36 - Watching The Fish

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 character having dissociative flashbacks and trauma (nobody dies or is otherwise permanently harmed)

As much as Autumn wished otherwise, Solanum still had an endless array of paperwork to handle that did not require her input on. As such, even when they spent exhaustive hours together she still inevitably ended up in the boring state of having nothing in particular to do. After laying about the living room and kicking her feet in the air while browsing affini news articles for thirty minutes she recalled the forms Hesplex had filed out and decided to pay the pair a visit instead.

“Solanum,” She said as she hopped up, in the process upsetting the path of a pair of vines that were busily filling out sheets of paper across the way. “I’m going to hang out with Dawn and Hesplex for a bit.”

“Will you be sleeping there tonight?” Solanum asked without a hint of worry.

Autumn hummed over the thought as she worked her way over to Solanum. “Maybe? I’ll decide when I’m tired.”

Solanum tilted her head at Autumn’s approach to look over. “Fair enough, dear.” She said. “Just let me know if you do so I can come over and hold you too.”

“Aww, gonna miss me?” Autumn teased.

Solanum replied with a wistful sort of sigh, false ribs rattling at her sides as she did. “You *were* rather adorable when I saw you holding Dawn in your sleep.”

Autumn stumbled over the intrusive thought of herself wrapped around Dawn’s sleeping body and tried her best to not seem too flustered with want over it. “A-okay, yes ma’am.” The two shared a quick kiss before Autumn skittered out of the room, out of the hab unit, and across the hall where the door slid open automatically at her approach to let her in.

No sooner had Autumn set a foot inside their hab than were Hesplex both leaping in front of her, merging together at the hip to make a majestic twirl before bowing down, an arm over each shoulder and the other tucked politely across their joined waist.

“Hello there, little Autumn.” Hesperia said with a smile.

“Hello there, lovely dear.” Ilex said with a grin.

“Did you get our letter?”

“We do hope you’ll reply. We’d so love to have you.”

“Sorry girls, I’m still spoken for.” Autumn pulled the rolled up form from her pocket and playfully tapped the two on the chest with it. “But Solanum is busy tonight and I was wondering if Dawn was free to hang out?”

“Of course!” The two said with an open glee as they scooped her up between them and properly smothered her with attention. Hands ruffling through her hair, rubbing her back, squeezing her tummy, tickling at her thighs.

“Wh-hey!” Autumn said as a sudden laugh rose up out of her. “That’s not fair!” The two affini paid little mind to her protest as they lifted her completely up off the floor, practically threw her down onto the table, and then proceeded to continue wildly overstimulating her physical senses with a relentless onslaught of touch until she was left panting, kicking, and laughing in purely hoarse gasps.

At about that time Dawn had walked in and was dumbfoundedly surprised to see the disturbance was Autumn strewn out across their table, red in the face and with her clothes half kicked off around her from all the flailing. “Uh,” Dawn said. “I’ll uh-” Dawn then turned several lovely shades of red before dissociating out of the entire scenario and falling over backwards.

“I’m sorry about that.” Autumn said after she had finally caught her breath safely again.

“I’m also sorry about uh, that” Dawn, who had to be caught before she hit her head then brought back to the waking world three times before she stopped falling back into a whining oblivion.

“We apologize for nothing because it was all worth it.” Hesplex said, then danced together out of the room while wishing the two to have a lovely time hanging out together, blowing the pair a downright silly amount of kisses into the air as they went.

Dawn proceeded to bury her face in her shaking hands in raw embarrassment. “Uh, I, uh, did you want to play some games? I’m happy to have you here, I was just watching the fish go by before you arrived, and-”


Dawn gasped and skittered over to the far window, practically pressing her face up against it. “Yeah! Fish! Out there, see?”

Autumn ran over and peered through the thick glass as well, eyes darting left and right for any sign of what Dawn was talking about. Eventually a ship flew by. A small square thing that trailed rows upon rows of hexagonal boxes all attached together. It possessed a series of trailing vines from each corner, four in the front that it used to latch onto the side of the hab ring across from them. In short order a hexagonal entrance port would appear from within the seemingly smooth surface of the ring’s many complicated growths, and the back four limbs would proceed to pluck a selection of the hexagonal tubes and slide them into the port.

“That’s… weird.” Autumn said bluntly.

“Isn’t it? Hesplex said they were fish but I don’t see the resemblance.”

As the two continued to stare, eventually a second such ship drifted by, this one coming closer to their own hab ring to allow the pair to get a closer look. Autumn could pick out dark glass ringing the edge of the frontal face of the ship, revealing silhouettes that slithered about inside of them as it worked. Affini, judging by the amount of tendrils that were barely visible there. The sides and center, as similar to the affini’s love of extravagance, bare beautiful gilded patterns that shimmered like scales into an infinite inward spiral of patterns. The hexagonal boxes, by comparison, were relatively austere pieces of raw function. A series of blue lights danced across their outward surface, paired with a readout that she just barely couldn’t read even as they drew close.

“What are those?” Autumn asked, gesturing to the hexes as they drifted by.

Dawn squinted her eyes and focused intensely upon them in response, biting her lip as she apparently had to expend great mental effort on the question. “I feel like I should know this.” She said quietly. Her fingers slid across the glass, trailing a point over the distant shapes. “Something… hrm, I can picture wheat? But that doesn’t seem right.”

They seemed to be about five feet in width, and at least ten across. A little larger than a coffin, Autumn’s brain intrusively suggested. “Do you think a person would fit in there!”

“Oh!” Something finally clicked in Dawn’s head. “It’s a life support pod!” She leaned up against Autumn and trailed a finger against the glass. “See those? Those blue lights means all of its layers are functioning and atmospherically locked. It’s for storing and preserving someone safely for a length of time when they need assistance or can’t be otherwise be trusted to behave.” Autumn attempted to count the number of pods but quickly lost track.

“Are you familiar with them?” Autumn asked innocently.

Dawn paused again, biting her lip in deep thought. “I… think… so? I think I might have been in one once? I recall the inside is all vines, like, this planttech stuff that connects to the body and wraps around it, and like it gets really tight around the head.” She patted the side of her head to emphasize her point. “But like… I think the innermost layer has a window on the front? Like, you could see in and…”

If Autumn had known all the signs she would have known to intersect this line of questioning at the beginning. Small fluctuations in Dawn’s eye focus. A slight tick at her jaw. Her hands shaking in a rhythmic tap of tension. The way her leg shivered before it connected to the prosthetic.

“...I think… I think when I was in the labs? There was… someone there, in one of those tubes. She reached out to me.” She looked confused, hands now resting on the sides of her head and eyes darting left and right rapidly. “But, that can’t be right. Hesperia said I was alone? I was so lonely the whole time, wishing I at least had a friend, and… and…”

“Dawn, are you okay?” Autumn asked, concern blooming over her mind. She moved herself between Dawn and the glass, looking at her in the eyes and seeing that they had unfocused again, staring off into the great distance.

“Empty beds. Why were there empty beds?” Dawn muttered blankly.

“Dawn, focus on my voice.” Autumn tried to help, slipping her hands underneath Dawn’s and bringing her face down to hers.

Dawn’s breaths turned into a fevered gasping as she stumbled back away from Autumn, falling back onto her rear and attempting to crawl away. “Why were there empty beds!?” She practically shouted.

Hesplex burst back into the room. Ilex looked up to the window and immediately ran over to shift it into opacity. Hesperia, meanwhile, ran to Dawn’s side and wrapped herself around the cotyledon, putting one hand over Dawn’s eyes while the other held the back of her head. Ilex got between Autumn and Dawn, wrapping her arms around Autumn protectively and holding her close in turn. “I’m sorry you had to see this, Autumn.” She whispered against the tone of Dawn’s sudden screaming.

Hesperia was trying to say something to calm Dawn down, but Dawn was openly weeping in her arms. “Don’t do this please don’t do this, I’ll be good, I’ll-” She choked on air.

“Dawn, please, you’re not there anymore. You’re with us now, you’re safe.” Hesperia spoke in calm quiet tones. “Focus on my voice dear, like we’ve practiced.”

“Why were there beds? Why the lie, where did they go, why, why,” Dawn replied, her voice losing it’s rhythm. “Why, why, tubes, glass, vines. Where?”

Hesperia produced a colorful flower from her palm, and with a practiced sort of ease Dawn’s eyes locked onto the twirling array of colors presented for her even as her body tried to get away from it. “Listen to my voice, dearest little Dawn.” Hesperia spoke with a calm authority. “Just like we’ve practiced, listen to my voice and come back to me one step at a time.”

“I saw them,” Dawn whined, her voice trailing from a scream to a whimper. “So close but so far away what happened, why, don’t, please.”

“Feel yourself drifting back to the surface, letting the memories drift back to the past where they belong. Hear my words, see the colors, feel my vines against your body.”

Ever so slowly Dawn’s struggling body came to a resting state. “I don’t want to go.” Her voice still begged, even as all the energy had left her. “I’m scared.”

“You’re safe. I’m here holding you. Ilex is right here beside me. You’re safe and no memory can harm you now. Reach out to me, dear.”

“Noooo…” Dawn whined even as her hand started to unfurl and reach up towards Hesperia. A third arm wove itself out from Hesperia’s back and laced her fingers between Dawn’s.

“See? You’re safe, you’re here, with me. Nothing can hurt you anymore.” Hesperia’s voice never faltered, even as the tears continued to flow from Dawn’s face. “When I snap my fingers you’ll return to your special place, where nothing can hurt you and you hear only my voice. On the count of three. One,”

“They were right there, Hesperia.” Dawn whispered.


“Why is it crawling. Up my neck?”

“Three.” Hesperia scattered the flower with a snap of her fingers, and Dawn instantly dropped. Ilex remained tense around Autumn’s body, then only after the silence in the room drew on did she finally relax and let her go. Autumn moved to speak, but Ilex placed a single finger over her lips first. Hesperia continued to hold tightly to Dawn’s body as she spoke. “Tell me what happened little one, what did you see?”

“LIfe support pods, outside the window.” Dawn answered, but her voice was a hollow shell of itself. Ilex closed her eyes and frowned with visible frustration. Hesperia didn’t react. “They reminded me of… something. Back in the labs?”

“Shh, that’s okay, dear.” Hesperia said. “You just had a dream. A dream where beautiful, colorful fish floated by outside. You were so excited about your dream that you forgot it wasn’t real for a moment. Do you understand?”

“Beautiful fish, so many colors.” Dawn recited.

“Very good, dear. I’m so proud of you for understanding. Now just like we’ve practiced, I want you to bundle up all of those painful memories from back then and put them back where they belong. Do you remember how we practiced?”

“Pretty ribbons…?” Dawn’s brows furrowed slightly.

“That’s right dear, wrap up all those memories in nice sheets of paper, and lock them up with pretty little ribbons. Can you do that for me?”

Dawn’s hands twitched slightly once more, followed by a shift of tension in her legs. “Done.”

“Good, now put them back into the chest for safekeeping. Make sure they’re all nice and safe in there where they belong, and close that lovely little chest, then lock it with the pretty golden key.”

“Pretty key… your key.” Dawn’s mouth formed into a slight smile.

“That’s right dear, it’s my key. And now that you’re done using it, I’ll keep it safe in my pocket where you know it’ll always be when you’re ready for it. When I next snap my fingers you’re going to take a little nap for me. On the count of three, dear. One, feeling your eyelids grow heavy.” Dawn’s eyes slowly began to slide shut. “Two, letting yourself relax into the familiar comfort of sleep.” Her body lost all tension once more, calming in Hesperia’s grip. “And three.” Snap! Dawn’s eyes closed and she drifted off into a comfortable slumber.

Hesperia quietly lifted Dawn’s body off the floor, taking her back to their luxurious couch where she laid her down on her side.

“Ilex, the fish please.” She said, her voice still tense. Ilex darted back to the bedroom, then came back with a large stuffed animal of a fish that she tossed to Hesperia. Hesperia maneuvered Dawn’s body so she was resting on her side facing the window, head on some cushions while her arm was placed around the stuffed animal. As soon as Hesperia released her, Dawn tightened her grip around the fish and brought it in close against her chest, humming happily all the while.

Nobody awake moved for a long, silent moment after that. Eventually Hesperia turned on her heel to look towards Autumn. “I’m sorry you had to see that, little flower.” She said, exhaustion painted across her features. “Can we talk in the kitchen? I’ll make you some tea.”

Autumn nodded, her body stuck in a numb sense of shock over the whole scenario.

It wasn’t until Autumn was seated in the kitchen with a warm cup of tea in her hands that she finally had processed what she just saw enough to speak again. “...what the fuck?” She said flatly.

“Traumatic flashbacks to her times in the lab.” Ilex answered just as flatly. “It’s been a year since the last one, I should have been more vigilant and known to close the windows today.”

“It’s my fault, we’ve been distracted headhunting through the rebels.” Hesperia had collapsed into her seat and practically deflated into an exhausted bushel. “Her time in the labs were… unpleasant, to say the least. When things went wrong, at least. As soon as the implant began to interfere with her brain she started having intense hallucinations, dissociations, paranoid episodes, by the end she would lose herself completely in fictional realities for hours at a time.”

“We were able to stop it from spreading, and even cure the worst of it, but sometimes something will trigger a memory and she’ll relapse like you just saw.” Ilex added.

“I want to believe that one day she’ll be ready to face those memories properly again.” Hesperia said, but her voice carried little hope.

Ilex’s similarly lacked confidence as she added, “What you saw was an interim solution. Every other month we sit her down and try to guide her through it again, but she’s yet to get very far without breaking down like that agai-” Hesperia suddenly grabbed Ilex’s hand, cutting her off mid sentence.

Dawn stepped in, rubbing the sleep out of one eye and trailing the stuffed fish under arm. “Hey Hesplex,” She murmured sleepily, walking right on over to climb into Ilex’s lap. “I just had the weirdest dream.”

“Oh?” Ilex asked, slipping into her usual cheery tone with a now unnerving ease.

“Yeah, there were all these fish outside. I think I got influenced by this lil guy.” She said with a half-aware smile, then yawned before collapsing against Ilex’s body and falling asleep all over again.

Autumn moved to speak once more, but Hesperia shot a look towards her that made her pause instead. A sort of desperate glance that communicated everything in short order. ‘Don’t’, Hesperia wanted to *beg* of all things.

Autumn closed her mouth.

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