Mertha looked at the sleeping sophont and felt a primal sense of joy. Henrik had slept since Vonzin and Ida had left. It was morning again and the girl was still sleeping. She had already made breakfast for Hendrik, Pasta carbon-ara. Humans had some strange names for their food, pasta was already mostly carbon. Despite the food being ready she had immense difficulty forcing herself to wake Hendrik. The soft snores, the slight shuffling, the peaceful expression. It was all too cute for her to ruin by waking her.
Luckily for her, the decision was made for her as Hendrik began to yawn and open her eyes. The human shuffled around a bit and looked around. After a few seconds, the sophont looked in her direction and looked up to meet her eyes. Hendrik smiled in a soft, peaceful, and far too cute way.
Mertha strode over to Hendrik and petted her on the head, Hendrik replied by nuzzling into her hand and letting out a soft purr. The purr was a soft humming noise that left Mertha shivering slightly, she had to control herself.
She continued to stoke the doped-up human “hope you slept well, I made some food for you. Here, let me help you up.” Using her vines as a solid point for Hendrik to grab onto the human got onto her own two feet. She hoped that Hendrik was recovering properly “how are your legs feeling?”
Hendrik stubbled a bit before she seemed to get her bearings “good…I think, they feel less….sleepy than before.” That was good, Vonzin had informed her that she should be able to move normally soon. In a few days, Hendrik would also need some exercise for the muscles not to atrophy even more than they already had.
Hendrik walked up to her and looked up with big begging eyes “can you carry me?” oh she would love nothing more, but she had to restrain herself.
She could do this, “perhaps later, can you walk to the kitchen table for me? Then you can get some food.” Hendrik looked towards the kitchen table and nodded with determination. It was not a long distance, perhaps 12 steps. Hendrik seemed close to falling with each clumsy step but managed to get to the table without incident. Mertha had made sure to be close to her in case she fell.
When they got to the table Mertha gave Hendrik a few pets as a reward and lifted her up into the chair. Hendrik looked at her, waiting expectantly. Mertha doubted that the consideration of feeding herself was even present in Hendriks’s mind.
Mertha began to feed Hendrik and all her worry was immediately swallowed up by joy. Seeing Hendrik eat had always been one of the highlights of each day. being able to directly control when the human ate and chewed made the satisfaction even more potent. When Hendrik was sober she always tried to hide how much she enjoyed the food and often failed repeatedly. In this state did not even attempt to hide how much she liked it.
After the delight that was feeding Hendrik, Mertha managed to convince her to walk to the bathroom. The walk was becoming a bit more confident and steadier. Despite the fallback, she was still in better condition than when her ward had first woken up.
When they entered, Mertha turned on the water. While they waited for it to rise she brushed Hendriks’s teeth. She made sure to avoid the fake ones, touching them seemed to cause some discomfort. After they were done, they waited a bit more for the water to reach a good height. Hendrik looked at her “do you think I can swim a bit before you wash me?”
Hendrik had acted in many ways during the time she had met her. Anger, desperation, calculating, cold, but never timid. It felt so strange to see the same person who she had met on Centhia ask her if she was allowed to swim. Yeah the question “okay, I think that should be fine. Just make sure to not overdo it. also, no splashing with your paws.'' The last part just came naturally to say despite the fact it was very patronizing, Hendrik did not seem to notice at all.
Hendrik beamed at her and gave her a hug “thanks Owner, you’re the best!” The girl then walked over to the pool, and tested the water with a toe before diving in. Hendrik seemed to really enjoy herself in the water, moving around, giggling, and diving underwater for a few seconds at a time. Mertha sat there and enjoyed the view. Despite the circumstances, it was nice to see Hendrik finally enjoy herself.
Mertha gave Henrik about 10 minutes before walking into the water herself. Hendrik swam up to her and allowed herself to be held by the vines so Mertha could wash her. After she was done with that she used a few of her vines to groom the girl’s hair. The hair was getting longer and was quite shiny and beautiful.
Mertha used this opportunity to perhaps better her chances “is there something you would like to do today?” If she could get Hendrik to do something else while she managed to regain her composure, maybe she could avoid a situation like yesterday. She had stepped way over the line yesterday, she would need to apologize when Hendrik woke up. She wanted to uphold the human’s sense of pride, though it grew more difficult each moment that passed.
Hendrik looked up at her “I want pets!” Frost. That had not worked at all. Mertha managed against all her natural instincts to not indulge the human right away.
Mertha tired again “of course Pet, but other than that. Is there anything, anything else you would like to do?” Hendrik looked deep in thought, a totally adorable expression.
Hendriks eyes light up “sleep in your lap…while you pet me!...oh and look for new cute outfits!'' The pure enthusiasm in Hendriks’s voice shattered any hope that Mertha had remaining. Vonzin’s words echoed in her mind, leaning into it…Treating Hendrik like her floret for the time being.
There was nothing more tempting, she wanted it more than she had wanted anything else. She knew she would love it, and Hendrik would…for a time. When she woke up though…Mertha didn’t want to think about it.
What was the alternative? To leave Hendrik unattended, to refuse the affection the human asked her for. That felt like an even greater crime, not just wrong but something entirely unnatural and vile. For now, she would acquiesce to Hendrik's wants, perhaps the answer was somewhere in the middle.
Mertha finished “why don’t we go to my study, and you can nap in my lap for some time? I think that sounds delightful.” Henrik leaned into her vines and smiled contently.
The human’s voice was content and warm “very delightful, I love you.” Mertha felt her core sing and vines tingle. Staying in the middle was far easier said than done. She carried the slightly sleepy Hendrik back to her study and sat down. When Hendrik was placed in her lap, she began to nuzzle and wiggle to get in the most comfortable position possible.
Before she would try to distract herself with study, she indulged in having Hendrik so close and affectionate. A pet on the head, a scratch on that one part of the back of her head, a bit of hugging from a few vines. Hendrik looked up at her with the eyes of a floret. Not the eyes of a person overworked to the extreme with tension and paranoia in every thought. Not the eyes of someone so traumatized by their past that they didn’t know their own mind. just happy, glazed over, loving eyes, filled with warmth. Mertha leaned down and nuzzled her happy little kitten, right now she was the luckiest affini in the universe.
Nora was pacing her hab impatiently, Frederika was late. Had something happened? Had the sickness returned? Maybe sh-
The large TV screen in her hab began to beep, oh thank the stars! She accepted the transmission, and the screen was filled with a video feed of her sister.
Nora sighed in relief “finally, are you okay? I was afraid th-“ her sister interrupted.
Her sister was lying on a large white bed, her face was quite close, so it was probably from a data pad “relax Nora. I was just a bit…distracted and forgot. I’m healthy and I’m fine. Hello! by the way.” Her sister shared Nora’s scarlet hair and freckles but had inherited their mother’s short stature and fragility.
Nora smiled “I’m sorry, I’m just not used to not worrying about these things. How are things on Terra?” her sister looked happier than last time she had called a week ago.
Frederika smiled “things are just fine, being able to walk around and talk to people is still a bit new and scary, but I’m trying.” There was something in her voice that said she wanted to say something but was embarrassed. Nora would let it be, knowing her sister she would spill the truth before the conversation was over.
Nora stopped herself from worrying about her sister’s actions. Walking and talking to people was aggressively normal behavior. She was still curious “walking where and talking to whom?” Nora added as much teasing to her voice to get across that she was not worried at all.
Frederika blushed a bit, she was definitely hiding something “umm…mostly just around the city, visited a few bars. Perhaps a museum or two, you know stuff like that. What about you, how are things going?”
Nora also had things to hide “well I have been on one of the huge affini spaceships for the last… I think almost three weeks. It has basically been one long vacation, I even thought of starting to paint again. Now that I, you know, have the time.” Frederika did not need to know about Serla or Darla just yet.
Frederika smiled “that’s so nice, can’t wait to see what you paint. Also, you deserve a vacation, you workaholic. Speaking of workaholics, how is Hendrik?” Nora felt something heavy in the back of her throat.
Frederika saw her reaction “not good…she managed to have some sort of accident. She is fine but will take more time for her to recover…I have yet to be able to see her.” Frederika lost her smile for a second.
Frederika had always been the most optimistic person Nora knew “that’s sad to hear… But you know she is strong, she will push through. Also, you would not believe what they have done with the city around here, it looks amazing!” Nora was grateful to change the subject.
She had yet to visit Centhia so wondered how it looked right now “well the Agraria is also very interesting. All the architecture is so vivid and different. The huge size of the thing is almost a bit terrifying though. The only thi-.“ The slam of a door and a voice from the other side of the feed interrupted her
It was heavy and beautiful “I’m back! Are you talking to someone? Do we have guests?” Frederika began to blush immensely.
Frederika turned her head “it's just my sister! it's over a video feed.” Nora smiled with delight, so this was the secret.
The voice responded “how nice! I will just put away the groceries and then I can come and say hi.” Nora noticed the voice was not human.
She grinned knowingly at her sister “soooo, who is the affini?” Frederika hid her face in a pillow for a few seconds.
Her sister was still blushing “they are called Roblesari, 8th bloom. They were my doctor right after the invasion of Terra. She might or might not have stayed after I was cured, and now I maybe…kind of…live with them” That was so sweet, she still needed to tease her sister a bit.
Nora tried to look serious “so just…roommates?” She couldn’t keep a straight face and burst out laughing. Oh, humanity really was hopeless.
After a few more seconds of hiding behind the pillow Frederika looked over it “okay…I have something I want to tell you…but it is kind of weird and stuff. Just promise that you won’t freak out, ok?” oh, it was this serious. Nora calmed down and gave an affirming nod.
Her sisters started “ok…I don’t really know how to say this in a smart way but…ok, I’m just going to say it…I might be considering domestication.” Nora felt slightly confused.
Her response was not the most elegant “Oh, ok. Why?” Nora hoped secretly that Frederika might have the answers that she was struggling with as well.
Frederika breathed out “ok. So even though I can live on my own and be independent and all that…I don’t know, it’s kind of just…lonely. Roblesari took care of me for the first few weeks and we kind of…you know, hit it off. When I could live alone I tried for a bit. They still visited of course, but it was different. Them taking care of me….it's kind of nice, to be honest. Plus, there is nothing I really value that I would lose if I became…their pet.” The last words were very quiet.
Now it was Nora's time to blush “I know what you mean…Serla, one of the affini diplomats. I have been spending a lot of time with her and her floret…a lot of time….like ‘living with them’ amount of time.” Frederika’s face went through shock, relief, a raised brow, and then to the teasing smile of a sister who knew how to play this game.
Frederika shook her head performatively “my sister might be able to wrestle a bear and see a fly from a mile away. But show her two cute and sexy women and she can’t even speak properly.”
Nora looked away in hurt, equally performatively “here I am, trying to be open and affirming and all I get is ridicule.” Both of them smiled before blushing again.
Frederika spoke first “so you have also considered domestication?”
Nora thought about it for a moment “kind of yes and kind of no. I think I want it, but I haven’t really thought about all the things that it might entail. So that is kind of what I am doing now I guess.”
Before their conversation could continue any further a door opened out of view and the affini named Roblesari came in “hello my little rose, still talking to your sister?” A couple of vines grabbed Frederika from the bed and the data pad. The picture was now from a much higher angle, displaying the affini holding a blushing Frederika in their arms. The affini looked at Nora “hello Nora, I’m glad to finally talk to you. Frederika has told me so much about you.”
The affini was tall with bramble-like vines, green leaves were sprouting in every direction. It created a sort of fur-type look but with the soft and malleable bark still visible underneath. Nora waved to Roblesari “hi! Thanks for taking care of my sister, it means a lot.” Roblesari's bark-like face broke into a smile as they looked down on Frederika.
Frederika was blushing in ever-growing intensity “nooo, stop! This is too embarrassing!” Roblesari responded by holding her sister even tighter in her grip.
The affini sounded proud “isn’t she just the cutest? Taking care of your sister has been a wonderful experience. Heard that things were a bit more difficult on your end.” Nora almost felt bad for her sister.
The last part was a bit confusing “difficult on my end?” the affini just smiled.
They sounded quite confident “oh just some personal shortages. we might have gotten too eager to help all of you cuties, so we’re spread a bit thin. Don’t worry about it, we got full control.” Nora could not doubt them in that. Personnel shortages were probably just a minor issue, and the affini had too many advantages to let that stop them.
Nora chuckled a bit “I see that you two might need some time alone now, don’t worry I’ll call you back soon!” After the two gave her a wave she dropped the connection.
Nora collapsed on her bed and picked up her data pad. She should really have done more research before throwing herself into such an important choice. Well, no time like the present. She searched up some guides on domestication and began to read.
Pet had slumbered in Owner’s lap for quite some time now. It was warm and cozy, and she received an endless amount of affection. Nothing could be better, well until now. Pet was getting restless, she wanted to move or do something. Owner was still reading the books, Pet suddenly got very curious.
Using her soft and cute paws she managed to lift her head just above the edge of the desk. It was difficult to see at this angle, but she could see a map. Owner’s hand had lowered to pet her but only found air “oh, a bit more awake? Curious about what I’m reading? let me help you.” Owner lifted Pet up with a few vines so she could see properly.
It was a different map but of the same area as before. The blue spots that marked settlements were much smaller. The arrows were all converging on one of the blue spots near the ocean. On the other page there was a bunch of text, Pet tried to read but it just didn’t quite click in her mind. Pet wanted to find out, perhaps it could help her be cuter “Owner, what does it say?”
Owner stroked her back as she used a vine to go over the words “it's about a… let's call it a contest that happened a long time ago. I got this to study when I visited one of the libraries on Terra. It is quite old, almost 500 years in fact.” Owner carefully flipped through the pages.
On one there was a large picture of a woman on some sort of boat “who is that? is she also a pet?” It made sense. not only was she small like her and Ida, but she also had a collar.
Owner bristled with amusement “no little one, that was the queen of the area. She was called Cleopatra. Now that I think about it…” Owner looked down at her and then at the book again, they looked thoughtful.
Pet was interested in the name “cleo-patra, it’s a nice name…” Something about it felt right, Pet did not know what.
Owner turned her around to look into her eyes “you like the name? I think it would fit you wonderfully…though perhaps not the ending.” Pet did like the name, liked it a lot.
But Owner was right, “it is too long for a pet…cleo?....Cleo!” It was perfect!
Owner looked at her a bit befuddled before a smile spread on their face “do you want me to call you that?” Pet nodded enthusiastically.
Owner began to pet her ruthlessly “well then Cleo, we will see if it sticks. Just know I’m very proud of you. Here, have a treat!” Owner fed her a berry and she shuddered pleasantly into their lap. The pets continued for quite some time, it was a wonderful reward for being such a good pet. Cleo…it was nice to have a new name. Cleo still liked ‘Pet’, but that was her purpose and job.
That reminded her, she had a job to do. She stirred up from her nap “Owner, can I go and look at new outfits now?” Owner shuddered a bit before smothering her a bit more.
Owner handed her one of the blank squares, they pressed something on it and an endless series of pictures of outfits appeared. Owner handed her the square “here you go. Just click on the ones you like, and I can have them made later. Do try to not over….No, actually never mind.” owner gave her an affirming head pat.
While Owner read the old books, Cleo looked through the endless amounts of outfits on the square. They each had their job and Cleo would do her very best. She found many more cute outfits, clicking on them with her paws was difficult, so instead, she booped them with her nose. Each time she clicked a cute red heart appeared, that must mean it was the right choice.
After a long time of hard work, Cleo began to get sleepy. She still had work to do so tried to push it away, a large yawn notified Owner. The square was gently pulled out of her weak grasp before she could protest a gentle flurry of vines began to smother her into sleep.