They didn’t understand how fleeting their lives really were, not until Karkat got sick. They’d never faced sickness before. Not like this. They were all powerless as he grew sicker, sicker, until finally, he was gone. They all wept. The pain continued to grow. Feferi, the Witch of Life, felt more powerless than the rest.
They were 12 sweeps when Karkat died. It was so sudden that they could hardly believe it. Terezi thought it was some joke and laughed. Feferi had never seen her go so quiet so quickly. Nepeta and Sollux were crushed. She tried her best to comfort her dear friends, but they were all left so hollow. Their former leader was gone. They’d never been faced with the idea of death without being culled. Karkat’s death, the knowledge of their own mortality, brought them back together again. Feferi brought her friends into her court as if it could keep them safe.
It didn’t work. Aradia fell ill four sweeps later. Sollux was almost inconsolable. The lines were clearly defined, then, and everyone visibly changed. Their attitudes shifted, and they grew closer together, knowing that one by one, they were all going to die. Feferi found herself clinging to Sollux more and more as the sweeps passed, knowing that he too was going to leave them.
At 24 sweeps, Tavros died. Gamzee occupied his wheelchair and refused to talk to anyone. Feferi felt afraid, possibly for the first time in her life. She was afraid of losing all of her friends. Deep down inside, she knew that she was going to lose Sollux, and that in the end, she would be the only one left. The ripple that began with Karkat’s death grew into an earthquake that destroyed everything. With every passing sweep, the aftershocks became larger and more devastating.
The Empress huddled in Eridan’s arms, burying her face into his cape. At 36 sweeps, Sollux passed. Eridan could do nothing more than wrap his cape around her and hold her close, swear to himself that he would not let her go. He could see the fear now, too, in the way that Equius held Nepeta more than he had ever let himself before, in the way that Vriska, Terezi, and Kanaya clung together. Gamzee, well, they had no idea where he had gone. Every once in a while they would hear a broken and warbling honk resound from the depths of Feferi’s hive, but he never showed himself, too broken from the death of his dearest friend to face them.
“W4K3 UP, 4LL OF YOU!”
136 sweeps. Nepeta and Kanaya were gone. Equius retreated to a corner somewhere far away. They’d never seen him cry, never seen him break like he had when his moirail died. Surely, the entire hive had shook when he had his first meltdown. Eridan continued to hold Feferi as she shook. She was unable to do anything anymore. There was no stopping this wreckage as it continued. They could only wait.
Terezi, Vriska, Equius, all gone.
The silence and lingering doom settled in on the remaining two.
“Please don’t let go.”
Eridan, feeling weaker, more tired, more sick. Even still, he held her, pressed reassuring kisses to the top of her head, held her hands to still them and wiped her tears away when she began to cry.
“ill nevver let you go fef.”
Light fading from his eyes, his grip began to weaken no matter how hard he tried to not slip away. Feferi staring at him in fear, her eyes begging him not to leave her.
“evven wwhen i die.”
808 sweeps. Feferi stood alone. Alone. The hairline cracks broke into splinters and the once happy ruler fell into nothing.
1025 sweeps. Alone.