What Sunlight Tastes Like

Chapter 3

by Fallenlog

Tags: #asexual #Human_Domestication_Guide #scifi #sub:male #dom:the_inescapable_reach_of_the_affini_compact #m/m

Herschel woke up. Before reflecting on where exactly he was, or how clear his head felt, he marveled at being able to wake up as opposed to being woken up. When was the last time he’d slept in? He couldn’t remember the last time he had the luxury, and he decided to revel in it a little longer before he sought answers. 

It turned out that looking around the room brought more questions than answers. He was curled up in the largest bed he had ever seen, though it didn’t look out of place among all of the other similarly sized furniture. The realization hit him like a pallet of bricks. The explosion! The giant plant monster that took him-

“Good morning, little one.” Connifred entered the room with a serene air to him. Said serenity was disrupted a bit when he saw Herchel’s frightened demeanor. Of course! It must have been time for the next dose of his xenodrugs. Connifred’s serene air was back in full force as he readied an injector and approached. 

“Wait!” Herschel pleaded, looking up at Connifred with misty eyes. Visibly relieved by the injector’s perfectly frozen position, Herschel took a breath and continued. “Can we talk?”

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Seated at the kitchen table with an approximation of what he assumed was oatmeal, Herschel looked at the affini seated directly across from him. “Apologies about the improperly-sized furniture. I wasn’t expecting to get a floret of my own so quickly…” said Connifred as he placed both hands on the table in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture. “What would you like to talk about?” 

What would I like to talk about? Where do I even start! Herschel figured he’d get the big stuff out of the way first, “You keep referring to me as a ‘floret’, what does that mean?” He sought to match the affini’s posture and hand placement like he’d been taught at so many self-help seminars. This backfired spectacularly when he remembered the recent loss of his right arm

Connifred’s answer pulled him out of the start of his miniature anxiety spiral. “A floret is a sentient being under the care of a specific affini. We affini treasure our florets more than anything, and see to it that their needs are met and their lives are as comfortable and fulfilling as possible.” 

Herschel knew a scam when he heard it, and gently pushed back. “That doesn’t seem fair. What does the affini get out of it?”

The affini’s response surprised him. Connifred laughed, his whole body rustling with delight. “Ah! Sapling, that’s a good one!” The rustling died down a bit when he realized his floret wasn’t laughing.

“Oh. You were serious.” Connifred resumed his professional demeanor. “Allow me to elaborate.” 

“The Affini Compact’s mission is to uplift the sentient life of the universe. We seek out new civilizations and see to it that their needs are met and their maladapted practices are stopped.” Herschel raised an eyebrow and spoke up. “Maladapted practices?”

Connifred nodded and continued. “Harmful activities. War, environmental devastation, exploitation, capitalism.” He looked Herschel squarely in the face when he said that last bit. 

Herschel avoided his gaze and looked down at his breakfast. He couldn’t really argue on behalf of the “progress” the Terran Accord had made over the millenia. Connifred put a hand on his shoulder reassuringly. “Don’t fret, little one. Every civilization has its vices. What matters now is what happens moving forward. This is a new beginning for your species, and more importantly, for yourself.”

Herschel took a few bites of his breakfast- "dang, that’s good"- and followed up with Connifred. “You didn’t answer the question though. I asked what you personally get out of this… arrangement.” Connifred tilted his head and replied “are you unfamiliar with the practice of domestication for companionship purposes?” Herschel’s face scrunched up a bit as he replied, “What, like a cat or a dog?” 

Connifred smiled and nodded. “In terms of keeping a domesticated animal for non-work purposes, sure.” Herschel paled a bit and muttered to himself, “But I’m a human being…” 

Unable to help himself, Connifred got up and surrounded his floret in a gentle hug and spoke softly. “And you’re my human being. Please know how much you are treasured, little one.”

It was all too much. Tears fell down Herschel’s face as he leaned into the hug. It went against everything he’d been taught about being a “free terran”, but he didn’t have the strength to think about that right now. He felt a small prick in his forearm followed by a wave of calm that he didn’t bother protesting.

Everything felt wonderful. Herschel floated in bliss somewhere far away. Strange muted shapes played across his vision, and he could hear melodic voices saying something unintelligible in the distance. Things started coming into focus; the large shape obscuring much of his vision was revealed to be the smiling face of an Affini. He smiled back and gave an incredibly slurred “Hi there.” 

Suddenly the voices had bodies attached to them. Numerous affini stood around his bed, their unintelligible sounds switching to the Terran language he was familiar with. “He should be ready to go within the hour.” Yellow Leaves said. “Be careful with him, he’s still pretty blissed out.” Purple Rose Bush told Pine Tree, the one standing over him. 

Pine Tree took his left hand and spoke to him. “Hello sapling, my name is Connifred Myrtales Third Bloom. You’re going to come with me, alright?” Herschel responded dreamily, “Sure, that’s fine.” Purple Rose Bush gave the affini he now knew as Connifred a nudge. Connifred nodded and resumed speaking. “You’re completely safe and you’re going to be fine.” “Good news.” Herschel murmured. 

“But you’re a little different now-” Purple Rose Bush cut Connifred short and got straight to the point. “You’ve lost the entirety of your right arm.” Connifred cringed at blunt explanation and held Herschel’s left hand tighter. Herschel looked down at his heavily bandaged torso and noted the absence of the arm in question. He mumbled out an “Oh, that’s not good” in the same way one may lament running out of biscuits or other trivial things. “M-mames Herschel by the way. Herschel Goldbaa…” His speech devolved into nonsense from there. 

Purple Rose Bush directed her speech back at Connifred. “The amputation site should be significantly better in a few hours. Until then, take it easy with him and contact us if anything comes up.” Connifred nodded and gently picked up his new floret, whose eyes lazily gazed up into his own. Gone was the fear that filled them during their first encounter, having now been replaced by an unfocused dreamy stare.  

Outfitting the hab unit with more terran-accessible furniture and appliances filled Connifred with a sense of satisfaction that ranked somewhere between making the perfect checkmark on a form, and starting a new book. Come to think of it, that last one sounded pretty good right now. Grabbing one of the books from the unread portion of his bookshelf, he settled onto the couch next to his soozing floret and began to read. 

Consciousness crept back to Herschel at a leisurely pace. He had a big ask for his affini caretaker, and wanted to be as lucid as possible when he got around to asking it. For the moment, laying on the couch next to a plant monster engrossed in a book was a fine way to spend the day. 

One of the affini’s tendrils stroked his back lazily, moving to an almost imperceptible song. “Song” was the best word for it, the intangible presence that exuded from Connifred. Was it a heartbeat? His breathing? Did alien plant creatures even breathe in the first place? Herschel supposed the best way to know was to just ask. He spoke softly but clearly, “Connifred?”

“Yes, sapling?” The affini’s gentle ministrations paused for a moment as Herschel sat up a bit, meeting his gaze. Herschel took a deep breath before continuing. “I don’t like that you keep drugging me” his body stiffened after saying his piece. Connifred closed his book before replying. 

“I need to give you something for the pain. Our medicine is good, but you’ve got a lot of healing to do.” His floret looked down, drumming his fingers against the couch. Clearly he had more to say. Connifred reached down and gently tilted his head back up to meet his gaze once more. His floret swallowed before speaking again. 

“I can understand that part of it. I just don’t like how it messes with my head.” Connifred rustled in a way reminiscent of a furrowed brow as he replied. “Are you having an adverse reaction to the xenodrugs? Dizziness, loss of vision?”

“No no, nothing like that.” Connifred visibly relaxed as Herschel continued. “I don’t like how they make my mind fuzzy. I want to be alert, able to react to things properly. I need to stay sharp.”  

“I didn’t realize this was causing you such distress. I’ll see what I can do about adjusting those elements of your treatment.” Seeing his floret let out a sigh of relief was adorable. Taking a more jovial tone, he continued “Though I must disagree with you about your perceived need to be sharp.” 

Herschel narrowed his eyes in a playful manner. “Connifred, you’re literally covered in needles.” The evergreen affini let out a full-bodied guffaw, his vines and leaves (fir needles included) shaking with laughter. His floret didn’t bother trying to stifle his grin. 

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