Filling the quadrants is not optional in troll society. From a young age they tell you that: get a matesprit and kismesis or die. Have the drones cull you right there. You aren’t of any use if you aren’t continuing on the genetic line. This is particularly true if you are a high blood; providing genetic material is not only crucial for your own life, but for the better of the species as well. The higher on the blood hierarchy you are, the more necessary it becomes for the good of the next generation.
But what do you do if you are a prince at the top of the bloodline, and simply not interested in these things?
You fake it, or at least that’s what you do if you’re Eridan Ampora. Sure, you can understand the biological and societal necessity of having a matesprit and kismesis, but when it comes to the actual ‘relationship’ part of it, you fall a bit short on understanding it. From a young age Eridan had heard the same thing over and over: fill the quadrants, fill the quadrants, but there was something within it that he never quite understood.
Early on, when he was younger, it was easy. He could tell everyone he was flushing red for someone he was pale for, black for someone he simply disliked. But later he had to try even harder to fake it, realizing that the drones would cull him otherwise. Perhaps he tried a bit too hard.
Even now, with Alternia gone, with the drones gone, he finds it necessary. After all, isn’t that the whole purpose of life? Filling the quadrants? If you can’t do that, what are you good for? If the other trolls knew he lacked that basic, primal drive for filling quadrants, what would they think of him? Not very highly, surely. After all, the drones might be gone, but the structure isn’t. Fililng quadrants is still the most important thing.
At first, he went about it logically. Feferi was the Empress-to-be, the only troll with higher blood than him. It made sense, didn’t it? Every prince needs a princess. He didn’t like her as a matesprit, but he liked her enough. That was good enough for him. But she didn’t want to be matesprits with him, which was something he never really understood. He had trouble wrapping his mind around wanting anyone as a matesprit - if she wasn’t into continuing the species with the most obvious choice, what more could she possibly want? A prince, a princess. It was practically meant to be. He didn’t understand it, and he became angry at her for it. She wasn’t following the plan. The plan of a princess and prince, the plan to not get him culled, the plan for the bettering of their species. And that anger, that anger became something ugly. If you didn’t want to better the species, you were useless. That’s what everyone had always told him, and the same logic applied to Feferi. Why shouldn’t it?
And after that, well. He just tried to shove himself into a quadrant with anyone he possibly could. Not moirails, no, he already knew that would be perfectly easy for him, but the ones that were biologically necessary. He didn’t really think about who he wanted to pair with - the pairing was the important part, not who it was. Anyone, really. After all, the only person it made logical sense to fill quadrants with was dead, and not being in a quadrant with anyone made even less sense.
So he was going to try to, with anyone he possibly could.
-- caligulasAquarium [CA] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]. --
EB: oh, hi!
EB: eridan, right?
EB: how are you?
CA: im fin
CA: i wwas thinkin
CA: no one seems to wwanna fill quadrants wwith me
CA: even though i am a fin troll specimen as you knoww
CA: and i wwas wwonderin
CA: wwhat do you human kids think a fillin quadrants wwith a prince
EB: wait, what?
CA: you knoww
CA: fillin quadrants
CA: makin out
CA: all that kind a stuff
Eridan was, honestly, not sure at all how you would describe filling quadrants. Sure, he was aware on an intellectual level what it was, but what was it really? He had no idea. ‘Making out’ was the best example he could think of off the top of his head.
EB: wait, are you asking me on a date or something?
CA: yeah if thats wwhat you wwanna call it
EB: this is a little sudden, eridan!
EB: i’ve only talked to you, like, twice.
EB: and besides, i’m not really into that sorta thing.
CA: not into wwhat
CA: not into sexy alien princes is that wwhat you mean
EB: i guess!
EB: but i mean more like, not really into anyone.
EB: which includes sexy alien princes!
Eridan tilted his head, blinking at the screen. He had never heard anyone say something like that outside of his own thoughts. If there was anyone else who felt the same way Eridan did, he had never known them, and even if he had they likely kept it as secret as possible. Seeing someone say it so matter-of-factly was extremely jarring to him. He decided to play dumb, like he wasn’t familiar with the concept, even though he very much was.
CA: wwater you talkin about
EB: you know, like...
EB: aromantic. people who aren’t interested in anyone.
EB: i think that’s probably the best description of me!
EB: don’t trolls have that?
Eridan stared at the unfamiliar, alien word. ‘Aromantic’. He wrapped his brain around it, a single word that could, possibly, describe why he felt so out of place with other trolls.
‘Don’t trolls have that?’
That was the problem. They didn’t have that. That was why Eridan had been so afraid for himself his entire life. That was why he had tried to shove himself into relationships, even when he knew he didn’t feel the way you’re supposed to when you flush red or black for someone. That was why he got so violently angry at Feferi.
CA: i dont knoww wwhat youre talkin about
CA: an i dont wwanna knoww
CA: an reely
CA: thats pretty dumb on account a the fact that you die if you dont fill your quadrants
EB: wait, what?
CA: you knoww
CA: howw you get culled if you dont fill quadrants
CA: howw can you not knoww
EB: i don’t know because that’s not how it is for us.
EB: and that actually sounds really messed up and scary!
EB: i would really not like that and i would probably be dead.
Eridan tilted his head. He had never been aware of that concept before. The idea that you could just simply not fill quadrants and have no one care - or at least, have no one want to outright kill you. All his life he had been taught getting a matesprit and kismesis was the whole point of being alive, that if you didn’t do that you were useless. But on Earth... on Earth it was different. There was a word for it, for people who didn’t want to participate in all this nonsense, and that was just fine.
Suddenly, Eridan felt an anger rising up inside of him. What made John so much luckier than him, to be born in a place where he didn’t have to shove himself into relationships he didn’t want out of fear for his life? Why did John have to be so fortunate?
CA: thats just howw it is
EB: that’s really sad.
CA: yeah wwhale wwe cant all be lucky an in nice human society like you
EB: yeah... i guess so.
EB: i never thought about it being lucky.
CA: yeah a course not
CA: you dont have to wworry about it all a the time
EB: ha, it kinda seems like you’re upset.
CA: im not upset
CA: wwhy wwould i be upset
CA: thats stupid
CA: im fuckin ecstatic for you
CA: havve fun wwith your stupid wweird human thing
CA: that i dont evven get
EB: because it kinda seems like you do.
CA: wwhatevver john
CA: you dont knoww anythin about anythin
-- caligulasAquarium [CA] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB]. --
Eridan took a deep, shaky, inhale of breath. So there was a word for it, but did it matter?
It was a word for it on a different planet, with a different culture, and a different set of rules. Maybe if Eridan was a human he’d be ‘aromantic’ like John and wouldn’t have to constantly worry about quadrants every single day, but he wasn’t. Words like that didn’t mean anything in troll society. If he said he was ‘aromantic’ among his troll friends, he’d be laughed out of the room.
No, things were different for them.
He was a troll, and opting out was not an option.