The second thing she notices about the mutant is that he's really small.
It's a lowblood thing, Feferi thinks, maybe; something about nutrition, or moral inferiority, or both. Lowbloods, even the tall ones, look stunted, as if they grew and grew until suddenly they reached up against some invisible wall and flattened, slowly, against glass. Sometimes they have nice horns, like big, gentle grazing beasts, heavy-headed and weighed down by bone; but not him. He has adorable nubs, and puffy-tipped fingers, and interesting wrists. The only thing big about him is his eyes, and those are soft and shiny as fish eggs.
But he's also young, and it occurs to her that-- with proper care and culling-- she could make him grow right.
(The first thing she notices about the mutant is that his blood is the color of polished coral, red and bright and without taint or flaw: it runs in vivid ribbons down his forearms, and soaks his shirt in a spreading blot of crimson. The first thing she notices about the mutant is that in the water, his blood looks like hers does in the air.)
"You killed him," he says, in a small, small voice.
"Whale, yeah ," says Feferi, a little uncomfortably. "She was getting hungry."
He doesn't ask who she's talking about. The tide is low and there are tentacles in the shallow, sandy water, rubbing up against the shore.
"Okay," he says, and then, "fuck," and then a lot of other things; they seem to come out of him as if dragged, words Feferi doesn't understand and words she does but which make no sense in their setting. He talks like if he doesn't his mouth will turn against his miniature and perfect body.
And Feferi, just like that, knows exactly what to say.
"It is okay," she tells him, wading closer, foamy water sliding weightily against her calves. "I'm reely sorry about your dad, but it's okay. "
He makes as if to swipe at her, and then, with a jerk, drags his arm back; turns, so that he's facing the flower-pink trail of moonlight on the water, the moonbrilliant horizon like a knife's edge through night's old meat. " Okay? " he says, in a low, low voice. " Okay? "
She puts her hand on him. She is being very daring, she thinks, and very kind. The plane of his shoulder is hard like Eridan's gets when he thinks she's not paying attention, together in the reelings pile, when she guesses he must be dreaming of genocide or Vris, when he looks at her like she's a stranger. The mutant doesn't look at her. The blood is drying, she thinks: it looks like brown lace on his palms, rusty, like to drift off on a foul wind.
"Yes," she whispers, and, following the impulse that took her to this beach on the back of her mother's murmuring, the impulse that took her to this boy, she hugs him, wrapping her arms around him like a hungry cuttlefish, the whole of him hard, hard, hard as the waiting deeps.