Interlude C: Floret Prank (Domestication Gone RIGHT????)

by anna//bool

Tags: #cw:noncon #D/s #dom:female #Human_Domestication_Guide #petplay #slow_burn #sub:female #anxiety #dom:imperialism #dom:internalized_imperialism #dom:plant #drugs #f/f #hurt/comfort #hypnotic_voice #nonbinary_character #ownership_dynamics #panic_attacks #pov:bottom #pov:multiple #pov:top #scifi #sub:the_horror_of_existence_in_a_caring_universe #transgender_characters

Interlude C: Floret Prank (Domestication gone RIGHT?????)

Rain fell in a shower of broken glass. Sol’s dying light made it almost look like water twinkling in the air… but the slums of New London hadn’t seen true rain in months. Instead, all that glass simply shattered itself against the ground as Rain slammed into it, crying out as they felt the lacerations cutting into their body. They lay there for a long moment, working up the strength to want to get back up.

With a groan, they pushed themselves back to their feet. They couldn’t let this stop them. A glance back up to the first floor window out of which they’d just been thrown was enough to let them know they shouldn’t stick around.

As they ran, they fished their most prized possession out of a pocket. Looked like their trusty communicator had taken another crack, but if they were without it for even a moment, the anxiety seemed too much to bear. With shaking fingers, they took two or three attempts to get their long password correctly inserted. It wasn’t convenient to run up against the lockout limit so often, but a weak password would make them a more attractive target for thieves, and this was the only valuable thing they owned.

After taking a moment to check themselves over in the broken reflection of shattered plastic, they forced a grin onto their face and hit the big red button. “So, uh, that went wrong!” they declared. "Wow, I hope I got all the footage for that. Looks like that police officer couldn’t handle a little pra— pran— oh, fuck me."

Rain’s run slowed to a stop. The slums around them towered high enough that they could barely see the sky, but that was enough to spot bright points of light flashing into existence above them. Ships. Massive ships. A moment of abject panic overcame them, as it would anybody watching a fleet jumping in overhead. Was this a declaration of war? Were they about to get bombed? Who the fuck would bomb New London? There was nothing here but trash.

They cringed as their beloved communicator emitted a high pitched squeal.

Hello! Please do not be alarmed, humanity! The ships above are here to help. You don’t have to worry about a thing. The Affini Compact has arrived and none of you will ever go wanting again.

Avium Prunus, Third½ Bloom, appeared to have lost xer floret.

Avium had looked everywhere. The standard scale hab unit that they lived in was, while incredibly luxurious by Terran standards, not that large. The unit itself was a large hexagon with walls thick enough that even the most determined creature couldn’t escape, subdivided into four smaller rooms with a limited number of hiding spots.

Avium paused in the center of the main living space. Xer floret wasn’t under or behind the sofa, or the desk, or inside any of the storage containers, or—

The ceiling tiles!

Avium leaped, grabbing ahold of the structural support in the ceiling and pushing xer head up through the lightweight tiles that separated the habitable part of the… hab from the utility parts, where the little vines and pipes that made everything work lived. Xe slowly rotated, looking for… There!

Avium flinched back as something flashed in xer face. Xer cursed hellion of a floret scrambled away like some kind of cryptid.

“Gotcha! Two turnings, thirteen arcseconds, a new record! It’s just a pra—”

Avium wrapped xer vines tightly around the floret and pulled it out. Avium groaned, fruitlessly attempting to brush off the dust and smooth out the frayed edges of the standard Affini companion dress that covered its body.

“Xe Prunus, you are a goblin,” xe sighed. “We have somewhere to be and you—”

“—are getting you back for that time you pretended to be the sofa!”

Avium paused. “Okay, fair point, but this is still very inconvenient, Xe! Was I this inconvenient? Don’t make me take a gold star off of the good noodle board.”

Xe looked aghast, but nodded enthusiastically. Its cheeks were streaked with something that looked like oil, though where it could possibly have found oil in the middle of an Affini hab unit currently attached to a ship lost in deep space was an utter mystery. “You were, remember? We had friends over. Montsechia and I were sitting on you. For six hours. I learned some new swear words that day,” it declared.

Avium broke out into a cackle, bouncing up and down on xer feet, laughing for long seconds until xe finally managed to get back under control. “Right, I’d forgotten about that one. You’re still a goblin—”

“Thank you, M Prunus,” it said, shuffling proudly.

“—but I’m adding a star to the board.”

Thank you, M Prunus!” it exclaimed, immediately clambering up its affini’s side to hang against xer shoulder. The two of them moved over to one of the walls of the hab unit, which had been repurposed to hold a vast collection of stickers. Stars beyond counting, five little snakes, almost two dozen small spaceship icons, and one lifesize sticker of Xe itself. Avium covered Xe’s eyes and used xer vines to tap out an intensely complicated password on a small container bolted to the wall. A single sticker was retrieved, and then the rest of the pack returned to the container, which was carefully sealed.

Xe was again allowed to see, so that it could enjoy the moment of attachment.

Little ritual completed, it scrambled back down to the ground. Avium took a moment to look up the exact time they were meant to be arriving at their appointment and nodded to xemselves. “We can still make it on time, but I’m going to need to dress you, or—”

Avium had turned around. Xer floret was spotless and impeccably arranged, standing up straight with its hands behind its back. It wasn’t even wearing the same clothes, but instead a formal companion suit, complete with one of Avium’s flowers tucked behind the ear. It looked perfect. Avium quickly checked xyr body and did, in fact, find a flower missing, cleanly sliced off.

“I would never make you late for an appointment, M,” it insisted. Avium opened xer mouth to rattle off the long list of appointments xey had definitely been made late for, but Xe continued. “At least, not one that mattered. I knew you’d get distracted if I didn’t give you something to do.”

It grinned the same undecipherable grin it always did when it knew it had its owner in checkmate. Xe could neither be punished nor rewarded and it knew it. It proudly lifted its chin, exposing the ring of its collar, around which Avium reluctantly wrapped a vine.

It had been a month since the occupation had begun. Rain snuck along the rusted, disused fire escape of one of the few buildings in the city old enough to have been built back before safety codes had been abolished. Far below, one of the weeds walked through the city.

Walked through Rain’s city.

Not that they could recognise it any more. With most of the physical trash moved away, there were only remnants now, like Rain and a handful of others that refused to surrender to an enemy empire. In their braver moments, Rain liked to think of themselves as a rebel, but… well, that was hardly realistic, was it? The Free Terranist Rebellion fought in glorious starships, going railgun-to-railgun with an invading force. Rain bet they didn’t go hungry every day.

Rain did have one thing that they didn’t, though. A camera right in the middle of the occupied city of New London. They were sort of a journalist now, they thought, but there was nowhere left to report the news. After the gigacorps had gotten disbanded, life had somehow gotten even worse for Rain. Their TubeTube prank show had been popular for years, and they usually pulled in enough advertising money to buy food every other day or two.

Well, nobody was selling ads now, were they? Their only income source having dried up, Rain was left scavenging what little they could find, except with the added difficulty of having to figure out which abandoned foodstuff came drugged.

But they still had a camera, and they’d been good at what they’d done.

They carefully placed their communicator up at a good height and climbed down, scurrying the last few feet so they could catch up to the plant.

“Sir, sir! I’m a human being that’s helpless on their own and needs your help! What’s your name?”

The affini turned with a frown. “I am Avium Prunus, Third Bloom, little human. What assistance do you need?”

By Mickey, they were terrifying. Two or three meters tall with teeth that looked like they could bite straight through a human arm. The thing was, though, that the rebellion was out there, fighting these things so that humanity could have a future that wasn’t under these things’s thumb. The least Rain could do was keep them entertained.

“I need to befriend a squirrel, but I can’t figure out how, can you help?” they asked.

The weed seemed perplexed. “I’m… sorry? What is a squirrel?”

Shit, of course it didn’t know what a squirrel was. “They’re, uh, like, four legs, pointy ears, sharp teeth? Usually looking around in the trash for food, which… I guess they’re not really doing that right now.”

The affini shrugged, reaching out with a vine to touch Rain. They quickly shied away. Hell no. They weren’t brave enough for this. They turned and ran, screaming “I guess I need to act like a nut!” as they did.

Hours later, when they finally went back to retrieve the footage, they saw that the plant had looked bemused for a few moments, and then left. Hardly the reaction they’d been hoping for, but they had a name now. Could they track this thing down again? Maybe figure out some supply lines, get that information to the rebellion?

It had an office. Rain had their camera mounted to the opposite side of the street, and this time they had a script that was sure to work. They walked into the building with as brave a strut as they could.

“Hello, I want to speak to the manager.”

The affini paused, frowning. “Don’t I know you?”

Rain shook their head. “I have one of those faces. Your manager, please! I want to make a complaint.”

A rippling of leaves almost had Rain running, but thankfully the thing stayed sitting. “We… don’t really do managers, but if you’d like to speak to the local hyperspacial engineering leader then I could call them over. Can I ask what you’re wanting to complain about?”

Rain grinned. “You’re like, an architect or something, right? I think your designs are really rude. Do you know what your triangle said to my circle friend?”

Avium looked baffled. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Could you—”

Rain grinned wider. “It said it was pointless!” They dashed over to the desk, spent a moment trying to flip it, and after that failed simply scattered the papers on it over the floor and ran away.

Two days later when they finally returned for the footage, they saw that the plant had stood there in continued confusion for another few seconds… before bursting out laughing. Fuck. The footage should still be good if they edited it.

An arcminute ahead of schedule, the two rode an Elettarium light magrail compartment into the depths of the botanical gardens. To Xe, the grandeur of Affini architecture seemed like something that could never get old.

The rail system ran straight through what could have been a rainforest, or what Xe imagined a rainforest would be like. It wasn’t like the Terran Accord had anything better than history books to inform it. The ‘rail’ itself ran a stemlength or two underneath the dirt, magnetically guiding a comfortable pod just above the ground, safely out of the way of any minor plantlife. The pod itself was mostly transparent, presumably designed to show off the absurd complexities of Affini design.

Xe’s nose was glued to the glass, watching trees a hundred feet tall and plants in endless variety move past as a blur. It looked up with a gasp. Spiralling endlessly into the air were great lattice structures, providing support for plantlife towering above it. Vines that must have been two hundred feet long crawled up the jet-black structures. If Xe looked beyond them, then it looked into the depths of space, as the entire botanical gardens section hung beneath a transparent section of hull that must have been a kilometer wide.

At this particular moment, Xe could spot the other habitable arc of the Elettarium. The ship’s design was somewhat excessive. The Affini, like the Terran Accord, used rapidly rotating sections to provide centripetal force sufficient to simulate gravity. In principle, the designs weren’t usually that dissimilar, simply placing the habitable decks in a position where they could constantly rotate around a central pillar, the Affini simply did it bigger. So much so that the time it took one of the habitable decks to rotate a single arcminute around its pivot was a useful measure of timekeeping.

The Stellar Gardener that had grown the Elettarium had been unwilling to do something so straightforward, not for a sleek, modern scouting ship. Between the rear end of the ship, which mixed the engines with vast, rotating multi-kilometer petals that extended outwards hundreds of meters into space, and the front compartment of the ship, where cargo storage, life support, and most microgravity facilities lived, were two habitable arcs which rotated independently.

If one were to ask the Gardener to justify these design decisions, they likely would have explained that the two arcs meant that the ship could sustain two different levels of artificial gravity, as well as reorient the entire structure to operate in natural gravity wells without causing significant inconvenience. They would have explained that the petals provided inertial counterspin, allowing the arcs to adjust their own rotation without requiring the ship’s navigational thrusters to operate.

That was why Xe didn’t ask the Affini to justify their actions. It knew the truth. They did it because it was grand. The Elettarium wasn’t a vehicle, it was a home. It wasn’t a purpose-built utility, it was a work of art that happened to soar through the void.

Of course, a ship so large needed its inhabitants to be able to get around. Hence, the light magnetic rail network. Xe’s favourite part was that if you got the time of day right, moving through the right part of an arc in the right direction, the pod moved so fast that the arc’s rotation was temporarily negated.

It kicked off of the floor and span in mid-air. It had rarely experienced microgravity, being more of slum trash in the old pre-domestication days, and from then living aboard these grand starships that were more luxurious than all but the most excessive human habitation had ever been.

Avium watched xyr pet slowly rotating until air resistance brought them to a halt in the middle of the pod. Xe paused, flailing in mid air, before realising it couldn’t reach the sides.

“I’m flying!” it exclaimed, with a grin. “Better catch me before I fly away!”

Avium rolled xyr eyes. “Best behaviour, huh, pet?”

It stuck out its tongue. “We aren’t there yet, dork. Wanna practice anything you’re gonna say? I couldn’t read your bit of the invite, I just figured it was important if it was straight from the captain.”

The pod turned slightly. Xe started slowly moving towards one side. It looked to its caretaker for care and received nothing but a rough approximation of a tongue stuck out in riposte. It deserved that. Worse, after a few moments air resistance had it static again, still out of reach of anything useful.

“Nah, this is an ideas session about our runaways. All the major board leaders got invited. Heard any good ideas suggested on the outernet?” Avium never seemed impressed by the literal wonders they passed by, though xe usually did get more enthusiastic than this over impressing Xe with the more subtle flexes present in the design. Xe—the affini—must be stressed.

Xe—the human—shook its head. “Networking says we’re way out of range of any of the relays, so we’re on like a three week delay for updates. Local net is excited, though, and uh—”

It fished around in its pants, blushing. “Dirt, I forgot my pad, can I borrow yours?”

Avium grinned, fishing a thin transparent slate out between their leaves. They balanced it on the edge of a finger, and then very gently tapped it. It took a few seconds to reach Xe, and imparted almost no momentum when it grabbed hold, nor did it have any opportunity to grab onto anything else.

“And you call me a brat,” it grumbled, tapping a quick code into the pad as it logged into its fan community. “I set up a little channel for folks to talk about it, but you know what our audience is like.” It spent a few moments scrolling through threads, shaking its head.

“Yeah these are all awful ideas. Going planet to planet looking; waiting for them to somehow signal us; some conspiracy theory about humans not being real—” It looked particularly amused by that one— “and, oh, hmn. Somebody looked at the footage frame by frame, take a look at this!”

Xe moved to chuck the pad back, but thought better of it, grinned, and flung it straight up. Datapads were far too tough for a mere human to scratch or chip them, but Avium caught it regardless, and thanks to Newton’s third law, Xe finally managed to make it to somewhere they could grab onto a handhold.

Avium glanced over the screenshots with interest, absent mindedly extending a vine so that Xe could climb back over. “Oh yeah, you’re getting a gold star when we get back home,” xe declared. Xe grinned.

“Thank you, M!”

The pod slowed to a halt over several long seconds. The systems could automatically detect who was on board, to make sure that the acceleration and deceleration profiles were safe for all, but they were smart enough to recognise when a human was accompanied by somebody willing to provide a harness, so the pod slid to a stop at a rapid pace, pressing Xe into Avium’s body.

Avium’s sense of humour was strangely sharp, for a plant. Rain groaned, checking over yet another reel of footage. Useless. Even with editing, they wouldn’t be able to hide that the fucking plant had caught on halfway through, even with the disguise.

Without that footage, they had nothing to send up to the rebellion. Humanity was losing. Rain knew it wasn’t their fault, but they couldn’t help but feel like if the rebels were in better spirits, they’d fight harder. They were distracted from their misery by a complaining stomach.

Time to scavenge again. It was getting harder every day. More surveillance, more patrols, less food that was safe to eat. They carefully left their nest, only to trip over a little box that definitely hadn’t been there the night before.

Cautious, but curious, they lifted the lid, and gasped as a rolling wave of scent hit their nose. Hot food. They had it in their mouth before they’d considered where it might have come from. They just didn’t care. If it drugged them and they had to spend the day coming down from something then fine.

Every bite was more delicious than the last, but it didn’t seem to make it any harder to think. At least, not until the end, where Rain noticed a little note tucked within the packaging.

Gotcha :;) - Avium Prunus, Third Bloom p.s., I found your channel! You have a new subscriber ;)

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

“Oh hey, Rain,” Avium said, with a wave, as they entered the creature’s office. “I was doing some research and I think I’ve found out what a squirrel is.”

Rain groaned. They’d spent hours on this disguise. They looked nothing like themselves. “C’mon, man, can’t you give me a few minutes of footage first?”

The plant waved its hand dismissively. “I would, but this is actually really cool. See, about two hundred years ago the etymology got swapped around, one of those times a coronal mass ejection wiped all your data storage. Turns out that squirrels used to be much smaller and fluffier. But, you might ask, what did modern squirrels used to be called? Here’s the really cool bit: Ask me about updogs.”

Rain fought the urge to just sit down and give up. “I don’t… What’s an updog?”

Avium’s grin grew three sizes. It would have been scary, if Rain hadn’t pranked the fucking thing two dozen times by now. “Not much, you?” The creature raised and lowered its eyebrows a few times.

Rain left.

They stepped out into the conference center right in the middle of the botanical gardens. The air was heavy with moisture and scents. Xe stumbled as it took its first breath, feeling lightning sparks over its mind. Half the plants here were curated specifically for their potent psychological effects, the other half because they were useful, and all because they were beautiful. Just smelling it was enough to knock the rational thought out of a Terran.

“C’mon, with me,” Avium insisted, pulling it close in to its side. “Best behaviour, remember? No pranks. Be a good noodle for me and we’ll get them later.”

The conference center was, really, more of a clearing in the gardens. As with any gathering of more than two sapients in the Affini Compact, every attendee was doing their own thing. There were affini here alone, sitting on chairs; an affini/floret pinnate set lounging on a pair of beanbags; the two monochrome clerks paying no attention to anything but each other; the captain sitting with her back straight looking every part in charge, with her faithful pet nowhere to be seen.

Avium frowned, and—

“Agh!” Xe jumped, as a human stepped alongside them and called out across the table.

“The representative for the board of Hyperspacial Engineering, Avium Prunus, with xyr floret, Xe Prunus,” they called, with a voice that seemed much too loud for such a small thing. The captain’s pet intimidated even Avium sometimes. A few failed attempts to ruffle her hair later, xe was gently thrown towards xyr designated seating area, floret in tow.

Xyr preferred seating arrangement was waiting for them—which was to say, no seating at all. Avium planted roots where xe landed and kept Xe on xer knee. No sooner had xe and Xe gotten cozy than the captain had begun to speak.

“You all know why you’re here, but just in case you didn’t check local news yesterday, I’ll recap. We happened across the cute little Terran ship Undefeatable, or some other adorable name, and rescued most of the poor things aboard.”

Avium grinned. The captain and xem went way back; long before she’d gotten elected captain. She was really blooming in the role. It couldn’t have been more than a few years since she’d been the unassuming actress who could take on any role, and maybe nothing at all had changed in that respect—but polling suggested she was certain to win the next election too, so apparently everyone agreed she was making life aboard ship better.

“You heard right—most. This ship had an undocumented lockdown system around the engine, so one of the humans stayed conscious and decided to scuttle the ship. One of ours was there with them and so while we don’t have any evidence that they’re alive, we’re going to treat them as so until we can prove otherwise.”

Avium raised a hand. The other softly petted their increasingly unaware floret’s head, part of its reward for being useful. “I think they got out just fine, Rosa,” xe declared, using a vine to tap their pad a few times to broadcast the display up to one of the big holoprojectors. Dirt and roots, was it a shame that humans struggled to stay awake in the gardens. Avium tried to draw Xe’s attention up above them anyway, to point out the series of screenshots now projected against the vast ceiling above them. In a series of images rendered a kilometer wide, the last few frames of pre-claudication footage had been cleaned up, stablised, and annotated.

“Interesting,” someone spoke from immediately beside Avium’s ear. Xe swore loudly, overbalancing and nearly falling over. A quiet roll of laughter spread through the area. The captain’s stars-damned pet again. The fraction of a second of amused grin suggested this was still payback for that one little prank. “Can I—” She reached over to tap the pad, zooming in on the image of an escape pod leaving the broken battlecruiser, trailing vines and fire.

She tapped again, marking a few points. “This style of escape pod has been in use in the Terran Accord for about fifty years. It wouldn’t have gotten them far, but—”

She tapped again, zooming in on tattered vines and leaves, clearly halfway burned away. A murmur rose over the table.

A particularly colourful Affini specimen piped up. “If that human actually managed to kill poor—” They checked their notes. “—Thatch then I’m afraid I’m not confident they’ll still be alive!” Their quadrupedal form matched their floret. Rheum Rhab, the current culinary lead.

Felicia Hautere—the captain’s floret—laughed and shook her head. “Takes more than that to kill one of you fuckers, they’ll be fine. Probably won’t even need to Rebloom. Mistress didn’t.”

The captain spoke up. “Yes, thank you, pet, I’d almost forgotten that incident.” The motion of a single finger had the floret skipping over to the captain’s side, where she was brought down to her knees. Rosaceae had long since forgotten how to speak more quietly than a stage whisper, but nobody minded. “You know what we’ve said about swearing, precious,” she said, drawing an apologetic blush out of her floret. Felicia knew how to whisper, but anyone could read the regret in the way she buried her head in the captain’s side and clung to her leg.

This was simply how meetings in the Affini Compact were done. Fifty to eighty percent of the total runtime was taken up with cute florets, because what would be the point of life otherwise?

Eventually, the captain seemed satisfied with her soothing, and looked back up. “As my dear pet was saying, we can take this as confirmation the two are alive and well. Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Avium! Now, does anybody have any ideas for finding our missing pair?”

“What would you have done, if you hadn’t come here?” Rain asked. Avium had taken to stopping by their nest a few times a week to bring food and, at this point, script out their next video. They were surprisingly excellent at understanding Rain’s sense of humour, despite the cultural differences.

Avium shrugged. “I’m honestly not sure. Hyperspacial engineering is pretty cool, but I’m kind of bored. That’s why I haven’t handed you over to the death squads yet.”

“There’s no such thing as death squads, Ave.” Rain rolled their eyes. “You lot even saved all the squirrels. Dorks. For Donald’s sake, what am I doing here? I have better viewership among you fucking weeds than I do the resistance, now.”

“They don’t understand good humour,” the affini insisted, handing over another snack and a can of gamer fuel. They both held old-style video game controllers, some antique Avium had managed to get their leaves on, with some split-screen racing game. “Wanna go again?”

Rain grinned. “I’ll get you this time.”

Rain wrinkled their nose, poking at the colourful clothing of the companion dress with an outstretched finger. It was certainly a very smooth fabric, but the colours were beyond garish.

“I’m honestly unsure I can film this without the automatic colour grading going to shit. And it’s… pretty gendered, isn’t it?” Rain pinched the material together and lifted the bottom of the dress.

Avium glanced over, looking away from their own section of the store. It still blew Rain’s mind that all of this was free, but apparently when the Affini said they’d outlawed money and trade they meant it. There wasn’t even an attendant at this time of day, this whole thing just operated on… the honour system.

Neither Avium nor Rain were very honourable, as it happened. They had costumes to put together.

Avium shrugged. “Gender is a social construct, dear.”

Rain rolled their eyes. “Which is why you still go by he/him even though you always look sad when you say it, huh?” Did this plant think that they didn’t have dozens of hours of footage? That they hadn’t spend days staring at Avium’s expression as they edited? They knew every inch of that dumb plant’s face by now.

"I— I’m just used to it, is all. It doesn’t bother me. Though… I think this skirt would look good on me."

“Maybe with the suit top? Mad energy, babe.”

Xe and Avium got back to their hab unit hours later, collapsing onto the main space’s sofa in tight and practiced synchronization. With a shared whimper, they managed to pull themselves up vaguely into a sitting position.

“That was a lot,” Xe declared.

“You slept through most of it, dummy.” Avium’s hand flopped over to gently squeeze xyr floret’s.

“I mean, yeah, but you know what it’s like. It’s a meeting, they’re always exhausting, even if you’re sleeping through them.”

Avium couldn’t argue with that. Xe murmured xyr agreement. There was a huge difference between hanging out with a bunch of friends in a social engagement and trying to actually stay on topic in a meeting about something important, and as far as xe was concerned today was over with.

“Hey, you wanna play video games until irresponsibly late in the evening?”


Rain glanced over the script one last time. Their biggest prank yet. Finally, they were going to get footage of Avium truly, utterly surprised. They were filming a historical piece today, with Avium playing the role of a human shop attendant, back when such things had existed, and Rain being the hapless customer… but little did Avium know that it wouldn’t be going quite how they expected.

The scene called for the attendant to be written up by their manager, and at the end they had to sign on the dotted line and receive their punishment. It wasn’t really a funny piece, but they’d been branching out lately and stretching their creative muscles. Rain felt the call of the prank louder every day, but they’d intentionally pushed for deeper pieces, with more research and fewer jokes. It was less Avium’s thing, but xe was willing to go along with it if it made Rain happy.

That little scrap of kindness was going to be punished ten times over by the end of the shoot.

The time finally came and Rain could barely breathe, they were so nervous, but it all went perfectly, and Avium’s signature went exactly where it should have.

All the lights in the studio came blaring on, and Rain ran out carrying an old school camcorder, pointing it at Avium’s surprised face.

“Gotcha! You thought I’d never get you with a prank, didn’t you? Well, look who’s silly now, Ave! I win!”

Rain twirled the camera back towards themselves to give the lens a victory sign. “This goes out to my homies in the rebellion, looking for proof the Affini can lose! Get fuuuuuuuuuucked, Affini Compact!” At this point, ending the videos with a speech like that was in kind of bad taste, given that it was only the Affini who were watching, but it was tradition.

Avium looked rather concerned. “Rain, what’s going on?”

The human grinned, turning the camera back. “I don’t know who you’re talking to, plant, but you’d better check that paper you just signed!”

Avium’s head slowly turned to the contract. It wasn’t their prop, but Rain had spent a long while making sure the sentence and word lengths matched up, so xey wouldn’t bother to reread it. As soon as they did, however, they’d quickly find a very realistic and only slightly incorrect adoption contract that was sure to get a reaction. Thankfully, Rain had made sure the exact wording didn’t quite match the real thing, so Avium would quickly realise it was a joke and not feel pressured into anything.

“Oh, dirt, you didn’t?” Avium laughed, finally reading the actual words for the first time. “I… You got me, Ra…”

Avium blinked. Rain had written the contract themselves, but it was modeled off of the Affini domestication contracts. Not official or anything, and Avium wasn’t interested in them like that, but good for a laugh, right? It didn’t even use Rain’s real name, though it had their real signature.

“Oh, oh, I see. Well, ‘Xe Prunus’, you got me. I’m gonna go file this.”

Xe blinked, head snapping around. “Wait what.”

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