At some point after Delphinium had bundled Millie up with Petal under her blanket, Sphagna returned, and spoke to Delphinium in affini. Petal couldn’t bring herself to be particularly interested in any of it, except for when Sphagna reached down a pair of smooth vines to give her and Millie some gentle head petting.
After a few minutes of conversation, and many more minutes of petting that Petal was blessedly far too high to object to, Sphagna left, and Delphinium returned her full attention to Millie and Petal. Some blissful eternity later, Petal feels her thoughts starting to clear, and a growing awareness of bodily sensations other than bliss.
That was completely unfair, and Petal is terrified of what she would do to feel that again. What she’d be willing to give up, what she’d be willing to do, what she’d be willing to be, just to feel bliss like that again. And it probably wasn’t even that strong a xenodrug.
“On a scale of like… one to ten? How strong was what you just gave me?”
“Well, my dear, it doesn’t exactly work like that. Xenodrugs can act in a wide variety of ways that can’t necessarily be directly compared. Individual sophonts' tolerances to various compounds can also vary significantly. Not to mention that a linear scale for such a thing would be hardly adequate.”
“However, if you were to consider Class-Os to be a ten on this scale, and the Class-A compound that I’ve been giving you to be one, assuming a logarithmic scale, perhaps a two, two and half?”
Logarithmic scale? Doesn’t that mean the numbers get really big? “So… a class-O would be…”
“Quite a few orders of magnitude more potent, dear, to the point that the mind is reduced simply to its ability to sense the most excessive pleasure we can visit upon it, without thought, or even necessarily a sense of self. Although we tend to avoid the use of class-O xenodrugs except in those cases where a sophont has demonstrated a clear and full understanding of the consequences, or it is deemed absolutely necessary for their wellbeing.”
“Is that… is that what that “Class Oblivion” thing was supposed to be?”
“Hm? Oh, yes, most likely, although filled with misinformation, and filtered through a deeply flawed feralist misunderstanding of the nature of the Affini Compact, I’m sure.”
“And, um. The other things?”
“Oh dear, are you perhaps being swayed by the adorably inaccurate feralist propaganda?
“Well, I mean, the haustoric implant is a thing. And Class Ob- Class-Os, are a thing.”
“Well, I believe that the ‘cosmic lightning’ alludes to a belief that affini are swimming through space and projecting lightning through the void. Do you believe that affini are capable of such feats?”
“... I wouldn’t put it past you.”
Delphinium smiles widely, and Petal feels herself smiling along too. It’s good to see that Delphinium can still joke, without having everything just be flirting. “Careful you don’t hurt yourself making that pedestal you’re putting me on~.” Or not. Petal feels herself blushing, her smile only growing. Damnit. Delphinium is completely unfair.
And she didn’t say anything about the cotyledon thing. If Petal’s doing this, she should probably know what she’s getting herself in for. “What about, uh… the cotyledon thing?”
“Ah, yes, that.” Petal can hear a sour note in Delphinium’s voice.
“I don’t think I like the sound of that, M-” Damnit, she’s having a serious conversation, she should be holding that in!
“‘Mm’?” Is she trying to change the subject? Or is she just being flirty?
“M-Mistress…” Petal mumbles.
“Good girl~.” Delphinium ruffles Petal’s hair. Both, then.
“So, the cotyledon thing?”
“Oh, well, I suppose there’s no reason for you not to know. The Cotyledon Program is… a necessity of Domestication. With every new sophont species, our techniques must be adapted to their unique physiology, and this process… can have some complications. And those complications serve as a reminder that even we have our limitations.”
“Hmm… why do I get the feeling that these are the kinds of complications that lead to class-Os being deemed absolutely necessary for their well-being.”
“Because you’re a very clever girl. While you’re still allowed to be~.”
“…” Not fair. “‘S not fair.”
“What’s not fair, dear?”
“And is that a good thing, dearest~?”
“I… no?” Petal was sure that Delphinium didn’t believe her for a second.
“Well, if it’s a problem, I could stop.”
“No! No, it’s fine, I guess.”
“Excellent~.” Delphinium reaches a vine down to pet her cheek. “Now, my dear, there are a few little things that Sphagna wanted me to tell you.”
“Okay, that… that was what she came in for, before?”
“Oh, you noticed that, did you? It seems that your tolerance for that particular compound is slightly higher than I anticipated.” Wait, was Petal not supposed to even be able to notice when Sphagna came in? She has to admit, it doesn’t seem like Millie’s been paying any attention to anything, even though Petal and Delphinium have been talking for a while now. Petal strokes Millie’s hair, and is rewarded with a gentle sigh.
“So? What do I need to know?” Petal feels like she should be worried, but being this close to Millie and Delphinium seems to be sapping that capacity away from her. “Am I going to be domesticated?”
“Do you want to be~?”
“I- could you maybe stop flirting until after you’ve told me the things?”
“Hmmm, maybe. It’s pretty hard not to flirt with a cutie like you, though, especially when I’ve got you all wrapped up like this~.” Delphinium squeezes her vines around both Petal and Millie, squishing Petal against her girlfriend.
Not fair. Delphinium relaxes her vines slightly, and continues talking. “But alright. While everybody believes you about the events of what happened, it still… raised enough questions that, in an abundance of caution, it was decided that somebody should be assigned to keep an eye on you. Not to mention there were a few concerns about those feralists wanting to hurt you.”
“Let me guess, you volunteered?”
“It seemed only appropriate~.”
“And that whole… Notice of Intent thing, isn’t that, like, a conflict of interest?”
“Oh, you know about that, do you? Somebody’s been doing their research, I see.”
“I wanted to know what the Affini knew about me.”
“More than you know about yourself, I’d think~.”
“Uh…” Is that why it was ‘when’, not if? Did the Affini really know something about her that she didn’t? Petal is here, isn’t she? In the vines of the affini who wanted to domesticate her. Was this really always what was going to happen? Was her downfall really so inevitable?
“Yes, dearest?” Delphinium strokes a vine gently across Petal’s forehead, brushing an errant hair off her face.
“You didn’t answer the thing about it being a conflict of interest.”
“Oh, that.” Delphinium sounds almost dismissive, because of course she sees no problem with putting herself in this position with a woman she’s already said she wants to domesticate. “No, of course it isn't. If anything, it’s the opposite. I’ve already demonstrated that I have a particular interest in your well-being, so why wouldn’t I be assigned to your care. Besides, it’s certainly not unknown for such wardships to end with domestication, compulsory or otherwise. Especially if the sophont in question is found to be liable to risk harm to themself or to others. But I’m quite confident that it won’t be a requirement in this case, will it? You’ll be a good girl~?”
“I- well- um-”
“I think the words you’re looking for are ‘yes’ and ‘mistress’.”
Petal blushes as she manages to stammer out, “Y-yes, Mmistress.”
“Yes, I’m quite sure this won’t end in compulsory domestication. So I think that it’s going to be rather up to you, whether or not you end your wardship as my floret, my dear, so you surely have absolutely nothing to worry about~.”
“Mmm, you’ll be Mistress’s floret in no time,” Millie sleepily mumbles.
“W-well, I-” Petal can’t take this, not with Millie joining in, too.
“Of course, if you really don’t want to spend your time with Millie and I, I believe that Sphagna mentioned that she would be willing to see to your care.”
“Nnooo, Mistress, don’t let Petal go.” Oh stars, no, Petal can’t bear the thought of upsetting Millie.
“I’m afraid I may have to, my magnificent Millie, if that is what Petal wants.” And Delphinium knows it, too. She already knew that even without the rest of her everything, all she’d need to do is dangle Millie in front of her and Petal would eventually follow right behind her. It’s so completely unfair.
Delphinium raises an eyebrow at Petal, and she can’t stop herself from responding “W-well, I mean… if it has to be anyone, then… I guess this is fine?” Millie squeals in joy, and wraps her arms around Petal. At least if Delphinium is going to use Millie against her, that means she’ll get to have lots of time with Millie. “I just… I wanted to make sure you wouldn’t get in trouble, or something.”
“Of course, my dear, just another entirely unnecessary attempt to save me, I’m sure.” Petal knew that Delphinium wasn’t buying a word of it, but still, she wasn’t going to contradict her. “Now, I know it’s been a long day, but we still need to get you back home. It has gotten rather late, so would you rather we sojourn at your hab, for you to spend one last night there, or should we just go home, and back to collect your things tomorrow?”
“I- uh- that’s…”
“Not fair, perhaps?” Petal nods, somewhat embarrassedly. “Well, yes, I suppose it probably is. But in all of your dealings with the Affini, have you ever known fairness to be a particularly prominent concern of ours?”
“And you’re very welcome for it, by the way. Now, our hab, or yours?”
“Ooh, ooh, we should go to Petal’s and you can see the flower, and everything!” Once again, Millie interrupts with simultaneously the best and worst possible suggestion, but Delphinium still looks to see if Petal will agree. Or maybe she just likes to watch her squirm.
“I guess we can go back to my place?” Petal tries to rise, but is held down by Delphinium’s blanket.
“Excellent, my dear.” The blanket draws tighter around Petal and Millie, drawing them in close together again. Millie takes this as her cue to snuggle up to Petal even more, and Petal can’t even bring herself to consider doing anything other than reciprocating the gesture. “Now, why don’t you just cuddle up with Millie, and rest those weary little feet of yours.”
Petal could complain, and she probably should, but it had been a long day, and despite Delphinium’s massage, her feet were still aching, and Millie was warm, and soft. Delphinium bundled the pair up in her blanket, and pulled them in against her chest, looking down at them with a warm expression in her eyes that Petal could feel herself getting lost in.
She can figure out whether she wants all of this forever later. Right now, there was nowhere she’d rather be than here, safe in the vines of her Mistress, cuddling her girlfriend.