It’s the voice you don’t recognize that wakes you up. Your eyes fly open and instantly you’re pulling on leggings, rolling out of bed and into a house coat. It’s an early Saturday morning, and already you’re grouchy. You don’t know what kind of guests Rose thinks she’s bringing into the apartment at this hour, but they’re going to have to leave, and then you’re going to sit Rose down and tell her just what you think of these kinds of shenanigans.
But you don’t do any of those things. In fact, you stop cold, hands freezing mid-tie around the waist of your house coat.
“Rose,” you ask in careful, measured tones—because if you don’t, you’re pretty sure you’re going to scream— “who’s this?”
The who in question is a little taller than you if you don’t count her horns, but her horns are so long that in your plain apartment with its standard ceiling heights, she has to hunker down to fit. She has (in your less-than-humble opinion) too much hair, trailing around her heels, and sticking out of that hair in the general vicinity of where Rose has ears are two fin-like protrusions. Most striking of all are her eyes, because never on this green Earth have you ever seen that blood color. You have to wonder if she’s a mutant.
“This is Feferi,” Rose says, gesturing toward the mutant seadweller, who isn’t even looking at you. Rose even has the gall to smile. “She’s, uh, going to be living with us for a little while.”
“I thought she lived in a fish tank on Governor’s Island,” you say in your chilliest voice, and finish off the bow at your waist with a flourish before stalking off to the kitchen.
“Well, she did,” Rose says as she trots after you. It feels like she’s constantly in your way as you whisk around the kitchen, pulling a cereal box down from the pantry and grabbing milk from the fridge. There’s not quite enough milk for your cereal, and you sigh heavily. “And now she’s living here.”
“For how long?” you snap as you pour the pittance of milk over your Honey Nut Cheerios. It barely gets them wet.
“I don’t know, a little while?” Your matesprit shrugs, suddenly not looking so confident.
“And pray tell,” you say, a spoonful of damp cereal hovering near your mouth, “just how long is ‘a little while,’ Rose?” You take your bite.
“A few months, maybe? She’s been through some hard times,” she says as she leans forward onto the counter, looking back over her shoulder at you. “She’s been kidnapped, not to mention endured years of brainwashing—”
“I’m sorry, isn’t she the same troll who you had to convince not to call me a ‘moldblood’ in your meetings with her?” you interrupt, brow furrowing. “And in fact,” you continue, even as Rose opens her mouth to counter that, “didn’t you tell me after the APB got put out that she’s actually drowned at least one greenblood, just for the fun of it?”
“She’s grown out of that, though, I promise!” Rose pleads, standing straight again and reaching for your hand. You let her, and her fingers twine with yours, swinging gently.
“Grown out of murder?” you snort, but she’s softening you up, as she often does. “Please, Rose.”
“She’s changed, for the better. I promise. She’s been very scared these past few days, with good reason, and I think you and I would be good stability for her.” When she sees the hesitance still in your face, she continues, “If I could have asked you sooner, I would have, but this was sort of sprung on us all, and my superior agrees that I’m—that we’re—the best fit for her right now. So...” Rose pouts almost cartoonishly. “Can we keep her, Kanaya, pleeeease?”
“Fine! Fine.” You throw your hands up, Rose grinning at your capitulation. “I don’t know how you expect her to exist in this space, though, with those ridiculous horns. She keeps scraping the ceiling, and I am -not- going to be the one to explain to Javier upstairs what that ungodly noise is.” You scoop up your bowl of cereal and head back out to the living room, where you intend to ignore this Feferi while you watch New York 1 and eat your breakfast.
“So,” Feferi says just as you sit down, “you’re Kanaya, huh?” She’s already parked herself on the other side of the couch, and you’re trying not to grind your teeth.
“Yes,” you reply tersely. You turn on the TV and blast the volume. If you have to be up, so does everyone else, and Javier will just have to deal with it. Pat Kiernan isn’t on on the weekends, but that’s okay. NY1 still brings a sense of calm and clarity to your weekends, for reasons you can’t quite articulate.
“I’ve heard a whole lot about you,” Feferi coos, and goddammit, she’s already actually scooting over to sit closer to you. You scowl harder, munching aggressively on the little crunchy loops. “You’re Rose’s matesprit?”
“Yes!” New York 1 gets even louder. A throw pillow hits your shoulder, and your head whips around to glare daggers at the culprit. Her grin is full of mischief, not to mention a mouthful of almost spiny teeth. You don’t mean to shudder as obviously as you do.
“Can I help you?” you ask, your frown as restrained as you can manage.
“What is it you’re watching?” She scoots closer as she asks, and you lean away a little.
“It’s New York One.” You sigh as you turn down the volume to something more bearable. The noise clearly didn’t bother Feferi, and it’s starting to hurt your ears. “It’s a news channel, just for the area.”
“They didn’t let me watch the news, back in the compound. They had tons of movies I could watch, though, so at least I didn’t get too bored with the selection.” She’s kicking her feet the way a bored child does, and it’s only your quick reflexes that save your bowl of cereal as one of her feet connects with the underside of the coffee table, upending it rather violently. The basket of remotes clatters out onto the floor, followed by the heavy slap of Rose’s tall stack of New York Magazine issues.
The other troll slides off the couch and onto her knees immediately, righting the coffee table a little too easily. “I’ll fix it! I’ll fix it!” she keeps repeating, and as she leans down to pick up the magazines her long horns almost clip your face. She doesn’t notice that particular transgression, or at least pretends not to, though, and you just roll your eyes and try to keep well back. When she gets the table back together it’s a sloppy mess, but the way she beams at you tells you she’s waiting for some kind of reward, a proverbial pat of the head.
“Thank you,” you say slowly, face almost twitching from the effort it takes to keep it still, and you tug the coffee table a little closer so you can neaten it up.
“Rose said I should try not to make you mad.” Feferi retakes her seat on the couch, watching as you place your bowl back on the table and re-stack the piles of magazines.
“Did she now?” As pleasant a surprise as you find that, you can’t help but be a little pissed, too. Sure, Rose gave at least that much thought to the fact that you might not love living with a homicidal sea troll with the conscience of a wriggler, but she could have stood to think it all the way through. As in, to the obvious conclusion that this would not be your favorite idea at all. Ever. If she had, then you definitely wouldn’t have Feferi and her ratty Adidas swimsuit and board shorts trying to arrange her webbed feet on your furniture.
“Is that all you have?” you ask as you indicate her outfit with your spoon and take another bite of cereal. It’s not that you expected the Bureau to provide Feferi with Dior, but you’d expected at least a T-shirt and jeans, some third-rate K-Mart outfit that would never fit her right. Something resembling actual clothes, maybe, before fostering her off to their new favorite employees.
“I lived in a fish tank,” she replies, rather more dryly than you imagined her capable of. “This was pretty much all I needed.” Feferi points to a little pink duffel bag dropped by the door. “I have more in there, though.”
“More clothes?” You wonder what she’s got packed in there that she would still choose to come here in swimwear.
“More swimsuits,” she clarifies, and flashes you another shudder-inducing grin.
You take measurements with your eyes as Rose enters the room, a plate of scrambled eggs and buttered toast in hand. (That explains where she’s been for this whole back-and-forth, at least.) Feferi’s got at least six inches on you, and and her hips are narrower than yours, her shoulders broader. “Curves” are not a word you would use to describe her body. You think you might have something that will fit her, though, and you finish off your cereal as you stand up. “Come on,” you say, beckoning her with one hand and putting down your bowl with the other. “I think we can fix your sartorial situation.”
“Well, I’m glad to see you getting along,” Rose says, as if you’re her cat and Feferi’s a new kitten she’s brought home; you write yourself a little mental memo to kick her for that later, but for now you settle for glaring at her. She grimaces in embarrassment and turns her focus back to the TV. Feferi doesn’t see that, just hears Rose, and grins like this is all going really well as she follows you toward the bedroom.
You make her sit down on the bed as you rifle through your dresser. You produce for her a black knit top with dolman sleeves and a cutout back, and a pair of pull-on jeans that have always fit you a bit too tightly in the hips. You personally prefer that top with ponte pants, but you’re not about to hand off a pair of those to this virtual stranger you’ve been forced to take into your home.
Feferi stares at the items in her lap as you head toward the door. “What do you want me to do with these?”
That’s a lot denser than you expected. “Wear them? I figured it would be nicer and more comfortable than slumming around in swimwear.” You pause in the doorway, waiting for some kind of signal that she understands this basic concept.
“I’m comfortable the way I am,” she replies, tossing the garments over her shoulder onto the rest of the bed. The top goes particularly far and slides off onto the floor; she makes no effort to retrieve it.
“Well, fine,” you say, trying not to pout. “But, if we go out, please put those on?” You look down at her feet, similarly cheaply attired in foam flip flops. “We’ll do something about your shoes, too.”
“Whatever.” Feferi flops back onto the bed, arms spread wide, and you sneer before flouncing back into the living room.
“So, any luck with the Princess?” Rose wants to know as you drop yourself on the couch.
“Don’t get cute with me,” you snap. She hunches up with a properly sheepish look, and you’re not even sorry. “You didn’t ask me at all if I was okay with this before bringing her home.”
“I’m sorry, it was just all really last-minute, and she had nowhere else to go—”
“Please! The Bureau would have found somewhere to put her,” you snort.
“Not somewhere she would have been happy,” she says quietly, and that tears it.
“Oh, somewhere she would have been happy? What about me, Rose? What about my happiness?” You jab your index finger into your collar bone, scowling. “Trolls aren’t pets. You can’t just adopt a whole bunch of us and hope we can get used to each others’ scents.”
“Kanaya! That’s not—I don’t think like that!” You can see her frustration in her whole body as she turns toward you.
“Anymore,” you retort, pointing your chin at her as you arch your brows. And now look, Rose is starting to cry, although you can tell she definitely didn’t mean to. She’s not the type to ever cry in front of others. You sigh heavily, and reach out long arms to pull her close. “Rose, don’t cry.”
“Crying? Who’s crying? I’m as watertight as the Hoover Dam,” she sniffs as you caress her hair. “I’ve just got something in my eye.”
“I thought you were better than those kinds of clichés,” you say with a little smile.
“I’m not getting paid to be prosaic in my pajamas. I save it for the page, obviously,” she says, relaxing against you. You stay like that for a few more quiet minutes, and then she says, “I’m very sorry, Kanaya.”
“I know. You were just trying to help, I know.” Rose’s generosity is usually one of your favorite traits of hers. It’s just unfortunate how it manifested this time around.
“I’m trying not to act like some holier-than-thou savior to the troll race, I really am,” she tells your shoulder. “If you really want, we can try to arrange something with the Bureau, find her some place to be...”
You glance at the bedroom door. “No, that stupid fish troll has no idea how to exist in polite society.” Another sigh as your hand runs down the back of her hair and along her shoulders. “She can stay, for now.”
“I’ll keep her in line, I promise,” Rose says with a little laugh, and you respond in kind. You turn the TV off and spend the next hour alone reading together, though you wonder (and worry) what Feferi’s up to in the bedroom. After the hour is up she comes out, wearing the clothes you provided and looking all the more disheveled for it. You realize she must have had a hard time getting into them alone with her horns, the low ceiling, and all that hair besides (not to mention the lack of a tag in the top that would tell her which was was front), and you try not to laugh.
Unfortunately, after the first day of living with Feferi, you discover it only gets worse. You come home from work to find the kitchen a mess, the living room trashed, and the bathroom flooded; there’s almost always something broken. Rose apologizes for every infraction and Feferi makes no effort to do the same. There are long scratches all over the ceiling. Feferi hogs the bathroom when you’ve made it clear than it’s more important that you and Rose make it to work—Rose is back in the main office with you—and it takes nothing less than actually busting into the bathroom and pushing her bodily to get her out of there.
You feel like all of this is bearable, though, until the day you come home to find Feferi playing around in your wardrobe.
It feels like you’ve just walked in on a murder crime scene. There are holes and tears put through a large handful of your tops, strewn about on the floor like so many carcasses. Two pairs of pants lie next to them, the belt loops torn off. A few more skirts are next to that, and you almost wonder how she could destroy those before finding the invisible zippers literally torn out.
And Feferi? Feferi is standing in the empty shell of your closet, ankle-deep in clothes that have been dumped to the floor and wrestling on your favorite dress of all time. Her ribcage is too broad for it, straining the side zipper as she tries clumsily to yank it up despite strands of her coarse hair getting caught in it. And before you can say anything, she growls in frustration and just shoves it off her body, the zipper pull flying off into oblivion as she drops it around her feet.
“Kanaya, your clothes are all so stupid,” she whines at you as you stare at the dress, as if she hadn’t just ripped your still-beating heart from your chest. “I can’t get anything to fit around my horns and just on, and everything is like it’s made out of paper!” She kicks aside the dress like so much garbage as she steps out of it, her mess of hair only half-covering her nudity, though that doesn’t distress you nearly as much as the clothing situation right now. Feferi ducks out of the closet, and of course, there are holes in the ceiling of your closet when you look. In fact, you’re pretty sure if you took a flashlight, you’d be able to see up into Javier’s closet through those holes.
“I thought you were comfortable in your swimsuits?” is all you can manage, your mouth dry.
“Well, yeah, but I remembered what you said about wearing nicer things, so I thought I’d, you know, see what that was about.” You look away as she bends over the bed, hunting for her swimsuit; instead you kneel down and pick up your favorite dress. Upon inspection, you discover that it’s worse than you thought. It’s not just that the zipper pull was popped off—she literally shredded the georgette around the zipper. There’s no repairing this without replacing the entire panel of fabric.
“What’s wrong?” Feferi wants to know as you clutch the broken dress in bloodless fingers. “Did I break it? Rose said you were really good at sewing and could fix anything.”
“This was a Moschino!” you howl. “It was silk! I can’t afford to fix this, you—aaaaaaghhh!” With the dress beyond repair, you put your face right into it as you cry.
“It was just a dress, calm down,” Feferi says as she finishes pulling on her suit and sits on the bed. “Rose said you can make even better than that!”
“Just a dress—” You feel lightheaded. The front door slams in the living room, and in a moment Rose is running into the bedroom, coat and all.
“What’s—?” She doesn’t need to ask any more, taking in the textile carnage around the room and you with your tearstained face in the middle of it. “What happened here?”
Before you can answer, Feferi is. “I was just trying on some of Kanaya’s clothes, and she got mad at me!”
“You what?!” You rise to your feet, Moschino still in hand. “You destroyed my wardrobe! You didn’t even ask! If you’d waited, I would have probably said yes, and helped you instead of having you break everything!”
“Can’t you fix it?”
What stings is that the question doesn’t come from Feferi. It comes from Rose, an innocent look on her face as you turn to stare at her.
“It’s silk georgette, Rose, and she tore it. Not to mention she destroyed half my clothes—when am I supposed to have time to fix these?” You shake the dress at her.
“Well, I can help to buy new—”
“No! No! Feferi is not a puppy, Rose, this is not like a dog chewing on a pair of Jimmy Choos! I just—I can’t take this anymore!” You press the heel of one hand into your eye, trying to stem the flow of tears. “I’m leaving.”
“Leaving? Wait, Kanaya, wait!” Rose follows you as you storm out of the bedroom. “Kanaya, wait!”
You pause, turning to hug your matesprit. Girlfriend. Whatever she is. “Rose,” you say as you hold her face by the chin in a delicate grip, “I love you, dearly. But I can’t deal with this. With her. I’m just going to Jade’s, okay?”
You don’t think you’ve ever seen her look so upset, and she takes your hand in both of hers to kiss your fingers. “Okay,” she finally says in a small voice. “Text me?”
“I will.” You kiss her forehead in return.
To her credit, Feferi has gone off to sulk in the kitchen, and Rose sits quietly on the bed as you pack your carry-on. You don’t expect to be gone for long, and you’ll be going to work most days, but you always over-pack in case you need an outfit for an unplanned event. You text Jade as you pack, and she’s slow in responding, but she’s fine with you coming over.
Rose’s goodbye kiss is kind of desperate and sad, and she pulls you close again the first time you head for the door, but she lets you go the second time and locks the door behind you.