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Out of His Depth

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You hang back as the other trolls rush to greet the humans. It’s not as if any of them want to meet you anyways, and plus, you want to avoid –

“Hey, I only count eleven of you! I thought there were twelve?”

“I’VE ONLY JUST MET YOU AND YOUR STUPIDITY IS AT LEAST FIFTY TIMES MORE APPARENT IN REAL LIFE BECAUSE THERE ARE CLEARLY – oh wait, where’s Tavros?”

Oh no. You look around wildly, and your horn gets caught in a stray tangle of wires, and in yanking it free you tear them right out of the wall, sputtering sparks. You watch the spastic twitching of the wires, backing up slowly, because you know, you know every eye is on you, why are you so stupid and clumsy and you can feel the heat rise to your face –

“Hey.”

Oh noooooo-

But you look up anyway, and then a little more, because Dave Strider is a little bit taller than you, and the black lenses stare back at you. No expression.

And you can only imagine what your own expression is, probably terrified, because he is about to lay down some trolling on your ass with inexplicable human innuendo that still makes you feel dirty although you have no idea what it means.

“uHHH,”

“What the hell are those.”

“w-wHAT?”

“The coat rack coming out the sides of your head, bro.”

“uHHHHHHHHHH,,,” You squeeze your eyes shut, ready to cower.

“I like them.”

“,,,,,wHAT?”

And then he’s ruffling your mohawk, and you open your eyes, one after the other. So you notice Vriska tossing her hair back in your direction, arm slung possessively over the black-haired boy and hissing maliciously, “Taaaaaaaavros, you messed up again???????? How a8out you try N8 to spoil the humans' first five minutes on this rock?”

“i'M, uHH, sORRY,” and you want to turn and run, although you know Rufio would be so disappointed in you, but you can’t because suddenly an arm is slung over your shoulders too.

“Sorry for what? Listen spiderbitch, don’t mess with my good friend and bipedal Texas longhorn. He and I,” and he holds up his other hand in a fist, pointed in your direction, “are bros.”

You stare at his impassive face. You don’t think you’ve ever heard a voice more monotone.

Now he looks at you. “I have never been left hanging before.”

And with a squeak Rufio would have been ashamed to hear, you raise your shaking hand and give him a bunp.

-----

You are in the comestibles chamber, digging through the shelves for something sweet to munch on. Sweets make you feel better. Sucrose makes the Rufio in you stand up and say to the world, “i, aM NOT TO BE TRIFLED WITH, tOO MUCH, iF YOU PLEASE,”

You have just stuffed an entire cacao-studded flour disk in your mouth when the monotone voice startles you.

“Sup, man. Why’d you run away so fast?”

Naturally, you jolt, turn too quickly, slam a horn into an open cupboard door and narrowly missed knocking Dave Strider’s sunglasses off his face, which he avoided by smoothly dipping under the offending organ. You also start choking.

Suddenly there’s a great wham onto your back and bits of baked flour disk explode over the floor and your chitinous windhole is open again. You take a great gasping breath and – slowly this time – turn to look at Strider.

“wHY, aRE YOU FOLLOWING ME AROUND,”

“Was looking for a bathroom to wipe off Pyrope-spittle, but then I heard the unmistakable sound of wild bull mayhem and tracked it like a great Indian hunter, light of foot and keen of ear, to this room where I found what sounds like a herd of buffalo but looks more like an extremely anxious troll with a bitching mohawk.”

You wish you could understand some of the things he says. Wait, maybe you don’t. Or do you? Humans are so confusing.

“You were the troll who tried to beat me in a rap-off, weren’t you.”

No one must ever know. “n-nO, tHAT WAS SOMEONE, eLSE, i DON’T RAP,”

Then he is so close you can see terrified Tavros’s in each lens, and he whispers, “Liar.”

Then he’s at the door, looking back over his shoulder. “Do you like music?”

When you stutter in reply, he motions with his hand, so you follow him.

-----

You have no idea what you are listening to.

Dave had found an empty room and spent an hour setting up a complicated sound system, further complicated by the fact that his Earth plugs were incompatible with Veil outlets, making you lead him to the alchemizer to fix that problem. And then, finally settled, weird industrial noises are coming out of the speakers and Dave keeps casting glances at you – you think, because the lenses move fractionally towards you – and you freeze because you do not know what to do.

“Don’t like it much, do you.”

Your eyes flicker wildly between the floor and the inscrutable shades. If you hurt his feelings maybe he will do whatever it is he is planning to do sooner, and you do not think you would like that. “uHHH, iT’S NOT REALLY, bAD, bUT REALLY, iT’S FINE, i CAN LISTEN TO THIS, aLL DAY,”

“What do you like.”

“uHHH,”

“Seriously dude, what do you like. Favorite movie?”

The answer is automatic, rolling off your tongue before you realize it. “In which a Magical Flying Troll Visits Several Young Wrigglers Living In the Same Hive and Teaches Them to Fly With His Magical Lusus, Taking Them to Neverland Where They Join a Band of Similarly Young Savages Who Get Kidnapped by Evil Pirates, Prompting the Protagonist to Become More Mature and Rescue the Wrigglers From the Pirates. Contains One Ticking Primeval Reptile, One Robotic Hand, Multiple Rescue Scenes. Rated W, Safe for Wrigglers.”

About halfway through you realize he’s staring, one eyebrow raised in incredulity, but you plow on anyways because that’s what Rufio would do, and this is your favorite movie and you won’t let anyone stop you from finishing the title, probably. Then he moves to his laptop and puts on the most beautiful music you have ever heard.

This must be what pity feels like.

-----

Far too soon, Terezi finds you two.

Dave had put on a playlist full of works of art, one after another. Captain Li Shang almost rivaled Rufio in his masterful rendition of “I’ll Make A Man Out of You.” “Kiss the Girl” made you feel…awkward, because you do not want to kiss the girl, you have never wanted to kiss the girl, and why can’t Vriska understand? “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” left you seeing the world through a shimmering orange veil.

Dave doesn’t speak. He just watches, amused when you wipe away tears, twitching a corner of his mouth when you crawl over to the speakers and just hold them, because you want to feel the music just as much as you want to hear it.

You are pretty sure you worship him. You don’t know why he’s doing this. You don’t know what he wants from you, but you know one thing, and that is if you do not watch out he will do something terrible to you, and that is why you should not worship him.

That’s pretty much been the drill with every cool person you’ve ever met. And Dave Strider is sooo cool.

Terezi comes bouncing in and you can tell she’s a little miffed. “D4V3 D4V3 D4V3!” She bounces right up to him as he’s sitting on the floor, leaning back on his hands and legs stretched out in front of him. “D4V3 1 4M NOT F1N1SH3D SM3LL1NG 4ND L1CK1NG YOUR CH3RRY R3DN3SS 4ND M4RSHM4LLOWN3SS! WH4T 4R3 YOU DO1NG H1D1NG SUCH D3L1C1OUSN3SS FROM M3, 1T 1S WH4T HUM4NS C4LL CRU3L 4ND UNUSU4L PUN1SHM3NT!” She presses her nose right up against his, and you feel white hot heat searing your insides, from your gut up to your throat where you clamp your mouth shut so as not to let it out.

“Hey there Lickitung. Just showing my man Tavros some of the best music Earth had to offer. Broadening his horizons with some cross-universal music exchange. Soon we’ll engage in an honest-to-God jam session, and sentient species everywhere will weep a single tear at the magic that is this pan-universal diplomatic success. It will be an example in inter-universe relations classes, held up as the ultimate-”

“D4V3!” She seems a little perplexed. Then the shark’s grin spreads across her face again. “D4V3 4S L3G4L 4MB4SS4DOR FROM 4LT3RN14 1 4M TH3 LOG1C4L P3RSON TO GO TO FOR D1PLOM4T1C H3LP! DO NOT WORRY FOR 1 W1LL SHOW YOU 4LT3RN14N W4YS 4ND 1NTRODUC3 YOU TO OUR H1GHLY 4DV4NC3D L3G4L SYST3M!”

She pulls him up and, coolkid that he is, he follows her out the door, responding with another long metaphor. You feel bereft.
But before he is dragged away for good, he looks back and says, “You can use this stuff whenever you like, Tavbro.” And then he’s gone.

You don’t know what to think. No one has entrusted you with anything of theirs before. And though you don’t know much about electronics it looks like this stuff costs a fortune. Or at least a fortune in grist. You don’t know. You’re afraid to touch it. So you close the door and lock it on your way out, carefully pocketing the key to give it to him later.