> Be the dead girl.
You’re going to have to specify.
> Be the one with the eye.
Your name is Vriska Serket, and you used to have an eye that saw like shattering.
Now you have no eyes whatsoever, in the way that you always counted them. No holes for light! You see, when at all, by memory.
Presently you are remembering your death.
She exhales audibly; says your name. She’s behind you. You watch her recent shadow, blue on the bright Earth snow. Your death is shorter than you, which is the dumbest thing. When you were sisters you were the same height, weren't you? You think so.
“Go away!” you suggest.
The silence spools long. You imagine her feet, the toes pointing slightly inwards, red leather casing her calves like borrowed skin.
“Okay, then,” she says. “I will.”
She sounds uncertain. It’s not really as satisfying as you dreamed it would be.
“Great,” you say.
“Fine,” she says.
“Tick fucking tock,” you observe. That was someone else’s line, once, but here everything—from the ground up—is stolen. Even her.
She comes closer, with a crunch, a clean snowy sound; like a human biting into an apple with flat and delicate teeth. If you reached back into the chilly aftermath of wings, you think your hand might find her there.
You cup your fingers to your mouth. You breathe a blinding white.
“Gonna backstab me twice, Redglare?” you ask. You’re even curious, kind of: if she’s dreaming, she dreamed her way here, and the blood on your shirt is already frozen stiff.
She makes a weird noise, like a cough.
“Vriska,” she says again, her sharp and nasal voice running wrong against the scrape of it. “Look at me.”
“Don’t really feel like it, to be honest.”
“Yes you do,” she says, and that is it, you have totally had it--
> Vriska: Turn around.
She has her glasses in her hand; one plastic arm swings free. Her eyes are the flawless white of holes in a photograph, where someone cut the anger out.
“You’re dead,” you say, stupidly. There is a spattering of Karkat’s blood on her cheek, urealistically vivid in the pale winter light. It’s stopped snowing, finally, and the empty air between you feels like an exhalation.
“No shit, Troll Sherlock,” she says, unbearably gentle, the line of her mouth drawn soft.
You’d like to run. You’d like to fly: you can feel the muscles of your shoulder stretching futilely. You ask: “How did you--” (could you) “--die?”
She puts her hand to her chest, skinny fingers spreading like a web under what you now see for what it is: a sucking stain, teal on red, the cloth saturated darkly. Her glasses, held flat across the blot, shine like grist.
“Jack,” she tells you. She tilts her head back and breathes deep, her nostrils flaring. It occurs to you that she’s waiting for your reaction.
It’s funny, after all. It’s fucking hilarious. You laugh and the laughter spurts out of you, like a rinse of blood, bubbling and hot.
“Got you in the end, huh? And our brave leader. Bet you regretted killing me then! Bet you were sorry, Miss Due Process Pyrope. Oh, I just wish I could have seen your face—”
She takes one more step.
Around you, the world stutters like a dead boy: and when you open your eyes again the sky is gone.
“You can see my face,” says Terezi. The minute shadows of her lashes are precisely formed, at this distance: they fan across her cheekbones without a trace of poetry. The underside of her nose is wet and bluish with a most grievous snotting. “And no! I will never regret killing you.”
You look past her.
The Veil is bloodier than you remember it, which is saying something. There’s yellow on the walls, and on the floor, the mustard smear worked into a complicated pattern of scorch marks. Someone burnt a black filigree into the luckless tile, the blast radius described in soot and cooling stone.
“Sollux bit it too?” you conclude. Your hands are very still, at your side.
“With all the gusto a toothless wiggler can!” Terezi agrees, not even bothering to hide her grief. She seems, if anything, younger than she did when you last saw her.
She bends down to pick something off the charred ground at your feet, and holds it out to you.
> Vriska: Take the glove.
“I couldn’t find the other,” says Terezi. She is as pale as the milk of human pity or the sheen on human snow.
In your hands the glove looks flimsy and gutbright, though it’s pristine of any (unprocessed) gore. Kanaya, you remember took them off to fight; and to garden.
Terezi, apparently, didn’t even take her gloves off to die. She’s stripping them from her hands now, her palms stained dark where blood soaked tacky through cloth.
You look away.
You never really hated her. You wanted her to look at you again: that was all. It would have been a huge and hollow thing to realize, once; a real downer for all your careful plans! And now you know the truth of it like you know the limit of dreams, and it means about as fucking much. You were a stupid wiggler who wanted, more than anything, to be seen by a blind girl; a girl so in love with her own weakness that she thanked you for it, and carried it with her, in the dark.
Your hands are trembling. There is a bloody haze before your eyes, so blue it shades to black.
“You smell like you’re on fire,” says Terezi.
It’s true, probably. Your fingers have begun to glow with godhood, useless as mourning fireflies. You could rip the luck from her, and dance on her dry bones until even their cracking length had given up the last gasp of lonely fortune; except she clearly had none to begin with. None at all.
She grasps your hand.
She grasps your hand: and you yank her off her feet and shove her to the wall. In your peripheral vision, the lab is dissolving, Sollux Captor’s thinspread blood and Kanaya Maryam’s undistinguished ashes gone to ambient shade. Terezi kicks you in the shins and almost throws you off in the same ungainly moment, but in a burst of inspiration you step down hard on her rubber-booted toes; lean in, until your foreheads brush, her hair curling thready against your temple.
You feel remarkably good.
> Vriska: Collect spoils.
She respires in puffy bursts against your parted lips. Her other arm is trapped beneath her. Between your aligned palms, the glove slides cushily, sleekened with sweat.
“Man,” Terezi says. “Just like old times.”
You know where you are, then. And when. Terezi’s room is warmer than the Veil, and hot pink moonlight filters in through a screen of leaves. The walls, though, cry out in chalk for H34DS.
You guess they got them. In the end.
The moon carves rosy slices from her cheek.
“You couldn't just let me save them, could you.”
It comes out low and strange. Terezi doesn’t flinch.
“Couldn’t save them yourself, and wouldn’t let me. Wouldn’t even let me save you!” you say, and she holds very still, tensed down to the tip of her thumb where it sits against yours: her body waiting and her eyes shadowed deep.
“I was going to be a hero,” you tell her, and Terezi says,
There is chalk in her hair, like rust.
“You would have died for them!” she continues. “I know. You would have stayed dead, for them. In fact, I’m pretty sure you did!”
“Are you trying to humor me—”
“I’m not from your timeline,” she says, terminally. She’s turned her head to one side, and her mouth opens like a wound.
“I’m from the timeline where I let you go.”
“I’m from the timeline where you led him back to us,” says Terezi.
“That’s impossible!” you say—
—only it isn’t. The jacket that is thinning on your shoulders is proof it isn’t.
“They died because you lived,” says Terezi Pyrope. “And so did I! Because I made the wrong choice.”
“Lying,” you say. “Lying, lying, lying,” but her face is close and dark, and you can see your face in her eyes, etched small and deep.
“You went to where he was waiting,” Terezi says, distantly. “You trailed blueberry dust the whole way there! And he left you, and came here, and killed us one by one. He wasted time! He was messy. He was bored before he began. He was bored when he was done.”
Along the crest of bone beneath her eyes, light gathers in a brilliant musclebeast shoe, pink as the foam from a split Egbert skull. Her mouth is slightly open, and black.
“It was pretty stupid of me,” she says. “I saw it! I saw it all. But it was like my hand wouldn’t listen to my head. And by then you were already gone.”
> Vriska: Believe her.
You peel your hand off hers, and let her up. Kanaya’s glove drops soundlessly.
In the space of her room the shadows of leaves move like fish or stars: drifting in long curves across the walls.
“You couldn’t have told me this then?” you ask.
“Maybe,” says Terezi, which is not the answer you were expecting.
“Thanks a lot!”
She doesn’t smile.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “That I’m not the one who killed you.”
Neither of you says anything for a while, after that.
“Have you ever just—wished you were someone else?” says Terezi.
She’s moved to the window; her fingers lie flat on the sill.
“Yeah,” you tell her. “You.”
The set of her head changes, as if she considered looking around at you and thought better of it. The curve of her just-visible jaw is vicious as a stinger, or a sting.
After a moment, she laughs. It’s hiccupy and harsh; it reaches you like water after drought.
“I don’t know why I came here,” she says.
“I think,” she says— “I think I’m going to go now! Have a nice afterlife.”
She leans forward further, her narrow shoulders straining toward the sky. Her hair falls forward with a noise that’s a little, but not very much, like a sword being unsheathed.
You understand, not very suddenly, jack shit.
(Suddenly, you want to.)
> M8ke her st8y.
Her wrist is a knot of bone under your fingers.
She’s a lot calmer than you. She doesn’t start. She just turns, neatly, in the curve of your arm, her wrist grinding around against the webbing of thumb and forefinger.
“Not so fast, Pyrope,” you manage, the words weird and dry in your throat.
She looks at you. Sniffs at you, actually, her eyes focused somewhere on the level of your hairline, the delicate muscles around her nose shifting visibly.
It occurs to you that there are a lot of things you could say; like, I guess you just didn’t have the guts, or, Looks like a killer isn’t always a killer, lol, or, It’s okay. It’s okay, I don’t mind. (You don’t.) It occurs to you that you could kiss her lifted eyes, and her lifted mouth. You could say, how about one more game of Legislacerators and Gamblignants? For oooooooold times’ sakes.
You could say anything. You could do anything!
You could tell her: We’re free.
But for this minute—this thieving moment—you don’t do anything at all. You slide your thumb along the inside of her wrist; and you wonder, idly, what she sees.