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To him, she is perfect.

Everything about Rose Lalonde is precisely as it should be. She wears her nobility outwardly, displaying that gorgeous violet font for the world to see. She carries herself with the proper grace of one with her place on the hemospectrum, and uses the language befitting her position. There are times when he secretly daydreams about her speaking to him, commanding him with those beautiful words she always employs. Of course, he can never share these daydreams. They are too improper.

For as perfect as Rose Lalonde seems, Equius cannot simply ignore that she is human. An inferior, despite her noble grace and demeanor. While he can watch her and pretend that her skin is grey and her hair is black, it is impossible to ignore the truth, especially when her candy red blood slips through her skin. It could be as simple as an accidental prick from her knitting needles, or just a stray scratch from an imp, but each time he sees her mutant blood (even if it is perfectly normal for her species) he can’t help but draw back from the screen in near shock as his stomach churns uncomfortably.

It isn’t fair, he thinks. She should have been born a troll of noble heritage on Alternia. Then she could live up to her true potential rather than being trapped behind that eerie peach skin of hers. Yet life does not work out favorably, he finds, and frequently those who have noble blood do not deserve it, and vice versa. So it goes.

He reaches for another towel.

Chapter Text

They meet in a dream bubble.

Aradia recognizes Feferi immediately – it’s hard not to. Even in death, the heir to the throne has a presence that cannot be looked over easily. She still has the golden circlet resting on her forehead, displaying her symbol proudly, and the rest of her jewelry – necklaces, bracelets, anklets – is a clear status symbol that Aradia knows she could have never afforded back on her home planet.

Feferi grins at Aradia, seemingly glad for the company, but it has an unsettling effect. Her eyes are blank, white, and the hole in her chest is present in her current state, still oozing that rare, royal blood.

Aradia knows what it’s like to be dead, but she doesn’t know how to proceed with this meeting. Even in her newly revitalized state – a god! – her blood still runs as low as it can. She had never thought much of the difference in class between herself and Feferi until this moment, when there is nobody to fill the expansive gap between them.

Feferi is the one to close the physical gap between them, and she steps close – almost too close – to Aradia, and clasps her hands. “It’s absolutely wonderful to see you!” she exclaims, her teeth bared in an absolutely blinding smile. Aradia is taken aback by how alive the princess seems, even with those same blank eyes she once had.

Aradia’s heart clenches, and she realizes just how much she envies this princess, who even in death feels more vibrant than she does as a god. She is overtaken by the urge to cling to this dead princess, hope that maybe she can learn to close this gap she feels between them, in status, in health, in everything. For the briefest of moments, she sees the hemospectrum as a circle, and Feferi is just a step away from her.

The bubble fades, and she finds herself utterly alone once more.

Chapter Text

It’s her fault. She promised she’d protect him. She should have known something bad would happen, leaving him along with Vriska, and yet she’d let herself get distracted at a critical moment.

She failed him.

Now Aradia sits with Tavros in his hive, trying to help him walk even when they both know it’s a waste of time. But she has to try. She has to push him. Trolls with disabilities don’t live long on Alternia, and letting him down is already too much for her - Aradia doesn’t want to be responsible for the death of her partner.

“It’s, uh, really alright. You don’t… need to be helping me, really.”

“But I want to help.” Aradia strains against his weight as she speaks. “We just need to get you on your feet again. That’s all.” She’s holding him up as best she can, but Tavros is bigger than she is, and his horns have a tendency to get in the way. Predictably, her strength soon gives out, and they both fall to the ground unceremoniously.

This is all it takes. Aradia can already feel her ugly maroon tears starting to build up, and she presses her palms to her eyes to try and stop them from falling. She can hear Tavros shifting beside her, but she can’t bring herself to look at him.

“Uh, Aradia?” he asks, his voice shaking, and she feels his hand reaching out for hers. She grabs it more tightly than she should, leaving only one hand to cover her face. “Are you, er, alright?” How can she possibly say no when he’s the one who will never walk again? She sits for a moment, not answering, simply holding onto his hand as though it’s her lifeline.

“I’m okay,” she says finally, willing herself to accept it. Her plot for revenge begins to spin in her mind with the voices of the dead. “I’m okay.”

Chapter Text

"...And his name is Lemonsnout. I don't suggest you trust him, Jade. He always smells of deceit and lies."

Jade watches curiously as Terezi licks the snout of her plush dragon almost lovingly, dampening its worn, yellow fur. As with many of Terezi's toys, Jade cannot help but notice that there has been some considerable wear and tear on poor Lemonsprout, specifically in the region of the neck. She does her best to not ponder why this might be, even though she already feels she knows the reason.

"Why do you give your toys such mean personalities?" Jade asks as she focuses on the two Squiddles in her hands at the moment. Their tentacles are currently locked together, and she is attempting to separate them as a means to keep from looking at Lemonsnout. Meanwhile, Terezi, who is treating Jade's knees as a backrest, inclines her head slightly backwards so she can get a better sniff of the human girl.

"I don't give them personalities," the troll explains matter-of-factly. "They're completely alive! Lemonsnout just happens to be a terrible criminal, who needs to be sentenced by a legislacerator!"

"You don't really believe that."

"Yeah, you're right." Terezi lets her head nod forward again, her shark's grin on her face. "But it's more fun this way. What good are toys that don't challenge you?"

Jade twists her Squiddles in her hands, biting her lower lip. "They could just be nice to have," she says, placing the Tanglebuddies on top of Terezi's head, nestling them carefully between the troll's horns. "You know, to make you feel good. Like Squiddles…” Jade tries to maintain enthusiastic about her toys, but she can already feel her eyes beginning to droop. She is currently surrounded by soft plush toys and she and Terezi compares notes on their best friends – it’s hard to stay awake when her surroundings are simply so soft.

Terezi grabs the Squiddles from her head and predictably licks them to get a better look at them. "Squiddles, eh?" she asks. "I don't mean you any offense Jade, but these simply do not live up to my scalemates. They lack the special nuance of smells. There's no depth to them! They just get all tangled together and smile. There's no fun in that. Where's the mystery? Where's the intrigue?"

As Terezi waits for a response, she turns the locked Squiddles over in her hands, secretly marveling at just how well they seem to fit together. It doesn't take her long to realize that Jade is being uncharacteristically quiet, however, so Terezi tilts her head back again to get a better sniff of the human girl she is resting against. She notes the vibrant green of Jade's eyes are gone, hidden behind pale, peach skin, and her ears pick up the sort of even breathing that indicates sleep. Terezi grins her shark's grin again and twists herself around so that she is facing Jade, her elbows resting on top of the girls knees.

Jade's head is nodding forward, bringing her face dangerously close to Terezi's. The troll can feel the gentle flutter of Jade's breath on her cheeks, and curiously, she sticks her tongue out. She tastes peaches and grins all the wider.

"You taste delicious, Jade Harley," Terezi whispers as she feels her own eyelids begin to droop over her unseeing eyes. "Good night."

Chapter Text

When Aradia is dead, she is invisible. Intangible. Inconsequential. She haunts her desolated hive for a little bit before deciding she simply doesn’t care, and she moves on.

Moves on to Sollux’s hive, the weapon in her murder. She knows it wasn’t his fault, but figures ghosts are supposed to haunt their murderers. She tries it for a day, but he just mopes and ignores her, and she decides it doesn’t feel right. She doesn’t care that he was the one to do the deed. She doesn’t care about anything. She decides to go to the troll that’s next.

Next, Vriska, the one truly responsible for her death. But Vriska has paid her dues, lost an eye and an arm, and when Aradia finds her, she is unconscious and on the brink of death. Aradia wonders what it would be like to see somebody die as a ghost, but determines she doesn’t care enough to find out. She never does. Vriska’s hive doesn’t feel right either, so her search for a haunt continues.

Continues to Terezi, who wouldn’t have been able to see her even if she were truly there. Aradia is surprised, though not shocked, to see that her former rival’s eyes have been burned out. It comes as almost a comfort, though of course nothing can truly comfort the dead. When Terezi stares through Aradia, the ghost can pretend that she would be seen if only for Terezi’s eyesight.

She doesn’t actually pretend. But she supposes it makes her feel slightly more real.

Aradia does not feel for her friend because she does not feel, but she helps. When Terezi struggles to find her recuperacoon, Aradia will be the gentle push to guide her in the right direction. Whenever Terezi comes dangerously close to falling out of the tree she calls home, Aradia is there to hold her back from the ledge. She whispers empty comfort, knowing it can’t be heard, but at least the thought is in the air.

Aradia stays here for a while. She loses track of the time, but helping Terezi, even if it goes unnoticed, gives her a purpose. And a purpose isn’t enough to make her feel whole again, but it’s a start.

Yet Aradia isn’t alone. When Terezi sleeps, she talks to something. At first, Aradia takes this as night terrors, and gently caresses Terezi’s dead eyes with her dead fingers, willing her to sleep well. But it soon becomes apparent that Terezi is learning to get by on her own. She smells and licks her way along her hive, and soon doesn’t need help from a ghost at all.

One day, she sniffs the air and proclaims, “Something smells weird. Is somebody there?”

This is the day that Aradia finally leaves.

Chapter Text

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] --
TT: I have a question.
CG: OH WELL LOOK AT WHICH IDIOTIC HUMAN DECIDED TO BOTHER ME TODAY.
CG: YES HELLO TO YOU TOO WHAT A LOVELY FUCKING DAY.
CG: TO WHAT DO I OWE THE IMMENSE DISPLEASURE OF YOU TALKING TO ME?
CG: AND WHO SAID YOU WERE ALLOWED TO CONTACT ME IN THE FIRST PLACE?
CG: I’M THE ONE DOING THE TROLLING.
CG: YOU DON’T GET TO JUST TALK TO ME WHENEVER THE FUCK YOU FEEL LIKE IT.

TT: My apologies.
TT: However, that does not answer my question.
TT: Will you allow me to ask it, despite contacting you without permission?

CG: YEAH, WHATEVER.
CG: JUST MAKE IT QUICK.
CG: I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN DEAL WITH FLIGHTY BROADS AND THEIR HORSESHIT.

TT: It can be as quick as you like, I suppose.
CG: JUST ASK IT ALREADY
TT: Why are you so adamant in avoiding me?
CG: WHAT
TT: Do you deny that you’ve been avoiding me?
CG: WHAT NO.
CG: I MEAN YES.
CG: WHY DO YOU EVEN CARE?

TT: It’s simply a matter of curiosity, I suppose. John has mentioned speaking to you on several occasions, and he seems to find you rather amusing. Jade has also mentioned you trolling her, and even Strider told me of a conversation you’ve had.
TT: Kanaya has also frequently told me of your group’s leader, which I take it must be you. I do not understand why I am the only human yet to be trolled by you.
TT: Unless you are to do it in my future, but as I understand it, I am about to black out before too long, so this is becoming increasingly unlikely.

CG: UGH
CG: YOU ARE JUST AS OBNOXIOUS AS I THOUGHT YOU’D BE.
CG: SEE, THIS IS THE EXACT REASON I LEFT TROLLING YOU TO KANAYA.
CG: I DON’T WANT TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOUR PSYCHOBABBLE BULLSHIT.

TT: You’re afraid that I will psychoanalyze you?
TT: Why? Is there something you’re afraid of showing to a psychotherapist?
TT: Or do you simply have a fear of being dissected?

CG: DID I ASK FOR MORE QUESTIONS?
CG: I DON’T THINK SO.

TT: My apologies.
TT: I didn’t mean to hit a nerve.
TT: Though, from what I gathered from my conversations with the others, it does not seem this is an incredibly difficult task when it comes to speaking with you.

CG: SEE? THIS IS WHY I DIDN’T BOTHER TALKING TO YOU.
CG: MAKING ALL OF THESE DUMBASS ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ME WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING.

TT: To be fair, you never gave me the chance to know you.
CG: WELL IF YOU WERE JUST GOING TO SPOUT OFF ALL OF THIS CAGEY BULLSHIT WHY SHOULD I EVER GIVE YOU THE CHANCE?
TT: But how would you know I was about to spout off cagey bullshit if you never spoke to me in person?
CG: GODDAMMIT, I ONLY SAID ONE QUESTION.
TT: I apologize again.
TT: However, you still haven’t satisfyingly answered my initial inquiry.

CG: FINE. IF I ANSWER YOUR STUPID QUESTION, WILL YOU JUST GO AND FUCK OFF ALREADY?
TT: I believe that’s a reasonable request.
CG: YOU LOOKED REALLY INTIMIDATING. YOU’RE THE SEER OF WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU’RE THE SEER OF AND THAT MEANS YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE REALLY FUCKING PERCEPTIVE OR WHATEVER.
CG: YEAH IT’S A STUPID REASON LET’S GO LAUGH AT KARKAT NOW.
CG: HAHAHAHA.
CG: ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

TT: I’m not laughing.
TT: Am I truly that intimidating? That is not the type of impression I try to give off.
TT: Well-read, perhaps, but not intimidating.
TT: And I’m sorry for yet another question.

CG: WHATEVER.
CG: I GUESS YOU AREN’T REALLY. I JUST ASSUMED.
CG: SO I GUESS I COULD HYPOTHETICALLY START TROLLING YOU EARLIER IN YOUR TIMELINE.
CG: NOW THAT I KNOW.

TT: But if you were to do that, then I surely would have already experienced that conversation.
TT: And I’m afraid you won’t have time to troll me in the future.
TT: So it appears as though this is to be our only conversation.
TT: Alas, I have other business to attend to at the moment, so I cannot afford to extend it much farther. Kanaya is messaging me, and I hate to keep her waiting.
TT: It was a pleasure to finally talk to you, Karkat.
TT: It’s a shame we likely won’t speak again.

CG: YEAH I GUESS SO.
CG: WHATEVER. GOODBYE ROSE.
CG: GOOD LUCK FUCKING UP YOUR SESSION.

TT: Goodbye.
-- tentacleTherapist [TT] ceased pestering carcinoGeneticist [CG] --

Karkat frowns and leans back in his chair, glowering at the screen as though it’s done something wrong. He feels completely embarrassed. He had been avoiding that conversation for ages for a very good reason, but now that it’s over… he finds himself wishing he hadn’t.

He opens up other sections of Rose’s timeline, to find a place to talk to her, but each time he types out a greeting – “HEY LALONDE TURNS OUT YOU WEREN’T AS SHITTY AS I THOUGHT” – he immediately erases it before sending. Each time he does this, he becomes increasingly more frustrated – of course she was right. He won’t work up the nerve to pester her before that point. She’s intelligent. Unpredictable. And, yes, a bit intimidating. Odd as it is, he wants another shot. He doesn’t know why. Why should he care about the Rose human?

Yet despite this, he opens up her timeline after it’s gone dark. Nobody knows why this is yet, but he supposes it’s worth a shot. He begins typing, coming up with numerous awkward openings which get erased before he can send them into oblivion. Finally, he just settles on the simplest message he can conceive of.

“<3”

Miraculously, it seems to go through without issue, but in the end, it doesn’t matter.

He will never get a response.

Chapter Text

Feferi knows she should feel bad for Jade, knowing the human’s dreamself has passed on, but in actuality, she is quite thrilled. She has spent quite a lot of time dealing with the horrorterrors to make dream bubbles, and she is proud of the progress that has been made. Plus, now that she has been killed, she can enjoy the bubbles all the time to her heart’s content, without worrying what might happen while she sleeps. She wants to share this marvel with her favorite human, when they can meet in person.

She waits patiently for Jade to fall asleep and seeks the girl out. She remembers being there for Jade’s first encounter with the bubbles, when she was still alive, and Feferi hopes to be there for her second, third, fourth, and so on. It only seems right for the two Witches to share this world together.

Feferi finds Jade by reenacting a conversation they’ve already had. For a moment, she nearly forgets where she is, getting too caught up in their shared memory, but it never takes long for the illusion to unravel. Jade calls her “exotic,” and everything is going well until Feferi lets slip that she’s dead. She didn’t think it would have such an effect on Jade, but apparently it’s enough to shock the girl into waking up again. She vanishes, and Feferi is left to marvel at her empty room until it gives way to a memory of Alternia.

She sighs – what a shame that she had so short a time to talk to Jade! – but knows she will have another opportunity. After all, surely the human girl cannot stay awake forever. When she returns again, Feferi knows she will have the opportunity to enlighten her about the dream bubbles, and how wonderful they and the horrorterrors are. And within her dream of the past, she dreams of the future she will have, exploring with her favorite human in the furthest reaches of the outer ring.

All she needs is the chance to open Harley’s eyes. Show her what she’s missing.

And when this happens, Feferi is quite sure Jade will never wish to wake again.

Chapter Text

Sollux can no longer see, but that doesn’t mean that his world is without color. Though he doesn’t smell or lick like Terezi, he can feel his way around. He doesn’t quite need to touch things to see them; so long as they are close, he can sense them. Sollux suspects this ability might be some remnant of his telekinetic powers, though he has no real way to back this up.

The brighter the color, the more clearly Sollux can feel it, but it means little in the lab, full of drab grey. Many times he cannot tell his friends apart from the walls until he reaches out and feels the fabric of their clothing or the coarse wires of their hair. They never blame him for these accidental gropes because they understand he’s still learning, but Sollux hates it. Not only is it embarrassing, but it throws him off his guard and makes him feel truly blind. Even in a room full of his friends, when Sollux can sense everything there, he can still feel utterly alone.

With one exception.

Sollux never needed to be told that Kanaya glowed as a rainbow drinker. Her pure white was the first thing he could “see” after his vision was stolen from him, and she is easily the brightest thing in the labs. Because of this, he finds himself naturally attracted to her, clinging to the only thing he can properly see anymore.

Kanaya does not mind that Sollux is following her around, and indeed aids him when she can, pausing before she turns corners and generally staying near him whenever she can. It’s an unspoken agreement – Sollux needs to be helped, and after all that’s happened, Kanaya needs somebody to help.

Slowly, they begin to draw closer and closer to one another, much like a moth slowly gravitating towards a flame, tempting fate by trying to touch the light. Of course, in the end, the moth usually burns.

But when he finally musters the courage to reach out for her hand, Sollux simply feels the bright light he always has, accompanied by the warm feeling of Kanaya’s skin against his. She smiles, tightening her grip, an unspoken promise that she will never leave him when he needs her.

And such is the story of how the rainbow drinker taught the prophet of doom to see.

Chapter Text

The plan works, and the kids meet the trolls, hidden away in their meteor. It’s like a scene from one of John’s terrible movies – everybody gets to meet their best alien friends, and they hug and yell at each other accordingly. Sloppy makeout sessions are narrowly avoided and the entire computer room fills up with that suffocating human emotion called friendship.

Honestly, Dave finds it a little bit overwhelming. It’s not that he isn’t happy to finally be meeting some of these people in person, but, well. Even with their diminished numbers (on both sides) it’s a bit too crowded for him. So he grants Jade and John their obligatory hugs, fist “bunps” with Terezi (who is just as creepy in person as he imagined her being) and then backs out of the small crowd as quickly as he can without being obvious.

Dave is a little bit surprised to see that he’s not the only one off in the sidelines, however – when he scans the rest of the computer room, he catches sight of a glowing, female troll, sitting in a computer chair looking a bit morose. He tells himself to ignore her, but goddammit, her glowing is just far too distracting. Despite everything Dave’s coolkid instincts tell him, he sits down next to her.

“So I hear you’re kind of a shitty vampire,” he says, trying to start up a casual conversation. The troll – he’s fairly certain her name is Kanaya – looks up at him, her eyes obscured by cracked shades that don’t quite suit her.

“I assume Jade must have mentioned my condition to you,” she says, using a clipped, terse tone. Dave sinks into his chair with a shrug. “I assume she also mentioned that I am not the same type of ‘vampire’ as your mythos, correct?”

Dave shrugs again. “Nah, it’s totally cool if you want to be a shining vampire. Shit doesn’t get more ironic than that.”

“Ironic?”

“Oh, right. You were the same troll who didn’t know how to use sarcasm.” Dave pauses, doing his best to avoid thinking of the conversation during which he learned this information. His coping mechanism entails avoidance of difficult subjects, and this is getting too close for comfort. “Well, I guess it’s alright if you aren’t doing it to be ironic, though it does make you a bit lame.”

“I am attempting to be more multi-cultural,” Kanaya says softly, though she says it in such a strange tone of voice that it takes Dave a moment to understand what her intent is.

“Was that sarcastic?” he asks, sincerely hoping that it was. Though he is known for being sort of a douche most of the time, Dave can tell that this troll is probably upset. After all, as far as he knows, the human she had the most contact with was Rose – the absence which would have been the 900 pound gorilla in the room if half the trolls weren’t missing as well. He may not want to be the one comforting her, but he doesn’t want to make things worse.

Kanaya doesn’t quite smile, but her lips quirk in such a manner that Dave thinks she might be getting close. “It was meant to be. Was it a good usage of your human sarcasm?”

“Yeah. You’re starting to get that shit down.” Dave isn’t quite sure why he’s being supportive of this troll girl right now when he was so quick to avoid the others, but he doesn’t spend much time to ponder it. “Lucky for you, you’ve got the master of irony here right now, so I can be like ironic Mr. Miyagi to your vampiric weak kid.”

“Are you making obscure human references? I do not understand what you are trying to insinuate,” Kanaya says, and she stares at him. Though Dave has a hard time judging her expression through her shades, he can’t help but think that she might be just a little bemused.

“Sparklepire, what I’m saying is that the future between you and me is so bright, I’m already wearing shades.”

Chapter Text

It’s over.

Karkat doesn’t even need the Prince of Hope to know that things are hopeless. Aradia blew up long ago. Eridan got Feferi, then Kanaya got Eridan. Vriska got Tavros, then flew off and got herself killed by Jack. The rest have been Gamzee’s doing. First Equius, then Nepeta. It seemed like Kanaya would have a chance, but even as a rainbow drinker she couldn’t live through being torn in two with her own weapon. Terezi was next, and her teal blood still hasn’t fully dried on Gamzee’s subjugglator clubs. Sollux stopped breathing only minutes ago, and his body is still oozing mustard blood.

“So it looks like it’s down to just you and me, best friend,” Gamzee says in nearly a whisper as he approaches Karkat, who is backed up against a wall. He’s clutching onto his sickle for all it’s worth, even though he knows it will do little to defend him. “JUST MOTHERFUCKIN’ YOU AND ME,” Gamzee shouts, repeating himself. “So what do you have to say for yourself?”

Karkat instinctively tries to back away, but all he manages to do is press himself flatter against the wall, bringing him nowhere fast. He considers saying something – maybe to make his last words something to be proud of. But when he opens his mouth, he knows it’s a moot point. He’s absolutely speechless with terror and grief; his throat has closed off accordingly, and even if he could speak, he’s too frantic to come up with anything meaningful. Instead, he stares his imminent death in the eyes, figuring that’s the last leaderly thing he can really do.

“THAT’S NOT A MOTHERFUCKIN' ANSWER.” Gamzee is shouting again, and Karkat can’t help but flinch. “You know I did this for you.” Quiet again; Karkat feels his stomach churn. “I SAVED YOU FOR MOTHERFUCKIN’ LAST.” Shouting, but Karkat wills himself to stay strong

He wants to close his eyes and hope it’s over quickly, but how can he when the others have gone so bravely before him? It feels like almost an insult to all of their memories. All of them, even the former Gamzee, who went through the game sharing pies with imps before he was replaced with this monstrosity. If he had just been a better leader…

“I’m so sorry,” Karkat chokes out. Famous last words.

“What the motherfuck are you sorry about?” Gamzee asks, his voice deceptively smooth as he crouches down to be on Karkat’s level. “EVERYTHING WENT ACCORDING TO THE MOTHERFUCKIN’ PLAN. It’s just the two of us, best friend. NO MOTHERFUCKER WILL MOTHERFUCKIN’ INTERFERE.” Gamzee pins Karkat’s neck to the wall with his club; it’s not quite hard enough to suffocate him, but it’s enough to keep him pinned. He doesn’t even try to struggle.

“We’ve got all the motherfuckin’ time in the world.”

Chapter Text

As Sollux is to understand it, the new world they’ve created is beautiful. The sun isn’t nearly as bright as the one on Alternia, so they can stand being out during the day if they choose to do so, and the native plants and animals are bright, colorful, and quite delicious. There is sweeping scenery wherever they go, and it seems like every natural phenomenon manages to capture the eye in a completely new and astonishing way.

Of course, he can’t see a single bit of it.

Sollux remains positive, however. He is happy to be sightless if it means he no longer hears the voices of the soon-to-be dead in his head, and there is no Bec Noir threatening them on this planet. He is safe, his friends are safe, and he doesn’t need to see to enjoy life. Even if he can’t sniff and lick things like Terezi, he can get by without much help. There’s no need for sight. Yet whenever they encounter some new sight, he can hear their gasps of awe, and he does feel the slightest bit jealous.

Instead of moping about it like he might have done in the past, however, Sollux chooses to be more proactive and try to glean at least some of that joy for himself, so he begins to ask for people to describe things to him. This is when he discovers that five accounts of the exact same scene can be radically different.

Terezi, of course, describes everything in tastes and smells based on the array of colors she “sees.” A deep blue sky becomes “a blueberry pudding” dotted with clouds that taste like “soft, gummy marshmallows,” and a golden field of wheat is “a pool of sweet delicious honey.”

Kanaya goes for rambling detail, describing the approximate number of every type of item, as well as its potential purpose. “There are approximately twice as many trees whose leaves have changed than those that remain their usual green, which I suppose must mean that autumn is on its way,” she might say and then, remembering that Sollux wants a picture painted for him, she would add, “It’s similar to a polka-dot pattern, with a gold background and green dots. It might be considered quite fashionable, in fact…”

Aradia grants him the historical value of everything they see, giving ages for everything. “That mountain range was created many thousands of years ago, before we got here, and it will last for several more thousand years. Also, the angle of the sun shows that it is currently the afternoon, as it’s closer to the west than the east.”

Vriska simply gives a list of what’s in front of them, trying to brush him off as quickly as possible. Sollux has the distinct feeling that she doesn’t want to help the blind troll who can’t be bothered to see for himself. “There’s a rock, a bunch of trees, some grass, and a couple of mountains.” In hindsight, he’s not really even sure why he asked her in the first place.

Sollux finds it’s Karkat, however, who paints the best pictures with his words. It’s funny, in a way, given that Karkat was really only known for shouting orders at people before. But there’s something about the way he views the world that Sollux finds captivating. Perhaps it stems from the fact that Karkat usually assumed that the world was out to get him, but when he describes a static scene, it suddenly jumps to life. Everything gains a personality. “Alright, so there’s a big forest of all these prissy little trees, who are all grouped together, except for one that’s just standing out by itself in the middle of this field, kind of flipping the rest of them off.”

It may not be the best narrative prose that Sollux has ever come across, but it’s effective. Even without sight, he can clearly see the scenery the others gape at, and imagining it all through Karkat’s eyes, it becomes oddly beautiful.

It quickly becomes a habit that Sollux and Karkat sit outside in the evenings, and Karkat will describe the sunset in whatever words he feels best describe it that day. He gives a blow by blow account, explaining how the orange has conquered the blue, and the purples are beginning to overcome the oranges, and the mountain peaks reach up to try to stop the battle, though they become darker and less descript as time goes on.

“And there are the stars, punching tiny little holes in the sky.”

Sollux feels Karkat shift next to him, probably to uselessly point out the stars that he can’t see, and he tilts his head up anyways, pretending. There is a pronounced moment of silence, and Sollux’s view of the scene begins to fade with it. He taps Karkat on what he perceives to be the other troll’s shoulder, a faint grin crossing his face. “Hey, KK. What do the stars look like?”

Sollux can feel Karkat looking at him, and tries to guess the facial expression before the words come. “What do you mean, what do the stars look like?” he asks. “They’re just little points of light, dancing around up there and laughing at all of us because we’re stuck on this stupid little planet and they aren’t.”

“I don’t mean like that,” Sollux explains, smirking as he rolls his non-existent eyes. “You know, what kind of shapes they make.”

Karkat lets out a low sound between a hum and a growl as he tries to figure out how he wishes to describe the stars. “Well, there’s this one group,” he starts, and Sollux feels him reach out to grab his hand. He’s shocked for a moment until he feels Karkat begin to trace out the stars on the back of his hand, serving as an invisible canvas. Karkat starts by dotting the stars, then tracing over the lines that he perceives, explaining it as he goes. “It kind of looks like two trolls, if you really squint at it. Two kind of brain-dead trolls, skipping and holding hands.” Karkat finishes his tracing and just lets his hand rest on top of Sollux’s. “One is kind of dragging his feet, though.”

“Is that skipping one you, KK?” Sollux asks, allowing a grin to creep across his face. “Sounds like it. I can just imagine you skipping off through the stars.”

Karkat lets out a growl which Sollux thinks is supposed to sound threatening, but he can’t be bothered to appear scared. He simply continues to wait for Karkat to give him a verbal answer.

He finally gets it, but not with an irritated sigh to prepare the statement. “Well, fine. Only if the other idiot is you.”

Sollux continues to grin, his view of the stars clearer than ever. “I think I’m OK with that.”

Chapter Text

Rose is grimdark even in death. She reaches the afterlife, reliving moments in her life speaking in the tongues of the horrorterrors. On the one hand, in this constructed afterlife, being so close to the ones who made it has its perks. She rarely forgets where she is while acting out a memory, allowing her to fully take advantage of her surroundings. She’s learned the structure of her new existence and how to manipulate it to best suit her needs.

However, she has also bumped against the problem that nobody understands her. She does not even mean it in the sense that she is misunderstood in the typical fashion of a teenager, though Rose supposes that there might be an aspect of this as well. No, even in the afterlife, there is a significant language barrier, and even when she does happen upon somebody she knows, they can only guess what she’s trying to say. Nobody understands. Nobody tries.

Not Kanaya.

“This explains the blackout.”

Not Dave.

“Rose? What are you doing here?”

“Jack killed me. Where is John?”

“Goddammit. Alpha Dave really fucked this one up.”

Not even her own mother.

“You seem to be doing well, Mother.”

“Oh, there you are Rose, darling. I’m sorry to see you here.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help you. I should have saved you before he arrived.”

“Oh, I see you’ve been having fun with your horrorterror friends.”

“I missed you so much.”

“Well, whatever you wish, sweetie. As it happens, I have an engagement with Mr. Egbert, so I suppose I will just leave you to speak with them.”

“Please don’t leave me.”

“I’m sure you don’t want your silly old mother hanging around, after all.”

Rose finds her afterlife to be very unenjoyable, despite her grimdark knowledge. She would liken it to hell if she had ever put particular merit in the concept. The only company she has is the horrorterrors, who tend to ignore her now that she’s dead and is no longer a particular asset to their plans. She will shout at them sometimes when a memory leaves her alone, begging for attention, to be released from this curse, but they will simply whisper back the horrorterror equivalent of “shut up.” She never listens to them, however. Rose does not believe that they deserve peace and quiet.

Yet after much begging and pleading, they throw her a bone. They tell her that there is another who might understand her. A princess and witch from the other session, long since killed by one of her own. Rose issues a quick thank you and quickly begins her search.

It takes a while. Though there is rarely a lack of people in any given bubble, many of them tend to be an off-shoot of Dave or the robotic Maid of Time, both of whom give her a wide berth. Seeking out a particular subject is difficult, especially considering that Rose has never met this supposed witch before. But it’s the only thing she has to keep her going. She dives through unfamiliar memories, trying to drive out clues from trolls she’s never spoken to before, even though they don’t understand her. They’re rarely any help.

Rose often relies on the grimdark curse upon her to eek out the furthest corners of the afterlife, figuring that even if she is bitter towards her fate, she may as well put it to use. Even with this advantage, it takes her ages, even in this realm where time does not truly function in an understandable manner.

When the Seer finds the Witch, she is at the edge of the afterlife, whispering to the horrorterrors in such a soothing voice that Rose might have expected her to be speaking to a cat or small child. She looks up immediately and smiles, practically floating to close the distance between them.

“Oh, hello there! I don’t think I’ve spoken you before! My name is Feferi.”

“My name is Rose Lalonde.”

“Of course I know who you are, silly! I watched you and your friends from Trollian, remember?”

“You can understand me?”

“Of course I can!”

For once, Rose Lalonde simply doesn’t have the words. She stares at the girl in front of her – so foreign and exotic, yet still so familiar in her contact with these ominous demi-gods. Rose doesn’t know how she can stand to smile, yet here she is. Finally.

As if by instinct, Rose reaches out for Feferi, burying her face into the other girl’s shoulder, trying not to cry. It’s embarrassing, so unlike her, but she doesn’t care, because she’s finally found somebody to talk to, somebody to cling to.

And when Feferi wraps her arms around her, Rose finally allows the tears to fall.

Chapter Text

It is a simple matter to keep a spoor-addled clown pre-occupied. Ridiculously simple, in fact, and Rose does not understand why she seems to be the only one to care to try.

Though she knows that Gamzee is a potential threat – hence the constant guard around him – Rose does not believe that shunning and ignoring him because of it will make them any safer. In fact, psychologically speaking, she is inclined to believe just the opposite, though she doesn’t feel the need to go trying to prove her hypothesis.

Either way, she finds no point in keeping him bored.

So on the two hour shifts she’s given to watch over the troll, she finds some way to keep him entertained. At first she tried telling stories, but her language had the tendency to lull him to sleep, and though he was easier to watch when slumbering, this left her just as bored as he had been. She swiftly moved onto other means.

The best technique, she finds, is to cast simple, flashy spells. The more colorful the better. She finds it a bit ridiculous that her wands – specially crafted to be deadly tools capable of destroying game constructs – have been reduced to such a frivolous use, but it’s effective.

“Motherfuckin’ miracles,” Gamzee will say in that odd, wavering tone of voice he uses only when he’s safe. “That’s what this shit is. Motherfuckin’ miracles.” And then he’ll reach out to touch it, usually brushing the illusion away. Rose doesn’t mind, however, and she makes a new one immediately for him to marvel over. It becomes a personal challenge to make the colorful lights he shows him more spectacular each time, and she successfully quells both of their boredom.

However, much like a child, Gamzee eventually figures out that the lights come from Rose. The first time he learns this, Rose thinks he’s going to be disappointed that his miracle is actually quite explainable after all. But instead, the troll turns and looks her straight in the eyes, a wondrous expression on his face just as though he were still staring at lights.

“You,” he says, his voice hardly above a whisper. Rose wonders for a moment if he’s lost it again, but he still remains harmless. “You’re a motherfuckin’ miracle, sis.” And as with all of his miracles, he reaches out to touch her before she goes away.

She lets him.

Chapter Text

There are many things that can be said about Vriska Serket, and most of them are entirely negative. She’s a manipulative bitch, she’s dangerous, she’s completely insane, she’s a backstabbing blue-blood, she’s a menace to society.

Yet it can’t be said that she’s entirely uninteresting.

Karkat is embarrassed to admit it, but he’s been observing Vriska’s behavior for quite some time now, through the lens of acting as though he doesn’t give a shit. He considers himself as sort of a private expert on all things Serket. She reminds him of a stereotypical blackrom lead that might appear in one of his favorite movies: malicious, competitive, and extremely egotistical. In fact, at first glance, she is almost surprisingly stereotypical, and this is what first made him notice her. How could somebody so much like a movie stereotype actually exist in real life?

So he made it a point to study her, like a scientist of romantic comedies, trying to figure out what made her tick. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting to find. Maybe a kismesis he could actually commit to hating, but that isn’t what happens. He found almost immediately that her nasty attitude was just a cover-up. She wasn’t actually the ideal kismesis; she just pretended to be. Further study seemed to imply that she was unable to form a stable blackrom relationship because of this very cover up. She wasn’t real blackrom material, even if she seemed to be – if anything, she was almost pitiable.

Karkat was excited the day he first figured that out, but he found himself with nobody to share the news with. Nobody would understand or appreciate the breakthrough, or if they did they would just think him weird for being so excited. Who cared about Vriska, right? She was just some crazy bitch. Why would anybody devote time to picking her brain apart? Thus, Karkat was forced to keep his new understanding to himself, using it as a lens to further analyze the piece of work that was Vriska Serket.

So it makes sense that when he finally has a chance to unload all of this information he’s acquired to her face, he leaps at the opportunity. He doesn’t know what he hopes to gain from her. Maybe he just wants to impress her with how much he understands her.

CG: BUT SEE, YOU'RE TOO HEAVY ON THE HATE SIDE, OR AT LEAST YOU PRETEND TO BE WHICH IS MAYBE WORSE.

She scoffs at him (of course she does, he thinks, she has to maintain her ridiculous front of constant hatred) but Karkat continues. He frames his idea of how she’s messed up in the head, uncapable of true pity or true hate. His fingers fly across his keyboard at a rapid pace as he finally gets the chance to release these secret thoughts from his head. He awaits a response too eagerly. He doesn’t know what to expect from Vriska – an angry denial? Acceptance, with a thank you? A confession of redrom feelings, maybe, though he immediately feels ashamed for so much as thinking it. She’s supposed to be a study in quadrant emotions, not a potential matesprit. (Even if he doesn’t entirely mind the way she sometimes flirts around.)

What he actually gets is a bit of a disappointment.

AG: Oh, yeah.
AG: I started tuning you out.
AG: Are you done?

Of course Karkat’s not done. He’s spent at least a sweep studying Vriska, and he has many more notes to go through. But he remembers he’s in the midst of a game and he needs her right now, and even if he could talk about her for hours, they need to move on. There will be time for this later.

He hopes.

Meanwhile, Vriska sits at her computer, covered in the blood of her recently decapitated lusus, but this isn’t even her main trouble at the moment. She gives the screen a cold look, as though it might somehow be watching her for signs of weakness. Even though her conversation with Karkat has continued, she can’t keep herself from scrolling back up to check his words again. Ruling her out for any kind of romance, practically calling her emotionally crippled.

It’s dumb, completely ridiculous, and she doesn’t even know why Karkat spent so much time trying to explain it to her. She doesn’t care if he thinks she’s incapable of filling quadrants. It’s none of his business, and what does he know anyways? She’s not a character from one of his stupid movies. She can’t just be deconstructed like that. It’s just flat out dumb.

And yet, as she sets up her connection to Tavros, she can’t help but wonder just why it hurts so much.

Chapter Text

Their first conversation starts like this:

“Hi there! My name is John. I don’t think I’ve talked to you before, have I?”

“Uh, no. I don’t think so. My name is, er, Tavros.”

“Oh, I think Vriska’s mentioned you before.”

“Oh. Uh. Has she?”

It ends something like this:

“Oh, yeah! I was a Prospit dreamer, too. Well, I never spent much time on Prospit, actually, since I woke up when it got destroyed. And then I died and became my dream self. But I guess I’m still a Prospit dreamer at heart!”

“Oh, uh. It’s a shame you couldn’t get to see Prospit when it wasn’t so, you know. Destroyed.”

“Yeah. What was it like? For you guys, at least.”

“Um, it was pretty nice! I really enjoyed flying around. I could almost pretend I was, you know, Pupa Pan.” And Tavros looks down at his legs, useless as they are, and tries to keep a straight face.

“Well, I can make you fly!”

“Wait, what?”

When Tavros first hears those words, he is worried that perhaps John is going to throw him off of a cliff, much like Vriska had long ago. But even if John has been talking to Vriska, she has not rubbed off on him quite that much – instead, when they’re perched on the edge of a cliff, John carefully lifts Tavros out of his chair and holds on tightly. Then they fall together.

The scream that builds up in Tavros’s throat shifts to laughter as the wind builds up beneath them, sending them soaring. The breeze hits him straight in the face, rushing through his hair, but he doesn’t care. This is wonderful. He can hear John laughing above him as they weave in and out between the clouds and glide through the brilliant blue sky. Tavros looks down and he can see birds fluttering beneath them, chirping happily because the world is simply so beautiful.

And Tavros grins wider, because he is flying again.

The thought crosses his mind that this isn’t quite like flying on Prospit. On Prospit he could feel his legs, and the golden glow of the buildings enveloped him in warmth. He could control his destiny and propel himself in the air by his own means. He could fly around his friends and they could fly after him, and none of the games they played ever ended poorly.

Yet this way of flying is beautiful in its own right. There is none of the commotion of flying among a thriving city, but with John right above him, he doesn’t feel alone. He may not be able to control his own actions, but the Heir of Breath is better at maneuvering the air currents than he’d ever been. They do flips and dives that Tavros would have been too cowardly to attempt on his own, but when they’re controlled by a god, everything is exhilarating.

Perhaps it isn’t as good as Prospit, but Tavros is willing to accept than nothing ever will be. And this: flying through the air with a set of sturdy arms wrapped across his chest.

This, he thinks, is just perfect.

Chapter Text

You’re the one who goes to him, to the Land of Heat and Clockwork. It’s the logical choice, you both agree, because the gates on his planet will lead to a planet that will never exist, whereas yours lead straight to him. All the same, you have the feeling you would have gone to him regardless of the effort on your part. You can no longer stand to look at the game on your screen, showing you John’s now eternally empty home.

Dave is standing by the gate when you arrive, arms crossed, shades obscuring his eyes. Even after you land on his roof, he doesn’t move, still as a statue, and stares. You stare back, waiting for something to give.

“Hey, Lalonde,” he drawls.

“Hello, Strider,” you reply.

His shoulders sag, and you take a few steps forward to close the gap. Dave is the first human you’ve seen in hours, since your mother vanished. The only human you’ve seen since two of your closest friends signed out of pesterchum forever.

When you’re finally standing close enough to touch him, you reach out and grab the sleeve of his suit. When he doesn’t stop you, you risk leaning your head forward to rest on his shoulder. You can feel him tense, but he doesn’t push you away. You have the feeling he needs this contact as much as you do.

You don’t cry and neither does he, but neither of you move for a good long while.

-------

There is no more touching for a while, but you and Rose stay together.

It doesn’t take you long to discover your title – Knight of Time. You both immediately know what it means. You can go back and stop things from turning out for the worse. You can stop the troll from tricking John, he can bring Jade in, and then you can continue to protect both of them.

“I know what you’re thinking,” she says as she knits. She does a lot of knitting when the two of you aren’t slaying imps, clicking her bloodied needles back and forth. You never see her finish any of her projects.

“Do you? I didn’t know you were a psychic. That was more J-” You stop before you say her name, but the clicking of needles halts. Silence.

“It’s not psychic.” The clicking resumes at full speed once again. “But it’s written all over your face, even with those ridiculous shades you’re wearing. And not yet.”

You purposefully pull your shades down so she can see you roll your eyes. “You haven’t even said what I’m not supposed to be doing. I mean, just because you’re good at reading brains doesn’t mean I am.”

She raises her eyebrows. She knows you know exactly what she’s talking about. “Not yet,” she repeats. “The more we learn, the more we- The more you can help them when you go back.”

You push your shades back up and get to work on another shitty comic. You know nobody reads it anymore, but if you keep drawing, you can keep up the illusion that maybe your readers are still alive.

“Right.”

-------

After a bit of alchemizing, you and Dave both come up with a means of transportation to planet hop, allowing you to bypass the gates that will never work on Dave’s planet. You both make a stop by your Land, but it’s only long enough to ascertain that the imps have essentially destroyed your room. You find you don’t care. It doesn’t truly feel like home to you any more.

You captchalogue a few items that may be useful, then you and Dave continue to the Land of Wind and Shade. Neither of you know why you come back here. You know he’s not going to be here. But you have to check.

You ascend side-by-side to the seventh gate, unsure of what you’ll find. The gate leaves to a dank cave, deep underground, and there lays the denizen, asleep. There’s a moment of hope until you see the stain of red and the trace of green suit and rocket pack. A young salamander hangs by the remains, blowing frantic bubbles that nobody heeds.

You feel your breath catch in your throat, and you reach out blindly for Dave’s hand, but he’s already reached out to grab yours. He squeezes your hand tightly, and even now, you can’t stop yourself from wondering just who it is he’s attempting to comfort.

You leave Typheus to his snoring.

-------

After the Land of Wind and Shade, you and Rose return to her Land, and begin going through the quests. You stay together despite all logic. Even if it would be quicker to split up and work separately, you don’t want to let her go. Not after seeing what was left of John. You don’t want to let that happen again.

Yet your progress is achingly slow. Rose’s world is home to a lot of puzzles, many of which take days to figure out. You both sleep and plan together on Derse, and she speaks to the horrorterrors for hints. You avoid them, but try to appreciate their help nonetheless.

You and Rose become slightly more intimate as the days pass, but not in the adult sense of the word. You simply allow more physical contact between one another. You’ll brush your hand against hers, she’ll smooth back your hair, you’ll occasionally help with her knitting, she’ll place a hand on your shoulder as she looks over your comics and suggest ways to make them more ironic. It’s achingly simple. You haven’t kissed, but you wonder if you would have, had the situation been different.

Still, you’re getting nervous. You know this can’t last. You will have to go back and you can’t bring her with you, and she’ll be left here. The more attached she is, the harder it will be on her, and there’s no denying that you’re beginning to rely on her as well. The longer you stay, the harder it will be to leave. But you need to leave. You need to save John and Jade, even if you lose Rose. Both of you know that.

Your comics become less shitty as you get distracted. You forget to include the jpeg artifacts on one. You’re slipping, and you know the reason why.

To cope, you decide to fight Rose’s denizen. Alone.

You don’t know why you think this is a good idea. In fact, you don’t think it’s a good idea. It turns out to be a very Bad Idea. Even though your level is much higher than John’s was when he made the same stupid mistake, you are no match for a denizen. You get thrown around so viciously you can’t even make note of your health bar – everything just hurts. You see red, but not in the sense that you’re in a fit of rage. More in the sense that your blood is pouring into the water. You’re sure you’re about to die. About to let everybody down.

You see a flash of light and you’re under the sense that you’re being pulled away, even though you can feel yourself slipping. Is this what death is like? You hear a voice – a desperate voice – yelling at you. Telling you how unfair it is for you to leave. How you’re not allowed to die. How you’re the only person left.

You think it might be Rose. But no, that doesn’t make sense. Rose never yells.

You wake to the irritated clicking of needles.

-------

After Dave recovers, he announces he’s going back to the Land of Heat and Clockwork. You know the end is coming. He doesn’t invite you, saying you still have work to do here. You suppose he’s correct, but you wish he wasn’t.

A week goes by, and you keep in touch, but it isn’t the same. Rather than sharing your victories, your stories are reduced to mere gloating. He tells you how he stole his denizen’s hammer, but the words are empty over pesterlog. There’s no more contact. Whenever you feel anxious, you can’t reach out and know he’ll be there. If you want to see his comics, you need to ask for the file. It’s lonely.

You prepare yourself for the day he finally leaves, knowing that the last person you care about in your world is about to vanish. You suppose there is the chance your mother may still be alive, but after weeks of no contact, you sincerely doubt it. It’s just you and Dave. The last two people in the world.

You finally receive the message you’ve been dreading.

TG: im going back

It’s odd, but you actually feel yourself relax, knowing the day has finally come. That everything you have spent the past few months doing is about to unwind… and if you’re lucky, it just won’t happen over again. At least most of it.

Dave tells you to go to sleep, so that’s what you do. You hold some hopes that it will work. That maybe you’ll go back and become your past self in full, and that he can come back, and you can keep what you had here with the bonus of your two best friends’ lives.

But even as you fade away, you know it’s not to be.

-------

You are still getting used to having wings. Hovering is one thing, but actually soaring through the air is something you still struggle with sometimes. Maybe it’s just the idea of it. Air is John’s thing, not yours. Not even if you are part bird now.

When you leave Alpha Dave, you say you’re off to find Bro. That’s true, but you decide to make one stop first.

You arrive on the Land of Light and Rain, and it feels nostalgic, even though you’ve never been to quite this version of it before. As you scan the horizon, you see entire islands uprooted, the consorts scrambling around in terror. That’s where you find her.

Rose Lalonde is wearing new clothing and she has a different headset, but she has the same, self-confident grin across her face, even if her eyes are colder. You consider going down to see her again, to ask if there’s any remnant of the girl you knew. Your Rose. But her needles click together shortly before she decimates another temple, and the sound reverberates in your ears much too loudly.

It’s not the right tempo.

You clumsily return to the sky and you don’t look back. You figure it’s time to disappear as well.

Chapter Text

arsenicCatnip [AC] began trolling tentacleTherapist [TT]

AC:  :33 < *ac carefurlly approaches the human rose*
TT: I take it this another troll?
TT: Should I prepare myself for another lecture detailing how poorly my friends and I have screwed up?

AC:  :33 < *oh no! says ac*
AC:  :33 < i wanted to talk to you because I saw your sprite was a cat like my lusus
AC:  :33 < i thought we might have something in common!

TT: I see.
AC:  :33 < *ac purrs and bats at the bottom of the rose humans purretty dress*
TT: The Rose Human thanks the troll for the compliment, though she does find the use of “Rose Human” to be rather condescending.
AC:  :33 < *ac is very sorry for being rude and will stop calling rose the rose human* :((
TT: The Rose Human thanks her for this consideration.
TT: Though she is somewhat perplexed by AC’s alien terminology.

AC:  :33 < *ac is sorry to purrplex and rubs against roses leg in apology* :((
AC:  :33 < *but she would be happy to fill rose in on lusii if she would like*

TT: Rose supposes that she would not object to hearing about these “lusii,” whatever they might be.
AC:  :33 < *ac grins and says that they are caretakers for trolls*
AC:  :33 < sort of like your human guardians i guess

TT: “You said your lusus was a cat, correct?” Rose inquires.
AC:  :33 < yes she was!
AC:  :33 < though she’s gone now… :((
AC:  :33 < *ac says*

TT: I’m sorry to hear that.
AC:  :33 < no its ok! i miss pounce de leon, but at least the game let me talk to her
AC:  :33 < kind of like you are getting to talk to your sprite though i guess he was not your guardian?

TT: He wasn’t. Jaspers was simply a pet.
TT: And shall I assume we've dropped the roleplaying now?

AC:  :33 < oh I guess so
AC:  :33 < most of my furiends think its annoying

TT: Well, I will admit to having delved into the art of online roleplaying myself, so I suppose that I did not mind it nearly as much as some of your companions.
TT: However, it does facilitate conversation to not have to consistently speak in third person.

AC:  :33 < well i guess so
AC:  :33 < oh, well what is jaspurrs like now that he can talk?

TT: Mostly he seems content to try fishing. He also meows and purrs a lot.
TT: I am under the impression that the game information has muddled his thoughts up somewhat. He does not seem to be sure of what he is saying all of the time.

AC:  :33 < oh, that’s a shame :((
TT: It is nice to be able to see him again, however.
TT: He’s a good cat.

AC:  :33 < he sounds like he is a good cat
AC:  :33 < say, do you mind if i talk to him?
AC:  :33 < just to say hello

TT: Shall I then presume that our entire conversation was simply a ruse to get to my cat?
AC:  :33 < oh no! I did really want to talk to you too, rose
AC:  :33 < you humans are really interesting!

TT: Thank you once again. I suppose I should add that you trolls are also fascinating to speak to.
TT: I suppose I can afford to hand my laptop over to Jaspers for the time being, however.
TT: It will be just a moment.

AC:  :33 < thank you rose! :33

Rose steps back from her laptop as she summons her undead cat, who heeds her call with a friendly purr.

“What is it Rose do you need my help?” Jaspers asks eagerly, his tentacles waving freely as he hovers in front of her. Rose can only smile.

“A… friend of mine wishes to converse with you. I take it you know how to type?”

“Oh, yes, I think I do Rose, and I will be very happy to talk to your friend.”

“Very well. Be nice to her, please.”

“Oh, of course Rose!”

Rose finds herself without her laptop for quite a while after this. She doesn’t count the seconds – that is much more Dave’s thing – but she is still under the impression that “AC” and Jaspers talk for roughly half an hour.

Rose finds herself somewhat disappointed that AC apparently finds her tentacle cat more interesting than herself, but she moves past it quickly.

Jealousy is not becoming of her.

Chapter Text

On Sunday mornings, when most people are sitting in at church, John goes down to visit the lake. He always carries a backpack with him, so full it barely zips properly, and he carries whatever won’t fit in his arms. It’s a heavy load, but in the years since Sburb, he’s grown a lot stronger. Besides, the lake isn’t far.

Today he’s carrying a stack of mismatched books, checked out from the local library. A couple of informational texts on deep sea marine life, the first Harry Potter novel, the picture book edition of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and a collection of stories by H.P. Lovecraft. He hunches his shoulders up to carry them all, and whenever the Sorcerer’s Stone threatens to slip off the top, he carefully uses his chin to slide it back into balance on the stack.

When he reaches the edge of the lake, John gingerly sets down the books and then lets his bag slip off of his shoulders with a dull thud on the grass. He plops himself down next to his stuff and begins to empty the bag. A checkered blanket, a Ziploc bag of homemade cookies, a lunchbox, a grocery sack of snack food, a couple of newspaper articles, a letter or two, a stack of DVDs, and a bathing suit, all spread out in front of him. As he’s working on unfolding the blanket, he hears the splash signaling the arrival of Feferi.

John looks up for only a moment to see her grinning her shark’s teeth at him, and he grins back, long since used to the fact that the would-be troll empress has the smile of a meat grinder.

“Hey, Feferi! I brought some of the books you were asking about. I mean, I hope I got the right ones.” He shifts a few of the books about nervously, pausing at the H.P. Lovecraft. “I actually don’t know much about Lovecraft, but Rose she recommended him, so I figured I should go ahead and check it out for you.” Feferi slides out of the water and sits down next to John.

“Well, I’m sure I’ll be excited to read it! What are all of these other things?” The troll curiously reaches out to grab the Little Mermaid Picture book, but John slides it out of her reach.

“Make sure you’ve dried off before you touch the books! I had to pay for the water damage to the last set,” he says quickly, and Feferi draws her hand back and brings it up to her face, watching as small drops of water slide off of her gray skin. She frowns, and John begins to backpeddle. “Oh man, not that you have to worry about it or anything! It wasn’t that much. Though, uh, you have remembered to keep that portable DVD player I lent you dry, right?”

Feferi rolls her eyes and then displays her shark grin again. “Of course, John! I remember that your silly human electronics don’t take well to water. I don’t understand why you didn’t work on making them waterproof! It’s so inconvenient!” Despite the complaints, Feferi still grins as she peruses some of the other things that John brought for her to see. Her eyes rest on the newspaper clippings, however, and her expression darkens. “Is that Eridan?”

John glances down and picks up the top article – an interview that Rose had mentioned in their conversation about Lovecraft. “Uh, yeah. It is. He, uh, gave an interview about what it’s like to be a troll among a bunch of humans. I thought you might find it interesting?”

Feferi gingerly picks up the article and then rips it in two, making sure to split the photo of Eridan perfectly in half. She then repeats the process several more times until the article is simply a pile of shredded paper. John fidgets slightly. “Why would I want to read about him?” she asks, and the venom in her voice is nearly tangible.

“Well, I just thought that since you like to keep a low profile, you might find it interesting to see what it’s like for trolls outside…” John doesn’t sound sure of himself as he says it.

“Not from him.” Feferi pulls her knees up to her chest and wraps her arms around them, glancing off to the side. John pulls at the bottom of his shirt to fill the time it takes him to pick out words that won’t sound completely stupid.

He settles on, “Do you really need to keep hating him? I know you had a spat, but there’s only twelve of you left, and I mean, you’re alive now-”

Feferi cuts him off. “It doesn’t matter if I came back to life, it doesn’t change the fact that he killed me. That’s not something I can just pretend didn’t happen.”

John hesitates. He takes in the sight of Feferi, usually so cheerful, curled around herself. He briefly considers reaching out to comfort her, but instead he reaches for the other things he’s brought. “Uh, so sorry about the newspaper. But I’ve still got some other things!” He then grabs the top DVD from the stack – Con Air, of course – and holds it up in front of him with a buck-toothed grin. “This is my favorite movie. I would have shown it to you earlier, but you were still learning human culture and I didn’t want it to be ruined by that or something.”

Feferi stares at the DVD cover with an odd expression, trying to determine whether to follow the derailment from Eridan that John has offered. John takes advantage of her silence to keep talking.

“So if your DVD player is still working, you can watch this and a couple of other things on your own. Though I would like to see it with you if want company this afternoon. I could watch this movie all day. Oh, and also I brought some things to eat. I’m sure you must get tired of eating fish all the time, so I brought some lunchables too…” John continues to blabber on to fill the silence, but he watches Feferi’s face carefully. She’s smiling now – not quite her shark-toothed grin, but still a positive look. When he pauses to catch his breath, she takes the moment to get a word in.

“Watching a movie sounds wonderful!” she proclaims, and she unwraps her arms from around her knees and leans forward. “Let me just get the DVD player. I’ll be right back.”

Then, very quickly, Feferi plants a cold, wet kiss on John’s cheek before she slides gracefully back into the lake. John finds himself caught off-guard, and he tentatively reaches a hand up to the spot.

He only remembers to tell her to keep the DVD player dry once she’s out of sight.

Chapter Text

“Say, Kanaya. What are you making?”

Kanaya looks up as Terezi saunters into her room, grinning as usual. As is typical, she has to resist the incredible urge to run a comb through the blind troll’s hair, but she stops sewing for only a moment as she formulates her answer. “I’m making a dress,” she explains, and she continues her work.

Terezi sits down in front of her, sniffing the garment curiously. Her eyebrows shoot up in interest, hiding among her tangle of bangs. “Why are you doing that?” she asks. “You could just alchemize one, couldn’t you? It seems like it would be quicker.”

Kanaya pulls the thread through as she finishes up a seam. “This seems more personal to me. Besides, one never knows what may come out with the alchemiter. I get an added level of customization by hand-making my clothing.”

“You’re weird,” Terezi declares as she bends down to get a better sniff of the clothing. Kanaya swiftly pulls a sleeve away once she sees the tongue shoot out.

“I could say the same of you,” she says, and she continues to work. Terezi sits there for another few moments, appraising Kanaya’s work with the occasional sniff.

“You need more color,” she declares suddenly. “This dress smells completely boring! Have you ever thought of adding some cherry red to it? I bet it would be even more delicious then.”

Kanaya smiles, doing her best to keep from taking offense at this critique. She suspects that having an eye for fashion and having a nose for fashion are two radically different things. “I’m afraid that this particular outfit is not meant to be very colorful or loud. It simply would not fit the mood.”

“Bleeeeh.” Terezi sticks her tongue once more, dangerously close to the fabric again. “But fashion is so pointless anyways. It should at least taste delicious. It’s the least you could do.” Kanaya is prepared to move the fabric out of the way of Terezi’s slobber, but Terezi inclines her head up, so that her unseeing eyes are fixated on her. Terezi’s nose twitches again as she attempts to get a better look at Kanaya again.

It’s an odd, and sudden flash of inspiration. The red of Terezi’s blind eyes, mixed with the teal of her blood color, which is spreading subtly across her cheeks. It’s not quite like her Reglare outfit, with the colors strictly segregated, but rather a gentle blend of colors, a gradient across the legs. “I promise that if I ever choose to design a piece for you, I will craft it to be your favorite cherry red,” Kanaya says, and in her mind’s eye, the outfit comes to life. Not just red and teal, but every bright color, blended subtly together into a rainbow sherbert, twisting in and among one another. “And I will throw on a myriad of other delectable colors onto the pattern as well, so that you would never be starved for color again.” They swirl with the slightest movement of the dress, creating the illusion of a pool of hues.

“It will be your best piece yet,” Terezi declares. Kanaya envisions Terezi wearing this mental masterpiece, her wild, dark hair the perfect contrast to the tamed swirls of color beneath. It’s beautiful.

“I imagine it will be.”

Chapter Text

Vriska Serket has run out of eight-balls. She’s antsy, and her fingers constantly twitch in anticipation. She feels the need to crack open those smooth spheres, make their edges jagged and marred. A few times she pounds her fist on the table, but it’s hardly the same, and it draws suspicious glances from Kanaya, sitting next to her. She needs a distraction.

She considers trolling the kids as Karkat commanded, but she doesn’t want to. They look boring, and she can’t imagine that their conversations will be at all interesting. Still, as her fingers clench involuntarily once again, Vriska decides to give a shot. She picks a random point in the timeline of the first human – John, was it? But of course he’s asleep. Just another boring human action for a boring human session.

But a bit of mind manipulation, and he’s awake again, and Vriska forms a plan on the fly. Manipulate the human to become a super-powered hero, just like she was. The perfect plan, the perfect distraction. She begins to peruse his timeline for vulnerable spots, figuring out when to help him and when to let him act on his own. But even as her fingers fly across her keyboard, she still feels the need to break something. John is a decent distraction, but not good enough.

Vriska frowns and tries to think of anything else she can do to waste time. She quickly recalls the difficulty she had controlling John. It’s odd – if it were most of her friends, she could easily have them throwing themselves off cliffs with the effort it took her to just get him to wake up. She wonders if it’s a human thing.

She takes a moment out of her John manipulation to try a new target. She clicks to the green text – the Jade human. She picks an innocuous time long before their session even started and gives it a shot. She stares at the girl on the screen, harmlessly watering pumpkins that are doomed to vanish, and tries to infiltrate her thoughts. It’s just as difficult as it was with John; Vriska can hardly get a handle on the human girl’s mind, and it takes a good deal of effort just to maintain a connection, let alone get the girl to actually do anything. But finally, she musters the mental strength to get the girl to fall asleep – an easy, simple trick under normal circumstances, and yet when Vriska sees her asleep on the screen, a great flood of satisfaction sweeps over her. She can control beings from another universe. She must surely be the greatest manipulator there ever was!

Still, the satisfaction over this small victory does not last for long. Vriska knows she can do better. She just needs practice. More practice.

She jumps to numerous times on Jade’s timeline, chosen at random, mostly before the session starts, to prevent any accidental meddling with her future plans. Each time she invades the girl’s mind the connection grows stronger. She can still do little more than force Jade to fall asleep, but she can whisper ideas. Subtle suggestions which sometimes go ignored, but sometimes get acted out. She can’t quite read Jade’s thoughts, but she can feel the stronger ones, pushing against the surface, close enough to touch.

Vriska sometimes spends a while hovering just outside Jade’s mind before doing anything, simply listening to the muffled whispers of the girl’s thoughts. Seconds, minutes, just listening, her eyes closed as she catches a glimpse into the head of this alien girl. Then she pulls the metaphorical trigger, causes the girl to nod off, and revels in the brief absence of thought – such a beautifully vulnerable position – before Jade wakes up on Prospit.

Eventually the effort it takes to cause Jade to fall asleep becomes almost nothing. Vriska has no more reason to practice with her. She’s developed the skills it takes to properly enact her plan with John – to manipulate him at the pivotal moment – but she’s hesitant to enact it. Each time she tries to return to John’s timeline to work on her plan, her finger slips back to Jade once more. There’s something comforting about infiltrating the human girl’s mind, about trying to fill that gap in consciousness with her own being. There’s something intangible that keeps drawing her back to cause another instance of narcolepsy.

She tells herself to stop. She has too many irons in the fire to allow this to continue to distract her.

But addiction is a powerful thing.

Chapter Text

Your name is Karkat Vantas, and you are faced with a catastrophe. Two of your friends have just been killed, and another is currently unconscious. The murderer has run off, and you have done nothing to stop him. The only thing you’ve done is watch and then type up more ridiculous memos instead of doing anything meaningful. You’re a failure as a leader.

Still, there’s at least one more thing you can try.

You know that Prospit is gone. You have heard that Derse has shared its fate, though you did not experience that particular disaster firsthand. You’re fairly certain all of the dreamselves are gone for good. But you didn’t see anybody else fall in person. There’s still a chance, a small chance… and if there’s still a chance, you need to at least give it a shot. You owe it to them.

You try Feferi first, wincing each time one of those accursed horns honks. It’s a quick peck on the lips, nothing dramatic. She’s Sollux’s girl, not yours. You feel that if you linger too long, you’ll be imposing somehow.

Nothing happens. You move on.

When you turn to Kanaya, you feel nauseous, but you hold back your gut reaction to simply retch at the sight of her blood coating the ground. A good portion of it is already on your person, from when you checked her body before turning to the computers, but that does not mean you are accustomed to seeing it spread across the room.

You shakily drop to your knees next to her body. It’s ridiculous, but you suddenly have a flashback to one of your favorite stories as a wriggler, where the brave troll warrior kissed his redrom interest back to life. You still love the story, and perhaps you’ve always hoped for a romance just like it. But this isn’t the same. Kanaya is not a member of Alternian royalty, who will declare you her matesprit when she awakes from a deep slumber. Her eyes will not flutter open mid-kiss, and she will not confess her feelings as a chorus swells. She will not kiss you back, or even so much as hold you. Best case scenario, her dream self wakes up in the wreckage of Prospit, and she shows up an hour later in yellow pajamas and finds you covered in her blood.

You are not even expecting a best case scenario. Even if she comes back alive, which is unlikely, so unlikely, you may very well be dead by the time she returns.

But you have to try.

You look down at Kanaya and take in her appearance. She looks oddly peaceful in death, and you could really almost imagine she was sleeping, if only it weren’t for the blood-

Your stomach clenches uncomfortably. No, she is not sleeping. She is dead. There is no pretending, no working around it, no way to make this seem better. Carefully, you slip your arms around her shoulders , pulling her closer to you. You can’t stand looking at her, looking oddly pale, so you shut your eyes tightly.

You feel traitorous tears leak from the corners of your eyes, but right now you don’t care about your blood color. There’s nobody in the room to care.

The world slows down for a moment when you press your lips to hers, and you take a moment to imagine what this might be like if she were alive and could respond. If this were done for pleasure rather than necessity.

But the moment passes, and you pull away. You gently set her body back down onto the tile and rapidly scrub the wetness away from your eyes, staring at her with more hope than you ever should have allowed.

Nothing happens.

Chapter Text

Karkat paces through his respite block, on edge. He has been hivebound for far too long now, and his only communication with others has been through Trollian, not in person. He tells himself that’s fine, that it doesn’t matter, that it’s probably better that they don’t see him in person, or his blood color might get revealed. He’s better off staying in seclusion. (Not even he believes it.)

Earlier in the night, he trolled his nearby friends to see if any of them would hang out. His responses were all in the negative. Or rather the one response, because he only tried Tavros, who was the only one of his friends who usually welcomed his company. The others were probably busy, he figured. (Busy with excuses he wasn’t sure they had.)

It was a quick conversation.

CG: HEY ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING LATER TONIGHT?
CG: I FEEL LIKE MAYBE I HATE MYSELF JUST ENOUGH TONIGHT TO PLAY ONE OF YOUR RIDICULOUS CARD GAMES.
CG: EVEN THOUGH THE RULES DON’T MAKE ANY SENSE TO ANYBODY OTHER THAN YOU, SO YOU ALWAYS FUCKING WIN.
CG: BUT I AM WILLING TO PUT UP WITH ALL OF THAT.

AT: uHH, sORRY kARKAT BUT i’M DOING A FLARP CAMPAIGN TONIGHT
AT: WITH aRADIA AND,
AT: tEAM sCOURGE,
AT: SO I CAN’T REALLY HANG OUT TONIGHT }:(
AT: mAYBE SOME OTHER TIME, THOUGH,
AT: i CAN TEACH YOU HOW TO PLAY fIDUSPAWN
AT: sO THAT, mAYBE,
AT: yOU WON’T LOSE SO OFTEN,

CG: UGH NEVERMIND FORGET I ASKED

And he closed out.

“I bet he’s already playing that stupid-ass girl’s game,” Karkat mutters to himself, scuffing the floor with his feet to try and vent his irritation. Stupid FLARP. What’s so great about it, anyways? From what he heard from Terezi, Tavros wasn’t even all that good at it, usually choosing to run away when the battles were too hard.

Karkat imagines for a moment Tavros running away from some of the dumb, fake looking monsters in the campaign, to try and cheer himself up at the misery of others. It only succeeds it making him more aware of just how lonely he is. In the back of his mind, he can hear whispers of “You’re jealous,” but he ignores them, because they’re dumb. Why should he be jealous of the girls? Hell, why should he even care?

Yet the more he tries to convince himself that he doesn’t care, the more he builds himself up, and the more frayed his nerves get. In anger – mostly at himself – he tries to pick up a book on coding, hoping to throw it across the room or snap off the spine or do something. However, out of habit, he captchalogues the thing, and it becomes locked in his Encryption Modus, landing with a dull thud on his floor. He kicks it out of frustration, but only manages to stub his toe.

The string of expletives that leaves his mouth almost covers up the familiar “ding!” of Trollian from his computer, but he catches it. He is on his computer in second, drawn towards the hope of communication, and his heart does an odd leap when he sees the handle “adiosToreador.”

AT: aG JUST JUMPED ME OFF A CLIFF,
AT: wITH MY BRAIN,

Karkat frowns. More of this FLARP crap. He knows he should have expected it – really, was he thinking that Tavros would cancel his plans with the girls just to spend time with his dumb, nubby-horned friend? Karkat hates himself just a little more for even fantasizing that he would be important enough to warrant that kind of special treatment.

But still, he feels bitter. Bitter that Tavros is so wrapped up in his game that he can’t even put it aside for a moment so he can talk like a rational troll. Karkat’s fingers fly mindlessly across the keys as he reads the final lines of Tavros’s message, and he hits send before he even realizes what he’s typed.

AT: aNYWAY,
AT: tHAT'S REALLY ALL THERE IS,
AT: tO REPORT ON THE SUBJECT,
AT: oF ME GETTING HURT,

CG: HEY ASSHOLE, STOP PLAYING GAMES FOR GIRLS.

He stares at the words for a moment. There were plenty of things he wishes he had said; that was not one of them. He feels a bit sick to his stomach. Look at Karkat, the pathetic troll who can’t even talk to those he cares about without making a complete dickwad out of himself.

Karkat hides his face behind his hand, as though someone can see, and he closes out of the window before he can say anything else.

He fears he’s done enough damage already.

Chapter Text

When Karkat catches sight of Feferi passing by him in the Medium, he believes it will be a swift meeting. Though this is the first time he’s ever seen the princess in person, the both have their respective quests, and they are headed in opposite directions: Karkat toward one gate and Feferi toward another. Still, because she is the only seadweller with a sense of decency, Feferi pauses for a moment to acknowledge that he’s there, and Karkat is forced to follow suit.

“Hello, Karkat!” she greets, grinning broadly. “I didn’t expect to sea you here!”

He resists the urge to roll his eyes, but decides to humor her for a brief conversation. Got to keep the team together. “Hey, Feferi. Good to see you’re doing well. Uh.” He looks down at his shoes, hesitant. “Keep up the good work.” Karkat wants to revel in this moment of superiority above the would-be empress, but Feferi continues to smile at him disarmingly. Do conventions of blood color even occur to her?

“Of course I will!” she proclaims. “Just make sure you keep your head above water, leader!”

Karkat is about to tell Feferi to lay off the marine puns but as soon as he opens his mouth, he notices her eyes widen at some unseen threat, and she quickly draws her 2x3dent. He doesn’t hesitate to draw out his own weapon, but as he turns to see what he’s looking at, he realizes it’s too late. One of their monstrous imps is already upon him, slashing at him with the claws of Nepeta’s lusus.

At his level, even this imp isn’t a serious threat to Karkat and with a few well-aimed swipes of his blade, it has exploded into a grist hoard. However, as he picks himself off the ground, two things become immediately obvious. First, that imp was only the first one to arrive – already there is a large grouping of lusus hybrids completely encircling where Karkat and Feferi are standing, and even if individually they are little threat, a group this size – at least twenty – could be quite dangerous indeed.

Second, he can feel bright, mutant blood slowly dripping down his arm from the new gashes on his shoulder, immediately obvious. The second Feferi stops to look at him, she will surely notice. She will have to notice. And as a member of the highest blood caste available, she can do whatever she wants to the lowly mutant.

Karkat’s only consolation prize is that at the moment she has bigger fish to fry. The two of them quickly take a fighting stance, standing back to back – a dangerous move on Alternia, but something that has become almost second nature in the Medium. And the battle begins.

Even while focused in battle, Karkat is not blind to Feferi’s actions, catching them just out of the corner of his eye as he takes care of just one more imp. Even though her weapon is nearly just as tall as she is, she wields it without hesitation, beheading several imps with a single swing. Her fighting prowess is surprising for a member of royalty, who surely didn’t have to fight for her own survival underwater. Not with such a threatening lusus. Nobody would dare touch her, and yet it’s clear that she did not spend her days idly.

Karkat, of course, does not slack off in battle, either. He ignores his injury as best he can and focuses on not getting any more cuts that will ooze his ugly mutant blood. All in all, the battle takes about five minutes, and in the end, they are surrounded by piles of grist. Karkat lets his shoulders slump, but he doesn’t turn to face Feferi, hoping that maybe she will be content to simply move on-

“Wow, that would have been a total shipwreck if you weren’t around, Karkat!” she exclaims, and Karkat grudgingly gives her a side glance. She’s fared pretty well, with a scrape under her eye the only visible injury. Some of her rich, royal blood is seeping from the cut, but she seems unconcerned with it. Why should she? Everybody already knows her blood color, and they envy her for it. She has nothing to hide. If anything, she should be happy to bleed, just to show off.

“Yeah, I guess.” A non-committal answer, in hopes she’ll get bored and leave.

“What’s wrong?” No such luck. “Are you hurt?” She starts to close the short distance between them, and Karkat braces himself. “I think part of my powers involve healing, so maybe I can take a look!” Too late now. Nothing he can do.

Feferi places a hand on her shoulder as she gently turns him towards her to get a better look. She spots the wound immediately and reaches out to touch it, but the moment Karkat feels her fingers on his raw skin, he recoils. Feferi draws back quickly, but she can’t help but take a glance at the blood on her fingers. It’s too obvious.

Karkat wants to look away, but there’s a part of him that keeps his eyes locked on her expression, waiting for her reaction. The would-be empress, to her credit, takes everything in slowly. She looks from her fingers to his injury, then to the ground where the bright red forms a sharp contrast the blinding white of Nepeta’s world. It’s ugly.

“I guess it makes sense now,” she says slowly. Karkat can feel his blood pounding in his ears, a frantic tempo screaming “Get out get out get out.” He ignores it.

“I had only heard rumors of the Sufferer’s blood before,” Feferi continues. “Bright red, not even officially on the hemospectrum. Too red to be royal, too bright to be low. It’s said that those with the Sufferer’s blood should be culled, because they’re born leaders, meant to overthrow the hemospectrum.” Karkat has never heard any of this before, but he doesn’t like where this is going. Feferi still has her 2x3dent in hand. All it would take is one movement, one swipe of her weapon, and the dangerous mutant would be no more. She could secure her rightful place as ruler of a dwindled race.

Feferi stands there for a moment, staring at him. Karkat knows he needs to run away, but he’s frozen to the spot. Besides, what use is running? He saw how efficiently she handled the imps. He wouldn’t stand a chance in his condition.

Finally, her stance begins to shift. Her movements are slow, deliberate, and she holds her weapon out, placing it carefully between them. Karkat readies himself for the end, wondering if the others will even care once he’s gone.

She bows.

Chapter Text

You are Rose Lalonde, and John has come to you for advice.

“Because you know you love it when people come to you for advice, Rose. Don’t even deny it! I can see that little twinkle in your eye right now,” he says, pointing at what you assume must be said twinkle.

“You’ve caught me.” You hold your hands up in mock defeat as a wry smile crosses your face. “Now what is the problem for which you require my expertise? Are you feeling some form of emotional or mental distress? Shall I pull out my notepad?”

John glances off to the side, chewing on his lower lip for a moment as he considers his question. You wait patiently. No need to rush him – that would just be more likely to cause him to back out of whatever it is he’s seeking your guidance for.

“Uh, well. No. Not really.” He looks up at you, his brow furrowed slightly. “It’s just... you know how the trolls don’t really get our human… uh, sexuality?” He mutters this last word, embarrassed to say it.

“Ah, because their culture does not have any sense of gender preference. I am quite aware of that, yes. Why do you ask?” You have a feeling you know. John is not as subtle as he might believe.

“Oh.” He acts as though he’s surprised you would even think of asking. “Uh, I guess I’m just wondering, then. If that means that our – what’d you call it? Gender preference?” You nod. “Yeah. If that doesn’t apply to them? Because it’s a human thing and not an alien thing?”

You quirk your lips slightly. “So you’re curious as to whether or not liking a male troll would make you homosexual?”

“Yes! Er, yeah, sort of. Also if liking a girl troll is still heterosexual, too. Because they’re aliens, so it… sort of isn’t the same, right?”

“Well, I suppose that would be true if they were a more androgynous species,” you explain. “However, they appear to hold very similar cultural standards of gender to humans, including secondary and tertiary sex differences. You could not easily mistake Kanaya for a boy, just as there is very little chance that Karkat could be misconstrued as female.” You raise your eyebrows at him. “So to be attracted to a female troll would still make you straight, and vice versa.”

“Oh…” He scratches the back of his neck, avoiding your eyes. “Guess I lied then…”

You raise your eyebrows. “About what?”

John jumps now, as though suddenly realizing what he let slip. “Oh, nothing!” he says quickly. “Uh, thanks Rose!” And he leaves you be.

You shake your head and smile.

-------

You are Jade Harley and you are being glared at by an ornery troll. You simply glare right back. You may not be nearly as opposed to Karkat’s presence as you were when he was just a wall of capslocked gray text to you, but that does not mean that you will take his bad behavior lying down.

“Jade,” he growls at you. You would growl back, but you’re pretty sure that his growling is his natural tone, and you don’t want to insult him. Not unless he’s insulted you first.

“Yes, Karkat?” You decide to go with a sweet voice to compensate his growling.

He continues to glare at you for a moment, his eyes narrowing suspiciously, as though he’s sizing you up. “OK, what I’m about to ask you is going to be embarrassing and demeaning for the both of us, but just bear with me, because I don’t see any other fucking way I can get this accomplished.”

You raise your eyebrows, your glare breaking as your curiosity takes over. This is coming from the same troll who told you that you needed to finish making out with yourself – in comparison, you don’t know what could be classified as “embarrassing and demeaning.” You’re almost not sure if you want to find out, but you just can’t help yourself.

“What is it?” you ask. Karkat breaks his glare, looking away as his cheeks flush red.

“I- I want you to watch a romantic comedy with me.”

You have to bite down hard on your lip so that you do not collapse into giggles. What comes out instead is a series of embarrassing snorts, which does not help Karkat’s bashfulness. He starts up his glare again, and you quickly try to calm yourself down enough to give him a straight answer.

“Why?” you ask, barely forcing the word out before you have to cover your mouth with your hand. He narrows his eyes at you before answering.

“I want to understand you humans better so I can be a better leader, and the first way to do that is to try and wrap my infinitely superior think pan around your idiotic human romance. The quickest way to do that is to force myself to watch your pathetic human cinema, even if doing so will make me want to gouge my eyes out with one of your ridiculous three-pronged eating utensils.”

“A fork?”

“Yes.”

You finally feel the need to laugh at Karkat diminish, and you remove your hand from your mouth so you can try to communicate with him on more rational terms. “I’m not actually that good with movies,” you explain. “Maybe you could ask John though? He loves movies, so I’m sure he would have some good romantic comedies!”

By the look on Karkat’s face when you mention this, it as though you have suggested he strip off all of his clothing and go dunk himself into a vat of boiling liquid. You have to restrain yourself from laughing again.

“But if you insist, I guess I can dig something up…”

-------

You are Kanaya Maryam and you are not entirely sure why this hum- John has sought you out. He tracks you down while you are working on stitching a scarf up for Rose, pulling up a chair so that he can sit across from you.

“Hey Kanaya!” he greets, grinning his usual buck-toothed grin at you. “Mind if I sit here and watch for a bit?”

“I suppose not,” you respond, glancing up at him with your eyebrows raised. “Though I’m afraid that I won’t be doing much of interest.”

“That’s alright. I just kind of want to get away from something,” he assures you, and then he sits and watches.

It quickly becomes clear to you, however, that John Egbert is incapable of watching quietly, and he frequently interrupts you to start chatting and asking questions. Who is that scarf for? How did you learn to sew? Does having horns make it harder to be fashionable? Then, finally, he asks a question so out of the blue that you nearly drop everything you’re doing.

“How do you tell whether somebody is in hate with you or in love with you?”

You simply stare at him for a moment, unsure of how to respond. John picks up on this quickly, and he elaborates. “Just, I know that trolls have quadrants and that you have your hate crushes and your hate dates along with your normal crushes and normal dates. And I just want to know the difference, I guess? Like, how do you know if you’ve gone on a hate date instead of a… a love-date, I guess?”

You continue to work. “I’m not the expert on affairs of romance, I’m afraid, unless you’re looking for an auspitice. Have you tried asking Karkat? He has shared with me many theories on the matter that you might find enlightening.” You pause again, glancing up to read John’s expression. He avoids your gaze.

“I think that would kind of defeat the purpose,” he mutters. You raise your eyebrows, tempted to ask, but you don’t wish to meddle. If this does involve Karkat, then he will tell you later. You don’t want to accidentally get roped into yet another auspitice relationship by trying to console John, who you hardly know.

“I suppose I’ll do my best then to explain then. Having never been involved in a kismesissitude or a real matespritship, I cannot offer you much in the way of personal experience. However, the general idea behind them is pity versus hatred. Thus, I believe a flushed date would involve attempts to make yourself and your partner weaker and more open towards one another, so that pity is easier to come by. This is what I’ve read in novels at least.”

John is listening earnestly, nodding quickly. “Right. And what about a hate date? What are those like?”

You ponder over this a bit. You’ve never found blackrom quite as interesting as redrom, but you suppose you can still gather up an answer. You were once moirails with Vriska, after all, who never seemed at a lack for blackrom prospects. “Well, from what I know, they tend to be rather violent. A kismesissitude is a potent rivalry, after all, so I believe they typically involve a lot of threats and fighting.”

John’s face falls. “Threats?” he repeats. You feel oddly as though you’ve let him down, and you backpeddle.

“Not to say that threats are necessary for blackrom, of course. And I suppose there might be some trolls who would use threats for a matesprit as well, depending on how they choose to express themselves.” John still doesn’t seem convinced. “Though I wouldn’t say that it’s a true ‘hate date’ unless at least one injury is inflicted. If not, it is more likely that it is simply a rather aggressive flushed date.”

John rubs at his wrist, which you notice is lightly bandaged. “What if it’s on accident?” He sounds cautiously hopeful.

“Then I think that can safely be regarded as an accident and not a true intention of hatred.”

A grin suddenly breaks out across John’s face, and he envelops you in a sudden hug that you neither wanted nor expected. Still, you can’t help but smile – he’s a little infectious. “Thank you Kanaya! You’re the best!” He then releases you from the hug and nearly skips off, leaving you behind in your chair. You simply sit there for a moment, in a small bit of shock from the sudden contact.

It occurs to you that you’ve dropped your scarf.

--------

You are Terezi Pyrope and you may be blind, but that doesn’t mean you are stupid. Karkat has been acting strangely recently, and as a self-declared legisclarator, you feel it is your duty to investigate the matter.

This is not terribly difficult to accomplish, luckily. Karkat is quiet about whatever it is that’s bothering him – of course he is, he’s Karkat – but his body language practically screams his secrets at you. Your “brave leader” is anything but subtle.

You are on reconnaissance today, which means finding out where Karkat is and carefully bumping into him all day so that you can keep tabs on him. So far things have been rather uninteresting (probably because he’s been trying to get you off his tail) but you can smell that you’ve got him cornered now. He’s been hiding out at Jade’s place for an awfully long time, and once he comes out, you’ll be able to catch him at… whatever it is he’s doing.

Finally, you hear the door slide open, and you shift into casual strolling mode, which entails you darting into Karkat’s path as quickly as possible. As predicted, he doesn’t see you coming and bumps right into you. You get a scent of something oddly… sweet?

“Terezi, what the fuck are you doin-“

“What are those things you’re holding, Karkat?” You shove your nose closer to the weird scent, and find yourself with a noseful of flowers. Probably human flowers, as you don’t recognize them, but you were never much into gardening to begin with.

“None of your business,” he growls, which just means that you have to make it your business.

“Oh, but they smell so delicious, Karkat! What are they for?” He’s trying to walk away from you now, but you keep in step with him, grinning all the while. “Are you going to eat them? Oh, or did Jade give them to you as some sort of weird human mating ritual?” You sniff closely and – yes! There it is. That slightest tinge of red that flushes beneath the gray sheet of his cheeks. He’s embarrassed.

Still, he grunts out a “No.” But of course this doesn’t fool you in the slightest.

“You smell of deceit!” you declare, pointing an accusatory finger in his face. “I can smell when you’re lying, so don’t even try it!”

“I know, Terezi! You could probably smell a fucking grammatical error out of a dictionary!” You can sense him tense up next to you, and he makes a movement as though to throw his arms up in exasperation, but he seems to think better of it, given the bundle of plants in his arms. “Anyways, all I did was pick up these plants from Jade because I wanted to figure out how human gardening works, alright? So I’m going to put these in a patch of dirt, fucking nurture them until they grow into trees, and then single handedly solve all of our problems through botany.”

He makes wild gestures with his hands as he explains this plan to you, and one of the flowers slips out and falls to the ground. Curiously, you pick it up. Bright red, an absolutely intoxicating scent.

“Alright, Karkat. Go back to your room and plant your silly little garden. Just let me see when you have more of these beautiful red flowers.”

“Fuck no,” he spits at you, though you can tell by his solid gray skin that he is much more comfortable now that you’ve settled on his gardening story. “If I give too many of these to you you’ll probably just overdose on the smell.”

“Spoil sport.” You stick out your lower lip in a way that is very much unlike you, and stop walking, allowing Karkat to continue on to “garden.”

You don’t believe his story for a second, of course. He was too eager to let you make fun of his gardening, too eager to change the subject from “human mating ritual.” Besides, if he’s aiming to go home, he’s headed the wrong way. It all smells of a lie, a not-so-clever deception, but you let him run with it.

You suppose can allow Karkat to keep his secrets for now.

Chapter Text

-- caligulasAquarium [CA] began trolling cuttlefishCuller [CC] --

CA: fef
CA: hey

CC: ?
CA: glub
CC: Glub glub! 38)

CA: yeah
CA: glub

CC: 38(
CC: -Eridan! You seem kind of down!
CC: Is somet)(ing wrong?

CA: i guess
CC: Well maybe you s)(ould tell me about it!
CC: I AM your moirail after all! 38)
CC: I’m )(-ER-E for you!

CA: yeah thanks fef
CC: So w)(at’s on your mind?
CA: maybe only that the fuckin hate of my life doesnt evven notice me
CA: i just dont get it fef i thought wwe had a good thing goin
CA: wwith our pirate flarpin and evverythin
CA: but shes apparently got interests elsewwhere
CA: some landwweller she brought into our game today
CA: glub

CC: I’m really sorry to )(ear t)(at! 38(
CC: But are you s)(ore t)(at Vriska reely feels black for t)(is ot)(er troll?
CC: S)(e isn’t reely nice to anybody!

CA: fef im tryin to be searious here can you stop it wwith the ridiculous puns
CA: and forget the pun i just made there

CC: )(e)(e)(e, sorry! 38)
CC: I’ll try to keep the puns at a finimum.
CC: I mean minimum! Sorry.

CA: yeah thanks
CA: and im pretty sure that vvriskas wwaxin black for this guy
CA: she kept on beratin him the entire time to try and make him better at the game
CA: wwhich is more than shes evver tried to do for me

CC: 38(
CA: i dont evven knoww wwhat she sees in that stupid lowwblood anyway
CA: hes fuckin pitiable is wwhat he is
CA: vvris says hes been flarpin as long as wwe havve but hes hardly leveled his character at all
CA: and evverytime the goin got tough he wwould just run awway
CA: i dont understand howw vvris thinks shes goin to make a decent kismesis outta him
CA: only thing a landdwweller like him is good for is pityin and i guess protectin
CA: if he isnt culled before six swweeps ill be surprised
CA: though maybe if that happens vvris wwill go back to hatin me
CA: evven though im already more hateable than he could evver be

CC: )(mm...
CC: I don’t want to make too big of an assumption )(ere, but it sounds to me like you mig)(t )(ave feelings for )(im!

CA: wwhat
CC: Y---EA)(!
CA: but i just said he wwas fuckin impossible to hate properly howw does that mean i have feelins for him
CC: Wrong quadrant, silly!
CA: wwhat
CC: You just said you found him pitiable, didn’t you?
CA: oh
CA: wwell yeah i guess i did

CC: Soooo? 38)
CC: ...-Eridan? 38(
CC: Are you OK?
CC: You’re taking a w)(hile to respond!

CA: yeah im just thinkin
CA: noww that you mention it maybe i could get to pityin him
CA: he is a lowwblood and a landdwweller but he seems to knoww his place
CA: and hes almost cute in a sort of pathetic pitiable commonblood wway
CA: hes not really good pirate material or anythin doesnt have his sealegs
CA: but the wway he stumbled around on deck kinda made me wwant to protect him
CA: but not really in a pale wway like i feel wwith you
CA: do you think i havve a chance

CC: W---ELL you two do )(ave a lot in common, rig)(t?
CC: You bot)( like to FLARP, for one!

CA: thats true and i could alwways offer to teach him howw to play better
CA: glub knowws he needs the help

CC: You bot)( )(ate Vriska too.
CA: is mutual hatred a good basis for a matesprit
CC: I don’t know. Probably!
CA: i dont evven knoww if he really hates vvris the wway i do though
CA: he just looks like hes scared of her

CC: T)(at’s even better for you, then, rig)(t?
CC: Maybe w)(en Vriska realizes )(e isn’t interested, s)(e’ll go back to you!
CC: And s)(e’ll be even more black for you for getting a quadrant wit)( t)(e troll s)(e couldn’t get! 38)

CA: you think so
CC: I KNOW so!
CC: You’re my moirail, and I just know that t)(ere are plenty of trolls w)(o will want to fill t)(eir quadrants wit)( you! 38)

CA: thanks fef youre the best
CC: You’re W---ELCOM---E!
CA: no reely i mean it
CA: i am so glad that youre my moirail
CA: you are absolutely amazin

CC: Aww, thank you! That’s reely SW---EET! 38D
CA: no problem
CA: so uh im goin to go and troll that landwweller noww
CA: sea if hed be interested
CA: thanks again fef but i gotta go

CC: OF COURS---E! 38)
CC: Good luck!

-- caligulasAquarium [CA] ceased trolling cuttlefishCuller [CC] --

Chapter Text

the red text flickers on the screen promising enlightenment. it promises that you’ll find out who you are and why you believe what you do. why wouldn’t you oblige? its the opportunity of opportunities. you click. you stare at the screen at the images flashing at you, you stare and stare and stare as your beliefs and morals are hurled at your face and ripped to shreds.

HERESY. BLASPHEMY. THIS IS NOT ENLIGHTENMENT. THIS IS A MOCKERY.

this is not right. this is not what you imagined. these are not the mirthful messiahs. this red text is lying you hate it you hate it you hate it you hate it.

YOU HATE HIM.

your world was going to be beautiful. it would have bee minstrels and tents. faygo and special stardust. a paradise for you and all you know. but now you’ve seen it.

IT’S FAKE. THE TRUTH IS UGLY.

your friend, your new friend, born from the red text’s own nightmares, he promises to help you. help you get on track discover the true messiahs. make truth out of this blasphemy, sort the lies from the heresy. he whispers in your ear and tells you how to cleanse the world and make it right. as you listen things become clear and sharp.

MAGNIFIED.

there is no slime now.

THERE IS NO FAYGO OR SPECIAL STARDUST.

your true paradise doesn’t need them. what it needs is cleansing. you can see that now. it is so obvious. so clear.

SO MOTHERFUCKING CLEAR.

but you have to thank the red text first. you will make an impact on his world just like he’s made an impact on yours. you will leave your mark on him and claim him and his planet and his session and his life. he won’t know it.

BUT YOU WILL BE THERE.

always there.

ALWAYS.

it is the least you can do for the person who has done so very much for you. for the text that destroyed your morals, destroyed your dreams, you can give him the gift of responsibility for ruining everything in his world, just as he ruined everything in yours.

YOU HATED HIM.

but now you see his purpose. he is here to help you. your own personal savior, diverting you from your own fantasies. in the new order he may even be a holy figure. to be revered. to be treasured. he tore apart your life, but you aren’t angry.

JUST IN A MOTHERFUCKING RAGE.

your eyes are open now.

Chapter Text

“Eeeeeeeequiuuuuuuuus! Stop beating up your dumb robots and get out here! I have a favor to ask you!”

“Vriska, do you need to yell so loudly? It’s possible that your neighbor is simply asleep, in which case I am perfectly fine with returning to your hive. This is really quite unnecessary in the first place, and I don’t want to be a bother-“

“Oh please, fussyfangs! You can spare me the babble. Not everybody is like you, waking up in the wee hours of the morning. Some of us actually wake up when night starts, like you’re supposed to! Besides, he owes me a favor!”

Equius stands in front of his door, wondering how long he can get away with avoiding this confrontation. Though he frequently finds himself “in cahoots” with his neighbor, he in no way enjoys her company. Not only is she usually thinking of a way to stab him in the back, but her attitude and language are completely unbefitting of one with her blood status.

Not to mention that he does not recall owing her a favor.

Yet Vriska has somebody with her whose voice he does not recognize, and Equius cannot allow himself, in good faith, to ignore whoever it might be. What if it were a highblood? He would never be able to live with himself. So, with resignation, Equius allows his front door to creak open.

Standing before him is, as he expected, Vriska Serket and a guest. He can immediately tell that the other troll is not a member of a noble class, as he can not imagine any self-respecting highblood coating their lips in jade green. Still, she is not so low as to be vulgar, so Equius steps to the side to allow them in.

“To what do I owe the displeasure of your company?” he asks. Vriska is undeterred and she saunters inside as though this is her hive, her blue lips drawn in a fanged grin. Her companion is much more respectful, carefully and slowly crossing the threshold, lifting the bottom of her skirt so as not to dirty it. Once inside, she carefully and quietly examines her surroundings. Equius finds himself oddly bothered by the mess – it seems Arthour has yet to properly clean up the robotic limbs strewn across the entrance hall. It is hardly fit for the eyes of a guest.

Thankfully, Vriska’s cutting voice distracts Equius from his embarrassment. “Geeeeeeeeze, weren’t you listening? I’m here to ask a favor! See, my friend here is over to visit, but my extra recuprecoon is out of slime! So if you’ve got any, I want it!”

Equius examines Vriska’s companion again, and he feels embarrassed that his eyes keep returning to this jade blood. He is silently grateful for his shades, keeping his secrets safe. “If I might inquire, who is this friend of yours?”

Vriska rolls her eyes. “Honestly, does it matter?” An expectant silence answers her. “Fine. This is Kanaya Maryam. She usually lives out in the desert by herself so I’m doing her a favor by letting her stay over at my hive for a few nights.” Kanaya nods her head slightly in greeting. Equius nods back. “And Kanaya, this is my creepy neighbor, Equius Zahaak. He’s the one who made my arm for me.”

“Oh, so you are the troll who helped Vriska after her accident,” Kanaya states, a satisfied expression across her face now that she’s found some relevance.

“I am indeed,” Equius says, and he feels the slightest bit of perspiration build on his brow. “However, introductions aside. Vriska, if you would like, I can ask my custodian to show you to my extra slime.” As if on cue, Aurthour is standing over his shoulder, ever-eager to carry out the duties of a good butler.

Vriska flips her hair over her shoulder as she begins to follow Equius’s lusus, and Kanaya makes a move to follow her. As she turns a corner, however, Vriska says, “You stay behind, Kanaya. This place is so trashed out that if you try to follow me you’ll just tear your skirt on a stray robot horn or something.”

“Oh.” Kanaya practically freezes in place, hands clenched into fists at her sides as the sounds of Vriska’s footsteps and Aurthour’s hooves begin to fade.

Equius simply stands there, watching as Kanaya starts to relax and fidget with things around her to pass the time. She smooths out her skirt more times than he can count, adjusts her posture, brushes a hand through her hair to make sure it isn’t out of place. She is clearly uncomfortable, but Equius respects the manner in which she conducts her discomfort. It is quiet, unobtrusive, and in a way, almost alluring. Still, with Kanaya so close, it seems unwise to simply observe her.

“So how do you know Vriska?” Equius asks, breaking the silence. Kanaya jumps slightly at the sound of his voice, but quickly regains her composure.

“We are moirails, I suppose,” she responds, carefully enunciating each of her words, as though this may make them more true. “We first met when she did one of her FLARP campaigns out in the desert, quite a while ago. I had hoped her thrill-seeking might have calmed down as she grew older, but this does not seem to have been the case.”

“That is understandable. I often times find myself wondering how my neighbor could possibly be so lewd when we exist in such a highblooded area.” It occurs to Equius that he may be unintentionally insulting Kanaya, who is not a highblood, but he determines that the way she carries herself sets her apart from the average lowblood. She’s an exception. Surely she realizes this.

“She does not take her nobility very seriously, does she?” Kanaya asks, and the faintest of smiles crosses her painted lips.

“She truly does not. I was anticipating most of my fellow bluebloods to conduct themselves with dignity and class, but I have found myself sorely mistaken.”

“That is a shame.”

Equius clears his throat, instinctively wiping beads of sweat from his forehead. “It is indeed. Perhaps if my blue-blooded brethren conducted themselves more like you-”

“Hey, Kanaya, got the slime captchalogued! It’s time to go!”

He does not get the chance to finish his statement as Vriska suddenly erupts from the hall, cutting him short. Both Kanaya and Equius jump in slight surprise, averting their eyes from one another as she marches past them. Kanaya glances back up quickly, offering a slight curtsy.

“Well, it was certainly pleasant to meet you, Equius,” she says, her cheeks tinged with green. “I do hope we meet again.”

In response, Equius gingerly takes her hand, and presses his lips to her skin – a move more befitting if she were above him, but this feels right for reasons he cannot quite explain.

“The pleasure is all mine.”

Chapter Text

“...But even if we’re all fucked, we still need to stick together, because if that demon ends up coming back, we may live a little longer if we all fight as a team...”

Sollux sits in front of his computer, mouth drawn into a tight frown. He has only recently set up the computers for his friends, and in doing so, he was hoping for a bit of peace and quiet. But no. Now that everybody has a method of communicating with one another electronically, Karkat is standing up making pointless speeches that he’s just going to get mocked about later on. It’s aggravating.

Karkat also announces some ridiculous plan to troll the members of the universe they created – the ones who ruined their session – but Sollux doesn’t know what that will accomplish, so he boycotts.

For about twenty minutes.

There isn’t much to do in the lab, as he quickly finds, and there is even less to do on the computers. He needs to stick around in order to troubleshoot, of course. Only a few moments ago, he was pegged in the head by an F1 key by a certain troll who couldn’t figure out how the viewport feature worked. Clearly Sollux cannot allow his friends around these machines by themselves; it would only be a matter of time before one of them caused an explosion of some sort.

As he stares at the computer, he begins scrolling through the timelines of the other players. Nothing interesting until they start playing the game. No FLARP incidents to call their own. Just monotony.

Perhaps trolling them wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all, Sollux decides. After all, it would at least break up the boredom – on both ends.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] began trolling ghostyTrickster [GT] --
TA: hey
GT: uhh, hi?
GT: how did you get my chumhandle?

TA: ii have my re2our2e2.
TA: here ii have somethiing for you.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] sent ghostyTrickster [GT] file “giift for the human2.~ath” --
GT: oh ok!
GT: thank you, i guess.

TA: enjoy.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] ceased trolling ghostyTrickster [GT] --

Sollux watches on the screen as the kid begins to freak out over the virus that has invaded his computer. He remembers seeing this scene briefly as he scrolled through the human’s timeline, but Sollux did not anticipate that he would be the one to cause it. He shakes his head.

Time shenanigans.

He skips ahead to another point further ahead on the timeline, to keep things linear. Sure, with the Trollian system he would be perfectly capable of skipping around, but Sollux has no interest in causing more temporal paradoxes than he has to.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] began trolling ghostyTrickster [GT] --
TA: hey
GT: ugh, it’s you again!
GT: you’re the one who sent the virus that messed up my computer! :(

TA: are you really goiing to blame me for that?
TA: why the hell would you even open a 2u2piciiou2 fiile from a 2tranger anyway2?
TA: iit’2 your own fault for beiing 2o gulliible.

GT: we had to buy a completely new computer!
GT: but that doesn’t really matter!
GT: i’ve been waiting to talk to you again.
GT: because i have something for you too!

-- ghostyTrickster [GT] sent twinArmageddon [TA] file “pff.^cake” --
GT: i learned how to code since you broke my last computer.
GT: and i think you’ll like this program i made for you, hehe.

TA: do you hone2tly expect me to open thii2?
GT: well it’s up to you!
GT: but if you’re so great at making viruses, you’d think that you wouldn’t have to worry about the files you open, right? :)

TA: that’2 not how iit work2.
GT: isn’t it?
TA: ...
TA: challenge accepted.

Sollux opens the file and compiles the code, bracing himself. These computers are new to him. Not hard to figure out, but new. Still, he’s ready for whatever is going to come at him. Perhaps he has found himself a worthy opponent?

He waits for a moment, but nothing happens. Sollux thinks for a moment that perhaps it’s slow-acting or subtle, but once he opens up the base-code, the only thing that meets his bifurcated vision are the number of syntactical errors.

TA: that wa2 pathetiic.
TA: iif you’re goiing two 2end 2omebody a viiru2 at lea2t make 2ure iit work2.
TA: here ii fiixed iit for you.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] sent ghostyTrickster [GT] “pfffiixed.^cake” --
GT: oh thank you!
GT: wait why did i open that??
GT: shit shit shit

-- ghostyTrickster [GT] ceased trolling twinArmageddon [TA] --

Sollux smirks – once again, he can see John frantically tapping at his keyboard, trying to correct the virus. He skips ahead on the timeline a few more months, and the process repeats. John makes it his personal goal to try and inflict Sollux’s computer with a virus, and each time he fails miserably. It becomes a joke after a while, but each time Sollux dutifully repairs John’s code and sends it back to him. The human at least learned his lesson of never compiling the fixed codes, and instead looks them over for the corrections, made in alternating red and blue.

But as their conversations go on, Sollux knows this is a shortlived tutorship. He can hear the voices in his head growing steadily longer, and the message is clear. The end is near. Plus, as he nears the entry of the humans into Sburb, he can no longer allow himself to distract John with coding lessons. Sollux refuses to be temporally responsible for screwing up the session even further. Sollux’s mouth falls into a frown. He should probably stop fooling around and prepare for whatever’s coming.

Still... just one last time.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] began trolling ghostyTrickster [GT] --
TA: hey
GT: alright, i was waiting for you to show up!
GT: because for whatever reason it doesn’t work when i try to pester you.
GT: weird, huh?

TA: not really.
GT: well, whatever. i’ve got it this time for sure!
-- ghostyTrickster [GT] sent twinArmageddon [TA] file “AAA...GH.~ath” --
TA: we’ll 2ee about that.

Sollux compiles the code as usual, expecting nothing but an error message. However a dialogue box pops up on his screen instead, causing his eyebrows to shoot up.

It reads: “hey ta i used a tutorial for this but i think it should work!”

Sollux clicks “OK” to proceed.

“i really wanted to thank you for all of your help with my coding!
even if i am still pretty bad at it. haha.
i think i’m even worse at viruses, though!
so i decided to make this instead.”

The next command Sollux clicks brings up a picture, obviously rendered on MS Paint. There is a green scribble that he thinks is supposed to be the green slime on John’s shirt, next to the number “2,” which Sollux takes it is supposed to represent himself. There is a small note up top - “crappy, sorry” – and another thank you. It’s the most Sollux can do to keep a smirk from crossing his face. He moves to switch back to the chat, but notices quite suddenly that his mouse cursor has gone invisible.

Clever.

It takes Sollux only five seconds to fix the problem, but at least it worked.

TA: niice job.
GT: thank you!
TA: though a dii2appeariing mou2e cur2or i2 2tiill a pretty 2hiitty viru2
GT: yeah i know!
GT: but i didn’t want to use my mad coding skills to mess up your computer two badly!
GT: i mean too, sorry.

TA: hehe
TA: it’2 cool.

GT: so now that i got you does that mean that you’re going to try and get me with a virus again?
TA: no, that would ju2t be unfaiir.
TA: be2iide2 ii thiink thii2 ha2 to be the la2t tiime we talk.

GT: wait, really?
GT: but you haven’t even finished teaching me all of your leet hacker moves yet! :(

TA: you are never goiing to learn leet hacker move2 you’re ju2t a2 bad a2 kk at thiis.
GT: kk?
TA: nevermiind.
TA: iit’s not iimportant.
TA: ii’m ju2t goiing to have biigger thiing2 two worry about.
TA: and 2o wiill you
TA: not now
TA: but 2oon.

GT: wow, ok. that’s a bit spooky, haha.
TA: iit was niice talking to you.
GT: uh, yeah! you too, i guess. :(
TA: goodbye jn.

-- twinArmageddon [TA] ceased trolling ghostyTrickster [GT] --

Sollux lets out a heavy sigh as he leans back in his chair, pushing his glasses back from his face for a moment. There’s a sinking feeling in his chest, but continuing to speak to the human would only lead to problems and destructive temporal paradoxes. Plus, he can sense that his time is running out, as it always is. No use in continuing to talk when it’s doomed like the rest of their session.

The computer dings with a message and Sollux is snapped out of his contemplation. It’s time to let things run their course.

-- apocalypseArisen [AA] began trolling twinArmageddon [TA] --
AA: hi

Chapter Text

Gamzee knows a miracle when he sees one, and he sees them often. The miracle of light, of technology, of the sky, the earth, the waves. Of friendship, of other trolls, of the rainbow of the hemospectrum, of horns and clowns and tents and laughter. He would consider himself a conniseur if such a thing were possible, and as such, he knows what the greatest miracle of all is. Life and life returned.

Gamzee is not known for a spectacular memory – the slime sees to that – but he can still remember looking over Karkat’s shoulder at his computer screen, seeing the yellow mustard blood pooling around the head of one Sollux Captor. It’s an image stuck in his mind, the little voice at the back of his head, reminding him that the world isn’t always beautiful, that bad things happen. It screams and whispers in his ear, telling him to hate the world and its miracles. He drowns it out with slime.

The game passes by in a swirl of colors and grist. Gamzee climbs his echeladder, goes through gates, completes side-quests, responds to memos, but little stands out to him. He does what he’s told with little thought behind it.

He meets his greatest miracle briefly, in passing, as it runs past him in a swirl of red and blue. But Gamzee catches the image and savors it. Sollux Captor is alive. Back from the dead, in a swirl of colors. Red blue yellow, zipping past in a flurry of life.

The voices quiet.

-o-

Gamzee has long since given up on miracles that he doesn’t create himself. The others don’t see it, but they never did. They stand before him now, glaring, not even appreciating that they are all together for their ends.

Gamzee’s eyes are drawn to Sollux, seeing him now for the first time, unhindered by the slime. His stomach churns. The troll standing before him is not a miracle. He is a blank, half dead thing whose only color comes from the dried mustard stain on his shirt. He stares at nothing, his face contorting into pity and hate. It’s ugly.

The voices scream.

Chapter Text

“No, Kar, I’m tellin’ you, me and this human girl havve somethin’ special.”

“And I’m telling you, fishface, that there is no possible way that any human is ever going to fall for you –and even if by some retarded twist of fate that kind of crazy thing did happen, it would not be Jade Harley!”

“You’re just jealous.”

“You’re just desperate.”

Eridan crosses his arms over his chest, though he makes the motion grander than it needs to be, causing his cape to flare out behind him. “You just don’t know her like I do,” he claims. Karkat snorts derisively.

“Yeah? Prove it.”

“Fin! Look, right here.” Eridan slams his beringed fist onto his desk, for emphasis. “I savved some of our pesterlogs.” Karkat leans in close to the computer, his eyes flicking back and forth as he scans the text for legitimacy. He quickly makes his judgement

“This is fake,” he declares, narrowing his eyes at Eridan. “There is no fucking way that Jade would ever act like that in any version of paradox space. You forged this pesterlog, just admit it.”

“I did not!” Eridan proclaims a little too loudly, clearly indignant. “This is exactly wwhat she said! I didn’t change a bit of it! Wwhat about it evven seems fake?”

Karkat glances back to the screen, a distasteful expression across his face. “What sounds fake?” he asks. “Let’s see here... ‘haha eridan you’re so funny! or should i say punny??’ insert fucking idiotic smiley face here.” Karkat’s voice squeaks and cracks as he tries to imitate Jade Harley; it would be hysterical were it not so insulting.

“Wwhat’s so wweird about that? I can be a fuckin’ riot if I wwant to be.”

Karkat simply rolls his eyes. “OK, then I guess I can continue. Where is it... yeah, this. ‘oh you live underwater?? that is sooo cooool-‘”

“I am so cool, Kar, don’t even try and deny it.”

“I wasn’t done yet, fuckwit. Let me continue this string of idiocy before you try and defend yourself! But like I was saying: ‘i bet that you’re just like a merman. do you go shirtless?’ and then insert the most disgusting excuse for a winking face I have ever seen in my six fucking sweeps of life.”

Eridan attempts to maintain a neutral facade. “I still don’t see your point, Kar. So she wwants to see me shirtless. Since wwhen is that a crime?”

Karkat draws his lips back, baring his fangs in disgust. “Seeing you shirtless should always be a fucking crime. Either way, that is definitely not Jade Harley. That is Eridan shittily roleplaying as Jade Harley. I know you were into FLARP like the rest of the psychopaths, but really, making a pretend human girlfriend is just stooping low.”

“She is not pretend!” Eridan’s baring his own fangs now as well, though in a very different manner. “And I’ll provve it to you once an’ for all! I’ll troll her right noww.” With that said, the seadweller tosses his cape back with a dramatic flare and takes a seat at his computer. He picks a random spot on Jade’s timeline – still before Sburb, but after his previous conversations – and opens up Trollian.

-- caligulasAquarium [CA] began trolling gardenGnostic [GG] –-
CA: hey there swweet thing
CA: howw are you doin
CA: im doin pretty whale myself

GG: ughhh not another troll! >:(
CA: wwhat

“Yeah, Eridan. I can really feel all of those flushed feelings for you. The ‘ugggh’ fucking says it all. I can’t believe you’re wasting my time with this bullshit.”

“Shut up, Kar, maybe she’s just in a bad mood or somethin’.”

GG: do you have anything interesting to say or should i just go ahead and block you now?
GG: not that it even matters because you all just come back and bother me later!!

CA: im not here to bother you
CA: wwell i guess i kind of am but i alwways thought you liked bein bothered by me

GG: uhhh, why would i like being bothered by a troll?
GG: isn’t the idea of trolling for it to be unpleasant? :/

CA: no did you bump your head or somethin
CA: wweve talked a lot and you alwways say im funny and wwitty

GG: uhhh
CA: come on dont tell me you dont remember
GG: sorry, i really can’t say i do!
GG: are you sure i’m awake when you talked to me before?
GG: because i’m like a completely different person when i’m asleep!

CA: oh

Eridan falters, looking everywhere but the computer screen. His eyes finally land on Karkat, who is looking at him with no lack of amusement. He feels the insult coming before it lands.

“So apparently the only thing that could ever be ‘so into you’ is just a dream. Big shocker there! I’m sure it would be all the news in Alternia if it hadn’t gotten fucking destroyed by meteors!” Karkat makes exagerrated motions, and his loud, gravelly voice is enough to start attracting the attention of the others in the lab.

“Shut it,” Eridan hisses, trying to save face. “Just because your dreamself nevver wwoke up doesn’t mean they don’t mean somethin’.”

Karkat falls silent, his eyes narrowed dangerously. Eridan disregards him, turning his attention back to Jade.

GG: uhh... hello?
CA: no thats ok
CA: just because you wwerent awwake doesnt change anythin
CA: i just need to remind you about howw you feel is all
CA: i bet you still have some flushed feelins for me churnin inside your subconcious

GG: i don’t really know about that!
CA: sure you do
CA: i mean you must remember your dreams and youre fuckin enamored wwith me wwhen youre asleep

GG: i... really can’t say that i remember being enamored with you. :/
GG: and to be honest you’re being sort of forward and it’s a little bit creepy!

CA: come on babe
CA: i cant be too forwward if the twwo of us wwere fuckin made for one another

-- gardenGnostic [GG] has blocked caligulasAquarium [CA] –-
CA: glub

Karkat lets out one last snort before he wanders off, done with Eridan’s romantic failures for the day. The seadweller is left to himself, and he dejectedly places his head in his hand as, slowly, his other hand reaches for the mouse. He scrolls through Jade Harley’s timeline slowly, waiting for the moments she is asleep in her bed or on the floor in her garden. He opens up another chat, his fingers tracing the keys slowly.

-- caligulasAquarium [CA] began trolling gardenGnostic [GG] –-
CA: hey there
CA: howw are you doin

Chapter Text

TG: alright so that artwork is good its got potential
TG: but if you want to be making masterpieces like the fucking mona lisa of shitty computer drawings
TG: you need to upgrade your software

GC: >:?
TG: im sure that you dont have any good software publishers on that meteor of yours
TG: but dont worry i can hook you up
TG: here

-- turntechGodhead [TG] sent gallowsCallibrator [GC] file “photoshop.zip” --
GC: HOW DO 1 RUN TH1S?
TG: what really
TG: youre a blind troll who can somehow use a computer and type words that are almost intelligible
TG: and you dont even know how to open a zip file

GC: SHOOSH!
GC: JUST B3C4US3 1 4M NOT PR1VY TO TH3 W4YS OF HUM4N F1L3S M34NS NOTH1NG!

TG: yeah yeah whatever
TG: do i need to send you a tutorial or something
TG: im pretty sure i have a pirated copy of computers for dumbasses lying around my harddrive somewhere
TG: trolls like shitty clipart right

GC: SP4R3 M3 YOUR CL1P4RT TOD4Y COOLK1D
GC: 1’LL F1GUR3 1T OUT MYS3LF!

Terezi figuring it out herself, in fact, involves calling Sollux over for technical support. He extracts the file in seconds, lisping something about “technological incompetence” before leaving. Terezi doesn’t bother to thank him; instead she opens up the program and begins.

She doesn’t like it at first. The colors of the interface are bland, and there are so many buttons that she doesn’t even know where to start. It takes several swipes of her tongue to even distinguish them properly. Terezi cannot imagine how this can be more conducive to the creative process, and she’s about ready to give it up when-

TG: hey used some of my spare time to make this
TG: put like a fucking rainbows of colors in you better appreciate it

-- turntechGodhead [TG] sent gallowsCallibrator [GC] file “tzthisisyou” –-

Terezi opens the file and takes a wiff. Dave didn’t lie – it is absolutely delicious. At first she’s hit with the full brunt of red and teal, and the colors swirl together in a dizzyingly beautiful flavor that not even shecan find the appropriate words for. After this, the lines and letters begin to come into focus, and she is treated to the delicate irony that Dave claims to be so good at. She can smell herself, rendered into sticks and blocks and porkchop mouths, and behind her, in her exact shade of teal... She takes a tentative lick to be sure.

“1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts buck3ts buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts 1 l1k3 buck3ts”

Terezi draws back from her computer screen quickly, her cheeks set aflame with teal blood. It is absolutely lewd, and if anybody else saw it, she would surely be shamed. But despite this, a jagged grin cuts across her face. This is a challenge. A challenge that she make something better, more delicious. She sets to work immediately.

After a bit of fiddling around, she discovers how to switch colors and how to change brushes, and she begins to paint on her blank, vanilla canvas. Her color of choice is no mystery, of course. If she is to depict Dave, then she must use the color of the coolkids, the most delicious flavor. Red.

Her mouth waters in anticipation.

She makes broad strokes at first, imagining them as Dave’s broken blade, causing a cherry explosion across the canvas. She colors in two solid patches of red at the center – his ubiquitous coolkid shades, hiding less than he thinks – and adds thinner, jagged lines around the edges for his hair, his jaw, his biting words.

She switches to black for a moment, to draw the suit, but the second that black line hits her canvas, the flavors go sour. Terezi shakes her head to clear her senses of the odor and hits the undo button immediately. She tests this a few more times with other colors, but everything feels so wrong and so inherently un-Dave. She sticks with red.

She colors his shirt in red, like alpha Dave, and she colors his skin in red, like his blood, and she colors the background in red, like the heat of his city and his world. And she keeps coloring, almost feverishly, infecting the canvas with the very essence that is Dave Strider. It smells delicious and complete. She licks her lips and opens up the chat with Dave again.

GC: D4V3 WHY D1DN’T YOU T3LL M3 B3FOR3?
GC: US1NG TH1S PROGR4M 1S H34V3NLY

TG: see thats why you gotta invest in the high quality shit
TG: cant be making great pieces of work on ms paint like who even does that
TG: so do you have something for me

GC: OF COURS3 >:]
-- gallowsCallibrator [GC] sent turntechGodhead [TG] file “D4V3TH1S1SYOU” --
TG: you just sent me a blank red canvas
GC: 1 KNOW!
GC: 1T T4ST3S JUST L1K3 YOU

TG: i send you a high end art program and all you do with it is give me a red canvas
TG: what kind of crazy shit is that

GC: DO YOU NOT L1K3 1T? >:[
TG: what no
TG: it doesnt get more ironic than this bucket tooled masterpiece
TG: i love it

GC: >:]

Chapter Text

She is the blind eye of justice, the enactor of the law, the legislacerator. She is the seer, the one behind the scenes, pulling the strings, the manipulator to defeat the manipul8or. She directs events how they should be and orchestrates her plans without a soul aware of her power, and she dances and cackles all the while.

But Terezi Pyrope is so focused on her own game that she will never see the strings attatched to her own wrists.

The pieces fall into place too perfectly, the letter, the outfit, the plushie. She smells a set up and she willingly walks into it, knowing she has the upper hand. She follows the steps that have been orchestrated for her – kick down the door, walk up the stairs, confront the Thief. Perfect, yes, the audience cheers.

He is the puppet master, the ring leader of the dark carnival, the subjuggulator. He is the bard, the one on the sidelines, the nobody until it matters. He creates his own world. He picks the hero, he picks the villain, he picks the comic relief. He sets the stage and props and laughs and honks all the while.

Gamzee Makara pulls the strings and makes his hero move to his will, and the best thing is, the Seer of Mind doesn’t mind at all.

His pieces fall as he wants them to. The hero: she walks, she moves, so fluidly, so perfectly. To the villain, who never stood a chance, and the betrayal is beautiful. And the comic relief is here, just in time for the grand finale. He stands to take a bow and that is the moment their eyes meet.

She sees a killer through her blind, blind eyes.

He sees his puppet. And oh, how he pities her.

Chapter Text

When Jade Harley dreams, she always finds herself in the same place – the city of Prospit, of towers and gold. She thinks little of it, assuming that this is how everybody dreams once they wake up.

Jade can fly here, and she soars among the spires and looping through alleys. She waves at the locals as they pass, and they wave back, for they are grateful to have such a lively princess as Jade. She never finds herself at a lack for something to do. There’s always somebody new to meet, some interesting new prediction thrown up into the clouds. There are new mazes to traverse and places to explore, and sometimes she tests just how far away she can fly before she feels herself drawn back to her city of gold.

But through it all, Jade feels exceptionally lonely.

It’s not that the citizens of Prospit aren’t perfectly friendly, but they keep her at arm’s length. They may revere her as a princess, but that doesn’t mean they know what to make of her. Jade can’t blame them of course – she must be pretty weird looking to them! – but that doesn’t provide her with the company she desires.

When it becomes unbearable, Jade soars up to the tower neighboring her own, where her fellow prince sleeps eternally. Jade sometimes pretends it’s like a reverse of the story of Sleeping Beauty, but waking him with a kiss doesn’t work. She knows – she’s tried. She’s tried just about everything. Banging pots and pans, screaming into his ear, dumping water on his head – but no, it’s simply not his time.

So she simply spends time next to him, hoping that will be enough to alleiviate some of her dreams of isolation and his nightmares of living. She can tell when things are going wrong, when his face scrunches up and he looks like he’s in pain, and she smoothes out his hair and tells him that things will be fine, just fine. Jade doesn’t know if it helps, but she pretends it does, because she can’t stand sitting by and doing nothing.

She wishes he could just wake up and see the beauty of Prospit and be free from his living dreams. She spends time thinking of all the things she will show him when he finally comes to. All the places to go, all the sights to see, all the people to meet. She tells him, sometimes, when she feels at her most lonely, and she can almost pretend that he’s flying alongside her, laughing and making jokes. She looks for these visions in the clouds of the battlefield, but it never grants her with that type of comfort.

She refuses to give up hope.

Jade will spend hours in the tower of her prince, but she soon feels her eyes begin to droop with the weight of waking up, and she’s forced to leave for her own bed. But before she goes, she kneels next to his bed and places a quick kiss on his cheek, always hoping. “Good night, John,” she says, her voice soft enough to creep into his waking thoughts. “Sweet dreams.”

Chapter Text

AG: Meddler. Why you so meddley, Miss Meddlesome McFussyfangs????????

Kanaya sits at her terminal, fingers tapping impatiently on the desk. Biting her lip, she waits for the violet text to appear once more on the screen, Vriska’s words from weeks ago echoing in her head.

There are so many things she wants to say to Rose Lalonde, her idol turned passive-aggresor, turned... she doesn’t know what it is now. A sort of mutual informant, but that sounds much too cold, and Kanaya doesn’t like it. That’s one of the things she wants to ask, but she can’t, because she knows the outcome, and she is so scared of becoming a part of it.

It’s probably her fault. She knows it is; everybody knows she has this problem. She’s the meddler, fussyfangs, the one who tries to fix everything but can’t because she’s too attracted to the dangerous to truly help them. She wants to tell Rose what’s going to happen and try to stop her, even though she knows it’s hopeless, but there’s that voice, Vriska’s and Rose’s and her own, echoing in her head.

Meddler meddler meddler meddler meddler.

She tries to divert the conversation to clothing, try to get Rose off of her path to darkness, but she’s much too obvious, just as she always is. Rose doesn’t allow it.

TT: Maybe later.

Kanaya can’t help herself, because she knows. She can see that blackout on her screen, inevitable and getting closer and closer. She can’t let it sit. She spills the beans and gives into her meddling ways.

GA: What If There Isnt A Later
TT: Well, we already know there won't be.
TT: That's nothing new.

GA: I Mean
GA: There Not Being A Later Might Happen Sooner Than You Think

TT: Wow, what?
GA: I Mean
GA: For You Specifically

She takes a deep breath, giving her time to think. “You can stop this,” she tells herself, softly, under her breath, so that nobody can hear her. “You don’t have to succumb to this again. You know what happens when you become too meddlesome. It will never cease to end poorly.”

Kanaya shakes her head, a low chuckle passing her lips. “I don’t even know why I bother attempting to speak to myself in order to convince myself to do something I know will happen.” The inevitability of time is something she should have grown used to by now.

GA: Okay
GA: This Was Something Else I Wanted To Say
GA: Or Ask About
GA: But Im Afraid My Asking Might Play A Role In The Outcome
GA: And I Dont Know If I Want That

There it is, out in the open, and saying it makes Kanaya feel no better than she did before. Rose is dismisive of her fate, and worse, seems to care not for changing it. Kanaya’s done nothing, as she knew she would. She tries to continue on with a brave face, trying to convince herself that the future can still be changed, but she knows. When Rose ends the conversation, Kanaya hesitates to close the chat screen, heart aching.

There is nothing she can do.

She scrolls forward, to that mysterious black screen, and she stares.

Chapter Text

Vriska is almost four sweeps old, and for the past few days, she’s done nothing but cling to her new gift: a ratty old journal belonging to a troll named “Mindfang.” She reads through the book as quick as possible, the hungry clicks of her lusus punctuating the sword fights and daring escapades of a Gamblignant. It’s an immediate obsession – within a day of finishing the book, Vriska has made herself a makeshift pirate outfit from an over-sized jacket and a piece of colored carboard that she tapes to the outside of her left glasses lens.

This is how she greets Kanaya when the jade-blood comes to visit from the desert.

“Vriska?” she asks hesitantly as she is taken by the wrist and dragged inside. “What are you doing? What are you wearing?”

“We’re playing pirates!” she exclaims, spitting out the “ate.” Kanaya stays silent, allowing Vriska to continue to drag her further into her hive. “Here, come with me! We can figure out who you’re supposed to be!”

Vriska stops in one of her many rooms and pulls the tome of Mindfang out of a chest. She flips through the pages, looking through names with narrowed eyes. “No, you just caaaaaaaan’t be Dualscar! You’re not a guy! You can’t be Darkleer or the Summoner, either!” Her brows furrow as she continues to search. “And you’re waaaaaaaay too lowblooded to be the empress or a subjuggulator.”

“My blood color is just fine,” Kanaya says as she gently pries her wrist out of Vriska’s grasp. Vriska ignores her and continues to flip through. She finally hesitates over one section, examining each page carefully before she finally makes her decision. Then she nods, and shuts the book closed.

“OK, I guess you’ll just have to be the slave girl, then,” she declares. Kanaya to gawks at her for a moment, temporarily speechless.

“Slave?” she repeats once her voice returns, small and meek. “But my blood is jade. Surely that is far too high to be aslave.”

Vriska rolls her eyes. “Mindfang saaaaaaaays that her blood color is weird for a slave!” she explains, and she gives Kanaya a look as though questioning why she did not already know this. “So it makes perfect sense that you’d be the slave girl!”

Kanaya’s shoulders sag with resignation. “I suppose that makes sense. So what do I do as a slave? How are we supposed to play?”

Vriska mulls over this for a moment, biting her lower lip as she sets the book down where she got it from. “Weeeeeeeell,” she starts, walking slow circles around Kanaya. “Mindfang said that she was red for the slave!” Kanaya’s cheeks flush green almost immediately. At four sweeps she still has yet to hear talk of buckets, but she certainly knows what red feelings are, and she comes to the logical conclusion before Vriska says it: “So we have to kiss!”

“Is that so?” she asks.

“Yeah! I think so. I mean, Mindfang doesn’t say anything about kissing in her diary but they have to they’re red for each other!” Vriska’s thrown her arms up in the air again, and Kanaya is fairly certain that her cheeks look bluer than usual. But then she’s sure that her own face is green as some of the plants she cultivates – her heart pounds in her chest and her cheeks feel like they’re on fire. She closes her eyes to relieve some of the tension, but not seeing Vriska is just as nerve-wracking as seeing her pace.

There’s a moment’s pause, and Kanaya holds her breath and keeps her eyes shut tight. She isn’t supposed to do anything now; it’s Vriska’s move.

Suddenly, she feels a pressure against her right cheek, coupled with the two sharp edges of teeth, and then it’s over. Kanaya opens an eye to look at Vriska, who has already turned away quickly, back to the book. She keeps her back to Kanaya as she flips through pages so quickly that she can’t possibly be reading them.

“Now what?” Vriska halts her page flipping at the sound od Kanaya’s voice, and she glanced back over her shoulder, looking almost sheepish. Her cheeks are still flushed blue.

“I think Dualscar kills you now,” she explains. “So I guess you have to play dead.”

Kanaya looks down at the ground, covered in cobwebs and dust, and then at her skirt, which she had only just finished the day before. “Do I have to?”

“I guess not.” Vriska shuts the book, flicking her hair back over her shoulder. “It’s sort of a lame game with you as slave anyways. Let’s go and throw rocks at Equius or something.”

Kanaya can’t bring herself to disagree, but she allows Vriska to go out ahead of her, tangled mass of hair flying behind her. She waits there for a moment, listening for the sound of Vriska’s footsteps to fade into the distance. Then, once she’s sure that she’s certainly, truly alone, she reaches a hand up to touch her cheek.

She smiles.

Chapter Text

He gets one message from Trollian:

AG: H8LP!!!!!!!!

Nothing else. No elaboration, no instructions. Nothing. For a moment, Equius is tempted to ignore it, but some other power forces him to at least check up on his neighbor. He makes the short walk over to her atrocity of a castle and pounds on the front door with his fist. Once, twice, thrice – no answer. Faced with no alternative, he kicks in the door.

He waits for a moment, and then, hearing no screams about damaging ruining Vriska’s hive, he presses on inside. He moves carefully, fully expecting that he has been lured into a trap. Though he can think of no wrong that he has committed against Vriska, one can never be too sure, especially not when fellow blue bloods are involved. Nevertheless, he moves through her winding hallways unbothered. The only thing remotely dangerous are her dice, littered across the floor, but if Equius missteps, he simply crushes them to dust.

Once he reaches her respiteblock, he knocks again. Once, twice, thrice – again, no answer. He kicks the door in as he did before. It doesn’t occur to him that it may have been unlocked.

The minute he catches sight of her, it’s clear this is no trap. Most of Vriska Serket is at her husktop, slumped forward, covered in her own blood and, far as he can tell, unconscious. The rest of Vriska Serket is lying in a pool of cerulean blood a few feet away. There is no hope for the arm, and only slightly more hope for the rest of the troll.

He stands in the doorway for a moment, thinking. He could leave her here, let her bleed to death. She is lower than him on the hemospectrum, even if only by a notch. There is no obligation. In fact, it would even be expected – Vriska has done nothing but disrespect him and make fun of him, and though he might begrudgingly consider her a “friend,” it is a consideration out of convenience rather than true affection.

So he stands, and he ponders the consequences.

And perhaps it is Vriska’s last stroke of luck, but he decides to save her.

-o-

It takes her a good three days to wake up. In this time, Equius does a number of things. He cleans the wounds on her body, takes the proper measurements, and starts the skeletal work on the arm she never even needed to ask for. He checks in on her every hour or so, even during the day, first to see if she’s awake, and then to see if she’s alive.

He’s recieved messages from Sollux asking about her. He deflects them by the excuse that it is no right for a lowblood to know, but also because he suspects that if Sollux knew her condition – unconscious, barely breathing – she would not be breathing for much longer. Equius finds it odd Terezi has not yet asked about her FLARP partner, but he is too busy to do anything about it. It’s not his business.

Vriska finally opens her eye as he is looking for spare parts near the table on which he’s set her. He doesn’t notice her at first, because she is still too weak to move, but he finally catches his name, hissed along with a “the fuck are you doing?”

He turns slowly and moves to stand over her. It is a bit gratifying, seeing her finally forced to look up at him. “I am looking for spare parts. I need to rebuild a robot.” It’s a simple answer, and he knows it’s not the one she’s looking for.

Vriska tries to sit up, but she’s not used to the lack of her other arm yet, so she falls flat on her back again with a pained grunt. She glares up at him with her single eye. “Not what I meant,” she hisses back, her fangs bared. “What are you doing here?”

“You are in my hive,” Equius explains. She doesn’t respond, but the look is enough. “You were bleeding to death, so I brought you back. I believe your lusus has been feasting on unsuspecting trolls who walk past, as she has not seemed too hungry.”

Vriska’s glare lessens, though whehter she’s tired or less angry, it is hard to tell. She asks, “Why?”

“I suppose I pitied you,” Equius says, but before either of them can consider what this means, he turns and leaves.

-o-

By the time he finishes the arm, a week later, Vriska has begun limping about his hive. She swears at his lusus and runs into things (he understands that losing one eye can do a number on depth perception, and figures that losing seven must be even worse) and she eats his food without asking. She’s the worst hive guest in the history of Alternia, but he still doesn’t kick her out. Not until he’s finished.

The installation doesn’t take as smoothly as Equius is anticipating. Getting the port onto Vriska is the first difficulty. She squirms and complains and calls him names and once or twice her working eye leaks out a tear or two, but she doesn’t tell him to stop. Painful as it might be, it’s for her own good, and she knows that just as well as he.

But even once that’s completed, the arm malfunctions, with a mind of its own. It punches Vriska in the face, and then when Equius tries to detach it, it punches him in the face. This breaks the fingers, allowing him to get it off.

“Yeah, some skilled mechanic you are,” Vriska spits. “Might as well have just gone to a fucking lowblood junkyard and stuck an old fork in my stub. Would be more effective than that piece of shit.”

Equius sighs and sets the arm down for a moment, fixing her with a stare. “I could kill you for saying that,” he warns.

“Yeah.” Vriska, even down one arm, isn’t scared. “But you won’t.”

He doesn’t do anything for a moment, but in the end, they both know she’s right. He makes the arm right the next time.

-o-

It takes another week for Vriska to fully adjust, and once this happens, it’s time for her to go.

Her return home is a subdued affair, which strikes Equius as odd. He doesn’t know why he should expect anything more – though Vriska herself is rarely subdued, her hive is within sight of his, and it is hardly as though they will never see each other again. She says briefly “Going back across the chasm, Spidermom’s probably hungry,” and stops in the doorway to make sure he’s heard the news.

He turns and looks at her through cracked shades, and for a moment, they are stuck staring at each other from across the room. Equius knows he should say something. He feels that he should say something. She’s expecting it, and he’s expecting it, but when his mouth opens, the wrong words come out.

“Be careful.”

Vriska laughs – a short, quick bark – and without another word, she leaves.

Chapter Text

Even Dreambots go to heaven. Or, at least, they go to the nearest thing to it – the dream bubbles.

It is an odd, confusing place for a being which has never dreamed, whose thoughts and memories are made of scraps and pieces of another girl who didn’t blow up that night, who is still trying to save her friends. She’s treated as a tool, an accessory, and most her visitors, though few to begin with, don’t recognize her as another dreamer.

But he does.

Her databases tell her that’s he cannot be human – not with those horns, not with that skin – but he’s alive (or he was, once) and he talks to her, even though she was built with no mouth to respond. She nods to his questions, of which he asks many.

“If we were on Alternia, I would have constructed a voice box for you,” he promises her. She doesn’t know why he can’t do it here, but she can’t ask him otherwise.

He performs maintence for her whenever he drops by, though she doesn’t know why, for she can never really tell the difference. He adjusts some nuts and bolts, but of course she’s already to pieces nothing ever changes.

He tells her stories sometimes, and she likes that. He talks about a girl like her that he was once in love with, as he adjusts the nuts and bolts on her iron-clad skirt. “You would have liked her,” he says. She doesn’t know if that’s true or not, because she’s not programmed to like anything.

But when she looks at him, she realizes that programming may not account for everything.

Chapter Text

CA: sorry that took so long
CA: but had some uh
CA: reely important highblood business to attend to and all

AC: XOO < not to be rude but i dont really care!
AC: :33 < there are a lot of meteors falling outside my hive right now and after efurrything i had to do to pull aradia into the game i dont even know if theres time!

CA: hey dont worry about it
CA: im not some text rper like you im a fuckin flarper
CA: i wwill get you into this game if its the last thing i do
CA: only it wwont be

AC: :33 < well that would sure sound more impurrsive if you would actually start!
CA: im gettin to that part
CA: ok im settin up the connection now

Nepeta taps her fingers quickly across the top of her tablet, biting her lower lip as the Sgrub loading logo flashes on the screen. For quite a while, now, she’s heard nothing but the falling meteors, making landfall not far from her hive. She knows its only a matter of time before one of them hits her home and she’s nothing but a crater in the ground.

To make matters worse, there’s been nothing to do but sit and wait for Eridan to connect to her. Nepeta had her work cut out for her at the beginning with making sure she pulled Aradia into the game, but since then, it has been nothing but waiting. Most everybody else is too busy with their own Sgrub woes to humor a bored catgirl, especially Karkat, who has the added paranoia of believing she’s trying to spy on his team. Still, now that her moment is here, she’s nervous. The meteors are only increasing in frequency – who’s to say she’ll even make it in time?

CA: alright got it set up
CA: wwoww your hivve is a fuckin shipwwreck

AC: :33 < well sorry but there was a cave in earlier if you didnt notice!
AC: :33 < i havent had time to clean up really
AC: :(( < or... move her body

CA: yeah wwell i can do that look

A few rocks begin to fly around the room as though they’re possessed – out of instinct, Nepeta hisses at them.

AC: :33 < stop that!
AC: :33 < youre causing efurrything to shift around and it might make another cave in if you arent careful!

CA: wwell sorry
AC: :33 < just deploy the machines already!
CA: yeah yeah
CA: but stop bossin me around landwweller or maybe ill just let you die

AC: :33 < you wouldnt!

Regardless of what Eridan said, three familiar machines appear. Nepeta jumps in surprise, but immediately walks around to check on them all. She stops at the cruxtruder, running her hands along the smooth edges, simply admiring how real it feels. The moment is broken by another meteor collision outside, just a little too close for comfort.

AC: :33 < anyways, i need your help right now
AC: :33 < could you use something to hit the top of this machine?
AC: :33 < like maybe one of the rocks around here or something?

CA: oh i sea
CA: noww you wwant me to play with the rocks
CA: wwell maybe i dont wwant to noww did you think about that

AC: XOO < rawr! just do it!

It takes a moment that Nepeta isn’t sure she can spare, but soon enough, one of the rocks from the cave in opens the hood of the cruxtruder, releasing the kernelsprite, just as had happened with Aradia. A few more rocks tumble down, revealing the body of Pounce de Leon. Her face falls.

CA: alright i did it
CA: and cod stop lookin so sad
CA: you can just prototype your lusus again and itll be fin
CA: look

And just like that, Nepeta watches as the bloodied corpse of her lusus is hoisted through the air, dripping bits of green blood onto the floor of the cave. She wants to turn away in disgust, but part of her is simply so mesmerized by the sight that she can’t quite take her eyes off of it. Then, in a blinding flash of light, the bloodied corpse is gone and in its place is a floating, glowing Pouncesprite. Nepeta’s breath catches in her throat, and though she doesn’t want to give Eridan the satisfaction of being right, she can’t help the fanged grin that breaks out across her face.

AC: :33 < oh
AC: :33 < thank you eridan

CA: yeah wwhatever
CA: anywways wwhat am i supposed to do from here

AC: :33 < well i guess all you really need to do is deploy the punch card!

Almost as soon as she says it, a large punch card is captchalogued in her sylladex.

CA: and thats it
AC: :33 < i think so!
AC: :33 < the rest is up to me, so i guess you can go back to your “reely important highblood business” now

CA: oh yeah
CA: that

And Nepeta leaves her computer for the time being as she busies herself with entering the game. The process goes as she remembers from Aradia – using the punchcard to carve the cruxite, and then using the cruxite to power the alchemiter to make her trial. Sitting on the center of the platform is a light green wingbeast, preening its feathers.

Nepeta draws her claws, ready for the hunt.

Once Nepeta leaps towards the glowing creature, it quickly flutters away, out of reach. Nepeta growls and whips around on the platform to get a better view of the wingbeast. It lands near the rock pile, and returns to preening its feathers. Nepeta readies herself once more, but as she leaps for it a second time, it flies away again, finding a new spot in which to rest in the cave. The pattern repeats, with Nepeta narrowly missing the wingbeast every single time. It steadily gets more and more frustrating, and though Pouncesprite offers her sympathetic looks, Nepeta finds herself with no help.

After another loud explosion outside, Nepeta lets out a frustrated growl and retracts her claws, returning to her computer. She doesn’t know what good it will do her, but she’s certain that the meteors are going to crush her at any second now. She decides she’d rather spend her last moments talking to her friends than trying to catch some impossible tiny green animal.

When she opens Trollian again, her window is a flood of purple text.

CA: hey nep
CA: i can see youre havvin trouble there
CA: and im not wwatchin you because i dont havve anythin better to do
CA: but i wwant to see this servver player thing through
CA: ok so obvviously youre not goin to respond to me because youre tryin to catch that thing
CA: wwhatevver it is
CA: so um i guess ill just wwatch
CA: but you knoww i wwould shoot that thing wwith my rifle if i wwere you
CA: its obvviously just goin to movve evvery time you get close to it
CA: so get it from afar i guess

AC: :33 < but i dont have a rifle
AC: :33 < my strife specibus is my claws :((

CA: wwell then you just have a shitty strife specibus then
AC: >OO < hey!
CA: but it doesnt matter just throww somethin at it

For a moment, Nepeta considers throwing her computer at it, but she decides that Eridan does mean well. She picks up a stray pebble, readies her throwing arm... and misses by a mile. She bites down on her lower lip, doing her best not to think about how, if she can’t do this one thing right, this could very well be the end of her.

CA: wwoww
AC: :33 < shut up!
AC: :33 < im just nervous is all
AC: :33 < and there are all these meowteors around and its really distracting!

CA: wwell that should just be more reason to get it right
CA: come on nep wwe got the wwhole game in front of us
CA: you cant just givve up here because you dont havve a rifle
CA: besides youre like a fuckin cat right
CA: wwhat sort of cat lets itself get wwon ovver by a wwingbeast anywways

It is perhaps the worst inspirational speech that Nepeta has ever read, but right here, right now, with a meteor imminent, it works. Adrenaline pumps through her veins, and she shoots up from where she was sitting, claws drawn again. Her eyes pick out where the wingbeast has landed and, carefully, slowly, she picks up the stray rocks thrown around by Eridan minutes ago, and she takes careful aim.

The first shot misses, and the rock bounces off of her shipping wall, accidentally taking out Eridan’s face in his blackrom with Kanaya. The second shot misses too, but it lands more innocently next to the cruxtruder. The third shot – the supposed charm – well, that misses too, and it scratches up her alchemiter. She’s left with one more rock and not much time.

But she sneaks up close, carefully, quietly, and with a lucky throw, the wingbeast bursts into feathers. And more than that, her entire world bursts into light. She has to shield her eyes for a few moments, but finally everything begins to dim.

She dashes to the exit of her cave and pokes her head outside to see a marvelous world splayed out before her. It’s made of gorgeous white mountains and yellow skies.

It’s beautiful.

Nepeta can hear trollian chime before her once again, and with a bright grin matching the cubes of sugar surrounding her, she goes to answer.

Chapter Text

The oven in John’s dreambubble home always smells like cake. Even if there’s no memory occuring there in particular, if it’s night, and he’s alone, and the oven is empty, it doesn’t matter. The entire kitchen carries the smell.

Sometimes, when it really hits him that he’s dead and alone in these bubbles, he finds a memory of his kitchen and sits on the counter, finding comfort in the scent as he feels the slow shift of memory carrying him through the bubbles.

The view out the window changes accordingly. Sometimes it’s the suburban neighborhood that’s supposed to be there. Sometimes it’s the scorching heat of Houston, or the cold forests of New England, the dormant volcano on Jade’s island, or sometimes even their respective worlds in the Medium. But more often than not, he sees the bizarre night sky of Alternia, and that’s when he knows he’s about to get another visitor.

When John remembers dying, he had talked to many trolls, and seen a small picture of one, but he’d never met one in person. Perhaps the version of him that was meant to keep living has actually met one by now, but he has only talked with ghosts.

“Glub.”

“Hey, Eridan!”

John turns his best smile to the blank-eyed troll who has suddenly appeared in his kitchen. Eridan ignores the greeting as he takes a sniff and looks around.

“You’re in the kitchen again?” the troll asks, arms crossed against his chest. This, coupled with the cape, gives John the impression that the troll is some sort of superhero, even though he knows differently. He knows the story of the Prince of Hope too well by now.

“Yeah,” John answers. “You’re also in my kitchen again.”

Eridan rolls his eyes, raising his upper lip. “Yeah wwell I’m a seadwweller so I’m pretty much allowwed to go wwherever the hell I like. I don’t need to explain myself.”

“It’s my house,” John explains. “And you’re not on Alternia anymore, so your blood color doesn’t matter!”

Eridan scoffs and pushes himself up to sit on the counter next to John, silent for now. John casts a sideways glance to the troll, eyebrows raised. Eridan pretends to ignore the look, but then John starts waggling his eyebrows, and not even Eridan in his worst moods can resist cracking the smallest hint of a smile.

“Gotcha.” John nudges Eridan in the ribs, a buck-toothed grin breaking across his face again.

“Shut the fuck up.” Eridan swats him off; John swats back.

“But seriously, why are you here again?” John’s grin lessens as he asks the question. “Something happen?”

“Nah. I mean noone wwants to fuckin’ talk to me but that’s nothin’ neww,” Eridan explains with a grimace. “It just gets lonely sittin’ in a bubble all by yourself.”

“Oh.” John’s legs swing absent-mindedly over the countertop, his smile now completely gone. “Yeah, I get what you mean.”

“How the hell do you get it? You’re the fuckin’ leader of your group. You never murdered anybody.” Eridan’s fists are clenched at his side – John cannot tell if he’s resentful or regretful.

“Maybe not.” John shrugs, eyes downcast. “But nobody really cares when you’re not the alpha you. Who wants to visit the idiot who got himself killed?”

There’s a moment of silence, and John can almost hear the horrorterrors, screeching far beyond the reaches of his memories. He stares intently at his shoes, left untied, as they continue to swing to and fro. He halfway expects Eridan to just up and leave, but he stays nonetheless, sharing in the silence for a moment. It’s a little uncomfortable, but it’s nothing they haven’t been through before. The same thing happened after Eridan confessed to killing his friends. John broke the silence then – he feels its only fitting that the seadweller returns the favor.

And he does, after a while. “I do,” he says. “Care about you, I mean. Alpha selvves are a load a bull anywways. Not all they’re cracked up to be. You probably don’t evven wwant to be alpha John; he’s got a load more responsibilities than you just ‘cause he’s alivve.” Eridan shrugs, waving off the notion with a ringed hand. “Besides, wwouldn’t havve met me otherwwise, right?”

John’s grin is back again, and he nudges Eridan in the side with an elbow. “Yeah, guess you got me there.”

“But seriously wwhy does this place alwways smell like cake. It’s gettin’ a little creepy.”

“I dunno, man, why do you always smell like fish?”

“Shut the fuck up.”

Chapter Text

Aradia returns from the ruins once the sun is safely set, and when her ram’s horns finally peek out from the entrance of the ruins, Kanaya lets out an audible sigh of relief.

Aradia carries a journal full of notes and bag full of artifacts which, as far as Kanaya is concerned, look like nothing more funny-shaped rocks. She is covered in dust, head to toe, but even the deep bags under her eyes cannot damper her enthusiasm. “Thank you for letting me look at your ruins, Kanaya,” she says. “It was a long day, but I think I have learned a lot from them.”

“Any time you wish to return, you are welcome,” Kanaya says. Aradia beams, and she’s about to just walk off and return to her hive, but Kanaya catches her by the wrist before she can take another step. She frowns. “But surely you’re not planning on leaving like... that, are you?”

Aradia tilts her head to the side. She has a clump of hair matted in her horns. “Leaving like what?”

Aradia’s confusion is genuine, which is why Kanaya makes several false starts when she tries to come to a proper answer. She finally settles on a list of rambling concessions. “Well it is simply that your clothes – not that there is anything wrong with your fashion choice, it is certainly better than many trolls we are acquainted with, but they are in a bit of disrepair, and also you are covered in dirt and I do not think that it can be sanitary, and your hair-” She cuts off short and cringes. Aradia frowns.

“What’s wrong with my hair?” she asks.

“Nothing!” Kanaya squeaks. “But you have been in the ruins all night long. Surely you want to rest before you return to your hive.” Aradia opens her mouth to argue, but finds her protest swallowed by a poorly timed yawn. Kanaya tries to hide a smile, knowing her battle is won. “You are welcome to use my recuperacoon if you like.”

Aradia finishes the yawn, her shoulders slumped in conceded defeat. “I suppose a small nap couldn’t do me any harm...”

Within minutes, Kanaya has her recuperacoon full of slime, and she respectfully averts her eyes as Aradia undresses to climb inside. Once she is sure that the rust-blood is fully submerged, however, she turns back around and snatches up the clothing, left in a heap on the floor.

Then she gets to work.

Kanaya works as quickly as she can, aiming to finish before her visitor awakens, but she does her best to pay attention to the important parts. She washes the thoroughly before she starts, then sews up the holes in an hour. Before she moves onto the fun part, she tip-toes back to her respiteblock, checking that Aradia is still fast asleep. Hearing gentle snoring from her friend, she continues the job.

It’s not as elaborate as she would like, in the end, but Kanaya decides that, given her time restriction and the time of day, she could have certainly done worse. She admires the handiwork for a moment before she sets the clothes back where she found them, as though they had never been touched.

Then, she waits.

She fails to wait patiently. Aradia is woken from her nap by an insistent, but otherwise pleasant Kanaya, who once again looks away bashfully once the lowblood exits the recuperacoon. Aradia swallows another yawn then looks to the ground to find that her clothes are folded in a neat pile that she certainly never made. She gives Kanaya a curious look.

“What did you do?” She tries to sound accusatory, but she’s glad for Kanaya’s bashfulness – she has no reason to hide the grin threatening to cross her face.

“I simply gave your clothes a few alterations while you were asleep. There were a few tears, and I thought I should repair them before they fell to pieces completely.” Kanaya pauses, and her eyes flick back, tempted to look. “Perhaps you might like to try them on?”

Aradia looks at the clothing at her feet and, with no other option left to her, changes into them. The fabric is the same, rough material she’s used to, but it smells a lot less like dead people than usual. But that’s not the only change.

The edges of the fabric have been decorated with a swirling, elaborate pattern, done in the same rust red as Aradia’s blood. It’s pretty and impractical – but then again, Aradia supposes these are things that Kanaya likes. And like it or not, Kanaya has transformed the rags she wore coming in into clothing nicer than she can afford to get as a rust blood.

Though, she muses, she will certainly have to retire these clothes from exploration.

“They’re nice,” Aradia says finally, after a moment of examination. Kanaya finally turns, elated to see her handiwork in person. “Pretty,” she adds.

“Do you really think so?” Kanaya asks. “If you like them, I could make you more. Color suits you very well, and I would love to see you wear it more often. It brings out your-” She flushes green and stops, realizing what she’s about to say, but a rare strain of boldness prompts her to finish. “It brings out your eyes.”

Aradia blinks, feeling the blood rush to her face a little more. She considers the proposal, how many exploration clothes she can afford to give up before she has nothing but frivolous things in her wardrobe. The answer is not many. She has never spent much time expanding her wardrobe beyond five identical outfits.

But still, she smiles.

“Perhaps just one more couldn’t hurt.”

Chapter Text

There’s a certain cadence to being the player of time, that constant ticking that comes with the powers. A metronome of seconds. It’s subtle, but everything they do is on time, on beat, even when the rest of the world is tapping out the wrong rhythm.

It’s a minor thing at first, but the beats start to clash in their ears when a comment comes half a second late, or when a heart beats just a tick too fast. It creates a cacophony of echoing noises that aren’t quite right, and Dave tells himself he’ll get used to it, and Aradia promises herself this is better than being dead, but the world is simply wrong, and nobody else understands why.

When he meets her, he marvels at the way her wings flick just in time, one two three, one two three. When she meets him, she wants to drown in his words, not because of the meaning but because of the rhythym.

When they get a moment – precisely a moment – alone he asks, “You hear it too?”

She nods. “I do.”

And she smiles and he almost smiles, and this, they think, sounds exactly right.

Chapter Text

She gets his trollhandle from Vriska early in the evening, along with the news that her normal FLARP partner is sick. Usually illness is a thing to hide on Alternia, especially from those with the power to take you down, but Vriska has an interesting situation.

AG: Look, this guy is going to end up killing a troll anyways 8ecause he needs to get their lusus for something, so don’t even 8other me with your ridiculous moral code.
AG: All you need to do is tag along for a 8it, may8e use your sneaky legislacer8tor logic to help him out. You know, if you feel like it.
AG: Then you drop the 8ody off in the ravine 8y my hive.
AG: I’ve already told him a8out you so there shouldn’t 8e any pro8lems.
AG: And hey, maybe you’ll even come to appreci8 me even more when you have to FLARP with some8ody who isn’t as awesome as I am!!!!!!!!
AG: 8ut seriously, if you can do this one little thing for me, I will definitely make it up to you.
AG: Oh, here’s an idea! May8e I won’t make fun of Tavros for a week! You’re always getting on my case a8out him, so that’s got to 8e a good enough incentive, right?

Terezi considers letting Vriska’s monstrous lusus starve for only a moment. She has been unhappy with her FLARP partner recently, but she sees no reason that she should subsequently sentence her to death-by-lusus. Besides, if she doesn’t go and play with this “Eridan” guy, then she’ll just be stuck in her tree hive all by herself all night. She had no other plans but FLARP today – what difference does it make if she plays with somebody other than Vriska?

So she packs up her things and heads to the rendezvous point that Vriska sent her, arriving at the shore as dusk finally fades fully from the sky. She sees his ship before she sees him, resting in the shallows. The troll himself is standing on the shore nearby, arms crossed and waiting. She has to go to him – “Eridan” refuses to move a muscle to close the distance between them.

As soon as Terezi is close enough to get a really good look at him, she realizes why. A seadweller. Of course Vriska’s “8est pir8 rival” would be a seadweller.

“You’re Eridan?” she asks, stopping a few feet short. She trusts Vriska to an extent – she at least trusts that Vriska needs her help right now and isn’t trying to lure her into a trap – but she isn’t so sure how she feels about this seadweller.

He sniffs, as though such a question is ridiculous. “Yes, of course I am. And I take it that you are Vvris’s... partner?” He raises his lip in an overdramatic way at that last word, and Terezi rolls her eyes.

“I am,” she says curtly. And Eridan is about to let the introductions end there and lead her to the ship, but she can’t resist adding on, “Though you should call me Neophyte Redglare.” And she grins her toothiest grin at him. This is a game within a game – if he’s going to take things too seriously, then Terezi has decided that she will not take them seriously at all. Besides, as Vriska put it, she’s really only here to bring back a body or two. What she does in the meantime is up to her.

“Oh yeah? An’ I’m Orphaner Dualscar. Anywways wwe havven’t got all night. Better get movin’.”

Terezi cackles, but she moves.

Their campaign is against an olive-blood and an indigo-blood. The olive-blood sits on a ship that has clearly seen better days, and the indigo-blood rides on the back of his lusus, albiet somewhat precariously.

“Like candy from a grub,” Eridan says, clenching and unclenching his ringed fingers in anticipation. There is a grin across his face that is probably supposed to be menacing, but mostly it looks forced. Terezi figures this is supposed to impress her, but she is no newcomer to this game, and it will take more than a smile and a simile to get into her good graces.

“Let the games begin,” she says, and she cackles.

It takes a while to get used to Eridan’s style of play. In the bandigrift version of FLARP, there is no clouder, only head-to-head combat, and as far as Terezi can tell, teams aren’t even a necessity. Eridan doesn’t ask for her help at any point, even as he runs along the length of his ship to light the cannons. She tries to pull her own weight and set one off herself, but the mechanism is too bulky and her aim is off; Eridan forbids her from wasting more cannonballs. From there she tries to get the attention of her opponents with a joke and a smile, but they either don’t hear her or ignore her.

Mind games have no place for the open waters, she finds. What’s the use of subtlety when you are launching giant flaming rocks at your opponents across large distances?

After establishing this, she tries to content herself to sit back and watch, but the battle takes a while; the indigo blood separates from the ship on the back of his lusus, giving Eridan two targets. He handles it well, Terezi supposes, but it is a lot of running around and swearing that is, frankly, pretty boring after the first minute or so.

So with no opponents to turn her mind games on, she decides to focus them on the only target at hand.

“Wow!” she calls out over the splashing of the waves, leaning over one of the cannons. “Landdwellers are beating you on your own turf! I was expecting more from a seadweller!”

Eridan shoots her a glare. “Not that I’m not flattered by your black advvances,” he shouts as he sets off another cannon, “but I’vve already got a kismesis.”

“Not black advances,” Terezi counters, grinning. “Simply observations!” It’s true; she has no interest in stealing Vriska’s kismesis whatsoever. He’s not her kind of adversary. All bark and bite; no thought behind it.

“Coulda fooled me,” he growls, but his frown turns into a confident smirk when his next shot lands a hit on the indigo blood’s lusus. “An’ see that? Stupid landdwweller didn’t stand a chance.” He ignores the olive blood for a moment to work on reeling in the bleeding lusus and its traumatized troll. Terezi keeps an eye on the other opponent, who thankfully seems a bit shocked by the sudden hit as well. Terezi winks at him, but she doesn’t think she can see over the waves.

Eridan hauls the indigo-blood on board, allowing the injured lusus to be dragged along behind the vessel. The troll tries to put up a fight, but Eridan is expecting that, and knocks him out with one strike against the temple. Those rings are evidently not just for show.

From there, the rest of the game is quick. With one target not suited for the water, it takes Eridan three shots to down the enemy ship. The olive blood is dragged on board and given a similar treatment to his partner. Eridan turns to Terezi.

“They’re yours,” he says, with a gesture to the two unconscious trolls. “But I gotta delivvery to make first.”

“Deliver away!” Terezi says with a grin. It’s not as though she has a choice on the matter – they are too far from shore for her to swim back with two dead bodies in tow – so she decides it is better to act as though she doesn’t mind.

Eridan takes the ship out deeper into the water, towing the dead lusus behind it. It takes a good twenty minutes for him to reach his final destination (though Terezi doesn’t know how he can tell one open spot of water from the next) and once he’s there, he stops the ship and waits.

Terezi raises her eyebrows, waiting for some sort of explanation, but Eridan seems intent on keeping silent. She breaks the silence with an overenthusiastic, “This is exciting!”

Eridan’s response is a middle finger.

It takes longer than Terezi’s patience, but finally, another seadweller emerges from the water, and though she looks grimly at the dead lusii, she still turns on a smile for Eridan. They speak briefly in glubs and fish puns which Terezi can barely comprehend, but what she can comprehend is Eridan’s change in demeanor. No longer is he “Dualscar,” the pompous FLARPer who ruthlessly kills troll and lusii alike. Instead, he is just Eridan.

Terezi realizes that she doesn’t quite know who “just Eridan” is, but the way his face softens when he looks at that female seadweller – the way he almost actually smiles – she decides that she wouldn’t mind finding out, were she ever given the chance.

And yet the minute the other seadweller disappears beneath the waves, lusii in tow, Dualscar is back. He turns back to her with a disdainful look. The rest of the trip back to shore passes in an uncomfortable silence in which Terezi wants to pick apart the seadweller piloting the ship, but doesn’t have the first inkling of where to start.

When they finally reach the shore, Terezi pulls the two bodies off of the boat, and though she is ready to go, she can’t help but throw back one last comment to her temporary FLARP partner.

“We should do this again some time,” she says, baring her teeth in a grin that is not as insincere as she would like it to be. “Maybe next time you could even venture onto land!”

Eridan sniffs again and tosses back his cape. “I wwouldn’t count on it,” he says.

And Terezi cackles again. Like it or not, she does not think she’s seen the last of this sea dweller.

Chapter Text

EB: hey, uh, dave.
EB: dude, you there?

TG: this is a dave
EB: a dave?
TG: yeah i think there are like sixteen of me walking around right now
TG: different points in time
TG: but you can never know for sure one minute future mes there and then the next hes zapped himself into the past to be futurer me
TG: you get used to it
TG: what can i do you for

EB: uh. well.
EB: i don’t know how to put this, but i think you died. or you’re going to die? from your perspective i guess.

TG: what are you talking about
EB: i found your dead body.
TG: oh
TG: whats he wearing

EB: i just said that you’re dead and you’re asking what you’re wearing?
EB: seriously?

TG: come on its a simple question
EB: ugh, fine.
EB: you’re wearing a lime green suit.

TG: oh then thats ok
EB: what?
TG: its just a doomed timeline dave
TG: like davesprite only he got killed before he could turn into a glowing bird version of me
TG: he probably just saved your ass you know
TG: you were probably going to be killed in some dumbass way and doom us all

EB: oh.
TG: but anyways im busy got some more stocks to buy
TG: anything else

EB: no. guess not.
TG: catch you later
TG: or earlier i guess never know how these timelines play out

And then Dave signs off, and John is left alone with the body of a friend who’s still alive. He looks at it for a good long moment, taking in every detail, every blood splatter highlighted in nauseating contrast against the suit.

It’s probably best to bury the body, he thinks, or at least give it some sort of proper burial.

In the end, he leaves it for the imps.

Unfortunately, the lime green body is not the last one he comes across. He finds one dead in the middle of a giant grist pile, still freshly bleeding. John stares again, then collects the grist and leaves. Another is simply lying over one side of a fork in the road, and John decides he can’t let that sacrifice goes to waste, so he takes the other path safely. Another is still in the mouth of one of the larger monsters when John reaches him, torn to shreds, but it only takes one more hit for John to take the monster out. When it explodes into a grist pile, what’s left of that doomed Dave falls among the grist. John just leaves everything there – the blood, the body, the spoils – because he feels that if he sticks around, he won’t be able to hold onto his stomach.

It occurs to him that every single one of these dead Daves marks another time in paradox space in which one of his best friends knowingly and willingly gave up his own life to save his, and that just makes John feel even sicker. His own stupid mistakes have killed Dave multiple times over now, and those are only the bodies he sees. How could he possibly be worth such a sacrifice? Of course his Dave is still around, still alive, but that doesn’t change the fact that in all those timelines where he dies, his Dave would throw himself in the line of fire for him.

(In that sense, they’re all his Dave, because they all went through who-knows-what-kind-of-hell just to save him.)

He finally finds a Dave still living and breathing, but not for long, and John is tempted to leave him like the others, but he stays. He ignores the grist and falls to his knees, taking in everything again. It’s a black suit this time, but it doesn’t hide the fact that this Dave is bleeding too much, too fast. There are deep gashes in his side, and his lips are bloodied, and John doesn’t know much about medicine, but he knows that has to be a bad sign.

Dave’s glasses lie off to the side, cracked. Somehow, seeing that hurts more than the blood.

John tries to think of something to say, something that might somehow ease this Dave’s passing, but he never knows what to say in emotionally charged situations. Maybe Jade would know, or Rose, but he’s hopeless. So Dave speaks first, voice thick with the exhaustion of trying to stay alive.

“Never thought I’d see you again,” he wheezes.

Perhaps if Dave were not bleeding to death, John would have something clever to say to that, some stupid movie to quote, but as it is, all he can muster is a quiet, “Why do you keep doing this?”

“Doing what?” asks Dave. He probably shouldn’t be talking, John thinks, but there’s no saving him at this point anyways. “Saving your life?”

John nods.

Dave closes his eyes, and for a moment John thinks he’s simply died, but he eventually answers, his voice hardly above a whisper. “Because turns out a world without John Egbert in it just ain’t worth living in.”

John stares for a good long moment, his mouth hanging slightly open, but by the time he finally thinks to ask, “What do you mean?” it’s too late, and he is left alone with yet another corpse.

He stands up slowly, never taking his eyes off of Dave. This one I could bury, he thinks.

In the end, he can only return the shades to his face, and he shoulders the guilt of another death as he continues walking.

Chapter Text

Kanaya saw it happen. They all saw it, all twelve planets, glowing with the creation of a new god. Nobody really knows how it happened, though Terezi reports smelling Vriska bleeding to death on Prospit shortly before she ascended. The only one yet to report in via memo is Tavros, which Kanaya finds suspicious.

Yet she knows the way the game works, and she has the vaguest inkling of how Tavros works, and so Kanaya knows where he will go next. Surely he will not linger near the home of a dead friend, and her planet is the next stop if he’s going to keep moving through gates.

So she takes a break from hunting frogs and she waits.

It’s only a matter of minutes before he comes crashing through the roof of her hive. Just another reason to hate him, she decides. Not only is he likely the one responsible for the death of her – her moirail, but also the destruction of her tapestries. Unforgiveable.

She strides up to Tavros ready to... well, she’s not quite sure what she’s ready to do. Verbally reprimand him, perhaps, but even Kanaya knows that’s a little lame, and too light a punishment for the circumstances. It’s not the proper payback for inadvertently breaking her heart.

So she stands in front of him, waiting for the dust to clear, waiting to see the face of a murderer, somebody she can force all of this negativity onto.

What she sees instead are stained brown tears and the scared face of a wiggler who doesn’t know what’s hit him, and it tugs at her broken heart strings. She pulls him out, gently, from the wreckage, and when he thanks her, genuinely, she can feel the first stitch, pulling herself back together.

Chapter Text

“So let me get this straight – your glasses are computers?”

“Yup!”

“And your earmuffs are computers too?”

“That’s right! My jacket, too!”

“And your shoes?”

“Uh-huh!”

Jade smiles as the half-blind troll slowly takes her in, mouth agape. He looks like a child lost in a toy shop.

“I could kiss you.”

Chapter Text

Vriska has ambitions higher than a clown-faced highblood who can hardly get himself dressed in the evening, but she finds that when she needs reassurance the most, she goes to him.

He makes a marvel of her new wings – “motherfucking pixie dust,” as he puts it – and as he sits on a hill among sopored-up imps, she stands above him, triumphant. It doesn’t matter that Tavros ignores her, that her moirail has all but left her. With him – with this supposed royalty among landdwellers – she feels powerful. In control. She is a goddess, and unlike the others, he reveres her.

Before she leaves, she slays an imp, just to show she can. He cowers at the explosion of grist, and turns a terrified expression on her. Vriska laughs; it’s cute, in a sort of pitiable way.

She cannot dream of the day that the tables might be turned.

Chapter Text

Aradia lives far away from the rest of Alternian civlization, in part because she likes hunting for artifacts, and in part because it’s safer, with her blood color.

Nepeta lives far away, too – in part because she likes hunting, and in part just because she wants to.

It’s purely by chance that they live anywhere near one another, but when things get truly lonely, they take advantage of it.

AA: i kn0w that y0ur m0irail w0nt let you flarp
AA: but w0uld y0u like t0 c0me to my hive?
AA: i am sure we can think 0f a game t0 play
AA: such as... the great expediti0ns of megid0 and leij0n!

AC: :33 < yes!
AC: :33 < that sounds purrfect!

And so Nepeta rides over on her lusus, and she and Aradia play in the ruins. As Aradia promises, there is no clouder, no stats, no gaming abstractions whatsoever. Simply two girls, darting in and out of crumbling columns of stone, laughing as they imagine the adventures of a lifetime.

Both of their clothes become more dust than cloth by the end of it all, but neither of them find that they care.

Before Nepeta leaves, they lie exhausted on the dirt in Aradia’s hivering, staring at the stars.

“One day,” Nepeta proclaims, “maybe the two grrreat explorpurrs can go to the stars together! And they can explore even more dangerous and exciting places!”

Aradia laughs, rolling onto her side to face Nepeta. “Do you think so?”

Nepeta rolls over as well, giggling. “I do! Purrhaps they will even explore every star in the galaxy!”

“Under the Condesce’s nose!”

“Seeking out danger at effury turn!”

And the two of them start laughing for the sheer joy of the thought.

At some point, Nepeta’s hand ends up on Aradia’s. Neither girl mentions it, but she doesn’t let go until it’s finally time to go home.

------

AC: :33 < aradia?
AC: :33 < i havent heard furom you in a while
AC: :33 < are you ok? :((

AA: yes
AA: im 0k
AA: everything is 0k

AC: :33 < im glad to hear it!
AC: :33 < *ac rubs her face against the daring explorpurrs legs*
AC: :33 < we haven’t played a game in a while!
AC: :33 < can i come ofur?
AC: :33 < *ac says*
AC: :33 < *using the cutest kitty eyes possible*
AC: :33 < aradia? :((

AA: s0rry
AA: but that is n0t p0ssible right n0w

AC: :33 < then can you come ofur here?
AC: :33 < i think i found a new cave system that the great explorer aa should catalogue!

AA: i cann0t d0 that either
AC: :33 < maybe sometime soon then?
AA: s0rry

apocalypseArisen [AA] ceased trolling arsenicCatnip [AC]

Nepeta looks away as her throat begins to constrict, and she slowly draws her knees to her chest, but she doesn’t cry.

Just another adjustment to her shipping wall.

Chapter Text

Eridan Ampora is 4 sweeps old, and he is sitting on a beach just after sunset. In his hands he holds a pre-written confession, scrawled in purple ink across paper worn thin through compulsive folding.

He is waiting for his princess to come, and so she does.

She arrives like a goddess, emerging out of an incoming wave as though she was part of the sea itself. She is young, but gorgeous, and her jewlery glitters in the ever-dimming light.

“Eridan!” she greets. “It’s so wonderful to see you!”

He can tell just by the way she says “see” that she really means “sea”; his heart skips a beat. “Hey, Fef.” He tries to play it cool. “What brings you ‘round to the surface?”

She giggles and plops herself down next to him on the beach, allowing her bare feet to be washed with the ebb and flow of each ending wave. “Because of you, silly!” Her face gets close to his, like she thinks to kiss him on the cheek, but she backs away at the last moment to clarify. “You said you wanted to meet me here. So what is it?”

Eridan looks down at his confession, skims the first words, and clears his throat. “Fef,” he starts, and he tries to deepen his voice, to make himself sound older. “We’ve known each other for a few sweeps now, an’ in that time I think we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well.”

Feferi leans in close, her eyes wide and her cheeks flushed fuschia. He knows that she knows that this is a confession, and the fact that she seems so eager fills him with confidence.

She wants this too.

“I’ve told you things I ain’t never told another troll before,” he continues. “And I’ve opened up to you in ways I didn’t even know I could open up, like carvin’ my vascular system out of my chest. I don’t know if quadrant serendipity is a thing, like in all those movies, but...” He swallows; she’s staring at him so intently he thinks she might just burst. “But if it is then I think we have it.”

“Eridan...”

“Fef, I w-want you to be my moirail.”

And
something
shatters

Eridan remembers this. He remembers Feferi tackling him in a hug, peppering him with pale kisses, saying “Yes! Shell yes!”

But that’s not what happens now.

Eridan Ampora is six sweeps old, and he is dead. Sitting next to him is the girl of his dreams, with the same dead white eyes as him, and she is no longer smiling. And they sit like this for a moment that could be eons, neither sure what to say.

Feferi breaks the silence. “Eridan,” she says.

“Yeah?”

“Why did you pick this memory?”

He is somewhat taken aback, but his expression quickly sours. “I didn’t pick anyfin. How do I know you didn’t just decide on it, huh?”

“Because you were the one waiting here!” Feferi’s voice is made of needles, and though this is not the first time she’s snapped at him, Eridan flinches anyways.

“Well, fuckin’ sorry, I guess,” he mutters, and he stares at the sand with forced interest. “But it’s not like I wanted to be here. It just happened.”

“The dream bubbles reflect the subconscious,” Feferi’s tone is smoother, but still cold. “So for some reason you wanted to be here. I just don’t get why you would want to remember us as moirails when you decided you were flushed for me!”

“Yeah, well maybe it ain’t about bein’ pale or flushed with you,” Eridan says. “Maybe I just miss bein’ in a time when you didn’t fuckin’ hate me!”

And he looks up, expecting her to be seething mad, just like she was in those seconds before he ended her life. The burning fury of a tyrian blood, trident and teeth bared.

Instead, she just looks sad.

“I never hated you.”

“Yeah? Well you sure did a fine job of actin’ it.”

“I just needed some space!” Her head snaps up and she looks right at him. “I didn’t want you to leave for good! I just wanted some time to sort out my feelings. But apparently that was too much to ask!”

And there’s something about that phrase – “sorting out feelings” – that sparks a bit of desperate hope in him. “Yeah, well you’ve got all the time in the world for feelin’ sortin’ now, I figure.”

Feferi stands, and he is forced to look up at her like the empress she was meant to be. “Eridan,” she says. “Maybe there’d have been a chance if you had just listened to me when we were alive. But you made your choice the minute you gave me this wound.” And to his horror, that gaping hole he left in her chest is there, still oozing blood as though it were fresh and new. “It’s too late.”

He can do nothing but stare at her, and she stares right back at him, fixing him with an expression that he’s so sure is pity he wants to cry.

“Goodbye, Eridan.”

The bubble shifts, taking his princess with it.

Chapter Text

Dave is pretty sure that when you shift to a new memory, you’re supposed to shift to new people too, but that doesn’t stop the bull-horned troll from being there.

A memory of grocery shopping with Bro. Bro’s not real – just a figment of memory – but Tavros is waiting at the check out lane, dorky fanged grin and all.

First day of middle school. None of the kids are actually there, except for that odd gray one that wasn’t there the first time it happened. Dave takes the seat next to him, and Tavros waves.

Even just chilling alone in his room, under the never-cold-enough breeze from his fan, Dave gets no peace. Tavros is sitting there on the cinderblocks, not even demanding attention. He’s just there.

If Dave’s being honest with himself, he finds that it doesn’t necessarily bother him. Tavros isn’t all that bad of a guy, and he’d certainly prefer the company of a troll over the company of memories. It’s nice to have a companion.

There’s just one thing he doesn’t understand.

“Why me?”

It’s a memory of drawing his second Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff comic. Dave turns to face Tavros, who had been looking intently at his sound system until a few moments ago. He blinks.

“What?”

Dave repeats himself. “Why me? Of all the fuckers you could have decided to leech onto – hell, even of all the Daves you coulda picked – you keep on coming back to me. Why?”

Tavros decides that his own feet look fascinating as he stammers out his answer. “W-well, you were the first Dave that I came across here and... I don’t really understand all of this time stuff as well as Aradia. So I, I just thought it’d be easier. To stay with you.”

“Don’t you have other friends?” It comes out more insulting than Dave means it to. Tavros’s gaze remains on his shoes, and he begins to pluck nervously at his pants.

“Well, I do, but there are some bad memories. And good ones too, but also a lot of bad ones.” He swallows. “I like staying with you on earth better. You don’t really do all that much, I guess, but I kind of like that. A lot of stuff happened in the game. I kind of just want to take a break.”

There’s a dead silence. Dave doesn’t know how to respond to that. To be honest, he’d be happy to end up in memories that aren’t his, just to experience a little bit of what the alpha Dave does.

Tavros finally looks up, his blank eyes filled with worry. “Is- is that OK?”

“Yeah, man, of course it’s cool.” Dave spins back around in his chair and back to the comic. “Besides, I already told you, we’re in it for the long haul. Motherfuckin’ entrenched in this bitch. Just wanted to make sure you were prepared before we go down the aisle.”

Tavros laughs. “Oh, we’re... back to that again.”

And Dave actually smiles as he adds horns to Sweet Bro’s head. “Man, we never left it.”

Chapter Text

He knows it's coming. He always does. He heard his neighbor's voice almost an entire perigree before she was killed in FLARP. He'd heard the voice of that green blood who preached on the street corner, too, and it was hardly even four nights before somebody culled him.

And now it's her.

"I'm okay with it."

Denial.

It's some other girl, it must be. Some other doomed girl that just happens to sound like her. Aradia's smart. She lives in the middle of nowhere. She has friends; she won't starve. It just doesn't make sense for her to die-

"I'm okay with a lot of things."

Anger.

-but of course it's her. He knows her better than anybody. He would never mistake her voice for anybody else's, and to think so is stupid. He's stupid. Her imminent doom is probably his own damn fault in the first place. Some sort of sick punishment for knowing him in the first place, for actually thinking he could be happy with somebody-

"But you like to talk to me."

Bargaining.

-but perhaps he can still save her. He blocks her on Trollian, but he still hears her, so he unblocks her and talks to her more, but he still hears her, so he starts telling her to be careful, but he still hears her, so he tells her to stock up on food and not leave the house, but he still hears her-

"Why do you like to talk to me?"

Depression.

-there's nothing he can do. He's going to lose her. He shouldn’t have even bothered. He blocks her again because he can’t stand seeing her username anymore, but then he realizes that he’ll never see her username again and he spends three nights without talking to anybody-

“Sollux, I would actually like it if you were happy.”

Acceptance.

It ends when he feels her hand on his shoulder. He looks up at her with bleary eyes, tired and strained from crying and lack of sleep. She looks the same as ever, covered with dust and sweat and smiling at him like he matters.

He realizes he spent so much time thinking about her dead that he had forgotten she was still alive. Still here.

“Sollux?” she asks. “Are you okay?”

He exhales his worry, and allows a though to cross his mind – enjoy the time you have left.

So he unfolds his limbs and kisses her. It tastes like grime and dust, but it’s time to make the most of things.

And her voice chimes in his ears, even as her lips are occupied.

“Sorry about everything, and all the bad luck you’ve had. You didn’t deserve it.”

Chapter Text

She is a goddess, and you are a piece of shit unworthy of the bottom of her shoe. The universe shines through her dress, and you’re the raging douchebag that couldn’t even breed a frog correctly. She twirls planets on the tips of her fingers; you still don’t know what it means to be a “Knight of Blood.”

She’s taller than you are, too.

And by all means, she ought to have forgotten about you on that ship of hers, lost your name somewhere among the grey skies of Wind and Shade while you stayed stuck in the past, scouring old pesterlogs for signs. But she smiles at you anyways.

And not just smiles; she fucking beams at you, her eyes drawn tight with relief. You don’t know what to make of it.

“Hey!” she says, and she floats to where you stand, radiating perfection. “I missed you, fuckass!”

And you mean to ask “Why?” but it always happens; other words spill from your lips, and you find yourself saying instead, “Seriously, Harley? A sweep and a half with nothing else to do but come up with the best way to insult the raging dimwit who fucked over your session, and fuckass is the best you can come up with?”

“Shut up!” she says, laughing, and she hugs you tighter than anybody has before, like she’s happy to see you.

It’s such a foreign feeling that you forget to tell her how much you missed her, too.

Chapter Text

Between her time powers and her electronic brain, when Aradia sees Gamzee, she does not see a troll, but a myriad of possibilities which need to be kept in check. He dooms her more times than she can count – he runs out of sopor, he dies, he steps in the wrong place at the wrong time. The others, they listen when she informs them what must happen to ensure a proper timeline. He requires a more hands on approach.

She isn’t the alpha Aradia; hasn’t been since the timeline where he killed Karkat and Terezi. It was an ugly sight, though she didn’t particularly mind. Simply an annoyance – another loose thread to tie up. She warped back and made sure he got his sopor.

As such, she is well aware she’s doomed, but as a robot, this is just a fact to her, not something to be lamented. Her programming attempts to pull her forward in time to meet her end in the final battle, but she hangs around him, managing his steps as best she can without drawing attention to herself. Paradox space allows this, she decides, since it would prefer fewer doomed timelines as well. So long as she babysits, she can continue to function.

And function she does. She destroys the enemies around him, leaving him only with piles of grist to collect. She keeps the sopor nearby so that he doesn’t reach his highblood potential until it is the proper time for it. It is an orchestrated plan that goes perfectly for hours, even though she knows it is doomed to fail.

She can’t stay this way forever.

It’s one of the big imps that does it; he waves it over with one of his juggling clubs, and it waves back with a massive claw to his temple. Her first thought is to go back in time and stop it from happening, but timelines run through her circuits, and she knows what feels right.

She kills the imp, first. That takes no time. Then she lifts his broken body.

She takes pause, here, and she looks down at the mangled body of the troll she’s spent her remaining hours protecting from himself. An odd feeling overcomes her, not unlike the sensation installed in that chip, and she’s frozen in time for just that moment, overwhelmed with something she would almost label “fondness.”

But the moment passes and duty possess her programming again. She carries him to his quest bed, and watches dutifully as his body rises in a pillar of light. And finally, that tug to the future takes hold, and she is watching the final battle.

He’s there, too, still alive, and though he looks no different, she knows. She sees him swing his clubs with purpose before the Black King destroys her.

She almost feels proud.

Chapter Text

Though Equius is a skilled mechanic, he’s come to find that his creations are thoughtless and robotic. Acceptable, certainly, for robots meant to be pummeled into the ground nearly as soon as they’ve been created, but sometimes his ideas require a bit more finesse. A robotic butler, for instance, which will not bruise blue every time Equius touches it. A spy camera, to keep an eye on his conniving neighbor. Equius can make the machinery for these things, but he needs a code – some form of artificial intelligence – for them to work.

So he starts by asking his fellow bluebloods for help, but those who can code are unwilling to do it without heavy compensation, and even then he doesn’t trust them. Equius could never ask somebody above him for a favor, and so he is forced to resort to looking to lesser classes.

He starts with cerulean, then works his way down, teal, jade, green. Most of the “talent” he finds are hacks, no better than Karkat, who managed to explode the camera when he gave it a shot. There are few competent coders among the rabble, but none with the skill to match his robotics.

So Equius finds himself talking to lowbloods about his projects, the rusts, the browns, the mustards. He scares most of them off with his nobility (though they call it classism) but finally Nepeta drops him a username.

AC: :33 < and hes supurr good at what he does!
AC: :33 < though he is a little sensitive about his mewtant bifurrcation thing so be nice
CT: D --> I am always nice.
AC: :33 < :PP

So Equius contacts him (a mustard blood, not the worst of the worst but still pretty bad) and asks for a code.

TA: why 2hould ii?
TA: iif ii’m not goiing two even get anythiing out of iit then ii’m not goiing two help you.
CT: D --> I am sorry. I shouldn’t have had such high e%pectations of a low b100d such as yourself.
CT: D --> I should have forseen that you would be unable to complete such a rigourous task.
TA: what? no, fuck you.
TA: codiing your stupiid robot2 i2 about a2 ea2y a2 takiing 2liime from a grub.
TA: ii’ll have iit done iin thiirty miinute2.

And so he does. And it works brilliantly, too, apart from a little message that pops up every so often, informing Equius dutifully that he should “2uck iit.”

From there, Sollux continues to code, though he expects compensation for it. It’s nothing that Equius cannot afford – some money for extra slime, or a new beehive for increased processing power – though Equius finds himself annoyed that he’s required to pay in the first place. As a mustard-blood, Sollux should be doing with work for the price of not being culled.

And yet Equius cannot pretend that Sollux’s codes are not worth the price, that they are in fact worth so much more. Sometimes, when Equius has no other thoughts left to entertain, he is forced to consider just how talented the lowblood is.

It isn’t right. It isn’t proper.

And yet the mere thought of it is enough to make him sweat.

Chapter Text

Nepeta’s hunting instincts were on full alert. Usually she would never be so close to this many hivestems and this many other trolls, but today warranted the danger. She kept her eyes on the scrawled address she carried in her hands, shoulders hunched.

She hated cities.

She bumped shoulders with another greenblood on her way into Sollux’s hivestem, and she had to focus on a memory of Equius calming her – do not claw out the throats of trolls you do not know – as the other trolls passed. She kept her claws sheathed.

Thankfully the halls of Sollux’s building were much less crowded than the streets of his city, so she reached his door without issue. She took a moment to compose herself before she knocked; she would do no good to come to him stressed. So she shut her eyes, relaxed her shoulders, and allowed an easy smile to come to her lips, as though she wasn’t here for a reason.

Then she knocked, rapping her fingers one, two, three times against his door. She waited for a moment. No response.

“Sollux?” Nepeta asked, keeping her tone as sweet and non-threatening as possible. “I know you’re in there. Sollux?”

No response.

So she let out an irritated growl and kicked down the door.

He was in there, alright, sitting in front of his computer. His knees were pulled up to his chest, his forehead set delicately on top. He made no indication he had heard her come in.

Nepeta had feared as much when she heard the news about the FLARP fallout from Karkat. Tavros crippled, Vriska missing an arm and an eye, Terezi blind, and Aradia was most likely dead, if Vriska’s intentions were played out correctly. On a tip from Equius (who was saddled with dealing with Vriska while she recovered) Nepeta had come to see how Sollux was handling things, because he had stopped responding on Trollian.

Now she had her answer.

Nepeta inched towards Sollux, careful not to make any sudden or upsetting movements, but she could have started attacking and she felt it was unlikely he’d respond. She finally rested a careful hand on his shoulder; still nothing.

It occurred to her that this was her first time seeing Sollux in person. She knew what he looked like, of course, from the occasional group video chat, or through descriptions or pictures from her other friends. She could easily envision the several versions of him that she’d scribbled onto her shipping wall, and her heart fell when she realized how she’d have to rearrange some of the ships. After all, she could no longer ship him with Aradia if there was no Aradia left to ship him with.

Sollux shot up suddenly, as though shocked by something, and Nepeta quickly drew her hand back. He turned to face her with a half-panicked look, but Nepeta was under the distinct impression that he wasn’t looking at her, but rather looking past her, at some unnamed antagonist.

Overall, Sollux looked a mess. His hair stuck up at odd angles, there were deep bags under his eyes, and there was a bit of what appeared to be dried honey on the front of his shirt. Based on the smell, he hadn’t bathed since the incident.

Finally, his eyes focused, and he asked, “What are you doing here?”

Nepeta felt her heart crack.

“I’m here to help you!” she said, throwing on the smile she had prepared at the doorway.

“Help?” he asked.

“Just trust me.”

And so she began, peeling him away from his computer, ordering him to strip and bathe (though of course she carefully averted her eyes), and she convinced him to take at least a short nap in his recuprecoon. It was borderline pale, but it was necessary to keep him alive.

And though Nepeta couldn’t help but pity him throughout the entire ordeal, the feelings ran redder than that – she was caring for his body, not his feelings. Of course she had always had a spot for Sollux and Aradia on her cave wall – her pre-requisite canon ship – but with Aradia out of the way...

It would be an easy adjustment to make, no matter how guilty she felt.

Nepeta woke Sollux up again after two hours, determined to get him talking again.

“You’re not my lusus,” he lisped irritably, and she smiled. If he had the energy to complain, then hopefully he could muster up the energy to keep living.

“Well your lusus is chained to the roof, so I’ll just have to stand in fur now. So get your lazy butt up!”

She covered her eyes with one hand as Sollux clambered out, handing him a set of clean clothes with the other.

“And speaking of your lusus, how long has it been since you fed-”

Nepeta was interrupted by a “ding!” from Trollian. Sollux made a dive for his keyboard, but she was sure to beat him to it; she didn’t want to be back to square one if it was Vriska, messaging him just to gloat about her victory.

The messenger wasn’t Vriska, but Nepeta felt her heart sink anyways.

There would be no adjustment to her shipping wall, after all.

Chapter Text

Sollux’s body hits the wall with a sickening thud, and he slumps forward, unconscious.

Feferi’s retaliation is met with a gaping hole in her chest, and she falls limp, Gamzee’s horns sounding a pathetic death toll.

Kanaya’s chainsaw falls silent as she’s blown through with the same white magic she helped create; her body falls among the remains of the matriorb she failed to save.

Then he turns to you.

Your breath catches in your throat and you’re absolutely sure in that moment that he’s just going to kill you, right then and there, leave behind no witnesses. But he doesn’t. Instead, he strides up to you, his wand still held tightly in his hand, a sharp coldness in his eyes. He stops a foot away from you, and he towers over you, and for the first time you’ve really stopped to notice how much power he holds in his hands.

This is a troll that has killed countless others before. Why would he would spare you because of friendship?

“Kar,” he starts, and you croak a squeak in response. “Kar, don’t look so fuckin’ scared. I’m not gonna fuckin’ kill you, alright? They just got in my way. It had to be done.”

Yeah,’ you think. ‘They got in your way because you attacked them.’ But you don’t say it aloud because you’re too scared to stick up for them, even now. You’re a goddamn coward and you don’t want to die.

“But I’ve got no reason to kill you. ‘Cause you get it, don’t you? You know what it’s like to be shunned and rejected. You know that we gotta do what it takes to survive. So you’re not going to try and stop me.”

You stand frozen.

“You see, you an’ me? We understand each other,” he says, and he places a hand on your shoulder.

You don’t understand him at all.

“Just wish you could come with me.”

Then, without warning, he leans forward and mashes his lips to yours; you can almost taste the fish on his breath. But it’s over as quickly as it began, leaving you no time to react or push him away. He gives you one last look (and shit, you think, that’s pity) before he turns and leaves.

You’re left standing along in a room with three unmoving bodies.

Your jaw drops.

Chapter Text

She’s sitting on the edge of the rooftop she died on when he comes strolling in, unannounced. He looks at her and she looks at him, and for a moment it looks like he’s got something important to say, but instead he goes with, “Wrong troll.”

So she snorts, and says, “Wrong kid.”

She assumes at first that this is the alpha Dave, asleep, but then his neck stands out to her – shocking red against bright green. It matches her chest – shocking blue against bright orange.

“She get you too?” she asks.

“Yeah,” he says, and he looks down.

“What a bitch.”

He agrees.

The alliance happens naturally – they both want to find the same person for the same reason, and it’s better than navigating paradox space alone. So they go from bubble to bubble and run into every version of everybody they’ve ever known – except for her.

“Figure she’s dead yet?” Dave asks, sitting across from Vriska on a small paddle boat, bobbing up and down with the tides of the Land of Light and Rain.

“Of course not.” Vriska smirks. “She’s too conniving to die. Death would come up to her and she’d read him one of her dumb law books and explain why it was illegal for her to die. And then he’d die. Of boredom!”

“Good one,” says Dave, and he almost cracks a smile.

They still don’t find her, dead or alive.

While kicking up sugar in the Land of Little Cubes and Tea, Dave asks, “What are you going to do? You know, when we find her?”

Vriska shoves her hands into her pockets. “Not sure yet. Probably punch her first.” A pause. “What about you?”

“Dunno. Punching sounds pretty good, though.”

Vriska cackles, cracking out an even tempo of eights.

But it’s hard to punch somebody when they’re just not there.

They’re in the Land of Heat and Clockwork, sitting on Dave’s unused quest bed, just within spitting distance of the meteor’s remembered rooftop.

“Think we’ll ever find her?” Dave asks.

Vriska stares at her shoes. “Maybe not,” she says. “Maybe she made it to the new session already.”

“Maybe,” Dave says, then it’s quiet. The still of paradox space settles around them as the crushing concept of forever starts to take hold. Dave shuffles his feet, then breaks the silence. “You know, I don’t even remember why I wanted to find Terezi in the first place.”

“Revenge?”

“Nah, that’s not it.” Dave’s neck wound has reopened with the utterance of her name. “I mean, what good would revenge do anyways? Not like I could kill her back or anything. She’d just wake up. And anyways, I’m not that mad at her, I guess you could say it was kind of my fault for nagging her so much about getting god tier anyways.”

Vriska is quiet.

“I think I just wanted to see her face,” he admits. “Not in any kinda romantic bullshit way, you know. Just to see if she recognized me. See if I made any kind of impact on her or if I’m just another dead Dave. I just-“

“Just want to know if she even cares?” Vriska finishes for him, her voice uncharacteristically quiet.

“Yeah,” says Dave.

“Me too.”

Silence.

Then Vriska stands, unfurling her glittering cerulean wings, and she turns to face Dave, standing on the boundary between their two graves. “I’ve decided something,” she declares.

“Yeah?”

“We are going to stop caring about Terezi! She is too much of a bore to waste our whole afterlives on!” Vriska’s wound has reopened too, bleeding blue, but she’s smiling too hard to care. “There is still too much to do, and we aren’t getting any of it done by moping around here!”

Dave is taken aback for a moment but then, with a smile, he stands too.

When Terezi finally finds the two victims she’s been looking for, they acknowledge her for only a moment. Then arm in arm, they enter the next bubble, leaving her alone.

Chapter Text

AT: hIIII, sO,
AT: yOU GET BOSSED AROUND BY THE KNIGHT, oK, gIVEN THAT, i HAVE A QUESTION,

TT: This isn’t real.

“Oh. You figured that out quickly.”

Rose looks over her shoulder at the dead troll standing behind her, an eyebrow raised. “It’s not hard,” she explains. “I’ve grown to expect entering a dream bubble whenever I’m asleep. It’s the kind of thing one can prepare for.” She stands, her white shirt and skirt giving way to her god tier robes. “Though I must say I am a little surprised by the memory – it certainly wasn’t the one I’d been planning on. Is this your decision, then?”

He looks somewhat embarrassed. “Yes, it is. I just... like the way your land looks. The colors are pretty, and it kind of reminds me of fairy tales, in a way.”

Rose smiles. “I see.”

“Though I am sorry for interrupting you from whatever memory it is that you wanted to go to.” He stops for a moment.

“It’s quite alright, Mr. Toreador.”

“Call me Tavros.”

“Tavros.” Rose repeats, weighing the name on her tongue. “Well, Tavros, I believe that the dreambubbles themselves have decided to keep me from my goal, so I would not blame my being here on your own desires. Now, you said you like fairy tales?”
“Y-yeah.”

“Walk with me, and I’ll share one with you.”

Rose gently descends from the giant the two of them had been standing on, slowing until her feet are a mere centimeter above the glowing waters of her planet. Tavros follows, and she begins.

“Once upon a time,” she starts, using the old cliche because it is the proper start to any fairy tale. “There were four friends, who were very close to one another. Though they were separated by land and sea, the four friends spoke with one another every day, sharing music and movies alike. One day, they decided to play a game.”

Rose reaches the shore of the island her house is on. At this point in memory, it hasn’t yet been built to the monolith it was to become; it is just as she remembers from childhood. Tavros follows dutifully. “Though the game started simply, with bathroom utilities misplaced, it held dire consequences both for the friends and everybody they loved. Over the course of this game, all four of them came into magnificient powers of breath, light, time, and space.”

She stops at her front door for a moment and closes her eyes, trying to will the bubble to work the way she wants it to.

“This story just sounds like SGRUB,” Tavros points out. “Or, what you called it in your universe, whatever that was.”

“Irrelevant,” Rose says, as she pushes open the door.

“But then, it’s not really a fairy tale, is it?”

“All tales have a grain in truth in them. Some more so than others.” She strolls into into her remembered home, glancing around. Items that were never there line the shelves, including some from trolls. She wonders if they are remnants of Tavros’s memory, or if others have been exploring this memory of her home.

“They fought hard and lost a lot, but in the end their game was irreparable. The four friends were forced to leave, Time and Light by meteor, Space and Breath by ship. Though they were destined to meet again in three years time, they no longer had any method of communication, and the distance was suffocating.” Rose slowly climbs the stairs to her room, and Tavros floats alongside her. “But they had access to a world of dreams, where anything could happen. They could meet a variety of fascinating characters, from a different universe, who had in fact died before they could have ever met.” She gives a knowing glance to Tavros, who smiles weakly back at her. “So each night, Time and Light would fall asleep in hopes that the world of dreams could bring their friends to them.”

Rose stops at her door, hand on the doorknob.

“Did it work?” Tavros asks.

She opens the door and peers inside. Everything is as it should be: the rocket pack through the wall, the pile of knitted items, the journals still on the floor, but the room is devoid of human life. Her brow furrows.

“Not yet.”