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Cities in Dust (shit let's be hardboiled)

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If there’s anything the last month has taught you, it’s that trolls have a lot of fucking blood.

Terezi Pyrope has a lot of fucking blood.

You could have dealt with seeing less of it. It’s not that you’ve got a weak stomach. You’ve taken teeth-shattering hits to the face, your skin’s swallowed bullets before, plenty of them. It’s a little different though when...

>WHEN WHAT, STRIDER?

You get this feeling about decisions sometimes, like every outcome is a possibility waiting for you around the corner with a shank up the sleeve. It’s all just a matter of choosing the right corners. You gotta walk down ones where guys you can take are looming.

There’s another universe out there where Terezi Pyrope died

and

it was

your fault

........ str1d3r.

>THOTH SHE’S AWAKE

pyrope

str1d3r how... how long w4s 1 out?

>..... lie

not long

not long at all terezi its fine

oh.

for som3 r34son 1 thought th4t wh3n 1 wok3 up 1 would t3ll you wh4t h4pp3n3d to my 3y3s.

1 r34lly w4nt3d to t3ll you. 1 h4d 4 lot of th1ngs th4t 1 w4nt3d to s4y but

1 c4nt r3m3mb3r.

1 dont r3m3mb3r.

dont worry about it just get some rest

d4Ve, 1 dont r3m3mb3r 4 lot of th1ngs. 4m 1 aWak3?

yeah of course you are

i

[you’ve been waiting a while for her to wake up. of course she is]

4r3 you sur3? how do you know?

>STRIDER WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
>COMFORT YOUR PARTNER. COMFORT HER THIS MINUTE

look youre just confused because you lost a lot of blood

trolls h4v3 4 lot of blood d4v3.

yeah but im a real good shot pyrope

h3h3

im

fuck

terezi ÍЖ sØ≫∂¼

D4V3 dᄛй¶ 4⅝pᅀ7&ђ*(gizǼ

i know i just

- the thing is, he’s not angry.

You’re angry at yourself, but he’s not mad. He’s just worried. He’s looking at the two of you with both his eyes. It’s the first time you’ve ever seen both his eyes.

Terezi says nothing. Her skin still has a sickly pallor and she’s leaning on her cane with necessity. You’re constantly drawing back from supporting her, hands steadying her shoulders, in the small of her back, around her arm comfortingly. You’ve gotten a lot of sharp looks, the kind where she rolls her lips up, showing all her tiny, pointy teeth in obvious irritation. You wish she’d be a little more understanding: this is kind of the first time you’ve ever shot your partner in the chest.

(“BUT NOT TH3 F1RST T1M3 YOUV3 SHOT SOM3ON3 YOUR3 SL33P1NG W1TH? H4H4H4!”

“oh yeah pyrope youre a real riot”)

It’s just that she looks so small sitting beside you with her hands on her knees and her chin pointed down. Why isn’t she arguing?

Yeah, okay, that was the obvious. Terezi just nods quietly. So quietly. Holy crap, she is just accepting this what the fuck is going on?

NO, NO.

W3RE F1N3.

uh

>PYROPE COME ON WHAT’S UP?

[terezi says nothing. she is so still and so small and so sincerely reticent.

oh god you shot all the fight out of her.

no that’s stupid.]

>REALLY HOPE THAT YOU DID NOT SHOOT ALL THE FIGHT OUT OF HER

yeah were

were okay chief

She keeps her face turned from yours when you exit the office, shambling ahead of your determinedly. You catch the hint of a grin through four of her fingers.

>FONDLY REGARD THAT GRIN

[yeah okay you gotta admit you’ve grown pretty fond of that upturned smirk]

okay pyrope spill

STR1D3R, 1 4M NOT CURR3NTLY HOLD1NG 4NYTH1NG TH4T 1 COULD POSS1BLY SP1LL.

shit you know what i mean

NO 1 S1NC3R3LY DO NOT!

4R3 W3 T4LK1NG 1N TH3OR3T1C4LS H3R3? 1N M3T4PHOR?

C4N W3 PL34S3 US3 T4NG1BL3 CONC3PTS H3R3, D4V3?

oh my god come on

[she turns suddenly on one heel, her grin split as far across her face as possible as she pulls a WARRANT out from the depths of her jacket.]

D4V3, 4S USU4L YOU H4V3 4BSOLUT3LY NO 1M4G1N4T1ON.

1 T4K3 C4R3 OF TH1NGS! 1 H4V3 4LR34DY L1N3D UP FOR US 4 N3W C4S3!

oh yeah

Y3S!!

W3 4R3 GO1NG 4FT3R 4N 1NF4MOUS MOBST3R! 4 F34RSOM3 H31R TO 4 1NF4MOUS 3MP1R3! 4 JOB COMPL3T3LY 4ND UTT3RLY UNCONN3CT3D TO OUR PR3V1OUS 1NV3ST1G4T1ON!

right man i sure love when you talk in tongues girl

by tongues i mean sarcasm and irony

its great when everything you say is opposite and youre all cryptic and incomprehensible

hey let me try that whoops too late im already doing it

D4V3 DONT B3 OBTUS3 1 KNOW YOU LOV3 1RONY, 3SP3C14LLY MY 1RONY.

1T DO3S SC4ND4LOUS 4ND 1RR3S1ST4BL3 TH1NGS TO YOU.

oh yeah thats totally it

anyways you gonna tell me about this new case or are we playing guess who all night

NO 1M4G1N4T1ON 4ND NO FUN.

F11111N3.

D4V3, W3 43 GO1NG TO BR1NG 1N NON3 OTH3R TH4N.......

[she trails off.]

>STARE FLATLY

flawless dramatic pause pyrope

SHHH, YOUR3 RU1N1NG 1T. BUT TH4NK YOU!

[she turns the warrant around so that you can read the name on it.]

W3 4R3 B1NG1NG 1N TH3 4DOPT3D SON OF SP4D3S SL1CK!

>B|--| įΔ∂p$3d

-- #@%b-ut yo() n3*∏ 2 ^n⊙er5+--nd

what

i mean, he’s not a bad guy. you should go easy on him.

H3S 4 CR1M1N4L.

well, yeah. he is, ha ha. wow, you sure are observant ms. pyrope!

DO NOT S4SS M3 1N3XPL1C4BLY M4G1C HOM3L3SS HUM4N!

hey, hey, who’s sassing? i’m just offering a series of authoritative but friendly requests!

and the most important of these friendly requests is that you go easy on karkat, okay?

look how do you even know the asshole

come on, dave. i know everyone.

you and terezi. rose. karkat. jade

>WHAT

>HOW

what the f-+¢|

d@v--3 d0^+ %@ 1?--|e +hat

just be--$c7ze

but i mean, look this is important. can’t you just humour me?

after this, i won’t see you again.

okay why

because. i’m about to ₩--|k3 (...)Þ

but i just wanted you two -

- i mean if you see her again.

can you tell vriska goodbye for me?

and tell her that

i’m sorry?

HOW DO YOU KNOW VR1SK4??

what? ha ha ha.

who said i know her?

i’m just drinking my last toasts to absent friends.

you two should do the same.

ms. pyrope, you really should have kept that card.

>@R--\/æ @

>DOC SCRATCH’S PLACE

Felt Mansion, one of the most low-down, well polished, hoity toity, overpriced, impeccably clean, direly posh, swanky, swinging, pretentious pads in all of Newternia. It’s run by the mysterious mafia don, Doc Scratch - a guy so famously untouchable you could “disappear” just for whispering his name within ten feet of the precinct. The Doc’s into clean crime, though. Laundering and political interference. Cops don’t hate him and neither do the trolls. No, there’s only one man in Newternia who truly loathes Doc Scratch and that’s rival mobster, Spades Slick. Felt Mansion is the go-to club of rich carapaces and assholes who run for the Midnight Crew. According to your sources

(“STR1D3R, HOW DO YOU H4V3 SOURC3S ON TH3 M1DN1GHT CR3W?”

“babe its like you want to kill all the mystery in this relationship”)

this is where you have the best chance of finding KARKAT VANTAS.

The two of you stick out like sore thumbs. She’s a thumb with four nails through it. You’re a thumb stuck in boiling water for ten minutes till’ it’s hard (hoo hoo hee hee). To be fair, you are pretty damn snazzy sore thumbs - the only human and troll in the whole joint and you are dressed to the nines. The twelves. The thirteens.

Okay, well, she is at least.

>BE DISTRACTED BY YOUR PARTNER’S CHOICE IN FASHION

That dress does amazing things for her figure. By which you mean that it hangs loosely off her pointy shoulders like she’s a coat hanger and fails to create the illusion that she has any curves at all. Just all protractor limbs and collarbones like icepick heads tipped horizontally across her shoulders.

>FONDLY REGARD THOSE COLLARBONES

[You’ve grown...

very fond of those collarbones you gotta admit.]

>STRIDER FOCUS ON THE JOB AT HAND

Right, no time for hanky panky. It’s like since she managed to not die you’ve become legitimately attracted to her. It’s probably just an adrenaline thing. A panic thing. A guilt thing. It’ll wear off soon, but until it does you find yourself distracted by the arc of her chin, the curve of her elbow. You kissed her outside - on the corner of her mouth, careful not to smear her lipstick - because the way the full moons’ light pooled on her cheekbones was exquisite. You used the word exquisite in your internal monologue. Going back over your thought process is a special kind of agony and you really wish that you had suggested Terezi wear the dragon dress. Being with her dressed in civvies in a nice place for once might have not been so disarming had she been wearing that merciful monstrosity.

>TAKE A SEAT AND ACT NATURAL

You do so. She sidles up to you a little and starts reading the drink menu. Her body language is flirtatious but her face is all business, her JUST1C3 S3NS1NG FROWN in full bloom as she mechanically leafs through the martini selection, sniffing so delicately like a shark in shallow water. You lean back and try to relax, scanning the dim room from behind your shades. All of a sudden her back goes rigid and she raises her nose slightly. It wrinkles cutely as she snorts at something.

1TS H1M.

where

B3H1ND YOU. 4CT N4TUR4L!

Terezi’s idea of acting natural is to swing herself into your lap like you are fucking Satan Claws on Twelfth Perigree Eve and she’s about to read you her murder list with her fucking lips on yours. She places her hands on either one of your cheeks and squishes your mouth into a pucker.

so of all the things right now is

the time is not one of them

STR1D3R W3 MUST R3M41N 1NCONSP1CUOUS.

NO ON3 W4NTS TO W4TCH 4 COUPL3 SUCK F4C3, 3SP3C14LLY 1F TH3YR3 TRY1NG TO GO UNNOT1C3D 4S W3LL!

NOW K1SS M3 L1K3 YOU M34N 1T!

. . .

dont i always

She looks at you a little funny.

>KISS HER

[you kiss her, but you don’t do it like you mean it. you do it like you both have to pay attention to any shit that’s about to go down. you’re well practiced at this, though, and nothing’s looked more suave or romantic in the history of trolls and humans kissing. one arm loops around her tiny waist and the other clutches at the small of her back. she tangles one of her hands in your hair just like she does when-]

H3S GO1NG 1NTO ON3 OF TH3 B4CK ROOMS?

yeah thats weird

>KISS HER SOME MORE

1 TH1NK 1TS TH3 K3G ROOM.

no one stopping him then

NOP3.

okay

>THE KISSING DISTACTION IS JUST A RUSE

well give him a few minutes then

let him feel nice and snug

JUST 4 F3W THOUGH. NOT TOO M4NY.

course not

>GIVE HIM A FEW MINUTES

[yeah, just.

just a few.]

>CORNER VANTAS IN THE KEG ROOM

[you do this. you slam the door shut behind you and loom intimidatingly. pyrope and strider, baddest team on the street.]

[he doesn’t look impressed or even all that surprised to see you.]

YOU TWO LOOK RIDICULOUS.

>REALIZE THAT YOUR FACE IS COVERED IN YOUR PARTNER’S LIPSTICK

>BE MORTIFIED

>NO ONE MUST EVER KNOW

[no, seriously bro. fraternization can get you suspended.

not her though.

fucking trolls.]

K4RK4T V4NT4S. YOU 4R3 UND3R 4RR3ST.

ARREST? OH SHIT YOU GOTTA BE KIDDING ME.

1 N3V3R K1D 4BOUT JUST1C3, V4NT4S. W3 4R3 H3R3 TO 4RR3ST YOU.

I THOUGHT WE ALREADY DID THIS SONG AND DANCE WEEKS AGO.

Y3S 4ND W3 4R3 H3R3 TO DO 1T 4G41N. L3G4LLY.

[vantas, if possible, scowls harder, but he’s got a little fight in him yet. his face isn’t so messed up this time, but he’s still hardly what you’d call handsome. his features are kind of juvenile, all fourteen year old kid on an oddly chiseled jawline. his eyes are wide and anxious like he’s got marionette wires hooked in the lids and the bags under them are fucking grave ditches. he’s runty and mean looking, just a hint feral in a way most trolls only show when you’ve got them cornered.

karkat vantas looks like a man forever cornered.]

look we arent actually looking to take you down

neither of us give a shit about your blood colour we just wanna ask you some questions

again

preferably with clear answers this time bro

STR1D3R!

cmon terezi its the truth

S1GN

WH3N W1LL YOU L34RN TH4T SOM3T1M3S TH3 TRUTH H4S NOTH1NG TO DO W1TH TH3 PURSU1T OF JUST1C3!

yeah that right there is the entire problem with the troll justice system though

WOW COULD YOU TWO BE MORE OBVIOUS?

what WH4T!?

FUCK, NEVERMIND.

IF YOU WANT TO GO FILL PAILS TOGETHER ON YOUR OFF TIME KNOCK YOURSELVES OUT. AGAINST A HARD SURFACE UNTIL BLOOD COMES OUT. I JUST DON’T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT IT.

TH4T 1S NOT -

vantas i dont think youre taking this situation very seriously

OF COURSE I’M NOT. YOU TWO GOT YOURSELVES TAKEN OFF YOUR OWN CASE SOMEHOW. SUCH BLIND -

H3Y!

dude be sensitive here

in case you hadnt noticed the ladys eyes dont work

NOT TH4T TH3R3S 4NYTH1NG WRONG W1TH TH4T.

nope not a thing

SEE, HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO TAKE YOU TWO SERIOUSLY? I’M THE SON OF SPADES SLICK. YOU TWO ARE THE PRECINCT’S BITTERLY UNFUNNY COMEDIC RELIEF SQUAD.

OH I AM QUAKING IN MY SHOES. WATCH ME QUAKE.

[vantas quakes mockingly.]

[terezi’s lip twitches dangerously and razor quick she grabs a length of lead piping from a nearby workbench and slams it into vantas’ chest. he’s pinned against the wall with a guttural grunt and you just whistle lowly in appreciation.

that’s your partner right there.

that’s your girl tz]

L1ST3N TO M3, V4NT4S. L1ST3N TO M3 4ND 1 W1LL T3LL YOU WHO 1 4M.

1 4M T3R3Z1 PYROP3, YOUNG3ST TROLL TO 3V3R M4K3 TH3 R4NK OF L3G1SL4C3R4TOR. BORN UND3R TH3 S1GN OF TH3 B4L4NC3R, CHOS3N BY 4 NOBL3 DR4GON LUSUS TO C4RRY ON TH3 PROUD L3G4CY OF TH3 N3OPHYT3 R3DGL4R3.

1 4M TH3 L4W, K4RK4T V4NT4S, 4ND WH1L3 1TS TRU3 TH4T MY P4RTN3R 4ND 1 DONT C4R3 4BOUT YOUR D3L1C1OUS MUT4NT BLOOD, 1 KNOW SOM3 P3OPL3 WHO DO, 4ND B3FOR3 1 OV3RROD3 TH3M... TH3Y W3R3 H4NDL1NG YOUR C4S3.

F-FUCK, IS THIS BLACKMAIL?

Y3S.

1T 1S.

YOU CAN’T DO THAT!

sure we can

besides this is ever better than blackmail

its double reverse blackmail

like fucking double lukemia

it cancels itself out and in the end were actually helping you here dude

so try to be a little more reasonable

COM3 W1TH US 4ND W3 W1LL M4K3 SUR3 NO ON3 4T TH3 ST4T1ON LOOKS 4T YOUR BLOOD.

W3 W1LL PUT YOU 1N 4 S3CUR3 ROOM W1TH C4R4P4C3 GU4RDS SYMP4TH3T1C TO YOUR UPBR1NG1NG.

and if youre a good boy we might even let you go

1F NOT,W3 W1LL 4RR3ST YOU R1GHT H3R3, R1GHT NOW NOT ON GROUNDS OF YOUR 1NVOLV3M3NT W1TH CR1M1N4L 4CT1V1TY...

. . . BUT B3C4US3 OF YOUR BLOOD COLOUR.

[vantas finally looks concerned.

well, a little beyond concerned, actually. he looks kind of like he’s weighing his options. he’s chewing his lip, gently though because he’s a guy for whom drawing a little blood could be a death sentence. terezi leans hard on the pipe and you can tell she’s got it edged right in a delicate place where the tips of his ribs meet.

after a few minutes, he lowers his hands and says.]

OKAY.

HOW SECURE A ROOM ARE YOU PROMISING HERE?

the most secure

WELL. IN THAT CASE...

DON’T THINK THIS MEANS I’M SCARED OF YOU, THOUGH!

I GOT A LITTLE PROBLEM OF MINE OWN THAT I NEED HELP WITH.

YOU PROMISE NOT TO EVISCERATE MY BACK, I PROMISE TO SCRATCH YOURS.

I AM PATRONIZINGLY CONSENTING TO THIS ARREST. GOT IT?

OH, Y3S. CL34R 4S GL4SS, V4NT4S.

[terezi’s smiling as she reaches into her tiny purse to retrieve her handcuffs. but something’s wrong. her muscles go slack and her face is gripped with pain. a moment later, she is convulsing, wracked with wet coughs. the handcuffs clatter to the floor and sh-* %z=ough^4

you ?\«éher h$nz she &:---;

karkat is clearly disgus$~//--t3d but-]

== %SÖ >T WO?*)D B3 B3Z--+ 1F YOU JUST T4LK3ED!

>LET PARTNER HANDLE THE INTERROGATION

[sure. you’re just here to look pretty]

>LEAN AGAINS THE WALL AND LOOK PRETTY

[more like HARDBOILED, but never let it be said that you are not versatile.]

LOOK, I AGREED TO COOPERATE DIDN’T I? DON’T OVERTAX YOUR THINK PAN, OFFICER.

THIS IS YOUR GAME. I’LL TALK IF YOU ASK ME THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

COME ON, GOT ANY SUSPICIONS YOU DESPERATELY NEED ME TO CONFIRM?

1N TH4T C4S3, Y3S. 4CTU4LLY.

SOM3TH1NG 1 H4V3 SUSP3CT3D S1NC3 W3 F1RST M3T.

YOU KNOW TH3 K1LL3R P3RSON4LLY, DONT YOU?

MOR3 TH4N TH4T, 1 TH1NK TH4T YOU KN3W TH3 K1LL3R B3FOR3 H3 B3G4N K1LL1NG.

[vantas.

says.

nothing.]

1T WOULD 3XPL41N 3V3RYTH1NG, BUT 3SP3C14LLY YOUR S3NS3 OF P3RSON4L R3SPONS1B1L1TY.

YEAH OKAY, FINE. YOU FIGURED IT OUT. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE HALFWAY COMPETENT AT YOUR CHOSEN PROFESSION, CLEVERLY PROVING MY PREVIOUS ASSESSMENT OF YOUR INTELLECT AND CAPABILITY AT THE VERY LEAST HASTY.

T3LL US 4BOUT TH4T.

FUCK.

LOOK.

IT’S NOT EXACTLY EASY FOR ME TO TALK ABOUT IT, OKAY?

JEGUS.

E-ESPECIALLY NOT AFTER THAT LAST MURDER...

WH4T 4BOUT 1T?

IT WAS A MESSAGE DIRECTLY TO ME, THAT’S WHAT THE FUCK ABOUT IT.

OH GOD, I NEVER THOUGHT THAT HE’D ACTUALLY....

4CTU4LLY WH4T?

LOOK, SOLLUX WAS MY FUCKING FRIEND OKAY.

MY BEST FUCKING FRIEND.

[terezi straightens, visibly shocked.]

BEFORE I SPADES ADOPTED ME I WAS IN A TROLL ORPHANAGE. ONE FOR LOWBLOODS. I MET SOLLUX THERE AND OUR FRIEND ARADIA. SHE...

[with a thin hiss, terezi slams her palms on the table. hard.

yeah, you’re a little confused too. this story sounds mighty familiar.]

4R3 YOU M4K1NG FUN OF ME?

MAKING FUN OF YOU? PYROPE, I AM BARING MY GODDAMN SOUL AND TEARS RIGHT HERE AND YOU ACCUSE ME OF MAKING FUN? THAT PSYCHOPATH TORE MY BEST FRIEND INTO TWO PIECES AND THEN SENT ME A LETTER DARING ME TO CHASE HIM. WHY THE FUCK WOULD I BE MAKING FUN OF YOU!?

1 KNOW TH4T YOU H4V3 STUD13D US, V4NT4S!

YOU KNOW P3RF3CTLY W3LL TH4T SOLLUX C4PTOR W4S 4 POL1C3 T3CHN1C14N. 4ND TH4T H3 4ND 1 GR3W UP 4T TH3 S4M3 ORPH4N4G3.

YOU’RE CRAZY. SOLLUX WAS A FREELANCER. HE WORKED FOR THE MIDNIGHT CREW AND HE WAS MY FRIEND!

[the next few seconds are a little weird. they stare at each other, heaving a little and then recognition flickers across vantas’ surprisingly soft features. he whispers-]

terezi?

. . . k4rk4t?

terezi i %$--xooked for ()=\P#

i know i know i

>$+@RTZ A&41N?

>FROM THE TOP

MOR3 TH4N TH4T, 1 TH1NK TH4T YOU KN3W TH3 K1LL3R B3FOR3 H3 B3G4N K1LL1NG.

[vantas.

says.

nothing.]

1T WOULD 3XPL41N 3V3RYTH1NG, BUT 3SP3C14LLY YOUR S3NS3 OF P3RSON4L R3SPONS1B1L1TY.

YEAH OKAY, FINE. YOU FIGURED IT OUT. CONGRATULATIONS, YOU ARE HALFWAY COMPETENT AT YOUR CHOSEN PROFESSION, CLEVERLY PROVING MY PREVIOUS ASSESSMENT OF YOUR INTELLECT AND CAPABILITY AT THE VERY LEAST HASTY.

T3LL US 4BOUT TH4T.

FUCK.

LOOK.

IT’S NOT EXACTLY EASY FOR ME TO TALK ABOUT IT, OKAY?

JEGUS.

BUT I WILL. JUST FOR YOU. BECAUSE YOU ASKED SO FUCKING NICELY.

UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM, I WASN’T ABLE TO GO TO AN ORPHANAGE. TOO DANGEROUS. EVERYTHING WAS TOO FUCKING DANGEROUS. NEVER HAD A LUSUS, COULD NEVER BE ADOPTED BY A BLOOD CASTE BROOD MATE. I HAD NO BLOOD CASTE BROOD MATES. I DON’T EVEN REMEMBER WHERE I CAME FROM, JUST THAT I WAS ALWAYS FUCKING RUNNING.

THAT’S HOW I MET HIM.

I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT WAS A LITTLE STRANGE THAT SOMEONE WITH FUCKING INDIGO BLOOD, CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? INDIGO BLOOD!?

I ALWAYS THOUGHT IT WAS STRANGE THAT HE’D BE ON THE STREET TOO, ETCHING OUT A PATHETIC FUCKING LIVING WITH TRASH LIKE ME. LIVING ON FUCKING SCRAPS AND REFUSE THAT THE HIGHBLOODS AND THE CARAPACES WERE GENEROUS ENOUGH TO LEAVE US. BUT BEGGARS CAN’T BE CHOOSERS SO I HUNG ON TO HIM. HE WAS A BIG KID, AND STRONG. ALSO, HE WAS STUPID. OR I GUESS I THOUGHT HE WAS. IF THERE’S ONE THING MY FATHER TAUGHT ME LATER ON IT’S THAT YOU GOTTA KEEP IMBECILES WITH UNIQUE SKILLS REAL CLOSE, REAL TIGHT, REAL CHUMMY.

SPADES WOULD HAVE BEEN WRONG ABOUT GAMZEE MAKARA.

SEE, THE THING ABOUT GAMZEE.

THE THING ABOUT FUCKING GAMZEE -

- IS THAT HE HAD A SOPOR PROBLEM. WE USED TO PULL OFF BRILLIANT JOBS. PICK POCKETING, PETTY THEFT FROM STREET VENDORS. HIS ARMS WERE LONG AND MY MIND WAS SHARP LIKE EIGHT THOUSAND STEAK KNIVES. I WAS A GODDAMNED GRUB PRODIGY AT THAT KIND OF STUFF BACK IN THE DAY. BUT HE ALWAYS SPENT HIS SHARE ON SOPOR AND INSTEAD OF SLEEPING IN THE SHIT LIKE A REASONABLE TROLL HE WOULD JUST SCARF IT DOWN LIKE HONEY.

I NEVER COMPLAINED, THOUGH, BECAUSE WHEN HE WASN’T ON THE SOPOR HE GOT... WEIRD.

REAL WEIRD.

W31RD HOW?

WEIRD IDEAS WEIRD. HE WAS REALLY INTO THAT CLOWN CULT BULLSHIT. THE TWIN MESSIAHS, DELIVERANCE AND RAINBOWS AND ALL THAT.

HE USED TO TAKE MY CHIN IN HIS HANDS AND LEAN IN REAL CLOSE AND WITH ALL HIS MENTALLY DAMAGED SINCERITY HE’D SAY TO ME: “bRo ThE mOtHeRfUcKiNg EnD iS nIgH!” AND THEN HE’D LAUGH AND I’D JUST FEEL REALLY SICK DEEP IN SOME PART OF MY DIGESTION SACK THAT I DID NOT KNOW EXISTED.

H3 W4NT3D TO B3 4 SUBJUGGUL4TOR?

YEAH WELL, HE NEVER SAID IT IN SO MANY WORDS. BUT ONE DAY HE STOPPED TAKING THE SOPOR. JUST WENT COLD TURKEY. HAD SHAKES IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY AND LAUGHED ALL NIGHT. STOPPED LISTENING TO ME SO MUCH.

HE KEPT TELLING ME THAT THINGS WERE ALL WRONG, “bro”. THINGS WERE ALL WRONG AND HE WAS GOING TO “MOTHERFUCKING fix it.”

[vantas is shaking like a leaf, arms wrapped around himself tightly as he imitates his old friend’s fluctuating vocal patterns.]

FUCK, FUCK. I CAN STILL HEAR HIM.

I HEAR HIM EVERY NIGHT, WHISPERING IN MY FUCKING EAR.

I FORGOT ABOUT HIM FOR SO LONG, BUT AS SOON AS NITRAM WENT I KNEW IT WAS HIM.

HOW?

BECAUSE WHEN WE WERE KIDS... BEFORE SPADES ADOPTED ME... HE TOLD ME THE LIST. HE MADE A LIST OF ALL THE PEOPLE WHO’D “motherfucking FUCKED IT ALL UP bro”. I NEVER THOUGHT HE’D DO IT.

BUT HE GAVE ME THE LIST.

then you can help us find him

. . . SORT OF. YEAH.

“sort of”

DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU MEAN BY “HELP”.

V4NT4S, CL4R1FY.

. . . I’M THE LAST VICTIM.

HE’S COMING FOR ME. SOON.

SO YEAH, IF THAT HELPS YOU, FUCKING HAVE AT IT.

>FUCK

[terezi flashes you a near-accurately aimed glance over her shoulder.

because she’s thinking the same thing you are.

terribly

unfortunately

and in a way that makes your stomach turn with guilt...

it does help.

it helps a whole fucking lot.]