A couple of minutes after Millie left, Petal receives a message from her which sets her slowly cooling cheeks aflame once more.
RainbowSprinkles: dont forgetto get some more xenodruggies from þe nice vet lady!!!
PurpleFlower: I know, I know, I’ll get some more when I go back to the clinic, promise.
RainbowSprinkles: good girl!
Millie is still completely unfair, and if it wasn’t for how much Petal loved her, she’d be utterly furious. Petal can still hardly believe just how deeply in love with Millie she is. Maybe it's just an incredibly intense crush, but she can't help but feel like it's more than that. She loves Millie, and that seems to be just as concrete a fact to her as her name and gender. Maybe it's that, maybe Petal just loves Millie for how accepting she is, or at least fell in love with her for that.
Petal sighs. There's still the affini in the room, though. Millie's Mistress. There's no way that Petal could really see herself having the kind of relationship she wants with Millie without meeting her mistress. She should probably be glad that she's getting the chance to go out with Millie at all.
The problem is that Petal has always been a bit of a pushover. Or a lot of a pushover. She joined the navy, which she'd never liked, to fight a war, which she didn't agree with, against an enemy that she never hated. All because her ex-girlfriend said that she was joining the navy, and Petal didn't even know how to conceive of life without her, only to find herself without a girlfriend and in a rebellion she wanted to lose, but without the courage to do anything about it.
If it wasn't for the Asturtium, Petal might still be on the Horizons, still stuck in a body that would never be right, with no idea about who or what she was supposed to be, and no hope to ever be who she could be. If it wasn't for Delphinium, she wouldn't have found her name, and if it wasn't for Millie, she wouldn't know she was, well, herself.
All of which was to say that if any of them just told her that she should be a floret, she can't even trick herself into believing for a moment that she wouldn't. And she knows that Delphinium wants that from her. Millie hasn't said it, but Petal just knows that Millie is hoping that Petal will join her at the feet of her Mistress. Or in the vines of, as the case may be.
And the worst, most completely unfair part is that Petal can feel herself wanting it. She wants to go to Millie and lose herself in her lover's eyes while Millie's mistress becomes her Mistress. She wants to lose herself in Delphinium's eyes while she's pumped full of so many drugs that she'd call her anything.
She wants to be a floret, but she can't. She can't just sign away her life. She can't just let herself become property. She can't let someone in so deeply that she literally lets them put a part of themself inside her.
If she does, it can't just be on a whim. It has to be a choice that she makes, not a choice that anyone makes for her. Even though they could. Even though the Affini could decide that she needs to be domesticated for her own good. Even if there's a part of her that wants them to do just that. Even if there's a part of her that wishes Delphinium had just done that the moment she'd seen her holding a gun.
Thinking about it like this isn't helping.
It's not a complicated decision, just an incredibly important one. It's a simple yes or no. And as bad at decisions as Petal is, she's going to have to make her mind up. And soon.
She has a blank piece of paper and a pen compiled. She draws a line down roughly the middle of the page. On one side of the line she writes "Pros", and on the other "Cons".
Her tablet buzzes, and for a moment she considers not picking it up, but of course she does, because she's a pushover. It's a message from an account she doesn't recognise.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Hello my dear. My darling Millie suggested that you might like some further inspiration~.
Petal shouldn't accept the contact. She should ignore it, pretend it doesn't exist. Pretend it never existed.
She delays for what feels like hours, but was probably more like seconds, and clicks to accept the contact.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Ah, there you are.
PremonitoryInsobriety: The offer to join us still stands, by the way. My marvellous Millicent certainly wants you to.
PremonitoryInsobriety: She just couldn't stop herself from going on about how much she wishes you were here, Petal.
She knows her name. She wouldn't have capitalised it if she didn't. Millie's mistress knows who she is. She could get her address from Millie, so she knows where she is, too. There’s nothing stopping her from coming here and making her a floret right now.
An image comes through, although it's rather different to the others. For one thing, Millie is fully clothed. For another, she's in a park. She's lying in a patch of sun, a vine extending out from below the camera seems to be gently stroking her hair, and she looks utterly content, with that same adorable expression she has when Petal has seen her sleeping.
PremonitoryInsobriety: She did eventually wear herself out, as you can see.
PremonitoryInsobriety: I really am so lucky to have such an adorable floret.
PremonitoryInsobriety: And I'm glad she's been able to make such a good friend.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Thank you for keeping her company when I've been busy.
Petal is so confused. This was not at all what she expected. Millie looks so adorable, so content. Petal did not need another reason to want to be a floret.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Are you still there, dear?
PurpleFlower: Yeah, I'm here. I just…
PurpleFlower: This isn't what I was expecting
PremonitoryInsobriety: Were you perhaps hoping to see Millie mindless, again~?
PurpleFlower: I just wasn't expecting, like, pictures of her at a park.
PurpleFlower: I guess I was expecting you to be more, like, flirty?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Ah, yes, well, I suppose I didn’t exactly give you the best first impression
PremonitoryInsobriety: I’m usually more in control, especially with people I’m not familiar with, but, well...
PremonitoryInsobriety: I’m sure you can understand, it can be perhaps a bit too easy to get carried away when one is around my dearest Millie.
Is Millie’s mistress embarrassed? Petal never expected any kind of vulnerability from an affini, let alone something so… relatable.
PurpleFlower: Yeah, I guess I can understand that. Judging by the pictures it was, um… kinda hot
PremonitoryInsobriety: I do hope you’re exercising that ridiculous terran notion of understatement, rather than implying that my dearest Millicent was anything other than spellbindingly gorgeous.
PurpleFlower: Yeah okay maybe
PurpleFlower: It was really hot
PurpleFlower: Like, really hot
PurpleFlower: I maybe fell asleep on the couch because I couldn’t look away for long enough to get up lol
Petal freezes immediately after sending her last message. It’s exactly the kind of thing that might get an affini worried that she’s not taking proper care of herself, especially one who might have an interest in her being domesticated.
PremonitoryInsobriety: That’s adorable, Petal. Although I do hope you don’t make a habit of it.
PremonitoryInsobriety: I suppose that in future, I shall have to make sure that you’re somewhere appropriately comfortable before I do anything you might find overly distracting~.
Okay, there’s the flirting.
PurpleFlower: that’s probably not a bad idea
PremonitoryInsobriety: You’ll just have to be a good girl, and tell me the truth~.
Petal blushes. Stupid flirty plant flirting with a flirty plant. How is she even supposed to respond to that?
PremonitoryInsobriety: I’m sorry Petal, was that a bit much? If you want me to stop, you need only say the word.
PurpleFlower: maybe a little bit much
PurpleFlower: but maybe not in a bad way?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Then I suppose I should be asking if you’re somewhere appropriately comfortable~.
Fuck. She probably technically isn’t, too, since she’s still on the couch. She should probably try to not fall asleep on the couch three nights in a row. Not that it was late enough for her to be falling asleep or anything.
PurpleFlower: It’s fine
PremonitoryInsobriety: You’re still on the couch where Millie left you, aren’t you?
PurpleFlower: But it’s fine
PurpleFlower: It’s a comfy couch
PremonitoryInsobriety: Oh, then I suppose that the comparatively poor quality of Millie’s sleep was due to something else, then~?
PurpleFlower: Uh… maybe?
PurpleFlower: You’d have to ask her
PremonitoryInsobriety: And what do you think she told me when I did?
Petal starts and deletes a dozen responses. How is Petal even supposed to answer that? It’s not like she can even remember what happened last night, beyond joy, and love, and warmth, and Millie, who was all of those things and so much more.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Are you perhaps having some difficulty remembering?
PremonitoryInsobriety: My dearest Millie did mention that she was helping a friend who’d perhaps taken a larger dose of something than they were used to.
PremonitoryInsobriety: A friend they later identified as you?
PurpleFlower: okay yeah i maybe got pretty high
PurpleFlower: I think I maybe got to the point where I kinda forgot how high I was?
PurpleFlower: And then kept taking more?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Oh dear. I hope your vet didn’t give you too much. It has certainly been known for people to just keep taking xenodrugs until they’re completely out~.
PremonitoryInsobriety: It usually doesn’t take them long to go back to the nice vet ladies for more xenodruggies~.
Petal’s cheeks burn again. Fuck. Of course Millie told her about that. Or maybe she just read it on Millie’s messenger. This affini owns Millie, why would she let her property keep any secrets from her? Does she know everything that Petal told Millie? Does she know everything that Millie told Petal? Is she going to hate Petal for stealing Millie’s love? For having Millie’s love without permission? Or worse, did Millie ask her Mistress for permission before she was allowed to confess? Did she have to ask for permission before she was even allowed to have the feeling? She glances back up at the tablet.
PremonitoryInsobriety: That was such a delightfully adorable turn of phrase, by the way.
PremonitoryInsobriety: I shall have to remember it for my patients.
Is anything Millie feels for Petal real? Is Millie just there to prove how easy it is to manipulate stupid terrans? Did somebody arrange for Millie to convince her into wanting to be a floret? To make Petal dependent on the system of pets and owners? To make it so that-
Petal closes her eyes, and takes a deep breath. In, and out. She looks at the tablet again.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Was that too much, again~?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Petal, are you still there?
Petal was making her worried; it was only a matter of time before she sent the affini to make her a floret. Maybe she’d even make Millie do it, a betrayal that she’d break Petal into thanking her for.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Is everything okay, Petal?
PremonitoryInsobriety: It’s okay if it was too much, Petal. The most important thing is that you tell me what’s happening.
Right, like Petal was going to let them know that she was onto them. Still she needs to tell her something.
PurpleFlower: I was just thinking that Millie must tell you everything, right?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Of course.
PurpleFlower: So, she mentioned that I, maybe, told her that, um…
What if she gets Millie in trouble? She shouldn’t have said anything.
PremonitoryInsobriety: She might have mentioned you telling her something.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Although she did mention you said it a bit unclearly, at first.
Well, she can’t hold it against Millie that Petal said she loved her, right?
PurpleFlower: I maybe told her that i loved her?
PremonitoryInsobriety: And do you?
PurpleFlower: is that
PurpleFlower: is that okay?
PurpleFlower: i mean, like, she’s your pet, right?
PremonitoryInsobriety: Which is exactly why I’m delighted that she’s found somebody so adorable to fall in love with~.
PremonitoryInsobriety: I want her to be happy, so of course I’d want her to have as much love in her life as she can possibly sustain.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Which reminds me, if you’d rather not have to make another appointment with your vet-doctor-lady, I could make sure to send some xenodruggies along with Millie.
PurpleFlower: I should be fine? I’ve got an appointment the day before, anyway, so it’s all good.
PremonitoryInsobriety: Well, I’ll send some with her anyway, just in case you accidentally take it all again~.
The Affini are unfair. Completely unfair. Their technology is so far beyond Terran that it defies understanding, they have ships the size of continents, and maybe even bigger. They’ve crossed between galaxies. They’ve eradicated want, and need, and poverty, and starvation, and every other societal ill they could find, as if it were just another day at the office. But the most unfair thing about the Affini, thinks Petal as she finally takes herself off to lie down in bed, ready to receive the more interesting pictures from Millie’s Mistress, is that the Affini are genuinely just… nice, and good, and, in their endless adoration for others, adorable.