17 - Chasing Any Emotion

by Fluxom

Tags: #cw:gore #cw:noncon #D/s #drugs #f/f #graphic_violence #hurt/comfort #scifi #accidental_conditioning #anxiety #blood #depression #disassociation #dom:female #dom:internalized_imperialism #dom:plant #Human_Domestication_Guide #medical_play #mindbreak #paranoia #self_care_is_over_were_doing_drugs_now #self_harm #self_harm_is_over_were_still_doing_drugs #sub:female #xenophobia
See spoiler tags : #awake_surgery #parasite/symbiote #plant_vampirism #sadomasochism #torture

cw for a sad lesbian trying to feel anything but the yawning void in her heart, using means including but not limited to xenoalcohol

“Dear, we need to talk.”

Autumn instinctively hated hearing those words, even if it was in the affini’s voice. Their hab had, over the last few days, turned into a torrent of paperwork chaos that seemed to just leave Solanum exhausted both physically and mentally at the end of each day, and it wasn’t until long after every workable surface had been subsumed in this ‘pointless busy work’ as Solanum put it, that she finally woke up one day to find everything had been tidily packed away into a series of boxes that Solanum was carrying away. Autumn, for her part, had nothing to actually do with her time still and thus was sleeping in the living room where she could occasionally whine to get Solanum to pet her head.

“It’s about your term as my ward.”

Autumn perked up, head poking out from between the pillows and blankets. “Hm?”

“The Baiera will stop by in three weeks, and you’re to be transferred aboard once it arrives.” Solanum’s voice was it’s ever present flat remark, though Autumn had by then deduced every subtle pull and shift in her vines to read her mood anyway. Concern? That was an interesting one. “I’ll be filing my final judgement on what to do with you at that time as well.”

“Do I get any sneak peaks on what it’ll be?”

“Barring exceptional circumstances, I’ll see to it that you’re released to live comfortably in an affini world. The Baiera’s path back into the deeper systems will take it past a few options that I think you’ll like, and you’ll be able to pick from there or organize further travel on your own if you wish.”

Autumn felt like she was supposed to be happier to hear that, but all she felt was a dull sort of void appear in her stomach at that news. “What will happen to you?”

“I’ve been requested to assist at another station and be remaining there. It’ll be the Baiera’s first stop after here, so I’ll be there if you need any further help until then. After that, I recommend seeking Hesperia and Ilex as they already know you if you need anything else.” Solanum plucked a series of boxes with daunting ease as she finished tidying up the hab, then turned towards the door. “I’m needed in the medical wing for today, but you can still contact me anytime with your tablet. Be good, dear.”

Autumn weakly waved Solanum farewell and gave her good wishes in what was admittedly her awkward attempt at the affini language, then remained still for a long while in the empty room.

She was going to be released! On some affini world far far away from here, where she’ll never see Jupiter or the Moon or the Earth or the Terran Protectorate or Solanum ever again. Autumn repeated this to herself several times over and, somehow, found that she didn’t like it. That was weird. And wrong! She was supposed to be excited about having her own freedom back! She’d been terrified for her life all that time before while fighting for it, then bowed to the affini’s whims at even the slightest chance of it, and ultimately remained on her best behaviour all this time with the prospect of independence dangling ahead of her like a reward. She should be happy to get it!!!

She was not happy. Something was wrong.

Autumn crawled out of her nest in a numb haze, eyes looking forward but particularly seeing anything as she went through the daily routine. Eat some of the food Solanum got for her, take a bath and relax with all the products Solanum had prepared for her, brush her teeth and try not to think about Solanum holding her face and doing it to her, get dressed with the red, purple, and black piece that was Solanum’s favorite, and then in an attempt to feel *something* fished out a vaporiser that she had acquired full of apocynai and took a small hit.

Now she was just high and numb. That didn’t quite work.

Plan B was to find something in the library and then relax in the park and try not to think about how nice it was whenever Solanum would take her out to lunch and feed her again. She got as far as walking into the library before tucking herself into a corner and fishing out her tablet to message her affini.

>>FallBreeze: what if I stayed on the station you’re going to?

Autumn attempted to be reasonable and not check her tablet every five seconds for a reply, and then proceeded to check her tablet every five seconds until she got a reply.

>>Solarflower: I don’t think that’d be allowed. Policy is strict about avoiding risk of retaliation against surrenders.
>>Solarflower: technically we’ve already bent the rules more than we should by keeping you here
>>Solarflower: but you’ve healed wonderfully in our time together so I’m glad we did

Autumn grunted in frustration and slid the tablet away. Fear of retaliation, as if anyone would possibly see her as anything other than a tamed affini pet anyway. At worse some misguided soul might just try to come in and ‘free’ her from her owner- friend- affini- "Autumn wasn’t sure what word to use"s grasp. Autumn frowned. The rebels didn’t understand what they were fighting against in the first place, stars above she wouldn’t even know where to start with trying to convince them otherwise.

Whatever. She made her way through the library. People turned and stared at the woman dressed like a pet still, but she didn’t even notice them anymore. Not even when the stares would come from other affini, all painted with obvious want to claim her for themselves. She hunted for anything that would take her mind off the void in her stomach. None of the books caught her eye to begin with, nobody worth talking to would waste the effort with her stumbling words, none of the human areas even began to draw her in anymore.
Autumn walked directly towards the shops that catered to the affini instead. She found some place that served pets with their owners and got a table and drowned herself in a normal amount of pho, then chased it with one of the affini drinks she couldn’t pronounce right. It was probably a brain melter, everything the affini made seemed to be on some level of brain melty intent. Now free from the hunger and the hints of sobriety that had started to come in on the edges of her mind she toured the various fashion fronts, admiring the glaring array of colors and geometric shapes that marked affini clothes lines
Everywhere she walked she saw eyes turn to follow her. She’d probably gained a reputation, some unattached pet that lingered around the station and ran about aimlessly. If she turned to look she could see want seeping from the affini’s faces towards her, or concern as she passed by. Those with their own pets were the easiest to be near as they often were too occupied with their own adorable little terrans to pay her any mind, or worse, try to flirt with her.

Autumn stopped at a stand on the way out and had another affini drink she couldn’t pronounce, then ordered a third for the road before running to the park and falling into the grass. Everything felt dull. She should be happy!!! She looked up at the stars that spun idly by in the distance and wished she could get an answer from them instead. But all she got was silence. Silence and the vague sensation of dizzy nausea that reminded her she was probably drunk. Whoops.

Autumn remained there, eyes on the stars, empty pit in her stomach until the lights around the station dimmed with a simulated sunset. She barely even moved, just feeling a sort of empty exhaustion drag her down to doing nothing entirely. Maybe this was a bad medical interaction. Cardamine and… what was the drink called? Something with a p, maybe. Whatever, she didn’t care.

“Hey, are you okay?” Someone spoke to her. “Or at least not dead?”

Autumn grumbled under her breath as she rose up to see a human standing beside her. “No, and I’m alive.” The human offered her a hand up, all smiles until the exact moment they saw her face to face and noticed the collar around her neck. Then their face faltered for a moment, replaced with a polite sense of tension. Oh joy, here we go again. “Ah, do you, should I be looking for your affini owner?”

“I don’t have an owner.” Autumn answered flatly. She didn’t have the will to pretend to be polite when she knew where the conversation would inevitably go.

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” They shifted their position awkwardly, glancing to the side before continuing. “Are you that human there’s been rumors about? Runs about on her own all dolled up like a pet?”

Autumn just started walking towards the exit of the park, but unfortunately the other human took it as a sign to follow her. “I guess so,” She answered. Her head was swimming already with a want to just lie back down. What had she been saying? “I don’t know what people say about me, I just dress this way because it feels nice.”

“Even the collar?” They darted up beside her.

“I think I’m technically under arrest still.” Autumn shrugged. She just needed water. She glanced at her reflection and saw her collar giving a soft blue light on the sides. Definitely dehydrated then.

The human whistled, apparently entirely oblivious to her disinterested nature. “I thought the affini turned everyone they arrested into pets.”

“I guess I got lucky.”

“So what are you?”

“My name’s Autumn,” She wasn’t looking at her straggler at this point, but if she did she would have noticed the subtle shift in their posture. A small shift in step, spine straightening out, hands gripping unseen somethings in their pockets.

“Autumn Willow?”

It’d been so long since anyone had said her last name that she was entirely confused to hear it at all. She stopped and turned to her follower, seeing the person now staring straight at her with a piercing gaze. “...Yes?”

“What happened to the Verdant Dawn?”

She couldn’t have possibly heard that right. Autumn gripped the side of her head as a pang of headache hit her, then stumbled to the side awkwardly. Okay, she must be *much* more drunk than she thought. “I’m sorry, what did you ask?” She said. When she looked up again the serious expression was gone, and the person was once more awkwardly hunched over, hands playfully dancing about as they talked and a wide grin on their face.

“Oh, I just asked if you knew where the restrooms are from here.”

Autumn pointed to the side and the person bid her farewell right after. That was weird. Autumn didn’t think she’d had anything that’d make her hear things, but then again she hadn’t actually bothered to check what she’d consumed either.

Autumn walked back into the main halls until she decided that, perhaps, drinking three or four unknown affini drinks might not have been the best idea. So instead of doing any more walking, she simply sat down at a table to some restaurant, ordered copious amounts of water and bread, and quietly messaged Solanum to come pick her up

“Out celebrating your coming freedom?” Solanum had said when she arrived. 
Autumn groaned inwardly. “Honestly? I don’t know. I don’t *feel* happy, I feel empty.”

Solanum gave a rumbling hum in reply, then gently took Autumn’s hand in her own. “Would you like to go home now?” Home? Her home had been Solanum’s hab unit, but now the word just reminded her of the vague miasma before her and all the homes lost in the past. It reminded her of the temporary nature of this moment, hand in hand with her affini caretaker. It hurt.

“Why did I do it, Solanum?” Autumn whimpered. Solanum looked back in confusion. “I betrayed the navy when I defected, then the Verdant Dawn to you affini. I’ll never be able to go home and see my old friends, and all the ones I’ve made since I left home are all affini pets. I don’t have a place to go, people to be with, anywhere to be, why did I do it Solanum?”

Solanum’s eyes went wide open, rimmed with yellow circles in shock before she bundled Autumn against her. “We shouldn’t discuss this in public, little one. Come, I’ll take you home and we can work it out there.”

The human’s voice shook and her vision began to blur with tears. “Please don’t leave me, Solanum.”

“I’m here.” Solanum answered. Autumn saw the way her leaves were forced to a neutral position, shaking in small shows of tension within.

“You know what I mean, Solanum.” Autumn gripped her affini’s side tight, but Solanum didn’t answer.

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