He hated how much he loved her. Deeply, honestly hated it. The idea of how much trouble it was that he loved her haunted him.
But not as much as the idea of her haunted him.
It was like she never left him. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw her. The way her plump lips pursed when she was deep in thought. The way her hair was so lush and long, thick and flowing as that of the very highest blooded nobility. The way her red eyes sparkled and shone in the light of the moons.
Damn those eyes. Any other color. Any other. Teal, jade, olive... he would even have taken that awful mustard yellow that was barely better than maroon anyway. Any other color.
But then it wouldn't have been the same, would it? If her eyes were not red, would he find them so lovely?
Cluckbeast / egg. A rose by any other name. He didn't know. He just didn't know anymore.
She was so soft. It was something of a travesty when he made her into a robot. Then she wasn't soft anymore. Then she was hard and hollow. Though not so hollow as she was when she was a ghost.
Perhaps it was the imitation of finally being alive again that made her so... passionate in her anger.
The thought made him shiver.
She didn't appreciate the blue blood he made to p[ump through her steel veins. Why not? Did she like being a lowblood? No! No, of course not! that wasn't possible. It didn't make any sense. Why would anyone like having filth running through their veins?
He grit his teeth in frustration. Why did she do this to him? There were others, other trolls. Other trolls vastly more appropriate, better targets for his affections.
But he didn't want them.
He wanted her.
Sometimes he would close his eyes at night and have vivid dreams, all of her.
The softness of her glowing gray skin under his callused fingertips. The gentle sigh of her breath, warm vapor on his neck. The sound of her voice, light and clear and cool as snowmelt, saying something clever and kind and funny. The scent of her hair, warm and inviting.
He would wake with a gasp, body flushed blue with desire, desperately needing a towel.
Nothing he did made it any better. Not being kind to her. Not putting her down (as, by birth and bloodright, he should). Not ignoring her. Nothing helped erase the visions of her from his thoughts and fevered dreams.
And she should have been born with a different color. She should have been born a blueblood. She was so graceful, so eloquent. So much better than other people. She was so common-born, but she was anything but common. The violation of everything he had learned to expect from other trolls was so complete... it messed with his head.
And she should have been begging him to love her! His attentions ought to have been an honor. Such a lowblood could not possibly hope to do any better. She should be thanking him on bended knee for the privilege of being his matesprit. She should... she should... she should...
But she didn't. She never did. And somehow he loved her all the more for it.
How did she, such a featherlight little slip of a roll, manage to be so much... he hated to say it... stronger than him?
He should not feel for her this way! It was wrong, it was vile, it was vulgar. Inexcusably depraved.
And he didn't even care.
The more she denied him, the more he wanted her. The more he tried to ignore her, the more he caught himself thinking about her. And the more it hurt, the more he embraced the pain.
He loved her. And he knew it. And with every pump of rich navy blood through his blue heart he loved her more.
"Equius?" said a quiet voice.
The blueblood was yanked from his thoughts and looked up suddenly. His blue eyes widened behind his cracked sunglasses.
"Aradia!" he said quickly, scrambling to sit up straight, as was befitting his station, and look presentable.
"You were staring at me again," said the beautiful girl slowly. One perfect black eyebrow rose pointedly. "I don't like it. I've told you that. Please stop."
Clear statements. Just the facts. No passion. Like always.
Equius flushed, moisture collecting on his brow. "Excuse me. I apologize," he said in his low rumble of a voice. He was so big, but when she stood and hovered over him like that, he felt miniscule. "It won't happen again," he assured her.
Aradia sighed softly, but nodded. "Thank you," she said, turning around and starting to leave.
Not even realizing what he was doing until it had already been done, Equius's hand darted out to grab her wrist. He was being as gentle as he could, but his grip was still an iron vise. Aradia stopped and stiffened, turning just her head to him.
"Let go, Equius," she said in a voice of warning.
His fingers loosened, but he could not bring himself to retract his hand.
"Aradia-" he blurted, his yearning getting the better of him at last, "I love you."
There was a silence then. Neither moved. They barely breathed.
Finally, finally, Aradia sighed. Her shoulders slumped. She looked very strange. Resigned? Accepting? Equius couldn't tell.
She stared at him for a long moment, utterly expressionless. Then she leaned in and pressed a kiss, soft and gentle and light and warm and absolutely everything he had ever fantasized her lips to be, to his blush-hot cheek. The rise of his cheekbone tingled and his mind reeled.
That could not possibly have been real, could it? Equius did not dare to hope.
She pulled her wrist gently, almost kindly, freeing herself from his grasp. She looked at him, and those beautiful red eyes were so soft. "I know," she murmured.
And then she turned and with a sweep of her skirt and hair, left him.
His hand felt empty where here arm had been.