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Vulnerable

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There's a pause as you arrive in the library, heart jumping into your throat, eyes blinking rapidly because you're not sure you're really seeing what you think you are, and you're abruptly and harshly reminded why you like her. You like her because she keeps you on your toes, and you still can't get a feel for her. Granted, most humans are hard to get a feel for, but she's harder than most, impossible even. Even Dave - expressionless, mumbling, and as fond of telling his truths-but-not-really as Rose - is easier to get a feel for. But this is just ridiculous, and you were almost sure after nearly three years of being with them that, at the very least, they'd already thrown everything they had at you. Apparently, you were wrong, and it exasperates you as much as it excites and terrifies you.

"You're nude."

"Am I?" she asks you over her shoulder.

You're genuinely confused, not sure if you're being toyed with because Rose has toying with you down to an art. "Are you not?"

Rose humors you for once. "Indeed, Kanaya, I'm nude," she says, and you can hear the smile in her voice. She's sitting cross-legged on an old chair at the table, and you know she thinks it's hilarious that finding her this way has flustered you. There's an old tome in her lap, and she's bent double, poring over the pages while she makes notes on a piece of paper in front of her. You've been trying to glean any and all information about failed, successful, scratched, or otherwise sessions that you can while you have the chance and the time, but you definitely have not been doing it nude, and you're torn between asking her why (knowing she'll probably just try to confuse you with more difficult doublespeak), and taking the opportunity to just look at her. Of course, in trying to decide, she looks back at you and smiles in the way that makes you nervous because you can't decide if it means that she's in your head or she's planning to be there soon. She's both at the moment, in there and getting deeper and deeper every minute, but you just dig into your lower lip with your fangs and wait for her to speak. She doesn't, and after several moments it becomes obvious that she won't.

"Why are you nude?" She's lovely, though. Humans overall are lovely, painted pastel, lined, and spotted. This one in particular, you've noticed. She's pink and yellow and lavender, and she's got round shadows in the hollows of her round hips, and pooled under the pretty dips on her shoulders, and just between her slender neck and ear where her hair is tucked loosely. She's like looking into a hanging window prism when the sun hits it at high noon and cuts radiant shards into all the walls, and you guess that might be part of her title. Seer of Light, Light Lady, Human Who Wears Rainbows Like Art and Not Food, but whatever the reason, she's still as physically vulnerable as the rest of the humans are. There are no horns or gills or fangs or claws to her. She's just an unending spectral girl of sixteen Earth years who can convince you with a passing glance that she knows every one of your secrets, but even as naked, unprotected as she is now, she still makes you feel like you're the one who should be careful. "I was under the impression that your garments didn't soil."

"They don't, but it's been a long time since I let myself unwind." You don't know what to say to that. Her clothes are folded neatly in an orange square on the seat of another chair, but you're busy watching the dimples at the small of her back, noticing the way her ribs move under her skin with a breath, and you feel like you've just read the last sentence in a long novel. "It seemed appropriate to do so now that we're nearing our destination. It's unlikely I'll get the chance again soon."

"Is it normal for humans to 'unwind' in the nude?"

"In one way or another," she says. The smile is back, and she's being cryptic again. You think it'd probably be more awkward if Dave were the one to see this. He gets jumpy when Rose even bats her eyes at him, and that makes you jumpy too, but not in the same way. Now, your heart is barely beating in your chest, almost scared to, and you approach from behind, not sure if she wants you to sit or stand or stay because you've never been nude in front of each other before. When you're behind her she takes your hand and locks your fingers and continues to read her book without a word, and you want nothing more than to kiss the beautiful groove of her spine where it meets her hairline, but you don't because you're also slightly mortified at the situation. She also asked you to warn her before putting your mouth on her neck after you accidentally nicked her with your fangs once.

A thought occurs to you that makes you antsy. "Am I expected to be naked in return now that I've seen you this way?"

Her laugh is not quite condescending but definitely at your expense. You're worried, though. There've been no exchanges about the technicalities of human courtship, but you know that, for a troll, being nude is almost sacredly intimate, in a symbolic way especially. It implies enough trust in your partner not to gut you while your defenses are down, and you trust her, you do, but this is a big step that you don't want to take yet. She uses her free hand and folds the cover of the book over, hoisting it onto the table in a crinkling of old pages, and stands from the chair. You have just enough decency and forewarning to avert your eyes before she's on her feet facing you, and you hope your face isn't doing the twitching, insert-expression-here thing it does when you're uncomfortable.

"Kanaya." You mean to look at her eyes - just her eyes - but then you accidentally glance down, and you want to jump a foot away from her. She's got your hand, though, and you don't want to dislocate her arm, so you settle for becoming very suddenly interested in the ceiling.

"Rose, this is an intense and distressing fuck to my head which is surpassing all of the previous fucks to my head. Your unspoken motivation for putting me on the spot this way is making me very uneasy." You haven't even had the talk about pailing. It never seemed prudent before.

"Kanaya."

"What?" You glance back at her.

She leans forward and kisses you, and her lips feel the way the sun used to: warm and wonderful. Your eyes close, and she presses against you, slipping a gentle hand in your hair. You press back, letting her guide your arm around her shoulders until you almost forget that you're supposed to be nervous because you don't think you're ready to be naked in front of her, but she smiles against your mouth, and you're thinking about why you like her again when she says, "Relax before you start rambling." She moves back in and lands a series of soft, sweet smacks on your mouth, and your heart starts beating at a normal pace again. You feel like an idiot for worrying about alien courtship traditions. Rose would be the first to spite them, and she'd do it for less pressing reasons than to make you comfortable. This is the girl who tore apart the world with knitting needles 'just 'cuz,' after all.

It probably looks like you're pouting when she pulls back, but your mouth is tingling and always puckers involuntarily after you kiss her. She does that often, draws you in before you realize she's done it. Her arms circle your shoulders, and she holds your faces close. Bright red flashes at the corner of your eye, and you both look over to see Dave transportalize into the room, gag loudly, and transportalize away in quick succession.

You're back to feeling mortified when she turns to you and waggles her eyebrows, and you don't think it's fair that she can be naked and still make you feel like you're the one standing bare in the open, but she kisses you again, and you relax before you start rambling, hating that she knows all of your secrets without having to ask, how she knows even with your horns and your claws and your fangs that, with her, you are vulnerable.