You draw the knife across your wrist, watching your blood well up in a shaky line on your skin. It fascinates you.
You are a freak. You have red blood, strange blood, blood that nobody else on Alternia has. Had. You don’t even know anymore.
Alternia’s gone. Most of your friends are gone. Gamzee and Vriska and Aradia, Equius and Nepeta and Feferi and Tavros and Eridan. Well, maybe they’re not all your friends, but you at least respected them in some way, and now they’re gone. Everything is gone. And it’s all your fault.
You were the leader. You were the one people were supposed to look up to, and trust, and you let everyone down. You got people killed.
You hate yourself for it.
So you slide the knife along your wrists, once and twice and three times, and the blood beads up along the slits, obedient, always waiting for the sharp edge of the knife. It disgusts you, how you’re practically obsessed with the very thing that makes you a filthy freak, but you can’t stop. It’s so enticing, and besides, you deserve the pain. You deserve to be dead. But since that’s not something your remaining friends will let happen, you have to settle for this.
It’s Kanaya’s voice. The rainbow-drinker. You curse and pull your sleeves down over your wrists, hissing when the cloth snags on a cut.
“Come in,” you say dully.
The door opens in front of you, letting in unwanted light. You shield your eyes from both the light outside and Kanaya’s natural glow.
“You have been in here for almost two weeks,” Kanaya tells you. “You have barely eaten. We’re all very concerned about you, Karkat. Couldn’t you just—Karkat?” She sniffs.
You curse again, but this time it’s silent.
“Karkat, is that blood?”
“No.” You keep your voice flat.
Kanaya forces a laugh. “Karkat, I’m a rainbow-drinker, remember? I know what blood smells like.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
She shakes her head, luminescent even in the darkness you’ve surrounded yourself with. “What happened? Did you get hurt?”
She sniffs again, seemingly finding the source. She kneels down at your level, her skirt brushing the floor, and lifts your wrist to her nose.
“Karkat,” she says softly.
“It’s nothing,” you snap, jerking your wrist away.
Before you even realise what she’s doing, she’s already pulled your sleeve halfway up your forearm, and her mouth drops at the sight of it.
It’s already got two weeks worth of compulsive cutting written all over it, some scars already white over grey skin, some still pinkish, and some – like the fresh ones – are still bleeding. In fact, there’s red blood smeared all over your skin, probably because you pulled your sleeve down before the cuts could dry.
For a moment you’re too startled to say or do anything, and then the humiliation sets in. For so long you’ve kept the secret of your blood from everyone, and now it’s all ruined.
You pull the sleeve back down harshly, catching the fabric again, but you don’t care. Anything to get this out of Kanaya’s sight.
She’s still staring at you with wide eyes. You look up at her expression and shudder.
“Don’t fucking look at me,” you spit. “I’m so disgusting.”
“You have red blood?” is all she says, a hint of surprise in her voice.
You look away.
“Is that what you’re afraid of? People thinking you’re a freak?”
You clench your fists, which makes the open cuts bleed through your sleeve. You’re lucky the shirt is black. “Kanaya, I meant it, don’t fucking look at me!”
She cocks her head, and for some reason she stands and turns around. The harshness of her glow against your eyes is softened a bit now that you can see less of her skin.
“Is that better?” Her voice is gentle, but it’s got an edge to it that gets across her message: you’re being incredibly stupid, Karkat Vantas.
“Tell me why you’re doing that to yourself.”
“You are doing it to yourself, aren’t you? There’s not some masked wrist-slitter in here, waiting in the shadows to pounce?” she says dryly.
“I said leave.”
“Is it because Alternia’s gone?”
“Or because of Gamzee and all of the people who’re dead? Do you miss them?”
“Kanaya!” You clench and unclench your fists, almost rhythmically, wishing with all of your heart that she’ll just give up and leave, even though you know she won’t.
“Do you feel like it’s your fault?”
Again, you’re far too startled to speak. Your fists stay clenched this time.
“It’s not, you know,” she remarks. “Maybe you think it is, but there was nothing anyone could do to stop this. We all knew it was coming. Sollux knew it was coming a long time ago. He heard us dying, Karkat, all of us, and we’re lucky that whatever deaths the rest of us will have haven’t come yet.”
“Oh, fucking great, we get to die too.”
“Not necessarily from this. Maybe we will live long and healthy lives and die of old age.”
“Yeah, that’s fucking likely.”
Kanaya is silent for a moment, and you know she knows you’re probably right. This isn’t over yet, and even if you’re headed to a place where you can repopulate, it probably won’t be over for a long, long time.
“At least tell me why you did it.”
“That,” she says, gesturing backwards with one shining hand. “The cutting.”
“Because it hurts,” you said simply, not wanting to admit your interest in your weird blood.
“Yes, Karkat,” Kanaya says impatiently. “Because you really need more pain in your life right now.” She’s picked up some scathing sarcasm from the Lalonde human lately.
“I do. It’s what I deserve.” You stare at the ground again.
“You deserve scars all over your wrist?”
“Wrists,” you correct her, without thinking about it.
“Oh, gog, you’re joking.” She turns around again, leaving you unprepared for the startling brightness, and you shut your eyes quickly. This makes it impossible to see her reaching for your sleeves and pulling them both all the way up at the same time.
“Oh…gog,” she says, shocked. “You did this? In two weeks?”
You’re actually kind of proud of it. Most of your upper forearms are covered in regular lines, albeit ones so close to one another that it’s almost a complete block of scar tissue, but nearer to your elbow you’ve started getting creative, drawing wavy lines and zigzags and dashes. On your upper arms you carved words, some of them different and some of them repeated.
“What does that say?” Kanaya squints. She’s looking at the one you repeated most, scrawled all over your arms in whitened skin.
“’Sorry’,” you mutter.
She continues to survey the works of art that are your arms, all white and pink and smeared red. There’s barely any grey left. And these are just the undersides. She hasn’t even flipped them yet.
“Do you just…” Her voice falters. “Just sit here and do this? All day?”
You nod soundlessly, not looking at her face, but knowing she’s looking at you for a response.
“It’s not your fault,” she whispers. “It’s not.”
“Don’t say that when I know you’re lying.” You look up at her, trying to ignore the brightness that’s hammering your sight and starting to give you a headache. “I was the leader. It was my fucking responsibility. I made decisions that I shouldn’t have, let things happen that shouldn’t have happened, let people die that should have lived. Think about it, Kanaya. It’s my fault I couldn’t stop Gamzee, or Eridan, or even Vriska, and I’ve probably fucked up the humans’ session, too.”
“No, none of that’s true.” Kanaya sits down next to you, placing a surprisingly cool hand on your stinging wrists. “I told you, none of that was something you could control. It was just what was meant to happen, and we were the unlucky ones that got caught up in it.”
You didn’t answer her, staring at the floor in front of you. She’s actually making sense, says a voice in your head. You threaten the voice with death until it shuts up.
“And your blood,” Kanaya continues. She lifts her hand from your still-bleeding arm and licks the redness experimentally. Then smiles. “It’s wonderful.”
“My blood is…what?” You wonder if this is more of her attempts at sarcasm.
“Wonderful,” she confirms. “Delicious, for one thing. For another, it’s beautiful.” She looks at your wrists, raking her eyes over the contrast of whites and greys and reds. “You don’t see how spectacular it is, do you?”
“No.” You look back down at the floor, eyes narrowing.
“It looks…it’s like art,” she murmurs. “The most special art of all. Nobody else has blood like yours, Karkat. This is the only place you’ll ever find something like this. I only wish you hadn’t…” She gestures to your arms. “Hurt yourself for it.”
“It doesn’t hurt that much.”
“It hurts,” she disagrees. “I can tell from the way you’re tensing every time I touch your arm.”
“It’s fine.” You don’t move your arm, though.
She runs her fingers along the newest cut. “This is deep, Karkat.”
“It’s not that bad,” you insist.
“No, it’s bad. Look at your arms, Karkat. They’re practically all scar tissue now and it’s only been two weeks. If you refuse to come out, who knows what’s going to happen?”
“I’ll move to my hips, or my legs,” you say darkly.
“No, you won’t.” Kanaya snatches the knife from beside you.
“Hey!” You make a grab for it, but she’s too fast.
“No,” Kanaya repeats.
“But I need it.”
You must look heartbroken (and you are, because you’re addicted, and the thought of losing the pain that keeps you going makes you want to cry) because her expression softens. “Let’s make an agreement. I’ll keep the knife, but I’ll let you have it for a short time each day. It’s obvious that if I don’t give you some way out of this, you will simply…” She trails off, but you both know what she meant. You’d kill yourself.
You shrug, though your heart is beating at lightning speed.
“I’ll supervise you,” she continues.
“For the blood?”
“For you,” she corrects.
You glance at her face, flawless, glowing, and she smiles slightly. “I think I will go get you some bandages for those.”
“They’re not that deep,” you protest, or at least you were planning to before she leans over and kisses your cheek.
Blood rushes to your face almost immediately. Normally you’d be embarrassed, but she seems like she practically fucking worships your blood.
She brushes your wrists with a light touch, with a kind of reverence that makes your spine tingle, and then she stands. “I’ll be right back with those bandages. Don’t leave.”
You weren’t planning on it.