jingle jingle jingle jingle
The old style bell on the small flower shop jingled gently as Lena pushed the door open. She had seen the store when she had been running from those rebels, and it stood out by just how ordinary it seemed in the grandiose Affini district. If that lovely adorable plant wanted to communicate with flowers, very well. That's what she was going to do.
The shop was a fairly small one, built on a human-scale. The complete lack of non-Earth flowers, and the lack of needles poking out of any of the flowers, told her what the deal was. This was an old terran flower shop. As Lena looked around, an older woman wearing a colourful floral dress appeared from the back and gave her a smile.
"Uhhh, hi." ventured Lena. She hadn't been good at unscripted social interactions even before the affini had come and tore capitalism down, and she wasn't really sure what she was supposed to do here. "I uhhh. I need some flowers?"
The woman flashed her a toothy grin. "That is what people generally come in here for, yes. Were they any particular flowers that you were looking for, or will just any old flower do?" She asked with a raised eyebrow, giving Lena a look of wry amusement.
Lena snorted and laughed. "It's a bit of a long involved story, but well. Do you know anything about flower language?"
The woman raised her eyebrow again. "Are you talking about an affini thing or the pre-Accordian Terran concept. Because if its an affini thing, well, I'm sorry, I won't be able to help much."
"No uhhh. Well I mean, the old human thing. But it is kinda for an affini?" Lena looked at the woman anxiously, willing her to take pity on her.
She gave Lena a gentle smile. "I'm Rose. And yes, I've heard every joke ever written about a woman with a flower name working in a flower shop. Why don't you come sit down, and we can figure out how to help you best."
Waving Lena further into the shop, she made her way to the back of the building, where there was a small kitchen and a table, both covered in half made bouquets.
"I set this up after the affini came and told my old boss that he couldn't sell flowers for money anymore. He left right away, but well, I've always liked flowers, and someone had to take care of them. So I turned the upstairs into an apartment, put a greenhouse up in the back with some help from the affini, and decided to keep the old shop running. Someone has to show these old plants some love after all." Rose rambled away as Lena nervously sat down at the table, puttering about the kitchen as she made them tea.
Putting a cup in front of Lena, she sat down next to her and took an appreciative sip. "Rose tea, I grow the bushes myself."
Lena took a cautious sip. It tasted delicate and floral and somehow reminded her of the feel of Ana kissing her head with pride.
"I...when the affini arrived I got injured. And this one affini, she took such good care of me. And I thought I just had a silly little crush on her; after all, why would she care about someone like me?" Lena stared down into her tea, watching the steam rise.
"But it turns out she feels the same way, and she's been trying to tell me this whole time, with all these different flowers. She... she thinks I ignored her and don't like her. I need to let her know. I need her to know how much I care for her as well." Lena leaned forward with intensity.
"I need a bouquet that says I'm sorry and that I love you and that I will be yours and a million other things, because if this is the language that she is choosing to speak, then I need to tell her how much she means to me, and I don't know how. But I was hoping, I was hoping that maybe you do?" Lena looked up at Rose, eyes full of pleading and hope.
"Oh darling. You've got it real bad eh?" Rose wiped a tear from her eye before straightening up. "Right. Well. I don't have to worry about cost, or availability, or any of that, so let's make you a bouquet that truly shines, shall we?"
What followed was a flurry of motion, as flower after flower was brought out and carefully assembled, lavender and bellflower and lily and ambrosia, on and on, coming together into a bouquet half the size of Lena.
Under Lena's direction, the bouquet was gently wrapped in strips of moss and bound together with straw.
Rose stepped back and looked at her work with satisfaction. "Honey, if she knows flower language and doesn't get what you mean after seeing this, she's hopeless."
With profound thanks and a borrowed cart, Lena strode off towards her apartment. She had to grab one thing, and then she was going to go give that plant a piece of her mind.
Stopping in her apartment, Lena looked around. There was egg on the wall, clothes scattered everywhere, and empty cartons of takeout still stacked up against the wall.
Grabbing the daffodil from its vase, she carefully tucked it behind her ear and hurried back to push the cart on her journey towards the shuttle station, thinking about one flower meaning in particular. Daffodil: Return my affections.
There were a steady stream of both affini and humans coming and going from the Sequoioidium, a thread of life tying ship and planet together. The first time humans were clearly discernible as they started in open-mouthed in shock and awe at the enormous ship. Meanwhile the affini were almost universally eyeing the humans the same way a human might eye a particularly cute kitten.
Getting into the station when not being brought in by a resident apparently involved going through a line and explaining your purpose aboard the ship to an affini. The line was moving fairly swiftly, but it still took Lena half an hour to get to the front, now holding the bouquet carefully in her arms.
"Hello little one, welcome aboard the Sequoioidium could you give me your name and tell me your plans aboard today?" The affini gently shifted some of the flowers to one side so that they could see Lena's nervous face.
"Errr, I'm Lena, I'm...I'm here to see an affini?" Lena shrank behind the bouquet a bit. Oh god she was so nervous.
The affini frowned and looked down at their tablet, pulling something up. "Lena O'Neill?"
"Yes, that's me." Lena blinked in confusion.
"Could you come with me for a moment please?"
Lena growled in frustration as she followed the strange affini into a small room on one side of the line, cradling the banquet as she did.
The affini sighed and rubbed a vine on their forehead. "Look Lena. We know you went to a feralist bar where they were planning an attack on this ship. And we also know that there is pretty much no possibility that you're taking part in it. But I do have to ask you what's with the bouquet. As far as we've seen, since leaving us, you've shown pretty much no sign of having any interest in having anything to do with the affini. Mind explaining that for me please?"
Lena flushed bright red and muttered into the bouquet, trying to hide her face.
"What was that dear? I need you to speak up nice and clear please" prompted the affini.
"I need to go find Ana and tell her what a dunce she is for expecting me to know flower language and that she's pretty and gay and I want to live with her and since she seems to like flower language so much I made her a bouquet ok!" Lena blurted out, her face red and on the verge of tears.
The affini stood there in what seemed to be shock, leaves all on edge before letting out a low rumbling noise. "Oh. my. stars. That is so cute." Pulling out a piece of paper, they quickly sketched something on it and then thrust it at Lena. "Here's a map on the fastest way to get to Anaphylaxis' hab, good luck little one!"
As Lena hurried out the door, relieved to have escaped that encounter, she noticed the affini feverishly typing away on their tablet, leaves practically vibrating.
Ana's neighbourhood was normally a fairly quiet one. Far from any essential systems, it had few things to attract people from other parts of the ship, aside from some nice parks and, in Lena's opinion, a truly excellent ice cream place. Yet now, there seemed to be a large amount of affini around, many with florets, just standing around as if waiting for something. Maybe there was a festival or concert happening soon?
Lena stood facing the door to Ana's hab, knees trembling. C'mon Lena. You can do this. She likes you. She's just too much of a shy dork to say it outright. I want this. And for once in my goddamn life I'm going to actually go out there and get what I want. Which is to smooch a cute plant lady. Summoning up all the anger and angst she had built up since walking off the ship, Lena pounded on the door.
"Anaphylaxis Poaceanum, you get your gorgeous butt out here right now!" Lena demanded in what she hoped was a commanding manner.
Holding her head up high, she stood and glowered at the door. It stubbornly continued to be a door, not transforming into a pretty plant lady like she was hoping.
A vine tapped her on the shoulder. "Lena darling, what are you doing yelling at my door?"
Lena turned around quickly, almost falling on her butt, saved only by a vine wrapping securely around her waist.
Ana stood there, one arm holding a bag full of groceries, the other extending around to hold Lena up. She studied Lena, seeming to categorize her inch by inch. Her unkempt, messy hair. The red eyes from both lack of sleep and crying. The trembling from days of not eating properly. Then her eyes turned to the bouquet, widening and sparkling as they took in the flowers.
With a mischievous grin, she plucked the daffodil out from behind Lena's ear and gave it an appreciative sniff.
"So that's how it is, my darling? It seems that you and I have a lot to talk about." With a vine effortlessly snaking out to open the hab door, Ana scooped up Lena, bouquet and all, and strolled into the hab, at which point the crowd which had been silently watching burst into cheers.
Safely inside, away from the laughing and cheering crowd, Ana gently deposited Lena onto a chair at the table before bustling about the apartment, putting groceries away and putting the bouquet into a vase after taking one more appreciative sniff. Finally, she turned around and sat down across from Lena, looking at her with steady eyes.
"So, my darling little sprout has decided to return. I...I had hoped you would. But now that you have, I find myself at a loss for words. Would you mind explaining my dear Lena?"
Lena stammered for a moment. "I...I thought that you didn't want me. Like I thought about it, about just staying and living with you, but you didn't give- I mean I didn't realize that you were giving me signals that you would like that, so I just left. And then when I was on my own, I just felt like I was such a failure, and contacting you seemed harder and harder, so I just...didn't."
Lena fiddled with one of the vines in front of her. "And then I found out that you did care, what all those flowers and everything meant, and I just, I had to come back here and see if you were willing to give us a second chance."
For a moment, Ana's eyes softened, looking down at the little terran with an expression of infinite love. Then they narrowed and hardened, glimmering like emeralds. "So. You've come back to me. You want to give 'us' another chance. What exactly is 'us' Lena? Have you come to be my floret, my pet to care for and mold as I see fit? Have you come to be my girlfriend, to live together as equals? Maybe you see us as roommates, and merely miss my cooking?"
Even though her eyes were full of sternness, Lena somehow knew that Ana was not angry, but rather afraid, and nervous. She really didn't know why Lena had come back, and what she said next would be incredibly important.
Choosing her words carefully, Lena took a deep breath. "I'm...I'm not sure. I don't want to just be roommates with you. I like you. I like you a lot, more strongly than I have ever liked someone before. If the only way you'll have me is as your floret, then well, collar me. If the only way you'll have me is as a girlfriend, then I will be your terran girl for as long as you'll have me. All I know is that I'm drawn to you, and I that I'm yours, no matter what you do."
Ana lifted up Lena's head with a vine, making sure their eyes were locked. "Oh the power that you have offered me, willingly, without reservation. Most affini would gladly collar you right now, fill you full of xenodrugs and break you into the perfect little pet." Ana's vines rustled, needles clicking together below them as the affini breathed deeply.
"I am not most affini. Lena, I love you. I tried to be...circumspect about my affections, being subtle but hopefully making my meaning clear. But well." Ana burst into a wide grin. "Whatever you end up being to me, Lena; lover, partner, pet, or something as yet undefined, welcome to your new home."
Ana swept Lena up, vines wrapping securely around the terran as she was lifted, until they were staring into each other's eyes. Lena was breathing heavily, while Ana's vines twitched nervously.
Lena looked into Ana's eyes, pleading silently, and then sighed in delight as Ana's lips crashed against hers. Vines held her torso and legs securely, but left her arms free to fling around the affini's neck, pulling herself closer.
Vines slithered over her, tiny thorns pricking her and leaving hypersensitive skin in its wake as she moaned into Ana's mouth.
"Shall I remove these pesky clothes Lena? I want to welcome you home properly. I have so much to show you." The affini's voice was husky with desire, her eyes blazing with green flame as she stared hungrily at Lena.
"Show me it all Ana. I want to experience everything." Lena shivered with desire even as the Affini chuckled in response.
"Patience, little one. Even I cannot show you everything I desire to do with you in one night. But for now, a small taste."
Lena's clothes seemed to explode off her, vines effortlessly removing them and tossing them away in seconds. A flower, red and delicate, sharp needle in the center, moved to press against her forearm.
"Are you sure?" asked Ana quietly, voice hesitant and filled with hope and longing.
Lena looked down at the flower, pressed against her skin. And with a grin, pushed her arm into the needle. Immediately, a wave of heat and pleasure washed through her, leaving Lena whimpering and begging for more.
Ana looked down at the squirming human, eyes wide and dilated, mouth open and panting, and purred, "Oh Lena, if only you could see yourself right now. You look so positively delectable."
And in a storm of touch and sensation, her vines descended.
Over the next few days, when they were able to tear themselves off each other and leave the hab, Ana did her best to help Lena experience all the wonders of the massive Affini ship.
Despite Lena's legs working perfectly fine, Ana insisted on carrying her as much as possible. It was amazing how much more of a ship you could see when you weren't recovering from massive physical injuries, and when an affini was carrying you everywhere, showing off the ship like she was afraid it was going to disappear.
The only dark spot in the whirlwind tour was when they tried to go into the control room, where Ana worked. As they got closer, Lena had started slowly and quietly panicking, and no amount of soothing and headpats from Ana would fix it. Finally, Ana had injected her with a nice calming xenodrug, and she had dozed her entire way back to the hab, where Ana proceeded to pamper her with snuggles and soft kisses.
It was sometime after this that Lena broached the topic of getting the rest of her stuff from the apartment. She hadn't exactly brought anything with her, and while she could get anything she liked aboard the ship, she still wanted to retrieve some things that held sentimental value for her.
She had thought to just go down on her own, quickly pick up her things and return, but Ana was having none of it. She was coming down as well, and that was final. Ana generally just let Lena have her way when she actually bothered having an opinion, but every once in a while she would put her root down. Lena found it incredibly attractive, enough so that she occasionally would disagree with Ana just to give her the chance to show her who was in charge.
Lena's apartment building had always seemed like a large and impressive structure to her before. It was big enough that the maglev had a station that ran right to it, and tall enough that even before the affini had come it was generally smog free. But now, it seemed tiny, and insignificant. Lena had outgrown it.
Pushing open her apartment door, Lena froze. She had forgotten the sorry state that she had left the apartment in, and now Ana was seeing it too.
Ana swept Lena up off her feet and carried her into the small apartment, compressing herself as she went to fit. "Oh honey. You really were struggling without me weren't you?"
Lena blushed red and squirmed her way out of Ana's vines, quickly making her way towards her bedroom. "I just need to grab a couple of things. I have a few paperback books that I managed to find, I know they aren't valuable anymore, but well...they're important to me."
Ana hummed as Lena rummaged through the mess of shelves in her bedroom, calmly accepting the books as Lena scurried back and forth after finding them.
"I also want to grab my tablet," Lena shouted from her bedroom. Ana looked down and scooped it up off the table. "And that's about it..." Lena trailed off as she watched her affini curiously rummage around her small, makeshift workshop, before pulling out a small black plastic case, with a wiry antenna sticking up from one side.
Ana rumbled thoughtfully. "I haven't seen this model of radio before. It looks very interesting."
Lena sighed and looked down, mouth twisted into a bitter grimace. "That's the first radio I ever made, when I was just getting into them as a kid. It's one of the only things I have left from back then. You can leave it. I don't know why I kept it all these years."
Ana looked at Lena and raised a leafy eyebrow. "You remember my large collection of radios, yes? This is coming home with us."
Lena tried to stammer out an excuse, but one look at that raised eyebrow reduced her to blushing mutters.
Leaving the apartment one last time, Lena patted the door frame and gave it a bittersweet smile. "Thank you, apartment. You kept me safe and warm when things were hard. Now you'll go on to help some other lucky soul."
Lena sighed as she strode out of the building, one of Ana's vines wrapped in an intricate pattern around her arm and hand, binding her close.
Back in Ana's hab, Lena's new home, their home, Lena's old radio took a place of pride among the other assorted radios and communicators that Ana had collected. Lena also found out, to her great surprise, that she had multiple messages waiting for her on her tablet. Both Lily and Sam wanted to know what had happened, and were regaling her with stories from their lives as florets.
She got so preoccupied that she barely even noticed as Ana fed her piece after piece of pasta, and was caught completely off guard when Ana deftly plucked the tablet out of her hands and typed some quick good night messages to her two friends before pulling her in close to snuggle.
Safe at last, wrapped up tight in her affini's arms, in her affini's hab, with nothing tying her back to her old life, Lena drifted off to sleep, finally able to rest.