TT: It is with regret that I inform you
TT: I believe that I'm beginning to come to the conclusion that I simply can't do this anymore.
> Send mass message.
As strange as it might be to say such a thing about a landmass, you've decided, after much deliberation, that Jade's island really is smaller than it looks from the outside. What appears to be a vast expanse of jungle, mist, and ridiculously whimsical plant life is actually no bigger than the primly maintained square of grass that suburbanites call a backyard, and the towering house that surveys it, barely a cottage. It must be so, because otherwise, such a spacious, lonely place has no right to be so stifling.
This is what concerns you as you curl up further into the warmth of your bed, the punishing light of the late morning sun laying siege to your eyelids, instead of much more pressing matters, such as the increasingly time-sensitive matter of when to get up.
You have slept far too late. Any chance of descending to the repurposed "mess hall" and surreptitiously procuring breakfast without risking social interaction has long since fled, and going now will definitely mean saying your hellos and your good mornings. This is an inevitability which you have forced upon yourself merely by dint of being a lazy sack of bones. You heave an internal sigh at the astonishingly promising start this day is off to. Screwing your eyes shut tight one last time, you sit bolt upright and throw off your covers in a single flourishing movement, blinking into the relentless golden glow of the sunlight pouring through your window as you feel the disarrayed fans and spikes of your bedhead fall back into place and the heavy, cold lump of relentless weariness fall back into your stomach.
It's not like you don't love them.
EB: aw, rose, really? :(
EB: well, i guess, if you really want to........
EB: i mean, no one will stop you or anything!
EB: but we sure will miss you.
Sure enough, the hour at which you could have skulked around the tower's bright white hallways has long since passed. You meet John on your way to the enormous spa room you're all facetiously calling the lady's toilet, your oily hair still sticking out at odd angles. Just noticing the spring in his step as he approaches is enough to make you feel like an old woman.
"Morning, Rose!" he calls, all smiles, and waves vigorously for good measure. "Though it won't be, any more, in about," he brings his arm around dramatically to glance at his clunky wristwatch, "twenty more minutes! You sure cut that one close!" His gently mocking grin is infectious, and you hope he doesn't take offense that your answering smile is a little on the wan side.
"Oh my," you say, arching one eyebrow wryly, "what a terrible fate, to stay in bed past noon. I must be sure to thank my lucky stars that I so narrowly averted such an awful destiny." And as you intended, John snorts with laughter.
"Hehe, just looking out for you! Wouldn't want you to succumb to the dreadful terrorthroes of the sleep-in whisperdemons!" He clasps you on the shoulder warmly, but your insides are subzero.
"Of course," you say lightly, brushing his hand off as kindly as you can muster. "Thanks oh so much for staying ever vigilant, John. I presume you've been patrolling for dustbunnies as well? That's why this place has been so clean lately, all the household spirits know you've got their number."
With that you give him a little wave and push open the bathroom door. The accompanying laugh of his answering wave echoes through the expansive tiled space beyond as you shut it behind you. You are left alone with that laugh, with his laugh and his friendship and his utter lack of faith in you, and you wonder if, to him, you'll ever, ever live your past actions down.
GG: oh my gosh rose :( :( :(
GG: that is totally fine we would never be mad at you for that!!!
GG: i just hope that
GG: if there was anything that we did wrong....
GG: or anything that we could have done better!
GG: that you would tell us?
GG: i hate to think that we did anything to make you feel unwelcome here, that is like the complete opposite of what we meant to do!!
When you descend to the ground floor half an hour later, hair wet and skin still pink from scrubbing, Jade and Dave are the only ones in the laboratory-turned-cafeteria, talking animatedly over something that looks and smells embarrassingly like lunch. You move to the cupboards for a cereal bowl and hope they won't notice the discrepancy between your meal and theirs. You don't have nearly such high hopes for your presence.
Sure enough, Jade looks up right away, eyes bright behind her mud-flecked glasses and alert like someone who has already ticked twelve things off her to-do list since sunrise.
"Hey Rose!" she calls, looking for all the world like you've given her a Christmas present just by showing your face. "Did you sleep well?"
"Very," you reply, pouring Rice Krispies into your bowl with more concentration on precision than is strictly necessary. Somehow the endeavour to make sure each grain reaches its destination is more interesting and relevant than witnessing and identifying the searching note to her friendly, open expression. "And how are we all this morning?"
"Pretty solid." Strider with the save you hadn't realized you needed. "Jade's got a lot of bullshit cultivating hijinks going down that I'm mostly only pretending to understand."
"Oh, pff!" says Jade, turning the laser of her earnest gaze on him instead. "I call bullshit! Science is not hard, Mister Cool, and gardening science even easier!"
"Tell that to the moaning horde of zombie plants back to avenge their own murders at the hands of my cursed vegetable death touch. It is so."
"Not even! Babies could do it. When I was a baby, babies did do it!"
By now you've finished preparing your breakfast and have quietly slid in next to Dave on the long bench on the near side of the table. Bad choice; this puts you directly in range of the radioactive green of Jade's soul-baring floodlights. You duck your head and will yourself to be inauspicious.
Fortune, apparently still sore from taking your orders during the game, will have none of that. "So, Rose!" Jade says excitedly, repositioning her whole body to face you. "Do you want to come help with the gardening this afternoon? It's obviously way too hardcore for some people!!" She sticks out her tongue over her shoulder in Dave's direction.
"Clearly," you agree, averting the question, and Dave's eyebrows execute that exasperated waggle that usually means that, somewhere beneath the impenetrable darkness of his shades, he's rolling his eyes.
Jade giggles. "I know right, jeeeez! But I totally think you'd be into this replanting project, we've got all these carnivorous flowers and this one potted vine that wiggles autonomously! It is like three genomes away from being sentient and also a tentacle monster." She nods sagely, and you oblige a dry laugh. "Pleeeease, Rose? We could really use your expertise!"
"Me and Kanaya, of course!"
GA: Oh I See Is That Your Decision
GA: Well We Will Certainly Miss You Rose
GA: I Mean Jade And I Have Been Keeping Quite Busy What With The Fixing Up Of The Vegetable Patches And The Atrium And Also With The Redecorating And All The General Restoration Projects That Former Heroes Of Space Such As Ourselves Are Predisposed To Involve Ourselves With
GA: But Nonetheless Your Wit And Encouragement And Just General Presence Have Been Greatly Appreciated
GA: As I Am Sure They Will Be Appreciated Throughout The Duration Of Your Stay At Rainbow Falls
GA: I Hope You Have A Nice Time
"Oh dear, I do believe my ears are burning."
"Speak of the iridescent vampire," comments Dave in a tone of voice he probably thinks sounds witty, and Jade jumps up to greet her partner in horticultural shenaniganry. Kanaya is standing framed in the cafeteria door, poised in her elegantly stylized galoshes, her vibrant clothes covered indiscriminately with a muddy canvas apron.
"Kanaya!" Jade enthuses, embracing her with no regards to her apron's state of cleanliness. "Your ears have the right idea, we were just talking about your great plan for how to move the Slithering Chokestrangler!"
"Not technically, but close enough," Dave shrugs as Jade pulls Kanaya over to sit at the table as well. "Also that's a goddamn horrifying name for a plant, holy fuck."
"I know, isn't it great?" Jade beams, sitting back down and patting the spot next to her to get Kanaya to follow suit. "Kanaya is really fantastic with classifying stuff. You'd be surprised at how appropriate troll nomenclature can be for the things that grow around here!"
"Surprised isn't really the right word. And besides, I feel like I'm not being given enough props here, I came up with 'Hellmurder Island' without even setting a foot on the damn place."
"Dave, in order to get 'props'," -- in her fervour, Jade makes literal airquotes -- "the name actually has to be apt!"
"You kidding? Shit was the aptest apt that ever apped an apt."
"Apt is not a noun!!"
You can't help but wonder a little at how much of a chatterbox your usually socially anxious ectobrother is being for your benefit; it's enough to make a girl feel downright sentimental. But alas, your brave knight's valiant efforts are about to be in vain. Kanaya has not been paying attention to their grammatical squabbles, and, despite your sudden and very intent interest in a stray thread coming off your sleeve, it will certainly only be moments before she attempts to re-involve you in the conversation.
Sure enough, she daintily clears her throat. "If I heard correctly, Jade was saying that Rose might want to assist with the gardening after lunch? If so, I can definitely come up with some jobs that require attention, particularly pertaining to the herbaceously dubious."
"Ohh, Rose, did you say yes?" Jade goes to turn back to you, and, finding that the increased population of her side of the table makes it harder to talk to you face to face, clambers nonchalantly over into Kanaya's lap. Kanaya puts an arm around Jade's waist to steady her, and you are suddenly struck by how much you would really, really like to go upstairs and go back to bed.
"Well," you start to say, your tone amicable and your expression the epitome of unbothered, but Dave is apparently feeling particularly benevolent today.
"Whoa, hey, okay, hold up," he says, raising a palm at Jade as if her momentum were physical. "Lalonde has owed me help with shit for ages, there is no way you kooky broads are gonna, like, spirit her away to your peppy Sapphic version of the Little Shop of Horrors just so she can shirk her goddamn responsibilities."
"Oh, that's right," you say, raising a hand to your slack-jawed cheek in the best mock-up of surprise your current energy level will allow. "I'm sorry, Strider, I had completely forgotten."
Jade doesn't like the sound of this. "Daaave! No fun!!"
He answers with a patented coolkid half-shrug, crossing his arms and leaning back. "Them's the breaks."
"What do you even need her to help you with??"
"Stuff," Dave replies quickly, as you say "Things."
Kanaya's perfectly-shaped eyebrows are at risk of disappearing into her hairline. "Stuff and things?"
"Precisely," you say firmly, and Dave nods sagely beside you.
Jade and Kanaya exchange overexaggerated knowing glances, but it'll have to be enough.
TG: yeah i kinda figured
TG: i mean
TG: wont be the same w/o you around
TG: but like
TG: its probably for the best and stuff
TG: as long as you
TG: you know
TG: come back eventually
TG: and dont like elope with a sasquatch into the untouched wilds of canada or some shit and get interspecies queermythical married like im pretty sure is legal there
TG: no harm done right
TG: the opposite really
TG: i got your back in case anybody tries to give you shit over it
"Thanks," you say, though begrudgingly, as is expected, as you wash your empty bowl out into one of the ex-laboratory's many sinks. After much fruitless cajoling, Jade and Kanaya have finally left, hand in hand and full of earnest excitement for the breakthroughs in the field of soil acidity they are surely about to make.
"Ehh," grunts Dave by way of a "you're welcome", contemplatively going back to stirring his fried rice with his fork. "Any excuse to evacuate that painfully upfront PDA from my grill. Had to get them outta here before they started expelling, like, legit shoujo bubbles. That shit is no good for the appetite."
You close your eyes and suppress a sigh that would have gone bone deep. "I'm getting too old for this," you say instead, only half joking.
He snorts. "Yeah, whatever. You may be crotchety, but I don't exactly see you collecting pension benefits."
You smile what might be your first genuine smile of the day as you circle the table to sit back down, across from him this time. "I was the last one up," you point out.
But Dave shakes his head. "Not even." And for a split second you have no idea what to make of his expression.
"Oh? Now I'm curious. Who on earth has the gall to challenge me for my coveted center position in the Laziness Olympics?"
"That would be me," comes a brisk voice from the door, and, like the sudden onset of a windstorm, Terezi Pyrope bustles into the mess hall, rolling up her sleeves, "I didn't set an alarm! These things happen."
"For shame, T-Z," says Dave smugly, but you know him well enough by now to identify the tension that immediately trickles out of the set of his shoulders. Terezi whacks him across those self-same shoulders as she walks behind him on her way to the food cupboards. "For shame."
"Dave, please," she retorts, by now rummaging for sustenance. "Not everyone in the entirety of ever is a human or a rainbow drinker!" Her hands fly over the various boxes of cereals like hummingbirds. Despite her claims of just having woken, she is already all business, as if trying to make up for the energy she should have been expending all morning.
"I'm pretty sure Vantas was up before me."
"Correction; not everyone is human, a rainbow drinker, or completely shithive maggots!" Finally locating the Tropical Forest Fruit Loops, Terezi yanks the box from the cupboard with a flourish. "A lady needs her rest, Dave." He just rolls his eyes again. She begins to pour Fruit Loops into what looks to be a soup tureen, chuckling.
You'd thought yourself forgotten during this exchange, but apparently you were wrong. "So, Madam Marzipan Hair," Terezi calls over her shoulder, now applying milk to her cereal liberally. "How goes the good fight?"
This catches you off guard, and for one achingly long moment, the knot in your stomach clenches unpleasantly. Feigning ignorance, you quirk one eyebrow.
"In the Laziness Olympics," she clarifies, finally spinning around to face the two of you, her tureen of riotously colourful breakfast clutched in her claws like a prize. "Did you win the most hotpots?"
Dave chokes on his water and, crisis averted, you laugh. "I call slander, your honour! The prosecution is clearly mocking the accused on grounds of apathy for sports."
"Motion overruled!" Terezi cackles, moving to thump Dave on the back a few times until his coughing subsides, and then a few times more for good measure. She swings her legs over the bench beside him and her cereal sloshes as she sets in down on the table. "The accused's ignorance of human earth sports is too funny not to mock," she jeers, brandishing a spoon at you condemningly.
"This whole system is corrupt," you reply primly, wiping up her spilled milk with a napkin as a demonstration to the court of how hard your life is.
You expect her to laugh again, but she just smiles. You grin across the table at her as well, and realize that you were mistaken; this is your first genuine smile of the day.
The moment of silence is broken by Dave getting his breath back. "Anyway, Terezi." he says, leaning forward on his elbow in her direction in a matter that is probably supposed to be smooth and nonchalant. "You just missed them, but the Eco Teen Garden Force just left to track down missing pumpkins or some shit, and John and Karkat are doing something that I'm pretty sure involves ripping the roof on the north-western guest wing off, yeah I don't even want to fucking know either. You up to anything?"
"So many things, coolkid," she says, shifting away from his propped elbow almost imperceptibly. It occurs to you that this is where John would claim the presence of irons in fires. She's still grinning. "There are many matters which require my attention! I couldn't begin to describe to you the gargantuan number of cases that are just clamouring for a skilled and fair legislacerator, as clever as she is beautiful, to take up their causes!"
"Cases like what? That broken toaster over there?" He gestures lazily in its direction. "Vantas's piss-poor attempts at coordinating shit around here even though no one's ever taken a single fucking thing he's said seriously in the history of ever? The fact that despite all our ridiculous make-anything sciencey magic bullshit, this place never seems to stock any goddamn decent cereal? How about yours truly, am I an acceptable cause for your way important lawyervisceral roster?"
You are surely mistaken about what appears to happen next.
You expect a biting retort right away, but instead, there's a pause. Then, after a moment, she blows air out through her nose, in what, if you didn't know better, you would have thought of as a sigh.
"If any of those things want my attention, they're going to have to get on the waiting list! There are a lot of cases on the block today." And it must be the snort that you misinterpreted as a sigh that's colouring your vision now, because surely she doesn't look tired all of a sudden.
"So what you're saying is, you're gonna be a judicial piece of shit all day and fall down all this crap to do? I mean, just how legislatic do you have to be to even care about all that crap?"
Her smile returns, and surely it's a trick of the light, because you could almost swear that this time, it doesn't quite reach her eyes.
"As always, Dave, you are the height of hilarity."
Clearly you are projecting. It is ridiculous to think that Terezi Pyrope, sentient power plant, would even know the definition of the word "tired".
"Don't hate, babe, you know it's true." Dave, smooth as ever, takes this opportunity to place his gangly arm around her shoulders.
"The prosecution objects! Both to your assertion and the use of a comparison to a naked pink monkey human as a term of endearment, bluh, I thought we talked about that." She is quieter now, looking pensively into the middle distance.
"Oh, yeah, right. Oops."
Surely you're mistaken.
"It's fine. Don't worry about it."
And surely, when she, not unkindly, brushes Dave's arm off her shoulders, sits abruptly, and politely, apologetically excuses herself in a routine that's all too familiar, you're mistaken about that, too.
GC: YOUR PL4N 1S DOWNR1GHT D3L1C1OUS, L4DY L4V3ND3RBR34TH!
GC: S1MPL3, STR41GHTFORW4RD, 4ND G3TS YOU OUT OF 3V3RYBODYS H41R FOR 4 WH1L3.
GC: 4ND TH3M OUT OF YOURS!
GC: CL34RLY 4LL YOUR 3XP3R13NC3 M4K1NG 3XCLUS1V3LY 4DV4NT4G3OUS D3C1S1ONS DUR1NG TH3 G4M3 H4S H4D SOM3 L4ST1NG 3FF3CTS.
GC: 4S 4 F3LLOW S33R, 1 APPROVE!
GC: ... 1M COMING W1TH YOU. >:]