X. F43.11 Post-traumatic stress disorder, acute

by Ezra Carmichael

Tags: #cw:genocide #D/s #dom:plant #Human_Domestication_Guide #hurt/comfort #m/m #scifi #CW:dubious_consent #dom:male #pov:bottom #pov:top #sub:male

Aprevalii was gardening while Simeon watched. Gardening didn’t particularly interest him as a hobby and in any case Aprevalii liked him clean. Immaculate white shoes, pants, and shirt were not easy to maintain and Aprevalii clearly took great pleasure when Simeon’s garments remained pristine. This had something to do with Sephal, he knew, but the section in Aprevalii’s book on monastic ritual purity had been among the hardest to understand. The hrevl hadn’t worn clothing but the monks had bathed twice a day. Neither Aprevalii nor Simeon were converts to Sephal’s religion, but preserving what little he could of what had been lost when the ketalec exterminated them was important to his owner.
So Simeon wore immaculate white garments (sometimes including gloves, a hat, and even a mask) and Aprevalii had something to keep ritually pure. Food was tricky, but he had an assortment of (white) napkins and handkerchiefs on hand for those. Only one article of clothing Simeon wore wasn’t white: a red vest embroidered with gold writing in Affini and English. It had been Nerys’s idea, based off an old terran custom for working animals. The Affini writing apparently said (according to both Mats and Aprevalii, although only Mats had offered to write an annotated translation), “I’m working. Do not touch me. Do not call me cute. Yes, even if I’m doing something exceptionally petlike. I know you think this doesn’t refer to you, but it does.” The last two sentences were in smaller writing while the first three were duplicated in English for the florets. It mostly worked, although more affini obeyed the second line than the third.
The gardening was good for Aprevalii. It kept him (literally) grounded and engaged in creative activity. Love, community, and creative action were what defined sapience, a philosopher he had read once had said, or something to that effect. Aprevalii wasn’t doing much research these days, but he got creative action from gardening, community from the Micras, and love from his friends and Simeon.
The gardening was entrancing for Simeon. Aprevalii spread his body out across his plot, his vines dancing around each other; watching the dance of vines did for Simeon what affini eyes did for his floret friends: pulled him in, made him forget himself and feel as though there were no separation between him and the plant as he dug, planted, watered, built, and weeded. The weeding had confused Simeon at first; why would there be weeds in an affini garden. Then he realized Aprevalii was putting weeds into the garden just so he’d have something to remove.
If you have a garden, you have weeds,” said Aprevalii. “If you don’t have weeds you have sterility. A garden without weeds is barren.”
And if your environmental setting won’t give you weeds, you provide them? Isn’t that kind of artificial?”
It is, but the alternative is a garden that’s exactly how I want it; it’s not good to get exactly what you want.”
Another Sephalism?” asked Simeon.
No, but only because they took that sort of thing as given.”
The gardening ended and Aprevalii consolidated himself into his more humanoid form. “Good job, sir,” said Simeon. “The garden’s coming along nicely and you didn’t have any flashbacks that I could feel.”
Aprevalii grinned. “Nope, I got a few twinges but nothing I couldn’t redirect myself from.”
You should bathe, sir. Liliac’s party is in a few hours and we can’t miss it.”
Aprevalii groaned. “Are you sure?”
Simeon nodded. “According to Liliac you’ve had a nice good rest from your stressful weeks on New Melbourne and the hospital, haven’t socialized properly since you came onboard—and she’s right about that, sir, and Nerys is pining for me and you and me are a done deal. If we try to get out of it she might do something drastic.”
Such as?”
They walked into the elevator and began going up.
Well, sir, the last time you didn’t do what she thought you should you ended up with a new floret.”
Nerys can’t possibly be pining for you; you didn’t see her all that often before coming here.”
Liliac says that’s different, sir.”
And we’re here, sir. Time to get off. Liliac says it’s different because she’s been giving Nerys Class C’s to packbond with me.”
They stepped out of the elevator and walked to Aprevalii’s hab.
Hello Aprevalii, non-cute floret,” said the hab AI listlessly. “Welcome home.” The hab AI, unable to use floret mode on Simeon, had become sulky. It did what it was asked to, but it made it very clear that it would much rather do what it was asked to do in floret mode. It always referred to Simeon with epithets; “non-cute floret” was one of the nicer ones. It was still better than floret mode.
Aprevalii bathed while Simeon changed into a fancier outfit with a kilt-like garment instead of pants, a mask over his eyes and forehead with white feathers poking out, and shiny boots. Everything was still white except the vest, but he had a fancier version of that as well. He was standing at ease when Aprevalii came out of the bathroom and he squirmed under the intense pleasure he felt from Aprevalii on seeing him dressed.
You look very handsome, Simeon,” said Aprevalii
Thank you, sir,” he answered.
They left the hab (“Goodbye, come back cuter!”) and descended to the garden in the elevator. It was raining in the garden, but Simeon had brought his (white) umbrella and stayed dry while Aprevalii luxuriated in the rain. The plant liked rain, liked it a lot, he’d discovered since being connected to him. On a simple tactile level it was stimulating and grounding, but Aprevalii had told him he also liked the symbolism of the sky uniting with the earth to produce life. Simeon hadn’t asked him if that was from Sephal; he’d read Aprevalii’s book, and it was.
The train ride across the Micras was uneventful. He got called cute three times, but no one patted his head or tried to distract him from his owner, which was a win in his book. Aprevalii himself was nervous and didn’t want to go, the displeasure oozed through their connection, but he was resigned. Simeon wasn’t sure how he felt about the party. Aprevalii didn’t want to go, but he was isolating and did need the socialization. On the other hand, there might be too many sophonts at the party; he didn’t want his owner to be overwhelmed.

The party turned out to be a relatively small affair, especially by Liliac’s standards. She had invited her own florets, of course, two affini ethnographers and their florets in case Aprevalii wanted to talk about his research, two affini gardeners and their florets in case Aprevalii wanted to talk about gardening, and Heyacith (without her florets) so Mats would have someone to talk to. “Only six have showed up so far; a few more sophonts might be arriving later,” she said, “but this is all for now.”
Eeasyth Gradath, Third Bloom, was apparently already known to his owner. A surge of surprise and delight traveled to Simeon when he saw xir. “Simeon, this is my protege! I never thought you’d pull yourself away from that beeple project!”
There’s actually a really interesting religious sect with a large contingent of beeple drones out here,” said Eeasyth. “I’m going to be living with them for awhile. No terran studies for me,” xe said, turning to Simeon, “not that your species isn’t… oh, sorry, I see you don’t want to be called cute.”
Thank you,” said Simeon.
I’ve had florets who don’t like being called cute before,” said Eeasyth. “An odd cultural affectation, but nothing to be done about it unless you want to break down their minds, and I’ve never approved of the practice.”
Simeon shuddered.
My current floret does like being called cute. Eva, come over here!”
Eva Gradath, floret number as yet unknown, was an older woman, old enough to be Simeon’s grandmother at least. “I picked her up my first day aboard the Micras. This is Eva Gradath, Sixth Floret.”
Eva smiled at Simeon and Aprevalii. “Hello, have we met?”
Eeasyth smiled sadly. “She has dementia. It was fairly well-advanced when I domesticated her and while it’s getting better, the veterinarian doesn’t think it’s fully reversible without fully breaking her down which, again, I don’t approve of.”
Hello, cutie,” said Aprevalii. “May I hug you?”
Eva nodded. Aprevalii took her very gently and slowly wrapped vines around his protege's floret’s body. Eva squirmed and writhed under his touch.
She’s on a few Class A’s for the cuddles,” Eeasyth explained. “Do you know the other ethnographer who got invited? Tarshish Yonas, Twelfth Bloom? I know her by reputation but we haven’t had a chance to meet.”
Aprevalii shook his head. “Like you, I know her by reputation, but we’ve not met.”
Eeasyth nodded. “She isn’t here yet but I hope she comes, I want her to autograph her book!”
Oh, was it good…”
Simeon zoned out as Aprevalii talked shop. Focusing on an interest would be good for his owner, but it wasn’t vital for him to personally attend to that. He looked around at the party. Another affini had arrived, a tall palm-like one with a floret…
The floret was beautiful. It could have been called birdlike, but only because of the feathers. It had no wings but instead had six graceful, curving legs on a sinuous body whose movements were almost as hypnotic as Aprevalii’s. Simeon looked in awe at this work of art nature had produced, surely no one ever called this floret cute, the word simply wasn’t adequate to its glory. “Aprevalii, sir,” he said, tugging on a vine, “Do you know what species that—”
Sheer terror poured through their connection. Not terror for himself, but for Simeon. Vines suddenly yanked Simeon inside Aprevalii and the plant was running, running. “Aprevalii, stop!” he shouted, but if the plant heard him he didn’t respond. Simeon’s own body spiked with adrenaline as Aprevalii carried him… wherever they were going.
The movement stopped. Voices were talking, but they were speaking affini and Simeon didn’t understand them. They seemed to be calm, soothing. Okay, that was good. Aprevalii was angry now, he could feel, which was probably better than terrified. No, not angry, furious, he was shouting, but Simeon didn’t understand the words. The vines holding him clutched him more tightly as he tried to squirm out of them.
It was impossible to judge the passage of time inside Aprevalii, so Simeon didn’t try. He simply monitored his owner’s mood, calmer now, but still scared, still angry, and waited. He took his own medicine and breathed deeply and tried to ground, but it wasn’t very successful. An unknown amount of time and an unknown amount of motion later the vines around him loosened and Simeon climbed out of his owner.
They were back in their hab, the plant a heap of vines not consolidated into any shape at all.
Aprevalii, sir, what happened?” Simeon asked.
That, that… thing, you saw it, you pointed it out to me,” Aprevalii said, his voice shaking with fear and anger.
That was a ketalec.”

This was a shorter chapter. We'll unpack the trauma in the next one.

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