"So how did you get that scar?" My chipper upbeat voice chimed out into the early night. The date had gone really great and I was super happy and wow, I think this affini might be the one for me! I bounced to her tune and we just seemed so insync—
Selinum tensed, all the joy in her motions silenced. A few vines rose to touch the side of her face as others trembled. "I do not wish to talk about that, little one."
In the span of a heartbeat, my joy crashed into a wall and died. I'd-I'd upset her? The-the sophont I liked. The nice caring thoughtful mindful xeno who'd been the first one to go on a date with me. That I could see as a friend, and a partner and owner…
She relaxed a touch and continued walking. That joyous song gone from her vines.
I, on the other hand, trembled. I'd made a mistake. I'd hurt someone, someone I liked. I'd done bad. I was bad. I needed to go away so I could never hurt her again. She deserved better than me. I needed to di—
"Flower?" Selinum noticed I'd lost pace with her, and halted to look at me.
"Sorry." A quiet trembling whisper. My body frozen stiff save for minor tremors in my hands. Emotion turned into errant movement. Glitching. Failure. I was a failure. I'd failed.
The towering plant offered a reserved smile, and a pat on the head. "You didn't know. Let's move on shall we?"
Move on? But I'd hurt her. I'd done wrong and bad and awful and I'd probably do it again and again and again until I'd hurt her so bad I'd leave emotional scars worse than the physical one. Of course, it wasn't okay to talk about. Affini could graft and fix any injury they wanted. Clearly that was something she couldn't move past. I was dumb and thoughtless and I'd hurt her. I needed to go away forever.
"I-It's late." I stammered. Hands still shaking uncontrollably. My eyes fixated on the ground beneath me rather than up at her. "I n-need to go home. Sorry."
"Are you alright?" Even just from the sound of her voice she wasn't over what I'd brought up earlier. Her vines hadn't relaxed. Her voice hadn't fallen back into that relaxed swaying. Painted all over her lay the signs of how deeply I'd hurt her. Would continue to hurt her. I needed to leave.
"Yes." The word fast, sharp, a lie. I lied to protect her from me. I'd done bad and awful and I'd do a lot worse and I needed to go away because clearly she hated me. Besides I couldn't tell her the truth. I'd hurt her and she'd turn around and comfort me and I didn't deserve that after hurting her. I deserved to feel like shit and hate myself and know I'd done bad and awful and failed and hurt her. "G'night."
My hands strangled my purse strap as I turned and walked away.
Only a large hand landed on my shoulder. "Flowe—"
The unexpected touch startled me so badly I leapt away moved like I'd been struck. Like she was poison. Like she was pain. She was in pain… because of me. Looking up I caught the further wounded expression on her face as she pulled back her hand as if bit by a snake. I'd made it worse. I deserved to die. I'd already fucked up twice? In two minutes. I'd hurt her worse. I'd hurt her and I wouldn't stop. I needed to go away forever and ever.
Nothing stopped me as I turned and fled. Not sprinting, but moving as fast as I could without drawing attention. Without another affini approaching to see if I was alright. I'd hurt them too, and everyone else. I'd keep hurting everyone if I didn't do something about the me shaped problem in the universe.
That's when my bracelet began beeping. Softly. Insistently. A moment later my comm unit vibrated in my purse. Fuck fuck fuck. My vet. Fuck. If I didn't respond they'd send someone after me, and I'd hurt them too. I needed to lie and tell them I was alright so I could go deal with the failure.
The plants gave me everything. Saved me from every problem. Gave me a wonderful home, and a town I could feel safe in, and atmosphere I could breathe without issue. Fixed the noise pollution that drove me to tears every other day I stepped outside. They gave me everything and I fucked it up like the failure I was.
My trembling hands dropped my comm unit onto the cold street, forcing me to reach down and slowly try to grasp it properly. The call still ringing even this late at night. I was probably already bothering them they were busy and fuck fuck fuck. I was causing problems for them too. Why couldn't I fucking stop being a burden and a problem and causing hurt everywhere always. Fuck!
I ceased breathing, the moment I managed to hit the answer call button. My bracelet still beeping.
The sound of my vet. The large plant of indescribable form picked up on the other end with that familiar hiss. "Nisha? Your heart rate spiked, along with a dozen other metrics. What happened?"
"Nothing." I lied like a lying liar. The spoken word reminded me I needed to breathe. Rapidly, forcefully, and painfully I made my lungs suck in air, and then forced it out, over and over and over in small rapid breaths.
"Dear, get somewhere safe and private and tell me what's going on." They knew I wasn't somewhere safe and private. Viburnum must've been tracking me, about to send someone and making me inconvenience them too. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!
Feeling trapped and scared, I obeyed, unable to think of anything else other than finding a small dark hole to hide in until I died. Walking swiftly I found an alleyway and turned down it. It was the affini district so it was beyond safe. Safety monitors everywhere. No one without a home. No one would dare cause problems, except me the living sophont shaped problem.
I looked for the smallest darkest most isolated spot in a space wildly over designed for a mere alleyway. Somewhere where the affini sent to look for me might overlook. I curled up, pulled my legs in and hugged myself, still shakily holding my com unit, my bracelet finally stopping its warning beeps.
"You there yet, Nisha?" They only asked then because they were tracking me.
"Yes." I whispered between panicked breaths. "I'm" "Fine" "Don't" "Send" "Anyone" "Please?" Each word slipped out when I could. Each one painful and forced, and affini liked the word please. That'd make them stop right?
"Why don't we skip our little back and forth over whether or not you're fine and you start telling me what you think you did wrong, hmn?" They knew, and I knew they knew, and fuck fuck fuck. "Go ahead and type it out if that's easier."
So I started typing it out and added way too much context because the context was important and would help them understand how badly I messed up and because if I didn't include it I'd be misunderstood because everyone always misunderstood me except for her but I'd hurt her because I was a fucking bitch jerk who needed to be shoved out an airlock, but that'd require me to be in space and not planet side and—
Tears streamed down my face. They had been but I'd been so focused on breathing and hiding and responding to my therapist plant it'd slipped my notice and now that it was in my notice I knew how sad I was and that made me feel more sad because I was acknowledging all these feelings and I hated myself and why couldn't I just stop please.
I hit send before I could think too hard to not send the message and my silent cries between frantic breaths became open sobbing into the comm unit with my vet still on the line.
"Just as I suspected." They hissed with that alien tone. "Remember last session when we discussed your emotional dysregulation? This is that. This isn't how a terran is supposed to feel after making a minor mistake."
It wasn't MINOR! The words unable to form as I sobbed. Instead I angrily tossed the comm unit across the alley, the thing indestructible. It wasn't minor! I fucked up big. I hurt her and am now causing problems for them and everyone and I just couldn't fix it. I couldn't make it better. I just hurt folks and caused problems and caused more problems.
Sobbing quietly in the oversized alleyway behind a bend tucked into a relief between artistic renditions of plants—because even the back alley parts of buildings needed to be overly ornate—a sound echoed out of heavy planty footfalls.
"Flower, Viburnum messaged me, and I came as fast as I could." No no no nonononono not her. Why did they send Selinum? Hadn't I caused her enough problems?
Without a response other than soft cries, she slowly approached and found me curled up in the corner. The white speckling of flowers barely visible in the dim lighting of the street. "I'm sorry I left you alone when you were clearly upset, dear."
My shaking arms flailed as I found myself unable to explain I HURT YOU, YOU DON'T OWE ME THIS I DESERVE NOTHING. Without words or my comm unit, I just flailed and dug my nails into my biceps so hard I started drawing blood because I was awful and dramatic and couldn't just act normal and reasonable and not fly off the deep end from the slightest bit of push back.
Strong vines coiled around weak arms. Leaves wiped away tears and snot. Sap brushed over small wounds. Lastly a tender voice spoke into the night air. "Nisha, my beautiful little sophont, it's okay to make mistakes. You brought up a topic I wasn't comfortable with, I asked you to stop and you did. That's all that was needed. If I needed more from you I know you'd surely give it to me. You're good at holding space for others, and very bad at taking it hmn?"
With verdant aid, I hacked up the snot that ended up drowning me in my own pathetic flesh. After a few breaths I finally spoke. "I hurt you, you shouldn't comfort me. I'm bad."
"I've seen bad sophonts, flower, you are not amongst them." Her words were confident, strong, assured. "And you're right, I do not owe you comfort as a friend who was hurt. And if our relationship were different I might've let your vet send someone else. But I chose to come, and we aren't simply friends. I intend to be your owner, dearest Nisha, and if I can't handle you when you're like this, then how could I hope to look after you as a floret?"
"You deserve better." The pressure of her vines guided my breaths, keeping me breathing enough to speak. "Someone who doesn't say stupid shit, or become dramatic every time some little thing happens. Someone good."
In a single forceful motion, she pressed her weight against me pushing me up against the wall. The weighted pressure of her body constricted me, and it felt oddly… calming. All the while her hand gripped my jaw with force tearing my eyes off the ground and up into the endless vines and flowers of the xeno conqueror. "Pet-to-be, it isn't your place to tell me what I do and do not deserve. I decide such things. Not you. You're just an animal working on broken instinct and I've yet to train you." Her words hissed between a sharp thorny maw.
"B-But—" My whimperings and trembling, cut short by more of her speech, her rhythmic dance of pressure and sound more forceful than that of terrestrial planetary defenses firing at xeno invaders.
"Pet" She hissed, vines writhing and entangling my form, including tight around my throat. "Your actions without guidance aren't worth blame or punishment. If you aren't right, then I'll fix you. I'll change you. Override broken instinct with trained commands until you trust my word over your own thoughts and feelings and memories, until you're mine in every conceivable sense of the word."
The vines coiled too tightly around my throat to talk back. Too tightly around my limbs to fight back. I was helpless. Completely at her mercy and her mercy was to strip me of independence so far beyond that of most florets I could hardly imagine she was allowed to do that to a sophont.
Selinum trailed a sharp needle like thorn across my cheek, not enough to draw blood but enough to leave a temporary red mark. Enough to show that with a small bit more force it could sink into flesh and rob me of whatever she wanted it too. "I think we've danced with enough dates to know what we want. So beg, pet. Beg your Mistress to break you so much that others might think you destroyed."
All at once the pressure of her pinning me to the wall, of coiling tight around my limbs, vanished. She withdrew with all the tension of the evening leaving me with little except a single command, while I knelt before the giantess.
All the panic had been crushed under vine. My self-loathing, my intense emotion drowned with the promise that she'd go as far as I'd hoped she would. That she didn't want just a pet to dote on, that she wanted to break my will and place her own inside me until I wasn't a person, I would be merely property. Property couldn't make mistakes, only people could. I hated being a people.
So with pleading eyes I stared up at the once soft and now sharp plant. Lip trembling not in fear but in joy. Words scared to come out but ordered to anyway. "Please?" I begged. "Please break me. Destroy me. Make me yours. Train me Mistress. Take me and make whatever you want out of me, I want to be yours in every conceivable way. I want to be a thing. Your thing. Your pet. Your property. Please, Mistress?" My voice cracked. "Please?"
"Mmm, like music upon my core, little pet." Her gentle hand softly patted my head, as a sharp all-consuming grin covered her face. Then she scooped it under me and picked me up without effort. Tucking me under arm, another vine retrieved my comm unit. "Viburnum, my little pet is all taken care of, have a wonderful evening."