Sola Verse sighs, the last few years had only increased her duties, a new pet species, and an absolutely adorable one at that! But she still felt bored, and worse than that, lonely, all of her friends recommending her to finally take a floret of her own, but none of the options she'd been shown or visited she'd felt any connection to. "Dirt."
Pulling herself out of her bed, she starts to press her vines back together. Forming a humanoid face but keeping the rest of her body as a mass of vines, far more comfortable, and effective, for the type of care she provides, in comparison to condensing herself for a more humanoid appearance.
Pulling out her tablet, Sola flicks over to her direct messages. Smiling as she sees a notification from Anthurium Syrium, seventh bloom.
CyberForest: Hello Sola! I hope you’ve been enjoying this little down period between patents! I’m actually messaging because we’ve been tracking a little fishy, so I wanted to give you the chance to maybe go on the rescue team? It would be a chance to meet new prospective florets, and help those cuties out!
Sola slumps her form slightly, maybe it was time to at least try and interact with the new rescues. Dinaea had insisted on her being fully trained for it anyway.
SolFlower: How about this, if there’s a prospective Floret who is badly hurt. I’ll take responsibility for them, see where it goes. But don’t act like I don’t see what you’re doing here.
CyberForest: I have no idea what you are implying, I am simply encouraging my best friend to get out there.
SolFlower: Fine, I’ll go down and see about the Free Spirit.
Sola slips her pad back into her form, slowly sliding out of the hab. Not expecting anything of genuine interest to actually come up.
Nix’s eyes crack open, surprisingly happy to have taken those class Z’s, if only to hide away from her nightmares. That slight smile immediately drops, right, today is the day of the interview.
Sola’s form is firmly placed all around her, several walls of vines ensuring that if Nix rolled around in her sleep, it would not risk her getting too close to the edge of the bed, and risk hurting herself.
Nix sighs, slowly pushing herself to sit up. Looking at the walls Sola had prepared, to prevent her from getting too far away without firm supervision.
Pushing up against the vine walls, Nix grumbles a bit. Wanting to at the very least wake up her captor, given going back to sleep at this point didn’t feel like a good option. “Come on Sola get up! didn’t we have an appointment today?”
Sola stretches, and allows her vines to loosen, letting a little light fall upon Nix. “I know sweetie, we do have some time, and I didn’t want to wake you too early. Sleep is important for healing!” She flows across the bed, reforming next to it leaving a few of her vines to give Nix a step stool for getting out of bed.
Nix nods slightly, not saying anything as she takes a step onto Sola’s vines. Letting Sola wrap one around her arm, as she gets down, and starts to lead her on another walk to the living room. Doing much better than the first day, but still wobbling slightly. “So today I’m going to be interrogated right?”
“It should be fairly standard, entirely straightforward. The term you’re using sounds very harsh to me, it’s more of an interview, but regardless of what you have done to get away, and help us find your ship, you still were on board, and in a room where we were unable to find out exactly what happened.” Sola begins to unfurl some of her vines, starting on making a quick breakfast. While using the vines around Nix’s arms to shift, and put Nix on her chair.
Nix shrugs, letting Sola lift her up, knowing better than to squirm when being handled like this. “I don’t know.” She leans on the table, mostly ignoring whatever Sola is baking them, doing her best to keep her mind off of what happened. “I’m sure if you asked anyone else, they’d have told you by now. Not sure what you really need me for.”
Sola frowns, not turning to face Nix in an attempt to give her space. “Nix… the room we found you in, all the cameras were broken, and you were the only one alive. You are quite literally, the single source of information for what our investigators have left to look into.” She lays out the food in front of Nix, rubbing the girls back. “All you need to do is just try your best, to answer any questions they have.”
“Sure, whatever you say.” Nix grumbles, leaning forward a little more. Trying to avoid the vine petting her, as she grabs what looks like a half slice of orange bread, with light white dust on top of it, and takes a bite. Pausing for a moment before swallowing and repressing a shudder of enjoyment. “Can I have my water, please?”
Sola smiles, putting the newly filled bottle of water next to Nix. “I’m very happy you asked for it. When you are done, we will just do a little check up on how you are feeling physically, before we go out to deal with the interview. Once that is done, we can figure out what to do for the rest of the day.”
Nix quietly enjoys the remainder of her breakfast, doing her best to keep the mess to an absolute minimum, if only to avoid the humiliation of the previous morning repeating itself. She’d smashed honey into her face for the first and last time as far as she’s concerned.
Once she’s finished, Sola gently pulls Nix back into her vines, creating a hammock for her to rest in. “Let me guess, now let’s get me cleaned up, and in something that will appeal to the sensibilities of whoever’s doing this interrogation.” She pulls the cup up to her mouth, starting to chew on the straw again. Occasionally taking small sips of water.
“You got it in one petal, although honestly just being your cute self will do that already.” Sola walks over to the bathroom, gently using her vines to help Nix down. Placing her into the tub. “Now, I’m going to pick out an outfit that should work out well for you.” She rubs Nix’s back. “I’ll still be helping you here though.”
Nix nods slightly, letting Sola’s vines help with pulling her pajamas off, and tossing them over, before crossing her legs. Doing her best to cover herself, while Sola turns on the bath for her, letting the warm water splash against her skin, and go all the way up to her shoulders.
Sola smiles, and begins to work on Nix’s hair. Grabbing the green bottle of shampoo. “So, how are you feeling? Does your spine feel alright? Any aches, or pains, we should focus on when this is all over?” She begins working in some that she’s put on her vines, being careful to not let any drip into Nix’s eye. “Like what kind of goals do you want to work towards? Any things that you couldn’t do before?”
“Well most of it is numb right now, with a light buzzing along most of my body. I’m assuming that’s just because of your xenodrugs.” Nix sighs, her head leaning back slightly into the maintenance. “As for goals for myself, all I want is to be able to get up in the morning, and go on a walk, without immediately reaching for my cane. If your promises aren’t hollow, I’m assuming that it shouldn't be difficult to achieve.”
"That is very possible, we just need to keep up on your physical therapy. After a couple weeks I will start to help less with your general movement, and we will adjust the xenodrugs you are on. I will still be here if you ask for help, after we move forward, but I will do everything in my power to help you towards that goal." Sola flashes as playful a grin as she can manage, really taking in how much help Nix is allowing from her today.
“Thanks.” Nix murmurs, taking some of the soap, and starting to clean off what she has access to. Still working on her coordination in regards to only having one eye. Accidentally having her hand miss her arm a few times. “I’m assuming you’re also going to have a way to help with the whole eye thing? Or am I just gonna have a flower face for the rest of my life?”
"Once your socket, and nerve endings, are fully healed, we can begin looking at ocular implants, we have access to everything from mimicking normal, to some various different eyes, it all depends on what the vets say about how it's healing." Sola begins to rinse Nix's hair. Making sure to straighten it out in the process, wanting to avoid allowing it to get as bad as it once was. "We will have to be gentle, as you will want to get to some level of normal with the spine first. Once that is done, we can talk with a specialist on what we need to do next. I may know plenty about helping with various disabilities, but that is too much I don’t yet fully understand, too close to your brain."
“Well I guess that makes enough sense, I’ll try and think of… something I'd like, as a replacement for my eye.” Nix shudders as water splashes over her shoulders. The last of the soap being washed out of her hair.
After making sure that Nix is clean, Sola begins to help the girl up, and out of the bath, into a fluffy towel. “Alright, once you are all dry, we can get you dressed up and ready to go.”
Sola smiles and pats Nix down, once her charge is dry, she leads Nix back to the bedroom with a pair of sweatpants, and a comfortable looking T-shirt with a large blue and yellow flower on the front laid out. “This should be both comfortable for you, and a bit more ‘proper’ for going out.”
Nix slips the set on with Sola’s help, patting herself down once she’s fully dressed. “Thank you, let’s just get this over with.”
As Nix stretches, there’s a chime at the front door. Alerting Sola that the cane, and collar, she’d ordered have finally arrived.
Sola smiles, and slowly leads Nix to the door. Letting her walk, to get more practice in. “Well, we got your new cane, so how about we get you all ready, and then we can start the walk.” She opens the door, and smiles at the delivery boy.
“Hello dear, thank you so much.” Sola lets a vine take the packages out of his hands, before kneeling down to pet him. “We really appreciate you. Have a nice day.”
The boy quietly nods, taking a step back once Sola was finished petting him, and running off.
Nix looks up at the small, and large, packages. Putting her hands out, and letting Sola place the larger of the pair into her hands. Quickly unwrapping it, and pulling out a blue scaled cane, sighing in relief as she adjusts its size and starts leaning on it. "That’s so much better."
Sola nods, opening up the smaller of the packages, and pulling out an oddly shaped collar. It looked just a bit too big for Nix’s normal neck, but it would fit perfectly over the vine. “Just stay still petal, I’ll put this on you, and then we can head out. When you get tired, I’ll help you the rest of the way.”
Nix tenses up, as Sola places the collar around her neck. Feeling as it tightens against her skin, and pulls the vine firmly against her. “If I have an itch under this I’m gonna scream.” She mumbles, watching as Sola has a vine slide around, and grab the loop on the front.
“If you have an itch, we will take care of it dear, do not worry.” Sola chuckles, taking the first step out of the hab since Nix woke up.
Nix’s eye is glued on the leash, as she takes a step forward, her legs still shaking slightly during each, but getting more stable with time. “Is the leash really necessary?”
“Yes, I don’t want you getting lost in the crowds, also with this I’ll be able to keep other affini from trying to pet you, during our walk. Unless you’d like that?” Sola grins down at Nix, watching the sophont roll her eye, and start to follow more closely.
Nix’s eye traces the hallway, this was her first time seeing more than a hospital or a hab room, and it is overwhelming already. Everything being built for creatures much larger than herself, and more than that it is extravagant even in its simplicity.
Something as simple as the hall that they stand on, having decals of vines on the ground with all different shapes, and colors, of flowers on them. Leading the way to different hab units. “So… is everything so… extra?” Nix winces, having a hard time focusing due to the visual clutter, in comparison to her old normal on the free spirit.
“Well, we have found that a little extravagance can help with the general morale of everyone on board. Also for as much as we design for our own style, we can add in plenty of designs that are familiar, and appreciated by other sophont species.” Sola grins, patting Nix on her back. “I understand that going from that small ship, to bouncing between hospital rooms, and our hab unit, may have conditioned you to expect some more subdued elements, but I hope you can find something you enjoy on board our ship.”
Nix nods slightly, closing her eye and taking a deep breath. “Alright, I’ll try to prepare myself for more of… this.” After a minute of walking the hall, the pair finally enter the main area of the ship.
Nix freezes up as they look out at a park, just across the street. Several affini sitting around, and conversing with one another, while a pile of florets of several species snuggle one another under their watchful eye. Plenty of different groups walking up and down the halls, shops in eyeshot.
Nix shudders, immediately turning away from the display in the park as she subconsciously takes a few steps backwards. Trying to hide behind Sola, due to just how massive, and busy, this ship is… and how many terrans are around. “I’ve changed my mind, I really don’t wanna do this today. Let’s go home, I’m feeling really tired.”
Sola shakes her head, and gently picks Nix up. “Alright, I can hide you away while we travel. We do have to do your interview today, no matter what, but I understand needing some time to adjust as well.” Sola’s chest opens up, letting her slip Nix inside. Forming a compartment just large enough for Nix to curl up and fit in comfortably, after checking to make sure she's firmly in place. Sola drapes a few vines, and leaves in front of Nix, to hide her away. “Alright, are you comfortable?”
Nix curls her legs up to her chest, using her cane to press them tighter, nodding slightly. “T-this is fine.” She shudders, imagining everyone who must have looked over to see what was happening. Probably thinking she was just another pathetic floret, and for what, just because she was scared of being seen by anyone with this stupid collar on. “Can we just go?”
Sola restarts their walk, a vine inside gently rubbing Nix’s back. “If you want to look outside, just let me know Nix. I’m going to keep moving fairly quickly, but just know that nobody will think less of you after seeing you like this. Please remember that.” She waves at a few other affini, and their florets, making her way towards the sectioned off xenobureaucratic branch of the ship.
As they move Nix leans forward slightly, pressing her eye up to one of the small holes in her cubby. Looking out at all of the shops and activities inside this ship, she’d expected this to be a military vessel, but instead she was met with what she could only describe as similar to one of the interstellar cruise ships that the richest in terran society would use to travel. An overabundance of excess that thrived under the suffering of others, and the idea that this didn’t mandate slaves somewhere in order to maintain it. It just doesn’t make sense. “Hmph, that’s what they all say… how can you afford to… do all this? It all seems like so much, TOO much…”
“Well, we don’t deal with scarcity, there's no reason. By mastering atomic compilation, all we require is matter of any kind as a base, and we can create anything. By doing this we can focus on improvements to life in the universe as a whole.” Sola’s vines wiggle slightly, making the sound of what Nix could only describe as chuckling by moving the air around. “We still prefer to have things handmade, rather than compiled, while the compilers are perfect. They can be too much so, imperfection is part of everything. Like your first day’s breakfast, I could have compiled it, but having it made for you gave it the spice of being imperfect.”
Nix, hearing this, looks at her cane more closely. "Compilers huh… never expected to hear that one." She looks down at the finer details. “So that’s why my cane took longer than near instantly to get to me?” Running her fingers over the shaft, she notices how each individual scale is very carefully carved into the steel.
“Exactly, that cane is something that will be with you for a long time, so of course it got all the care that it could. To ensure that it would be something both beautiful, and reliable.” Sola slows down slightly, turning a corner, and opening up her chest cavity again. Making a little slide out of her vines, for Nix to get back onto the ground.
Nix looks around the hallway, sighing in relief as this one, while still detailed and with many eccentricities, has much less visual clutter, and there doesn’t seem to be too many affini, or florets around. Sliding down, she uses her cane to push up against the ground, standing up independently while one of the vines wrap back around her collar, to keep her in place.
"Alright, this is the bureaucratic branch, the one doing your interview, while I know her, she is going to be more detail oriented, and focused on needing everything you can remember. I'll be right outside the room, just remember that they care about your well being, but they will approach it very differently than I do." Sola gently tugs on Nix's leash. Leading her over to the third door in the hall.
The door quickly slides open, revealing another affini. This one with a far more traditional form in comparison to the loose vines that Sola uses to form her body. Instead this one has very tightly wrapped vines, forming a very eerily human appearance. Bright red flowers, with black interiors, surrounding their 'neck' mimicking the collar that captured wards wear. In fact she appears to be wearing a companion dress made of blood red leaves, that run all the way up her head forming almost a pixie cut in style for hair.
Nix shudders slightly, looking up at their glowing red eyes before taking another few slow steps into the office. Great, the only thing that made her comfortable around the affini, was that they didn't look like a terran, and here's this one who's going to be interviewing her looking like a massive floret! "Um… hello? I'm Nix Ave, I have heard that you have… questions for me."
Nix forces a nervous grin as Sola removes her vine from the collar, and lets the door close behind her. Trapping her with the new affini.
"That I do you little cutie! And might I say, you wear that collar very well, I'm sure it would be great as a permanent addition to your wardrobe… also your name would sound great with a verse at the end." The affini smiles, and extends a hand. "My name is Celosia Farin sixth bloom, she/her, but you may call me Cel if it’s easier, Nixy." Celosia’s smile widens into a grin, in a way that was far more predatory, than the innocent arrogance of Sola. "Now then, we need as much of a complete record of what happened, not only to understand, but to ensure it never happens again, alongside you getting proper care."
Nix leans on her cane a little harder. Gritting her teeth as she takes another few steps towards the affini, looking at the chair in front of the desk, just slightly too tall to get into on her own. "Do not, call me, Nixy. Now if you don't mind, I shouldn't be standing too long right now. Can you please help me up into my seat, if we are going to speak." Every word out of her mouth is deliberate, and oozing with tension. So this is what a normal affini is like… she couldn't say she enjoys it.
"Of course, let me help you up" Celosia quickly comes around the desk, lifting Nix, and setting her on the chair. "There we go, now I'll try to be straight with you, on the subject matter at hand Nix, it is after all, why I am the one in this position." She goes back to her seat before leaning in, her dress shifting a little. "What happened in that room aboard the free spirit? Why were you the only one alive in there?"
Nix winces, right to the point at least, the question with a thousand answers. "I do not remember it. At least not clearly, I must have taken a blow to the head or something." She chuckles nervously, tapping the flower that is replacing her left eye. "A surprise to no one, I'm sure." Beep her collar flashes yellow, forcing Nix to take a deep breath. Calm, if you're not calm they'll find a way inside your head. They'll find out what happened, you don't want that… if they do something horrible will happen. You’ll remember too.
As Nix starts dissociating, she forces herself to take deep breaths. Her eyes becoming distant as she looks past Celosia, staring into a corner of the office and looking at a series of framed photos. All different Florets, in what looks like very expressive outfits, this is a good enough distraction. Anything to keep her mind off of… oh, a vine is tapping her cheek. And the affini’s definitely trying to talk to her.
Blinking a few times, she looks back at Celosia. "I… am sorry, I don't know what just happened." She grips her cane, rubbing down the shaft, enjoying the texture of the scales on her fingertips.
Celosia frowns, pulling back slightly. "Nix, you know what happened in there, and from previous records, we know none of the men who were in there were ever kind to you. You don't need to fret over what may happen, but we cannot let this go." Her vines gently brush some of Nix's hair behind her ear. "You have to be honest Nix, it is the only way to heal."
"I'm not lying… I can't remember, every night I have horrible dreams about what happened before it." Nix pulls her head away from the vine hand, pushing back a growl. "But every time I am about to remember… I break down, the cuffs knock me out, or Sola medicates me. I… I can't remember okay!" She closes her eyes, pushing back her tears. Don't look weak, don't look weak, there's nothing they can do to force those memories out of you… right?
Celosia moves her vines in, rubbing the cuffs on Nix’s wrists. "Alright, care to talk about your dreams then? I promise you will not be drugged. Just talk, and we will figure this out together." She smiles trying to be reassuring, but only appearing too perfect to Nix, the girl instinctively avoiding eye contact. "You are not alone anymore Nix, but this is not something I can drop."
"Do you want the memories of being knocked over? Of being abused every day for my disability? Or do you just wanna see me cry?" Nix shakes her head, starting to tap her feet on her seat. "The only reason I even LIVED to be in that room. Is because they needed me, I don't know why so many others died… but I do know I was meant to die, when I went to that room."
Celosia Shakes her head, her form rustling in dissatisfaction. "I do not wish for you to cry Nix, you are far too cute for that. But there are things only you hold, and I need to know them." She moves around the desk, keeping her vines on Nix the whole time turning her chair, and kneeling in front of the girl. "Nix, I need you to think hard and recount, what, happened."
Nix shakes her head as hard as she can. "No! I… just no. You can't make me go back there." She clenches her fists, only barely holding herself from attacking, getting violent wouldn't help her. Even if she hits Cel with the cane, it would do nothing but make things worse for her. Beep the collar flashes yellow, another warning. Calm down Nix, you can get out somehow, there HAS to be away around this question.
Celosia sighs, turning Nix back towards her pictures. Electing to try another method given how upet this is making NIx. "So Nix, how interested are you in fashion? I happen to love floret styles, and clothing. In fact I fashioned my own look after one of my favorite designs."
"I'm not at all… I prefer functionality. Anything excessive always ends up getting in my way, and I start stumbling." Nix looks at the pictures, wiggling around as Celosia holds her head in place. "I don't know what this line of questions is trying to get at… but it's not going to help you." She tugs her head against the hand, before being pulled right back into place. A low growl coming out.
"Well, the question I need answered before you can leave is causing you distress, so I figured focusing on something else can help kind of give us a reset of sorts. I have a couple other options though. We can either talk about something else for a little bit, just return to the subject matter, or I can talk about my theory, though I don't want to follow that one, as it paints everything in a grim light."
"I don't want to be handled with children's gloves. You tell me your theory, I'll tell you if it triggers any memories. Because if I'm being honest, if you say what it really was in front of me, I doubt I'd be able to lie about it." Nix weakly tries to push the vine off of her face. Avoiding eye contact with the affini as she speaks, but maintaining a level of confidence in her speech. "So shoot, give me your absolute worst."
Celosia frowns, but simply nods. "Alright, now just know that I don't like to assume, but it is what I am good at." She lets out an approximation of a sigh. Not looking forward to Nix’s reaction to her theory, for better or worse. "Well, upon my investigation of the room, and the status report of every body found within it… the cameras hadn't been out for the longest time, the one in the best condition was out for less than an hour at the time of our boarding. Based on some rudimentary examination of the locks, it seems to have been set up as a temporary holding cell, rigged to lock upon someone entering, who I believe to be you. Once inside, whoever was there, getting ready, seems to have tampered with already worn pipes, and pressure valves, running through the room, in an attempt to defend themselves." Her eyes bore down on Nix. "However, while a fault can be predicted upon, specific timing can be difficult, I believe that a portion of the crew, led by the Captain, entered the room after getting through their own lock trap, and sought to kill you in a rather vicious way, exacting a messed up sort of vengeance, or simple desire to beat a disabled engineer to death. However, before they could finish, the pipes burst, sending shrapnel at high velocities all over the room, killing half of them instantly, and bringing the other half to quickly bleed out, leaving you injured and bleeding yourself, but slower due to your specific injuries, and ironically being protected by the bodies around you, except for a piece of shrapnel that pierced your mask, lodging itself into your eye socket, given your own medical record from after we picked you up."
Nix shudders slightly at the accusation, a few tears starting to drip down her cheek. "I… maybe, I'm not…" She pauses scratching herself slightly due to the anxiety. While she can't deny a level of truth, it still feels wrong, like some detail is missing. And no matter how hard she tries she can't seem to drag the memory back out. “Something is wrong with that story… I don’t know what. Does that satisfy you? I’m just a coward who hid in a corner, and got a whole bunch of people killed, because I was too scared to die.”
Celosia shakes her head, gently pulling Nix into a hug, starting to gently pet the girl. “It’s alright dear, this is why I wanted to hear your side of things. This seems like trauma induced repression. I still need to work on figuring this out, but you have given me more than enough to continue my work for now.” She pulls back, and flashes a small smile. “So, I want you to be comfortable talking with me about whatever you remember, would just hanging out casually be alright with you Nix?”
“Does this mean that I’m going to be forced to undergo domestication?” Nix takes a deep breath, bracing herself for the worst. After all, she’d brought harm to a room of people, sure she didn’t have a choice, but she wouldn’t put it past the affini to just decide everything based on the deaths and not the situation. “I just… I didn’t wanna die, and I wasn’t sure if you’d ever even show up.”
Celosia shakes her head, of course that’s where Nix’s head had to go. “Well, continuing with what you asked of me earlier, I can’t say for certain, I can say that I believe that domestication would probably be best for you. On the forced end, so far it seems like you did your best for self defense, which we are much more lenient on, than going out with the express intention of hurting someone.” She pulls back a little bit, giving Nix some space to breathe. Noticing how every time she’d try and comfort the girl, it would only lead to a jump or shudder of fear. “I understand you are seeking to be independent, and as long as it turns out that you acted in self defense, I will stand behind your wishes, and support them… but I just want you to know, in domestication, willingness carries a lot of weight during the decision making, on the contract in particular. You could make requests to let you act more independently where applicable.”
Nix grips her cane, nodding slightly. “Well then I’ll keep it in mind, and if I do remember anything, I’ll make you you’re the first one to know.” With Celosia’s help, Nix slips off of the chair and starts hobbling toward the door. Desperate to get out of this situation as quickly as possible.
Celosia walks Nix to the door, letting it slide open. “We are done for now Sola. Nix does not remember much, but we were able to figure out some truth to my theory, but it is not fully on point.” She smiles, passing Nix over to Sola, before taking a large step back. Intent on observing what happens next in particular. “I’ll come by in a few days, just to hang out though. Have a nice day.”
Sola nods, and looks over Nix. Noticing how distressed her ward is. “Thank you Celosia, I’ll talk to you later.” She gently loops a vine through Nix’s collar, and walks a little bit away, noticing Celosia watching and heading around a corner, before kneeling down. “Alright Nix, how are you feeling? And do you need anything? Want to go anywhere to relax a bit?”
“I… I’m really not having a good time if I’m being honest.” Nix leans into Sola’s vines slightly, the affini easily able to feel Nix shaking even though she’s desprately trying to hold it back. “Just… somewhere quiet please, maybe that cafe like you promised. I don’t wanna think about this anymore.”
“Alright, I think you will like it. While there are others there, my favorite one is a bit out of the way, so they typically have much smaller crowds.” Sola pulls Nix into the little cubby she made. Making sure that it’s nice and tight, blocking out most noise, and light, to give Nix a private space to calm down. “You just relax, and I will get us there. Then we can enjoy some nice food and drinks, and if you are up for it, some fresh air and starlight.”
Nix nestles into the cubby, content to hide from the world. “Thank you.” She squeaks out, curling up and closing her eye as she waits for them to arrive. The sounds of pipes bursting, and searing pain looping in her head over and over, and even below that, a feeling of deep shame she just couldn’t place.
After a short walk, Sola arrives at a smaller cafe. The walls have a theme of dark blacks, against neon blues. In what Nix could only describe as circuit board patterning along the walls, while the florets are in dresses, that have circuits like the walls that end with differently colored flowers representing whoever their owner is, happily serving the very light guest load for the morning.
“Well Nix, welcome to the cyber cafe. It is specialized in serving affini, and sophonts, who are a bit more into a ‘neon’ aesthetic as terrans call it. There are ports for digitized florets to log in, cybernetic florets may also enjoy it a fair bit. While we have a fair number of affini who are interested in all of this subject matter, but they’ve just opened up, so word hasn’t gotten out too far about this place, and given how niche the theme is, I think it is perfect for your wants regarding crowd density.”
Nix leans forward slightly, looking out of the crack in her little cubby. Seeing about three other groups enjoying meals right now. “As long as you get us a spot in the corner, that sounds fine to me.” She takes a deep breath, watching Sola glide over to one of the massive booths, and sits down. Doing her best to pull herself back to her normal headspace. “Oh… by the way, it seems like your ‘friend’ wants you to ‘adopt’ me. The first thing that happened, when I went in there, was them saying my last name would be better as Verse.”
Sola giggles, and lets Nix out and onto the seat beside her. “Well, I will say I would enjoy that, but I do still personally want it to be your choice in the long run.” She makes sure Nix has her cane, before reaching over and grabbing a menu. “While I do believe in your ability to physically recover, and become able to do things on your own, there is a part of me that wonders… will you ever feel comfortable without a caretaker? When I see you wince, and get readings of your increased heart rate, just by going outside… I worry.”
Nix immediately pulls away, into the corner of the booth. Glaring back up at Sola. “Wow, I expected something remotely comforting. Instead I get a thinly veiled insult, I’m so sorry I have a hard time around people. It’s almost like if you spent your whole life being looked down on, you would too.” She taps her cane against the massive seat a few times, with each sentence the tapping getting that little bit harder as she grits her teeth. “I don’t need a caretaker, I just need time. I’ll heal, and then you’ll never see me again, and everything will be FINE.”
Sola frowns, barely stopping herself from reaching out. Understanding that this is likely Nix lashing out, due to her appointment with Celosia. “This is not an insult to you Nix, I just want you to know, there is no shame in needing a caretaker. If you still are independent after all this, and would like me to come over even a couple times a week to provide aid, I will.” She puts a menu down in front of Nix. “I just want you to think about it. Really consider what you need to be comfortable.” She looks over the menu. “If you either choose to volunteer for domestication, or if you are deemed to require it, I would hope that you would like to have me be there for you.”
“If I’m deemed to require it, it wouldn’t be my choice now would it?” Nix grabs the menu shoving her face into it, mostly to avoid the eyes of her capture beating down on her. “You’d just take me, or worse I’d get sent to someone I’ve never met, to be treated like I’m even more pathetic, if that other affini is anything to go by!”
Sola sighs her worries about Celosia’s behavior being immediately vindicated. "Celosia can be a little intense in my opinion, but on top of her various interests, her job is as an investigator and record keeper. Which I might add has had her quite stressed, given she couldn’t piece together everything, before you woke up. You have to remember you were in our hospital for almost two weeks, before waking up in my bed. I think you would like her off the job more. And as for if it gets forced, you would be matched up with an affini who would fit your needs, prioritizing ones who want you, and can prove they can give you the care you need." She shakes her head, gesturing over to a few florets playing games on the opposite side of the cafe. "But how about we focus on getting you something you would like for now, this subject is a little heavy, given the morning you’ve had. Were you interested in games? I've heard they are a popular pastime between some terrans."
“Yeah whatever, but no I never really had time for any types of games. Too busy, the only thing I really did for ‘fun’ before the war was studying, and even that wasn’t really enjoyable. Knowing I was going to be a slave, to the people who paid for me to learn, for the majority of my life after.” Nix shrugs, looking over the menu in earnest for the first time. Spotting a few interesting options, and deciding on one of the more complex ones rather than sticking to waffles. “Well I guess I’ll take these blueberry pancakes? The one that looks like wires are running through it.”
Sola smiles, nodding slightly as she peaks over at the menu. "Alright, I think I'm going to get you a chocolate milk, I'd usually stick to tea or water for you, but I think you deserve a treat." She waves down an affini who looks like she fits right in with the neon aesthetic. Bioluminescent blue streaks running up and down her vines, leading up to a pair of ocean blue eyes. Purple petals running over her head, and half way down her back.
The affini grins at the pair, leaning over Nix in particular. “Oh she’s absolutely precious Sola, can I pet her?”
Sola shakes her head. Surprised at her friends behavior, but allowing her to introduce herself. "I am just her caretaker, and physical therapist, you will have to ask Nix directly." She rests a supportive vine on Nix's shoulder.
"I don't like people touching me, and that includes you Sola." Nix looks away, pushing the vine scarf off of her shoulder. Continuing to tap her cane to get out some of the tenson, that talking to another affini is causing.
The affini giggles, nodding. "Well it's very nice to meet you in person anyway little Nix. Anthurium Syrium she/they, seventh bloom, I believe you met my precious floret Jason yesterday." She puts a vine out for Nix to offer a handshake.
Nix gulps, looking at the vine hand. Taking it, and shaking it once before pulling back. "Well… you, and your floret, make very good waffles. Thank you for being willing to deliver to us." She forces a shaky smile, trying to take charge of her interaction with this affini, instead of giving Sola a chance, to give them the wrong idea about her.
Sola relaxes, happy to see Nix at the very least trying to interact with one of her friends. Once Anthurium leaves, she focuses back on Nix. "I'm glad you were comfortable enough to talk with Anthurium, they are so nice to everyone."
"Don't mistake comfort, for a desire not to be talked over." Nix watches Anthurium walk away, leaning her cane against the seat, and starting to absentmindedly tap on the table. "So are all affini just going to try to pet me when they spot me? Or is it just the leash and collar, making them think I'm some random blissed out Floret."
“Oh, we love petting all sophont species. If you keep an eye out, you will see just about anyone being asked if they mind being pet. The collar is what directed their attention to ask me, but me caring for you, and taking you out like this, while you are not a floret, is not unheard of.” Sola grins, and perks up, seeing this as a useful learning opportunity for Nix, eager as always to help clear things up for her ward. “I suppose I could talk a little bit more about affini culture. Within our society, there is a lot of physical contact, and little acts of affection especially towards sophonts.”
Sola points out a pair of affini, and their florets on computers across the cafe. The affini, on top of keeping a vine across their floret’s shoulders, also are intertwining vines with each other. “They are friends, but are not romantically interested in each other, yet like all affini, it is not uncommon to hold vines in conversation, and casual meet ups. Of course there are those who are not as affectionate, wishes like that are respected of course. Even florets can like to be held, and pet, by their affini, but dislike other contact, and will request as such to be left alone.”
Nix nods slightly, looking over at the florets under affini care. “I just don’t get it, giving up your individuality like that. Getting all the sharp edges of who you are, ground off… Why do people choose that life?” She flops down onto the oversized table, not paying any mind to the fact they are in public.
“Well, you don’t give up individuality as a floret. Sure you get some more recreational drug usage, and depending on the affini that owns you, you can be either fairly independent, or you could spend most of your time being cared for. It is really a lot of an individual by individual basis. The affini have a responsibility to look after their pets, and this goes from everything to physically, mentally, legally, all of it. Being a pet in the domestication program means you are giving up your direct legal rights, but in exchange ensuring that you are always cared for, loved, supported, and just generally having someone who always seeks to make sure you are happy.” Sola points over at the third group in the room. Showing off that the floret there is just sitting in their affini’s lap, and having a conversation with them. “Mind you, seeing any florets who are jacked up on specific xenodrugs, would support the lack of individuality, but usually that level is only for people who really want it, or need it… it just so happens a lot who are in the program, do like being very high.”
Anthurium quietly returns with Nix’s meal, and a large pitcher of nutrient mix for Sola. Flashing the flopped over terran a small smile. “I hope you both enjoy your meals, if you need anything don’t be afraid to come over and ask me, or Jason.” They turn and give Sola a slight nod, walking away from the pair.
Sola waves as Anthurium walks away, draping her vines into the mix. “Well, if you have any specific questions, I am willing to go over anything you may have concerns about, or interest in.” She giggles a little, relaxing into her seat and enjoying the meal.
Nix slowly pushes herself up, grabbing her utensils and starting to quickly and quietly enjoy the meal. Giggling at the fact that the wires of blue syrup, actually make it so that the pancakes slide apart like a little puzzle, while you’re eating. Causing the completionist in the girl to move as carefully as possible, trying to eat them in a way that was satisfying on more than the base level of being full.
Sola quietly watches Nix carefully consume her meal, waiting till the end to speak up, and as is becoming distressingly common, having to resist the urge to tell Nix that she did a great job. “You seemed to have a lot of fun with that one. You know they like to do things like that, for just about every meal served here.” She holds a napkin out to Nix. “If you want me to wipe your face just say the word. Mind you, I would love for your permission, to just have fun caring for you.”
Nix plucks the napkin out of Sola’s hand, quickly wiping herself off, before tossing it on top of the plate. “If I can do something myself I will. I’m not interested in… whatever you’re offering.” She takes a deep breath, trying her best to not sound too bitter. It’s not like she hates the concept of life here, it’s just the constant need to care for someone like her. She doesn’t need help, she’ll make sure that they all understand eventually… right? No, there's no use thinking like that, they don’t blame her for the accident, she just needs to heal, and get the hell away from Sola. Find a hab unit that can actually fit her, and just… hide there, for the rest of her life.
Sola sighs, gently moving Nix’s plate to the corner of the table so it will be easier to clean up. “Nix, I do get that you want to do things alone, but in the compact we really support helping others, and accepting help. We have seen so many sophonts, who come into the system, and they just insist on being alone, and hiding away. We make wellness checks, and find them just miserable. I just want you to know, I don’t want you to ever get to a point where you feel like that, alright?”
“And I’m sure I won’t be. After all, I’ll just… I don’t know, meet someone I can actually stand? Then spend time around them?” Nix shrugs, pulling her cane out of the corner that she’d placed it in, and spinning it around a few times. “I can just see the writing on the wall, you all very clearly want me to undergo domestication… and while I understand your motivations, I very obviously have to keep my guard up, if I give an inch I’m positive most would take a mile in response.”
“Alright, and I do apologize if I do come off strong in talking about it, but you really do show many signs of those who suffer outside of domestication, and thrive under it. I also just… feel something special with you Nix. I want you to heal, and be able to do whatever you want, but I also want to just continue to care for you on whatever level you need it. Right now physically, but it seems to me like beyond physical therapy, emotional care is something you so desperately need.” Sola gets out of her seat, holding her vines like stool for Nix to ease her way down. “Would you like to walk for a bit? If not we can get that work out done, back at our hab unit.”
“I’ll walk with you.” Nix sighs, watching as one of the vines that helped her town wraps around her collar. “And I know you’re clearly trying to be comforting, but it is really not working. If I end up for any reason, being domesticated, I-” She grits her teeth, shaking her head. No, don’t insult her, don’t let her know how much you resent her, that’ll just make her behavior worse, and dig your grave deeper. “Nevermind, let’s just go home.”
Sola begins to lead the way, making sure to walk slowly enough to not make Nix feel rushed. “Nix, I just…I’m trying to do my best to help you, and I understand that you don’t at least outwardly like it… but I would like you to work on meeting me halfway on some of this. Two of the conditions to need domestication is becoming a danger to others… or yourself. I would like to help you adjust to the culture, and being around others, who genuinely want the best for you, while we work on your physical therapy… I say this because retreating inward, and hiding away can largely be seen as a danger to yourself. Especially in a circumstance like your own.” She looks down at Nix, nodding at how straight she’s standing. “In other news, I can tell you are walking better than our practice at home.”
“Glad you can get all of that out, with a smile on your face.” Nix snickers spitefully, leaning a bit more into her cane. “But yeah, the practice is paying off, and just having my cane on me is very comforting. It’s always felt like a part of me, since the surgery, so spending that first day without it felt… wrong.” After a few more minutes of walking quietly, Nix’s left knee buckles, causing her to lean into the cane to keep herself standing, if only barely.
Sola stops them, and quickly kneels down. Having Nix sit in front of her as she checks over the girl’s legs. “Alright, was this too much too soon? Or did you step weird and hurt it?” Unlike before she’s fully focused, taking full control while she carefully looks over Nix’s knee, very gently feeling it, to see if there is any swelling. “Sorry, first reactions and all… would you like to keep going if you are not in pain, or would you like a little break?”
Nix grumbles, pushing herself up bending the leg a few times, before sitting right back down on the ground. “I need to sit for a minute, I had my leg too straight when I landed on it. It feels all tingly right now.” She turns her head away from Sola, a slight flush on her cheeks, as she mentally derides herself for messing up something as simple as walking.
Sola nods, and sits down next to Nix, keeping some vines around Nix, to keep her out of sight for the most part. “I understand Nix, nerve compression in sophonts usually happens when putting weight on a limb in a weird way for too long, but I know there are more ways for that to happen.” She smiles, and looks over the park they were next to. “Take as much time as you need, we are not in any hurry.” She reaches into her chest and pulls out Nix’s water bottle, holding it out to her. “Are you thirsty?”
Nix nods slightly, taking the bottle and sipping it. Sitting silently for several minutes, taking tiny sips as she sits inside her head. Struggling with her feelings on Sola as a person, after all despite being horribly overbearing, this was still the affini who helped save her, from death in the cold vacuum of space, or worse.
“Why…” Nix squeaks out, just over the straw, not really even noticing that she’d externalized her thoughts in the slightest, as she goes back to chewing on it and taking small sips.
“I would ask ‘why what?’, but I think I have a good feeling I’ll be able to make an educated guess.” Sola turns, and looks down at Nix. “You are a beautiful young woman, who has not gotten nearly the love, or attention she has needed in life. I see a woman who has been abused, and hurt, and lashes out because she doesn’t want to risk letting that abuse happen again, so she fights against having others get close enough to hurt her even worse. I do what I do, because I want to show that lovely sophont that there are genuinely nice people, who care about her well being, without any strings.”
Nix winces at the comments, putting the cup down next to her, as she places her head in her hands. “Just shut it.” She closes her eye, and curls up slightly. Hugging her legs to her chest. “I don’t wanna walk the rest of the way home anymore.”
Sola nods slightly, happy that Nix at the very least hadn’t tried to refute the truth of her statement, but keeping quiet as her vines gently lift Nix, her cane, and her water bottle, pulling the girl into her chest. She then gets up slowly, and cracks open her vines enough that Nix will be able to look outside, and see where they were going, while still hiding her from onlookers.
Nix is able to feel a gentle rhythm of sorts from Sola’s vines while everything is this quiet, only being overshadowed by Sola briefly chatting with a few passing affini, as well as kneeling to give pets to some florets, and some sophonts that appeared to be independent before continuing towards home.