The bottle shatters against the wall with the force of a grenade. Meenah tosses a snarl after it for good measure then says, "Come on. We're fucking leaving."
The three of you wash up someplace not too far away - you're not sure where exactly - a little covert garden with a carpeting of grass and a ceiling of leaves stretching like open hands against the sky. Gamzee lopes off to sit against a tree, and Meenah follows him. After a moment you hear the dry scratching of a lighter, and see the tiny ember-tip of the joint glowing red, casting a glow along Gamzee's profile and the side of Meenah's wrist as she draws her hand away. You watch the smoke, pale in the night air, spiral upwards and fade.
"Rox, where'd you go?" Meenah calls out.
You smile sideways, then call back, "Right behind ya, babe," and bound across the grass to flop down next to her. Gamzee leans forward and peers upside-down into your face.
"Thought you'd up and run, Roxita," he drawls.
You tell him, "Nunca en la vida, gorgeous," and snatch the joint from his fingers, taking a long drag and letting your head fall back onto the clammy grass. After a moment, you sigh. You say, "Hey, maybe not never, but when I run away I'm gonna take you both with me."
They both laugh at that, Meenah's wry rasping snicker playing counterpoint to Gamzee's slow creaking chuckle, and you laugh too, feeling your torso shake with it. Then you stop and say indignantly, "It wasn't funny. I wasn't joking," and that only makes them laugh harder, and you can't help the laughter that runs up from your stomach and grabs onto your words as you say, "It wasn't funny!"
Meenah grabs the joint from you as you compose yourself. Deep breaths. You still have a comfortable alcoholic tingle in your fingers and toes to keep you warm, and it's not a cold night anyway. It had been a hot, sunny day, and the sky is still clear - moonless, but open. You stare up at the stars and think: they are streetlights in a hundred tiny cities full of strangers. They are the sparks of a thousand fireworks suspended for an instant before they fall and fade. They are a million candles; you watch them melt.
"What I want to know," Meenah says abruptly, "is what kind of fucking club kicks us out for fighting, I mean," you think you see her fist on the side away from you rise jerkily, tense, "what the fuck!"
"Meenah," Gamzee says, and as his voice stretches her name into two gentling breaths you imagine his thumb rubbing tender circles just above the jutting bone in her ankle, "Meenah. What you got to be fucking fighting for, anyway?"
"Anyway, ain't that what we're here for?" you add almost on top of the end of his sentence. You twist your neck to see her face, and she looks pensive, restlessly tonguing her labret.
"You don't fight me, why don't you fucking fight me, then," she says, and it wants to be a scream but there's no force behind it so it turns to a thin, strangled thing and you think if it were a bit lighter you might see tears in her eyes. She crushes her eyes shut and turns her face away.
You sit up and drape yourself against her side, wrapping your arms around her ribs and letting your mouth press humidly against the base of her neck where you know the fin of the koi tattooed on her back is just peeking over her collar. You think of last time she nearly punched someone out for asking if it was because she was Japanese and you smile-sneer against her skin and feel her melt against you. Gamzee scoots over and stretches one long arm over each of you and you close your eyes and for an instant (for an eternity) everything is right in the world.
The next morning, you awake with your face buried in a pillow to a crash and the sounds of a struggle. You almost decide to ignore it and go back to sleep, but then you hear Meenah growl "Fuck's sake Rox, help me!" You roll over and are instantly awake. Meenah has Gamzee half-restrained, trying frantically to keep hold of both his arms behind his back as he writhes, wild-eyed, spitting horrible things as he tries to throw her off.
You wish this didn't look so familiar.
You're up in an instant, seizing Gamzee's face between your hands without heed for the lingering traces of paint coming off on your hands and telling him to hush, hush now, it'll be all right, hush. Between the two of you, you get him sitting on the edge of the bed. Meenah keeps his arms held tight behind him, resting her forehead on his shoulderblade so you can't see the look on her face. You clamber into his lap, a knee either side so you can feel the hard, bony ledges of his thighs digging into the plush undersides of yours, and hush him again and again and again until finally you see something other than hollow in his eyes and he stops spewing curses and threats and nonsense and goes limp and tired, and then you just hold him. After a while, Meenah lets his arms go. You take one of them and stretch it out to press a kiss in the soft inside bend of his elbow.
He makes a sound, a tiny hitch of breath that could be a sob or a gasp or the ghost of a laugh. He's looking over your shoulder at his reflection in the mirror behind you, and he says, running a fingertip under his eye to pick up the last traces of black paint, "Mujeres, my motherfucking face's all gone."
You laugh too, a little, because what else is there to do? Meenah says softly, "We can help you with that. If you want."
As you extract yourself from your perch and pad over to the desk to find his paints, she tangles her hands in his hair. You glance back at them, and watch Gamzee's eyes fall halfway closed in contentment like a great cat being petted - you almost expect him to purr. Meenah, on the other hand, wears a look of dangerous concentration, as if she's trying to decide between working the knots out and ripping his hair out. In that moment you decide to give in for once to your weird worrying protective urges (probably triggered by lack of alcohol), and you say, "Guys, let's stay off the mind-altering substances for today, okay?"
Meenah looks up at you with a mask of astonishment and says, "Then what will we do?"
It's a Sunday. You go to the park.
You got a watermelon on the way because Gamzee wanted one, and when you sit down across the sidewalk from the playground Meenah gets out her switchblade to cut it up. You're aware of young blonde Stepford parents staring at you disapprovingly as they swish past with their overpriced strollers containing squishy babies, but frankly, you couldn't care less. Also, the melon is delicious.
You lie back on the grass and kick off your sandals, stretching voluptuously in the sunlight. The warmth it sends through you is almost as good as a vodka shot. The grass blades prickle at your skin, and the veined insides of your eyelids glow violent red.
When you open your eyes again, everything is too blue, like you're suddenly wearing a blueish veil, and you giggle gleefully and turn around to share it with Meenah and Gamzee. They're playing catch with the knife, throwing it up and snatching it out of the air by the hilt, and you think suddenly how young they look and how tenuous this moment is, even the shadows of the trees creeping second by second closer.
"Do you ever wonder what'll happen when we get old?" you ask them quietly. Meenah catches the blade, closes it, and looks at you.
Gamzee stretches his fingers out in front of him and says, "Roxita, we are never gonna get old."
"Everyone gets old," Meenah says flatly. "Except unless you don't, and then you just die, and where's the fun in that?"
"We aren't gonna get old. I'll tell you what we're gonna do. One of these days, we're gonna get us a van. And we're all three gonna pile in it together and we're gonna drive away - anywhere - it doesn't matter where because we're just gonna keep driving. And then one day we'll drive away into the sunlight and never be seen again and it won't matter here and it won't matter to us because the big beautiful motherfucking secret they never tell you is that none of it matters at all in the end." He leans forward and taps you on the nose. "Nothing."
You contemplate this for a moment. In the distance, a siren is wailing, high and plaintive. You say, "Yeah. That sounds nice."