Airy and Mane ate breakfast together while Effus made a few calls using her tablet. The pancakes she'd prepared were delicious. At least, Mane thought they were pancakes. She had a hard time telling whether or not they’d technically count. They looked nothing like pancakes, but they were fluffy like pancakes, absorbed syrup like pancakes, and tasted...kiiiind of like pancakes? She would have preferred regular Terran pancakes-the homemade stuff at least-but this was the first time someone had cooked food for her in a long time so as long as it tasted good (which this did!) she was GOING to eat it. The two scarfed their food down hungrily in relative silence for a bit before they washed off their plates. An awkward silence loomed over the two of them as they did this-had Effus told Aria what Mane asked of her? Would she be okay with it? Obviously she could be convinced with minimal effort, if it would take any at all. Mane knew enough about florets from her limited experience with them on the overnet. Their loyalty and devotion to their owner was founded on both an interpersonal and a literally chemical level. Humans, as her ex once loved to remind her, could become addicted to the endorphins of a specific human’s company. The affini likely had an easier time domesticating Mane’s species than they did with most of their varieties of...sophont, she believed they called them.
“So...um….” Mane tried to speak up. She knew, logically, that she could ask Aria for basically anything and have it granted. If she wanted a hug, she could ask for it. Praise, a tour of the ship, a hand to hold, the only probable limit was on what Aria could give within the boundaries of what she was allowed to do. Mane knew this. Asking for it was still difficult, because it required too many things that weren’t easy.
“Yes, Mane?” Aria asked with eyes full of affection to the point that they practically sparkled. Mane felt exposed in the radiance of the floret’s gentle gaze. How was she supposed to meet those precious eyes with her own? “Is something the matter? You seem so tense. Whatever it is, you can tell me okay?” God. Mane felt herself turning bright red. Aria’s pretty face and her adorable smile made her heart flutter in absolute defiance of everything else going on.
But then, she’d always been a useless fucking lesbian.
“I, um...Effus wanted me to wash off,” Mane managed to force out of her mouth. “And said I could...ask you for...help, if I wanted to.” Was that a competent way of asking? Oh god oh god, it wasn’t, was it? Shit. Shit. “So ah, er, no, please help me clean myself I’m sorry I suck at it.” Contrary to common sense, Aria’s response to this failure of a question was to smile wider at Mane and nod with boundless enthusiasm.
“Of course! Come on, let’s get you washed up.”
Effus stared at her tablet. Her flowers immediately fell to hang from her body like scraps of shredded clothing and the color of her bushlike matts of leaves drained away to a silvery white. An emotion rare to affini, one that the English language had assigned the title of “shock,” was flushing through her systems in abundance. The autopsy report-a foreign concept to her, thanks to a number of factors-was grizzlier than anything she’d heard described by even her human rescues with the most haunting stories. She’d known that humans were capable of violence, of course, there were rebels and humans had ships with guns, but...this, this thing she was reading. She disliked it a lot.
“As such,” read the end of the report, written by one of the less social affini on the ship, “I cannot in good conscience recommend a traditional Terran funeral, and I don’t think an affini one would go very well either. Perhaps the former, but with the alteration they call a “closed casket?*
*Note: Terran funerals involve putting the body in a big box and then burying it. In most funerals the box is open, to let attendees have closure seeing the dead one last time. In a closed casket funeral, the box in question is kept closed, usually because the body would have a...less calming effect.”
Part of Effus wanted to be angry at Mort for including her in the group of affini this message was sent to. She didn’t want to read such a gruesome description of a dead human. He was shot in the lower side from behind with a primitive plasma sidearm that failed to fully penetrate, but ruined his kidney with its radiated heat, then as the pain rendered him helpless the killer had...the killer had…
Mane had beaten him to death with a wrench.
Effus never liked thinking about the violence humans were capable of. She’d heard that joking about their pets’ capacity to inflict harm was a popular subgenre of Terran humor, and she’d never liked to dwell on that. It was as alien to her as she knew she was to Terra before contact was made with her species. It wasn’t out of fear, of course. Even the best equipped, best trained, most angry human who ever lived couldn’t pose a threat to her in her least realistic nightmares. It was the notion that...such sweet, precious little things could be so eager to hurt each other. Something about the visceral, physical brutality of violence involving melee weapons-improvised ones especially-made it even worse for her to contemplate. Her little human-not her little human her little human, mind you, but a temporary guest who she loved like one of her own, as she did all of her temporary guests-was a killer.
She’d worked with former rebels of course, so it was a fool’s errand to think none of the others were. Violence was likely the former bread and butter of a third of the humans she rehabilitated, but none of them had ever so pungently forced her to confront that aspect of themselves. She heard the water start in the bath. She thanked Aria again in her mind. She needed a moment to herself, but Mane didn’t deserve to be left all alone. She was so clearly in pain...poor dear. Mane did seem to respond well to cute girls. Perhaps she could borrow a florette or two from her friends. Florets were the best way to ease silly human resistance to being domesticated, anyway, something the poor human clearly needed a lot of.
Effus decided to put these troublesome topics aside for a while and pick up some class-Gs. She knew Mane would probably want a specific custom regimen picked out by a proper affini vet that specialized in that sort of thing, which they could easily find on the station, but her first request, before even asking to help her, was for assistance transitioning. It clearly mattered to her. Effus wrote a simple note in affini and posted it to the wall by the hab’s door. Then she departed to go take care of that.
Cordelia was enjoying a nice day out with Melody. She wasn’t sure why Aida had opted to stay home for the day, but she was eager to respect her precious Second Florette’s wishes. Besides, one on one time with her pets was special and she’d started to feel selfish for missing the days when she had more of it with Melody. Still, though, she was already formulating ways to make it up to Aida.
“Do you want to go to the Class-J cafe again?” Cordelia asked Melody. Melody’s face seemed to perk up instantly. If she had a tail it would almost certainly be wagging. Oh, oh space. Melody with a tail!!! That would be so cuuuuute, Cordelia thought to herself. A nice short fluffy one that matCHED HER PLUSHIE AAAAA JUST THINKING OF IT WAS MAKING HER VIBRATE WITH JOY!!
“Can we!?” Melody also seemed to be almost vibrating with joy. She stimmed wildly with her hands, a habit that she had seemingly rediscovered after coming onto the ship. Cordelia’s mask face formed a happy little smile, with slight curves on the lips and a sparkle in its eyes. The details were more subtle than a lot of her compatriots were capable of, and more than many others would ever bother with in affini territory. She prided herself in her skill with that.
“Of course, dear! It’s your day!! We can do anything you want!” At this, Melody literally jumped up and down. Her breasts bounced, and then that caught her attention and she kept jumping up and down in a fit of manic giggles, staring at them with an unabashed smile of pure bliss. It made Cordelia-what was that phrase Melody got from her ex? “Pokey pokey?” She was pretty sure that was the phrase. It did that. That’s the effect it had on her.
“Class J cafe!” Melody cheered without a care in the world. Cordelia giggled and extended a soft pink set of vines to pat Melody’s head. The adorable little human eagerly nuzzled in and made a high pitched squealing noise of delight. Cordelia made a squealing noise of her own. Several passing affini fawned over the two of them, and Cordelia was eager as always to flaunt her precious pet.
“Look at my sweet little Melody!” She yelled at anyone who would listen. “Look how HAPPY she is! LOOK AT HER PRECIOUS LITTLE EYES!” This inevitably lead to requests to pet her, which were universally accepted by both Cordelia and Melody. The latter didn’t really have a say in the matter, not really, but that was a rule that Cordelia didn’t really believe in. Not that it really mattered for either of her current pets. Melody especially, but she’d never had this sort of cascading reaction happen centered on Aida.
The two decided to actually start moving in the direction of the cafe. Melody was skipping around, going ahead of her owner and then pausing to bounce giddily up and down and deliberately watch the effect it had on her boobs. This would be a risk in a proper station, but Cordelia was confident that if Melody got lost in the comparatively smaller crowds of this ship then she could be rescued with ease. Besides, she was proud of Melody’s loyalty to her and liked giving her freedom knowing that the girl would stay closer than any leash Cordelia might use would restrict her to. She remembered hearing one capitalist say that he liked to give blank checks, knowing that no matter what amount the recipient would dare cash out, he’d still be saving money over what he’d give them himself. She loathed to compare himself to her, but she liked to think of this as the sort of good twin counterpart to his shitty bragging.
Of course, the difference was that he was a scumbag exploiting the humility of kinder and better tempered spirits, while she was adorable. And a plant. And immortal. And not a capitalist. And covered in pretty flowers that made nice comfy drugs.
“Hey, Cordelia.” Came words, spoken in Effus’ voice, that shook Cordelia out of her reverie. Melody skipped up to the other affini and smiled wide.
“Hi Effus!” She squeaked in that adorable voice she used for Cordelia’s affini friends. “Pats?”
“Of course, dear,” said Effus as she leaned over and used a makeshift human hand to gently pat Melody’s head. The human purred from deep in her throat, something that Aida had taught her how to do. The sight practically made Cordelia melt into goo. Her human was so happy, so social, so friendly...it made her so proud.
“Hello, Effus. What brings you here?” Asked Cordelia gently.
“Where’s Airy?” Asked Melody the instant her owner finished speaking. Excitement was bubbling over inside of her. “Has she been to a class-J cafe before? Oh gosh can we bring her please?” Melody was waving her hands wildly up and down and jumping with excitement. Effus giggled.
“In order, ‘to pick up class-Gs,’'in my hab,' 'once or twice,' and ‘not today, dear, I’m sorry.’ Okay sweetie?”
“Awwww,” pouted Melody. She puffed up her cheeks, not in an effort to change Effus’ mind but because she knew Cordelia found her small shows of playful displeasure endearing. Cordelia, of course, was thoroughly charmed and gently pulled Melody against her with a pair of crossed vines hung against Melody’s lower torso. She also made sure the half of her body greeting the girl shifted to be a bed of flowers and soft stuff, which Melody appreciatively leaned backwards into and relaxed against.
“Cuuuuuute,” purred Effus. “Maybe if Aria isn’t busy later I’ll take her up to come see you two. Does that sound like a plan?”
“Absolutely!” cheered Cordelia. She smiled ever wider and her leaves waved gently in contented happiness. “Melody and her haven’t had a playdate in a while, have they?” There was a pause as Effus racked her memory.
“I suppose they have not, come to think of it. That’s a shame, they’re so close. I’ll see what I can do, okay?” Effus said with a wave. “Now go off, enjoy the cafe!”
“Of course!” Cordelia hoisted Melody up onto her “shoulder” and carried her off towards the cafe. Her tablet beeped a few times, but that could wait.