The first time you meet Kanaya Maryam, you wonder if the gods of the written word had taken pity on your disgusting fortune and decided to throw a picturesque opportunity your way.
You are huddled in the small alcove at the front door of the cafe you work for, toes drawn in to avoid the small river flowing down the sidewalk as the heavens weep openly. It is barely past midnight, you have just finished closing up, and you would just like a goddamn smoke before having to schlep yourself home through this miserable weather, please. You try not to grit your teeth around the cigarette between your lips as you flick your lighter repeatedly, to no avail. Maybe it was the damp air, maybe it was out of fluid, maybe it was just being stubborn, or maybe your life was just laughing at you because it had already been a terrible night thus far and why should it get any better just because you want to infuse your lungs with a mild stimulant before dragging yourself back to your flat and passing out in your bed, alone, probably without even bothering to change out of your wet clothes and--
You hear a soft click and a small flame appears a few inches from your face, engulfing the end of your cigarette. Startled out of your seething inner monologue, you look up, following the hand holding the zippo to the face of its owner. You're rather intrigued to find that said owner is a troll--bright jade-green eyes, sharp cheekbones, unusually pale skin, full black lips with two razor-sharp canines peeking out. Short, jet-black hair frames her delicate face, the rest tucked under a relaxed steel-grey beanie. Her horns poke through the loose knit, both pointed, one with a turned-down hook at the tip (charming, that, though you aren't entirely sure why), though it's difficult to discern their exact shade of orange under the shadow cast by her umbrella.
One of her thin eyebrows arches up and you realize that you're staring. You take a long drag from your cigarette--composing yourself--and breathe it out slowly, letting the smoke curl away from your lips and up into the night air. Noting the way her eyes follow it, you allow yourself a small smirk that you quickly turn into a friendly smile.
"Thank you," You tell her quietly, pleased with how she immediately meets your eyes. "I was beginning to lose all hope of salvaging my evening even the slightest bit."
She smiles back carefully, flicking her lighter shut and stowing it in her coat pocket. You take the opportunity to examine her clothing--long black leather jacket belted at the waist, cashmere scarf in charcoal grey, solid black slacks (covering legs for miles, jegus) and simple black ballet flats. You also note that even in flats she's several inches taller than you, and isn't that novel, but now she's speaking and her voice is low and smoky and you're having a little trouble focusing on the words themselves.
"Not a problem. I've nothing against lending aid to a pretty lady caught in the rain." She pronounces each syllable carefully around her fangs, traces of a strange accent curling at the edges. You're still stuck on the word 'pretty' when she clears her throat and speaks again. "Though I'll admit I had ulterior motives; Karkat said I might find you here if I was quick enough. You're Rose Lalonde, are you not?"
You blink and nod, holding out your free hand. "That is indeed my name." You tilt your head slightly. "How did you know I wasn't some unfortunate stranger?"
She takes it, her grip firm, skin smooth and cool. "Karkat described you. Well, what he said was 'YOU'LL KNOW THAT PASTY, FREAKY-EYED FUCKING NOOKSTAIN HUMAN WHEN YOU SEE HER'," she quotes in a rather good imitation of the angry troll's rasping voice. "And I've met your brother, so it was easy to extrapolate from there."
It's your turn to raise a brow, entirely unsurprised by your employer's less-than-flattering description of you. "That's rich, coming from a troll with mutant candy blood. Not that I hold that against him; I'm a mutant myself." You flex your fingers, suddenly very conscious of that status--your unnaturally white skin and hair could be off-putting, you know, but if she'd already met Dave...
She dissolves your rising fear with a warm smile, meeting your gaze again. "I actually think your eyes are a rather attractive colour. Violet is certainly not a shade one sees every day. And not 'freaky' at all."
You incline your head, as much to graciously accept the compliment as to disguise the blush you're sure is rising in your cheeks. You take another slow drag from your cigarette, gathering your composure once more. This time you let the smoke out as you speak again.
"Why were you looking for me? Surely Karkat wasn't recommending my amiable company or conversational skills?" You smile wryly. You're not sure Vantas would laud anyone's company--save his own, perhaps. You watch a flicker of confusion cross her face, as if she's quite forgotten why she'd come here herself. You chalk that up, a bit arrogantly, to your breathtaking wit and charm.
"Oh, of course, my apologies. Karkat told me you were in charge of organizing the schedule on the weekends; I'm opening on Saturday night. I thought I should at least let you know my face, to avoid confusion when that time comes." Her smile turns a bit shy, and she runs her tongue over one fang in a seemingly absent fashion.
You nod, slightly distracted by that little display. "Sensible. I guarantee I shan't forget your countenance, fair lady; 'tis been an honour making your acquaintance." You drop the stub of your cigarette and grind it out with your toe, barely holding back an added and what I wouldn't give to get to know you a bit better than that. You look down the street a little forlornly, not relishing the thought of leaving this warm pocket of the night with this beautiful young woman, to return to your cold, empty flat.
She must have noticed the look on your face, because the next words out of her mouth are, "Do you live very far from here?"
You shake your head. "Not very. Only about six blocks, but I despise getting my hair wet." You pout a little, running your fingers through your short, snowy locks. You are thoroughly gratified when she hides a smile behind her hand, her eyes crinkling at the corners. You want to get to know the lines of her face, by sight and by touch. The blades of her cheekbones, the slant of her jaw, the curve of her lips and oh hey she's talking again.
"A truly unpleasant prospect, to be sure. In that case, do you mind if I offer to walk you home?" She tips her umbrella towards you. "There's enough room under here for the both of us, and it's not too far out of my way."
You school your expression into one of calm grace, instead of the wide smile that's threatening to break through. "I would be quite grateful for your offer, miss..." You pause. "I don't believe I got your name, actually."
She offers her hand. "Kanaya Maryam, at your service."
You take it, and she pulls you in to link her arm through yours, and with a quick smile the two of you are off into the dark, steadily drizzling night.
After a few moments of comfortable silence, your curiosity gets the better of you. "So what are you doing on Saturday?" You laugh softly at her surprised, almost flustered look. "For the show, I mean. Though I wouldn't be against hearing whether you have plans before that."
Her voice held a tinge of regret. "Unfortunately, I have a shift at my own day job, and then I have to get ready for the evening. As for what I'm doing..." She chuckles quietly and damn you could get used to that sound. "Well, that would be telling, wouldn't it? You'll just have to wait and see." She looks at you sidelong. "You will be working that night, I trust? Not the type to direct from the shadows and hide during the event itself?"
You affect a heavy sigh. "Would that I could, but no, Karkat wants me around to handle you 'addle-pated artsy types'." You sneer a little. "I think he forgets that I'm a psychology major sometimes. The things he says are so painfully obvious. I want to come in some mornings and ask how his inferiority complex is doing, but I like my job." You stop, realizing that you're rambling. Is that another blush you feel coming on? You will your body to stop that nonsense, hoping the night's gloom was hiding it.
She only seems amused, though. "Yes, dear Mr. Vantas has been that way since we were wigglers. Now he's just louder. And slightly more vulgar." Then, without missing a beat, "So, psych major?"
"With a minor in literature," You answer automatically. "I finished this past winter."
She grins. " And proceeded on to a glorious career in the service industry. I understand. I finished a fashion design degree last spring, and have been working in a garden centre ever since."
You shrug. "Whatever pays the rent, correct? No judgements from this quarter. I don't mind it much, as it gives me plenty of opportunities to analyze people and adequate free time to write. And flirt with pretty women." You swallow hard, clamping your traitor mouth shut. If you weren't blushing before, you certainly are now. Rambling indeed. You nearly miss her look away for a moment, clearly flustered this time.
You halt your steps, realizing you'd autopiloted your way to the front door of your apartment complex. You extract your arm reluctantly from hers, and realize there's a pale jade flush spreading over Kanaya's cheeks. Oh. You could get used to that too.
She gives you that quiet smile again. "This is where I leave you, then?"
You nod, barely suppressing a sincere sigh. You think again to your silent, empty flat and your cold, empty bed, and a rapid impulse settles in your gut.
Before you can open your mouth however, she shakes her head, as if sensing your intent. "I have an early shift," She tells you gently, and is that a hint of disappointment in her voice? "But I will see you on Saturday, Miss Rose."
You take her hand, feathering a light kiss over her knuckles. "Until then, Miss Kanaya. Thank you for walking me home."
Her fingers linger on yours for a moment, then she takes a step back. "It was my pleasure, truly. Have a good night."
"You as well." You watch her go for a moment, admiring her silhouette in the rain, then turn and step inside.