“I hope this means you’ll be participating more in these negotiations,” the Canadian leader says from somewhere behind Kanaya, and it takes all of Kanaya’s practised self control not to turn around and say something snarky. Instead, she continues to pretend to listen to the politician facing her, a uninteresting human man with an uninteresting field of responsibility. (“Ah, yes, the magic of nation-craft,” Rose Lalonde sighs mockingly, whenever Kanaya makes the mistake of seeking her pity.)
“I think so!” says Feferi, and Kanaya forces her expression to remain pleasant, despite her frustration. (The human talking at Kanaya glances away, chuckling uncertainly.)
Feferi is only present at the conference because human politicians are fond of being photographed with lost alien royalty; she’s far too useless to be allowed a voice in any land negotiations. The sea-dwelling princess still hasn’t bothered to learn that the dry parts of the planet have moods of their own, and so she is indifferent to the question of where the next generation of trolls should be rooted. She had even been satisfied with the American offer of donated Nevada desert space, unable to comprehend why Karkat refused to accept until finally that government, with nervous apologies, withdrew the invitation. (Its citizens had, on review of their own history, grown increasingly uncomfortable with the seeding of technologically adept strangers within their borders.
(In her cynical moments, Kanaya appreciates their foresight.)
It had been Kanaya who sought to organize a treaty with the minister speaking for the large, damp island of Newfoundland. It’s far from paradise: too cold, and with the taste of the sea forever lingering in the air like a threat. But it offers long, dark nights for at least part of the human calendar, and protective cloud and fog even during the brighter seasons. The Earth’s sun is more forgiving than that of Alternia, but Kanaya is still the only survivor of her species able to walk unprotected in the daylight.
Unless Feferi foresees an entire generation of jade-bloods, she is wrong to pretend that Kanaya’s opinions in these matters aren’t demonstrably more reliable than her own. But still Feferi says, lightly, as though joking: “We should let Miss Maryam return to her favourite area of expertise: breeding duties.”
As if Kanaya was a single minded Drone, rather than the bearer of a far greater responsibility than any heir to a no longer extant Empire. Kanaya has bred the entire universe in which they stand, and it is her hand now rearing the Mother Grub that is the only hope their species has for a future.
This time Kanaya does turn. Feferi is smiling: a soft, close lipped smile, the kind humans like. But Kanaya reads the contempt in the tilt of her ears, where humans wouldn’t think to look.
“Yes,” Kanaya says. “I suppose I shall return to my ‘breeding duties’. Unless you enjoy being the Empress of Dust and Nothing.”
Feferi considers Kanaya without dropping her harmless smile. “But I’m not the Empress!” Feferi reminds her. “We’re all equal now.” (But her gills flare here to their full extension, showcasing the royal pink membranes between the tines.)
“I hope that isn’t the case. I would be shamed to learn I accomplish so little that I would better serve my people as a powerless figurehead.”
Feferi’s false smile has melted away now. She’s turned fully towards Kanaya, ignoring the humans around her. (The Canadian backs away from the two trolls, shoulders raised in confusion.) Kanaya knows it would be prudent to apologize in front of the humans and their record-keepers and continue this conversation in private, but the thought of backing down pumps black through her blood. If inter-species relations are truly so important to her, let Feferi be the sensible one. (That, for anyone less schooled than Kanaya in the human art of sarcasm, was a joke.)
“Hey, if your moirail has a problem with how I do my job, he’s welcome to have it back!”
It’s a solid hit; Karkat has proven himself incapable of behaving with any level of diplomacy. But: “At least I still have a moirail,” Kanaya answers primly. “At least I’m committed enough to my chosen responsibilities--”
“Is there something you're trying to say to me, Maryam? Because I don’t have sweeps to watch you circle your point like a blinded whip-eel!”
“Fish analogies? Are we still children?” Kanaya stares wide eyed into Feferi’s squinted glare. (Even with the lights dimmed out of consideration for their “Alternian guests,” everything in the hall is too bright for Feferi’s comfort. Of course, Kanaya has no such difficulties.) “Fine. Then allow me to highlight my point so that even you might understand,” Kanaya says.
“Fuck you, Feferi Peixes.”
Feferi’s right arm is extended slightly, ready to reach into her strife specibus for her trident. Kanaya is already holding her lipstick, but she knows Feferi will be prepared in the time it must take Kanaya to ready an attack. Kanaya sees a flash of their fight in her mind, thick enough to taste: her chainsaw screaming against the trident’s golden prongs, and then sliding out and free as they turn from each other. The blood of their many spectators stains a rainbow across Kanaya’s delicate green dress like the tie-dye kit Jade had gifted her on an arbitrarily assigned wriggling day. (“You can’t completely control it, but you still end up with really neat patterns!” Jade Harley is no expert at subtlety, but Kanaya is still almost entirely certain this gift has its origins in Rose.)
No. The fantasy is wrong, Kayana thinks. Human blood is invariably a bright red that would clash entirely with the colour of her dress. And it would be an unforgivable misstep in the process of diplomacy. (Truthfully, outside of the pages of a romance novel, it would have been an unrealistic outcome in Alternian society as well. But Kanaya has built many of her romantic fantasies from the pages of such novels.)
Feferi is grinning now: this one a real grin, lips pulled back to display needle sharp teeth. She’s bracing herself for whatever attack may come. The humans, most likely uncertain of what they are witnessing, have chosen to allow the trolls space. None of them appear ready to step between Kanaya and Feferi. Kanaya’s hate burns darker with the knowledge she will once again have to play mediator, this time with her own desires.
Kanaya raises the lipstick to her face. Eyes locked on Feferi’s, she brightens her lip colour to a perfect jade, then runs her tongue down each fang, just to be sure they remain clean. Then she carefully puts the makeup away.
Feferi’s weapon hand lowers. Her grin, if possible, widens. There is nothing elegant about her in this moment; she is a wild, unmannered child playing dress up for a species too ignorant to know better. But they must see her now, as Kanaya does.
Kanaya strides forward, stopping just before their chests touch through their clothes.
“I am going to smash out every one of your teeth,” Kanaya promises quietly.
“Try it,” Feferi breathes back, “and I’ll tear off your over-exercised tongue.”
And it would have been simply rude of Kanaya, after such a black invitation, not to wrap her hand painfully tight around one of Feferi’s horns and drag her into a kiss.