It took him half a sweep before he realised Nepeta Leijon was a troll.
He had been hunting her ever since the green moon’s apogee, as she thinned the herds of hoofbeasts scattered across their chill lowland plains: as the great and majestic everblue trees cracked under the heavy early snows, unable to take the weight of winter. The high-necked beasts would crack here, too, if they were weak, their delicate legs broken if they slipped on the ice. He would put them out of their misery with a twist to the neck and look at all their breakages when they were dead, measuring the tension with his eyes, imagining each limb a construct of wires and plates and how he might apply this to his projects back home. Equius Zahhak was four sweeps old.
At four sweeps old, most trolls still did not stray far from their lusus. He was not most trolls. Aurthour took his absence with dignified reservation befitting a blueblood’s guardian and didn’t hold him back, for there were few animals that might pose a problem to Equius, and he was wary and admiring of those few in turns.
For the past few herding seasons something had been culling the grazing animals around his hive, killing without thought or selection. They would be eaten -- or at least partly eaten -- and their bones left to bleach in the unkind light of Alternia’s sun. He made short sorties out of his territory to see if he could catch the thing, but it was a ghost that left its clawmarks in the flesh but not a track or print behind of itself. It ate prey and predator alike: the docile hoofkind, the chittering spider, the sleek wolf that ran in packs, all manner of musclebeast and monster. Equius thought, back then, that it must have been work done by something worthy of a noble pilgrimage to track and hunt in the traditions of old. Very few trolls went on hunting pilgrimages any more, even the bluebloods. It often made him furious.
So he packed the bows that he would break and set off. Day he avoided in the cool dim dark of the cave systems that peppered the hinterland, and at night he followed the trail. As Equius persisted, the tangled bodies would be more difficult to find, and stuffed into bizarre positions: partially consumed beasts stuffed into the forks of trees, upside down with heads lolling; segmented and scattered like puzzle pieces, or arranged as if in peaceful sleep. Each was their own mysterious fresco. It was deliberate, he decided, and he was boiled down with frustration, he was so angry that he pulped his bow between his hands while cursing a blueblooded storm.
“Darn,” he hollered, and did terrible mischief by also kicking a tree stump to splinters. “Ridiculous. Inconceivable! Fiddlesticks.”
The next day he found a footprint. He spent an hour with that footprint as though he and it were flushed for each other. He knew the length between the balls of the foot and the arch, the exact roundness of the heel, the pattern of treads on the underside of his quarry’s sneaker. It was a troll, he thought a little dazedly. It was a troll. No animal at all. It had all been a perverse game played between them both, worthy of trolls ten sweeps old rather than their inevitable grubclutch four, a matching of minds and wit pitted against each other on a great outside battlefield.
At first Equius was furious. Then he was quietly thrilled. For an extra two hours he couldn’t help himself and conjured up a number of intricate fantasies about this perfect kismesis whom he knew inside and out and also the probable measurement of their big toe. Even their big toe was appropriately nefarious to him. He had always known this day would come; and they’d be a traditionalist, with blood as blue as slate, oh my, maybe even verging into purple --
Two nights later, his hopes were horribly dashed.
At first she really looked the part. His future black romance was dressed in a shapeless trenchcoat, sitting atop a still-twitching lesserbear she had slit from gizzard to gut. The clearing around them was disturbed with signs of great commotion, snapped branches and tufts of discarded bear fur. Her mouth was dirty brown from its blood, and so were the shining claws she wore on her gloves. She was filthy and her dark hair was tangled, which ill-befitted a highblood but could be excused in a hunter. And her eyes were huge and wild. His heart was in his throat, he was sweating with excessive profuseness; something on her small, tiptilted face caught his attention, long black lines scored down her cheeks --
It occurred to him they were whiskers, drawn in pen.
“You did it! You did!”
By that point it was all too late.
“Finalleee,” his not-a-kismesis sang out, twisting the hard n into a sort of nyaa. “I thought you’d never do it! I thought you’d never catch me! I had to let you to meowve things along!” The shock of reality made him paralytic as she rolled off the lesserbear and prowled around him, prowled on all fours, claws clacking in the bark as she sniffed at his legs. When the sniffing ceased, she rolled onto her back and flailed her limbs skywards. “Not that I’m saying you won’t impurrove if you stick with me.”
“You are a,” said Equius, and the words stuck in his throat.
“I am a mighty, furrocious predator.”
“And you’re the meowvellous tracker, so we fit. Well, you’ll be meowvellous one day, you show a lot of purromise for a mewbie! Like I said, I’ll whiskers you into shape.”
This last was said in a slightly pawtronizing -- oh goshdarnit, patronizing -- tone.
Equius turned, and took his temper out upon a bush. One strong kick uprooted it, and with a shower of leaves and dirt punted it out the grove. He kept kicking long after the bush was gone and he was left stomping emphatically on the roots. The girl watched, cheek to the ground as he took things out on the flora.
“You look purretty silly right now,” was all she said.
“No,” he said, panting and sweaty to boot. “No, I -- I look dignified! You’re excruciatingly silly, you are the silliest thing I’ve ever seen. You’re an abomination. Don’t think I couldn’t tell that those were cat puns. I know. Cat puns are -- extremely -- foolish.”
“No they’re not.”
“Yes they are.”
“They are!” A thought struck him. “I demand you tell me your blood colour! I order you to at once!”
“It is the most cute and olivey shade of green,” she said, without the slightest lick of hemospectric shame. In fact, all she did was bat a wet piece of lesserbear she had noticed in front of her nose. “And you can’t order me around.”
He ground his teeth so hard he heard one crack. “Whyever not?”
“Because I am an adorable kitty-cat,” she said, and added crushingly: “Why would you order a cat around. Duhhh.”
Equius turned around and left. He stormed out of the clearing, beside himself with disappointment, palms slick with it, and did not care to notice when she caught up with him. The girl sped forward on all fours with exceeding alacrity until it wasn’t feasible, and then dogged his steps: “I’m sorry if I made you mad,” she said. He ignored her. “My name’s Nepeta. I’m actually not a cat, I just purrtend.” He ignored her. “Hey, you are sulking. You’re sulking! Stop it.”
She proceeded to follow him all the way back to his hive. This was a feat, as it was a four-night walk and atop a great rocky outcrop. He thought that if he walked for long enough, she'd fall behind and he’d be rid of her; but she proved to be tireless, as was her mouth. “You are the most childish grub I ever met,” she said. He ignored her. “You don’t even know how furrantically I’ve wanted to talk to you. I’ve got all these plans for catventures. I thought we were playing.” He ignored her over the hinterlands and he ignored her on the foothills. “And I’m not going to leave because I am a mighty huntress and you don’t even know.”
Nepeta matched him step for stubborn step right up to his doorway, at which point she was nearly in tears and he was sick to his digestion sac. When they came to his door his lusus was already waiting with an armful of fresh towels, but despite Aurthour’s thoughtfulness he was inconsolable. As he rounded on her, the most mortifying thing he could think to say was, “You are utterly beneath me,” and slammed his door right off its hinges.
“I’m not either,” she said indignantly, peering around broken planks. “I’m outside.”
Equius's despair made him use up three towels.
She was true to her word, and did not leave.
Outside in the caverns and overhangs surrounding his mesa, she played in the canyon and scratched pictures in the dusk. Some nights he would see the great milky shadow of the thing that must have been her lusus, flicking its tail in the shadows and yawning with two complacent mouths full of teeth. Inside, Equius set about destroying everything that he had ever made.
Out went the delicate skeletons of the warrior robots he’d prototyped, careening down into crumpled heaps of smoke in the darkness. Spanners he snapped, wrenches he squashed. He turned his carefully fletched arrows into piles of dust and feathers, rendered every bow a snapped string and six thousand pieces of limb. The month that followed he careened between rage and, at his mildest setting, restless anger. When he sat down to anything it came apart in his fingers. He could barely eat and drank with his hands cupped trembling under the milk jug. The wild upswings of his aggression had come before, but never this.
Still, Nepeta stayed. Did she even have a hive of her own? She did not draw near the ruckus but would leave things on his doorstep, ridiculous things. Little rodents, perfectly dead. Bundles of different-coloured pebbles tied with grass. Pieces of wood with strange notches scratched in them he identified belatedly as bad pictures. These he would behold for long, mystified moments, too -- he didn’t even know -- to destroy them, to do anything much. He could not even touch them. He would simply turn himself around, knowing her eyes were watching holes in him from some vantage point, and march right back into his rampage.
The anger lasted all throughout those awful nights and long, burning days. Aurthour reached out when, streaming with rage, Equius finally turned his sights on the precious antique musclebeast murals hung at his walls: he swatted away that worried white arm without thinking, and was rewarded with the sound of it cracking noisily.
At that he fled.
The following nights were a jumble of blood. He stumbled in and out of other trolls’ territories, and those who did not meet him with complete submission -- and what rare troll submitted? -- he just hit, he hit over and over and hit again, took his fists to their lusii, did not feel their claws or teeth on his body. Dripping different colours, he would drag himself out their hive to another and it would begin anew. Maybe they died. Maybe they didn’t. Equius could not recall anything but the absence of pain. At first he told himself, this is what I am, this is the true noble blueness of my class. Then all he could think of was, I am so tired.
He was aware by the end that she was following him, but was numb to her presence: if he turned around and met her he would have ripped his cat shadow to olive-green shreds. Equius was aware of this as a repetitive mantra inside his head. It was still repeating itself when on the last night he fell flat on his face in the middle of a field, both swollen with exhaustion and empty of food, blood and hope.
When her shadow fell over him, he wanted to say: you foolish little thing, how can you not see I am your death? He wanted to say, I will tear you to pieces with my bare hands right down the middle, and you will make a ripping sound as you separate. He wanted to say, this is your fault and I loathe you, everything that has happened is your stupid, ridiculous, horrible fault.
Instead he said, dry-tongued, “Fudgesicles,” and promptly passed out.
Later on he would know that she half-dragged, half-heaved him away into shade before sunrise. Later on he would know that she covered up his wounds with dry leaves to staunch the bleeding, covered him with her jacket to keep him warm, went back and was burned in the dim scorch of dawn as she covered his trail from anyone who would vengefully track it. Later on he would know that she chased up some prey and softened its meat in her mouth before packing it into his own broken-toothed one, too delirious to recall swallowing her pre-chewed pulp and pretty darned grateful for that, actually.
What he did recall was that -- semi-conscious and in agony -- he said “I hurt my lusus,” and because he was four sweeps old he cried.
“Your lusus is fine,” she said, and she wiped away his tears in a fluster. He remembered her fingers being cool and light on his burning cheeks, and that it made his sobs double in strength. Equius could not even weep by halves. “Don’t cry, you don’t have to cry any more. Go back to sleep. I’ll look after you, I’ll see you through.”
For some reason, the audacity of those orders -- delivered with no hint of a cat pun -- made him sink back into unconsciousness, half-convinced that all she said was the truth. Later on he would never bother to doubt.
It started their friendship in the same way a spark started a fire, with that same lack of resemblance to the final conflagration.
Trolls did not usually think about newcomers in their lives without sizing them up for quadrants, processing every nuance of their behaviour into the red, white, black or ash: he never thought about Nepeta. All he knew was that she was there, in his hive asking what was this or what was that or hiss that poster is gross why do you have pictures of bonebulges yuck that’s nasty what yes it is yes it is yes it is to infinity plus one more than you’ll ever get -- that Aurthour was there with an arm she’d bandaged and that she had turned away so he could tentatively rest his forehead in his lusus’s hand.
She sidled into his life as though she had some right to it, napping on his work desk and sharpening her claws on his broken bows, pulling him into a pile of his pulverized bots and yanking him down because he was too afraid to yank back. At this point she would ask, do you have any bad feelings? and when he said er, would respond with hee, oh good! and that would be that. (Only extensive practice would see her become master of the feelings jam.) When he was angry, she would take him down in a surprisingly strong tacklepounce and lie on his stomach until he stopped being angry, which back then often took such a long time that she would fall asleep on him and he wouldn’t be able to stir. Or when he was enraged, she would say something so infuriating and so stupid it would make him have to think up methods to logically tell her how irritating she was being. In a thousand tiny ways she taught him control, and he never knew he was learning.
“Okay,” she said, one day. “I’m hightailing back home. Something has probably meowved in and I’ll have to shoo it out.”
Nepeta gathered up her things and a befuddling collection of rocks, her bits of string, her pockets full of stolen sprockets, and his throat suddenly too closed up to complain. Pounce de Leon was waiting as a ghost-coloured breath on the cliff for her, washing one paw with the avidity only two tongues could provide. Equius Zahhak felt bereft.
“I suppose this is goodbye,” he said gruffly.
She gave him a weird look, wriggling her heels into her shoes. “I guess it is. Oh, I took one of your socks.”
“Well, you can keep it.”
“Thanks. Hey, gross, you’re sweating pawfully, go and get a towel -- “
Equius caught up her hand within both of his own, nesting his fingers around hers like a cage so that they did not touch. His palms rested around her delicate wrist, pressing only barely so that he did not have to hear her bones crunch and grind against his grip. She did not flinch. Later on he’d think about how ridiculous it must have looked: one child sweating up a storm, feathering his hands around another’s as they stared at each other in wild surmise. He had been very young. “It has been a privilege,” he stammered. “I don’t give a hoot how ridiculous you are. I hope we meet again someday.”
She prised herself out of his grip. It was Equius who flinched when she stood on his feet and flung her arms around him, pressing her face into his chest despite the surfeit of sweat and nuzzling her face there: nuzzling him cheek to chin as though he were something she could mark. “Stupid stupid stupid,” she said. “Don’t you know? I’ll come back, all the time.”
“Perhaps you should,” he said, and with a strong effort: “purromise.”
Nepeta laughed as though there were only one joke in the world and he had just discovered it, making his ribs vibrate with the sound. It was not at all unpleasant. “I purromise,” she said, “I purromise meowst furmly!”
“Stop. You don’t have to go that far.”
“You started it.”
“I did not.”
“You did too.” She pressed her face into his front again and took a deep breath of him, which was fairly admirable if you considered it, and it was only then that she slithered out of his grip. He watched as she nimbly scaled the cliffs opposite up to her lusus, and he watched as she waved gaily and bounded out of sight. Equius kept watching long after she was gone.
It took them over a sweep before they even whispered the word moirail.
For one, there were no pale overtures between them. It seemed strange to put voice to something that was as natural as breathing or eating or sleeping in sopor, unnegotiated and necessary as breathing and eating and sleeping in sopor were in the first place. They grew up wholeheartedly annoying and needing each other without missing a beat, and keeping her in line proved to be a full-time job. Nepeta loved cats and took orders like one, which was to say not at all. She loved roleplaying and he had to keep her away from Vriska Serket, because that brand of roleplaying ended up with young trolls being food for her spider. She loved awful hats she’d made scalping her feline prey. She loved drawing and the tablet computer he’d carefully assembled for her. She loved love itself and made a thousand additions to her goshdarned silly shipping wall and never put them up there as a pair, not ever, not together in any form.
She chatted incessantly to him over the network, but he was only truly relieved when she was there in person: cluttering up his hive, making piles, bugging a longsuffering Authour, rolling her eyes at his broken bows as he rolled his own at her pretending to be a cat on his floor. Nepeta was often there to watch as he destroyed scores of his own robots in a glorious automaton battle, though her suggestions were typical: make one of them a cat robot! just make more cat robots!!
If they talked about quadrants she talked about other people’s. It was like they were both afraid of the word, and they’d made it a point to never be afraid of anything.
Nepeta touched him more than anyone else did, which wasn’t difficult considering everyone else’s fear. It gave him an awful, clawing need to be touched, which was a humiliating desire he kept locked safely in the confines of his own head where he locked all his other desires. “Pervert,” she called him diffidently anyway. To have a smart-alec girl half his size and insipid of blood grotesquely call him pervert -- him, stoic, noble, intelligent, serious and highminded, conservative and strong -- was both obscene and an unmitigated relief.
What could he do? Touch her cheek and say, whitely, you know me? It would be like telling the ocean it was wet.
It wasn’t as though he wasn’t proud of her. You could be such a lady, he persisted, if you tried. It was true. In his estimation Nepeta was one of the prettiest trolls of their whole grubclutch, it was just that you had to tidy her and brush out her rat’s nest of hair and encourage her to school her features into non-ridiculous expressions. It was quite a lot of work, but worth it. Part of his panic had started entirely with a hairbrush: sweating with exertion to pull it through her hair without pulling out her hair, taming it into loose shining waves despite her complaints.
Clean of bloody dirt she was exquisite, the bones of her face high and sweet and fine and her eyes liquid gold beneath dark lashes. If he had a type, she did not match it; already his eye strayed constantly to the elegant lines of Aradia Megido’s unworthy rustblooded mouth, or to long-limbed, big-fingered Gamzee Makara, both of whom he regarded with very real pangs of despair. No. Nepeta was small and beautifully compact, neat, lean muscle, and when he looked at her he felt a possessive longing for something he could not even name. If it had been to kiss her that would have been easy. It was instead to stop: stop her at five sweeps before anything could happen, before care or culling touched her, stop her in that perfect moment as they were with his hand at her hair and not hurting.
“You’re lovely when you’re washed up,” he said.
“You’re handsome when you’ve got all your teeth,” said Nepeta, and they were satisfied with that.
Although he visited the schoolhive only rarely -- he was a blueblood, and what could be taught to him that he could not tutor himself? Why happily mix with the trash of the gutter? -- when he did she was an everpresent shadow at his side. If others looked at them and read moirallegiance in their every move and gesture, they didn’t say so; nobody but Vriska Serket, who was uncouth despite her caste standing.
“What is she to you?”
It was unwise to be too honest or dishonest with Vriska. One had to bore her, and thus escape her machinations. “Protected,” he said curtly, and later grieved the answer: he might as well have said to her, pale to me as the light from the pink moon. But Vriska did not bother them. The only threat to their quadrant was themselves.
They were well into their fifth sweep when he grew fractious and unsettled again, a shadow of his childhood temper unmollified by widespread robot destruction or gazing at a classical musclebeast nude. Nothing helped. Nepeta watched him stalk back and forth in his respiteblock, thoroughly bored by it until she said: “You’re coming home with me today. And no yowling.”
Equius had been only rarely to her hive. His was a testament to noble trollish architecture, a towering pinnacle of black rock haloed against a crimson sky, whereas hers was a lumpy cave. Its windows looked out onto more lumps and more cave. They argued house-building incessantly. Every visit his natural inclinations had taken over and he’d attempted to smooth out a wall, which ended in undignified yelling each time.
But he was tired, then, and tired of a great many things. Their spats were one of them. Her torches guttered in the walls as her lusus dozed in an alcove, and in her smoky little respiteblock she hovered behind him when he peered at her shipping wall. Her pictures were daubed ash, fat and crayon, but she still had a remarkable artistic ability to depict, albeit not one she ever put to use as a true artist no matter how he encouraged (“yuck I am not drawing your sweaty horsebutts”).
All redrom and white, with a club or two dotted here and there. She hated black. The freshest: a girl with a sharp-toothed madman’s grin, dressed up as a lopsided dragon next to Nepeta’s own self and stamped with a heart. “I forbid you from Terezi Pyrope,” he said. “Boo to that,” was her reply. Next were a few of the FLARPers she so dearly wanted to join but he forbade her from: Aradia with a white diamond scratched between herself and the wide-horned figure of Nitram, and underneath the legend: SO LIKELY!!! Ugh.
Her hovering was growing more nervous, and she had taken off her hat to twist between her fingers. Nepeta sidled in to his left and tried to hip-check him out of the way as he continued to look -- the imperial seadweller heir and Vriska Serket, marked with a heart and a PAWSSIBLY?. More of the dirtbloods whom he did not care about. And, augh, the picture she was most likely wanting to shield; himself flexing opposite a boy smeared with clown make-up, joined by a heart. LONG SHOT!!.
“Nepeta, you take that down at once.”
“I refuse! The shipping wall is untouchpurrble!”
“Fiddlesticks. I command you to take that wretched picture down.”
Equius snatched at a piece of grubby cloth tacked up on the wall, meaning to erase her drawing and too wilful to care about her scrabbling at his arm -- then she bit him, sank her sharp teeth right into his bicep until he hollered out in pain, but it was too late. He had already seen what she was hiding underneath. Nepeta bit him over and over and over until her fingertips were bruising his skin, but though his blood was dripping down his elbow he no longer cared. Each clamping-down of her jaw was weaker and weaker until, finally, she just dug her teeth in and left them there, her fingers rasping at his flesh. He just stared.
He wondered why the world stopped. The drawing was of he and Nepeta, knuckles touching knuckles, bisected by white. There was a low, droning buzz in his ears that blocked out all other noise. He really wondered.
Her mouth was stained blue when she finally pulled it away, her saliva and his blood, wheeling around to throw herself down on one of her dead hairy rugs and hugging her knees. Equius did not sit next to her. He sat down behind her instead, back touching smaller back, and they stayed that way for what seemed to be a very long time.
“We have always avoided this,” he said.
“Because it’s terrifying,” she said, “that of all the quadrants, this one’s the most purrturbing -- bluh, perturbing. I’m a fake. I’m a big stupid damn fake.” (“Mind your language,” he managed.) “I just -- I just only ever wanted a matespritship, you know? Someone who knows me. Someone who likes me, all of me, really pities me.”
“That remains the definition of a red romance,” he said. “It’s not like that’s no part of the Mother’s plan, Nepeta.”
“No,” she said. “No no no! It’s not. You know me better. You know me more than anyone else could ever know. Don’t you see? My matesprit’ll never know everything. You will. It’s never going to be how it should be, how I wanted. If you were my -- I didn’t know it was going to be this way, I didn’t know it was going to be like this -- ”
“You fear a matespritship would come second to this moirallegiance,” he said.
“How couldn’t it?”
The room was dark, and the smoke made his eyes smart. His eyes welled up often, seemingly just as much as his body perspired at the slightest provocation, and although she had been encouraging him to get a pair of tinted lenses he hadn’t yet. There was too little air and not enough light, and he could feel every bump of her spine against his own. Equius realised without surprise that he could tell anyone the exact number of her vertebrae, size the width of her shoulders with his hands right down to the last micrometre, know the expression on her face without needing to look. And that he would always know the measurement of her big toe.
“Nepeta,” he said, and he drew up his dignity like a shield. “Ms. Leijon, I’m. I am not that schooled in the feelings jam. I have you for that.” She didn’t answer. “I still suggest we -- that we -- that we get into a pile of whatever foolish thing you have lying around. So that we may jam the feelings.”
“Equius -- “
“We will jam these feelings. We will jam them right this instant.”
The pile ended up consisting of all the rugs, her coats, a couple sets of claws and some Pounce de Leon shed that he had no idea why she kept. It was awkward to stretch out on. He was no longer hitting growth spurts so much as he was pounding them into submission, and his legs dragged out of the pile even if he hitched up his knees; she curled up opposite, face a little swollen from tears and her dark hair every which way, but when she said “This is an unmeowciful cat-astrophe of a pile,” he knew she was going to be all right.
“Absolute knowledge should not necessarily be the heart and soul of flushed romance,” he said. “One should, perhaps -- always believe -- the best of one’s matesprit, not what is necessarily true. Moirallegiance is honesty before it is tenderness.”
Nepeta was flushed a sticky green from crying, and her tears were stuck on her lashes. He nearly dislocated his elbow in his care to wipe them away with one finger. “You’re -- purrobably right,” she said. “Wow. I think you are right. Wow, that’s really deep -- ”
“Of course it was deep. I have this jam mastered. It was no match for me at any point.”
“ -- except you can’t just say one thing and then pawclaim you won.”
“I can and I have. I have beaten the feelings jam and that should be respected.”
She rolled her eyes so hard that her pupils nearly disappeared back into her skull, but then she was reaching out to touch him: to map out his jaw with the pad of her thumb, his angular chin, his beaky nose. “We’re moirails,” she said, as though she were testing each vowel and consonant by rolling them around in her mouth. On her lips, there were still crusting black-blue flakes of his blood, and when he put his finger near them she scrunched up her tiny nose. “Me-ow-rails. Equius Zahhak and Nepeta Leijon.”
“I have cared for and will care for you,” he said. “I have always been and will always be your moirail.”
It was she who reached up to kiss him. It was little more than a moth’s brush of her closed mouth against his own, light and quick, but for some reason it made him unbearably sad. Equius closed her eyes as she did it again, bottom lip and upper lip, the corners of his mouth and his chin as though she were searching for something that wasn’t there, and he felt the sweat prickle at his palms.
“We should get it over with,” said Nepeta practically.
“We can save it for later...”
“No, because I’ll just keep looking at you and think we haven’t done it and we have to, it’ll be pawsitively dire,” she said. She was already wriggling her shoes off. Oh, dear. The sweat was pooling at his hairline. The mantra in his head reminded him: I am a traditionalist and this is traditional. “I know you’ll just be thinking about big sweaty musclebeast chests -- “
The socks were off too, and she was flipping open the buttons on her trousers and kicking them away. With hands that felt as though they were moving through thick swamp mud, he peeled back the latches on his shoes. “Nepeta.”
Bored of her lack of trousers oh good gracious, she was instead tugging at the edges of his vest and peeling it up and over his pectorals; he fumbled with his own shorts and huffed in a mixture of panic and annoyance when the button popped off. His leggings were an agony to roll off and down. He was not made to be undressed. “ -- or Aradia -- “
At every new swatch of grey skin his breathing chute seemed to close up. Equius shut his eyes and got rid of the rest in a reckless hurry, sitting off and bumping shoulders with her near-bruisingly as they flung off the rest of their clothes. It was like being in the middle of a controlled garment explosion. He winced every time he heard material hit a wall. When he dared to crack his eyes open, there she was, naked; there he was, naked; and they stared at each other.
There was not a spare scrap on Nepeta Leijon’s body. She was narrow-hipped and skinny-chested, as beautifully put together as any natural creation could be: he could appreciate how she was architecture, how well her arms turned out from their sockets and how her thighs were tight with running sinew. Her eyes were flicking over him: feet to ankles, ankles to knees, knees to -- oh dear lord -- until finally her gaze made it back to his face, which was at least better territory. The darkness closed in, thickly tinged with smoke.
And then he gave up and started to laugh.
Equius was horrified at himself. He clapped one hand strenuously over his mouth, deeply ashamed at his own impropriety, but the laughter kept on escaping in strong bursts through his fingers. He smiled seldom and laughed less; he had no idea how to stop it. Nepeta just blinked. He was about to say, no, please, I am so extraordinarily sorry when she burst out into peals of laughter herself, falling backwards into the pile and holding her stomach as she packed up. They both howled until they were nearly in tears, and he was covered with a thin sheen of sweat.
“Oh, my word,” he managed.
“It’s pawficcial,” she said. “We can’t do this.”
Instead he opened his arms, and she crawled into his hug. Equius very gently laid one arm over her as she curled up into his chest and laid her cheek against his neck, amazed now at the feel of her skin against his own and the faint dusty scent of her hair. She was terribly light in his arms. Nepeta was cuddled up into his ribs and making a low, buzzing ululation in the back of her throat which he realised was her utterly ridiculous attempt at a purr, but mainly sounded like she had a faulty motor. He was only embarrassed if he looked down, so he primly kept his gaze locked on her horns.
“We can roleplay it instead,” she suggested, sly.
Nepeta rested her hand at his hip, and as the world’s worst afterthought slapped his rear end. It was by far the least sensual act that had ever been enacted upon him. It was probably the least sensual act that had ever been enacted upon anyone. “What’s that? We should definitely roleplay this?”
“Good goshdarned grief, Nepeta, you will stop right now -- ”
“The Pouncellor sees the high-strung, unbroken troll before her,” she uttered hollowly, swinging her legs over his knees and wriggling her toes. “The Pouncellor is purrleased at the high mettle of this troll’s pure spirit, waiting to be stomped utterly beneath the Pouncellor’s unbelievably adorable paws! Tonight he will be the Pouncellor’s, and she will fulfill his every uncute and downright creepy desire -- “
As circumstance had it, she was the only thing he ever really loved.
AA: if theres 0ne thing i d0nt understand ab0ut y0u and if theres 0ne thing i underestimate ab0ut y0u its her
CT: D --> Pardon
AA: i envy y0u her
AA: i envy her y0u
AA: i think y0u tw0 0ut 0f all 0f us g0t it c0rrect
AA: i nearly wish that had mattered
What he never saw: her knees broken, her claws in shining sharp pieces on the ground. Her tossed atop his body, coughing up her bloodied green spittle onto his shoulder. Oh chica, chica, says the end of them both, everything in your whole universe is boring as shit and so therefore is your noise.
Honk. Give him a motherfucking kiss goodbye, baby girl. Pucker up that little kitty mouth.
The club comes down, but the only pain was in those three minutes and twenty-four seconds of being without him. Nepeta dies with not a little relief: never alone again.