Sollux woke up in the middle of the day, sweating profusely. Another day, another vision of a small rural hive—one he was all too familiar with—crumbling to pieces. Another set of screams and pleas from his kinda-sorta matesprit, telling him to stop...whatever it was that he was doing.
What was he doing, anyway? He could see, he could hear...but he couldn't move a muscle. It was as if someone else had taken control of him. No, that would just be stupid, he thought. Why would that even happen?
Sighing heavily, Sollux climbed out of his recuperacoon, cleaned himself off, and pulled on his usual black T-shirt and gray jeans. He figured there was no real use in trying to go back to sleep, so he headed over to his computer and logged into Trollian.
There was only one person online, but it was the one person he needed to talk to the most.
twinArmageddons [TA] began trolling apocalypseArisen [AA]
TA: hey aradiia, are you awake?
AA: yeah, i c0uldnt sleep
TA: ii had another vii2iion.
AA: 0f what???
TA: 2ame thiing a2 ye2terday.
TA: and the day before that.
TA: iis everything okay wiith you?
AA: yeah, im d0ing fine! y0u really d0nt need t0 w0rry s0 much...
TA: you 2ure?
TA: okay good.
TA: ii ju2t wanted two make 2ure.
AA: well, truth be t0ld...there is 0ne thing
TA: what ii2 it?
AA: vriska made tavr0s jump 0ff a cliff
AA: he cant walk anym0re
AA: ugh! im s0 mad at her, s0llux!
TA: that2 under2tandable.
TA: ii dont know him that well, but you two are pretty tiight, riight?
AA: i think i have her under c0ntr0l n0w th0ugh
AA: s0 d0nt w0rry
AA: everything's g0nna be fine!
TA: okay, that2 good two hear.
TA: iill 2top buggiing you now.
AA: heheh, 0kay
Aradia did eventually fall asleep. Upon waking, she noticed that she had left her computer on while she slept, and that someone had sent her a message. She got up, got dressed, and went to check it out.
arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling apocalypseArisen [AA]
AG: Nice trick! With the ghosts and all. Man, you got me pretty good.
AA: id rather n0t talk t0 y0u
AG: Fair enough!
AG: Just wanted to say I'm sorry, that's all.
AA: im n0t the 0ne y0u sh0uld ap0l0gize t0
AG: Yeah I know. I'll make it up to him some day. Don't worry!
AG: Anyway, hey guess what?
AG: I've got a message for you from your 8oyfriend.
AG: He's outside your hive right now!
AA: n0t falling f0r it
AG: Take a look.
AA: i d0nt see anything 0ut there
AG: Well okay, I'm just the messenger. If you want to risk missing him then suit yourself.
Deep down inside, Aradia was 99% sure that Vriska was lying. Still, she figured it couldn't hurt to check outside and make sure she wasn't missing anything.
She was wrong.
Arguably, Vriska had been telling the truth. Sollux was there, floating several feet above the ground...but why were his glasses off? For that matter, what was that yellow stuff around his mouth?
His eyes quite literally lit up, flashing red and blue. Aradia was suddenly filled with terror and dread. "Snap out of it!" she commanded.
When he completely failed to do so, it hit her. This wasn't truly Sollux--he was but a puppet, with Vriska pulling the strings. Aradia ran back inside her hive, locking the door behind her, and hid inside her recuperacoon, hoping it would provide some degree of protection. But as her hive crumbled and shook, and the air grew terribly hot, it dawned on her that there was no way that she'd make it out of this situation alive.
Aradia couldn't help but scream in pain as the sopor slime she was curled up in began to boil. She got out as fast as she could, but her whole lower body was covered in severe burns, and she found that she couldn't walk very far before the pain became too intense. Her screams transformed into weak, pitiful sobs as she collapsed to the floor in agony.
When a large piece of her roof crushed her chest, she stopped making any noise at all, but rust-red tears still streamed down her face. It hurt; God, it hurt.
Eventually, she was lucky enough to pass out. She never woke up.
At least, not in that body.
When Sollux came to, the first thing he saw was the smoldering wreckage of Aradia's hive. He instantly felt a horrible sinking feeling as he stepped closer. He knew exactly what had happened.
He didn't want to believe it, but he knew.
Sollux began sifting through the rubble. It was still hot, and he was fairly sure it was burning his hands, but he didn't care. His mind was firmly focused on retrieving Aradia's body. And he knew that was all he'd find--a body.
When he did find her, he just sat there and stared for a while, appalled at the damage his eye beams had done to her. Her clothes and hair were singed; her legs were horrifically scalded. Dark red blood dripped from her half-open mouth, but even more strikingly, lighter red tears covered her face--a face that had once been beautiful, but was now permanently twisted into an expression of sheer pain and fear.
He clutched her body to his chest and let his own tears flow.
He didn't snap out of it until some time later, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He whipped his head around and turned to face the source--none other than Vriska herself.
"You BITCH," Sollux hissed. "You...you..."
"Killed her? So what? She was just some annoying lowblood who cared too damn much." She paused. "Not unlike yourself."
It was all Sollux could do to keep himself from killing her right then and there. But no, he couldn't bring himself to do that. It felt almost as if some supernatural force was holding him back. Instead, he settled for ignoring her.
"What's the matter? Are you scaaaaaaaared, Sollux?"
"Do you have any idea how much I fucking DESPISE you? Just...just go away..."
"Fiiiiiiiine. Have fun snuggling up to your dead giiiiiiiirlfriend." With that, Vriska sauntered away, laughing hysterically.
Months (or rather, the Alternian equivalent thereof) passed. Sollux had grown more and more introverted, concentrating almost solely on his coding, only leaving his hivestem when it was absolutely necessary. Sure, he still talked to a few people on Trollian, but even his activity there was sporadic at best.
That is, until he got an IM from one apocalypseArisen.
apocalypseArisen [AA] began trolling twinArmageddons [TA]
AA: hell0 s0llux
TA: what kiind of 2iick joke ii2 thii2.
TA: pretendiing two be a dead giirl?
AA: s0llux, it's really me, i swear
AA: im a gh0st
TA: ii fiind that extremely hard two beliieve.
AA: its the truth
AA: please d0nt be scared s0llux
TA: why the fuck would ii be 2cared?
AA: y0u t0ld me that y0u didnt like gh0sts that much
AA: in c0nfidence
TA: ...holy fuck.
TA: oh god, you have no iidea how happy ii am.
AA: what d0es being happy feel like?
AA: i f0rg0t
TA: but...you 2eemed 2o happy before.
TA: how do you even forget 2omethiing liike that?
AA: i d0nt kn0w
AA: but im 0kay with it
AA: im 0kay with a l0t 0f things
TA: aradiia, youre actiing really weiird.
TA: 2top iit.
TA: god, ii cant do thii2.
TA: you were riight.
TA: iim kiind of 2cared riight now.
TA: iit2 not your fault.
TA: but ii cant talk two you.
TA: iim 2orry.
apocalypseArisen [AA] ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA]
Sollux immediately logged out of Trollian; he didn't want to talk to anyone right then. He needed to be alone.
This wasn't really her, wasn't it? No, it couldn't be. The Aradia he knew wasn't all spooky and emotionless. Quite the opposite, really. And yet...he hadn't told anyone else about his phobia of ghosts (why am I even scared of them?, he wondered) besides her. It was her, but at the same time, it wasn't. He hadn't just killed her.
He had broken her.
Over time, Sollux grew to accept this new version of Aradia. When she came to him with some bizarre code she had found in an ancient temple, he helped her translate it, and found it was a code for a game.
And thus, Sgrub was created, and Sollux found his life uprooted once again.
Nearly half a sweep after Aradia's death, he found himself speaking to her face to face again. Granted, it was her soul in a robot body, and they were about to fight a battle for the fate of the universe, but she could feel emotions again, and she was tangible and breathing and real, and that was good enough for Sollux.
The first thing she said to him when they met up again was simply, "I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry about? It's not like you ever did anything to hurt me. Not intentionally, anyway."
"But I'm about to. Sollux, I'm with Equius now."
"What the fuck?!"
"It's weird, I know. But he did help me out a lot, and...I don't even know. I still care about you, really, but..." She seemed to lose her train of thought. "Look, we don't even have time to talk about this right now. The Black King's coming. Are you ready?"
"As ready as one could expect given the circumstances," Sollux muttered.
"Okay. Let's go."
The Veil was such a dreary place. Then again, being trapped between two universes is a fairly dreary situation anyway.
Nobody was handling it all that well, least of all Aradia. In fact, she seemed to be having some sort of breakdown. Sollux could've sworn he heard her crying while he was trying to sleep one time, and so he went to assess the situation.
"Sollux...you're exactly who I was hoping to see right now."
"What's wrong? Were you crying?"
"Yeah. I can't take living here anymore. Everyone's going crazy...it's just too much."
"Don't be. You're one of the only semi-sane ones left. That's why I wanted to talk to you, because I knew you'd understand."
She moved her hand towards the back of her neck, under her hair. "Sollux, there's a note in your room. I want you to read it."
"What is it about?"
"Just an...explanation of sorts. But for now, goodbye. I love you."
She hit the button on the back of her neck and began shaking. Her eyes went dark, and Sollux suddenly realized exactly what she was doing.
He couldn't stop her from self-destructing.
Sollux found the note fairly quickly, while everyone else was busy wondering what the fuck had just happened. It was written in dark red ink, in her characteristic quirk.
"i d0nt kn0w where im headed. i just kn0w that its s0mewhere far away fr0m here.
"i d0nt kn0w if im g0ing t0 s0me kind 0f afterlife, 0r if ill just be s0me s0rt 0f wandering spirit again. all i kn0w is that its better than my current existence, whatever it turns 0ut t0 be.
"im s0 s0rry t0 have t0 d0 this t0 y0u. but trust me, its f0r the best.
"just remember: this is n0t y0ur fault.
"i left everything behind. mement0s and the like. i h0pe y0ull find s0me use f0r them.
Sollux spent the rest of the day (night? He didn't know anymore) in her room, sifting through her belongings. Old photographs, the occasional nut or bolt...and her time-traveling music boxes.
Maybe I can make things right.
He quickly found that he couldn't use them. It made sense--after all, she was the Maid of Time and he was the Mage of Doom, and really, what business would he have using such an object? Still, it broke his heart that he couldn't just go back, back to before she died, and fix everything.
He kept the photos, though. Something to remember her by.
When the human kids won their session, the trolls were granted access into the universe they had created so long ago. None of them had aged a day--they were still a group of awkward six-sweep-olds. But as they entered a universe where time flowed normally, they began aging just as they were supposed to.
The planet they ended up on was, for all intents and purposes, a carbon copy of Alternia, sans Mother Grub--they found other ways to repopulate their species, of course, even if they seemed a bit gross at first. Sollux found a good matesprit in Feferi, and the two of them eventually had grubs of their own, many sweeps later.
Still, he knew something was missing. In fact, he knew exactly what was missing. He had long since come to the realization that he would never see Aradia again, not unless he did something drastic.
One night, in a fit of depression, he did it.
Feferi found him almost immediately, yellow still gushing from the gunshot wound in his head. Sobbing, she took the piece of paper he still had clutched in his hand and read it.
When Sollux "awoke," so to speak, he found himself in a black room, the closest thing to a light source being the girl standing above him. A girl he knew very, very well.
She had grown, of course. She looked to be about Sollux's age now, just as she would have been had she not died. She embraced him eagerly.
"I missed you," she whispered.
Sollux looked straight into Aradia's eyes, her expression a peculiar mix of sorrow and abject joy. He knew precisely what she was thinking--You didn't have to do this for me.
Still, there was only one thing he could say.
"I missed you too."