For a Better Universe

Part 3

by SapphicSounds

Tags: #cw:big_emotions #cw:character_death #dom:plant #Human_Domestication_Guide #sadmoods #sub:universe #the_least_kinky_hdg_fic_you'll_ever_read #f/f #scifi

Hey all! Not much to say other than I hope you enjoy, and, if you didn't read the little preface I put in the authors notes of part one, maybe take a look for things like CWs etc. Also, as always, if you like my work, please support me on patreon

Over the course of one thousand and six blooms, and Terran years uncounted—she could, of course, make an educated guess, but that wouldn’t account for any blooms which lasted longer or shorter than the average—Alcea had seen more of the universe than probably even most affini, let alone the typical protectorate species. She had begun to view even galaxies, incomprehensibly vast collections of stars, planets and promise, as stops along the way for her to tour over the course of fifty to a hundred blooms or so and move on from. Her sense of galactic scale had become so incomprehensibly grandiose, that when she found herself standing in the midst of a single Terran city, intent on getting the full experience of humanity, only to realize she had absolutely no idea where to begin, Alcea couldn’t help but wonder if she had taken ill. Logically, of course, she knew there was nothing truly wrong with her, but overtime the universe had almost begun to feel small to her. 

To think a single city on a single continent of a single planet would overwhelm her was unheard of. At the very least, it was unheard of to the person she had become. But, would she have been able to say the same about Alcea Pallis, First Bloom, or Second Bloom, or even One Hundredth Bloom? In all honesty, she didn’t know. It left her asking, when had she become so distant? so detached from the real and important lives of individuals around her, only caring about what was ahead of her, finding the next big thing to distract from the hurt which came when she allowed herself to care, and ultimately lose.

Of course there had been florets, hundreds by this point. There had been friends, mostly other affini. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized she’d been using them. Alcea craved the feeling of owning and caring for some adorable sophont or another. So she had found sophonts and showered them with love. Alcea craved companionship and camaraderie, so she befriended other affini wherever she went, offered guidance to the younger ones and commiserated with the older ones. For so long, though, all of that had simply been a means to the end of staving off creeping loneliness. She would avoid growing too attached, never stay in one place too long, never allow herself to be too vulnerable around a floret she knew she would one day lose, never allow herself to grow too close with another affini for fear she might rub off on them—or worse still, discover they were all just like her, lost in an increasingly banal and meaningless universe.

And yet, when confronted with something so cosmically insignificant as whether to turn left or right down a street within a city which Alcea knew she would have time to comb every inch of several times over, she simply didn’t know what to do, because no matter what choice she made she would miss something. There would be some moment, some uniqueness or individuality that Alcea would miss out on, and it would become lost. Strangely, she was actually quite alright with feeling so paralized with choice. She couldn’t really remember the last time a choice she made actually had consequences that mattered, at least, had consequences that mattered for her, instead of some nameless, faceless population of cute sophonts.

All at once, the absurdity of the moment caught up to her, and she laughed aloud, then chose left, because why not? 

* * *

On a rather cozy bench—conveniently sized for affini, the entirety of the city seemed designed to maximize accessibility for sophonts of all sizes—Alcea observed a small public concert being put on by some local band comprised of three Terrans, an Affini, and a Spectrum Jelly front-person hooked up to some sort of electronic instrument which broadcast their bioluminescent flashes while also converting them to spoken lyrics. As a whole the band was… fine. At the very least, they handled their instruments competently, though Alcea was fairly certain whatever sort of genre their music was, it wasn’t for her. Luckily she was far off enough that the concert was more of a passing bit of entertainment, something to focus on if she wanted to, but not an overwhelming wall of sound. As things stood, however, the band was still the most immediately attention grabbing thing around her, so she for the most part just idly watched from afar.

The sound of a gentle throat clear next to her caught Alcea’s attention, and she turned to follow it. Standing a little to the side and just out of view, was a small, young looking human woman. Actually, she was probably not all that small, for a human anyway. Her eyes were softly fixed on Alcea’s face, wearing a polite smile. “Excuse me, miss. Do you mind if I join you?” She asked. 

Taken aback, Alcea glanced about for the girl’s owner, and found no signs of any attentive affini lingering nearby. Actually, when Alcea took a moment to actually look at the little human, she realized there were just about none of the telltale signs of a floret about her. Her eyes were focused, she had a patient, but intent air about her. There was no sign of a collar around her neck, her clothes, while stylish, were clearly not affini companion clothing. Alcea took a moment to scold herself for just automatically assuming any human would be someone’s pet. But that did beg the question, what did an independent human want with an affini stranger? Just then she realized the human was still standing there, staring expectantly. “I, um, sorry. Go right ahead.” She patted the space next to her, scooting over. 

With a smile, the woman used the built in step for smaller sophonts to scale the affini-sized bench, and reclined in the ample space Alcea had left her. For a moments, she silently watched the band play off in the distance, before glancing over to Alcea, who was still giving her a perplexed look. The human raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “Is there something wrong?” 

Taking a moment to relax her stiff leaves, Alcea shook her head. “Well, no, it’s just I… you’re not like, intimidated by me?” Most non-floret humans she had encountered in her day treated affini with respect and social grace, but kept their distance. Those who didn’t were typically looking to be someone’s pet. So unless this woman was just being very forward with her advances—Alcea snapped herself back to reality as she caught the look of utter confusion on her newfound company’s face.

“Why would I be intimidated by you? You looked lonely, so I thought I’d join you. I can’t say I’ve ever met an affini not delighted at the prospect of keeping company with some ‘cute little human.’” She pulled a thermos from her bag, took a drink, then scooted closer to Alcea, almost challenging her to react.  

Alcea couldn’t help but exhale a breathy laugh. “I guess I’m just used to independent non-affini seeing me as scary.”

“Ah,” the woman gave an understanding nod. “You must spend a lot of time out on the fringes. Big scary conquering plant, hmm? It’s been a long time since things were like that here.” As though to demonstrate her own point, she gently laid out across the bench, placing her head in Alcea’s lap. Her eyes fixed on Alcea’s face, searching for any sign that the gesture was unwelcome, after a moment, she seemed satisfied and stretched languidly. “By the way,” she began. “Would you mind topping me up on something nice? I forgot my xenodrugs at home.” 

Baffled, it took Alcea a few tries to smooth her leaves back down and relax. “I um, sorry. I’m not really sure I can synthesize the right drugs with what I’ve got grafted right now, it’s been a long time since I last cared for a human.”

The woman made a small noise of disappointment, then shrugged. “Oh well, I guess I’ll have to pester one of my friends about it.” She took another moment to give Aclea a searching gaze. “You’ve got to be one of the most tightly wound plants I’ve ever met.” She grew quiet and contemplative for a moment. “It must be tough out there,” she muttered soberly, the playful lilt to her voice dying out. “But I mean, look around you, this is it. It’s what you’re doing all this for, right? Uplifting us all ‘for our own good?’ Not that I’m complaining or anything, it’s great, I’m certainly glad.” 

“That’s the idea, yeah,” Alcea mumbled. 

With an endearing little giggle, the human tapped her knuckles against Alcea’s thigh. “You definitely need some company. Maybe a drink or five too.” Exhaling a melodramatic groan of effort, she sat back up, then looked Alcea up and down, then pointed down the road with her thumb. “There’s a bar down that way, I’m told their affini drinks are pretty good, wanna hang out?” she asked, then a moment of realization bloomed on her face. “Oh, shit, I never even bothered introducing myself to you. I’m Naomi, and I’m also very bored. So come on, this band is shit and you’ve gotta be the mopiest plant I’ve ever seen, come get fucked up with me.”

* * *

In a dimly lit, but ornately decorated basement lounge, Alcea sat upon a cushy seat and tried her best to not look as conspicuously out of place as she felt. All around the bar, she saw tables full of affini fussing over and doting on happy, blissed out florets, or independent sophonts relaxing and laughing together, there were even tables with affini and independent sophonts casually talking without a care in the world. Brightly dressed floret servers happily ferried drinks throughout the space, earning affection and praise every step of the way to their endless delight. Catchy music played softly just audible over the din. 

Everywhere she looked she saw people who didn’t seem to have a single care in the world. A relic like her didn’t belong in places like this. It was impossible to know for certain without asking, but she had the distinct impression that she was the oldest person in the room by thousands of years, hundreds of blooms. Doubtless none of the affini around her had been alive during the rebellion, or even the Hrulian war. They had been brought into a world without that strife. All the struggling and hurt out on the frontier, the horrors of capitalism or war or illness were nothing more than ghost stories. They didn’t know what had been lost, who had been hurt to make any of this possible. Just by being around them Alcea felt like she was somehow corrupting their innocence. 

The whole thing was souring Alcea’s mood. As an outsider, Terra had been a wonder to behold, but the prospect of actually having to socialize, maybe even grow attached, it scared her. Internally, she cursed Hydrangea for encouraging her to go out and experience things first hand rather than simply absorb and observe from a safe, clinical distance. How was she even supposed to talk to non-affini sophonts? How many hundreds of florets had she owned now who hadn’t been able to so much as hold a conversation due to their having willingly surrendering their personhood before Alcea had even met them for the first time? When was the last time she’d had a real conversation with anyone who wasn’t affini? 

Dirt, Alcea had no clue what she was doing. What if she said something wrong? Naomi doubtlessly had no idea how harsh and uncaring the rest of the universe could be. The last thing Alcea wanted to do was hurt her, shatter her innocence, scar her and send her running into the arms of the nearest affini who would take her in and erase the pain along with her will. She was shaking, panicking, Alcea didn’t belong here. 

A gentle hand rested on her arm, and she followed the touch to Naomi, seeming worried, but hardly broken up over Alcea’s state. “You alright?” she asked. 

When Alcea took a slow breath and centered herself, before nodding, Naomi gave a satisfied hum, then leaned back into the booth. Alcea’s gaze flicked from Naomi, to the young Affini whom Naomi had immediately bounded up to the moment she had glimpsed him nursing a drink in the cozy corner-booth which the three now shared. Kai Brinjal, First Bloom, that was his name, Naomi had introduced him. Apparently he and Naomi had been friends for some time, though he seemed to be rather coy. 

A gentle shove from Naomi thrust Alcea out of her self-pity. “Hurry up and pick a drink. The server should be around soon, or I can just order for you if you want.” 

Stiffening, Alcea gave a curt nod. “I’m sure whatever you pick is fine,” she mumbled. 

Naomi grinned, and made an exaggerated show of rolling her eyes. “Something stiff, for sure, help you loosen up.” She began peering over the menu, humming casually it herself, before placing an order through her tablet and glancing back up. “So what’s your story, by the way? What’s brought you to Terra?” 

Part of Alcea wanted to just grumble, dodge the question and mope until she could find a polite excuse to leave. Then again, she’d told herself there was something truly valuable to be found within this city. If not in its people, then where else? She shifted in place for a moment, smoothing out her leaves, then began to speak. “The last time I was here must have been about a thousand blooms ago.” 

“Holy shit,” Naomi breathed. Her face scrunched up in a moment of internal calculation. “That’s like, hundreds of thousands of years. You’re fucking old,” she giggled. “No wonder you’re so, well, the way you are. I’m sure by the time I’m three hundred thousand years old I’ll be grouchy too. Explains why you didn’t have any Terran compatible drugs on you, too—Oh hey!” She turned to Kai. “Can you hit me with something nice? I am tragically sober right now.” Kai gave a quiet nod, and seemed to be about to ask for clarification before Naomi cut him off. “You can surprise me, just don’t get any funny ideas. Far bolder affini than you have tried and failed to claim my indomitable will for their own.” Regally, she leaned back into Kai’s arms with a showy flourish of her hands, and gave a low moan as his needle sank into her arm. “Ooh, that’s the good shit right there. Give me some vines to play with while we hang out,” she breathed in a husky, clearly aroused voice. Kai obliged, laying a few of his vines in her lap which Naomi gleefully wrapped around herself. The human took a moment to enjoy herself, before she seemed to remember she had been in the middle of a conversation, and her eyes cracked open, alertness returning. “Ah, right, so tell me abo—”

Just then, a human wearing a flashy red and green companion dress arrived with three drinks, two far larger than the third. “Ma’am, Ma’am, sir, your drinks,” she chirped as she placed each drink before its recipient, Alcea couldn’t help but notice the way her tone was punctuated by the bliss which stewed inside her with each step. It stirred a familiar yearning within her, the aching need for control. She moved to say smoothing flirtatious, but before she could, Naomi spoke up. “Thank you, little dear. Such a cute pet, let your Mistress know I was here, okay love? Haven’t seen her in a couple weeks, good girl.” Lasciviously, Naomi ran her hand along the floret’s arm, cooing all the while, visiting delight across the server’s face as she stammered a blushing thanks and scurried off. Laughing to herself, Naomi took a long sip of her drink, then cast a look toward Kai. “See that? That’s how you fluster a cute terran girl.” 

“I know how to flirt!” He protested. 

“Oh yeah? Do I need to bring up la—”

“No! You do not.” The young affini huffed, and withdrew his vines, much to Naomi’s dismay. 

“Ugh, you’re no fun.” Leaning in conspiratorially, she gestured for Alcea to move closer. “Did you know that last time he was here, he called the server a ‘cute little rutabaga?’ Can you fucking believe that? I mean, it worked ‘cause she was a floret and florets are easy, but imagine. I’m never letting him live it down.” 

The entirety of his face glowing with embarrassment, Kai groaned. “Rutabagas are cute! And the name sounds pretty, I think it’s a cute thing to call someone.” He complained. 

“Yeah but that’s not how you flirt, it was clumsy.” She rolled her eyes and leaned back, patting him on the arm and snatching a few vines back in the process. “Don’t worry, you’ll get it some day, when you’re older.” 

“Oh my fucking stars, you are like three years older than me,” he huffed. 

“Don’t worry, I was also much more of a nervous wreck when I was still in my two hundreds. You’ll find your stride soon,” Naomi cooed in mock condescension.

Holding his face in his hands, Kai shook his head. “All those advancements in human medical science were a mistake.”

Giggling, Naomi leaned into Kai, nuzzling his shoulder. “You wouldn't know what to do without me if I’d already withered away and died.” For his part, Kai simply grumbled something about uppity pet species, inciting another fit of giggles from Naomi. 

Watching that entire exchange play out, Aclea realized she was fighting back a smile and stifling giggles. Perhaps it was the fact that her drink was actually both quite good, and quite strong, but she found herself enjoying the pair's antics quite a bit. And, when Naomi finally returned her attention to Alcea, ready with fresh questions, she found it strangely easy to have an actual, real conversation with the two. 

An hour or so later, Kai received a call on his tablet, and excused himself. As she watched him leave, Naomi leaned across the table, then turned to Alcea. “That has got to be the eggiest fucking plant I have ever seen,” she giggled. 

Alcea furrowed her brow. “I don’t follow.” 

Shrugging, Naomi waved her hand dismissively. “Eh, don’t worry about it. Just, someone needs to put them in a dress like yesterday. I’m sure once they figure themself out they’ll also figure out how to be actually assertive.” Casually, Naomi hopped out of her booth, walked around the table, and draped herself across Alcea’s lap, wrestling a pair of vines and cuddling up to them. She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly. “I think I’m getting a little tired myself actually. I should probably get going soon too. Though, if you’d like, my hab unit is designed to be affini-accessible. We can totally go back to my place and fuck if you wanna.” 

Alcea tensed in surprise, then relaxed, and smiled, before moving her vines to wrap Naomi within her clutches. 

* * *

Logically, Alcea Pallis, One Thousand Sixth Bloom knew she had been around for what often felt like an absurd, incomprehensible amount of time. Wandering the universe from galaxy to galaxy, she had hardly blinked at the passage of a few blooms. Six hundred or so Terran years was a drop in the bucket, unimportant, insignificant. It was just how she’d begun to view her life. Just as her sense of physical space had scaled ever greater, so too had her sense of time.

It struck her as a little strange, then, that she had lived on Terra for only twenty years. Her time on Terra had gifted her with memories, experiences, and meaning that she hadn’t gleaned from a dozen blooms spent wandering on the fringes. Alcea had honestly begun to wonder if she could just stay, build a life for herself. When that itch to move on began to tickle at her roots, Alcea had been angry, frustrated. But this time the feeling was different. Terra had taught her things, shown her value and beauty she’d either never seen or simply forgotten under the weight of the universes’ default cruelty. 

There was meaning, real meaning, real import in the things the affini compact had done for the universe. At the same time, though, Alcea couldn’t help but feel it wasn’t enough. She’d seen what could happen when the Affini compact thought itself infallible. She’d seen the ways her fellow affini—seen the ways she—would break when the universe stole mortal loved-ones away. How many had suffered from their mistakes, or simply because the Compact had been too slow? How many had died before they could be saved from capitalism, or war, or sickness, or even mortality?

Alcea needed more, she had seen the Compact at the height of its good now. She had seen the idealistic, infinite happiness they could create. She couldn’t sit idly and relax while countless people were left to suffer in an uncaring universe.  She had to do something, to help, and it had to be big. Traveling the fringes exploring and fighting wars ‘for the good’ of other sophonts just wouldn’t cut it anymore. Really, it never had, not after the Hrulians. Part of her wondered whether the affini were really even fit to be the stewards of existence. But perhaps that was a question for another time. Either way, Alcea had known it was time for her to go for a long time. 

That didn’t make standing in the docking bay, waiting to board her shuttle off planet any easier. Both Naomi and Rutabaga had come to see her off, bidding Alcea many tearful goodbyes, hugs and kisses. And, frankly, it hurt. She hated saying goodbye to her friends, even if keeping in touch would be fairly easy given how advanced intergalactic instant messaging had become since the early days of the Terran Protectorate. Either way, Alcea hated saying goodbye. This was the exact sort of pain she’d been trying to avoid by not putting roots down. That didn’t matter though, Alcea still wouldn’t change a thing if she could. 

She took a moment to kneel down before Naomi, and pull her friend into a long hug, then stole one last long kiss. Standing, Alcea turned to Rutabaga, and the two entwined their vines. “Take care, alright? And make sure you tell us both all about the core worlds. Maybe if they sound cool enough we’ll come visit.” As she spoke, Rutabaga made an increasingly futile attempt to not break out into tears. 

Squeezing her friend’s shoulder, Alcea nodded. “Of course, and keep Naomi out of trouble, yeah?” Alcea flashed Rutabaga a grin, which she was quick to return. 

“Yeah fat chance of that,” Naomi giggled. “Ruth could get me Class-O’d and she still wouldn’t be able to top me.”

Sighing and shaking her head, Alcea ruffled the human’s hair, and said one last goodbye, swearing to both that she would see them again. They wished her well one last time, and Alcea set off. 

Hey there folks, don't have a ton to say besides thanks for reading! I'm posting the whole thing here today so I won't be dangling that sweet sweet early access over your heads. That being said, there's a ton of other stuff available on my patreon if you wanna read it.

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