Melody's tablet blazed to life and shook violently. The sound caught everyone in Effus' hab off guard. Aria, especially, seemed to flinch in response to it. The three humans turned in its direction, all seated around the table with plates in front of them. Each plate had on top of it an assortment of breakfasty meats: ones resembling eggs and bacon, plus some more enigmatic stuff on the side.
"Is that…?" Asked Aria, her eyes locked onto the tablet as it lit up the side pocket of Melody's backpack. She paused for a few seconds, as if hopeful someone else would take away the duty of finishing that thought. When nobody did she said afterwards, "your parents calling…?" Mane visibly tensed her body and seemed to retreat inward. She let her hair fall over her eyes and began to eat in silence. Melody would have liked to do the same-the sizzling yellows and reds of her breakfast, and the steam vapor billowing gently off of them, were enticing to say the least-but she felt obligated to attend to this matter first. She didn't want her parents too worried.
"Probably is," Melody muttered as she pushed her chair out from under the table. "You two start without me. I'll be a minute." Part of her briefly hoped that it was a scam caller, but only for a moment before she remembered how the affini had dealt with those.
She'd never SEEN that many newspapers in one place.
Melody walked over to the outer wall of Aria's room, which was where her backpack was. She unzipped the side and pulled out the offending piece of tech. Sure enough, it was still buzzing, and the call was exactly who they'd suspected.
Melody didn't HAVE to answer. The terms of her contract gave her the right to contact them...well, technically it didn't. It only barred Cordelia from stopping her except under situations described by an irksomely long list of exceptions. This technically meant that other affini were under no obligation to follow those rules, of course. It also meant that calls in the other direction were entirely irrelevant. Still, she never liked upsetting her parents. She never had.
Mane, she knew, would hang up. Unless the caller was her mom specifically, perhaps-Mane's, that was, not her own. Mane had never been terribly fond of Melody's mother.
Makes sense, a part of her she wasn't proud of hissed, Mother probably reminds-the thought was bitten in twain and sent to the shadow realm. Melody thanked her implant for his loyal service and reluctantly pressed "accept call" on her tablet, ducking into one of the hab's several soundproof "conference rooms" as she did. They were technically cramped closets for taking calls and conducting other long-range business in, but since it was a cramped affini closet it had more than enough room for a human. Melody closed the door behind her and raised her tablet to her face with a smile. The cameras were turned off and if her mom had a problem with it, the call would end then and there. This was Melody's time and it would be lent to another on her terms or it wouldn't be lent to them at all.
"Hello, mom! What's up?" Melody asked cheerfully, pretty sure she knew what was up but ever the optimist. She braced herself for the worst, as she once had to do every time she spoke to family.
"Melody, have you seen the news recently?" God, it was about that. Melody almost felt more annoyed than worried or angry. "Are you still on the Crest?" Melody contemplated giving a mathematician's answer: a technically but not helpfully correct "no." That would make the conversation take longer than it had to though, and Melody desperately wanted to go back to the steaming hot meal with her girlfriend and Mane. She rolled her eyes even as she gave the more "optimal" response.
"Yeah. I'm still on here with Cordelia. I'm supervised at all times, mom, did something happen?" She knew it was about her ex. Her mom almost certainly knew that Melody knew this was about her ex. Her mother couldn't just say it though, they had to do this whole song and dance of a ritual first. Melody really didn't miss this part of living at home.
"€÷%|$' father is dead! The old CEO of Greshulcorp was murdered!" Melody stifled a dark laugh at the fact that she was surprised her mother didn't skip this phase of the conversation. Good on you mom, she thought, you've got your priorities in order! Not skipping over the part where someone bit the dust!
"Yeah." Melody didn't even try to hide the fact that she didn't care. If anything she was specifically and deliberately doing the opposite. "First murder in affini space and the victim was a dude named Cain." She could hear the offense in her mother's face at her flagrant disrespect to a former upstanding member of society. Melody supposed that this may have come across as needlessly dismissive, but she was frankly out of the ability to care.
"Melody!" Her mother chided her. A strange feeling came over the girl as she leaned against the closet's soft fuzzy wall. Her mother was still using her actual name while upset with her. That felt like a recent development, but when she inspected her memories it didn't seem to be. It was possible she had class-B's, Impy, or both to thank for that but it didn't seem like she did. It would be a...strange and specific detail for Cordelia (or a part of Cordelia) to change. "Melody are you listening?" Crap, she'd zoned out.
"Uhhhhh sorry," Melody chuckled, "you'd think the alien living in my brain stem would-right, sorry, you don't like when I talk about the implant. I zoned out, could you repeat what you said?" Her mother sighed in annoyance. Melody rolled her eyes and tapped impatiently at the wall's comfy layer of noise canceling moss with a finger.
"Fine." Her mom breathed in before she said her part again. "I'm worried about you. Your ex killed someone! They're on the ship! What if they escape! What if they came after you!?" The questions kept coming. Melody watched the plush wallmoss curl around her fingers as she experimentally pushed at and drew shapes on it. Is this what she used to sound like? She'd have to ask Mane sometime. That was probably the closest thing she had to an informed and unbiased source on the matter.
"Mom I'll be fiiiine. Mane-that's the name she picked, by the way, she's not Ch-Ch-" her implant wouldn't allow her to deadname Mane, even for these purposes, "stop calling her that-her dad was cruel and abusive. Mane's not a violent person. She'd never hurt me, okay? And besides-"
"Like she didn't hurt you when you lived with me?" Melody, unbeknownst to herself, dug her nails into the moss. It felt gross so she immediately yanked her hand away and wiped it on her dress.
"Mom, that was years ago." How many years? She wasn't sure of the exact number. Without terrestrial seasons or the motions of a sun it could be hard to track time in that sort of way. "And even then she'd never, you know...physically endanger me! Plus I'm on an affini ship and they have her." She took a deep breath. Put on the Good Girl voice. "I'm safer now than before she killed her dad, okay mom? My owner wants me. We can message one another later if you insist. Bye." She ended the call and opened the closet door.
When Melody returned to the table, Mane and Aria weren't eating. They smiled at her as she sat down and started back up on their food. Melody gave a delighted "awwwww" to the both of them when she realized what that implied and downed a mouthful of her food with a big ol smile on her face.
The three girls ate in relative silence. They didn't chat much but their expressions made it clear they all liked the food. Before long all three plates were clean and the girls all stood up from the table together to go put said plates in the dishwasher. Aria hugged Melody from behind and gently grabbed at her boobs. In response to this, Melody moaned. She moaned at a fairly high volume, seemingly either unaware that Mane could hear or too caught off guard to stop herself.
On one hand, hot. On the other hand, the sight bothered Mane for reasons she didn't...quite...get. Melody was happy with her body, she had a loving girlfriend who was ALSO happy with her body, and Mane and the girlfriend were good friends. The girlfriend was a precious sweetheart that Mane would die to protect.
Mane tried not to ponder it too hard. Her brain was an irrational mess full of trauma and scar tissue. She was possessive and bitter, maybe, but it was possible that wasn't...it. The insecurities from the previous night stirred inside her, like a great snake flicking its tongue before the scent of a passing meal woke it from its slumber. Mane cast them down to the best of her ability.
"Ariaaaaa!" Melody both warned and scolded her girlfriend with a big loud giggle. "You can't just do that, you gotta warn me next tiiiime!" Both girls laughed merrily and the two exchanged nuzzles. As cute as it was to watch, Mane could physically feel the sight of them feeding the pit in her soul. She decided to move to the living room and make her bed.
Her hopes for a distraction were quickly dashed. She couldn't figure out what went where, or why the blankets moved in the specific ways that they did, or how to tuck in the sheets under the matress without going behind the bed. When she tried to do THAT, she bumped her head on the wall and cursed at herself. What in god's name-
What was that? There was something behind the bed. She scrambled onto the mattress and hung one arm between in and the wall. It took some digging around at the floor but she felt a small plastic object. It rolled evasively from her grasp. Damnit!
She grabbed awkwardly at the air a few times and found nothing, not even dust. She slumped against the wall to get more room, and-huzzah!
She grasped a hard plastic object. Mane pulled it up to her: it was a boxcutter. What was that doing there? She frowned for a moment as she pondered it.
The door to the hab slid open. Mane realized her dress didn't have any pockets and scrambled to her coat. In the ensuing moments, with some wild fumbling, she managed to stuff the knife into one. Then she rolled out of bed and jumped up to her feet.
"Hi Effus, welcome home!" She chirped awkwardly. Effus stopped just inside the doors and let them slide closed behind her. The affini regarded Mane for a moment with an open and hopeful look on her face.
"Thank you, precious little one." Effus trilled happily. "You have an appointment today." Mane's heart sank and the affini must have seen it. They flashed a look of love at her and gestured for her to calm down. "Not anything serious! Just a vet like you asked for! For transition and psychiatry meds, okay sweetie?" Mane exhaled, relieved.
"Oh! Y-yeah, sorry about that. I'm...on edge." Mane nodded. She gripped one arm with the other hand and looked away, visibly put off. "I'm...sorry. That I've been so difficult. I know that you're trying, and-"
"Dear, it's okay. You really should try to work on that apologizing habit." Effus leaned over next to Mane and gently petted the human's head with a broad, soft vine. It had a groove that vaguely suggested the curve of a cupped human hand, and its texture was...intensely satisfying. Mane felt tingles in her scalp and on the back of her neck. "Would you feel safer if Aria came to the vet with us, or just me?" Mane blushed.
"Can...is there any way we could...bring Melody?" Mane asked, both afraid and unhopeful about the odds of that happening. She...thought that having a human from her old life there might help. "Sh-she knows me, after all, and she's...seen me at some of my lowest." That much was true, too, if a bit of an understatement.
"We'll see," Effus purred. "I'll have to ask her owner. Taking a floret onto another vessel without their owner is a big ask. But I'll try for you, okay?" Mane nodded. She felt...something. Something heavy and hot and salty.
"Thank you…" that wasn't enough. "I...owe you…"
"No," reassured Effus, "no you don't."