The desert highway stretches in front of Vriska for mile after empty mile, dimly illuminated by the headlights of her motorcycle. This far out into uncivilised territory there aren’t any streetlights to keep the darkness at bay, and Vriska can’t really see more than 100 yards in front of her at any given time. This doesn’t stop her from flying along, at least ten miles above the speed limit, with no regard for her personal safety.
Vriska’s your textbook reckless driver, but tonight she’s pushing even her own comfort zone to its limits. She needs to get away from the little apartment in Phoenix that she shares with her current boyfriend. The boyfriend that had come home early from work, drunk off his feet; the one who had suddenly unleashed a verbal and physical tirade against her. Vriska’s no stranger to abusive and destructive relationships, but the sudden behaviour change in her current beau unnerved her. She fled as soon as his back was turned, grabbing a bag and shoving a change of clothes and her toothbrush in it before hopping on her Harley and getting the hell out of Dodge.
She’s been driving for hours at this point and really has no idea where she is, only that it’s vaguely around the Grand Canyon, which might be to her left or her right; she’s not really sure. The hours on the road are starting to take their toll, and Vriska finds the bike wobbling more and more frequently as her eyelids begin to droop. She knows she should stop for the night, but there hasn’t been a sign of habitation for several miles now, save for the occasional roadside stand designed to peddle Native American wares to excited tourists. If she has to, Vriska will find a comfortable patch of ground, but she wants to avoid that eventuality at all costs.
Vriska glances down briefly, checking the gas level of the Harley. It’s just under a quarter of a tank, and Vriska swears colorfully as she realises the extent of the mess she’s gotten herself in: it’s the middle of the night, she’s in the middle of the Arizona desert (she doesn’t think she’s crossed a border yet), with no gas, no food, and no shelter. Vriska closes her eyes in frustration and anger, wishing that she could possibly make a good life decision at least once in her life.
Her eyes must have stayed shut longer than she’d thought, because when Vriska opens them again she’s drifted almost completely off the road, tires throwing dust and rocks up in her face, hair in front of her eyes, and she that was a PERSON SHIT SHIT BRAKES BRAKES BRAKES—
Vriska slams on the brakes as hard as she can; the tires stop turning but the bike keeps moving forward; her foot slips off the brake pad and the Harley rumbles in response; Vriska does the only thing she can think to to and that is to throw her weight sideways, tipping the bike over and preventing a fatal collision with an innocent pedestrian.
Vriska can feel rocks and sharp plants digging into her skin; the motorbike is a heavy weight on top of her and its mechanical heat is starting to rapidly make itself present through the thick cloth of Vriska’s pants. She skids for an impressive distance that registers as increasing pain in her right side, especially her right leg.
After what seems like minutes of being swiped along the rough ground, Vriska comes to a halt. Her head is spinning and she feels quite nauseous. Her efforts to get up aren’t rewarded with anything much until suddenly her Harley is lifted off of her. She hears a startled exclamation and then the sound of the motorcycle falling over again, though thankfully not on her.
Sitting up and putting a hand to her spinning head, Vriska blinks into the gloom. She can make out a person standing there, hovering agitatedly between Vriska and her Harley; presumably it’s the same woman she almost ran down.
“Are you alright?” the woman asks. She’s young; judging by her voice and the brief glimpse Vriska got before she wiped out, she’s about Vriska’s age.
“Uh,” Vriska responds, working her jaw. She wasn’t wearing a helmet and her head feels a little weird, but she can remember where she is and what she was doing, as well as various other unimportant details. “Yeah. Sure.”
Suddenly the woman’s kneeling beside her. In this light Vriska can’t make out much, but she can discern short hair swept upwards and some kind of frilly shirt. The woman reaches out and presses a cool hand to Vriska’s forehead, like she’s checking for a fever; Vriska wonders what good that will do.
“Are you sure?” the woman asks, and remarkably, Vriska’s head is starting to feel a lot better.
“I’m fine,” Vriska insists, and fully believes that she is until she tries to stand up. Her right knee buckles under her weight, and she comes down heavily onto the appendage, sending a jolt of fresh pain through her body.
“Oh!” the woman exclaims; Vriska ignores her and tries to regain her footing. She ends up on her feet, shaky and without much balance, but standing.
And then the woman has her hands all over Vriska again. Vriska wants to slap them away but recognises that she’ll probably fall over if she does; they also seem to be providing support. “Gerroff,” Vriska protests weakly.
“I apologise for invading your personal space, but you don’t seem particularly capable of standing by yourself at the moment; and since the accident was partly my fault, I feel obligated to assist you.”
Vriska’s head spins as she tries to figure out exactly what this woman’s just said. She gets it figured out in a minute or two, with the additional trivia that her companion was probably an English major.
“Who’re you?” Vriska grunts, mental functions beginning to kick in as her head stops spinning. She doesn’t dare look at her bike yet, fearing the worst.
“I’m Kanaya,” she says, sounding surprised at the question, like she didn’t expect it to be asked. After a pause that stretches just a mite too long, she queries, “What about you?”
“Vriska,” Vriska says simply, taking a wobbly step away from Kanaya. She’s got a slight accent that suggests a foreign birth, though Vriska can’t even begin to place it.
A thought occurs to Vriska as she stares down at her Harley, which seems to be okay. She turns to look at Kanaya, careful not to move too fast, and asks, “Why the hell are you wandering on the side of the road in the middle of fucking nowhere in the middle of the night?”
In the dim lighting, it’s hard to tell, but Vriska thinks Kanaya’s smiling. Something glints near her mouth and Vriska hopes to god it’s just her imagination playing tricks.
“I like the night.”
“What’s so great about it?”
“It has a very different feel than the day--it’s quiet and serene.”
Oh, great, Vriska thinks, I’m stuck out here with a nutjob.
There is a pause while the night demonstrates just how quiet and serene the night can get. Vriska bends down to check her bike in the lull, examining the wheels, handles, and eventually heaving it to a standing position. Nothing falls off and the structure still seems sound. Getting on the bike, Vriska revs the engine. It roars to life quite pleasantly then subsides to an idling growl with just a slight splutter. Vriska frowns; she’ll have to get that checked out.
Kanaya’s still hovering around her like a concerned moth. “If you don’t mind me asking,” Kanaya starts, and Vriska thinks that’s a stupid way to preface anything because of course she minds. She just wants to continue her mad escape to nowhere.
“Do you have a destination in mind?” Kanaya carries on, and Vriska inwardly groans.
“--I’m only asking since the nearest place to stay is still several hours away from here.”
“Then what are you doing here?” Vriska snaps, thoroughly annoyed.
“I live just a couple miles away,” Kanaya says, unperturbed by Vriska’s tone of voice. “The other reason I was asking you if you had a destination planned is because I am more than willing to offer my home to you for the night. If you’d like.”
Oh, great, Vriska thinks, I’m stuck out here with a nutjob who lives in a cave.
Vriska considers this. It’s the perfect solution to her immediate problems, but she’s still more than a little wary of Kanaya. It is the middle of nowhere, and Vriska finds Kanaya’s claim to live nearby more than a little ridiculous. Kanaya herself had admitted the nearest place to stay was several hours away. That was a little far to run to get help if Kanaya turned out to be a murderous cannibal or something.
It’s not like she has any other choice, though. The little gas she has left might not last to the next city, and Vriska isn’t keen on getting back on her bike anyway, considering what had happened to get her off it.
This time Vriska is sure that Kanaya smiles.
They walk back to Kanaya’s supposed house in a surprisingly comfortable silence, Vriska walking her bike alongside her. She staggers more than once, and each time Kanaya is by her side, supporting her.
They reach Kanaya’s house after a horribly long walk. It’s an interestingly-shaped construction, looking haphazardly thrown together with strange materials. The side Vriska can see is dominated by extensive windows, and she thinks that’s a garden around the back.
“So, what, you’re one of those earth hippies who lives off the grid or something?” Vriska stares at the construction Kanaya’s dubbed a house.
Kanaya laughs. “No, no. Though it’s true I do live off the grid, that choice stemmed more from my desire to be completely independent than a burning desire to save the great Earth Mother.”
Vriska’s not so sure about that.
The two enter the house, Kanaya flicking on a light. Vriska gets her first clear look at her. She’s young, probably no older than twenty-five, and her hair is a pretty ginger colour, swept up in a pixie-ish hairdo. She’s wearing a rather nice-looking skirt and shirt ensemble and a pair of sandals that look like something a gladiator would enjoy on his feet.
All in all, Vriska decides, she’s rather attractive; certainly she looks nothing like Vriska would expect an earth-loving hippie cannibal to look like.
Vriska is dead on her feet, so Kanaya shows her to the guest room and provides her with a set of pyjamas before vanishing off into her own corner of the house. Vriska ignores the pyjamas in favour of flopping down on the bed and passing out.
She’s wakened by the sun streaming in through the large window in the room. Vriska sits up, wide awake and thoroughly refreshed. It’s an unusual feeling for her to wake up to, but Vriska certainly doesn’t mind it.
Slipping out from under the covers, Vriska decides to poke around a bit and see what’s what. She opens the door and steps out into a hallway.
The first room she enters is the living room. Its walls consist mostly of glass, letting in the morning light. Curiously, Kanaya’s curled up on the couch, chest rising and falling with each slow breath she takes.
Vriska takes the opportunity to get a closer look at Kanaya’s face. There really isn’t anything interesting to see; just pale skin sprinkled with cinnamon freckles and unusually long eyelashes.
As Vriska’s staring intently at Kanaya’s face, her eyelids flutter open, revealing jade green eyes that meet Vriska’s. Vriska jerks back a bit, but Kanaya merely sits up, unshaken.
“Oh,” she murmurs, “Your eyes are blue.”
“Er,” says Vriska.
“You don’t often see people with black hair and blue eyes,” Kanaya continues.
“Yes,” says Vriska.
“It’s a very pretty combination.”
“Thanks,” says Vriska.
Silence settles in.
“Did I take your bed?” Vriska eventually thinks to ask.
“No,” Kanaya assures. “I just happened to fall asleep here.”
They make casual conversation as Kanaya cooks a nice breakfast. Vriska tucks in heartily, making a thorough mess that requires a napkin and a half plus a damp paper towel to deal with.
“You’re a really good cook!” Vriska says enthusiastically. Kanaya smiles bashfully at the praise. “I’m not, really,” she insists.
When Vriska’s full, she stretches herself out in the chair, limbs akimbo. “Hey,” she says, remembering her dilemma from the night before, “do you have any gas?”
Kanaya pauses, thinking. “I might,” she muses. “I think there’s some in the garage. There should be, anyway. --Will your motorcycle run on car gas?”
Vriska laughs. “Yeah, there’s no special motorcycle gas or some shit.”
Half an hour later, Vriska’s got a full tank of gas and is all suited up, ready to go.
“Thanks for letting me spend the night,” she says, somewhat awkwardly.
“You’re quite welcome!” Kanaya gives her a warm smile. “You’re welcome to come back any time and drop in for a visit-- I don’t often have guests and it gets a little lonely out here.”
“You should get a cat,” Vriska says; Kanaya looks surprised and then thoughtful.
“That’s a good idea,” Kanaya says. “Thank you.”
Vriska makes a 'no problem' gesture with her hands. Kanaya smiles slightly.
“Off you go, then,” Kanaya says gently.
“Yeah,” says Vriska, who makes no attempt to start her bike and just sits there for a minute. “Yeah. Off I go.”
She waves goodbye to Kanaya as she heads back to Phoenix.
Her boyfriend asks all the usual questions when she gets back— where were you, who were you with, what the fuck were you doing, what did I do, etc. Vriska bullshits something about emotional distress and stargazing and accidentally falling asleep and her boyfriend seems to take it as an acceptable answer.
The next few weeks go much as life usually does in the Serket household. Vriska gets in a couple of scuffles and has the dubious pleasure of Terezi Pyrope verbally abusing her for it. The end result is a brief bout of fisticuffs between the two and a conciliatory ice cream outing afterwards.
One morning, however, some inane act Vriska's done sets the man off again, and this time Vriska's gone in under five minutes, riding her bike out of Phoenix, headed north towards Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon.
And Kanaya. But mostly the Grand Canyon.
Definitely the Grand Canyon.
So of course it was because Vriska got lost on her way to the North Rim that she ended up in Kanaya's driveway. What a coincidence! No way that happened on purpose, hahaha!!!!!!!!
Here she is, back at Kanaya's house, staring at the door. She's not nervous— that's totally not the reason she's not knocking.
Vriska swallows hard, slips off her bike, and makes her way up to the door. Her hand hovers over the door for long moments.
Vriska's instincts conflict with each other: one half of her brain says to freeze, the other says to jump; she ends up executing a complicated twist-and-hop motion that ends halfway through and results with Vriska sitting down and slipping of the steps leading to Kanaya's door.
“Hey,” Vriska says, completely ignoring the gaping wound in her pride.
Kanaya's shoulders shake as she tries to suppress her laughter. “Hello there.”
“Came for a visit,” Vriska says as she stands up, brushing off her pants. She doesn't mention that Kanaya's been flitting in and out of her mind since they first met and that Kanaya's house was the first place she thought of to go.
“I see that,” Kanaya says, a chuckle slipping out at the beginning of the sentence. “I'm around the back, in my garden.”
“You garden?” Vriska asks before she realises exactly how dumb that question is considering Kanaya's just told her that she does. “I mean, uh— do you grow food or, um, flowers?”
Smooth, Serket. Real smooth.
Kanaya laughs softly. “Why don't you come and find out?”
Vriska can't think of any objections, so she follows Kanaya around back after stowing her motorcycle in the garage. The garden is much larger than Vriska expected; it appears to be a combination of edible and decorative plants.
“Oh,” she says. “Wow.”
Kanaya grins. “My pet project.”
Kanaya blushes slightly, suddenly turning bashful. “Oh, it's not really that impressive.”
Vriska gives her a look. “Maryam, we are out in the middle of a desert in hundred-degree weather and you have successfully cultivated a fucking oasis behind your earth-hippie house all by your little self. That is impressive.”
Kanaya makes vague self-deprecating comments while Vriska gives her the best stop that look she can call upon.
They spend a pleasant few hours gardening, Vriska grumbling every so often about how she'd been tricked into working, and Kanaya primly telling her it helped to Build Character. They engage in a constant stream of light-hearted bantering that soothes Vriska much more than she'd ever care to admit.
With some of their harvest, Kanaya cooks lunch, and Vriska munches happily on food that she proclaims “anybody would like, anybody!” Kanaya grins at the praise, proud and happy that she's managed to please Vriska, and Vriska can't help but noticing how cute her face is when her nose wrinkles up like that.
They part ways promising to meet up again soon.
The next few weeks follow the same pattern: Vriska goes about her life as usual, and when her boyfriend snaps, she bikes to Kanaya's and spends several hours in the other woman's company. Vriska isn't about to deny that she's falling for Kanaya; that is a thing that is true and there's nothing she can do about it. The boyfriend complicates matters though; any affection Vriska held for him has long since vanished.
Due to his increasingly touchy mood, Vriska's wary of just breaking things off with him, though she's way past fed up with his bullshit. She found out the hard way that he's stronger than he looks, and while Vriska's nowhere near weak, she can't do much locked in the bathroom.
So she's been biding her time, scheming and plotting. And spending a good chunk of daylight at Kanaya's house. But mostly scheming and plotting.
(Being totally honest, some of those schemes and plots might have involved Kanaya in various states of undress, but hey, that was perfectly fine.)
Vriska pulls into Kanaya's driveway one day of her own pure free will, not because she was chased out of the apartment like a scared chicken. She's been casually leaving personal affects at Kanaya's for a while, testing the waters before she throws herself off the cliff of No Return. Kanaya hasn't seemed to be in any hurry to return them, which Vriska takes to be a good sighn.
There's no answer when Vriska knocks, so she walks around to the back, expecting to find Kanaya busily attending to a row of her vegetables or watering her flowers or something similar. She's nowhere in sight.
“Kanaya?” Vriska calls.
There's no response, so Vriska decides now's a perfectly reasonable time to fully explore the garden. She follows one of the lazily winding paths, going slow and taking in her surroundings.
It's truly a remarkable feat, this oasis of green in a land of gold. Vriska wouldn't even have believed it possible had someone told her about it; but Kanaya's somehow managed to coax forth this many plants from the parched earth— and she's keeping them alive and well, too, which is even more remarkable to Vriska, who has managed to kill off even cacti with her negligent mothering skills.
Vriska finds Kanaya tucked away in a small alcove, shaded by a very tiny copse of palm trees, stretched out on a chaise lounge, fast asleep. The sight brings a smile to Vriska's face, and she moves closer to observe Kanaya's sleeping form.
There's a book on Kanaya's stomach, open and facedown. The cover has a picture of what looks to be a vampire cradling a swooning (or possibly fainting) woman in his arms. Vriska stares. She would never have pegged Kanaya as the type.
Kanaya murmurs something unintelligible in her sleep and shifts slightly, drawing Vriska's attention away from the book's cover. Kanaya looks so serene stretched out beneath the trees, like a sleeping princess waiting for her prince.
Vriska blinks at the thought, both ashamed for ever thinking anything that sappy (because ew, feelings) and almost entranced by the idea. She moves closer, bending over Kanaya; just a few more inches lower and they'd be kissing and isn't that what she's been wanting for some time now?
Be the prince, Vriska, she thinks to herself and can't believe that she's seriously being this mushy.
She bends down and gently kisses Kanaya. Her lips are warm and soft and taste faintly of the herbs her cooking is full of.
And then Kanaya opens her eyes and Vriska jerks back, stumbling backwards and falling on her butt (again), all the while wiping off her mouth with the back of her hand like that will change the fact that she took advantage of Kanaya's sleeping state to have her way with her. Of course she'd wake up, of course; that was even the way it went in fairy tales. Wow Serket, zero points for your dumb ass!
“Oh,” Kanaya says, and Vriska's face burns in shame. She stares down at the ground, knowing she should apologise but not finding any words. Her mouth feels like it's been glued shut.
“Vriska, what—” Kanaya starts, and Vriska flinches because she's the worst fucking friend that anyone could have (not to mention the stupidest) and she feels like slowly melting into the floor. Dirt. Ground.
“I'm so sorry,” she chokes out, “I didn't—” and then Vriska stops because she definitely meant to kiss Kanaya, there is no way 'I didn't mean to' is any way close to being true; it is, in fact, the exact opposite of what is true, and Vriska once again finds she is at a loss for words.
And then Kanaya's on her knees beside her. “Vriska, I'm not mad,” she says.
Vriska gives her a that's-bullshit look. “I kissed you in your sleep.”
Kanaya lets out a short breath of laughter. “All right, I'm a little mad.” She pauses, looking like she's fishing for the right words.
“But,” she starts again, speaking delicately, “I'm not mad that you kissed me.”
Vriska sits and stares and tries to figure out exactly what that's supposed to mean. “You just said you were.”
Kanaya lets out an impatient huff. “You're horrible with subtleties,” she announces before placing her hands on Vriska's cheeks and pulling her in for a deep kiss.
Several months later, Vriska decides it's time to come up for air. “Oh,” she breathes.
“Now do you get it?” Kanaya asks. She's still close, her jade green eyes locked on Vriska's.
In answer, Vriska pulls Kanaya in close, pressing against her for another deep kiss.
The stove makes a click-click-click noise before the gas ignites in a tiny bouquet of blue flowers. Vriska's sitting at the kitchen table, childishly swinging her legs back and forth as she watches Kanaya cook.
They spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon in the garden, taking full advantage of the seclusion both the house and the foliage provided. Vriska's glee at the way events were turning out was tempered by the knowledge of the boyfriend that was somehow still a thing. She knows she needs to tell Kanaya, but the whole situation was delicate enough already and Vriska Serket was notoriously bad at delicate situations.
“I'm still a bit mad at you for taking advantage of me,” Kanaya remarks primly as she begins to cut up fresh fruits and vegetables.
“What are you going to do about it?” Vriska asks, more curious than apprehensive.
Kanaya turns around, a wicked grin on her face. “Broccoli.”
Vriska's jaw drops. “You wouldn't.”
Kanaya's grin only widens. “I already have,” she says, holding up the offending vegetable.
The first thing that Vriska realises when she opens her eyes the next morning is that her boyfriend is going to be absolutely enraged at her lengthy absence. Fuck him, she thinks, rolling over to take a good long look at a still-slumbering Kanaya.
There's a faint sick feeling in her stomach, though. Vriska doesn't want to hurt Kanaya; she's always been fiercely protective in new relationships. But the boyfriend thing had to end, and Vriska had nowhere else to go but Kanaya's, having moved into his place instead of the other way around.
As if she can feel Vriska's gaze on her, Kanaya shifts, blinking awake. She greets Vriska with a smile that automatically calls up an answering one on Vriska's face. It quickly fades, however, and Kanaya sits up, looking concerned.
“What's wrong?” she asks, and for some reason the first words out of Vriska's mouth are “my boyfriend is going to be pissed” and she can see it, see Kanaya's expression shift, see the sadness well up in her eyes.
“Shit,” Vriska says. “Shit.”
“Are you going to explain yourself?” Kanaya asks in a clipped tone, trying but failing to keep the hurt from showing in her voice.
And Vriska does, to the best of her ability. She starts at the beginning, at the first night she met Kanaya, and as Vriska spills her guts she can see Kanaya's expression change from sad and hurt to worried and concerned.
“I'd be more than happy to have you stay here,” Kanaya says when Vriska's done talking.
Vriska gives her a half-smile. “Thanks.”
There's silence for a moment. “When do you think you'll leave?”Kanaya asks.
“This afternoon, probably, all things considered,” Vriska replies.
Kanaya blinks. “Oh, but I'll need to wash some sheets –or I guess not, obviously– and I have to clean and the house is a total mess—”
Vriska laughs and cuts her off with a quick kiss. “Your house is clean, get over yourself, Fussyfangs.”
Kanaya colours at the nickname, pouting childishly. “I'm going to clean anyway.”
Vriska grins. “If that's what makes you happy.”
Her boyfriend is waiting for her when she gets back, an air of unease permeating the apartment. Luckily it's ground level, so Vriska can dive out a window if she needs to. She's got a bag of essentials (toiletries and as many of her clothes as she could fit) shoved under the bed; all she needs to to is run in, grab it, break the news, and get out.
“Where have you been?” he says, voice low and dangerous.
“Cheating on you,” Vriska replies flippantly, strolling into the bedroom. He follows her.
“Cheating on you,” Vriska repeats. “Did you not hear me?” There's something very liberating in getting to be as much of a bitch as she wants. Reaching a hand under the bed, she grabs one of the bag's straps and hauls it out. “And leaving you, because you're an abusive asshole and I'm fed up with your bullshit, so goodbye. I'll pick up the rest of my stuff later.”
Vriska slings the bag on her back and prepares to preform gymnastic manoeuvres to avoid flailing fists, but he seems too stunned to react. So she walks out the door, throwing a “later, loser” over her shoulder for good measure.
It felt good to be free.
Kanaya's waiting for her with a freshly baked pan of cookies. Vriska's overly delighted at the sight and dramatically leaps into Kanaya's arms.
They spend the evening laughing and talking and eating far too many cookies than would be considered healthy, even by Vriska's standards.
They end up curled up on the couch, Kanaya leaning contentedly against Vriska, Vriska's arm slung around Kanaya's back.
“What do we do now?” Kanaya asks lazily.
“We could ride off into the sunset on my bike like they do in your dumb romance novels,” Vriska suggests jokingly.
“My romance novels aren't dumb,” Kanaya mutters.
Vriska rolls her eyes, a small smile on her face. “Yeah, yeah. The story of Viscount Montblanc and Claudette definitely counts as fine literature.”
Kanaya huffs petulantly.
“I did like the riding off into the sunset idea,” Kanaya says after a time.
“Really?” Vriska asks. “I don't have a helmet –for me or you– and I didn't know you liked that dangery stuff.”
Kanaya chuckles. “I'm more wild than you think I am.”
“I'll prove it.”
The drive down the highway is the most enjoyable road to nowhere Vriska's ever been on.