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Night Owls

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Your name is Terezi Pyrope, and you are in dire need of a place to stay.

Right now, all of your worldly belongings gathered across three galaxies and four sweeps are sitting in neatly packed bags in a sketchy motel just south of the Thames. Night has fallen, so you rise from the shit-tier sopor, scarf down some questionable breakfast at the corner shop and make your way around the city.

Cities are organic things of concrete and tarmac, steel and glass. You hear busy traffic and smell blinking pedestrian lights. You trace the flow of pedestrians and cabs, notice candy-cane horns heading one way, and peach-skinned humans heading the opposite way.

Every city housing trolls become cities that never sleep. As one city heads home, the other awakens to begin their day.

You swear when it starts raining. This kind of October night, it’s the kind of night that makes you long for pastel foliage and reasonable temperatures. Tealbloods aren’t built for rain and cold- they’re much like military rations and medical supplies- store in cool, dry place .

Humans don’t like the cold, either. You can see where they’re going, the humans, and where they’ve been, and what put them on this path. This path is the path to revelry- people drinking, music pounding, dimmed lights strobing, the works.

Doesn’t take a Seer to work that out- trashy clubbing gear is more-or-less the same across cultures. You follow the path to the party.

There is a long queue in front of the club when you get there, so you go around, to the back. The back lanes are dark and grimy, irregular blackcurrant and charcoal, and even outside you can feel the bass rattling you from horntips to thorax.

There is no one here, no one except for her.

She stands out remarkably, pale ghostly girl she is. Shock of near-white hair on near-translucent screen-bleached skin. Her eyes are pale, flashing cotton candy pink, bubblegum blue, and then translucent grape smoothie purple in the multicoloured lights from the club.

You give her your best, toothiest grin. She has not taken her eyes off you since you entered the back lane.

“You’re waiting for someone,” you remark with a tilt of your head. You can feel her expectant eyes on you, even if you can’t quite smell it, not in this rain.

“I believe I’ve just found her,” she replies, seamless. “Rose Lalonde. You have a problem, and so do I. We can solve them together.”

“Terezi Pyrope,” you tell her, since it’d be rude not to, given that she’d volunteered her own. “I’m interested to hear what our mutual problem is, because I have several.”

“I’ve noticed.” Blunt, but not humourless. All her makeup is black, you realise, black lipstick and black eyeliner and black eyeshadow.

“The blindness isn’t one of them,” you tell her. It’s perfectly transparent, what you’re doing- fishing for a reaction. Already the possibilities are unfolding like chess moves- she says this , you’ll say this , and…

And your neat mental maps go haywire, and her words, clipped and cool and professional, wash over your scalp and stills the perpetual hum of static.

“I know.”

That is not one of your possibilities.

“I’m looking for a flatmate,” she goes on, “and you need a place to stay.”

Choices and consequences flicker past the edge of your consciousness. Short term, not a bad outcome. Long term… Nothing.

It should give you pause. This is risky. This is stupid and dangerous.

You smile, just a little.

It’s a change. What good did caution and care do you, back when it most mattered?

“Former Legislacerator Pyrope at your service.” Same game as before- I’m giving up this, what will you give me in return?

She plays along with little hesitation. “Consulting detective Lalonde, at yours.”

“Consulting detective,” you repeat, slowly. “That’s not any job I’ve ever heard before.”

“Unsurprising. I made it up. Former Legislacerator?”

“What can I say? I’ve decided to retire.”

You can’t see her pin you with an long, slightly bemused stare, but you can certainly feel it. That’s what you’d do, in her position. Legislacerators don’t retire. There are no ex-Legs.

She doesn’t push, because she knows that you won’t yield. You knows she knows. And you know that she’ll change the subject- it will be a later , not a never .

“I’ve got a place in mind,” she says, perfectly timed between two obnoxious pop remixes.

“It needs to have at least three bedrooms,” you inform her, almost before she finishes(process of elimination). “A troll needs somewhere to keep her weapons.”

“And you,” she replies, “don’t mind violin all hours of the night?”

“I’m nocturnal.”

“Noted. I will make sure to practice at noon. Body parts in the fridge?”

“Label yours,” you shoot back. “I might eat them by accident.”

She wavers for less than a second before saying, “I retreat to my room to think, which means that it is off-limits. Always.”

She changed her mind- you can feel the jarred sensation in your bones, as the pair of you jolt into this timeline at the very last second. Like an idiot, you follow her down this road.

“Alright! Don’t touch my candied grubs without asking.”

She nods, and smiles. Some minute relaxation comes over her, and her seemingly serene expression loses a very fine edge, like the tip of a rapier lowering from your throat.

“It seems like we have an understanding. Let’s head off.”

You feel like you’ve won a battle and lost a war.

She turns on her heel and walks out of the alley. Actual heels, going by the click of shoe on tarmac.

You shout over the music, “I don’t believe-,”

“221B Baker Street,” she rattles off lightly. The purple sash around her waist is a heady burst of flavour against the drab night, sour wine on flavourless grey.

You make sure to tap your cane on the ground between the (harsh, measured) clicking of her heels. It makes a delightful racket.


 

Terezi moves in with a knapsack, some technical manuals, a hefty stack of legal texts, and a frankly alarming collection of light to medium-weight weaponry. You already have things ready in the flat, of course- told the lovely Mr. Harley downstairs that you’ll pop out real quick and come back with a flatmate- and here you are, promise fulfilled. You’d be proud of yourself if you hadn’t cheated.

Well. Even if you cheated, you’re rather proud of yourself anyway .

The Yard hasn’t requested your services of late, and neither has Dirk. Both have legitimate problems that you can solve, but one is tied up in stupidity and the other, pride. Both will come around. Eventually.

As a result of their pussyfooting, however, the closest thing to a case you’d had was this trivial affair, some kind of infidelity, that practically sorted itself out in the initial consultation in the morning. Look at you. IQ off the goddamn charts, supernatural psychic power, razor sharp wit- all of that to resolve some vapid, Real Housewives of London -esque drama.

After they’d left, you took their five hundred pound consultation fee to the bottle shop and bought as much absinthe as you could carry. You’d drank as much as that as you could handle, passed out, and hours later, woke up with a pounding hangover and a realisation that this can’t go on .

There had been a quarter of a bottle of liquor in your hand when you woke up; you drained that, packed up all your things, set the Light inside your head to work, and found a flat owned by a delightful old eccentric who didn’t mind the occasional gunshot. That took one hour. You whiled away the evening with some early twentieth century Russian romance, and when you set your bow and violin down it was nine-thirty.

You made it to the nightclub at a quarter past ten. Five minutes later, Terezi appeared, less troll, and more red sunglasses drawn over acute angles. You were sure that she didn’t notice you, until she whipped her head towards you and told you what you were doing there.  

Magic and cheating.

Terezi is something special, in the same way that you are. Her motions are smooth and deliberate, as if she’s seeing herself moving in a tiny screen within her head, in sinuous jungle cat steps that do things to your vasculars. Your path is framed in blurry light and she features in every other branch.

You settle in to observe your brand new flatmate. She’s observing you right back as she happily goes through an entire bag of candied grubs. You wonder what she sees.

This is a game of information. You were very careful about what you left out as easy pickings.

“This is a rather nice place, Rose,” your new flatmate says. “Smells interesting. Just need to get some of this clutter sorted out…”

She pauses, nose inches away from a violin on the mantle. Your violin, the antique you’ve had since you were ten, pale and glossy.

She turns a full circle, inhaling all the way.

“I’ve already moved in,” you tell her, even though she already knows. You take delight in the squirming of the hapless. She doesn’t squirm.

“Oh,” she says. She doesn’t apologise for her mistake, and for some reason it doesn’t irk you as much as it should.

A game of information. You want to know what she did. You want to know how she ended up here. The Sight you have, however, is far more conducive to seeing the future than the past.

What does Terezi Pyrope know?

You are a freelance consulting detective. You don’t keep normal hours. You don’t do normal things. This is a given.

You didn’t specify who you worked with or what, but that is alright. She would learn in time, and Legislacerators dealt with worse. That is alright.

You know that Terezi Pyrope used to be a Legislacerator. It is highly probable that she has many enemies, largely in other star systems but on the most part very powerful.

As an ex- Legislacerator, it is also likely that the Empire itself isn’t terribly fond of her. Ex-Legs don’t exist. There is a reason for this.

She doesn’t know about the alcoholism. You’ve dabbled with drugs, but you always came back to alcohol. It is a stupid thing to conceal; the timeline where you tell her is superior to the timeline where you don’t(very murky, featuring possible death, highly probable humiliation, and many things she probably should not hear), but you can’t bring yourself to admit it.  

You’re not sure if she saw the other path. You’re fairly certain that she at least felt its shadow, the possibility of it, and now she knows you’re hiding something.

You hope she doesn’t pry(she will). You hope she won’t catch you pouring vodka down the kitchen sink at three in the afternoon(she might, or she might catch you pouring it down your throat).

This is stupid. You do not regret this path. You know, you know that the timeline where you have never met Terezi Pyrope is an exceedingly crappy timeline. It will go, in fact, a little like the day before Terezi Pyrope. The boring, petty squabbles of wealthy people. The pointless hours on pointless websites. The drinking.

Nothing will change, in the foreseeable future.

With Terezi Pyrope, everything changes. You don’t know how. She is a variable you can’t predict. It makes you excited and terrified all at once.

“The room over there is yours,” you tell her. “Third bedroom is-”

“Weaponry storage,” she interrupts cheerfully. “And also for drills. We’ll install some gym equipment, I think.”

We’ll . God, the presumptive nerve of her.

“I was going to say laboratory. I run a great many experiments here.”

“Well, why not both?”

Why not both indeed.

Terezi turns her burnt out eyes to the ceiling, and you can almost see the visions flickering across them. Her vision of the third bedroom solidifies, probabilities creeping up and up.

“I’m sure we can manage that,” she says, just as it becomes a sure thing. You’ve just watched Terezi formulate a plan and even without explicit confirmation from your second sight, you are sure that she will succeed.

Why is this troll, this deadly, dangerous troll, why is she in your flat? How did this brilliant mind end up on Earth? You can imagine her carving fierce gouges through alien empires, tearing her way up the ranks of vicious bluebloods into command. You can imagine her doing damage .

What is she doing here, on this planet of pacifist humans and tired, worn-out trolls?

She surveys her belongings. “Mind lending a hand, Miss Purple Wine Grapes?”

Your gaze skitters over two silver briefcases, one slightly larger than the other. There’s a highly ionised plasma blaster of troll design in the larger one, an AK-47 inspired assault rifle that can’t be more than three years old in the other, and the both of them see a lot of use in the near future. You squint through alternate futures and focus on the intensity of the vision. It’s a near-certainty, and right now you can’t see a way around it.

An ancient, hungry part of you says yes , curling satisfied in your gut. You pick them up while Terezi scoops up a knapsack and an armful of books.

“Good choice,” she says, approvingly. “What do you See?”

Terezi is blind, and the most perceptive person you’ve ever met.

“Violence,” you say, and smile despite yourself. The yearning for alcohol, which has been your almost constant companion since puberty, has evaporated, replaced with an almost-foreign feeling that you haven’t felt in years.

Anticipation.