He took her to a supermarket.
He had no idea why. Or, to be more specific, he knew why he was going to the supermarket; if he took her back to the flat now dinner would end up being Succulent Puppet Ass Surprise, served on a crisp bed of unbelievably shitty swords. The cupboards in the Strider household had generally been put to uses far more ironic than mere food storage, and anything in stock would have gone bad by now. But he wasn’t sure why he dragged her round with him, instead of leaving her on a park bench, or chaining her to the railings outside. Perhaps it was the thought of the carnage she could cause during ten unsupervised minutes in her first human city. Perhaps he liked her running commentary on everything she saw. Who cared.
In all fairness, she followed without complaint. Indeed, she seemed happy and intrigued as he darted round the chilly aisles, occasionally pausing to snatch a packet or jar and throw it in the basket. He was trying to think in terms of colour, expand his usual culinary range beyond its default palette, viz. brown. Most good foods, when you got down to it, were basically brown: meat, bread, potatoes, pasta, chocolate. But he suspected such monochrome security would not impress Terezi Pyrope. And, for some entirely fucking retarded reason, his brain seemed to have decided that impressing Terezi Pyrope was a high priority.
She understood money (‘D3RP D4V3 1 4M 4N 4L13N, NOT 4N 1D1OT >:\’) and most of the more obvious foods: fruit, vegetables, meat. Some of the packages and cans puzzled her, but he whisked her on by before she could start licking a family pack of Doritos or something. The announcements of special offers over the store tannoy sent her into fits of laughter. It was only the checkouts that baffled her entirely.
see i wait here with my loot
and the dude in the stripey polo charges me some money
and i give him the money
and i am the winner
BUT WHY DON’T YOU JUST T4K3 1T
4ND K33P YOUR MON3Y?
see that guy by the door
hed stop me
D4V3 TH1S 1S COMPL3T3LY ABSURD
H3 1S ON3 OV3RW31GHT HUM4N 1N 4 SUIT
YOU 4R3 TH3 KN1GHT OF T1M3
YOU SHOULD K1LL H1M
4ND TH3N 4LL TH3 D3L1C1OUS 34RTH FOODSTUFFS C4N B3 YOURS! >:]
thats not how it works
talk quieter ok
It turned out, of course, that troll supermarkets were a lot more high-security than their Earth equivalents. In fact, they were essentially the Tomb of Horrors, but all the chests held packets of Troll Rice Krispies and jars of Troll Fire Roasted Red Pepper Salsa instead of magic orbs. A grocery run on Alternia had to be undertaken with a party of heavily-armed friends, took days, and often resulted in several fatalities. Terezi was like an Allied paratrooper who’d stormed up the beach at Normandy and found only an inflatable German duct-taped to a cardboard sign saying GO AWAY. In the end the only way to shut her up before the soccer mom in the queue behind them freaked the fuck out and called the cops was to tell her, without further explanation, that he couldn’t kill the security guard and become LORD H1GH SUP3RM4RQU1S because it was against the rules.
she said, and nothing more until they got outside.
Half an hour later they were at the flat. The key stuck in the lock, like always, and he had to twist just so. The mail backlog wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. It was the first time he’d been back here since Bro, and although he hadn’t known how it would feel, he was a little surprised to find it didn’t really feel anything. Bro’s presence in the living room – littered as it was with mixing equipment, cheap-ass katanas, and plush recreations of 1980s television stars – was so strong that the absence at its centre went almost unnoticed. Maybe if Terezi hadn’t been there it would have been more obvious that he was alone now, but as she ploughed gleefully through the doorway ahead of him and started to sniff the air, he realised that introspection in this scenario would be like doing calisthenics while under artillery bombardment: ill-timed, needlessly difficult, and likely to result in serious injury.
He cleared some crap off the sofa so they could sit down. He didn’t even bother trying to collect up the various smuppets jutting impudently over half the room’s furniture. It wasn’t like she could see them. As long as she didn’t start picking them up and nibbling them or something. His equipoise was already hanging by a thread, and the sight of Terezi inquisitively nuzzling a plush red proboscis could only lead to reactor core clusterfuck meltdown, whole sections of Research Station Dave peeling away on tongues of flame and spinning into the endless void, screaming crewmembers plucked from their handholds and flung into asphyxiating infinity.
welcome to the palace
do you want the full tour or what
twelve bucks fifty
no flash photography
all dogs must be kept on a lead
not the same lead though that would just be dumb
1 SHALL 3XPLOR3 ON MY OWN
1T W1LL B3 MOR3 FUN
A L3G1SL4C3R4TOR’S PR3L1M1N4RY 1NV3ST1G4T1ONS 4R3 4LW4YS CONDUCT3D SOLO, B3FOR3 OTH3RS H4V3 4 CH4NC3 TO CONT4M1N4T3 TH3 SC3N3
1 WOULDN’T 3XP3CT YOU TO UND3RST4ND >:]
yeah cause its not like that at all on earth
every time you watch a police procedural
same old deal
sweet god in heaven this murder scene is totally undisturbed
macleary send four of your most irretrievably fucking braindead officers up here stat to trample around knocking shit over
tell them to wear their special cluecrusher boots
get moving man
and besides you need to investigate this flat pretty fucking hard
what with basically zero crimes having been committed here and all
dont want to overlook any unevidence for my nonmisdemeanours
OH GOD WH4T 4 SM4RT4SS!
SM4RT4SS13ST 4L13N 3V3R
The memory caught him off-guard for a second, and in the missed beat she was gone.
He’d only had to crash-reset Mad Snacks Yo II: The Snackening twice when she returned from her explorations.
WHY DO YOU NOT H4V3 4N 4BLUT1ON TR4P
a what the fuck now
HYG13N3 1S V3RY 1MPORT4NT D4V3
1 4M SUR3 YOU DO NOT S1MPLY S1T 4ND ST3W 1N YOUR HORR1BL3 HUM4N SW34T 4LL D4Y
OR YOU WOULD NOT SM3LL 4S D3L1C1OUS 4S YOU DO >:]
W3LL L4 D3 D4 D4V3
W3 4R3 B31NG V3RY FORM4L 4LL OF 4 SUDD3N
im just going to class that as alien bullshit and move on
nah this flat is hells of sweet but the bathrooms tiny
weve just got a shower
you can use that though i guess
4 SHOW3R? >:?
yeah its pretty much that or go up on the roof with a bucket of soapy water
forget i said anything
>:O >:O >:O
So there they were in the tiny bathroom, forced uncomfortably into each other’s personal space even after Dave pulled down the various puppets and slung them unceremoniously onto the landing to make more room, and here he was rattling aside the white plastic curtain like the doorman on the steps to some fancy goddamn New York hotel so that Terezi could peer past him into the stall.
so basically you stand in there
and turn the dial
which obviously you cant see
H4V3 YOU N3V3R H4D 4 BL1ND G1RL V1S1T YOUR S1LLY L1TTL3 H1V3 B3FOR3??
oh hell yeah
used to have blind chicks traipsing in and out of here 24/7 back in the day
bumping into walls
tripping over the sofa
putting salt in the coffee by mistake
got kind of old after a while to be honest
Terezi had turned her back on him and, with a series of quick twitching movements like Harry Houdini throwing off trick chains, wriggled out of her T-shirt. Dave got a brief glimpse of her back, cool smooth slate grey ridged with tiny bumps along the rope of her spine, before his head snapped away and to the left so hard that his glasses nearly flew off into the sink.
ill be in the kitchen then
1 HOP3 1 H4VE NOT 1N4DV3RT3NTLY COMM1TT3D 4NOTH3R OF MY W4CKY CULTUR4L M1SST3PS
TH4T WOULD B3 V3RY 3MB4RR4SS1NG
He risked a glance, smearing his eyes right while keeping his head as still as possible. She was standing facing him, clasping her crumpled T-shirt against her chest with both arms, and that toothy goddamn grin had spread so far across her evil goddamn face he strongly suspected it joined up at the back. Her shades gleamed with delight.
He turned his back decisively and hoped to Christ his voice came out normal.
get in the shower and pull the curtain
then find the dial on the far wall
its a big chunky plastic motherfucker
twist it to the right about 45 degrees
jesus its like gamefaqs in here or something
There was some rustling; the hollow flop of jeans hitting tiled floor; a couple of padding footsteps; and the scrape and rattle of the curtain-rings. Dave let himself breathe out, as a treat. A couple of seconds passed, and then the shower hissed, and Terezi shrieked.
Honest to God. She straight up shrieked. It had been worth it all just to hear Terezi fucking Pyrope shriek.
Another brief silence, but for the whisper of the showerhead and the slap of water on hard white plastic and soft grey skin, which was no concern of Dave Strider’s, no sir.
WHY 1S 1T R41N1NG
there we go
just like you wanted
an ablution trap
towels on the rail
ill be in the kitchen
He shut the bathroom door behind him, feeling on top of things for the first time since she’d walked into the flat.
He wasn’t sure what to expect when the door creaked open again a full half-hour later, but what he got was a fluffy-haired Terezi demurely wrapped in a fleecy white bathtowel that reached down to her knees. A gust of air from the landing behind her brought the scent of his own shower gel, which was something nondescript and legitimately masculine – sea minerals and jojoba to hydrate your pores and kickstart your day, or some equally fucking ridiculous bullshit. Bro always bought it. He’d never really noticed the smell until it came drifting off a warm damp alien girl in a towel. Smelt pretty good.
you worked out towels then
OF COURS3! >:P
YOU 4R3 4 V3RY CONS1D3R4T3 HOST, D4V3
GO1NG SO F4R 4S TO PUT 4 TUB3 OF TH4T D3L1C1OUS BLU3 H3RB4L SL1M3 1N TH3 SHOW3R
FOR WH3N 1 GOT P3CK1SH
He was almost completely sure she was jerking his chain.
i cover all the angles
that fucking towel is monogrammed you know
little pair of shades stitched in the bottom corner
i trust your stay at casa strider will be a pleasant one miss
weve put you in the shitty jpeg suite
help yourself to complimentary compression artefacts
the bellbro will take your fucknig lungnage
BUT 1 JUST H34RD H1M F4LL1NG DOWN 4LL THOS3 FUCK1NG ST41RS
that keeps happening
He upended half a bag of conchiglie tricolore into boiling water. Terezi sidled over and swiped a crisp orange splinter of carrot from the chopping-board, palmed it into her mouth like a street barker, crunched. Christ she smelt amazing.
DO YOU H4V3 4NY CLOTH3S?
humans only have one set
wear it into the shower
easier that way
COOLK1D 1 C4N SM3LL YOUR L13S
PLUS 1 H4V3 4LR34DY S33N YOU W34R 4T L34ST F1V3 D1FF3R3NT OUTF1TS
YOU 4R3 L1K3 4N 3XC1T1NG DR3SS-UP TOY FOR 4 SM4LL HUM4N G1RLCH1LD ON H3R WR1GGL1NG D4Y
i come with a range of accessories
beach party dave
animal doctor dave
stone cold motherfucker dave
pull my cord bitch i dare you
B34CH P4RTY D4V3 SOUNDS FUN >:]
beatbox assassin dave is where its at
go look in my room
dont break anything
When she reemerged she was wearing an old T-shirt he’d forgotten even existed – not quite teal, but close enough to count – and a pair of his red boxer shorts. Both items were slightly too big for her, but only enough to look baggy, rather than ludicrous. Her bare legs seemed to go on for a surprisingly long way. She’d put her shades back on to complete the effect.
whoa heads up
legislacerator redglare on deck
D4V3 YOUR 4RR4Y OF R3D CLOTH1NG 1S EXTR4ORD1N4R1LY S1NFUL
3V3RY DR4W3R 1N YOUR RESPITEBLOCK 1S 4 FR3SH BOUQU3T OF D3PR4V1TY
1 M4Y B3 FORC3D TO 1MPOUND YOUR W4RDROB3
FOR L3G4L R34SONS >:]
yeah i was worried about that
afraid youd lose it completely
just start pulling things out and rubbing your face on them
chewing on my socks
frisking in circles like a deranged squirrel in the us federal nut reserve
or egbert in a crappy jokeshop
YOU GR4V3LY UND3R3ST1M4T3 MY S3LF CONTROL! >:[
1 4M NOT 4 B31NG OF PUR3 1MPULS3 YOU KNOW D4V3
1 C4N B3 V3RY D1SC1PL1N3D WH3N 1 CHOOS3
uhuh yep sure
so you say
quick use your magical spoiler powers
see if theres any version of this evening that doesnt end up with you making a nest out of all my clothes and going to sleep in it like a fat little sockmouse
oh wait whats the point
dinners ready btw
hope you like tomatoes
WH4T 4R3 TOM4TO3S?
The improvised technicolour puttanesca was an enormous success. So was the Neapolitan ice-cream. Terezi Pyrope pronounced herself delighted with the food at Casa Strider, and a treacherous lobe of Dave’s weary brain tried to grin a big old shit-eating grin. While digging around under the sink for a more precise chopping implement than an astonishingly low-quality wakizashi with a wobbly sheet steel blade and crass rococo dragons on the hilt, which had cost like twenty bucks and was so utterly fucking terrible in every way Dave could hardly bear to touch it, he’d found a single bottle of Chilean red wine standing by itself, as though placed in readiness. He was positive he’d never seen Bro drink anything but Japanese lager, and couldn’t imagine what the fuck it was doing there. He’d chucked some in the cooking, and then, as an afterthought, sloshed a couple of inches into two chipped tumblers normally used for juice and put them out on the table. The bizarre neural spasm gee a candle would look nice too had been swiftly dispelled by the simple expedient of smacking himself in the face, hard. He’d never really tried wine, and the first mouthful was only kept from the shame of a BLUH by iron willpower, but actually it went well with the fiery pasta sauce, and by the time the bowls and glasses were all empty he was feeling warm and comfortable and frankly pretty fucking chilled.
He let himself sit and talk to Terezi for a bit, there at the table, because goddammit he was exhausted and why shouldn’t he shoot the breeze with a hot alien girl in the privacy of his own fucking kitchen. He liked her voice. It was lower than he’d imagined it from Pesterchum, her laugh throaty and a little rough, like a smoker’s. He’d worried that once they got past the usual fencers’ dance of sass and irony, once they couldn’t back up their one-liners with shitty Paint doodles and hastily animated gifs, conversation would stutter and fail. It didn’t. Instead it ran and flowed and spread, like honey poured over the table between them, until neither of them really had much to say but they were talking just to hear the other one talk back.
The clock’s suggestion of six minutes to midnight seemed deeply implausible, but he had to admit the authority of the source. He dredged his useless limbs from the gravity well of the bucket chair, staggered off to find the airbed and spread it on his floor and blow it up, a decent distance from his own bed. Halfway through completing this mission he realised it had never occurred to him to put her in a different room. Bro’s room would just be weird, but the lounge would have been fine, he guessed. There was a perfectly good sofa. Never mind. Done now.
He went for a shower. Her jeans and T-shirt were neatly folded on a shelf he and Bro had never owned enough cosmetics to need. The gel bottle was nearly empty. Either she’d just squirted it all over her body at random, or she really had fancied a snack. Neither was a thought he dared examine too closely at this stage.
Back in his room she was already curled up on the airbed, blanket pulled round her pointy little chin, shades folded on the corner of his desk, sightless red eyes still following him carefully. He turned off the light, leaving only the diffuse shimmer of the streetlamps far below, stepped round her, and slid under the covers.
1 HOP3 YOU SL33P W3LL
Her voice sounded small in the darkness and it threw him. He scanned the words hastily for barbs, tripwires, retracting blades, pitfalls, punji sticks, or landmines; found none; registered vague surprise.
A good fifteen minutes passed as he lay there - flat on his back, head pillowed on his arms, staring at the shifting shadows on the ceiling, too tired to sleep. He could hear Terezi breathing, slow and steady. It was a weirdly comforting sound. What the fuck.
Just as the room began to blur and swim around the edges, just as he felt tendrils reaching out from the deep to drag him down and under, the airbed squeaked and shuffled in protest. A black shape grew in his peripheral vision and unfolded itself into Terezi, letting her blanket fall. He heard her pad towards him across the carpet. Then the springs creaked, and there was a sudden weight and another gust of sea minerals and jojoba, and she was kneeling above him, straddling his stomach, and her hands were on his bare chest.
Ninety percent of being a coolkid lay in waiting. Dave waited.
She started to explore. One finger traced up the right side of his ribcage, pressing down hard enough to catch every time it found a rib and stick for a moment before bumping down into the next hollow. When she ran out of ribs she switched to three fingers and starting pushing and prodding at the softer flesh near his armpit, like a doctor asking you how much this hurts, one to ten. She spent a while on the hard rail of his collarbone, walking her fingertips along it, probing the space underneath almost but not quite hard enough to be painful. Then the flat of her hand glided back towards where his stomach muscles were squashed in the grip of her thighs. On the way down his chest she brushed his right nipple, and stopped to run her thumb around it gently; he shivered, wondered whether trolls maybe didn’t have them, or whether she was just teasing him. But, as her other hand began the same progress up his left side, it occurred to him that this was not erotic. Or, at least, it wasn’t meant to be. She was learning him: like a poem, like a song. Committing him to heart.
Finally her hands stopped roaming and she made a little noise in her throat, somewhere between a sigh and a grunt. He’d heard Rose make the same noise on reaching the end of a knitting row. Hell, he’d made it himself when a mix or a comic was finished and he was happy with it. It was a noise that said there, got it. Done. He felt her lean down, and then she licked his mouth, once, slowly, her hot tongue smudging right to left across his slightly parted lips.
Dave Strider had been a coolkid all his life, and he knew a ten percent when he saw one. He reached up a hand to grip her shoulder, slid it downwards past the short cotton sleeve to the bare skin of her arm, cupped the blade of her elbow, encircled the pointed bones in her skinny wrist with forefinger and thumb. His other hand found the hard jutting corner at her hip and hesitated for a second. The moment balanced on its edge, trembling.
1 THOUGHT YOU S41D YOU’D COV3R 4LL TH3 4NGL3S, D4V3, she said, very close to him, voice glimmering with mischief in the electric dark.
shut the fuck up
Of all the magic words he could have picked. She fell on him with her full weight, which was hardly a problem, and kissed him so hard it pressed his head back down into the pillows. He wrapped both arms round her, pulling her closer still, pushing one hand up the back of her T-shirt to feel her skin with his. She squirmed against him and made the noise again, or maybe it was him this time, or both of them. There. Perfect.
Somewhere in the middle of all this Dave realised that, like a complete asshole, he had fallen hopelessly in love; which was going to be tricky to explain to the others.