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Backstage II: Rose on the Run

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I am perfecting my winged eyeliner when footsteps race up the metal steps of our trailer. Rose flies in and slams the door behind her.

"I have had it," she declares.

"What exactly have you had, Rose?" I say. "Also, I believe I have asked you not to slam that door." I dip a cotton ball into makeup remover and erase the blur at the corner of my eye.

She shoves a fic between me and my vanity mirror. "I will not stand for this - this - second-fiddle, bit-part, also-ran, background-couple, counselor shtick for a moment longer."

I take the fic and page through it. Dave and Karkat... Dave and Karkat... yadda yadda... Karkat and Dave... here we are. My first appearance is on page 9. I skim my lines. It's a fairly easy role, one I could perform in my sleep. Listen to Karkat talk about Dave, advise Karkat on what to do about Dave, end conversation when Rose appears for our daily embarrassing public snogging.

Not embarrassing to us, mind you. We do enjoy it. It isn't even acting any more, hasn't been for sweeps. But Rose takes pleasure in watching our co-stars squirm.

I tune back in to her pacing rant. She's reached "Why are we always second tier? Why can't the fictors write real stories for us? Why the hell is it always Davekat, Davekat, Davekat?"

"To me, it is an honor to be mentioned at all," I say. Which lipliner do I want today, hmm. Ah, whom am I kidding. It's jade green or black. Those are the choices. Rose has said the black brings out my complexion.

"You can't be serious." Rose pulls up her director's chair. Its canvas back reads "R. LALONDE" in Gothic capital letters. "Kanaya, how is that good enough for you?"

Her question gives me pause. She is right. Somewhere along the line, I must have decided that steady employment, a fanbase of talented artists and writers, and lasting fame in the pages of an absurdly verbose and convoluted web comic were good enough for me.

Something tells me she will not appreciate my pointing this out.

"Tell me more," I say instead. I learned this technique from a human book about relationships. Behave as if you care about what they are saying. It works very well on Rose. I don't think she has caught on.

"Look, what do we know about Kanaya Maryam?" she says. She ticks items off on her fingers. "You're a rainbow drinker. You're a wicked talent with a sewing machine. You're my matesprit and Karkat's moirail, or moirail-lite - sorry, I don't mean to be insensitive, but it is still not clear to me what you and he are to each other. You're clean where I'm toxic, you're sensitive where I'm snarky, you're bright where I'm grimdark."

"All true. Though I had hoped I was improving on the snark front."

"You're capable of so many things. And what has it gotten you?" She hands me another fic, labeled Earth C and Beyond. "Care to guess what we get to do in the new world?"

"I presume it is not enjoying pleasant strolls under the 'Thanks for Playing' sign," I say.

She flips to a page covered in purple highlighter. "We make the babies. Because we're ladies, and ladies take care of babies. Whoop dee fucking doo, I'm a baby farmer."

"Rose, I am not opposed to baby-making activities with you," I point out. My witticism does not bring about the sexy derail I had hoped for, but no matter.

"I never wanted to be a baby farmer," she says. "I gave up on my dream of a real character arc long ago. I've made my peace with that. But there is NOTHING in my literary DNA that says I'm remotely interested in or qualified for the role. I didn't coddle dolls, I didn't warm up to my own mom..."

"You doted on Jaspers."

"Not the same. Cat is not baby." She paces.

"Rose," I ask her. "What would make you happy?"

She turns to me, her eyes alight. "I destroyed my gates, I descended into eldritch madness, I volunteered for a suicide mission." She pauses for effect. "I want a challenge."

--

Somehow the word gets back to Mr. H (truly, it was not my doing) and we are summoned to an "emergency cast meeting" the next day.

Mr. H: "It has come to my attention that some of you are not pleased with the roles you have been assigned. Therefore, we'll be making some changes, effective immediately. Dave, Karkat, you'll manage the grub farm. Roxy, Calliope, you're moving in with John. See if you can get him out of his slump."

Rose: "What do you have for me and Kanaya?"

Mr. H taps his pencil to his beard. "I think it's time for you to see other people."

My blood runs cold. "You. Wouldn't. Dare," says Rose.

He shrugs. "You wanted a challenge, I've issued a challenge. Fictors: break them up. Bonus points if you can get Rose to date a boy."

"Go fuck yourself sideways with a plastic pony," says Rose. "I'll never go het."

Shadows shift around us. I hear someone's laptop booting up.

--

When I bring her her coffee the next morning, she refuses it.

"I don't need it. Not where I'm going."

I sit on the edge of her bed. "If you are not going to the scripts mistress to pick up your pages for the day, may I ask what you have in mind?"

"It would be better if you didn't," she says.

"Better for whom, my love?"

She sweeps the covers off. She's in camouflage pants, a black leather jacket, Dr. Martens, and not a stitch of her trademark lavender. "Cut my hair?"