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Circus 8rat

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The promise of a warm meal was Kanaya's final gambit to get the strange blue-haired girl to follow her home, and it had worked in the dying sunlight, though she supposed the way the wind picked up had helped some, too. Now, they were finally in her house, and Kanaya could finally get a better look at the other girl. She looked to be about Kanaya's age, though she seemed far too thin for someone of her height. She seemed like she had been made up entirely of sharp edges and harsh angles underneath her gaudy attire, but she was still somehow fascinating.

Suddenly, she was staring back at Kanaya as intently as Kanaya was staring at her, although with a harder glint to her eyes. “What are you looking at?” she demanded, tone defiant and somehow flippant. “Ain’t never seen someone so pretty before?”

The words caused heat to rise to Kanaya's cheeks, though this time not in anger. Had she really been staring that long? Apparently so. But she couldn't help herself; the other girl looked so strange and different (and, if Kanaya were being totally honest, definitely pretty). "Er, sorry. I was just thinking about... things." She cocked her head to one side, as if she'd heard a noise. "Oh, I think the water is ready. Let me go make you some tea. That will surely warm you right up."

The girl leaned back until her chair was balancing on two legs. “I don’t like tea. And you haven’t even told me your name. Ruuuuuuuude! You’re so rude!”

"My name is Kanaya Maryam, and I hardly believe you to be in any position to determine someone's rudeness." The words came out a little more tartly than Kanaya intended, but she had to admit that she was quickly growing frustrated with the other girl's mean-spirited attitude toward all of her attempts to help. "I'm sorry if you do not enjoy tea, but it will be the quickest way to make sure that you are warmed up. If it helps, I will add some cream and sugar to it."

The girl sighed. “I never claimed to be polite, but my name’s Vriska Serket. You don’t got any cocoa or nothing?” She glanced away, staring out the window. “Or, and this is just a shot in the complete dark, a hot shower? That’d be nice. I wouldn’t say no to that. I guess tea is fine. I ain’t gonna beg for nothing, though. I don’t need charity!” Her face pinched up.

Kanaya rolled her eyes. "Well, first let's get you warmed up and fed, and then we can see about getting you bathed."

“...thanks.”

"And then we'll see about getting you some better clothes. Those are just atrocious."

Vriska glanced at her sharply, then admitted, “I like them like this.”

That didn't make much sense to Kanaya, but she did not particularly feel like pressing the issue. "Yes, of course. But still, once you are fed and clean, we can find something better suited to the season for you to wear. Something that will involve an overcoat. I think you would rather not freeze in this weather. Unless I'm wrong?"

Vriska froze. “Hmmph. Shoulda known,” she muttered, not elaborating.

Kanaya scowled at the other girl. "Should have known what, exactly?"

“You just want to give me some tokens and then get rid of me so you can feel better abount yourself! Well, fuck you!”

"That is hardly language to use in polite company!" exclaimed Kanaya, her cheeks feeling warm with surprise and a little outrage. "Besides, that isn't even what I said! I said that the winter is cold and you need an overcoat. I did not say anything about giving you things and getting rid of you!" The more she spoke, the more forceful her words grew, until she was nearly yelling. Oh, this girl frustrated her so much!

The girl hunched over, tugging at her hair as she replied, “I don’t need any help! I can’t accept any help! Mother-- erk.” She turned her face away from Kanaya, a frustrated blush visible on her face.

The words brought Kanaya up short, anger draining from her face. "What-- what's wrong with your mother?" she asked, voice soft.

*

Vriska’s first reaction to the nosy question was anger. “There’s nothing wrong with my mother! She just...ugh, what would you even care?” Vriska let her head hit the table with a thunk. How dare that, that prissy busybody imply there was anything wrong? What did she know? Nothing, that’s what! Vriska bet she had the kind of mother who tucked her in at night and told her how proud she was of her little princess - barf! No, she wasn’t going to tell her anything personal!

Too bad her own mouth hadn’t seemed to have gotten the message. By the time Vriska’s brain had caught up to the rest of her body, she was already laying it all out like a sap. “After birdbrain escaped, she warned me not to try the same thing. Said I wouldn’t last a week on my own. And it’s like, shit, what’s new! It’s not like she ever tells me she thinks I did a good job or anything! So I was like, what the hell, let’s teach her a lesson. Show her I can be strong, right?”

The expression on the weird girl's face only made her angrier. What right did that fussy girl have to look at her all pityingly like that? "How long have you been gone, Vriska?"

“God, you’re such a...such a dumb Dora! It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been gone, because it’s none of your beeswax! Just kick me out and get it over with,” Vriska snarled, baring her fangs. Her instincts screamed at her to bite Kanaya, but she payed them no mind. Hell, her instincts also screamed at her to bite her Mother, and the birdbrain, and that old bitch who’d blinded her, and that horse who liked to mess with her back home, but she never did none of that, either! It completely blew her mind that people liked to carry on as if she were the violent monster when, as far as she could tell, it was everyone else who had the moral problems!

Somehow, that didn't shake that stupid pitying look off Kanaya's face, and it made Vriska want to smack her. "I was not planning on kicking you out," she said. "Not that I plan to keep you here if you really want to go, but I meant everything I said about helping you."

Once again, she’d failed to get the entire point. Not surprising, really. Kanaya was clearly an idiot. Vriska rolled her eyes and huffed out a sigh, resigning herself to having to spell everything out. “First things first, wipe that pity off your face. It makes you look even uglier than you already are. Second, I’ve been on my own a month, not that it makes any difference. I can survive on my own. There’s gotta be some shithole of a job that’ll hire me, and if not, I’ll just steal from rich old pennypinchers like you! Understand?”

"But winter is coming! You'll freeze without proper clothes, and no one will hire you if you dress like you came from thirty years ago."

“Can you please dry up about my clothes for five seconds!”

Now Ms. Fussy-pants looked hurt. "But it's important! The cold can kill you just as sure as no food can, or consumption!"

“No, you airbrain, you keep going on about style and warmth! What are you, a tailor’s kid?”

"Well, yes. That's right."

“Oh.”

*

Kanaya and Vriska stared at each other for a few beats before Kanaya tried to fill the silence. "My father is a tailor, the best in the state, and I want to be like him and work with fashion. He taught me almost everything I know, and the rest I learned from my mother. She works with the community church and sometimes attends fancy cocktail parties and talks to me about all the dresses." Those were her favorite moments with her mother. She could spend hours listening to all of the details and imagining all of the outfits the ladies and gentlemen who attended were wearing. "Fashion is important. What you wear says a lot about you."

Vriska grunted. “I don’t know who my dad is.”

"O-oh." Well. Kanaya wasn't sure why she kept expecting sensible or reasonable things to come out of her guest's mouth, or why she continued to be surprised when they didn't.

“Yup. My mother died before I was born, too,” Vriska proclaimed, face and voice flat.

"All right, I can accept that you are going to be rude to me, but I really will not stand for lying." Kanaya scowled, trying her best to look intimidating.

A brief flicker of something like regret raced across Vriska’s face. “It’s called a joke. And I really don’t know anything about dad. He probably left Mother for being such a frigid bi- erm, bird, like anyone else with brains in their head.”

Kanaya shifted uncomfortably. "Well, that is neither here nor there, really. The point is, I have no plans to eject you from this house, and I was serious about helping you."

“...whatever. I give up. I’m too tired to fight you.” Vriska’s confident demeanor crumbled into weariness and hopelessness as she slumped even further in her seat. Kanaya took it as an opportunity to finish preparing the tea and pressed the steaming mug into her guest's hands.

"Here, drink this. Just be careful, it's hot. It will make you feel better, then you can have a bath and we will find some better clothes for you, all right?" She kept her voice as gentle as possible. With Vriska looking crumpled like this, it felt almost like she was talking to some sort of wounded predator.

Vriska sniffed at the steam, relaxing a little. “Something nice and soft and comfy, and then I can get some good sleep?” An odd note of longing tinged her request. “And food in the morning, good food, warm?”

A part of Kanaya wanted to respond with sarcasm, but she clamped down on it. Now was not the time, not when the other girl just looked so vulnerable. "Yes, of course. I know just the place were you can bed down for the night. It will be out of the way, no one will know you are there."

The hybrid girl licked her lips nervously. “I suppose I...could stay one night, then. If you insist. We’ll see how it goes. You know?”

Well, that was the most polite Vriska had been to her face. Kanaya was willing to take it. "Of course. You can make your decision tomorrow after you are clean and rested and fed. That is the best time to make deicisions."

In an instant, Vriska had returned to being all sharpness and energy. “Show me the da-- darn shower, then,” she barked, “unless you’re yanking my chain!”

"All right, follow me up the stairs. I'll show you the bathroom and get you something clean to sleep in while you scrub up." Kanaya offered Vriska her hand out of politeness, but she did not particularly expect it to be taken. To her surprise, the girl grabbed it tight in her own callused hand, pulling herself up with a scowl.

“Hands like those, betcha never did a day’s worth of real work in your entire life!”

"Sewing is work," Kanaya replied, bristling.

“Suuuuuuuure it is,” Vriska agreed. “But being a talented performer is workier.”

Kanaya did not spare a glance back at her guest because she didn't want her to see that Kanaya was rolling her eyes. It seemed like something she would be doing a lot in Vriska's presence. "'Workier' is not a word. Anyway, the bathroom is right here. I'll leave some pyjamas inside the door for you."

“I’m sorry, I shoulda said it’s more arduous,” Vriska said softly, her voice repentant. With a sudden cackle, she slammed the bathroom door in Kanaya’s stunned face. She stared at the door which had closed mere inches from her face, eyes wide and owlish. In that moment, she realized that she was never, ever going to understand Vriska, nor was she going to let Vriska out of her sight.

Well, bathing aside, of course. Fighting the heat that rose to her cheeks, Kanaya turned and made a bee-line for her room. She still had to find some suitable sleepwear for her guest.