TO was hesitant to go back to the observation deck. They worried that maybe GiDi and Avery would be doing something that might be private and they still felt weird about having seen C12 and Snout in the hallway that one time. Still, they didn’t want GiDi and Avery to think that they had been abandoned. As such, TO made sure to make a lot of noise as they opened the panel and punched in the code to open the door. When TO and DH got inside, they saw that GiDi was alone. TO looked around, thinking that maybe Avery had just moved off to the side but after a moment it was clear that they had left.
“Where did Avery go?” TO asked, unable to hide the disappointment in their voice.
“Back to the dormitories?” GiDi offered, frowning. “They were full, and the two of you were gone for so long that they were getting uncomfortable, so I said if they wanted to leave they should.” Their ears flicked back, “If you wanted them to stay you shouldn’t have been gone for so long.”
“But... I have their water bottle?” TO said as they held up the now full bottle.
“The fountain isn’t that far.” GiDi said, “You two were gone for a long time, considering.”
“Well, I wanted to…you know.” TO glanced away, not really wanting to say too much in front of DH
“I don’t.” GiDi snapped.
“TO thinks that you have feelings for Avery!” DH blurted out, “You know, like Flit and Snout?”
GiDi blinked at DH, obviously confused, “Why would you think that?” They finally asked as they turned to TO.
”I… Well, that thing you told me? The thing?” they glanced quickly at DH, then back to GiDi “I… well I thought that you and Avery…” they shrugged, “You know?”
GiDi was silent for a long moment, then just started to laugh. It began as a chuckle, then escalated to big, loud laughs.
“TO, you’re an idiot.” they said, “I love you, but you’re an idiot.”
“I am no such thing!” TO protested, “My scores-“
“I don’t care about your scores.” GiDi said as they stood up and stretched their wings, “You’re an idiot.”
“You’re… you’re angry?” TO said carefully, their ears flicking down.
“NO! No, not at all. I mean, you’re an idiot, but you went through all this trouble, you saved all that food, and you went out of your way to try to make me happy, even if it was based on a wrong assumption.” They smiled, “No, I’m touched. But you’re still an idiot.”They frowned, “Still, Avery was thinking that there was something wrong - that you were uncomfortable with them or mad that they were reading and that’s why you were taking so long. I’m going to go find them and tell them that that’s not true.”
“We’ll come with you-“ TO started, but GiDi shook their head,
“No, you won’t. I’m going to explain to Avery that you two are idiots, and that’s why you were acting weird.” They started towards the door, stopped, and suddenly pulled TO into a tight hug.
“This was very nice, despite the other stuff.” they said quietly, “Thank you.”
TO beamed and hugged them back. The didn’t know how they had messed things up this time, but in the end it seemed like they had done something right anyway.
GiDi released TO, gave DH a quick hug and said their thanks as well before they left the observation deck.”
“...Should we leave too then?” DH said, confused.
“Not yet.” TO said as they made their way back to the couch, “I want you to try more stuff, to make up for the spicy thing you ate.” They sat down and started to dig through the bags, looking for a specific one. DH sat down next to them, silent.
“TO… what was the thing you were talking about?”
“... I can’t tell you.” TO said quietly, “GiDi swore me to secrecy.”
“But whatever it was, it made you think that GiDi had romantic feelings for Avery?”
“Yes. Please don’t ask me more, I don’t want to break GiDi’s trust.”
DH’s ears flicked back and burned blue, “Alright.” They muttered as they looked away.
TO fumbled through the piles of food until they came across a specific bag with deep purple berries inside, “These!” TO said proudly as they held up the berries, “Apparently they’re very sweet! I was saving them for last because they also have mild relaxant effects. I thought it would help us sleep. “
“... you were going to drug us to help us sleep better?” DH said, their ears flicking forward in confusion.
“No, I was going to offer the berries as a last treat and explain, as I did to you, that they have relaxant effects.” they opened up the package and took a deep smell of the sweet fragrance that came from it, “You don’t have to try it if you don’t want to.”
“I do!” DH insisted, “I’m just surprised.”
“I think we should only try one each.” TO said as they fished out two berries, “I don’t know how long they’ll last with the seal broken, but we shouldn’t eat too many anyway.” they passed one of he berries over to DH.
“... They look so juicy.” DH muttered as they gently squeezed the berry between their thumb and forefinger.
“You really don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.” TO said again, “There’s other sweet things I can dig up.”
“Are you going to eat it?”
TO looked at the berry in the palm of their hand. They had been really good in the last little while when it came to tempering their curiosity, but now…
“I think I will, yes.”
DH nodded, and popped the berry into their mouth. Their eyes widened as they chewed, causing TO to stop, their heart racing as they waited to see if DH was ok. Maybe there was something wrong? Maybe it was too sour, or maybe it was hot like the last thing.
“That was the best thing I’ve ever tasted!” DH said when they finally swallowed. TO gave a loud, long laugh.
“You’ve said that about every other thing you’ve tried!” They said
“And it’s been true each time!”
TO grinned, then with some hesitation they popped the berry in their mouth. It was good - maybe not what they themself would call the best thing they’d tasted so far, but it was good! Juicy and delicious. Were it not for the relaxant qualities TO was certain that they would have grabbed another.
“Do you forgive me for giving you spicy food?” TO asked.
“Entirely! It’s forgotten.”
“Good!” TO reached out for a different package of food, “Want to try more?”
TO felt like they should get up and go find GiDi. They had been gone for a while, and TO was starting to worry.
Well, worry was an exaggeration. Their mind felt too slippery to properly worry. they felt so lightheaded and pleasantly drifty that they didn’t want to get up. They wanted to stay on the old couch, laying down as they were with their head in DH’s lap. They weren’t entirely sure how they had ended up there, but neither they nor DH seemed to mind.
“...We should check on GiDi.” TO finally managed to say. Their ears flicked in concern, but it was the oddest sensation to them; they could feel their ears flick in a way they never had before- as though their ears weren’t a part of them.
“We should.’ DH agreed in a low, calm voice after several moments of silence. “Can we?”
Despite how dazed they felt, TO was able to reason out that while they could go and find GiDi, they probably shouldn’t. Neither of them were in their right mind, and if they were seen in this state by an Overseer, then there would be trouble. No, it was best to wait until later and sneak back into the dorms.
Still, they had to do something. TO suddenly remembered that they could send messages with their chip. They lifted their hand, and quickly sent GiDi a message.
=Are you coming back? We miss you! Is everything ok? We can’t come to you at the moment=
“There.” TO said, “That should do.” They leaned their head back so they could look up at DH, “Though I wish they had stayed. I wanted to do something nice for them.”
“You did do something nice.” DH said. Their voice had a calm, placid tone that made TO feel relaxed. “They were happy.”
“They want to feel precious.” TO muttered, “I tried to make them feel like that.”
DH’s ears twitched back in confusion, “Precious?”
“Yeah… Like someone likes them best of all.”
“We like them.”
“Yeah, but they think we like each other more. I wanted to find someone for GiDi who likes them best.”
A smile went over DH’s face as their ears relaxed. They started to scratch the back of TO’s head, “So you wanted to find them a mate.”
TO’s ears flushed as DH said that, “well… not a mate. I mean, if they were to be mates, that’d be fine-“
“It’s fine.” DH said, “I get it.” they leaned back, “I suppose that would be nice.”
Comfortable silence fell between them. TO relaxed, enjoying having the back of their head scratched until their wings started to itch. They shifted, somehow trying to scratch their wings without moving too much.
“What are you doing?” DH said, a chuckle playing on the edge of their voice as they watched TO.
“My wings are itchy.” TO whined, “You said you’d help.”
“I did, didn’t I?” They sat still for a moment, then pushed TO up into a sitting position. TO gave a little whimper of protest as they were moved from their comfortable spot. “Come on now.” DH said, “I can’t help if you’re draped over my lap.”
As TO sat up, their chip went off. They checked the message that GiDi had sent them as DH started to undo the bindings that held TO’s wings in place. They read aloud.
=Everything is fine. I explained to Avery that you’re both idiots and we had a good laugh over it all. I’m pretty tired, so I was going to just go to sleep. Are you ok?=
“You can’t really tell them we’re all weird from eating strange berries.” DH muttered as they released TO’s wings, “In case that’s watched too.”
“I know.” TO said as they started to send a message back.
= We’re ok, I promise. We’ll tell you about it tomorrow. =
TO worried for a moment that maybe they should try to expand more on what had happened, about how the single berry that TO had hoped would just help them sleep better had in fact been far more potent than expected. They were wondering how they might phrase that when DH’s hands on their back suddenly drove those thoughts from their head. Firm fingers pushed into stiff muscles around the wing joints, working away the stiffness and reducing the strange, restless itching that had been plaguing them.
“What’s this?” TO said, their voice almost a low purr.
“MO-6 showed me how to do it during my vocational training today after you said that your back felt strange. A simple massage to help the muscles. Of course, there's better equipment to do this in the medical bay, electrodes and the like, but this will do for now. Just don’t spread your wings.”
TO felt so tired and relaxed that they didn’t think they could spread their wings if they tried. They slouched forward as DH firmly massaged their back, their hands warm against TO’s skin as they drew the stiffness out.
“Is that better?” DH whispered after a while. TO didn’t know how long it had been; they felt like they had fallen asleep sitting up.
“Amazing.” They managed to mutter.
“Good.. I’ll strap your wings back down, and-“ Before DH could finish what they were saying, TO leaned back and pressed themself into DH.
“No… Don’t strap my wings down.” TO muttered, “I hate it. Do I have to wear it all day?”
“It’s to protect your wings.” DH murmured, “BUt… I suppose we can do without for a little.”
TO hummed, and curled into DH. They felt like they were drifting off, like they were spinning away into space. They felt DH’s wings wrap around them, and they felt so warm and comfortable that they didn’t want to ever leave the observation deck. They wanted to stay right where they were with DH, and never leave. They didn’t want to have to worry about training, or serving, or being reprocessed, or being corrected.
Problematic thoughts. The worry slipped away from them almost before their mind could grab it.
They could feel DH’s hand on the back of their head once more, and they thought about how easy it would be for them to just turn and have DH’s hands on their ear. Would DH pull away? Would they be angry? The worry that DH would be angry or disgusted with how they were thinking slipped away, revealing a thought that the fear and worry had been hiding.
TO wanted DH to stroke their ears.
They had been so worried about DH being angry about such thoughts and about how invasive their thoughts had been that they hadn’t taken the time to realize that if it happened, if the things they worried about actually happened then they’d be so happy they might burst. If DH were to look at them like C12 looked at Snout, if they were to stroke their ears and kiss them like C12 had snout, they’d probably be happy enough to die on the spot.
It would never happen. All that stuff made DH uncomfortable. Still, maybe they didn’t need that anyway. They had DH as their closest friend. They were curled up, using DH’s stomach as a pillow, having their head scratched as DH’s wings wrapped around them and kept them warm.
That aside, do you want DH as a mate? The question would have scared them, but their anxiety was slipping away too easily for that this time. Everything else aside, would you want DH as an actual mate.
“Yes.” TO muttered. It would never happen and they knew that just admitting that to themselves would worry them when they woke, but for now it didn’t. For now, they were content to hold onto that thought, to hide it deep inside and just enjoy the closeness they currently had with DH.
For the first time, they didn’t try to stop their mind from wandering as they drifted off to sleep.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell