UnDeuxTrois: so sorry again about the misunderstanding UnDeuxTrois: it’s just… i know that when we broke things off, you were in a weird state, and then i didn’t hear from you in years UnDeuxTrois: and then you show up looking all cute and fluffed up with a brand new affini pal? not sure what i was expected to think NovaLux: In my defence, I’d only actually met a couple of affini up to that point, and neither of them had really informed me about… that aspect of things UnDeuxTrois: you didn’t see any of the broadcasts? watch the news? look out your window? NovaLux: I was, admittedly, not in a particularly sound mental state before the affini showed up; I was under a wardship for a couple of weeks UnDeuxTrois: awh dang girl, glad you’re feeling better though UnDeuxTrois: that your caretaker who was with you earlier? NovaLux: Illaria is just a friend, now. But yes, that was her UnDeuxTrois: and she’s still hanging around? maybe being a little bit flirty? NovaLux: … UnDeuxTrois: maybe hoping a cute little girl decides she wants to be someone’s cute little pet? NovaLux: H-hey NovaLux: Were you always this forward about things? UnDeuxTrois: oms yes you were just terrible about realizing UnDeuxTrois: anyway me & Mistress are gonna go hang out b4 bed, you wanna meet up in person tomorrow & maybe talk about this more? seems like you’ve still got some pretty unresolved feelings, might help to talk ‘em over NovaLux: …I’ll consider it; thank you, Tabby UnDeuxTrois: dw sara, what are friends for UnDeuxTrois: anyway peace
I powered off my tablet and laid down on my chest, deep in thought.
“Y’know, might help to walk it off,” Art chimed in. “You’ve got a plan to think about these feelings, no sense stressing about them now while it’s late at night.”
I shrugged, and thought back, “You’re not wrong. But I do feel… a little odd, to say the least, about how I responded to Illaria earlier. And those seem like feelings I ought to address now.”
“...Sara, that’s the same thing. That’s just a different way of thinking about the same thing.”
“It’s not!” I protested. “I don’t know what I would have said, but I do know that I should have said something. Regardless of what our thoughts are on… that, she’s my friend. And so she deserves to know what I’m feeling, even if that feeling is indecisiveness.”
“Following you so far. So, you want to tell her that?”
“…Not if I can help it. I also don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
I sighed. “You can’t eat your cake and have it too; her feelings are also gonna get hurt if you’re just gonna ghost her until you’ve worked things out on your own. What’s your plan if you and Tabby chat things out and you still don’t know what you wanna do?”
Sara was silent for a long moment.
“Tell you what,” I continued. “You two have your talk, and then one of us actually says something to Illaria. If we’ve got a plan in place, great! Everything works out perfect. If not, we tell her that we’ve spent like the whole day hashing things out and ended up still unsure, and I sincerely doubt she’d be upset by that. You okay with that?”
I took a deep breath, and tried to steady myself; eventually, Sara calmed herself enough that she could think back a ‘yes’.
“Alright, then I’m gonna go on a walk and try to work off some of this stress before bed. It alright if I take the front ‘til tomorrow?”
Another ‘yes’, and then my thoughts went silent. I hopped up out of bed, changing out of Sara’s nightgown and into jeans and a baggy T-shirt, then went over to the bathroom to take my meds and brush my teeth.
It occurred to me, as I was doing those little routines, that there was so much about the affini’s concept of benevolence that still struck me every so often. I could only imagine that whatever weird science fuckery in these pills was changing my body and mind could have also made teeth-brushing a thing of the past; it certainly wasn’t like anyone really liked having to spend a few minutes a day just making sure their body didn’t fall apart. Hell, if they could give you medicine to make you feel things, why bother with all of this instead of just chemically making people feel good all the time?
But… sure, these little bits of maintenance didn’t make me feel happy, but they sure as hell made me feel more like me. Especially when I started thinking about how many years I’d just spent floating from day to day; it was no wonder it took me so long to actually meet Sara on any real terms, if I was barely myself at all. It was like what they really valued was less happiness and more… individuality.
I mentally filed that away as another thing to think about later, and then spat out my toothpaste and rinsed out my mouth. I took a quick look in the mirror, tousled my hair so it didn’t look quite so styled, and grabbed my tablet, before heading for the front door.
“See you later, Art!” the door called as it slid open and shut. I stepped onto the grass just outside my doorstep, feeling the cool dew on the soles of my feet, and then stepped off towards the nearest park. The ship was so peaceful this time of night; the gentle lights shining from the almost empty pathways were just enough to see by, and it was quiet enough that I could hear a pin drop in the grass. It was a calm unlike anything I’d ever felt on Evea.
I followed the path a little further down the street, just past the turn for Illaria’s hab, and then into the park itself, where I settled myself down in a little clearing between some trees and looked up at the sky. Seeing the gentle cloud cover up above, and the supports of the ship past it, hearing the deep and rhythmic hum of the spinning machinery… I practically melted into the grass.
And then I heard a buzz, from my tablet. It was midnight, now officially a week after my surgery. Without even thinking about it, I sat up and pulled my shirt off, and reached over my shoulders to pull the bandages off.
My muscles flexed, and my wings spread out to their full width. I laid back down, the ground soft beneath my skin and feathers, the sky still gently spinning above me with that gorgeous hum.
Well, no matter what I decided, at least I’d always have this.
“So… pretty scenery, huh?” I attempted.
To no avail. “Yes, it’s very pretty,” Tabitha answered curtly. “Did you actually want to talk about this, or should we find a more fun distraction?”
“…You do have a point,” I sighed.
The two of us had taken a train out into the countryside for our little feelings chat—partly so I could feel like it was a more private conversation, mostly just so I could explore more of the ship. And being up on a hillside, with the slightly lower gravity and the excellent views of all the rivers and trees and buildings in the distance, really was fun; at the very least, it was unlike anything I’d seen in the city itself.
But I knew that I needed to get these feelings out. “Why… domestication?” I tentatively asked. “Like, for you, what was it that made you want that?”
“I mean, first off, it’s kinda hot,” Tabitha replied very matter-of-factly, and I had my second almost-spit-take in as many days. “No, seriously!” she quickly continued; “there’s just something about it. Having someone else make all your decisions for you, dressing you up in pretty clothes, drugging you and making you all cute and flustered…”
Her face was as red as her hair as she trailed off, eyes pointed at her feet; after a moment, though, she looked back up and saw the expression on my face, at which point she stopped and composed herself. “Sorry, right, yeah. But like, obviously that’s not the sort of feeling that makes a girl sign her life away to a pretty plant. It definitely helped that me and Mistress hit it off real quick when we first met: she’s one of the affini who designed this ship, actually, and as soon as I found out I was pestering her with questions, which I guess she thought was really adorable?”
I had completely forgotten that Tabby was an engineering student! I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty about that; as much as it was really nice to have her back in my life again, it was hard not to think about the nearly a decade where she had moved on without me, while I just stayed in place. Maybe it would be nice to have someone in my life who could pull me along… but I had those people already, didn’t I? Stars, this was confusing.
“And, well, she brought up the concept, and it just seemed… really freeing? I know,” she said, waving her hands about, “it sounds silly. But I really trust Mistress, and if she’s looking after me then I can spend a lot more time and thought on the things I really care about! No more stress, no more worries, just passion and love… so much love…” She trailed off entirely at that point, a dreamy stare and big grin on her face.
“I guess that’s what I’m worried about,” I admitted. “It’s… a little harder for me to trust people like that. I don’t want to get hurt.”
I looked into Tabitha’s eyes, and she seemed like she was almost on the verge of tears. “Can I hug you, Sara?” she all but pleaded.
I sort of flinched back at that, and she nodded and continued, “No pressure, of course. But gosh, it sounds like you’ve been through an awful lot, and I sure can’t say I really understand, but I hope no one hurts you like that ever again.”
I. Oh, gosh.
“Everything alright, Sara?” ona li toki.
mi toki: ‘mi pilin pi pilin ike. mi pona ala.’
ona li lukin pi sona ala e mi, li toki: “Um. Hang on, it’s been a bit… sina li pilin ni, tan seme?”
‘mi wile ala pakala. mi wile awen pona.’ luka mi li tawa lili.
“jan ala li kama pakala e sina,” ona li toki. mi ken ala sona e ni.
mi toki: ‘mi wile e jan Ila’, li tawa.
It had been a very stressful day for Illaria.
Her mind had spent all of yesterday since the restaurant whirling through possibilities, trying to decide what Sara could have possibly meant by her reaction yesterday. Was she nervous? Excited? Had she not been saying anything because she didn’t want to hurt her feelings but she knew already that she wouldn’t want to? Was that a bad thing?
She had hoped to be able to mitigate those feelings by actually going out and talking to her, but both last night and this morning she was apparently out of the house, and had given no indication as to where. She wasn’t responding on her tablet, and Salix just said that she’d attended her last appointment a couple days ago and ze hadn’t heard from her since.
So all that was left for her to do was hope that Alophosia wasn’t too busy to take a call, and hope that that would be enough of a distraction.
“Hello, you’ve reached the Evea Office of– Illaria? What’s up, babe?”
Illaria steadied herself. “Well… I thought it might be nice to check in?” she attempted. “Since we haven’t seen each other in a little while, after all.”
“…I’ve known you for three blooms now; I know you’re not much of a talker unless something’s up. Spill,” he said, not too forcefully, but just enough to make the point.
Roots. “I’m worried about Sara. I may have brought up the… ‘floret’ thing around her, and I think she might be avoiding me?”
Alophosia laughed a little, saying, “Sara? The girl you were carrying in your arms and coddling a couple weeks ago? I’d’ve expected she’d jump on it.”
“That’s the thing!” Illaria protested. “I… I want her to be my floret. I didn’t think she would have any reservations, or at the very least, she’d trust me enough to tell me about them. And the thought that she might not want to makes me feel more than a little hurt.”
She pulled back from the screen a little bit, not entirely prepared for having just been quite so honest with herself.
“Besides,” she continued, “I’m not even sure if I should try to push her about this. She seemed like she was doing well when we talked last; she’s got friends, she’s doing things on her own, and it seems like she really enjoys that. I don’t want to take that away from her.”
She paused for a moment, and Alophosia took the opportunity to step in. “Alright, babe, take it slow. You’ve only known each other for a few weeks; I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to not trust you with everything, and if there’s something she’s gonna be not super certain about, ‘should I build my entire life around this person’ is a pretty good candidate for being it.”
“Well, yes,” Illaria admitted. “But… shouldn’t she have said something, at least?”
Alophosia considered it for a moment. “Depends. Did you ask her how she felt about it?”
“Did you tell her how you felt?”
“How did this conversation go, exactly, dear?”
Illaria awkwardly shuffled her vines. “I… told her what florets were. And then we talked about something else.”
Both of them were silent, for what to Illaria felt uncomfortably long—and then Alophosia burst into laughter. “Babe, there is no way she took anything from that. She learned a new thing, and chances are she’s forgotten all about it by now. When did you have this conversation?”
“A day ago… but she has been avoiding me!” Illaria confidently declared. “She hasn’t answered any messages and she hasn’t been at home.”
“And you said she has other friends and does things on her own. Might she perhaps be busy?”
Illaria let out an exasperated sigh. “Oh my stars, I’ve been really self-centred about all of this, haven’t I?”
“Yes,” Alophosia replied curtly. “But I know you wouldn’t even be considering this unless you thought it was best for her, and I definitely know I wouldn’t be suggesting this unless I agreed with you. So if you actually want to talk to her about this, you should talk to her. Have a conversation, say what you mean, and get your feelings out, and then see how she responds. And until then, try not to get yourself too stressed out about this?”
“I… you’re right, of course,” Illaria mumbled, and Alophosia smirked back.
“I always am~” he replied, before adding, “And let me know how it goes!”
Illaria nodded back and switched the call off, just in time for her to hear a familiar voice gently calling from outside the door.
mi toki: ‘jan Ila o? mi jan Sala. sina lon ala lon?’
lupa li open, mi lukin e jan Ila. oko ona li lukin e mi, li kule pi pona lukin. linja ona li suli mute, li tan e ni: mi pilin lili pona. mi pilin taso e ni: mi olin mute e jan Ila.
ona li toki: “Oh, hello there, dear! Is… something the matter?”
mi tawa e lawa mi, li toki: ‘tenpo suno pini la mi wile toki.’
ona li kute e ni li kalama ala.
mi awen: ‘mi kute e ni: apini li jo e jan ma.’ tenpo lili la ona li kama tu linja, li wan e ona. ona li sona ala e ni tawa mi: mi toki pona. taso mi wile e ni, mi wile toki e ona lon ni. ona li wile ala e ni la… mi ken ala sona e ni.
“I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to be something you dwelled upon. Really, I ought to have said something sooner…” ona li toki pi pilin monsuta. mi pilin e noka ona kepeken luka mi. ona li awen toki: “You don’t need to comfort me, petal.”
‘mi wile e ni,’ mi toki. ‘mi wile kin e ijo ante, li sona e ni: sina sama wile e mi.’
ona li kalama e kalama lili suwi.
“Do you– I–” ona li lukin toki, li awen: “I have… perhaps been less than clear thus far, when it comes to this specific subject. So I want to be absolutely certain that we are on the same page here.”
mi tawa e lawa mi li toki: ‘mi wile e ni: sina kama jo e mi. mi wile ijo sina.’
sinpin ona li toki e pilin pona mute. tenpo pini la mi poka mute e jan Ila; taso mi lukin ala e pilin ona pi wawa mute.
“My dearest, darling, flower, you have no idea how long I’ve waited to hear you say those words,” ona li toki. “I love you, petal, more than words can express, and I’m so glad to know that I am no longer limited by them.”
‘mi olin kin e sina,’ mi toki, ‘taso… sina toki ala e ni tan seme?’ mi lukin e oko ona, laso, pi pona lukin mute.
tenpo lili la ona li kalama ala, li toki musi: “Because, little one, you are very special and very fragile. I could have made you mine when we first met; I could have held you in my vines and rewritten your mind so you could not help but love me. But I didn’t want to mould you from scratch, to just make you into whatever I wanted. I wanted you to blossom into your own shape, to become what you were meant to be, and then let me polish your edges to a shine. And now, here you are, ready and willing for your artist to begin her work.”
‘lon,’ mi toki. ‘mi ken awen. sina wile pali e seme tawa mi?’
“Oh, so many things. Would you like me to tell you, or would you prefer to find out?” uta ona li kama suli mute, li pini len e nena uta wawa. mi kon wawa, li pana e palisa luka tu tawa ona.
linja pi jan Ila li sike e mi, mi pilin e pilin ike luka. “Good choice,” ona li toki; lukin mi li kama weka.
mi pilin e pilin suli pona; tenpo pini la mi pilin sama ala e ni. sijelo mi ale li kama wawa ala, li ken ala tawa. sona insa mi li tawa wawa mute li tawa wawa lili; mi ken ala lukin sona e ale. sijelo mi li awen pilin e linja ona ale. pilin ni li kama wawa mute mute; pilin li ike ala, taso ona li sama. mi ken ala pali e nimi; mi kalama e kalama pi pilin pona mute.
mi kama ken lukin pona e jan Ila; ona li pona ale. ona li sama ala e jan ma, li kasi mute taso; taso ona li awen jo e oko suno pi pona lukin, li lukin e mi. mi lukin e oko ni; ijo ale la, ni li ijo suli pi wan taso.
“Such a good girl,” ona li toki musi, li kama pali e ni kepeken linja ona: mi len ala. “That, my dearest, is just a sample of the pleasure I can give you every single day—though it does seem to be having quite the effect on you~ How does that little class-A feel, pet?”
mi lukin pana e nimi tawa ona; taso mi ken toki taso e ‘a…’; ona li sama mute e kalama, sama lili e nimi. jan Ila li kalama e kalama pi pilin musi li toki, “Such a beautiful little petal; a wonderful little canvas for your owner. Now, let’s make you art.”
mi lon e lipu lape… tawa mi. mi pilin kiwen ala, li pilin wawa; jan Ila li lon, li pona ale. sijelo mi ale li pilin e pilin lili. pilin ni li tan e ni: mi tawa pi lawa ala, li kalama e kalama pi pilin pona mute. mi wile ala sona, li ken ala sona. mi ken taso wile e jan Ila. lawa mi o…
“My pretty little angel,” ona li toki musi, li pilin e monsi mi kepeken linja ona. “My everything. My floret.” sinpin mi li kama seli. tenpo lili la mi sona e nasin ni: ona li jo ale mute e mi. mi lukin e oko ona, sona mi li kama weka.
mi lukin mute awen sona, li wile sona e pilin pona ni ale. sijelo mi ale li tawa wawa sama tawa musi ona; mi kama ken ala lawa e toki mi, li ken kalama pona lili. linja ona wan li sike e noka lawa mi, ona li jo poka e mi tawa sijelo ona, mi sona insa taso e ni: tenpo ale la mi wile lon, li wile pilin sama pilin ni.
ona pilin unpa e noka insa mi, lawa mi li kama taso pilin pona. tenpo ale la jan Ila li lawa e mi.
“Good morning, Illaria,” her floret sang upon waking up. Her mouth was formed into a dazed smile, eyes shining brightly as she stared up at her owner.
Illaria gave a little smirk back. “It’s after noon, petal,” she replied, “but it’s wonderful to see you too. How are you feeling?”
“Perfect,” she answered. “Like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” The young woman adjusted a bit against the blanket Illaria had wrapped her in, before collapsing back into a soft pile; her owner couldn’t help but giggle at how adorable it was.
“That’s lovely to hear, pet,” the affini smiled. “Would you like me to get you some water?”
Her floret nodded, and smiled even wider, and Illaria stepped off to the kitchen, making sure to keep the woman in her sights. Grabbing two cups from the cabinet above the sink, she flicked the tap and held the cups under the gentle stream of cold water until they were just full enough to drink while laying down, and then made her way back to the bed and handed a cup over.
“Thank you, Illaria!” came the reply. Illaria dipped a vine in her own cup, and curled just about the rest of her around her pet. She had never done anything quite like this before, and while it was more spectacular than she could ever have dreamed, she was also more than glad that she could give her floret the class-A counteragent so the two of them could comfortably cuddle.
Gently petting her floret’s head, Illaria whispered, “Alright, petal. This has been a lovely little time, but I think now sounds like a good time to make things official, don’t you?”
“Oh, okay, Illaria. What sort of things?”
Gosh, her little pet was so cute when she got all spacey. “About your domestication, of course!” she answered.
“…Oh, right!” her floret sang. “I wanted to say something about that, at… some point.”
“And you did, petal! For which I am extremely thankful,” Illaria grinned back.
The woman considered that for a moment. “…Wait, that doesn’t sound right? Because I wasn’t sure what to say yet.”
Illaria paused, her vines freezing in place. Hesitantly, she asked, “…Art?”
“Him too! We talked about this, the… whatever day it was. Pretty sure we agreed to not say anything to you until we both knew what we felt.”
“…Petal, how well do you remember our conversation from before you fell asleep?”
Both of them were silent for an uncomfortably long time, before Sara eventually shook her head and said, “Not at all.”
Illaria looked back at her, trying to hold herself as steady as she could. Oh, dirt, she thought to herself; please let this be not as bad as I think it is. She looked into Sara’s eyes, hoping that those memories might suddenly snap back to her floret, but all she saw was that same pleasured and dazed look.
Which, she noticed, was pointed directly towards her eyes.
“Um,” she managed. “Sara. I think that your class-Cs may not have been fully effective. I’m going to give you an anti-hypnotic, alright?”
As soon as Sara shakily nodded her head, Illaria reached out with a bright red flower and poked the girl with its stamen. She blinked a few times, looking around the room, before nervously settling back into place.
And then, suddenly aware of her body again, Sara panicked and hid her face under her blanket.
Illaria pulled her vines away, trying to make sure she didn’t overwhelm her. “Sara? Is everyth–”
“Why am I naked. Why am I naked and you are here. What is going on.” Her breaths were haggard, frantic, her voice wavering,
“Um. It’s a little bit complicated, but… it’s possible that you might, have a third alter. And she… may have been accidentally hypnotised.”
“That– Wait, but–” Sara stumbled over herself, before finally landing on, “No. No, Salix said that the class-Cs, they would stop that from happening, if I–” She fell back into her head for a moment, deathly silent, and then yelled at the top of her lungs, “What the fuck?!”
Illaria stepped back from the bed entirely, vines practically tangled in knots.
Sara was still shaking. “I– and you– oh no. Oh, no. I need to leave. I need to leave right now. I-I need to put clothes on. P-please, look away.” Her eyes were welling up with tears, Illaria had to do something to help–
“Now!” Sara shouted, and Illaria fled to the bathroom, accidentally spilling her cup of water all across the bedroom floor. Hiding behind the door, she could only listen helplessly to Sara’s desperate sobs, the rustling of fabrics, and then a final, choked, “I’m sorry, I love you,” before she left entirely.