2 - Deciduous

by Fluxom

Tags: #cw:gore #cw:noncon #D/s #drugs #f/f #graphic_violence #hurt/comfort #scifi #accidental_conditioning #anxiety #blood #depression #disassociation #dom:female #dom:internalized_imperialism #dom:plant #Human_Domestication_Guide #medical_play #mindbreak #paranoia #self_care_is_over_were_doing_drugs_now #self_harm #self_harm_is_over_were_still_doing_drugs #sub:female #xenophobia
See spoiler tags : #awake_surgery #parasite/symbiote #plant_vampirism #sadomasochism #torture

BIG CONTENT WARNING for attempted suicide in this chapter, with slightly less big but also important CWs for this being a slow_burn fic now I guess

Everything from this chapter forward takes place between the main body of ch1 and it's epilogue and is entirely the result of ongoing gay fugue running away with me. Enjoy the dorks.

Solanum Vitis was wilting.
In the last 80 years her leaves had lost their lustre, her eyes had gone dull, and all the energy in her soul had been slowly worn down by the empty monotony of her life. The pain came in waves. Some days she would feel almost as if she would recover. Like everything had finally faded away into time and she was free. Then, slowly, all of it would rise up around her once more. Until every memory felt as if it'd drown her mind in sorrow, and every echo she heard of times past was another knife stabbing through her. Again and again and again again the waves came and left and the pain rose and fell again and again and again and again.
Solanum Vitis was hunched over her desk, her face planted down against it and her arms hanging limply at her side. Paperwork surrounded her, then stacks of books that reached up to her hips. Reading was one of the few things that she still found a modicum of joy in, even if she was down to sifting through scholarly articles. Upon the paper and the books and the floor and the window and the shelves and the chairs and the desk were her leaves. Gone red and yellow, dried at the edges, and falling off of her with every movement she made.
Solanum didn't want to admit it to herself, but she was depressed as all dirt, and lonely to boot. Her colleagues had attempted to help her many times by suggesting she go on a variety of vacations, or take a new pet, or find a new career. But as the years went on the suggestions became more half-hearted, more rare, then slowly stopped entirely. Now they just looked at her with a touch of pity for the dying. Not that she noticed anymore.
In fact, if it weren't for the fact that she was the most well read on human medicine and psychology on the station she would probably be left alone entirely until the wilting finally took her away from this universe. But as it was, she was still needed and the rest of the affini still saw her skulking the halls like a dying tumbleweed. Especially as of late, as an Affini ship had recently captured the rebel ship Verdant Dawn, engulfed it, and then docked at this station to drop off the assortment of new human captures before departing on another wild chase. That left her with enough extra work that for about an hour she almost felt like she had meaning and then for about five hours she almost felt like she had the energy to keep pretending she had meaning. Then she collapsed on her desk and wallowed in the feeling of purposelessness and the knowledge that even if she did nothing everything would be taken care of anyway for about six more hours. It wasn't until a familiar knock at her door finally roused her enough to look up that she even moved an inch.
"Solanum, we have a problem." Exima poked their head in, awkwardly balled up in nervousness.
Solanum lazily lifted her head from the stacks of folders on her desk, paying little attention to how they scattered about around her. "And?"
"It's about the recent capture. All the rebels are already tidied off and ready to go, but," Exima paused, vines tapping together. "Well, see, the last one,"
"Out with it." Solanum didn't have the energy or patience for word games.
"We thought she'd be compliant since she was a willing surrender, so we took her to the medical stations for a checkup and to rest for a bit. But… once sobered up properly she started panicking again and attempted self-destruction."
Solanum cursed inwardly as she stood up. Emergencies always got a bit of the sap flowing again, at least. "Details, now."
The pair of affini paced quickly down the halls together, past the bustling bodies of other affini busily sorting through the mess this whole transfer had given them. "When she woke up she was fine for about," Exima looked down to a pair of earth watched they had on her wrist to remind themself how time was measured here. "Two minutes? But after that she started rambling about her actions before she devolved into screaming. Apparently she thought we were going to eat her? Then she grabbed a pen and used it to stab herself repeatedly. The attending nurse was able to disarm her but then she used her teeth to try to bite her own-" Exima paused. They were struggling to get through the gruesome details.
Sol shifted the topic. "File?" She held out her hand, and Exima passed over a thin file.
"Human, rebel fleet, comms engineer, we identified her being malnourished and suffering from extended living in microgravity and-" Exima kept talking, but Sol didn't hear a word. She had flipped open to the woman's portrait and stopped flat. Incidentally, that ended up being good timing as she just missed the piles of bloody sheets and clothes being ferried past her.
Solanum had seen this one before. At the park in the station, splayed out on the ground and sighing in contentment. Sol stepped forward and tapped the wall to the woman's room, turning the observation window transparent. There she was. Restrained to the bed, muzzled, and covered in bandages, and sedated off her ass but the very same human nonetheless.
Sol flipped open the file and glanced through it quickly. Autumn Willow. Former navy comms engineer, was aboard the Verdant Dawn when the ship defected in response to the treaty- ah, there it is. Suffers from Paranoid Delusions, Depression, Anxiety, occasional bouts of hallucinations, the list went on. "You mentioned she thought we'd eat her?"
"She said a lot of things."
"Tell me all of them."
"We'd eat her, we were going to torture her, the earth government was going to find her and stab her, that the medical facilities were a front created by the terrans to interrogate her for betraying them. By the end she had convinced herself that the lights were actually laser weapons about to shoot her."
Textbook case. Great.
Solanum slipped a piece of paper out of the file and handed it to Exima. "Go to a human pharmacy and get these filled out ASAP. Make sure they use tamper proof seals, too." Solanum grabbed one of Exima's vines as they turned to leave. "Also, hand it off to human nurse to deliver it to her room, please."
Exima shot her a quizzical look, but darted off anyway.
Now the hard part.
Solanum silently leaned against the door for a moment to prepare herself. She'd been fortunate enough to miss the gruesome part earlier, but that didn't change that she had no real way of knowing what to expect when the woman next awoke. That sort of uncertainty slithered through her and gnawed at her confidence to leave only discomfort in its wake. 
She much preferred when things were more predictable. When everyone could calmly talk things out and be honest, if not to themselves than at least to others. Like Streum had been. A puzzle, for sure, but one that had been willing to let her take them apart and learn all the ways their mind ticked.
She chuffed to herself. This wasn't the time.
Inside she found the woman still asleep, fortunately. Solanum busied herself with the simple points first. Double check all the information. Height, weight, build- oh dirt Sol could practically see her bones poking through thinned flesh. She silently underlined the note mentioning the subject was noticeably malnourished. Her blood readout indicated acute anemia, unsurprising given the circumstances. A transfusion bag had already been affixed. Good, at least humans understood that much about medicine.
Only once she was done checking all the machines did Solanum notice the human was awake. In the barest sense of it. Autumn's eyes were open and unfocused but pointed in her direction. She stared blankly for a long moment before understanding started to blossom across her face. Her hands began to clench and pull, which revealed the restraints tying her down. That elicited another weak attemot to squirm, which became a low hiss of air slipping out of her throat.
Solanum quickly backed up against the wall furthest from and held up her hands. "Shh, shh, it's okay, you're safe." She said as she backstepped to a chair in the corner and sat down. "I just needed to check you, I'll stay right over here now."
The human seemed more confused than relieved by that, but it was enough for her to not immediately implode again for now. Instead she started to lazily trace her vision across the room, only half-seeing things until her view settled on the tubes going into her arm. That set off another wave of tension for Solanum to intercept.
"Just a blood transfusion and some human sedatives to keep you calm, dear." Sol said, her voice even and direct. Autumn didn't seem entirely convinced, though. "Are you wondering if I spiked it?" She looked shocked, but slowly nodded. "Tampering with those would be unsanitary, wouldn't it?” That seemed to calm her down a little. Good, progress. Slight progress, but anything counts when it comes to these types. “Are you aware of your situation right now?”

Autumn silently glanced around the room some more, from Sol to her arms to the door then back again. “I’ve been captured?” She finally said, her voice frail.

“By the Affini Compact, yes. You were found on the rebel ship Verdant Dawn just a day and a half ago.” Her heart monitor picked up a sharp uptick in speed. “Normally, as per the Treaty on the Methods, Limitations, and Procedures for Human Domestication you’d be set aside for domestication already, however since you were a willing surrender we have a little more…” Solanum tilted her hand side to side, hoping that was the right gesture for the human to interpret. “Waggle room for deciding what to do with you.”

Autumn just looked confused again. This could be going worse. “...are you going to send me back?”

“Doubtful, considering your circumstances there would be a high risk of retaliation against you if you were to return to human space. The Affini Compact doesn’t allow death penalties, but the risk of unofficial action is too much. Our policy is to ensure life, comfort, and happiness and I imagine sending you to your death would not fit that.”

Autumn opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again as the words had died entirely in her throat. Then repeated that a few times before her sedated mind finally caught up to her tongue. “What’s going to happen to me?”

“We haven’t decided yet. For now though we just want to get you back to good health and sort out some information-” A knock on the door interrupted, which was followed shortly by a human poking their head in to hand off a small paper bag. “Speak of the deli, here are your prescriptions. Thank you.” Solanum gave the human a polite nod which was returned in kind before they left. “May I come closer to give them to you?”

Solanum could still see nervousness painted all over the poor human’s body. Her face was twisted between concern and exhaustion, and her heart monitor was still beeping erratically. Despite this, she still willed herself to nod slightly.

Sol would have sighed in relief were she not worried of spooking the human all over again. Instead, she attempted to maintain her calm demeanor as she rose up to her feet and strode up to stand beside Autumn. From the bag she produced a series of pill bottles, all still bearing the tamper proof seal from the human pharmacy they’d been ordered from, and placed them onto the tray attached to her medical bed. “Feel free to look these over. If you’re feeling up for it, I’d like for you to resume your old medication doses for now.” Autumn hadn’t had access to them for quite some time, that much was obvious from a review of the ship. By roots, she hadn’t even been able to eat properly!

Solanum had to stifle the immediate urge to slip a needle loaded with phytotoxins into the humans’ flesh and simply strip her resistance the old fashioned way. Sure, it’d be easier to force her to be compliant and bend to their drugs and their treatments.
Oh dirt, she’d fallen silent for a moment too long. Now the human was staring up at her. It’s confusion bled into nervousness. Sol had to intercept that quick.

“If you’d like, I can unstrap your hand for a moment so you can handle that yourself.” Sol added quickly, then even faster followed it up with, “I’ll have to stay here and reapply the cuff afterwards, though.” Why did she say all that? Risky offer, shouldn't have done it.

Autumn looked up at her. Stars why did she have to have pretty eyes. Please just take the pills already and not self-destruct all over again. Please, please, please- “Okay.” Solanum felt like she could practically flatten out with how much tension just left her. Good. That was good!! Solanum wasted no time in grabbing her a cup of water and unstrapping her hand. The human’s movements were clumsy and unfocused, but with Sol’s help she was able to strip open the pill bottles and take one from each.

To Sol’s surprise, Autumn proceeded to down the mass of pills all at once dry. Okay, that works. Terrifying, considering the supposed taste of some of these medicines though. Solanum smiled warmly down at her and thanked her for her co-operation as she led the woman’s hand back into the cuff.

“May I sleep some more now?” Her voice was just a dry whisper at that point.

“Of course, we’ll talk more tomorrow okay?” Solanum didn’t actually wait for a proper answer. She was filled with too much nervous tension herself right now. Instead she simply set aside the pill bottles onto the night stand, ensured the nurse call button was within the woman’s reach, and then scampered right out to immediately collapse into a nearby chair and deflate into a pile of vines and leaves that only vaguely resembled an Affini.

That went… well. Better than she’d hoped. The human seemed reasonable when she was sedated and anemic and restrained and- okay maybe the odds were in her favor that the human wouldn’t be completely horrific to herself in that moment. But she wasn’t screaming either! She dared a peek through the observation window to see the human was already fast asleep as well. Good. Very good. Solanum hoped that the next conversation would go just as well.

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