Linda had to admit, as she stood outside of ‘Cupcakes and Cuddles’, that this was one of her more out there ideas for meeting new people. Did they even serve Terrans? She wondered internally. The website hadn’t said anything about it at all. In fact it had spent most of the space on how cute and cuddly the florets were. With their eccentric body mods, smiling faces and cuddly demeanor. Still, the site had been in the local Affini dialect and there had been no mention of any Terrans not hopped up on Class J.
Still, she had yet to meet a mean affini. The worst she could expect was a condescending pat on the head and a helpful vine pointing her to the normal Cafè down the street… right?
With a deep breath Linda stepped up to the giant door that opened with a friendly swish and stepped through into a land of fluff. It looked just like she had expected it to. Pillows everywhere, fluffy furniture, platforms for climbing and jumping, doggie beds and plushie piles galore and all around were florets.
draped over pillows, relaxing by the windows, peering out over the room from a high spot or just curled up on the lap of the few affini patrons currently visiting. Linda had picked the time strategically, visiting in the morning when she figured there wouldn’t be too many other patrons.
However, Linda was broken out of her admiration of all the pets and how the room was laid out for the florets by a cheery voice. “Hiii! I’m Tabby! What is your name?” Linda jumped and turned towards the source of the noise. A grinning catboy, with ears, a tail and… a maid dress? Linda found herself dumbfounded. This was not at all who she had expected to greet her. Class J was supposed to make florets non verbal and animal like, not like Tabby!
Linda mumbled out her name under her breath, but Tabby seemed to have no issue catching it. “Welcome to Cupcakes and Cuddles Linda.” He said, calming himself down a little when noticing how shy Linda was acting. Luckily the Affini patrons seemed to be too occupied with the cuddly pets to notice the new arrival. Still Tabby lowered his voice to almost a whisper. “Are you here to volunteer?”
Linda pulled back in shock. “No! Not at all, I mean I donæt have anything against- but I rather-” She blurted out a series of half finished sentences, but Tabby was quick to calm her down.
“Shhhh. It’s fine, you were just so flustered is all, and it can often be really embarrassing for new pets to ask for what they want. Sorry for assuming.” Tabbys smile was just as genuine as his apology sounded. “Come, we got a nice table for you in the back.
Linda couldn’t help but blush over her embarrassment as she followed Tabby to the back of the room where an affini, or perhaps it was human pet, sized couch was set up, luckily next to a table that would be within reach. Tabby showed her the way up, the furniture clearly designed for Terran ease of access, and let Linda get comfy. “I will be right back with some coco and a cupcake!” Tabby grinned and Linda decided that was just right for now.
Curling up with her coco and her half eaten cupcake Linda soon calmed down again, and reflecting on her visit so far it was going much better than she expected. She leaned back, closed her eyes and that was when she felt the weight on the sofa shift.
Lindas eyes shifted open, and looking to the side she saw her. The girl had curly ginger hair, was wearing a matching dress, on her head was a pair of attentive, white tipped ears and swishing out from underneath the dress was a white tipped tail. A fox girl.
Linda looked at the fox as she crushed on the sofa, looking inquisitively at Linda. Gosh she was cute, all cuddly and friendly like. “uhm… hi Foxie. Is it okay that I call you Foxie?” The Fox girl crawled closer to LInda and booped her collar tag. Mindy, it said. “Huh, I guess you’re Mindy then. Can I hug you Mindy?” Mindy did not answer, instead she crawled all the way up to Linda and placed her head in the girls lap. Linda felt a little overwhelmed, but when nothing else happened she placed a calm hand in the Fox Girls lap and started petting.
I can see why the Affini like this. Linda reflected, as she felt Mindy curl and nuzzle up in her lap. Mindy was an incredibly cute fox girl, and the way her ears twitched when Linda scratched her behind them was adorable. She really felt relaxed and finally allowed herself to look out over the rest of the room.
She watched as two dog-boys chased each other from table to table, she made eye contact with and smiled at the catgirl perched at the top of the cat tower, keeping an eye out for everyone and everything inside Cupcakes and Cuddles. She also saw some less or non modified Terrans, napping in pillow piles or cuddled up with affini and there was obviously Tabby, running between the affini with cups and snacks for their cuddle partners, receiving pets and pats from everyone.
“Are you doing better hun?” Tabby asked as she swung by Lindas table with a bowl.
“Yes! Mindy is very… nice.” Linda blushed a bit, she felt much more talkative compared to back when Tabby assaulted her earlier, but she honestly rather kept petting the Fox Girl than talking to the Catboy.
“She is, isn’t she? I figured you might want to feed her a bit, so here you go!” Tabby placed the bowl just within Lindas reach. “I gotta run, but call me if you need anything!” and luckily for Linda Tabby was off again. With a sigh she rested her hand back into Mindy's hair, the fox girl becoming progressively cuddlier as time went on. Linda reached over and picked one of the bite size snacks from the bowl, it looked like jerky and she could feel Mindy stirr as she noticed it.
“Here you go Mindy.” Linda said to the nonverbal cuddle creature, feeding her one of the bites. She could hear the happy jipps from the fox, and soon fed her another, and another. As she fed the fox girl Linda observed the Affini in the room, and pondered over how wild it was that a place like this could exist, and that she would be welcome as a patron. To get that intimacy she needed, but without the pressure of having to small talk, or having to constantly exist in the same space as another person. Linda could leave at any time she wanted, there was no pressure to stay if she ever felt tired or overwhelmed. Not that there was any risk of that quite yet, if anything Linda felt reinvigorated, yet relaxed at the same time, that is probably why she didn’t jump nearly as much as with Tabby when the 3 meter tall plant alien suddenly stood next to her.
“Excuse me little one, we have an opening for a fourth player and figured you might want to join our game of Domestication.” For a second Linda was convinced that was some kind of euphemism, and very likely a flirt, but as the plant held up the board game box that did indeed read ‘domestication’ she hesitantly downgraded it to just a flirt, gosh darn flirty plants. “I am sure your friend would like to come along.”
Linda considered for a moment, on one hand she was just there to cuddle a bit and enjoy a cupcake. But on the other hand she had shelfs of board games back in her hab that she had nobody to play with. She hadn’t met too many affini, but the one that came to her apartment after the invasion had been lovely, and her vet had put her on class Gs after just one appointment.
“What do you say Mindy, want to come along for board games?” Mindy squirmed in Lindas arms, before nodding along. “Guess it’s settled then.” Linda smiled at the only slightly intimidating bush looming over her.
“Wonderful petal! Let’s go then.” The plant used a vine to guide Linda down from the sofa, but was making an effort not to touch her without permission. “I am Polygala Inodi, fourth bloom. She/her pronouns. What about you?”
“Linda Ormsfjord. She/her pronouns here too.” Linda smiled. It was always a little awkward to go through that whole pronoun thing, but it seemed like every Affini in the system was doing it. At first she had assumed they were just pandering to the obvious trans girl, but experience had proved her wrong.
“It’s a pleasure, dear, let me introduce you to the others.” It wasn’t a long walk, and soon Linda found herself standing next to Polygala looking up at two more undeniably beautiful bushes. “This is Baptisia Cincera, second bloom. She/her, and Cedrus Moly, fifth bloom. He/him. You have already met Baptisias floret.” That was when Linda noticed Mindy had been swept up into the lap of the very pink plant and was being cuddled next to a mostly normal looking Terran. It stung a little bit for Linda, who had been looking forward to more snuggles with Mindy, but she didn’t complain.
“Do you need help getting up, little one?” Cedrus asked, probably taking Lindas frown as annoyance about the large furniture and yeah, that was probably better than showing jealousy over an affini pampering their floret. Instead she nodded at Baptisia who offered Linda a vine to pull herself up by. Settling in between Baptisia and Cedrus the plants gave her just enough space as to not feel squeezed between them, and Polygala started explaining the rules of the game.
Linda was a little surprised to learn it was a cooperative game, where each player got to play an affini specialist and together they would save a planet and the terrans living on it from themselves. This was done by reducing the homlessness, sickness, hunger and yes, feralism around the planet. But it wasn’t easy, because the group was stranded on the planet without the support of the compact and had to act quickly, before the poor terrans destroyed the environment and made the planet uninhabitable! Each player got a special ability to help the team with. Linda got to be the domestication specialist, who had the ability to domesticate 3 cubes at the same time from an affected place on the map.
The game started and Linda soon felt herself having fun, it felt great to see all the evil cubes disappear from the board and the spirited discussion between her fellow players was a joy to listen in on. She was so engrossed that she almost didn’t notice when Mindy poked her in the side. Almost, because she did miss her cuddle buddy and all three affinis let out a loving “Aaaawwwww!” was impossible to ignore.
Linda blushed, and guided Mindy's head back into her lap where she could pet her head while focusing on the game, She noticed that Baptisia hadn’t let go of her little one, instead her vines were still playing with Mindy's back and tail while her head was rested in Linda’s lap. Reflecting on it she had no idea how she ended up in a society where this was acceptable in public, but overall she was thankful for it. Especially considering how cute and blissful Mindy looked right now.
“I’m so happy you are getting along with my Mindy. It can sometimes be hard for Florets to make independent friends, especially class-J pets like her.” Baptisia said, making Mindy squirm and whimper. Linda thought about that for a second, was friend really the right word? Friendship had always felt like it came with obligations to Linda, obligations to show up to places, to hang out, to not tell them to leave her house when she was feeling overwhelmed or tired. But she would like to see Mindy again. To cuddle more, and feed her jerky again.
“She is very cute.” Linda finally said, feeling like she should say something. She definitely chose the right response, because all the affinin nodded sagely in response.
Sadly the distraction of cuteness had resulted in a couple really bad turns, and now they had to deal with feralism breakouts in sector 12. luckily the bureaucracy expert Baptisia was able to create a domestication office in the area and Linda could sweep in and clear up the worst of the mess!
As the game went on Tabby arrived with refills on their drinks for everyone. Linda got another coco while the Affini seemed to be absorbing some kind of clear liquid through their vines. More snacks for the pets also arrived, and it was fascinating to see what the different pet prefered to eat. The terran Mindy was half sharing Baptisia’s lap was a vegetarian and was fed directly from Baptisia’s vines. The bunny boy on Cedrus lap was ecstatic to nibble on a carrot and while Mindy wanted more of the jerky bites Baptisia insisted her floret had something to drink first and Linda got the honor of helping her with the water bottle. She wondered if the fox felt infantilized, but looking at her Mindy was ecstatic to be fed by hand while being petted all over.
The game came down to the wire, but the team managed to find the cure for feralism just in time! While the rules said nothing about it they all agreed that the cure had been headpats all along and that it was kinda silly it took so long to figure it out. Celebrations were still in order and Polygala insisted they did so with cupcakes.
Over cupcakes the affini finally got around to explaining how it was Mindy, a floret who already had an owner, was roaming the pet cafè. “You see.” Polygala begun. “While some of the cafè pets are strays, most are just here part time. Helping out all the affini without pets and the occasional cutie like yourself.” Linda couldn’t help but blush at being called cute. It had been very easy to ignore all the flirting over the game board, but without that distraction it was harder.
But even so, having a little talk with the three bushes over cupcakes was not as tiring as she had feared. Both Baptisia and Cedrus excused themselves long before Linda felt overwhelmed and while both their cuddle buddies, the bunny girl and the unmodified terran, joined Mindy on Lindas lap the feeling of being smothered in cuddles was far from unpleasant.
“I will be heading home too now petal, but I would love to meet up for some more games.” There was an intent in Polygala’s words that Linda mostly missed in the sea of cuddly florets and the day had been very pleasant so she didn’t hesitate with her answer.
“Yeah, just add me and we can find a good day!”
“I’m looking forward to it, little one.”