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Chapter 11

The Death of Spinneret Mindfang

Vriska Serket stood at the bow of the ship, staring out at the open sea in deep contemplation. Above her sprawled the cartographic firmament of the Land of Maps and Treasure, painted a warm spectrum of reds and yellows and purples by the distant Skaia just beginning to dip below the horizon. The massive galleon stood immobile in the gently roiling ocean, and from her vantage point at its head, it seemed to stretch endlessly, without the slightest hint of dry land in sight. The ship's bright orange sails were each emblazoned with a great golden sun, the symbol of Light, as a testament to the vessel's conquest by the Thief just days before. Surely at least a hundred able-bodied men would have been required to crew the vessel, but the petticoat seagrift stood on the deck alone. After all, she wasn't going anywhere soon.

Vriska crossed her arms as she continued to survey the horizon. She wore a long black coat that stretched to her knees, highlighted with a maze of curling cerulean lines bordered in a fine silver filigree and the sign of Scorpio inscribed on her left breast. The coat opened at her waist to reveal a black and cerulean spiderweb-patterned skirt over a simple pair of black trousers, which were tucked into a pair of bright red leather boots that reached up to her knees, laced with silver threads and inlaid with a dazzling pattern of silver and gold. Her waist was bound with a red leather belt, and on her left side it held a cobalt blue cutlass that ended in a wicked-looking barb, while the right held a circular holster bearing eight bright blue octahedral dice. A holographic headset was just barely visible under her unruly mass of hair, and she reached up to her temple to extend a telescoping microphone to her mouth.

"As the illustrious Marquise Spinneret Mindfang observed the vast expanse of the open sea," Vriska began to narrate, "she reflected on the course of events that brought her here. Every step of the way, she looked out for herself, and her skill and luck had carried her this far." She looked down at the figurehead with a dissatisfied look. "But it couldn't go on. Even though she had endured every adversity fate had seen fit to throw at her, she had nothing. Her enemies were legion, and her survival came at the expense of her friends, her allies..." She sighed. "Even her lover. She'd used up all her second chances, and if she continued like this, she'd knew soon she'd be the one walking the plank."

She looked up to the sky, a glimmer of hope in her eyes. "She thought once more of the revolutionary, the man with the auburn wings. The man fated to be her matesprit... and her killer. Maybe he would be the one to take her life... or maybe he could give her a new lease on it. A chance to put all her sins behind her, and to fight for a cause more noble than simple self-preservation. She realized her life of crime was rapidly reaching its end, but perhaps he could give her a new beginning."

Vriska's gaze once more lowered to the deck. "But as long as she was chased by the ghosts of the past, she would never know peace, and she knew two in particular who would never give up the hunt as long as she lived. Her thoughts turned to Neophyte Redglare, the legislacerator determined to bring her to justice. Mindfang's crimes were innumerable, and she knew it would be certain death to face His Honorable Tyranny. But Redglare would never stop until she was incarcerated. There was no room in her narrow worldview for redemption or atonement. There was only innocence or guilt, and the guilty existed to be culled. No, Mindfang and Redglare could not coexist. The legislacerator's pursuit would persist for as long as they both lived, and it was for that reason Mindfang knew one of them would die tonight."

Vriska sighed and lifted her head, scowling into the setting Battlefield. "Her thoughts turned to the other unpleasant reminder of her past: her former partner and kismesis... or rather, former partner and former kismesis, Orphaner Dualscar. The odious blackguard dared to think himself Mindfang's equal, but in the end, she knew him to be a mere sycophant, a mindless lackey--and hopeless suitor--to Her Imperious Condescension. She once mocked and tormented him, thinking him to be a harmless nuisance... until he took from her the one person she held most dear. Remembering the jade-blooded slave, Mindfang's heart filled with regret... and with rage. Her hatred for the seadweller had once been romantic, but he had gone too far, and now her only desire of him was to drag her blade across his vile throat."

The look on Vriska's face turned to one of grim determination, and her stance straightened. "But it would all end on this very night. Mindfang had challenged Redglare to a duel, one chance to settle things between them once and for all. And though she never informed Dualscar of the event, she was sure he would leap at the opportunity to catch her weakened after a great struggle... or to spit on her corpse, at any rate. But no matter what would transpire, Mindfang knew there were only two possible outcomes: they both would die, or she would."

After a brief pause, a bored voice came to life in Vriska's ear. "Okay, are you done with your little soliloquy? Can I come in now?"

Vriska let out a long, irritated sigh. "Terezi, I was having a moment, and you just killed it," she said, holding her ear in the universal gesture for out-of-character speech.

"Hehehehe, sorry," Terezi said with almost laudable insincerity, "but I'm getting a little bored just floating out here in the middle of the ocean."

"Terezi, that was your cue anyway!" Vriska complained, rolling her eyes. "Just come to the fucking ship already!"

"Okay, okay!" Terezi relented. "Jegus, don't get your bulge in a knot over it."

A moment later, a shape began to approach from the port bow of the ship. It was the flickering hologram of a massive white dragon, and Terezi Pyrope was perched on its back, held in place by a diligent cloud of gaming flapstractions. As the dragon approached the ship, it suddenly turned and took a sharp dive. Terezi took a flying leap off its back, landing firmly on the deck, and the dragon rose once more, circling around the ship high in the sky.

Terezi rose to her feet in the middle of the ship and turned to face Vriska at the bow, brandishing a white cane, its tip adorned with the fiercely gazing head of her crimson-eyed dragonyyyd companion. She wore a button-up top and a small high-collared vest, both fashioned from a scarlet silk that shimmered brilliantly in the setting sun. They were both trimmed with a faint gold filigree, and the top's golden buttons were inlaid with the heretical symbol of the Signless in crimson. The top terminated just above her stomach in a semicircular cut, and its thick black hem combined with a black strap across her abdomen to form the unmistakable shape of the symbol of LIbra. From her waist, four long bands of red silk flowed down her front, back, and sides to form an ersatz skirt, each hemmed with elaborate images of dragons and gallows woven in gold thread. A pair of scarlet boots and gloves completed the ensemble, and under the entire outfit she wore a form-fitting bodysuit in the same color as her blood.

She glared at Vriska behind her usual ruby-red eyewear. "Enjoy the sunset while you can, Mindfang," she sneered. "It'll be the last you'll see as a free woman."

Vriska laughed to herself. "Oh, Redglare, I'm delighted you could make it," she replied sarcastically, still looking to the horizon. "You're a pleasure to speak with as always."

"I'm not here for pleasure, Mindfang," Terezi replied, gripping her cane in both hands. "I'm here on business, and that business just happens to be taking you in."

Vriska finally turned to face Terezi, a frustrated look on her face. "Yes, that always was the problem, wasn't it?" she asked. pacing towards Terezi. "All you ever cared about was business. Too devoted to your duties to recognize a good opportunity when it presented itself to you."

Terezi balked. "I'm not interested, Mindfang."

"Oh, come on, Redglare," Vriska fired back, continuing to close the distance. "Don't tell me you don't feel it." She stopped in front of Terezi and cradled a hand around her chin, staring into her bespectacled eyes with a wicked grin. "This pure, unadulterated hatred that exists between us."

"You overstate our relationship," Terezi protested. "I hate you because you are a criminal and a scoundrel. That is all."

Vriska frowned, and she wrenched her hand away from Terezi's jaw. "Tell yourself whatever you must, Redglare," she said, turning from and taking a few steps away. She suddenly stopped. "But if your hatred for me is truly as platonic as you think..." she said, and turned back to face Terezi. "Why didn't you attack me just now, when my back was turned?"

Terezi just scoffed at her. "I'm not here to kill you, Mindfang," she answered. "I'm here to bring you to trial."

Vriska spread her arms in a wide shrug. "What's the difference, Redglare?" she asked. "Surely my crimes are great and many enough to warrant a certain culling. Why all the artifice? Why not just cut to the chase and kill me now?"

"I will, if you continue to resist arrest," Terezi growled. "But it is not my place to dole out justice, as much as I wish at times it were. The word of His Honorable Tyranny is law, and it is not my place to claim to speak for him."

"Yes, of course," Vriska said with a sigh. "Well, as sorry as I am to disappoint, I won't go quietly. Facing the courts would be certain death."

"Then I'm afraid it comes to this," Terezi said, brandishing her cane menacingly.

Vriska gave her a final, pleading look. "I don't want to have to kill you, Redglare."

"Nor I you, Mindfang," Terezi replied, her scowl softening the slightest bit. "But you've left me with little choice."

"I suppose so," Vriska said, and pulled the cutlass from her side. "Well, I'm sorry in advance for killing you." She let out a dry laugh. "Just business." Two gaming flapstractions appeared over the roleplayers' heads and projected an array of meters over each of their heads.

Vriska made the first move, lunging at Terezi with a vicious overhand swing. Terezi sidestepped it and retaliated with a wide swing of her cane, which Vriska quickly turned and blocked. The two quickly settled into a frantic rhythm of swings, blocks, thrusts, and parries.

"Why do you fight me so fiercely, Mindfang?" Terezi asked between blows. "Surely you realize that even if you defeat me, there are other legislacerators who will pursue you."

"Are there, Redglare?" Vriska replied with a flirtatiously cocked eyebrow. "I've always suspected your vendetta with me is more personal than you're willing to let on."

"Don't flatter yourself." Terezi spat back. "I pursue you because your continued freedom makes a mockery of the Alternian justice system. You are scum, and your crimes are unforgivable." She scored a glancing blow against Vriska's shoulder, causing one of the meters above her head to flash red and deplete the slightest bit.

Vriska just snarled in response. "Really, Redglare? Unforgivable? Is there truly nothing I can do to make up for my past transgressions?"

Terezi glared. "Your redemption can only come at the end of a noose."

"Always such a wonderful conversationalist, Redglare," Vriska muttered in response, then suddenly took on a serious look. "Did it ever occur to you that perhaps redemption is exactly what I seek? That I wish to make amends for all the wrongs I've done?"

"No," Terezi replied flatly.

"Well, I do!" Vriska shouted as the tip of her sword nicked Terezi's arm. The dull blade did no damage to her outfit, but the flapstractions registered damage nonetheless. "I've grown tired of the life of a gamblignant. I'm sick of sacrificing everyone dear to me in the name of self-preservation. I just want to put all this behind me." Vriska's attacks were intensifying, and Terezi found herself on the defensive, backing towards the cabin wall.

"You can't just walk away from your past, Mindfang!" Terezi asserted. "You've hurt too many people! And the only possible recompense is to see you culled." Despite her bravado, she was too preoccupied with defending against Vriska's assault to make an attack herself.

"To hell with that!" Vriska roared with determination. "I'm not going to throw my life away in the name of your so-called justice! I'll live to see myself redeemed, even if I have to kill you to do it!" In one swift motion, she deflected Terezi's cane, then brought her sword across her chest in a heavy two-handed slash, taking a massive chunk off of one of Terezi's many vitality gauges. Terezi staggered from the force of the blow, and seeing an opening, Vriska gave her a fierce kick in the solar plexus. She stumbled back and collapsed against the deck, head and shoulders propped against the wall of the cabin, and her cane clattered out of her hand.

Before Terezi could react, Vriska pinned her against the wall with a boot to her neck. She reached her right hand over to grab her cane, but Vriska quickly thrust the tip of her sword between the two.

"Hands at your sides, Redglare," Vriska growled. Terezi just glowered at her, but complied. "Good girl," she said with a wicked grin. "You know, I really don't want to kill you, Redglare. This can all go away with two little words. 'Not guilty.' What do you say?"

Terezi just sneered at her. "I had another two words in mind."

The smile instantly vanished from Vriska's face. "Defiant to the end, eh?" she said, then let out a dry laugh. "It's such a shame, really. You'd have made a fine kismesis."

"Finer even than me, Mindfang?"

A clawed hand reached up to grasp the edge of the ship, and over the gunwale leapt the armored figure of Eridan Ampora. He came to a landing on the deck behind Vriska, and a second later his cape fell behind him. He rose to his full height, brandishing a very convincing replica of Ahab's Crosshairs in his right hand. He wore a cuirass of black and violet metal inlaid with wavy patterns of gold and encrusted with stones of diamond and amethyst, the layers of jagged-edged plates forming the sign of Aquarius across his chest. Over it he wore a long silk mantle in matching violet, with four free-standing spikes rising behind his head. The cape stretched below his striped black and purple trousers, terminating just below the tops of his thick black leather boots. Below his pauldrons, his arms were bare save for two pairs of bejeweled gold bracelets.

Vriska turned her head to face the new arrival, but didn't let her gaze leave the captive Redglare. "Ah, Dualscar," she greeted him. "You're just in time to see me execute a much more worthy rival."

Eridan placed both hands on his rifle and leveled it at the gamblignant. "I'm afraid that's not an option, Mindfang. I'll have to ask you to step away from the legislacerator."

"Oh, really?" Vriska replied, raising an eyebrow. "And why is that?"

"'Cause regardless a' the circumstances," he clarified, looking down at Terezi, "any enemy a' yours is a friend a' mine." Terezi gave him a subtle nod in response.

Vriska laughed to herself and turned to him. "Well, that's awfully pragmatic on your part, Dualscar," she mused, "but what makes you think Miss Redglare has any interest in joining forces with a murderous scoundrel like you?" As she spoke, Terezi slowly reached a hand over to her cane.

Eridan gave Vriska a smug grin. "I'd say she has precious little recourse at the moment."

Suddenly, Terezi grabbed the end of her cane and swung it, but Vriska caught it with her left hand, the cane's head stopping inches from her face. "And lesser still by the second." she said, and wrenched the cane from Terezi's hand. "Nice try, Redglare." She lifted the cane to admire the dragon's head on its tip. "Though I must say, this is a fine weapon you have here. Or had here, rather."

"Do you like it?" Terezi asked with a smirk. "It was a gift from a pouncellor."

As Vriska puzzled over her response, Terezi fiddled with something in her left pocket. The dragon's head on her cane opened its mouth, and Vriska only had time to open widen her eyes in shock before an explosion erupted from its pearlescent maw. Vriska was sent reeling from the blast, and she released her grip from the cane and her sword both. Terezi quickly rose and scooped up her cane, gripping it in both hands, and maneuvered over to the portside of the ship next to Eridan. Vriska clambered to her feet on the starboard side and rapped her hand against the holster at her belt, releasing the Flourite Octet into her palm.

"Hold!" she cried, holding the Octet in the air in warning. "Not a step closer, or I'll let the Octet fly!"

"Why don't you just give up, Mindfang?" Eridan demanded, waving his rifle at her. "Even with your fancy dice, you're outnumbered two to one."

Vriska let out a harsh laugh. "What a joke! I'm the only thing holding you two together!" She gave a skeptical glance between the odd couple. "Your precious alliance may hold up for now, but once I'm out of the picture, you'll be on each other like rabid howlbeasts!"

"Please. I'm only here to tie up a loose end," he answered matter-of-factly. "I've no quarrel with the legislacerators."

Terezi gave him a sidelong glance. "No quarrel?" she repeated. "If you've broken the law, you've plenty of quarrel with me, Dualscar."

"Yeah, Dualscar!" Vriska said with an amused grin. "Do you really think Miss Blind Justice over here is gonna just overlook the fact that you're a criminal scumbag?"

"Excuse me?" Eridan balked at her. "A scumbag I may be, but I am no criminal."

"Hahahahahahahaha, that's rich!" she said, doing her best not to double over in laughter. "Admit it, Dualscar. You're a pirate just like me."

"I must correct you," Eridan replied, taking a hand off his rifle to raise a critical finger. "While you may be a pirate, I am, in fact, a privateer. There's a subtle, but very important difference."

Vriska cocked an eyebrow at him. "And just what kind of difference is that?"

"A legal one," Terezi butted in. "Privateers work under the direct orders of Her Imperious Condescension, and if they should happen to breach the law in the course of their duties, a legislacerator is generally disinclined to charge them with anything," and she paused to glance over to Eridan once more, "provided, of course, they can present a legitimate letter of marque."

"But of course," Eridan replied, producing a scroll case from the pocket of his trousers. "It would hardly to do ply my trade without it." He tossed it to Terezi, who caught it effortlessly.

"Very well, let's see," she said, removing the scroll from its case. She unfurled it and took a long, deep whiff. "Ah yes, feeding duties," she immediately recognized, then planted a few pinpoint probes on the document with the tip of her tongue for clarification. "Permission to cull any seafaring troll blue-blooded or lower, provided the lusus is tossed into the sea. The holder is allowed a percentage of all monetary spoils and full rights to all other non-contraband salvage acquired in the line of duty. Stamped with the Imperial seal. It appears to be genuine," she concluded, then rose a concerned eyebrow at Eridan, "with the minor complication of it having been recently terminated."

Eridan looked away from the two girls, a look of hurt on his face. "Yes, I'm afraid Her Imperious Condescension no longer requires my services," he muttered. "There's been somethin' of a stir in the imperial courts. It seems Emissary has been silenced."

"What?! That's impossible!" Vriska exclaimed, lowering the Octet. "If that abomination were dead, it'd have taken us all with it!"

"I can't speak to the veracity a' the claim," Eridan answered, looking back up at her. "Only repeatin' what my fellows told me when their contracts were ended likewise." He laughed dryly to himself. "Suits me just fine, I suppose. I was lookin' for a change of employment anyway."

"And what would that be, Dualscar?" Vriska asked, sneering at him. "Official imperial bootlicker?"

"Shut your gob, Mindfang!" Eridan growled back at her. "I may be loyal to Her Imperious Condescension, but i'm no sycophant! The truth is..." he started, and looked away once more, the pained expression returning to his face, "she isn't the woman I imagined her to be. She can be cruel and arbitrary... an' it seems I've outlived my usefulness to her." He shook his head and looked back up. "But it's just as well. This line a' work doesn't sit well with me anymore. I've grown tired a' killin' in her name."

Vriska looked at him skeptically. "Well, if you're so tired of killing, Dualscar, what brought you here tonight?"

"I'm here to officially put an end to our little partnership," Eridan answered, leveling his rifle at her once more. "Frankly, I'd rather not be associated with you anymore... 'cept as your killer, perhaps."

"Wh..." Vriska started, then gave a disgusted sigh and grabbed her ear. "Eridan, you can't be a repentant killer looking to eliminate a dark reminder of his past so he can move on with his life! That's what I'm doing!"

Eridan rolled his eyes and grabbed his headfin as well. "Oh, come on, Vris, you think you're the only one tired a' playin' a mass-murderin' fuckhead?" he asked rhetorically. "Cut me some fuckin' slack here."

Vriska groaned and rolled her eyes. "Yeah, but you're stealing my thing!!"

"Well, I think it's interesting!" Terezi interjected, putting a hand on her ear.

"What?!" Vriska shouted at her in disbelief. "Really, Terezi, you're taking his side out-of-character too?!"

"Look, I just think both of you doing the 'villain seeking to redeem themselves' thing actually makes the whole scenario a lot more engaging," Terezi explained. "Especially considering the fact that each of your stakes at redemption is hinged on the death of the other. It practically ensures the whole thing will end tragically."

"Yeah, Vris," Eridan concurred, offering up a bargaining palm, "wouldn't you be willin' to make a concession for drama's sake?"

Vriska crossed her arms and looked away. "Well..." she said, mulling it over, "I suppose I shouldn't be letting my personal pride get in the way of good storytelling."

Terezi stifled a laugh. "Seriously?"

"Yes, seriously!" Vriska shouted, uncrossing her arms to thrust her fists down angrily at her sides. "Shut up, Terezi!"

"Hehehe, fine," Terezi said. "It's just a little funny coming from you." She took her hand off her ear to put the letter of marque back in its case and toss it to Eridan, who stuffed it in his pocket once more.

Vriska just grumbled something to herself, then took her hand off her ear. "Well, if you really want to terminate our relationship, I'd be happy to oblige," she said, shaking the Fluorite Octet in her hand. "Here, let this be the official conclusion!"

She rolled the dice at Terezi, and as they landed, a bevy of holographic daggers sprung into the air, then launched themselves at Terezi and Eridan both. Eridan managed to get a shot off at Vriska, but she ducked under it as she rushed to pick up her sword once more, and he was forced to dive out of the way of a barrage of daggers before he could fire again. As the Octet kept Terezi occupied with dodging projectiles, Vriska advanced on Eridan, cutlass at the ready.

"You know, I'm glad you showed up when you did, Dualscar," she growled at him. "I really wanted to kill you first."

"Well, I'm flattered you think so highly of me, Mindfang," Eridan sneered back. He tried to fire at her, but she lunged at him before the Crosshairs could fully charge, and he was forced to block the blow with the stock of his rifle.

"Fuck you, Dualscar," Vriska spat at him, continuing to lash at him with her cutlass. "You were never worthy of being my kismesis. You aren't even worthy of feeding my lusus."

"You're wrong, Mindfang," Eridan said with an indignant glare as he backed away from Vriska. "I was always worthy a' bein' your kismesis. It's your own fault it took such drastic measures to remind you."

"You went too far, Dualscar!" Vriska shouted as she brought her sword down at Eridan with both hands. He rolled to the side, and they eyed each other warily for a moment. "If you really wanted to prove yourself, you should've known better than to target my other quadrants. The only desire your stunt roused from me was one to plant a blade in your chest."

"You brought it upon yourself, Mindfang," Eridan retorted, holding his rifle steady. "You were always tauntin' an' teasin', playin' little games with me. Can you blame me for wantin' to up the ante?"

Vriska scowled at him. "No, but I can kill you for it."

The Fluorite Octet's onslaught fizzled out, and Terezi was at last able to contribute to the conversation again. "What are you two talking about?" she inquired.

"Ancient history," Vriska quipped. She dove toward the Octet, and Eridan fired upon her fractions of a second later. The shot clipped her side, and a few of her life bars flashed and decremented. "Needless to say, Dualscar's as inept at caliginous romance as he is at everything else," she said as she scooped the dice from the deck, then rose and brandished her cutlass at Terezi. "But it's just as well. Once I've thrown his mutilated corpse overboard, I've got a much better partner in mind."

They both swung at each other simultaneously. "Really, Mindfang?" Terezi asked incredulously as they continued to spar. "Are you still dead set on these black solicitations?"

Eridan watched from the sidelines. "Leave it to the Marquise not to know to separate business an' pleasure," he said as he attempted to get a clear shot. "'Specially when she takes pleasure from such a grisly business."

"As if you're one to talk, Dualscar!" Vriska turned and spat at him, then quickly turned back to block a blow from Terezi. "You may hide behind the label of a 'privateer,' but I know you enjoyed the killing and looting every bit as much as I did! Probably even more!"

"Speak for yourself," Eridan huffed at Vriska, stopping in his tracks to level his rifle at her. "I was just doin' my job."

"Of course, 'just doing your job,'" Vriska echoed disgustedly. "That's the convenient excuse everyone's so eager to run to." Eridan began to charge his rifle, but Vriska flung the Octet at him. Before he could fire, the dice began to shower sparks in all directions, forcing him to move away and trapping him on the aft side of the deck. 

Vriska turned her full attention to Terezi. "Like you, Redglare!" she bellowed, redoubling her efforts to land a blow against her. "You say you're just trying to catch a criminal, but how many other felons are out there that you're passing up to chase after me?"

Terezi just glared at her. "None quite as wretched as you," she muttered.

"Ha! Now we're getting somewhere," Vriska said with a grin, then leveled a particularly heavy swing at Terezi. She blocked it with some effort, and the two stared each other down as they each pushed their weapon against the other's. "Tell me, Redglare," Vriska cooed lasciviously, "just what is it about me that fascinates you so?"

"You really want to know?" Terezi asked with the faintest smirk.

"Of course." Vriska replied amusedly. "Feel no pressing need to honey your words with me."

"Alright, fine," Terezi said, and put both hands on her cane to shove Vriska away from her. She took a step back and let her cane relax at her side. "The truth is, Mindfang, I don't even hate you for the crimes you've committed," she admitted, but then her features hardened into a scowl. "I hate you for the sadistic glee and utter remorselessness with which you performed them. You are an unrepentant sociopath, and Alternia would be a better place for you never having taken breath upon it."

Vriska let out a dry laugh, though her face clearly indicated she was unamused. "Well, Redglare, I'm flattered that you think so low of me," she replied bitterly, "but you're wrong. I'm not the heartless monster you make me out to be." She motioned her sword over to Eridan, no longer obscured by the Octet's sparks. "Or at least I wasn't, until this vile dastard ripped it from my chest." She looked down and sighed. "I'm tired of having to hurt everyone around me. And I do wish for repentance, even if it isn't in the way you have in mind."

Seeing the lull in the action, Eridan relaxed his rifle. "Yes, instead your path to redemption lies over the bodies of a legislacerator and an imperial retainer," he observed skeptically. "Funny how that works out, Mindfang."

"What choice do I have, Dualscar?!" Vriska turned and yelled at him. "If I told either of you I wished to mend my ways, what would you do? Take me to the courts? Drag me before the Grand Highblood, perhaps? If you would see me culled before you would see me redeemed, then to hell with your ideas of justice!"

"You can't just run away from your problems, Mindfang," Terezi said. "Even if you deal with us, it'll catch up to you sooner or later."

"I'm not running from my problems!" Vriska replied, pointing a finger at Terezi and sweeping it towards Eridan. "You two are my problems! And once I've dealt with you, I'll be able to move on with my life!"

Terezi put her cane down in front of her and rested both hands on its head. "And what exactly will you do, Mindfang?" she asked with curious amusement. "Assuming you do manage to deal with the both of us, what will you make of your new life?"

"In case you haven't heard, Redglare," Vriska replied smugly, "there's a revolution going on. People are suffering under the tyrannical rule of the Empress, and they're not taking it anymore. I figured I could put my skills to use for a good cause for a change."

Terezi responded with a dry laugh. "So you're going to throw your hat in the ring with a lot of violent insurrectionists? Why am I not surprised?"

Vriska gave her a serious look. "A good cause is worth killing for. I figured you of all people would know that."

"An' isn't it interestin' that the only causes you're willin' to support are the ones where killin' is a necessity?" Eridan interjected, waving his rifle at Vriska. "Why don't you just admit it, Mindfang? You're a killer, born an' bred, an' that's all you'll ever let yourself be."

"I'm not in it for the bloodshed, Dualscar!" Vriska insisted. "I've chosen this path because the fates have willed it so." She looked down and placed her free hand to her chest. "There's still a man I have yet to meet," she said with uncharacteristic softness. "A man with wings of shimmering bronze... and the man who will be my matesprit."

Eridan rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Of course. It's just like you, always chasin' after visions an' prophecies," he said mockingly. "Figures you'd be willin' to risk everythin' just 'cause some fancy crystal ball told you it'd help you fill a quadrant."

"The only reason I have a quadrant to fill is because of you!" Vriska growled at him, taking a sudden step towards him, but stopping when he raised his rifle once more. "I'll never forgive you for what you did to me--no, what you did to her! She was the only troll I ever cared about, and you took her from me out of jealousy, of all the things!"

"If she meant so much to you, Mindfang," Eridan replied with indignation and just a little fear, "then why are you fightin' so hard just to meet this new paramour a' yours?"

"Let me make something clear, Dualscar," Vriska started, her rage suddenly turning cold as ice. "I'm not fighting you because I have to. I'm fighting you because I want to." She walked slowly toward him, deflecting the barrel of Ahab's Crosshairs with the tip of her cutlass. "I'm only fighting Redglare because she's an obstacle to me, but you... all I want from you is vengeance."

Terezi took a step towards Vriska and brandished her cane threateningly. "Whatever you're fighting for, Mindfang, what you're talking about is treason!" she said in a tone of warning. "And if you think I'm letting you off this ship to join a band of murderous rabble-rousers, you've got another thing coming!"

"Oh, come on, Redglare!" Vriska turned and spat at her. "You know more than anyone how much people are suffering under the Empress' despotic rule. Or do you honestly think every troll put to death for speaking against her has been judged honorably? Is that your idea of justice?"

"Maybe not," Terezi said, raising an arm to her chest, "but violence isn't the answer!"

"Violence is the only language tyrants understand." Vriska replied coolly.

Eridan sneered at her. "Violence is the only language you speak, Mindfang."

"Quiet, Dualscar!" Vriska barked, putting her hand on the tip of his rifle to keep it pointed away from her. "Try as you might to stop it, there's a movement taking place on Alternia," she declared, and raised her sword to his chest, "and there's no room in it for blood-worshipping sycophants like you!"

"Mindfang, this is madness!" Terezi pleaded. "You can't possibly be thinking about taking up arms against Her Imperious Condescension!"

"Then what would you have me do, Redglare?" Vriska turned her head to ask. 

"There are other ways of enacting change, Mindfang," Terezi explained, her left hand gripping a simple iron pendant that hung around her neck. "Sometimes it's more productive to work within the system than to attempt to resist it."

"So what are you saying?" Vriska inquired. "I should turn myself in?"

Terezi released the pendant, revealing the shape of Cancer's claws. "I could have your sentence commuted. We could work out some sort of arrangement," she bargained with an open palm. "If reform is truly what you seek, you'll at least consider it."

"As flattered as I am by your offer, Redglare," Vriska said as she stepped away from Eridan, pausing to scoop the Fluorite Octet from the deck, "I must decline. I'm afraid our differences in philosophy are simply irreconcilable."

Eridan scoffed once more. "So you'd rather wallow in your killin' ways than swallow your pride."

Vriska stopped and turned to face him, her back to the ship's extended plank. "I'll never serve the Empire, Dualscar," she replied with a glare. "Especially if it means working alongside a craven coward like you."

"You haven't changed a bit, Mindfang," Eridan sneered. "For all your talk of revolution, you're still the same selfish murderer you've always been. An' you'd sooner upturn the whole a' society than admit you're part of the problem." He leveled his rifle at her. "You're nothin' more than a rabid beast, an' i think it's about time you were put down."

"To hell with that!" Vriska shouted defiantly, swinging her sword at nothing in particular. "I'm not dying here! Not tonight! Even if it takes all of my luck, I'll make it out of here alive! I've still got places to go and things to do... and people to meet!" She shook the Octet in her left hand. "And it's all riding on this one battle! This one final roll of the dice!"

The white symbol of Light glowed from Vriska's chest as she let the Fluorite Octet fly, causing Terezi and Eridan to gasp in horror. But once the dice landed, there was no great explosion or flash of light. Instead, the Octet gently floated up to Vriska's face, seven in front of her left eye and one in front of her right, presenting their results to each of her pupils: eight ones.

"Spider-eyes!"

The dice suddenly exploded, and Vriska was sent flying, flopping to the deck just short of the edge of the ship. The life gauges above her head shook violently, and all of them were nearly depleted by the power of the backfiring Octet. Her sword was sent clattering to the deck a few feet from where she landed.

"Well, Mindfang," Terezi said with what was almost a smirk, "it looks like your luck has finally run out."

Eridan turned to Terezi for a moment. "Keep an eye on her for a moment, will you?" he politely requested. "There's something I must retrieve from the cabin." He opened the door to the cabin behind him and quickly advanced through it, pulling it shut.

Vriska coughed and slowly dragged herself toward her cutlass. "Figures..." she said weakly. "Coward won't even stick around long enough to... see me culled..." She stopped to cough once more.

Terezi just shrugged. "He doesn't seem that bad."

"He can't be trusted, Redglare," Vriska asserted, placing a hand on her sword. "Whatever you do, don't trust him."

"Just what did he do to make you despise him so?" Terezi asked with a raised eyebrow.

Vriska grabbed her sword and very slowly tried to pull herself up from the ground. "There was... a slave of mine. A jadeblood," she started. "At first, she was just like any other... but after a while, I realized... I was flushed for her." She finally rose to her feet, standing uncertainly and balancing herself using her cutlass as a cane. "She was the only person I ever cared about... the only person I ever loved... and he took her from me. He murdered her... out of jealousy, of all the things."

Terezi's look softened into one of sympathy. "I see," she offered simply.

"I'm telling you this because you deserve better," Vriska confessed, looking into Terezi's eyes pleadingly. "Better than to die by his treachery... you can't trust him."

Terezi just looked away. "Maybe you're right," she said after a moment's hesitation.

"Or maybe she's wrong."

Eridan burst through the cabin door, dragging along with him the writhing form of one Kanaya Maryam. She was wearing a black satin dress embroidered with looping patterns of jade and the symbol of Virgo on her left breast. The dress had a scandalously low neckline, which combined with a jade and silver bodice did a great deal to accentuate Kanaya's... assets. The dress stretched down to her bare feet, but bore two slits in the front that reached up to her waist, revealing a great deal of her bare legs. The sleeves were perhaps the only part of the dress that could be considered at all modest, fully covering her arms, and two low-hanging sheets of sheer black-and-jade striped fabric hung from them. The dress left very little to the imagination, and it was clearly a lot less than Eridan expected, as a faint streak of purple lit up his face.

Vriska was clearly shocked by the new arrival. "Kan--" she started, then caught herself, "I mean, Dolorosa!"

"Mindfang!" Kanaya cried back in her most imperiled voice.

Terezi sniffed a few times and suddenly reared her head back, grabbing her ear. "Wow, that's a lot of troll flesh," she commented, prompting Kanaya to blush a little herself.

"You're alive?!" Vriska asked, a hint of desperation in her voice.

"Of course she is." Eridan answered, then produced a wavy purple knife from his pocket and pressed it to Kanaya's throat. She took a sharp breath from the sting of cold steel on her bare neck. Eridan smirked. "You really think I'd throw away such a powerful bargainin' chip so easily?"

A fierce look formed on Vriska's face. "If you spill even a drop of your blood, I'll see you dead here and now!" she growled at Eridan.

"Easy, Mindfang," Eridan warned her, pulling Kanaya and the blade toward himself. "Despite the cutlery bein' presented, I've no intention of harmin' your little matesprit here. Though if you don't accede to a few of my demands, I may be so inclined as to," and he paused to lick his lips, "kiss her a little."

"Um, actually, Eridan," Kanaya suddenly interjected, "and I wish I could do the little ear gesture here, but, well, my hands are tied--quite literally, as a matter of fact--but I'd prefer if you didn't kiss me."

"Wh..." Eridan started, then let his knife hand go slack while the other latched onto his left headfin. "Why not?"

"It's not you in particular," Kanaya explained. "It's just... well... I'd rather not talk about it."

Eridan sighed. "Well, I'm not gonna very well kiss a woman against her will, am I? That would be fuckin' unconscionable."

"I mean, it'd be okay if Terezi did it," Kanaya offered.

"Yeah, okay, that works," Eridan said, then motioned to Terezi. "Ter, come over here."

"What?!" Terezi cried, the slightest teal blush streaking her cheeks. "Hey, just slow down here, alright?! I never agreed to kiss anybody!"

"Oh, come on, Ter," Eridan implored, rolling his eyes, "an attractive woman in a ridiculously fuckin' skimpy outfit just gave you the okay to kiss her. What's the fuckin' problem?"

"Well, I mean..." Terezi started, crossing her arms defensively and blushing a little harder, "I guess I could kiss her... if I really had to."

"Hahahahahahahaha! Great plan, Eridan!" Vriska said, doubling over in amusement. "I can see you reeeeeeeeally thought this one through!"

"As a matter of fact, Vris," Eridan countered, "I'd planned for just such an eventuality. Kan, did you bring the secret weapon?"

"Um... yes," Kanaya said.

Eridan put his knife away and patted his now-free hand around her sides. "Well, where is it?" he inquired. "I'm lookin' for a pocket here an' I'm not findin' one."

"It's, um..." Kanaya started, the jade glow in her face intensifying even further. "Under my neck," she muttered.

"Well, yeah, but where under your..." Eridan asked, not really thinking about her answer, until it suddenly dawned on him. "Uh... oh."

Terezi put her cane away so she could plant her face in her palm. "Oh my god."

"Look, I was going for historical accuracy," Kanaya went off, suddenly incredibly flustered, "and I didn't see any reason why Mindfang would want her slaves to have pockets, okay?!"

Vriska was clearly very amused by all this. "Hahahahahahahaha, Kanaya, you are so ridiculous. I love it."

"So can I...?" Eridan almost ventured to ask, his free hand hovering in front of her chest.

Kanaya just sighed. "It's fine, Eridan. Go ahead."

"Okay..." Eridan said, then very slowly moved his hand toward the crevice of her bodice. "I wonder if I can just... just sort of reach in... and..." He suddenly pulled his hand back out, producing a tube of lipstick. "Got it."

"Yes, very well done," Kanaya offered insincerely, then turned to her head to her matesprit. "For the record, Vriska, there was minimal... contact."

"Good to know," Vriska answered, taking her hand off her ear to give a thumbs-up. Terezi politely clapped at the whole affair.

"Yeah, yeah, real fuckin' amusing," Eridan muttered, then grabbed Kanaya's shoulder and gently turned her around to face him. "Kan, pucker please."

"Of course," Kanaya replied, puckering her lips. Eridan removed the cap from the lipstick and applied it, leaving Kanaya's lips a bright cherry red.

Terezi took one whiff and grinned with delight. "Ooh! What a wonderful smell!"

"So have you revised your opinion on this little plan a' mine?" Eridan asked her.

"Well, I suppose in consideration of recent events," Terezi replied authoritatively, "I may be inclined to pursue it a little more... enthusiastically. Hehehehe."

Vriska groaned in disgust. "Okay, okay, fine! Just keep your filthy tongue off my matesprit!" She removed her hand from her ear. "Name your demands!"

The others quickly snapped back into character as well, Eridan once again grabbing Kanaya and holding his knife at her throat. "First of all, drop your weapon," he demanded, and Vriska threw her cutlass to the ground. "The rest of 'em, too." She groaned, then reached into her coat and threw out a barbed cobalt dagger and a bag of some sort of dice. "Alright, good," Eridan said, apparently satisfied, then turned to Terezi. "Any demands, legislacerator?"

"Submit to arrest, perhaps?" Terezi offered.

Vriska glared at her. "I told you, Redglare, I'll never go to court!"

Eridan twisted the knife at Kanaya's throat, causing her to gasp once more. "Are you really in any place to refuse, Mindfang?"

"Look, if you want to put me on trial so badly, do it here and now!" Vriska suggested to Terezi. "I plead guilty to all charges!"

"Well..." Terezi paused for a moment, stroking her chin in consideration. "I suppose if you officially submitted such a plea, it wouldn't be too unreasonable to carry out your sentence here."

"Then do it." Vriska said.

Kanaya struggled in her bonds. "Mindfang, please, don't do this for my sake!" she pleaded to Vriska. "You have so much left to live for!"

"You're wrong, Dolorosa," Vriska said bleakly. "All I have left to live for is you."

"Very well," Terezi said, then marched up to Vriska, raising her chin to look down at her as best she could. "Marquise Spinneret Mindfang, in the charge of six hundred and twelve counts of assault, four hundred and thirteen counts of larceny, one hundred and forty-three counts of murder, and four counts of treason, how do you plead?"

"Mindfang, don't do this, please," Kanaya begged.

Vriska looked at her, then averted her gaze to the deck and sighed. "I'm sorry, Dolorosa," she said. "But I can't keep running anymore."

"Mindfang..." Kanaya intoned, quiet and desperate.

Vriska snapped her head up at Terezi. "I plead guilty."

"Very well," Terezi replied. "Based on the volume and severity of your crimes, I hereby sentence you to death. The method of culling will naturally be hanging."

"Wait a minute, Redglare," Eridan interjected. "If you're gonna practice your law out here on the open  seas, I'd ask that you have a little respect for an old naval tradition."

"Oh?" Terezi said, turning to him with a cocked eyebrow. "And what's that?"

"You can't hang somebody out at sea," Eridan explained. "The only proper method of execution is by walkin' the plank." Vriska smirked at the idea.

"Well..." Terezi started, clearly not enthused with the idea. "Can I at least bind her hands?"

Eridan looked unamused. "Let her die with a little dignity, Redglare."

Terezi sighed. "Fine," she said, looking away from the three of them. "The method of culling will be walking the plank." She suddenly turned back to Vriska and took a few steps forward. "But before I carry out your sentence, there's one more thing I have to do."

"Really?" Vriska asked. "And what might that be?" Terezi answered, much to Vriska's wonder, by wrapping her arms around her and initiating a violent hate snog. Eridan and Kanaya looked on in surprise as the two gnashed their lips, tongues, and teeth against each other. The kiss ended as quickly as it began, and the two stared at each other for a moment, both blushing furiously.

"Hm," Terezi said after a while, wiping a bit of cerulean blood from her lip. "Better than I expected." She stuck the bloodied finger in her mouth and sucked it clean.

Vriska grinned at her, lifting a hand to hold against her freshly wounded lip. "I knew you'd see it my way eventually, Redglare," she said.

"Whatever," Terezi replied, turning her back on Vriska with a dismissive wave and walking to Eridan's side. "I have no more demands."

"Alright, then," Eridan said, and removed the knife from Kanaya's neck, then used it to cut the rope binding her hands. "Give her your final regards," he commanded. Kanaya eagerly complied, rushing into Vriska's arms and engaging her in a long, passionate kiss.

As they finished, Kanaya looked up into Vriska's eyes. "Mindfang... even if you must walk to your death, I will follow you," she said, her voice full of determination.

Vriska looked back down at Kanaya, her face twisted in a combination of joy and sadness. "You don't have to follow me, Dolorosa. Don't throw your life away for my sake," she implored her.

"I would not have a life if not for your sake," Kanaya replied. "I endured captivity for as long as I did only because I knew I might see you once again."

"Dolorosa..." Vriska said with a sigh. "I'm sorry it had to end like this."

"Mindfang..." Kanaya said, pulling herself closer to Vriska. "if we are fated to die, then let us die together."

Vriska stared into her eyes, saddened by the utter devotion she found within them. "I guess I can't really stop you, can I?" she admitted.

"Hold, Mindfang," Terezi imposed. "The slave is an innocent. I won't have you drag her to your death with you. Release her."

"Very well, Redglare," Vriska replied. She removed her arms from around Kanaya, but Kanaya made no effort to release her.

Terezi glared at her. "You know what I mean, Mindfang."

Kanaya relenquished her grip on Vriska and turned to face Terezi. "Legislacerator," she said to her, "I speak to you of my own mind. It is by my own will that I stay by Mindfang's side. Wherever she goes, I will follow." She closed her eyes and placed a hand on her chest. "And if death must take her in its icy grip, then I can only hope that my embrace might keep her warm."

"Just forget about her, Redglare," Eridan suggested. "She's too far gone."

Terezi hesitated for a moment. "Fine," she eventually relented, and Kanaya took her place back at Vriska's side. "Any last words, Mindfang?" she asked.

"Just a few," Vriska said, then turned to face Eridan. "First of all, Dualscar, I believe I owe you an apology. It seems I underestimated you." Her look turned sour. "Though, frankly, it would've been wiser to pull this trump card of yours a little sooner."

"Yeah, yeah, fair point," Eridan admitted.

"I'm sure you'll make some lucky troll out there miserable," she offered in consolation. "Unfortunately for you," and she turned to look at Terezi. "I just happened to run into my soulmate over here."

Terezi looked unamused. "Don't you think it's a little late for declarations like this, Mindfang?" she asked.

"It's never too late, Redglare," Vriska answered with a smirk. "There may be more than one person worthy of being my rival, but you're the only one worthy of being my kismesis."

"You know, you may be right," Terezi said with a smirk of her own, which quickly vanished. "Kind of a shame you still have to walk the plank."

Vriska just laughed. "Come on, Redglare, give me a little credit here," she demanded. "I'm not about to let a little thing like drowning or being eaten by sharks stop me from settling things with you. Death is but a door, time is but a window. I'll be back."

Terezi let out a dry laugh. "Whatever you say, Mindfang," she said.

Vriska turned her attention to Kanaya, wrapping her hands around her waist. "And to you, Dolorosa... you need not follow me to my grave," she offered once more.

"Mindfang, I cannot ever allow myself to leave your side again," Kanaya asserted. "I would sooner die in your arms than spend a single moment outside of them. Even if you marched into hell itself, I would follow without hesitation."

Vriska sighed through a smile. "Dolorosa... you amaze me," she admitted. "Whatever I did to gain your love, it couldn't possibly be enough to deserve it."

"All you ever had to do was be yourself," Kanaya replied, smiling herself.

Vriska laughed to herself, then her smile was replaced with a mournful frown. "I'm sorry, Dolorosa. For everything," she said. "I'm sorry that we had to meet the way we did, and for all the suffering I've put you through since then."

"It's okay, Mindfang," Kanaya replied, raising a hand to stroke against Vriska's cheek. "It was all worth it for the chance to meet you."

"You're a fool for feeling that way," Vriska told her, a scowl suddenly forming on her face. Then she laughed and looked away. "And I'm a fool for feeling the same. I'd give up everything just for a single moment with you. Heh... I guess I already have."

Terezi rolled her head back in an approximation of rolling her eyes, then grabbed her ear. "Oh, Jegus, we get it! You two love each other!" she shouted impatiently. "Now would you hurry up and just kill yourselves already?!"

"Oh, great, thanks, Terezi!" Vriska said angrily, grabbing her own ear. "Way to kill the moment again!"

Eridan made the signal as well. "Well, maybe some a' the rest of us want to have a moment too," he countered. "Ideally sometime this fuckin' sweep."

"Yeah, Vriska!" Terezi concurred. "I know this whole night's about Mindfang, Mindfang, Mindfang, but honestly, could you just get on with it?"

Vriska rolled her eyes. "Okay, okay, fine," she said, then removed her hand from her ear to wrap around Kanaya again. "I'm sorry it had to end this way, Dolorosa," she said.

"This isn't the end, Mindfang," Kanaya rebutted. "It's a new beginning. For both of us."

"I hope you're right," Vriska said with a smile, then turned her attention to her two enemies. "Well, Redglare, Dualscar, I've wasted enough of your time. I suppose I'll be taking my leave for now. But remember!" She thrusted an index finger into the air. "Though Marquise Spinneret Mindfang may die tonight, her name will live on forever!" She turned back to Kanaya. "Are you ready, my dear?"

"Always, Mindfang," Kanaya replied, pulling Vriska into another passionate kiss.

Vriska suddenly placed a hand on her ear. "You know, you don't have to jump in with me," she offered Kanaya.

"It's fine," Kanaya said with her hand on her own ear.

"Okay, okay," Vriska relented. They wrapped their hands around each other once again, and Vriska turned her head to Terezi and Eridan. "Farewell!" she cried, and she leapt into the ocean with Kanaya, disappearing under the surface with a great splash.

Terezi and Eridan stepped toward the gunwale, observing the ripples the star-crossed lovers left in their wake. "And so ends the life of Spinneret Mindfang," Terezi mused. "Perhaps in death she will find the absolution she seeks."

"You know, the winds are tame an' the water is clear," Eridan pointed out. "She may yet survive the day."

"No, Dualscar, she is dead," Terezi insisted. "She was sentenced to culling, and her sentence has been carried out."

Eridan raised a hand in his defense. "I was merely observin'--"

"Dualscar, listen to me," Terezi interjected almost desperately. "On this day, Marquise Spinneret Mindfang was captured and tried for her crimes against trollkind. She plead guilty to all charges. She was sentenced to death, and the method of execution was chosen to be drowning. She was forced off the side of her own ship, taking an unidentified jadeblood slave with her, who followed her voluntarily. They now both rest at the bottom of the ocean." She closed her eyes and gripped her cane tightly, taking a deep breath in and out. "Justice has been served."

Eridan hesitated a moment before he responded. "I understand," he said, bowing his head momentarily. "So what will you do now?"

"A simple enough question," Terezi posited. "I will continue to serve the legislacerators to the fullest of my abilities. As long as injustice runs rampant on the surface of Alternia, I will continue to fight against it."

"Is it true what you said when you were talkin' to Mindfang?" he asked. "That you intend to resist the Condesce's rule from within?"

Terezi took a step back, bringing her cane behind her. "Is that a problem, Dualscar?"

"No, no. I told you, I've no longer any obligation to the Empress. And I'd prefer to keep things that way," Eridan answered, and Terezi relaxed her stance. "Still, it seems you've quite a struggle ahead of you."

"It will not be easy," Terezi replied, "but I have sworn myself to justice before any other liege. It's true that tyranny exists within the system, but I believe it can be fought without the need for violent insurrection... or at least I hope."

"I see," Eridan said. "I wish you the best of luck, then."

"And what about you, Dualscar?" Terezi asked him, tilting her head in curiosity. "Your duty to the Empress has ended, and I assume you have no wish to renew it."

"I think not," Eridan confirmed. "I once followed the Condesce unthinkingly, hung on her every word. But the termination of our relationship has cast her in a new light." He looked away, bowing his head. "I'm beginnin' to see she isn't... the flawless goddess I made her out to be. She's callous... she's cruel... an' she uses people. Treats 'em like objects she can possess. An' i don't think it'd sit right for me to serve under her again."

"So," Terezi said, pausing for a moment, "do you intend to resist her?"

"Perhaps," Eridan answered, "But not the way Mindfang intended to. I think your way a' goin' about things is more effective in the long run."

Terezi cocked an eyebrow at him. "So what will you do?"

"This may seem a queer thought," Eridan warned her, "but perhaps I could follow you. I've no formal trainin' in law, but I'm sure I could be of assistance to the legislacerators in some way."

"Really?" Terezi asked, rearing her head back in surprise. "I must say, I didn't expect this kind of proposal from you, Dualscar. What brought about this sudden desire to join me in my duties?"

Eridan laughed and shook his head. "You'd think the cause just as odd as the effect, I assure you."

"I'm sure I will, but I'd still like to hear it," Terezi insisted.

"Very well," Eridan said, then closed his eyes while he took a deep breath. "To speak the whole truth... it's you, Redglare."

Terezi reared back from him in surprise. "Oh?"

Eridan slowly advanced toward her. "The truth is, I've always admired you," he said, his voice low and solemn. "But before, my heart held room only for the Empress. Now that I've seen her for who she is, I can see you for who you are, as well, and I cannot help but find myself enraptured." He placed his hands at Terezi's hips, eliciting a quiet gasp from her, and stared deeply into her bespectacled eyes. "You are in every respect Mindfang's opposite. Where she is impetuous, you are wise; where she is conceited, you are modest; where she is covetous, you are selfless; and where she is vain and duplicitous, you are genuinely beautiful, unvarnished and whole."

Terezi stared back at him uncertainly, a deep teal blush staining her cheeks. "D-Dualscar," she stammered, "this is all so sudden..."

"It may seem that way, perhaps," Eridan admitted, "but I have felt this way for a long time. It is only tonight that I have allowed myself to see the truth. I could tell you that I wished to follow you in the name of justice, or vengeance, or redemption for my past transgressions, but I would be speakin' lies. In truth, I want to create a better world only because it is want you want, and I wish only to fulfill your every desire."

Eridan reached up and ran his hand through her hair, and she tensed up as the tips of his fingers brushed the base of her horn. "My goodness, Dualscar," Terezi said, her voice still wavering. "You flatter me, truly."

"If my words come off as flattery, it is only because I have failed to communicate my sincerity," Eridan insisted, his hand once more coming to a rest at Terezi's side. "I would bare the entirety of my soul to you, Redglare, that you might feel the same way about me."

Terezi took a deep breath in and out, trying to regain her composure. "Dualscar... I must admit, until recently, I had not thought kindly of you," she said with a slight frown." I took you for a blackguard, a scurrilous minion of the most contemptible sort. But I can see now I have judged you unfairly." Her frown was replaced with a faint smile. "You seem to me to be a great man by every measure: noble, but not pretentious; loyal, but not obsequious; ardent, but not fanatical..." She grinned and laughed to herself. "And it certainly doesn't hurt that you're quite charming as well."

Eridan placed a hand across his stomach in a mock bow. "If I am, it is only because you make it come naturally to me," he claimed.

Terezi made a noise she would later vehemently deny was a 'titter.' "Dualscar, please," she begged, covering her mouth in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, I did not mean to interrupt," Eridan said. "Please do continue, if you feel the need."

"I do," Terezi replied with a smirk. "I will say that... I respect you, Dualscar. And I would be honored to have you at my side, in any capacity."

"Forgive me for bein' so bold to ask," Eridan requested, "but... any capacity? Perhaps even... as your matesprit?" he tried not to ask too hopefully.

"Well..." Terezi started, and bowed her head. "It goes against my better judgment to make sudden decisions on affairs such as this... but perhaps there are better things than my better judgment to rely upon." She looked up at him, a smile on her lips. "Yes, Dualscar. I would be delighted to be your matesprit. Based solely on your words tonight, I truly believe you could make me happier than I've ever been."

Eridan returned her smile with one of his own. "That is all I desire," he stated. "And nothing could make me happier than simply to be by your side."

"You say that, but I pray you are wrong," Terezi said, then looked away, a cryptic look on her face. "You have said that I am in every respect the antithesis of Mindfang, but I hope that I might be her equal in at least one regard."

"And what is that?" Eridan asked bemusedly.

"I hope..." Terezi started, then closed her eyes and took a breath. She looked back at Eridan once more. "I hope that I might love as deeply as she did."

Eridan grinned. "I believe you to be fully capable of it," he assured her. "I just hope that I am able to stir it within you."

"Well," Terezi said, and flashed Eridan a wide grin herself. "There's only one way to find out." She wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

Suddenly it was Eridan's turn to look uncertain. "I... uh... if you insist," he stuttered, blushing the slightest bit.

"Oh, I do," Terezi said wickedly, and slowly drew her face closer to Eridan's own.

"Y'know, Ter," Eridan said, beginning to raise his hand to his headfin, "you don't really have to--"

Terezi blocked Eridan's hand with her arm and gently pushed it away. "Don't kill the moment, Eridan," she whispered. Before he could protest any further, she pressed her lips against his, and they engaged in a long, chaste kiss. It wasn't sloppy at all, and it could hardly even be classified as making out, but Eridan was nonetheless pleasantly surprised by how long it lasted.

"So?" Eridan asked as she pulled away. "Your conclusion?"

"The results look promising," Terezi stated matter-of-factly. "But it's hard to come to a definite conclusion based only on a single data point." She grinned at him. "It will require more... testing."

Eridan smirked back at her. "Of course. It's important to be empirical." He gently removed Terezi's arms from his shoulders, then clasped her left hand in both of his. "But I can only think of one way for testin' to continue, Redglare. Matesprits?"

Terezi placed her right hand over both of his. "Matesprits, Dualscar," she confirmed. "Until proven otherwise."

"Excellent," Eridan said, his smirk breaking out into a full grin. "In that case, I suppose we've settled all our business on this derelict vessel. Shall we be off?"

"Yes, I believe we shall," Terezi answered, releasing her grip on Eridan's hands. "Let's make the world a better place, Dualscar. For the both of us."

Before he let go of Terezi's hand completely, Eridan lifted it to his mouth. "You've already made it a better place for me, Redglare," he said, and planted a swift kiss on it.

"And you for me," Terezi replied, gently withdrawing her hand and rubbing the kissed spot over her lips. "Now let's do it for everyone."

"Of course. I can think of nothin' I'd like better," Eridan said. Suddenly a thoughtful look appeared on his face. "Well," he said, scratching his chin, "perhaps one thing, but I suppose that could wait until later."

"Hehehehe, actually, you know what?" Terezi asked with a impish grin. "I think I like your idea better. After all, we don't have to save the world right this instant."

"Well..." Eridan started, returning her mischievous look. "Only if you insist."

Terezi rubbed her hands together enthusiastically. "Oh, I certainly do," she said.

"Well, if you insist," Eridan replied, a hand held to his chest, "it would simply be rude a' me not to oblige. Lead the way."

"But of course. Hehehe." But rather than lead the way, Terezi simply turned and held a hand into the sky, as if she were a bard reading a great poem to a mighty king of yore. "And then Redglare and Dualscar retired to the late captain's quarters to do all sorts of wonderfully unmentionable things," she narrated bombastically, "and then they had all sorts of awesome--and sexy"--she paused to wiggle her eyebrows--"adventures of drama and betrayal and political intrigue together, the end."

"Well, I certainly approve a' your ending," Eridan said, breaking character in turn.

Terezi shrugged. "It's a little saccharine," she admitted, "but I guess that's what we're going for here." Suddenly she raised her chin and regarded Eridan with a look of suspicion. "But in any case, Eridan, I'm beginning to suspect that you didn't come to this little get-together for the sole purposes of settling things with Vriska."

Eridan laughed. "Really? Only just now?"

"A rhetorical device," Terezi replied, pointing a finger in the air, then started pacing around Eridan with her hands behind her back. "Of course I suspected your intentions from the moment you left your cryptic little quip on her memo, but tonight's course of events has led me to believe you didn't come here for her at all."

"And just what are you implyin', Ter?" Eridan asked defensively.

Terezi stopped in her tracks and wheeled towards him. "I've heard you boasting about your grand, sweeping plan to find a matesprit," she said, leaning forward at him. "Could it be that this was it, and I was the target? Was this whole night simply part of some grand scheme to make me flushed for you?"

"Did it work?" Eridan asked with a smirk, eliciting an unamused frown from Terezi. He let out an exaggerated sigh. "Aww fuck, I should've known I'd mess it up," he lamented. "Nep told me this was all part of a mystic ritual that'd magically make you my matesprit, but i must've done somethin' wrong at some point." Suddenly he groaned and snapped his fingers. "Oh, you know what it was? I forgot the pinch a' sulfur."

"Hehehe, of course," Terezi responded. "It's always the little things that separate the wizards from the wannabes."

"Anyway, Ter, I'm not stupid," Eridan said, but suddenly felt the need to correct himself. "Well, I'm not that stupid, in any case. I don't think there's any magic song and dance that'll make you flushed for me." He let out a dry laugh. "'Sides, you honestly think I'd try to pull off some sort of scheme against the master of schemers? I know better than to think any strategy would survive contact with Terezi Pyrope."

"Well..." Terezi contemplated his argument, chin braced in her hand. "I suppose so. So then, what did you hope to get out of tonight? Were you simply trying to extract a kiss from me?"

"Hey, last I checked, the kiss was your idea," Eridan shot back, jabbing an accusatory finger at her.

"I... I was just going with the scenario, that's all!" Terezi stammered in her defense.

Eridan didn't look convinced. "I gave you an out, y'know."

Terezi scoffed at the suggestion. "Come on, Eridan, what kind of lousy roleplayer do you think I am?"

"Oh, you're a good roleplayer, don't get me wrong," Eridan answered. "I just don't think you're that good. 'Less you're capable a' blushin' on command, an' you just never told me about it."

"Yeah, okay, maybe that wasn't all in-character," Terezi admitted, crossing her arms and blushing a little once more. "But just how much of that flattery you were heaping upon me was entirely in-character for you, Dualscar?"

"I'll admit," Eridan said with a wide, affirmative shrug, "I'm not that good a roleplayer either."

"Oh," was all Terezi could muster in response. She paused for a moment, taking in the full volume of what Eridan was implying. "So you're saying..."

"I'm sayin' my words tonight have been as much Dualscar talkin' to Redglare as they have been me talkin' to you," Eridan ventured to finish her sentence. "Honestly, Ter, there's more about you to love than I ever let myself realize. You're freakishly intelligent. You've got a great, if a little overactive, sense a' humor. You're an absolute blast to talk to. An' you'll forgive whatever implications may be raised by bringin' this up last," he said, quickly sweeping his eyes over her, "but you're a very attractive woman on top of all a' that."

Terezi placed a single hand against her hip. "I'll take that as a well-intentioned compliment and nothing more," she clarified.

"Awful gracious of you," Eridan said, giving a mock bow. "An' really, Ter... I'd love to be your matesprit, if you'd ever be interested in that kind a' thing."

Terezi turned her head away for a moment. "Well... I might..." she offered uneasily, then snapped back towards him. "But honestly, Eridan, this seems like a lot of trouble to go to just to inquire about this. You could've just asked like a normal person, you know. Why the stupid farce?"

"Well, yeah, I could've just asked," Eridan said with a shrug. "But where the fuck's the fun in that?"

"Hehehe, fair enough." Terezi admitted.

"Anyway, I didn't think this little FLARPin' night would warp your brain into feelin' flushed for me," Eridan took pains to elaborate once again, "but I figured it'd be a chance to have a little fun together, without any sort of actual obligations. It's like a first date before the first date."

"So..." Terezi scratched her chin. "A zeroth date."

"Exactly," Eridan replied. "And when has a zeroth anything ever gone wrong? It hasn't, cause there's nothin' there to fuck up yet. It's zero. It's the bullshit number that comes before all the other numbers that actually mean somethin'."

Terezi cocked an eyebrow at him. "Are you this passionate about other integers?"

"Well, I'm not fond a' one, either," Eridan answered her, then continued with a smirk, "but I must say I'm a great fan a' two."

"That sounds an awful lot like the beginnings of a corny pick-up line," Terezi said, pursing her lips in near-amusement.

Eridan admitted defeat with another admissive shrug. "I figured it was transparent enough for you to appreciate it," he mustered for a defense.

Terezi laughed despite herself. "Well, that's very thoughtful of you," she said.

"But of course," he replied. His smirk flattened a little as he continued. "Anyway, I was just kinda hopin' tonight would give me a chance to get a second first impression with you. I mean, up until recently, I've been kind of a huge fuckin' tool," he admitted, one hand scratching at his opposite elbow nervously, "an' i figured nobody would be willin' to give me a shot 'less I did somethin' drastic like this."

"Honestly, Eridan..." Terezi started with a sympathetic frown, "the first time I met you, I had been, for the briefest of moments, a little flushed for you. But then you had to go and ruin everything by opening your mouth."

Eridan blinked a few times in rapid succession. "Seariously?" he asked, surprised.

"Well, I mean, you're not an unattractive guy by any measure," Terezi confessed, pointing an open hand at him. "And if you'd actually put the moves on me in earnest, I probably would've gone for it. But instead you tossed out some halfhearted pickup line, then dropped the whole thing and went back to treating me like another stupid landdweller." She smirked. "Just where was this suave, smooth-talking casanova with a bag full of sweet nothings back then?"

Eridan groaned. "He was pinin' after his fuckin' moirail like a glubbin' moron, that's where he was," he answered, rubbing a hand over his eyes as if the mere thought gave him a headache. "Look, I realize what a complete idiot I was before, but that's all changed now. I'm pretty much over Fef. So don't think I'm just settlin' for you or anything idiotic like that."

Terezi flashed him a self-assured grin. "Not trying to sound conceited here," she warned him, "but honestly, if I thought you were settling, I'd figure you'd aim a little lower."

"Heh, yeah," Eridan admitted. "Honestly, Ter, you're an amazin' girl. An' I honestly think I'm flushed for you. Maybe I always have been." He suddenly looked away, a little annoyed. "Or maybe it just happened 'cause Nep worked her fuckin' heart science on me and planted the idea in my head like a virus."

Terezi chuckled at the thought. "Yeah, she suggested the idea of you and me yesterday, and for whatever reason, I found precious few arguments against it. Honestly, she had more than I did."

"Really?" Eridan asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah," Terezi assured him. "She thinks you're an annoying asshole, by the way."

"Haha, awesome," Eridan replied with a grin. "That's exactly what I want her to think."

Terezi grinned back. "Hehehe, of course," she said, catching his meaning entirely.

"Anyway, Ter," Eridan said, taking a step forward and lifting Terezi's right hand with his own. "Maybe it's too soon to really ask this, but I just have to know. Would you be my matesprit?"

Terezi raised her left hand to her chin, rubbing it in contemplation. "Well..."

"An' I'm not askin' you this just 'cause I want to consummate it or anythin' reprehensible like that," Eridan felt the need to clarify. "We don't have to be crazy psycho honestly-kinda-scary in love like Kan an' Vris are right off the bat. All I'm askin' for here is an official declaration."

After a little more thought, Terezi let her left hand drop down to her side. "Okay, sure," she answered. "I'll be your matesprit, Eridan."

Eridan's eyes widened in shock, despite his best efforts to prevent them from doing so. "Really?" he dared to ask.

"Yeah, really!" Terezi asserted. "Honestly, Eridan, for all the praise you've lavished me with, you're not such a bad guy yourself. You're smart, and you're funny, and you're attractive." She looked away for a moment. "And maybe you're kind of insecure, and kind of a tool, but, well, maybe I have a thing for guys who are insecure tools!"

Eridan stifled a laugh. "That's a weird thing to have a thing for, but I'm not complainin'."

"Hehe, I figured you wouldn't," she said. "And really..." She let her head slump down a bit in embarrassment. "This is gonna sound dumb, I realize, but... I like the way you talk to me. It feels good having someone you're flushed for honestly say nice things about you, instead of talking down to you all the time."

"'Someone you're flushed for?'" Eridan echoed with curiosity.

"Oh!" Terezi exclaimed, belatedly covering her mouth. "That just kind of slipped out, didn't it?" She suddenly bristled with stubborn indignation. "But you know what? I'm not taking it back. I'm flushed for you, Eridan. The past five minutes have pretty much confirmed it for me."

Eridan grinned widely at her firm stance on the subject. "Well, shit, that's great," he said. "An' honestly, Ter, call me old-fashioned, but I love sayin' nice things to people I'm flushed for. If you want me to whisper sweet nothin's to you, I'll do that all day. I'll whisper so many sweet nothin's in your ear, you'd swear I was the hollow candy shell a' Troll Cesar Milan himself."

"Hahaha, that doesn't even make sense, you dork," Terezi mocked without any real venom.

"Yeah, maybe not," Eridan freely admitted. "But honestly, Ter, I got nothin' bad to say about you. Really, what kind of fuckin' asshole would ever want to talk down to you," he asked, frowning at the thought, "'specially if they were flushed for you?"

Terezi laughed dryly. "Yeah, what kind of asshole indeed," she mused. Eridan raised an eyebrow in concern, but she just shook her head. "Nevermind, it doesn't matter anymore," she assured him.

"Okay, well..." Eridan started, smiling once more, and put his left hand over her right. "What do you say, Ter? Would you be willin' to give us a shot?"

Terezi put her left hand over his. "Sure, Eridan," she said, smiling back at him. "I think you'll be a great matesprit."

"Well, I think you'll be a fantastic fuckin' matesprit," Eridan retorted.

"So... care to make it official?" Terezi asked, wiggling her eyebrows suggestively.

Eridan hesitated for a moment. "What, right here?" he asked, then laughed to himself. "Good lord, Ter, I knew you were crazy, but--"

"Not like that, idiot!" Terezi interrupted, giving Eridan a good-natured shove in the chest. "I meant with a kiss. The last one was good, but I'm pretty sure you were holding back."

"Oh, believe me, you have not even seen Eridan Ampora begin to fuckin' kiss," Eridan assured her, raising his chin in pride. "That was just a demo. The real thing is a fuckin' tour de force. Oceans will rise. Cities will fall. Tongues will lash."

Terezi shot him a confident grin. "Mr. Ampora, are you challenging me to a tongue-off?" she dared him, licking her lips in anticipation.

"That's somethin' I'm just suicidal enough to do," Eridan informed her. "But if you'll forgive my stubborn pride, I'd prefer we not do this little act without a few witnesses."

"Yeah, fair enough," Terezi conceded. She turned an annoyed glance to the edge of the ship behind her. "Now that you mention it, those two have been drowning for an awfully suspect amount of time." She turned around and leaned over the gunwale. "Did you guys actually drown or something?!" she shouted into the water. "Because if you did, we're not dragging your corpses back up here!"

After a moment of nothing happening, Vriska rose from the water carrying Kanaya with her, her flapping wings sending splashes of water everywhere. "Yeah, yeah, we're alive!" she shouted, and the two of them gently landed on the deck. "We just figured you two would want a little private time, which left us with a little private time of our own, so we... well..."

"We made out a little." Kanaya clarified.

"Yeah, thanks, Kanaya," Terezi quipped. "I didn't get that subtle implication."

"Speakin' a' which, Vris," Eridan said, "you've got a little..." He trailed off, pointing at his upper lip.

"Huh? Oh!" There was a smudge of red lipstick on Vriska's lip, which she quickly wiped off. "I guess that kind of gives it away, huh?"

"Blar, you two are so weird!" Terezi cried with a disapproving wave. "Anyway, I take it from your plotting to leave us alone together that you were in on this big shipping scheme as well?"

Vriska grinned at her. "Well, did it work? Are you two matesprits now?" She walked up and gave Terezi a nudge in the ribs. "Are you two gonna go back to your hive and fill aaaaaaaall the pails?"

"Vriska!!!" Terezi shouted in outrage, and swiftly dealt the lascivious spidertroll a fierce drubbing with her cane. "What kind of girl do you think I am?!"

"Yeah, Vris, show a little fuckin' decorum here," Eridan said, giving Vriska a dirty look.

"Anyway, as a matter of fact, yes, we are matesprits now," Terezi answered. "But it doesn't have anything to do with any scheme, ruse, or gambit of any variety!" She crossed her arms defensively. "It just so happens that he is a nice, attractive, charming guy, and he asked me to be his matesprit, and I said yes, completely independent of any sort of romantic skullduggery!"

"Oh, suuuuuuuure you did," Vriska said with no small amount of sacrasm. "Come on, Terezi, you have to admit our FLARPing session had at least a little to do with it."

"Well... okay, maybe just a little," Terezi conceded. "I'll admit, I'm a little surprised that you were willing to throw a fight just for the sake of setting us up."

"Hey, I didn't throw anything!" Vriska assured her. "I was playing to win the whole time! Well, most of the time. It just so happens I know when not to let personal pride get in the way of a dramatic conclusion."

Terezi frowned. "Yeah, that's the part I don't believe."

"Man, Terezi, give me a break already!" Vriska demanded, rolling her eyes.

"Hehehe, fine," Terezi replied. "Anyway, it was all quite fun, actually. And I'm very surprised that Kanaya got in on it too."

"That actually surprised me too!" Vriska said. "I didn't even plan that! It was something these two came up with together." She gave Kanaya an approving down-and-up look. "And I must say, I'm very pleased with the dress..."

"Okay, just for the record," Eridan felt the need to get out in the open, "I didn't make any specific demands for the dress. It was all a product of Kan's twisted think pan."

Terezi chuckled to herself. "Why does that not surprise me?"

Kanaya looked away, a little embarrassed. "I'll admit I may have gone a bit... overboard in tailoring the outfit to fit my roleplaying persona," she conceded.

"Kanaya, I really hope you have a copy of this dress stored somewhere," Vriska said. "Somewhere dry."

"But of course, Vriska," Kanaya assured her. "I also have a version fitted to your proportions... and a Mindfang costume fitted to mine."

"I..." Vriska started, but suddenly words failed her. "Kanaya, what the hell do I even say? Guys, this is the perfect woman."

"Ugh, okay!" Terezi gagged. "Stop being so weird all the time."

"Well, I think they're cute together," Eridan told her.

Terezi spun around to face him. "Well, I think we're cute together, Mr. Ampora!" she informed him, leaning forward so her face was inches from his.

"Oh god, not this again," Eridan said, slapping a hand over his face. "Now even you're sayin' we're cute? I'm a ruthless genocidal lusus-killin' pirate scourge a' the seas, and you're a diabolical master manipulator that regularly hangs people out a' your own twisted sense a' justice. Just what the flippin' hell is it about us that's so fuckin' cute?"

"I don't know," Terezi replied coyly. "Maybe the fact that you're a big insecure dork with terrible taste in clothing, and I'm a weird blind girl with no respect for personal space who regularly licks things just to see what their colors taste like?"

"Yeah, Eridan," Vriska agreed, "you have to admit you are kind of cute together."

"I'm afraid I must concur," Kanaya thirded.

"Ugh... okay, fine," Eridan begrudgingly relented. "I suppose I can bear the absolute fuckin' indignity a' bein' considered 'cute.'"

"Hehe, just admit it," Terezi demanded. "You like being cute."

Eridan reared his head back indignantly. "I'll admit to no such thing," he insisted. He suddenly smirked. "'Sides, if I did, I wouldn't be nearly as cute, now would I?"

"No, I guess not." Terezi agreed, smirking right back at him. "Y'know, for hating being cute so much, you're awfully good at it."

"I've never practiced or anythin'," Eridan assured her. "You just made me an instant expert."

"Okay, now it's my turn to gag," Vriska grumbled, looking like she'd just come down with diabetes. "Get a block, you two."

"Alright, maybe I'm layin' it on a little thick here," Eridan admitted with a shrug. "But hey, thanks a lot for your collaboration in all this, Vris."

"Hey, no problem!" Vriska replied with a wave. "I was just happy for a chance to have some fun with Terezi like we used to. Speaking of which, Terezi, you're perfectly welcome to thank me now."

Terezi just stared at her for a moment. "Yeah, I don't think so, Vriska."

"Bah, you'll come around eventually!" Vriska insisted.

"But really though," Terezi started in earnest, "I had a good time tonight. I'm..." She stopped and looked away from Vriska. "I'm really glad I gave you a second chance. So thanks for not murdering anybody or anything like that."

"Terezi, I told you, I'm done with all that now," Vriska assured her. "From now on, all my schemes will be completely non-violent. And probably have something to do with romance."

"Romance?" Terezi repeated, turning to look at her with disbelief. "Are you a shipper now or something?"

"Um... maybe?" Vriska said vaguely. "Look, I can't talk about it, I'm sworn to secrecy."

"Hahaha, I can't believe you're taking after Nepeta of all people," Terezi said.

"What's wrong with that?" Vriska replied with a curious shrug. "Nepeta is the shit."

"Oh my god, what did she do to you?" Terezi asked, half-amused and half-horrified. "You are so lame now."

"Fuck you!!!" Vriska retorted.

"Okay, okay, ladies, please," Eridan said, taking a step forward and extending a palm to Terezi and Vriska both. "There's no need to argue about how completely embarrassin' it is that Vris is imitatin' Nep of all the fuckin' trolls."

"Oh, like you're even any better!!" Vriska spat at him indignantly.

Eridan raised an index finger to her in warning. "Sworn to secrecy, Vris," he reminded her.

"Bah!" Vriska said with a dismissive wave.

"Anyway, Kan," Eridan said, turning to Kanaya, "thanks a lot for agreein' to help me too. Your performance was exemplary, by the way."

"Thank you, Eridan," Kanaya replied with a slight curtsy. "And really, it was my pleasure."

"Though I have to wonder just how much of your dialogue was taken from trashy rainbow drinker novels," Terezi mused.

"Okay, first of all," Kanaya started, pointing an accusatory finger at Terezi, "they aren't trashy. And second, not a single line of dialogue I spoke tonight was lifted from a rainbow drinker novel... that has been published... yet."

"Ahahahahaha," Terezi replied.

Kanaya crossed her arms and looked away. "Shut up, it's not funny."

"Anyway, Kan, I suppose you'll be wantin' this back," Eridan said, producing the tube of lipstick once more.

"Actually, if I may," Terezi interjected, "Kanaya, can I borrow this for a while?"

"Um, I suppose that wouldn't be a problem," Kanaya replied.

"Why? What are you gonna do with it?" Eridan said, offering the lipstick to Terezi.

"Hehehe, what do you think?" Terezi asked him. Before he could answer, she took the cap off and carefully painted his lips bright red. Her work complete, she took a sniff and grinned hungrily.

***

carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].

CG: NEPETA, WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO???
AC: :33 < what?
AC: :33 < karkitty, whats wrong?
CG: OH, DON'T YOU EVEN ACT LIKE YOU DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK I'M TALKING ABOUT HERE.
AC: :33 < i dont!!
CG: ALRIGHT, THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR A SECOND AND LET ME EXPLAIN.
CG: SO I JUST CONTACTED TEREZI
CG: YOU KNOW, TO CHECK TO SEE IF SHE'D BEEN MURDERED OR NOT
CG: SINCE SOMEONE DECIDED TO ROPE HER INTO A LOVELY GAME OF HIGHBLOOD MURDERFEST EXTRAVAGANZA
CG: AND WHILE SHE HAD NOT, IN FACT, ACTUALLY BEEN MURDERED, SOMETHING HAPPENED TO HER THAT'S SOMEHOW A BILLION TIMES WORSE.
CG: I MEAN, SHE
CG: FUCK, I'M SO ANGRY, I CAN'T EVEN TYPE IT.
CG: SHE BECAME MATESPRITS WITH THAT
CG: THAT
CG: THAT FUCKASS?????
CG: LOOK AT THAT SHITTY FUCKING INSULT RIGHT THERE.
CG: I AM SO FUCKING FURIOUS RIGHT NOW THAT "FUCKASS" IS LITERALLY THE BEST THING MY THINK PAN CAN MUSTER HERE.
CG: SO I GUESS WHAT I'M ASKING IS
CG: NEPETA, WHAT THE FUCK WERE YOU THINKING???
AC: :33 < karkitty, why are you so angry about this??
CG: STOP FUCKING CALLING ME THAT.
CG: MY NAME IS NOT FUCKING KARKITTY, OKAY? IT'S KARKAT.
CG: I AM SERIOUSLY SO FUCKING SICK OF THAT SHITTY FUCKING NICKNAME THAT I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE.
AC: :33 < okay fine!
AC: :33 < karkat, why are you so angry about this??
CG: BECAUSE I
CG: GOD FUCKING DAMNIT
CG: I WAS
CG: I WAS FLUSHED FOR HER, OKAY??
AC: :33 < oh
AC: :33 < oh no!!
CG: YOU'RE GOD DAMNED FUCKING RIGHT "OH NO!!"
CG: I GUESS YOU WEREN'T VERY THOROUGH IN YOUR FUCKING SHIPPING SWEEPS, WERE YOU???
AC: im sorry karkat!!
AC: i never meant for things to go like this!
AC: no wait, thats not even true
AC: i knew you might be flushed for her and i knew she might be flushed for you, but i went ahead and set her up with eridan
AC: and that just makes the whole thing a thousand times worse!!!
CG: SO WAIT
CG: YOU KNEW WE MIGHT BE FLUSHED FOR EACH OTHER, BUT YOU WENT AHEAD AND SHIPPED HER WITH SOMEONE ELSE ANYWAY???
AC: yes i know!!!
AC: i have absolutely no excuse for it and i just set them up for my own stupid reasons because im a selfish horrible person!
AC: and i never wanted to hurt you like this
AC: because
AC: because youre my really good friend, and i care about you!
AC: but i just went ahead and did this anyway and now you feel horrible and i feel horrible and everything is just horrible!
AC: and im really sorry karkat!
AC: and i know it doesnt matter how many times i say that because you hate me right now and you have every right to, but i really am!!!
CG: WELL
CG: I MEAN
AC: maybe its not too late
AC: maybe i can tell them to break it off and tell terezi to give you a chance!
AC: i mean, they just hooked up, its not too late for that, is it???
CG: WHOA WHOA WHOA, WHAT?
CG: ARE YOU SERIOUSLY OFFERING TO BREAK TEREZI AND ERIDAN UP JUST FOR MY SAKE?
AC: of course i am!!!
AC: nothings set in stone, karkat!
AC: and if the only way you can ever be happy is if youre matesprits with terezi, then ill just have to make you matesprits!
CG: I NEVER SAID THAT.
AC: what?
CG: THAT I WOULD ONLY BE HAPPY WITH TEREZI AS MY MATESPRIT.
AC: but youre so angry about it right now!!
AC: obviously shes the only person youll ever care about and i was just stupid to think you might ever be flushed for somebody else
AC: god, im such an idiot!!!
CG: OKAY, LOOK, JUST
CG: JUST FUCKING STOP FOR A SECOND, OKAY?
CG: I AM JUST BEING A COMPLETELY INSUFFERABLE PIECE OF SHIT RIGHT NOW.
CG: SO BASICALLY WHAT YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW IS STOP TAKING MY WORDS AT FACE VALUE AND SEE ME FOR THE RAVING ASSHOLE I AM.
CG: CAN YOU DO THAT FOR ME, NEPETA?
AC: um
AC: i guess?
CG: OKAY, GOOD.
CG: THE THING IS
CG: I AM JUST
CG: REALLY FUCKING ANGRY RIGHT NOW
CG: BUT I DON'T KNOW WHO OR WHAT TO BE ANGRY *AT*.
AC: you should be mad at me!
AC: im the one who set all this up in the first place!
CG: YEAH, I ALREADY TRIED BEING ANGRY AT YOU.
CG: BUT GOD DAMNIT, NEPETA, YOU MAKE IT REALLY FUCKING DIFFICULT FOR ME TO STAY MAD AT YOU.
CG: I'M TRYING MY DAMNEDEST TO HATE YOU RIGHT NOW, BUT IT'S JUST NOT WORKING FOR WHATEVER REASON.
CG: IT'S JUST MAKING ME FEEL LIKE SHIT, HONESTLY.
AC: im sorry
CG: NO, STOP FUCKING APOLOGIZING TO ME.
CG: THAT JUST MAKES IT EVEN WORSE.
CG: I MEAN
CG: FUCK, I'M THE ONE WHO SHOULD BE APOLOGIZING TO YOU.
AC: no you shouldnt!!!
AC: im the one who went behind your back on all of this and its all my fault and youre just the victim here!
CG: NO NO NO, JUST FUCKING STOP.
CG: AS YOUR LEADER, I ORDER YOU TO STOP APOLOGIZING TO ME AND TALKING ABOUT WHAT AN AWFUL, TERRIBLE PERSON YOU ARE.
AC: well
AC: okay, fine
CG: OKAY, GOOD.
CG: NOW
CG: NEPETA
CG: I'M SORRY.
CG: I'VE BEEN A COMPLETE PIECE OF SHIT TO YOU, AND I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING RIGHT TO BE MAD AT YOU FOR THIS.
CG: I MEAN, YES, IT'S FUCKING HORRIBLE, AND IT SUCKS, BUT IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
CG: AND I KNOW YOU'RE THE ONE THAT ENGINEERED THIS, BUT ERIDAN AND TEREZI ARE THE ONES WHO WENT THROUGH WITH IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.
AC: please dont be mad at them about this
CG: I'LL BE MAD AT WHOEVER THE FUCK I WANT TO BE MAD AT ABOUT THIS, LET'S JUST BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR ON THAT.
AC: ugh, fine
CG: BUT, I MEAN
CG: I'M NOT MAD AT YOU.
CG: AND I'M SORRY FOR TAKING THIS OUT ON YOU THE WAY I DID.
AC: okay, i forgive you, i guess
CG: YOU GUESS?
AC: theres nothing to really forgive, karkat!
AC: im not mad at you!
CG: OKAY, NO, THAT'S BULLSHIT.
CG: WHY THE FUCK ARE YOU NOT MAD AT ME?
AC: i dont know!
AC: because youre my friend!
CG: FRIENDS CAN STILL BE MAD AT EACH OTHER, NEPETA.
CG: FOR FUCK'S SAKE, LOOK AT ME AND SOLLUX, WE'RE MAD AT EACH OTHER PRETTY MUCH ALL THE TIME.
AC: well, im just not mad at you, okay??
CG: NO, IT'S NOT EVEN REMOTELY CLOSE TO FUCKING OKAY.
CG: YOU WERE JUST DOING SOMETHING NICE FOR EVERYBODY THAT I *EXPLICITLY ORDERED YOU TO DO*
CG: AND THEN I DECIDED TO FLIP MY SHIT ABOUT IT JUST BECAUSE YOU PAIRED SOMEBODY I WAS FLUSHED WITH UP WITH SOMEBODY ELSE.
CG: THERE IS NO FUCKING WAY YOU'RE NOT ANGRY AT ME ABOUT THIS.
AC: im not!!
CG: NO, FUCK THAT.
CG: YOU SHOULD BE ANGRY AT ME.
CG: BE ANGRY AT ME.
AC: no!!!
CG: GOD DAMNIT.
CG: AS YOUR LEADER, I AM FUCKING ORDERING YOU TO BE MAD AT ME.
AC: well then im disobeying your order!!!!
CG: WHY ARE YOU BEING SO FUCKING STUBBORN ABOUT THIS?
CG: WHY CAN'T YOU JUST HATE ME AS MUCH AS I DESERVE TO BE HATED RIGHT NOW?
AC: because i cant hate you karkat!!!
CG: WHY THE FUCK NOT?
AC: because
AC: because i dont know why, okay???
AC: look, this whole conversation is stupid and pointless and we should just drop the whole thing!!!
CG: UGH.
CG: YEAH, YOU'RE PROBABLY RIGHT.
AC: thank you
CG: SO
CG: DON'T BREAK THOSE TWO UP, OKAY?
CG: FRANKLY, IT'S A STUPID IDEA, AND RELATIONSHIPS DON'T EVEN COME CLOSE TO WORKING THAT WAY.
CG: BESIDES, IF THEY'RE REALLY AS HORRIBLE FOR EACH OTHER AS I HOPE THEY ARE, THEY'LL BREAK UP ON THEIR OWN ANYWAY.
AC: well
AC: okay, i guess
CG: OKAY, GOOD.
AC: so
AC: ugh
AC: i guess ill have to post a memo about this
CG: WELL, DON'T LET ME STOP YOU.
AC: i will let you stop me
CG: WELL, I'M NOT GOING TO FUCKING STOP YOU!
AC: ugh, fine
AC: well
AC: not really much else to talk about, i guess
CG: NO, I GUESS NOT.
AC: i mean
AC: i really am sorry, karkat
CG: NO, I'M SORRY, NEPETA.
AC: no im sorry!!!
CG: LOOK, IF WE KEEP DOING THIS, WE'RE JUST GOING TO BE APOLOGIZING TO EACH OTHER UNTIL YOU BLOCK ME.
AC: why would i block you?
CG: BECAUSE I'M A STUPID ASSHOLE WHO SCREAMED AT YOU FOR NO REASON.
AC: i dont want to block you, karkat
CG: NO, FUCK THAT.
CG: YOU SHOULD WANT TO BLOCK ME.
CG: BLOCK ME.
AC: im not blocking you!!!!!
CG: OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE, FINE.
CG: I'D JUST BLOCK YOU, BUT
CG: NO, THAT'S INCREDIBLY FUCKING STUPID.
AC: its not that stupid
CG: NO, WE ARE NOT STARTING THIS AGAIN.
CG: OKAY, LOOK, THIS
CG: THIS CONVERSATION NEEDS TO END.
AC: yeah, i guess
CG: SO
CG: I'M LEAVING NOW.
AC: okay
CG: SEE YOU AROUND, I GUESS?
AC: if you want to
CG: I DO WANT TO.
AC: then i want to too, i guess
CG: OKAY, WELL
CG: BYE, THEN?
AC: yeah, bye
CG: OKAY, SO
CG: SIGNING OFF, I GUESS.

carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling arsenicCatnip [AC].

AC: karkat, i
AC: fuck

arsenicCatnip [AC] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG].