You win the game in autumn, but it’s not until spring that Vriska comes to New York to harass you. She’s staying in the next town over for reasons, most of them pertaining to the fact that Rose flattened a quarter acre of mountain after one of your plants ate one of the cats—the cat’s fault, you told her, for not being able to take out a baby sunstalker, and she threatened to stake you through the heart with a needle—and, in doing so, took out the only decent motel in town.
Vriska visits you and Rose every day. When Vriska comes, you lock yourself in the basement, reading books by your own light until daybreak. You anticipate this will continue for a total of eight visits—there’s no way, you think, that her patience will extend past her numerological fetish, and Vriska likely has a plane ticket back to Seattle for the day after the final visit.
All you have to do wait.
"Did you know she brings you grubs?" Rose says when you emerge from the basement after Vriska's seventh visit. You sit next to her on the couch. It's nearing dawn. The flowers are in the sink, and the trash bin has ceramic in it. Oh dear. Things must be truly dire for Rose to actually clean something on her own volition. When you come into the living room, you wince. It’s just as bad as last night—maybe worse, once you take the flower vase into account: Monopoly money stuffed in the couch cushions, Vriska’s eight-sided die waiting, invitingly, for the tender arches of someone’s unsuspecting foot. "I've been stockpiling them in the fridge. I can see how you've missed them, given that you've been busy eating other things. ... That wasn't an invitation for innuendo, Kanaya."
"At times I think you are simply opposed to other people having fun.” You weren’t going to even going to comment! Sometimes you think Rose is a mind reader.
"I prefer to think of it as an early warning, sparing you from the embarrassment of defeat. Look into your heart, and accept your surrender with grace." She sips her hot cocoa, and looks up at you, coy, from under her bangs. "It's considerate of her. You should try some."
"I see you and Vriska have bonded," you say, doing your best to avoid sounding suspicious of Rose suddenly championing of Vriska Serket, who should, by all right, repel her. They shouldn't be able to stand more than a few minutes of each others' company; what if they're bonding over reckless decision-making and boneheaded verbal retorts? What if they've been playing Battleship? What if—ugh!—they've been playing Yahtzee? "And also that you have no ulterior motives in wanting me and Vriska to get along again."
"I've actually found her wordless rage to be conducive to my novel writing. It's like a combination of white noise and a brass orchestra."
You spot sandwich crumbs on top of the television. You’re going to spend the next two hours cleaning this, you realize. Without you, you’re sorry to say, Rose would use the computer until her eyes burned out of her head, and all the bills would go unpaid. She’d call Dave for help, and then they’d both expire from sheer culinary incompetence, or, if they were lucky, die in an avalanche of unwashed food containers and unsorted recyclables, compostables, and burnables. "It's because she knows you're cheating," you say. Rose tweaks your ear. "I didn't insinuate that it was on purpose."
"Next time I'll play Mario 64 blindfolded and with my hands bound." She yawns. "But tomorrow, I think. She's exhausting. I can see why you don't talk much."
"Rose, she was dead."
"There were dream bubbles.” You scowl. “See? I can play the game of pointless pedantry just as well as you can." When she yawns this time, she cracks her spine. She squeezes your shoulder, then heads up the stairs. Her arms are charmingly short, and her body is outlined a dim teal in the early dawn. She’s wearing a boat neck shirt, likely borrowed from Roxy. The color is awful. You make note to find a way to burn it.
"There is no existing shade of orange that doesn't make you look splotchy," you tell her. Rose smiles brilliantly, like she's planning on removing your tongue with her needles, and rests her elbows on the railing. She brings up one hand to her lips, and blows you a kiss.
You finish cleaning by eight, and help yourself to the grubs. They don’t appear to be the strange hairless manufactured kind that exist in this new world: they’re jarred, swollen with syrup, and your mouth waters at the sight of them. They aren’t done how you like them; sweets have lost most of their appeal since your transformation. These days you like them salty or pickled, although you also enjoy those human snacks Rose stashes away in secret compartments of her desk and drawers and in hidden boxes in the basement.
When you think about it, you were only pale for Vriska in the very beginning, when kissing seemed as distant and abstract as the furthest colonies of the Empire. You were pale enough to be mistaken for translucent then, so pale that you wanted to lock her in a room and never let her out, so pale that you dreamed of finding her waist-deep in carnage, and handing her a gun. But that had been a long time ago. You’re no longer pale for her, or flushed, or anything. She died, and you didn’t rage or mourn. You felt nothing, because she was nothing to you, not a friend nor a matesprit nor a moirail—why, then, mourn over nothing?
Oh, you wanted many things for Vriska. And, you think, bitterly, you had wanted so many things from her, too.
This time, you open the door for Vriska. You’re certain this is a correct course of action. You can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be.
“I bet you knew I wasn’t going to come back after this time,” Vriska says, but she exhales—whew!, only with eight of this letter, or eight of that letter—when she steps in. Rose has gone to visit Roxy in the underground labs tonight; Vriska must have noticed that Rose’s light is off. You regard Vriska for a moment, taking your time with hanging Vriska’s jean coat on the rack. She looks nearly normal without her metal arm and without her right eye burnt out and scarred. Less dangerous, and less irresistibly damaged.
“Take off your shoes,” you tell her. “We have slippers over there.”
“Rose never made me do all that crap.”
“And now I see I must vacuum,” you sigh, and squint at the rug for dirt.
“God,” Vriska says. “I can’t believe how uptight you are—you still are. How the hell did you win the game? I brought beer.” Vriska picks a pair of slippers too large for her. She isn’t wearing socks, and her feet are caked in dirt. Would it be inappropriate to force her to shower? Yes, you think, mournfully. What a pity.
You take Vriska to the veranda out back, and then go back inside to make lunch. Your garden isn’t in bloom yet, but there are shoots, and your favorite sunstalker looks fat and happy, and has tufts of hopbeast fur around its maw. You hope it’s hopbeast fur, at least. And from behind, it looks like someone’s replaced Vriska’s shoulders with a solid metal bar. Good, you think, sour. She should be tense—for what she did.
No, you’re supposed to be trying for friendly. You stare at the knife, and think about punching Vriska hard enough to make all eight of her pupils roll back into her head. You think of kissing her corpse. You think you have a problem.
You come back with sandwiches and the last of the sweet grubs, one balanced in each hand. She passes you a can, already on her third, herself.
“Jesus,” she says. “You were taking so long in there that I thought you had died.”
“Eat your vegetables,” you say. “You’ll be bloated if you don’t.”
“Fussyfangs, no one wants to think about their bowels when they’re eating.”
“I can’t help myself,” you say. You try the beer. Ugh! Disgusting. You swallow it down anyway. “We are no longer in the game. I’d like to preserve the present condition of my body for the future. It’ll make my life easier. Unlife.” Relife? “Undeath,” you try.
Vriska fixes you with a surly look, like a barkbeast tied to a post, who knows it can’t attack, but wants to. She slams the can onto the veranda so hard that it crumples. Beer comes frothing out of the open tab, spilling onto Vriska’s hand and the rough wood beneath. It leaks through the gaps in the planks, foam froth vanishing into pale, white lace. “Like I give a shit,” she says.
You put your napkin on the puddle.
“Anyway, I’m going to live just about forever,” Vriska says. “What about you, huh? What about Lalonde?” You prickle at this. “I’m just pointing the obvious! I had a lot of time to think about it. I mean, a whole sweep and a half. Wow.”
“That is why it'd be best to turn your ocular orbs to that which has yet to occur,” you say, drinking more. It’s good for dramatic pauses, even if the taste is terrible. “So that you may turn what little pan matter you've managed to retain through your various and tiresome reincarnations to more productive venues of thought.”
“Like you’ve been productive out here,” Vriska says. “What’ve you been doing? Gardening? You’ve gotten boring, Fussyfangs.” She sets her sandwich aside, and says, “Let’s do something more fun.”
Fun turns out to be driving. Or at least, driving to get to somewhere. She takes you out to the car, and you’re instantly certain that she’s stolen it from someone. The idea of Vriska gainfully obtaining a car and going through the steps to become a licensed driver makes you want to laugh.
“No,” you say. “You’re intoxicated.”
“Grow up, you big wuss,” Vriska says. “Not like there’s anyone out here, anyway. You can do it, if you want! Not like I care.”
You take the keys from her, but gingerly. Vriska sprawls out on the hood of the car, her chin nearly pushed against the windshield wiper.
“Where did you get this?” you ask, blindly pressing at the buttons on the fob.
“It’s a rental,” she says.
“Are you certain?”
“Don’t be such a buzzkill! Enjoy life. Errgh, I need to barf.” She twists her head to the side, and vomits onto the grass, just as you get the doors open. You buckle yourself in. When she's recovered, she slips into the car. She doesn't put on her seatbelt, and you're tempted to let her get away with it; but then you remind yourself that this is Vriska, and you’d surely be sorrier than not if she were to be dead at your hand. But how nice that’d be, to have that chance. A part of you wants to test her vaunted immortality with a garrote.
“Put on your seat belt,” you tell her. “Where are we going?”
“There’s this great place,” she says. “Troll-owned cafe. You get to kill your own food. Just like the old days, right?”
“Where is this place?” you demand. “I haven’t seen anywhere like that in town.”
“You'd know it if you ever got out of Lalonde’s flytrap!” she says. “It’s half an hour from here. I’ll show you.”
Your field of vision is flattened from a lack of sleep and alcohol. You are full of the confidence of the righteous and the most definitely sober. Which one is the brake? You're certain you knew the answer to that just a few seconds ago.
“Let’s roll!” Vriska says, clapping you on the back, and you feel something hot in her touch that makes you bare your teeth at her, both as a warning and as a grin.
You get very lost, very fast.
You give up after you realize that you’ve wandered onto a highway you’ve never seen before, and pull over to the side of the road. You’re at a farm. Some kind of horse farm, you think, as you step out of the car. You recognize the smell of horseshit.
The sky above you is clear and well-starred, without the yellow eye staring down at you with its one drooping lid. It reminds you, strangely enough, of watching Vriska sleep, and you’re filled with a marrow-deep annoyance.
“We’re lost,” you say.
“Dumbass,” she says fondly. She pats you on the shoulder. “No worries. I have vodka.”
You feel, already, the hangeron. The hanged upon. The hameover? Your pan feels bubbly. “Who provided this for you?”
“Beats me,” she says, with genuine nonchalance. She reaches into the glovebox, and produces the bottle, half-empty. When she passes you the bottle, you take a swig. You deserve it.
The two of you sit on the wooden fence. The wood is raw, old, and untreated. It wobbles under your weight when you shift, swinging you an inch left of where you thought you'd be, and then to the right. She settles close enough that your hands nearly touch. You wrap both hands around the bottle’s neck, and roll it against the stretch of skirt between your legs. She gropes for the bottle, her fingers brushing against your thighs. She is, you recognize, far more drunk than you. You snatch the bottle away from her, and take another drink, this one longer and deeper than the last.
“You’re taking up all the booze!”
“You were supposed to provide directions to this mysteriousical—mysterious place,” you tell her. “I doubt it even exists. You likely invented it in order to drag me to some unknown corner so you could prepare an ambush, or execute me.”
“Why the fuck would I do that?” she says, snatching the bottle from you. You jerk towards her, fingers still loose around the bottle’s neck—she slaps your hands off, and you nearly fall on top of her. You’re nearly livid, livid with the need to take back what’s yours, to wrestle her to the ground and stop her before she makes a fool of herself. “Come on. Don’t you trust me?”
“I’d have to be a fool to,” you snap. You straighten your arms, try to steady yourself on the fence. She grabs the waistband of your skirt to steady you. Fabric stretcher! Oh, you wish she had retained her metal arm. You could have the pleasure of hacking her hand off, again and again.
“Geeze,” she says. “What’s with you? Don’t you think that being dead for a freaking sweep and a half might mean you should be a little nicer to me, Fussyfangs?”
“You are a duplicitous liar,” you say. “You have at every turn harmed and frustrated—you were the worst moirail, and I wish you had the decency to remain dead instead of being so obscene as to muddle clear waters with the excrement of long-dead emotions.”
Your words hang, stiff, in the air. Hangover! That’s what it is. Vriska’s shock is scrunching into anger. You’re hungover. Yes. “You’re giving me a lecture on moirallegiance? Where were you when I blinded Terezi! Where were you when I freaking died?” The fingers on your skirt become claws, digging into your lower back. “In fact, where were you during the whole game? Ignoring me while you roasted your bulge over your volcano of uptight and butthurt and complained, ‘oooh, I’m so mad at you, Vriska, I can’t even let you do your moirail duties because I’m so mad!’”
“I had terminated our relationship by then,” you say, taking the bottle back and drinking from it again.
Her eye roll could carve lines in stone. “Well, could’ve fooled me.”
“You wouldn’t have been able to pacify someone without enraging them further. You’re an incompetent, vainglorious lout whose empathy noodles are unable to perform their designated function because they’re tangled in your nasal cavity.”
“At least I have eight of them!”
“All your other ones withered,” you spit.
“Yeah, but mine are the best. Unlike yours, which wave in the air pointlessly until they stuff themselves up your nook so you can spread some of that self-pity on your globes.” Her face has gotten closer to yours over the last few seconds, and her breath is hot against your mouth. The black pupil in her one eye is large and open, but her other seven remain narrow, fixing you with a glare that needs no vision by which to see you. “So you’re pissed at me for something that you should’ve gotten over forever ago? Geeze! You big looooooooser.”
You briefly think about putting your face against her neck and tearing through it. That’s one way of pacifying Vriska Serket, though you suspect it may well be labeled as a just death were you to go through with it.
“Fussyfangs,” she says. “We're friends, aren’t we?”
“If we are, then it’s almost certainly a mistake on my part,” you say, meaning to sound definitive and final. You push yourself off the fence, carefully. The ground’s more solid than you anticipate. The bottle falls from your hand and spills clear liquid onto the road. Neither of you care.
“Screw you! Why did I even bother coming all the way here if you were just planning on blowing me off?” Vriska says. She swipes at you, misses, and then falls off the fence and onto her face. She rolls over, hair dirty and cheek streaked with dust. She looks up at you, as though she’s not sure whether or not you’re there; whether or not you’ll hurt her.
“I think I will head home,” you say. “Rose will be returning from Roxy’s labs soon. I’ll want to see her. In order that I should spend time with people who are not you.” Oh god! You are drunk. You should call Rose and ask her to pick you up, except you don’t have your phone with you, and you don’t even know where you are. You sit in the car, and lock the doors. Maybe you can get home like this, you think. Maybe this time you’ll even end up in the right town.
“Hey!” Vriska says. “Kanayaaaaaaaa…”
You stare out at her through the glass, mollified by your intoxication. You think you see her the way you always should have seen her when you were a child: her sharp chin, the hook and bend in her broken nose, the way she’s not angry with you, but afraid you’ll leave. Maybe that would have worked on you once. But you’re older now, and happier hating her than not.
You can see Vriska figuring it out. She brings her hand up to her temple. You recognize that gesture. You just don’t remember—from what or how—
She presses her face closer to the glass, her breath fogging the window. Your hand, despite your best attempt to push it back to the steering wheel, opens the door. You want to spring through the car, across the passenger’s side and through the metal and plastic, and tear out her eyes, you want to, you want to, you want to…
She laughs at your want, and commands you to stand and step out of the car. Her grip on your mind is like iron claws, hooked into the pan and yanking.
“Yeah,” she says. “Where are you going now?”
You try to respond, but you can’t move your jaw. She makes you walk towards her, and then strokes your face. You grit your teeth, and try to ready your fist to punch her, to mark her with the imprint of your knuckles—she laughs, and kisses your cheek.
“Fussyfangs,” she says, and sighs. “It’s your own fault things have gone this way. I mean, I’ve done everything right. I came to visit you, I made nice with your freaky deaky human matesprit, and I even took you out for a good time. Oh, shut up,” she says, when you start to think. “It would’ve been fine if you could obey instructions so simple a wiggler could follow them. If I knew you’d blow it, I would’ve just mind controlled you from the start!”
Oh, your head hurts. You hadn’t missed her exhaustively selective reinterpretation of the past at all.
If you were somehow miniaturized and fit into a wood pulp container meant for transporting lunches, you start.
“Ugh!” she says, and twists your arm back. You cry out, and then hold your breath, as though it’ll make the noise pull back. “I can’t believe you don’t shut up, even when someone’s mind controlling you. You sure are tenacious. A tenacious pain in the ass!”
How does she even know that word? Her face twists with displeasure. Your arm jerks back, propelled by the force of her mind powers—and even though you’re sweating in pain, you’re also uncomfortably aware of a steady heat growing in your groin.
She runs her thumb over the bottom of your lip, and nicking herself on your fangs on purpose. The smell swirls into your nose and now she won’t even let you breathe, and oh, you could kill her, and then you groan, because your bulge is rubbing against your underwear, straining so hard that you can feel the fabric of your skirt on the other side.
“You have issues,” she says, her eyes flicking to where your bulge is visible and squirming in your skirt. “Geeze, is this a turn on for you? Who would’ve thought.”
She smears more blood along your upper lip. Is she even aware that she’s black flirting with you, or is this obliviousness a product of her charming and winsome personality? And is she ever going to let you speak? Some of the blood pools on the shelf of your upper lip, then, slowly, rolls over the crest and drips into your mouth. She drops more, and more, blue blood falling onto your lips and in your mouth, and you want more than this, you want her pinned below you, you want her nook wet for you and her blood a strong, vicious poison in your mouth, and you are full of hate for Vriska Serket, you hate her, you hate her and you could live forever in the blackness of her petty, irredeemable soul.
The wind doesn’t blow, the stars are dark above you. It doesn’t look promising. You try thinking about bias cuts.
“Do you ever think of anything interesting?” she asks. “Bluh bluh, necklines. No wonder you seem so tame these days. The only time you look alive is when you’re hacking someone in half.” She tugs down her own shirt, flashing her breasts to you with the subtlety of a gunshot to the face, or wandlight to the gut. “Like what you see?”
Her chest is the physical embodiment of disappointment. When you think that, she spits in your eye. You’re bored of this. You hope she’ll get tired of this soon and release you.
“Don’t feel like it,” she says. “Come on, do you think I want to let you go when you’re being a psycho rainbow drinker who wants to take me on a hate date? If I let you go, you’ll ravage my neck! You’ll give me lacerating hate hickeys. You’re pretty much the worst, basically.”
She pokes the waistband of your skirt a few times, and grins when your bulge curls towards her finger. If only she’d give you use of your mouth! You aren’t sure if you’d bite her or shout at her, but you think either one is appropriate for this situation.
“It’s not fair,” she says. She reaches over and wraps her hand around your wrist. She gives it a few tugs, forcing your shoulder from one position to another, even walking around behind you to twist your arm behind you. “That you got to come back and I didn’t. Sure, I got god tier and everything, but you didn’t do anything in the game! You know one thing being dead taught me? Life’s shit! No way to win it. People who shouldn't get to live come back when they’re dead, and people who are the best just die. Wow. Great lesson. At least I didn’t get shot by a freaking fish wizard.”
She lets your head go free, perhaps wanting a debate. You crack your jaw. Her fingers rest, almost as a warning, against the inside of your wrist and against your elbow.
“Yes,” you say. “You were instead murdered by someone who can’t distinguish argyle from tie-dye. I can only surmise that you have come to me because Terezi rejected you like the sensible troll she is, leaving you pity-starved and restless.”
“Even Tavros has better things to do than be with you,” you say, “than to be with a girl who has been dead, and evidently never learned the meaning of—”
She pulls, and your arm pops straight out of the socket; she twists your arm around, once, twice, and it snaps back into place; she lets it fall like a dead snake at your side. Your scream fades into gargled, pained moans.
She’s facing you, nose-to-nose. Her smile curves like a boat, gently and with surprising grace. There’s sweat on her brow and on her upper lip; you smell salt and blood. The boat breaks apart, revealing her brilliant white teeth.
“What’s that I never learned?” she says.
“That no one cares about you, you ignominious twit,” you manage, and she breathes through her teeth, a wet, garbled sound that could be pain, or could be anger—no, those two are not mutually exclusive. It could well be both. “You are insignificant and even Karkat”—bless his corporeal form—“was better able to contribute to our victory than you.”
“Yeah, ‘contribute,’” Vriska says. “What did you do? Sit around, read books, make out with your pet human, cry about your lost ball?” She jerks your arm back and forth, and grinds her palm into your shoulder even as her other hand yanks your skirt up around your waist, then plunges between your thighs. Two fingers push into your nook, and god, you have been waiting for this—you want to push against her hand and help, but then she scratches a line inside you, and she snatches all control from you again to keep you from crying out. “Yeah,” she says. “That’s what I thought.”
She kisses your shut mouth, and releases your shoulder to grasp at your bulge. She arranges you so your arms spread agonizingly across the top of the fence while you sit against the second beam with your spine bent hideously, and Vriksa between your legs, working at you with a clawing impatience. Her fingers soon become restless; the lack of feedback troubles her. She eases her iron grip on you, and this time when you two kiss, it’s open-mouthed, tooth chasing tongue, and a snarl in both of your throats. She breaks away from you, releasing your bulge and withdrawing from your nook so she can hop out of her pants.
“Your sexual incompetence baffles me,” you say, as she makes you spread your arms and legs. “It's as though you learned everything from the middling incidental contact you experienced while you were a corpse in Gamzee’s refrigerator.”
“That’s sweet of you, Fussyfangs,” she says. “And there I was, thinking no one cared about me!” And it’s true, you do care—but you care right now more about getting her to stop screwing around and get serious. Something shifts; the two of you are now aiming for cooperation, rather than mutual dismemberment. She finally manages to free herself. She takes your thighs, and pushes into you. It’s excellent, the stretch painful but in a way that you thoroughly approve of.
Still, you’re too used to sleeping with Rose to allow her to be content with herself for long. “Have you ever, even if only once, slept with anyone else before?”
“Yeah, totally. Totally!"
“Are you certain, because the ghosts of your tragically aborted attempt at foreplay have come back from the dead to whisper into my ear that you in fact wouldn’t be able to tell a shame globe from a naked cluckbeast,” you say, and accept her faux-outraged kiss with happy relish. Your bulge curls around the base of hers, clenching when she pulls out, and relaxing on the in. Her claws dig into your hips, and her mind control unfurls away from you, like a flag in the wind. You arch your back closer to her, careful to not lose your balance, then finally, finally get your teeth on her neck. She yelps, pulling away in surprise, then squeezes your bad shoulder. You dig your teeth in, not yet breaking skin.
“Noooooooo,” she whines. “No, don’t bite me—”
“A wigger’s fear,” you say, mouthing your annoyance straight into her skin. She shivers. You think she’s enjoying this more than when she had your mind in her hands; and you like having her like this, too. You’re nearly ready to bite, when you see her eyes, at the very top of your vision. You wait. You want to see her fear turn into defiance, and you want to see that defiance become lust. Lust for you, lust for what you’re going to do to her. Her bulge is half in you, half considering retreating back into its sheath; you wrap your own bulge around it, tightly, to keep it from escaping.
“I’m not scared of you,” she says. “My mom’s bites couldn’t kill me! What makes you think that you can?”
“Killing you,” you say, “isn’t the point,” and her irises tremble in their sclera. She pushes back in before you can add a comment about her mother. Your bad shoulder aches, but her pulse is hot and makes your lips tingle when you feel it push blood up to her brain, each throb a kiss by itself. You lap the sweat and fear from her neck, and all the while your bulge is thickening and you’re nearly inviting Vriska in with every stroke forward, and you must bite her, you can’t hold it off any longer—she slams deep, into you as your fangs enter, and you grind down on her, the underside of your bulge against her body and her bulge inside of you, the heat and the weight of it and then the spilling. You come breathless and dizzy, your color spilling between you and dripping onto your skirt.
“There,” she says. “Are you done yet? Because I could go on for miiiiiiiiles. Miles.”
This isn't a competition for distance, you think, and continue to feed. She groans, and tries to yank her neck away. You don’t let her until she begins to thrash. She springs away from you, sitting on the grass, and rubs her neck. Her bulge has retracted partially back into its sheath.
“Wow,” she says. “Way to please a lady!”
“I wish someone would melt your seedflap shut,” you say. "It'd infinitely improve the quality of your performance, and probably your face." You ease off the fence, and crawl on top of her, pushing her chest down to the grass with your forehead and the points of your horns, and using your good hand to spread her nook. You push one finger into her while circling her nipple with your tongue through her shirt. When her bulge doesn’t come out fast enough for your tastes, you bite down on her breast. It works: she yelps, and thrusts into your hand. You move your mouth further down, sucking at the sharp crests of her hip bones as you continue to squeeze and stroke her bulge. Gradually, you move your fingers away from her bulge and slide them up her nook again. You’re about to lick when she pulls at your hair.
“Yeah, like I’m going to let you put those teeth anywhere near Pyralspite—”
“That’s not even your lusus,” you say incredulous. “Does Terezi know—”
“Who cares about her?” she says. “Anyway, no teeth on Pyralspite! It’s a rule.”
You don’t have the patience for this. You add a second finger into her nook, thrusting in with a cool indifference. “Your ‘rules’ run counter to the idea of you ever attaining orgasm,” you say, and lick her anyway.
“Noooooooo,” she says, but tangles both hands in your hair and tugs you toward her. Her bulge reaches for you, and you take it into your mouth. Faint wisps of her powers curl at the edge of your mind, and disappear when you press the flat of your tongue against the underside of her bulge, and slide forward. You scrape your teeth against her, and she jerks forward into your mouth, then pulls back, then comes back in; you suck her further in, sweeping your tongue over the sore spots left by your teeth, before pressing your teeth against her again, all the while pushing into her nook with your fingers. It’s not long before her thighs tense, the blood drawing closer to the surface. You pull out before she comes, spurting blue across the grass, then dive back to her thigh to bite her. The flavor is heady and salty, and it doesn’t occur to you to stop until you realize she hasn’t said a word.
You pry your fangs out of her, and pat her cheek. She’s sound asleep—for, admittedly, certain values of sleep. Well, if she had wanted you to stop, she should have said so. You get up. You’ll leave her here and head home, you think. She’ll almost certainly be furious when she wakes. And even better, when she arrives at your hive, it will be her ninth time.
You climb back into your skirt, and take her jeans and jacket. You rip her shirt, leaving only two pairs of unsalvageable underwear behind. Then you get back in the car, and drive on home.
It’s nearly daybreak when you find your way back. The swelling in your arm has mostly gone down by now; you hope that Vriska’s woken up by now, and is shrieking in frustration.
You go upstairs, and find Rose on her computer in her office, her feet up on the desk and drinking chilled tomato juice from a can. When she sees you, with your clothes stained, hair matted from rough use and Vriska’s genetic material, and arm hanging limp at your side, her feet fall from the desk. She nearly spills the juice across her lap.
“When I put my hands on Vriska Serket's neck,” she says.
“I think,” you say, sitting on the plush chair in front of her desk with a satisfied sigh, “that you would find me deeply displeased by the prospect of having her bloodied corpse delivered to me on a wooden plank.”
“What they do to pirates,” you say. “They walk on a wooden plate—”
“You look like you’ve been dragged through the woods ass-backwards by a stampede of tigers. Stripebeasts, as you might call them.” You let her run her hands through your hair. She tries to work through some of the knots, then gives up and settles for rubbing the base of your horns instead. “What did you do to Vriska?”
“Maybe her famed luck will kick in and prevent her from becoming roadkill.”
“She’s still alive,” you say. “And when she comes crawling back here for her car, I’m going to break her nose. And then I'll tie her to the car and send her to someone.” Maybe to Seattle. You hear there's a large building on which she can impale herself.
You can see her mapping out your words and actions against her picture of human romance, then trying to figure out the troll. You also see her give a mental shrug. “Remember to use a safe word, even for your kismesis. I’ll get some ice for your shoulder.”
“She’s not my kismesis.” You may have decided that you've settled in the black for her, and the two of you may have been—involved, but you're familiar enough with Vriska to be wary of making a definitive statement on the matter. She came to you with pale overtures, then crashed into hate with you—you hope she’ll stay there. But the prospect of dealing with Vriska Serket in any quadrant is prematurely exhausting. You’ll have to call Terezi when she and Vriska settle down together to work some sort of scheduling.
Rose gives you a pitying shoulder pat on her way out of the room. “I don’t think you can even defend yourself with ‘I don’t hate her like that’ because you evidently enjoyed yourself quite a bit,” she says, and you know she’s standing at the door so she can get the last word by walking off before you can reply. Ugh! Show off. You wipe your mouth, and find dried blood on it. You lick it off. Rose gives you an odd look, and then goes to fetch the ice.
Morning finds you watering the flowers. Your arm, on Rose’s insistence, is in a sling. How does she expect you to use the shears with only one hand, you ask her, and she says, “Kanaya, the bushes don’t need to be sheared every day. Water the plants. Weed. God forbid that you garden without having to whip out your chainsaw.”
Vriska’s car sits in the driveway, still unclaimed. You’re beginning to worry about her: if she’s injured, if she’s been captured as a rare, exotic specimen of exceptional annoyance, if she’s wrecking her usual brand of disaster and damage on people. You water a cluster of shoots with especial vehemence. You hope, you think, that she was trampled to death by a deer. You hope she comes back soon.
You are eventually reduced to sitting on the front steps, waiting. Rose passes by a few times, and makes disparaging remarks comparing you to a barkbeast waiting for its master. At noon, she brings you a lunch of burnt bread and half a sweet grub. She’s eating the other half. You split the grub again in half, and pass the rest to Rose. “You don’t like it?” she says.
“I wish it were more raw,” you say.
“Strange. I thought for sure you would’ve enjoyed it, given your affinity for my chocolates.”
… Wait a second. “You bought the grubs?” you say. Rose smiles around a mouthful of legs and hairy back. “Does anyone tell you how irritating it is when you play at interpersonal chestmaster?”
“Chess, although I appreciate the slip,” she says. “And for the record? Yes. You. Right now, in fact.” A burst of grub juice dribbles down her chin. She wipes it off the back of her hand. She offers her hand to you. You lick the juice off of it, and kiss her wrist to soothe her joking ire.
“I should have known Vriska wouldn’t have bought them,” you say, and pop the grub into your mouth and swallow. You sigh. You know Vriska too well. That’s your problem.
In the distance, you hear a sound like a gunshot. Rose looks up, and says, “Ah.”
Riding up to Rose’s hive is Vriska on a motorbike, her hair streaming long and black behind her. You jump up to your feet, and try to make yourself look busy. She isn’t wearing a helmet! The things you’re going to do that girl.
“I’ll give you two a moment,” Rose says, returning to the house. You spill a considerable amount of water on the hedges. Vriska, who evidently hasn’t mastered braking yet, throws herself off the bike instead of stopping; the bike slams into the ground, skids, and crashes into one of your trees. Oh, she didn’t. The magnolias will never recover. Vriska strides to you. She’s stolen someone’s leather jacket, and is wearing a pair of leather pants, with two pairs of stained underwear sticking out of the front pocket.
“Bet you thought you could get rid of me!” she shouts to you. You come down the stairs to meet her. She leans in for a kiss. You bite her cheek.
“That is for not wearing a helmet. And for driving in the sun without sunglasses.”
“Bitch,” she says. “Well, guess what? We’re stuck together again! Tough luck for you, I guess.”
“I’m calling the police,” you say. “And reporting multiple robberies.”
“They’ll just finger you for it,” Vriska says, grabbing onto your hips and wiggling her eyebrows unsubtly. You roll your eyes. She kisses you, roughly, then pats your ass. “I’m hungry.”
“You would be better off feeding yourself,” you tell her. Her hands continue to search your hips. Her brow furrows. Oh, for god's sake. “If you're trying to steal my wallet, I’m gardening. Did you think I'm going to bribe the dirt into giving me flowers?”
“Fuck you. Maybe I was just trying to cop a feel.”
You bite her lower lip, and lick the blood away. Her hand slides beneath your skirt. You step on her toes. She sneaks her hands back into her pocket.
“Come inside,” you say, resigning yourself to her, but also to yourself. You and she have been tied together for a long time, pushing from one color to the next, and even when she was dead, you remembered her too sharply to let her go entirely—and she, you don’t think, has ever forgotten you. You could get used to settling with her into a steadier, less ambiguous, darkness. “You didn’t finish your sandwich last night.”
“Cool,” she says, and smiles. She enters the house before you, and locks the door behind her. You hit the glass with your fist, then spread it out so your palm is flush on the surface. For a moment, she looks ready to turn away and leave you there, an exquisite gesture of contempt; but though sometimes you have to remind yourself, she once loved you, too, in her own sideways manner. In her first life she had been brilliant and burning, and unready for anything but her screaming, terrible light; and either she is now more mortal, or you are too dead for it to matter. She opens the door again, and lets you in. As you take off your shoes, she reaches for your hand, and laces your fingers together. She runs a finger, gently, over your knuckles, and brings her lips to the back of your hand.
Then she bites, hard enough to draw blood. “That’s for leaving me unconscious on the side of the freaking road!” she says. You strike her across the temple, and she stumbles, laughing all the while.
You are going to ship her to Terezi in two boxes, one with her blood packed into Tupperware, and the other containing her shriveled corpse, you think, hazily. You tell her as much.
She shrugs. “Hate you, too,” she says. She bends down, her hair falling heavy and dark around your wrist, her brow nearly luminous and surrounded by long shadows. She holds your gaze, and kisses your hand with lovely, undeceitful tenderness.