and your ship…" The affini noticed me grimace at the hunting line. Its evilness really did just accidently come out constantly. "Before we were sent to find poor cute little feralists like you in need of rescue, I served as the xenoveterinarian for a space station teaching the humans there how to operate compact tech and Anya was one of my patients. The poor little kitten slowly opened up to me over our visits. She was actually very shy at first before blossoming into the wonderful little flower she is today. I wanted nothing more than to scoop her up and make her mine but I held back. Making her mine seemed like a breach of ethics to me but my friends and little Anya saw it differently than I did. I was cornered outside my office one day and she begged me to make her my pet."
"She asked to be a pet?" That didn't seem right at all! Who would want to be made a slave to an evil affini. And a pet slave?! I mean Anya described it as being nice, and well. Being Anya's little pet for that short bit was… Okay maybe I could see the appeal but not to a giant evil plant! Maybe a nice plant like Mistress-
Coleus answered my question, cutting off those thoughts before they went too far. "She did! Believe me petal, I was as surprised as you. Apparently, I missed all of her flirting back. I kept mine so tame I thought she was just humoring me. Next thing I knew I was carrying her home to my habitation unit to fill out the paperwork!"
Okay, being oblivious to Anya's flirting was too relatable… Aaaaaaa! Why did I keep relating to this space plant alien that gave me drugs and kept me prisoner?! Their vine stroked my jaw. "Kaaaa! D-Don't touch me!"
"But you were tensing your jaw tight enough to hurt your little mouth bones. Here let me get you your chew toy." They extended a vine up to my prison cell and got the chewing ring out and placed it into my hands.
I nibbled on it until Anya got back with my not poison food. The thought that maybe the food in front of me wasn't poisoned and maybe I just wasted perfectly good food came to mind. Wasting food hurt. Especially good food.
The cat placed the chicken tender basket down in front of me. "I made absolutely sure not a single affini got anywhere near this. So eat up okay? I don't want you getting hungry on your spaceflight."
"Th-Thanks Anya, I uhm… thank you." I relaxed my legs back down from my curled up position. The fox remained in my lap.
Anya gave me a peck on the cheek. "You're welcome cutie."
The food came and went like my time with Anya and her owner. Amazing and yet gone too soon. The entire time I snuck peeks at Coleus and they were as dorky as ever. I could almost see what Anya saw in them but not really.
Then when the time came The affni held me upright, which I protested, to allow me to hug my girlfriend goodbye.
Anya hugged me. "It's okay Viv. We'll get to chat all the time, and we can visit each other again and cuddle and get kinky in person…" I could hear her sniffles over my shoulder. "I'm gonna miss you so much Viv."
My arms wrapped around her back. "I'm gonna miss you too. You're like the closest friend I've ever had and uhm." Tears had formed in my eyes. Fuck, I didn't know if I'd ever see her again and this was just a lot. I sniffled up a runny nose. It'd been years since I last cried. Tears just stopped after a point. Emotions got muted and now everything was so intense again.
Hearing her cry only made my own sobbing worse. A simple goodbye turned into bawling into each other's dresses making a snotty mess of everything.
The awful evil terrible Compact gave me my only friend and was now tearing her away from me. I hated it. I despised the universe for doing this to me. Giving me a place on a crew and taking that away, giving me a girlfriend and taking that away. All I got for my troubles was a plushie and Mistress. I loved the plushie and I cared for Mistress more than I ever thought was possible but-but it still sucked. It still hurt.
"I-I don't want to leave you. Please. Please." I didn't even know what I was asking for other than to not be separated.
"I don't want you to leave either, Viv. I really don't." She was a mess right alongside me.
The affini in the red leaf cloak, my jailer, and the dork known as Coleus stood over us and used their vines to wipe away our tears and snot. The moment we calmed down the evil thing pulled us into a bigger hug. "Flower, I'm going to miss you too. You were a wonderful patient, and a delightful little fox. I promise I'll bring Anya to visit." For once in my life I just really really wanted to believe them. Even if it was a lie. Even if they were being manipulative and evil. I just wanted to believe I'd see Anya and her evil dork in person again.
Finally released from the hug only to be jailed, I saw the cube. My cube. It was as cool as the witch claimed. That evil murderous affini at least didn't lie about the cubes. The plant grown cube was big enough to fit my entire prison cell. Plus other plant bits.
The cube itself was rather big as a 10x10 foot cube. All of it woven green plant matter with small glowing blue bits. Of course the inside wasn't all empty space as it was a little spacecraft. Not just a spacecraft but one that could fuse with other cubes to form the cube ships.
Coleus placed my prison cell in the green cube with me in it. They told me the food dispenser should have enough for an entire trip along with enough water in the water dish. But at a few points affini might peek in to make sure I was okay. "Now remember Vivian, don't put pressure on your ankle. Stay safe. Call Anya and I as much as you want. Your carrier will auto cycle light for simulated day time, so make sure to nap properly."
"She gets it Mxtress." Anya cut in peeking into the cube and the prison cell. I heard a call notification on my tablet and pressed answer. Both in person and on my screen I heard her say. "Don't worry Viv, we can still talk. If you get lonely just message me."
"O-Okay." With that the affini sealed up the small cube shaped plant spacecraft. I was alone. Alone with my girlfriend's face on my tablet.
I took a deep breath and noticed another message. A message from Mistress.
Mistress: I look forward to seeing you, my darling little fox. Call me if you feel lonely or scared. With love, Hedera Helix, 19th Bloom.