He says: we're sitting quackbeasts, tz. You say: I know! I know, I know. You do.
Veil to Green Sun is fathomless miles, a hungry distance. So you say: that's a long way, Captor, maybe we should all get out and push! and he makes a snaggletoothed sound all pshhh, dismissive slush. Please. (Pleash.) Who do you think I am?
Well, you think he is Sollux Captor who smells like bones and mustard, Sollux swaying on his feet with more sweat than blood. You breathe in bright raspberries and let them settle at the back of your tongue, see them haloed round the mushy socket of each eye: the lingering scent of salt and Feferi. He smells so tired you want to burst with yawns. He smells so tired that from every pore rises the yeast-sleep stink of exhaustion.
We need to get the whole way there, Mr. Plumberry Icing, you say, it's not worth it if --
You'll get there, he interrupts. He is very calm! That is the worst part. There is not one spark of fear or pain, not one whiff of resistance. He is not afraid. It would be easier if he was afraid. Sit back, amateurs.
You say, do you want to know what happens if you don't?
You don't really need to sort the strung beads of possibility, but you do it just for kicks. As Seer, you see a story of green! Endless green green screaming apple-lime splinters, green 'til you're sick of it, the end of you is a frangible mint gumball of GR33N.
No, on account of I don't give a shit, he says, and tz, don't tell me I don't have to.
Of course you have to, you say. Neither of you look at each other but you smell the cluster of muscles at his thumbs tensing up, the set of his narrow shoulders held just so. You and he will make this call, say those little muscles. I say you have to do it.
With the terrible satisfaction of peace he says, Good.
You grasp one caltrop shoulder and point him in the general sniff of your destination, only your wrist is taken and turned by a familiar hand. Karkat has been listening, which is good, because by the shape of his worry you know he has not been hearing.
Can you really pilot this petrified shit-lump? he says, curt with tiredness.
-- born to it, kk.
But can you really get us all the way there, I mean, goddamnit, this isn't a cute jaunt through flowering fields of hopbeasts and if you hadn't noticed you're a miserable shitheap, and even if you weren’t this is a massive planetoid that weighs a fuckmillion tonnes and most of you is dribbling down your shirt, and --
Karkat, he can make it! you say. You are not that fat.
I have a personally signed one-way ticket for you, Terezi, he says. It is to the land of Go Fuck Yourself.
That’s on the way, says Sollux.
You do not ask if you need to do anything. He is fumbling at his head and you assist, ignoring his indifferent grunt, snapping his goggles on extra tight. They must pinch. But they won't fall off now, no matter what happens.
Karkat is making a leaderly laundry list: don't go too fast, I don't want to be spewing my bilesac all over Gamzee. Pace yourself, you dumb fuck. If you crash us into anything I will end you, I will just --
Sollux reaches out to pat his face, but ends up window-washing a spluttering Karkat's nose. Just watch me, he says, with happy finality. Just you watch.
You do not let Karkat touch him other than that. This is called plausible deniability! You take the job of propelling him forward in the right direction, hands on his ribby back. He stands and cracks his ungainly knuckles like gun reports: his coder’s fingers, his nails all bit-down crescents. You wish you could stop breathing in the little things. Practicality does not demand you know about the knobbly parts of his wrists.
It would be unkind for the executioner to give hugs, so you don’t.
Sollux, you say.
-- keep it brief, tz, we're on a tight schedule here. I’m a professional.
You say, Rude!
-- your strengths are being blind and knowing when to take the fall. Not in being a sap.
-- well, your strengths are being a gigantic nerd, nerd, you say. Go and do what you do best!
Oh, shit, yes, he says. It’s on, sucker.
You watch. You watch so hard your saline ducts leak from not blinking. You watch harder than you ever could when you could see!
He catches alight, edges first, like a piece of paper and burning white. The Veil screams by getting greener all the time and sizzling tiny threads on your sleeves and you're awed by it, all of you, at each shed colourless spark. You do not close your eyes when the pain comes and you smell it sharpening him, slivering off pieces, making him a new shape each passing second. He burns, he burns, he burns.
Blood comes in great mustardy gouts from his empty eyeholes. It fills up his goggles and squelches out the rims, khaki on cranberry. It leaks out his nose and you know his screams without hearing them; not from the pain, but as acceleration. You know what he’s like, don’t you? His mind is cracking its whip to never mind his shell, his meat, where the hell did they ever get him. They’re bullshit. An ecstasy of contempt. Do it, asshole, do it, do it.
You think you can hear his bloodpusher pounding, quicker and quicker, hurling itself against his ribcage with beating wings. You think you pinpoint when it starts to give; when it misses those first few beats and he screams through them, the moment when at last Sollux Captor’s heart bursts. The remaining ten seconds he runs on adrenaline and wild, maniac stubbornness, his mind running up a bill that his body can't pay. His mind skips town, his mind goes running far into the distance. There's so much light. You swear you can see it.
The asteroid gives awful, plaintive shudders and you wonder if he's going to pitch you into the depths of the Green Sun, fry you down to fat and ash, but he suddenly stops everything in one last indrawn breath. The stillness is profound. Your world lurches. The asteroid groans its protest before it finally judders to a halt. Object in motion, object at rest. Then object in motion.
Sollux becomes a falling star.