Ava quietly shuts the bedroom door behind herself, taking stock of the hallway. Four doors in opposing pairs, one dead-end, and one opening into what, judging by the faint noise of perhaps a TV, is the living room. That such is turned on suggests that Emmenanthe is likely still here. Good, she can slow down a second; not power-walk straight to Emmenanthe, short of breath, and causing undue concern.
Besides, this is a silly non-issue that Ava is just entertaining the motions of, more than anything. Like hurrying into bed after turning the light off, to outpace some non-existent shadow monster. She could stop at any point. It’d be a stupid accident to get Emmy all worried again for her over it, anyway.
The hallway continues the same motif as the bedroom. Namely, the conventional doors, floorboards, and wallpaper remain strikingly familiar to a conventional terran home; and yet, her head not reaching to even half the height of the doors along it irrefutably declares that this space is not terran. The juxtaposition is messing with Ava’s sense of scale, now that there’s no more appropriately sized furniture in sight to counter it. She reminds her brain that, no, she hasn’t been physically shrunk.
Now then. Breathe in, breathe out. All set, second taken, best not keep Emmenanthe waiting. She sets off at only slightly above regular walking pace; along the hallway, into what an expanding field of view reveals to be a front room and open-plan kitchen, and-
Straight into Emmenanthe’s arresting gaze, shot over the back of the sofa. Directed in advance at the entrance to the hallway, and where she now stands.
Ava is still getting affini facial expressions down, asides from bafflement and burning self-consciousness. Given that this is a familiar one, she’ll go for it being worry.
The affini quickly catches herself, face brightening and overall form pulling back together, her slight splay of leaves and vines returning to something better defined. “U-um, how are you feeling, Ava?” She quickly brushes some leaves back into array, tempering a wince when she knocks a faded blue flower by mistake.
A- Ava does not like the state that Emmenanthe has evidently worked herself into, despite the facade. The need to get the words out to put her at ease outruns conscious thought. “I’m fine! A moment alone didn’t really reign any new feelings so I’m still not afraid or angry or anything.” Emmy’s look of worry wholly returns. Shit. Panic. She amends: “Or er, maybe not? Sorry, I-I can be, if you think I should?”
“No! It’s just, you’re not um, actually really very afraid and just saying that because you think you have to are you? A-And this would actually be the wrong approach if you were wouldn’t it-“ Oh god this is escalating. This is escalating rapidly and Ava needs to put a stop to it. She doesn’t know what it’s escalating to but she feels like it may be equivalent to a bomb or something.
“Wait!” she quickly interjects, and the conversation – thankfully – freezes. Okay, best not deny her worries, that’ll resume things. She’s no wordsmith, though, so no alternate assertion is coming to mind. “..Let’s just take a moment?” she settles for. Ava has thoroughly messed up the simple act of walking into a living room, typically.
“..Lets. Um, sorry about that, Ava.” She settles her leaves for perhaps the fifth time today, gesturing to a seat on the sofa. “I’m not so great at first impressions, am I? Or- second, actually.”
“No, it’s okay, you’re nice. And the majority of the fault is mine, so..” she states, rounding the sofa. She still isn’t over the scale thing; this sofa is veritably big enough to splay out on like a bed.
“You’ve just been kidnapped by giant space monsters from your perspective, Ava!” Emmenanthe exasperatedly returns.
“You saved my life, and seem awfully considerate for one,” Ava ripostes. “Also you gave me a really nice bedroom.” She sits down on the sofa, before opting to bring her legs up as so she can actually reach the backrest. Unspoken is the fact that Ava clearly has utterly broken responses to highly stressful and/or alien situations, turns out.
“I didn’t- You’re still taking this far too well, not that I actually want otherwise,” the affini gently chides, folding her arms.
Ava nods in agreement, settling better into the sofa. The plain domesticity of this all is almost amusing, like surreal humour. Is she smiling, even?
Emmenanthe is nice. Ava likes this person, tall and leafy or no; she has an undeniably safe, comfortable atmosphere. And Ava actually feels cheery, of all things. Odd emotion to host right now, but it’s a start. Maybe it’s some stunted response of relief, having established that she’s in decidedly safe company.
Oh, and Emmenanthe is staring at her, intently. Right, her apparent smile. “I’d say I’m doing okay?” Ava tentatively offers.
“Understood, then,” Emmy warmly concedes, with her own relief. “Promise to say if that changes?”
“Promise,” Ava affirms. Her leaves and vines steadily lose tension again at that. It’s a good sight.
This is going okay. It’s genuinely working out. Perhaps Ava isn’t failing to grasp some hidden, perfectly good reason to be panicking; there might just be no such reason in the first place. Well, other than principally.
A surprisingly comfortable moment passes. Literally so, also; this sofa is very comfortable.
“..Cup of tea?” Emmenanthe offers.
Ava takes a light sip of her tea, before returning it to the table, still just too hot to drink proper. On the TV is a quiet documentary on some ocean-world’s amphibious life, not that Ava is taking much of it in, which surprisingly sounds to be narrated by a human. Meanwhile, Emmy seems to be having no such problem with her own tea, occasionally dipping a vine in as to, apparently, absorb it. The level of her remaining tea is markedly lowering.
Right, on with some more questions. Emmenanthe has just explained that affini also have prehensile vines, upon Ava’s observation of “oh, wow,” at her absentmindedly using more than just her hands to open the kitchen’s cupboards and drawers. Followed by the affini profusely apologizing for having disturbed Ava by breaking from a properly humanoid form, which Ava then wholly refuted. This did at least serve to remind her that many other things still need explaining, too.
It’s actually so open on what needs explaining that she doesn’t even know where to start. Maybe she can just.. say something to that effect? Her roommate has all the outside context.
“..I still don’t quite understand, in general?” she states.
“In general?” Emmenanthe queries, tilting her head.
“Why I’m not in a prisoner-of-war camp or something, instead.”
“Oh- I’m sorry, I just assumed-“ The affini seems to have realized some mistake. “You have seen our broadcasts, haven’t you, Ava?”
“What about them?” Ava doesn’t see what war-effort propaganda has to do with the actuality of her situation.
It clicks. “Ah,” she amends.
Oh hell. They were stating the truth. Emmenanthe’s prior reference to ‘domestication’ just plain flew right over her head, atop the egregious number of other parallels.
..The affini want to look after humanity. Because they think humans are cute, essentially.
It’s an utterly absurd premise. Unthinkable, as literally demonstrated by Ava herself. “Wh- How much of it?” she seeks to clarify.
“Was true?” Emmenanthe helps. Ava readily nods. “..All of it? There was no need to lie.”
All of it.
Ava has been thoroughly blindsided. It’s going to take time to fully process the radical shift in perspective that this entails. To start, she should work out the priority conclusions to be made of it.
Firstly, she can make sense of everything that Emmenanthe has already told her; which is mostly a plain recap. They’re literal roommates, so that Emmenanthe can help her settle into affini society, and make sure she doesn’t join some rebel cell. She’s not being Domesticated, which as a concept sounds very morally dodgy to her. Good. Going by the broadcasts, life for other humans is pretty decent.
Second, Ava has been aiding a war effort against this Affini Compact, not what they were posed as by the terran government, and following, herself. Because she idiotically believed that this war simply had to be just, breaking from the Terran Navy’s history of brutally crushing any attempts at secession from the Accord, and of course subjugating the Rinans. Shit.
She still won’t be able to fully grasp the moral implications of this until her brain is done processing a conclusion on the good-ness or bad-ness of the Compact itself, now that its absurd propaganda campaign has actually been revealed to be fact; and that may take a while to do. She doesn’t look forward to it.
“Right.” Further conclusions are being halted by her brain once more refusing to cooperate. It has apparently had its fill of new information, again, and is going to host a useless jumble of static for all complex thought tasks forthwith, until an arbitrary amount of rest. “..It’s going to take some time for me to fully grasp all of this,” she diagnoses.
Ava really just wants to have a clear head, again. The near constant low-level noise inhabiting it since the warp-drive incident is truly disagreeable, and has now risen to being roughly comparable to a headache. She sincerely hopes that its stress-induced, and not a warp-drive-specific medical issue. Brain damage from having her neurons pried mildly apart via the warping of space sounds unpleasant.
“That’s completely okay, Ava. I wasn’t expecting otherwise,” Emmenanthe soothes. “You’ve got as much time as you need. This can just be a nice, relaxed day, okay?”
“That would be sincerely appreciated.” She really does need some mental rest, before also now tackling existing in an alien society. She’ll need to get a job again. And a bank account- or whatever equivalent. And ID. And- And stars it’ll be a slog, learning how to do all of that from scratch again. New social conventions for job interviews. New social conventions and processes for everything. And her head actually hosts a mild headache, now. At least she has deduced that it’s stress-induced, then.
“Um-“ Emmenanthe starts, “Not that you have to, but maybe you’d like a hug?” Ah, has Ava’s expression worsened enough to be a tell?
Wait, Emmy just offered her a hug.
..It couldn’t hurt? Ava trusts her, genuinely; for as short as she’s known her, Emmy doesn’t come close to the tone of someone with room for malintent. For as sure as she can be of anything currently, it’s a safe hug.
And Ava isn’t in a state to reflexively decline the offer, today. A hug would actually be very nice. “Okay.”
For a split second the affini just looks pleasantly surprised, not entirely having expected to be taken up on the offer. Just a split second.
Emmenanthe then opens her arms up, actually offering the warmest smile that Ava has seen from her yet. Ava’s heart inexplicably tumbles for a moment at that nonverbal praise. The sight has stolen away any hint of want for still declining, anyway.
She shifts over on the sofa, tentatively into the affini’s made space. Emmy just as cautiously drapes her arms around her, giving ample opportunity for Ava to pull away, before settling them loosely. Ava glances up, to see her attentively watching back, her expression still positively glowing. It seems Ava may have just unwittingly vanquished another of Emmy’s worries.
Very good. She settles herself up against Emmenanthe, resting her head against the inside of her shoulder, and curling an arm around her in turn. She’s so soft. Her leaves are surprisingly gentle, making a comfortingly cool cushion to lean into.
It’s a relaxed position for them both, Emmy still largely using the sofa’s backrest, and Ava angled to still see the TV, not that she cares for it. What this does mean is that they can stay like this, for a bit. No issue of awkward angles or the like is limiting this. Emmy’s comfortable.
And she sincerely wants this to continue. Ava’s safe, right now. Emmy has her. She doesn’t have to act. Doesn’t have to think. There’s no time limit. It’s all okay, like this. “Thank you,” she softly offers.
Emmenanthe gives a light squeeze of her arms in response, falling back to the slightest lingering pressure. Ava returns the gesture with her own arm, simply resting her eyes closed for a moment.
She even smells nice, not that she would’ve expected otherwise. Ava settles for just experiencing it, absentmindedly logging every texture, brush, and sound from Emmy’s each minute adjustment.
They slowly blur together into the same experience, as her mind stops caring to separate them. It’s still pleasant; all that matters is that Emmy’s still there.
The individual seconds start to lose their focus in turn. She contentedly drifts in it.
❀ ❀ ❀
“███ ▓▓▓ ▒▒▒░░, ░va?” Emmenanthe asks.
Ava jerks awake, though she doesn’t know if she was exactly asleep in the first place. It doesn’t feel like she was quite there. “Huh?” And where- Ohh dear she’s still being hugged by Emmy. Oh god, she just fell asleep, or equivalent, on her. “Ah- Sorry.” Her body forces itself upright, Emmy’s arms slipping off to let her. Ava has overstayed her welcome a hundredfold. “Really sorry.”
“No, no, it’s okay, Ava,” Emmenanthe soothes. “You might still have had some sedative in your system, even,” she offers.
“..Yes, I may have,” she readily takes the provided excuse. Ava seriously isn’t the type to doze off on someone. Hopefully she just wasn’t out for too long, though the TV being off isn’t a great sign. “Um, do you know the time?”
Emmy grabs her tablet from the table, turning the screen on. “Seven PM.” Oh it keeps getting worse- “-You did wake up late in the day, though. You haven’t lost much time.” she finishes. Oh, right, maybe not as bad. Still bad in the first place, nonetheless.
Emmenanthe continues, “How hungry are you, by the way?” Ah, right, food. That certainly skipped her mind.
“I’d be up for some food in a bit,” she confirms. Worded as to be entirely vague on quantity and timeframe, in a bid to provide as much leeway as possible to make up for her prior intrusion. Which hopefully isn’t instead considered as her just being annoyingly nondescript.
On further reflection, that is just her default mode of speech for these things, for the same reason. “Does takeaway sound good then, later?” the affini suggests.
Ava nods in agreement. “Absolutely.”
“Perfect. Oh, also-“ Emmy starts, “I was thinking that we should get a quick house tour out of the way? So then you might be more comfortable, in a place that you actually know.”
“Sure!” she concurs. Getting a look around the place does sound genuinely interesting, and like a readily available distraction from the fact that she just fell asleep on- Ava gets up from the sofa, to stretch first more than anything.
Emmy lifts up after her, and- and this is distinctly the first time that the both of them have been standing at once. She thought Emmenanthe was tall before, but actually standing with her this time reveals that she still misjudged her height then. She is very nearly twice the height of Ava, Ava’s head barely reaching to her chest.
Someone being much taller than her in general would be a new experience, much less this. Ava actually knows what it’s like to be dwarfed by someone, for once.
“Ava?” The human in question snaps out of her awe, to the sight of Emmy smiling down at her again, offering her hand. Her heart trips once more, and she reflexively takes it, at the silent instruction.
Ah, she has her hand now. And she can’t exactly proceed to let go, that’d be rude.
..Well, it wasn’t a conscious decision, but she has no objection. There are certainly worse fates.