9 - Solanum Talks About Her Feelings

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

cw for discussion of death and grieving and honestly not being a particularly horny chapter this one

Solanum tapped the box awkwardly. “Do I really have to do this?” She whined, glancing over to see Autumn’s stern face staring back at her. Sod it. She had promised she’d have the talk, and she needed to keep her promises even if she didn’t want to. Solanum’s body curled inward on itself, tightening into a knot of anxiety as she lifted the edge of the box to reveal a veritable treasure trove of pictures hidden within. “Okay, fine, I’ll just, I’ll just start I guess.” Solanum felt a twinge of defeat paint her voice. “As you’ve accurately surmised, I’ve been depressed for some time.”

Autumn put a hand on her side for comfort, and Solanum hated that it worked. “I’ve had two pets in my past,” As she spoke, Solanum pulled a pair of photos from the top of the pile. Both depicted her with different aliens and in different formations to match them. “Pollyon and Streum. I-” Pause. Collect. One thought at a time. “Pollyon was given to me during my first bloom. I was studying medicine aboard the Araucaria, and they needed someone to grant him personal care. See, he was… sick. In a way. His own body had turned against him, rendered him weakened and injured internally. Our medicine could grant him peace and calm, but couldn’t replace every cell in his body, so...”

She was the only one available then, too. Lots of affini faces clustered together in conversation, debating points, options, ideas, then all silently turning to face Solanum in unison. She’d protested, asserted she wasn’t ready, wasn’t capable, wouldn’t be a good fit, and then ultimately caved once more. She took in Pollyon the next day.

“Truth be told, I never felt confident in what I was doing with Pollyon. I just… focused on keeping him happy and comfortable. I read everything I could on his species’ psychology and physiology. I tried to make sure he still got the chance to see as much of space on our journey as I could, I…” Solanum’s vines shivered. “I still feel like I could have done more. Should have.” She’d spent so long fretting over everything that she didn’t even realize she *actually cared* until he’d practically withered away to nothing.

She’d rebloomed in the middle of her time with Pollyon, and in so doing returned to the prime of her health while he declined. She considered their different chances a cruel cosmic joke to bless her while damning him at the same time. Solanum’s voice faltered over the memory, the distant echo of her body shifting and breaking apart and Pollyon- It was difficult to parse everything into words. So many feelings and memories all bundled together and bleeding over each other. To split into clean text and organize it into a linear concept, she… didn’t feel she could. “When he left,” She pressed on regardless. Just say what she could. “I felt as if something had ripped a hole out of me. It was strange, he’d held my hand and thanked me for giving him a good life but what kind of life had it even been? He was infirm! If it weren’t for the ichor I’d kept pumping in his veins he’d have been writhing in pain every day and- and- and I,” Solanum buried her face in her hands for a long silent moment, then slowly crept back up to an upright position. “Sorry, I guess it’s still raw. After he left the quality of my work sharply declined as I lost all energy to focus. I requested to leave the Araucaria and my wish was soon granted. Then I took a small personal craft and just… flew around aimlessly for a long time.”

It was a feeling somewhere between relief and despair to climb into a craft just barely large enough to house one affini, pick some random path out into space and hit the engines. She visited worlds one after another, charted paths between space stations on whimsy, lingered for a year at a time with species she’d never met and took in cultures she’d never before touched. “My travels were the kind of things that an adventure novel would be written about, but honestly in the moment it was just… monotony for me. You’d be surprised by how much new sights could blend together.” She’d made friends, of course. On every world in every ship on every station, she’d stay for at least a year, make friends, make memories, for a while she’d smile and laugh and run again until the pull of the void became so great that she clambered back into her craft and flew off once more. Again and again and again until she met them.

Solanum slid the picture of her lost love forward, once again enraptured in the familiar face. It hurt to look at these pictures. They were so real, so alive, so *there* that it just made the rest of her waking life feel empty by comparison. She silently slid the picture backwards. Pause. Collect her thoughts. Continue. “Eventually my travels took me right to who would become my second pet, Streum.” Pet felt so insufficient, even if it was the proper term. Lover. Soulmate. Better half. They’d been born and raised on their people’s homeworld, a harsh planet where the sun would burn the soil raw at day and the night would coat the world in fresh snow. She’d read that when the affini first arrived there years ago they’d found less than 20,000 of it’s people still alive, and they’d gratefully accepted the offer to be taken away. Nobody was surprised to find that they made fantastic companions. Harsh worlds had a way of creating strongly socialized life, afterall. The affini had then offered to help terraform their homeworld into something more hospitable but they’d refused every time, insisting it was better that their home remain in it’s natural state..

Nowadays most of the free people live in orbital arrays around the system, while only a handful drifted back down to the planet. Streum was one of those few who had been born of a family that returned, and they’d considered themselves a sort of gardener of the natural world. When the two first met they’d offered to be her tour guide and show her every wonder they knew. They were so kind, scarred and hardened by a world that was passively cruel but with a heart that was wide open for her. The two quickly went from acquaintances to friends, friends to something closer, and from there their intimacy bloomed in rapid order.

The exact moment she had fallen for them was still etched in her mind with perfect clarity. Standing under the split moon in the valley of night's teeth, where the purple flowers clung to the sides of great stone pillars and covered the ground in a thick carpet of vegetation. When the sun dipped below the horizon they'd bloom into incandescence, soon followed by the varieties of glow bugs that feasted on their nectar. Where acid winds whipped through her leaves, long since bleached snow white over her stay.

She only saw Streum then, captured in a moment of singular beauty. Back lit by the soft glow of their moon and adorned with drifting lights of the bugs. Their eyes shone a brilliant blue beneath the protective eyecaps, their fur stained every living color, silken scarves dancing around their body in a dazzling aurora. They'd smiled at her, called her closer, held her hands, whispered sweet things all through the night.
When the dawn came to turn the soft glow of night into the harsh glare of day they'd agreed to travel together. On the back of an old personal ship Solanum visited every corner of Streum's home world with them in tow. They forged memories with every landmark in the background, danced with every village still standing, and slept together under the lights of every forest.
When the two reached the end of their journey, standing high upon a pillar of long petrified wood with all the world around them visible to the horizon, Streum took her hands once more and held her close. They'd asked her to take them with her on the rest of her travels. Off anywhere to the stars from which she came.
They'd already known Solanum's inclinations. Not just from her species but herself directly, from all the long talks into the night and lingering chats through the days. 
"I must have asked a dozen times if they were sure," Solanum added, her posture now awkward with a twinge of embarrassment. "See, I had convinced myself I must have misunderstood. But they just kept going at me about how serious they were with wanting to be with me and I was very dense and- well, don't laugh okay, but." Solanum laid her left arm down across the island for Autumn's view. "They ended up grabbing my arm right here." Solanum's other hand slipped through some vines before tightening into an iron grip, the pressure forcing the false limb to bare hidden needles from her palm. "Then shoved it into their side and squeezed out a solid hit just to get through to me." If Solanum's face had blood it'd be scarlet red at that moment. "That was probably the hottest thing anyone has ever done for me, honestly."
Solanum's mind drifted in fond reminiscence to that time. Remembering Streum's body weakening against hers, hands still clasped together, still sent shivers through her. Autumn gave a polite cough. Dirt, how long had she stared off? Roots she didn’t even recall which parts were in her head or said out loud.
"Uh  sorry, probably got a little TNI there, huh?. Solanum's voice faltered with a twinge of embarrassment. “Where was I?”
"You were about to elaborate on what you meant by 'inclinations' earlier." Autumn answered.
"Absolutely not." Solanum's voice was flat once more.

Autumn pouted but answered honestly this time, “Streum bullied you into taking them along.”

“Right,” Solanum paused to collect her memories before she continued on with her tale.

They’d ridden her ship up into orbit shortly after, then hitched aboard the Laburnum to ride into deeper space. She’d spent the whole time showing Streum all the details of the Affini culture, reminding them time and again the weight of what they were asking, always checking in if they had changed their mind or misunderstood or any number of other things. Again and again Streum reminded her that they knew, they understood, they wanted her, they wanted to *belong* to her and her alone.

“When everything was finally said and done, they…” Solanum paused, her hands folding against each other as if holding something infinitely precious to her. “They put their heart right in the palm of my hands and gave me the happiest 60 years of my life. It wasn’t always easy, of course. Harsh worlds also make hurt people, afterall. But when they gave themselves to me it was so complete, so full of trust that Streum let me pick them apart to the smallest level. Discover every little wound and scar on their soul that their home had put on them and then learn how to heal them. It was like a puzzle, in a way. A beautiful intricate thing to teach how to flourish.” Solanum quietly closed her hands into tightened fists. “The day Streum left, I-” If Solanum had a throat she’d be choking. If she had true eyes tears would be flowing. But instead all she had was the discordant coil in her chest and the grating rumble from deeper within. “We’d traveled to see every star we could, until age caught up to Streum’s body and made them grey and weak where they’d been so full of life. We’d made plans to return to their home, to see how everything had changed over the long years and then-” She couldn’t do the moment it’s due truth. Not the tears, the shock, the despair. “They’d left in the middle of the night. Leaving nothing but a corpse and broken dreams. There was nothing I could’ve done, the best of our medicine had already extended their life so far and I- I-” Solanum crumpled forward onto their hands, body shaking in barely kept sorrow.

Autumn looked shocked. Concerned. So many expressions in so short a time and Solanum didn’t know what to do with any of them. Her vision had gone grey and blurred together. Her hands wouldn’t focus back to stillness. It still hurt. Every day. Some more than others. Some so little it almost felt like it’d healed. Others so much she could barely contain it.

Her sorrow surged up into a rage. With a horrific roar she reeled back and drove her fists into the island, scattering the pictures in every direction and shattering the structure in one blow. Then, suddenly struck by the futility of such destruction, she deflated into the wreckage she’d just made and wept openly. She barely even noticed as Autumn scrambled over the mess to collapse against her, arms wrapped around her tightly and one hand patting the back of her head in an attempt to soothe her.

She’d buried Streum in their home world. In the valley where their beloved Night’s Teeth still flourished. Every day afterwards had been dull in their absence, and when the wilting began she didn’t even try to fight it. She was just…. tired.
Solanum Vitis rose to her feet, her vines and plates shifting as she moved to flow around Autumn as easily as water. The human looked up at her, all wide eyed and frail in the center of the destruction the affini had just caused. Autumn put a hand to her collar, her face clouding in thought.
"Don't" Solanum's voice was tinged with a darkened threat hidden behind her teeth. "Whatever it is you're thinking, don't do it for me."
Autumn seemed scared of her all over again, yet simultaneously torn by emotions. Solanum quietly cursed herself for letting it get to this, but she didn't have the energy to continue anymore today.
"Satisfied now?" She asked, hands still clenched into tightened fists. Autumn nodded silently. Her collar blinked with a yellow light from elevated tension. Great, she'd scared her again. Solanum sighed, an actual sigh from simulated lungs pushing air out of her simulated chest. "I'm sorry if I scared you. Please take some time to calm down before the collar goes off. I… need to be alone now."
Solanum left before she could get a reply.

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