i. you wouldn't know it if it hit you
They are so young, but Kanaya Maryam already knows what love is. It’s a jittering, spindly thing. It’s a lunatic beauty with sharp edges and too many eyes. Love is the girl that travelled into the desert to see her, only to bitch and complain and never once really ask how she was. Love is the girl beside her.
Pity, Kanaya reminds herself. It’s pity that she feels for Vriska Serket, boundless hollowing exhilarating pity, nothing more, but civilizations have been built on less.
“You’re not listening to me!” Vriska sings, kicking the heels of her bright red shoes against the sand. Kanaya can hear the additional shout poles without having to read the words off a screen. After all this time, Vriska even sounds cerulean to her.
“I was listening,” Kanaya says patiently.
Vriska wrinkles her nose, an expression that says Don’t 8ullshit me, but it isn’t a lie. As if Kanaya could ever ignore her. She might not have been paying the fullest of attention to the words, but the sound, the sound of Vriska’s voice is something precious to Kanaya if only by merit of its rareness. So seldom does she hear Vriska speak, she is constantly surprised by her voice. It’s sweeter than the girl herself, sugared venom, danger hidden in a shy smile. And to Kanaya’s gentle amusement, today Vriska speaks with a lisp. In the time since last they spoke in person, Vriska’s fangs have come through. Though she wears them with pride (she had flashed them in a grin that made Kanaya shiver with some precocious feeling, when she had first made her noisy, brash arrival) she still does not seem used to them. Her teeth are too big for her mouth, but Vriska has always been a bundle of contradictions, dreams and boasts too big for her scrawny frame, and she hasn’t burst from the pressure of those yet. The next time Kanaya sees her, Vriska will be standing taller, and this strange unsure moment of her – their - youth will be long forgotten. The thought is exciting and sad at the same time.
Vriska is talking again. Kanaya catches “fucking Pyrope” and “sure showed him” and realizes that this is a rant she has heard a hundred times before. She lets the sound of Vriska’s voice wash over her like the waves she has never seen. She studies the way the other girl’s dark hair tumbles over bare, slanted shoulders, and the way her fangs catch on her bottom lip, and feels a warmth pooling at her very center that is altogether foolish, and altogether wonderful.
ii. she says i need not to need
After, on the meteor, Kanaya keeps herself to herself, or tries to. She is tired. They are all tired. Everything feels like falling, except with none of the exhilaration and all of the sick twist in the gut. There are fights and explosions, and Important Jobs to be done, and Kanaya can feel things crumbling around them all.
Vriska’s presence is unavoidable. When Kanaya first took her in with an appreciative glance, with eyes of not-quite-ever-a-moirail, a mother, a lover, she was struck by how much the spider troll had grown into herself, grown into her role. She enters rooms like a storm, and leaves her trail behind everywhere, invisible but ineradicable traces of Vriska Serket. A scent. A trace of spider webs.
Kanaya sinks into the chair in front of her computer. Too late, she catches sight of Karkat’s flailing, which is subtly different from his usual flailing in that for once it is expressly directed at her. She raises an eyebrow in query, but then her vision is filled with a sight that is at once welcome and painful, and far too frequent these cramped and crowded days.
“Vriska,” she says flatly.
“Fussyfangs!” Vriska says, smile wide, voice sweet. She leans casually against Kanaya’s computer, uncomfortably, unnecessarily close, and pouts lips that have been used to kiss boys. Resentment rises up in Kanaya, threatening to spill over, but Kanaya keeps a tight lid on these things.
She has never been the sort for dramatics.
Behind Vriska, Karkat is still flailing, although he now seems to have progressed to a primitive form of mime and is demonstrating what Kanaya can only imagine to be a suggestion of what, precisely, would be a fitting fate for the troll Kanaya is currently trapped in conversation with. She tries to ignore him. After all, she does not want Vriska to think that the smile tugging at her lips is for her.
Meanwhile, Vriska chatters on with an obliviousness that makes Kanaya itch to punch her in the stupid symmetrical aesthetically pleasing face.
iii holy water cannot help you now
A while later, Vriska goes flying and lands a crumpled pile of bony limbs and orange cloth. Kanaya does not even remember the itch from earlier. Too much has happened since then. People have died. Kanaya has died.
Dying and being resurrected a rainbow drinker and wreaking revenge and breaking up a showdown takes a lot out of a girl. It also gives her a whole new sense of perspective. Kanaya is the calm in the storm. She feels like movement through water. She feels like she is back in the desert. She feels hundreds, thousands of sweeps old. She feels newly hatched. It’s too much for one person to feel, too much to hold in one body, so she steps towards the only girl she ever really wanted to share herself with.
Vriska looks up at her, bleary and brittle. She makes no move to get up, though she does not seem to have incurred any lasting damage from Kanaya’s punch. Her eyes are round and young, and her god tier garbs hang loosely on her. There is a brokenness about her that Kanaya does not want to see. It is accompanied by a sunrise of a smile.
Kanaya has spent so long waiting for the look Vriska gives her that she almost doesn’t recognize it. It’s a look that tears down walls.
Kanaya doesn’t want it any more. She turns on her heel.
She is a torch in the darkness.
iv and the curtain falls in with the drums
It is very quiet when Kanaya walks over to the body.
Everyone stopped making noise a while ago, or perhaps it is just that there are so few of them to left to make noise. Either way, Kanaya winces at the way her footsteps echo. It seems indecent somehow. As though she is disturbing... what? Her friend’s peaceful repose? Death, Kanaya knows, is not elegant or dignified, much as she might wish it to be. Vriska is not lying on a bed of flowers, hands clasped, snoozing restfully. Vriska was stabbed in the back and bled where she fell and then she died.
Kanaya nearly slips in a spatter of blood that is neither wet nor dry.
After all this time, Vriska is cerulean to her.
She kneels next to the body, though far enough away that she is not kneeling in gore. She waits. It is not difficult to examine the body, so that is what she does. Like so many times before – not nearly enough – she takes in Vriska with a long evaluating look. She isn’t beautiful. Vriska was beautiful, but she was a tornado, a whirling dervish of beauty, glorious in action, haunting in her power and her intent. Now she is dead and she will never be beautiful again. She seems shrunken in on herself, the illusion of grandeur gone, the light show switched off for good.
Very carefully, Kanaya reaches out. She brushes Vriska’s hair with her fingertips. It is softer than it looks. Unsure, guilty, Kanaya touches Vriska’s cheek. It is soft too, and cold.
“I had to,” says Terezi. Despite the quiet, Kanaya did not hear her approach, but there she is. Terezi kneels too. She looks at the floor almost exactly two feet left of Vriska’s face. Kanaya thinks of correcting her, but there is no point.
“Yes,” Kanaya says. She waits, for nothing.
The corpse’s eyes are closed: a blessing. Behind blued lids lie the secrets of all the universe.
From the curl of her lip, those secrets may well all be jokes.
A million sweeps ago, Kanaya Maryam was in love with a girl.