“I do think it’s a pity you won’t wear skirts,” Kanaya said. There was a snap as she rolled her tape measure up in a single practised motion; Terezi had come to recognise the sound. “I could design you something quite practical. It would suit you.”
“If your mind is made up, then.”
She crossed the room, deliberately clicking her heels on the floor as she went so that Terezi could follow her progress. It was one of those little, tactful, helpful gestures that Terezi couldn’t decide whether to appreciate or be annoyed about. It did help, but her lusus didn’t want her to use hearing that way: that was wrong, boring, no fun. She tried to ignore the sounds, breathed through her mouth and concentrated on where she knew Kanaya was. She thought she could catch a taste of – something – but perhaps she was only imagining that.
Kanaya came clicking back, and there was a rustle and a crack as she shook open a roll of cloth. “The Prospitians brought more colours of fabric for us to try. Do you like this one?”
Terezi leaned forwards. She could smell clean linen, and something darker, maybe. She listened for the guidance of her lusus, but that, too, was unclear. “I don’t know. Don’t tell me. Try another one.”
“If you’d tell me a little more about what you’d like me to do here – ”
“I will when I’m no longer mad at you for keeping Prospit a secret all these years,” Terezi said, with a smile that might take the edge from her words or sharpen them, depending how Kanaya chose to interpret it.
“I guess that’s fair,” Kanaya said. She crossed the room again and there were sounds of rummaging. While she searched for whatever she had in mind to try next, Terezi tried to tell the difference between the walls, which Kanaya said were jade-green, and the windows, which should be blue and black and gold. She’d seen Prospit for a moment; she could still remember the brilliant yellow streets, but when she leaned out of the window she couldn’t smell it.
But maybe there was just a whisper of a scent there. What did jade-green smell like? Like looking up at the green moon through the blue leaves of the trees, letting her eyes blur a little. No, that was thinking with the wrong boring sense again, and she heard her lusus’s good-natured reprimand clearly enough. Green was – green was a taste like mint leaves, she thought, and for a second she almost had it.
“I made you a tunic after you came last time,” Kanaya said. “I think it is a little fancier than you’d like, and now I think about it, it clashes with your blood colour, which is unfortunate because I made it specifically to fit you. But since you’re here and we’re doing this anyway, maybe you would like to try it on, I don’t know.”
The trying-on was Terezi’s least favourite part of these sessions, but she’d proposed this as a trade. Kanaya would help her learn to see in the way her lusus wanted her to, and describe their surroundings on Prospit until Terezi got better at perceiving them herself, and in return, Terezi would be the dress-up doll Kanaya had been wishing for since she was a little minty-fresh wiggler trying to stick coloured leaves to her hatchmates’ cocoons.
She lifted her arms over her head and let Kanaya put the tunic on her. It felt like velvet, and smelled good as it went over her head. Smelled really good, actually.
Kanaya was still circling her, twitching creases out here, pinning loose sections there, and Terezi got pricked when she pulled a handful of the cloth up to her face and inhaled, but she couldn’t resist any longer. She opened her mouth and breathed in again and again until her head started to spin, and when that didn’t work she stuck out her tongue and got a mouthful of unmistakable colour.
“Uh, wow,” Kanaya said. “That’s kind of disgusting.”
Terezi licked the velvet again, grinning wide. The taste was vivid and sweet, brighter than all the others she’d almost recognised: candy, candy, candy red.
“I take it you had more success this time?”
“This,” Terezi said, “is my favourite.” She let it drop away from her face and it was still distinct from all the other murky colours in the room. She was a pillar of red in a bank of dull cloud. There were other points of scarlet scattered around like landmarks, and she could pick them out now: her shoes, the round heads on some of the pins Kanaya had used, a slip of cloth poking out from a pile that was still shadowy. Her lusus was communicating waves of warm encouragement to her through the channel of her dreams. “It is the best thing I have ever smelled. I had no idea how delicious a colour could taste.”
“I’m glad you like it,” said Kanaya. “Please feel free to take it away with you now.”
Terezi reached out, groped a little and took her by the shoulders. “Kanaya,” she said, “ignore what I said about skirts. You can make me a ballgown in this colour and I will wear it.”
“That’s good to know.”
“It can have frills.”
“I think something more streamlined – ”
“Oh my god, my old flarping costume. I can wear the red glasses. They will be the most tantalising eyewear a girl ever perched upon her face. I will never take them off.”
“Yes, that sounds like a remarkably old-fashioned and outlandish thing that you are about to adopt as your signature accessory. Don’t interpret this as a lack of enthusiasm on my part about your newfound appreciation for colour, by the way. I am delighted to be able to share it with someone. If you wish I have some very gaudy rugs that I could send you when I awaken.”
“Will you wear red for me, Kanaya?”
“I would consider it.”
Terezi cackled, breathing in flavours of candy and mint and others just starting to come into focus. She’d be able to name them soon.
“Also,” Kanaya said, with even more care than usual, “sorry if you think I’m trying to meddle, but Vriska would probably be... I mean she would probably like to hear that you were not permanently incapacitated by whatever it was she did to you.”
Terezi was in too good a mood to be put out by that. “Vriska? As far as I care you can tell her I’m grateful.”
“Well, I don’t think I will tell her that but okay.” She wriggled out from under Terezi’s hands and clicked back to the pile of fabric. “I think maybe the problem is that the Prospitians favour pastel shades and the textiles they brought reflect their tastes. Perhaps you will do better recognising brighter ones to begin with. I should have thought of that.”
“Forget about clothes. I want to go flying and see if I can smell anything else.” She made for the window, tripping over a discarded shirt as she did. She was looking forward to not doing that any more. She caught a whiff of cotton-candy pink as she kicked it aside. Before Kanaya could catch up with her she had gained the window and pushed up into the air – at least when you were flying there wasn’t much to bump into. Soon she’d be smelling the colours of Prospit, honey shadows, lemon highlights, and reading the future in the clouds of Skaia like Kanaya could do, and then she might head over to the rest of the towers and mess with the others while they were sleeping like a lot of boring chumps. Gratitude aside, she owed Vriska a good drubbing, just as a matter of principle.
“Don’t get too carried away,” said Kanaya’s voice from behind her, as a hand slipped through her arm and steered her onto a more level course. “I don’t know that you’re quite ready to navigate by yourself just yet.”
“All right, but give it time! And not as much as you might think, probably.” She laughed again, accelerating, the wind whipping her voice away. Flying was good, and the feeling that her lusus was dreaming this flight with her was better, and the taste of the red tunic in the back of her throat, velvet-rich and new, was best of all.