Chapter 8: Halftime Hangover

by Doeposting

Tags: #cw:noncon #accidental_conditioning #caregiving #Human_Domestication_Guide #initial_self_destructive_drug_use #mindbreak #nonverbal #actually_I've_decided_this_involves #because_furry #bondage #deer #does_this_count_as_bimbofication? #dom:female #f/f #humiliation #hypnosis #scifi #sub:female

Cw: medical issues, hurt-comfort, Affini being Sad/istic
This year's Labor Day, I celebrate the work unions have done to give us a day off work by publishing more erotica!
So with that, it's time we check in with Kiki's recovery! And perhaps, dig in a little more into Laria's history...
The aura around Kiki's vision was less severe the next time she awoke… But as she tried to glance around, colors still looked… so dull. What was going on? 
“Ah. The pet is awake again. Let me find your Laria for you.”
Kiki, recognizing the voice, tried turning her head. The spinning of the room intensified, and she gagged a bit before being able to speak. “Dr… Dr. Ozier?”
“Indeed…” the plant doctor let out an exasperated sigh, donning his typical hands-on-waist posture. “Well, good. Your prefrontal cortex is intact enough for some amount of pattern recognition. That’s encouraging.”
Something seemed off. Everything was draped in a bit of a sepia sort of filter, like she was having trouble seeing brighter hues; Dr. Ozier's leaves were greyish white to her, compared to the dull green she remembered. She strained her leg muscles to try and get up, and nausea overtook her again. “Kiki… Kiki dizzy… tummy hurt…”
Dr. Ozier tapped a button, and the root-like restraints dug into her a little more, tightening her against the cot. Although her nausea was alleviated, it was pressing against her skin in a rather unpleasant manner. Kiki let out a low whine while he continued.
“That should help a little. We’ve been manufacturing suppressants for the beeple honey you consumed. Stomach and balance issues are the most common symptoms of honey overdose; the fact you don’t have more pressing issues is a miracle. Tell me, Kiki, what possessed you to be so drawn to one-three-sashay’s honey in the first place?”
“Don’t interrogate her like that.” Laria’s voice drifted into the room, firm and demanding. “She’s already been through quite enough.”
Kiki’s heart soared. “Laria!”
She attempted to look up to match Laria’s gaze, but everything swam in a blur when she tried, and a soft moan left her jaws. Laria’s luminescence was tangible like before, but nothing could stay in focus for too long at a time. Then Laria knelt down into her range of vision, letting Kiki catch with her eyes the mossy texture of the affini's face, and those bright blue eyes of hers.
“Shh… take it easy, little one,” Laria advised softly. Kiki did her best to follow Laria’s advice.
The plant doctor let out a bit of a resigned scoff. “I suppose I’m a little on edge, is all. I haven’t seen a case like this since the cotyledon program… and judging by the readouts on my console, there isn’t exactly any precedent for this. Who would have thought a Class-J-like substance could even be manufactured from sophonts like sashay…” 
While the doctor continued on with her largely meaningless medical jargon, Laria slowly raised her chewing vine to the pet, almost like a peace offering. Kiki accepted eagerly, munching down. Thank goodness; her sense of taste was still intact.
“...which is why your timeliness in this situation was a major factor in keeping Kiki as stable as she is now, Laria,” the doctor finished with a soft hmph. 
Laria continued to soothe Kiki, laying soft leaves upon her forehead. “Little one… what happened?”
Kiki let the vine fall from her lips… being scrutinized by the affini that had been so kind to her suddenly made her worry that the kindness would be taken away. Caught in the spotlight of Laria’s gaze, Kiki crumbled.
“I’m sorry… Laria…” she whimpered. “The honey… reminder of owner… cherry blossom smell… tasty… couldn’t control…”
A few tears began to roll down her face. “Didn’t want to be problem… didn’t want to be in the hospital… sorry sorry sorry…”
She could hear a shuffling of Laria’s vines, and soon a fuzzy leaf was there to intercept her tears. 
“No, Kiki. The fault was shared. My duty was to keep you safe, and I failed in that task,” the affini whispered. “Do not blame yourself for this.”
Despite Laria’s obvious intent in comforting her, the words seemed too good to be true to Kiki, and more tears leaked out of her. Something deep within her mind was ringing out in a hollow anguish, and she strained to figure out what it was saying.
…you did this to yourself…
Kiki shook her head, causing the vertigo to intensify. What was that? Who was speaking to her? She tried to think back to the visions she was having while on sashay’s honey. 
“Sky voice?” Kiki whispered between soft, tearful bleats.
Laria’s scritches paused. “What was that, Kiki?”
Kiki struggled to think of what she had experienced in the big room with sashay. Everything was too much to process at once, but some parts of it stuck out more than others… “Sky-Voice… in cave… Double-A… important voice in dreams… Kiki’s owner?”
The scritches stopped entirely. Kiki wondered if she had said something wrong.
Laria’s voice had returned to something more stern. “Doctor Ozier, is it possible that the Class-Js in the beeple honey caused her to recall parts of her experiences from the initial bulk dosage that occurred yesterday?” 
For the first time, the doctor’s voice gained a sort of curiosity, then excitement. “...possible. Improbable, but we wouldn’t know what Kiki is experiencing while on these drugs. Perhaps some neurons reconnected… yes, with a surge of neurotransmitters and peptides in the right places… more than possible.”
Dr. Ozier’s interest was infectious, and soon Kiki wanted to know more, too. “What… what Plant Doctor say?”
Instead of translating their conversation, Laria returned her vine to Kiki’s mouth. She apprehensively bit down, but once the flavor entered her tongue she forgot the conversation. This was easier than understanding, and maybe a little more pleasurable than crying. 
“Little one… what we're discussing is less important than your recovery. You said your stomach hurt? And you felt dizzy?”
Kiki nodded, pulling the vine a little with her as she did. “Naa…”
“Well… then, we’ll need to fix things for you.” The blue blur that was Laria moved again, standing up and out of sight, leaving just the trusty chewing vine. “Doctor, is there any solution that might work for her? Anything that might help her get her up on her feet again?”
A grumble from the doctor, then… “Well… besides major intensive brain surgery, which would yield limited benefits, some implants may help her keep upright while this investigation continues. Did she take to the gloves well?”
“Yes. In fact, I was considering requisitioning a tail… and perhaps some ear modifications for the little one.” Laria’s voice angled in her direction. “Would you like that, Kiki? A nice tail and ears?”
The idea of owning a tail and ear mods… something in Kiki’s body churned with excitement, something almost on the border of euphoric. After being stuck in the hospital for an evening, walking out with extra parts sounded delightful. She couldn't help but let out an excited bleat.

As sunlight began to crest over the horizon, competing with the moonlight of Cervina II's three satellites, Meiple Zossix, First Bloom, stretched one of her branches out to greet the light cascading over the hallway windows.
“Come on, Laria,” she urged her friend. “Catch some rays with me!”
The scout was still waiting outside the operating theater of the medical centre. She looked less anxious, although Meiple was unsure how much of that was due to exhaustion after fretting all night after the little pet. 
Laria grumbled. "Only if you let my roots go for a second…”
“Ah… whoops.” The receptionist giggled apologetically. She had bound the short scout's lower limbs down inside a large supplementary nutrient fluid tank she had rolled up beside the two of them, so that if nothing else, capillary action would force the older affini to drink. With a crackle of her branches, she released the scout from her hydration station. Laria studied her roots after retrieving them from the tank, then, inspection satisfied, the two affini approached the wide windows.
For a while, there was just the sound of leaves and vines angling and shifting to get a better position in the light, then finally, bored of the silence, Meiple spoke.
“They sure are taking their time in there,” she muttered, mostly to herself.
Her counterpart sighed. “Dr. Ozier said it wouldn't take much longer; the neural programming is all that's left, really.”
The desk worker slithered a branch to pat her friend on the back. Meiple swore she felt Laria lean back into it, just a little, but said nothing. Teasing the poor sophont wouldn't do anyone any good right now, as tempting as it was. Instead, she thought back to last night and what Laria had shouted her way. 
“So… about earlier…” Meiple tentatively asked. “When you said you don’t deserve to be an owner… what did you mean by that?”
Laria shifted a bit, then turned her head to face Meiple with an aloof expression. The younger affini tried not to make a big deal out of it, but it was the first time that she could recall Laria actually sparing a glance her way. Meiple hoped she wasn't blushing or anything.
“Do you know why I became a scout?” Laria's words were timid and soft, a little unexpected.
Meiple nonchalantly shrugged. “Most Affini I know who became part of front-line domestication did it either because they wanted to be in the thick of the action, to find their own pet for themselves, or to help those of us at home find cute pets to bond with.”
Laria turned back to face the sun again, and Meiple secretly celebrated being able to match the scout's coolness for their brief shared gaze.
“All good reasons. I want to believe I share those motivations as well…” Laria bent forwards a little as she murmured. “But alas… mine are much less noble.”
Meiple tilted her head a little, letting a few of her crown-seeds float to the ground. What could she mean?
“When did you first bloom, Meiple?”
The receptionist tilted her head. “Hmmm… I would have to say around 110 terran years ago.”
“Then it was far before your time.” Laria’s face twisted into a sad smile. “I believe I was in my… my second. A major influx of sophonts from the domestication of the Xa’a-ackétøth civilization meant increased recruitment out to the edges of space. I answered the call, working as a naval clerk for the Longicervia. The details escape me, but I remember my general, Zaraxenia, a wizened 12th Bloom at the time, and her words of caution… ”
She stood upright, as though recalling a posture from her service days. “ ‘Never underestimate the feralist instinct… to rebel, to disobey, to engage in the most self-destructive tendencies,’ she said. It was a message we instilled into our hearts, for the weapons constructed from the many war-moons of Xa’at were capable of causing immense damage to our standard cruisers. The opening negotiations with the species concluded with such alacrity that it put the rest of us on our root tips, triple-checking data to ensure that all autonomous weapons units were deactivated or reprogrammed, and that any insurgent groups would have no chance at succeeding with their plans.”
Curiosity got the better of Meiple. “Were there any? Insurgents… or errant weapons units?”
“Less than you would think,” Laria replied, “and more than I would have liked.”
For a moment, Meiple thought she could see a slender, toothy grin reminiscent of the serpentine species emerging from the scout’s maw. It made the receptionist shiver a little, and when she went to take a closer look, the sharp thorns were gone. 
“Regardless, I never forgot the lessons I learned serving there, and in time, it would prove to be… prophetic.”
Laria retreated from the windows, returning to her spot in the hallway, next to the nutrient tank. “How much do you know of the Nyrinan Glassing Plot?”
The receptionist scratched the back of her head. “As far as I recall, the Cosmic Terran Navy attempted to deal irreversible damage to the Rinan homeworld as retribution for our domestication campaign. That would have been roughly two years ago.”
“Indeed.” The brief saccade in Laria’s eyes told Meiple she was recalling something. “I was still serving on the Longicervia, in orbit around that planet. Our intelligence networks had intercepted some of the most egregious offenses far in advance, but some managed to slip by detection. I watched our ships race to intercept low-orbit bombardment weapons minutes before any harm could come to the sophonts below. In those moments, as a naval clerk, I realized how much my Zaraxenia’s words rang true. And it brought me… unmistakable fury.”
The scout’s vines began to tremble. 
“The feralists sickened me. The way their destructive nature only brought terror to a neighboring species. I was furious… and I was no longer content to sit within the bowels of a ship. I was one of many who engaged in the boarding actions which followed; capturing humans, identifying their leaders and intelligence agents… subduing the rebels by my own vines before they could hurt themselves, or any other sophont.”
Realization dawned on Meiple. “You saw the worst of humanity.”
“I learned to love capturing them… dragging them back to the Longicervia, piles at a time.” Laria’s face wrestled with endless emotions. “I was cruel. I was like the Cephalotus of old, an incarnation of wrath. I threw myself headfirst against powder and laser fire, charged through their conventional weaponry and thrilled to watch the faces of the sophonts on the other side as they found themselves helpless at my whim. Some of them were smart, but I was quicker. My assignments began to focus on the OCNI, which I despised the most for their involvement in the cruelty towards the Rinans. I took great pleasure in breaking some of the most tight-lipped agents with impunity.”
Meiple went to join the scout, edging closer to them against the hallway, hoping that it might comfort the older affini. Laria didn’t notice; she seemed to be in her own little world.
“I returned to conventional life shortly after the Accord signed their contract of surrender, but faced only more trouble. In passing I would recognize sophonts that I had personally retrieved from the hulls of those ships. I knew of their crimes, in dossiers that could fill this hallway with Terran paper documents. I knew that, even with their memories and previous personalities wiped, the vessels that were their bodies had committed violence in spades. It took me tremendous effort to get by… in the end, I could not risk staying around so many of them, and I placed a request to be transferred back to duty.”
The scout shot a desperate glare in Meiple’s direction. 
“Do you understand? I cannot be an owner, not of a human. For as futile of a resistance effort the Terrans put up, I will grant them the victory of taking away my peace. For this Bloom, at least, I have consigned myself to a life of service.”
Meiple shook her head. “You were motivated out of a sense of justice, to do right by the Rinans. You did nothing wrong… and you shouldn't let the feralists take the joys of ownership away from you!”
“Did you not hear me, young one?” Laria snapped in response. “It was not love of the Rinans that drove me to such lengths.”
Her bright azure eyes dimmed and turned away. “Kiki is the first pet I have ever met that has allowed me to indulge again in the prospect of being an owner… and she is already another’s. So, this feeling will pass, and I will return to my duties. I will not subject Kiki or any other human to my extended presence. It is unwise.”
The two of them returned to a shared silence in the hallway. For a time, Meiple’s eyes tracked the sunlight as it slowly angled its way towards them. Although Laria spoke with confidence, Meiple knew that the scout’s core was in shambles. She hadn’t been in this universe for very long, but she had spent enough time to know what was considered healthy affini behavior. Even by other species’ standards, Laria looked upset. 
Perhaps she was right, and concluding this investigation would make things better off for everyone. But, even if this was true, Laria was working under different assumptions than Meiple about how this might be done, and she intended to communicate hers with clarity.
“Laria… I want to help you, in any way I can. I don’t know if I can fix what’s going on here…” She pressed a twig up towards Laria’s chest. “But I can certainly provide other forms of assistance. We’ll find Kiki’s owner. Together.”
“I suppose you won’t let me do this alone,” the scout sighed, but a wry smile crossed her face.
Meiple beamed in return. “Absolutely not. And as my first act on Team Laria—”
The receptionist hastily snatched up a bundle of Laria’s roots and shoved them back into the hydration tank with a splash.
“—! What are you— How dare you!”

Feedback welcomed as always. This story is really starting to grow on me, and it's been a wonderful journey, so thank you for coming along with me. I'll be away next weekend, so we might not have an update then, but we'll see how much free time I have during the weekday to write!


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