“…because I have aaaaaaaall the luck!” Vriska laughs, tossing her dice across the Parcheesi board. John laughs, stopping one before it bounces off the edge and smacks his teal-covered knee; she’s already sending her pieces skittering across the board in accordance with the sixes that she rolled, not even bothering to look at the dice. “All of it!”
He smiles, tossing his own dice up and down in his hand. “For things like this, anyway. Does it make up for the rest of it?”
She freezes, one piece hovering above the board. Her wingtips tremble; the light reflected shivers across the ceiling. “What?”
“Well, eheheheh…” Talking to Vriska is harder than talking to anyone, even Rose at her cleverest and most sarcastic; he wonders if the him that she knew was any better at it. He hopes not. “Well, I mean… like, a lot of the stuff that happened to you sounded really sucky, right? I mean, you sounded like you were pretty sad about it.”
“So?” She tugs at her hoodie, scowling; it’s a little scary when she does that, all teeth and strange eyes, but it’s okay. He knows she isn’t going to hurt him. He’s pretty sure.
“Well, it wasn’t really that lucky, was it? I mean, getting stuck with your lusus, and losing your eye –”
Plastic dice and playing pieces scatter like leaves in a storm as she leaps to her feet, glaring at him. “Luck has nothing to do with that, shitbrain! Nothing at all! That’s how it works, you get that? I have all the luck, I’ve always had all the luck I could ever need and then some! I have enough luck for a hundred of you lamebrain fuckwads who always have to worry about what’s going to happen next or where it’s going to come from or whether a tree is going to fall over on you or if you’re going to fall asleep in the wrong place at the wrong moment when your lusus is hungry and desperate enough to get at you!”
“Your – your lusus tried to eat you?” John asks, blinking up at her. “That – that’s –”
“No! No, she didn’t try to eat me, because she never had the chance. Because I’m lucky! I have the chances! I’m the absolute best there is, do you understand that! Bad things don’t happen to me!”
“Then…” He blinks; she’s screaming now, hands twisted up into fists that have to be hurting her a little bit with those claws, face gone a funny different kind of paler and more blue that he thinks probably isn’t good, and he doesn’t understand what’s going on. “So was it lucky to get your lusus, then? Instead of one that wouldn’t have eaten you even if she’d had the chance?”
“Luck has nothing to do with what lusus you get, okay? You get the right lusus for you! She was right for me because I could take care of her, because I could keep her fed and not get eaten like Tavros or Aradia or even Terezi would have if they’d had a lusus as hungry as mine, okay? I got her because I’m the best, because I could handle her, because I – have – all – the – luck!”
Her finger stabs at the air as if the molecules around her are massing for an attack; he blinks up at her, trying to take in the raggedness in her voice and the changing tint to her black eyes and do trolls cry? Do ghosts cry? “Vriska –”
She screams like an animal, one leg snapping sideways to collide with the chair beside them; John leaps up with a yelp as it crashes into the carpet beside him, tossing up a slight puff of dust that makes it look like a skyscraper tumbling over while aliens ascend or monsters rise up from the deep. He half expects Vriska to keep shouting, to start pulling beams out of the wall or kick out the window and vanish into the sky, or at least knock over all their half-drunk hot chocolate and send brown stains and china shards soaking into the rug, but she doesn’t. She rakes her claws through her hair, shakes her head, folds her arms, breathing hard.
“It’s okay not to understand, John,” she says, a slight rasp edging her usual smirking sneer. “You don’t know what it’s like, never having that extra weakness. I could almost feel a little sorry for you. It must be so frightening, not being able to even throw something or walk across a room without being sure whether it’ll go the way you want it to, always knowing that something really bad could happen to you without you even knowing.” She flips her hair over one shoulder, smiling at him. “It’s even okay if you feel a little jealous. I’d want to be like me too, if I were you and things turned out badly for me all the time.”
“But things turn out badly for you, too,” he says, fiddling with something in his pocket. A long time ago, Rose told him a story about a bunch of blind guys who went to look at an elephant, and one guy grabbed the tail and the other grabbed the tusk and then they had an argument about whether an elephant is a rope or a spear. This feels a little like that. “I mean, you’re dead.”
She snorts. “Yeah, big deal! It was a hero’s death, okay? That’s how I can be dead! And now I’m all cozy here with you having your strange chocolate drinks and winning all the games, and Terezi’s stuck back on that lousy old asteroid choking on dust and having to fight that Noir guy. Booooooooring!”
“Well….” He coughs. “I’m… I’m glad you’re having fun, I guess? But – it sounded like a lot of bad stuff had happened before that, too. Like when you stopped being friends with her? Terezi, you said her name was?”
Vriska sighs, brushing her hair behind her shoulders, and drops back to the floor before the Parcheesi board. “Yeah, they weren’t a ton of fun, but they all worked out okay in the end. That’s what it means to have all the luck, you see? Nothing really, really bad ever happens to me, and it never will. I’m invulnerable!” She grins, wide as a jack-o’-lantern, but her shoulders are still hunched, wingtips quivering. John sighs, shoving his hands into his pockets, nibbling at his lip.
“Rose would be so much better at this,” he mumbles. Vriska cranes her neck back to stare at him, and he winces. Shit. Troll hearing.
“Rose sounded really boring,” she snorts. “Not fun to play games with at all. Why would she be better?”
“Not at Parcheesi.” He runs his hand through his hair, tugging at it just a little bit so he doesn’t start to wonder whether Rose was good at Parcheesi; he never got the chance to find out. “Just… she’s good at talking to people. I think she might be able to help you, a little.”
She puffs out air angrily, loose snarls of hair lifting off her face for just a moment. “Pff, John, haven’t you been paying any attention at all! I don’t need help. I’m always fine on my own. That’s what being the best means!”
Repression and denial and psychologically unhealthy tangle up in his mouth and stick to his teeth like peanut butter, clog his throat like the fifth bite of cake after the last one that he can possibly stand. He doesn’t have a clue how to pronounce them, doesn’t even know what they look like written in anything other than pale purple and hints of irony, and he definitely can’t define any of them for an alien girl, so he sits, watching her hands flicker across the board as she replaces all the pieces. He’s pretty sure she’s moving them just a little, less convenient for him, but it doesn’t really matter.
He takes a deep breath, catches her wrist, half-expecting her to smack him. She doesn’t, just keeps her other hand moving as he slides his fingers along her palm, cups her hand in both of his like he’s seen in half a dozen movies. It feels strange and awkward, like he’s pretending to be older, but she’s looking at him instead of the pieces she’s replacing, so that’s all right.
“It’s – I mean, Vriska, if you’re sad about things sometimes – I mean, bad things happen to everyone, even if you are still the best. Like all the things that happen in all the Nic Cage movies, you know? It’s okay to be sad about them, like he gets. I won’t… make fun of you, or turn you in for being weak, or anything like that. Okay? You’re allowed to be sad.”
He licks his lips, watches her blink. For a moment everything feels strange, like it did just before he died; like everything is still and hovering and waiting. Then she laughs, tugs her hand free of his.
“You’re sweet, John,” she says. “Soooooooo sweet! But I don’t need it. I’m always okay. I’ll come to you if anything ever happens that’s bad enough that I need to be really majorly sad about it for a long time, okay? Only that’s not ever going to happen.”
He sighs, rolls his dice across his palm. They don’t move much; he doesn’t shake them harder. “All right. How will I know if you’re that sad?”
“How should I know, silly? I just got through telling you, it hasn’t happened. You’ll just have to guess while I figure it out!” Her dice hit the board again, rattling. Rose would probably say they sounded like spilled bones on a church floor, or something morbid like that. John thinks they just sound like dice, loud enough that he isn’t sure whether or not he’s imagining the choked little noise he thought he heard. She’s smiling when she looks up, but he doesn’t think that means a lot.
He forces himself to laugh. “Looks like you’re going to beat me again!”
She rolls her eyes. “Duh, John. Wasn’t this whole conversation about this? Aaaaaaaall the –!”
“Yeah. All the luck.”