Lynera fidgeted. Coming here had been a split-second decision, really. Lanque had been shirking his duties again and Daraya had run off and Bronya was already busy and it’s just be unfair to drag Wanshi into a mess that didn’t involve her and her thinkpan was looped up around itself too much to put a decent poem together so she’d gone for the only place she could think of.
The only place outside of the brooding caverns she knew, really. Trying to make new friends and better herself really brought how little she knew that wasn’t her caste-given job or helpful for Bronya to light. She didn’t have much besides hobbies, not really, and she was afraid that it showed in every glance around the café and every time she shifted her cooling drink around in her claws.
The atmosphere helped, at least. It had been helping. The café had a sort of warm atmosphere about it that let her lean into the soft murmur of conversation around her as nothing but white noise and at least try to untangle her thoughts. It might’ve been the smell, or the way the purple-violet lights were just warm enough to trick her overactive thoughts into that comfortable half-awake faux safety feeling, but she felt like she was beginning to get herself together.
That feeling was mostly gone now, though. The second that those distinctive, forked horns and that cerulean undercut had walked in the door the sense of calmness had completely gone out the door.
Lynera hadn’t moved from her corner, not yet. Just fiddled with her drink and shot glances at Elwurd. She was pretty sure this hadn’t been an intentional meeting. She wasn’t going to start throwing baseless accusations out in the middle of this coffee shop. She was better than that now. She would be better than that now. But it still wasn’t quite enough to stop her mind from wandering.
Did Elwurd know her? Had she made an impact, while she and Bronya were dating? Lynera knew that she hadn’t talked to the cerulean all that much (in hindsight, most of their interactions had just been her throwing glares across the room while Bronya wasn’t looking and snapping pictures from afar) but she liked to think that she was present enough in Bronya’s life to at least be noticed.
The idea of being noticed, though, shot even more anxiety through her. What if Elwurd approached her? Lynera didn’t think that she could deal with that, not really. How were you supposed to talk to someone when you only knew them from stalking your matron? You didn’t. This wasn’t a situation normal trolls got into – Lynera had checked. She shot another glance at Elwurd and hoped that she wouldn’t notice.
The cerulean was ordering a drink. Lynera could probably listen in on what, if she really focused. She’d always had good senses. She wouldn’t have been picked to guard the caverns otherwise. Lynera would hate to see the caverns if Lanque was the only one defending the cloister. He blew off his duty to sneak up often enough that half of them would be culled by now. They needed her to keep them safe.
Lynera noticed, belatedly, that she’d been staring for a long time as Elwurd grabbed her drink off the counter and began making her way across the café. Lynera swallowed an anxious rattle deep in her throat as her mind began to skip through a hundred different possibilities, each more terrible than the last.
What if she wanted to talk about Bronya? What if she wanted to call Lynera out on how she’d stalked her on her dates? What if she’d heard about her from Lanque or Daraya or Wanshi and wanted to rub in what a horrible person she’d been?
All her thoughts were cut short as Elwurd set her cup down across from Lynera and opened her mouth to speak.
That was… less apocalyptic that Lynera had expected. The prospect of talking to her was no less daunting, though, and it took a few moments before Lynera finally worked the knot in her throat out enough to croak out an only mildly terrified “Hey.”
“I saw you looking at me, from across the room.” Elwurd started, and Lynera felt an anxious flutter begin to kick up in the pit of her stomach. Was this it? Was Elwurd going to call her on her connection to Bronya, or her pictures, or- something?
“You’re kinda cute, not gonna lie,” and oh there went Lynera’s train of thought, right off the tracks, crashing and burning as she felt her face immediately turn a vibrant jade and the butterflies beginning to form in her stomach burst into overdrive as Elwurd continued with “I was wondering if you were just looking because I was the most interesting person in the room or because you were into me but I guess you’ve already answered that yourself.”
Elwurd gave a sort of huff of laughter. Lynera let out an undignified squeak as her face somehow heated up even more. This was… a lot of things, really, but not what she’d expected by a long shot. She had to reply to that, right? How the hell did you reply to something like that?
“…thanks?” Lynera answered. She immediately felt herself die on the inside as the response she’d just given sunk in and Elwurd laughed – less of a huff, this time, and more of a genuine bout of laughter.
Lynera grappled with the urge to hide her face in her hands as Elwurd’s laughter trailed off and she began to speak again.
“Wow,” chirred Elwurd, “I thought you looked like a dork but this is on another level. I assume you don’t get flirted with often?”
“No.” Lynera responded, her voice half-choked with sheer embarrassment. “Not really. There’s not a lot of that. Going on, I mean. In the brooding caverns. I don’t. Get out much.”
Why did she say that?
“It shows,” Elwurd said. “I doubt there are any gals quite as cute as me down there, either.”
Lynera gave her a nervous shrug. “Depends on your perspective? I guess?”
Elwurd snorted. “If you’re into that sort of thing. It’s probably too busy down there to waste time pining after your hot coworker.”
Lynera’s thoughts flickered ever-so-briefly to Bronya before slamming back into panic mode and the conversation at hand. “You’d be surprised.” Lynera said.
“Maybe I would. I’ve never lived down there myself, after all. I’d need to get my information straight from the source. Maybe ask a troll who lives there herself.” Elwurd winked. Lynera felt her bloodpusher immediately start thumping three times as fast.
“It’s not all that interesting, really. Mostly just routine. A lot of grubs? I don’t know if- if you’d be-“
Elwurd cut off Lynera’s stammering. “I’m always interested, if it comes from someone like you.”
Lynera genuinely wasn’t sure how to respond to that.
Her voice abandoned her as she stuttered out an “Oh-“ and felt her cheeks burst into flame. Elwurd smiled wider at her as she tapped her claws against the side of her cup, frantically trying to compose a response to that that wouldn’t dissolve into a soup of vaguely related and deeply embarrassing syllables.
“Do you have a palmhusk? I could add you on Chittr, if you want to talk later. I think that if I say another word to your face you’ll actually turn into a grape.”
“Of course- give me a second to-“ Lynera fumbled, hyperaware of exactly how awkward she was being and maybe a little bit fixated on the way Elwurd chuckled as she pulled out her own palmhusk from the pocket of her coat and handed it to Lynera.
“Here. I doubt you’re going to steal it. No offence to you or any of your cloistermates, but almost all of the jades I’ve met have been goody-two-shoes and I really doubt you’ll be any different.”
Lynera laughed anxiously as her mind flicked back to the many knives in her collection that were decidedly illegal for a jade to own and the faux purpleblood account she’d been obsessively trying to maintain since she was six. She typed her contact into Elwurd’s phone with a few more typo-induced failures than she would really have preferred before shoving the device back into the cerulean’s claws.
“Here.” Lynera stammered. “It’s- Lynera. In case you were wondering. Because I just realized I forgot to introduce myself and you probably won’t be able to tell which one I am without a name and- yeah.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Elwurd said. “I didn’t introduce myself, either. I’m Elwurd. Nice to meet you.”
“Nice to meet you, too.” Lynera extended a claw, hoping that Elwurd wouldn’t notice how badly it was shaking, and shook her hand. “I’m- I’ll be in the brooding caverns? If you need me, or want to talk to me, or. Anything like that. You know.”
“I’ll be sure to keep it in mind the next time I feel the need to talk.” Elwurd winked and Lynera felt the inferno infesting her face spread all the way to the tips of her ears.
They stood there, hands clasped, for a moment longer. Lynera’s thoughts drifted to the feeling of Elwurd’s hands, the way they were just ever-so-slightly cool on her knuckles, the slight roughness of her fingertips, the startling intimacy of the contact, and she found herself trying to memorize the moment.
She cursed at herself internally as she realized that she’d been holding Elwurd’s hand for far longer than was probably socially acceptable and pulled her hand back with a squeak. Elwurd gave another one of those whuff-laughs as Lynera put a claw on her drink only to discover that it was stone cold and the jade began to move out of her seat.
“Call me?” asked Elwurd.
“Oh- Of course,” Lynera chirped, “I- I’ll be sure to text you? If you text first, of course, I didn’t- I should- don’t worry about it?”
Lynera stood, half-in half-out of her seat, as she slowly began to process what had just happened. The heat in her cheeks didn’t begin to fade until almost three minutes after Elwurd had left the café, after her old drink had been disposed of and a new cup was steaming between her clawtips.
It was then that Lynera finally gave in to the impulse to bury her face into her claws as the full weight of what had just happened hit her with all of the weight of a speeding drone and her traitorous, traitorous emotions began to let themselves be comprehended.
Did Elwurd just flirt with me? chased mother grub, I just made a complete fool of myself in front of everyone in this coffee shop chased why is Elwurd so hot? as Lynera slowly came to meet the realization that had been winding up to hit her directly in the butterfly-infested stomach throughout the entire conversation
“Shit,” Lynera muttered into her hands, “I’m going to die.”
Out of all of the trolls on Alternia, the world had cursed her with a flushcrush on Elwurd.
There was absolutely no way this was going to end well.