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The Loaded Key

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Snowman tore some pieces off of Matchsticks' green suit, figuring that he wouldn't need it anymore. She stuffed the cloth in several bottles of strong liquor and turned the bottles upside down to soak the cloth through. She opened the lighter and flicked a flame into existence.

Die went down hard. A shotgun had taken off most of his face.

Snowman handed the bottle to Crowbar.

Everything burns

“When I light it, throw it behind them. Hit the carpet,” She said. She touched the lighter flame to the cloth, and it burst into flame. Crowbar leaned back and heaved the bottle. It tumbled end over end and smashed into the carpet the trolls were standing on. Flames sprang up instantly.

“Fuck!” Karkat pointed to the stairs, “Quick! Up the stairs before the fire cuts us off!”

John actually scooped Tavros up and they ran around the quickly spreading patch of flame to the back stairway. Vriska was at the bottom of the stairs. She stood aside so the rest could file past her.

“Up, you crazy bitch! Go! Up the stairs!” Karkat yelled.

“I'm not done here.”

“You're going to die!”

Vriska looked at Karkat. She looked at John and Tavros. She turned and scanned the rest of the crowd Vriska smirked.

“I'm not that easy to kill. Go!” She reloaded her B.A.R.

“Vriska...” John said.

“I'll be right out, John. Just wait for me outside.” Vriska turned to see Quarters holding two bottles. He was winding up for a throw.

“Go!” Vriska practically shoved John and Tavros up the stairs. They stamped forward, just avoiding a bottle smashing into the stairway behind them. The wooden staircase blossomed in flame.

There were five shots from the top of the staircase. Quarters finally went down. Vriska looked up to see Terezi holding a smoking revolver.

Terezi pointed at Vriska. “You better not die, you bitch! No one gets you but me!” And with that, Terezi was gone.

Vriska grinned. She turned and leveled her B.A.R where she knew Crowbar and Snowman were hiding. She squeezed the trigger and wood started splintering. She walked as she shot, her eyes shimmering with the reflection of the flames.

*

Stitches was wondering what was taking Eggs and Trace so long. He stood up and shook his head. Cans was going to have to eat his meals through a straw for a while.

Stitches looked up as he heard footsteps coming down the stairway.

“What kept you two?”

“The shepherd was tending to his flock.”

“What? Who the fuck are you? Where are Trace and Eggs?”

“Sitting at the left hand of God.”

Stitches drew his revolver, but stopped when he heard sounds behind him. Most of Karkat's gang was heading towards the door in a big hurry. Karkat stopped and looked at Stitches.

Then he saw Gamzee walking down the stairs, holding his cross and indigo blood dripping down his face.

“Fffffuuuuck,” Karkat breathed, shaking and wide eyed. He turned to the rest of the gang. “Everyone! Out! Now!”

John stopped to protest, but Karkat shoved him out the door bodily.

Once they were outside. Karkat sank to the ground.

“We need to help him!” John protested.

“That green-suited fucker doesn’t deserve our help.”

“I meant Gamzee!”

“Hah,” Karkat said mirthlessly. He saw the look in Gamzee's eye and the gore on his cross. “That's not Gamzee. That's the Reverend.”

“But...”

Karkat sighed. “John. Okay. Look. You know Gamzee the fucking happy-go-lucky wino. I've seen this Gamzee before, and he fucking horrifies me. You see...okay...these...these two guys broke into the place once. Tried to rob us. They ganged up on me first and put me out of the fight. Then they...they went after Gamzee. And...”

Karkat just covered his face with his hands.

“Their heads were all over the fucking wall. Gamzee was like a talking bible. He was shouting about...judging the sinners...cleansing them.”

John just looked confused. He had heard something like this before. Maybe from Rose.

“He's...does he think he's God or something?”

“Fuck no. God forgives.”

*

Vriska emptied her last clip of rifle ammo into the tables that Crowbar and Snowman were using for cover. She dropped her rifle and ducked towards the storage room. Crowbar saw his chance and stood up, aiming his gun.

Crowbar went down with a quick series of bangs. Vriska blew the smoke from her revolver and ducked through the door.

She stopped and looked around, at the crates and bottles and the gin distillery standing on the floor in the middle of the room.

The fire was going to be here soon. She readied herself for fighting her way out again, past Snowman. No rifle ammo left, or even the rifle itself, but she still had her pistol.

After a minute or so of looking around the storage room and readying herself, she heard a voice.

“I've been waiting to meet you, Miss Serket.”

She whipped around, and came face to face with a tiny little man in a green suit and a purple hat. She leveled her pistol.

“Oh, and why is that?”

“I wanted to meet the only person who claimed to be luckier than me.”

“I'm luckier than anyone. Ask your friend when I send you to see him”

“You're not luckier than me.”

Vriska growled. He knew how to push her buttons.

“How do you plan on proving it while I have you at gunpoint, you little green shit?”

Clover just smiled an odd little smile. “I know you fired five shots from your pistol on the way over here. You have one shot left.”

Vriska smirked. “So, you actually want to play a game of chance with me?”

“Oh yes. That's because I know I'll win.”

“Is that so?” Vriska turned her pistol away from Clover. She spun the cylinder.

“Round and round she goes...”

She stopped the spinning.

“Looked like a fair spin to you?”

“Oh yes. I was watching carefully.”

“Fine, I'll just show you how lucky I am.” She leveled her gun at Clover. She didn't need to bother to show him how this game is played.

Clover smiled his odd little smile. He didn't try to move or get out the way.

“You’re not even afraid?” Vriska asked. She sounded like she was losing her patience.

“No. Because I know that I'm the luckiest person here.”

Vriska pulled back the hammer.

“We'll see.”

She pulled the trigger. The hammer dropped.

Bang.

The back of Clover's head exploded. He jerked backwards and fell to the floor.

Vriska stared for a second. She addressed the cooling corpse.

“I reloaded. Did I forget to mention that?” She smiled.

She walked to the back of the storage room, knowing in her heart that all the luck in the world wouldn't help you in a crooked game.

*

Rose was quickly moving back down the ramp to the speakeasy, with Kanaya close behind.

They had made sure Equius was in a safe space and made sure that Nepeta was at least conscious, even if she was badly nauseous from the blow to the head. The two wounded trolls were sitting in an alley across the street, where they could stay out of site behind some garbage bins, but still see what was going on. Equius was given instructions to make sure that Nepeta did not fall asleep, and was told to stop complaining about the smell.

Now Rose needed to help the rest of her friends.

“This is very dangerous.”

“I'm well aware, Kanaya.”

Kanaya bit her lip nervously. She sniffed the air.

“Do you smell smoke?”

“Probably just from...gunfire.” Rose stopped cold. She stared at the inferno.

“What happened?” Kanaya gasped.

“Karkat! Dave! John! Anyone!” Rose looked around desperately for any signs of life.

Kanaya scanned the flames herself. She didn't see anyone.

She didn't see Snowman.

Snowman grabbed Kanaya's shoulder. Kanaya looked over and saw her narrow, white eyes.

She felt fire shoot through her gut as Snowman plunged a knife into it.

Kanaya stared straight ahead, wide eyed. “R-Ro...”

Rose turned around, and saw Snowman pull the bloodied knife out.

“Kanaya!” Rose ran forward, trying to get to the troll.

Snowman whipped around and backhanded Rose so hard that she went tumbling backwards onto the burned out carpet, kicking up a cloud of ash and soot.

Kanaya dropped to her knees, holding her stomach. Jade blood seeped through her fingers.

Snowman dropped the knife and disappeared up the ramp.

Ambush

Rose pushed herself to her feet and started coughing violently from the ash. Her face was covered in it. She stumbled over to Kanaya. Kanaya looked sadly up at her.

“Oh...Rose. I'm sorry I didn't...” She winced, “I wish we...”

Rose tried to say something. That it would be okay. That they would spend lots of time together. Anything. But every time she started to say something, she was cut off with coughing and hacking.

Rose finally settled for simply hauling Kanaya, wincing, to her feet. She draped one of Kanaya's arms over her shoulder.

Kanaya leaned heavily on her, breathing hard. Trolls were generally heavier than they looked, but Rose managed to support her.

Rose promised herself that they would make it.

Slowly, steadily, they walked up the ramp.

*

Stitches’ gun fell to the floor. Gamzee had him by the throat and was pushing him backwards, towards the burning stairs. Stitches tried and tried to pull himself free. He couldn't breathe.

The fire was already spreading to the wooden floor of the building proper. It crept along the ground, feeding on the club's carpets and curtains.

Gamzee stopped at the edge of the stairway to the basement, where the fire was still roaring. He pushed Stitches backwards, into the flames. Stitches started struggling and screaming wildly as the flames moved up his pants and started consuming his clothes.

“Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?”

Gamzee dropped him, burning, down the stairs and into the inferno.

Gamzee stared at the fire as it crackled below him. It seemed like a long time before the screaming stopped.

Gamzee shook his head sadly. So many souls left unsaved.

“Reverend.”

Gamzee turned around and saw Karkat standing in the room. He was holding a bottle of wine and small paper bag in his hands.

“Would you like some wine, Reverend?”

“Alcohol is poison for the mind and soul.”

“But it's the Sabbath, Reverend. We need to have the...holy sacrament.”

Gamzee look puzzled. “Is it? I didn't realize...”

Karkat nodded. He put the open wine bottle carefully on the ground. He tried to ignore the flames, the fact that the club was burning down around him. His entire future and all his hard work.

He needed to focus. He needed to do this carefully if either of them were going to get out of this alive.

He opened the bag and pulled out a small bread roll. He handed it to Gamzee, who picked it up and stared at it.

He held it up.

“This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called ad to his supper. “

He looked expectantly to Karkat. Karkat racked his memory. He was sweating, mostly from the intense heat that was filling the room. It was distracting, to say the least.

“Uh...Lord, I am not worthy to receive you...but...but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

Gamzee nodded. He tore a piece off of the bread and ate it. “The body of Christ.”

Karkat did the same.

Gamzee picked up the wine. He looked around for a second for something to pour it in, but saw nothing. He asked a quick prayer of forgiveness for his crudeness.

“The blood of Christ.” He put the bottle to his lips and began to lift.

Karkat moved fast. He put his hand on the bottom of the bottle and shoved it farther into Gamzee's mouth, lifting it almost straight up and draining a good portion of the wine down his throat.

Karkat let go and the bottle dropped to the floor. He jumped backwards, eying Gamzee warily.

Gamzee coughed and sputtered and wiped his mouth. He looked around, puzzled. He noticed Karkat and gave a vacant grin.

“Hey, Karkat. Man, what's going on?”

Karkat started breathing again. “We need to go, Gamzee.”

“Is it hot in here or some...Oh no.” Gamzee saw the cross on the floor, covered in gore. He recoiled.

“Oh no. Fuckin'...It happened again...”

“Gamzee! Now!” Karkat grabbed Gamzee and dragged him, crying, outside.

“Bless me father, for I have sinned. Bless me father, for I have sinned.”

“Keep it together, you clown.”

“Bless me father. Bless me father. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Bless me...”

*

When Karkat finally got outside, he saw everyone gathered around something. Kanaya was laying on the ground, breathing shallowly. Her hand was stained green. Rose was over to the side washing her face off with a wet rag.

“What the fuck? Someone help her!”

Jade looked up, “Kanaya's the one who does this kind of stuff. We'll only make it worse, Karkat.”

Sollux just shook his head. He didn't have any kind of medical training.

“Arg.” Karkat rubbed his temples while Gamzee sat down on the ground and let his head drop to his knees.

“Okay,” Karkat said, “I know a guy on the corner of Wallace and Third. Lives above a haberdashery. Get Kanaya in one of the cars and take her down there,” He said, pointing to the cars the Felt came in, “He knows his stuff. Tell him I'll buy him whatever hat he wants if they fix her up.”

“A...a hat?”

“The guy is a freak for hats. Don't ask, just move.”

“I'll take her,” Rose gasped now that she finally got her wind back.

“Fine. Hurry up. Jade, take Equius and Nepeta and follow them, will you?”

“Sure, Karkat.”

*

As they loaded up the cars, Terezi sat on the street and watched the flames start to crawl up from the building. She frowned. Vriska wouldn't have stayed there. She would have ducked out the back. Terezi didn't expect anything else. It wouldn't be a problem. As long as she had her confession, it would only be a matter of time. She patted her jacket pocket to hear the reassuring crinkle of...

She patted her pocket again. She reached in and fished around.

It was gone!

She jumped to her feet and ran around to the back ramp. She didn't even hear Karkat shouting at her.

Terezi scrambled down the ramp, almost tripping on the incline. She scanned the room. Most of the fire in this area had died down, running out of things to burn. The fire was still going strong upstairs and in the storage room.

Terezi saw Vriska in the open door of the storage room. She drew her gun.

“Vriska!”

Vriska turned around and pointed her pistol back at Terezi. Vriska smiled and held up a piece of paper with her other hand. It was on fire, already mostly consumed. She dropped it to the ground.

Terezi growled. “You...How did you get that?”

“Watch where you put your hands, Vriska,” Vriska said, mimicking Terezi.

“You...You...” Terezi growled, and then she suddenly looked very calm.

“Fine. I don't need a confession.” Terezi pulled back the hammer on her pistol. Vriska laughed.

“You'd become a murderer yourself just to get to me? Oh, Terezi, I'm flattered, really. The irony is just delicious.”

“But I didn't kill you.” Terezi smiled, “The explosion did.”

Terezi fired and the bullet went over Vriska's shoulder. Vriska heard a clang. She turned around to see the gin still. There was a new hole in it, and a hissing sound coming out of it.

It was alcohol fumes leaking into the burning room.

The explosion threw Vriska out of the storage and into the main bar area, where she landed in a crumpled heap. Her ears were ringing. She tried to figure out what the hell just happened. Only one of her eyes opened when she looked around the room. Why couldn't she open her other eye? She groaned and try to push herself up, but for some reason she kept on slumping back to the ground.

“Why...why can't I get...” She looked at her arm. It was on the ground about ten feet away from her.

“Oh...That's going to suck when the shock wears off,” She grumbled. As pain started to course through her face, she realized that she couldn't open her eye because the left side of her face was cut up. Her eye was probably popped like a grape.

“You really are a tough old bird, Vriska,” Terezi said. She slowly and easily walked over to Vriska, keeping her pistol trained on the maimed troll's head.

Vriska looked up at her as she stopped. She was losing a lot of blood.

“Wait...wait...” Vriska gasped.

“You went too far, Vriska. I was content to let you criminal scum fight among yourselves, but you went too far when you killed one of us. A promising young officer is dead, thanks to you.”

Terezi reached in her pocket and pulled out a single bullet. She opened the cylinder and slid it into the chamber. The gun clicked shut and Terezi cocked the hammer. Unlike Vriska's game, Terezi knew exactly where this bullet was. She pressed the pistol to Vriska's head.

“I have one bullet, Vriska. Just for you.”

“Please...a last...request...”

“You're in no position to request anything.”

“A...drink and a cigarette...That's all I ask.” She weakly pointed to the bar. In front of it were a couple of bottles still intact and a few packs of cigarettes that Karkat sold along with the drinks.

“A drink...to old friends...and old enemies.”

Terezi sighed.

“Fine. You'll get your last meal before you meet justice. Just like any other criminal.” She snatched up a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of moonshine. She opened the bottle and handed it to Vriska, who had managed to at least prop herself against the wall.

Vriska nodded gratefully and took a long pull from the bottle. Terezi put a cigarette in Vriska's mouth. She realized that she didn't have anything to light it with. Vriska pointed to the floor behind Terezi. Terezi turned around and saw Snowman's old silver lighter on the floor. She picked it up, flicked it open, and started the flame.

“No witty last words?” Terezi said as she approached Vriska. Vriska just shook her head.

“Tsk.” Terezi keeled down and held the lighter up to the cigarette, but it dropped out of Vriska's mouth.

Terezi pulled her glasses down to get a better look at Vriska. Vriska didn't move. Terezi held the lighter up next to Vriska's face, watching for the flame to flicker. It didn't look like she was breathing either.

Terezi shook her head. It looks like she died before Terezi had a chance to do it herself. What a pity.

Vriska looked up at Terezi with a smile. She was holding her breath.

She couldn't talk because her mouth was full.

She pressed her lips together and spat a fine spray of moonshine past the flame on the lighter. The fireball hit Terezi right in the face. Terezi screamed and ripped off her glasses. She started clawing her eyes, where she had received the brunt of the fireball.

“I'll kill you! I'll kill you! Kill you! Kill you! Kill you!” She shrieked.

Vriska got to her feet and picked up Terezi's pistol. One bullet left.

Make Her Pay

“I could kill you right now, Terezi! I have your gun,” Vriska said, her voice a lot stronger now. “But, unlike you, I don't let my need for vengeance make me stupid. I am a survivor, above all else.”

Vriska turned and walked back into the storage room. She looked at one of the windows high up on the side of the wall, and to the stack of boxes next to it, starting to catch fire. She had to act fast.

Terezi heard a bang, and breaking glass.

“I'll kill you!” She screamed again, “I'll hang you with a short rope and strangle you, you treacherous fuck!” She stumbled blindly towards the sound, into the burning storage room.

*

John, with a piece of cloth wrapped around his face, ran down the ramp. Dave was right behind him.

“This is fucking stupid, John.”

“We have to help them!”

“I agree. It's still fucking stupid.”

“There!” John pointed to the burning storage room. Smoke was billowing out, but they could still see the silhouette of someone on their hands and knees.

“Kill her. Kill her. Kill. Her,” Terezi wheezed. She couldn't breathe through the smoke.

Dave hauled her to her feet.

“Come on! We have to go!”

“Vriska...”

“John! Do you see Vriska?” Dave looked out the doorway at John. John was staring at something over to the side that Dave couldn't see. He shook his head.

“We have go, Dave!”

“But...”

“Come on, Dave! If we don't get out, we're all going to die!”

Terezi slumped back to the ground. The smoke was killing her.

“Fuck.” Dave leaned down and threw the troll over her shoulder. He ran out of the room. John followed close behind.

John's eyes stung, from smoke and from tears.

*

The cool night air hit them like a cold shower as they stepped out of the building.

“Are you all fucking nuts!” Karkat screamed.

Dave put Terezi down on her back. She wasn't breathing.

“Fuck.” Dave pinched Terezi's nose, leaned down, and breathed into her mouth.

“What the fuck are you doing, Strider?”

“Shut the fuck up, Karkat,” Dave said. He started pumping Terezi's chest.

He breathed into her mouth again.

“Come on, you stubborn bitch,” He gasped. He tried to pump her lungs again.

On the third breath from Dave, Terezi started coughing violently.

“I...” She wheezed, “I'm awake.”

“Thank fucking God,” he said, leaning back.

“I didn't say 'stop', Dave.” She grinned weakly.

Dave rolled his eyes. He looked down at her.

“Holy shit, your eyes...”

Karkat looked over to John, who was slumped to the ground and just shaking his head.

“Couldn't find Vriska?” Karkat asked.

John looked up at Karkat, dazed. All he could remember was what he saw on the floor. Just an arm.

“Not all of her...”

“...Fuck...I'm sorry, Egbert.”

John just closed his eyes nodded.

Sollux, the only cop left on the scene, walked over to them when he overheard what was going on.

“What happened? Vriska is dead?” Sollux asked. John nodded again. Sollux looked over to Terezi, who was staring at the sky with blank, red, eyes.

She thought about the pain of her eyes being burned to uselessness. She thought of how she was probably going to be blind forever. She thought of how the last thing she saw, the last think she'll ever see, was Vriska's evil smile.

“Yes.” Terezi heard herself say, “She's dead. She died when the still blew up.”

Sollux stared at her for a few seconds.

He turned to Dave, “Can you take her to the hospital? I need to keep a police presence here.”

Dave silently helped Terezi up. He lead her to one of the remaining cars.

The remaining few who were left watched the club burn.

*

Three weeks later...

*

Doc Scratch sat in a small green room in an undisclosed location. One of his many safe houses. Snowman was resting on a green sofa at the end of the room. She would heal eventually.

The phone rang and Doc Scratch picked up the receiver.

“Yes?”

“We had a deal, Scratch.”

“I believe the deal was that you got the power and influence you wanted so I could get the information I wanted. I did not get information that I wanted.

“Well, I'm screwed too. Everyone is being celebrated a hero, except me.”

“I do not see how that's my problem.”

“It was supposed to be me! She was supposed to love me! Not that mustard-blooded fucker!”

“You will be hearing back from me about our deal. Good-bye, Mr. Ampora.”

*

Karkat walked into the Felt's old casino, looking around. It was quiet, and dark. The rest of the group followed behind him, including Kanaya, who was up and walking around despite her previous injury. She was still leaning on Rose though, who happily supported the weight.

“Well,” Jade said, waving at the empty casino. “What do you think?”

Karkat stood in thought.

“Too much fucking green,” He said, finally, “Going to need a new paint job.”

“It was nice of Terezi to...get us the deed after the...original owners abandoned the property,” Kanaya said, diplomatically. Rose just laughed.

Tavros looked around the room. “Wow, uh, this place is a lot bigger than our old one.”

“Guess everything turned out alright then,” John said with a weak smile. Dave just looked at him and shook his head in bewilderment.

“Alright, everyone. Let's get to fucking work,” Karkat said.

*

Terezi Pyrope sat at one of the tables outside the Treehouse Cafe, with her new cane leaning against her chair. There was a cup of coffee in front of the chair across from her. She sipped her tea and listened to the sounds of the city.

She heard someone sit down across from her.

“Can I help you?” She said.

“Long time, no see, Pyrope. I see you remember how I like my coffee,” A voice said.

“Oh yes. Things like that are hard for me to forget.”

“I see your burns have healed nicely.”

“Time heals all wounds,” Terezi said.

“How are things going for you and Dave?”

Terezi shrugged. “About as well as one can expect. We try to keep it quiet for now. He doesn’t like my friends that much, and I don't like his. We'll do our best to work something out.”

“And John?”

“He was sad that his girlfriend is dead, but at least she died helping her friends. He'll get over it.”

“Hah.”

There was a long silence.

Terezi smirked. “..but I knew you weren't dead, Vriska.”

“That's funny, because the police seem to think so. I have you to thank for that?”

“Of course.”

“But why?” There was annoyance and bewilderment in Vriska's voice, “After what I did to you, you're just doing to drop it?”

Terezi laughed. “No, of course not. But...” She smiled like a row of daggers, “It's personal now. Just you and me. We've each taken something from each other. Large pieces. Now no one else gets to be involved. I will be the one that kills you. No one else.”

She could practically hear Vriska's smirk.

“I can live with that. Or maybe I can't. We'll see, won't we?”

Terezi lifted her cup. “To old enemies,” She said. She felt Vriska click her mug against her cup.

“And the start of a beautiful hatred.” Vriska laughed.

Vriska drained the mug in one go and set it back down. After a few seconds, all Terezi could hear again were the general sounds of the city.

She sat there and listened.

And plotted.

*

The night was cold and damp, like the grass in a graveyard at midnight. Roger Johnson, the famous actor from New York, walked into a harshly lit diner. As he sat down, his eyes drifted over to the waitress, a small, blond thing with striking blue eyes and a bosom that was barely contained by her white, uniform blouse.

The waitress asked him what he wanted and he heard himself ask for a coffee with one cream and no sugar, but his mind was somewhere else entirely. As she walked away, his eyes drifted from her silky hair all the way down to her perfect legs.

She walked back to the table with his coffee, with a subtle Mona Lisa smile that sent Roger's heart into palpitations. She asked him if he would like anything else.

Yes, I would. I would like to know the name of the beautiful creature in front of me.”

She blushed and responded. “Victoria.”

Victora. A name as regal and lovely as its owner. Victoria, how would you like to come with me? I can take you away from this dingy diner and show you a marvelous time, with the finest, exotic foods and moving pictures. I would gladly do anything to spend more time with you.”

Victoria's blush deepened, but she smiled warmly. She leaned over into his ear and, teasing his ear with her breath, whispered...

“This is stupid!” Nepeta tore the page out of her Remington typewriter, crumpled it up and tossed it towards the already overflowing wastebasket in the corner. It bounced off of the edge and landed among other rejected love scenes.

She leaned back in her chair, chewing on a pencil with a frown.

Nepeta had taken some well deserved time off from her regular job of snooping and busting speakeasies. She wanted to go camping and hunting in the mountains like she usually did this time of year, but the doctor insisted that she take it easy for a while because of her head injury. Equius had heard about this as well, and kept a careful eye on her when he could, despite his bad leg. He would often bring her newspapers and, despite his disapproval of her growing pile of discarded smut, extra paper and typewriter ribbons. Anything to make sure she didn't leave the apartment without both of them going nuts. Equius had been staying in Nepeta's place, as it was closer to the police station. He had tried to make dinner a couple of times as a way of paying for his room and board, but Nepeta resented him trying to push his vegetarian diet on her. They generally kept to their own hobbies while making sure the other didn't fall or pass out.

So Nepeta sat in her apartment, trying to write the next great romance novel under the pen name Kat Carmine. She had read so many that she wanted to try her hand at writing one herself. She quickly found out that it wasn't as easy as it looked. Her persistent bad mood didn't help matters.

She sulked as she thought about the past few weeks. She stuck her neck out for Karkat, helping him out at the risk of her job. And Karkat repaid her by getting doe-eyed over that dark haired human girl with the rifle. She hoped that he would see the light and turn away from his life of crime. Go straight, with Nepeta to guide him. Oh, they were still friends of course, but Nepeta was afraid that Karkat would always see her as someone on the “other team.”

She chewed on a pencil in thought. She slipped a new piece of paper into the typewriter. They say you should write what you know, right?

Nina, the spunky young detective, was carefully following her mark. The notorious gangster, Carl, was wanted for multiple daring bank robberies. Carl never hurt anyone during his crimes, but he had made off with a lot of money that wasn't his, and that means that he needed to be brought in. Nina felt bad about having to arrest someone as handsome as Carl, with his chiseled arms and a gruff demeanor that hid a heart of gold.

What Nina didn't know was that Carl was watching her almost as much as she was watching him. He found himself strangely attracted to the buxom young detective, and wondered at the possibilities. He thought about his life of crime, and if it was all worth it. He wondered what it would be like to sit down and talk with the detective, with her striking green eyes. He thought about his overbearing and much more violent partner in crime, Jane, and if she would ever let him go.

They caught each other's gaze, and just for a second, a spark lingered between them...

*

Yesterday, Equius had been promoted to Captain. Today he stood, uneasily because of his leg, at a podium, answering the questions of the group of reporters in front of him.

“Captain, any comment on the firefight yesterday?”

“The heavy loss of life was unfortunate, but we're relieved that the public can sleep easier,” Equius said.

“Any comments about the rumors of an illegal distillery in the club where the firefight took place?”

“The fire was quite bad, and we didn't see anything that could lead to an arrest,” Equius said carefully.

A troll reporter for a popular blue-blood newspaper raised his hand.

“Any comment on the failed experiment with the Rust-blood?”

Equius was very quiet for a second.

“Failed?” He said slowly, and dangerously.

“Well, yes. I mean, she couldn't go a month without getting herself shot. Hardly evidence of...” The reporter trailed off. Equius, in front of a whole room of reporters, slowly drew his pistol and leveled it at the troll. The troll was quickly all alone as the crowd melted away from him.

“I'm going to shoot you, if you say that again.”

“W...wha...?”

“Well? Is that what you really believe?”

“Ah...bu...”

“Say it again.”

“Not if you're going to shoot me, you maniac!” He shrieked.

“Really?” Equius flipped open the gun to show the crowd that it wasn't loaded and put it back in his belt.

“Officer Megido was faced with a similar situation,” Equius said to the silent crowd. “She was held at gunpoint by a dangerous criminal and was given a choice. Give up what you believe in, or die. Officer Megido chose to die instead of tarnishing her uniform. Being an officer, protecting the innocent, and bringing justice to the wicked was more important than her own life, and she proved it.”

He pointed to the shaking troll.

“You cannot say that you have the kind of conviction she had.” He narrowed his eyes. “She bled rust when she died. Do you know what you need to make rust?”

There was only silence. Equius turned and limped away from the crowd.

“Water...” He said, “...and iron.”

*

Sollux was walking down the street next to Feferi.

“It was a nice ceremony, I thought.”

“Mhm,” Sollux said. His new Sergeant’s uniform gleamed in the sun. He had taken Equius' position as the blue-blooded troll moved up to Captain. Equius was back on his feet and working again surprisingly fast after his injury. Nepeta recovered as well. Officially, she wasn't involved, but Sollux and Equius had arranged a fat raise for the undercover detective.

“And it's not like you don't deserve it. The Felt were huge players in the underworld in this city. With them gone, things have already started to quiet down.”

“And you'll look good with election season coming up.”

Feferi shook her head. “I don't think I'll be running again.”

“Oh?”

“No. I've never liked this job very much. I don't think I'm cut out for it.”

“That's too bad.”

They walked on in silence a bit longer before Feferi spoke up again.

“You still miss her, don't you?”

“...Yeah,” He sighed, “I mean, it was like we were getting along so well. And then, bang, it's over. The end.”

Feferi put a hand on his shoulder. Sollux looked over to her.

“There's no endings, Sollux.” She smiled warmly, “Just new beginnings.”