I Just Wanna Turn the World Off...

by priestessamy

Tags: #D/s #dom:female #f/f #multiple_partners #pov:bottom #sub:female #bondage #breath_play #clothing #Human_Domestication_Guide #pov:top #scifi #trans_egg #transgender_characters

CW for character going through the after-effects of harassment, mention and brief discussions of class-Os and their ego-destroying effect, alcohol use. Nothing too major this chapter, but it's just dramatic enough I thought it might be helpful. Also, sorry-not-sorry this one's a little longer.

Ophie was really trying to hold it together. And she hoped that maybe showing Miss Serafa and Rose what those rebels said would help her feel better, letting them share her burden. But not even Sera’s cooing sympathy or the suppressed anger in Rose’s tensing shoulders was enough to keep Ophelia from feeling upset and anxious. She tried, again and again, to tell herself to stop crying. Everything was fine, it wasn’t as though the rebels could ever actually hurt her. Besides, her whole thing was being the cute, fun, bubbly one — and it was incredibly hard to maintain that image when you were all snot-nosed and sobbing.

With a gentle hum, Miss Camilis attached a vine to Ophelia’s collar, and something about that did alleviate her sadness a tiny bit. Not a ton, but a bit. “Yes, it is most definitely time for us to go home.” She pet her gently and began walking slowly down the hall for the nearest exit.

Still, Ophie’s vision was all blurry from the crying, and she stumbled over a bench she hadn’t noticed. Cam caught her and stopped her from tumbling face-first into the floor. Rather than set Ophelia back on her feet, she pulled her right up into her arms before leaning down to give her a gentle nuzzle. Ophie nuzzled Cam back, but her heart wasn’t quite in it.

Even with Miss Camilis being so sweet to her, she continued to beat herself up. Boo hoo, somebody said something mean to you on the net. You’re stronger than this. She glanced over at Rose and saw her looking on with so much concern. You helped Rose out of her slump, why is this so much harder? This should be easy by comparison, it’s not like you’re dealing with dysphoria or repressed memories. So just fu—

There was a sudden pressure in her neck, and a wave of calming warmth spread out from the injection site. Ophie sank down into Camilis’ arms with a contented sigh as all those nasty thoughts went fluttering away.

Glancing out from her little nest, she saw that they were now outside and already drawing close to their neighborhood. That was good, it meant home was nearby. Home was safe. She leaned her way into a nearby vine, nuzzling it and kissing it softly. She was fairly certain Miss Camilis hadn’t hit her with anything strong, just a little something to ease her worries. But still, with her anxiety waning, it felt good to do what came naturally.

Cam cooed deeply. “Such a good girl.” As they finished the walk home and moved through the front door of the hab, she looked down more intently at Ophelia with a warm smile crafted into her mask. “Are you with me, little one? Do you feel better?”

Ophie looked up into those pink and silver eyes and nodded slowly. “Yes, Miss, thank you.”

The four of them took the time to get properly situated on the couch. The affini did their usual thing of weaving their vines together to make a comfortable surface to recline on. Rose held Ophelia in her lap with those wonderful arms wrapped around her tummy, holding her firmly.

Everything they did was comforting. Yet some part of Ophelia was hesitant to accept it. She didn’t want sympathy, she wanted…

Well, she wasn’t quite sure what she wanted. So she focused on the easy stuff, and let herself sink more into Rose’s grasp while the two affini played with her hair and gently wiped the last of her tears away. “I’m sorry about that, everyone. I didn’t mean to ruin everything. Hah, at least I held it together and finished the livestream.” She tried to laugh, but it came out strained, and no one seemed to be buying it.

Miss Serafa formed a hand and brought it around to cup her chin, forcing Ophelia to look into those beautiful pink eyes, the swirling silver flecks drawing her in. “You did nothing wrong. You were charming, friendly, composed, entertaining, and more. It’s not your fault that those naughty little feralists invaded your stream.”

Blinking, she could feel a few more tears in the corners of her eyes. “B-But—”

“You did nothing wrong. It’s not your fault. Say it.”

Ophie blushed and sniffled softly, easily sinking into that desire to obey. “I did nothing wrong. It’s not my fault.” Being forced to say the words made it that much harder to deny them. She even wanted to believe them. Stars, the affini were good at this stuff.

“You were very brave, darling,” Camilis said softly while Ophelia sank back into Rose’s lap. “Still, this has obviously caused you undue stress. I can give you something that will remove this experience from your memory. That would allow you to continue your project without feeling any further anxiety.”

She thought it over for a while, pursing her lips. Part of her wanted to say yes, to welcome some sweet oblivion and put this whole stupid thing behind her. But that felt wrong. If it happened next time, then she’d just have to go through this all over again. And the rest of their day had been perfect, so she wanted to keep those memories intact. “That’s alright, Miss, I appreciate the offer. But I sorta feel like maybe that would be… letting them win.”

Rose’s grip tightened a little bit, and she pressed a gentle kiss to Ophie’s neck right above the line of her collar. “Do you want to talk about it? It’s only fair, considering all the times you helped me work through my stuff.”

“I mean, I don’t want to talk about it. But I probably should…” Ophelia muttered bashfully with another soft chuckle. “It’s just that… Like, this has happened before. I’ve gotten gross comments on my TerraFirma stuff. And there was always some paparazzi jerk looking to make a quick credit by digging up dirt on me. I used to shake it off so easily. What’s different about this?”

One of Miss Serafa’s vines lightly caressed her ear, causing Ophie to shudder with pleasure. It was a nice distraction. “From what I saw, they made it pretty personal, sweetie. Political, too.”

She was right, but Ophelia felt like Sera was missing the point. The problem was that the rebels were right. She was a plantfu— a plant-hugger. She loved these marvelous aliens and she was ready to give herself up to them as their pet. The part of her that grew up in the Accord remained buried in the back of her mind — and it sounded a lot like those trolls. It told her the same thing, that she was a weak traitor. Ophie needed that voice silenced. That was the ineffable thing she wanted, the more she thought about it. And she was certain the affini could remove it.

“Plus… they threatened you,” Rose added, with an edge to her voice that had been missing lately. Perhaps some of those old military instincts were kicking in. “Even knowing that we’re perfectly safe here, it’s easy for the animal brain to forget that and focus on the danger.”

Ophelia pouted softly. “I was just trying to do something meaningful. I wanted people to see how happy we are. But those rebels called me a t-traitor. Like my happiness is some kind of moral failure, an affront to the natural order…”

Sighing, Rose’s arms began to grip Ophelia a bit tighter as she nuzzled into her hair. “I hate to admit it, and it’s not like I agree with them, but… I do understand them, at least a little. It’s the classic Terran Navy mindset. ‘Never give up, never surrender.’ It’s ridiculous, of course. I saw footage from the front lines. We never stood a chance.”

Miss Camilis rumbled, helping to ground Ophie even more. “You need not worry yourselves too much with the feralists. Any foolish enough to stay in this system will be found eventually. The rest will run. But no matter how far they may fly, we will find them eventually, and they will be shown the error of their ways.”

“What’s gonna happen to them?” Maybe it was foolish to give the rebels too much mental real estate, but she couldn’t help her curiosity.

Sera smiled and caressed her ear a few more times, obviously pleased with the reaction last time. “We’ll track them down and capture them. The ones that submit and denounce that misguided ideology will likely be put under wardship for a time until we’re confident they regret what they’ve done. Those that put up greater resistance or remain violent will be involuntarily domesticated.”

There was something disappointingly anticlimactic about that. Obviously you couldn’t expect anything different from the affini. They didn’t like harming sophonts, no matter how ‘feral’. But still, Ophelia saw domestication as a blessing. “Seems pretty lenient. They make all this trouble, and they still get to enjoy a life of bliss?”

“Yes,” Miss Camilis replied immediately, her voice solid as steel, yet still strangely warm. “We believe in the inherent worth of all beings, regardless of where they come from or what they have done. As soon as we allow ourselves to make exceptions, we lose our way. Still, there is a nuance to it that bears examination. Let us start small — why do you suppose someone might become a thief?”

Ophelia and Rose were quiet for a moment as each of them thought it over. Eventually, Ophie attempted to give a coherent answer. “Well… probably because they… don’t have enough to live? Like stealing something valuable to sell so you can actually afford food or shelter or whatever.” Admittedly, she also had plenty of friends who liked to shoplift because it was a good way to get free stuff and also stick it to capitalism and The Man.

That answer earned her a pat on the head that momentarily sent all her thoughts spiraling off into the aether before she could gather them back up. “Excellent, Ophelia!” Camilis cooed. “Survival under an oppressive system can lead someone to steal. It is not something they likely wanted to do, and could possibly weigh on them quite a lot, causing further trauma. And what of something more distasteful? Murder, for instance?”

That was more complicated. Still, she’d played a few bad guys over the years, and no matter how vile the character was, you still had to figure out how to relate to them. “Stars, lots of reasons. I guess usually it’s… y’know, a ‘crime of passion’ where emotions run high and someone does something dangerous. Or an act of survival. I dunno, a robbery gone wrong?”

“Or because you’re ordered to…” Rose mumbled softly.

Ophelia suddenly found herself wondering how many people Rose had to hurt and kill because it was her job. Her heart broke a little and she took hold of the woman’s arms, encouraging her to hug tighter. Thank goodness she was done with that life.

“And so it comes back again to the systems that put people in those awful situations.” Miss Camilis gave both women plenty of headpats and nuzzles. “Even in cases where the killer was emotionally compromised, we must wonder if such a tragedy could have been avoided with the proper application of counseling, medication, understanding — or even simple love and affection. And I believe both of you are fully aware why these things were not widely available in the Accord…”

Nodding slowly, Ophelia sighed. If you really tried to take in the full scope of the Accord’s negligence, the body count got upsettingly high. “So… the rebels are… kinda victims too. Stuck in the old ways because they’re too scared of change?”

Camilis cupped Ophie’s chin and guided her into a soft kiss before leaning back, her face full of pride and adoration. “And that is the most important lesson of all. From the ones leading this charge, down to each and every pilot, engineer, soldier, and spy… They are terrified. They are hurting and alone. And once they are within our vines, they will learn these same things, and realize the errors of their ways. There will likely be pain and guilt. But they will have an affini of their own to walk them through it, to find their true selves and become that wonderful person.”

“That’s beautiful, Cam,” Rose said softly, though Ophie still detected an edge to her voice. “But it won’t always be enough. Some terrans are just… too stupid and too stubborn to ever accept that stuff. They’ll go down kicking and screaming with everything they’ve got, because they would rather be a hero than a pet. How do you account for pride that monumental?”

To Ophie’s surprise, both affini began to laugh softly. Sera leaned in and grinned at Rose. “I think you’re doubting the true power of xenodrugs, darling. You’ve seen only a fraction of what they can accomplish. If they try and hurt anyone, then we’ll stop their body from moving. If they lash out with harsh words, we’ll take their voice away. If they refuse to give up their beliefs, we may have to cleanse their little minds the hard way. It doesn’t matter what defenses they have, we will pry them open and make them bend…” The sheer confidence Miss Serafa showed in that moment was terrifying and very, very attractive.

Rose, though… something was off. Her grip tightened a little more, and not in a way that was necessarily pleasant.

Miss Camilis said something to Sera in the affini language. The two spent a moment conversing, engaging in an animated dialogue. Finally, Cam turned her attention back down to Rose. “Still, I can see that you are worried about such extreme cases. And we feel it is only right that you be properly informed. We would rather that you hear it from us, rather than find out some other way.”

Sera’s vines wrapped around both women in a tight hug. “We have two methods for dealing with difficult situations. It’s actually very rare that we use them for dangerous sophonts. As I said, xenodrugs can achieve a great deal more than you might think. Still, there will be times when we will have too many sophonts on our hands and not enough affini to take care of them. Or perhaps a little one requires very specialized care and there is no one immediately available to help them. For situations like that, those sophonts will be placed into suspended hibernation. We always try to keep those time periods as short as possible. The dangers are minimal, but even the simple act of waking up from a long sleep can be disorienting and uncomfortable.”

She let out a high, trembling sigh. “Once in a while, we’ll find ourselves unable to properly care for someone. Most often, it’s because they are uniquely ill or troubled. When we are out of options, we will administer Class-O xenodrugs to such sophonts. They aren’t used lightly, I hope we’ve stressed that enough by now. They… reduce a sophont to a primal state where the only thing they can ever, or will ever, care about is sensory input. They are happy, more blissful than even the most contented and drugged-up floret. But I use the word ‘reduce’ very intentionally here. All sense of self, all conscious thought, is subsumed by the need for sensation. They’re happy because there’s no longer such a thing as pain or sadness in their world.”

The explanation was left hanging for a while. What could you really say after having that sort of bomb drop? The idea of a full-on identity wipe… It didn’t really matter how blissed-out the sophont became, any affini who had to make that call must have suffered a lot of sleepless nights.

It was Rose who finally broke the silence. She removed her arms from around Ophelia and carefully pulled herself out of the affinis’ entwined laps before jumping gracefully down to the floor. “I— I’m sorry, I’m gonna need a minute…”

“Of course, dear,” Camilis said softly, unable to fully mask her sadness.

For a moment, Ophie thought about calling out, telling Rose not to go off alone. But she was already making her way through the main door of the hab and out into the encroaching night.

The rest of them sat there in silence for a while, the tension far too thick for comfort. But finally, Sera stood up from the couch with a look of intense determination. “I know what she said. But… she shouldn’t be alone. Never again.”

Stars, was this it, was it finally happening? Ophelia looked up and caught her eye with as warm a smile as she could manage. “Go after her, Miss. She needs you, even if she won’t admit it.”

“You two have a great deal to discuss. And there is no ‘right time’ to do it. I will stay and look after Ophelia.” Camilis lightly brushed her hair soothingly.

Sera bent down and quickly gave her companion a gentle nuzzle, then pressed a kiss to Ophie’s forehead, before striding out of the hab after Rose.

There was another moment of silence with the two of them gone, which was just enough space for Ophelia to sense her mind working its way back toward depression. The events of the last hour or so were really starting to weigh her down, and she was frankly tired of it. So she looked up at Camilis and smiled weakly. “Miss? Um, I know I said I didn’t want to forget all that stuff from before. But… I-I don’t really want to do any more thinking tonight. Would you please help me shut off for a while?”

“I would be delighted, darling.” Cam reformed around Ophelia so that she was once again resting in her arms. With graceful movements, she began making her way up the stairs toward her bedroom, cradling the distressed terran lovingly.

Rose walked out the door, and within seconds was already considering turning right back around. She felt guilty for making a scene like that — even though the rational part of her brain told her that what she just did was in no way over-dramatic. The conversation had officially overwhelmed her and she needed a break. She needed to walk away. She needed… a drink.

Rose hadn’t really explored the city except with the others. There was only one bar that she knew of. So she began making the trek north, heading for the other affini neighborhood.

Her path took her past the monument where they had shared their picnic. In the fading light, its silhouette stood out prominently against the skyline, subtly lit by random clusters of photoluminescent mushrooms dotted along the tree. It only added to the imposing, haunting, otherworldly beauty of it.

It occurred to Rose that those words also perfectly described the affini. Or, at the very least, one affini in particular. That first day when she had met Sera… It felt like it happened ages ago, to a different person — which wasn’t entirely inaccurate. She just couldn’t shake that initial impression. Serafa had seemed like a goddess to her. And try as she might, that thought stuck with her.

Finally, she turned her attention away from the towering monument and resumed walking north. As she crossed from the park into the neighborhood, she found herself thinking back to what she’d just learned. That conversation had taken a serious turn. Sure, it was Rose’s fault for digging the way she did. She was the one who wanted assurance that the ‘bad guys’ out there would be dealt with. And now she had that, and more.

She felt confident in saying that the Affini Compact was superior to the Terran Accord. But it was hard to ignore the fact that the affini were still an empire, still a conquering force. They saw themselves as superior, they exerted control reflexively and seemingly without prejudice, and they had methods for dealing with those who resisted. They were benevolent and nonviolent, but still domineering — so much so that it formed the core of their whole society.

Rose eventually managed to find the Stately Oak, making her way inside and straight to the bar. She was beyond grateful that parts of this place were still built with terrans in mind. It had stools made for humans, and a bar that was just the right height.

Stepping out from a room behind the bar was a middle-aged woman with long, salt-and-pepper hair. Rose was surprised to see that she had no collar, and showed no signs of any xenodrugs in her system. Her clothing was terran — a worn-out flannel and some jeans. This woman was an independent. “Hey there, hon. What can I get you?”

Rose smiled weakly, propping her chin in her upturned hand. “Mmm, I could use a whiskey.”

“Yeah, you strike me as a whiskey type.” She placed a single sphere of ice into a glass before pouring over what looked to be top-shelf bourbon. “Name’s Alanna. You look like you’re having a rough one.” Alanna slid the glass forward with a knowing smile.

“Rose…” she said softly. “I was having a pretty good one… until an hour ago.”

Things around the rest of the establishment were quiet, so Alanna leaned up against the bar and nodded at her sympathetically. “Affini problems?”

Quickly, Rose picked up the glass and took a long sip, as though it would hide the rush of blood to her cheeks. “How’d you guess?”

“You’re wearing a terran-made shirt with a companion-style tie. That screams ‘I have a foot in each world and I don’t know which direction to walk’. No judgments here, I’ve seen a lot of people come through here these last few weeks, and plenty of them have that same aimless aura. And I get it, they’re incredible, but they’re also… a lot.”

Rose nodded in agreement. That was a neat, concise summary of the issue. “Yeah, pretty much. I guess it’s just—” Suddenly, all her attention was pulled away from Alanna as she heard a familiar sound. There was a sensation that went down to her very core, and she knew what it was. She knew who it was. ‘Bio-something,’ as Ophelia put it. “Speaking of, I think she followed me here.”

Looking around, Alanna furrowed her brow and shook her head. “I don’t see any— Oh. Ohh… Oh honey.” The smile that suddenly graced her lips spoke volumes, and Rose wasn’t really sure she appreciated it. That smug assurance, as though everyone already knew what she still had yet to decide. It wasn’t really helping her feel better about all of this. “I don’t want to get in the way. But feel free to flag me down if you need a refill, or an excuse to walk away.” Alanna gave a more gentle smile and a nod before she moved over to check on some of the occupied tables around the bar.

There wasn’t much to do until Sera actually came to join her, so Rose continued to sip her whiskey, letting the alcohol do its job and loosen her up a bit.

Finally, that familiar sensation grew stronger and she was suddenly aware of the affini next to her. Sera moved a few of the smaller stools aside and settled herself onto the floor. Her head was still level with Rose’s even seated the way she was. Why did the affini have to be so damned big? “You know… Alcohol is essentially a poison. Imbibing it could be argued as a form of self-harm. And I’m sure you know behavior like that is grounds for domest—”

“Read the room, Sera…” Rose sighed and finished up the whiskey in her glass before setting it aside, as if to spite the teasing. A slight shiver traveling across Sera’s leaves told Rose that the affini was attempting to correlate this new saying and its meaning. And the fact that she was learning to read these signs so easily only made her even more frustrated. “I meant everything I said today during the stream. I believe that the affini have our best interests in mind. You want to take care of us. But I think maybe that superiority has blinded you to the price.”

“No,” she said, quiet yet firm. “No, we’re only too aware of what we do. In our quest for a peaceful universe, we’ve chosen to make a lot of difficult decisions. But we accept their necessity, no matter what. I’m not naive, I understand why you’re upset. And…” Sera released a long, sad tremolo. “A-And if that’s what drives you away, then I get it…”

Rose shook her head and finally glanced over at her. She almost wished she hadn’t, because even looking at Sera was enough to shake her confidence. “I’m not going anywhere. I-I care about you all too much. It’s just that I’m still struggling with what domestication means, on both a universal and personal level.” Somehow, she managed to tear her gaze away long enough to look for Alanna. Once she located her and got her attention, she tapped her empty glass with a weary smile. The woman gave her a grin and a thumbs up in return, then motioned to Sera curiously, using her other hand to make the sign for ‘drink’. Rose was surprised to hear herself give a little chuckle as she nodded.

With that silent conversation done, she brought her attention back to her affini and sighed. “It felt for a moment there like humanity was finally free, finally safe. But I can’t shake the feeling that we’ve traded a callous dominion for a benevolent one. We’re still being ruled over. And that doesn’t feel… great. Terrans value autonomy — it’s half the reason the rebels have the numbers they do. And I’m as prone to that impulse as anyone.”

Sera nodded along but wasn’t saying anything at the moment. Again, Rose could see the way her vines shivered a little and knew that she was holding back from speaking.

The more she talked, the more Rose understood that she was delaying the conversation that really mattered. There was plenty she still needed to work through when it came to the Affini Compact. But even if she talked it through until she was blue in the face, those were things that would never change. Sera was here, now, and their relationship was something that could be dealt with proactively in the moment. She simply had to… do it.

Alanna returned to the bar and silently refilled her glass before putting down a small bowl for Sera. The stuff inside looked different from the nutrient water that she normally drank, more like the whiskey in her own glass. She glanced up at the menu on the wall and saw there was an entire list of drinks specifically for affini. Alien booze.

Rose watched as the affini’s hand twitched for a moment, as if to reach out and pet the bartender, before deciding at the last second not to. It was a small thing, but it spoke volumes. And judging by Alanna’s gentle laughter, she had noticed it too.

Once she had stepped away, Rose took a deep breath and fiddled with her glass. “I think I’m done talking about all that. It’s too big. Too much. But if you’re ready, I want… to discuss… me. And where I am on my own maybe-domestication.”

Sera’s tremors grew even more pronounced, and her eyes started to glow a little, the technicolor flecks within glimmering excitedly. “Of course.” She slipped a vine into her drink and watched Rose intently.

“First, there’s something I wanted clarification on. Ophie keeps talking about some… some connection you and I have. I’ve noticed it more and more since she pointed it out. Like a song in my brain and my bones.”

It felt insane to put it that way, but Sera’s nodding kept her from feeling like she was talking nonsense. “Most living things produce a kind of vibrational energy. Biorhythms. We’ve evolved an especially keen sense for it, to the point that we can naturally draw in sophonts — intentionally or not.” In spite of all this heavy conversation, she was smiling now, with some of that high rumbling that Rose felt throughout her entire body. “So, it’s true then. We really did harmonize. I’ve got to admit, I was forcing myself to deny it. I… was afraid to let myself think it might be happening. I enjoy your company so much, Rose, and I was scared of getting my hopes up only to suffer the disappointment of learning I was wrong.”

There it was then, finally spelled out. “But it’s not something you were forcing to happen? You haven’t been manipulating me intentionally?”

Finally, something about that elicited a laugh from Sera. And no denying, it was good to hear again. “Some affini can craft that kind of connection on purpose, but it takes work and a great many blooms to get a handle on it. No, this is pure chance. Or fate, perhaps, if you go for that sort of thing.”

Rose wasn’t normally so superstitious to think the universe would conspire like that. But some romantic part of her almost wanted it to be true. And it definitely explained the visceral sensation she had during their first meeting. When she thought of it in those terms — this divine plant woman who wanted nothing more than to make her happy — Rose felt as though she nearly understood why someone would become a floret. But some aspects still eluded her. “There’s just… one thing I don’t really… get. What is the actual difference between the way things are now, and being a floret? Existentially, I mean. We already live together, spend time together, look after one another. You’re still… very eager to provide xenodrugs, cuddles, teasing… So where is that thin line?”

“Hm, you make a good point, Rose. And I guess in that sense, the difference is negligible. The collar, the implant, the name change, they’re all just extensions of the formally recognized relationship.” Sera looked on intently for a moment with a thoughtful tremolo. “I suppose… when you strip everything away, what matters is the change in perspective.”


Sera smiled with a hint of mischief. “It might be easier to try a thought experiment.”

The last time they had done an experiment, Rose had become Rose. So she had no doubt this moment might be her turning point. But the promise of an answer to her unending questions would be a relief. She nodded and waited patiently to see where she might be led.

“You and Ophie have become close. You haven’t clarified the relationship beyond that. There’s nothing wrong with ambiguity, of course. You’re happy together. Still… there is a moment, when you might move from ‘we’re close’ to ‘we’re dating’ and everything changes in some nebulous way.”

Rose allowed herself to imagine what it might feel like for Ophelia to casually say ‘my girlfriend Rose’ during a future stream. The butterflies in her stomach began fluttering eagerly.

Sera continued, “it’s an ineffable shift where nothing is fundamentally different, but the substance is dramatically new.”

Rose pictured herself like all those other florets she had seen, like Ophelia — a dopey look on her face, a collar around her neck, proudly proclaiming herself ‘Rose Paradula, Nth Floret’. The butterflies were spreading to her lungs now, her breathing going a bit shallow. “Mn… Perspective, then. I see…” With a slightly shaking hand, Rose reached out for her glass and took a long drink from the whiskey, letting it further mellow her out before she got too caught up in her own head. “Ophie told me about the stuff she gets up to with Cam… I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with some of it. But if I become a floret, you would both be my owners. What if Cam wants me to do those things too?”

“Then we haven’t done the best job of introducing you to other florets, dear.” Sera smiled at her warmly. Hesitating for a moment, she reached out, obviously intending to pet Rose as she had been wanting to do since she walked in. No denying, Rose wanted the physical affection too. And she had finally shaken those worries and anxieties from earlier. So she nodded her assent, and was rewarded with a flurry of headpats that left her momentarily dazed and unable to think clearly. Biorhythms. “Cam does those things with — and to — Ophie because that is something they both want. If you become a floret, your experience might manifest very differently. It will be our job to make you happy in a way that is most authentic to who you are. For example, you expressed an interest in learning an instrument. You would never be able to do that if we keep you on a constant supply of xenodrugs that interrupt your motor functions. Likewise, I know the Accord forced you to do a great many things unquestioningly. It would be inconsiderate and perhaps even harmful to your mental health if we prevent you from raising any concerns or complaints.”

Those assurances went a long way toward easing Rose’s myriad worries. As Sera’s hand brushed her hair, she unconsciously nuzzled into the touch. “Thank you. And sorry for suddenly walking out like that. I didn’t want to worry anyone, I just… I got overwhelmed and needed some space. But I’m glad you came after me anyway.” Reaching a decision, Rose quickly drained the last of her whiskey, then slipped off her barstool so that she could make her way into Serafa’s lap. She knew that at some point, talking would yield diminishing returns. Knowledge and theory made for a good starting point, but without experience, she was no closer to making her decision.

Dammit. If she wanted to be absolutely certain, the next step was obvious and terrifying. Rose went to speak, her voice briefly cracking. “C-Could we… do one last e-experiment?”

Sera looked down at her, locking gazes with her, smiling brilliantly with a mix of surprise and joy. But that was swiftly replaced with a forced look of false confusion, an impish innocence. “Experiment?”

“Just— Just for a little while. Tonight. I want to see what it’s like when that perspective shifts. To be a f-floret. Even if it makes me nervous as hell, even if I don’t understand it completely… If it’s with you? Then it doesn’t seem nearly so scary.”

A thin vine made its way around her neck in a makeshift leash. “My darling little flauxret, one last time. Alright then.” Sera carefully helped Rose up to her feet before rising to stand next to her. “However, this is hardly the right place for it. Let’s go home, dear.”

“Yes, Miss,” Rose said, shivering at just how easily the words left her. Sera was already making her way out the door with a subtle tug on the leash that sent Rose chasing after her.

Just before she stepped through the door, she heard Alanna call out to them, “bye! Have fun, stay safe!”

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