You hate seeing people get hurt.
It’s unavoidable, being what you are. Dolorosa dispatches your assassins and spies with a grimness about her that makes you think she’d do worse if she had to. Disciple drags home meat that you can’t force yourself to choke down. And Psi…
Psi just hurts. And you don’t know why.
Both he and Dolorosa think you’re too young to discuss his revolving door of pailing partners, even though you’re only a couple sweeps younger than he is. Whenever you try to pointedly bring it up in jams, he laughs and calls it, “none of your buithneth, SL.” Dolorosa says much the same, and cautions you against taking him as a role model in the same breath.
But he’s still hurting. And neither of them are letting you fix it.
You’re not very good at being subtle, like Dolorosa is. So one day, when you’re draped over each other on the padded seating block, you abruptly ask – or state, really – “Are you ever going to tell me what your fuckery’s about?”
He tenses slightly, his arm going stiff around your shoulders. “I don’t know, SL. Thith ith a thitty excuthe for a pile.”
His voice lingers on the Is and thickens on the esses, still like nobody you’ve ever met, and you pity him more every time you hear it.
Not that it’s pity, exactly. It’s complicated. You’re not sure you can pity anyone properly, the way everyone else seems to, and it’s well-established you suck at hate by now.
So you shove your cloak over his head. “Here you go then, nookwhiffer, if you really have to hide in dirty laundry to talk to me, I can provide that.”
Your cape dangles off his horns ridiculously, and he doesn’t even bother moving to get rid of it. A crackle of red and blue dumps it back in your lap, and he scruffs up your hair with one hand. “You thuck at romanthe.”
A flush rises high on your cheeks. “Well, you suck at being romanced. Stop being a bulge and tell me your fucking problems already.”
He sighs, soft against your ear. “I don’t even know,” he says after a long pause. “What’th wrong with me, SL?”
You don’t know how to answer him, so you just squeeze his hand tightly in yours. “Doesn’t matter. Just curious about what’s making you such a hornbiter lately.”
He scoffs, but his fingers wind through yours and squeeze back. “Thoon ath I know, I’ll tell you.”
“Course you will.” You lean back into him, settling your shoulders against his, and go back to watching Psi’s Shitty Taste in TV Shows, Example #83 with your hands locked together.
Over the next week, you observe six kismeses, four matesprits, and three unidentifiable enter and leave Psi’s block. You’re pretty sure that for other trolls, flipping quadrants is normal, and so is having both a matesprit and a kismesis. Psi is flouting all the rules though, and what he does…
There are a lot of hurt feelings going around, and they don’t just belong to the trolls that get sucked in by his charisma and ditch when they realise they’re not the only ones. The kismeses – ex-kismeses, you suppose – in particular spit insults at him as they leave. He doesn’t know what he wants. He’s just trying to fill a void. He doesn’t know how to feel so he cavorts from matesprit to kismesis and everything in-between, hoping for something, anything –
You can’t let him go on with that broken look on his face. Your bloodpusher hurts too much.
So you turn to the one troll who can make it stop.
Dolorosa doesn’t seem surprised to see you when you enter her block unannounced. It’s morning, and you two are the only ones awake. She’s sitting in the window, embroidering something in Psi yellow in the sunlight. “He wears through things so quickly,” she sighs, not looking up from the delicate needlework.
You fold your arms under your cloak, wrapping your hands around your elbows. “Like patience.”
“I suppose.” She bites her lip as she concentrates on the stitching. “He’s acting as he was taught. Highbloods, seadwellers, tend to gather harems that they can pick and choose from. Their matespritships and kismessitudes are rarely binding. Mixing their blood into the next generation trumps all.”
You’re gaping in horror and you barely realise it. “But–”
“This is why I didn’t want to talk to you about it.” She finally looks up, then gently closes your jaw. “Pity – your pity, your idea of matespritship and moirailship and caring, it doesn’t mean anything to them.”
“Psi’s not a highblood,” you say in a small voice. “He’s here. With us.”
“His life, before we found him…” She trails off, sounding uncertain. It’s rare enough to have you worried. “He’s a powerful psionic, my grub. Highbloods take them, and use them until they break. It’s likely he was in their society longer than he has been in ours.”
You sink to the floor and rest your head on her knees. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Keep making things better, as you always do.” She strokes your hair the way she used to when you were younger. “Keep talking to him.”
“You’re worried too.”
“I worry when you worry, little grub.” She begins sewing again. “I also trust you to do what needs to be done.”
You spend the rest of the day hiding in your block, watching images of an Alternia that never was play in your mind.
Psi’s leaning outside your door when you wake up in the evening, his fingers hooked through his beltloops and eyes half-lidded as he watches the sun set through the window at the end of the hall.
“Why do you never knock,” you grumble, more statement than question, as you drag him inside.
“Becauthe you alwayth find me.” His eyes flare in the way that means he’s rolling them as he answers, and he heads straight for your padded seating block once he’s inside.
You roll your eyes back and lean on the armrest, giving his head a sharp tap to make sure he’s paying attention. “Listen up, I’ve got something for you.”
“What?” He blinks up at you and your bloodpusher twists just a little bit.
He raises his eyebrows.
“It’s…” You gesture to your head. “I saw it.”
You feel kind of silly as you continue, like you’re delivering a sermon for one. But clearly he needs it. “It’s kind of like having a harem, but not, not in a stupid way, like the highbloods, you actually lo– like the people you’re seeing.”
“Or hate them.”
You shrug. He smiles a little.
“Tho I’m polyamorouth?”
“And a bulge.” He starts to laugh, but the look on your face cuts him off. “Seriously, you bucket-tipping, lususless, bulgebag. You can’t keep doing this to others.” You look away nervously, then back at him. “Or yourself.”
Little sparks start leaking out of his eyes. “Thayth who.”
“Thayth me,” you say cruelly, and knock him over the head again. “I’m not letting you destroy yourself. You need stability, and you’re going to get it if I have to stand outside your door and inform everyone that passes, sorry, no, Psi’s sick today, can’t see anyone.”
He rubs the spot where you hit him and the sparks fade away slowly. After a long, tense moment he sighs. “I am thuch a bulge.” He looks up at you, half-smiling, and hopefully opens his arms.
You fold your arms and raise an eyebrow. “And.”
“I don’t know!” He turns the hug-me gesture into a fuck-the-world flail. “Knowing a word for what I am doethn’t mean everyone will thtop hating me for it!”
“You can stop hating yourself.” You shrug. “And maybe if you picked your partners more carefully instead of just seducing everyone walking down the street…”
He gives you a look worthy of Dolorosa.
“No, Psi. No seducing.” You return the look. “And multiple concupiscent partners only. I’m not as freewheeling as some people.”
He snorts. “SL, you’ll thoothpap anyone.”
You pap him indignantly. “Shoosh.”
He licks your hand with both tongues. You start laughing, at first in relief, then in hysterics. Psi peers over the edge of the seating block at you as you end up on the floor, laughing and hiccoughing.
“What’th tho funny?”
“We’re as completely idiotic as each other.”
When Psi opens his arms and raises his eyebrows this time, you crawl onto the seating block with him. You managed to fix this. Maybe if you keep going, you can fix the world, too.