Equius remembers the first time they met.
Terezi had introduced them over Trollian some time ago, and Equius had no idea why the teal-blood thought they would get along. Nepeta was infuriating to talk to. She constantly role-played at him. Foolish behavior that he refused to have any part of. She killed the animals that Equius admired so much. She associated with those whose blood was lower than hers, and talked about who was dating each other and who was hating each other. Equius had little interest in these shenanigans.
Something compelled him to keep talking to her though. Maybe he saw it as a challenge, to clean her up and have her act her blood color. Maybe he could get her to realize that the beasts of Alternia were to be feared and admired, not killed and eaten. Later on Equius would realize that it was because, despite all of her little quirks, that talking to her calmed him down. He didn't have to worry about getting stabbed in the back like he did when he conversed with his fellow blue bloods. And she listened. Even though she foolishly pretended to be a cat sitting on his lap, she still listened to him.
Soon he was telling her things that he never told any other troll.
Nepeta remember her first visit to Equius' hive.
It was a towering stone castle in the middle of the wastes. An almost identical one was situation on the other side of a small chasm. Nepeta guessed that it must have been Vriska's. A peek over the edge confirms her suspicions. Vriska's spider lusus was one of the biggest animals Nepeta had ever seen. She carefully navigated the bridge to Equius' front door, while the massive arachnid looked up at her hungrily. She scrambled the rest of the way to the door and heaved the massive doorknocker. It dropped back down with a loud crash. The spider hissed. The door creaked open, with Aurthour standing in the hall and holding a silver tray with a glass of milk.
“Can I help-”
“Big creepy spider!” Nepeta ducked under his arm and into the hive. She stood rubbing her hands for a second, waiting for her heart to slow down, before she remembered that she just charged into someone's house.
“Uh...sorry! I'm Nepeta Leijon.” She stood up straight and held out her hand. She had obviously been rehearsing this.
“Ah! Miss Leijon.” Aurthour bowed, a somewhat awkward gesture for a centaur, but he pulled it off with practiced grace. “Lord Zahhak is expecting you. Please make yourself comfortable. I will inform the master of your arrival.” He trotted off up the stairs. Nepeta glumly put her hand back down when she realized that a handshake just wasn't happening.
After a few moments, Aurthour came back down and motioned for Nepeta to go up the stairs. She bounded up them two at a time, until she reached Equius' workshop about halfway up. He had a large plate of metal in front of him with a line drawn down the middle., and a cutting torch in one hand.
“Eh?” And suddenly the whole room lit up. Nepeta quickly covered her eyes and waited for the crackling sound to fade. It took about half a minute, but there was a loud crash and half the plate dropped to the ground. Equius adjusted his sunglasses and looked up at her.
“Sorry, I was just finishing something up.”
“Pretty spots.” Nepeta blinked a few times.
“Yes. That is what I meant when I said 'eyes'. Are you okay?”
Nepeta rubbed her eyes and then got her first good look at Equius. He was tall and muscular like she suspected, but she wasn't expecting the missing horn or teeth. Equius looked like someone who went hunting for trouble and often found it. His hair was unusual for a male troll as well, long and tied back in a pony tail for the sake of his metalworking. Nepeta thought it humorously appropriate.
Equius looked at Nepeta with some strange combination of admiration and disappointment. She really did wear furs, a fact that turned his stomach somewhat, and her overcoat was obviously to big and in bad condition. She looked like a vagrant. But he noticed that she carried herself with a certain grace and poise. He imagined that if her stories of the hunt were even half true, she packed some powerful whipcord style muscle under that overcoat. He liked her very genuine smile too, though he wouldn't admit it under the worst torture.
Nepeta held out her hand again, looking and Equius expectantly. Equius looked at her for a moment before he realized what she wanted. He shook his head and waved her away.
“Ah. No. I do not think that would be a good idea.”
Nepeta huffed. “You and your lusus are such stuffed shirts. You need to loosen up a bit.”
She gave him a cherubic grin, and lunged forward, wrapping her arms around his torso in a tight hug. Equius actually wheezed. She WAS strong. He looked down at her and, hesitantly at first, gently returned the embrace.
It was the first non-violent physical contact he had had with another troll that he could remember.
They sat on the roof of Equius' hive. Nepeta sat on the floor and doodled on her computer. Equius leaned on the ledge and looked up at the night sky. A glass of milk stood by his side, but he didn't seem to notice it. Nepeta looked up from her touch pad and noticed that Equius had not said anything in a long time.
“Whatcha looking at?”
Nepeta frowned. “Well if you don't want to tell me, just say so.”
“You don't understand. I really am looking at nothing.”
Nepeta narrowed her eyes suspiciously. She held her computer to her side and walked over next to him, looking up at the sky. Stars were scattered across the sky like flecks of paint. Nepeta tried to pick out one of the forty-eight star signs, but she could never find them without a diagram of some kind.
“What do you mean?” She asked quietly. She sat on the ledge Equius was leaning on, kicking her feet and looking at the sky.
“How many worlds have we conquered? Hundereds? Alternia is such a big, big place but it's only one world. There are so many.” He pointed at the sky. “Millions of stars, and nothing but void in between them. As big as the worlds are, it's nothing compared to the space that separates them.”
He pointed to a particularly bright spot.
“See that galaxy? It's made up of a billion stars, all burning thousands of times bigger than our planet. But it's so far away that we only see a speck that a candle can drown out. Light moves at one hundred and eighty six thousand miles a second, and yet it takes millions and millions of years for the light to reach us. As big as our empire is, with it's hundreds of worlds, we're still just a speck.”
Silence cut through the two of them.
“It's scary...” Nepeta whispered.
“Really? I think it's comforting. No matter what happens, there will always be a place for us to go. The universe is a big place and the trolls are survivors.”
Equius looked over at Nepeta, but she was engrossed in her computer.
“What are you doing with that thing? Talking to one of the low-bloods again?” he said somewhat peevishly.
Nepeta blushed and turned the screen so Equius could see it. It was a picture of the two of them holding hands. There was a diamond in between them.
“...Oh.” He began to sweat a bit.
They had taken a trip to the city for the day. Equius had some mechanical supplies to pick up, and Nepeta had never been in the city before, so they decided to make a day of it. Nepeta was bouncing up and down when she heard the news and started making a high pitch squeeing sound. Equius managed to translate this as “happy.”
When they got there, she was less excited. She constantly clung to Equius' arm as they walked down the street.
“I thought you were excited to be here Nepeta.”
She looked worridly at the buildings. “I am, but...it's just so...busy here.” There were too many sights and sounds and too many people. Nepeta's ears were ringing and she felt like everyone was staring at her.
“Calm yourself Nepeta. Nothing will happen to you with me here.”
She gave him a weak smile. He pointed to a building across the busy street.
“Let's get something to eat. It should be quieter in there.”
It wasn't exactly the kind of place Equius was used to. For one thing, you walked up to a counter to order your food, instead of having someone bring it to you. While Equius knew what all eleven pieces of silverwear was used for, this place seemed to have not gotten that far yet. HE simply was not familiar with this kind of situation.
The feeling was mutual. As soon as the blue blood walked in, everyone froze with their food halfway to their mouths. Equius looked at the sea of warm colored symbols.
“As you were.” He said, sounding like he was talking to something he found on the bottom of his shoe.
Those who were holding their breaths exhaled. Equius looked at Nepeta.
“I seem to have made an error. Let us find someplace more appropriate.”
“No! I want to try this place! It smells so yummy in here!”
“This kind of establishment is not for someone of our cast.”
“Such a stuffed shirt! It's not like blood color is contagious. Come on!”
Equius sighed. “I suppose there's a novelty factor to it. Very well. You find us a seat, I'll order something.”
Nepeta ran to a booth while Equius scanned the menu for something remotely vegetarian sounding. The unfortunate worked at the counter stood ramrod straight with a detached smile on his face. He was sweating in a way that would have impressed Equius if he was the type to notice the working class.
The door jingled again. Three more trolls walked in. A purple blood and two teal blood cronies, looking for trouble. Dread fell over the room, but Equius didn't notice it.
The trio looked around the room for an easy target, and caught sight of the green shirted catgirl in the middle of the room. She stood out like plant growing through asphalt.
Equius noticed the voices behind him.
“Hey! Look at her. She's wearing an beast pelt.” One teal bood said
“Finally decide to stay with the rest of the low bloods little kitty?” said the purple blood
“Leave me alone!”
“Hehe, She's kinda cute. Want me to rub your belly?” Said the other teal blood.
Equius stalked back to the table, hands clenching into fists.
“Is there a problem here?”
The three of them turned around, Equius caught the color of the symbol on the leader.
“Nothing that concerns you blueblood.”
“Whatever. Just go away. We're having fun with the little green blood that wandered in here.” They turned back to Nepeta
Nepeta looked up at Equius imploringly. Equius chewed his lip and started to sweat.
“I was the one that brought her in here. She's my morial.”
The three of them slowly turned back around and eyed Equius.
“You?” The leader said, and started laughing. “Morials with this weird little green blood?”
“Yes.” They were focusing on him now, not her. Good.
“You should stick with your own color. I think I'll teach you a little lesson.” He made a fist and smiled savagely and Equius. “Don't move.”
Ten minutes later they were making their way back home. Equius' glasses were broken. He looked down and Nepeta.
“I'm sorry that the trip was ruined. I should have thought it through better.”
“It's okay.” She clung to his arm, but less out of fear. “Thank you. I don't know what they were going to do to me. I'm sorry your glasses are broken.”
“I wish he gave me a chance to warn him. I broke his hand.”
“HE broke his hand. On your face.”
“As for my glasses, I will get them replaced.”
Nepeta stopped and looked at Equius appraisingly for a second.
“Actually it's kind of a good look on you.”
“I forbid it. You will not play that foolish game.”
“You can't order me around!” Nepeta was bouncing up and down in frustration.
“I can and I will. Stop chewing on your hat. That's disgusting.”
“Rawr!” Nepeta threw her hat to the ground and stomped away. With somewhat less righteous indignation, she stalked back, picked up her hat, and walked away after shooting Equius another dirty look.
Equius kept his eyes on her the entire time. His face was stoic and unchanging. When Nepeta had finally left his sight, he turned around and looked out the window.
He could see, far in the distance, the red light of her neighbor's eyepiece. It was far down in the chasm, with her eager looking lusus.
Equius decided he could live with being hated for now. He had been hated many times before. He can deal with it.
As long as she was safe.