The room was barely lit, a flickering light in the corner sending trembling shadows all over the walls and the floor; Eridan glanced out of the window, bored of the sight already despite only having been in there for less than a day.
The long line of skyscrapers, the way they slithered upwards, buildings curved into domes, grey and brown mixing together in a bland, unappealing way… he disliked all of this. He disliked the way everything just melted together into a single horrid nothing, how there was nowhere to look at that didn’t just seem the same. He disliked how there was nothing to suggest the city had any sort of identity.
He disliked knowing he had been part of that system until a few months before, and he disliked the fact that if the accident hadn’t happened, he would still be lost in the lull of this nothingness, without knowing better, without feeling the helplessness and the hopeless vibration of the city itself as it slowly succumbed to this blank, tedious void.
He stared down at his hands, covered by thin gloves, and his face contorted into a small grimace.
He didn’t want to be there.
The door of the room was slammed open, and a figure bounced in; Eridan had half an idea to ignore her and continue his sulking, but he knew that his resolve would waver as soon as the newcomer spoke.
“You are sulking aga–in,” Feferi’s bubbly voice wormed its way into Eridan’s chest, making his heart swell with pity and affection. “I to–ld you to keep the lights on!”
He grunted in reply, wincing when Feferi flicked the lights on and the sudden change made his eyes water.
“Wwelcome back,” he muttered instead, glancing at her from his spot next to the window.
Feferi was balancing a bag of food in her hands, smiling that contagious smile again, and Eridan cursed his instincts, feeling his gloom recede slightly. “You wwere gone far longer than you told me you wwould,” he accused, last attempt to keep his bad mood up. “I wwas afraid you’d been caught”.
“Si–lly, I just went out to get us food!” she pointed at the bag in her hands, which smelled definitely of fish. “Clam down, I promised you I wouldn’t do anyfin without telling you first!”
He sniffed, still slightly upset but definitely mollified, even if he didn’t want her to know. “I wwouldn’t a know,” he rebutted, but finally moved away from the window.
Feferi giggled, already getting the food out of the bag and onto the table, and Eridan grabbed the remote before sitting down, observing the rations Feferi had brought home with another, deeper grimace.
“That looks kind a disgustin,” he made a face, poking the plate with a finger.
Feferi rolled her eyes, already obviously fed up with Eridan’s complaining, but chose not to comment, because it was right –the food, despite the good smell, didn’t really seem like much. Unfortunately, with the rationing in the big city, it was hard to have something good, and Feferi still refused to use her money to get real food.
It would defeat the purpose of their presence in the city, and the fact that nobody had to know who they were.
If suddenly someone started using the royal coupons, the news would spread, and Feferi would lose her cover. It was hard enough that she was a seadweller, and as such, clearly distinguishable.
Eridan poked at his food again, but slumped his shoulders in defeat when Feferi glared at him so he shut up and they started to eat.
Feferi glubbed away about anything and everything, as if they hadn’t seen each other just earlier that day, and Eridan allowed her mindless babble to soothe his nerves, finally piping up and making small talk back, feeling elated when his moirail smiled at him.
He might always be gloomy and annoying, but he cared for her, and seeing her smile was the reason he had accepted to make that trip to the big city in the first place.
Even if that put both of them in danger.
They were in a clean room –no hidden cameras, no electric eyes that would reveal their position to Her– but he wasn’t sure how long that would last. Sol was an infuriating idiot, but he knew what he was doing, and if he said they were safe for now, then it meant they were.
Unfortunately, not even Sol, with his connection to the machines, could keep them covered much longer.
“So, wwhat’s the plan, Fef?” he cut her off, and she pouted before turning serious once again. “I don’t like being here”.
Her smile wavered a bit, turning into a determined frown. “I do–n’t either, but we have no otter choice. I’ve been glubbing with the others and we think it’s time to do somefin bigger!”
Her words sent a shiver down Eridan’s back, and once again he wondered if there was no other way out.
He didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to be part of this stupid coalition against Her Imperial Condescension. He didn’t want to risk his life fighting the system, not when the system had far too many ways to fight back.
The resistance didn’t really have many chances at all.
“But,” Feferi looked at him, and hesitantly extended one hand to briefly touch Eridan’s, looking at him with eyes filled with understanding. “I don’t want you to f–eel forced at all! Our porpoise is obvious, bu–t you don’t have to join us if you don’t want to”.
The quiet acceptance, the way she looked at him, as if she knew exactly he would bail out at the first offer, because she knew him and she knew exactly what he was thinking…
His heart clenched a bit, and he shook his head.
Feferi had been there when he’d been hit. She had been there to soothe him as he went through the worst pain in his life, a pain that he was sure he would never forget, no matter how many sweeps he were to live.
She had been there when he had discovered that he could feel things –feel them in ways he had never thought possible. Read the feelings of things, the world that suddenly held more for him than it ever had.
Objects that carried in them memories and ghosts of their owners, of the trolls who had touched them and held them and made them. Feelings of many different people, pressed and pushed together, carved forever in every surface he touched with his bare hands.
Memories that made Eridan face things he had never wanted to face, until he could no longer hide away. Until he could no longer excuse the society he lived in, until the system around him suddenly stopped making sense.
He’d lived all his life with the conviction that his kind was privileged, that all landdwellers had to die and that Her Imperial Condescension was right…
Until everything he touched screamed the opposite. Until the memories and feelings of thousand lowbloods and landdwellers rushed into his mind through the barest touch.
Until he was forced to open his eyes.
Feferi had been there, with her warm smile and her heart filled with pale pity, with tales of those who had once tried to rebel and had failed in the past, and a burning determination to be the one to succeed.
Feferi, heiress of the Condesce, who should have inherited the throne to be naught but a puppet in the hands of the previous Empress, and was now fighting Her with a small handful of rebels, each and every single one of them with something special, something a bit like Eridan’s own power.
Fef called them all superheroes because they were fighting evil.
Eridan called them fools.
And yet… and yet he was with them, because Feferi was his moirail, because he wanted to be at her side, because…
“Wwhat are you sayin a course I’m comin wwith you,” he scoffed.
Because well, he didn’t like to admit it, but she was also right.
Feferi smiled brightly, her hand tightening its hold on Eridan’s, and he smiled back, even if he was definitely not as sure as she was that everything would be fine.
But he might as well hope.