VII. T63.791S: Toxic effect of contact with other venomous plant, accidental (unintentional), sequela

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

Simeon knew Nerys still loved him. He knew it from her affectionate hugs every time they met. He knew it from the paintings she still sent him. He knew it from hours spent with her after she was domesticated. He knew it because she had insisted to Liliac that they find Simeon after she was domesticated. But most of all he knew it because right here, right now, when he was facing one of the biggest questions of his life, she was stone-cold sober for the first time since they’d reunited.
Being Mistress’s pet really is the best thing that ever happened to me,” she assured Simeon, not for the first time. “And I know the brochures and shit talk about how you don’t have to worry about your own needs or self-care or anything because your owner takes care of it all for you, but really the best thing is the love.”
You can have love without surrendering your political rights. I still had those when I was yours, for all they were worth.” He grimaced. Their political rights in the Terran Accord hadn’t been worth much.
Nerys shook her head. “No, I don’t think you can. The way I loved you and you loved me, there are similarities to me and Mistress, but they aren’t the same. Being a floret isn’t a total power exchange—I mean, it is, it’s exactly that, but it’s more… the submission is more total than what one human can give another, and that means the dominance is too, and the result… I’m not an extension of Mistress, but I’m also not separate from her. We aren’t two distinct entities even though we’re definitely not one. Not a gestalt but not…”
Simeon nodded, “A synthesis? Something greater than the sum of its parts?”
She nodded. “Yes, exactly! And without the xenodrugs, without the implant, I don’t think my relationship with Mistress would be all that different from what yours was to me. But there are xenodrugs and I do have the implant. That wasn’t an option in the Accord and to be honest it shouldn’t have been. Terrans can’t handle that kind of power.”
Simeon grimaced again. “And what, the affini can? They’re somehow immune to the corrupting nature of power?”
Nerys’s brow furrowed. “Yes?”
Just like that?”
Nerys appeared lost in thought for a moment. “I think it might come down to biology. The affini evolved to have florets; they needed them for reproduction. And the florets thrived best when they had no autonomy, but also were happy, healthy, and content; the affini who took good care of their florets did better at reproduction. For them, power is about maximizing wellbeing to create the best environment possible for them: for the affini, enlightened self-interest works.”
It was Simeon’s turn to be lost in thought. “You do know that even by my standards, evolutionary psychology is bullshit? You can’t just evolve to be guaranteed to always be good.”
Nerys frowned. “I don’t think they’re always good. I think they always seek their own self-interest, but they’re aware that maximizing their self-interest requires a world where suffering is minimal. Affini can get it wrong, they can make mistakes, but deliberately harming a sophont when it was at all avoidable? No, I don’t think they can do that.”
Okay, but suppose Liliac did mistreat you?” He leaned forward. “Suppose she deliberately hurt you—and not in a fun way, I mean.”
Nerys was still frowning. “She couldn’t.”
Because she’s incapable of harming you or because by definition anything she does to you isn’t harm?”
Simeon,” Nerys looked concerned. “Do you think Aprevalii would ever hurt you?”
That’s not the point!”
Actually, it is. You didn’t ask me to come over for a philosophical discussion of affini nature, you asked me to come over to discuss becoming Aprevalii’s floret. The second is a conversation I’m happy to have sober, I want to have sober. If we’re gonna talk philosophy I’m breaking out the xenodrugs.” She pulled a small black box from her bag.
Simeon took it from her and put it back in the bag. “Okay, you’re right. What matters is me and Aprevalii. So… are there any cons to domestication, as you see it?”
Other than not living with you?”
Simeon blushed. “Stop that.”

Simeon didn’t know how Aprevalii had convinced Mats to investigate whether he actually could refuse domestication, but he had and Mats had tapped into a network of scholars that spanned the Local Group to find someone with the appropriate expertise.
The letter was from [unrecognizable symbols], One Hundred Forty-Eighth Bloom as translated and excessively extensively annotated by Mats Syringa, Twenty-Third Floret.
Dear Simeon,1
Your question2 was very intriguing.3 As a free,4 non-feralist sophont you would normally have the right to refuse involuntary5 domestication,6 but health concerns7 are grounds for involuntary domestication under certain conditions.8 Your case is unique9 in that it involves hrevl ichor, but the basic facts resemble [unrecognizable symbols]’s Petition 827-623-452-991. They10 did end up being authorized11 non-domestication, but unsurprisingly12 chose13 it anyway due to the many benefits. I believe your case is similar enough14 that you almost certainly15 are allowed to refuse involuntary domestication, but I urge16 you to consider the case of [unrecognizable symbols] and opt17 for domestication.
Sincerely yours,18
[unrecognizable symbols], One Hundred Forty-Eighth Bloom
1 It doesn’t actually say “Dear Simeon,” because [unrecognizable symbols] isn’t from a culture that puts salutations in its epistles, but I thought this would make you more comfortable.
2 “Question” is a really imprecise translation. I’ve used the word to make it easier to read, but a more accurate translation would be “Academic query regarding a floret.”
3 You won’t like this, but she did use the form of the word that implies cuteness.
4 “Free” has a positive connotation in our language, but the Affini word is at best connotatively neutral.
5 Inversely, the Affini word translated as “involuntary” has positive connotations.
6 Literally, “process for making cute sophont safe,” sorry.
7 Literally “physical/biological problem that makes cute sophont sad”; it’s almost impossible to talk about non-affini sophonts in this dialect without invoking cuteness. I don’t think she chose the dialect because of that, but you never know.
8 The wording implies that [unrecognizable symbols] finds those conditions fascinating and is grateful to you for allowing her to write about them.
9 Possibly better translated as “singular” or “statistically improbable.”
10 “They” is the appropriate pronoun not only for gender-neutrality purposes, but also because Plisriqs are inherently plural.
11 Literally, “allowed even though it was a bad idea.”
12 Literally, “unsurprisingly and adorably.”
13 The word “choose” is neutral-to-positive. The Affini word is positively connotated only because [unrecognizable symbols] agrees with it.
14 The phrasing suggests that the writer is distressed that multiple cute sophonts had to undergo the situation.
15 Carries a strong suggestion that the writer is unhappy with this state of affairs.
16 An extremely strong word. “Urge, plead, exhort, and beg” would convey the meaning more effectively, but that seemed a bit long.
17 Literally, “choose correctly.”
18 I’ll spare you the exact details, but the actual wording is a paragraph-long gush about how cute you are.

It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that he’d been poisoned with hrevl ichor and it wasn’t fair that apart from Nerys his friends and family were either enthusiastically pro-domestication or rabidly opposed to it. It wasn’t fair that Aprevalii was the candidate for his owner.
Would you want me as a floret if I hadn’t been poisoned?” he asked.
Aprevalii considered. “I had florets before Sephal, sixteen of them over eight blooms. It was… nice, but that isn’t the right word, but I don’t think I really got the point of florets before Sephal. The others were… cute sophonts I took care of and cuddled and fawned over. I acquired them because they satisfied a basic bio-psycho-sociological need, and I loved them, but it was… I loved them because they were my florets; they weren’t my florets because I loved them.
Sephal was cute, of course, they were adorable, but that wasn’t why I wanted them. The universe looked different when I looked at it with Sephal. More complex and confusing in some ways, but friendlier and more comforting in others. I could spend hours talking with them, cuddling them… we always wanted to try xenodrugs but were worried about ichor-xenodrug interactions… I’m an ethnographer, not a veterinarian or biochemist… xenos would have been dangerous.
I wanted Sephal to be mine in a possessive way I’d never had for any other sophont, I wanted them to be in my control so I could know for certain, every second of every day, that they were happy and fulfilled. I wanted to help them find ways of self-actualizing that they couldn’t do without me. I wanted them to need me, to rely on me… I wanted to consume them until they were part of me.”
Aprevalii was going to start ruminating soon; he’d watched the plant long enough to know the signs. “Stay with me, Aprevalii. Focus on me, on the present. What do you see?”
Aprevalii collected himself. “I see you, Simeon.”
I’m not Sephal.” That wasn’t the therapeutic thing to say and he didn’t know why he’d said it. Except that it was suddenly very important to him that he wasn’t Sephal; he wasn’t the hrevl sophont Aprevalii had loved.
Aprevalii seemed to understand. “I don’t think you’d fill the hole in my core that Sephal left. I don’t even know if I want that hole filled. And I don’t love you the way I loved Sephal.
But there are similarities. Sephal showed me the universe in a new way. A lot of it was scientifically unsound and my colleagues would have dismissed it as superstition… which it probably was. You show me me in new ways…”
Simeon grimaced. “That are scientifically unsound and your colleagues would dismiss as superstition?”
Not to put too fine a point on it.” The plant seemed chagrined. “Ever since I left Astasheth no one’s been able to help me beyond making sure that I was still functional. We don’t have therapy the way you did because most of us don’t need it, we have medications to take care of the biological problems and a society that doesn’t breed the environmental ones. Or at least not the ones I have.”
A pause. A vine reached out. “May I hold you?”
Simeon slipped into the hug. It was almost second nature by now.
A few months ago you saw me and you knew what was wrong. To you, it was familiar. And you responded the way you spent… however long it was… training to respond. You didn’t see me as an affini, either a glorious liberator or a tyrannical oppressor… you saw me. And I don’t think any non-affini sophont has just seen me since Sephal.”
The vine tightened around his waist and chest; another was combing his hair. He relaxed into the pampering. That part he could get used to… as long as he still brushed his own teeth.
Aprevalii shifted. “But what about you? Would you want to be my floret if you weren’t being pressured into it by…”
The entire goddamned Affini Compact?”
Well, yes. I’m pretty sure you could refuse though.” He didn’t sound enthused by the prospect.
I’d say ‘no,’ but I’ve been exposed to your biorhythms for awhile. I assume that would have done something to me even without the poisoning. Nerys had a lot to say about the dangers of spending time around affini… I definitely think she and Mats are right that Liliac planned for us to biochemically bond without realizing it.”
The vine loosened and Simeon slipped out. “I should have realized it too. You don’t just tell an affini and a non-affini to live together if… I should never have agreed to let you live with me.”
And I should have done my research. But you were hurt and when Liliac wants things to happen, they happen.”
Aprevalii chuckled. “Oh stars, you have no idea how true that is. She’s personally responsible for several domestications even though she’s never held a position with the sort of authority to decide what species to domesticate next. And I’m pretty sure she also convinced Grelis to build the Dyson sphere around Velaxaq. It’s not like Velaxaq needed a Dyson sphere.”
He turned back to Simeon. “But you do feel pressured into this. By your own biology as well as the Compact.”
It wasn’t a question, but Simeon nodded. “If it weren’t so… irrevocable and absolute I think I’d probably have given in to the pressure. But completely signing away… everything… I spent a lot of time establishing myself… Nerys and I may have had a total power exchange, but it wasn’t backed up by the force of law. I was allowed to leave. And Nerys wasn’t drugging me into not wanting to. And she didn’t have biorhythms for me to attune to.”
There are ways of deacclimating someone from the biorhythms if you want to try to break the connection off. And even if you do choose” (Simeon thought of Mats’s translation of the letter and wondered what the word would connote if Aprevalii were speaking Affini) “domestication it’s not at all certain that you’d actually be getting xenodrugs; it’s quite possible that the implant will only be able to regulate the hrevl ichor. Xenodrugs interact weirdly with hrevl ichor in any case and I’m not sure I’d want to risk it.
And domestication isn’t irreversible. There are forms to voluntarily terminate domestication. They aren’t used much, but they do exist. There’s actually a fascinating case study from a domestication about a thousand years ago that still gets cited in the literature on floret cultures.”
Simeon stopped. “Wait, what?”
Aprevalii grinned. “Ethnographers. If we aren’t out in the remote regions of space documenting newly-domesticated sophonts we’re doing work on the Compact. There are a lot of ethnographers doing fascinating work in the core systems. You don’t have to go the margins to do fieldwork. Although I can’t imagine why anyone who could wouldn’t. The core systems are…”
Simeon watched as Aprevalii’s vines started to twist in on themselves.
Something you’re better off not thinking about right now?”
Yes, definitely.”
Okay, stay with me then. Deep breaths.”
Aprevalii relaxed.
The last gear clicked in place. Simeon hadn’t realized gears had been clicking into place, but there they were, all perfectly aligned. Aprevalii needed him. Aprevalii wanted him. And while his choice wasn’t uncoerced, it wasn’t Aprevalii doing the coercion. Aprevalii, the only sophont who actually had a motivation for coercing Simeon other than “but you’re so cute, dear.” He was going to sign the contract. He was going to be Aprevalii’s. And, oh fuck, he was in love.

See In Which Mats Reads Contraband Literature to find out how Aprevalii got Mats to find a legal scholar. The paragraph-long gush about how cute Simeon is will be posted shortly.

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