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Chapter 3

Serket Breaker

"It's done," Kanaya said with a sigh as she shut her grubtop.

The three of them, Nepeta, Tavros, and Kanaya, had assembled in Nepeta's hive on the Land of Little Cubes and Tea. They were seated at a small, circular table with one of the planet's native tea sets laid out at its center. Together they had spent the past day planning their sneaky romance ambush on Vriska, and now it was time to put it into action.

"You let her down easy, right?" Nepeta asked, then took an anxious sip of tea.

"I should hope so," said Kanaya, but not without a twinge of guilt in her voice. "I made it clear that I was terminating our moirallegiance because I believed it was harmful to both of us, and specifically not because of any personal dissatisfaction with her."

"Still, I'm sorry to make you do that," Nepeta said.

"It's fine, really. Had I not ended the relationship now, it only would have slowly faded anyway." Kanaya sighed once more and averted her gaze from the table. "Still, I hope she believed me. More than anything, I don't want her to hold it against me."

"Uh, Kanaya," Tavros started, startling the two girls, though not visibly. "I think that if your, uh, moirallegiance wasn't working, it's a good thing that you're ending it. And I think, eventually, at least, she'll realize it was the right thing to do, even if she does hold it against you. I mean, at first."

"Thank you, Tavros," Kanaya said, and bowed to him slightly.

"You, uh... you really like her, right?"

Kanaya drew in her breath. "More than I can express in words."

"That's good," said Tavros, and he cast his vision down at the table. "I think Vriska, uh, probably deserves a matesprit like you, and not a lousy one, like me."

Kanaya leaned over the table towards Tavros, her hands perched on its edge. "Tavros, I think you'll make a fine matesprit. You just need to find the right person."

Tavros looked her in the eye. "Thanks, Kanaya," he said, then averted his gaze once more. "For saying that, I mean. I don't know if it's true, but..."

His self-deprecation was interrupted by an alert from Nepeta's grubtop. "Guys, it's Vwiskers!" she said, and set her tea cup down, settling both hands on the keyboard to deal with the undoubtedly emotional spidertroll.

arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].

AG: Nep8ta, wh8t the f8ck did y8u s8y to h8r!!!!!!!!
AC: :33 < vwiskers, what are you talking about?
AG: You kn8w what the f8ck I'm t8lking a88ut!!!!!!!! I mean Kan8ya!!!!!!!!
AG: She just 8r8ke 8p with m8!!!!!!!!
AC: :33 < oh no! :((
AC: :33 < i talked to her, but i told her not to do anything yet!
AG: 8ullsh8t!!!!!!!! I KN8W you p8t her up to th8s!!!!!!!!
AC: :33 < i swear i didnt!!
AC: :33 < what did she say?
AG: Some cr8p a8out how it w8s 8ad for 8oth of 8s and how she'd 8een "negl8ctful in her d8ties as a m8ir8il" or some crap like th8t.
AG: And she kept s8ying, "Vr8ska, I don't h8 you, I d8n't h8 you."
AG: 8ullshit!!!!!!!! If she d8esn't h8 me, why w8uld she 8r8k up w8th me????????
AC: :33 < i dont know, but i know she doesnt hate you!
AG: Of c8urse she h8tes me! Why w8uldn't she h8 me?
AG: She's alw8ys 8ugging and fussing and m8ddling with me, 8nd she pro8a8ly just got s8ck of it and s8id, "F8ck it, I'm d8ne with Spidertr8ll!!!!!!!!"
AG: "Just k8ck her to th8 cur8, just l8ke ev8ry8ody else alre8dy h8s!!!!!!!!"
AC: :33 < its not like that at all!!
AG: Th8n why????????
AG: I figured of 8ll the trolls in the w8rld, at least Kanaya would alw8ys 8e a8le to put 8p with me.
AG: And even though she w8s always 8ugging me and messing with my pl8ns........
AG: I already kind of miss her.
AG: ::::(
AC: :33 < vwiskers, i think you really n33d someone to talk to right now
AC: :33 < i mean, in purrson
AC: :33 < so why dont you come ofur to my hive?
AC: :33 < we can drink tea and talk about your purroblems
AC: :33 < and itll be pleasant and relaxing and i think itll be really helpfur!
AG: No!!!!!!!! I'm not going over to your stupid hive to have a little tea party with you!!!!!!!!
AC: :33 < then what are you gonna do?
AG: I don't know, I'll........
AG: ........I'll just sit on LOMAT and fucking mope to myself, I guess, since every8ody hates me.
AC: :33 < vwiskers, i already told you i like you
AG: 8ullshit.
AC: :33 < im serious!
AG: Well........
AG: This isn't a part of some stupid trick, is it?
AC: :33 < vwiskers, all i want is to share a warm befurage with you and help you with your relationship purroblems
AG: ........
AG: Okay, fine.
AC: :33 < yes!!! thank you vwiskers!
AC: :33 < you wont regret it, i swear!!
AG: I'll 8e the judge of that!
AG: Just to 8e clear, I'm only doing this 8ecause I literally have no8ody else to talk to.
AG: So don't think we're suddenly friends or something, okay?
AC: :33 < whatefur you say, vwiskers
AG: I'll 8e over in a little 8it.
AC: :33 < thats fine!
AC: :33 < efurrything will be ready when you get here
AG: And if you tell any8ody a8out this, I swear I'll kill you.
AC: :33 < ill k33p that in mind!
AG: And Nepeta?
AC: :33 < yeah?
AG: ........
AG: Thanks.
AC: :33 < hey, no purroblem!
AC: :33 < anything to help a furiend in n33d!
AG: Yeah, whatever.
AC: :33 < s33 you in a bit!
AG: Eh.

arachnidsGrip [AG]
ceased trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].

"Alright, she'll be here in a bit!" Nepeta said, closing the chat window. "And that means you guys need to get out of here!"

"Okay," said Tavros, and backed his rocket chair away from the table. "I really hope this works..."

Kanaya rose and began to leave, but stopped and turned to Nepeta. "Nepeta... are you sure you're ready to do this?"

"Please," Nepeta said, and she cracked her knuckles. "I was hatched fur this kind of thing."

***

Nepeta had been tidying up the cave--picking up loose hides, wiping up the blood smears all over the floors, even sweeping all the little cubes into a great big pile (and then captchaloguing it--didn't want to send any pale signals here)--when she glanced out the window and saw a faint trail of cerulean sparkles growing in the distance. Vriska was here.

As she approached the front door--she was suddenly glad she'd added a door to what was once simply a giant hole--she briefly wondered if she was doing the right thing. She'd broken up Vriska's moirallegiance just to put her in a vulnerable mood--and if she was wrong about her feelings about Kanaya, she'd have ruined their relationship forever. But her heart told her she was right, and if she couldn't trust her heart, what could she trust?

Nepeta took a deep breath and opened the door. Outside she saw Vriska fluttering to the ground, so she ran out and waved to her enthusiastically. "Hi, Vwiskers!" Vriska withdrew her wings back into her jacket--she'd swapped her Thief of Light attire for her original outfit, slightly modified to accommodate her new protrusions--and threw a single arm in the air briefly in a halfhearted wave.

"So how was your trip?" she asked, just trying to make conversation.

"Well, I didn't see Kanaya, so that's..." Vriska started, but trailed off, her thought dying somewhere in the gap between bitterness and regret. Nepeta immediately felt bad for asking.

"Look, let's... go in my hive, and you just make yourself at home," Nepeta said, desperate to change the subject. "I'll make you some tea." She grabbed Vriska's wrist, as if to make the invitation binding, and half-dragged her into her hive.

"I guess this place isn't bad for a hole in the ground," Vriska said as she took a seat at the table, and Nepeta was glad she was at least trying to be polite.

"I tried to clean up a little, but I guess some of the bloodstains have set in," she said, and laughed to herself, earning her a cocked eyebrow from Vriska. She went ahead and poured them both a cup of tea, dropping two little cubes into her cup. "Would you like any sugar?"

Vriska picked up her cup and took a quick swig. "No thanks. It's too sweet already."

"Yeah, it's all a little sweet around here," Nepeta admitted, taking a sip of hers. She shivered a little as the sugary brew took its usual effect on her. They both continued drinking, and an awkward silence settled over the table.

Vriska was the one to break the silence. "So what are we supposed to talk about?"

Nepeta had been nursing her cup of tea close to her mouth, but now she set it down and put her curled her hands together on the table. "Well, we're suppawsed to talk about your purroblems."

"Well, you know what my purroblem is," Vriska said, emphasizing the pun mockingly. "It's Kanaya breaking up with me."

"Well, maybe I should ask..." Nepeta started, carefully considering how to phrase the next question. "Why is that a purroblem?"

Vriska glared at her, "What you mean, why is that a purroblem? She's my moirail! We're not supposed to just break up!"

"Look, did Kanaya say why she wanted to end your meowrallegiance?" Nepeta asked.

"Yeah, but she just said some bullshit about being bad for both of us," Vriska said, looking away and flipping her arms in the air in frustration, "and about how she was a bad moirail or something. Whatever!"

"Do you think she was a bad meowrail?" Nepeta asked with genuinely curiosity.

"I don't know," Vriska said, and crossed her arms, still not making eye contact. "What's a good moirail supposed to do, anyways? Stop me from doing bad things? Because she sure didn't do that!" She rolled her eyes, trying to seem dismissive, but still obviously hurt.

"That's the common conception," Nepeta said, "but I think there's more to it than that."

"Like what?" Vriska said, once again looking Nepeta in the eyes. "Am I supposed to stop her from doing bad things, too? Stop Little Miss Well-Adjusted over in her tower in the middle of the fucking desert from subjecting the world to her awful rainbow drinker fanfiction?"

"No!" said Nepeta a little too loudly, startling Vriska, if only momentarily. "It's about more than just holding each other back! It's about listening to each other and understanding each other, and knowing all the good and bad things about each other! And it's about always wanting your moirail to improve and never taking any stupid excuses, and always wanting to help them, even if you have to hurt them a little to do it!"

Vriska was taken aback by her sudden speech and scrambled to react to it. "Well, we weren't that, okay?!" she said, her voice suddenly taking on a sharp edge. "But even if we weren't... God, I don't know." She leaned over the table, staring into her teacup.

"Vriska, your moirallegiance was a sham to begin with," Nepeta said, her voice filled with scorn she wasn't aware she was capable of. "Kanaya ending it was just a formality."

"You don't understand!" Vriska shouted, suddenly rising from her seat and looking Nepeta dead in the eyes. "Kanaya was the only person I had left!" She continued to stare for a moment, then broke off, pacing around with her hands clenched in front of her. "After all the stupid things I've done, she was the only person who actually cared about me. Now that she's gone, I don't have anything." She let out a disgusted sigh. "Even Tavros doesn't want me, and I've practically been throwing myself at him."

"Vriska, there are still people who care about you," Nepeta said, knowing she was right.

"Bullshit!" Vriska turned to her and shouted. "Like who? And don't even say it's you! A day ago you hated me just as much as everybody else, and now the only reason you care is because of your stupid little shipping game!"

"It isn't a game, Vriska!" Nepeta shouted, and rose from her seat as well. "I seriously want to help you!"

"Well, you can't!" Vriska fired back, and turned away from her, facing the wall. "It's too late for me. I just..." She looked at the ground and sighed. "I fucked up. I did too many bad things, and now everybody hates me."

Nepeta slowly walked toward her. "It doesn't matter how many bad things you've done, Vriska."

"Of course it does!" Vriska shouted, still staring at the ground. "I'm just a bad person. I'm a fucked up little ball of hate that can't feel anything but black for anybody."

"You're not a bad person, Vriska," Nepeta said, and laid a hand on Vriska's shoulder.

She slapped it off. "Yes I am!"

"No you're not!" Nepeta shouted, and whirled Vriska around, grabbing both her shoulders and looking her in the eyes. "You're a good person, I know you are! And you know how I know? Because if you were a bad person, you wouldn't feel bad about all the bad things you've done! But you feel horrible, and it eats you up inside, and you want to make up for it! And I know you want to be a good person, but you wouldn't want to be a good person unless you already were a good person!"

Nepeta released Vriska's shoulders, and she took a step back. It didn't look like she had a response ready, so Nepeta kept going. "Vriska, it's not your fault the way you are. You were doomed to be messed up from the minute your lusus picked you. I can't imagine how awful it was, being forced to drag trolls to their deaths every day just to avoid being culled. But I think in order to cope, you sort of had to... cut yourself off. You didn't let yourself get attached to anyone, because you knew there was always the possibility that you'd have to kill them just to survive. Or you'd have to kill one of their friends, and then they'd hate you, and you'd have to kill them too. So if anybody tried to get close to you, you'd just drive them away with petty little barbs and insults, and eventually you internalized it that if anybody made a red advance toward you, they were either mocking you or trying to get you killed.

"And that worked, kind of, when you were on Alternia. But you're not on Alternia anymore, and you don't have to kill anyone anymore." Nepeta reached out and grabbed Vriska's hand, then clasped her other hand over it. She expected her to pull away, but her only reaction was to look down at it. "You don't have to be that person anymore, Vriska. You can be the person you've always wanted to be."

Vriska looked up at her, her face full of pain and regret and more than a little bewilderment. "How?" she asked, her voice cracking a little.

"You just need someone to help you," Nepeta said, and she allowed the faintest smile to grace her lips.

"Like who? You?" Vriska asked, then glanced down at their hands. Nepeta suddenly felt a little embarrassed at how supportive she was being, and she released her grip on Vriska's hand. She hoped this didn't count as pale infidelity, then briefly tried to recall if pale infidelity was even a thing. Whatever, she had more important things to worry about.

"No, not me," Nepeta said, her mouth still curled in an enigmatic smile, "but I've got someone in mind." She wandered over to the door and loudly called, "Oh, Tavros!"

Vriska's expression instantly hardened into one of concern. "Wait, what?"

As Tavros drifted into the room on his rocket chair, it changed again, from concern to anger, and she glared at Nepeta furiously. "Nepeta, what the fuck is this?! You said it would be just the two of us!"

"Just give me ten minutes, Vriska, okay?" Nepeta pleaded, hoping she hadn't squandered what goodwill she'd managed to accumulate with her. "Just ten minutes, and then you can do whatever you want. You can even kill me, I don't care!"

Vriska's glare deepened. "I'll give you eight."

"Fine," said Nepeta. "Now please, both of you come to the table."

Vriska took her seat once more, and Tavros slid up at the place across from her. Nepeta settled herself to the side between the two of them. "Uh, hi, Vriska," Tavros said with a little wave.

Vriska just crossed her arms and looked away. "Whatever."

"Now look," said Nepeta, and she curled her hands together on the table's surface. "I don't really know what's going on between you two, and I'm not sure either of you knows what's going on between you two either. So I want all three of us to get to the bottom of it together. And that's why," and she paused to take a deep breath, "I want to be your auspistice."

"What?!" Vriska screamed, and she slammed her fists on the table as she rose from her seat, knocking her teacup over. "No! This is bullshit! We don't need an auspistice!"

"Vriska, please--" Nepeta started, but didn't get to finish.

"No, fuck you!" Vriska interrupted, her eyes suddenly full of anger--and fear. "I thought you were trying to help me! So why the fuck do you want to want to tear me and Tavros apart?!"

"I'm not trying to tear you apart!" Nepeta shouted, rising from her seat to try to meet Vriska at eye level. "I just want to see how you two actually feel about each other! Because right now, just based on what I've heard, your relationship is unstable and uneven and a burden on both of you!"

"It's not a..." Vriska started, but the rest of the sentence couldn't escape her throat for some reason. "I mean..."

"Vriska, I just want you both to get your feelings out in the open," Nepeta said. "Then we'll know what kind of relationship you two have, instead of having to guess."

"Uh, Vriska," Tavros started, and the two girls turned their heads to him. "I think it's a good idea."

"Well, of course you would," Vriska said and sat down once again, slumping back in her chair. "You've never given a shit about me from the very beginning."

Nepeta sat down once more. "Tavros, is that true?" She grabbed an empty teacup and filled it with tea.

"No," Tavros said, and Nepeta deposited the teacup in front of him. He idly picked up a cube and dropped it in.

"Bullshit!" said Vriska, and she leaned over the table towards him. "I've made eight thousand passes at you, red and black both, and you haven't returned a single one!"

"Vriska, I," he stammered, "I have a lot of feelings, about you. But, I mean, they're all, uh, conflicted." He picked up his teacup and took a sip.

Nepeta looked over to him. "What kind of feelings, Tavros?"

"Well," Tavros said, and looked at Vriska, forcing himself to maintain eye contact and occasionally failing. "There are a lot of things I, uh, like about you. I mean, you're brave, and you're confident, and you can be nice, when you want to be. Like, when we go on adventures together, it's fun, because you're not so wound up and angry, like you usually are."

He looked down into his teacup. "I mean, a lot of the time, you're mean and nasty, even when people are just trying to be nice to you. And you always act like a loner, like you don't need anybody, and you push people away, and then you complain about how everyone hates you."

Tavros kept looking down at the table. "But I think..." he started hesitantly, "I think the thing I like least about you... is sometimes, you get in these moods, where you hate yourself, and everyone else, and if anybody tries to help you, you just snap at them, and push them away, and I wish..." He looked up at her. "I wish there was something I could do about it." She returned his glance for a moment, then looked away.

"Thank you, Tavros," Nepeta said, then turned her attention to Vriska. "What about you, Vriska? How do you feel about Tavros?"

Vriska glared at her. "You really want to know? Fine," she said, and turned to Tavros. "Tavros, I hate you. I've hated you since the first day I met you. I hate you because you're weak, and you're stupid, and you're naive, and you're a coward, and you play games for girls, and you believe in stupid shit like fairies. But the thing I hate most about you," and Nepeta could see her arms shaking from how hard she was clenching her fists, "is that after all the hate I've poured into you, you've never hated me back. Never!"

She leaned back from the table and looked away. "And I hate it, because you make it so hard to hate you! You're always so nice and agreeable and never wanting to fight with anybody. You didn't even fight the monsters on your planet! And you're always trying to be nice to me and help me, even when I treat you like shit! And I thought, maybe..." She looked at him briefly, then cast her gaze back down into her teacup. "I thought I might like you. And I thought, maybe, you might like me too. So I tried it. I gave you a shot at being my matesprit, and you just... you fucking blew it!"

Tavros had been looking at her, but he nervously glanced into his teacup. "Vriska, it was just... it was so sudden, and weird, and there's just... there's so much about you that I just, I can't get past."

"I know, I know," Vriska said and leaned her head back over her chair, staring at the ceiling. "No matter what happens, I'll always be the bitch who broke your legs. I don't even know what I was thinking." She sighed. "God, I still don't even know what I'm thinking. There's too much I hate about you for me to like you. And I can't hate you, because you won't hate me back. You're too weak to be my matesprit, and too nice to be my kismesis."

"I'm sorry, Vriska," Tavros said.

"Don't be sorry!" Vriska shouted, and she threw herself upright, clamping her hands on the table and leaning over it towards Tavros. "That's your problem, that you're sorry! You're the sorriest troll I've ever seen!" She took her hands off the table and leaned back into her chair. "I thought if I helped you enough, I could make you stronger, and maybe you'd be good enough to be my matesprit. And I thought if I insulted you enough, you might actually grow a spine and hate me back. But I guess it didn't work."

Nepeta felt the need to interrupt. "So you did both? At the same time?"

"Yeah, I know, it was stupid," Vriska said. "But whenever I tried to help him, I'd just get so frustrated, and ended up insulting him. And whenever I insulted him, he'd just take it, and I'd feel bad about it and want to help him again."

"Do you still want to help him?" Nepeta asked.

Vriska hesitated, flipping her overturned teacup back upright. Nepeta filled it before she finally answered. "Yeah, kind of. I just... I feel bad for him, I guess, I don't know."

Nepeta grinned mischievously and took a long sip of tea. "Then maybe... the two of you should be moirails!"

Vriska's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets, and even Tavros seemed taken aback by the suggestion. "What?! Are you fucking kidding me?!" Vriska yelled.

"Think about it, Vriska!" Nepeta said. "You like Tavros, right?"

"Well, kind of, but--" Vriska started, but Nepeta completed her thought.

"But you hate that he's weak, and that he's too nice. But you want to change those things, and you want to help him change, right?"

"I guess," said Vriska, still not keen on the idea.

Nepeta turned to Tavros. "And what about you, Tavros? You like Vriska, don't you?"

"Uh, yeah..." Tavros said, trailing off because he knew he'd probably just get interrupted.

"But you hate that she's always so mean, and that she beats herself up over stuff. And you want that to change, right?"

"Yeah, I..." Tavros started, then looked up at Vriska. "I want to help you, like you've been trying to help me."

"So you both want to help each other," Nepeta said, reaching her arms out to point her hands at the two of them. "So you should be moirails! You both hate each other enough to see what's wrong with each other, and you like each other enough that you want to do something about it! It's perfect!"

Vriska seemed to be warming up to the idea, but she was still a little hesitant. "So wait, what exactly would a moirallegiance between us entail?" she asked, then took a swig of tea. "I mean, I've had a moirail before, but this seems... different somehow."

"Look, all you have to do," Nepeta said as she poured herself another cup of tea, "is talk to each other about each other's problems, and about what you think you should do to fix them."

"But it can't be that simple, can it?" Vriska asked. "I mean, what if I try to tell Tavros what to do, how I honestly think he could improve, and he doesn't listen to me?"

"And what if," Tavros interjected, "what if I try to help Vriska, and she just insults me, or tells me I'm stupid?"

"Well," Nepeta said, "you just have to promise each other that you'll listen to each other and give each other equal say, and you have to promise that you'll at least try to follow each other's advice."

"Okay, fine," Vriska said, and turned to fully face Tavros. "Tavros... if you promise that you'll try to listen to my advice and let me help you, then I promise I'll hear you out and try not to be so mean to you."

"Okay, I promise," Tavros said with surprisingly little hesitation. Vriska responded by reaching her fist out over the table. Tavros extended a fist of his own, and they both pushed them together in a gentle bunp.

"Yes!" Nepeta shouted, and she jumped out of her chair and clapped to herself. "I'm so happy fur you two! I just know you'll be great together!"

"Yeah, I guess," Vriska said, and leaned back in her chair and sighed.

"You don't sound very happy, Vriska," Tavros said with a look of concern.

"Look, it's..." Vriska started, not certain how to say what she was feeling. "It doesn't have anything to do with this. It's just... Kanaya." She leaned forward and crossed her arms on the table. "I still don't get why she dumped me."

"Do you still want to be her moirail?" Tavros asked.

Vriska shook her head. "No, I think she was right about our moirallegiance not working out. But still... something about the way she said it made it seem so final. Like things between us could never be the same again." She slid her teacup closer to herself and stared into it sullenly. "And she kept saying she didn't hate me. What did she mean?" She sloshed her tea around a bit, then took a sip.

Nepeta smirked and asked, "Why don't you ask her yourself?"

Vriska cocked her eyebrow at Nepeta. "You don't mean..."

Before she could finish her thought, Kanaya stepped into the room. She was wearing a long, sleeveless cerulean dress with a high black collar and a black belt around her waist. On her arms she wore long cerulean gloves tipped in black, with the fabric extending across her hands to wrap around her middle fingers. Emblazoned on her chest was her symbol in jade, snared atop an octagonal black spider web.

Vriska rose from her seat and stepped away from the table towards her. So many emotions were running through her head, anger and relief and regret and sorrow and something else she couldn't identify. All she could manage to say was, "Kanaya?"

Kanaya clasped her hands together at her waist. "Vriska," she said, then closed her eyes while she took a quiet breath. "Everything I said to you before was true. I truly believe that our moirallegiance was poisonous to both of us. And I believe that was mostly my fault. I never served my role properly, never cared for you the way a moirail should have. And I ended it because I believe you deserve someone who will be a better moirail than I have been."

Vriska gave her a pleading look. "But why? What made you do this? Was it something I did? Something I said?"

Kanaya looked to the ground. "It wasn't caused by any wrongdoing on your part." She looked up at Vriska, conviction burning in her eyes. "I don't hate you, Vriska. You must believe me when I say that."

Vriska's expression was unchanged. "Then why?" she asked, her voice soft and desperate.

"I..." Kanaya started, then averted her gaze once more to the ground. "There's something I've wanted to tell you for a long time, but until I spoke with Nepeta, I couldn't bring myself to do it." She looked over to Nepeta, who gave her a silent nod. She placed a hand over her chest, took a deep breath, and looked directly into Vriska's eyes.

"I'm flushed for you."

Vriska's eyes widened, but the look on her face wasn't one of surprise, but of understanding. It was as if the last piece in a thousand-piece puzzle had been put in its place, but before that moment, her mind could only focus on that one single gap, completely unable to infer the picture from the hundreds of other hints. But now the image was complete, and she could ignore it no longer, and it was so obvious that she felt like a fool for never having seen it.

With the initial revelation out of the way, the rest came, Kanaya thought, almost embarrassingly easily. "I have been since probably the moment I met you, and I've always wanted to tell you, but I could never find the courage. And I thought maybe as your moirail, I could make you love me the same way, but all I was doing was hurting you. And I saw that our relationship was degenerating, and I couldn't stand the thought of the two of us slowly drifting apart, so I..." She choked up suddenly, and she could see jade tears welling up at the edges of her vision.

"Kanaya..." Vriska started, but couldn't find the words to continue, so she simply opened her arms towards Kanaya. She fell into them and clung desperately to Vriska, burying her head in her shoulder, and Vriska found herself returning the embrace a little more tightly than she expected to.

"I don't hate you, Vriska," Kanaya said, straining to keep her composure. "That's why I've been such a bad moirail. And I just..." She stifled a sob. "I just hope you don't hate me for it."

"I don't hate you, Kanaya," Vriska said, her voice soft and earnest. "I don't think I can."

Kanaya sniffled. "Really?"

"I mean, when you first told me you were breaking up with me, I tried to get mad at you," Vriska said, looking down over Kanaya's shoulder and sighing wistfully. "But then I remembered all the little things about you that I loved. I loved how you were always encouraging me and reassuring me, no matter how badly I screwed up. And I loved how whenever I tore up one of my jackets or my FLARPing outfit, you'd always get so excited to make a new one with your little fetish for tailoring, and you'd always retake my measurements, even though I'm sure you had them memorized. And I loved how you'd occasionally just demand I let you wash my hair, and then you'd spend half an hour just brushing it while we talked about nothing at all."

Kanaya ran her fingers through Vriska's hair. "Your hair is filthy, by the way," she said, starting to regain her composure.

Vriska laughed. "I know. But I don't want to wash it. I like the way you do it too much."

She looked down at the floor and sighed again. "After that, I realized I couldn't be angry with you. Instead, I was scared. I was terrified that you hated me," she said, her grip on Kanaya tightening the slightest bit, "and that I was going to lose all that forever. Because even though I hated the way you were always bugging me as my moirail, there was always something I liked about you. And it took me until just now to realize what it is."

Kanaya gasped slightly. "You mean..."

Vriska gently unwrapped Kanaya's arms from around her and stepped back, then took her hands. "Kanaya... I'm flushed for you too."

Kanaya's heart soared in her chest. "Really?" she asked, as if it were too good to be true.

"Yes, really," Vriska said, and smiled, and Kanaya realized all over again just how pretty Vriska was when she genuinely smiled.

An atom bomb of emotions exploded in Kanaya's head, and there were suddenly a thousand different things she wanted to say, and she tried her best to say all of them. "Vriska, I'm so happy, and I'm overjoyed, and I've waited so long for this, and there's so much I want to--"

"Kanaya," Vriska said, and Kanaya was instantly silent. She lowered both of their sets of hands, and her smile curled into a smirk. "Shut up and kiss me."

So Kanaya did. She released Vriska's hands and threw her arms around her shoulders, and she kissed her, suddenly and violently and passionately. Vriska was shocked at first by the intensity of it, but soon she was returning Kanaya's affection perfectly in kind, and they shuffled awkwardly about the room until Kanaya pinned them both against the cave wall. Nepeta cheered and clapped the entire time, and by the time Tavros joined in the applause, they were both embarrassed enough to stop. 

Vriska leaned against the cave wall and panted, her cheeks streaked with cerulean and her lips smeared with Kanaya's matching lipstick. "Wow."

Kanaya's face was likewise glowing jade, and she covered her mouth, suppressing a laugh. "Sorry," she said, but obviously not sorry, "I've been waiting a long time for that."

Vriska just grinned. "If I'd known you were such a good kisser, I would have done it sooner, moirails or not."

Kanaya let herself laugh this time, but suddenly stopped and frowned, and her shoulders slumped. "But really, Vriska, I'm sorry to have put you through that."

Vriska kicked herself up from against the wall and grabbed Kanaya's shoulder. "Stop apologizing," she said, looking her in the eyes. "It was both of our faults. Probably even mine more than yours. I was a pretty lousy moirail too."

"Yes, I suppose that's true," Kanaya said, her frown flattening into a near-smirk. "But I think it was simply an issue of compatibility."

"Yeah, I think you're right," Vriska said. She looked at the ground and laughed to herself. "This is gonna sound corny as hell, but honestly, I can't think of anything I want to change about you."

Kanaya laughed. "You're right," she said. "That did sound corny as hell."

"Hey!" Vriska gawked with mock offense, and lightly punched her arm. "Whose side are you on?"

"Yours. From now on," Kanaya said, and wrapped her arms around Vriska, leaning in to kiss her again. This time it was calmer and more controlled, but still lingered with passion. Kanaya grinned and said, "Tell you what. Why don't we go to my hive and I'll make you some new clothes?" She fingered the roughly torn holes in the back of Vriska's jacket. "Maybe something that will accommodate your wings a little better."

"And then what?" Vriska asked with a smirk.

"And then we can both have a dip in the ablution trap, and I'll wash your hair for you, just the way you like," Kanaya said as she brushed her hands through Vriska's hair.

"And then what?" Vriska repeated, still smirking.

"Well, I can't imagine there's much more we could do after that," Kanaya said, and suddenly a devilish grin painted itself on her face. "Though I can think of a few things that might be better done before we participate in any ablutions..."

Vriska's face suddenly turned bright cerulean, and she laughed as she tried desperately to cover her blushing cheeks. "Good lord, Kanaya Maryam, I had no idea you could be so raunchy!"

"I told you," Kanaya said, "I've been waiting a long time for this."

Vriska looked her in the eyes. "I would love that. But there's something else I have to do first. Something for Tavros."

Kanaya removed her arms from around Vriska and clasped both of her hands in her own. "I understand. For what little I know on the subject, I think you'll be great moirails."

"That means more than you realize, Kanaya," Vriska said, and gave her a quick kiss on the lips before she walked back to the table. She pulled the unused chair next to Tavros out, turned it toward him, and sat down.

"Tavros, before anything else, there's something I want to do for you, if you'll let me," she said, her voice completely lacking its previous sharp edge, and filled with genuine sweetness, not the usual saccharine venom of deception. "I want to try to make up for the awful things I've done to you. Maybe not everything, but at least the one worst thing I can think of." She put his hands together and clasped them with her own. "I want you to walk again. And I want you to fly. And I don't mean in your dreams, or in a little rocket car, I mean really fly. But in order for me to help you, you have to trust me." She looked into his eyes, desperate and pleading. "Can you trust me?"

Tavros was silent for a moment, not out of hesitation, but more out of surprise at how this whole chain of events had turned out. Vriska Serket, the girl who broke his legs in a fit of romantic hatred, was now asking him to trust her, and even better, he did, completely and utterly. And most amusing of all, he found himself mentally kicking himself for not letting her murder him on a slab of cold stone earlier.

"Yes," he said, without a trace of doubt in his voice. "I trust you, Vriska."

"Thank you," she said, and she let go of his hands, but not before giving him another fist bunp. She rose from her chair and turned to Nepeta.

"Nepeta..." she started, then gave her a menacing grin. "That was more than eight minutes."

Nepeta gasped and covered her mouth. "Oh no! I'm sorry, Vwiskers, I--"

Vriska gave her a dismissive wave. "I'm just kidding, I don't care about that. I owe you one, Nepeta." She looked to Tavros, and then to Kanaya. "Well, two, actually."

"You don't owe me anything," Nepeta said. "I strongarmed Kanaya into breaking up your meowrallegiance, and then I spurrung this whole ambush on you."

"I'm only counting that as one," Vriska said, crossing her arms.

"Okay, fair enough," Nepeta said with a grin.

"Look, I..." Vriska started, then looked down, fidgeting with the cuffs of her jacket. "Thanks for giving me a chance. I don't think something like this ever would have happened for me without your help."

"It's no purroblem, Vwiskers, really," Nepeta said with a little wave.

"No, really," Vriska said, looking up at her, "you have a gift for this kind of thing. At this rate, you'll have us all shipped up in no time."

"Thank you, Vwiskers," Nepeta said, touching her hand to her chest. "It means a lot coming furom one of my most vocal critics."

Vriska laughed. "Yeah, right. And I'll try not to fill your memos with any more of my self-obsessed bullshit."

Nepeta laughed back. "Hey, as long as you're nice about it, you can say whatefur you want."

"Sure," said Vriska. "Anyway, I think we should go now." She turned to Kanaya. "Kanaya, after I'm done with this, I'll come straight to your hive."

"I'll make sure everything is ready for you," Kanaya said with a slight bow. "Just troll me once you're on your way."

"Of course," said Vriska, and they exchanged a loving wave. She turned to Tavros. "You ready to go, palemate?"

"Yeah, just, uh..." Tavros turned to Nepeta. "Thanks a lot for helping us. Vriska and I both, I mean."

"It's my pleasure, really," Nepeta said, struggling to remain humble. "I just really hope this works out fur you two."

"I think it will," Tavros said with a grin, then backed his rocket chair away from the table. "Okay, I'm ready to fly," he said to Vriska as he hovered toward the hive's entrance.

Vriska hustled up to his side. "Well, you better get ready to walk!" she said with a grin, and they fist bunped once more. She turned her head back to Nepeta. "Thanks again, Nepeta!"

"Bye, you two!" Nepeta shouted to them and waved. "Don't have too much fun!"

The two left, and Nepeta turned her attention to Kanaya. "Nepeta," Kanaya said, and she placed a hand on Nepeta's shoulder. "Thank you so much for this."

"Always glad to help," Nepeta said with a smile, but then tilted her head down and frowned just the slightest bit. "I know how hard it can be, loving someone without them loving you back."

"Nepeta," Kanaya said with a look of concern, "is there someone you feel that way about?"

Nepeta shook her head and gently removed Kanaya's hand from her shoulder. "It's not impurrtant." She looked back up and smiled. "Anyway, you should get back to your hive. You've got a big date to worry about!"

Kanaya laughed softly. "Yes, I suppose so. I hope I didn't get too... graphic when I was describing my plans," she said, and her cheeks faintly glowed jade.

"Hey, don't worry about it," Nepeta said with a laugh. "If I had to wait that long, I'd purrobably have some puretty graphic ideas too!"

Kanaya just nodded and grinned. "Well, if you ever need to talk to someone about your own relationship problems, you may feel free to confide in me."

"Thanks, Kanaya," Nepeta said. "It means a lot, really."

"It's no problem at all," Kanaya assured her. "Anyway, I suppose I should get going."

"Yes, you should!" said Nepeta, and slid an arm around Kanaya's shoulder as she walked her to the entrance. "I think you've got a long night ahead of you!" she said with an impish grin.

Kanaya blushed once more. "Yes, I... think you're right." They reached the door. "Anyway, goodbye, Nepeta. I hope to talk to you again soon."

"Of course! Just keep me updated on the memos!" Nepeta said and opened the door for her.

"I would be happy to," Kanaya said as she stepped out the door. Before she left for good, she turned back once more. "And again, I can't thank you enough for this."

"You're welcome, Kanaya," she said, then added with a smirk, "and I encourage you to have entirely too much fun!"

Kanaya just laughed. "I will take your advice to heart. Once again, farewell."

"Bye, Kanaya!" Nepeta shouted, and gave one last wave and shut the door. As she strutted back into her hive, an immense feeling of satisfaction came over her. It really did feel good to help people with their relationship problems, she thought. Perhaps her ends weren't entirely selfless, but did it matter if the means were good? She pondered the dilemma for a moment, but soon her mind turned to more important matters.

She suddenly realized she was utterly parched.

Well, nothing a nice cup of tea couldn't fix.

***

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].

CG: NEPETA, HELP ME THE FUCK OUT HERE.
AC: :33 < uh, sure, karkitty
AC: :33 < what is it?
CG: OKAY, JUST HEAR ME OUT FOR A MINUTE.
CG: A FEW HOURS AGO, VRISKA TROLLED ME ABOUT SOME BULLSHIT PROBLEM OF HERS.
CG: APPARENTLY KANAYA BROKE UP WITH HER, OR SOME SHIT LIKE THAT.
CG: SO I DID WHAT ANYONE WOULD DO: I LAUGHED MY ASS OFF AND CALLED HER AN IDIOT.
CG: THEN I TOLD HER IF SHE REALLY NEEDED ADVICE, SHE SHOULD TALK TO YOU.
CG: THEN AN HOUR OR TWO LATER, I JUST HAPPEN TO BE PASSING THROUGH LOSAZ
CG: AND WHO SHOULD I SEE BUT VRISKA, BEING ALL PALE WITH FUCKING TAVROS OF ALL PEOPLE.
CG: SERIOUSLY, THEY WERE FIST BUNPING LIKE NOBODY'S GODDAMNED BUSINESS.
CG: AND ALSO, HIS LEGS WORK NOW??
CG: SO I ASKED HER WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED, AND SHE SAID, AND I QUOTE
CG: "I TOOK YOUR ADVICE."
CG: SO I GUESS WHAT I'M ASKING IS
CG: WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO TO VRISKA?
AC: :33 < i shipped her!
CG: SERIOUSLY?
CG: HER AND TAVROS?
AC: :33 < yep! theyre meowrails now!
CG: SEE, AT FIRST GLANCE, THAT LOOKS LIKE A FUCKING HORRIBLE IDEA.
CG: AND WHEN I FIRST SAW IT, I HONESTLY THOUGHT THAT PARADOX SPACE MIGHT BE PLAYING SOME SORT OF HILARIOUS TRICK ON ME.
CG: BUT APPARENTLY SHE'S SOMEHOW BECOME LESS OF A HORRIBLE FUCKING PERSON THAN SHE WAS JUST HOURS AGO.
AC: :33 < she was nefur a horrible purrson, karkitty!
CG: YES SHE FUCKING WAS, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO SAY THIS.
CG: SHE WAS A HORRIBLE EVIL BITCH TO LITERALLY EVERYONE SHE EVER INTERACTED WITH.
AC: :33 < but that was all just an act!
AC: :33 < she had to act that way to cope with being furced to kill people efurryday just to avoid being culled!
AC: :33 < she wouldnt let herself get close to anypawdy beclaws she was afuraid shed end up hurting them
AC: :33 < so she pushed efurrypawdy away with petty hatred
AC: :33 < and eventually she just internalized it that she couldnt f33l anything but black fur anypawdy, and that she wasnt worth any red f33lings at all!
CG: OH.
CG: THAT'S, UH
CG: SURPRISINGLY CLOSE TO MY OWN THEORY.
CG: I FIGURED THAT THE HATE SIDE OF HER BRAIN WAS SO OVERWORKED THAT IT EVENTUALLY JUST GAVE OUT, AND ALL SHE COULD MANAGE WAS A PATHETIC, WATERED DOWN VERSION OF TRUE CALIGINOUS HATE
CG: AND ON THE FLIP SIDE, THE PITY LOBES OF HER BRAIN HAD ATROPHIED COMPLETELY FROM DISUSE.
AC: :33 < pity?
CG: YOU KNOW, THE WHOLE SMORGASBORD OF EMOTIONS RESPONSIBLE FOR RED ROMANCE, AMONG OTHER THINGS.
AC: :33 < karkitty, thats silly
AC: :33 < redrom isnt about pity, its about love!
CG: OH GOD.
CG: LOOK, I'M NOT ABOUT TO GET INTO THE WHOLE SCHISMATIC DEBATE WITH YOU, OKAY?
CG: LET'S JUST SAY YOU'RE ENTITLED TO YOUR DISGUSTINGLY SACCHARINE OPINION, AND I'M ENTITLED TO MINE.
AC: :33 < okay fine
AC: :33 < can i continue?
CG: SURE, THIS IS ACTUALLY KIND OF INTERESTING.
AC: :33 < anyway, shed convinced herself that she was a bad purrson, and that nobody would ever have red f33lings fur her because efurrypawdy hated her
AC: :33 < so all i had to do was show her she was wrong!
AC: :33 < i showed her she wasnt a bad purrson, and that all she had to do was just reach out to people!
AC: :33 < and i showed her that there were people who had red f33lings for her, like tavros and kanaya!
CG: WAIT, WHAT HAPPENED WITH KANAYA?
AC: :33 < theyre matespurrits now!
CG: WHAT?
CG: I... WHAT?
CG: SERIOUSLY?
AC: :33 < yep! kanaya had b33n flushed fur vwiskers furom the furry beginning!
AC: :33 < and vwiskers actually became flushed fur her too at some point, she just didnt realize it!
CG: HOW THE FUCK DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?
AC: :33 < well, vwiskers didnt even know herself
AC: :33 < and kanaya nefur told anyone about her f33lings, as fur as i know
CG: NOT EVEN ME? THE RELATIONSHIP GUY?
CG: I FEEL A LITTLE BETRAYED FOR SOME REASON.
AC: :33 < well, im sure if she wanted to tell anypawdy about it, it would have b33n you!
AC: :33 < but i was the furst one to just ask!
CG: HUH.
CG: OKAY, SO THAT'S KIND OF WEIRD, BUT IT'S FINE, I GUESS.
CG: BUT VRISKA AND TAVROS??
CG: AS PALEMATES????
AC: :33 < i know it sounds like a horrible idea
AC: :33 < but vwiskers really did care about tavros!
AC: :33 < all the time when she was flipping betw33n black and red, she always wanted to help him!
AC: :33 < and he really wanted to help her, too!
AC: :33 < all he wanted was fur her to be nicer, and not to hate herself so much!
AC: :33 < so even though she thought she was flushed or black fur him, i knew they were both pale fur each other!
AC: :33 < and all i had to do was show them that!
CG: AND EXACTLY HOW THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT?
AC: :33 < i pawspisticed fur the two of them!
CG: HAHAHAHA, THAT'S HILARIOUS.
CG: OKAY, SERIOUSLY THOUGH, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO.
AC: :33 < seriously, thats what i did!!
CG: BULLSHIT.
CG: I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT YOU, NEPETA LEIJON, ARE CAPABLE OF ANY SORT OF ASHEN ADVANCES TOWARD ANYONE.
AC: :33 < its true! you can ask kanaya, she can back me up!
CG: OH, I FUCKING WILL, BELIEVE ME.
CG: ANYWAY, ENOUGH ABOUT THE SPECIFICS OF ALL THIS SHIPPING BULLSHIT.
CG: HOW THE FUCK DID YOU EVEN GET ANY OF THIS THROUGH VRISKA'S INCH-THICK SKULL IN THE FIRST PLACE?
AC: :33 < well, i knew i would nefur be able to get through to her in one of her normal moods
AC: :33 < so, to tell the truth
AC: :33 < i made kanaya break up with her just to make her emotionally susceptible
AC: :33 < beclaws i knew she really cared about kanaya
AC: :33 < so when i dealt with her, she was really depurressed, but open to change
CG: SERIOUSLY?
CG: YOU BROKE HER AND KANAYA UP JUST TO GET HER IN A VULNERABLE STATE?
AC: :33 < im not purroud of it, karkitty!
CG: YOU SHOULD BE, THAT IS FUCKING DEVIOUS.
AC: :33 < yes yes i know!
AC: :33 < anyway, once she was like that, i invited her ofur to my hive
AC: :33 < under the purretenses of a pleasant confursation ofur warm befurages
AC: :33 < and when she got there, i confuronted her on her f33lings and got to the root of her purroblems
AC: :33 < and when she tried to tell me she was a bad purrson, or that she couldnt love anyone, or that efurrypawdy hated her, i refuted her points!
AC: :33 < and i told her all the reasons why she really is a good purrson!
AC: :33 < and after that, she was a little more willing to listen
CG: OKAY, SO LET ME SEE IF I'VE GOT THIS STRAIGHT.
CG: FIRST, YOU MEDDLED WITH HER LOVE LIFE JUST TO GET HER IN A MOPEY, SELF-HATING MOOD
CG: AND THEN YOU INVITED HER OVER FOR A TEA PARTY.
CG: AND THEN WHEN SHE GOT THERE, YOU JUST COMPLETELY FUCKING ANNIHILATED HER WITH PRAISE AND ENCOURAGEMENT.
CG: YOU TOOK VRISKA SERKET AND LOVINGLY RIPPED HER APART, PIECE BY EVERLOVING PIECE, AND RECONSTRUCTED HER IN THE IMAGE OF A GIRL WHO'S SURPRISINGLY NOT BITCHY.
AC: :33 < i didnt reconstruct her, karkitty!
AC: :33 < she was always like that!
AC: :33 < she was just afuraid to show it!
AC: :33 < and all i had to do was show her it was okay to love people!
CG: OKAY, ALLOW ME TO CORRECT MYSELF.
CG: YOU COMPLETELY FUCKING ANNIHILATED THE HARD OUTER SHELL OF THE CREATURE WE KNOW AS VRISKA SERKET WITH HEARTFELT ADULATION.
CG: AND ONCE YOU WERE DONE, ALL THAT WAS LEFT WAS THE BEAUTIFUL, GLISTENING, SURPRISINGLY NOT BITCHY PEARL THAT WAS HIDDEN UNDERNEATH IT ALL ALONG.
CG: AND THEN YOU TOOK HER WEIRD, CONCUPISCENT FEELINGS TOWARDS TAVROS AND STRAIGHTENED THEM OUT INTO A MOIRALLEGIANCE, APPARENTLY UNDER THE GUISE OF AN AUSPISTICE
CG: (I STILL DON'T FUCKING BELIEVE YOU ON THAT, BY THE WAY)
CG: AND THEN YOU SOMEHOW MADE HER REALIZE THAT SHE WAS FLUSHED FOR HER FORMER MOIRAIL, WHO WAS ALSO FLUSHED FOR HER, AND THEY PROCEEDED TO HAVE SLOPPY MAKEOUTS.
AC: :33 < yep!
CG: AND THAT IS ALL EXACTLY HOW IT WENT DOWN.
AC: :33 < puretty much
CG: AND YOU'RE TELLING ME ALL OF THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED.
CG: IN CONFIDENCE.
AC: :33 < yeah, i guess so!
CG: HOLY SHIT.
CG: <3
AC: :33 < hmmmm?
CG: UHHH, NOTHING.
CG: WELL, LOOK, GOOD JOB ON THAT AND ALL.
CG: I MEAN, TOP OF THE LINE SHIPPING, REALLY.
CG: AND, UH, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, I GUESS.
AC: :33 < so you want me to k33p doing my shipping thing?
CG: YES, ABSOLUTELY.
CG: IN FACT, AS YOUR LEADER, I ORDER YOU TO KEEP DOING IT.
CG: JUST SHIP THE FUCK OUT OF ALL OF THESE TROLLS.
AC: :33 < even you?
CG: UH
CG: WELL
AC: :33 < dont worry karkitty, ive got somepawdy special in mind fur you!
CG: THAT IS
CG: ACTUALLY FUCKING TERRIFYING FOR SOME REASON.
AC: :33 < h33 h33!
AC: :33 < anyway, im gonna repurrt the success of opurration: closing the serket on the shipping wall
AC: :33 < so hopefurry ill s33 you there!
CG: UH, YEAH, SURE.
AC: :33 < ok, bye karkitty!

arsenicCatnip [AC]
ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG].

CG: I SUDDENLY UNDERSTAND JACK SHIT.
CG: AND SOMEHOW THAT DOESN'T BOTHER ME.

carcinoGeneticist [CG]
ceased trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].