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The Confusion of Tongues

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Fact: sloppy makeouts are basically the only makeouts possible when two species have dramatically different Bauplans with very different ideas as to what makes a good lip.

You turn out to be pretty okay with this.


Your ectobiological sibling has expressed the idea that Strilondes have never met a boner problem that remained a problem for any significant length of time. You are not sure where and on whose behalf there was ever a "boner problem." Trolls are startlingly, amazingly alien, true, but on the plus side, trolls are startlingly, amazingly alien.

Troll skin is a different texture, and differently sensitive; more towards the joints, less towards the middle of their limbs. They come in a range of temperatures--yesterday Sollux and Feferi were looking through the same viewport, and Sollux's breath was the only one visible on the glass. Their teeth are horrifyingly wonderful, and trolls like to show them. When they're in a hurry they move like arcing electricity.

Your favorite thing--well, your favorite thing has to be an admirable tendency to not die of gaping gut wounds, but your second favorite is the language.  You've found if you concentrate you can push through the Game's fandub (if you ever find the pls like and comment!! page you are going to ask why Feferi is West Indian) to Alternian's dry crackle.

Right now your hand rests on a crumpled shirt over hard chest plates. Your test subject is sitting on your bed while you kneel between her legs, because you are basically a genius and Vriska is as hard to manipulate as an etch a sketch, and because trolls project less than humans do. If you want to actually hear them, not the kung fu dub, you have to be close by. You are eminently practical as always.

"Whenever you are ready," you say.

Vriska blinks, then says: "This is dumb. I can think of so many better things I could be doing right now I am actually basically paralyzed? Really you're kind of taking advantage of me here!"

You know she says this, but what you hear is significantly better. In your wizardly fictions you will be hard put to describe the click and rattle of exoskeleton, the long sighing intricate vowel that shivers and flutes through tones, the high-throated hum, the... tiny mouselike squeak that must be the number eight, for the way you hear it so often from Vriska. Though it is entirely possible Alternian has a "huge 8itch" particle.

You will probably say: last night's fire dying on green wood, shot through with the morning's birdsong. Or: Baba Yaga's cottage, falling, gasping as it dies. Or:

"Roooooooose," Vriska says.

A vaguely insectile species that speaks on the inhale and whines on a high flat falling to low middle tone.

"You agreed to my experiments. Say my name again."

She looks mutinous. You put your ear on her chest, like anything of xenolinguistic interest happens all the way down here by her vestigial grubsacks. Vriska sucks air so hard you can feel a faint whisper across the top of your hair. You pull back to give her the eyebrow.

"I'm more used to hearing that from your lusus is all," she defends.

"Charming. This will probably be the only time you ever hear someone tell you to keep talking, Vriska, you do realize?"

"You are soooooooo rude," Vriska says. "You are like the fifth rudest person I have ever had touch my boob!" Her overdilated single pupil dares you to comment on the idea that anything but a bra has ever touched her boob.

"Hmm." She's taller than you, but it's mostly leg. Sitting like this you'd feel the warmth off a human or a lowblood, but with Vriska there's nothing but a sensation of breath-coolness down the side of your neck. It's not unpleasant. You see no need to pull back as you theorize. "I imagine with your lack of projection, pre-recording technology trolls did not put singing in the same sort of public sphere we did, if you sung at all. Similarly acting must have been a highly stylized and physical art. May I put my hand on your throat?"

"Humans are so weird," she wails. Chitters.

"Culturally bound concepts, Vriska. Is that a yes?"

"I guess if you want to soooooooo much."

This is the same. There is flutter and catch in her throat, like in yours. There is not a healthy fear of having someone who was made a God in the heart of a sun holding her by the neck, but deities are buy one get two on the meteor, you suppose. You further suppose Vriska could not come up with a sense up self preservation if troll ikea sold it flat packed.

"Speak," you say, holding Vriska by the throat.

She clatters her teeth several times. In Game translation this becomes serious young lady bring me the dish soap Tone. It is therefore something you have seen so often you feel your own lips skin back, sometimes. "'Four sweeps and seven perigees ago, on this discrete landmass, a young mother grub spawned a daughter colony--'"

"Does that repeated humming sound nice to you?" You ask. "Is it like troll assonance, I wonder."

"Is ᶑʊ̈ʘ͡qʼøʡ̯ø like ᶑʊ̈ʘ͡qʼøʡ̯ø?" Vriska says. She looks confused, and therefore angry. "Oh my gog stop trying to break the game."

You wish you had claws to prick the sides of her neck with. Perhaps she sees that, because she leans back to prop herself up on her arms. You let go, but only just. "The Game wants to break us, at the risk of being pat. I'm not trying to ruin your ability to marathon terrible movies while everyone else is attempting to sleep, don't worry. I just want to understand."

"Riiiiiiiight," Vriska says. "'Understand'. Whoops I dropped all my stupid and blind in the load gaper this morning! All I have left is my amazing ability to tell when somebody is full of shit."

Vriska gangles like a CLAMP hero and thrums like a car engine, just an arm's length away from you on the safety cone orange blankets, and kneeling is starting to hurt your legs, so you put one hand on her can opener shoulder and shove. She used to dispose of trolls in the same resentful and casual way you microwaved oatmeal, but she consents to fall backward. You reinforce this behavior by swarming up her body to hang over her like a shadow.

Your knees dig into the bed outside of her hips, one hand on her shoulder to brace yourself, the other dropping back to its comfortable home on her throat.

"Teach me the word for 'please,'" you say. "It'd do you good to practice it, anyway."

The word for "bitch" is an angry cough, with vowels that tangle together and overlap like sticky candy. It makes you shiver, and your fingers tense.

"And then teach me 'no'," you add.

"You can't make those words," Vriska says. "You have hoofbeast teeth."

"Oh, that isn't it," you say. "I just want to be able to recognize them when I hear them."

Tomorrow, you decide, you are going to ask Kanaya about this "troll Will Smith" thing.

Or maybe Aradia.