Sometimes things just happened. Time marched ever forwards and I always wondered: how much agency did I ever truly have? Under the Terran Accord, a vast sprawling empire of over two-hundred systems, they never gave me a true choice. Live under capitalism, or die. Attempts at a third option always circled around to being one of the previous two. Life just kind of existed like that. Did anyone choose to be born in the Accord? Nope. Did I choose to be born in this body? Nope. Did I choose the terrans who raised me? Nope.
In the end the illusion of choice ended up being just that, so when the aliens took over I just shrugged. If I didn't choose the Accord why would not choosing to become part of the Affini Compact be worse? Honestly it seemed a lot better. Free everything. Random affini would just check on you to make sure you're doing alright and help you if needed. They asked. It felt nice… but a bit hollow. Sure the viable options for existing exploded into basically whatever I wanted… but the last piece of the illusion fell into focus with all other distractions nullified. Did I choose to have a brain that just… couldn't sometimes?
Living with executive dysfunction sucked really badly. Sure my legs worked, and I felt hungry and I should just get up and eat… but I didn't. I wanted to… but I didn't. See I'd have to choose to get up and my brain decided that decisions were simply not an option… without my input. I couldn't tell you when I started viewing how my brain worked as separate from my own thought processes. Just acknowledging the things about one's own internal experience that you could not exert control over… sucked.
Anyway, my body remained still and motionless, sitting upon a chair in my hab unit. My hands twitched slightly but otherwise rested. To an outside observer… I simply stopped doing anything. They'd be wrong. Internally I raged against my own lack of action. Unable to even just utter a word or send a message for help. Sometimes it just happened… and I never got a choice in it.
Without a friend to message, I sat and waited and sat and sat… see eventually, something would free me from the mental deadlock, usually the clock and my routines. Autism lent itself well to consistency and repetition. In just two short hours I'd need to take my meds and I'd just do that… in two hours. No decision, just repetition.
You know, I used to live with others… family. Family sucked but irritation sometimes worked fairly well at snapping me out of deadlock mode. It'd be nice to just be told what to do because then there isn't a decision you just follow orders and complete a thing. Then again I couldn't really tell you if the problem was executive dysfunction or just another thing that locked me up in my own brain.
Either way, I needed to be a floret. Not because I wanted the cool kinky pet play stuff(I totally did)… but I just needed someone to be my executive functions… sometimes… a lot of the time. Not all the time though! Sometimes I chose to do things and they happened and yay! Unfortunately, becoming a floret would require choosing an affini and that was a massive decision and took more spoons than I possessed most days.
So instead I repeated my routines. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. A little automaton programmed to repeat, and not much else. Fully functional within the bounds of its programming and near helpless outside of it. A machine of flesh. Stars, I loathed my flesh. Useless sack of meat that felt things I'd rather never feel. Pain, horniness, tiredness, anything requiring the use of a toilet, and a myriad of other sensations and experiences that I could rightfully do without.
Hugs could stay, not that anyone existed within hugging range.
Two more hours… not counting the last few.
Tears welled up in my eyes. Another autonomous reaction. My breathing hastened outside of my control. My limbs twitched, my head did slight tilting and jerking motions like a broken machine. Something again outside the bounds of my control.
Sometimes things just happened… like hyperventilating. After a minute my flesh began to tingle, then it began to sting like a limb that I slept on wrong, then… then I stopped feeling… then I passed out.
Sometimes things just happened.
* * *
"Hon?" Came the resonating eldritch voice intoned to calming perfection on a hundred small resonating vines.
I looked up at her… An affini, a plant imitating a human through shape and body language. A form chosen to emanate a sense of beauty and power. Affini existed to enchant and enthrall, alien conquerors meant to instill submission and obedience in both individuals and a society as a whole.
"Hon, can you hear me?"
My eyes darted around and I remembered that I passed out in my hab unit and now an affini was holding me within her soft vines and cradling my form. My face flushed and I tried to answer. "Y… Ya… Yi…" I gave up and just nodded. My mouth bits forgot how to move right again… at least they moved.
Her worry melted into a compassionate smile. "Good girl." My blush deepened. She affectionately brushed a lock of my hair behind my ear and… uhm ah?! She- she couldn't just do that. "Now your hab unit was kind enough to alert me as I passed by and dear, and so I must ask, would you like some assistance?"
My heart paused and my thoughts stalled and my breathing halted. Back and forth my eyes rhythmically moved and it wasn't a yes or no. It was a decision and today was not a good day for those. Fuck. But if it was a good day I wouldn't need the help.
"Breathe for me dear." Her words commanded and I obeyed. "Stand up."
I stood up with assisting vines. With that done I awkwardly waited and waited for her to say something. My body held itself hunched a bit. My arms curled in and I bit my lip with a head tilt like I did when my brain decided it couldn't even pretend to be neurotypical.
"Wave for me."
My arm still sort of curled and waved in a jerkily unsmooth manner.
"Are we in your hab unit?"
"Can you speak?"
… I shook my head.
"Well, aren't you an obedient little cutie… Sorry, it's probably inappropriate to flirt while you're struggling. Forgive me."
I nodded before I realized what I was nodding to and… why couldn't I have a normal brain?
As if unable to restrain herself, the affini's arms plucked me off the ground into a big warm tight possessive hug. "By the Everbloom, how are you not a floret yet? You're perfect." Her vines patted my head and she cradled my compliant and limp and helpless body.
In my defense, I managed to open my mouth in an attempt to respond and leaked a little drool onto her leaves… When I became helpless, I became very helpless. Okay, in my actual defense, being this unresponsive was rare, maybe once a month? The affini's judgment was very skewed towards my helplessness. She caught me on a very bad day.
Still gently holding me like her pet, she continued, "You'd already be domesticated if you were always like this. I know, I know. However, seeing you like this… Did you know that beyond being a danger to oneself or others there are other methods of forcible domestication?"
I shook my head gently against her while her vines assisted, before placing my head comfortably back where it started.
"Sometimes a particularly adorable floret-to-be catches our eyes. Adorable to a fault. We can simply claim such a cutie as ours… provided no one else has yet placed a notice of intent." She spoke so casually of just… forcing someone into domestication without even the usual causes. "Of course those who'd be claimed in such a way would never contest it, but that's part of what makes them adorable."
Everything I knew about autonomy and consent screamed how awful that was… they could just pick a terran and take them. Unfortunately, I knew the inverse as well. Sometimes things just happened. Sometimes decisions get made that affect us outside of our control… at least it'd be something I wanted? I was assuming she wanted to domesticate me. As bad as I was with understanding flirting and stuff, it was clear she wanted to make me a pet… right?
"Looking you up, little one…" Her vines tapped away at a tablet just outside of my field of view. "Dirt, you have at least 3 notices of intent. Now I see why you haven't been snatched up." With a deep sigh she tightened her hug. "Well, you still need help, and my work isn't so pressing, I can't dote on a cutie until she's functioning again."
A bit of the tension in my body lessened. Of course an affini wouldn't leave me like this. Why'd I ever think they would?
"Hab unit, when was the last time this cutie ate?"
The automated cutesy voice called out, "She ate three cookies this morning and nothing since! Her last meal was twenty hours ago."
The weight of the affini's judgment upon me felt immense. "Hon, let's get you something to eat. Stand up." Her vines assisted me as I attempted to follow her command. Once she had me standing up awkwardly autisticly fidgeting and biting my lip, she ordered, "Follow."
I shuffled along at her side, my eyes continuing their rhythmic dance between two vague points too fast to properly make out anything. Not having to figure things out on my own was nice. No decisions. Her orders felt like a cozy box and thus my mind relaxed into the affini's authority.
Her vines tapped away on the compiler's screen until a familiar bit of food magically assembled itself with a flare of sparkles because my compiler liked to show off. The scent of pizza filled the air. I salivated as she continued moving and I followed her still.
A vine tapped the chair. "Sit."
I sat, and my hand patted my own face because something in my head that wasn't me told it to do that. Pat pat pat. Stimming, I was just stimming. That made sense. I stimmed a lot more in non-verbal non-functional autist mode. Usually without thinking about it. Sometimes things just happened.
The stranger affini, who placed me under her own authority, peeled my hand away from my face and began flexing my fingers in her vines… stimming my hand for me. Slicing a bit of pizza off with a knife and fork like a filthy heathen, she held it up to my mouth and tapped my cheek. "Open."
My mouth opened and she placed the bite of food in my mouth. A tap under my chin. "Close." I closed. She pulled the fork out leaving the bite in my mouth. "Chew."
A vine rubbed my throat, and thus came the last command, "Swallow. Good girl."
My cheeks flushed and I wiggled a little. Eating was such a simple task, and I did it all the time but she praised me like it was an achievement… though I'd been trying to eat for the last hour and passed out… so maybe it was. I was pathetic. I felt pathetic and worthless and—
The affini placed her hand on my sternum and applied a gentle pressure. "Breath along with me, little one. In… Out…" I hadn't even noticed I lost control of my breathing until she pointed it out and I was just so fucking— "In… Out…" Now I couldn't even manage to listen to her and I was useless and—
Pinch. I felt a small sting in my right arm and my muscles went a bit slack and my breathing slowed… she drugged me… and I couldn't even thank her.
Her arms pulled me off the chair and into a hug. "I just gave you sedative xenodrug, because you weren't able to calm down even with assistance. It's relatively light on cognitive impairment, though your movements will be adorably clumsy. I'll be with you until it wears off so don't worry, little one. I'm not leaving until you're able to take care of yourself. That being said, I think we both know that you need to be domesticated, but we can talk about that once you can talk about that. Until then."
Cheek tap. Face still pressed up against her leafy dress, I found a bite of pizza waiting for me. My mouth opened and the taps repeated the first cycle. The affini refrained from issuing the verbal commands, but I felt each one as if she said them with the taps.
She curled my fingers to a very strange but soothing tune. One that the taps danced to, one that her torso rose and fell to. A steady consistent rhythm like that of my own routines only more. I think I heard someone mention affini biorhythms before. Something about how they were hypnotic. I certainly didn't feel hypnotized even as I lost count of how many bites of food she'd fed me. Even as I lost track of myself in the consistent control of this plant that towered over me.
Her hand came to rest under my chin and scritched, punctuating the song that was her feeding me. "Good girl. Such a good obedient girl." Her praise washed over me, sending a pleasant warmth over my skin and planting an effervescent giddiness in my heart. I flapped my free hand and nuzzled the nice plant. "I think an adorable thing like you deserves some pleasant cuddles for all of her hard work."
Carrying me through my own hab, she sat down on some empty floor space with me in her lap, and just… pet me. Gentle long strokes down my head and neck and back. Over and over and over, until I melted into a relaxed puddle in her lap gently wiggling to her pulse. Long pets, light scritches, stimming my hands for me, and occasionally wiping away my drool as I failed to keep my mouth shut.
She even added in praise and cooing all throughout and it just turned my mind into pleasant mush. My heartbeat slowed, and my eyes drifted shut as I relaxed into her doting. Sometimes things just happened…and sometimes I got to be happy about it.
* * *
Drifting up from half remembered dreams I clung to that consistent familiar pulse. I needed it. I needed the comfort it brought, the order it established, and the control it exerted. When I awoke I found myself clinging to familiar green vines that trailed on out of my bedroom into the rest of my hab unit.
"Wha?" I mumbled as my mind quickly recalled everything and then my face blushed and deep breaths, just take deep breaths. There, calm reasserted. I just focused on the pulsing vine in my hands and breathed along to it. It felt easy. It felt natural. My entire existence aligned with purpose when I acted in tune to that pulse. "Maybe it is hypnotic…"
"Did you say something, little one?" The affini from before peeked into my bedroom.
I nodded… before remembering I could speak. "Yes… Miss." It felt right to add something more there. Miss slotted into that nice rhythmic flow, almost perfectly. My face felt very smiley. Like just seeing her lit up my morning… or evening?
Her own human sculpted face mimicked the gesture but with far more… dominance. "Such a good girl, so polite." Oh stars, she had me flapping my hands and biting my lip again. "So cute." And there I went giddily wiggling. This plant was going to ruin me in the best way possible.
I may have absentmindedly put her vine in my mouth and started nibbling it. Maybe I nibble stimmed on it. Maybe the taste of her vine almost melted my mind again…
The vine withdrew to the tune of my whimpers. "Dahlia, I can't have you sinking back into pet-space right now." Pet-space? "Come. We have things we should talk about now that you're fit for conversation."
"Yes, Miss." I responded, her voice flowed to that same rhythm and so did my response. With its guiding beat, I hopped off the bed—still half dressed like before—and followed her out of my room and into my living room. Thankfully, her vine tapped my couch right where I needed to sit. Tap tap tap. My butt landed there a few moments after.
With big curious eyes I looked up to her and took in the sight of that beautiful towering loving wonderful kind endearing alien plant woman. My whole body gently swayed to the memory of her little comforting pulsing beat. Gently back and forth.
"By the Everbloom, you're going to be a wonderful floret for a lucky owner." Right, she mentioned domestication… Her eyes shimmered to that same lovely tune and I felt myself slowly drawn in. Without her touching me it was the best way to follow along. "So little one, we've established that earlier wasn't your usual level of capability, yes?"
"Yes, Miss!" I chirped.
The pink flecks that shimmered into her eyes left me with a bright blush and I couldn't tell why. "Good to know I inferred right. Now, even with that knowledge, you need to be domesticated."
I nodded. I needed to be domesticated. That seemed right, I mean, I had looked into it before but deciding on an affini to own me for the rest of my life was scary and hard and what if I chose wrong?
Sitting on the floor opposite me, she closed her eyes and ruffled her vines for a moment. I could feel her trying to calm down in the way that rhythm danced on her sigh. "Now, I could hand you over to a domestication office, but I don't think that's particularly fair to you when you could decide on an owner for yourself."
I looked down and away from her. Deciding on an owner… I never managed to decide on an owner before. The number of affini on this planet alone was staggering and I needed to just pick one? Apparently 3 had already picked me and I didn't know how to choose, but she'd help, right?
Looking back up at her I asked, "Can you help me choose?" Each word carefully spoken to her rhythm as deftly as my mouth bits would allow… so not very. Flesh felt inefficient. I needed something that could obey her more effectively.
The affini, whose name I had yet to learn, looked bewildered. Perplexed even. Her finger rose and she pointed to herself. "You wish for me to make this decision for you?"
"Yes, Miss!" I chirped.
"You'd enjoy me making this life altering decision for you?"
"And you'd be happy with whoever I choose for you?"
"Do you want to be mine?"
"Yes, Miss!" I chirped once more perfectly timed. My face blushed and I wiggled and swayed. Her floret? "I can be your floret?"
The affini quirked an eyebrow. "Can you?"
My smile faded. Could I? I mean I had a choice to an extent but uhm she could say no, and she probably would because I wasn't good enough for her. I still needed to work on things, because if I worked on things then I wouldn't have shut downs, or days where I couldn't make decisions on my own, or go non-verbal. Yea, that's how disabilities worked, right? If I tried harder and worked on it, I'd simply not be disabled anymore. Then I'd be able to make myself good enough to be domesticated by an affini almost as good as her.
So the obvious answer slipped out of my lips. "No…" The most dejected and disappointed tone echoed in the air for only a brief moment. It startled me how drenched in emotion that one quiet word managed to be. I really did want to be her floret, but I knew I couldn't.
"Shhh, no need for tears." Her hand stretched over in a way that betrayed her inhumanity and wiped a tear off my cheek. "You can be my floret if that's what you wish, and I think you may have already mentioned such a wish. That being said, do you know the real reason I wanted to ask for your opinion on an owner?"
Real reason? I just… assumed she was being honest before, I tended to assume most sophonts were honest even when they weren't. My head shook as a response.
"Because, the only way you could be mine is if you choose me. If I put you up for forcible domestication—and to be clear, I absolutely will for your own quality of life—the three affini with claims would have to come to an agreement, and if I filed my own notice then I'd be discussing it with them. I'm cheating, I know it's very unbecoming of me and I'm a stain upon the Compact for being so underhanded, but you are immediately endearing in a way that's hard to describe."
That sounded wrong. Immediately endearing? She liked me so much she'd do something she thought was wrong to have me? I felt like that should be…flattering but it felt wrong. I wasn't special. I was defunct. The moment I left the strict bureaucratic control of school with my degree, my life kind of slowly unraveled until I was a directionless mess unable to do better no matter how hard I tried to determine my next steps without the clear defined progression of the education system.
Sniffle. "You deserve better than me, Miss. Someone who managed to do something with their life, who’s talented or capable. Someone who isn't a broken machine stuck doing the same few things over and over again because she won't just exert agency over herself like a normal fucking terran." My voice raised to a shout at the end and my mood plummeted further. Tears trickled down my face.
Her hand came and wiped away more tears. "Won't or can't?"
"Won't. At any point I could have gotten up and just walked and talked and fed myself, but I let you do that because it was easier and I'm lazy and useless and—"
"Quiet." Her order came down and silenced me. "Dahlia, you couldn't move unless I ordered you to. I think you're lying to yourself, little one. You've been fed information about how you're lazy, or how managing anything less than self-sufficiency and independence is failure, but those things could not be further from the truth. You strike me as a diligent worker when put into a context in which you can work, and needing assistance does not make you useless. Now answer me honestly, won't or can't?"
"C-Can't…" It hurt to admit that out loud… that thing I already knew. Sometimes I knew things, but until I faced them the emotional weight of it never really hit. Then I'd confront it, like right then, and it always hurt. Especially when someone existed to reflect my own emotions back to me so I could feel them properly.
She pulled me into a hug. Another big warm pulsing hug that dragged all of the pain out kicking and screaming. I sank into her embrace and just sobbed. I tried so hard for so many years to live up to my potential. I tried and tried to be the gifted and talented child that'd do big things. Failing the expectations that had been thrust upon me by family and culture hurt so much. But I couldn't. No amount of effort was ever enough because I couldn't. No one could see that, because some disabilities just weren't visible. I couldn't even see it.
The nameless affini saw. She walked in to find my passed out body and almost immediately realized things that took me decades. Things I still found myself piecing together. Effortlessly she gave me what I needed. Help. The help I couldn't ask for.
Gentle pettings and a firm hug held me safe and controlled. Little vines carried away tears. Finally, as my sobs petered out she said, "You don't need to be anything more than what I make of you, and I promise I'll make you something beautiful."
"But- but the notices of intent?" She couldn't claim me because of them.
Her hand cupped my ugly-cry stained face. "Dearest, I did not leave my hab unit with a domestication contract prepared, but when I draft one and present it to you, you will sign it for me, yes?"
Drowning in the rhythm she exuded in every facet of her being, I whispered, "Yes, Miss."
"Good girl" She ruffled my hair and I melted into her. "You're mine now, and I promise to take good care of you."
Tears of anguish became tears of relief and I just made a mess of everything. Her comfort outlived any tears I could ever hope to spill. Gentle pets, whispered praise, and an all-consuming embrace that drown me in a hypnotic pattern that I wholeheartedly embraced.
Neither of us expected to meet or end up as floret and owner when we woke up that day, but that's okay. Sometimes things just happened.