Connation

6 - Softly

by Mae

Tags: #dom:plant #drugs #f/f #Human_Domestication_Guide #hurt/comfort #scifi #bondage #D/s #dom:female #mindbreak #sub:female #transgender_characters

Chapter 6! Finally! I'm sorry for the wait! Aaaa

On the upside, this is much longer chapter! With handholding, and some hurt.

CW for themes of self-hate, and a scene roughly adjacent to a panic attack.

Less hurt in future chapters. I promise. Only hugs. ;_;

It’s currently occurring that holding hands feels like a distinctly new experience. Which surely can’t be right.
 
..Okay, so Ava is now desperately trying to recall when she last held someone’s hand. There have certainly been handshakes, but those don’t count. This- this must be forgetfulness; she can’t not have held hands once in her entire adult life.
 
There have been handshakes. A few hugs. And.. well, that’s it, apparently? Logically, the last time she held someone’s hand must’ve been while crossing the road as a child, or something.
 
..She’s only in her twenties, it’s okay to still have a couple odd outliers like that. She thinks.
 
What matters is that she’s holding Emmenanthe’s hand now. And she hopes she’s doing it right. Is it possible to do it wrong? Oh stars she hopes she isn’t doing it wrong.
 
Was she supposed to intertwine their fingers? Or would that have been too much? Is she applying too little grip strength? -Is this a casual amount, or a please-let-my-hand-go amount? Is this even the right angle?? Her hand is probably too hot. Ava is undoubtedly messing this up, after a mere couple of seconds.
 
“Front room and kitchen, of course,” Emmenanthe gestures to the considerably large room they’re in with a wide swing of her free arm, “and that’s the front door,” she finishes into a point. It has a different style from the others, with a recessed handle. “This hab’s a small bit downsized from what you’ll find on a regular ship, but it should do nicely! I imagine it’s still an improvement for both of us, actually.”
 
Both. So, Emmy had to move because of her? Right, normal affini accommodations probably aren’t so terran-looking. The couple of boxes still by the front door support the hypothesis. That’s really not great; she has probably inconvenienced her. “..Sorry if I was short notice.”
 
Actually, thinking about it, this arrangement is for months, so Ava is and will be inconveniencing her. Emmy’s just a presumed comms officer who’s been saddled with her. That’s really very not great. Ava will have to try not get in her way too badly, once she’s settled.
 
Emmenanthe stops, processing what Ava just said for a second, before turning to her. “You um, promised to say if you weren’t doing okay, remember?” Ava blinks back in response. She’s fine. “W- You just roundabout apologised for your own being abducted, Ava!”
 
Oh, right. Fair point, actually.
 
Oh, she’s done it again. And she probably can’t get away with entirely redirecting the conversation a second time.
 
“Well, you didn’t exactly choose this either, Emmy.” Ava stands her ground, instead. Brings the focus back to the intent of her original statement.
 
“Y-“ the affini cuts herself short, and her leaves – still a major tell – prickle up again. -Wait, prickled leaves mean stress, right? Was Ava’s tone of voice wrong? -Oh god wait did she say Emmy or Emmenanthe aloud at the end?
 
Emmenanthe continues, having lost the prior confidence in her voice. “Iiiii- I kind of did? A little?”
 
..If she means the reason she gave before, that one’s certainly not her fault. “If you mean because you were the one to talk to me, when I was-“
 
“-I also requested to be placed with you,” Emmy rushes out. “I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you first thing. I should have.” She’s fidgeting in place again.
 
Well, Ava can’t imagine it’ll have been for an objectionable reason, but feels saying something like ‘that’s okay’ again isn’t quite going to cut it. “How come?” She tilts her head a little, gently increasing her grip; Emmy ending the handhold right now would be a bad direction.
 
She’s looking slightly away now. “..I felt responsible? -Which I know is completely unfair. And I- I got worried that if it wasn’t me it could be someone worse? Which is just self-centred, I mean! I’m sorry that I’m the- I’m sorry for that decision.”
 
So, it was well intentioned. And has functionally worked out as she wanted, seeing as Ava has no issues with Emmy? She guesses that there’s a principle argument against it, but that’s really all. “..I really have no complaints with that?”
 
“..Ava, you also really shouldn’t just be agreeing with everything I say?” A- Ava needs to show that she’s not just being passive.
 
Then, I agree that assuming yourself better than someone unknown could principally be called self-centred. -Wait.” She looks away as she catches herself. That was literally another agreement, if negative. ..Words are not her thing.
 
Emmy quickly hides the start of a smile with her free hand a moment, at that. “I mean it,” she arrests the tone. “You’ve literally been abducted, Ava. You should have some level of issue with this. I’m still worried.”
 
..Ava doesn’t like where a serious conversation has the potential to lead, and she’s running out of ways to evade having one. The prospect just sounds bad to her. She can’t imagine that exploring why she isn’t reacting to this properly will have any especially pleasant conclusions. They presumably range from ‘no good reason’ to ‘Ava is just broken.’
 
But, if she’s having such a conversation anyway, she should have it on her own terms, before it gets away from her? And to avoid conclusions. That sounds a plan. ..Though she’s terrible with words. But she has to say something soon, because she has limited time to think. All-or-nothing sincerity might suffice? She doesn’t even know what she’s going to say yet. It’ll have to come to her.
 
Ava steps in front of Emmy, taking her other hand as well. Looks up at her. Hopes that the right words are about to come, as she speaks. “I know this isn’t the correct emotional response- I should probably be scared, or angry, or at very least feeling inconvenienced, and I’m not. ..However, I am happy not to be out in space anymore. I’m happy with my new surroundings, and I’m happy that you’re the one I’m speaking to right now, because you’re kind and concerned and nice.” Ava swallows. “I don’t know if or when I’ll start having a proper response, but I promise to be honest about how I feel, and if I do start feeling bad I still don’t think it’ll be too strongly. So I think we should wait and see, for now. Is that okay?”
 
Well, making all of that on the spot was nerve-wracking. Her voice didn’t crack, but it certainly might’ve had undertones of a waver as she ran on.
 
Emmenanthe looks a little taken aback, actually. That was certainly the most that Ava’s said at once, today. Emmy’s face softens. “That’s definitely okay. Thank you, Ava.” The affini is gently running a thumb across the back of Ava’s hand. “We can keep an eye on it, then. You might be a little overwhelmed.” Ava nods. That’s a pleasant conclusion.
 
So that was a success, right? Ava thinks that was a success, miraculously. Emmy should have less to worry about forthwith. Ava breaks out a smile, for the occasion. “Right! Let’s house tour?” Ava announces. Press the advantage, run away from talking about feelings.
 
“Let’s house tour,” Emmenanthe joins.
 

 
The hallway hasn’t become any less liminal since she last visited. She feels smaller again. And, if she looks too hard, Emmenanthe now appears comparatively terran-scale. A hallway really shouldn’t be messing with her head this much.
 
“Your bedroom,” Emmenanthe starts, a nod to the first door on the left, “and this is the study! Or, it’d probably be a storage room, if I had much to store? It’s a study for now.” Emmy takes the opposing door on the right, Ava accompanying, still holding her hand.
 
It’s somewhat smaller than her bedroom; maybe a small room by affini standards? It’s also similarly cosy-looking. Wooden floor, with a soft carmine-red rug across it. Two joined desks along the far wall, meeting at the corner with a sofa via a counter. Some in-set bookshelves along the walls, and an altogether warm atmosphere to it. It’s certainly a pleasant room, by Ava’s estimation, if a bit understocked. Again, there are recessed handles in the walls and ceiling for mobility when in zero-g.
 
“You said this hab was small, compared to others?” Ava queries. A whole study to spare is anything but small, by terran standards, and that’s speaking for average planet-side accommodation.
 
“Somewhat! There’ll have been size constraints this time, this being a stealth ship and all. Regular habs usually have a couple more rooms in total.” Emmenanthe supplies.
 
..Stealth ship. She’s still on it? This is on it, with her? “You’re not sleeping in lockers?” her voice runs faster than her mind. “Well- obviously. Wow,” she corrects. The affini are nigh above material functionalism, apparently. Ava fully expected this to at least be on a station.
 
Emmenanthe offers a smile. “And now neither are you, very thankfully.”
 
Ava gives an enthusiastic nod. Very true, she has that exceptionally comfy bed she’ll get to sleep in again.
 
They turn back into the hallway, making down it to the second pair of doors. To think that they’re still on the stealth ship. It can’t be big enough for an internal centrifuge wheel, can it? At least not one large enough to keep the floor looking flat. So how is there gravity, even? “Um, by the way, where’s this gravity coming from? Is it propulsive?”
 
“Hm? Oh, it’s centrifugal! The whole ship is spun up end-over-end, actually.” Emmenanthe explains. “..Though in practice it’s a bit of a pain, since it means we’re without gravity for maintenance, docking, et cetera. Size constraints, again.” Oh, that explains it! Many old terran ships used to do the same, before centrifuge wheels could be made less high-maintenance.
 
“Anyway, here on the right is the bathroom,” the affini continues on. Ava steps into the doorway beside her, taking a quick glance. Again standard to that of a planet-side Terran home, though – of course – with an immense, affini-scale bathtub. Ava didn’t know what she expected.
 
“..And a whole bath,” Ava observes. Emmenanthe nods in agreement. Or, it was a somewhat more determined looking nod, so maybe in self-acknowledgement that Ava now has more pleasant accommodations.
 
“And, last is just my bedroom.” Emmy states. They make across to the opposite door.
 
Wait, what does an affini’s room actually look like?
 
..Peeking inside, it’s still terran-esque, turns out. Rather in keeping with the rest of the hab. Ava half expected some completely alien, incomprehensible personal space; though, considering the affini is still decidedly humanoid, it being similar to her own room makes sense.
 
However, it does have a different aesthetic. An incredibly different one, at that. Instead of uniform, warm colours like the other rooms, Emmy’s is saturated with sprawling patterns and multicolour gradients across every surface. There’s so much to it that Ava would almost default to calling it overdone, and yet it’s nonetheless incredibly pretty. Like a mind more artistically complex than a human’s took something just too visually dense for them to work with, and made art of it. Parsed the invisible lines needed to make it nonetheless flow.
 
..Ava would call it an attempt to abstractly portray the cosmos? Regardless, it’s pleasing to the eye. Ava could just idly follow the golden spirals and ribbons and stars for a long while. Not that she should; she’s busy. The amusing, half-serious thought occurs that maybe the Affini have uncovered the secrets to pleasantly cognitohazardous interior design.
 
“..This is quite pretty, Emmenanthe,” Ava notes. It’s still stunning that all of this is on an affini military vessel; and just because they can, apparently. Well, atop the fact that the Compact feels morally obligated to take terrans alive, turns out. But that hardly necessitates this amount of luxury.
 
Speaking of, that means everyone on the other ships of the fleet were captured too, right? That’s a thought. They can’t all be on this one, though, so there’ll no doubt be support ships involved.
 
..In which case, what possible reason can there be for terran accommodations to be on a stealth ship at all? Ava picks up again, “Wait- May I ask a question?” The affini gives a questioning hum in response, with a tilt of her head. “How come I’m on this ship? There are less-specialised ships supporting you, right?”
 
“Oh, two reasons!” Emmenanthe starts, lighting up. “First, simply convenience. I can still work, while we’re also roommates! Same goes for other affini and their florets,” she supplies. “Second, it would be kind of demoralising if everyone we picked up was just shipped straight off elsewhere? It’s nice to see the outcome of our work. I think that’s a really cute concept, at least.”
 
Ava feels the heat of a presumed blush come to her face. Right, she forgot, her being-captured isn’t a side effect of the war, it’s the point. Because they think humans are cute to the extent that they’d cross galaxies to give them nicer homes, despite having nukes shot back for the effort. And apparently Ava has actual inherent worth enough to warrant such an undertaking?
 
“-Um, thank you,” she spontaneously voices. ..Her mind took the explanation as a compliment. Emmy just looks slightly confused as to what she’s being thanked for.
 

 
A gowpen of water splashes back into the sink, Ava having just soaked her face for no good reason. Well, the official excuse was to see if it’d wake her up, as if this were some kind of dream, which was just a plain silly idea.
 
Nonetheless, the physicality of it is sinking in now. She’s going to go sleep in her new bedroom shortly, and the reminder that she’s staying for more than just the day has caused some kind of subconscious revelation. Her head feels clearer, and her situation a lot more meaningfully long-term. It’s a little daunting of a development.
 
And, stars, there’s a lot to process about today alone. Today she woke up with an exceptionally kind and concerned affini at her bedside. It turns out she now shares a house with her, has all her needs met, and exists within a benevolent, utopian society; all at the cost of.. having to wear an electronic tag on her wrist for a fortnight? And then she promptly fell asleep while hugging Emmy on the sofa. They later did a house tour. Ava discovered an alien style of interior design, before eating an equally alien takeaway dish. Emmy gave a quick tour of the kitchen after, which was overwhelming less for complexity, but for yet more unfamiliar kinds of food (though with some frankly amusing, comical knock-offs of the popular terran cereal brands). They then sat down and watched more documentaries together while Ava slowly struggled to come up with questions to ask, given that she still didn’t even know where to start. She ultimately didn’t get far, and Emmenanthe consoled that it’ll come to her as needed.
 
And finally, she has just finished brushing her teeth before bed, followed by a whole lot of idling while she mentally recaps the somewhat unusual day she just had.
 
Also of note: Ava actually feels kind of bad, right now? Emotionally. She’s only just noticed.
 
That’s a little odd.
 
It feels like having just recounted the day couldn’t be the cause? She’s rather happy to have met Emmy, honestly. Maybe her mind just doesn’t like feeling overwhelmed, and that’s finally hit her, now that she has a moment alone.
 
On the other hand, she really isn’t that overwhelmed, now? This is all very big, but not terribly complex, nor dire. She has felt more overwhelmed in the past, in all seriousness. Which maybe shouldn’t be the case, but it is, for now.
 
Right then, onto other causes. Maybe she feels bad about otherwise not feeling bad? She did worry Emmenanthe a bit with that. It’s the biggest concern she presently holds.
 
Ava gives a cursory glance up to the mirror. Her hair is a bit of a mess, and her expression blank. Just awfully neutral. Her eyebrows do crease at the observation, and yet she isn’t even graced with a proper frown.
 
Well, that must be the issue, then.
 
It’s troubling. Maybe her proper response needs even longer to come around? ..Though that’s starting to sound more like an excuse, than anything. The day is at an end. A change in perspective probably isn’t coming, and this is just all her. Perhaps she’s just a bit broken, or something.
 
..It’s a familiar thought. But the prospect of it is upsetting, so it’s not like-
 
Wait, wait. No. She has done plenty enough dwelling on specifically this over her life. Her emotions are what they are, and trying to debate their validity won’t actually achieve anything. Not even in the new context of why she isn’t panicking in this situation.
 
She just hopes they aren’t inconveniencing Emmenanthe. Because now someone is invested in her emotions. Which means there is now a criteria for right and wrong emotions, and having made Emmy worried with hers clearly shows that these ones are wrong.
 
Ava aborts from any attempt at continuing her line of thought, and instead makes for the bathroom door. This one was irreclaimable, set to spiral. Best just pointedly stop thinking about it. Bastard mirrors.
 
-And she’s out of the bathroom, good. Back into a space less isolated. She can hear the TV in the background, no doubt accompanied by Emmy. The change in setting alone is comforting, frankly.
 
She’s already better. On with it, then. Ava heads down the hallway, into the opening to the living room. The affini of note is on the sofa, tapping through something on her tablet, before the human catches her attention.
 
“Goodnight, Emmenanthe,” Ava bids. Consciously gives a small smile, because she’s overthinking that now. “Um, thank you, by the way. -For choosing to help me.” She needed to acknowledge that, at some point; Emmy was worried for having done it. Ava just seriously appreciates how much concern she seems to have for her.
 
“Oh- you’re welcome.” Emmy looks a little caught by surprise with it. “I was just finishing up, myself, even. Goodnight, Ava.” The TV clicks off, and she lifts up from her spot on the sofa.
 
“’Night,” Ava nods, turning back into the hallway and for her room. As she gets the door, Emmenanthe calls from the front room. “-Sleep well!”
 
“You too!” Ava calls back on reflex. ..And wow, it’s been a while since she last had an interaction quite like that, it occurs to her. She’s missed the homeliness. This is nice.
 
She steps into the light of her bedroom, gently shutting the door behind her. Takes a breath in, and out. Day concluded.
 
..Though now would be a good time to take full stock of her bedroom, go through the other desk drawers and her wardrobe.
 
But she can do that tomorrow. The sooner she sleeps, the sooner she puts room between her and that tumbling-through-space thing. That was singularly unpleasant. Being sedated half sufficed, but actually going to bed finally serves a more symbolic end to the chapter. Best do that.
 
Ava plods over to the desk. Fishes into the top drawer, pops her medication from either blister pack, and places it under her tongue. Plods back to the light switch, turns it off-
 
The thought of having any adverse reaction to darkness, following her prior experience, doesn’t occur until she’s actually in darkness. Ava braces. It’s a concern.
 
..Nothing unfolds. Good. The only thing awry is the lingering bad emotion from the bathroom.
 
Oh, that’s back.
 
This is typical. Feed her brain any negative thoughts, and it latches on. Her subconscious will gladly spin little doubts and unpleasant feelings for the rest of the day like a turbine. Because she has such little constitution, or something.
 
Good thing she’ll be asleep soon, then. Ava makes to the bed as her vision adjusts to the dark, slipping under the covers.
 
It’s a comfy bed.
 
 
 
She could be comfier, but she doesn’t think that’s down to the bed.
 
She adjusts position a little.
 
Still not quite right. She turns over.
 
 
 
Ava is starting a get a grasp of the issue. Whereas her unpleasant mental feelings should be subsiding, or at very least staying level while she becomes more tired, the exact opposite of these two things is happening. It’s getting worse. Which is odd, because she isn’t thinking of anything in particular to make that happen. But it’s definitely getting worse.
 
..Something is wrong. Whole instinctual panic at something bad she can’t perceive yet levels of wrong.
 
Ava sits up. She has half a mind to call it a sudden appearance of her correct, normal response to having been captured by the Affini Compact, but it isn’t. It’s much more imminent-bad-thing feeling.
 
Maybe she does now have an issue with the dark. Just a delayed one. She might be scared of the dark now. She could call this feeling scared. She does feel scared.
 
Fuck it. If it is that, she needs to fix this before she deteriorates further. She throws the quilt off, pushes up and off the mattress, and goes for the light switch. Half prepares to charge into an actual shadow monster, because evidently something is causing this deep-seated fear response. Aliens exist, it’s not a goddamn stretch.
 
Light on. The room is fully illuminated. No visible threat.
 
Ava doesn’t feel any better. She brings the light back down to dim, before walking back to the bed. Sits upright and pulls the covers back up. If the issue won’t explain itself, she’ll just have to ride it out. Stay alert, for if it shows itself.
 
..Yet riding it out could take a while, and this is an entirely new flavour of feeling bad. Right up there as one of the worst, it’s steadily rising to. She should keep trying to diagnose the problem; put an end to this sooner.
 
It’s not bad conscious thoughts. It’s not a threat in the room. Her subconscious can make her feel bad, but it doesn’t do this to her. Maybe it’s some kind of instinctual response to a serious medical issue. That’s the best she’s got. It could be that she’s about to fall over dead, and can vaguely sense that. In which case she should rush to go tell Emmy that she needs-
 
Oh. She’s alone.
 
She’s alone, and the concept of that feels severely bad to her, now. That’s a new development.
 
Diagnosing the issue has not helped. This is worse.
 
This is bad. It needs to be fixed. Immediately. Ava gets out of bed again, promptly.
 
But.
 
Emmenanthe could well be asleep, right now.
 
So what is she doing, going to wake her, because she can’t handle a room?
 
She has already done so much for Ava. She is already worried about her, because Ava couldn’t act like a regular human being. This wouldn’t help. In fact, it’s probably the worst thing Ava could do.
 
Ava would be asking more from her. Because, what, she can’t just sleep some bad emotions off? This is silly.
 
She sits down on the carpet, her back against the bed. She’ll just- let it pass. It will.
 
 
 
This is the person that Emmenanthe has been saddled with. She’s shaking because of an empty room. Choking up, even.
 
It’ll be okay. If Ava doesn’t go tell her, Emmy won’t know about it. Then it’ll be fine.
 
She just needs to keep herself in check. She can do that.
 
She’ll get back in bed and sleep. This is a non-issue. It’ll be fine.
 
Ava feels bad. She doesn’t want to move.
 
But she doesn’t want to be selfish.
 
The room’s just empty.
 
She hasn’t moved, still.
 
 
 
She’ll get too tired, eventually. If she just stays here. She doesn’t have to move. Missing some sleep isn’t the end of things.
 
But the thought that she has to stay up is bad, too. She’s still alone. She’ll keep being alone. She’s stuck in it.
 
-A red light just started blinking on her wrist tag. It probably needs charging. Ava stares at it.
 
All of this is bad.
 
But Emmenanthe won’t have to know how useless she is. If she just stays here.
 
It’ll be okay. Ava can manage that.
 
She won’t be able to bother anyone if she stays here.
 
 
 
-Noises outside.
 
Emmy might be up? Probably going down the hall.
 
It sounds like she just stopped short.
 
Oh.
 
Ava can hear the bedroom door moving.
 
That’s bad.
 
“Ava?”
 
This is bad. This is bad.
 
Ava should try hide it. She’s good at faking. Say she couldn’t sleep.
 
“Oh, Ava-” She didn’t manage it. The moment passed.
 
She can’t even look up. She’s a mess.
 
And Emmenanthe knows.
 
She feels sick.
 
Emmy’s closer now. She’s saying something more complex. She sounds stressed.
 
Ava can’t focus on the words.
 
“-I’m sorry,” Ava forces out.
 
More words from Emmenanthe, and-
 
And a sting of pain in Ava’s arm, where Emmy just touched her. Was that a needle?
 
She didn’t see. She can’t really focus enough to.
 
..But it feels like something in her head just got snuffed out like a candle. A mental weight just up and dissolved. So it was likely a needle.
 
No, the candle analogy was bad actually, this feels considerably less graceful. This is horribly emotionally sobering.
 
Ava is coming to her senses. Or, just got chemically dragged back to them. She starts wiping her eyes. Her nose is blocked. Everything aches. How long has she been sitting here?
 
Oh, she has a horrible headache, too: it feels like acid was injected into her frontal lobe. It almost stings. This is dreadful.
 
Ava gives a sniffle, blinking her eyes some to clear the remaining tears. God, she hopes this hasn’t disturbed Emmy too much. The prospect doesn’t seem to incur the suffocating weight that it did a moment ago, but it appears whatever Ava was given hasn’t changed the tune of her thoughts. She’s well aware that this is still an awful outcome. With quite regrettable consequences. Yet all she can presently muster is a sense of discontent, to that.
 
Ava finally looks up, met with a terribly concerned Emmenanthe hovering over her, leaves rippling with tension. A silent moment passes before Emmy seems to conclude that Ava has stabilised, an overtone of relief coming into her. “There you are, flower.”
 
“..I’m sorry for that,” Ava starts, voice still a little choked.
 
“No, no, you don’t have to apologise,” Emmenanthe soothes. “I- You weren’t able to respond to me, so I’ve given you some Klotaxin -it’s used to sharply inhibit panic attacks, and similar. How do you feel now, Ava?”
 
..Checking, she doesn’t feel a whole lot. Her prior mood being forcefully extinguished has left her a bit hollow. There’s a bit of an aftertaste of what she had before. “Kind of empty. Small bit bad, still.”
 
“Klotaxin is usually paired with another xenodrug to avoid that, but I didn’t want to use anything more without your permission. I can give you something nicer now, if you’d like.” Ava nods. Her own judgement has necessarily been impaired, and she trusts Emmy. This emptiness is unpleasant. “..First though, would you be okay with telling me what caused this?”
 
Ah. That.
 
“..I seem to have developed an aversion to being alone,” Ava contritely issues.
 
Lying wouldn’t have helped: she couldn’t hide a nightly repeat of this. No chance.
 
But still, she doesn’t want to imagine how burdensome this will be for Emmy to account for. Ava can’t even imagine a solution to it, not that she’s currently in the best of minds to.
 
Emmenanthe’s hand takes hers. “You didn’t come to me?” she gently asks.
 
But Ava should lie for this one. Say she didn’t think to. Emmy shouldn’t have to know that she chose not to; the prospect that Ava could do that again would be so stressful. Say: ‘I just- couldn’t think. Sorry.’ Exactly like that. Despite the earlier promise to be honest about how she feels.
 
“I didn’t..” Wrong start. “I-” Emmy is important; Ava should lie. “-didn’t want to wake you,” the words spill out. Damn it to hell.
 
“Oh, petal,” Emmy voices. “I want to help. It’s why I’m here.”
 
“This was more than just.. helping me settle, though.” This was more than asked for.
 
“I first expected someone who’d take things much worse than you have, Ava. I’m happy to do a lot more than just show you around; I want to help you in any way that you need, but for that I need you to let me know, okay?” she comforts.
 
..The reminder of what she expected is a fair point.
 
Ava’s being far better than someone who would’ve turned violent upon seeing an affini. Meanwhile, what happened tonight was out of her control. She’s still doing well. She’s still doing better than average, maybe. In which case Emmy isn’t disappointed. That’s an incredibly comforting thought.
 
Ava tentatively gives another nod. “..Thank you.” She feels an amount better, now.
 
Emmenanthe smiles. “Now then, let’s see about something more I can give you, petal,” she carries on. “I have something that could put you right to sleep, which you might find less intrusive, but would be less emotionally healthy? Otherwise, I also have…” she trails off here, actually looking a little stumped.
 
Ava really needs to find out what weight the endearments ‘petal’ and ‘flower’ hold coming from an affini, she mentally notes.
 
Emmy continues: “I actually don’t have much gentler stuff? ..Sorry, there wasn’t much time to prepare- I really was presuming a worse response to you meeting an affini. A couple do still fit for this, though?”
 
“..What’s that leave us to work with?” Ava picks up. The feeling of uncomfortable emptiness is still around, and she’d rather a restful sleep over being instead sedated for the second time in a row.
 
“Well, I have a class-m, which will make you feel a lot nicer and content, and mellow out any bad thoughts. There’s also a class-c, that’ll have the effect of making you feel much safer and protected,” Emmenanthe lists. “Again, this is only if you still want. We could also just ride this one out until you feel better; maybe watch some more telly together?”
 
..Ava was expecting worse, for these supposedly not being the gentle xenodrugs. They sound a lot nicer than what she’s been given thus far, and plenty gentle for what she’s concerned.
 
Unpleasant thoughts are also a problem, at current. They’ve lapsed for a moment, but doubts will probably come back. The class-m sounds like it’ll get her feeling thereabouts normal again, and it turning out a little stronger than that wouldn’t exactly hurt.
 
“The class-m sounds good?” Ava suggests. “-How long does it last?”
 
“A couple hours; it’ll be all gone by tomorrow. Is that alright?”
 
Ava nods. “That’s alright.”
 
“Lovely. I believe this one is called Ammetent,” Emmy supplies, setting to work on picking out the right flower. She thumbs along the inside of her forearm until she finds where a faded pink petal shows from under her leaves.
 
With a flourish reminiscent of the affini that Ava first met – if visibly less practiced and grand – the flower in full springs forth on a vine, Emmy taking it in her hand. It looks akin to a tulip, though with a distinct gradient as its colour fades up the petals.
 
Emmy adds, “Oh, also, I think it would be good for you to sleep in my bed tonight? So you don’t wake up alone.”
 
..Very fair point. She doesn’t want to wake up alone. That sounds horrible. Especially when that might be early in the morning, before Emmy, where Ava might again spiral into feeling too bad to wake her. “..Thanks, again.” She can stress over what an intrusion it’ll have been tomorrow.
 
“You’re welcome, petal.” The flower comes up to her arm. “Now, this might be a little strong, but you’ll feel nice, and I’ll be here with you the entire time.” Her other hand comes up to cup Ava’s cheek. She breathes a little lighter. “Still ready?”
 
Ava gives a silent nod.
 
She presses the flower up against her arm, petals shielding the needle within. She can’t much feel it, this time.
 
What she can feel is warmth. Warmth blooming into all of her, and feeling to wrap around her like a hug. Ava does a small double take: it literally feels like a hug, even though Emmy hasn’t moved. The affini carefully stows the flower in her arm, her attentive focus then falling back to Ava.
 
She almost has the mind to comment about how this feels, but doesn’t want to break the spell. Speaking sounds awfully technical, when she could just be for a moment. This is really nice. Like cuddling in a warm bed, or what she assumes that to be. She’s exceptionally comfy.
 
“This feel okay?” Emmy asks.
 
At that, she just wordlessly leans her head into Emmy’s hand. Words actually sound like a lot of effort. This should suffice.
 
“Ah, um- Nod for me, if that’s a yes?”
 
She can do that. She gives a soft nod. This is a lot stronger than expected, actually, but she has no complaints. There was nothing she had to do, and she’s in safe hands.
 
“Perfect,” Emmy words, her thumb idly stroking Ava’s cheek. “You’ve done so well for me today.” -And her heart tumbles a little, with that. This is nice. A small, content sigh escapes.
 
The human hasn’t actually taken the chance to study her face before, has she? Emmy’s pretty. And kind. And safe. But also very pretty; two large leaves curl to make the form of her cheeks, with a slight silver tint over the others. The rest is an intricate collage of smaller leaves and vines to shape her eyes, mouth, and nose. She looks cute.
 
Her eyes themselves are even prettier, like opaque gems, or faceted metal? They almost glow. There’s a fade towards the centre from white to a perfect turquoise, with transient flakes of gold interspersed. They’re beautiful.
 
Emmenanthe appears to be studying back, actually. And Ava’s typical self-consciousness seems to be off elsewhere. She hopes she’s up to standard, though. Human eyes can be pretty too, right?
 
Emmy soon catches herself. “Ah- let’s get you off this floor already, shall we? Is it okay if I pick you up?”
 
Ava nods again, making a hum of agreement.
 
Emmy wraps an arm under her legs, the other around her back, before lifting up. And Ava’s frankly too caught up in being held to care for the height she’s now at. The affini’s arms are large enough to wrap her up safely, too.
 
“Would you like to stay up a short bit, or does bed sound good, petal?”
 
“..mhm, bed, please,” Ava softly murmurs.
 
                                                                                            ❀        ❀        ❀
 
Ava is gently set down on a bed, to which she blinks back alert. She zoned out a moment.
 
Ah, she’s in Emmy’s room. And Emmy’s here. And she still feels all warm inside. This is good.
 
The room looks really pretty, with just the bedside lamp on. Very cosy.
 
“There you are.” The quilt is pulled up, and she just now notes the great deal of tiredness that’s built. And Emmy’s bed is incredibly comfy. This is perfect.
 
Emmenanthe rounds the bed, before slipping in on her own side. Ava lightly turns to face, nestling up in the blanket.
 
“I can leave the lamp on, if you’d like?” she whispers.
 
Ava gently shakes her head. A vine of Emmy’s flicks the light out.
 
..Affini eyes do glow, softly.

At reader request, a number of us HDG writers have come together to try posting a community Q&A thing! If you have any questions you'd like to ask us, you can send us them at https://curiouscat.qa/AffiniCompact or DM us at https://twitter.com/HDGCompact.

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