Millicent Vinia, Third Floret, was bored. Her Mistress was busy, and there were supposed to be a whole bunch of new friends to meet from that Terran ship they picked up the other day, but apparently most of them were already in pods, and the rest were probably already getting to know their new owners. Mistress did have a Look when she came home from helping with all of that, though, and she still went and did a bunch of paperwork even after she got home, but when Mistress does paperwork at home, Millie gets a whole bunch of xenodrugs and petting, so she kinda forgot to ask about it.
It was win-win, as far as Millie was concerned. Everything about the Affini was win-win, as far as Millie was concerned. Except, maybe, when they had to go away to actually be responsible plant-people, or at least when one particular Affini had to go away to actually be a responsible plant-lady.
Millie didn't have anything that she needed to do, and her Mistress had long since completely removed her invasive need to be productive even when nothing needed doing, but she still got restless. She could probably just run around the hab for a bit, until she got exhausted enough to actually stop moving for more than a minute, but… if she was going to do that, she might as well go outside. Maybe she’d still be able to make a new friend.
Who could possibly be visiting Petal? The last time they’d seen Delphinium, she’d said she’d be busy most of today, and… they literally didn’t know anybody else on the ship. Except, apparently, Ingrid and Astrid, but they were also… busy. Getting implanted. With a piece of a giant alien plant person, or at least, grown from a giant alien plant person. Which sounded bad, but also apparently they wanted it. Apparently it’s supposed to help them, but that’s assuming that they can actually trust their Affini.
It’s probably more likely that the Affini just drugged them into a suggestible state, and told them that they wanted it. There was a lot about the Free Terranist propaganda that was false, but the best lies were built on as much truth as possible. The worst part is that that plants probably still thought there wasn’t anything wrong with that, as if drugging people into obedience wasn’t-
Ding-Dong. “Hey cutie~! Your visitor is still waiting for you to say hello!”
Right. Petal takes a deep breath to calm themself down, and walks over to open the door.
“Hi!” The first thing that Petal notices about the woman at the door is that she’s wearing a collar. Okay, the actual first thing that Petal notices about the woman is that she’s really hot. The second thing they notice is that she’s wearing a collar, although she doesn’t seem quite as spacy and relaxed as the other florets that Petal had seen. She still seems to have that… unnerving happiness, like she couldn’t even conceive of something bad happening to her, though.
“Hi!” Apparently she’s still pretty spacy. “Is your Affini home?”
Right, she’s probably not used to meeting anybody that isn’t a floret or an affini. Trying to explain the situation might be a bit complicated, so Petal just shook their head.
“Okay! Is it okay if I come in?” Maybe this is some kind of test, a way to see how Petal will react to somebody reaching out a friendly hand, or something. Not to mention that Petal hadn’t really had anyone to talk to, since, well… Sarah.
They hear a beep from their wrist. Can’t the Affini even let them mourn their friend? The next beep is just a bit more insistent. Fine. They can deal with that after they’ve convinced the Affini to take the cuff off. The floret is still standing there, although it seems like her attention is somewhere else.
“Sure, come on in.” Petal steps aside, to let the floret in. She looks around the place, seemingly actually interested in something other than an affini. Maybe she’ll actually be fun to talk to. As she steps past, Petal can’t help but stare at the back of her neck, quickly finding the telltale scar of an haustoric implant, they can’t help but wonder-
“Does it help?” There they go again, asking the most invasive questions they can before they even ask what her name is. She looks confused, but Petal might as well keep going. “The implant, I mean.”
“Well, yeah! Obviously!” After a few seconds she gasps. “Does that mean you don’t have yours yet?”
“Uh… no, I- I don’t have an implant.”
“But you aren’t even wearing a collar!”
“Oh, uh… I just have this.” They hold up their wrist.
“And you’re even wearing a navy uniform! You must be, like, really new!” She looks confused for a moment, the closest her face has ever come to something other than utterly blissful in the short while that Petal has known her. “And your affini isn’t here?”
“Uh… she said she had something she needed to do.” Delphinium wasn’t actually Petal’s affini, but they didn’t want this floret to decide that Petal was some runaway floret or something and call in the plant cops, or whatever.
“Oh! My Mistress too! Maybe we could hang out while we wait for our Mistresses to be done!” Well, it’s not like they have anything better to do. Petal nods.
“I’m Millie, by the way! What’s your name?”
“Um…” Maybe they could actually tell her? Her name almost certainly has the word ‘floret’ in it, it’s not like she’s going to judge, or get all affini-y at them. It would be nice to actually tell someone. “Petal. My name is Petal.”
Millie seemed to need a few seconds to process that, and Petal was worried that maybe they had done the wrong thing, maybe she had been put up to this by the Affini, and now they were all going to laugh at her because her name was Petal, Delphinium was going to-
“That’s. So. Cute!” This time it was Petal’s turn to have no idea how to react, as Millie pulls them into a warm hug, spinning them around in circles. Petal was definitely not expecting this kind of strength from a floret, and when Millie finally puts them down, Petal stumbles back and flops onto the couch.
Millie is giving them a concerned look, and they can feel the wetness on their cheeks. Apparently they’re crying now.
“I’m so sorry! Was that too much?” And now they’re making Millie feel bad.
“No, no, it wasn’t too much, it’s just… that was the first time I’ve told anyone that.”
Millie’s eyes light up like a pair of binary suns. “I’m the first person you told? Thank you so much!” Millie takes their hands in her own, and sits down next to them. “Do you have any, um, word things I should know?”
“You mean… pronouns?”
“I, uh… I don’t know, I haven’t really figured it all out yet. It’s just…” Damnit, more tears. Millie lets go of one of their hands, and wipes away their tears with their thumb.
“It’s okay! Maybe we can figure it out together?”
“I don’t know if it works like that, Millie.”
“You’ll never know if you don’t try~!”
“I… fine. So, any ideas?”
“Well, Mistress has this trick she likes to do sometimes, when people are having a hard time figuring stuff out.”
“I don’t kn-” Millie shushes Petal with a finger on their lips, before taking both of Petal’s hands in her own again.
“You’re a good girl!”
Petal’s brain stops. Her cheeks are on fire, and she can’t tell if she’s crying again or not. She can feel her face smiling in a way that she isn’t sure if it ever had before.
When her brain starts up again, Millie looks even happier than usual, and Petal is pretty sure that she’s chanting something. A few seconds later, her ears start to work again, and she can make out the words.
“-etal is a gi~irl! Petal is a gi~irl! Petal is a gi~irl!”
“I-” Millie stops her chant, and looks into Petal’s eyes. Millie has an expression of raw determination that Petal can hardly believe is coming from somebody who seems to be literally ecstatic about being a piece of owned property.
“Girl. You need a makeover.”
Another two hours later, Petal is sitting on a stool in the bathroom, staring at her reflection in the mirror. Apparently Millie used to do makeup for her job, but now she just does it “for cuties like you”. Millie had insisted on getting Petal into a dress, not that Petal had put up any kind of a fight. Petal had found the least obtrusive of the Affini Companion dresses in the wardrobe that the hab had apparently come with, interwoven geometric patterns in pinks and purples, on a violet so deep it almost looked black. She hoped it wasn’t actually super bright in the UV range, but… it’s not like anyone else was going to see it.
If she wore a companion dress, people would get the wrong idea, and while it fit her dimensions perfectly, probably because of some invasive Affini scanning that they absolutely thought was for her own good, it didn’t fit her. She wasn’t some… adorable floret running around at the heels of her affini like Millie. She didn’t have the confidence to wear something like this out of the hab, she wasn’t even sure if she had the confidence to wear it out of the bathroom.
And the makeup, the makeup was incredible, but with each and every thing that Millie had done to her face, Petal just couldn’t help but notice each and every thing that she couldn’t do to her face. The flower that Millie drew on her cheek when she got distracted was cute, though. A match for the one in the glass on the table. She didn’t even realise that Millie had paid enough attention to the room to notice it.
Petal leaned over the sink, and started to wash the makeup off her face, saving the flower on her cheek for as long as she could. Once all of that was done, she took off the dress, and carefully folded it, leaving it on the stool. She forced herself to look in the mirror, at the reflection of the body she had to live in.
Those Affini xenodrugs better be as good as they say they are.