“To me,” Began Halophele, “The most interesting thing about these games is what they portray about the culture that created them.”
Halophele picked up a small figurine with a vine. It was a Mielyu warrior wearing armor made of hundreds of tiny metal scales woven into a shirt. Adorning their head was a helmet featuring pointy horns made of coral. In their hand was a small bow strung with an arrow that looked more like a spear. According to Halophele, their appearance was pseudo-historical. In the game world, this small figure belonged to the ‘Empire of Uyleim’, which was being controlled by Halophele this particular session. She placed the soldier on part of a diorama mimicking an interior hideaway overlooking a small meeting area. ‘Overlooking’ was a very Terran way to put it. The models technically had a full 3d range of movement. There wasn’t as much advantage to high ground when your opponent could just swim over you. This is why Mielyu fortresses were often round and focused more on being labyrinthian and structurally sound than being tall. The diorama in front of Amida was amazing. A complicated dollhouse of interconnected pathways, hidey-holes, and ledges on which a tiny war was being simulated. More pastel colors were contrasted by the harsher tones of the figurines.
“A majority of the gameplay scenarios in Delechek take place within fortresses. The defender is outnumbered, but has a ‘home field advantage’ of sorts.”
Amida and Hiren assumed dual control of the ‘Beal’adom Ultratyranny’ because Amida thought the faction’s pieces looked cool. The ‘Ultratyranny’ part was unfortunate, but the pair could carry that weight if it meant playing as cool spooky monsters.
“So Xa'a-ackétøth wargames don’t have cool dioramas like this?” Amida asked.
“This is a fantasy wargame, everything about it is hyperbolized. But yes. Most Xa'a-ackétøth wargames feature a lot of ambushes or otherwise two opponents meeting in a field.”
Melvol was controlling a small vacu-container of an intoxicating beverage. He chose this particular beverage because Halophele recommended it. It was pretty good. He lay on the sand couch adjacent to the trio and watched them play.
“Amida! Help me here!” Hiren pouted, running a finger across the surface of a model. A bulky red and black sea critter with tentacles that ended in spiked balls like the head of a morningstar sat in a position adjacent to but below the Mielyu warrior. The beast was flanked by another creature who looked similar but was smaller. The smaller creature was alike in build to the Mielyu, but wore bulkier armor and had a head like that of an anglerfish.
Amida tapped her finger on a space directly in front of where the creature was positioned, “Let’s move them here,” She said “Up a few Z-levels, Then we can move this guy—” Amida paused to move the smaller piece to the left of the larger one, “—Here! And move our troops to the north in closer.”
“I shall fire at your monstrous troop as you are within 5 meters of my warrior,” Halophele said.
“Shit, don’t you have to roll for that?” Amida said, shaking her head.
“Mielyu games don’t really use dice,” Hiren said, shrugging, “Guess our guy’s down for the count.”
“Poor guy. I guess they were evil— or something like that,” Amida said, hanging her head in mournful reverence.
“I do not think they are evil. They are misguided, but their heart is not inherently malicious,” Halophele said, picking up the piece and inspecting it, “Just because they are spikey does not mean they do not desire affection.” Halophele smiled and placed the piece back on the board.
“Ugh, I’m holding you back Hiren, you’d be doing better without me.”
“Pfft— I don’t care about that, I’m having fun! We, like— used to do this every Friday night, me and Halophele.”
“Board games in general,” Halophele interjected, using a vine to move some troops around on a lower platform, “Wargames are the most popular type of game on the Cladophor.”
“I like to watch,” Melvol responded. He also liked to pet his floret, who was wrapped in his vines as he spoke. The snuggles were distracting Hiren more than was optimal, but she wasn’t complaining.
Amida scanned the playing space for an opening of some kind. Halophele’s defense was ironclad, and Amida didn’t know enough about the game to penetrate the wall she was creating. Hiren probably did, Amida thought as she glanced over to see the fish being tickled and squeezed by her owner. The Mielyu wouldn’t be much help for a bit, it seemed. At least Halophele was distracted as well, smiling in delight as she watched Hiren get pampered. Amida was jealous, not just of Hiren getting touched, but also because the Mielyu was holding Halophele’s attention.
Amida made some quick tactical decisions, moving her troops in a large blob towards Halophele’s while flanking with some big, cool-looking monsters from the sides of the structure.
“How did you get so good at these games, Halophele?” Amida asked.
“I played board games often when I was younger,” Halophele began, “First and second bloom, core world games.”
“Core worlds? What are they like?”
“Jungles of biotic infrastructure woven into city planets of the utmost pleasure-luxury extending in every direction, as far as the eye could see,” Halophele nodded her head back and forth in a pseudo-shrug, “Labyrinths of indulgence unending, you know the drill.”
“I— uhh, don’t know the drill,” Amida said.
“The core worlds are impossible to explain,” Halophele said, “This may seem as though I am trying to mythologize the worlds, or perhaps even scare you away from them. But know that I also do not understand the complex inner workings of the core worlds. The core worlds function in unknowable ways, their layouts, cultures, customs, and everything about them worms its way into your brain like a song you cannot stop humming. They are living beings in and of themselves, and to live in a core world is to enter a sacred symbiosis with that being.”
“That’s kinda how I felt about the 7/11 near my college,” Amida said, maintaining eye contact with Halophele.
“I do not know what that is,” Halophele said, eyeing her pieces on the board. “I am attacking here— and here— then I’ll move these back, and attack this one.”
Amida clasped her hands together. Damn. She was letting all of Hiren's little dudes die. This was a massacre. She looked over at the Mielyu, still being teased by her owner. Hiren was oblivious to the violence taking place not even a meter away.
“Why do your guy’s bows have so little range?” Amida asked as she moved a few pieces on the board.
“What do you mean? Oh, yes, above-water bows can travel further than underwater. Have you ever fired a bow below water?”
“In hindsight that was a silly question,” Amida grumbled.
“Okay, okay!” Hiren giggled, “I’m back, Amida.” The Mielyu assumed a gruff voice, “Give me an update, general Lother!”
Amida’s expression turned somber, “It’s not looking good, miss.”
Hiren patted her co-commander on the back, “It happens! Delechek is hard.”
“I’ll say, I can’t even begin to compete with Hiren!” Melvol chipped in.
“Awww, you’re good at Delechek, master!” Hiren responded, smiling back at Melvol, who laughed in response.
Amida put her head on Hiren’s shoulder, nuzzling her soft, smooth skin. The Terran’s olfactory receptors lit up, causing her nose to twitch. Hiren’s musky scent was wonderful, Amida couldn’t get enough of it. A thick smell like perspiration lingering on an exhausted body assaulted her senses. The Terran’s muscles relaxed as she released a gentle whine. Amida allowed herself to slip away from focus, sinking into Hiren’s side. The Mielyu’s smells and tastes were intoxicating. Amida wanted more, but she would restrain herself for now. Hiren and Halophele continued their game, allowing Amida her moment of bliss. The Terran was thankful for that. She was thankful for her friends. She was thankful for this moment.
“Consider that revenge for my defeat last time we played,” Halophele said, a playful smile adorning her wooden visage.
Hiren gave a harumph, “Well I had a new trainee to teach today!”
“I think she did quite well.”
“Me too,” Hiren glanced at the Terran lying against her shoulder. Amida’s eyes were closed and her hair was floating in the water behind her. Hiren stroked her cheek with a finger. “When was the last time we even played, Hal? It feels like it’s been forever.”
“Yes, I was absent for a spell. My apologies. We can resume weekly sessions if it would please you.”
“It would!” Hiren said with a smile.
“And I missed watching you two, even if I’m dirt at games myself!” Melvol said.
Amida yawned and stirred from her light nap, removing her head from Hiren’s shoulder, “Mm— hey, did we win, Hiren?”
Hiren shook her head in opposition.
“There’s always next time, I guess,” Amida said, running a hand down Hiren’s back.
“Do you wanna play with me and Hal more, sometime?” Hiren asked, flapping her head fins in excitement.
“I’d love to, Hiren!” Amida said, smiling at her aquatic companion.
“Awesome!” Hiren said, wrapping her arms around Amida’s waist and pulling the Terran in for a hug. Amida pressed her nose into the nape of Hiren’s neck and wrapped her arms around the Mielyu’s back. The pair squeezed each other tight, exchanging warmth in the soft pressure of a tight hug.
“Did you like Delechek? Whatcha’ wanna’ play next time?” Hiren asked, releasing the Terran.
“I kinda wanna get better at Delechek,” Amida said, glancing at Halophele.
“Is that because you want to beat me?” Halophele said, smirking at the Terran.
“Maybe a little,” Amida said, crossing her arms. Halophele reached a vine around the table and stroked the Terran's cheek, using another to squeeze her midsection and a third to stroke her feathers. Amida cooed.
Hiren, in a similar fashion, was being stroked by her own Affini. Hiren nuzzled against Melvol’s chest vines as they parted, allowing the pet to sink into his soft body. Amida felt jealous again. The Terran scooted closer to Halophele and squeezed her vines affectionately. The Affini wrapped a vine around Amida’s arm and squeezed in response.
“Thanks for letting me play with you guys, Hiren.”
“No prob! I’m glad you had fun,” Hiren giggled, still being cradled by her beloved master, “I’m really excited to play with you some more!”
Melvol rubbed the side of Hiren’s cheek with a vine. The Mielyu shivered, face filling with a blush, “I think it’s about time for us to head back to the hab! Thanks for having us, Amida,” Melvol said.
“You’re very welcome! Sorry my hab is a little— eh, barren,” Amida responded.
“It takes time. Once you’ve got an idea of how you want things to look, ring me up, I’d be happy to help,” Melvol said with a smile, “See you two later.”
“Farewell, Melvol,” Halophele said, swimming up to her Affini companion to hug him. For those brief few seconds, Hiren was sandwiched between the two Affini. Oh how badly Amida wanted to be there.
“See ya’ Hal, and you too, Amida!” Melvol said, swimming out of the hab door. Hiren gave a limp wave and said something unintelligible. Hiren fell apart when being touched by her owner at an astounding rate, and regained her faculties fast as well. Amida didn’t know whether that was pathetic or impressive, but Hiren was still able to beat Halophele at board games despite her rapid jumps in and out of lucidity.
The door shut behind the Affini and his floret. Amida pressed her face into Halophele’s viny chest. The Affini’s scent washed over her. Fresh with a sharp sweet undertone. Almost as soothing as feeling the Affini’s soft vines against her skin. When both of them combined, Amida felt like she was slipping out of reality and into a cozier space. Safe, warm, and loved.
“You are allowed to cuddle me while they are here if you would like,” Halophele said.
“Yeah, but I don’t want— don’t want people thinking I’m a floret, or whatever,” Amida said, voice muffled. She thought she cared about appearances, but the moment her face sank into those vines she didn’t think it would be too bad.
“Why not?” Halophele asked.
“I don’t want people to think I’m— y’know, something I’m not.”
Halophele nodded and stroked the back of Amida’s head with a vine.
“I am glad you had fun tonight, I did as well.”
“Do you want to sleep here tonight?” Amida asked, looking up at the Affini’s face.
“I would like to, yes. I have not been out of the water in years, though, and it would be difficult for me to get my bearings.”
“Oh c’mon! I can help you with that, easy.”
Halophele giggled, “I do not think it will be as ‘easy’ as you claim, but I will accept your offer, nonetheless.”
Amida pumped her fist and smiled, “Yes! I know you’ll love Terran beds, trust me!”
Amida wondered just what kind of form Halophele would take on dry land. The Affini was not lifted from an aquatic environment and had instead become aquatic around the end of her first bloom. Amida knew this much, but she had no idea what kind of environment Halophele had existed in before that. Would she take on the form of another xeno species? Some kind of amphibian maybe? A mothtaur? Images of Halophele in the forms of various xenos raced through Amida’s mind, and all of them were smoking hot.
“Here, I have a 24/7 dry room at the top of my hab, I’ll help you out of the water,” Amida said, swimming to the hatch in the top of her hab and sliding it open. Halophele could see the ripples in the water signifying something she hadn’t seen in a long time— the surface. She couldn’t see past the ripples, only the diffusion of light caused by the wavering movement. Halophele followed behind Amida. For once, The Terran was the one leading the Affini.
Amida climbed up the ladder to the dry room of her hab, getting blasted by the automatic blow-dryers until not a drop of water remained on her body. She turned around and crouched in front of the hatch. Halophele’s head poked out above the water, almost as big as the hatch itself. A curious expression stretched across Halophele’s visage as the Affini eyed her Terran companion. Halophele’s gemstone eyes sparkled in the warm light emanating from the room behind Amida.
“Oh damn, is the hatch too small?” Amida asked.
“No,” Halophele said, “I am just trying to readjust my senses to dry living. I have to run air through my olfactory receptors, which I typically do not need to do.”
“Your non-aquatic dialect is good for someone who hasn’t been out of the water in years.”
It was good. Halophele’s deep voice sounded as beautiful on dry land as it did underwater.
Halophele smirked, “It would be embarrassing for a linguist to not know every pressure level dialect of her own language,” She said before switching to Putonghua and continuing: “It is easy to practice Chinese dry for practice.”
Amida smiled. Halophele’s Putonghua was a bit broken, but she was doing quite well all things considered. It was difficult to practice dry-land languages underwater, and heavy changes (Xa’acanifications) had to be made for them to work. As far as Amida was aware this was Halophele’s first time speaking Putonghua above water.
“A lot easier!” Amida replied in Putonghua, before switching to Xa’acan to not overwhelm her companion. “If you’re feeling comfortable now, I can help you out of the water.”
Halophele placed vines on the rungs of the ladder, hoisting her body out of the water and into the drying chamber. Amida tugged on a vine to assist, but it wasn’t like the giant alien plant monster needed assistance climbing onto a low ledge. The Affini’s body morphed into a vague ball of vines and pulled itself into the drying chamber. Amida stepped back into her room as the alien was blasted with warm air, form unraveling itself in an attempt to emulate some kind of land animal. The land animal it chose was the one it had been with for so long now— a human. Or a vague form resembling a human. Halophele was finding difficulty imitating smaller mammalian appendages with her scroll algae body. Her sea-whip made for good emulation of hair, at least! She kept her face intact, a visage closer to a Xa’a-acketøth than a human.
Something about watching an Affini reform themselves was entrancing. Innumerable vines stretched across wooden chunks, grasping for something to hold and tighten against like living ratchet straps. Forms shifting, changing height and width like someone was adjusting their dimensions in real-time. Colors became more faded while others were more pronounced as old plants that were displayed upon their bodies receded and were replaced by new ones. Halophele’s body in specific was covered in thick, healthy patches of soft coral and algae that were just begging to have a face buried into.
Halophele didn’t have much trouble standing up on two legs, but when she moved it became clear the appendages were all show. Small vines on the bottom of her faux-feet inched The Affini forward and did all the work of propelling her feet from the floor instead of simulating leg muscles or some kind of pseudo-skeletal system. While these options would allow Halophele to walk in a more natural, comfortable way, they would require practice. The way Halophele moved made her bottom half appear as a vague mass of plant matter, almost as though Halophele was wearing a long skirt made of woven plant matter. She seemed to be getting the fingers part down at least, sprouting vines to serve as digits instead of having to puppet small wooden appendages, at least for now.
“Hey! You’re actually doing really well!” Amida blurted.
“Did you expect something different?”
Amida choked on her words, “Well— I mean—” Gosh Halophele was big. When she stood to her full height and almost hit her head on the ceiling. Her feet— wood—hoof things, were as big as Amida’s stars damn torso, and Amida was worried about the fact that she found that hot as hell.
“We are an exceptionally mobile species. Though I will need some work emulating Terran movements if I am to emulate them closer. This is a temporary solution,” Halophele said, craning her head down to look around the room. The Affini had to admit she felt much lighter out of the water, it was a nice sensation.
Amida had sent an image of her room when it was more barren, but now she had it filled with some things to make it cozier. The light in the room was a nice warm tone, and the air was quite dry considering its proximity to a planet-sized body of water. A few posters hung up on the walls displaying text in Putonghua that Halophele could not read, they seemed like images of athletes or sports teams, with a few videogames thrown in the mix. In one corner of the room was a wooden desk, simple, with only a laptop and a notebook on it. On a shelf above the desk sat some small trophies and a trio of potted plants. A bookcase sat on another end of the room, most of the books in Xa’acan were textbooks on the language. How to write it, speak it, and perfect it. One was sitting on Amida’s bedside table that claimed to assist with deep pressure level dialects (DPLDs)
Amida’s bed was Affini-sized, thankfully. Halophele wondered if Amida even knew it was Affini sized. Amida was sitting on the edge of the fluffy comforter. Little images of Terran fish adorned the blue fabric, and the size of the bed dwarfed her, the pillows almost twice the dimensions of her torso. Stars, she was so small. Laying across her pillows was an oversized oarfish plush flanked by a penguin plush, two aquatic critters Amida had taught Halophele about while they were texting each other.
“Hey, computer?” Amida called.
“Yes, cutie?” The computer responded.
She had it on the floret setting. She had her computer on the floret setting and she didn’t know and she was so cute and she was so small.
“Can you open the sky panels, please?”
“Of course, here you go, cutie!”
‘Opening’ the sky panels was a misnomer, but the opaque roof flickered, becoming a window to the outside world. Affini and their florets swam above, flanked by algae and kelp as coral spires rose into the shallows in the distance.
“Thank you, Computer.”
“No problem, cutie!”
The orange light in the room was replaced by a deep blue, almost purple. Amida looked at Halophele, the pair were covered in a gloomy blanket and smiling at each other.
“Are you going to come cuddle me or am I going to have to yank on your vines again?” Amida giggled.
“You can do both if you want,” Halophele responded, ducking down to crawl into the bed.
Amida scooted back towards the headboard of her bed and splayed her arms. Halophele once again turned into a vague mass of vines and algae as she crawled atop the Terran. Halophele eclipsed the light slipping into the room from above, casting a shadow over her favorite Terran. Her movements were still a little rickety, vines hanging down over her plaything. Amida was blushing. Stars, Halophele looked even bigger when she was looming over Amida like this. She was a leviathan. She was beautiful. Amida’s arms buckled under Halophele’s weight. The Terran let out a whimper. Halophele’s eyes still sparkled even when she wasn’t in direct light.
“Stars— you’re heavy, Hal,” Amida said, not breaking eye contact with the Affini.
“I believe I am 260 Terran kilograms. You are 58 kilograms if I am not mistaken.”
“Y—yeah,” Amida whimpered. Saying it out loud made it so much hotter.
Halophele leaned down, dropping her body on top of Amida. The Terran’s chest buckled, squishing her lungs and guts and other insides like a pancake beneath the Affini. Hal’s cushiony algae exterior made her feel like a pillow but stars damn if she wasn’t a heavy pillow. Amida’s lungs were squeezed until she was barely able to breathe. The Terran wheezed, body reeling from the blow. Amida slapped Halophele’s side and wiggled in a vain attempt to get her to let off.
“Fuck me, Hal— Stars— Fucking heavy—” She managed to croak.
“Amida, you know well this is not even half of my full weight. I told you before, I could turn you into a smear across my body if I wanted to. Crush you into pulp,” Halophele said, pressing more of her weight into Amida. The Terran gasped, choking on the little air she was allowed to receive. Halophele could feel her diaphragm trying to push the Affini off, trying to get even a tiny bit of oxygen to fill them. “I seem to have forgotten something about Terrans. Could you help me? Something very important, I believe. Life or death, some might even say.” Halophele watched as the Terran writhed under her. She could feel her ribs bending to their limits, threatening to crack under her immense weight.
Amida wanted to cry out in pain. Her vision was getting starry, little gray dots filling the corners of her sight. She felt like her ribs were going to explode and her brain was going to give out at the same time. She barely even had enough oxygen in her system to register the burning pain from the immense plant woman lounging on top of her. Then, just as Amida thought she was about to black out, the Affini let off of her, keeping her pinned in place but able to suck in a lungful of air.
Stars, what a wonderful lungful it was. Like a gift from heaven. Amida’s ribs expanded, sending a dull ache through her nerves— but it was a good ache. It was the ache of an unused muscle finally moving after being asleep for too long. Like standing up from a desk after a day of working at a computer. Amida shivered. Her breaths were labored but they were worlds more fulfilling than the ones she took from under Halophele.
“Ah yes. You need air, don’t you? I had almost forgotten, you being so aquatic and all,” Halophele cooed.
“Fuh—” Oh shit, talking felt weird. Amida took a few more breaths and cleared her throat, “Fuck you.” Her smile betrayed her actual emotions, as did her blush.
“You wish,” Halophele said. Amida giggled in response. The Affini leaned down and gave the Terran a gentle kiss on her forehead. “I’d love to do more tonight, but I am a bit worried about shattering your ribcage, considering I am bad at controlling my weight above water.”
“That’s hot,” Amida giggled.
Amida touched her chest and a stinging pain shot through her body. She jerked away. She looked down to see purple and yellow bruising spreading across her exposed chest.
“Exhibit A. I would be okay with going ‘all in’ if you had a haustoric implant.”
“Oh my god—” Amida spun around, Halophele released her grip on the woman and laid her body down beside the Terran. Amida nestled her body against Halophele’s soft chest but didn’t turn to face her. “Why do people keep saying that! I feel like you guys are— Iunno, pressuring me into getting one. Why are you withholding arbitrary stuff behind floret-exclusive— like, medical stuff?”
“Oh no, Amida, not at all. Haustoric implants will allow you to heal from injuries at an expedited rate. If I were to break a rib, it would be healed in minutes.”
“So why can’t I just get one? And the checkups?”
“Checkups would go easier if you had one, but they are so invasive we do not morally allow ourselves to place them in non-florets.”
“But you guys literally forcibly domesticate rebels!” Amida almost yelled, throwing her hands up, “How is this worse than that?”
Halophele paused for a moment, “First, we do more wardships nowadays. Second, I do not think you understand that haustoric implants bind with your mind and body in a deep, fundamental way. Everything about you falls under the control of the implant’s owner when you are given one. Your vitals, emotions, and the proteins and amino acids running through your system are all theirs to control. On top of this, an implant has to have an owner or owners.”
Amida nodded, “I, yeah. I’m sorry, I was just a little frustrated.”
“It is alright. When things are kept from you it is easy to be frustrated.”
“It’s— It’s not even just that, I’m just. Iunno— kinda stressed with the whole experiment thing and I’m living in a new place. I guess I kinda just blew up there.”
“You may relax now, Amida, do not worry,” Halophele said, kissing the Terran on her cheek. The Affini snuggled up closer behind her, wrapping a few vines around Amida’s body to pull her against the alien’s soft chest. Halophele placed her chin on top of Amida’s head and hummed. The Terran was surrounded by soft vines of coral and algae on all sides. Halophele pulled the bed’s fluffy aquatic-themed blanket over the Terran and retrieved her plush penguin. She placed the plush into Amida’s arms as she tucked the blanket around Amida’s sides.
“Do they have a name?” Halophele asked, booping the plush penguin on its soft nose.
“Mariat, I named her after Mariat Smint, a professional swimmer from the 2490s. I think I got her in— I think it was sophomore year of college and my coach bought her for me after I won first at a swim meet,” Amida said.
“Like a contest for who can swim the fastest. In basic terms. There’s a bunch of categories.”
“You must be quite fast compared to other Terrans.”
“Not compared to you guys here on the Cladophor!” Amida giggled.
Halophele shrugged, “That is not a fair comparison, though. You are not aquatic.”
Amida nodded and flipped over, pressing her face into Halophele’s soft algae body. Halophele hummed in response, loosening her grip so that Amida could get comfy before tightening yet again.
“Hey, Hal? Stop me if I’m prying, but I wanted to ask about you and Gortha if that’s chill,” Amida said.
“No problem. Ask away.”
“So Gortha said you guys were going to get unified? Were you like fiancees or whatever?” Amida asked.
Halophele laughed and rocked Amida back and forth. “Oh— I thought this would come up. Gortha informed me that Terrans have a different view on unification than we do. It is more casual for us than Terran ‘marriage’. It is abnormal for it to be prolonged for the length that Gortha and I did.”
“So why did you?”
Halophele paused for a pregnant moment. Her smile faded and her movement stopped. It didn’t seem like a sudden onset of emotion, more so that Halophele was thinking about something, focusing on what exactly she wanted to say next. She stroked Amida’s hair. The Terran couldn’t tell if this was to calm herself or to help her think.
“You don’t have to answer if I’ve snooped too much,” Amida said.
“No no— I just, I think it is important. I withdraw a lot, you know that. Or I used to before I met you. I have a fear of companionship with other Affini that has taken time to erode. When I wanted to unify with Gortha I thought it was gone, but then when we were ready to finally sign the documents, I realized my fear was still there.” Halophele clutched Amida tight.
“Why were you scared?”
Halophele ran air through her body. “When I was at the end of my first bloom, I was unified with an Affini named Lampro Eudico, First bloom. He did not rebloom with me.”
“Oh stars Halophele, I am so sorry,” Amida said, craning her head up to look the Affini in the eyes. Halophele averted her gaze but pressed the Terran close against her body.
“It is alright, I am working through it. The therapy and companionship have helped a lot,” Halophele said with a sigh, “I loved them, though. Lampro, I mean. They were beautiful. You should have seen them, Amida. Their body was a brilliant light blue with this cape of seaweed and kelp that flowed behind them like a ghostly shadow. Stars Amida, you would have loved them so much.”
Halophele couldn’t help but imagine Lampro there at that moment. Sandwiching Amida between their two bodies, playing with her as they snuggled each other close. Two lovers and their floret. Halophele didn’t feel much romance anymore, or yearning. She felt a hole, like something was missing. When she thought about yearning and love, she thought about Gortha and Amida. When she imagined Gortha, warmth filled her body, not sadness. Fondness for the times they had and would have. Suddenly the image in her head was different. Two lovers and their floret. Gortha, Halophele, and Amida.
Halophele’s eyes lit up, she looked down at Amida. The Terran was staring up at her, eyes beginning to form tears. If Halophele could cry, she would have been as well, especially at the sight of the Terran weeping for her. Halophele clutched Amida close to her face, pressing their bodies together. Amida sniffled.
“I love Gortha, And I love you, Amida. I know Lampro would have wanted me to move on. They did not intend to— to pin me down.”
“I love you too, Halophele. Are you still scared of unifying with Gortha?”
“No. We already cuddle every morning and visit most nights. Intertwining our lives would make things easier for both of us. Happier and easier,” Halophele said with a smile. It was like she already knew it, she just needed to bring the thought from the back of her mind to the front. Hal beamed in a way Amida had never seen her beam before.
“Then do it, you overgrown plant!” Amida giggled, pushing her head up to kiss Halophele. The plant bent down and allowed Amida to smooch her on the lips. Amida could swear those lips were even softer than last time.
“So would you live together? And what would your names be?” Amida asked, bouncing her leg in excitement.
“First she has to agree to the unification, Amida. She may have changed her mind,” Halophele giggled. The plant paused before continuing, “We would live together, yes, and we were planning on changing our last names to 'Alarit', for Alanpri and Marit."
“That’s cool! I kinda wish Terrans did that when they got married.”
Halophele giggled. From that point on she tried to keep up the conversation with Amida but was failing. An intrusive thought kept pushing its way into her head. Four words kept rolling between her ears. They were sweet words, words that brought warmth to Halophele’s core. Perhaps ‘words’ wasn’t the correct term for them as a whole. Two names, then two words denoting a title.
‘Amida Alarit, First Floret’
Halophele would have to get the wording on Amida’s domestication contract changed.
Then she would have to work up the courage to present it.