In watching Rosales board, Francis understood before he could clamber in that it wasn’t quite that she was sitting in the back while he was sitting in the front, but that she was sitting in the back and the front - she had a lot of vine-mass to work with - and would be basically sitting with him anyways. She carefully avoided Marty, in what Marty assumed was a sign of demureness, assuring his status as the superior friend of the two - the alien would mess with Francis but not him. Rosales would avoid doing such to make sure that he remained able to focus on the road. She hadn’t seen too many combustion vehicles in her lifetime, but she knew that with machines as old as Marty must’ve been driving, the potential for human error was heart-breakingly high.
So it was that Marty was resigned and undergoing some very distant cousin of fuming as he started taking the dirt roads out of the Refuge, and that Francis was immersed in a veritable rainforest in the passenger’s seat. In all honesty, he really didn’t hate it. The vines were surprisingly soft, almost tender, and ever-so-warm,but nothing too bad for the Californian summer heat that was blaring at them through the busted-open window. Speaking of which, the loud sucking of air from outside the car to inside that car was suddenly gone. Francis spun his head around to figure out why. She had formed a trellis of vines packed in tight formation to keep the hole sealed up. He stared blankly, then pointed at it with a grin before jabbing Marty in the side with his elbow, asking him to see it too. Marty met this with a simple “Don’t even.”
Marty sure was being a grouch, but to Rosales, it was absolutely adorable how well he was taking it - to be without one’s owner for so long and still only be a little peeved? That sophont must be tough, she thought to herself as she beamed. And just as adorable was his pinnate lost in Rosales’ rainforest. Initially the Affini had her vines neatly arrayed around herself, but with how much Francis was poking, feeling, and sometimes getting very close to nuzzling them, she reckoned he could do with some more to stim on.
Though Francis didn’t pay it much mind, the poor dear had been burning from lack of stimulation the whole time she’d been there - when not moving from one place to another he’d pace back and forth, never wanting to stand still for long. He’d often be futzing with bits on his shirt, pants, looking everywhere, all the tell-tale signs of an under-stimulated cutie in need of a little enrichment to keep them present and happy. When he was tranced out, he didn’t do any of the aforementioned. The entire time he was wrapped up cuddling Rosales, he didn’t pace, nor sway, nor anything of the sort, he was more than happy simply to just be appreciated with few other conscious thoughts - like biorhythms ought, especially from someone as adorably responsive as Francis.
He didn’t need his pretty little head worrying about such things. Rosales resolved to tell Mx. Hashplant of a recommended xenodrug regimen to keep him happy and suppress anxiety. She had been a xenopharmacolagist for a few blooms, and the Xerphelun were a far more complex species than terrans neurochemically. Terrans don’t have nearly the same level of C18H24O2 conversions taking place - well, some of them do, but not nearly that many so as to be useful data. Coincidentally, those with medically increased levels are three times more likely than the base population to be florets - no one is quite sure why. But, Rosales thought, cutting herself off from previous blooms’ fixations, Francis was the chief concern in the present moment.With every inch her vines creeped towards him, he would smile just the tiniest bit, relax his shoulders, and keep playing with them. The feedback loop continued on its merry way until a stray vine landed square on his lap, and he very nearly didn’t yelp as he swatted it away to a general relaxment of the vines. His voice rose softly.
“Oh shit, sorry, that’s my bad. My impulses are shot,” He laughed it off, but Rosales could tell there was a deeper problem to be uncovered, but she just as easily ascertained that now wasn’t the time or place for it. For the moment, in order to restore him to his adorable relaxed state, she needed to figure out if it was an adverse reaction to her vines, or where he was being touched. “Oh petal, I’m sorry for touching you.” And thus the bait was set.
“Oh hell, no no it’s fine, I understand you’re uh- big, it’s totally fine to touch me. Like I said, just, sometimes I get these twitches. Touch wherever. It…” He was cut off by the happy return of the vines, with Rosales taking very active care not to land a vine near where the previous one had strayed. This caused little flashes of a broader smile return. Francis leaned onto one of the vines and nuzzled it with his head before rocking backwards, mumbling apologies. Once more, emotions overtook Rosales. The affini couldn’t help but let out a sigh for the poor little sophont, fighting an internal war between the trauma of the circumstances and his well-worn floretine instincts to embrace and cherish affection. On such a basis, she let out a ‘shhh’ as his head was slowly guided back to her vines. He couldn’t muster a reaction heavier than a whine.
Francis was in heaven. Or hell. Eh, heaven, yeah, it’s pretty clearly heaven. Just like when he was cuddled up next to Rosales earlier. tranquil thoughts pervaded his mind as Francis nuzzled and giggled at the botanical garden he found himself in. Little flowering buds shifted, flowered, and closed back up in familiar patterns. He giggled softly and shut his eyes for a while, before his peace was breached by Marty’s voice, pained and wavering. “So can you like, disguise yourself, or something? Alex is going to kill me if he sees his truck late with a fucking alien, in it.”
Rosales let out a little hum before responding, “Sweetling, as I said before, both of you have absolutely nothing to worry about. There is nothing your friend could do that would harm or even phase me, and I am fully committed to your wellbeing.” A single vine was allowed to give Marty a light tap on the head, to his furthering consternation. He tried his best to dispel his anger with another sigh.
“No, no, man - we don’t have anywhere else to go if he kicks us out, is what I mean. Out on the fucking streets. He’s come close to it before, I mean for fuck’s sake we don’t even pay any rent.” Francis cleared his throat to speak, but was intercepted by Marty continuing before he could, “No, Francis, goading him into a Halo 2 one v one and saying midway through ‘loser pays my portion of the rent’ doesn’t actually mean that you’re meaningfully contributing,” To which the man in question only giggled.
Rosales’ mind jogged further - they were certainly in some sort of feralist compound if they had such barbaric ideas of private land ownership. But on Terra? That would be quite the strange sight indeed. Perhaps they were somewhere deep in uncharted territory, not detectable by normal sensors due to their ancient technology. She didn’t want to worry the two sophonts by asking too much about it, so instead she pivoted to a happier topic, “Once more, I assure you, you haven’t anything to worry about. You will be comfortable and safe, both in sleep and awake. So, why don’t the two of you tell me about your Cookie Hashplant?”
Marty almost triggered the horn by letting his head sink onto the steering wheel. He was facing homelessness and all the alien wanted to talk about is the stupid fucking weed. He let his stupid anger show in his response, “Green. Leafy. Lots of buds.” To which Rosales nodded, retracting her vines to give Francis a chance to respond. Marty shot him a dirty look, which only emboldened his drive.
“Oh… the tales of such legendary a weed spread far and wide, perhaps even across the galaxy, as you would know, fair interstellar traveler,” Francis was doing a pirate voice. Rosales, of course, had a much different cultural context for pirates, and thus could not discern the reference being made. All she knew was that Francis was doing a silly voice, which made a lot of sense for such a silly sophont, “A weed so wonderfully mind-altering, brain-blasting, chair-locking that you can’t help but fall in love at first sight. At least…” He mimed removing a hat, “such was the case for me and my stalwart companion here. Intoxicating to even be in the same room as it. You get within a foot or two, and you’re toast, baked more than Alaska. You can lose days to it, in stupid giggling happiness, and not even realize. It’s beautiful, too, complex, weaving patterns of green and brown and purple, spotted flecks everywhere. And we have lost it. We shall remain despondent until our adored weed returns to us. It’s the one thing that can, that will, solve everything.”
Rosales was beaming, and had gotten quite emotional over such an impassioned and sweet speech. The vines around Francis immediately returned to give him a tight, loving squeeze, and in response he let out the most adorable little whimper, threatening to start a feedback loop of affection once more. Even Marty got some pets, though carefully considered so as to not distract him from the road. “My my, petal, with such a love as that, I don’t think it’d be possible for your weed to elude you much further. Absolutely beautiful words, and ones I think you ought to repeat to the responsible party once all this unpleasantness is behind us.” Marty let out a guttural noise of annoyance and mild disgust.
It was as Francis was wrapping up his speech that they had left the comfort of the forest, and as Rosales was wrapping up hers that she had noticed such. Her previous theory seemed to be holding more water, as the trio rode into a town of technology centuries old. When the Compact was conducting their sweeps, they were looking for signs of modern Terran civilization - vapor exhaust from nuclear reactors, communications in the frequencies reserved for step-up signals to overnet relays, the gasses used in flexisteel production, et cetera - but nothing here gave out any of the typical signals, per visual and computerized analysis. A novel strategy, and hopefully one that could be put to rest once Rosales achieved contact with the Compact again. It wasn’t like they were a small band of resistance fighters, either, there were dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cars on the roads they traversed, all displaying the typical dismal airs of those laboring under exploitative economic systems like capitalism. The thought of all these sophonts soon being liberated from their troubles brought Rosales great comfort, especially in this trying time.