Your name is Vriska Serket and you are ten sweeps old and you are pretty sure you are in pity, really, truly, for serious and for real.
She shows up on your apartment’s front mat three hours after you posted a Roommate Wanted ad on Craigslist -- eight floors up, how did she get past the cardlock downstairs? Who let her in? -- a little human girl all in pale spun gold, from her shock of flaxen hair to her big oversized cream-colored hoodie to a violin of glossy pale wood tucked under her arm. There’s an orange rucksack over her back, the kind of vision-sucking industrial-strength construction-colored fabric, a shoutpole of a color, and it just makes the girl carying it seem more wan in contrast, leached-out and faded. Her eyes are violet, though, a bright royal purple and sharp as needles.
“I’m probably not going to like you, and you’re definitely not going to like me,” she says, all in an urgent rush, “but circumstances being what they are I do believe we need each other.”
She holds up a piece of paper: your ad, printed out. One room8 needed, ASAP!!!!!!!!
“You couldn’t have emailed?” you ask. “Or called?”
“No,” she says, as neatly and precisely as the snick of a guillotine. “May I come in?”
You back up a few steps, and she presses forward.
“Thank you,” she says, once she’s crossed your threshold. She looks around your place, the kitchen full of starch-gummed pots, the living area a mess of game systems and dice and old takeout boxes and the clawed-up, bombed out shell of a second bedroom and you feel yourself flushing hotly, resentfully. You should have had more time to clean up before anyone was conceivably due to be over, but you’re still kind of mad that you hadn’t thought to clean up before you even posted the message up.
The girl takes out eight crisp hundred-dollar bills from her hoodie pocket and presses them into your hands.
“More of this next month,” she says. “I do hope you like the violin, because you don’t actually have any say over how often I will be playing it.”
“Well... I’m Vriska,” you say. She looks at you like she can’t imagine why she should have to care and you feel kind of dumb. You stick your hand out anyway.
She takes it, cautious, and when you squeeze her warm human hand she flinches and bares her smooth human teeth up at you in a warning snarl. Your heart gives a big stupid throb of pity.
“What’s your name?” you ask, kind of cautiously. You’ve never been good with humans or animals. You’re too rough! You move too fast and they always bite you and you’ve never regretted it more than this moment, trying to gentle this little yellow girl with her shiny white snarl.
She looks at your joined hands, and her brows furrowed minutely together.
“Rose.... Rose Lalonde,” she says as slowly as if she is disarming a grenade with her teeth, and you aren’t sure if she’s putting together the world’s most obvious lie for you or simply trading over one small blistering-bright piece of her soul in exchange for your handshake.
Then she looks at the kitchen again, squares her narrow shoulders, and says, “If you do not keep your kitchen cleaner than this I will drop scorpions in your recuperacoon as you sleep. I have a reputable dealer already lined up specifically for such eventualities.”
You are so pale for this girl that you kind of want to barf.
“I require a human bed,” you say. It’s night, you’re getting edgy, playing Vivaldi to the clawed up remnants of furniture in your new bedroom don’t appeal.
“Sleep on the fucking couch,” your new roommate says, gesturing to one side. She’s shoveling old chip bags and take-out boxes into a big white garbage sack. “It’s a big foam lump, that’s what gets you plains-apes off, right?”
You settle on the shabby arm of the couch, tuck your knees up to your chest. It smells of troll sweat and Thai food. Vriska’s gray tongue flashes thoughtfully over her predator’s dentition and you feel a terrible sick rush of heat between your legs, between your ribs. You’ve always been so terribly stupid about steak-knife smiles.
How about a pinch a sugar for my sins, dear heart? Don’t play coy, darlin’, say you missed me --
“You still love her, don’t you?” you ask.
A flinch. “Who?”
You smile, thinly, award yourself a judicious single point.
“Your girlfriend,” you say. “Oh, pardon me, your ex-girlfriend. Male trolls favor smaller openings for their recuperation modules, so the gender of your former roommate posed the most trivial of conundrums. No one tears a room apart so extravagantly without having been brutally dumped, so your likely relationship to her revealed itself quite handily as well. If it had been black, there would have been more damage to the rest of the apartment, as you attacked her retreating backside in desperation. Hence the only mystery remains: red or pale, and did she leave because you were too much to handle or because you couldn't satisfy her or because you were so narcissistic that you didn’t notice her feelings had shifted towards -- ”
“I’ll get you a bed,” she says hoarsely, and stumbles up to her feet. “I think Ikea delivers, I mean, if they know what’s good for them.” She reaches out and drags ragged-edged nails through your hair, a stinging parody of conciliation and it burns all through you.
“I can’t tell you what quadrant because I never knew myself,” she says, lowly, a mocking little confession laid down like a gauntlet before you. “Ash one day and black the next, we never did get it right. But it doesn’t matter now, does it? She fucked off to Houston and left me a free fucking bitch -- ”
“Hands to yourself or I’ll bite them off,” you say, slapping her away, and you bare your incisors. “Human bites fester.”
She smiles at that, and leans in close. You go very, very still, and she brushes her nose against yours. Her breath smells of artificial cheese and your heart is sounding a high clear trembling C8. Point to her: you are utterly transfixed.
“How many pillows to buy your happiness, Sunshine?” she asks, all counterfeit sincerity.
“Fifteen,” you snap, “And they should all be orange.”
She buys you sixteen and they’re all nauseatingly purple. Another point to her, but how did she know?
“Orange washes you out,” she says. “I ain’t rooming with no ghosts, Lalonde!”
You cram them in her recuperacoon until slime spills out of the top hole and the purple has gone a squashy green-black, then doze fitfully on the couch till she buys you a squashy round memory foam pillow in beige. You try to pay her back, and find the bills tucked into the strings of your violin with a little note written in blue sparkly gel pen on the back of a greasy shard of pizza box.
8uy a massage or something, you’re strung tighter than this thing!
You throw her antique Sony Dreamcube off the balcony. Point to you, you decide, watching the glitter of broken shards, perhaps two points, even, and you crack open your first Absolut of the day. Phoenix, Arizona, sunniest city in country: it is disgustingly bright, and your eyes sting from the glare. You take a long burning drink and sit on the edge of the roof, and wipe at your eyes until everything is silvery-indistinct and your face is pink and tight with the sun.
That evening she sneaks up on you as you lie on the bare floor of your room and and strokes your head just as you drift off, all clumsy gouging fingernails, and you find yourself suddenly strangely uncertain of what winning entails.
Rooming with Rose Lalonde is the coolest thing that has ever happened to you. She is a tiny vicious fucked up ball of dry ice, burning cold and bright and kind of magic, and she broods all around the apartment like maybe Sherlock Holmes was her ancestor and she’s got something to prove and also she never goes outside so you have her around as often as you want her, which is permanently.
She buys bizarre crap for you off of this fucking amazing site called Regretsy, like, dinosaur wall hangings with huge primary-colored erections, and pillows that look like human vaginas, and human dentures that are also drink coasters, and she leaves them strewn around the place like a psycho goth bowerbird and you have never felt more totally bitching than when you are gaming over Skype and you know you have approximately three exquisite collages of musclebeast pornography and a taxidermied raven-squid combo thing just fucking chilling on the back of your couch where everyone can see. You use this one knitted skull Rose bought you to keep your dice in. You name him 8aphomet, 8itchtits Determin8er Of All F8. Rose calls him Vriska Stop Interfering With My Attempts To Call Attention To Your Inevitable Mortality.
Rose knows things. It’s awesome. She can call heads or tails on a coin correctly twenty times out of twenty, till you get bored flipping it, she knows to slide smoothly out of the way the instant you try to bounce the coin off her cranium. Humans don’t produce psychics often, and seers even more rarely, and it tears her up inside in some impenetrable way and also means she always has correct change for the pizza delivery drone. She smokes a pack of human cigarettes a day and she drinks straight vodka more nights than she doesn’t and she stands perfectly level in the middle of her room, her purple eyes -- a seadweller’s cold and vicious hue -- wide and blank, glaring through the wall.
She spends more time playing her violin than not, her dainty white fingers perfectly steady, and you get used to playing Halo of Trollcraft on mute, timing your headshots neatly to the crescendos.
Rooming with Vriska Serket was the worst decision you have made since you gave a pitydate to a troll boy with two dead girlfriends and then thought you could make a clean break of it. You’re not sure where the malfunction occurred: your vision, your luck, your intellect, the fact that he still haunts you in the few hours you manage to dope yourself to sleep courtesy of one Mr. J. Daniels, whispering through your dreams Rosie, Rose, Ros, come back, we can work it out, I’ve changed, one more chance, just one more chance, you can’t fuckin’ hide forever, you need me, you’re my precious angel darlin’ so come back, Rose, I’m gonna find you eventually you WHORE.
You’ve been worn down to something small and desperate, a creature of brainless flight and crumpled feathers, and you suppose it’s only logical that at one point you would hit smack into the glass window of a situation you were too rushed to look out for.
Vriska Serket plays games the way Joan of Arc may once have practiced Christianity: with a thrilling, terrifying fervor, leaned into it, ruthless, yearning, violent. She plays Halo of Trollcraft eight hours a day, ritually, intensely, one halfhour break in the middle to bolt down the previous night’s lefthovers. Every two months, she says, she sells her character. Whatever price it fetches is what she lives off of for the next two months. It mostly keeps her in rent and takeout, and when it doesn’t she sells her blood: cerulean and fairly rare, it fetches a fairly high price per ounce on black markets, medical and recreational.
“People snort it, I guess?” she says. “Or inject it, I don’t give a fuck. I got like a thousand bucks once for letting this rainbow drinker guy lick it off my butt. Crazy, huh?”
Her last character was a gnomish fighter pilot. Her character this shift is a half-Covenant half-dwarf necromancer. She has no preferences, she sets all the character options to random and plays whatever character and class she’s dealt.
She says, her long fangs stained orange with fake cheese, “If you could be someone new, wouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you at least want to try?” And she looks at you with eyes like burnt-out holes in the world.
You needed someone stupid, lazy, sloppy, self-absorbed, distractable: Vriska Serket, dirty obnoxious lonely gamer girl Vriska Serket, that was her all over, you could see it in one hot blue flash of insight. But that’s where it ended: at the awkwardly unfashionable glasses, at the tangled hair and scaling horns, at the Dorito crumbs worked into the creases of her knuckles.
Vriska has proved remarkably clever under the anti-intellectual disaffection, meticulous under the chronic untidiness, observant under her narcissistic arrogance, and keen as a bloodhound around all your little glass-shard discrepancies.
From the day you moved in you could feel her watching you, all eight mutant pupils boring deep under your skin and watching, watching, waiting. She’s a spider clear through to her core and you’d walked straight into her nets, mistaking inaction for inability, and then it was a running game to keep yourself to yourself, bite your tongue, hold your ground.
She touches you, cold hands and rough fingers, too much too close too often, she punches you too hard in the shoulder when she thinks you’re trying to be funny, pinches your wrists and tells you to eat more, sits on your unmade bed and sings off-tune dirty lyrics when you try to escape into music, follows you around the apartment and insults your taste in literature and tries to share her beefcake porno mags and tells you to loosen the fuck up before you pop a goddamn gasket, Lalonde, really. She’s like a cutting torch, all luminous gold and blue-hot at the core, and you are burning up before her.
You needed to stay clear of romantic entanglements for the next conceivable forever and you moved in to live cheek to bitter cheek with Alternearth’s biggest hateflirt.
And you were falling for her.
“I’m gonna kill you,” you croon into the headset, “I am going to destroy you, you little bucketfucker, kid, noob, you hear me? I am going to decimate everything you hold dear, I am going to piss on your smoking corpse so hard your ancestors get wet -- ”
“Shut up, Vriska,” Rose says calmly. She does everything calmly, or some studied white-knuckled porcelain-bright facsimile of calm that is even more admirable than normal calm. She’s playing Sudoku for once, though her pale fingers are still creased pink from her violin strings. You put your head on the smooth newspaper over her lap, and bag yourself another headshot.
“I’m gonna fuck your mom,” you say. “Kid, are you a human? I’m gonna fuck your mom till she’s fat as a fucking starwhale with my grubs, they are going to just gonna burst out of her big fat chest cavity -- oh, you’re a troll, that’s cool, I fuck lusii too -- ”
“Vriska, shut up,” Rose says, and flicks your nose.
“You love me, bitch,” you say happily, and haul ass off to the next munitions depot. Rose draws on your face -- one long swoop across your forehead and then back, two small little curves over one of your eyebrows. A little dash across the other, then an even shorter perpendicular one.
“Why did you draw a dick on my face?” you ask, wrinkling your nose, tanking your warlock up on plasma shells. “We’re both girls. You don’t even have a bulge, you should have drawn a cunt or something. You’re a terrible feminist.”
“Who said I was a feminist? It’s entirely likely that I hate men in addition to hating every other gender as well, but retain an inexplicable predilection for graphic representations of phalluses.”
“Rose,” you say, “Rose, darling, honey, light of my fucking life, no one has a haircut like you have a haircut who does not also have a studied opinion of how hard they want to lick Andrea Dworkin’s nook right off.”
Rose draws little drops of semen across your right cheek.
“This is a permanent marker,” she says intently, and watches you very very closely.
“You say that like I care,” you tell her, and collect another headshot.
“It’s Christmas, let’s go out,” Vriska says, leaning out of the bathroom in great sweeping cloud of black hair and lemon-scented steam. “You stay here much longer and you’ll grow fur on your palms, Lalonde.”
“That’s masturbation,” you inform her.
“Huh. You are educational as shit, girl. Come on, get, shift it. Put the violin down before it grows into your shoulder.”
“I don’t have a coat.”
“So borrow one of mine!”
“You’re enormous. Gargantuan. A leviathan.”
“Thanks, I think. Here, I got this one in pink. Fuschia? Is that what this is called? You like pink?”
“I loathe pink.”
She disappears into her bedroom. “Close enough!”
Vriska reappears with a dress that narrowly avoids being a cocktail napkin by way of including spaghetti straps, and an enormous puffy fuschia thing. She bundles you into the nylon cocoon as efficiently as an arachnid incapacitates its prey, and when you are dazed with horror she takes the opportunity to cram a squashy teal and blue bobblehat on to your head. You hold yourself stiffly, aghast at the horror, and she takes a step back to admire her handiwork.
“You are precious as fuck, oh my God,” she says, and wipes an invisible tear of pride from one seven-pupiled eye.
“Vriska, I don’t want to go out,” you say finally. The particular part of your head that knows these things is screaming. Vriska only squints at you -- she’s not wearing her glasses -- and digs her killer fangs into her plush blue lower lip.
“What are you scared of, Rose?” she asks. She leans in close and all you can see is her mouth --
You slap her. She reels back in shock, one staggering step, two, fetches up against the back of the flatscreen TV.
You turn on your heel and march out the front door, down the hallway, your fists trembling at your side. One of your hands is very hot and the rest of you is very cold and you are seriously considering heading right back inside and kissing her, then hiding underneath your mattress for the rest of your life.
She catches up with you at the elevators. “Like there’s anything out there fiercer than you are,” she says, and presses the button. She slants this hot little look at you, this terrible smirk. She has a slate-blue splotch against one high, beautiful cheekbone from where your palm had connected, and a tiny nick of cerulean from the edge of one of your nails. You are being insulted, somehow, but you’re not sure in which way.
You breathe out. In. Find your calm. There’s a path through any disaster, if you pay close enough attention. The elevator dings, and you storm into it.
“Where are we going?” you ask.
“Shopping,” Vriska says. “You have like ten thousand bucks stuffed into your violin and you wear the same groaty old hoodie every day. You, Lalonde, are an agony to behold!”
Gorgeous girl, you dreadful charmer, gimme more of that sweet agony --
You nod, slowly, and watch the numbers descend. Challenge accepted.
You get Rose into the Light Rail before she starts shutting down, shrinking away from the press of strangers like she’s safeguarding a bomb inside her chest from a firestorm, her shoulders curling in tight enough to pop and her sharp violet stare flicking challengingly from face to face.
You curl an arm around her and pull her flush to your side.
“Come under your mama Vriska’s wing, my little chickadee.”
“You, a mother hen?” she snorts. “Feed me a lie small enough to swallow, Serket.” She is tense against you, her warm human fingers pressing too hard against your hip.
“What would you believe?” you ask her, curious. You’ve lived with her three months and you know shit-all about her, really, humans are so fucking hard to parse. Her fingers slide up your side, press over your heart. She’s warm through the white satin of your dress, and you never want to let go.
“Something cold,” she says. Taps your sternum. “Something carelessly cruel. You’d take everyone down with you, if you could, when you fall. You’d destroy everything you loved just so no one else could have it -- so it could never leave you. I know you.”
You bloodpusher is very loud in your ears. “And what does that make you, for sticking by me, then? Stupid?”
She grins, a perfect slice of white.
“Something of the same creature,” she says.
You drop a kiss to her pale hair, utterly flustered, and she puts her head against your chest for the rest of the ride. Her nails are sharp enough to bruise your bilesacks right through your skin, but you hang on to her anyway.
Vriska bullies you into the first boutique off the downtown stop, and squints at price tags on any dress short enough to give serious threat to the sanctity of your undergarments.
“No,” you say. “White makes me look consumptive.”
“The word you actually mean is ‘cute’,” she says. “And now we match! Let’s get makeup. Do you know how to do makeup?”
You glare at her, and she flounces off to buy overpriced metallic eyeshadow. “And a hairbrush,” you say, and swat at her wild mess of hair.
Vriska pushes you into the handicapped dressing room and prods critically at your knees as you relinquish your clothes, one by one.
“This dress,” she says. “It’s sparkly!”
“I have great fucking taste. In you get.”
You suffer the indignities of a tube top with a ruffled hem, and grab the brush out from the crook of her arm. Pushing her against the mirror is more satisfying than it should be, and her face makes a meaty smack against the glass. She only laughs, though, and shoves her butt back against your hips.
“Be gentle, bitch, it’s my first time,” she says.
“I’d believe it,” you say grimly, and rake the bristles through her mane. She yowls, and you huff out a triumphant laugh and get a good hard grip on the back of her neck. You drag the brush through her hair and she carries on like a cat in a blender, but eventually the bristles glide through clear and she is sleek and shiny and breathing far too hard to be normal, her claws making little squeaky noises on the glass, her forehead pressed up against its reflection, her high strong cheekbones suffused with blue.
“There,” you say, and sort of pat awkwardly at her shoulder. “That’s -- better.” You’re breathing too hard yourself. When she opens her eyes and looks up at you through the mirror she looks lost, somehow, infinitely vulnerable. She’s much smaller with her hair tamed, still far taller than you but less wild, less ferocious.
If someone saves your life it means they own you, my angel darlin’. Now, don’t you go lookin’ at me like that, one of your own human philosophisers went and wrote that specific gem down just for us fine bitches. All there in black and fuckin’ white, you go look.
Vriska licks her fangs, nervously, as she turns around.
“Can you do my eyes, too?”
You don’t have any idea what’s going on anymore.
Rose is very quiet, when you take her to a cute Italian place. If you didn’t know her you’d say demure, and you only barely don’t not know her. As terrible as she looks in her ragged beige hoodie, she’s radiant in pure white, like an angel: deadly as fuck and twice as gorgeous. She picks her way through half a salad, and then sets her fork down like she’s only just decided not to stab anyone with it.
“Vriska, is this a date?”
You stare at her, caught out and tongue-tied. “Uh. Wellllllll...”
She stares at the single, long stemmed flower on the table, inbetween the dainty white tealights.
It’s a red rose, red as human blood. Red as human hearts. Oh, god, oh man, oh fuck.
“No!” you blurt out, loud enough to make half the restaurant stare at you, and grab wildly at her hands. “No -- Rose, jeez, not what you’re thinking of, not the human kind of date!”
She runs her delicate fingers across the cutlery, the damp upturned tines of the fork. “I’ve dated trolls before,” she says. “You don’t have to dumb things down for the poor stupid ape-girl. Pity-dates, hate-dates. I was an auspistice once, even. I heard I wasn’t so bad at it. But -- as long as this isn’t red, Serket. Vriska.” A fragile, brittle smile. “I can’t do red again.”
Wow, yes, okay. “This isn’t!” you assure her. “I’m not. Nothing like red, no way, no how, not us. I’d rather have a hungry crocodile for a matesprit, they’d be less dangerous than you!”
“As long as we’re clear.” She takes the rose, touches it to the candle flame. Her smile is like a supernova as the petals catch fire and curl into tongues of fire, black and red and ash all curling away from the white-hot core, and the relief of it all catches you up and makes you feel warm and clean and giddy.
“Clear as crystal,” you say. “Couldn’t be clearer.” You take the burning flower and douse it out in your water glass. Then you lean in really close, close enough for her to bite your nose off.
“So, you wanna do something dangerous?” you tease her.
“No,” she says calmly: a beautiful lie. Or is it?
“Maybe I do, though,” you say. You dare to stroke her face, the curve of one soft warm cheek, then push back out of your chair.
“Serket -- ”
You slip out of her grasp.
“Catch me if you can, Sunshine!” you call, and race for the door.
She loses you, and easily. You settle your bill, fingers shaking, heart racing, and walk in tight, careful steps out to the pavement. You are unsteady in your ridiculous new stilettos, unused to the extra height after all these months of clean and careful living. You take a deep breath, staring down the sidewalk after your crazy fucking roommate. Then you open yourself up to the thing inside your head that would run your whole life if only you’d let it.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray --
Everything snaps into focus. You move, and the city is laid out before you like a (killin’ cauldron) an open book.
The nightclub is loud and you feel it in your teeth before you even plunge through the door. It is dark and the dance floor is a mess of writhing bodies, plunging horns and waving hands and neon light. Vriska is picked out clear as a beacon to you and you have left all your knives back in Seattle. She is dancing with a big unfamiliar male troll who you’ve never met before and will never meet again, insofar as ‘dancing’ is defined as rhythmic vertical frottage.
His teeth -- the way he holds her -- you know the look of men who don’t like to hear no, and if you have anything to say about it Vriska is damn sure not going to be saying any more yes.
She slants a look across the dance floor at you and your heart goes acid-hot, you can feel a snarl rasp your throat even under the pounding base. She’s beautiful, in the neon light, long limbs and wild hair and the way she laughs with her whole body. She belongs at the head of a string of maenads, bloody fingers and the throats of men and goats between her flashing fangs. She belongs to some pure and wild realm of fantasy and instead a troll with teal blood and koi tattoos on his wrists slides thick-knuckled hands under her skirt.
She jumps, laughs again, grinds back, takes his wrist. She mouths something in his ear and he smirks, palms her ass. The angle of his head, the possessiveness to his filthy claws, you cannot breathe for the fury and the desperate fear. You fight your way through the dance floor collecting elbows and crushed toes, and they slip out of sight.
You grab the nearest girl. “How do I get out of here?” you scream into her ear.
She blinks at you, her face shuttering into confusion. “Out the back way,” she screams back, pointing.
You pull the long chopsticks from her chignon, and push onwards before she can blink.
He has his hands around Vriska’s wrists by the time you find your way to the right alley, has her pinned up against the brick wall like a butterfly to a board and is grinding up hard against her ass. Her heels scratch the ground and she bucks, throws her wickedly pointed horns back in an attempt to gouge at his head but her weekly LARP sessions don’t prepare her for the kind of conditioning to throw off a bull troll three times her weight and twice her reach, and she’s moving clumsily and pained. Her stockings have been utterly laddered and her blue blood sleets down her face from an abrasion on her forehead.
You have already broken the chopsticks into long, sharp splinters.
“Oh, wow, cool,” you say, stupidly. Your head is a mess of splintery pain. “You totally just killed that guy.”
Rose hauls you up to your feet and you’re wobbling on your heels, she’s breathing hard and has a delicate dab of blue blood smeared at her temple, where she brushed her hair back. You have never seen anything more beautiful. You take her delicate jaw between your shaky hands and press your lips to the mark, lick it reverently off her face.
She backhands you, hard enough to send you reeling against the wall all over again. Then she hits you again, again, soft ringing slaps, she’s breathing harsh and tears are rising in your eyes, it’s too much.
“This won’t happen again,” she says.
It pulses all through you, and now or never, Serket, be brave. Say it.
“Not if you were here,” you say, and dare to look up at her. Your vasculars are in your throat. “Not if you stopped me, next time.”
“Then I suppose I shall have to,” she says. Her voice throbs. Her face is a clay-white deathmask, carved of starshine, and her royal-violet eyes glitter. No one could ever be her match.
“Come,” she says, all challenge. “Heel, Serket.”
You push off the wall, scramble after her. She’s already striding off, as level on her killer heels as a ship in still water. When you twine your fingers together she goes tense all over, and you think if only she had fangs. She is the most dangerous creature in the whole world, and her hot human hand is sticky against your palm.
She squeezes your hand, once.
And that is that.
When you slip into the shower Vriska follows you. She has been your dirty little shadow all evening, cloyingly quiet, claustrophobically close, and her hands are cold on your skin as she wipes pure white soap over the red-brown creases between your fingers.
Abruptly you are vomiting, between your four feet, and you have never hated anyone more than this stupid, stupid alien girl, what have you done? A man lay dead at your feet and she simply looked at you -- like she’s looking at you now, all alien expectation, all admiration. As if you had finally done something right.
The worst part is how good it had made you feel to kill again.
Oh my pretty little red Rose, darlin’, my dearest bleedin’ heart, don’t tell me I don’t know a flippin’ fellow spirit when I see one, DON’T YOU BLOODY TELL ME YOU DON’T PLAY THE SAME FUCKIN’ GAMES.
Vriska holds your hair back from your face, for all that it’s too short to even get in the way, for all that the water is already cleansing away your mess. Her nails are sharp, and her grip is tight enough to sting. She smells all wrong, lemon and fresia and nightclub sweat and you think of Seattle, the smell of rain sweeping in off the bay. Your mouth tastes only of acid, you’re too foul to kiss anyone, like this. Not now, not ever, not with who you are, and Vriska damn her fuckin’ eyes doesn’t even try.
You close your eyes and you hate.
You get up early and make Rose breakfast: she never eats in the morning, she just has coffee. That can’t be healthy. She’s too small. You cook six eggs and a whole pack of bacon and look in the fridge and find an apple and cut it into bits and then you microwave the last of your chocolate milk even though you can’t remember if hot chocolate goes with dinner or breakfast. You put it on the table and when Rose comes downstairs, rumple-haired and haggard, you are suddenly poisonously shy and you go busy yourself with scrubbing greasy pans so she can’t see your face.
“I’m vegetarian,” is all she says.
“Oh,” you say quietly. You hadn’t noticed. She eats like a goldfish, all Dorito crumbs and the broccoli picked out of your lo mein.
There’s a long moment. You can feel her purple eyes burning right into the back of your head, and you scrub really savagely at some grease. Then there is a little clink, and when you peek over your shoulder she has taken a piece of bacon and is regarding it as one might regard a very complicated explosive device.
Her gaze is set and ultraviolet, and it catches your breath right up tight in your aerating sacs. She flicks a little impenetrable look at you, and then takes one dainty, precise little bite of the meat strip. She chews and swallows, and takes another bite. By the time you are done with all the pans she has eaten about half of everything on the plate, and is leaning heavily on her elbows in a way that is impossible to understand. There is so much to her that you have to learn, and whoever was in charge of giving you any kind of key has fucked right off.
“How was it?” you ask.
“Delightful,” she says flatly, and she pushes her chair back. She leaves the kitchen in silence, her shoulders bowed strangely in.
She didn’t even have her usual coffee, though you’ve set the pot to making some. You pour it all straight down the sink with a cautious warmth coiling in your bile sacs. Addiction is a terrible thing.
You make it till early afternoon before something in the angle of the sunlight hits the wall just wrong -- it shines cold Seattle silver instead of Arizona gold you can’t stand it -- you make me happy when skies are grey, and skies ain’t never anythin’ but grey here, so you better keep makin’ me happy, little Rosie -- you tear apart your bed. You throw your bookshelf into the livingroom, and you start smashing plates, methodically, desperately. Vriska picks you up and deposits you on the sofa and you flip it over, break a leg off it, retreat to the balcony and try to lose yourself in Tchaikovsky, Stravinski, Schoenburg. You have never sounded better, nothing has ever been easier, you play and you look out at the world -- into the setting sun -- and it burns you hollow. Music is the one part of yourself no one has ever been able to touch you in, you are pure and clean and flying and when Vriska pokes her head out you lash her across the face with your bow.
“You’re bleeding!” she shouts at you, her voice high with pain and anger. “What the fuck are you doing to yourself, you crazy bitch?”
“Oh,” you say, an alien noise like a trod-upon animal, “ohhhhhhh,” and then you feel it, the pain of a hard comedown. You feel stupid and blind and very small, and you are bleeding from your nailbeds and your ears and your nose and your eyes. You can see nothing but the neon-green wash of afterimages, an afternoon of staring at the sun has burned both your vision and your sight clear out of your skull and earned you nothing but a pounding migraine for your sins.
“You freak,” Vriska says, and hauls you up by your hood. You stumble, breathing hard, bottling up the pain hard inside your throat.
She leads you to the shower, her hands rough on your arms and her toes stepping on your heels, strips you naked without the least moment’s care and shoves you under the lukewarm spray.
“Don’t you ever scare me like this again,” she says, and her voice wobbles. She snuffles, hard, in the darkness, and then smacks the shower door hard enough to make you startle back against the wall. “You hear me?!”
“I’m blind, I certainly can’t see you,” you say. You let the water run over your face, and fumble with the tap till it’s cold.
“Oh, god,” Vriska says, sobs, “and you’re -- fuck, you’re blind, you’re -- no, no, Rose, you’re going to be -- FUCK!”
“I’ll be fine,” you say. Everything feels very distant.
“You’re blind now,” she wails. “I let you go blind!”
You snap the door open, reach into the darkness, and grab her by the throat.
“You don’t let me do anything, Serket,” you snarl. “Do you hear me? You are not my mother, you are not my lover, I do not enact my plans by your gracious leave, this is not how we are going to be functioning, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?”
“I,” she chokes out, “yes, okay, if that’s how you want to play it, that’s how we’ll play it.” Her cool fingers find your face, stroke tremblingly up towards your eyesockets, and you bite the side of her thumb hard enough to taste salt. It’s abruptly too much and you retreat back to the shower, the spray of water.
“My vision will come back in a few hours. A few days at the outside. I’ve done this before.”
“Oh god,” Vriska says. “I -- I’m glad.”
There is a long silence.
“You’ve killed before, too,” Vriska says quietly. She snuffles, laughs faintly at herself. “I can’t tell anything about anything with you, but I know what a killer kills like.”
“My most recent display of histrionics didn’t serve to convince you that I have been heretofore pure as a lamb?”
“Yeah, like hell. I mean, you’re really upset, I get it, but that just makes everything weirder. You killed that guy like a pro.”
“And you would know?”
Another long silence. You occupy yourself with adjusting the water temperature back towards warm, and running soap between your fingers. With nothing else to occupy yourself, the smooth slippery glide of it between your palms fills your entire attention, the tingling crush of bubbles as they pop between your fingers.
“I used to be a bounty hunter,” Vriska says finally. “Troll Judiciary system, before you ask, the human systems want you to be nine sweeps, fuck knows why. I hunted culls. If I got to them before the drones did I could feed them to my mom.”
“She sounds like a charming woman.”
“Don’t be stupid, it don’t suit you. She was a spiderkind -- lusus tyrannus arachnae. They’re endangered class, they grow so fast, it’s almost impossible for a wiggler to keep up with their growth curve until co-maturity. Big as my whole fucking hive was, by the end, bigger. Gorgeous. We had a place in the Superstition Mountains, near Flat Iron, beautiful view of the -- the -- you don’t give a fuck. It doesn’t matter. I just, I killed a lot of people for her. Kids that didn’t deserve it. Trumped- up charges, intercepted arrests, planted evidence, the whole nine yards. I was crooked as a bent snake in a square knot. I did everything I could to keep her fed, she was my mom, I’d have died for her, but there was this one freak rockslide and she died for me instead, so, just, I, I guess that was that. I moved to the communal stemhives in the city proper, after that, and sort of went and... kept living. Made friends. Made a life. Fell in hate.”
“Your roommate,” you say softly.
“My roommate. Terezi. Smart as fuck, smartest girl I ever met. She found out about what I used to do, a few months ago -- just before you showed up. I -- we -- we were so good together, Rose, I cared about her so much but she was gonna be a lawyer, all she could really do for me was get out before she was obligated to investigate and I -- ” another wrenching snuffle. “I miss her. I miss her so bad, Rose.”
You sigh. “I don’t give half a fuck, Vriska, I’m not your wellness coach. Stop crying, you sound disgusting, and I ran out of the ability to feign sympathy for your fragile emotional state when I stabbed your rapist and you said wow, cool.”
A wet, throaty laugh. “Yeah, yeah, you hardass, I get you. I guess it’s all in the past, now.”
“Do you miss it?”
“...yeah. Fuck. I really do.”
You put the soap down between your feet, and let the water wash the thick lather from your fingers. “Me too,” you say. “Go away, Vriska.”
“Not unless you’re coming out,” she says determinedly, and turns your water off.
Rose sits at the kitchen table, bundled up in your bathrobe and huddled over a cup of hot chocolate.
“When I was thirteen my mother died,” she says. “I was left with an antique violin and an only slightly less old godfather.” She is so very, very calm, calm as the silent coiling steam that rises from between her cupped fingers. White-hot. Beautiful. You want to gather her up in your arms and kiss every part of her better.
She says: “When I was thirteen and a half my godfather started to touch me at night, and kiss me in places no one would see. By the time I was fourteen I was homeschooled and he touched me during the day. When I was sixteen I had my GED and a full ride scholarship to the Cornish College of Arts and so I took my knitting needles and I drove one into his right eye and one into his left eye and one into each of his wrists and one into his tongue and all the rest of the needles into his filthy penis. Then I took all his collection of pocket watches and took them to a pawn shop, and I took his bonds and stocks and things and went to another, harder to find shop that the pawn shop owner told me about, and then I sold the keys to his mansion to a very nasty little man, and then I was an orphan and a fugitive and one hundred thousand dollars richer, and I locked the doors behind me and rode a greyhound bus from New York to Seattle.”
“How old are you, Rose?” you ask. You had never really thought of it before. She is ageless the way statues are ageless, old and young all at once, brittle and strong.
She doesn’t respond, anyway. “When I was seventeen I got a fake ID from a rich boy with good connections,” she says. “I wanted to go drinking with my college friends.” She takes a sip of her cup. “We started to date.”
“And?” you prompt.
She doesn’t say anything else, just shakes her head, tightly. After a while, her drink stops steaming.
“And then everything was so much easier,” she says finally, in a harsh burst. “We -- this boy and I -- have you ever killed with a partner? A matesprit? Back to back, hand in hand, heart to heart, the two of you against the world. We were glorious together, we were. No one was too big, too well known, we took hitchhikers and math professors and homeless kids and trust fund darlings and trophy wives and a fucking senator, once, we were wolves, Vriska, unstoppable. We slit his throat and fucked in every room of his penthouse. No one ever caught us, we were magic together. Two halves of the same broken soul -- ”
“That’s what moirails are supposed to be,” you say. “Oh, Rose -- ”
“Or kismesis,” she says. “But we were never black, he and I. We hated everyone else, you see, and out of all the dark and stormy world we were each other’s only safe harbor.”
“You still love him,” you say quietly. You touch her knuckles, warm and hard as chips of steel under her petal-soft human skin. “Whatever made you run, it wasn’t that you didn’t love him.”
“No,” she says, a bitter agreement. Slowly, horrifically, she starts to cry, her clear human tears streaking down her misery-scrunched cheeks. “It was him or me,” she says thickly. “At the end, we had no one left but each other. And I couldn’t do it, so I ran.”
“Here. To me.”
“Is it over? Do you think? Is he going to come for you?”
“No,” she says. She closes her eyes, sips her cold sludgy chocolate. “No, it’s done. It’s done.”
She looks shell-thin, as if the slightest touch would shatter her. You dare to brush a kiss to her cheek, but she turns her head at just the wrong moment and you get her lips instead. The impression of them lingers against your own, oddly warm, and you fight down the urge to try and kiss her again, for longer. She doesn’t need a quadrant conflict now of all times, and you don’t either.
“I hate you,” she says, quietly, but not like she really means it.
“Shhh,” you say, and stroke your forefinger down her nose, light as a whisper. “It’ll all look better in the morning.”
In the morning, Vriska announces that the two of you will spend the day in and that furthermore, she’ll be taking the day off from Halo of Trollcraft in order to treat you to a movie marathon.
You demur. She insists. You demur again. She hits you square in the face with a plush stegosaurus dick, and tells you that she’ll burn your violin if you don’t sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.
You know what this is about, of course. She thinks she can distract you from your misery by making you miserable about something else. Black flirting really is her response to any given situation, and it is eminently disgusting how easily you fold. You also really kind of hate her hero-flushcrush on Nicolas Cage -- platonically, of course -- and she knows and you know she knows and she knows you know she knows.
Which you also know.
“So will The Wicker Man be part of today’s... entertainments?” you ask.
Her face lights up. “Hey, that’s not a bad idea, haven’t seen that in like a month. But you like the old version better, right? With that ugly British virgin and that hot girl singing and showing her tits.”
You glare at her. “And Christopher Lee, yes.”
“Right, him. We’ll watch it last, maybe.”
Well, at least you’ll have something at the end of the long, terrible tunnel of Nic Cage. You go fetch the bottle of whiskey you’d been saving for New Years. On second thought, you stuff a few extra bottles of vodka under your arm, just to be safe. It’s either your sanity or your liver, in this case, and you know which you can get a transplant for.
You don’t need that shit, Rosie, it’s just stupid-juice for stupid people, I got the only cure for what ails you, my little honey lambkin, my sweetest sugar dumplin’, get your needles like a good girl and let’s paint this fucking town RED --
The first movie she shows you is about a girl assassin. The second is about a little girl who sets things on fire with her mind. You use the period while she’s fiddling with the DVD player to crack open your whisky and brew some tea, applying the first liberally to the second.
By the time you finish both of the Kill Bill films, you have stopped applying liquor to tea and are pouring straight in the mug. Kill Bill is followed by some weird-ass semi-musical about scantily clad girl commandos in an insane asylum-slash-brothel. You don’t even know where she finds these things.
Then Tank Girl, at which point you try to inform her that everyone you knew at college said that the comic book was much better: “Fuck those eggheads,” Vriska says. “Who are you going to trust -- them or me?”
You roll your eyes. “They have better taste.”
“Fuck you, Lalonde!”
Oh, you just wish.
“Are you going to catch up?” you demand, waving the last of the Black Label at her.
“Rose, if I invented a time machine to go and pour absinthe straight over my egg sac I could not catch up with you.”
“Chug this or I will bite off your bulge, I am not fucking around,” you say. “Friends do not let friends get shitfaced alone at noon on a Tuesday.”
“I let you get shitfaced whenever you goddamn want, Lalonde, I thought this stuff was kind of medicinal for you.”
“My point stands.”
She licks the neck of the bottle, a hot grey roll of tongue and tentative teeth. It is unfairly sexy. Vriska Serket, all leggy careless not-wearing-a-bra under her Rogues Do It From Behind t-shirt tousle-haired six foot two inches of her, Vriska Serket was built out of a million sad lonely nerd fantasies and you are terribly afraid a few of them were yours.
“Bluh,” she says. But she finishes it off, and you break open the Grey Goose with no further ceremony.
After that is Charlie’s Angels and you don’t bother to tell her that the original was better because they probably were just as bad. Everything is a terrible haze of stillettos, high proof alcohol, and Vriska sort of settling around you like a slime mold with wandering hands. You want to tear off her pants but you can’t feel your fingers.
The next two movies are Japanese, subtitled, and involve a bunch of school children stuck on an island trying to kill each other off as part of a reality show -- the first -- and some biker girl and an elegant gothic Lolita doing random things together -- the second. There is a guy with a giant pompadour who is supposed to be attractive. The Lolita beats up a bunch of other biker chicks. They utterly fail to make out. You may be a little too drunk for subtitled movies, and for Vriska curled up around you like a cuttlefish with abandonment issues.
The last movie involves a very young Kate Winslet and some other actress you don’t know being lesbians together and killing the other girl’s mother.
“We should do this,” Vriska slurs against your neck. “Is what I, fuck, you know, what I meant to say. We should do the shit outta this. You’n me, Rose, we could burn down the whole fuckin’ world.”
It dawned on you a few hours back what the theme of the movie night was, but it’s nice to have explicit confirmation. You stick your hands down Vriska’s pants and are cruelly confounded by her underwear. She sticks her hands up your shirt, and then licks your hair. Everything is proceeding splendidly.
You fall asleep on Vriska before she can get up to put the real Wicker Man on.
A week later a package is left on your doorstep. You bring it inside and unwrap it -- it’s a police scanner. Rose hovers like a vengeful spirit in the back of the kitchen, and there is a distant staticky roaring noise in your ears.
“You know how to use one of these, don’t you?” she asks quietly. “I got an old model, I thought you’d be more familiar with it.”
You nod, convulsively. It’s easy as thought to check all the connections -- it would work. All you have to do is turn it on, tune it in. Rose sits down across from you, fingers folded around her mug of coffee.
“Thought you were quitting,” you say.
“Some habits die hard,” she says.
You tug the cup out of her curled fingers, you pour it down the sink. Then you take the coffee pot and pour that down the sink too, and then you drop the whole contraption in the kitchen trash.
“One vice at a time, Lalonde,” you say.
She bares her teeth like she’s thinking of taking a chunk out of your throat, but she doesn’t move. She suffers you to stroke her fair shock of hair, over and over, till it lies elegant and flat. Even groomed, no one could mistake this girl for anything remotely domesticated. There is a terrible fury in her, a lightning storm raging just beneath her skin and you have no idea how long you’ll be able to outrun the storm.
You turn the scanner on.
You let Serket take the first kill. Cocaine dealer and petty pimp on the side, you can already hear the sirens closing in as you bundle up the killing room’s plastic sheeting. You’ve timed it all wrong, too close, too cocky, she’s not your partner like she should be, like he would be, but the rush is just the same.
Light of my life, my angel, my precious heart, shine for me my sharp-edged Rosie darlin’, SHOW THEM WHAT YOU FUCKIN’ GOT.
She kneels by the cooling body, her long gray fingers wrapped around the bright gold keratin of a curving horn. Her eyes are distant, her lips slightly parted, her fingers stained with rich sienna brown and make beautiful curves against the strong straight lines of your needles. Her shoulders shake.
You feel as if you have broken something very, very precious, some sacred trust, some ancient noble beautiful law of reason and decency, and you feel magnificent. Vriska, lazy stupid sloppy Vriska, with her petty trash talking and her endless string of pointless video game fantasies, kneels by her first corpse in five years and shakes like a lost little kitten.
“How do you feel?” you ask, and essay an entirely insincere pat on the shoulder.
Her eyes meet yours, hot as neon, hot as supernovae, pupils like endless black holes, and she grins bright enough to blind.
“I feel like God.”
Rose is an avenging angel, and you are swept helpless in her wake, stupid and scrambling to keep up, keep your feet, keep her from flying up too close to the fucking sun. You have one hard and fast rule: they have to deserve it. Legally, ethically, morally. No cheating. It’s your only limit. You’re not a kid anymore, a petty wiggler with only her mother to care for. You have responsibilities and one of those is to ward off the darkness from Rose’s soul, sundered though it might be. Lost though you both might be.
You stay her hand from creeps that take pictures up girls’ skirts, from jaywalkers, car thieves, people who cut in line. There is a hole that goes straight through your girl and you can’t guess as to who drilled it, but everything that she could have been, everything good and right and beautiful, falls away through that awful bottomless hunger. She paces back and forth in your apartment, a shark in a too-small tank, her violin tucked beneath her chin and her hands moving, moving, sawing out one ragged skein of complicated noise after another, waiting for the night.
Every night leaves you just the faintest bit more eager. She’s a joy to watch.
You take people anywhere: in dark alleys outside of clubs, in grocery store parking lots, in dusty suburbs and the edges of skate parks. As they check their phones, walk their dogs, stoop to pick up a lucky penny, as they cook dinner in their houses, unsuspecting, you steal in close. Rose says “Excuse me, but do you have the time?” and they look up at her, this short young lady with her short hair and her dingy pale hoodie and her piercing violet eyes. Then you strike from behind. A pad of gauze soaked in chloroform does not knock people out like in cartoons, but it makes it easy to slide your mind into their drug-fuzzy thoughts, steer them dazed and dreaming to where Rose has set up what she calls a kill-room. She makes little nests of plastic sheeting that she buys from online art supply stores with a fake name, and you lay the people down in these hollows, silvery-white cocoons made in the corners of abandoned lots, behind dumpsters, in public restrooms while you stand at the door as a lookout.
It’s insanely risky. It’s madness. You’re never caught.
Rose’s killing tools are a pair of titanium knitting needles she keeps inside the hollow neck of her violin. She pulls them out in the evenings and tucks them up along her side, the waistband of her short little skirts. It’s all she ever kills with: one strike through each eyesocket, deep into the brain, and angled inwards till it pierces the vital brainstem. Instant vegetables, human or troll. You need strong wrists to break the bone, but she does, from playing her violin, she has wrists made specifically for murder. After a while your own wrists get that strong, too, and the needles slide home without the slightest bit of struggle.
She traces her fingers through red blood, brown, olive and mustard and even blue sometimes, and she touches them to your lips as if she could paint you a new face. You lick her clean and it’s never quite enough.
She directs you to wrap the bodies up in the plastic, afterward. The bodies get bundled up small, like an unhatched wiggler, spine a round arch and arms and legs all tucked in. The horns, if there are any, get snapped off and tucked into the cushioning curve of the stomach, or they’d pierce right through the plastic and the final disguising layer of trash bags. There aren’t any humans or trolls so big that they don’t fit into an extra-large industrial strength trash bag, it turns out. She buys those from a place that supplies warehouses. You leave a lot of bodies in warehouse dumpsters. The body bags blend right in.
She buys you your own knitting needles. You try to learn to knit with them, but you’re hopeless, all thumbs and frustration, and she throws your tangled skeins off the balcony after only a day. She is angry, now, something hard and cruel and you can’t reach her, maybe you never could. You fret and she hisses and the only time it feels right between you is throwing a body in a dumpster, riding the light rail back to your apartment with her tucked stiff and tired under your arm. You’re going to get caught, soon, you have to be, there’s no bay to dump bodies in, you two don’t even have a fucking car to drive the corpses outside of the city limits. This is lunacy. You make your escapes by the grace of her strange second sight, her impossible, ineffable luck, and you stumble back into your apartments shaking with exhaustion and the electric burn of adrenaline.
You can’t stop. She’d die. You’d die.
If you could only read her you might be able to chart a course out of this mess -- but whatever language she’s been written in was lost a long, long time ago, and you were never any good at puzzle games.
One night, two months and thirteen bodies into your descent into madness, she leans over the corpse of a woman who has been strangling her foster children, plants her thin pale elbows on the woman’s slack chest, and she says, “What would it take for you to finally kiss me, Serket?”
“Uh,” Vriska says, and then, of all things, she goes blue all over her face. “What?”
“Are you het?” you enquire. “Or homoracial? Both? Have I managed to shack up with the one troll girl on the planet who has not once contemplated the forbidden delights of multi-species Sapphism?”
“I -- mostly, I mean, I mostly like troll guys, when it comes to the, uh, the, red quadrant, but I don’t see how that’s any of your business!”
“Point conceded, original inquiry reiterated,” you snap. “What is it going to take for you to break out your maidenly bucket for me? If you’re trying to drive my black heart mad with unresolved sexual tension than consider that little battle decidedly won in your favor, Vriska, I surrender, I concede, I forfeit. Kiss me or I shall go and castrate myself with rage.”
“Wow, okay, how about no,” Vriska says. “I didn’t think you were expecting that kind of moiralegiance, what the fuck!”
You blanch. “We’re not what.”
“‘Rails with pails,” Vriska says. Her face is a vivid twist of shock.“Are you just ready to fit your cunt around anything that holds still or did you really think I’d drop trou as soon as you showed a sniff of interest?”
“You’re my moirail,” you say faintly. You take a few steps away from the body, your hand up over you mouth. “Oh my god. You think you’re my moirail.”
“I. Uh. Yes? Unless you’re suddenly all flushed -- Rose, you could have maybe broken it to me a little more tactfully than a dirty proposition over a goddamn corpse!”
“Shit. Shit, shit, fuck.”
“....Shit. I just. Okay, wait, you didn’t even... you didn’t know we were... that I was -- how much clearer did I have to get, Lalonde!? Did you want me to tattoo a gigantic diamond across your face? I took you on a fucking date!”
“Serket,” you grit out. “We have been very, very stupid.”
“‘We,’” she repeats tersely. “What’s ‘we’, here, I’d like to know what the fuck you think my cognitive malfunction was in this particular clusterfuck!”
You come around the killing table in a few short strides, and clash up against her. She’s all long leggy curves and her breasts are an unfamiliar press against your own, you’ve never tangled with a female troll before and she sets claws to your shoulder like she doesn’t know whether she wants to hold you or tear you apart.
You kiss her long throat, the sharp cut of her jaw. When she tries to push you away you grab her by one sharp horn, stroke your thumb across the sensitive crimson basal band no troll would dare to fondle this early in the proceedings and she goes satisfyingly clingy and dazed against you. It’s a dirty trick and you should feel worse for pulling it, but you don’t, you never have. Use the tools you gotta use ‘a do the job you gotta do, sweetheart, ain’t nothin’ more simple in all the world and don’t you ever apologize to NO ONE.
“Rose, what -- ” she gasps, her voice deliciously throaty, and you drop your hand to the juncture of her thighs as answer. She stumbles back against the wall, and everything is the warmth and painful friction you have been craving to pry out of her body since she first opened the goddamn door to you. She is utterly hesitant, and it feels wrong, it feels the wrong kind of right, it’s too easy -- Trolls turn on so wickedly fast, Rosie, Rose, Ros, god more please, yeah, you fuckin’ beauty, watch your glubbin’ teeth. You don’t know where this is going but you hope it goes somewhere. You’re so very tired of being where you are.
“I don’t know what you want from me,” Vriska moans, and you whisper “Anything,” and coax her legs apart, knead her growing bulge hard and rough through the denim. She’s got pink underwear on underneath, you watched her put them on just this morning, brush her fangs half-naked and garbling silly made-up lyrics to Bartok’s finest.
Take what you want, is the first fuckin’ rule, as no one is ever gonna go givin’ it to you. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes, you get me?
Now she throws her head back against crumpled plastic sheeting, hips stuttering up into your hand and sobs, “Rose, Rose, god, what are you doing -- ”
“That’s my angel for you. Girl never did give a soul a straight fuckin’ answer on anyfin.”
Vriska shrieks with surprise. You realize with a wash of horror, like lightning to the spine, that that wasn’t in your head.
“Who the fuck -- your Imperiousness?” Vriska stammers, and shoves you off her. You turn around -- and shrink right back into her arms. Precious girl, beautiful compassionate madwoman that she is, she holds you close and snarls at the most powerful man in the world.
Eridan Ampora stands there, the entrance to your killing room, expensive purple suede shoes utterly incongruous on the crinkled plastic sheeting. He is like something cut out of a nightmare, or a wet dream: tall and handsome, charismatic from his crooked horns to his hot dead-eyed violet stare. His clothes probably cost more than this entire house, his rings would buy a small country. His smile would buy anyone’s soul, and it got yours on discount long ago.
“Long time no see, angel darlin’,” he says, “and let me tell you was it ever a bitch to track your flighty ass down. Where’s my fuckin’ kiss hello?”
“You never tell me anything,” Vriska hisses into your ear. “Your stupid psycho ex is the fucking heir apparent?”
“Yeah and you might wanna bow, or something’,” he says, and flaps his hand at her. Vriska’s knees buckle like she’s seriously considering it.
“It’s an honor,” she says tightly, “to meet you, Prince Ampora.”
“Likewise,” he says. Affable. All warm and airy drawling friendliness, you hate this mask of his, hate how much better at lying than you he can be. He says, “I ain’t never met anyone who can keep up with my girl here for long’s you’ve done, nor keep her in such good shape a’cause of it. But I think it’s time for all’a us to part our separate waves, so I’ll be thankin’ you kindly to get your filthy whore fingers off what’s mine and turn her the fuck back over ‘fore I lose my temper.”
“No,” Vriska says. “She’s not yours. She’s her own.” Her unsheathed bulge presses up against your ass and it no longer feels like any kind of a victory. You need her sharp and you’ve just made her stupid, good job, Rose, girl, darlin’, really fuckin’ good piece of business there.
In any case, Eridan only chuckles. She’s amused him. Not much does. “It’s cute you think so, swillblood,” he says, and shakes a long thin white stick out of his sleeve. He holds it up like a magician might conjure a bouquet of flowers, all wide terrible teeth and elegant wrists.
“Do you know what this is, lovely lady that you are?” he asks.
“No,” you say, and shove Vriska away. “No, she -- leave her alone. Leave her out of this, I’ll go with you.”
She catches your fingers. “What the fuck is that thing, Rose?”
“It’s my science stick,” Eridan says. “It’s very, very expensive and it makes all my problems go away. D’you wanna be one of my problems, Vriska?”
He is across the room in a flash, the tip of the wand underneath her chin. It makes a little sizzling noise as it touches her flesh, like a drop of water, and she goes taut with pain.
“No, sir,” she grits out. “Your Imperiousness. I am pretty fucking sure I don’t.”
“Good girl,” he says, and brushes his dark lips over hers, settles a confident hand on her hips. The confluence of their fangs does terrible things to your insides. If you could have both of them -- if you could both be his -- Eridan makes a thoughtful, contemplative noise into Vriska’s mouth, and trails his fingers inwards across her stomach, towards her tented jeans.
“Get off me,” Vriska says lowly, and Eridan’s head twitches, as if he were shaking a fly off his nose.
“You -- ” he says, and Vriska shoves him off, brings her hands to her forehead.
“Get off!” she screams, the lashing of her mental power like a hot wind that you can feel right against your own forehead, and Eridan goes reeling back, sprawling against the killing table. His eyes are blank, his mouth slack -- his teeth like so many scattered shards, gaping and harmless. His voice has been smothered down to a low, animal groan.
“Vriska,” you say.
She’s prickling all over with blue sweat, her fingers trembling against her temples. “He’s -- I never -- his mind is a fucking desolation, it hurts, God, he’s a wasteland, a horror, I can’t hold him long,” she says. “Now or never, Rose, what do I do?”
“You’re asking me?”
“I’m his, Vriska.”
“YOU ARE NOT!” Vriska screams, and Eridan makes a terrible choking noise and stops breathing. He slumps to his knees, a puppet with all the strings cut, and you are at his side without a blink.
“I can’t, I can’t hold him,” Vriska pants, “he’s so torn up -- ”
“Can you make him forget?” you ask. His face is cold against your palms, his skin still the same silky-rough rasp as ever. “Can you make him forget about me?”
“I don’t -- maybe -- I can send him away. Buy us time.”
“He’ll never stop coming for me,” you say. “I was so stupid to think he might.”
Vriska moans, shakes, drops to her own knees. She’s scratched her forehead open and blue drips down the side of her face in wings, she says, “Rose, I’m sorry, I can’t -- ”
And Eridan blinks.
“Please,” you say. “Eridan, love, darling, sweetheart, don’t do this -- ”
He shoves you aside, mechanically, coldly, as if you were so much corpsemeat, gets to his feet.
“You bitch,” he says thickly, “you traitorous fuckin’ bitches, is this how you’re gonna play it then don’t you think I can’t fuckin’ escalate.”
You are frozen with a kind of fierce anticipatory grief. Eridan, oh, God, Eridan, stupid clever terrible beautiful Eridan who saw a broken girl who wanted to drown her trauma with booze and made her into his angel, who sewed all her shattered bits back together with a sharp-toothed smile and long strong fingers and a steady hand on titanium knitting needles, he’s going to kill you dead.
You can see this. You can see everything, when you’re looking for it.
Vriska throws herself in front of you as he levels his wand.
The world goes solar-flare white and there is nothing in it but Vriska’s pained scream.
You fall back, scrubbing at your eyes. Your second sight screams at you: you know what to do, you always have, you always will, your eyes could burn clear out of your head and you would still be every bit as steady and sure when you open yourself up like this. Your needles are cold and hard and hungry in your fists, she is so close against you, blind and vulnerable, and it is not too late to salvage this catastophic shitfest. It is never too late.
Vriska is still screaming, and you know exactly how to make her stop.
You wake slowly. You are warm and very comfortable, and everything is bright white. A soft pale leather couch, a fluffy white afghan thrown over you, a low curved eggshell ceiling over your head. There is a sense of purpose and motion to this space, a low curious hum emanating from nowhere in particular. Everything is very close, strangely flattened and unreal.
“Am I dead?” you ask.
“We both are,” Rose says quietly.
You try to sit up -- she kneels at your side, presses down on your chest. “You’re not well, Vriska.”
“I’m missing my fucking arm,” you observe distantly. It feels like a thing that matters in a vast inarguable sense, like clouds or rocks or gravity, but not a particularly relevant one. But her lips draw close together, and she nods, once, tersely.
“You’re on pain killers,” she says. “A lot of very expensive ones.”
You let your head fall back against the cushions. Your remaining hand brushes over the smooth nothingness where your arm used to be: synthetic skin capping off the stump of your shoulder, weirdly soft and prickly-tender. Expensive as fuck. It could be worse, it could be a pad of gauze, or a blood-sticky mess of infection. Everything feels very relative, and Rose is so pretty and looking at you.
“I feel pretty good for a dead drugged up girl,” you say. “You know how to show a flushcrush a good time, Rosie -- ”
She smacks you. You can’t feel it none, but your head lashes to one side hard enough to make you dizzy.
“Don’t call me that, Serket,” she says, and her voice trembles on a whole bottled-up storm of tears.
“Stop hitting me all the time and we have a deal, Lalonde,” you say. You lick your lips -- you’re not numb, you just can’t feel pain. You are on really good shit. You move your remaining arm up super carefully and cup the back of Rose’s soft and fragile head, bring her face down to your shoulder.
“I hate you,” she says.
“You don’t,” you say. You are very serene. Everything is soft and makes perfect sense, you know her, now, you knowher. “You hate the whole world but I was a little part of it you carved out for yourself to have and to hold you. How could you hate me? You set me free.”
She makes a small, crushed sort of noise, like a lightbulb being trod upon, and then your shirt starts getting wet. Her shoulders shake and she huddles against you, a warm tiny scrunch of bones and clingy fingers and quivery silent sobs. She makes no noise at all when she cries, not the actual crying part of it, just smothered wet noises and the uneven rasp of her breath.
You stroke her hair, over and over, and she finally takes a big determined sniff, loud as a gunshot, and wipes her face on your shirt. You tip her chin up with your one single hand and press your lips very very carefully right up against her mouth.
She’s wet. She’s really wet all over, her lips a loose miserable shape and her cheeks gone soggy with tears and you don’t really want to think about her leaky nose -- she snuffles when you lick the roof of her mouth and it sounds like a buzz saw. But she gasps when you sneak fingers under her shirt, and she doesn’t go anywhere at all.
“Serket, what are you doing?” she murmurs against your skin.
“Going red for you,” you say. “Red as anything, I want to be with you, wherever you’re going, I don’t ever want to stop you. Maybe I never did, I don’t know, but -- where you go, I’ll go, okay? ‘Till the end.”
She brushes her lips across your throat. “Until the end,” she says. “It’s close, Serket, if you let me do what I intend. We don’t have much time.”
You stroke fingers across her face -- it doesn’t feel right. You take her jaw firmly, push her bangs back from her eyes.
“Time enough to get it right?” you ask.
“Time enough to do terrible filthy things to each other,” Rose says, “Serket, Vriska, darling, stop me now or forever hold your peace.”
“Well,” you say. You grin. “Which piece are you offering to let me hold?”
She breathes out, a hot wash of lust, and kisses you. Unlike you, she knows what she’s doing. She grabs your horns and pins you to the couch with her teeth and tongue, warm as fuck, warm as a sunbeam. She wiggles her ass down hard against your lap and you feel that red-blooded human heat catch hold and spread all through you, incomprehensible and perfect. Dead or not, you’re down an arm and an eye, lying on a foreign sofa god knows where with the world’s deadliest prettiest weirdo on top of you kissing all hot and heavy. Your body is desperate to get a fucking move on before one part of this wheeling screaming clusterfuck goes snap.
You’re both wearing too many clothes: shirts and jeans and skirts and socks and bras and straining underwear that’s the only thing keeping your bulge from getting denim blisters, it’s straining towards Rose’s butt so hard. You paw at your fly and get the afghan tangled up around your arm.
“Fuck,” you chant, “Fuck, fucking -- fuck, Rose!”
She rips the blanket off you, pulls your jeans down your hips. Your bulge almost stings from the friction burn as it coils up against your lower stomach.
“Oh, shit, you’re big,” Rose huffs, slicks her fingers up over your length.
“How many people have you fucked to know?” you demand. She glares sharp enough to scald.
“Enough to know that if I do this you’ll shut the goddamn hell up,” she snaps, and curls two wet fingers into your nook. You scream. You can’t feel any pain but you can sure as fuck feel pleasure and you are drowning in it. She works her fingers in and out of you, merciless, scissors them apart. Her other hand comes up to press your bulge down flat against your stomach, constricting it without giving you hardly the least bit of relief.
“Rose,” you gasp, “not fair, come on -- ”
“Of course it’s not fair,” she says, absurdly calmly, and gives you another hard, slow, agonizing press of fingers against your inner walls. Then she stops entirely.
“What are you going to do about it?” she challenges you.
You narrow your eyes, and heave the both of you straight off the couch. She yelps as you tumble, and you catch yourself on your arm just before you smash her flat, but she’s definitely knocked breathless. You press your teeth up to her throat and she goes gorgeously shivery, her fingers coming up to stroke the corners of your jawbone, where you might have had fins.
“No,” she murmurs, high and trembling. “No, no -- ”
You rear back on your haunches. “Okay!” you say hastily, “Okay, okay, sure!”
She lies there and gapes at you. “What?” she says. “What the fuck are you doing?”
“You said no! I stopped!”
She blinks. “Oh. I -- I think this -- ah. Might be an appropriate moment to discuss safewords.”
The bottom of your stomach drops out and something acid-hot and furious gets slotted in instead.
“The safeword is ‘no’,” you say.
“The safeword is -- ”
“No,” you hiss, “You say ‘no’, I stop. You say yes, I go.”
Rose Lalonde is not a girl to whom speechlessness applies terribly well, but she can apparently manage it at a pinch.
You curl your fingers into the severe white cotton of her panties. She’s damp, and your run your thumb up along the soft slit, press down on where you’re pretty sure her clit should be. You’ve never been with a human girl before, but you’ve seen porn and plenty of vagina pillows. That’s something like the same thing, or should be.
“No,” she whimpers, and then claps her hands over her mouth. “I -- nnn -- fuck, Serket, please.”
“Have you ever said yes to sex once in your life?” you ask. Your hand hovers awkwardly over her thigh, your thumb just a little cool from her wetness.
Her face is a pink scrunch of shame and anguish. She shakes her head, tersely, just once.
“Oh, girl,” you say, and your heart aches with pity. You stroke her stomach, her breasts, the taut angles of her knuckes over her mouth. “Rose, it’s okay. It’s okay, come on. It’s me. You know me, Rose. Just ask for what you want, one goddamn time in your life, tell me what I can do.”
“Please,” she says, through her fingers. “Please.”
“Please what?” you ask.
She bucks her hips up, convulsively, and goes desperately still again. You hesitate a moment longer, but it’s torture at this point -- you run your hand up between her legs again, knead at her firmly. Your bulge is throbbing with desperation at this point and you can feel yourself dripping slick and impatient down into your half-off jeans, but you take it slow, rubbing the hard small nub of her clit as gently as you can manage. She chokes and stuffs fingers between her teeth, gnaws them pink, and she doesn’t say no.
“I wanna fuck you,” you say. “I want -- I want to make you scream my fucking name, Rose, can I?”
“Yeah,” she croaks, “Yeah, yes, okay, just -- do it. Yes.”
You curl fingers underneath her panties, tug them off her legs. Pull her skirt off too, down her hips, her shins, she helps kick out of them. You’re clumsy with need and off-balance, but it’s all worth it to see her lying there, spread out and shy on the white carpet: waiting for you.
“Okay?” you ask.
“Okay,” she says.
You press in and she is perfect, utterly perfect.
Your name is Vriska Serket and you are in love.
“There’s something you need to see,” you say, afterwards, after afterwards, when you have gotten your breath back and laid for a time together, contemplating the ridiculous blue wetspot in the middle of the carpet and occasionally kissing like teenagers, furtive and guilty-pleased.
“Can I see it from here?” Vriska asks from the vicinity of your breasts.
You want to kiss her again. You want to roll her over and have a second helping of her, her mouth and her clever fingers and her bone bulge and all of her, you want thirds and fourths, you want to use every bit of her up.
You say, “No,” and you stumble to your feet. She takes your hand.
“Oh,” Vriska says, when she sees the flight cabin of Eridan private jet. “Oh, Rose, you didn’t.”
But you did.
Crown Prince Ampora’s body is sprawled in the captain’s seat, one limp hand pinned neatly to the digiprint recognition plate. He is very, very, very dead.
“We were going to kill you together when you woke up,” you say. “It would have been very slow. I had -- other plans.”
“So you did kill him for me,” Vriska says. “I didn’t really think you -- I mean, I didn’t figure you even could -- we aren’t dead, Rose, this isn’t heaven, you could have fucking told me!”
“Oh,” you say, “We are surely dead, Serket, as deceased as Mr. Ampora here. We’re just not post-mortem quite yet.”
You drop to his lap, brush his tumbled hair from his forehead. His eyes are a ruined mess of pulped gold sclera, and violet streaks wetly down his cheeks as if he’s been crying. You have known him for the better part of a decade and yet you have never once seen him show the slightest hint of remorse at anything -- at this last final moment, he is apparently capable. He is finally, finally quiet, inside your head and out of it. You lean your head up against his still, cold shoulder and feel strangely at peace.
“I don’t know what to do anymore,” you say.
The sunlight through the windscreen is very bright: you’ve long since crossed out of Arizona, passed Nevada and California and the coast, you’re somewhere over the Pacific and headed west, racing the sun. You’ll run out of fuel at some point and already the messages from the Secret Service are piling up on the jet’s communications logs: you don’t just drive two needles through the heir of the Alternearthian Empire’s thinkpan and stroll quietly away.
“We’ll figure it out,” Vriska says. “We got each other, don’t we?”
“We could die tomorrow,” you murmur. It comes out of your mouth like a shard of prophecy. “We could die this evening.”
Vriska kneels down, and kisses you: you hands, your fingers, your wrists, each knuckle. It feels like damp silk against your skin.
“I could die right now,” she says. “Girls like us, Rose, we burn fast and hard and we don’t apologize to no one, not even each other. And every fucking second of it I get to spend with you is enough, okay? Rose? Isn’t it?”
You press fingers to her face, draw her up against you and kiss her till you’re both warm all over, breathing hard . Her lips are soft and she moves so perfectly against you. When you pull back from the kiss she licks her gray tongue over the blue-black flesh and her teeth catch the light and shine blinding white and wet and hungry.
“It’s enough,” you say. “It’s everything.”
She kisses you again.