VI. Z74.9 Problem related to care provider dependency, unspecified

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

cw for dubcon and condescending medical professionals. This chapter also got a bit longer than expected.

Simeon had lost the argument again. The argument, boiled down to its basics, was this:
  1. Simeon was physically dependent on hrevl ichor and his blood levels would require constant monitoring. Simeon couldn’t argue against this point because Simeon “wouldn’t understand the science, and cute sophonts like you shouldn’t worry about such things.”
  2. There were two ways this monitoring could be done: technologically using a blood monitor that Simeon would have to regularly check or biologically using a hausteric implant. Simeon was currently hooked up to a blood monitor but he couldn’t check it himself because everything was in Affini, which he couldn’t read. Simeon had proposed getting a blood monitor he could read, but this “sounds so unsafe, little one. What if you get distracted or the alarm doesn’t wake you up?”
  3. Therefore, Simeon would need to get a hausteric implant, and that meant being domesticated. Simeon had argued that he didn’t want to be domesticated, but that was apparently evidence “that you just aren’t mature enough to make those sorts of decisions.”
He had had the argument, in various permutations, with the veterinarian, Phothos Marigold, Eighth Bloom, at least one time for each bloom. Simeon supposed it was a good sign that they wanted him to agree to domestication voluntarily, but he didn’t know if the threat of involuntary domestication was one they could actually follow up on; he wasn’t a feralist, a non-domestication alternative was available, and as a citizen of the Compact he had rights—or was pretty sure he had rights. He needed a lawyer, but the Compact didn’t have those. Marigold had seemed legitimately baffled by the concept when he’d explained it to her.
Sorry, a what, dear?”
A lawyer. Someone who studies the law and advocates for laypeople within the legal system.”
But why would you need that? Everything’s explained in the paperwork.”
Yes, but suppose the paperwork were in Affini and you couldn’t read Affini?”
Affini is very complicated, little one. You don’t need to worry about it. All of our regulations are for the benefit of all sophonts. You don’t need someone to advocate for you and in any case, I can’t imagine anyone would be willing to actively advocate against your best interests.”
But I don’t agree that being domesticated is in my best interest!”
That, apparently, only proved Marigold’s point.

Why can’t I see Aprevalii? You said he’s still here.” The start of another argument he consistently lost.
He is, dear. But he’s not taking visitors. Poor thing’s a bit catatonic.”
Simeon frowned. “You guys can’t treat catatonia?”
Marigold sighed. “It would be more accurate to say he’s deliberately acting catatonic. All his scans indicate he’s fine. I talked to Probisium and she said there’s an indication of this behavior previously from near the end of his last bloom. Eventually he snapped out of it.”
Oh God, Simeon thought. They really don’t know how to treat PTSD. “Snapped out of it. Snapped. Out of it. You plants are supposed to be thousands of years more advanced than us and you’re still using that language?” A thought. “Wait, what would you be doing if he were a sophont from a different species?”
Marigold thought for a moment. “He’d be fast-tracked for domestication. But I don’t think we’re eligible for that.”
You don’t ‘think’?”
I’m not an expert in such matters. Give me a cute xeno and I can tell you exactly what the rules are, but I try not to work too much with affini medical problems, in all honesty we’re a kind of boring species.”
So basically domestication is your preferred treatment for all xeno mental illnesses and, let me guess, your preferred treatment for affini mental illnesses is that you’ve already solved psychology so they don’t happen anymore?” He wouldn’t shout. He was pretty sure he wasn’t shouting.
Again little one, not my field. There’s really no need for you to be so distressed. It’s not healthy for you to worry about things. You’ll find life much easier once you’re domesticated.”
Simeon did not throw anything at Marigold. In his opinion, this should have qualified him for some sort of prize. But throwing something at her would probably just convince her he needed to be domesticated even more.
Deep breaths, grounding. Count all the blue objects in the room (six, if you didn’t count Marigold’s upper leaves as separate objects). “Look, even if Aprevalii is catatonic, can you at least let me see him so I know he’s physically all right?”
I really can’t say no when you’re that cute. You’re going to make someone very happy you know?”
Once again, Simeon did not throw anything at Marigold; he let her guide him out of the room.

Visna Vintas, Third Bloom, was probably a good doctor, but he couldn’t understand a word she and her floret, from a species he hadn’t seen before, said as they cheerfully conducted him to Aprevalii’s room. They were clearly trying, but they kept slipping back into Affini for any medical term that was even slightly difficult to translate and he wasn’t sure they even knew they were doing it. The infodumping was, in any case, clearly more about them flirting with each other than helping Simeon understand his patient. Not that they likely regarded Simeon as having any medical relationship to to the plant.
Aprevalii was spread out across his room, his vines and tendrils a web with no clear center. They climbed up the walls, snaked around the furniture, even clung to the ceiling, but they didn’t move. He was still. He was silent.
Simeon stepped into the room and sat down in a gap between some vines. “Aprevalii?” No response. He picked up a vine and began to stroke it. “Breathe with me,” he said. “In,” he clasped the vine tighter, squeezing it, “and out” he released the vine, but it didn’t fall to the floor. A good sign? A bad one? He was out of his depth. He placed his hand back on the vine and began to trace its path across the room, crawling on his hands and knees. He continued to order the plant to breathe, but breath wasn’t exactly the same for affini as for humans. Still, he didn’t know a better grounding technique to use with a non-responsive patient.
The vine eventually led to the wall and began to climb it. Simeon took off his shoes and socks and climbed it like a rope against a cliff wall. He continued telling Aprevalii to breathe, continued to tighten and loosen his hold on the vine rhythmically. The vine reached the ceiling and began to travel across it. Class G’s and workouts had made him strong, so he was pretty sure he’d be able to keep going with the vine across the ceiling. If he couldn’t… well, he was in a hospital.
The trip across the ceiling was slow, not because it had to be, but because slow was the point. Giving the vine contact, speaking comforting (he hoped) words, and maybe even showing off a bit was the point. The vine began to thin out towards the far wall and he wasn’t sure it would support him if he kept going, so he dropped his feet, hung two meters or so off the floor, and dropped.
He landed in a dense thicket of leaves that had definitely not been there when he’d let go. Normally he’d’ve protested, he could handle a drop of a few meters without a cushion no problem, but that wasn’t the point. “All right. We’ve established that you’re aware of my presence.” It was a good start. “If you want to talk, you can, but you don’t have to. Just focus on my voice, feel my hands. Stay present, stay here.”
He began to trace another vine across the floor.
As he continued his tracings, the climbs up the walls had gotten easier as the vines snaked themselves into ladders. The climbs across the ceilings had been complemented by an increasingly bushy floor. And Aprevalii covered less and less surface area of the room as he bunched together. This time when he dropped down he was caught in arms as Aprevalii consolidated himself into a more-or-less humanoid form.
Simeon said nothing as the vines wrapped around him, holding him snug to the affini’s body. The vines stroked and held him. It felt wonderful, better than it had before. He was sure he wasn’t literally feeling the sap flowing throw the vines, couldn’t literally hear the biorhythms that made Aprevalii what he was, but for a moment he was lost in a sense of communion with the plant, of being part of him, of being him. And then it was gone and he thought it must have been a dream.
I thought you’d hate me.” Aprevalii’s comment was sudden, unprompted, at least as far as Simeon could tell.
Because you injected me with hrevl ichor? I know you didn’t do it on purpose.” He was mad at Marigold for insisting domestication was the only appropriate response to his newfound condition, but his feelings towards Aprevalii were… he didn’t have a word for it. Not exactly pity or sympathy, not exactly anger, not exactly relief. Some combination that he’d never needed a word for until now. But he didn’t hate Aprevalii. As far as he knew, he didn’t hate anyone.
Not hating had taken work. A childhood and early adulthood of constant misgendering by family members and teachers, of binding in secret and pretending he just had small breasts, of records that insistently deadnamed him. And then after a few wonderful years with Nerys, a bunch of plants had invaded and taken her away too. And then they kept calling him “cute.” But he’d made his peace with that, at least as much as he could.
Probisium said that you’re going to be domesticated, I know you don’t want that.”
He didn’t. “They don’t need to. They have perfectly good blood monitors that can do the job. I don’t need someone to look after me.”
Aprevalii loosened his grip on Simeon, but he didn’t wriggle out of the grasp. He stayed where he was.
I haven’t had a floret since Sephal. They tried to foist some on me when I was rescued, said they’d be good for me, but I couldn’t do it. It hurt too much.”
Simeon nodded. They’d discussed this before, but it was good for Aprevalii to talk about it.
For a long time I could barely take care of myself, let alone someone else. And I didn’t want to risk hurting some cute sophont by adopting them and then not knowing what to do. And even now…”
Even now you don’t know that you’d be up to it? Do you want a floret?” He knew Aprevalii hadn’t before the accident. The vines began to hold him tighter again.
Simeon, I…. If I had a floret it would need to be one that understood me, that didn’t need someone to brush their teeth for them, that didn’t need constant affection from me, who could… could support me when I need it.”
Simeon began to see where this was going.
If I had a floret, they’d need to be able to support me just as much I supported them. Maybe moreso. It wouldn’t be a one-way street with me caring for them and providing an idyllic life without challenges or problems in exchange. I am a challenge, often.
I don’t want ‘a floret,’ Simeon. I want you.”

Mats didn’t notice when Simeon entered the room. Or when he said, “Hello, Mats.” Or when he sat down next to Mats.
Liliac, can you… wake him up? Or take him out of whatever he’s in?”
Oh, yes,” Liliac clasped her hands. “The trigger phrase is ‘my esteemed colleague—and frequent critic.’ ”
Mats jolted upright. “Rosewood is not my colleague. We’re not… we’re not just not in the same league, we aren’t playing the same sport! I thought her ideas about Shakespeare were untenable and reflected a complete lack of knowledge of ancient terran history, but they have nothing on her, her… I’m not allowed to say that word, am I?”
Liliac beamed. “We’ve been working on his language. ‘Good pets don’t say rude words.’ I’m very proud of him,” she told Simeon.
Mats preened. “I’m going to be the best pet.”
Nerys growled. “The trophy stays in my room, doesn’t it Mistress?”
Nerys, Mats, I’ve told you both. There is no ‘best pet’ trophy,” Liliac sighed. “And if there were you’d both get one.”
But Nerys has a trophy!” Mats whined.
From the cute pet pageant, which you refused to enter.” This appeared to be a recurrent argument.
I was busy and pageants are dumb!”
Mats, Nerys. Good pets don’t repeat fights they had last week.”
Yes, Mistress.”
Yes, Liliac.”
Liliac turned to Simeon, “We’ve had this fight at least once a week ever since she won that pageant. It’s not just Mats who gets jealous; all my cuties got upset. I’ll probably have to get trophies for all of them, but honestly—” she knelt down and whispered “the fights are kind of adorable.
Anyway, Mats, Simeon’s here to talk about your translation of Aprevalii’s book.”
Mats’ attention instantly shifted. “Yes!” he said and pulled out a book from a desk drawer, then began swapping his finger across the desktop screen. “Oh, this was really interesting,” he told Simeon. “Really sad, too, but definitely interesting.” He opened the book and leafed through the pages. “So look here,” he said, pointing to a page. “Aprevalii followed the normal academic convention of parallel language to prevent obscurity--”
Sorry, what?”
Oh, so I’m sure you know that Affini isn’t so much a language as a family of languages.”
Simeon hadn’t, but decided not to voice his ignorance.
And that means that an ordinary document written ‘in Affini’ won’t necessarily be intelligible to a sophont from a different galaxy, or even solar system or planet, in the Compact. This was a problem terran academics had on Earth as well, on a much smaller scale. In ancient Terra they solved this by using a dead language.”
The infodumping wasn’t going to stop.
Affini academics do something similar. Academic texts are generally written Post-Traditional Affini Aleph, but even though PTA-A is technically a dead language, there are still regional differences in how it gets used as you move through Affini space. So we compensate by writing the same text directly underneath it in Post-Traditional Affini Beth. And while you might expect PTA-A and PTA-B to be closely related languages, it’s something of a misnomer. PTA-A stems from Coriv domestication while PTA-B was first used during the Sleshak domestication, and obviously at that point you’re talking about an extremely large divergence.”
Obviously.” He was pretty sure he understood what Mats had just said.
But even then, there’s a potential for meaning to be lost, since no one speaks PTA of any variety as their vernacular. So we further compensate by writing the same text in whatever the local Affini vernacular is. Then you bracket the lines of text together to indicate that they should be read in parallel rather than one after the other. Affini can read multiple lines of text simultaneously and synthesize the meaning, which most other sophonts can’t.” Mats smirked. “I can.”
Nerys interrupted. “Because Liliac gives you drugs!”
Yeah, but most sophonts couldn’t do it even with the xenodrugs.
So, sometimes if an academic is worried about their work being misinterpreted or just thinks it’s really really important that they get things wrong, they might do a fourth line in some other Affini dialect, maybe a fifth.” He traced a bracket on the page. “Aprevalii was so concerned with making sure sophonts understood him that he used twelve. In one chapter he uses twenty. He didn’t want the hrevl to be forgotten, but it may have backfired. Even for an affini, synthesizing twelve lines of text at once is a challenge.
And you might be thinking, because I know I did, ‘Maybe the convention in ethnography is different.’ But I checked and ethnographers use the same three-language convention as everyone else, even in his other papers Aprevalii almost never even uses four lines. This was different. This mattered to him in a way nothing else he wrote did, not even his thesis. Which by the way was brilliant and I need to show Heyacith.
And this,” he pointed to the book, his voice growing more somber and less excited, “is almost all that’s left of the hrevl. The ketalec burned their libraries and all the literature, all the poetry, all the plays are lost forever. It’s horrible. They didn’t just wipe out the species, they wiped out the possibility of remembering them properly. All we have is Aprevalii’s book, and as he says in his introduction, that doesn’t even capture one-tenth of one percent of what the hrevl were, and nothing of what they might have been.
So once we print it out, my translation will look considerably shorter than this,” he hefted the tome “and some of the nuance is lost, but you’ll know the basics of what he went through. It’s not floret-safe, but I don’t think you’re on that restriction like most florets are.”
I’m not a floret!” Simeon protested. “I’m considering becoming Aprevalii’s floret. Maybe. And what’s ‘floret-safe’?”
Liliac took over. “A lot of xeno art and literature is distressing to cute pets, so we take out the bad parts and make it cuter.”
Mats interrupted. “They gave Romeo and Juliet a happy ending! It was the worst crime against humanity in all of history! Well, unless you count what they did to King Lear, but Liliac did something to my memory after I read the floret-safe version so I don’t actually know how bad that was!”
Liliac nodded. “He was very upset. I don’t let him read or watch floret-safe materials anymore. Not good for him. Part of being a good owner is knowing when the usual rules don’t work. And for a cutie like Mats, sometimes apparently the more distressing versions are better? I have to admit that I don’t really get it, but that’s my Mats for you.” She turned to him. “Always a new surprise!”
Mats beamed. “Liliac’s so good to me. She’s the best owner. I mean, I’m sure Aprevalii will be fine but…” He frowned, clearly doubting that any affini other than Liliac could be an acceptable owner.
You volunteered for domestication, right?” Simeon asked.
Mats nodded vigorously. “I was sick of worrying about food and sleep and clothes and all that other…. Sorry, ‘good pets don’t say rude words.’ Now Liliac takes care of all that for me and I can focus on stuff that actually matters. Can you believe I used to have to brush my own teeth? I forgot about it most nights and my teeth were awful, or at least that’s what everyone said.”
Simeon shuddered at the thought of having someone else brush his teeth for him. “And what do you do for Liliac?”
Mats beamed. “I’m adorable.”
That’s all. I’m very cute and Liliac cuddles me and takes care of me and I get to write my papers and books and she tells me I’m very cute and very smart.”
A vine snaked out from Liliac’s core, twirled itself around Mats, and pulled him snug to her. He shrieked, but the look on his face as Liliac held and stroked him… it was a look he remembered from his own face, and one he hadn’t had in years.
Nerys used to tie him up whenever they cuddled so he’d remember that she decided when cuddles happened; she got to set the terms for them. Sometimes he might have an arm free, his mouth might or might not be gagged, he might or might not be blindfolded. He never knew exactly what cuddles would entail beyond that Nerys would keep him safe while she held him.
But it also reaffirmed what he’d heard from other florets and affini. They didn’t exactly need their florets; a floret’s “job” was to be cute (ugh) and guided by a loving caretaker into the best version of themselves. Aprevalii, of course, would need quite a bit more than that from him and respected that he didn’t like to be called “cute.” If he agreed. If he didn’t…
Actually, Liliac might know the answer to that question. He turned to her. “Liliac, if I refuse voluntary domestication, can they make me do it anyway?”
She considered. “Probably not, if you can prove you can keep yourself monitored. But it really would be difficult to do that. Domestication is a much better arrangement. Besides, with you being so cute I can’t imagine you not eventually becoming a pet.”
Simeon didn’t find that particularly reassuring.
“Why does everyone keep saying I’m cute?”
Mats spoke up. “Because they think you’d be a good pet. It’s a compliment.”
“And pets have to be cute?”
This clearly caught Mats’s interest. “I mean, yes? So let’s take Valesh Affini as our example, but it proves true in most dialects. The word for ‘pet’ in Valesh Affini, if we’re talking about the modern dialect and not the original form used during the domestication, is ‘akjeć’ (or ‘akjech’ if you’re using the double-masculine form). ‘Cute’ is ‘takjeć,’ ‘makjeć,’ or ‘sakjjech’ where the t- prefix for double-feminine, the m- prefix for most genders, and the s- prefix for double-masculine indicates the transition of a noun to adjective or verb to adverb (although of course with double-masculine the j doubles unless it’s used as an object in a sentence in past perfect). The literal translation would be something along the lines of ‘petlike.’ And like I said, that tends to be the case in most dialects: the word translated as ‘cute’ is just the adjectival form of the word translated as ‘pet.’
“Now, obviously there are exceptions. In Gaeoi Affini the word for ‘pet’ is ‘lish’ while the word for ‘cute’ is ‘avé.’ Totally unrelated unless you accept Solialis’s theory that ‘avé’ is a loanword from Thatic Affini, but Solialis’s theory was significantly challenged by Reed’s argument that the Thatic domestication actually postdates the Gaeoi domestication, which admittedly sounds like a stretch until you remember that time dilation…”

The contract was in Affini because of course it was. Parts of it were translated, but significant sections were “not really that important, little one. The basics are all laid out for you and you don’t need to worry about every detail.” Simeon had actually managed to win the argument this time; the Affini respected the idea of informed consent, although possibly only because they thought it was adorable that a xeno—which meant “pet” which meant “cute”—would think he needed to actually try to understand the full domestication contract.
He still wasn’t sure about domestication; that was why he wanted to read the contract, but Aprevalii did need him, or at least someone like him.
His brother Yakov, firmly an independent Terran, had been incredulous. “You want to just give up being a person?”
Explaining everything in full would have taken too long. “I spent a long time being an ‘it’ in the Accord,” he’d reminded his brother. “A lot of people barely thought I was a person to begin with. And it’s not like I’d be losing much; the difference between being an independent Terran and a domesticated one isn’t all that big.”
Yakov had taken (another) drink. “But you’d be a slave!”
Simeon had thought of Nerys but didn’t say “Wouldn’t be the first time.” Yakov hadn’t really approved of that relationship either and, now he thought on it, on relatively similar grounds.
But now he had the contract, fully translated. A gazillion references to being “cute,” of course (he’d methodically crossed each one out); a very clear revocation of citizenship; an acknowledgment Aprevalii would have full control over, and responsibility for, his physiological and psychological needs and well-being; some amendments to the “standard” contract emphasizing that while he wasn’t required to perform his own basic self-care, he was expected to; a very long section on Aprevalii’s needs and Simeon’s own responsibilities in relation to them; a sub-clause where Aprevalii promised not to call him “cute” unless he did something “exceptionally petlike” (Simeon had scowled but left it in); an appendix on the effects hrvel ichor had on humans (mostly incomprehensible to Simeon even after being translated) and the necessary changes to the hausteric implant to accommodate its effects on affini biology (entirely incomprehensible); and then two spaces for his signatures. The first as Simeon Guilder, the second as Simeon Phores, Seventeenth Floret.
The only question now was whether to sign.

With many thanks to a bunch of beta-readers.

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