The rest of the day had passed Petal by in a blur of giddy excitement. She was pretty sure that they’d gotten lunch, at some point? She wasn’t hungry by the time she got home, at least. She was also pretty sure that they’d agreed to another date. Or maybe they’d agreed to organise another date. Maybe she should send Millie a message and check.
PurpleFlower: hey did we arrange a time to meet? I kinda forgot
RainbowSprinkles: me too?
Well, at least Petal probably isn’t going to have to worry about Millie complaining that she forgets everything.
RainbowSprinkles: ill have to check wiþ mistrtess?
RainbowSprinkles: ill let you no wen i do!
RainbowSprinkles is typing…
Millie seems to be taking her time, so Petal decides to keep going on her new paperwork project. Petal had already been sent what she had been planning to find next by the affini at the clerk's office. Vernonia, Petal reminded herself. So she decided to try something new. She’d heard of this thing people used to be able to do called freeing own intel, or FOI, in an old book, where you could ask the people who were keeping records on you what they had, and they had to give it to you.
She’d thought she’d try the same kind of thing with the Affini records office, and had been sent enough information that she thought it might even rival the abridged treaty she still had on her coffee table. They’d even translated it into English for her. Rather than trying to read it all, she’d decided to skim the titles of the various documents. A lot of them seemed to be from something called the Office of Transitional Neoxenoveterinary Archeobureaucracy, which had most of her old paperwork from the Terran Accord, her birth certificate, school records, navy records, and anything else the Affini had managed to find. More than she’d realised had survived. More than she'd ever realised had existed.
She’d finally reached the end of those, though, and was now getting to the paperwork filed for her on the Asturtium. There was a lot that had been filed by Delphinium Vinia, it seems, most of it seeming to be medical. Her recommendation for Petal to be granted independence, and… Notice of Intent? What was that supposed to be?
When this sophont applies for voluntary domestication, or at such a time that they are found to require involuntary domestication, I, Delphinium Vinia, Third Bloom, formally request to take this sophont as my floret.
Petal could feel her heart speeding up. Delphinium had known her for… a few days? At most? And she’d already decided that she wanted to have Petal as her floret. Her wrist beeps. Delphinium could have had her made into her floret, nobody would have ever questioned it Petal was a rebel Delphinium could have -
Beep. This time it's more insistent. Okay, think about it rationally.
Maybe... maybe it was just that Delphinium wanted to make sure that Petal would have someone to go to, if she hadn’t been able to take care of herself. Or if she did ever decide to- wait. Wait wait wait.
It doesn’t say “If” this sophont applies for voluntary domestication. It says “When”. When this sophont applies for voluntary domestication. She didn’t even entertain the possibility that Petal might not, in fact, want to be a floret. That Petal would be perfectly happy as an independent human. That Petal wasn’t, in fact, going to just roll over for the first affini to… to flash her eyes at her.
Well, if that’s what Delphinium thinks, she has another thing coming. Petal’s life is finally coming together, and, yes, it couldn’t have happened without Delphinium and the rest of the Affini, but that didn’t mean that Petal was going to just be her pet.
Not that there was anything wrong with being a floret. It certainly seems to be working for Millie, although apparently Millie is a bit closer to independent than a lot of florets. Well, actually, she’d said that her mistress “kept her pretty free-range” but that just sounded like the Affini being their usual condescending selves. Not that Millie seemed to mind. In fact, she seemed to revel in the attention that she attracted from seemingly every affini passerby.
A lot of them had been interested in Petal, too, which she had mixed feelings about. It wasn’t entirely unpleasant to have the giant, galaxy conquering affini treating her like she was something actually special. Especially since all of them left her alone, when she asked them to, instead turning their attention wholly onto Millie, who seemed all too happy to take as much attention as the Affini could give her.
Well, Delphinium was still on the Asturtium, and Petal wasn't planning on signing up for domestication any time soon. So, really, she was just worrying over nothing. A latent holdover from a lifetime of anxieties that were probably just overreacting now that everything was fine. The "when" was probably just a translation issue, or something.
Petal was about to put the tablet down and go to bed, when there was a "ding" from the messenger. Millie must have finally responded.
RainbowSprinkles: I’m so sorry to have interrupted your conversation with my darling Floret.
RainbowSprinkles: I hadn't realised that she was talking to somebody when I returned home.
RainbowSprinkles: She's certainly not in a state to be talking at the moment.
RainbowSprinkles: In fact, why don't I just show you? It's utterly adorable.
There's a picture of Millie. Well, mostly Millie. She isn't wearing anything, and she's wrapped up in vines so tightly that she couldn't possibly move, although the tension in her body makes it clear that she's trying. Her expression is somehow even more joyous than Petal had ever seen before, and Petal can feel her heart catching alight once again.
RainbowSprinkles: I’m sure we could arrange some time for you to meet up with her, but I’d love to meet you myself some time, too.
RainbowSprinkles: If you'd like, you could even come over right now and join her.
There's another picture. This time Petal can barely see Millie as anything other than a vague silhouette in a tangle of vines, and the occasional glimpse of skin. Petal couldn't tear her eyes away.
She remembered how euphoric Millie had been from the attention of a random affini, while she was relatively sober. This was so far beyond that, and she was probably full of all those xenodrugs that apparently made things feel even better.
Fuck. Is this what it really means to be a floret? To be a puppet on an affini's vines? To be so overwhelmed by pleasure that you were no longer recognisably human?
RainbowSprinkles: Is anything the matter, my dear? Or were you just mesmerised by the sight of my precious floret enjoying my company?
How was Petal supposed to react to that? Was Petal supposed to react? Could she even?
Could she afford to ignore it? To give an affini, to give the Affini, to give Delphinium an excuse to domesticate her? She couldn't.
PurpleFlower: nothing the matter
RainbowSprinkles: Ah, there you are. What a good girl you are for responding.
Petal tore her eyes away from the tablet, instead setting them to stare directly ahead, straight at the flower on her wall. She should just put the tablet away, and pretend she never saw that message. Or the pictures, or anything else that Millie’s mistress had said. She can just focus on the flower. The flower that Delphinium gave her.
Had Delphinium already decided that she wanted to take Petal when she gave her the flower? Was the flower supposed to be some kind of mark of ownership? Was it a test? A contract? Petal was pretty sure that there was supposed to be a thing about accepting gifts from strange and powerful creatures.
Petal looks back down at the tablet. There’s another picture. A close up of Millie’s face, twisted into exquisite rapture, her mouth open, drool running down a vine that Millie could almost imagine is coming out from her mouth. Her eyes are glazed over in pleasure, but somehow there’s still an intensity, as if even through all of that, she was still able to focus on the camera. She was probably told to. Maybe even through all of the unimaginable pleasure, being told to focus on the lens by her mistress would be enough.
RainbowSprinkles: Isn’t she just so mesmerising, though?
RainbowSprinkles: Couldn’t you imagine just getting lost in her eyes?
RainbowSprinkles: You might even be able to persuade me to take care of you too, while you let her get lost in your eyes~.
There’s another attachment. This time it’s an address, and Petal’s tablet is already trying to helpfully give her directions to follow. Which doesn’t mean she wants to, Affini-tech just tries to be too helpful all of the time. Petal isn’t going, she’s staying right here.
RainbowSprinkles: Of course, if you’d rather stay there, I could come to you~.
RainbowSprinkles: All you need to do is tell me where you are, and we’ll be right there~.
It would be so easy. Petal just needs to press a few buttons, and the Affini would come and do that to her. It’s so easy, Petal could do it accidentally, if she just happened to brush the tablet’s screen the wrong way. Petal stared at the last picture she’d been sent. If she were that high, she probably wouldn’t even be aware enough of who she is to be dysphoric.
Once she’d had a taste of that, she’d be addicted. No wonder the florets that Petal had seen looked so ecstatic. There’s no way an experience like that could ever leave your mind. Once someone had tasted that, nothing else could ever possibly live up to it. Even if somebody wanted to be free, they’d be banging at the door of the nearest domestication office within days. Hours. Minutes. They’d promise themself to whatever affini had their hooks in them in seconds, just to get to feel it for a moment longer.
Why isn’t her wrist beeping? It’s supposed to beep when she can’t think straight. Her thoughts are spiralling completely out of control, almost as if she were right there, being slowly drugged into compliance simply from proximity. Could she be? What did Delphinium say about the implant? Didn’t she say it could make xenodrugs? Could Millie have been dosing her with xenodrugs, just by being together? Not to mention the kissing. Could Millie have been drugging her the whole time?
RainbowSprinkles: While you’re thinking about that, why don’t I send you some more inspiration~?
More pictures. Each of them leading Petal inexorably towards a question she isn’t sure that she actually wants the answer to. The Affini are plants. Presumably completely devoid of whatever mammalian biological impulses humans fall prey to. So why…
Why is it all so fucking hot?