Her name is Rose Lalonde and you already detest her.
You haven’t seen her in the flesh but you don’t think you need to, honestly. From Eridan’s description you can pretty much picture the lady herself: bleached-white hair in a twenties bob, black lipstick, ironic fucking knitting. She’s a junior. She’s a theater major.
She is going to chew Ampora up and spit him out like....like ironic old-fashioned clove-flavored chewing gum. It’s disgusting. He’s disgusting. He’s a disgrace. Why did you have to get saddled with the stupidest fuck of a roommate the universe could visit on your skinny cracked ass?
Oh, right, cause the universe hates you. You almost forgot that for a couple days, what the fuck were you even thinking?
You try to explain some of this to Karkat. It’s Saturday. Ampora has been in bed since you got back from town yesterday morning with his new shiny super crazy motherfucking awesome prescription antacids (which he says don’t do much of anything) and he has actually had you walk a letter over to the arts building and jam it in Lalonde’s mail box in the division office.
“You just said--”
“I just said jam it in her box,” you override him. “Deal with it. Fuck, KK, you should’ve seen it, he writes in purple and it was only because I was like dude you will fucking spill that shit all over your idiotic black sheets that he did not actually write the letter with an actual honest to god quill fucking pen and a bottle of ink. Because he has one. I have seen it. I thought it was just like a derpy feather thing that he had in his pen jar on the desk but no it has an actual nib on it and he can be all like Byronic or something, I don’t even know.”
You groan and let yourself slump back against the sun-warmed wall. The pair of you are on the front steps of Gresley, sharing one of the awesome clove cigarettes Lalonde had sent Ampora with her sweet goddamn little notelet. You still haven’t asked Karkat how he knows what brand of perfume she put on that note.
“There, there,” he says. “You’re living with a walking talking living breathing cliche, that has got to be tough, but be strong, Captor. Be strong.”
“Fuck you,” you tell him and reclaim the cigarette. Goddamn these things are incredible, they burn so sweetly going down and then you can’t feel the back of your throat at all, and they put sugar or something on the filter, they literally taste sweet. You guess it was kind of nice of Ampora to let you bum one to share with Karkat. He’s not supposed to smoke at all, of course, but he’s actually being vaguely prudent and not having any until his stomach settles down a bit.
Possibly because he doesn’t want to vomit on his new crush a second time.
“You didn’t have to put up with that fucking awful look of hope on his face. I mean you can just taste the inevitable downfall. It’s so obvious to everyone except him. When we got back to the room he was just worn to shreds, poor guy, he just wanted to crawl into bed and go to sleep and I don’t fucking blame him but then this girl had to send over her creepy little love token and the second he opened it it was like it was his fucking birthday. He lit up, KK. It was like he was a different goddamn person.”
Ampora had been awfully pale when you’d finally got him back to Gresley, hands pressed against his stomach, and you’d straight-up told him to get his ass in bed and rest or you would do something terrible as soon as you worked out what, and he’d demanded that you hand over the package you’d picked up off the doorstep when you let the two of you in. Fucking demanded. All imperious and shit.
You’d given it to him against your best instincts and he’d pressed the thing to his face and inhaled, looking uncharacteristically blissful; and when he took the wrapping paper off to reveal the pack of Djarum Specials and the piece of folded lavender stationery you honestly thought he was going to cry in happiness.
“Listen to this,” he’d said shakily. “Fuck, Sol, listen to this I can’t fuckin believe this oh my god.”
“Kind of rather not,” you told him and settled behind your computer, not entirely sure why you were so annoyed. He ignored you.
“‘Dear Eridan,’ he began. ‘“I was sorry to see you leave our gathering so early. I trust your indisposition was a passing inconvenience and attach the enclosed as a token of my esteem. I remain yours etc, Rose Lalonde.’ Sol. Sol. She fuckin doesn’t hate me!”
“This would be the chick you hurled on?” you inquired, and kind of wished you hadn’t when the joy on his stupid goddamn face flickered.
“--Yeah although you know what I’d appreciate you not referrin to that shameful episode in future, as a personal fuckin favor, if you don’t mind too much. She...look at this handwritin, Sol, this is downright gorgeous.”
“Rather not,” you said again. He finally tore his eyes away from the purple paper (fuck, these kids might be made for one another after all) and glanced at you.
“You okay? You kinda don’t look so hot, Sol.”
“Got a headache,” you told him shortly. “Couple of plague rats we are. Gonna put a quarantine notice on our whiteboard.”
“Oh. Um. I hope you feel better? --Oh my fuckin God she actually wrote the etcetera the right way with the ampersand and the c, jesus christ, I don’t even believe this...”
He’d asked for his ridiculous quill pen and his block of heavy beautiful writing-paper and you’d given him the latter and one of his stupid goddamn purple gel pens and let him get the fuck on with it, and when he’d finished and folded up the letter you had said nothing at all to his request that you go deliver that shit. You had just taken it from his hand and left the room.
Now, as the Lalonde has yet to respond to his heartfelt purple epistle, you’ve escaped the chamber of sighs and stupid goddamn questions and you’re chilling with Karkat on the steps and waiting for it to be time to go to dinner.
“You know what I think,” he says.
“No, what do you fucking think.”
“I think he’s under the impression life is a movie and therefore he’s playing the part he thinks he’s supposed to play. Cool chick takes pity on dumbass fucking dork because she sees through his facade of dorkiness to the true heart that beats within, blah fucking blah. In this scenario there is literally no way shit can go wrong for him. Even if they don’t end up together at once, they are Fated To Be Together.”
“...KK, you seriously gave this way too much thought.”
“Shut up, I’m not done. Whereas she, being an upperclassman and not necessarily aware of the depths of his pathetic bullshit, thinks she’s playing with a cute little freshman toy almost certainly in order to fuck with another dude she’s trying to make jealous. Ampora’s obviously stupid for her because he’d be stupid for any girl who gave him the time of day. She can capitalize on that shit.”
You turn your head to stare at him. He’s got that patient look he gets when he’s explaining shit. “He thinks they’re fated to be, she thinks he’s a cute distraction. You see where this shit is going.”
“Yeah, exactly where I said it was going in the first fucking place, KK.” You groan and take the cigarette back from him: one more good drag left. You’re gonna miss this one tiny perk. “And when she inevitably dumps his ass he’s going to flip his shit completely and probably throw an aneurysm or something. I have never met anyone so utterly fucking nervous as this douche. No wonder he’s got ulcers.”
You sigh. “Fuck. Well, I can’t talk sense into him, he just shuts down when I say anything about it, it’s completely pathetic to observe.”
“Classes start on Monday, though. He’ll have shit to think about other than his one true fated love. And the rest of the students move in tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah. But I dunno if he’s even gonna be able to get to class on Monday, he’s still running a fever and the health center people were like ‘no doing anything until that shit is cleared up.’” His temperature seems to spike in the evenings; last night you’d watched him shifting uncomfortably against his pillows, those two spots high on his cheekbones flushed bright, sweating and shivering, and after a while you’d said fuck a bunch of times, absconded from the shitty-ass raid you were kind of half-heartedly playing, and gone to fetch a Tupperware thing of cool water from the kitchen and a washcloth from his shower caddy.
You’d meant to just hand him the washcloth and go back to the internet, but the sheer unalloyed gratitude in his stupid purple eyes made you stay where you were, sitting on the edge of his bed. You had in fact ended up sitting with him for like over a fucking hour, keeping the cold cloth on his forehead, soaking it in the water over and over as the heat of his skin drank up the chill. For the most part you’d sent your mind away as you did this; you’ve partitioned your consciousness reasonably well so that you can do one thing while thinking about something completely different, and the idea of the auto-responder application is still squiggling at the back of your head, so while you mopped your goddamn pathetic excuse for a roommate’s fevered brow you flicked over possibilities with your actual brain.
Nevertheless you couldn’t quite block out the little sigh he gave each time you settled the cold washcloth against his face. It was a weird small noise you don’t think you’ve ever heard anybody make before and it had done stupid things to your chest.
You are super glad when Gamzee comes loping over from the arts building, wearing what appears to be a Teletubbies shirt and some pants that should probably have been honorably retired years ago but which are not improved by the addition of a shitload of painty handprints. “Hey, my brothers,” he drawls. “What are the motherfucking haps?”
“The haps are we’ve been waiting for you for like half an hour, fuckass,” Karkat says and hauls himself to his feet. “C’mon, I need food. Captor, we’re gonna thief some extra shit like bread and cheese and stuff so we can go hide in the woods from the onslaught of college kids tomorrow, you want in?”
The thought is really appealing, actually. “...man. that kind of sounds awesome.”
“Fuck yes it is awesome, Solbro,” Gamzee informs you. “One righteous motherfucking plan we all up and made. Get us some foods, pack that shit up with a bottle of wicked elixir, get our herb on, we are fucking serene, brother. Ain’t no worldly bullshit gonna harsh on our bro-time.”
“Wicked elixir?” you ask, joining them. The three of you begin the trudge over to the giant plastic tent.
“That’s what our special friend here calls Faygo,” Karkat explains, rolling his eyes. “I do not even know. I do not even want to know. The ways of the juggalo are fucking inscrutable, Captor, and you look long enough into that shitty abyss, the juggalo will look back into you.”
“Karbro just likes to up and pretend he ain’t down with the Faygo,” Gamzee says. “But I know better, me. I got my understanding on.”
“Understand this,” Karkat says and flips him off, and you are...not actually all that surprised when Gamzee curls a long arm around his shoulders and gives him a lanky, absent, but somehow rather sweet hug. You figured there was something going on there, all right.
Karkat’s gone a sort of brick color. His skin’s this weird nifty shade of brown that makes you think of cinnamon as much as coffee, and when he blushes it’s all cinnabar up in this shit. You are aware that you are noticing this. Why are you noticing this. “--Gamz, jesus,” he’s saying, but he puts his arm around the guy and gives him a fierce quick hug right back, his scowl fucking daring you to say anything.
You don’t say anything. Your shades are helpful, but you think you’ve covered the aww pretty well.
They have the fucking muffins at dinner. You’d filled your pockets and also wrapped up a bunch of lunch-like things for tomorrow, and the three of you hurry back to Gresley to get that shit in Karkat and Gamzee’s little fridgelet. For some reason you can’t help feeling like a derpy little kid about to go on some kind of adventure, and you only go gleep really briefly when Gamzee hugs you goodbye. You can see KK rolling his eyes, but...fuck, actually it feels kind of really awesome to have someone give you a big goddamn hug, and you cling real briefly to this dude before extricating yourself from his arms. “See you guys tomorrow, yeah? Bright and early before the throng of assholes descends.”
You are in a good mood all the way down the hall to your own door when movement catches your peripheral vision and suddenly that weird kid with the super pale hair and the aviators is right fucking there what the christ.
“Jesus,” you say.
“Nope. Dave Strider. But here, my sister asked me to give you this. It’s to your roommate.”
A crisp envelope is pressed into your hand. It reeks of cloves and perfume. “What--” you start, but he’s already gone, scuttling down the hall like a cockroach in stupid fucking sunglasses argh there go your happy feels.
You examine the envelope for a moment before you let yourself in. Heavy-laid pale lavender paper, jesus christ she’s even sealed it with actual wax jesus christ. The coefficient of pretension in this here hall is now at prompt fucking critical levels.
You kind of want to just drop the thing in the trash closet but...ngh, goddamnit, you just punch the combination and let yourself in.
It’s dim; he hasn’t got his bedside lamp on and your various telltale LEDs don’t shed light so much as emphasize the gloom. You don’t flick on the overhead because that would be a shitty thing to do, you just shrug out of your jacket and go to turn your bedside lamp on, a kinder sort of illumination. The draped bed stirs.
“Mmh,” he says. “Sol?”
“Yup. Got something for you, man.” You really wish you didn’t. He comes awake completely of a sudden, and you can tell he’s still very definitely febrile, his eyes glitter, his face is white except for those hectic spots on his cheekbones. Fuck. Maybe you should take him back to the health center, but...no, they said it was a virus, not a shitload that can be done about that other than waiting for it to go away...
“Well?” he demands, pushing himself upright on his mountain of pillows. You swallow a nasty retort and just hand over the envelope and oh god those bright eyes go huge, vast. You fling yourself down on your bed and stare at the half-seen ceiling.
“Oh my God Sol this is amazin jesus fuck she sealed it with silver fuckin wax I cannot even begin to say how perfect this woman is--” he breaks off as he unfolds the letter itself. You don’t want to hear it. You hope he doesn’t read it aloud.
He doesn’t read it aloud.
You wonder what it says.
He reads it a second time and then a third, and then he folds the paper back up and clutches it fervently to his skinny-ass bosom. You think fiercely about code.
Fuck. “Eridan, did you even get any dinner?” You are the worst roommate, it is totally you.
He shakes himself, he actually shakes himself out of his reverie. That is totally a reverie, not just zoning out. Reverie all up in this shit. “Huh? Oh, no. It’s okay.”
“It is not okay,” you say, and you sound tired to hell and back. “Sorry, I’m a total idiot, I didn’t even get you your disgusting oatmeal crap before I left to meet the guys. What flavor of disgusting oatmeal crap would sir prefer this fine evening?”
“I’m fine, Sol, I don’t need anything,” he says and you can tell he’s just flying on whatever that letter told him. You remember what you’d read on the internet about peptic ulcers.
“You are not fine, you have a fucking ulcer and you are also running a fever of I don’t even know what, so shut up and tell me what you want for Hilarious Pretend Dinnertimes.” Your voice is not so much sharp around the edges as just worn and unhappy.
Eridan looks over at you. Searchingly. You scowl at the ceiling and slither off your bed. “You got your choice of Instant Disgusting Grits and Instant Disgusting Various Kinds of Soup or Instant Disgusting Oatmeal.”
“Sol, I’m really not hungry, it’s okay,” he says.
“Yeah, I get that, but you have to at least get something in you or your fucked-up innards will just go on digesting themselves.”
“Mmh. Maple cinnamon disgusting oatmeal.”
“There, was that so fucking hard?” You flip through the packets and find the right one. “I’ll be back. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Joke,” you say, and you get out of there.
What the hell even is your deal, you have to wonder. Also what was in that letter?
When you get back he looks less starry-eyed and more intent, which you guess is good, and he takes the bowl of maple cinnamon disgusting oatmeal with a nod of thanks. “Can you get me my writing paper and a pen?”
You get him his writing paper and a pen, and you go back to your computer and fire up one of your alt accounts and you go slay the fuck out of a bunch of pixels. Time dilates: you’re not sure how long it’s been when a little “Sol?” breaks into your consciousness.
You look up. Oh, shit. He’s written like four sheets of paper on both sides and he looks exhausted. You quit the session without bothering to save anything and go over to collect his bowl--he managed like half the oatmeal, that’s good, right? He folds up the pages, tucks them into an envelope, licks it with the tip of a pale tongue, seals it.
“Can...would you mind takin that to the arts buildin tomorrow?”
You aren’t sure why it takes you a moment to respond. “Uh. No, man, I can do better, apparently Lalonde’s brother is on this hall. He gave me that letter for you earlier.”
Ampora brightens visibly and you feel weird about that, like you’ve felt weird about everything tonight. “Thanks, Sol. Seriously.”
“What are roommates for,” you say, not a question, and you take the envelope and the bowl and abscond.
Dave Strider is a creepy little fucklet but he lives with somebody called Jake English and you have got to wonder whether those are both pseudonyms because what the fuck. You slip the letter under their door, assuming Strider will a) recognize it for what it is and b) deign to deliver it, but you honestly would not lose sleep over the tragedy if he were to just drop it in the recycling.
Yes you would.
You wash out Ampora’s gross oatmeal bowl and you have a cigarette on the balcony and you are definitely having a downswing because everything, everything seems to be conspiring to make you want to do something terminally lame such as have a massive fucking crying jag. You are not about to do something like that. You have shit that needs taking care of.
When you get back to the room he’s asleep. You move as quietly as you can, putting things away, and you settle at your desk to get back to the pixel slaying.
Hours later, hours after you should by sense and rights be asleep yourself, a lull in your music through your earbuds coincides with a little noise of distress from his side of the room and you pause everything and look up, taking the buds out.
He’s shifting uncomfortably in the bed, rolling his head from side to side. “S-sol?”
Fuck. You catch your knee on the edge of the desk as you get up and hurry over to him: that’s gonna bruise by tomorrow. “Dude, what is it, what the fuck?”
Shit, he looks terrible. You reach over to flick on his bedside lamp. He’s running with sweat, his eyes brilliant, lashes clumped into damp black points. “Sol, I, I really don’t feel good,” he says.
Understatement of the year. You wonder what the fuck to do. You should get St. G. You should...fuck, you really don’t know what to do because mostly you just want to hug him, all gross and sweaty as he is, and tell him shit will be okay.
He whimpers and that’s enough to quit the stalled process in your brain and you go fetch the digital thermometer you’d picked up at CVS when you got his meds. “Under the tongue, man. No, don’t argue.”
He subsides, those crazy eyelashes trembling a little bit. Fuck, they look fake. They look like those goddamn ads on TV.
The thing beeps and you take it out of his mouth and look at the readout. 102.5. Fuck. Okay, fuck, you actually looked this up earlier because you weren’t sure what the serious you-need-an-ambulance cutoff was and this isn’t it. Still too high, way too high, but you think probably calling in the cavalry is not necessary right now and also he would die of embarrassment and you know it and you also think that is a valid variable in this stupid fucking equation, what is even wrong with you.
“It’s okay,” you tell him. “Gonna go get you cooled down, dude. Everything’s gonna be fine.”
He doesn’t look as if he believes you. The purple lock of his hair, darkened to something like indigo with sweat, droops over his forehead, across one eye: you reach out and nudge it back and...he pushes his hot face against your hand, and Christ you would give a lot to be anybody else in the universe right now. You stroke back his hair and then you go to fetch the bigger tupperware and fill it with cool water, because you think this is going to be a long fucking night.
You were not wrong.
It’s dawn, just about, and he’s finally sleeping peacefully. You don’t want to wake him to take his temperature but he feels much closer to normal when you put the back of your hand to his cheek. Hopefully that’s the end of this bullshit and he can get on with....just being Ampora; you honest to god just want to see him stalking around like he owns the place again instead of lying here like a broken doll in this bed.
You are so tired.
At first you’d thought you were overreacting with the cold cloth but pretty soon he started wriggling around fretfully and trying to escape from the bedclothes and then he started talking to people who were not actually there and that’s when you went fuck no, and fetched fresh cool water to bathe his forehead and his chest. You may never forget the awful little noises he made while he was trying to get away from the coldness, but fuck, it worked, little by little he calmed down and you kept the cold on and when one of his hands drifted up to trace hot fingertips over your face, your lips, your shoulder, you let it, and a little later when he was really unhappy you took his hand in yours and that was you pretty much stuck there because he would not let go of your hand. You wrung out the cloth as best you could with just the one hand and you kept on with it until around like half past four you could tell something was happening, he was shaking all over and sweat was standing out on his face like little clear cabochons and then he seemed to exhale, relax, go serene, and when you felt his forehead again it was noticeably cooler.
You’d read about people’s fevers breaking but you’ve never actually seen it happen. Fucking trippy, man.
Now--cleaned up as best you can manage without disturbing him--you’re kind of waiting for him to wake up, because you need to know if you fucked up really badly and he’s not Eridan anymore. You don’t know why this would be the case but in your exhausted stress-addled brain it seems like a potential outcome, and you are not 0kay with it, to quote your best friend.
God you are so tired.
When somebody knocks on the door it’s barely six in the morning and you are still sitting on the horrible dorm chair beside his bed and you jerk out of a half-doze to go answer it before they can knock again and wake Ampora up.
Yeah, you do hate her.
She’s taller than you, for one thing, and everything about her screams porcelain perfection, this woman probably pees Earl Grey. Short but perfectly styled white hair in that Clara Bow bob, a black coat over a deep violet dress, black lipstick in the wee hours of the morning. “You must be Sollux,” she says, and her voice is way deeper than you expected from somebody who looks like that.
“Yeah.” You are all out of witty repartee. Witty repartee is on fucking backorder.
“How is he?”
“Fever broke a couple hours ago. Don’t wake him.” Why are you talking to this spooky broad.
“I won’t. My brother brought me his letter and I wondered if I could be of any help.”
You are so tired and you want to cry again and you just rub at your face. Fuck. Fine. You know what, fuck.
“Be my guest,” you say. “He’s retarded for you but I bet you know that shit already.”
“Yes,” says Rose Lalonde. “I knew that shit already.”