Good Company

by priestessamy

Tags: #D/s #dom:female #f/f #multiple_partners #pov:bottom #sub:female #bondage #breath_play #clothing #Human_Domestication_Guide #pov:top #scifi #trans_egg #transgender_characters

CW for character experiencing repressed feelings and emotions to the point of dissociating (and also for gay plampts, but I guess that goes without saying at this point)

Watching this ridiculous movie about naval cadets was leaving Jake with even more complicated feelings. He was enjoying getting to see Ophelia in action, and he had to admit she was quite talented. And he was fully willing to recognize the humor in the blatantly slanted terran entertainment. The navy was painted as glorious and indomitable, and these bright-eyed cadets were meant to be seen as honorable heroes in the making. But in the wake of the Affini Compact and the Human Domestication Treaty, it all seemed laughable.

Still, despite the dramatization, watching this did strike him with a wave of nostalgia. The set designers, the script writers, the costumers, everyone had done their part to make the movie as accurate as possible.

Memories began flooding back of his own days at the naval academy on Mars. And while some of it was certainly pleasant enough — friends he made, skills he perfected, lessons he learned — there was another feeling that welled up in him at the same time. It started out vague, only a sense of disappointment and frustration. But the details came out fuzzy, like he was watching a scene through frosted glass. And the more he tried to push himself to remember, the more his own mind pushed back.

That internal struggle, and the knowledge that his own mind refused to give him access to his own damn memories, finally helped Jake understand what Cam said to him. He was smart, and he could clearly remember plenty about his time at the academy without issue. So what was this thing he had locked away, and how could he get it back? This was clearly not healthy. He may not have been ‘bad’, but he wasn’t exactly ‘good’ either. Not if he examined himself objectively.

In his hands, he fidgeted with the packaged present and the flower inside. Supposedly, this would make it possible for Jake to access the things he had buried, and keep him from locking up so tight. It sounded healthy. It also sounded terrifying.

He didn’t want to interrupt the movie, so he waited for the epic finale to finish as all the brave little soldiers graduated with tears in their eyes, firmly saluting their commanding officers. The lights in the hab slowly came up until the room was properly illuminated again. Jake cleared his throat softly and did his best to smile at Ophelia like a normal person. “You’re very talented.”

She attempted to sit up, but wasn’t entirely successful. Taking pity on the girl, Sera reformed into her bipedal form. Cam did the same.

Ophelia gave a pleasant smile and a humble shrug. “I tried to play it more subtle. The director said it had to be over-the-top or audiences wouldn’t understand. I don’t know, I think that just made it all a bit ridiculous.”

He chuckled and nodded. It did. But he still meant what he said. Ophelia was clearly talented.

Looking down, he saw the present in his hands again. He was under no pressure to offer it. Camilis told him he could take as long as he wanted to give it to Sera. In fact, it sounded as though he didn’t have to do it at all.

But now that he was so aware of his nature, he couldn’t stop thinking about it. It wasn’t right to bottle all those things up. Jake had been left without any access to himself. That was ridiculous, wasn’t it? He was no longer under his parents’ rule, nor the Terran Accord. And yet they continued to exert their influence on him. It wasn’t just ridiculous, but unfair. It was unfair that they should have that much power. And he was sick of feeling like he was just some shell of a person. To hell with it.

Jake forced himself to take a long, calming breath. He held out the package to Sera.

She emitted some sort of chittering noise before plucking it from his hands with a vine. She looked down at the tiny box curiously. “What’s this, little one?”

“A present. Cam and I visited the… xenodrug nursery, and she picked that out for me.”

Camilis made her own rumble of amusement. Finding a pleasant middle ground between no touching and too much affection, she rubbed his back lightly. “I told him that he should give it to you when he felt ready to open up. I must confess, I did not imagine he would so soon.” She looked down at him, her wooden mask forming into a kind smile. “Consider me pleasantly surprised.”

“Open it, open it!” Ophelia cheered, clapping excitedly.

“Alright, darling, calm down.” Sera pet her gently on the head before undoing the pretty white ribbons and pulling open the top. She let out a high gasp as she withdrew the intimidating flower and carefully placed it against her arm. The roots burrowed into her vines, and the flower became a part of her. After studying it for a moment, a tremor of recognition ran across her brilliant white leaves. Jake wondered if she understood it on sight, or if perhaps she knew its purpose now that it was a part of her. “Jake, sweetie, I don’t wish you to feel rushed—”

“I want this. I need it, Sera.” His voice cracked slightly in spite of his best efforts to keep it steady. “I get… lost in my own head. Just once, I want to let myself think something without having to run it past some internal committee and get approval in triplicate to actually recognize the thought as legitimate.”

Much as they had done earlier that day, Sera and Cam wordlessly traded their two wards, lifting each up and setting them in the other’s lap.

Camilis looked between Sera and Jake. “If you like, we can leave you to it.”

He shook his head firmly. “No. We do this together.”

Ophelia had, thus far, been mostly bubbly and playful. But once in a while, she showed a side of herself that was completely serious, and full of warmth. She locked eyes silently with Jake for several seconds. “We’re here for you. Um, whatever this is.”

With a flex of her arm, Sera lifted the flower higher so they could all see it. “Nyx victorium. This little beauty will help him think more clearly, free from any learned impulses he might have that guard his mind. It’s a wonderful gift.” It was a surprise to hear her call it a ‘beauty’. That flower was so unlike every other bloom on her body — deep purple with spiraled petals and that thorn in the center. But perhaps that was just a part of her personality. She could see the beauty in anything, beyond any immediate aesthetics. If he was lucky, that meant she could see the beauty in him too.

Wait, what? Did he want that? Well, maybe. Possibly… Dammit, he was repressing again!

“Ready, darling?”

“Do it. Before I change my mind.” With a barb that wicked, he expected more pain. But it was less intrusive than all of the various inoculations the navy had forced him to take. Jake braced himself, expecting something to change. After all, Cam had compared the experience to alcohol. But there was no blurring of his vision, no sensation of swimming. “Er… Is it doing anything?”

“That was a relatively small dose. You’re probably not going to feel any appreciable difference. However…” Sera reached down and experimentally brushed her hand across the top of his head. No instincts kicked in, no fear or anxiety. He accepted the gentle headpat, and had to admit it felt quite nice. “Ahah! Ohhh, majestic.”

He blushed and shifted his shoulders a bit, but otherwise accepted that it was a pleasant experience.

Ophelia was grinning at him. “Aww, lookit that. Hey, Jake, isn’t Sera awesome?”

It was so obvious that she was baiting him. And he just didn’t care anymore. Why should he be worried about opening up? Why had he ever let it matter to him so much? “She’s incredible.” Jake idly brushed his palm across a few of her bright white leaves. “I’ve never met anyone like her. Sera is so energetic, even if she’s also pretty silly. For a sociologist, she has a terrible time remembering sayings. And I like how musical she can be…”

Serafa gave one of her pleased high pitched rumbles and he let himself actually enjoy the sensation of it. It wasn’t scary, or off-putting. It was melodic and beautiful.

“And what about Cam?” Ophelia said, smile growing wider.

He just shrugged and looked up toward the other affini. “She’s intelligent. And a bit terrifying…” That got an emphatic nod from Ophelia. “But Cam is also very thoughtful. She gave me this gift just because she wanted me to feel better. And… I mean, I think it’s working. Is it working?”

Giggling, she carefully made her way out of Camilis’ lap and leapt over to join him in Sera’s instead. Without warning, Ophelia’s arms were around him in a warm hug. It was so nice. Stars, he needed to hug more! It was such an easy rush of endorphins. “Aaand what about me?”

“Oh! Well you’re so sweet, and very kind. When they told me I’d be working with an actress… Hmm, you weren’t what I expected. But I’m glad.” He hugged her back a bit tighter, and something from nearly twenty years ago poked its head out of hiding. “I think maybe I’m jealous of you.”

Ophelia looked down with a curious smile, quirking an eyebrow. “Not much to be jealous of. No such thing as being wealthy anymore, and you’re gonna be just as popular as me, once we start filming.”

He shook his head and shrugged. “Not like that. You’re carefree and bold. And—” Somewhere deep in his mind, he felt the memory surface more, sparked by the next word on his lips. Pretty. He wanted to say that she was pretty. He was jealous of how pretty she was? Scrabbling hands tried to grapple that memory back down and push it somewhere deep and dark. But the nyx victorium in his system fought back stronger than he could have on his own. “A-And you’re…”

Only when he felt her finger gently wipe away a tear did Jake realize that he was crying softly again. Twice in one day, that was a kind of progress too, wasn’t it? Why should crying be bad? It was pretty stupid, when you thought about it. “Take your time, sweetie.”

“I…” He fumbled uselessly for the words that he just didn’t have access to. But it was there, right there. All he had to do was work his way up to it. There was no pressure, no ticking clock. And he was surrounded by… friends? Maybe? So it was probably okay if it came out wrong. Maybe if he just tossed out all the stray pieces, they would be kind enough to help him put everything in order. “Before all this, I could only be one thing. Jacob Luna. Big strong soldier man. And it didn’t matter if any of those words actually fit me. No one asked if I wanted that name. They weren’t given to me, like a gift.” He fiddled with the empty little hexagonal box, continuing to let the words flow without regulation or filter. “They were pushed on me as burdens that I had to carry. I don’t know which ones I want, and which ones should be tossed. But I want to figure it out.”

Ophie’s hug tightened and she guided his head to lay against her chest. The pressure increased as Sera wrapped around them, and then even Camilis joined in. Perhaps it should have been suffocating, but he just felt warm. The cuddle session must have gone on for several silent minutes. Nobody spoke, they just existed there as a strange cluster of affection.

“Well, I have good news,” Sera said, breaking the silence and carefully unfurling from the massive hug. “The navy is disbanded, so that’s one qualifier already dealt with.” She laughed again, bright and piping. “The rest, we can fumble when you’re comfortable doing so.

He looked up at her, joining in on the laughter. It took a little longer than normal to figure out what phrase she was screwing up this time. Though he did enjoy correcting her. And she seemed to appreciate it in turn. “Oh. Tackle. We can tackle it when I’m ready.”

For once, she didn’t bother retrieving her tablet to make a note. She just busied herself petting Jake and Ophelia.

Camilis looked down, her mask carefully formed with a look of extreme pride. She joined in on the affectionate petting, then carefully extracted Ophelia and set her on the floor. “Well, this seems like a cause for celebration, no? The two of us will go prepare something in the kitchen. How are your cooking skills, Ophelia dear?”

“Mediocre!” she said confidently. “But I can work a mean compiler.”

“This shall be an adventure then.” The two of them departed for the kitchen to devise some sort of culinary chaos.

With the moment past, Jake suddenly felt exhausted, and he leaned more against Sera for support. “Why do I feel so tired?”

She idly rubbed at his back. “You just relaxed muscles you’ve been straining for a long time while working new ones you’ve never really trained. Do you feel okay?”

At least thinking no longer felt like a chore. But there was something else bubbling up within him, now that he wasn’t repressing so hard. It was even less concrete than the other stuff, and that had been hard enough to dredge up. “It was good, saying things that I’ve never really said before. But now I feel… hm. Empty, maybe? Kind of happy, but it’s mellow. I sort of want to go curl up in bed and not do anything at all.”

She frowned with concern and rubbed his back a few more times before giving him a pat on the head. That part was definitely nice. He was glad physical affection no longer felt so alien. But Jake had been hoping that unburdening his soul would make everything brighter. If anything, the colors were more subdued now.

“Well, let’s not push our luck. We’re only just starting to meet the real you. It’s going to take a lot more than one afternoon to figure all this out. Rest for now, and then we can try and enjoy whatever monstrous concoction our companions are putting together in the other room.”

Jake let his eyes slip closed, hoping a celebratory meal might be the spark he was looking for.

The meal wasn’t feeling nearly as joyous as everyone had been hoping. In spite of themselves, Cam and Ophie had put together a lovely little dish of pasta, and had even managed to properly bake a chocolate cake instead of having it compiled.

But the whole time, Jake continued to show this new side of himself. He was no longer filtering every thought so carefully. But without any barriers, perhaps too many upsetting thoughts were slipping through.

The change had been positive for a time, but now it seemed to be merely lateral.

Sera didn’t want to let herself fall into a trap of negative thinking. The poor boy had willingly opened himself up to all the things he’d been burying for his whole life. That was bound to leave him feeling a wave of overwhelming emotions. So she let him be. Perhaps once the nyx victorium was out of his system, he might recover. She certainly hoped so.

Without pomp or circumstance, he finished his slice of cake and put the empty dishes in the compiler then offered a forced smile to the others. “I could use some sleep. Thanks again, everyone. It’s quite a change, being supported. I really appreciate it.” That all sounded genuine, but he still looked rather sad beneath it all.

“Sweet dreams,” Ophelia said with a small wave. Once he’d left for his room, she sighed and gathered up her own dishes and set about getting them cleaned up as well. “I think he had the right idea. I should get some shut-eye as well. You two crazy kids behave while we’re gone.”

Sera shared a confused look with Cam, who seemed equally baffled by that farewell. But she carried herself with such assurance that they didn’t bother to question it. She was far too adorable to begrudge her such eccentricities.

Waiting a few minutes until she was sure they were gone, Sera eventually looked over at Cam and rumbled softly. “Well, that was quite a day, hm?”

“I am proud of Jacob. I did not expect him to make so much progress so quickly.”

“Did we… push him too fast?” This curious little setting posed so many ethical quandaries. If Jake were actually Sera’s floret, she might feel more comfortable giving him further nudges. But since he was only a ward, she was more limited in what she felt she could actually do. “It’s like we’ve just opened up a whole new flood of issues.”

Cam reached out to her hand, and she willingly allowed their limbs to deform and tangle together. This, too, was a strange development. They had been close for ages, but never this close. Frost, there was a lot to keep track of.

“Terrans are such funny little creatures. You know as well as I, we still have much to learn about how they operate. We will be figuring this out alongside him. We have the capacity to help him, I believe that completely. It may simply require patience — a virtue I know you struggle with at times.”

“You’re one to talk!”

They rumbled together until their vibrations nearly harmonized. “Yes, yes, I suppose I shall never live it down, rushing to play with Ophelia so soon.”

“Hmm, I can’t actually blame you. I spent one brief afternoon with her and contemplated dosing her several times myself.”

“During my time with Jacob, I began to understand what fascinates you about him so much. He is a wonder, and I know that in time you will experience no small pleasure in unraveling him. I am, I regret to admit, a touch envious.” Cam looked at her as their entwined limbs tightened a little.

“You know, Ophie was worried that the four of us might eventually part ways. I don’t know if I can allow that to happen. She’s too darling, and you’re obviously fond of Jake. I’m afraid we may be stuck with each other for some time, Cam.”

“Serafa.” She spoke with perfect clarity, her voice strong and warm. “I do not think there is much point in mincing words. We have both enjoyed playing the part of the long-suffering, put-upon friend. But after so many years of studying together, comparing notes, living in one another’s bibliographies, excitedly discussing findings, or simply spending time together like regular people… I can think of hundreds of fates more disagreeable than living with you and those two terrans.”

“W-Well,” she said, noticing the slight hitch in her voice. “One of them, certainly. You’ve already got Ophie wrapped up in your vines. I’m… not so sure about Jake.”

Cam’s tendrils invaded a bit more, her rumble somewhere between amusement and frustration. “Because you lack imagination. He is desperate for something different, for someone who can support him enthusiastically as he figures himself out. And I believe in time, Jacob will also want someone who can push him to new heights. He will be a great challenge for you. You will never be bored.” There was a tightness in her limb as Cam squeezed a bit tighter. “However… I believe you have missed the greater point here, Serafa.”

Frost. Chill. Ice. Camilis somehow managed to comfort her about Jake without getting fully distracted by her deflection. “No… I didn’t miss anything. I see what you’re saying, Cam. We’re delightfully, deliciously, wonderfully trapped together, you and I.”

Her friend leaned forward and nuzzled her mask against Sera’s own face vines, rumbling with pure self-satisfaction. “Wonderful, then we are in agreement that this is a kind of exquisite torture from which there is no escape.”

“Mmmm, I suppose it’s the only reasonable conclusion.” It was actually… kind of silly, in a way. People meeting Cam for the first time assumed that she was humorless and stale. But in moments like these, her deep sense of wit could shine.

This was, when you stripped it all away, the two of them admitting that something had developed between them — even if the specifics were vague. And yet she was couching it playfully in a way that made it sound inflicted on them by some nebulous outside force.

It was… cute.

“Precisely. And if we both recognize then that this is a situation beyond our control, we have no other option than to find some way to experience joy in the midst of our suffering. Now, naturally, we do have two darling terrans who can provide distractions. And yet, they themselves are also a facet of this agony.”

Sera found herself getting carried away by this unnecessary drama. “Yes! That’s the problem! Woe is us! We can’t fully enjoy them while we’re trapped! And by the time we can, our capture will have reached its end. Irony…”

Tragic irony. But I see before me, in this very moment, a balm for these woes. We have each other, Serafa Plumula, Fifth Bloom. We have the consistency of our many years of friendship. Promise me this small thing, that I shall always have you?”

If only Ophie could see them now. They were playing their parts perfectly. “Yes, Camilis Pruntio, Sixth Bloom! We’ll never be apart. So what if we’re stuck here in the darkest moment of our lives. We’re stuck together!”

The two of them burst into laughter again, and this time they most definitely did harmonize. Sera’s high fluttering noises blended so perfectly with Cam’s low rumbling.

Was this jazz?

After several minutes of unbecoming giggles, they slowly managed to collect themselves. Sera stood up from the table, pulling Cam along with her, their arms still practically melded together. “Even the poor, beleaguered affini need their rest. C’mon…”

Affini intimacy was a strange thing. You could be close to someone, affectionate with them, always touching, always overly fond, and that was normal as could be. When you reached that point as a civilization, you had to figure out what true intimacy meant.

Even in this moment, Sera could not completely stop herself from postulating and theorizing.

Affini culture was also too vast and too massive to really call it universal. But there were things that were as close to universal as you could get. Affini were, by and large, an affectionate people. Even strangers could be greeted in ways that would seem foreign to species that were more closed off. And so it was sometimes difficult to differentiate between affection for a coworker or acquaintance, and a close friend or… someone precious.

There was no way she and Cam were the first ones to think of this particular arrangement. That was statistically, biologically, and logistically impossible. But in the moment, she was feeling pretty clever.

When it became clear that their arms were not going to separate any time soon, Sera just accepted the fact that she would be sleeping alongside her friend. In her bed, they relaxed by decompressing into their natural states. And slowly, over the course of nearly an hour, they each wriggled and inched their ways around until they were practically one single mound of plant matter.

Yes, obviously it was the ultimate cuddle. But that was only the surface level of the experience. What made Sera realize the importance of this moment was the sense of exposure she felt. Their cores were resting close together, and some primal part of her mind understood that with a few swift movements, Camilis could end her existence. She could sever her vines, crush her core, smother her very being.

Cam wouldn’t do that, of course. The important thing was not the potential danger, but the sheer lack of it.

This vulnerability even affected their conversation as the two of them idly talked before falling asleep. No humor, no veiling. Just two women enjoying each other’s company. “I worry about him…” Sera said, gentle and quiet. “I’m so happy he gave me that nyx victorium, but now it looks like we’ve just uncovered more problems. I was really hoping to discover some bright shining star at the center of him. I didn’t expect that well of sadness.”

A cluster of leaves brushed across her core and Sera shivered. “Is it… overstepping if I say that I am also worried for him?”

“No. If anything, that’s a comfort. After all, Ophelia wants the best for him too. It’s all so sweet. Perhaps between the three of us we can give him what he needs.” She pictured the two of them nestled together in her lap and sighed. “Wasn’t she darling? She’s only known him a short while, but she slotted next to him so seamlessly, holding his hand, comforting him. She pretends to be a simple, carefree artist, but she clearly knows a great deal about being supportive.” She hummed thoughtfully for a moment. “Do you suppose the two of them—?”

“Oh, I would not presume to get my hopes up. Not so soon. What matters is that they get along so marvelously. Can you imagine the nightmare this situation would present if they were constantly at each other’s throats? No, putting further expectations on them at this stage may be unwise. For now, let us just celebrate the tiny victories.”

That was sage advice. But it would not stop Sera from looking forward to what kind of progress they might all make together. “We can do this, right? We’re not… reaching beyond our grasp?”

“We can, Serafa. I know we can. Now, enough worrying, darling. We have plenty of time to figure it all out.”

Sera hummed again drowsily and allowed herself to slip into unconsciousness. Sleep came easier than it had in ages.

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