Actions

Work Header

National Rare Pair Writing Month

Chapter Text

I will be writing these in bursts to help me with the "getting started" process of writing, and also to help with my obsessive editing tendencies. As such, they will be posted unedited at first. I'll go through and edit to check for SPAG errors and to perfect characterization once everything is posted- feel free to check in then if you'd prefer!

As always, any relevant content warnings will be posted before each chapter.

Chapter Index

Day 1: Chixie/ Boldir flushed (requested by anonymous). Chixie meets a strange woman on a strange night.

Day 2: Cirava/ Lynera pale. Cirava tries to calm Lynera down from one of her rages. Wait- no! Not like that!

Day 3: Galgiri flushed (requested by anonymous). Who knew writing bad fanfic could be romantic?

Day 4: Azdaja/ Polypa pitch. It takes a lot more than flashy lights and a loud voice to catch her attention.

Day 5: Lanque/ Marsti pale. What the fuck does Marsti know about poetry?

Day 6: Azdaja/ Konyyl/ Lynera (requested by anonymous). Not everyone can stop two elite mercenaries in their tracks.

Day 7: Joey/ Chixie. Living on Alternia is hard. It's hard, and nobody understands. Well, nobody but Chixie.

Day 8: Charun/ Chahut pale. Olive's not her color, purple's not to their taste.

Day 9: Roxy/ Mallek. Vibe check! *roblox oof*

Day 10: Marvus/ Zebruh (requested by anonymous). Damn, is this that love shit?

Day 11: Chixie/ Vriska pale (requested by anonymous). It's not every day that Chixie writes music for pirates. It's not today, either.

Day 12: Dirk/ Darkleer flushed (requested by anonymous). What the hell is Darkleer doing with those glasses?

Day 13: Galekh/ Marvus (flushed, requested by anonymous). Galekh has spent sweeps secretly practicing the art of dirty drawing, so why is Marvus's likeness so difficult to capture now?

Day 14: Ardata/ Folykl pitch (requested by anonymous). Having a tick type lusus, she's gotten used to people latching on and sucking the life out of her.

Day 15: Skylla/ Stelsa pale. Sometimes, despite everything, Stelsa needs to slow down.

Day 16: Azdaja/ Tegiri pitch (requested by lavend-ler). Can this duel strifers contestant withstand the righteous justice bestowed upon him by Tegiri's blade?

Day 17: Martsi/Tyzias flushed (requested by lavend-ler). Perspective is a two way street, and traffic is at a standstill.

Day 18: Roxy/Aradia (requested by bakedpotatocat). Roxy is the only other person on the planet that knows the feeling of a cold, metallic box to shove your soul in.

Day 19: Lynera/Daraya quadrant vacillation (requested by anonymous). Why does Lynera care so much when Daraya tries very hard to not care at all?

Day 20: Mallek/ Galekh pale (requested by anonymous). Sometimes, Mallek does things that gets Galekh's blood racing; sometimes, Galekh does something to stop his blood cold.

Day 21: Ardata/ Elwurd flushed (requested by anonymous). She's stuck up, self absorbed, and nasty as hell. Elwurd likes that in a woman.

Day 22: RoxyKat (requested by anonymous). It turns out, there are two sad saps that like the view of the stars.

Day 23: Psiionic/ Handmaid flushed (requested by anonymous): There are not many trolls who burn brighter than you.

Day 24: Xefros/ Kuprum flushed (requested by sappy-mud): It’s the first time losing’s felt so good.

Day 25: Horuss/ Cronus pitch (requested by anonymous)He’s naive, childish, and completely stupid, they both think about the other.

Day 26: Lynera/ Elwurd pale (requested by anonymous). Where Elwurd is a steady creek, Lynera is a brushfire. 

Day 27: Aradia/ Kurloz flushed (requested by anonymous). She’s dead, he’s death, it’s almost like the messiahs made her for Kurloz himself.

Day 28: Polypa/ Boldir pale (requested by anonymous, with themes of hurt/comfort, and Boldir doing the comforting as requested). Keeping secrets is Boldir's business. Unfortunately, it’s hers, too.

Day 29: Eridan/ Roxy pale (requested by anonymous). She knits him a robe and wizard hat.

Day 30: Polypa/ Nihkee (requested by conetone). Poylpa gets the drop on Nihkee. Nihkee drops in on Polypa.

Chapter Text

The first time you touch her is an accident.

Honestly.

You watched her stumble out of her bar, laugh musical and smile bright. Maybe it would have been easy to pay attention to her, slip your hand right into her pocket, but easy targets rarely mean easy pickings. Instead, you let your attention shift to a highblood involved in a heated argument with their matesprit; they might do the job. They hit every point on your bulleted list: rich enough to not notice the loss; wearing large enough clothes to conceal your darting hands; distracted enough for a small olive blooded girl to slip right by unnoticed.

But that woman from before passes you by. Her arm catches the fabric of your coat. And she stops. And she turns, ever so slightly towards you, catching you in her peripherals. Ah, fuck, it almost feels like being caught. That highblood from before steps into their private scuttlebuggy and the moment is lost.

With your mark lost, you turn your attention to this girl. She gives you the sort of look like she’s going to tell you off for not paying attention, but then something shifts in her expression, nearly imperceptible but visceral all the same. Experience clues you in on it, nerves make you ignore it.

You realize the two of you have been staring at each other, silent, for nearly a full 30 seconds.

“Is something wrong?” you ask her, planning your escape.

“No, I…” she pauses, then recovers gracefully, standing up to her full height as she smiles. “I was just wondering where you were going?”

It’s a pretty good save; you smirk at her. She looks at you smirking at her. In her eyes, you see a vague annoyance. Clearly, by not responding, you’ve veered off of her script. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear before she tries again.

“I mean, I’ve never seen someone look so sure of where they’re going,” she laughs, and it’s genuine in its warmth if not its honesty.

But, as you look closer at her, you notice that she is telling you the truth. Her eyes slant in interest towards you. Her body language is fairly loose but awkward enough to suggest she’s used to being tense. She must deal with a lot of highbloods. 

There’s something about her that intrigues you; she’s a woman slanted with stacks of juxtaposition. Her steady footsteps from when she walked out the door contrast with the pigeon-toed stance she stands in now. The placid expression she wears masks a playfulness, somehow, like she’s just waiting to see how everything plays out.

Well, so are you.

You pass her your hand. “There’s an easy way to find out.”

She takes your hand, and together, the two of you move forward.

 

In truth, you really weren’t going anywhere except towards your next mark. This woman- Chixie, as she introduces herself, silence held between you in an expectant pause before you give her your name- follows you without question. Maybe she has a death wish. Maybe she’s lucky you found her.

“What were you doing on that side of town?” you ask her as you find the valley on the outskirts of town. God, but you hate small talk. 

“Working. I sing,” she says, turning towards you with a smile. She’s a lot more pleasant than you are, patient with your lousy small talk and kind enough to encourage you to keep at it. She leans into your space conspiratorially. “I’m kind of trying to avoid someone. Thank you for taking me with you.” She holds a smile behind her hand like she’s going to giggle, but you see lingering anxiety behind her eyes. 

“Maybe you need a break,” you suggest. “Sit with me.” With this, you start to climb the branches of an old redwood at the highest hill of the valley.

“What about you? What were you doing on that side of town?” she watches you climb, making no move to join you.

You smirk down at her, holding your hand to help her up. “Working,” you say, grunting as you help her climb up. “I steal.”

“Well, you must be pretty good if you managed to steal me,” she looks at you, laughter bright in her eyes. It’s such a cliche line, like something out of some sappy blue blood redrom drama, that she has you laughing along with her. As she catches her breath, she tells you, “I’m sorry, I don’t usually get the chance to flirt with someone the way I want to.”

You let that stretch thin between you as you contemplate what the hell she’s doing. It’s the first time someone has ever caught you off guard. Perhaps the script you’d veered off earlier was your own.

In the valley beneath you, three ceruleans shoot at each other with flares and fireworks. Something deep and wise in your chest tells you that they’re going to see you, but this girl beside you holds you steadfast in your place. 

“You told me earlier that I looked like I knew where I was going,” you pause. She nods. “Well, I wasn’t going anywhere.”

She contemplates you, nothing in her expression belaying anything you can read. “That’s not true. You were coming here.”

Before you have time to answer- how wise she is, to see what you couldn’t- a loud boom comes from below you, then one of the ceruleans shouts toward you. There go your fireworks. It’s such a shame this is ending so soon, the sights were so romantic.

You don’t have time to feel disappointed before you grab Chixie by the hand. You jump out of your spot on the branch and pull her down with you. She stumbles where you land on your feet. 

“I’d like to see you again!” you shout behind you, hopefully at her. She laughs as she yells back “What!” Looking back, you can see the ceruleans have abandoned their chase. 

Still, you pull her with you, breathless with laughter as you run, blindly, forward.

Chapter Text

She’s always barging into your hive, tense and angry and sharp like a hot knife.

Though your job as her weed dude does mean you’re the sole person in charge of keeping her calm, you’ve always wanted to get your hands on her. She takes up some space, squinting in the bright light of the moons. Everything about her broadcasts her habit of never leaving the caverns: her careful steps as if she might slip; her habit of making noise so that you know she’s there; the way she glances at your window as if she can’t ever get enough of the view. She’s so obvious.

You rummage through your drawers. It’s not like you keep a secret stash of the good stuff just for her or anything. She’s one of your more regular customers, that's all. These days, you don’t get a lot of those. She watches you, intent as if you’re going to tell her secret to somebody.

“Just saying, if you’re worried about getting caught, your mellow’s gonna be harshed pretty often,” you offer, innocuous and soft.

She’s so stubborn; you smile as you watch her fight against her desire to yell at you. You are ‘presuming such a thing about her lifestyle,’ perhaps, or maybe ‘suggesting that she would ever do anything that would bring the cloistered jades to shame.’ But the two of you have been going through these motions for a few wipes now, and she knows that yelling at you won’t really get her anywhere. It’s almost painful to watch her wind herself up so tightly. As always, your mouth gets the better of you.

“You could, you know, just smoke here?” you suggest. Oh, fuck, the minute the words leave your mouth, your whole body gets hot. You tug a little at your binder, trying to even your breathing.

But, despite what your prior experiences with Lynera might have told you, she softens. Her tight, menacing expression turns sympathetic. If you were feeling a little braver, you might have even said she looks… hopeful? Relieved?

“Would that be okay?” that expression stays on her face, growing more honest by degrees. It’s so sweet and beautiful that you almost can’t look at it.

“I mean…” you trail off. Fuck it, you’re sick of feeling awkward around her. You just want her to relax. Just because you’re pale for her doesn’t mean you can’t be her friend too.

That’s what you tell yourself to find the courage to take her by the wrist and sit her on the couch.

“Let’s vibe, then. You have anywhere you have to be?” She shakes her head. “Excellent.”

She sits stiffly on your couch, her hands folded politely in her lap. You huff out a laugh - she’s so silly, in her own way - before you put your hand over her shoulder, hovering as if to ask for permission. With the weight of her leaning in your hands, you pull her back to relax on the couch with you. Your head is all fuzzy and you haven’t even taken your first hit.

“Sometimes it seems like you need a little extra help to calm down,” you tentatively test the waters. She bristles, all at once and then not at all, before responding.

“I. Am perfectly calm.” she gets out through gritted teeth, feigning a smile. Her teeth are so sharp; she’s kinda really terrifying. 

“Yeah, I used to be like that, too,” she glares at you, so you continue. “It sucks when you’re stuck feeling abandoned by someone you loved. You can’t take it all on your own, though.”

Thoughts of your little alien buddy bring a smile to your face. You wonder what Lynera would look like in bright pink and seafoam. Maybe you could convince her to wear your shutter shades one day.

Your thoughts are interrupted as Lynera spits out, “You don’t know what it’s like. Nobody! Does!”

You let that sit between you for a minute, letting her feel her hurt before you tell her that you do know what it’s like, actually. Quickly, you recap the events that led you to gouge out your own eye. You feel like maybe there is some kind of time limit- a word count perhaps- that’s rushing you to get to through your story pretty quickly.

As you flip up your eyepatch, she leans back. You almost think she’s disgusted before she leans back into you, enthralled. Her fingers lean forward as if she’s going to touch you before her face gets all panicked, and she stops just as suddenly as she started. You grab her retreated wrist gently and place her fingertips gently against the scar tissue of your face. She traces them one at a time from end to eye-socket. She runs her fingertips, softer than snowfall, across your eyelashes. It tickles; you sneeze.

At once, the moment is gone. You laugh awkwardly, pulling out of her space.

“Pretty gnarly story from your weed dude, huh?” you joke. But she just continues to look at you, pretty clearly BSOD’d. “I just wanted you to know that you aren’t the only one out there who’s been abandoned. Or, like, who gets hurt like that. It’s pretty shitty-” she grabs you roughly by the wrist as you work yourself up; that’s definitely going to leave a bruise. 

“I like to write poetry,” she rushes out her sentence like she’s going to lose the courage if she takes the time to consider her words. “Here,” she rustles in the pocket of her vest, pulling out a small, handbound scrap of a book. The cover is covered in lichen; it smells vaguely like a dank cave. She closes your fingers around your new journal. “It helps.”

She ends her sentence with a kind, sympathetic smile, uncharacteristically shy around the edges. She stands, brushing her skirt underneath her and brushing out the wrinkles. You smile back, disbelieving. Technically, she papped you. And you thought you’d be on the other end of things.

When she leaves, you open that drawer you’ve been keeping closed for wipes. Inside, you pick up random pictures of your old friends. Pictures that you hadn’t thought about for... you don't even know how long. 

The words form before you have time to stop them. You pick up a pen, shaking it to distribute the ink.

And you write.

Chapter Text

He’s standing with his back to you, seemingly unaware.

The window cuts his figure dramatically: he’s taken off his hat (at your prior request; it’s rude to wear hats indoors), and his hair glistens in the moonlight as he stands, his eyes closed and hands folded behind him.

You watch him for a moment; quite frankly, you are very happy to see him. After a pause, he turns, ever so slightly, towards you. He catches a glimpse, his bright purple contact lens striking against the teal that slips out at the edge, teal that would be imperceptible if you didn’t know him so well.

“One does not simply sneak up on a shinobi warrior,” he says to you, playful disapproval in his voice. It’s a very good recovery; you try to one-up him.

“Multiple studies have shown the enormous benefits of meditation on both physical and spiritual health. I would not deprive you of that,” then, almost as a footnote to your previous statement, you add: “Plus, you made quite the dashing figure silhouetted against my windows. Consider me smitten, shinobi.”

It’s easy to walk towards him. Though he’s considerably shorter than you thanks to the caste that divides you, he puffs up impressively as if he could ever reach your height. You lean in towards him; he leans in towards you. The both of you stay there, leaning towards each other but not quite touching for a few beats. Though most might say the kisses between you two are awkward, you feel quite comfortable. Something passes between the two of you until his lips are brushing yours, soft and quick.

When he pulls away, he's blushing. You smile indulgently at him; how sweet your matesprit is.

“That reminds me,” you say, taking his hand and leading him to your study. “I did have something in mind when I called you over here.” You smile back at him as he trails behind you. He looks excited; the delight evident on his face puts a stutter in your heart. Once you arrive in front of the double doors to your study, you stop him, turning around to come behind him. “If you don’t mind…?” you ask for permission by holding your hands out in front of his eyes. He grants it to you with a lukewarm hand to your wrist. Now it’s your turn to blush.

He pushes open the double doors for you while you lead him forward to your favorite pair of leather chairs. Looking around, you’re thankful to see that everything is where you left it, untouched and unharmed. You take your hands away from his eyes.

His eyes go wide as he takes in the spread before him: an assortment of cheeses, fresh fruits, and your best espresso sit on a low wooden table in front of him, embellished with a single red rose.

You cough awkwardly. “I hope this isn’t too much,” you start, suddenly self-conscious. “I wanted our first anniversary to be special.” You let out a laugh. “Actually, I had to ask our mutual friend for some advice.”

“You asked Gorjek?” he responds, dazed.

“Yes. I simply did the opposite of everything he suggested.” Under your breath, you add: “I think it came out quite splendidly.”

“You have a warrior’s intuition,” he adjusts his glasses as he fixes his expression back to the stony facade he usually wears. Then he grabs some cheese and takes a sip of his espresso, no preamble. You smile; you’re so thankful that he’s enjoying himself.

As the two of you snack and sip for a while, he tells you all about this new east Alternian animation that he’s been hooked on. You listen attentively.

In truth, you have one last surprise for him.

“If I may interrupt?” He nods his head at you, relaxing back in his chair. “I have actually seen the show you’ve been telling me. I found the pathos of the east Alternian warrior to be quite intriguing. There’s a certain wit, or… or a guile!” you clap your hands together as you find the right word. 

He smiles excitedly, asking for your opinion about the hero, a teal blooded seeker of justice named Mamoru. You smirk, prepared for this turn of events. You prepare your notebook, nervously clearing your throat.

“I could write lengths upon his unique view of the Alternian justice system,” you start. “But it might be easier if I showed you something I wrote.”

His eyes glint mischievously; your secret habit of romantic fiction is no secret to him. You take a sip of water before you recite your own words:

Ever the gentletroll, Mamoru places his hand gently on the counter between him and his suitor. It would not do to be forward; a shinobi must trust his patience. Teal orbs meet amethyst, and a spark settles between them. Heat bursts, bright and burning, before their lips meet in a fit of passion. Mamoru melts into his suitor, a man whose name he might never know. Their tongues battle for dominance as Mamoru finds himself forged in a new heat. Like any good katana, he emerges stronger, brighter. When the two pull away, Mamoru lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding…

You recite your fan fiction on, skipping over the more heated parts with a deep blush. Tegiri hangs on every word, perhaps drawn in by the parallels you’ve made of him to his favorite character. 

“Beautifully done. You’re a master,” he says as he leans forward to the table. He picks up some cheese between thumb and forefinger. Before he can take it into his mouth, you grab him by the wrist, bold as you dare. You take his cheese- this sounds a lot less sexy in your head - as you meet his eyes, sucking lightly on his fingers.

“I thought perhaps we could try out one of the scenes,” you tell him, voice inflected with suggestion. 

“You mean like… roleplay?” he sounds excited again. This strengthens your courage. 

“I’ve always wondered how handsome you’d look in a yukata,” you say. You barely have time to think before he grabs you by the hand and all but runs to your room.

Date night: a resounding success.

Chapter Text

The blades on your spring razor glint at you from their spot on the blade of the ceiling fan, almost mocking in their surety.

You know every square inch of this building: where you put which pressure plate for what trap, where the floorboards creak, which ceiling tiles might leak in the rain. You are nothing if not professional.

Unfortunately, the crowd of people that swells below you is a lot less predictable than an old, crumbling building. Your mark- a blueblood woman named Niston- has been punctual every day for a week. With a glance at the clock-tower, you know you have three minutes to viginti-check your traps before you have to get to work. Luck, it seems, is on your side. A study of the crowd shows that most trolls have, as planned, left work early for some fuck huge clown concert. Fewer people means fewer chances to get caught.

This has been your longest job yet. Less than five minutes left.

You check your crossbow, loaded with corrosive dust and prepared to fire. You’ll have to be quick; you’ll have to be sure. And you always are.

At last, you spot her, attempting to blend into the crowd among her team of legislacerators and an entourage of people vying for her attention. Well, nobody said the life of an assassin was easy. It seems someone has tipped her off.

These final moments always strike you with a sense of melancholy. What must it be like, not knowing that you’re already dead? The moment she entered your cross-hairs, her death was measured in minutes. You wonder if your marks can feel it, somehow, if maybe they live their last day among the living to their best.

Not that you give a shit. Highblood, lowblood, they’re all the same.

Now’s your time to act. Your teaser starts screaming from below you, on the middle floor. You know the acoustics of this building like an old friend; Niston will never be able to pinpoint the sound, which gives both you and your teaser time to retire to the next building. It wasn’t an easy decision, deciding to go 30/70 with some stranger.

But their masterful performance proves, once again, that you can trust your intuition.

As expected, Niston plays the hero. She rushes into the building, and you count down the minutes before your spring razor goes off. From your spot sitting on the window ledge against the backside of the adjacent building, you plot your escape route for the eighteenth time. And you listen.

3… 2… 1…

Nothing. Then a boom you weren’t expecting.

Well, you can’t be prepared for everything to go your way as an assassin. You leave your spot in the window, climbing the building like a cat before you see your problem.

You don’t have to think too hard about it; the distinctive blue and cyan lights could only belong to one person. The brute war cry could only belong to his partner.

Azdaja and Konyyl have stolen your contract- god damn it!

The fight sounds bloody and exciting, but you can’t join them. You’re a woman of planning, and, quite frankly, you’re taking it easy to let your legs heal from being broken. A fight this big? There’s no way it’s going in your favor.

Against all odds, as you stare at the building you notice Niston framed against a window. She seems to be talking on some sort of communicator- calling for back-up? Luck is rarely so kind. You pick her up in your sights.

And you take the shot. 

She falls almost in slow motion, right onto the pressure plate of your spring razor. The blades fly out, propelled by the force of the spring and the spinning of the ceiling fan both, and land with an obscene spray of blood in her lifeless body.

Quickly, you cash in your reward with a quick photo of her corpse. Jackpot! Maybe you can buy some of that special ramen that Tegiri likes to celebrate together tonight.

But, right as you land in your old spot in the window, you see Azdaja and Konyyl rushing into the room and looking around. Azdaja’s face is a comical caricature of bewilderment. Konyyl is more genuine, with her fury plain on her face. There’s one more mystery to solve tonight; the duo seems to think so, too, conferring in low whispers before splitting up.

And luck gives you one last chance. Azdaja goes to the middle floor, the floor with the fucked up acoustics. You jump back into the room through the window, double-checking that Niston is actually dead before you go almost as an afterthought.

Azdaja is surprisingly quiet, though he’s not subtle. He snickers to himself every time he notices one of his kills, but you notice the tension mounting in him. You stalk him from high beams, around corners. He’s bright and easy to follow.

With every skill you possess, you force him into the corner. Subtly menacing him away from the stairs was easy once you noticed how little he wanted to deal with the dead all around you. Is it possible that one of the most famous mercenaries on Alternia has a soft heart? The pile of corpses he refuses to go near seems to point to yes.

“Konyyl?” he calls to his partner. He seems to notice that his voice doesn’t carry here, so he turns instead to look out the window a few paces east to get his bearings. It’s almost too easy to sneak up behind him and push your blade against his throat.

“Wrong,” you say, low into his ear.

“Ah, I suppose you’re the one who stole my contract?” he’s smirking, unmoving as if you just hugged him tenderly from behind. Asshole; he’s so smug.

Your contract? You stole my contract. I was just barely able to steal my kill back from you in time,” you’re fuming. You can feel the electric buzz of him gathering his psionics and preparing to attack. You roll back just in time for him to completely demolish the east side of the building.

“Wow, good move. I would have never thought of bringing the whole building down around us, thus attracting the attention of the whole town with a very high profile corpse in the room above us ,” you whisper harshly. This seems to unsettle him as he realizes that, yes, there is a blueblood lying in a pool of blood above you and, yes, in a contest between a brightly lit psionic and a very skilled assassin, there’s one clear target for the forming crowd to latch on to. As he stops to think strategy, you punch him as hard as you can in the jaw.

He goes down exactly as you’d expected; all psions are glass canons. If you can avoid his blasts, you can win this fight. But he’s faster than you thought he’d be. He grabs you by the collar to pull you down and hisses, “Stop for a minute and think. How likely is it that we were both given the same client? Someone set us up.”

You do stop for a minute. You do think. And he blasts you straight into a wall, knocking the breath out of you.

“Truth be told, I don’t mind being set up so much... as long as I get paid,” he stands, wiping dust off of his coat as he does so. Then he brings his hand up to his temple, preparing to blast you. Before he can let out his psionic energy, however, his partner calls to him. He glances ever so slightly to the left and you take your chance. With a quick jump, you knock him off balance, then you let your momentum carry you out the window.

You land painfully on your back, but you don’t have time to think about it. The buzz of the drones is getting louder; it's time to get the fuck out of there.

With one last look over your shoulder, you catch another glimpse of Azdaja, staring ponderously out the window. He looks confused somehow, as if he’s never lost before.

But that’s all you see before you need to look forward and get the hell out of there.

Chapter Text

The silence that shrouds your room is so sacred, nearly intimate, that you notice when it’s been broken before you even descend to the lower levels of the caverns.

Marsti stands with her back towards you, scrubbing lichen and algae from the walls. You wonder if you should bother telling her what a moot task that is. Her ears tilt back to you briefly, her way of acknowledging that you’re there without having to stop her task.

“What are you doing?” you ask anyway, not because you don’t know but because it’s your job specifically as her moirail to annoy her every once in a while. 

“Cleaning,” she says in a patronizing tone that drips with so much disdain that it almost hurts. But you’ve given better than that. Instead of answering, you stare at her in expectant silence. She hates that; you know that she can feel your gaze against her back.

But for once, she doesn’t snap at you. “I like the challenge,” she says simply as she shakes her green and black stained rag at you. Her smirk is flirtatious for a moment, and your heart skips a beat. All at once, you recognize the expression: it’s the same flirtatious smirk you give people before you’re about to be mean to them. This time it does hurt. Score one for Marsti.

A million different scenarios flit into your mind: should you pester her some more? Ask her why she’s here? Or maybe you should just leave her alone. 

Here’s one more reason she’s your moirail: you get a taste of what it’s like to be on the other side of a conversation with you. And it’s not pleasant, nor is it easy, but at least you get it.

So the answer to your own question is to sit on your chair, stare at your girlfriend, and write. It always helps to unplug the emotions that get clogged in your brain.

She scrubs the sorpor out of the rug in front of your coon. There’s a beauty to her: all long, lean lines; her hair short but fluffy; the muscles of her arms working hard. The rise and fall of her back as she breathes nearly stops your breath. You form the words without even thinking.

Knelt prone before me,

Faintly feeling,

Fainting, feigning, found…

You let your mind spin over the words thoughtlessly. They come easily to you, fraught with meaning and full of feeling. Marsti pointedly does not look your way. She doesn’t ask what you’re writing. She doesn’t stop to talk.

Poetry is as much a portrait of her as it is a portrait of you. In your alliteration, you find the stuttering, hissing distance that you both keep between you. In your ethereal language, you find your feelings for her, hidden under meaning and behind metaphors. You kind of want to rip it to shreds, shove the words back into your mouth and chew, lest she figures out what you could possibly be thinking. But that would defeat the purpose. So you leave them there, raw and ugly like a festering wound.

At once, you realize how happy you are that she’s here. She lifts her goggles from her eyes to gaze at her work. Her work is just as much as a self-portrait as yours. You let that sentiment sit, anxious and sour in your throat before you find the courage to let it out.

“I wonder if you see how much of yourself you put into your work. I was just thinking about my own poetry as a form of self-expression. What about you?” It’s a prod to get into her head a little bit. You’ve known her for a few sweeps now, drawn to each other at a party where she scrubbed down the ablution block and you felt the urge to vomit. At the time, you mistook her for the clown’s maid. Never in a million sweeps will you ever meet someone like her: reserved and simple and angry. Calling her your moirail felt easy at the time, but it gets harder every day. If you can open up to her, perhaps she might follow your lead.

“It’s not that deep,” her soft expression from looking at her work becomes hard as she glances back at you. “Why does everything I do have to have some deeper meaning? I clean because I like to. That’s. It.”

“You don’t think it’s important to know how people perceive you?” you ask her. This is a game you’ve played with her before. It takes patience; not many people can keep up with you, but even less can keep up with her. You want to be one of them.

She turns away from you again, replacing her goggles. “I couldn’t care less about what other people think.”

“Really?” you smirk at her back. “So getting defensive over when I question your motivations... that’s because you just don’t care, right?”

She turns to look at you. “What, do you want my whole life story or something?”

“Your whole life story is about three sentences long. I came. I cleaned. I couldn’t care less.” She looks genuinely hurt this time behind her anger. You press your claws into the wound, savoring the painful, furious spite of it. But then you let it go. 

“Some poet you are. Here’s the obvious since you can’t read between the lines: I’m here. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care,” her tone is angry where her face is earnest. She’s such a contrast between how she says things and what she’s feeling. She lets you press your palm down, soft and cautious, on her cheek. She sighs. Then she gets back to work, dusting your monitor and throwing trash in the incinerator built into the wall.

Found, but never mine,

Focused, but not here, never here.

Alone in the quiet she makes for herself,

She tells me how she feels.

Suddenly your poem feels ridiculous. With her embarrassed glance back at you, you realize what it was missing.

Chapter Text

It took two weeks of careful planning, but you’ve finally got them in your sights.

“You! And you!” you call towards them. You have to give them credit; they don’t look scared and they don’t run away. They do look a little annoyed, though. Good- you’re annoyed with them!

“Would either of you like to explain why our mutual friend and my very best friend the alien looks like they were recently crushed under a building?” you point towards one- the gold one, Abzaza?- then towards the other. You know her name: Cannoli or something. Mercenaries. It figures.

“Because they were recently crushed under a building,” the psionic has the nerve to look smug as he casually tells you that he almost killed one of your friends!

“Not our fault our friend is made of straw,” Cannoli says, completely uninterested. 

“Well, it  is  your fault they’re hurt! They had to ask our leader for her help! Do you know how busy the life of a jadeblood is? Those precious minutes our dear Bronya spent, patching up our friend, could have caused havoc in the caverns! A generation of grubs- lost! Thanks to your carelessness.” You go on for a while, just really chiding them. 

“We didn’t coerce-” the psionic tries to interrupt but you just barge over him, growing louder. Though you aren’t particularly strong or imposing, you’ve still managed to corral them into a corner. Mr. Psionic looks quite taken aback, you are pleased to notice, but his olive friend just looks mildly put out like she dropped her lunch.

“They needed some cash, and-” he tries again. You shut him up with a baleful glance.

“-and to think! They had so much respect for you two! Not to mention that they considered you both friends. And you repaid that friendship with your fists!” You feel yourself getting angrier than you can manage and take a deep breath, the same way your friend does. 

You notice the olive blood hiding her laugh behind her hands before she lets it out in a loud guffaw.

“You think they could take me in a fight? Maybe they could handle Daja here,” she turns to punch him playfully in the arm. He winces. “But me?” She laughs again.

It does strike you as funny, now that she puts it that way. So you laugh with her! Your rage meter empties a lot more quickly this way anyway. And if your laughter is half nervous, half manic, your new friends don’t seem to mind.

“Oh,” you exhale, wiping the tears from your eyes. “You’re right. When they met me in the caverns the first time, they couldn’t even break the bonds that held them to my chair!” You and Cannoli laugh some more.

Azdaja- you remember his name, now that you've heard his nickname- doesn’t join you. 

“You mean to tell me this whole time we were getting lectured about not hurting them from a woman who kidnapped them?” He gives you an incredulous look. You nod and he does, finally, snort in laughter before joining you.

“I’m turning over a new flattened tree protrusion,” you tell them. “I’m not good at getting close to people,” you say, to two strangers in an alley.

They introduce themselves properly- Konyyl and Azdaja. In truth, introductions have always bored you. But you’re patient with them! It’s a step forward. The three of you trade stories about how you each met the alien. When Konyyl tells you how indispensable they were in a fight, you find yourself smiling along. Azdaja tells you about their courage, and you’re captivated by his story of getting caught in a landslide and winning Duel Strifers on a technicality. 

Once you all run out of things to say about your friend, silence stretches between you. It’s not an uncomfortable silence, but rather just… plain old silence. You watch Konyyl stretch her arms over her head. Azdaja straightens out his coat. You tug a little on your skirt in discomfort out of habit.

Konyyl speaks up first.

“We were about to sneak into a movie,” she tells you with a... what’s the expression? Shit-eating grin? You bristle immediately. “You can join us if you want.”

“I would never do something illegal! Or- or commit a  crime ! I have the reputation of my fellow jades to uphold!”

“Your fellow jades? Who are, presumably, in the caverns?” Azdaja gives you another smug look. “The caverns as in the only legal place for a jade to be?”

Well, he’s got you there. You’re criming right now. Turning over a new flattened tree protrusion has never felt so thrilling.

The movie you end up watching is a romatithriller- your favorite genre. Konyyl and Azdaja keep up a running commentary; they’re lucky you’re there to shush them for the juicy parts. 

When the jealous highblood moirail jumps out of the standing ablution compartment, Konyyl jumps and grips onto your shoulder. Even through her bruising grip, she’s endearing somehow. You have to look away to hide your blush. 

As you do so, you notice that Azdaja looks tense. Not that he’s not hiding it well; you only recognize the expression because you wear it so often.

You follow Konyyl’s lead and grip him lightly on the shoulder. He tenses, glancing at you before he relaxes some, and warmth floods through you. The three of you lean in towards the center, which is really just into you, and you realize you’ve never felt more comfortable in your life. You would even say you’re having fun, which is no small feat.

At the end of the movie, you and Azdaja both have to carry a sleeping Konyyl back outside. You suspect that he could simply float her out and back home, but you’re grateful to have her in your hands all the same. It makes it all feel real, somehow.

You and Azdaja exchange info before he’s off. You watch him go until he’s nothing more than a speck in the distance, then you sit and watch the cars go by if only because you’re out of the caverns and that’s illegal and maybe you’ll never have the courage to do it again.

It occurs to you that your friend was right. There’s more than one person out there for you. In fact, you're starting to see there’s two.

Chapter Text

You’d recognize that duo anywhere.

Riding together on the back of a deercat, dragging along a huge sloth lusus on a hover-carrier, nervously not touching. Yes, it’s very obviously Xefros and Joey, here to stay another night. 

You can’t say you haven’t missed the company. Plus, you’ve been meaning to get a fellow musician’s ear for this new track you were producing.

Okay, so maybe you’re hoping to show off your new album for Joey. You can’t help it; you’re starting to suspect that soft, friendly aliens are your one weakness. First, you had that kind-of-sort-of pale fling with that person in the ablution robe and now... Her. 

Joey launches in about their day, pacing excitedly as she tells you all about how Byers finally fetched a slimecone from the canopy of the trees. The exciting part: he came back down to her with it in his grasp. It's the first time he's retrieved, well, anything according to her. Then she tells you about how another lowblood- a woman named Marsti- explained all sorts of healing properties the slime had. For all of her excitement, you pick up on the dark circles under her eyes and her slow movements as if her mind can’t catch up with her body. You glance over towards Xefros; he does look a lot less scraped up than yesterday. 

As you consider him, though, you notice that he’s started idly cleaning. You know that some burgundy bloods are just like that, but the habit looks nervous. Well practiced. A pang of sympathy lurches in your gut. Does he think he’s intruding? 

For all that, you know that now's the time to give him his space. Some things are better worked out in your own head. You would know. Glancing around, you notice that Joey has gone outside. You watch her walk towards the west side of your lawn ring before she rests her elbows on the fence. You aren’t so self-centered to think that she’s just feeling a little tired.

You decide, in the end, to join her. You put on your best "appeasing smile," hoping against hope that you might see it reflected in her face. Even for just a moment, you would love to see a genuine smile out of her tonight.

She’s leaned left as your lusus chirps and purrs at her. Her hand comes up to scratch at the feathers under her beak before she strokes her hand down your lusus’s feline back. Once your lusus catches sight of you, she jumps off the fence to rub against your legs. Joey glances back at you, then to your put-on expression before her expression turns sour, scrunching up to meet at the center of her face.

“You don’t have to do that,” she says, turning away. She turns her face back to where she was looking. The twin moons are setting, lazily brushing the tops of the trees. As they sway in the breeze, you imagine them papping the moons’ great, round faces, and you find yourself smiling for real. This view always comforts you.

“Sorry. It’s an old habit,” you say as you join her against the fence. You bump her shoulder with yours. “What’s on your mind?”

She doesn’t say anything for a few beats. That’s okay! You are very good at rolling with the proverbial punches. You study her profile and realize she’s still forming the words.

“Can I tell you something?” you say to buy her some time. She turns to face you, open and earnest in her human way before she nods. “One time I had a really good gig set up for me. I was so excited to be on stage that I was singing outside! But someone pushed the door closed on me, and it took the help of someone else to get me back in my head.”

She listens attentively, cringing in sympathy when you tell her about how some highbloods stole your set, and then your setlist.

“I felt so hopeless when I thought I would be stuck relying on Zebruh of all people,” she sticks out her tongue in a ‘yuck!’ expression when you say his name, and you both laugh together for a minute. “But I felt something else, too. I think it was anger. And that anger pushed me to do something I never thought I’d do.”

You lean into her conspiratorially. “I told them to kiss my ass,” you tell her. You give her the pg-13 version, just in case.

Both of you dissolve into laughter once more. She clutches onto the fence, so you clutch onto her shoulder.

As your laughter dies down, she turns to face you again. “I think I’m angry, too.” She tells you. “Everything feels hopeless here. Everyone’s so young,” she sighs. You feel that. “Sometimes I watch Xefros fighting for things he doesn’t even do in his own life.”

“Oh?” you jostle her as you tease her. “So you’re noticing things about him?”

Instead of laughing at your teasing, she looks down, embarrassed. “I don’t know what I’m feeling anymore.” You hear her sniff. Aw, shit, that’s not what you were going for.

But when she looks up, she looks surprisingly composed. “I just want to go home.”

There isn’t much to say to her, and there’s even less to do for her. But you try. You hold your hand on her shoulder and tether her to this world. Joey leans into your touch and your heart aches for her.

“You’ll get your way in the end. If I did, so can you,” you turn her around, holding her steady by both shoulders. “You’re stronger than you think you are.”

The two of you trade stories for a while as you lean against the fence. You tell her you recognize the sign on her hoodie and she scowls and says ‘he’s the worst!’ She tells you about her ‘brother’ back on her home planet (and you’re pretty sure she’s not a clown but you have no idea what else ‘brother’ could mean). The two of you find an easy camaraderie, talking about whatever fleeting thoughts come to you.

Eventually, it starts to get too light out for your comfort. You offer her one last hug (and maybe it’s for selfish reasons! But the world might never know). As you pull away from her, you open your eyes and notice Xefros staring mournfully at the two of you through the window.

You might be there to help Joey pick up her pieces, but you know from experience that some are too jagged and painful to handle alone.

Chapter Text

It’s not often you make mistakes. 

When you catch a gander of the figure looming over one of your dead, you think you must have rigged one of your traps wrong. But that figure ambles away from the first corpse to another, slow and easy as any motherfucker has a right to be, and whether they’re avoiding your traps because they know they’re there, or just pure, dumb luck... Well, only your messiahs know.

They’re surprisingly deft (considering how lazy their movements are), pocketing small scraps of fabric here, a few locks of hair there. Something deep and wise in your guts tells you that you didn’t stumble upon them by chance. Messiahs got your ass in gear early today so that you could learn a lesson. So you stand still and watch them.

Though their movements are slow, there’s some kinda certainty brewing behind every gesture. This troll has a vision and they know how to get there. You watch them; you notice that they are also watching you. 

“Hey. You want in on this loot?” they drawl at you, slow and measured like they just woke up from a nap.

You walk into the clearing with your empty jars held tight in your arm. “What I’m here for ain’t out for the picking up just yet.” You walk into the clearing and choose a target, stepping with one foot onto their chest. With a harsh twist, you behead the dead troll you have pinned underneath you. Their cold, brown blood spurts out one with the force of your foot against their pumper, then you pick them up by the ankle and hold them up over your jar. Seven bodies for seven joker cards. Only took you but a minute and your hands are covered in the wicked stain of a righteous sacrifice. You mutter the holy words under your breath, savoring the familiar shapes of them in your mouth. Amen.

“You gonna eat that?” they say. As they turn toward you, you catch a glimpse of their sign around their neck. Olive. No motherfucking surprise there; not many other bloodcastes got the wicked skills to sneak up and around what’s right and properly yours.

The first thought in your head is that they’re calling you impolite for not offering to share. But as they cock their head at you, their meaning becomes clear: they’re only curious. Reminds you of the little ones at church, truth be told. It’s almost endearing. So you laugh, because laughing is easy and laughing is a holy thing and this is a holy task you wriggled your way into.

“I make paint,” you say simply, before moving onto the next troll. This one is an olive; spares you the trouble of having to kill your new friend. 

“You’re an artist,” it’s not a question. Then: a pause. They stare at you. You put the corpse down. “There’s an easier way to do it.”

You watch them look up — it almost looks like they’re getting their bearings — before they turn eastways a bit. They take off their glove and pick up a handful of dirt. Then they spit in it before making a fist, mixing it all the fuck up in their palm. When they open their hand again, you find yourself drawn in, as if it’s some big fucking mystery that moisture plus dirt equals motherfucking mud.

They dip the tip of one of their claws in the mud before grabbing you by the wrist and drawing the sign of the dead bronzeblood on your palm.

“I don’t like to work harder then I have to,” they say. Then they turn tail and wander off. 

Some fucking lesson you learned. 

 

Chapter Text

It’s not often you’re alone.

Scratch that; it’s not often you’re alone together. Mallek’s doing his thing. A little rerouting drones here, a little coding something stupidly complex (to glace back to see if you’re looking) there. You’re doing your thing too! Kicking ass playing Fleet Fighter Online is an art you’ve mastered in the past two years, making combos like a dude with fifty thumbs and two controllers. They don’t call you tipsy “cherry tap” gnostalgic for nothing! 

Okay, you kind of wish they gave you a more clever name. It’s almost like the person who came up with it doesn’t immerse themself in gaming culture on the reg. 

Mallek lets out a frustrated sigh. You give him a little of your undividable attention. You’ve never seen someone run their hand through their hair so irritably.

“Sounds like someone’s not sticking it to the man,” you tease him, twisting a little on the couch to keep him in your sights.

“Nope. The man is indisputably sticking it to me tonight,” he says, letting out a breath.

“Ooh, sounds sexy,” you flirt outrageously with him, laying your chin in your hand and batting your eyelashes. He tilts his head at you, apparently confused at the gesture, but you don’t explain. “How come you never let me do that?”

“You’re not rich enough. Look at all the bullshit these people get away with!” he points to some words on the screen written in Alternian script; you can’t read it.

“Damn, pressing ‘f’ over here for troll equity,” you say anyway. This earns you a chuckle. 

“Are rich humans like this, too?” he asks.

“Meh. Never knew them,”

“I bet they were,” he scoffs. “Being in contact with that much money must give you brain worms. That’s why the rich are all clowns.” He grins at you like he just made a very clever joke.

“Mallek,” you smirk at him, knowing you’re about to hit a nerve and ready to savor the reaction. “ You’re the rich.”

You give him a shit-eating grin as he, predictably, goes shit hive maggots.

“I am not- Ceruleans are middle class!” his face is such a caricature of ‘outraged’ that you can’t help but laugh, falling sideways onto the couch and holding your gut.

“Oh yeah? Well, how do you explain… This!” you point over to his big screen tv. “And this!” you point to his up to date, ridiculously overclocked gaming rig. “And this!” Ah, the piece de resistance, your lock screen: a picture of you and him wearing sunglasses and throwing gang signs in front of his limo.

“Listen, I stole those things! I-” he stops talking so that he can run another irritable hand through his irritable hair and make an irritable expression. Actually, he looks very stressed out all of a sudden. You guess you might have taken it too far.

He continues to justify himself, turning back to his computer (husktop?) to, presumably, show you some statistics about the Alternian middle class. It doesn’t really matter to you; there weren’t enough people alive on your planet and in your timeline for you to form much of an opinion.

Still, you’re thankful for the opportunity to sneak up behind him. It’s easy to vault over the couch, and easier to land silently on your feet. It’s familiar to come behind him, making sure you don’t show up in the reflection of his monitor. It’s hilarious to pull his hoodie over his head and button him into his horn holes, and to pull on the strings of his hood to simultaneously blind him and knock him off balance. As his weight leans back in his chair, you catch him in your arms and throw him behind you onto the couch.

“I would charge you for the gun show, but I’ll take pity on you for your temporary blindness,” you tease him, watching him flail around to untie his hood and take it off his head.

“Sorry to deprive you of a portion of my apparently endless funds,” he says back. It sounds like he’s in a better mood, even though he’s trying hard not to show it.

“Your loss, Mr. Moneybags,” with this, you go in for the kill. Your pounce earns you a startled ‘oof,’ and your hand up his hoodie freezes him in his tracks. Slowly, you pull the bottom of his hoodie up to his ribcage and let your hot breath wash over the skin there. He shudders underneath you before you move in, pressing your mouth to his skin and blowing raspberries.

He gasps with laughter underneath you, half-heartedly pushing and swatting at you. He sneaks his knee up to your side and attempts to push you off the couch, but you’re quick to catch on, adjusting your balance so that pushing is all that he can do.

He finally does get his hood off his head after struggling with the buttons to the horn holes for like, 5 minutes. You suppose he must not wear it on his head very often.

Once he catches sight of you, he blushes and glances away. You keep your steady gaze on him, though, challenging. Trolls are no good at the emotional intimacy game.

It hits you all at once how you’re positioned: he, underneath you, his legs framing your torso, and you, resting your head on your arms which are crossed over his naked belly. Ah, so you’re both blushing now.

Good thing Mallek is really good at killing the mood. “When did you get the skill to hack my heart?” he asks. His tone of voice suggests that he desperately wants you to know he’s saying his words facetiously. One last thing trolls aren’t so good at: sarcasm.

“Wow, which porno did you steal that line from?” you tease him, getting comfier on his belly. He’s got a good gamer’s belly, soft and cozy and just right to snuggle up to.

“Movie, actually. In which a young male indigo blood finds himself- ” you interrupt him, holding your hand up, before he spends the next 15 minutes reciting the title. He settles down, stroking your hair and just generally smiling down at you.

“Hey,” he says. “You still feel like sticking it to the man?”

Chapter Text

Damn, what the fuck?

It’s not like you ain’t woke up next to some rando before, but what’s catching at you is this ain’t no rando. Zebruh Codakk, professional asshole and menace to all clowns besides, is snuggled up tight and cozy against your tits snoring like Milenko’s got him in his wicked grasp. 

Which wouldn’t bother a brother much - messiahs know you need to get it, your DIYs can only do so much for your stress levels - except for the fact that you are feeling suspiciously fucking peaceful. Blissed the fuck out and shit. That’s fucked up.

And like, maybe you been alone too long, cause homeboy’s starting to look a lil handsome up in here. His hair’s all loose and tousled from sleep, his eyes flit back and forth as he dreams. Man’s got muscle, too, that shit’s just not fair. Out of spite, you mess around in his head to lead him to his nightmares. Time to wake up!  

But not next to you. Your hair is still twisted up on top of your head, kept neat and tidy and out of the sorpor. Sniffing a little, you can tell your waitstaff got you fucked up with some breakfast this evening. On cue, your stomach lets out an unhappy grumble. Damn, you guess you’re hungover? You take note of your tongue and realize how sticky and awful your mouth feels. You rinse it out at the fountain in the center of your hive, sitting your ass down for a moment to gather your thoughts and unspin your dizzy vision. You send a little prayer of gratitude paradise ways- not too often you wake up peaceful like this. Messiahs fucking bless. 

As expected, you walk into almost too much food prepared for you in your dining room. Damn, they got rock and rye faygo in your fancy champagne flutes. Hell yes. It hits you, how cold and empty this room is in juxtaposition to the ridiculous amount of food and huge table dominating the center of the room. Feels like it highlights that, on most days, it’s just you and your voice that fills this shit up. 

You don’t get much time to sit and wallow before Mr Mans himself busts the fuck in, half dressed in his jeans and shirt all unbuttoned and shit. He looks like you that time you modeled for troll Vogue. You get a double take; you can’t believe you didn’t notice this shit earlier. His long hair. The bowtie. The expressions he makes. This man gets to feeling some type of deep way about you. He really respects you, huh? To emulate you like this… it’s almost flattering. Too bad the man’s a fucking snitch, telling on all your buddies and saying all that uncouth shit he says. Maybe you can do a little sumn-sumn about all that. The world is fucking yours!

“Hey handsome,” he brings his hand to his throat like he’s gonna straighten out the bowtie that he ain’t wearing. 

You try to be nice to him. He must have gotchu good if you woke up peaceful the way you did. “Sup homie. Musta done sumn good if you’re still skulkin’ round my business as such,” he comes in for the kiss. You turn away from it, giving him your cheek. He’s cool with it. Wouldn’t make a fuss, though, would he? You almost chuckle about it. If your homies was here, they would have made that whip sound effect. 

“You’re always good to me,” he picks up your hand and kisses you on one of your rings. “And it appears your maidstaff is very good to you. I didn’t even hear them this morning!”

“Waitstaff shouldn’t be seen or heard bruh. Ruins the motherfucking magic,” you take a bite out of a scone, before looking up at him. He’s got this look on his face like he’s got it in his head to scold you. Aw, shit, here we go.

“I don’t mean to tell you what to do,” translation: I’m telling you what to do, “but a mansion like this is lonely without a maidstaff to talk to. I mean, I would know.” He’s winking at you again. “Who else can you talk to regarding the liberation of the lowbloods? What, do you just approach them on the street?” He scoffs. “Personally, I don’t even pay my servents a wage. I would hate for them to feel like I’m putting them in their natural place. You know? Highbloods pay for lowbloods to serve them all across Alternia, but I deal in favors.”

Messiahs hold and over-roll you, does this guy ever shut up? You’re starting to think letting him stay the day is about to bite you hard on the ass. And not in a sexy way.

“Yeah, uh, bet bro,” you almost want to argue with him, but something is nagging in the back of your brain. It’s almost time for your camera crew to get here and start filming. Shit, you gotta get these dude the hell out of here post fucking haste.

You reach out to him psychically to release your psychic hold on him; maybe he’ll leave voluntarily. But when you wiggle your way into his brain sauce, you realize this dude actually, genuinely likes you. For you.

So you say again: damn, what the fuck?

“I can feel that, you know,” he looks all forlorn and shit now. Quite frankly all you feel is confused. How’d this man weasel his way into your brain like that though? You send that shit to the lyrics side of your brain. That should sort you out.

But not now. You’ll deal with that later.

You explain quick ways that he’s gotta fucking bounce before your crew gets here. He’s surprisingly gracious, thanking you for breakfast and expressing his hope that he’ll see you soon.

Is it sad that the attention makes you feel good? All warm and fuzzy and shit?

You watch him leave - he’s got a nice car, you like that. Rich boys with the money, damn you can get real into that.

But as you paint your face and say your prayers, you gotta ask yourself: what the hell are you doing?

Chapter Text

“What about… Plunderer Silkweaver?”

“Too soft. I thought you were supposed to be some kind of tough girl?” you don’t even need to look up from your husktop. She’s not asking you, anyway. When Vriska thinks of an idea she likes, she’s not easily convinced to let it go.

Vriska turns to look at herself in the mirror. She’s working on a new coat for her new flarp persona. 

Well, ‘new.’

“Is she a pirate, too?” you tease, glancing at her from above your screen.

The hem of her new jacket is all uneven, jaggedly cut in a hurry. A flash of jealousy runs through you; her previous moirail would have known how to fix that. Hell, you’ve picked up a needle or two; lowbloods need to be able to adjust second-hand clothes, after all. So you stand up and walk over to her. Maybe you can be a part of her process.

“I don’t know if you noticed, Chixie. Pirates are kind of my thing!” she seems to stand up straighter as you appraise her abysmal sewing. You have to suppress a smile as she pronounces ‘pirates’ as ‘pie-rates.’ You rip out the hem and start over, kneeling beside her.

“And Plunderer Silkweaver is so much better than Mindfang. I’m not a wiggler anymore,” she pauses as she considers something. The look in her eyes tells you that she wants to express something scary for her. You move into her space, ripping the thread from the needle with your teeth. She’s blushing when you pull away, but your willingness to get close to her, as always, gets her guard down.

“I’m sick of walking in my ancestor’s footprints. I’m going to make my own!” This last part is a promise. Vriska is really good at making those and even better at keeping them.

“Should be easy for you,” you walk back, eyeing the new hem you just sewed for her. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than before. “You’re really good at stomping all over people and leaving your mark.”

“That’s not fair!” Her words say ‘outrage’ where her voice is amused. You’re getting giggly too! She’s so rarely like this; you love when she shares things with you.

“Anyway, you have a lot of work to do. Miss Silkweaver sounds suspiciously like a Mindfang reskin.” You give her a push on her shoulder to let her know you’re only teasing.

“And what the hell do you know about nuance? Jack. Shit.” She pushes back, harder this time but still smiling

“Pie-rate,” you sing, mocking her pronunciation from earlier. “Irate. Plundering your shores, checking out your new mate.”

“Not bad. Writing a theme song for her? I knew I’d inspire you.” She flips her hair, turning to look in the mirror again. She smoothes the jacket over her waist, glancing back at you then away when she catches you looking.

“I don’t write songs for pirates,” you say.

“That’s too bad! Because a pirate is what I fucking am!” She lunges at you, impossibly fast, and picks you up to throw you over her shoulder.

You laugh and struggle half-heartedly against her before she throws you into the pile. At once, you’re so incredibly thankful that there are more plush surfaces than broken 8 balls in this particular pile. 

When she laughs, she really lets it all out, opening her mouth wide and letting the tears stream down her face. Watching her laugh makes you laugh. It’s a vicious cycle. 

Eventually, though, the two of you do settle down. Most silences, Vriska likes to fill. Whether it’s from discomfort with the silence or anxiety about losing you, you’ve never been sure. Either way, this silence is comfortable. You suppose that must mean Vriska is comfortable. 

Step two in this moiraillegiance: you stroke her hair. She leans into your touch easily, letting her eyes grow heavy as you explore the feeling of her hair, her cool cheeks. 

“You should flake,” you say.

“Coming from the girl who’s always telling me to stick to my commitments,” her voice has gone quiet, serene.

“Fuck that,” you giggle, just because you’re feeling good and you don’t really curse that often. “Stay here with me.”

“Wow, where’d this fire come from?” she’s mocking you; you are very clearly not acting that riled up.

“Stole it from you. You should have asked where yours went,” you kiss her on the forehead. “You look sleepy.”

“I was going to flake on those losers anyway,” she says. It’s so horribly insincere that you wonder if, maybe, it reaches back around to actually be sincere.

But you don’t dwell on that. You lean in. You kiss her. And you steal her fire for yourself tonight.

Chapter Text

 

Not every dream bubble can be sunshine and good vibes.

As it is, this one is tailored pretty well to your experience as a human being. Lonely. Echoing. Not quite silent, with the soft susurrus of something you’ve been tuning out for a while now like white noise in your head. 

It looks like steampunk just threw up all over a desert. Someone call a doctor. Preferably a doctor covered in gears wearing a long brown coat. Hell, you’ve never seen a plague mask in real life and there’s no time like the awkward, looming present. Maybe they’ll drain your blood and talk about your humors. 

Your hands instinctively go to head to fix your glasses and you startle when you realize that they- and by extension, AR- are gone. You are feeling decidedly less humorous.

As if you just fulfilled some bullshit existential crisis quota, this dream bubble draws your attention to the largest man you’ve ever seen. Tinted blue, covered in a thin sheen of sweat like a particularly homoerotic issue of Sport’s Edition, sporting arrow-like horns and a curtain of long, dark hair.

He turns to face you. He’s wearing your glasses. What the fuck is he doing with your glasses?

This is it. Your time to shine. Objectively, you are the only person who can fix this. And that’s not only because there are only two of you here and you’re the only one who knows what the problem is.

Then, he turns to face you fully. Oh, shit.

“Do you always mumble under your breath? It’s rude.” Double shit. He lifts your shades up, looking down his nose at you

“Uh. Hi.” This was not the physical beat down you were preparing for. “Those are mine.” You might try telling him that this is a dream bubble next, hell, maybe he’d appreciate you telling him that you are probably two different species! Verbal sparring is, as always, tantalizingly out of your grasp.

“Are you asking to have them back?” His expression barely changes; he still looks both condescending and furious. His eyes are piercingly, deeply blue. You nod. That’s right, the ball’s in your court now. “I can’t imagine why. This guy’s an asshole.” And he steps on your ball with his spiked cleats and deflates it at once. Fuck.

Distantly, you recognize that you bristle at his tone. You can’t let him know that you care about AR.

Or, maybe you can if you spin it right. Damn, he’s walking away now.

You walk with him, trying to keep up. Hell, this is an entirely new place. You don’t have a dreamself to look after, you have nobody to witness this. Maybe you can try reinventing yourself. Would it really be so bad to let some handsome stranger know that you were capable of caring about something?

When you glance up to him, your mind racing, you notice that he’s watching you from the corner of his eyes, amusement clear through the shine of them. 

Triple fuck.

Chapter Text

He catches you looking, not for the first time.

A small, stubborn part wants to stare back. You want to tell him he’s beautiful and inspiring and that you’re capturing his likeness. Maybe he would pose for you. But ultimately, that small, stubborn part of you turns out to be timid as well. So you look down, back to your drawing.

You’ve spent the past sweep covertly learning the art of the dirty drawing. The lewd, if you will. Your drawing of Marvus certainly looks like him, more so than it did a few wipes ago, but something isn’t quite right. It doesn’t feel like him the way you thought it would. A sigh escapes you as you realize that no amount of studies could ever help you figure out what’s wrong.

“Sup, big blue?” he calls you from his spot on the big comfy couch adjacent to you. He’s holding his head in his hand as he contorts impossibly on the couch to simultaneously twist towards you and cross his legs underneath him. His movements rustle his lyric drafts around on his lap. He's a man made for attention.

“I’m trying to capture your image,” you tell him.

“Yeah? Ain’t like you da first though,” he smiles cheekily at you. “Paparazzi’s been up my ass like got damn lately.”

Under your breath, you mutter almost as an afterthought, “Please note that my attempts are coming from a place of familiarity and understanding as opposed to the manic frenzy of the paparazzi.” Oof, you’re a little out of breath after rushing through that clarification. It makes you dizzy.

 Or maybe , you think as he stands up, stretching his arms above his head and accentuating the long, lean lines of his body.  Maybe it’s him that makes you dizzy.  He saunters up to your place on your chair. His steps are so sure, somehow, measured like music. You wonder how long it took him to cultivate that skill. Maybe he took lessons.

All of your thoughts stop as he looms over you, placing a hand on your shoulder as he attempts to catch a glance at your sketches. You successfully pull them to your chest, worried about his possible opinion. If he’s hurt or offended by your gesture, he doesn’t show it. Instead, he glances back up to your face with an easy-going smile.

“Noticed you been talmbout ‘trying to’ and ‘attempting,’” he mimics your accent as he leans into you; it sounds silly in his voice. “You been having trouble?” He kisses you on your jaw.

“The creative process is… Fickle,” then, under your breath: “I’m certain that you know this, being a cultured man and an artist yourself.”

“Ain’t that da muh-fuckin' truth,” he brings his hand up to his chin as if he’s deeply considering something. Then he winks at you, sticking out his tongue.

Uh-oh.

He mock-sighs. “Damn buddy but I think I’ma have to give you a lil more trouble though.” He slides into your lap with all of the grace of a dancer. His movements are slow and heavy, dripping sexuality without the expectation.

You feel even more lost; this was the whole reason you took those lewd drawing classes. It makes sense to you; if Marvus can ooze sensuality so effortlessly, what’s keeping you from capturing that with the same ease?

His knees frame your hips. His eyes meet yours. He smiles as he leans back, balancing his hands on your knees. A beat of silence passes before he looks back up to you.

“We gravy? Still coolin’?” You nod. “Then wassup? Thought you was drawing. Capturing my wicked likeness and all that.” He gives you a skeptical look like you’re the one making this difficult.

Something clicks in your head. You lean your sketch pad on his belly and pick up your pencil again in your left hand. With your right, you hold him steady around his waist, helping him balance. A happy noise escapes his throat; he loves to be held.

It’s a small learning curve, learning to draw on the sketch pad without being able to hold it steady. Marvus comes to your rescue once more; dragging his hand down his chest before he holds your book steady for you.

“Better?” he asks. His voice is low. Your hand is moving across the page in the same, slow movements that he moved in earlier.

“Yes,” you say. Your voice is dry. He hums at you, closing his eyes in sleepy contentment. 

“Think you just needed to feel it,” he murmurs. You stroke your fingers along the skin of his back and he leans into your touch even further. “Dat’s the hard part. Getting the feelin’, getting in the MFin groove. The rest comes at ya easy like though, ya feel?”

“I think so. I was so focused earlier on trying to capture what I thought you looked like,” he cracks one eye open at you, apparently amused. “You feel so much different.” Under your breath: “for instance, the way you move, or the things you do.” 

He hums, looking down at you. Once you’ve started talking -- philosophizing -- it’s difficult to stop. You almost want to write it down.

“There are so many different parts of you that make you yourself. I wonder: if I spent a thousand sweeps, drawing you every day, would I ever be able to capture those pieces?”

“Slow down troll Plato,” he grins at you. You blush, embarrassed at having been caught in your thoughts. “You gotta get my face down before you can get to my faithful fuckin soul.”

“How hard can it be,” you recover swiftly, “if you paint it on every evening?”

“Damn, okay though! Lol,” he says “lol” out loud. “Get back to me when you can paint it even once, buddy.”

Once you start laughing, you have to hold him close to you to keep from dropping him. You toss your sketch pad aside in favor of kissing him, drawing him close to your chest. He squirms around in your lap, breaking out of your grasp to reposition his horns against one arm of your chair and his legs upon the other. 

You glance at your drawing of him. This time, it doesn’t really look like him. Honestly, it doesn’t really look like anyone or anything at all.

He circles his arms around your neck, leveraging himself for another kiss.

It may not look like him. But it certainly feels like him. 

Chapter Text

Running in heels isn’t as hard as it looks, but it’s never easy.

You make it to the omniscuttlebus just in time for the doors to close decisively behind you. Your cape gets caught between the doors, but it’s no issue to pull it free. Nonchalantly. Of course, you don’t care that a car full of ceruleans are now all eyes on you. You’re a woman made to be watched.

As you make your way over to your usual seat, you startle once you notice it’s been taken. Bringing an offended hand to your chest, you clear your throat to really let this troll have it.

“Excuse me,” you say, sickly sweet, before the painted face of their clown quadrant-member pulls their head up from where they’d been lounging on the other’s lap. Fuck.

“Never mind,” you mutter, scowling, as you scuttle off to find a different seat.

Except there is no different seat. Every single fucking spot has been taken. A headache throbs beneath your skull; you simply aren’t in the mood to argue tonight. Sighing, you consign yourself to sitting with the teals tonight.

You open the door from the cerulean section of the omniscuttlebus to the outside world. The wind whistling between your horns does nothing for your headache, and it’s colder than the pits of hell out here. The teal car feels welcoming in comparison.

It’s not unheard of for a cerulean to join the teal car, but it is unusual. Here’s round two of all eyes on you. You scowl, acting threatening.

There are a few empty seats here, but in the end, teals turn out to be too talkative for you. The jade car is too exclusive, and the olive car is too rowdy. 

Opening the door to the yellow car gives way to a… stench. A sweaty, nerd stench. Maybe it’s your delicate, highblood sensibilities, but the smell overwhelms you.

Yellow is the lowest you’ll go. You’re already debasing yourself by coming down so far. You refuse to go lower. You close the door behind you and stand in this purgatory between yellow and olive, wondering when you got so soft.

It’s almost peaceful here. The trees pass you by in shades of pink and purple, the moons are waning almost to nothing. It’s so nice and dark, you could close your eyes and disappear completely. Nobody would have to see you. You could be at peace.

Unfortunately, your silence is broken by two stumbling idiots from the yellow car. 

“Who would….. Have thought you……. Were prone to motion….. Sickness like some kind of…. normie,” says the sluggish voice of one.

The other flips her off. “Sit and spin,” he replies in a shrill voice. She grunts a strange little laugh. Charming.

While you have the advantage of their unawareness, you take a quick note of them. The sluggish woman is small -- scrawny is more honest -- with a wild mane of greasy hair. Her psionic colors are all black. You’re pretty sure that’s unusual. What is she, some kind of mutant? The man is completely unremarkable to you. Psionics like him are a dime a dozen.  

The omniscuttlebus leans into a turn, and the boy vomits some more. The upside is that the cold gust of wind blows the scent away from you. Regardless, you huddle up tighter in your cape. It’s fucking freezing out here.

Black-eyes notices you. She looks… not quite at you. Towards you.

“What?” you snap. Her sick boyfriend snaps his gaze your way. Great.

“LOL cold blood left in the cold!” he shrieks. You roll your eyes. How clever.

The girl grins at, presumably, you. She’s still not quite looking directly at you. It’s not unusual for lowbloods to fear making eye contact with higher castes, but it’s at odds with how she’s acting. Maybe she’s high or something. 

“What the… hell are you doing out… here…” she says, disrupting your internal monologue. “It’s colder than… a jester’s…” She has you at the edge of your seat, the way she takes her time to complete the metaphor. Fucking thrilling. “...frigid taint out... here.”

“I needed some air,” you say, hoping that’s enough.

“So did my… moirail,” you notice that she doesn’t glance back at him and at once you realize that she’s blind.

“LOL, I’ve never seen a highblood vomit before! Don’t you want to show me how it’s done, ice queen?” You disregard him. So does his moirail.

“Shut… the fuck up… Kuprum.” He laughs a nauseated laugh. You’re almost tempted to take him up on his offer to show him how a highblood vomits.

“You know… with my soyboy moirail… getting sick over… there…. I could use a little…. Heat… myself,” she starts to move towards you. Her movements are as sluggish as her speech, making her move in slight, puppet jerk movements. It’s so unsettling that you don’t notice how close she’s gotten until it’s too late.

Even if you had noticed in time, her stench hits you so powerfully that you wouldn’t be able to drag up the mental focus to psychically force her away anyway. Unwashed, stale body mingles with a cheesy sort of scent. You catch a whiff of a hint of axe body spray that you suspect might come from Kuprum over there.

She brings her face close to your jaw, digging her claws into your arm for balance.

“Foly,” her moirail calls from his spot over the railing. His voice sounds so worried that you almost want to say it’s cute.

“Don’t worry. She’s… psychic…” your vision blurs, your head pounds. It’s even colder out here than you remember. The wind rips at your skin like a thousand tiny needles.

Your knees are shaking. Something hits your back, and you realize it’s the door to the olive car. With shaking hands and fingers, you manage to undo the latch and stumble your way inside.

This time, the stares of the trolls inside mean nothing to you. With great effort, you press your psychic will against them and force them to the other side of the car. And you sit down, alone, colder for the absence of the lowbloods around you.

You send a glance out of the window, back outside.

Her moirail has reached her, his arm tight around her as he walks her back to the yellow car. She smirks, turning back. Her gaze meets yours.

She doesn’t have eyes at all. 

Chapter Text

“Think you can help a lady out?”

It’s not the first time you’ve been invited to Skylla’s ranch, but it is the first time you’ve heard such urgency in her voice.

“Of course, darling! Here, why don’t I pencil you in for nex-” she cuts you off.

“Now Stels I ain’t trying to rush you, but I do need this done by this morning.” 

“Hm, I might not be your girl in this case, dear,” you feel a pang of guilt. It’s been weeks since you’ve seen your moirail face-to-face. “But please do let me know the next time when you’re available to chat and I’ll mark you down,” you pause to grab some coffee off of the passing coffee boy’s tray. The first sip is tantalizingly bitter; you stop in the breakroom for some cream regardless. “It has been a while since we’ve seen each other. I would love to show you around the city!”

You can almost hear her grin on the other side of your Bluetooth. A curious part of you wants to know what she’s smiling about. 

“Maybe next time,” she says, warmth in her voice. Oh! She can probably hear you bustling around as you talk to her! She's always said it was unusual to her, how you move and move and keep moving and never stop. You blush faintly at having been caught.

However, her words do ring in your ears all day. You see her frustrated face all throughout your meeting with Jeremy and the girls. You hear her sigh as you read through some legal documents and work on your triceps at the same time. Curiosity runs through you at high currents. 

You’ve never been good at relaxing, but this? This is something different.

Schedule check: in 15 minutes, you have lunch with Zizi. Unskippable. After that, you have a phone call with some higher-ups. You can probably shorten that by 10 minutes. Then some quad workouts while you conference call one of your clients who’s dealing with a routine drone inspection. You can probably skip that one; most likely, they’re already dead. If not, then they certainly won’t be needing your help. A few appointments you can just take with you.

Going through your plans through the day, you find two hours suddenly unaccounted for. 

And it only takes 20 minutes on the high-speed scuttlebus to get to Skylla’s hive.

___

Skylla is exactly as excited to see you as you’d hoped. You aren’t exactly one for surprising people, so you savor the feeling of it now. Her arms are warm and solid against you, and she takes her glove off to touch at your cheek, admire the earrings that Zizi got you for your most recent anniversary. 

It’s very good to see her. You're very certain that taking some time off will do both of you some good. 

“My dear, you were telling me this morning that you needed my help with something? Well, what is it? I scoured my schedule looking for some time for you and it’s not that I wouldn’t do that anyway please understand that I am not the type of woman to leave my moirail, oh, what’s the phrase… hanging?”

You bustle around her hive as you speak. Nervous habit. But you startle to a stop once you feel her arms come around you and her head rest on your shoulder. You place your hands over hers as you lean into her touch, sighing out some tension as you do so.

“Well,” she starts, low and flirtatious in your ear. “I’ve been having some trouble getting my moirail to slow down and relax. I needed some help in convincing her.” She punctuates her statement with a soft kiss to your jaw, pale as pining and just as sweet. 

“Oh! I doubt she needs much convincing when you are so sweet to come home to,”

When she pulls away, you’re both smiling.

“Are you hungry? I know you have lunch with your matesprit on most days…” she trails off, not unsure exactly, but maybe testing a boundary. Having a moirail with another quadrant can get sticky; you aren’t the most available woman to start with.

“I do eat with Zizi on most days, but today we had an early lunch. My dear, sweet Tyzias had some work to do at the library and I was focused on finding some time for you,” she smiles at that, brighter than the moons.

She pulls out some food from the fridge; apparently, it wouldn't have mattered if you’d not been hungry. She’s going to feed you anyway.

“I don’t know how you do it,” you tell her, in between your bites of cucumber and butter sandwich. It’s such a terribly posh meal that you almost want to ask if it’s even to her taste.

“What? Make tiny sandwiches?” something wry in her tone tells you that they are definitely not to her taste.

“No,” you pause, thinking of how to phrase it. “It’s… well, you always convince me.”

“Oh no,” she starts to laugh. “I’m not telling you my secret! The last thing you need is something new to bring to the workplace!”

You can’t help it; you’re stifling some giggles yourself.

By the time you two are finished eating, you’ve explained that you brought some work with you. You expect her to be mad, or sigh in defeat perhaps, but she seems to understand.

You’re halfway through some pretty involved calculus before she startles you with a hand to your hair.

“Is this okay?” she murmurs. You nod your head before going back to your work. Behind you, Skylla starts to brush through your hair. Unbidden, your eyes start to close.

“Darling, I do need to finish this before 6…” you trail off, stifling a yawn as she paps you on the cheek, shooshing away any complaint you might have said.

“Then finish it,” she says. “I’m not stopping you.”

As always, your moirail knows exactly what to say.



Chapter Text

Once you have him in your scope, he’s as good as dead. Scouter’s honor.

However, hesitation costs you the kill shot. What the hell is he doing? From your vantage point, he appears to be stumbling blindly through the deep chasm below you with a cheap knock-off of an East Alternian sword, still sheathed. Is this a joke? He has not a single drop of blood on him, neither dust nor detritus from a tough fight. This guy must be good.

You float silently behind him for a while, hoping to get a glimpse of his style. You can tell he’s a man of good taste: the long coat is a hard look to pull off, but he wears it well. Approval wells up in you: it might be that you've finally found your match, a worthy opponent in this duel strifers arena.

After a full five minutes of stumbling around, he catches up to someone: a jadeblood girl, her knives glistening with poison. She lunges at him and he sidesteps it, apparently under no threat of danger. He fixes his glasses, scowling as he takes her in.

Then he talks. She turns towards him, apparently confused, as he gestures articulately before pointing at her, accusative. She startles, held in stasis by some invisible force, before running off. Is this some sort of mind game? You don't call yourself the Prince of all mustardbloods for nothing; hell, let's be honest, you're at your best when you can fight with your prodigious brain instead of your brawn.

You float down towards him, ready for a fight. He has his eyes closed dramatically as he brings his hand up to his chin in thought. It’s not an unappealing look; he reminds you of like…. A sexy Old Kai. Or some kind of mentor figure.

“Ah,” he pushes his glasses higher up the bridge of his nose. "Now that you've come closer, I can see the full shape of your jacket. I know who you are," You swell with pride at having been recognized. “That’s an impressive Kaiba cosplay. However, if you were a true fan, you’d know his blue eye was on the le-”

You cut him off with a psionic blast. He dodges at the last minute, but he’s thrown off balance.

“Attack me at your own peril!” he shouts, stumbling a little. “I am armed with a far greater weapon!”

You pause, waiting for him to pull out his katana. Your blood is racing, aching for a good fight. You flex your hands as he pushes his glasses up impossibly further. As they catch the light, he speaks again.

“Knowledge is my weapon of choice! I sharpen the blade of my mind just as often as I sharpen the blade of my sword. The Alternian legal system as a whole is at my command! I will fill your every waking hour with paperwork, every last second fit to bursting with tedium and lawsuits and-”

“A fellow genius, I see,” this guy is really starting to piss you off. “Try this equation on for size: one on one equals the duel strifer’s grand prize for me!” That’s pretty badass; you can’t wait to retell this story to Konyyl.

He pulls out his blade, ready to block your unblockable psionics. Idiot.

“Duel strifers? Is that the name of this con?”

You direct your blast to the nearest cliff instead. Suddenly, killing this guy has become very, very illegal. Lowblood ignorance law 1.2: lowbloods must be smart enough not to cull their superiors (in bloodcaste, rank, etc.) -- even when their superiors are acting stupid as all fuck -- by threat of one (1) spear through the thoracic cavity by aerial drone. It’s the single law that’s responsible for keeping 90% of the clown population alive, and you’re about to die because of it. Damn it! Irony is such a cruel beast.

He rambles on. “That Sakurasou cosplayer back there had the wrong poison on her blades, not to mention she attacked me head on! Sakurasou would never do that. Plus, what was she doing without her Rei? I mean, I know clowns are a rare sight at cons but seriously? And another thing!” He goes on for a while, happy to have an audience.

“You’ve never heard of duel strifers?” you interrupt him, incredulous.

“No, and for apparently good reason. I mean, look at the state of this place!” he gestures around to the empty canyon, infuriated. “No vendors, hardly any cosplayers, half of you are in inaccurate costume,” he turns to give you a judgmental look, revealing the purple contacts he’s wearing.

“You idiot, duel strifers is a battle royale! And you just walked straight into the middle of it!” You pull him out of the way as your sensor starts going haywire. A hulking indigo blasts their way through some rock, chucking some hunks of granite at the both of you. You blast it out of the air before grabbing your companion by the collar.

Your companion is completely panicked, half frantically spewing legal jargon and half gasping inarticulately. 

"Listen to me!" you hiss as you swing him by the coat around you, throwing forth balls of psychic energy. "Take a breath! Let's take this guy down and I'll explain the rules to you!"

The mention of a set of rules seems to steel his nerve. You roll your eyes. Tealbloods. He throws his replica sword into the bluebood’s leg as you push him out of the way and it strikes true, blood gushing from the wound as they fall to one knee. 

You shove down the small spark of 'impressed' that lights in your gut, ignoring him splayed dramatically on the ground. Maybe you can’t kill this idiot, but the both of you can kill all the rest.

You blast the indigo right in the head; the two of you get covered in the gore of a messy kill. He mumbles the quid pro quo law. You smirk before offering your hand to him.

“I can’t be here to coddle you the whole way, but I will pick you up and make you keep moving by any means possible,” you promise with a smirk. He smirks back before he takes your hand in his. “Come on, let’s move, kouhai .” He stutters out an indignant ‘well, actually,’ before you pull him forward with all of your strength, and more, as promised.

No one ever said going 50/50 was easy. Hell, make it 20/80 and give you some time to discuss the merits of dubbed anime, and maybe this will all be worth it in the end.

Chapter Text

Her back is to you, but she’s listening nonetheless.

“What are the chances that I sound like a high-class asshole?” You smirk, reading her body language. A single breath through the nose; that’s as good as laughter with her.

“Does it matter?” She sniffs as she turns towards you, removing her goggles and smiling. “What’s the difference between sounding like a high-class asshole and being one?”

You laugh at that, but the barb does sting.

“Doesn’t it ever bother you? Knowing that rebelling against the system and complying with it might both be the same thing? Don’t you ever think that it’s inevitable that we’re playing directly into the Empress’s hands?”

“That’s a heavy topic to lay on your cleaning lady,” she turns back to her work. “And, since I know you’re going to ask again with even bigger words: no, it doesn’t bother me.”

“You’re more than my cleaning lady,” you mutter, suddenly embarrassed. You and Marsti have been getting close these past few months, but she’s difficult to read even on her good days. One minute she might flirt with you, the next she’s so apathetic that you think she might be playing some sick game with you.

You watch her work. Her movements are quick and precise. You study the long lines of her, all fitting together like well-maintained clockwork.

Needless to say, you want to figure out her particular piece of the puzzle. She never quite fits; you’re sure she’s a piece from the same mystery box that you came from. Or at least a different box than what Alternia is made of.

This metaphor is getting away from you.

Your mug is at your mouth before you even think about it. And you reflect. How can she not care? Curiosity fills you as you consider that she must truly, honestly mean it. Laws and rules and regulations and caste prejudice et cetera come easy to the forefront of your mind. With this, it’s easy to justify your position. You have your facts, you have the knowledge.

But you catch a glimpse at Marsti. Marsti, who cleans. Marsti, who was hatched for her career and bears her burden. You have your facts, but she has perspective. You’ve never struggled the way she’s had to. That curiosity from before fills you even fuller, bright and acrid like acid in your mouth. You need to spit it out before it kills you.

She notices. And she sighs, exasperated as she turns to face you again.

“You’re still thinking about it.” It’s not a question.

“It never leaves me,” you say. It hits you how dramatic that sounds the minute the words leave your mouth, and you wince. She snorts; it’s unkind, but you decide to laugh with her anyway. Self-deprecation: is there any better reset button?

She walks slowly up to your desk. She doesn’t saunter, she doesn’t rush. She sits down in a chair. And she looks at you.

Her eyes are so clear. You wonder if everything in her life is so simple: Sit down. Look at your legislacerator friend. Speak your mind. Don’t give a shit. A shiver runs through you at the thought.

She grabs at your hand, placing it on the table palm up. She traces your fate line, her fingers warm and surprisingly soft.

“Listen,” her voice is uncharacteristically hesitant. “Do you really, honestly think that you can think your way into the empire’s design?”

“What you do mean?” You close your hand over her fingers. 

“I mean: if you were doing what the empire wanted, you wouldn’t be questioning the empire at all.”

“That’s not true. The empire needs someone to make an example of.”

“Oh, yeah, and you’ve been so obvious about it. You’re the example they need, right? The only one who’s ever thought about this?” She rolls her eyes at you and a hot flush of embarrassment rushes through you again.

There’s silence between you for a few seconds. Her fingers are still in your grasp, but her thumb brushes against your closed fist as if to soothe you.

Once you meet her eyes again, you realize she’s smirking flirtatiously at you.

“You know what I think?”

You blink at her.

“I think you’re paranoid. You care too much, Tyzi.” With this, she leans over your desk and brushes her lips softly over yours. It’s simultaneously a kiss and nothing at all like a kiss, with her breath washing warm over your face and her goggles bumping you in the forehead. It almost feels like she’s trying to shut you up.

But when she pulls away, she’s smiling shyly at you, as if she’s never done something like that before. Maybe you are paranoid. Maybe you do care too much.

“I think you don’t care enough,” despite your words, you smirk back at her.

“I don’t care. I told you that already,” she removes her hand from yours. “But isn’t it enough to do the right thing?” She gets up from her chair. She returns to her work.

Suddenly, you are feeling very tired.

Chapter Text

You open your eyes to the deepest black you’ve ever imagined.

Not that it’s dark. Actually, opening your eyes hurts so bad that you instinctively throw some really mean hands. These bad boys were sent to the gulag and found it comfy and homely, that’s how mean they are.

But there’s nothing to hit. Your momentum sends you flying forwards; what’s up with the ground here? There’s some real “here today, gone tomorrow” nonsense going on right now. You’re starting to get some real wonderland vibes as you float up, up and away and leave what you thought was the ground behind.

What you thought was up is just… away. No matter which way you’re looking it’s forward and no matter how you orient yourself it’s wrong.

Images flash by you as your eyes adjust to the light: bright bubbles of moments suspended in time. Your ears catch on to the slight murmur of conversation, far away, and then eventually to the deep, resonating whispers of the deep ones.

Ah, so this is the void.

You spin listlessly for a few moments, trying to convince yourself that there are no bearings to get before a warm palm is pulling you down.

Now you’re really throwing some hands. You just robbed the hands store; free hands for everyone. But whoever is pulling you down just laughs the wild, lawless laugh of a girl who has probably been alone too long.

“I was waiting for you to wake up!” she says. You right yourself- you were almost perfectly perpendicular to her and her seat on some grassy cliffs.

Hm. Long, wild hair. Bright eyes- she’s very alive, somehow conspicuously alive - and wide, manic smile. She’s got some kinda vibe. A vibey sort of vibe that gets you… vibing.

You tent your hands flirtatiously under your chin as gravity makes its mind up about you. You raise a single brow.

“I am filthy fucking rich with some sleeping princess references right now. Just leafing through my portfolio, tossing Fiona aside in favor of sleeping beauty without a second thought. The Fiona metaphor stock market crashes and burns, but it makes no difference to me. I got two more of these fancy bitches, waiting for their turn in the spotlight.”

“Well, technically you are still sleeping!” she looks over to where you’ve managed to seat yourself next to her. Her smile has toned down a little, dropping from manic to intense. “Would you like to watch the void with me while you’re here?”

You chew on that. “Is there anything else to do?” She shrugs, turning back to look out at the deep black of the void.

It’s hard to admit, but the truth comes to you regardless: you are feeling a little out of your element. Maybe it’s because you’re always a little groggy after you just wake up, or maybe it’s because this girl isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before.

Not that you really meet many people. But the idea still stands.

She’s quiet beside you; you guess you’ll join her and look out there.

There’s a sort of static sound that seems to come from everywhere at once. The horror terrors reveal themselves capriciously, seemingly everywhere and nowhere, everything and nothing.

But the visions in the void are beautiful. You watch Dirk catch his finger on a yet unfinished sawtooth, sticking the finger in his mouth the stop the blood. You watch Jane, age 5, don a pair of Groucho glasses while her dad smiles proudly in the background. There are some visions of aliens that look like your friend here doing completely incomprehensible things. One drags their hand down the face of another; it feels almost salacious to watch. You look away from that bubble.   

You don’t see any bubbles featuring yourself.

The hardest part of sitting silently next to this girl is how right it feels. It’s almost like you belong here. Or maybe you just understand the hidden turnings of this realm in a way that feels too intuitive to be comfortable. 

It’s lonely here. You look over to your friend-

“Aradia,” she says peacefully. “My name’s Aradia. By the way.”

“Roxy,” you reply. She settles deeper onto her hands, her eyes scanning from one bubble to the next. 

“I’m afraid I don’t really know what I’m supposed to be looking for. Not that this isn’t interesting or anything!”

Aradia cuts you off before you can dig yourself into any sort of verbal hole. “There’s no need to be afraid,” she says, her voice dreamy and peaceful. Well, you’re fucking blindsided. “Can I show you something?”

She grabs you by the hand and gravity forgets about you again. She pulls you away from the cliffside and deeper into the black. Slowly, cracks start to form in the very fabric of the void. Bubbles are less and less frequent. You notice splits in space and time and it’s all very overwhelming.

“I always liked watching things fall apart,” she tells you, “because it means I get to put it all back together.” The tears in the void sound like they’re screaming. “You get it, don’t you?”

You clutch her hand tighter as everything goes white. Your sheets are curled tight around you and your body is sweaty. You feel a little bit of frustration well up in you.

Head pounding, you groan as you pull a pillow over your head to block out the light. 

You always wake up a little groggy.

Chapter Text

It always starts this way. You slack and Lynera mutters. You get annoyed and Lynera releases her fury.

Here’s a lesson in patience: how long can you stand Lynera remixing her famous “Bronya would be ashamed!” and “you’re lucky I’m here to clean up your messes” before you snap?

Young Alternian Troll magazine tells you you have about 3 pages worth of patience left. Lynera’s a hard troll to tune out. You reread a section about DIY clothes making. Maybe you’ll finally get around to making those plaid pants you saw on that bronze dude from that back block band... The snuff holes? Something rebellious like that.

 Lynera lets out a particularly vicious stream of consciousness. Ugh, shut up. You snap your magazine down at glance up at her with your most poisonous glare. Amazing! She stutters and stops. This is how it always goes when she’s in your assigned area of the caverns. You sigh.

“What’s the problem?” you say, knowing full well that you are the problem. The whole damn world is her problem, honestly. She shudders; it’s eerie how she flip-flops between the fear that you might tell on her to Bronya and the knowledge that you’re now old enough to not care about anything anymore. Her face shifts dramatically between appeasing and full outrage. Boring.

“Blah blah I’m the best at cleaning the caverns!” she says, or whatever. A swell of pride rushes up in you as you successfully tune her out. You push it down; it’s best to keep strong feelings to yourself around Lynera. You roll your eyes instead because that’s what you do these days and that’s what she expects you to do. It’s hard to keep on script sometimes. 

Her yelling echos through this part of the caverns. You wonder how Lanque keeps her off his back? Maybe you should be mean to her. 

You think of a million cruel things to say to her, then push them all down with a sigh. It’s no good; that’s not who you are. There’s a small, terse piece of you that likes to pipe in with small bursts of an angry flavor of empathy. Lynera is just as trapped here as you are. It hurts to think about; you push it back down.

Trapped, though… Now there’s an idea.

“If you’re so great, why do so many jades leave the caverns exclusively when you’re on duty?” you watch knives light up in Lynera’s eyes and a thrill bubbles up in your gut. You’re still a little young to be thinking about quadrants, but if this is the appeal of pitch romance then you’re all in. “And why does Bronya have to retrieve them? Talk about cleaning up other people’s messes…” you trail off, crossing your arms as you quirk a brow at her.

Lynera is completely still, one hand to her chest as her mouth hangs agape. Oh, fuck, this is past the point you meant to take her. You stand as if you didn’t just take things way too far, and casually brush past her. It’s cold, suddenly. You’re shaking.

An unearthly shriek comes from behind you. You break into a sprint as you realize holy fucking shit that was your name and it just exploded from Lynera’s lungs god fucking damn-

The moonlight stings your eyes as you rush out of the caverns. Lynera is hot on your heels, tense and sharp and dangerous as all hell. It’s almost thrilling, once you get over the plume of anxiety that’s first and foremost in your stuttering heartbeat.

But as you rush through town, you notice that same plume of anxiety reflected in Lynera. Guess your words rung true. Good. Fuck her and her meddling. She needed a reality check and you’re glad you gave it to her.

Why does it feel so bad to be right sometimes?

The buildings you run past grow taller as you find your way deeper into downtown. You’re careful to keep Lynera in your sights, never rushing too far ahead or lagging too far behind. It’s not because you’re feeling guilty or anything. You’re just worried that she might get lost or something. Who knows how often Lynera leaves the caverns? You’re guessing the number is somewhere around “zero.”

Your legs continue to take your forward. Though your chest is tight and your muscles are killing you, it feels good to keep moving forward. There’s a weightlessness to you; it’s like you’re leaving everything behind. You wonder how this might feel if you weren’t wearing a skirt.

With your mind occupied, you rush around a corner and slam right into the huge silhouette of another woman. A huge, familiar silhouette. Oh fuck.

The woman turns towards you right as you land on your ass. What did the alien call her? The Hoot? You are not getting a hoot as her red, indifferent gaze lands on you sprawled out all beneath her. 

You are getting even less of a hoot as she lets out a peal of low, lazy laughter. “Getting your cozy on, little one?” She offers her hand to you and helps you up. You can feel your face make that tight, uncomfortable expression as she brushes some dirt off your uniform for you, fixing your collar and setting you all back to rights.

“A jade out of her caverns, now that is a motherfucking miracle,” she grabs you by the shoulder and shakes you to, presumably, make you laugh. All you can do is cross your arms uncomfortably below your chest and smile uncomfortably at her as you step uncomfortably back and out of this uncomfortable conversation. “Best be getting on home now a-fore you rush skull first into some other sister who don’t feel the same way.” With that, she spins you around and pushes you forward.

Lucky you: Lynera is gaping at you from her spot grasping the corner of a nearby building. Great, first you have to decipher clown speech and now you have to navigate ‘Lynera is yelling at you’ speech. You cross your arms more confidently and roll your eyes at her.

But when you walk up to her, she’s silent. In fact, she does something you would have never expected from her: she grabs you lightly by the arm and stutters out an “are you okay?”

“Ugh, I’m fine. I’m not a grub anymore,” you tell her. “I can handle myself perfectly fine. Obviously.”

She bristles- good, some familiar territory- before she steps in stride with you. It’s going to be a long walk back to the caverns.

Lynera turns to you and surprises you once more. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, uncharacteristically shy, and looks over at you. She’s not really smiling, so you can’t even guess what she’s thinking.

“Ahem. I think it was,” she scowls as she considers her next word. “Very. Cool. of you. To get out of that situation so… Effortlessly.” Her stuttering speech leaves her so reluctantly that you know she’s being genuine.

You can’t help it: you smile at the praise. Lynera thinks you’re cool? You stand up straighter as you start to tell her what happened.

“You should have seen her face when I slammed into her, I mean ouch! Talk about glaring daggers.” Lynera is a very good audience, gasping when you say something shocking and leaning in when you build suspense.

Suddenly the walk back to the caverns doesn’t feel long enough.

Chapter Text

Another night, another binge.

It used to be captivating, the way he worked and moved and typed and never stopped. He takes a slurp of his soda and it grates on your nerves. Perhaps it’s because you never spoke up, or perhaps it’s because he never listened. This moiraillegiance is crumbling before you.

To say you’re frustrated with this whole situation is an understatement. The ebb and flow of feelings between you two keeps you drawn in and shut out. Standing in this room with him, you find yourself alone. It’s a book written in a language you never learned. Social etiquette for an alien species you haven’t discovered. 

It’s the fucking worst, is what it is.

You lay your hand on his shoulder and he finishes his line of code before removing his headphones to glance up at you. He waits for you to say something. You have nothing. Nothing but a desperate, wild idea and longing to set things right.

Well, it’s a start.

___

You don’t really know what ‘the good stuff’ is, but you know that’s what you’re looking for. All around you, seedy corner stores seem to leer down at you. Alleyways tempt you with their dark shadow and deep laughter. So this is Mallek’s world. You loosen your tie, roll up your sleeves. The only thing you have right now is hope and posture. Pretty flimsy, in your opinion, but you’ll make it work.

Your phone buzzes in your pocket, once then thrice. The last thing you want to do is abandon this quest to do things your way. You don’t want to be convinced to stop fighting for him. You also really don’t want to deal with your kismesis at the moment because honestly how many times can he threaten legal action against you for conspiring with thieves and pirates? It’s getting old.

You barge your way into one of the seedy corner stores.

“I hear you have,” you lean in, glancing around conspicuously before continuing in a whisper, “the good stuff.” Under your breath, you add, “Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”

The man behind the counter looks around too, before leaning back into you. “No, not for you big blue.”

Damn. It’s difficult to not feel disappointed. It’s possible you’re putting a lot of significance on a symbolic band-aid for your failing moiraillegiance. 

Before you can leave, a clown with skull face paint pulls you aside.

“Yo… I got some good stuff busy b,” they whisper. Then they jerk their head to the door and you’re following them out.

Against your better judgment, you follow them into the alley beside the store. Scattered around, on half-destroyed lounge chairs and bean bags, are an assortment of clowns. You might say they are ‘mixing and cooling,’ if you were that sort of man. They appear to be actively ignoring you, so you follow suit. The clown that led you here brings you to the corner, under a blacklight. Beneath the UV, their face lights up in brilliant colors. You take a mental snapshot and decide to make a sketch for Mallek, for when you retell this tale to him. 

The clown in front of you discreetly lifts up the hem of his shirt, showing something tucked away in his pants. A repurposed faygo bottle, filled with a dark purple liquid. Is this the fabled ‘good stuff?’ It’s not like you would know. 

But now is not the time to show weakness. “How much?”

He raises a brow at you, his expression serious. “Whatcha got, bud?”

Numbers race through your mind. It’s strange how familiar this feels; ruthless calculus, posturing and faking the social mores. Truth be told, you are carrying way more cash than what’s responsible for this side of town. But clowns have money, so you won’t need to keep your hand on your wallet here.

“I see the look in ya eyes there, man. Ha, I get it. A man’s hand never strays far from his coin purse, am I right?” The clowns around you whoop and laugh at this last bit, though the joke is lost on you.

“Three hundred C’s,” you tell him, firm. His eyes go wide momentarily before he resets character with a long, low whistle.

“Damn, can’t get a better deal than that,” he passes you the bottle, you pass him the money. He counts it with quick fingers, then nods his approval.

Satisfied- and, let’s admit it, proud- you hold your hand out to him for a handshake. He slaps it. You’re both temporarily frozen as neither of you know how to move forward in this interaction. 

Well, you can’t get it right every time.

___

As you leave the alley, you walk right into Mallek. You aren’t surprised; he was tracking GPS signals before he learned how to spell his own name. 

“Mallek,” you say, nodding at him as if this is just what you do now.

“Dude, what the hell are you doing on this side of town?” He doesn’t look worried, though. Just curious.

Instead of answering, you hold up your bottle of the Good Stuff. It catches the light, the deep purple of the liquid refracting to shades of fuschia and burgundy as you swirl it around above your head. You feel a good metaphor for the caste system forming in your head, but Mallek interrupts your thoughts before you can properly phrase it.

“Heh, look at you. You’re a changed man,” he claps you on the shoulder as the two of you fall in step together. 

“I hope so,” you say, tugging a bit at your loosened collar. “I was hoping we could talk.” 

He cringes slightly- you get it, those words are never followed by easy conversation- but he recovers quickly.

“And I was hoping I could talk you into sneaking somewhere,” he turns towards you, stopping you in your tracks. He grabs on your tie and pulls you slightly into him. “Think your delicate blue-blooded constitution can handle a criminal date with your criminal moirail?”

___

The sweet, muffled sounds of troll Bach catch you and tug roughly at your heartstrings. Mallek knows you so well.

“Mischa Maisky’s interpretation has always been my favorite,” you say. “His rests are masterful. And listen to the movement of his arm across the strings! I can’t believe he’s playing tonight.” You turn to Mallek.

His face is illuminated by the flashing lights of the billboard. It’s too bad that you were too late for the concert to get through the front door. Still, watching your moirail silhouetted against the light with your favorite music playing behind you? Worth it.

“I meant to surprise you,” he says around bites of his sandwich. Then he turns to you, a wry look on his face. “I guess I got caught up in my own world again, huh?”

You nod. He winces at your blunt honesty, but you know he won’t take it personally. 

“We both did. I’m sorry I couldn’t tell you straight away that it was bothering me,” he tilts his head at you. It takes courage, but you say what you haven’t been saying: “I left because I wanted to see what it was like to be you for a change.” Under your breath, you add, “I thought maybe, if I saw things from your perspective, I would understand why I was upset.” 

When you turn back to him, his mouth is twisted.

“I don’t get you any better than you get you,” he pushes playfully against your arm. “I mean, you’re this fussy, scholarly type but somehow you’re always easy for me to come home to. I think you’re trying too hard, man.”

You pass him your bottle. He laughs out loud and you join him. Your journey seems so ridiculous in hindsight, now that the tension between you is broken.

He sniffs dubiously at the liquid within. “No need to worry,” you reassure him. “I acquired this from the very best back-alley clown there is.”

He snorts, before taking a sip. Then he’s laughing in earnest before he passes the bottle to you. Maisky plays Courant from Bach’s cello suite in G behind you. 

You take a timid sip.

It’s grape juice.

Chapter Text

It’s her hive, but this is the first time you catch a glimpse of her.

Meticulously straight hair, glare that could freeze the sun: she’s nasty. She’s mean.

Hell yeah.

For all that she’s a woman made to be watched, she doesn’t appear to be at home in this particular spotlight. She catches you looking. You raise a brow at her before you know better, and you look away. This is a delicate dance, with women like this. You’ve always enjoyed the chase.

Instead of looking directly at her, you watch her in the reflection of your beer glass. She’s temporarily paused behind you, and though you can’t see her expression very well in the glass you know she’s considering her next move. 

She pushes someone out of her way and into your line of sight. Shit. You moved your piece forward and she castled in response; you don’t get that very often. What’s she hiding from? You’re pulled further into her intrigue.

There is no next move for either of you to make, only the end. So you wait. And you take a sip of your beer. And before you know it she’s brushing past you. En passant; you almost miss her. Did she wait for you to stop watching?

She’s easy to catch, exactly as you’d expected. A gentle trail of the knuckles of your fingers against the exposed skin of her arm, catching in her cape which you move slightly higher on her bicep... She turns sharp on her heel and you know you have her. 

“Nice cape,” you move your eyes from her shoulder to her throat to her face. She doesn’t look embarrassed. The outrage plain on her face is refreshing. And kind of hot. “Beauty blogger?”

She sniffs derisively at this. “Red room host.”

Something snaps into place in your head. She hated to be the center of attention, but she liked to be seen reflected in your glass. So that’s where she’s in her element.

You let out a low whistle. “Damn, you’re real mean.” Her glare is so heavy on her face that she has to lean forward with it. Into you. “I like that,” you say lowly, reaching forward to rub her hair between your fingers. It’s surprisingly thin and light like spider silk. She smells like a copper pipe covered in fresh cut flowers.  

She pulls back, sneering as she crosses her arms. You follow her forward on the table, leaning your head in your hand to give her a once-over. She’s unmoved. 

“And what are you? Your haircut suggests ‘addict’ and your clothes suggest ‘hiveless.’”

“I’m a drug dealer,” you tell her. Honesty begets honesty, after all. “What do you think keeps the trolls coming back to your hive? It’s definitely not your charm.”

She tosses her head, looking around. Ah, fuck, you notice some very real hurt in her eyes at this.

“Hey.” You slap her arm playfully. “Maybe those trolls are here because of me, but I’m here because of you.”

“Hm?” She brings her hand in front of her mouth and she laughs a mocking laugh. It hurts so good. “You think I’m worried about those plebs?” She laughs in your face.

“I didn’t think that,” you look around, feigning disinterest before catching her eye again. Eyes. “I think you should be worried about me.” She snorts.

Damn your bad habits. It’s always pitch for the good girls and flush for the mean ones. You stand to your full height, stretching your spine with a pop. Sneaking your hand around her waist, you persuade her forward with you.

“Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps,” you recite. You watch her tense up, anxious. Good. A little fear will be good for her. The only fearless trolls on this planet are priests and, though she paints her face, she’s no fool. She rolls her eyes; damn, she dresses for the drama but doesn't even like the stage.

“I might have preferred the arrow if I knew you were going to be a little bitch about it,” she bristles and steps out of your grip.

For a moment, you're lost. 

She looks over her shoulder at you, exasperated. So you follow.

It’s going to be one hell of a night

Chapter Text

It’s not like he’s hard to find. Sometimes you just have to ask yourself: what would you do if you were the leading man?

At the top of a hill, under a tree, sits the brooding form of one Karkat Vantas. He’s sitting all curled up like a roly-poly, but he’s held tight and tense.

“Were you just going to sit there fondling your shame globes while you stared at me or were you going to act like a normal fucking human and just berate me already?” He’s got no sharp edges to him; you can practically taste the embarrassment he feels at having to cue you on script.

“Oh, I’m fondling away over here. Just giving my globes a good what-for, freeing my troops like I’m Jane Fondle,” he glances over to you, exhaustion heavy around his eyes but perplexed at your metaphor. “You look rough, Karkat, I’m just saying.”

“Well stop saying and have some fucking decency. Can’t a guy get pitiful on his own fucking terms in private?” He turns back to whatever he was doing and you sit down next to him. 

You’ve been friends with Karkat to know that you don’t have to draw him into conversation. Most likely, he’ll twist himself up and start talking out of habit. 

You think about considering the atmosphere, making note of the wind through the leaves or whatever, but your own mouth gets the better of you.

“It’s hard to remember this isn’t a game anymore,” you say. “Do you ever miss it?”

“Hell no,” he says. “I was responsible for eleven other trolls. Eleven nooksniffing, violent trolls including the fucking heiress.”

“I know what you mean,” you say. Somehow going on autopilot has completely worked out for you. “Before we started the game, I used to feel paralyzed with how much I cared about my friends. Because I couldn’t do anything, you know? They were years and miles behind me.”

Something hits you as the weight of his words take meaning in your mind.

“Wait… Eleven?”

“No, fuck you, I’m sick of pity,” he stands up and starts to walk back down the hill. After a moment, he turns back to you and offers his hand. You take it, and you stand. “There would have been less if I didn’t stop more than half of them from freaking the fuck out and spring-rocket propelling themselves to their certain, painful demise. Come on, I’ll walk you home. And don’t push it! We are going to walk home, you are going to spew your human empathy at me while I pretend to give a shit, and maybe we can split a flavor disk or something along the way.”

You smile. “You’re taking responsibility again.” He tilts his head ever so slightly towards you, just enough to show you the not-quite-smile he’s got plastered to his face.

“Listen, I’m extending my shitty olive branch here and all you’re doing is setting fire to my fucking vineyard.”

“Do olive trees even grow in vineyards?” It’s rare that you meet someone as wordy as you. Karkat seems to be winning in word count if not in content right now. The two of you have finally made it to town, and it feels like no time has passed.

“Oh, you got me, I’m not actually the secret duke of Bulgechafe Island and my olive trees just grow in my lawnring like a normal fucking idiot,” he points to a pizza place- so that’s what a flavor disk is- and the two of you enter without even looking at the menu in the window.

Karkat wants beetles on his pizza and you want mushrooms before Karkat says he doesn’t want to poison himself with the most gut wrenching eye-roll, and you bicker and argue much to the chagrin of the dude at the counter. Counter dude makes a show of sighing, laying his head in his palm before you and Karkat both turn towards him and say “cheese” with varying degrees of politeness. 

You attempt to lead him to one of the tables by the storefront, but he pulls you to the side to sit in the barstools slightly to the left. His shoulder brushes against yours as he takes his seat and you grin. You lean into him, looking around conspicuously like you have some kind of big secret.

“This is just like When Harry Met Sally,” you whisper.

“Fuck you,” he says. And the both of you laugh and laugh until your shitty cheese pizza is set between you.

Chapter Text

The first time you see her, she's lain prone and bent at the waist.

At a glance, she gives the appearance of a woman broken. Her bones scream from under the thin skin of her wrists, but there's strength there, too. An iron rod that holds her body together at the spine. She sucks the blood off of her finger- her own or someone else's, you're not sure. 

"Partaking in the flesh?" you ask her, only because it feels familiar in your mouth. You throw a suggestive grin at her back to really drive the point home. She turns her head to smirk at you.

It's such a lost expression on her face, clearly never used with genuine emotion behind it. You find yourself socially stumbling before you even say your first word.

"You're lost. What are you doing here?" The words escape you before you have time to consider them, pity drawing them forth in painful bursts. Her smirk only grows... smirkier.

"I read somewhere," she starts and pauses. "...in a very old book, or maybe a very new one: there are seven words that can soothe a woman's rage."

"Really." Great, she's a fucking poet. There are hundreds of her kind these days, though none so warm-blooded. She stands with the leisurely, slow-moving pace of the recently awakened or the soon to be dead. Each movement is deliberate; she's exactly where she needs to be.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard," you tell her. She laughs the lawless laugh of someone who, quite frankly, couldn't give two tugs of a bulge over some damned poetry or your opinion about it.

"Trolls are stupid," she says. "But men are even more stupid, and you're the worst of all."

"Yeah?" You're really driving the conversation here. She doesn't seem to mind, leaning forward into your space as she traces your sign over your chest. Gemini.

"Two words," she sing-songs. You're entranced by her lips, her eyes. Not many trolls burn brighter than you, but this one is a star made flesh.

"Kiss me," she says.

You kiss her, because fuck it. She's beautiful and dangerous and if you've already failed at this conversation, you might as well shoot your shot. 

You wish you could name one of the million cliches, but it's just a brush of lips against lips. There are no sparks. There are no stars. Only her.

"What's your name?" You say, if only because these are the only words you can find.

"I'm The Handmaid," she turns her back on you. "I'm here to clean up your mess."

Light gets sucked up around you, shimmering faintly at the edges. She moves forward; you fall flat.

You don't meet her the second time around. But you can't help but remember.

-

The last time you meet her, she's standing straight and tense with anxiety.

Her fingers are clever in all of the biomechanical not-pieces of you. You're just aware enough to know she's doing something for your sake instead of the maintenance of the ship. But, hell, you are the ship so what does it matter. Maybe you're getting sentimental in your old age.

You have to remind her. You poke her on the cheek with a spare tendril of not-you. She startles. She's not the woman you met, so long ago now.

"You know," you're forced to start over with how parched your mouth is. "There are seven words to soothe a woman's rage." She scowls at you.

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"Yeah," you drift off for a minute, running numbers in the background and bringing a turret a little closer to your ship. Your body. "I was wondering- did you hear them yet?"

"Fuck you."

You guess she hasn't. She's wound herself up so tightly that you can feel her psychic energy thrumming alongside yours. With a tremendous amount of effort, you suck a little of her energy for yourself. 

"Fuck you, gemini," she kicks at your heels, but there's no venom in her voice this time.  

"Partaking in the flesh," you slur, but only because the words feel familiar in your mouth. She fucked up; first and last, forward and backward. You get the sense that this is a hello rather than a goodbye. This is a clean up instead of an outright antagonization. 

"What's your name?" you ask her. That's just what comes next; you don't really care what she's calling herself.

She surprises you. "They call me Demoness."

You don't have to ask her who 'they' is; you hear that name thrown around on this ship now and again. 

"Miss Demoness, can you stop fucking around with my wires for one god damn minute?" you swat at her with whatever's on hand, but she takes the onslaught unflinching.

She strides forward, still unsure but forward all the same. She pulls a stool towards her, sitting down directly in front of you. She studies your face.

You glare at her, but you can feel your energy draining with every passing second. Your death is upon you.

"Fuh-" you slur. "Fuck you."

She ignores you. She blinks, doe-eyed and ruthless, but scared in plain sight.

"Kiss me," she says.

Sparks fly, but not the metaphorical kind. Distantly, an alarm sounds throughout the ship. It sounds like laughter in your ears. In death, you find your final, defiant act.

You kiss her.