You blink. His Alternian is almost perfect—he even flattens out his vowels midblood-style and glottalizes the k like you were sure humans physiologically could not do.
“I’m Tavros,” you say, wondering if now is the time for a traditional human greeting maneuver or if you can act all Alternian without intimidating him. Like you could intimidate this severely cool guy, even with a highly concentrated effort, says a small voice in your head. You ask it to please be quiet.
“Never would have guessed,” Dirk says in a voice that makes you start, because the words are Dave but the tone is Rose.
“Sorry? What?” You think you are making what is known in sports terms as a fumball. The Dirk human doesn’t seem to notice.
“Just a thing we had on Earth a few thousand years back; some mythological hybrid bullshit.” He shrugs in the way humans do when they mean I’m not going to pretend I’m not interested so I don’t care about your judgments. You nod in your best translation of no, no, no, I would never, really. “But they sure as hell were not kidding.”
“Oh, yeah, that sounds pretty familiar, by some accounts,” you say. “I don’t know if we have anything like that for you, I think, I don’t read much from mythologies, although I guess it would be weird even if—um.” And now, from perigees of practice watching for the small movements that indicate the shift of a Strider’s gaze, you know he’s checking out your horns. You try not to flush.
“I got you, bro. Ancient history. Some lowblood guy tried taking down an indigo queen way back before our current Condesce, managed to get himself as far as the room of cracked skulls before they stuck him through with his own daggers. Long daggers. Maybe even miniature swords. You decide.”
“I don’t know if that’s true, but I’ll believe you, for the time being.”
“Ahh, fuck, fuck,” she says below you, and, though you’re panting, you manage a short laugh of giddy triumph. You love it when she curses. It’s like something needle-sharp in a floral bed of trite Earth metaphors.
Dave taught you that one, you remember. Rose arches off the bed and the dusky flushed pink O of her lips promptly boots all images of her genetic similar from your mind. You lean on one forearm and fiddle with her breasts, letting your hair brush along her chest and ribcage as she comes down. The cheap tin pail clanks when your foot draws it near.
Rose puts her arm over her eyes. Her nipples taste like Alternian perfume and human sweat. It’s still more than three hundred degrees out—ninety-three, Rose had said, as if her Fahrenheit had any contest of nuance with Alternian mhyet. It doesn’t matter, though. Rustblood body temperature means top-floor conditioned dorms and no crap from the highbloods crowding together in the underground levels, at least until they start to rip each other’s heads off—in the meantime, you have this.
She presses her breasts together with her arms and suddenly you have the strong desire to give her another solid round, even as you feel yourself losing it, grinding a constant circular rhythm against her leg. The perfume overwhelms you; it’s a blend you found for your one-perigee anniversary, a dense mess of poisonous-berry head notes and a lavender base, picked on Earth and distilled on Alternia. It drives you up the wall with want. Rose’s leg is slick now and you scrabble for friction while she lies back and reaches to brush your hair from your eyes. She whispers something completely unintelligible—but her voice is sweet and soft, and you don’t care.