The crumpled paper in his hand mocked him all the way up the stairs.
on the roof.
H3 H3 H3 >:o)
He knew who had actually written the letter - just as they knew how he'd feel about seeing the numerals of the blind prophets used in that way. Karkat hardened his resolve. If it came to strife against the crazed troll who had already killed so many, he couldn't afford to be emotional.
Even so, a couple red-hued tears rolled down his face as he ascended the stairs. How had he gone so wrong? He thought he'd had everything under control.
Of course, he'd thought that many times throughout the course of the damned game. Every last instance, without fail, had occurred moments before disaster.
But each one had been salvageable. There had been hope. But the Prince had gone nuts, and destroyed ever last aspect of his... well, aspect and there wasn't anything left.
Everyone, he assumed, was dead. Equius and Nepeta were probably goners, Sollux wasn't going to last for long (likely), Kanaya and Feferi had been slaughtered, Tavros had gone missing, Aradia had exploded, and Terezi...
Oh, god, Terezi.
He stepped out into the empty blankness, taking a deep breath. A lone dot of orange and blue was floating up, up and away, leaving Terezi...
Karkat couldn't stop himself as he ran over to the teal-and-red clad troll.
"Terezi! You're alive!"
When she turned to face him, she looked just as she had when he'd seen her last - beautiful, heartbroken, with teal streaking down her face.
"Not for long," she murmured. The spark, the edge had left his Terezi and it scared him. He took her hand gently.
"What are you talking about?"
"Vriska's gone off to fight Noir. I couldn't... I couldn't stop her."
Karkat snorted, veiling his rising panic under a facade of anger. All he wanted to do was turn in his voucher for sloppy make-outs and kiss her tears away, but she'd run away again if he tried anything without calming her down.
"Who cares if she runs off and fights him? Maybe she'll beat him and save us all the trouble."
Terezi shook her head. "It doesn't matter. We can't win anyway if we're all dead."
The words sink in at the exact moment a sword - jet black, keen as hunger - sprouts from her chest. A fanged smile greets him from behind the teal-blooded troll.
Karkat doesn't even have time to reach for his sickles before he's gutted too. But he doesn't let go of her hand.
But that was sweeps and sweeps ago, if time still counts in a place like this. If anything still counts. It's a nightmare, a dreamland, an unending game in and of itself as he tries to forget every memory that he unearths as he digs aimlessly at the grey and maroon beach.
Another Karkat from another time and place might have called it coincidence in order to avoid association with a red rival, but this Karkat freely refers to it as the most vicious of ironies that his dream bubble seemed to be glued to Vriska's. More than once he's tried to force himself back to his hive, back when his lusus was still alive, but time and again he finds himself back on the bitch's beaches.
It's taken him this long to actually go out looking for her.
He knows, of course, where to find her - scuttling and sneaking around her precious ship, probably under the facade that one day she could sail again. But she can't leave, and the tide will never come in and she could push that boat off the edge of a flat world and still never hit the ocean. That's just how the afterlife works, he guesses.
But still he scales the sides of the ship, noting the wear and tear on the sides, just desperate for a change in pace or a familiar face. Anything.
Anything except a dead-eyed flying blue-blood troll hovering upside down in front of him, grinning feverishly.
Karkat's already back-flipped out of her range, holding his hands out like he's expecting his sickles to spring into them - which he is, but after a moment he remembers that he's already dead and they weren't kidding when they said you can't take it with you and his entire sylladex is empty.
The ex-leader coughs. The ex-killer grins some more. A showdown ensues as Karkat tries to figure out what to say and Vriska tries to let him say it.
There's a lot he wants to say, really - about everything - but instead he just forces his body to relax, makes his empty stare meet hers and asks, softly...
Vriska flinches, actually flinches, and she glares at him for a moment before she collapses onto the deck of her ship.
"She was here, at first. Then she..."
And then, over her shoulder, Karkat spots a noose swinging from the top of the mast.
Vriska starts speaking again, quiet, and so unlike the vicious girl he'd pegged her to be. "She held a trial, found herself guilty of-- of everyone's death, and then... I don't know how she did it. She was just gone. Jumped off the crows nest and vanished before the rope went tight."
Her voice is sad, but still empty, empty like everything else here. Karkat can't take his eyes off the noose for a moment, and wonders, desperately, if--
He only realizes he'd moved when Vriska's claws dig into his wrists. Blood oozes out, but when he looks the fluid is white like light, black like nothing, gray like everything and then it's gone.
"Don't leave me, too," she whispers, and he just kind of stands there for another sweep until he can forgive her and move again.
"I never thought this would happen," she says, as they work together and imagine that all of their favorite stars were in the sky at once, all packed in like a panoramic painting and glittering and gleaming. "I never thought I'd lose."
"I did," he replies, as he takes her hand again. "But I didn't realize how much I'd lose."
And they wait for another sunrise, the last before the end of the universe.
"I'm sure that somewhere out there, we win," he surprises them both with his optimism.
"Do you think that in that world, we're all alive?"
He takes in a deep, shaky breath of nothing, then smiles as he feels himself chipping away.
"Somewhere," he repeats, as they fizzle into nothing but despair and possibility, "we're all together..."
And it's so fucking beautiful...