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Who needs sleep?
Well you’re never gonna get it
Who needs sleep?
Tell me, what’s that for?
Who needs sleep?
Be happy with what you’re gettin’
There’s a guy who’s been awake since the Second World War

 -Troll W.B. Yeats

 

Your name is Jade Harley and you’d say things have been better.

Well, okay, that’s not totally fair.  Start over. 

 Your name is Jade Harley and things have certainly been worse.  You’re not dead, for starters.  You’re also not under attack, in mortal danger, on the brink of annihilation, or worried about your universe caving in or your planet exploding.  Been there, done that, got the fluffy white dog-ears.  You aren’t quite a god anymore; you can still do the Space Thing, as John calls it, but you aren’t all-knowing or semi-knowing and frankly, it’s a load off your mind.  Which is good, because you’ve got other things to worry about now.

 You’ve been living in Rose’s house (oddly similar to her old one, but with enough tiny differences that make it just a little strange,) on this newly-minted Earth for a few months now, and things have seemed fine.  Your friends ended up scattered all over, most ending up in familiar places, some heading off for new ones.  Jake and his cohort have left the country, all swept up in his “spirit of adventure!!” and he still sends you snail mail.  Gamzee and Karkat are with John and Dave often messages you about being under a “full-blown tongue assault” from one Terezi Pyrope. 

 You hadn’t wanted to go with Jake and you certainly didn’t want to go back to being alone, and Rose and Kanaya are two of your Best Friends Ever so it seemed logical for you to stay with them.  You spent most of your life with no one but Bec, and then three years with John and five worlds’ worth of company—two people seemed like a fair medium between those extremes.  And it had been amazing, at first.  Getting Rose and Kanaya in the same room is asking to be either endlessly annoyed or endlessly entertained, and you’re patient enough with the both of them to be the latter, most of the time.  The three of you live together surprisingly well—surprising to Rose, anyway, who still often looks at you when you arrive in the kitchen for breakfast with this weird look like, “Oh, you’re still here.”  It’s been an adjustment period so far, and there’s probably a lot of adjusting still to come, but it’s not a problem.

The Problem, as Rose calls it, has only been happening for the past two weeks or so.

It started one night when you had fallen asleep early—you’re still very prone to spontaneous naps, which is usually fine but sometimes has you keeping odd hours.  This time you had woken up in the middle of the night, ravenously hungry, and had gone down to the kitchen to eat through whatever you could get your hands on.  You were surprised, but nonplussed, to find Kanaya perched on a stool by the counter.  She’d usually be asleep by now, two rooms down from you, tucked into her “strange human-cloth-recuperacoon-bed,” but instead she was sitting and staring down at a blood bag, glow a little duller than usual.

You snuck up behind her and clapped her on the shoulder.  “Are we midnight snack buddies?”

She started so badly that she almost toppled from her stool, but quickly caught herself on the counter and turned to face you.  “Sorry!” you said, holding your hands up.  “I didn’t mean to surprise you.  Were you having trouble sleeping?”

“No, I was just restless, but I am better now and I will be going back to bed,” she said quickly.

“Uh, okay.  Sleep well!”  She nodded and crept back up the stairs, quiet as anything.

You didn’t notice until she gone that she had left her unopened bag of blood on the counter.  You shrugged and put it back with the others in the refrigerator before moving on to fulfill your own dietary needs.  Nothing about Kanaya’s behavior had seemed terribly out of the ordinary, at the time.

Until you caught her in the same spot three nights later.

And the night after that.

It was only after catching her up for the fifth time that you were able to needle her into telling you what was wrong.

 

GC: SO SH3S NOT SL33P1NG 4T 4LL
GG: well she sleeps sometimes I guess…
GG: but its not for very long and she always wakes up even more upset than before :(
GG: i knew nightmares were a big thing for trolls but this is pretty extreme isnt it?
GG: though karkat once told me you guys used to have some kind of weird goo to keep bad dreams away?
GG: like some kind of slimy security blanket or teddy bear
GC: WH4TS 4 T3DDY B34R
GG: uhhhh well its kind of like a doll shaped like a bear but tiny and adorable whereas bears are huge and predatory?
GC: OHHHHH L1K3 4 SC4L3M4T3
GG: yeah!
GG: but anyway you guys didnt have slime or whatever in the meteor either right?
GC: R1GHT
GC: W3 TR13D TO ST4Y 4W4K3 FOR 4S LONG 4S POSS1BL3 BUT YOU C4NT 3XACTLY ST4Y AW4K3 FOR THR33 Y34RS
GC: 1T W4S NOT 4 FUN T1M3
GC: K4N4Y4 H4D 4 ROUGH T1M3 OF 1T
GC: TH3 1SSU3 W4SNT JUST SOPOR SL1ME
GC: K4N4Y4 W4S 4W4K3 ON PROSP1T FOR MOST OF H3R L1F3, R1GHT
GG: yeah just like me!
GC: W3LL B3C4US3 OF TH4T SH3 N3V3R R34LLY H4D TO D34L W1TH D4Y T3RRORS L1K3 TH3 R3ST OF US
GC: 4T L34ST NOT N34RLY 4S OFT3N 4NYW4Y
GC: SO 1M4G1N3 1F YOU W1LL J4D3
GC: SUDD3NLY H4V1NG TH3 FULL FORC3 OF TH3 MOST V1OL3NT SUBCONSC1OUS 1M4G1N4BL3 UNL34SH3D UPON YOU 4FT3R SW33PS OF NOTH1NG BUT GOLD TOW3RS 4ND FLUFFY CLOUDS
GG: oh noooooo D:
GG: i definitely have an idea of what that is like
GC: Y34H >:/
GC: BUT W3 4LL D1D 3V3NTU4LLY 4DJUST
GC: 4S TROLLS M4TUR3 TH3 DR34MS SHOULDNT B3 4S B4D
GC: TH4TS WH4T 1T SHOULD B3 L1K3 4NYW4Y
GC: 1 DONT H4V3 N34RLY 4S M4NY 4S 1 US3D TO
GC: SO WH4T3V3R 1S H4PP3N1NG W1TH K4N4Y4 MUST B3 SOM3TH1NG 3LS3
GG: like what?
GG: do you think shes stressed out or something?
GC: W3LL 1M NOT TH3 ON3 L1V1NG W1TH H3R
GC: WHY DONT YOU 4SK H3R YOURS3LF
GG: dont you think i already tried that??
GG: kanayas not really into talking about her problems especially when shes trying to pretend there isnt one
GG: well sometimes she is but lately she is worse than rose
GG: rose is actually starting to get really freaked out about it :(
GG: not that shes acting freaked out she is just being way less sarcastic than usual
GC: WHO4
GG: i know!!!!  its weird i dont like it when shes all mopey!
GG: kanaya is already mopey and their combined mopey-ness is driving me up a wall!!!!!
GC: HOLD YOUR SHOUT POL3S H4RL3Y MY NOS3 C4NT T4K3 TH1S MUCH 3XC1T3M3NT
GG: augh sorry i am just frustrated :(((
GG: i guess i am just not sure what to do!
GG: have you got any hints from you mind powers or anything?
GC: 1 W1SH 1 KN3W WH4T TO T3LL YOU
GC: BUT MY S33R POW3RS H4V3NT WORK3D TH3 S4M3 S1NCE TH3 3ND OF TH3 G4M3
GC: 1 4M B4CK TO MOSTLY JUST GU3SS1NG WH4T P3OPL3 4R3 GO1NG TO DO
GC: THOUGH 1 W4S 4LW4YS PR3TTY GOOD 4T TH4T >:]
GG: hehe
GC: BUT YOU 4R3 4CTU4LLY PR3TTY GOOD 4T TH4T TOO
GC: 4ND 1 TH1NK T3LL1NG YOU TO 4CT 4G41NST YOUR 1NST1NCTS WOULD PROB4BLY B3 4 B4D 1D34
GG: ughhhh i am not sure if my instincts are even right though
GG: or if i even know what theyre telling me to do
GC: YOU 4R3 4 SM4RT G1RL J4D3 H4RL3Y
GC: 1 B3T YOU W1LL F1GUR3 SOM3TH1NG OUT

 

Your name is Rose Lalonde and you are near your wit’s end.

You are standing outside the door to the room Kanaya Maryam keeps in your house, feeling tired and nervous and angry.  You probably shouldn’t feel angry, because really none of this is anyone’s fault, least of all Kanaya’s, but you—you want to be mad at somebody.  Mostly you just feel kind of exhausted.

You knock on the door and wait a moment.  No answer.  “Kanaya?”

“Yes, come in.”  Her voice sounds odd.  You open the door and there she is, sitting on her bed, reading in such a stiff, tense posture that it is painfully obvious that she was not doing that before you came in.  Her eyes flicker up to you.  “What is it?”

You toss a blood bag on the bed at her feet.  She eyes it warily as its contents slosh around.  “I’m afraid throwing food at me is not the best form of nonverbal communication there is,” she says curtly.  Your mouth twists into a frown.

“I keep count of those bags, you know.”

“I wasn’t aware, no.”

“I like to keep track in case you run low and we need to get more.  Or if Jade and I need to prepare to make an impromptu donation.”

She glares at you.  “That’s very considerate, but I told you already I won’t drink from you directly.”

“That’s not the point.”

She closes her book.  “Then what is your point, pray tell?”

“There’s the same number of bags in the fridge as there was three days ago.”

“Rose—”

“Are you not eating?”

Her eyes are shifty beneath her long, sweeping lashes.  “I haven’t had much of an appetite lately.”

“Oh yes,” you say, with much more venom than is warranted, “a vampire without an appetite, how utterly silly of me to call into question the idea that an undead being who subsists on nothing but blood not actually drinking blood might be problematic.”

“Your sarcastic display of concern and apparently boundless knowledge of the undead are noted,” Kanaya mutters, folding her arms and rolling over to face away from you.  Fuck, now you’ve gone and done it.

"I admit that was a bit over-the-top,” you say after a moment.  “But I am concerned.  If this deprivation of sleep and food is something to do with you…progressing to another stage of rainbow-drinker-dom or something else non-life-threatening, then I’d be thrilled to know.  Otherwise, I’m forced to assume the worst.”

She hunches her shoulders and draws her knees up a bit.  She does not turn to look at you.  “I’m alright.”

“Bullshit.  You haven’t left this room all day, you haven’t even opened the damn window.”

“Yes, well, all that not-sleeping can be very tiring.”  You’d be almost impressed by the sarcasm if you weren’t so distressed.  You cross the room and sit on the edge of her bed; she minutely tenses away from you and ok, that hurts a little.  You know that you’re taking this all terribly personally but then again, you can’t imagine living in a world where you aren’t irrationally invested in Kanaya Maryam’s every motion and reaction.  It’s maddening and a little confusing, but you push those thoughts aside and try to change your strategy.

“You’re not sleeping because of nightmares, correct?”  Her shoulders twitch and her lip curls, and you marvel at how easy she is to read.  “What are they about?"

She sighs wearily.  “I’m not very interested in being psychoanalyzed at the moment.”

You reach out a hand, slowly, and place it on her shoulder.  She goes very still, and her eyes swivel around to stare up at you.  “Have you ever considered that analyzing your dreams might be beneficial in terms of figuring out what’s troubling you?”

She jerks her shoulder away.

“I am very aware of what’s ‘troubling’ me.  What’s ‘troubling’ me are dreams about a game that killed both me and most of my friends.  What’s ‘troubling’ me is that I am one of the last trolls in existence and that I failed to avert that fact at every opportunity.”

Oh.

Eventually you swallow the lump in your throat enough to speak. “That wasn’t your fault.”

“I’m not sure if that statement holds any useful meaning--” she goes slack and sighs, deflated, "—but thank you for the sentiment.”  She looks up at you and her face is so tired, her shine dulled to a barely-there glow around white skin that reminds you now less of the sun or fresh snow and more of dusted marble.  It’s not a favorable turn.  Her yellow eyes are shot through with green and something inside you twists and dies just looking at them.  “If it’s alright,” she says, closing them again, “I’d like to be left alone.”

You don’t want to leave her alone.  You want to fall down on the mattress and cling to her like a limpet, wrap yourself around her so close and tight that you won’t feel where your body ends and hers begins.  You want to tell her over and over that nothing was her fault, they’d all lost something, she isn’t alone she’s got friends all over; she’s got you and Jade and you’d like to think just that is reason enough not to shut down.

Instead, you say nothing.  You hover over her for another moment; you almost lean down and kiss her on her exposed cheek, but then think better of it.

“Try to rest,” you say softly, rising from your spot on the bed.  You lay the blood bag on her nightstand.  “And drink that when you get up.”  After a moment, you add, “Please.”

She hums quietly in what you hope is assent.  You stand in the doorway for a moment, watching her.


You can’t help but try and See ahead and figure out what the best outcome is, but your head fogs up and you can’t focus, can’t feel a thing.  Your Seer of Light powers have degraded into something deadened and useless, echoes that come and go as they please, and you don’t even have any crystal balls or dark whispers to tell you what to expect.  There are no hints, not anymore.  You’re no longer in a game, you think as you close the door behind you—and very suddenly you think you see what Kanaya was really trying to say.  The dreams, you understood (how couldn’t you, you still often wake with the songs of the Noble Circle ringing in your ears) but the insomnia, the listlessness, the slow starvation speak of someone sitting at a chessboard with no next move, someone who doesn’t believe in any kind of future.

The worst part is that you aren’t sure you believe in it either.

 

CG: SO LET ME SEE IF I’VE GOT THIS STRAIGHT.
CG: I LET KANAYA RUN OFF WITH YOU AND HARLEY FOR TWO MONTHS AND NOW SHE’S WANDERING AROUND THE HOUSE
CG: HAUNTING DARK CORNERS
CG: STARING WISTFULLY OUT WINDOWS
CG: KEEPING HER DISTANCE FROM YOU HUMANS?
TT: That is not exactly how I have described it, but I suppose it isn’t completely inaccurate either.
CG: SO WHAT YOU’RE REALLY ASKING ME IS WHY KANAYA HAS SUNKEN TO A NEW LOW AND IS ROLEPLAYING TROLL EDWARD CULLEN.
TT: …
TT: I’m not sure what outrages me more.
TT: The idea that you aren’t taking your supposed friend’s depression seriously, or the fact that Troll Twilight is apparently a thing that existed.
TT: I cannot believe I actually came to you for advice.  I must be out of my mind.
CG: REIGN IN YOUR METAPHORICAL HOOFBEASTS FOR A SECOND LALONDE, SHEESH.
CG: CAN YOU FORGIVE A GUY FOR FEELING A LITTLE EDGY?
CG: YOU AREN’T EXACTLY A BALL OF FUCKING SOCIAL NICETIES AND HEALTHY COMMUNICATION, I NEVER KNOW WHEN I’M GETTING FUCKED WITH
CG: OR WORSE, IF EGBERT HAS SET ME UP FOR SOME KIND OF PRANK.
CG: “LET’S TELL KARKAT ALL ABOUT HOW AWFUL OF A FRIEND HE IS HA HA OH MAN I AM SLAPPING MY LOWER HINGE JOINTS THIS IS COMEDY GOLD.”
TT: I am endlessly fascinated by your capacity to make absolutely everything in two universes about you.
CG: WOW FUCK YOU.
CG: NO WAIT I WILL SIT BACK AND LET YOU TELL ME HOW FUN IT IS TO HEAR ALMOST JACK SHIT FROM YOUR BEST FRIEND FOR SIX WEEKS AND THEN HAVE HER PSEUDO-GIRLFRIEND MESSAGE YOUR ROOMMATE ABOUT HOW SAID FRIEND HAS APPARENTLY BEEN REDUCED TO A PILE OF ZERO-FUCKS-ABOUT-LIVING-ANYMORE.
CG: I AM SURE YOUR POSITION ON THE MATTER WILL BE MOST ENLIGHTENING!
TT: I’m going to ignore the comment speculating on a romantic relationship between Kanaya and I in order to say that you make a good point.  I’m sorry.
TT: I asked John for your help because I thought a troll could provide a unique perspective on the situation.
TT: Also I had honestly thought she might have contacted you about her problems.  I am surprised and dismayed to hear the contrary.
CG: YEAH WELL, YOU AND ME BOTH.
CG: I WAS WONDERING WHY THE HELL SHE WASN’T MESSAGING ME BACK, BUT SHE’S ALWAYS TELLING ME TO “RELAX” AND “TRY TO FOCUS ON MYSELF FOR ONCE” AND I ASSUMED SHE WAS BUSYING HERSELF WITH YOU TWO OR WHATEVER SO I LEFT HER ALONE.
CG: APPARENTLY ALL THIS ADVICE FOR ME TO SIT AROUND STARING AT MY OWN BULGE ALL DAY WAS SO THAT SHE COULD GO OFF AND DO THE SAME, GREAT.
TT: I highly doubt she meant to brush you off like that.  I honestly don’t think she’s in her right mind, and she’s hardly been talking Jade or me either.
TT: But if we could move away from your self-pity and my teen-psychologist diagnoses for just a moment, I want to reiterate my first query.
TT: What would you suggest in this situation?  Is there anything I can do to make her sleep, at least?
CG: HONESTLY IF I WERE THERE I’D PROBABLY JUST YELL AT HER OR SMACK HER OUT OF IT.
TT: Oh, you would not.  You’re almost civil around her most of the time, it’s quite miraculous.
CG: UGH NO MIRACLE-TALK, PLEASE, I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THAT ON MY END.
CG: AS FOR YOUR SECOND QUESTION, PUTTING A TROLL TO SLEEP WITHOUT SOPOR IS NOT SOMETHING EASY TO DO.
CG: …SOLLUX WOULD GET LIKE THIS, SOMETIMES.
CG: ARADIA USED TO BE THE ONE WHO TOOK CARE OF HIM, BUT AFTER SHE DIED USUALLY ME OR TEREZI WOULD STOP BY AND JUST DRAG HIS SORRY ASS INTO A RECUPERACOON AND HOLD HIM IN THERE UNTIL HE JUST PASSED OUT.
TT: Obviously that’s not an option here.  I have been considering acquiring some kind of sleeping pills as a last resort, but seeing as we know nothing about how such medications would interact with troll physiology, I’m hardly about to dose Kanaya with something that may just make her worse.
CG: YEAH THAT WOULD BE A PRETTY COLOSSALLY STUPID IDEA, GOOD JOB ON NOT BEING A TOTAL JACKASS THERE.
CG: LOOK, LALONDE
CG: I AM GOING TO BE STRAIGHT WITH YOU HERE.
TT: Oh dear, what a momentous occasion.
CG: YEAH, WRIGGLERS GATHER AROUND FOR THE FUCKING SHOW, NO NEED TO AVERT YOUR EYES WHILE KARKAT SPILLS HIS INNARDS ONTO THE STAGE FOR THE CREEPY PSYCHOLOGICAL FETISH GRATIFICATION OF THE SMUG HUMAN!
CG: BUT SERIOUSLY
CG: I MAY HAVE TO TELL MY CLOWN-BRO OVER HERE THAT HE’S WON ME OVER, BECAUSE A MIRACLE HAS HAPPENED
CG: I AM ACTUALLY FUCKING WORRIED.
CG: LIKE YEAH I KNOW SHE’S GOT YOU AND HARLEY, WHO IS ACTUALLY A DECENT ENOUGH PERSON THAT I KIND OF TRUST HER WITH KANAYA
CG: AND YOU’RE OK, I GUESS
CG: BUT UNLESS EITHER OF YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN TO UPDATE THE REST OF US, SHE HASN’T GOT ANY QUADRANTMATES EITHER, SO THERE'S NO ONE TO TAKE CARE OF HER.
TT: We’re taking care of her.
TT: Don’t for a fucking second assume we are not taking care of her, how dare you
CG: SORRY, SORRY, YOU’RE RIGHT.
CG: JUST
CG: DON’T LET HER WASTE AWAY OVER THERE.
CG: I HAVE A LIMITED SUPPLY OF BEST FRIENDS AT THIS POINT.
CG: AND I AM REALLY TIRED OF LOSING PEOPLE.

 

Your name is Kanaya Maryam and you are so, so tired.

You’ve made the rather impressive feat of leaving your room for the first time in days, which is quite the accomplishment; unfortunately, you didn’t make it past the living room before you all but collapsed on the couch.  Now you’re lying there (resting, not sleeping) and contemplating getting up, but you don’t trust the room not to spin around you.

You are atrociously hungry, so much so that it has gone past regular hunger and on into dull pain, an ache in your abdomen that has spread to your entire body, burning at your joints.  It’s very different from the way you used to be hungry.  (You still eat real food sometimes--it’s nice to sit at the table with Jade and Rose--but it rarely makes you feel any better.)  You idly contemplate the refrigerator, which you can see through the entrance to the kitchen, thinking of the special drawer Rose set up for you with blood donations from your friends, human and troll.  Your stomach rolls a bit and you stop looking.

You hadn’t had any problems with the blood bags, at first.  You’d certainly grown used to drinking blood in general; drinking from your friends had been an uncomfortable necessity, but one you had endured.  The bags last longer and it is much easier not having to go out and feed on animals (it’s not quite the same, it’s never enough) and the idea of feeding exclusively off of Rose and Jade makes you feel very ill indeed.

But lately, you’ve been waking up from dreams bathed in violet and cerulean, smell still strong in your nose for hours after.  Sometimes you dream of being unable to stop yourself from drinking those around you dry, sampling every last taste and color until there is nothing left.  It hasn’t left you feeling very much like eating at all—the minute the iron tang touches your lips you feel unnaturally nauseated.  Then again, just about everything nauseates you these days: here in this new world there is no Matriorb, no future for your race, and no future for you that you can stand. 

This world is different, but in no way that helps you--nothing lasts, nothing endures the way it did on Alternia.  Sometimes Jade hugs you and you feel her heart beating up against you so quickly, so much different than yours were when you were alive.  The humans had been gods in the game but nothing seems to keep them from aging, now.  Their bodies will be used up before you reach what would have been middle age for a jadeblood--probably Karkat, too.  You have little doubt that in your undead state you will outlive Terezi and Gamzee as well, as long as it might take.  You’d realized this a long time ago, back during the game, but back then you’d still had things to strive toward, something to save.  Now you’re just lying on a couch in a large, empty hive, which will only become larger and emptier as sweeps go by.

Your introspection is cut short by Jade walking in, sweaty and covered in dirt, making a beeline for the kitchen to wash her hands.  “I was gardening!” she says, unprompted.  “Rose says it’s useless but I say we could use some more raw vegetables around here.”  She turns the faucet off and walks back over to you.  Her sunny expression dims just a little when she sees you.  “Are you feeling any better today?”

You open your mouth and are suddenly aware that your throat has gone very dry from disuse.  You shake your head instead.  Jade frowns.  “Let me get you something to drink.”

She comes back with a glass of water, for which you are immensely grateful.  You sit up to drink it and she flops down next to you.  After finishing the glass you eye her up and down.  Her wild hair is drawn in a loose braid down her back and her work clothes are stained all green and brown, and somehow she still manages to look very beautiful.  You consider telling her so, but instead you say, “Rose won’t be pleased if those grass stains rub off on the couch.”

“Whatever!  Rose is always complaining about how everything in this house is white, she should be grateful that I’m putting some color in the place.”

“You’re getting dirt on the pillows.”

“I am modifying the décor.”  She waggles her eyebrows for emphasis. 

You are thoroughly defeated: you snort and it almost, almost becomes a giggle.  Jade breaks into a grin for the ages.  “Made you smile.”

Something very familiar but still giddily strange creeps over your skull and down to your face—you realize, with a faint sense of horror, that you are blushing.  Jade just keeps smiling.  You’re not sure whether she’s aware of the fact that she is flustering you, but it’s also possible she doesn’t care.  After a moment, her smile fades and is replaced by quiet concern.  It’s the same look Rose gave you yesterday and all your giddy feelings are replaced by a weight in the pit of your stomach.  You’ve dealt with many other people’s problems over your sweeps, ever the meddler, but having such meddling and concern directed back at you makes you want to curl up and disappear.

What’s worse is that you can’t look at her eyes (or Rose’s) without thinking you see something very akin to pity, which is beyond wishful thinking and irrelevant to human quadrants besides—

“You could come out with me, you know,” says Jade, breaking your rambling train of thought.  “To the garden, I mean.  You used to garden on Alternia, right?  I could really use your help, it’s a big project, and the sun would probably do you some good—”

"That’s fine,” you say.  “I am not feeling very well, and I am sure you are very capable on your own.”

Jade’s eyebrows draw down and she looks right at you.  “Ohhh no you don’t!” You start a bit at her sudden rise in tone, but she continues: “Listen, I know you aren’t feeling well and stuff isn’t great but if you stay cooped up in this house it’s not going to get any better!”  Her face softens.  “Please?  I think it might help.”

She rests a hand on your head and runs her fingers through your hair, and you feel that creeping sensation across your skull all over again.  You feel very hot and suddenly desire nothing more than to be somewhere else, somewhere Jade isn’t gently moving her fingers to bump up against your horns.  Your head swims a bit when you break from her grip and stand up, but you stay upright.  “I really appreciate what you’re trying to do, but I’m afraid I really am feeling unwell.  I’m going to retire to my room, if that’s alright.”

Her hand is still suspended in the air where your head had been.  She draws it back.  “Alright,” she says.  “But you should come out and help me tomorrow.”

“I may if I get some sleep.”

Jade opens her mouth as if she’s about to start again, but then closes it again and swallows.  You expect her to push you more, but instead she’s looking down at her hand like it’s been burned.

She doesn’t say anything more.

 

EB: so you let her walk away?
GG: yes! argh it was so stupid! i feel terrible!!!! DX
EB: hey calm down it’s ok!
EB: i mean, this is pretty heavy stuff and it is pretty understandable that anyone wouldn’t be able handle this.
EB: but…
GG: but?
EB: well you’re not just anyone, jade!
EB: i don’t mean like you should be able to magically make this all better, even if you had all your dog-tier powers you probably couldn’t do that.
EB: but it isn’t like you to just back down like that when someone brushes you off.
EB: not that you should have yelled at kanaya or something!
EB: ahhh maybe i don’t know what i'm saying.
GG: no no youre right!
GG: this is so frustrating!
GG: i keep trying to show her that i care and that rose and i are here but it comes out all weird and not the way i mean it at all!
GG: and rose isnt really helping, she has been super weird about this whole thing and it is making stuff extra awkward DX
EB: awkward how?
GG: …
EB: like when you said you were showing kanaya that you care and stuff, what did you mean by that?
GG: …uh
EB: uh?
GG: no its just when you put it like that it makes it sound like im being
GG: i mean, im not
GG: its really complicated, is all!
EB: ??????
GG: ugggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
GG: i guess i am just confused!
GG: or maybe the problem is that i am not confused at all and i am just freaking out a little because this is a super tense situation and i am not really sure whether talking about it will just make everything worse!
EB: whoa jade slow down a second!
EB: i really want to help and it sounds like you are really stressed but i am totally lost here.
GG: ugh, its ok, its not your fault
GG: its actually just that i am really nervous about stuff with rose and kanaya right now and it is not all just because of what ive told you
GG: and even though youre my brother and i trust you and i love you a whole lot i am just not sure whether i even want to really talk about this :(
EB: haha well almost none of what you just said made any sense, but that’s ok!
EB: if you don’t want to talk about it then that’s fine.
EB: just let me know if you need anything else, ok?
EB: karkat has been really worried about kanaya and it has been making him really upset.
GG: oh nooooooo D: D:
GG: i didnt want to tell him because i didnt want him to freak out everywhere how did he even find out????
EB: apparently rose has been talking to him.
GG: what!!!! she definitely never mentioned that >:(
EB: well don’t get mad at her, she was probably just trying to help in her weird rose way.
EB: and anyway the rest of us are worried about kanaya too!
EB: so if you guys really don’t think you can handle it, which is fine, we will all do our best to get over there and help out!
GG: thanks john :)
GG: hopefully i can get rose to help me and we can both sit down and talk and help out kanaya together
EB: yeah well i just hope it doesn’t require anything too drastic!

 

You are alone in the dark in middle of a vast gray plane, cold metal cooling your palms where you’re holding yourself up off the ground.  You’re not sure where in the meteor you are (you are sure it’s the meteor, though, it always is) but you know that the surrounding darkness is not a natural one.  It slithers and writhes in a way you’ve never seen (but you have, just outside the reach of blazing, green light) and you feel terribly uneasy.

You rise and turn to go (where do you expect to run?) but there’s a shadow advancing, taking form, and you recognize it quickly enough, grief and fear stabbing at your gut.  Her hair is an almost luminescent white and her skin has gone darker than yours ever was when you were alive, but it’s her just the same.  You want to reach out and grab her and help her but you’re paralyzed, your limbs don’t work, and you’re rooted to the spot while she opens her mouth and awful things bubble out and into the air as though you were both breathing liquid.  Your eyes dart around for someone, anyone (a pair of white ears, a part of you whispers, and you don’t know what that means) but everything is closing in and suffocating you and in the dark you hear someone call your name—

A shadow ghosts along your face, sickeningly cold, and you panic and bite down as hard as you can.  For a moment everything recedes, even her, though she’s hissing and spitting at you, but then it’s all back.  A shroud descends over your chest and shoulders and you’re trapped you’re trapped, there is no sun here to see by, you’ll never see it again just trapped on this godforsaken rock forever—

Kanaya!

Your eyes fly open.  Leaning over you—straddling you might be the better term, her knees firmly locked at your hips to keep you from squirming—is Jade, wide-eyed and panicked.  She’s holding your shoulder in a painfully tight grip, forcing you down against the mattress—you’re in bed.  You had gone to bed and you must have fallen asleep.  It suddenly occurs to you that Jade is still saying your name and you haven’t said a single thing back to her.  You weakly sputter her name and she pauses.

“Can you understand me?  Are you done flipping the fuck out?”

“Yes I can understand you and I—” You stop.  There’s another sound in the room, barely audible above your and Jade’s heavy breathing.  It’s a low hissing noise, and you’re not sure where it’s coming from.

Then, out of the corner of your eye, you see Rose.

She’s huddled against the opposite wall, pressing her hand to what must be a gaping wound in her arm, judging by the amount of blood running down it.  It’s certainly non-fatal but her face is screwed up in pain and she seems out of breath.

“What happened?”

Jade stares down at you miserably.  She sits up and moves off of you and sits by you on the bed.  She scratches the back of her head, below her ears, and pointedly avoids your gaze.  “I don’t know.  I came in after—you were having some kind of nightmare and Rose was trying to wake up and…” She looks back at Rose, who’s picking herself up off the floor but not making any steps toward the two of you.  She won’t meet your eyes and you realize, a coldness coiling inside you chest, that Rose is afraid of you.

You did this.

Jade takes you by your shoulder and leans in.  “I’m going to go take care of Rose but I’ll be right back, okay?  It’s going to be all right.  This isn’t your fault.”  You can’t meet her eyes.  “I’ll be right back,” she says.  “Ten minutes.”

Just like that, she leads Rose out of your room, and you’re alone.  You run your tongue over the front of your teeth, taste warm blood, and spit until your mouth is dry.

 

Jade turns your arm over in her hands as she bandages it, every motion mechanical and precise.  It’s very similar to watching her dismantle and reassemble rifles, and just as impressive.  She has you patched up in a matter of minutes, all cold efficiency, and it’s a little frightening considering it’s Jade, who runs hotter than most people you’ve ever met.  When she finishes, she holds your hand between hers for a moment; you realize that you are still shaking.

“Hey.”  Jade is looking right at you, hands clasped around your wounded arm like it’s going to break apart if she isn’t holding it together.  “Are you okay?”

“You’ve done an impressive job, I am quite—”

“You know that’s not what I mean.  Our friend just had some kind of nightmare-induced alien panic attack and almost tore your arm off—are you okay?

You take a deep breath and hold it for a moment, then let it out.  You need to get a hold of yourself.  “She didn’t tear my arm off, she bit me, and not that badly, might I add.  I’m fine.  I’m not so sure about her—”

“Don’t do that.”  She’s frowning at you now, and her ears have drawn back.  “Don’t just pretend like what just happened wasn’t a big deal to you, because that is a whole lot of bullshit.”

“I’m not mad at Kanaya—”

“I didn’t say you were!  I’m not mad at her either!  I just wish you would quit acting like this whole thing isn’t affecting you, like seeing someone you care about waste away isn’t hurting you.”

“Kanaya should be our first priority.”

“I am not going to put one of you ahead of the other!” she yells.  Her face is flushed and she’s more upset than you’ve seen her in a long time.  “I’m not going to sit and watch you two be all passive-aggressive at each other when it’s just making you miserable.  It’s so fucking frustrating to see you avoiding her and not dealing with it and just dancing around it, like you don’t give a shit when you obviously do!  ”

“Jade what the hell are you talking abo—”

She kisses you.


She puts her hands on your shoulders and presses her dry lips up against yours, and for a moment you stand stone still.  Then you tilt your head in a little, returning some of that pressure and warmth, and for thirty beautiful seconds everything in the world feels exactly as it should be. 

“Oh,” you say.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one here who wants to move forward at all,” she murmurs after a long minute.  Her eyes are fixed on the sink next to you, and it’s unnerving as hell because you’ve never seen Jade Harley look away from anyone, not like this.  “You’re totally wrapped up in what the next move is, like we’re still in some kind of game, and Kanaya thinks that nothing is worth it anymore.  I’m so damn tired of all these hints and predestination crap we’re still trying to live in—I grew up with it and it never did shit but make me confused and miserable and I am sick of it.

“I don’t know what to do next.”  Your voice comes out raspy and small and pathetic-sounding, and you want to crawl into a hole somewhere and never come out. 

“What does that matter?  We all went through this, we can talk it out.”  She laughs weakly.  “I will get you guys to talk about feelings if it kills me, ok?”

She rests her forehead against yours and brings her hands down to rub your back.  It is incredibly silly and you both probably look ridiculous, but you give precisely zero fucks because it feels good and you are surprised to find that you want her to kiss you again.  She doesn’t.  Instead she pulls you into a brief hug (there must be something in the Egbert-Harley gene pool, you think, that predisposes its members to giving truly excellent hugs) and then gives you a surprisingly serious face.

“I’m going to go get Kanaya,” she says.  “And then I am going to make you two sit the fuck down and we’re all going to talk like adults, ok?”

You nod.  She goes up the stairs and you start to feel a little nervous.  You admit that the prospect of talking to Kanaya right now quite terrifying, bandaged arm wound or no.  Still, this is her life (and to an extent, yours and Jade’s, tangled with her as you are) that you are talking about, so you decide to, as your ecto-brother would say, “shut up and deal.”  In this case, it’s probably best to—

Fuck!

You run to the stairs faster than you ever have in your life, but by the time you get there Jade’s already halfway down.  “Are you—?”

“She’s gone,” she pants.  “Kanaya’s gone.”

 

As you trip and land on your hands and knees in wet dirt, you reflect on the fact that being raised in a desert did not exactly equip you to go running around a forest.  There are far too many stones and low branches and sudden loud noises (more likely your senses have become over-sharpened) and you are at more than a little bit of a disadvantage.

You admit that absconding from Rose’s hive with nothing and with no particular plan was possibly not the best plan, but you are not focusing on that right now.  You are focusing on getting as far away as possible from Rose Lalonde and Jade Harley and anyone else that you could hurt, physically or emotionally, but it’s not exactly easy.  Your head feels as though it’s in a vise and all of your muscles are tight with pain and exhaustion.  The steady ache of hunger has progressed into a sharp, digging pain that flares up whenever you move.  Your entire body feels like it’s coming apart, like if you run far enough there will just be parts of you scattered along the forest floor for Jade and Rose to find.

Something in your blood-pusher twists horribly when you think of them looking for you.  A small part of you likes to imagine them worrying and running after you, but you don’t want them to waste their energy or hurt themselves out here.  (There is also what you saw when you tried to go down the stairs to apologize, to tell Rose you were sorry, where you saw Jade’s hands on her shoulders and how she leaned in—they didn’t know you were there but you saw them, and something about that on top of what you’d done had just made you run.)

You nearly trip over your feet again, but catch yourself against a tree.  You’re growing dizzy; the entire world shifts around you, everything going dark and hazy.  You close your eyes tight until everything feels solid again, the ground coming to a halt beneath your feet.  You open your eyes and blink a few times, trying to get the fog out of your head.  Is this the same tree?  The same spot?  You’re not sure anymore.  After the first hour everything had begun to look the same, clusters trees and rocks repeating one after the other with the occasional bright flora you’re too to tired to identify or even remember.

You want so terribly to sit down, but sitting down would mean sleeping, and that is of course out of the question.  You haul yourself from one tree to another, barely stumbling this time, slowly regaining your balance.  Yes, this is good, you can do this, one foot in front of the other, you can keep going until you’re far enough away from Rose’s hive to rest—not to sleep, just to rest and think about—about—

About what?

You slump back against another tree.  This is pointless.  You’ve certainly put distance between yourself and Rose and Jade, which is good, but after that you aren’t sure you have a plan, or even how to start making one.  Your head is still spinning, your nostrils still filled with the scent of blood (Rose’s blood, her blood, you hurt her) so much so that you can’t focus.  You rub at your face and press the heels of your palms into your eyes until you see spots behind your eyelids.  Everything is dark and gray and you’re reminded of those long hours back in the Veil, all that waiting.  Waiting for Rose, waiting for the matriorb, nothing that didn’t end up a complete disaster—

“Well, would you look at what we’ve got here?  I ain’t ever seen a more pathetic sight.”

Your eyes fly open and you whip your head around, looking for the source of the voice.  You can hear the snap of the branches against the wind and see birds shifting between the leaves; there’s nobody there.

“And I mean pathetic speakin’ strictly platonically, you know, unless you wanna—”

You almost strain your neck turning around again, but the voice is gone and there’s no one.  You turn around and around, searching, that voice, you know that voice—

“Hey, why don’t you fuckin’ look at me when I’m talkin’ to you?”

You turn again and find yourself staring at the pale, bloodied visage of one Eridan Ampora.


The pallor of his face is something akin to a dirtied pearl, and it takes you a moment to realize that the blood on his cheek was just spatter; he remains pristine, from the chest up, anyway.   His scarf is wrapped around his middle, soaked through with violet where you bisected him almost a lifetime ago.  Your first thought, oddly enough, is to wonder how in the world he’s standing upright; your second thought is that you must be reaching a very critical state if you’re hallucinating this vividly.

Eridan tilts his head and gazes imperiously down at you, and god, he looks just the same.  “Purrbeast got your tongue, Kan?”

“You are an illusion fabricated by my sleep-deprived brain,” you reply, pushing away from the tree and starting down another pathway.  “Also, dead.”

“Yeah well I had your help with that, didn’t I?  Some friend you were.”

You clear more brush in front of you as she quicken you pace.  You’ve lost sight of him—because he’s not there, he’s not real—but you snort at where you think his voice might be coming from.  “Funny, I recall two particular words you once said to me: ‘Fucking unconscionable,’ was it?”  Even now that still hurts; the scarred tissue on your stomach prickles uncomfortably and you remember calmly chatting with him at all hours of the morning, fuckin unconscionable indeed.  You pick up your feet and started to run a little.  If you can work up enough adrenaline, maybe that will force it out of your head, force you back into lucidity—

But when you round the next tree he’s right in front of you, spilling blood out from between his white shark’s teeth as he grimaces.  “You gotta a lotta fuckin’ nerve is all I’m glubbin’.  Turn around and face me already!”

You turn and break into a full run, scuffing your shoes and tripping more as you go.  You know there’s no way to outrun a figment or a ghost or whatever the hell this is, but you can certainly do your best.  A twisted root seemingly jumps out of the ground to greet your ankle and you go tumbling head over feet down a hill and everything shifts again, earth and stones spinning out under you, all of it moving in a way you can’t quite describe.  You feel like you’re about to black out when a hand suddenly grips your shoulder and then your upper arm, and pulls—

“Fuck fuck fuck no get back here, don’t you dare—

You fall, fall, fall, the grip on your arm dragging you down, then up, then sideways until you finally come to an abrupt halt and wrench away from it.  You end up sprawled flat on your back in the middle of a clearing, fresh grass and sunlight and not at all the hill where you had been until a moment ago.  Landing next to you with an undignified bark is Jade, who rolls over and spits grass from between her teeth.  She sits up and looks at you, more bewildered than annoyed.

“Jesus, you were shifting, no wonder Rose couldn’t pin you down!  Do you have any idea how much ground you covered?  It’s kind of amazing, actually.”

She sounds very excited about whatever she’s talking about, but it’s all you can do to sit up.  “What?”

“You were shifting!  You know, in space?  One second you’d be one place and another you’d be three miles that-a-way, it’s a real pain to track—”

“I don’t understand,” you say blearily.

She stands up proper, dusting herself off.  “Well, you’re the Sylph, right?  A Sylph isn’t really like a Maid or an Heir or a Witch; they’re more like…creatures of their element.  Like spirits!”  You stare at her and she has the grace to look embarrassed.  “Okay so I’ve been poking around in Rose’s fantasy collection, so what?  It’s the same basic concept!  You don’t really command Space—that’s more like me, Witches are manipulators—it’s more like you move through it, feel its essence.  That’s my theory, anyway.”

“I wouldn’t have expected my powers to manifest in this state,” you admit.  You keep your place on the ground.  At this point you’re not sure if you trust your legs much more than your brain. 

Jade’s smile fades and she plops down next to you, fussing over your hands.  She turns them over and you see that you’ve scraped and bloodied your fingertips, probably from crawling and scrabbling against tree bark.  You didn’t feel it before but you certainly feel it now, stinging where Jade wipes the blood away.  She tries to smile again, but it just looks tired.

“What am I gonna do with the two of you?  Neither of you ever take care of yourselves.  For a couple of so-called planners, you sure don’t think things through.”

You remember her touching Rose’s arm like this and your insides twist; you pull your hand away.  Her face goes slack in surprise and hurt, and you marvel that someone who wears her emotions so plain could have ever gotten so far under your skin.

“It wasn’t your fault, you know,” she says.  “You were dreaming, you’re out of your mind with exhaustion—”

“That doesn’t mitigate the fact that I hurt her.”

“Kanaya, don’t say that.”  You look down.  Jade grabs you by the shoulders and turns you to face her.  Her eyebrows are knitted together in pain and confusion, like she’s searching you for something—you look away.  “She forgives you.  I forgive you.  Kanaya please—”

You try to pull away from her but her hands find their way to your cheeks and she forces you to look at her.  She looks desperate, angry.

“What is this gonna do, huh?  Where were you going to go?  You realize you’d probably die of exposure out here right?”

“Jade—“

“Do you want to die?  Is that it?”

You close your eyes.  Jade brings you to rest against her, your face in the crook of her neck.  You breathe in and she smells nothing like Rose, all earth and sweat and wild grass; this girl’s died over and over, moved worlds across dimensions, and she is trembling.

“You’ve come so far,” she whispers.  “We got through it, don’t you see?  Things can be better.  We’re here, we’re alive, you’re alive—or undead, whatever, but you don’t have to hurt yourself like this.” 

“I’m not,” you protest, but it sounds even more pathetic muffled against her collarbone.  “But I don’t want to be a burden to either of you, I can—”

“Don’t say that!”  Her voice cracks high and sharp, almost pained.  “You could never be a burden to us, you’re our friend, we’re not doing this out of some kind of obligation—”

“You’d be fine without me.”

She squeezes you tighter against her.  “God, stop!  Stop talking like leaving you out here to die crazed and alone is actually an option because it’s not and it never will be!”

She presses her lips to your hair and you think of what happened after she patched up Rose, what you saw.  Your stomach clenches anew in what might be jealousy if you hadn’t run out of bitterness a long time ago.

Despite that, you still find yourself muttering, “You’d have each other.”

Jade goes very still and quiet.  After a minute she pats your hair—it’s not quite a pap, and even if she has been shoosh-ing you the stickiness in your chest is nothing even close to pale—and oh god, she’s crying.  You open your eyes and you can’t see anything past her mass of untamed hair, but you can feel warm droplets hitting your shoulder and Jade Harley is crying all over you.  She’s getting quite a lot of snot on you, as well.

“You’re so fucking stupid,” she sobs, pressing into you until you’re both on the ground and she’s just sort of lying on top of you.  You suddenly feel very embarrassed and hot.  Whatever blush might be creeping up your neck is lost on Jade, who is whining high and soft into your hair, like she may start howling any moment.  She sniffs, loud and wet by your ear.  It is the most disgusting thing you have ever heard and you are nearly nauseous with pity.

“I love you both,” she whispers.  “I love you both so much and you two are easily the biggest idiots in the world, god, I am in love with a couple of—of—“

“Flighty broads?” you supply.

She laughs, and it’s not entirely bitter.  “You’re worse than she is, sometimes.”  She sits up and scrubs at her face, sniffing all the more.  After a moment, you rise to meet her.  The aches in all your joints have lessened; your limbs still feel heavy, but you don’t feel as though you’re going to literally fall to pieces.  You breathe in, and your chest feels lighter.

Jade loosely settles her arms around your neck, kisses your cheek, and lingers there, her breath warm on your face.  “Come back.  I don’t know if I can promise everything will be ok right away, but it will be in the end.”

You sag, leaning into her like a vine searching for the sun.  “What if it isn’t?”

She holds you and says, with a certainty that can only be afforded to a god, “It will be.  You’ll see.”

 

You See Jade and Kanaya coming before they arrive.  Not long before—Jade blinks them both into being a short distance from your house and they hobble up to the sliding door in back.  Kanaya looks like hell and is covered head to toe in dirt, scrapes, and bruises.  (Jade is also covered in dirt, but this is nothing new.)

When Jade slides open the door, you’re there waiting with blankets in arm.  You barely say anything as Jade guides Kanaya over to the couch and firmly directs her to sit.  They look at each other for a minute, something tender in Jade’s eyes, and reflected in Kanaya’s, too.  After the moment drags on just a bit too long, Jade coughs and says something about going to make tea.  You’ve already brewed some, anticipating their return, but you hold your tongue and let her go.

Kanaya isn’t shivering but you wrap her in the blanket all the same.  She does not huff or try to take it herself; she just sits, exhausted, and lets you fuss over her for once.  You wrap her tightly and pull the corner all the way up around the back of her neck.  Her eyes fall on your bandaged arm and her teeth knead at her lip.  She opens her mouth, but you speak before she can start: “I forgive you.”

She closes her mouth again.  You reach into your masterful bundling and draw out one of her hands to inspect her cuts.  “I’ll ask Jade to get some anti-septic,” you say.  She pulls her hand back a little.

“I’m a troll.  I’m not made of glass.”  She’s bristling, and something in you stirs, glad to see that she can still be so proud.  You hum in agreement and re-take her fingers between yours.  You kiss them where they’re stained green at the tips, and hold them to your lips long after.

“Don’t leave again,” you murmur.

“I won’t,” she says.  Her voice is steady for the first time in weeks, and against your best efforts you find yourself smiling.  She uncurls her hand and lays it against your cheek.  It’s a little cold and bonier than you’ve ever seen it, but you hold it there, like it’s all that’s anchoring you to the world.  When you think of it, Kanaya Maryam has always been there to bring you back to reality.  You think it’s time you return the favor.

You lean in and brush your lips on her cheek, right next to the corner of her mouth.  She goes entirely still and for a moment you are terrified that you have just fucked this up just like you fuck everything up, but then the hand on your face moves back to stroke your hair, and she turns slightly to meet your lips with hers.  It starts light but deepens as she pulls you closer and you wind an arm around her waist and practically cling to her.  When you pull away, you’re almost on her lap.  She nuzzles your hair and you can feel her smiling against your temple, and you want to cry from relief—except you suddenly feel very guilty.

“Kanaya,” you say.  “Jade and I—”

“I know,” she says.

“Oh.”

“She expressed similar intentions towards me.”  Her brow wrinkles slightly. “Are you mad?”

You search yourself for your usual stock of bitter emotions, but come up surprisingly empty.  “No.  Are you?”

“No.”  She bites her lip.  “In fact, I’d say that I feel similarly to Jade.  About us.”

“Oh.”

“Is that ok?”

You lay your head on her shoulder and sigh.  “My, how tangled our little web of relations has become.  I shudder to think of Karkat’s poor shipping chart, lying in bloodied tatters on the floor.”  Kanaya lets out an amused puff of air and rests her head on top of yours.  You press your face against her shoulder and speak so quietly you wonder if she can hear you.  “I’m not sure that either of you realize what you’re getting yourselves into.  If you’ll permit me a moment of total honesty, I should tell you that I’m selfish, cold, uncaring, and an emotional wreck besides.”

“Well, if you’ll permit me a moment of total honesty, everything that you just said is complete and utter horseshit.  And I believe I currently hold claim to the last item on that list.”  She laughs quietly but it’s terribly hollow sounding and oh, no feeling should punch you in the gut quite that hard.  Your heart seizes up with sadness (you think you understand what trolls mean when they talk of pity, now) and you wrap your arms tighter around her waist.

“Kanaya, listen.  If you want to talk about nightmares, believe me, I understand.  I’ve woken up enough times speaking more Eldritch than English that I know the feeling.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Jade sleeps with a constant green flare behind her eyelids, either.  I shudder to realize that each of us has been living in the same house, suffering in silence and assuming that the other two were not suffering much the same, and I’m guiltier of that than anybody.  I’m afraid I’ve been awful at communicating it—as one is when raised to only appreciate an exchange of emotions based on one-upmanship—but you’re not alone, Kanaya.  You never were.”

She curls herself up around you and pulls you closer until she’s pressed tight between you and the couch, and breathes shakily against the side of your face.  You swing and arm around her shoulder and put your whole body against her, stroking her hair until her breathing steadies to match with yours.

You might just be ok, you think.

 

When Jade finally comes out of the kitchen with what must be the world’s longest-brewing tea, you and Rose are still tangled together on the couch.  She puts the mugs down on the coffee table and starts to speak, but you pull her off her feet and down onto the couch with you.  After her initial “oomph!” she is unusually silent, eyes flickering from your face to Rose’s.

She manages a shaky smile.  “So, did you guys, uh, work some stuff out?”

You free a hand from Rose’s neck and card it through Jade’s long hair.  She looks confused, and you can’t help but find it a little adorable.

“We did indeed ‘work some stuff out,’” you say.  You lean forward and tap a kiss against her forehead, her cheek, and her now-closed eyelids.  Rose slides a hand across your lap to take one of Jade’s and lace their fingers together.

Jade opens her eyes and stares at you.  “Seriously?”  Her eyes move to Rose, who is smiling in a manner you might label devious.  “Seriously.”

Very seriously,” says Rose, and god, you almost crack up.  You’d forgotten how funny she could be when the both of you weren’t plodding around waiting to die.

Jade still looks frazzled, like she’s afraid some mine is about to go off and take her feet out from under her.  Rose squeezes her hand and you scratch right behind her fluffy white ears, and suddenly her face relaxes and she practically melts against you.  “Oh, thank god,” she mutters into your chest.

You unbundle yourself from your blanket and throw it over both of their shoulders.  They both take the cue and burrow under the blanket to coil themselves around you and each other, their arms tangling together across your stomach.  In the struggle to arrange yourselves, all three of you slide down off the couch and onto the floor, taking the cushions with you.  Jade sputters and bursts out laughing, pulling the blanket down and over the three of you again.  You lean back against a cushion and sigh contentedly as Rose lays feather-light kisses along your neck.  You’ve never felt so completely warm and content and comfortable, like you could just fall asleep right here—

Shit.

Your eyes snap open (when had you closed them, damn you are so careless) and try to sit up, but Jade lays a firm hand on your shoulder.  “Hold on a sec,” she says.  “Don’t freak out, shhhh, it’s fine, it’s ok.”

“I can’t,” you say quietly.  “I can’t, what if—”

Rose takes your face in her palms and turns you to look at her.  “You won’t hurt us,” she says.  “We’ll both be here, so if you wake up we can help you.” 

“I am pretty strong!” adds Jade, pushing you back to the cushion with contradictory gentleness.  “So don’t worry, we can definitely handle it.  And who knows, maybe if you are all snuggled up with two beautiful ladies, you won’t even have bad dreams!”

You lay back against the couch, held there by the both of them.  They are looking down at you with warmth and something very similar to but subtly different from pity, and you realize how very little you actually want to get up.  Your whole body feels pleasantly heavy and you wonder if Jade is right, if there’s a possibility for you to actually sleep without waking up shaking and wanting to die.  Rose tucks her head in the hollow of your shoulder and Jade all but sprawls herself across your chest, kissing the base of your throat.

“Whatever happens,” she says, “we’ll be here when you wake up.”  Rose hums into your neck in agreement.  Your eyelids are fluttering now, two weeks’ exhaustion catching up to you, and you decide to stop fighting it.  Curled up between Rose Lalonde and Jade Harley, who are yours just as much as you are theirs, you close your eyes.


And sleep.

 

 

 

-- turntechGodhead [TG] began pestering tentacleTherapist [TT] --

TG: hey lalonde you there
TG: egbert wont shut the fuck up about how hes worried about you and jade and maryam or whatever
TG: like apparently none of you have made a peep for a day or two and considering jade’s been giving constant updates to everyone who’ll listen this radio silence is a little freaky
TG: not that im worried or anything
TG: you havent really said anything to me about the whole thing
TG: even though you talked to fucking vantas and ive been getting all my info schoolfed to me from tz
TG: hey rose
TG: rose
TG: are you even there
TG: like ok fine it is cool to shut your ecto-sib out of your problems if they involve your suicidal vampire girlfriend i dont think id really have a lot to say there
TG: but it might be nice if you let me know that she hasnt sucked you dry like a juice box in a cullen rage or something
TG: ok that was probably insensitive but seriously if youd just fucking answer me already that would be great
TG: oh my god rose
TG: i mean
TG: come ON
TT: Good lord do you ever shut up?
TG: fucking finally
TT: My phone has been buzzing for almost ten minutes, it’s very irritating.
TG: wow you didnt answer me and it kept buzzing what a fucking tough puzzle to crack
TG: why are you pestering me from your phone and not your computer anyway
TT: Because I have been in roughly the same position for approximately eighteen hours and I am not readily able to get up.
TG: eighteen hours what the fuck
TG: where the fuck are you that you have been there on your lazy ass for that long and why cant you get to a fucking computer
TT: I presently have a face full of vampire neck, an arm full of dog girl, and a head full of cotton.
TT: Relatedly: I am going back to bed.
TG: wh
TG: youre not
TG: what the fuck
TT: Shhhhhh only sleep now.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] has become an idle chum! --