For Husk. A happy (extremely) belated birthday to you!
Warnings for: Gender dysphoria, binding, contemplation of death and sacrifice.
Day 367: Alchemiter Log.
Alchemiter accessed at 0342, user TT.
Combines (View Only):
- Virgo Shirt ll Velvet Pillow = Nephrite Blouse
- Virgo Shirt && Velvet Pillow = Fussyfangs Fluffy Featherbag
- Velvet Squiddleknit Dress && Broken Brassiere = Conksuck Corset
- Green Scalemate ll Velvet Squiddleknit Dress && Broken Brassiere = Comfy Chartreuse Compressor
- Green Scalemate ll Velvet Squiddleknit Dress && Broken Brassiere = Comfy Chartreuse Compressor Cost: 750 Build Grist
- Green Scalemate && Silken Wizardbeard Yarn = Auto-Fit Fiber Cost: 600 Build Grist
Alchemiter powered down at 0426.
Day 372: Surveillance Sentinel Log
Human TT (HTT) located: Corridor 63. Pace: Average.
HTT relocated: Corridor 21-B. Pace: Declining.
HTT relocated: Transportalizer GA.
HTT relocated: Port to Respiteblock GA.
Permission for entry requested.
Permission for entry timed out.
Permission for entry requested.
Permission for entry granted.
Troll GA (TGA) resealed Respiteblock GA.
Surveillance Sentinel: Sleep mode.
"I brought you something," Rose says, once all the shuffling about has been done. It’s not really what she’d been planning to say at all, but it works. It works insofar as it piques Kanaya’s interest, moves the troll from her cycles of careful motion.
"What is it?"
Her empty hands are studied thoroughly, scoured by searching eyes that turn slightly suspicious, an homage to meteor politics and the niceties of living with strangers and aliens. There’s nothing but bitten nails (still healing; her mantle of God Tier cares little for hangnails and reddened cuticles) and Kanaya’s face is schooled, looking down from above.
Far above. Sometimes Rose forgets her physical place; sometimes Rose disregards it. She double-checks to make sure her feet are firmly planted on the ground. This is no time for floating. It’s possible that she’s overthinking this, but it’s doubly possible that this is a massive mistake resulting from her naturally mixed pale and flushed feelings of pity for a sentient being with a history of unintentional and unfortunate red quadrant vacillation.
She thinks that’s how it works. Trying to figure this all out is interesting; applying the puzzle to real sentient beings with real sentient emotions is hard. All the romantic intent in the world can’t make this entanglement free of personal interest in the health and welfare of another.
"You look different lately."
She’s not looking, not exactly, instead feeling at a length of silky fabric on the table behind her. Kanaya may stiffen, may straighten, or that may be just a trick of the imagination and of the lowered light.
"Your-" This isn’t going as planned, not at all, where in her mind did that calm and completely unaccusatory little speech go? She chooses her words carefully. "Silhouette."
Her fingers fly suddenly to her chin, and Rose manages to look up while fighting hard not to cover her mouth. A rough bit of skin rubs against her lower lip, but she can’t bite it. That’s a display of anxiety, and she is decidedly not anxious right now.
Kanaya is impassive. Clasps her hands in front of her stomach. Moves them behind her back.
Rose knows that those arms would be folded in a heartbeat were it not for the odd lay of the troll’s shirt and the inexplicable aching secrecy behind it. Natural instinct is to shelter weakness, however perceived; a part of her begrudgingly admires Kanaya’s devotion to deception.
Their silence is broken by a short, preparatory breath that Kanaya holds for a moment too long, that convinces Rose that these words are being chosen as carefully as her own were.
"The maintenance of a streamlined physique is essential." The hands come in front of her stomach once more. "Aberrations from the norm must be compensated for."
It was to be expected, Rose guesses. Sort of. She tries not to but she stares hard for a few seconds at Kanaya’s chest. It’s to make a point. (It’s also to weigh options and consider those stiff and weighty words and observe the glowing hollow of Kanaya’s throat.)
She swallows. Kanaya remains unflinching, fingers white-knuckled (which is no grand feat considering the state of the rest of her skin) and sitting in tangled peaks and valleys on her stomach, the topography of which Rose can only dream at. And dream at she does. Her voice eludes her, returns finally in a mildly inquisitive tone that she thanks every one of her impotent gods for.
She is Rose Lalonde, she can make this well-intended gift.
She is Rose Lalonde, she can casually incline her heads towards what she guesses is a tightly woven roll-out of slow compression fabric and she can ignore the sudden waver of composure in a troll girl’s face. She can take her hand away from her mouth and roll her fingers out to gesture again, in a casual-looking manner.
"Bandages," she repeats. "Ace?"
Kanaya’s hands are still folded and now they press against her stomach as an anchor that ties the entire picture together. A picture of stress and worry and compulsion that Rose doesn’t like, doesn’t like at all.
"They were marked Ashen Bandages, presumably in relation to auspisticism and the act of physical reconciliation - the mediation process, manifesting in the form of caretaking after forceful caliginous interaction." Her voice is slightly shaky, but she lifts her chin a little, defiant. "Or something like that."
She takes a little breath, as if to continue, but stops with one hand raised. The hand retreats to its twin.
"You said that you had something for me?"
That’s something Rose can latch onto for the moment, while inside her head she rattles through the thoroughly incomplete list of psychological maladies related to the situation. It’s easy to diagram others in jest, to diagnose in a light mood, but figuring out how best to handle a situation this delicate is another matter entirely. She’s not sure she’s up to snuff, and it’s hard to view a case objectively when one is caught up in viewing the slender curve of a wrist and the way a sweep of hair catches the light.
Dysphoria? Possibly. To a degree. Perceived concrete nature of gender identification makes it dubious.
Masochism? …Unlikely. Not impossible.
Self-image issues? Potentially, in a certain fashion that ties in with fashion. (Rose hasn’t quite had time to quiz Kanaya on Alternian concepts of beauty. Troll Vogue is distinctly absent from the meteor’s library.)
She runs through them all for the umpteenth time and confirms her decision on a neutral approach. The fast version.
It’ll be like ripping off a band-aid: Quick, painful, and embarrassing if you happen to cry. But done, regardless.
Her sylladex rustles like trees in wind (like home, like New York in autumn), but instead of the neatly folded gift dropping into her palms, the entirety of her not-so-earthly possessions pops into existence.
Rose catches the yarn and the Wodka and the scarf-wrapped package; Kanaya somehow manages to snatch the violin that topples from thin air with the shuffling of sylladex cards.
"I thought that it had autobalanced," Rose says carefully.
Kanaya stares at her, laughs an octave or so too high, clutches the violin case to her chest. They fall quiet, the echos hushed by the heaps and drapes of fabric.
Stepping forward, Rose holds her arms out.
"Here," she murmurs finally, tucking the package under her arm. She captchalogues the yarn, the Wodka, and the violin.
She tries not to touch Kanaya’s hands for too long as she grips the case.
She fails majestically.
But she’s left with her hands awkwardly hovering with her fingertips touching Kanaya’s, no violin, no excuse.
"Take the bandages off," Rose orders calmly.
It comes out all wrong, she thinks, like she’s pleading; Kanaya, however, flushes a dark green.
"Rose-" She pauses for a huffed breath, one that is hopefully surprised and not offended. It’s hard to tell when her gaze darts from floor to wall to ceiling to Rose. "Here?"
Kanaya hisses it like they’re in public.
It’s Rose’s turn to blink and blush.
"Oh." There’s no valid excuse, so she presses the package into Kanaya’s hands instead. "Just, ah. Take those off, and. Put this on. I’ll be… over there somewhere."
Her fingers are touching Kanaya’s once more.
She pointedly does not trip, or run, or collapse in a pile of teenage social awkwardness.
That’s not to say that she doesn’t dearly desire to do so.
To collapse, that is.
Rose faces the door, playing with her hood. Her throat is thoroughly clogged with something that resembles worry. Perhaps mild panic.
The room is silent for a very long time.
"Please don’t turn around," Kanaya says.
Rose exhales the breath she was keeping under lock and key.
She holds fast to the cowlneck of her hood and shuts her eyes. Kanaya is getting undressed behind her. Nothing but glowing skin from the waist up. Rose contemplates the sight of the bandage wrap, pictures pale grey fabric biting into Kanaya’s broad white chest.
She did it to herself. Once. On a whim, post-internet-surfing, the way Rose ends up doing most things.
Not that she had much to bind in the first place. Yet the thought of it was enough, the secret under her shirt as she snuck through the house as per normal.
But by the end of several hours her skin was red and numb, her breath a little strained as she stripped the layers away.
It’s hard to imagine, now, Kanaya - bound that tightly for so long, for day upon day. Minute green tracks pressed into her skin, a texture that she could trace, were she on that level of intimacy.
(She often wishes she were.)
She almost turns to answer, then catches herself. The fabric of her hood will soon become warped if she doesn’t stop clenching it.
A small quiet grunt comes from behind her. The noise of a person wriggling into something relatively close-fitting.
"Why are you doing this?"
Hell if I know, Rose thinks, and because you’re hurting, and because I don’t want you grimacing and stiff-backed all the time, and because you deserve to feel okay, and because in case you haven’t noticed I just may like you in a dangerous manner.
"I was bored." She hates herself a little, clears her throat. In that order. This is more difficult than she had anticipated. Going to her death with an ectobrother and the off-chance of revival was a piece of cake.
(That’s a baldfaced lie but she lets it go this time because there are already too many feelings rolling around in her stomach. She doesn’t need to add the remembered sensation of immolation. Of falling.)
Her lips are chapped; she bites gingerly at a bit of dry skin.
(Many things feel like failing, initially.)
"And nobody else seemed to notice."
Inspecting her nails doesn’t do much to calm her stomach. She sneaks a glance over her shoulder, though she knows it’s rude and a betrayal of sorts. Kanaya is facing the opposite wall, tugging to adjust the fit of the binder. The back strings hang loose, and Rose knows she won’t get an accurate feel for it unless they’re done up properly.
She turns back, bites at the tip of her thumbnail.
"Do you need any help?" she asks.
Kanaya’s answer comes slowly. She makes another small noise, of frustration.
"Yes. I can’t reach the laces."
Even if it seems to take an eon and a half to approach those dangling strings and the lightly pulsing glow of Kanaya’s almost-bare back, Rose prefers the non-rushed view. She’s hesitant to touch. The binder is warmed by the troll’s skin, and she lays her knuckles lightly along the stays framing the centermost seam as she eases the laces tighter.
"It’s not good for you," Rose murmurs without thinking. Her thought process has taken a backseat to the repetitive technique of pulling and testing, pulling and testing the thick cords that will, with any luck, keep this all together. "The bandaging."
There’s no response. She doubles back, observes her own wayward tracks, and tries to correct them. Again.
"Physically." Her hands have worked downwards from the warm space in between Kanaya’s shoulderblades, traveling now over the back of what would be a ribcage, a diaphragm, were she human. Rose hasn’t yet asked for in-depth catalogue of colloquialisms for troll anatomy. "Using compression wrap such as that for a long time can interfere with breathing."
She tugs at a twisted section of cord.
"It can cause the warping of bone structure."
It comes undone, slips more easily through the eyeholes.
"Broken bones." Her index finger is white at the tip, blood pinned in her hand by cord and the disparity between intent and execution. "Possibly."
Kanaya lifts a hand to her mouth, stifling some noise that gives Rose pause. The hand wavers, drops, and Kanaya laughs a little, pitch much lower than before. Thankfully.
"Trolls are made of sturdier stuff than that, Rose," she sighs. Her shoulders relax for the first time since their conversation begun. "But I do appreciate the concern."
Rose swallows her rush of relief and affection, focusing instead on the final stretch of lacing. She’s running out of string and space, her knuckles brushing a few inches north of Kanaya’s skirt, midway between the slight flares of her iliac crests.
For a moment she can’t knot the laces together; she shuts her eyes and readjusts her grip if only to feel her chilly hands against skin as warm as it is bright.
She’ll have to talk about this soon, too, the disquiet in her extremities that has very little to do with how long her arms were raised.
"How does it feel?" Her mouth feels cottony, her lips still chapped. Rose doesn’t bite at them but wets them instead, compulsively. As with hangnails and emotional turmoil, the regenerative powers of a god care little for dead skin.
Shutting her eyes has done little but show her phosphenes lacking mechanical prompting. The extra lengths of lace are wound so tight around her fingers that she can barely feel them; even so she feels, through the movement of string and the minute eddying of air flow, Kanaya rolling her shoulders, shifting, stretching, sighing a content (if mildly perplexed), “Wonderful.”
Rose ties the knot with tingling fingers.
She doesn’t get a chance to observe the unobscured effect of the alchemized quasi-binder.
It is, she supposes, enough unprecedented intimacy for one afternoon.
Kanaya’s shirt is quickly donned again, all or at least mostly business as she steps forward to peer into the mirror upon her wall; Rose is left to peer around her as subtly as possible, tracing the smoothed silhouette with her eyes. She’s satisfied with it, both objectively and - well. Not so objectively.
Her hand grips her cowl, as lightly as she can manage while still holding on, while still watching Kanaya turn and judge herself in the mirror. The outline is, in her opinion, very flattering.
At long last, Kanaya ceases the turning and tweaking and preening.
"Very efficient," she muses, smoothing her shirt down over her stomach and sides. "Much more stable than a pile of elastic and synthetic fiber."
Rose meets her gaze accidentally, caught staring when Kanaya glances back at her. It doesn’t last long, just enough to ruin the regained calm. When she finishes studying her shoes, Kanaya is turned away again.
"However," Kanaya continues slowly, each syllable deliberate. She cradles her chin in her hand, facing the mirror while her eyes dart sidelong. "I may require some assistance until I get the hang of the laces."
The meaning doesn’t hold off from sinking into Rose’s bones, tickling her immediately with anticipation and uncertain affection. The feeling settles in her stomach, proverbial butterflies. She smiles and drops her cowl.