dedication: to Jupiter, because everything is her fault anyways.
notes: disgusting young hate and palemance everywhere. also Equiia, who is the light of my life.
chapter title: discovering the waterfront
summary: Eridia Ampora is not prepared to be walking her moirail through the mess of bleeding gutterbeast entrails that is the beginning of the Second Rebellion. — genderbent hemo-flip; Eridan, Feferi, Vriska, Equiia.
Eridia has never seen a pair of trolls fall into kismessitude as fast as Fefear and Vriska fall into kismessitude. It's ugly, sappy, terrible young hate, and it's truly something to behold.
If Eridia didn't know better, she would think Vriska's interest in her moirail is faked, and then she'd have to kill him because no one fucks with Fefear like that. He keeps flirting with her (because that's what Vris does, he flirts), but not pitch-flirting, ugh, it's like some eldritch combination of ash and red-rom and ew, what kind of shit-mix is that?
Somehow, though, she knows it isn't.
Vris is serious about his huge hate-crush, and Eridia's feeling pretty ash for his stupid cerulean ass anyway, these days. Fef sneers and gathers her up, snapping when Vris gets too close.
It's so disgustingly adorable, Eridia thinks about papping him into calm and then sending them back at each other. It's good, she knows. Fef needs the socialization, and she can't keep him locked away no matter how much she thinks it'll keep him breathing.
She agreed to this.
He agreed to this.
They agreed to this. They agreed that the kingdom could use a proper snail-blood king on the throne. They agreed, and she can't take that back regardless of how much she wants to.
Vris'll be good for him, and Eridia stares out one of the high windows of Vriska's castle-hive while she knots her claws in Fef's soft hair and revels in the sweet deep ache that touching him causes. She loves him like starlight and moonbeams and the endless well of silence on the inside of her eyes.
There is no one in the entire world that loves their moirail more than Eridia loves Fefear.
They sit in golden light in a hive that is not their own, and wait daybreak out.
Fef doesn't sleep again.
Eridia's not at all surprised.
Instead they play dice, hiding far below the surface to leave the towers to their sunlight. Vriska's built himself into the rock here, away from the burning of the sun during the day.
They play dice, and Eridia cheats but Fefear still wins.
Loaded or not, the gods seem to love Fef far more than they should. Eridia would think it wasn't fair, except she really can't blame them at all. She kisses all his claws when he reaches for her.
This is disgusting.
They are disgusting.
But the ocean sings in Eridia's bones when she's this close to him, and she can't ever get him out of her blood-pusher. Not that she'd want to, but sometimes it's hard.
And it's not long until Vriska lopes back into the hive, hair a tangled mess around his knife-cut grin. He is all long-legged killing grace, sharpened claws to tear a troll's throat out. His fangs are the same, horns out.
Eridia can only sigh in exasperation when the first thing he and Fef do is try to gore the life out of each other. It's a kissmesitude thing, but they really don't have the time for this.
She separates them. Eridia isn't small, but she isn't very big, either: she is wiry and fierce, and it doesn't take her long at all to get them off of each other.
"Oi, Vris, don't ya have somethin better t'do?" she asks. Her hands settle onto her hips, and she eyeballs the both of them. This is way too ashen for her liking, but Fef gives her his best barkbeast eyes, and Vris doesn't even have the sense to look ashamed; he just gives her the biggest shit-eating grin Eridia has ever seen in her life. This is so not how she wanted to spend her day.
What would these morons do without her.
"Idiot," she says. Not a one of them knows who she's speaking to, not even Eridia herself. She squints at them, and just shakes her head.
Vriska takes advantage of this situation.
(Somehow this surprises absolutely no one.)
He loops his arms around her waist and grins with all his teeth right her in face. He lifts her up, too, high off the ground.
Fef's already growling behind them.
Silly jealous fishboy.
Like she could ever be this disgustingly pale for anyone else.
"Put me down, Vris," Eridia grumbles. She pokes him hard on the nose, and he laughs. His air chute rattles when he does, claws contracting into her waist with the movement of it. She barely feels it, too busy squirming away so she can get to Fef before he snaps and tries to kill Vriska when nobody's looking.
Most volatile kissmesitude she's ever seen in her life.
"Where'd ya go, anyway, huh?" Eridia asks when she's finally got away. She's already reached up to run her fingers through Fef's hair, and when he holds her like this, like she's the precious one, she can barely keep herself from bursting into ugly tears. She's not paying attention to Vris at all.
Vriska jumps up. "Lusiifuck, I nearly forgot!"
And then he's gone again.
Eridia can't bring herself to care.
She and Fef hold onto each other, and normally they don't do this when other trolls are around because they're, well, Eridia is private. Fef could care less—he'd be perfectly happy to cuddle the fuck out of her all the time, regardless of who's around.
Eridia can't even blame him for it.
Fef's voicebox vibrates softly into her aurals, off-key and thin against the fluttering of her vestigial gills. It's all Eridia can do to tuck up against him to keep herself from doing something embarrassing like purring. With her face in his chest-cavity, she is quite nearly content.
And then, of course, Vriska comes out of nowhere and ruins everything.
"Get a 'coon, you two, no one wants to see thaaaaaaaat!" he sings.
"Shut up, Vris," Eridia says mildly. "Shove yer head in a bucket, no one likes yer jokes!"
"Ooooooooh, so crude, darling! Talk dirty to me!"
Neither Fef nor Eridia acknowledges him, this time.
"But I do have a present, my dears," Vris says slyly.
Eridia and Fef both turn to look at him—of course ignoring Vris never lasted long. His presents aren't always the healthiest of things, but it's better to pay attention to him than it is to die—short-term pain versus long-term nothingness? The choice is obvious.
"What did ya get inta now, Vris?" Eridia asks, eyeing him warily. She's planted herself firmly between her moirail and their madly-grinning rebel leader, just on the off-chance Vriska decided to pull out a sword or something else insulting.
"Thiiiiiiiis—" Vris says dramatically, waving his arms in an over-elaborate gesture, "—is Equiia. She's our linchpin. She's going to get us into the castle so you can be bait!"
There was a moment of silence.
"Oh, that—EQUIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAA!" Vris thunders, and the door opens.
Eridia thinks she's never seen such a pretty troll in all her life.
Equiia is built on pixie-delicate lines. The flush on her cheeks is a lovely bright blue—barely a step up from her own salt-lick violet, Eridia thinks acidly, but still a definite step up—and she's standing in front of them, eyes hidden behind broken shades and clutching at the hem of her shirt.
"Hello," she says, voice low and softly musical. Her smile is like starlight.
Wow, Eridia is kind of flushed for this girl.
(Eridia is flushed for the whole fucking world, so this is not a fucking surprise, either.)
"Hey, kid, take the shades off! They can't see your eyes!"
The troll-girl looks very uncomfortable, shifting nervously from foot to foot. It takes her a minute, but she does reach up to take the glasses off her face. They crack under her grip.
Eridia thinks Oh Sisters, she's got the strength and nearly floats on air. It's near rarer than any other mutation, but it's one of the most beneficial.
She is so flushed for this girl she is going to be sick.
Vriska throws a careless arm around Equiia's shoulders. He grins wicked sharp.
"She's the Ebon's own matesprite, now, isn't she," he says, laughs flung out wild. "Aren't you, Equiia?"
"I—yes, I suppose I am, Mister Serket."
Eridia sighs. Well, there goes that.
"How's this supposed ta work, Vris?" Eridia asks. She very carefully doesn't mention the fact that Equiia is betraying her mateprite—that's normally not something people ought to mention in polite society, and Eridia likes politics. She understands how this goes.
Vriska shrugs his shoulders with all a cawbeast finesse. "Equiia gets you in, and you find shit out."
"Real helpful, Vris. Real precise," Eridia sighs. "What d'ya want me t'find?"
"Anything, Dia, my daaaaaaaaaarling."
She ignores his terrible hate-flirting out of long practice. But she does glance at Fefear out of the corner of her eye; her moirail is winding himself up, just like he always does. The thought of being away from him for any length of time sends her into fits, too, but she deals with it a little better.
He reaches for her.
Eridia allows him to sweep her up. His arms fold around her, cool and safe as the ocean in the early evening, before the wind takes over and turns it rough during the night. Fef runs his hands through her hair—she's cut it short again, it's harder to hold onto in a fight—sclaws catching at the top of her aurals. She hisses at him, pain a bright white along her nerves, but she's not really mad.
She's had worse done to her than Fef's claws in her skin.
"I won' be gone long," she says. She doesn't know if Vris and Eq have turned away. To be honest, she doesn't care. "Be back with the tide like always, Fef."
Fef touches the sides of her face. "Glub," he says. "Glub."
Her blood-pusher throbs.
"Glub," Eridia agrees. "Glub."
She flushes bright purple when she turns around, and Vris and Eq are staring at them.
"What?" Eridia demads, breathing out harsh through her nose. She can feel the fins on the side of her throat flaring out with her ire. "What're ye lookin at?"
"Nothin', darling," drawls Vriska.
Eridia thinks dreamily about stabbing him in the throat.
Ah, if only.
(Vriska is everyone's kismesis. Hers, Fef's—Sisters, Vris is probably pitch for his Sister-damned matesprite, but who fucking knows, Eridia's never met the crazy bitch.)
She looks at Fef once more. Thinks you poor stupid wwreck, howw do you do this to yourself. He's beautiful and he's hers, and it will never be enough when they can't be together.
She pats his precious face.
Wwe are still here. Wwe are still here.
"When d'we leave?"
Equiia crams her glasses back into her face—the lenses crack, and an intense throb of pity washes through Eridia's vasculars. Sisters take it; she is so not going to be hitting on the Ebon's own matesprite. That is just really not okay.
Especially given that what Eridia is trying to do is unseat him.
An unseated Ebon means a dead Ebon.
(Not that she wants him dead. But it's him or Fef, and Eridia simply refuses to live in a world where her moirail doesn't exist. Some nights the only reason she wakes up and gets out of the recuperacoon is because Fefear is there to toss her into the ocean and get salt-rime into everything and sit and watch the moon go down together. Some nights he's the only reason she gives the world a chance, and Eridia will never be willing to give that up. She loves him too much.)
So they go, and Eridia doesn't look back.
She thinks that if she does, she'll see Fefear.
If she sees Fef, she won't be able to leave at all.
Equiia moves through the world with an undeniable grace that Eridia only wishes she could emulate.
They are both tactile but touch-starved, and it takes bumping and bruises for the two troll-girls to find a rhythm that works. They walk in the swing of each other's arms, watching each other's backs because that is how Alternia works for the low-blooded; Equiia might have the strength, and Eridia might be small and wiry and fast, but there are only two of them.
Quite frankly, two girls against all of Alternia?
Not the greatest odds Eridia has ever seen in her life.
But that is what they have, and so that is what they go with. The conversation takes them a while, too, and for a long time they are stilted and tongue-tied.
"Why?" Eridia finally asks.
"Why are ye—why're ya doin this? Vris said the Ebon's yer matesprite an…?"
Equiia's shoulders scrunch up around her aurals—on a side-note, Eridia thinks landdweller aurals are so weird, she's never seen anything like the soft-curve-points in her life—and she flushes bright blue again.
"Aramis, he's—you must understand. He is… he is complicated," Equiia says. Her fists go tight for a moment. Eridia can already see the blood welling up under her claws. "He is… he is very kind."
They don't talk about the blood hierarchy. Eridia has a feeling that that is where this is going, and she doesn't want to hear it. Her entire life is built on the fact that her blood is lower than dirt, screams USE ME in a way that no other blood-colour does (and she very carefully does not think about her snail-blooded moirail, lower even than she is); it is not something that she is going to give up.
Not now, maybe not ever.
"I owe Mister Serket," Equiia says. She tucks a long gleaming sheaf of hair behind her pointed aural, and she looks Eridia in the eye. "I owe him very much."
Eridia snorts. "Ya don't owe him nothing. Vris 's a douche, he ain't worth the heartache."
"Your moirail seems to think different—" Equiia claps a hand over her mouth. "—I, oh, I didn't mean—!"
Eridia laughs, but it comes out choked and sounding more like a sob than anything else. Her stupid moirail, her beautiful boy, everything is Fef, Fef, Fef.
"No," she says. "You're right. They hate each other."
The emphasis is there just enough that Equiia will get the picture. It's hard not to—she was there when Fef and Vris were eyeing each other like a pair of wild animals or daymares trapped in bodies that they had no business being trapped in, and she would have seen the utter horrible young-hate-ness of it all. There is no way to get around it.
Eridia smiles out of the corner of her mouth and tips her head back to get a face full of moonshine.
"What about yer quadrants?" Eridia asks, because quadrants are pretty important things, and they're easy conversation fodder. "Kismesis? Moirail?"
"It is complicated."
"A lotta things seem complicated with you, huh?"
Equiia's smile is small and out of the corner of her mouth. "I suppose."
"More complicate than yer matesprite?"
This time she does laugh, full-out. It's a lovely sound, gravel-rough but real and honest and steady. "If only it were that simple!"
They talk about the foods they like (Eridia likes all manner of sweet things; Equiia laughs and shoves an apple into her hand), and what they like to do with their spare time (Equiia likes mechanics. Eridia doesn't really have spare time). They talk about clothes and breaking things and at the end of it all, Eridia is flushingly happy to realize that she has made a friend.
She has never really had friends her own gender.
She has never really had friends at all.
This is probably the best feeling in the world.
They walk for a long time. The Capitol isn't far away, but they stick to the shadows and the alleyways because they are the safest. If they do get into a scrap (Eridia thinks grimly that it will be a miracle if they don't get into a scrap), they can back that shit up against the wall; they'll have leverage and the advantage.
Eridia knows without knowing that Equiia won't ditch her for safety.
That's not how friendship works, she's pretty sure.
Along the main drag, trolls and their lusii amble along. The air stinks of chum and spilled fish-meal—it ebbs as they skid further into the Capitol, replaced with sick-sweet fruit and the enticing scent of spiced meat.
Eridia's never been inside the Ebon's palace, before.
There's an awful kind of foreboding, and Eridia revels in it. She has no idea how many sweeps it's been since someone with blood as cold as hers has been past these doors—it must be cohorts and cohorts, maybe even a hundred of them. A thousand sweeps since her ancestors walked here, in this palace with its graceful arches and gold chariots painted on the walls.
Eridia vows with all the blood in her body to tear it to the ground and put her beloved on the throne where he belongs. She will never forgive them for ruining this for them all.
DEATH TO ALL LANDDWELLERS!
Except that would probably not go over well with her new friend.
They circle around the palace. Eridia does her level best not to stare when Equiia pushes a little door in—it blends in with the wall near perfectly, and Eridia thinks servant entrance. Classy.
It's not classy at all.
But Equiia smiles her starlight-smile.
"Welcome to the palace, Miss Ampora. Try not to get into too much trouble?"
"Don't worry," she says. "I will."
notes2: this fucking chapter made me weep SALTY TEARS OF BLOOD.