Petal opens her mouth to object, and quickly finds it filled by a fork carrying a mouthful of food. Delicious food, that tastes very vaguely familiar, in a similar way to how an Affini ship looks vaguely familiar if you've seen a Terran ship before.
Petal eagerly takes the food from the fork, "Mmm, thish-"
Delphinium puts a vine to Petal's lips, silencing her while she chews and swallows, when she's done, Delphinium smiles at her sweetly. "Yes, dear?"
"This is… really good!"
"Well, of course it is~." Delphinium taps the side of Petal's face with a vine as the fork returns with more food. Maybe Delphinium is trying to let her know it's time for her to open her mouth without disrupting the flow of conversation? Petal opens her mouth, and more food is deposited inside.
When she's nearly done with the mouthful, Delphinium asks, "And did you want to answer Verne's question?"
Verne's question? Oh, right. That. She swallows. "W-well, I guess I'm, y'know, maybe thinking about it?" There's another tap, and Petal opens her mouth. Verne almost looks amused.
"Well, I've never met a sophont who regretted making that choice. And I think it might suit you." And what exactly is he basing that on? Some dusty old files? Petal swallows, but before she can think of what to say, Delphinium taps her cheek again, and her mouth pops open to receive more food. That's not fair!
Delphinium taps under her chin, and Petal realises that her mouth is still open. She closes it, blushing furiously. Delphinium and Verne share a few words in Affini, while Petal chews. Are they just going to ignore her the whole time? Petal swallows again, feeling the same tap as she opens her mouth, and the fork returns.
Delphinium and Verne continue to feed the florets, and Petal, while talking to each other in Affini. It's frustrating, to be kept out of the loop. What are they even talking about? Why are they talking in Affini? Are they talking about her? Are they talking about how good a floret she'll be? Are they talking about how bad a floret she'll be? Is Verne telling Delphinium that he found some reason Petal shouldn't be around her? Is Delphinium telling Verne that actually Petal is too much to handle? Maybe they'll put her on class-Os, so they don't have to worry about how useless she-
Petal feels a strange wetness around her mouth, and then her chest. Shit! She was too caught up in her stupid thoughts that she didn't open her mouth when she was supposed to. And now everyone was going to laugh at her, and hate her, and nobody will want anything to do with her. And now everyone’s staring, and they’re pretending like they don’t hate her, and Delphinium is saying something, but Petal still can’t understand it and maybe she’s telling Petal that she can’t be her Mistress, that she doesn’t want to be her Mistress. That Petal is going to. be.. alone...
not like, ow ow, but ow
Petal looks down. She's got red on her. Is she bleeding? Is that why ow?
It doesn't look like blood. It looks like… pasta sauce? Oh! That's why it was familiar. It's pasta. Petal hasn't had pasta in sooo long.
Petal thinks she can hear words. It's weird, and muffled, but there's one musical voice she's amazed to find she can stay focused on. "Now, my dear, if you're feeling better, I can administer the counteragent, and we'll talk about what just happened, okay?"
Petal can feel her head slowly turn from side to side. Talking means thinking, and thinking was what made everything go bad. This isn't bad, though. It's nice, like she's floating on a cloud. Or like she's flying? Everything is getting further away? Except Delphinimum, she's getting closerer.
"I'm going to clean her up, hopefully she'll feel better once she's clean. You're welcome to stay, but you're under no obligation to, of course."
There are other voices, but they're muffled, strange, and when she hears the musical voice again it's speaking in magic, and melody, but not in words she can understand.
"Come on, my precious Petal, let's get you cleaned up~." Petal feels movement, like the whole world is being turned and pushed and twisted around her. Suddenly she's somewhere else, the light is different, and everything sounds different. She hears a roaring, whooshing sound, and feels herself become lost in the sensation. When she returns to herself, she finds that her clothes are gone. And the red is gone.
She's still floating, but it's different. Not like if she were being held, but like if somebody stopped the ship spinning. Like she's in space. And it's warm, very warm, but she doesn't feel gross, like she normally does when it's warm. And it's… watery? Wet? Oh! She's in the bath, and-
What had been passing for a train of thought comes to a complete stop as dozens of thin vines start to massage Petal's scalp. An endless moment later, the vines gently recede, and Petal opens her eyes. Delphinium's face is looking down at her with a comforting smile.
"Are you ready to come up and talk about it, my dear? Or has it just slipped from your mind, never to be heard from again?"
"Well, I think you're ready to come up a little bit, at least." Petal feels a warmth in her thigh, and hears someone moaning. The warmth is followed by a cool, fizzy, tingle that flows across her body like a wave, leaving behind a gentle energy throughout her body. She hears another moan, and opens her eyes again. Apparently they'd slipped shut again.
"Um… what happened? Why am I in the bath?"
"Ah, yes, well, I maybe let my attention slip for a moment, and managed to spill some food on you. It seemed to cause you a great deal of distress, in fact." Delphinium sounds apologetic, like she was the one who’d done anything wrong. Like it wasn’t all Petal’s fault.
“What, no.” Petal shakes her head. She still feels a bit woozy, but she’d probably just be freaking out and making Delphinium worried if she wasn’t. “I should have been paying more attention, I’m sor-” Petal is shushed by a vine pressed against her lips.
“My dear, as your… caretaker, it is my responsibility to see that such things do not happen.” Was she going to say Mistress? Did she still want to be Petal’s Mistress? Or was she hesitating because she didn’t want to say Mistress? “So, I’m the one who should be sorry, for not being more attentive.”
“B-but-” The vine is pressed more firmly against Petal’s lips, holding them shut.
“No buts, Petal, this isn’t a decision you get to make.” Petal tries to glare up at Delphinium defiantly, she’s the one to blame for this, at least as much as Delphinium is! But her glare withers as her eyes meet Delphinium’s. It’s not fair.
When Delphinium sees that Petal is ready to relent, she releases Petal’s lips. What was she even supposed to say? What was she even allowed to say? “I forgive you.” No shushing vines, so at least it was something that she was allowed to say.
Delphinium’s face smiles warmly, and she cradles Petal’s cheek in her hand, although it’s more like her entire head, given the size of her hands. “Thank you, Petal. I’m glad to hear that.”
Petal lets herself sink slightly into the water, her eyes gazing up into Delphinium’s. She still doesn’t know what the conversation in Affini was about, and she’s still a bit worried about it. If it wasn’t for the xenodrugs, she’d probably be a lot worried about it. Maybe she should just ask? “What, um…” No, asking was rude, if Delphinium wanted her to know what the conversation was about, they wouldn’t have been speaking in Affini. “Nevermind.”
Delphinium is looking at Petal with an almost admonishing expression. Why couldn’t Petal just keep her mouth closed, for once? “I most definitely will not. What did you want to ask, my dear?” Oh no, she’s being serious again.
“Um- I- well-” Petal can’t ask her such a rude question, but she also can’t not give her answer, and she can’t think of a lie and she shouldn’t lie to Delphinium anyway and maybe Delphinium won’t hate her just for asking? “W-what… what were you and Vernonia talking about, in Affini?”
“Oh, is that all? We were just discussing every Affini’s favourite topic: how utterly adorable their florets are.” A vine snakes out from the hand still cradling Petal’s cheek to stroke her brow. “Or their prospective florets, as the case may be~.”
“O-oh.” So they were talking about her. But in a good way. “I-” No, Petal shouldn’t complain, she should just be happy that everything worked out.
“You?” Ugh, why couldn’t Delphinium just have a lapse of attention again, or something, so Petal can pretend that she doesn’t keep putting her foot in her mouth.
“I…” Petal feels trapped in Delphinium’s eyes, in her hand, in the bath. And she’s sure that Delphinium wants her to tell her what she’s thinking. “I don’t like it. When people are talking about me, and I don’t know what they’re saying.”
Petal isn’t sure how she expected Delphinium to respond, but it wasn’t by bringing her whole body in closer to take Petal in a warm, compassionate embrace, which is what actually happened. “Oh, my precious Petal, I’m so sorry. I’ll make sure to keep my compliments for you in a language that you can understand in future. And before you misconstrue that, I said ‘compliments’ because there is nothing I could say about you that would be anything but a compliment.”
Petal’s spiraling thoughts stop dead in their tracks, intercepted by Delphinium catching them before they had a chance to start. “… okay. Um… is it okay if I ask what you actually said to Verne about me?”
Delphinium pulls away from Petal slightly, and tilts Petal’s head up slightly with a vine, so that she’s looking into the affini’s eyes again. There's a smile spread across her face. Oh no, she’s going to be flirty, isn’t she? “Of course, my dearest~. I told him about how we met, and how you found your name~.” Even with her cheeks already flushed from the warmth of the bath, Petal thinks she can feel a deeper blush growing across them. “I told him about how you and Millie met, with all of us completely unaware of how tangled our roots had grown, until just recently, and…” Delphinium is hesitating. What if there actually was something bad, what if it wasn’t just compliments, what if there was something Delphinium was afraid of Petal knowing about?
“We perhaps shared a few words over how adorably well you were taking to being gesture trained~.”
Wait, what? “G-gesture tr-” Petal feels a tap on her cheek, and her mouth drops open. Oh. Delphinium snakes a vine out from her hand to tap her under her chin, and her mouth closes. Petal’s blush has grown so intense that she’s surprised the water on her cheeks hasn’t boiled off. Delphinium is looking down at her with adoring satisfaction, her eyes seeming to almost swirl with purple and gold.
“You were doing so well with it, too, which is why I didn’t notice until it was too late, when you didn't open your mouth~.”
Fuck. Is that what Verne meant, about becoming a floret suiting her? That without Petal even really noticing, Delphinium was already training her. Like a pet.
“I was… thinking.”
“Don’t worry, Petal, I can help you with that~.” Petal had rather noticed that, what with whatever the xenodrug that Delphinium calmed her down with was. “What were you thinking about, that had you so distracted?”
“I was thinking about… what you and Verne might have been talking about. I…” Delphinium raises her brow at Petal. “I was… maybe… worried that… you didn’t want me anymore?” Petal’s voice shrinks, getting quieter and quieter with each word. “And, and, I know we talked about it, and I know we talked about it, and I crossed it off my list, and-”
Delphinium shushes petal with her thumb, and brings her head in to kiss Petal’s forehead. “Shhh, it’s okay, my Petal. You don’t get to control your thoughts, but…”
“Well, when you become my beloved floret, I will~.”
“Of course, my dear. It’s not as though there’s any doubt as to whether or not it’s going to happen eventually, is there~?”
“W-well, I- I- I-”
“Now, why don’t we get you out of that bath, and you can learn some more gestures while I dry you off~.”
Petal stares up at Delphinium, and she can feel the affini’s eyes boring into her, or maybe she’s falling into her eyes, or maybe it’s the drugs, or the music in her voice, but Petal can’t find any words to say. Except, of course, “Yes, Mistress.”