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No One Will Catch Us So We'll Catch Ourselves

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Your day has not been going well. Somehow, you managed to get hit by a double blindside combo of memories and regrets: you were haunted by the (thankfully figurative) ghosts of your past, reminded of all the friends lost to your past self’s hubris after an encounter with one of their (unfortunately literal) ghosts in the dream bubbles. It may not have been YOUR Nepeta, but something about how she talked to you just reopened the wounds. You felt miserable at your failures, your utter incapability to keep your friends together, keep them alive. Sure, Aradia technically started off dead and came back, and Sollux is only half dead, but they aren’t here, it doesn’t count.

Had it not been for that, you might not have reacted when Dave demanded the password for some unexplored laboratory door in the recesses of the meteor. Instead, you are crushed by your loneliness. Despite barely knowing her, you can't help but miss talking to/arguing with/yelling at Jade. Not for the first time, you find yourself wishing Trollian would light up with a message from her, demanding some asinine phrase to enforce chronological conversation, just so that you could stop feeling so alone. Fuck, you’d even take another message from John about his awful taste in cinema right now. You abscond from the room, leaving Dave to wonder what your deal was.

You’re stumbling through the halls, hoping to find where Gamzee is hiding himself away this time. Unfortunately, before you can find him, you run into Kanaya. All you wanted to do was find a loose vent cover and go where you should have been safe to break down, but Kanaya decides to take matters into her own hands. You don’t bother to resist when she guides you into a nearby recreationblock. You’re just too tired to fight it, infidelity be damned. In that moment of weakness you bare your pain to her, letting out all your insecurity and confusion and rage, every pent up emotion that you don’t feel safe releasing into what is left of your friends. You cry and you shout and you wear yourself down until you can’t help but collapse on the couch in exhaustion. As you drift from consciousness, you feel her drape one of the human’s blankets over you.

The next morning, you tell her that it was a mistake, that you shouldn’t have done what you did, that you two were just going to be friends and that you were staying with Gamzee. But later that week she comes to you, her mouth stained red and a tremble in her hands. You can't turn her away, and you listen to her panic about who she is and what she is becoming, the weight of the blood on her hands and on her lips and how it is dragging her down. You try to calm her down, reminding her that what she did was done for the sake of her and her friends’ well-being, that you trust her to not hurt anyone that doesn't need hurting. You smile softly when you see her begin to calm down, glad that you could help her.

As the weeks and months pass, and Gamzee gets harder and harder to find, you find yourself confiding in Kanaya more and more often. Even if you refused to give up on Gamzee, you couldn’t deny that whenever you talked to her, you walked away feeling what you could only describe as “free”. Sometimes you even catch yourself wondering if she feels like that too.

--

Helping Rose had been weighing on Kanaya’s mind for months. You can't blame Kanaya for her concern, given how drastically Rose has been changing since she joined you on the meteor.

KANAYA: I Am Just Uncertain On How I Should Proceed. It Is Obvious That Her Over Usage Of Her Human Soporifics Is Causing Her Harm But Rose Refuses To Admit That It Is Doing Anything Adverse. If She Asserts That There Is No Problem She Will Not Make Any Attempt To Change Her Destructive Behaviors, And For Every Bottle I Dispose Of She Seems To Have Three More Hidden Away.
KARKAT: YEAH, THAT'S BASICALLY ADDICTION 101. REMEMBER GAMZEE AND HIS PIES, BACK BEFORE HE WAS A VENT DWELLING MURDER-CLOWN? WHICH ACTUALLY MIGHT NOT BE THE BEST EXAMPLE ON HOW TO PROCEED. IF YOU CUT HER OFF, MAYBE ROSE WILL KILL DAVE, AND THEN START A FIGHT OVER PROPERTY RIGHTS WHEN SHE GOES TO LIVE IN THE WALLS. LET'S NOT PUSH THAT ENVELOPE, I REALLY DON’T NEED TO HAVE ANOTHER MURDERFRIEND TO KEEP IN CHECK.
KANAYA: I Agree. Lets Not Do That. You Already Have Your Hands Full With Pacifying Two Murderfriends. Adding In Another Would Be Right Out.

Despite seeing the mirth on her face, you can’t help but get heated.

KARKAT: OH, DON’T START WITH THIS AGAIN, MARYAM. FIRST OFF, I HAVE SAID IT BEFORE AND I WILL CONTINUE TO SAY IT UNTIL YOU BELIEVE IT, YOU DO NOT GET TO JOIN THE MURDER CLUB. MEMBERSHIP DENIED, DUES REFUNDED, CARD REVOKED. YOUR BODY COUNT IS STRICTLY COMPRISED OF LEGITIMATE THREATS TO OUR WELL-BEING, AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY YOU WOULD EVEN BEGIN TO THINK OTHERWISE. SECOND, I THOUGHT THAT I WAS CLEAR. I AM GAMZEE’S MOIRAIL. THIS IS NOT PACIFYING, THIS IS JUST TWO FRIENDS PLATONICALLY COMMISERATING WITH EACH OTHER.

She raises an eyebrow and frowns at you. She drops the subject, but seems unconvinced by your declaration. If you’re being honest though, you can’t blame her. You’re not exactly convinced either.

---

At some point, you began to notice little things that didn’t add up. At first, you wrote it off. You could have sworn you had left your movie on the table, but you must have put it away and just forgotten about it. Then you got suspicious. It was your day to do the dishes, and you were sure that there were a lot more plates sitting in the sink before you had to explain to Dave again that no, there are not and will never be any plans to add a “Barack Obama Presidential Rapnasium” to Can Town. In the end, it wasn't until you found the laundry that you had planned to do before going to sleep being washed, folded, sorted, and *mended* that you figured out what was going on.

KARKAT: OKAY, HA HA KANAYA. JOKE’S OVER. KNOCK IT OFF.
KANAYA: I Dont Know What You Are Talking About Karkat. What Should I Be Knocking Off?

You notice Rose leaning against Kanaya, looking at you in confusion. She seems mildly buzzed, which is impressively sober for her these days. You stand there, consider the scene, and decide to leave well enough alone. You turn around storm off instead of answering her.

--

The situation continues well into the next week, but you can never seem to catch Kanaya in the act. Were it not so frustrating, it would almost start to feel a bit like a game. You know what she’s doing, you’ve even started to expect when it’s going to happen, but every time you think you’re a step ahead she beats you to the punch. The most you ever manage to get is sarcastic evasions.

You find yourself wishing more and more that you could just talk to somebody about this. You had gotten used to having someone there to listen, to help you get your thoughts sorted out. You WANT to go talk to Kanaya, to lay out your confusion, let her help you sort your head out. You can read between the lines though. No matter how self-sufficient you are, she seems to think you’re not able to actually take care of yourself.

The only thing you’re at a loss for is *why* she’s felt the need to take shots at you like this. By now, you’re willing to admit that your protests of any pale feelings were more denial than anything. But now? You can’t seem to bring yourself to open up like you want to. Any time you try, something feels off, and it seems like you’re just shouting at her instead of to her.

Your other options have grown frustratingly slim. Somewhere along the line, you had stopped even trying to look for Gamzee anymore. Half the time you weren’t able to find him, and even when you did you ended up just as anxious as you did before you found him, if not more so. And even if you felt like you could talk to any of the other people on this miserable rock, you’d have a hell of a time explaining why it rankles you so much to have someone else making your life *easier* in a way they would understand.

--

You are planning to go watch a nice, relaxing romcom to take your mind off of things when you finally catch her. She’s sitting on the couch in one of the less-frequented recreationblocks, quietly patching one of *your* more worn-down sweaters.

KANAYA: Hello Karkat, How Are You Doing Today?
KARKAT: REALLY? YOU’RE JUST GOING TO OPEN WITH *HELLO* WHEN I’VE CAUGHT YOU DEAD TO FUCKING RIGHTS?
KANAYA: Caught Me Doing What? I Am Just Partaking In Some Recreational Needlework, Nothing More.

She never bothers to lift her head from her work. You’re about to explain what you're talking about, but you realize that even if you can’t see it, she’s got that smirk on her face again. Your vision goes red, and you grin as you fill your lungs, prepared to release a glorious tirade which will threaten to revolutionize the fundamental nature of the spoken Alternian language with the intensity of its hate...

...No…

You don’t release a veritable torrent of unrestrained rage. You don’t even let out a half-hearted stream of mild annoyance.

...We can’t be...

You stagger backwards as if you were struck, until you’re pressed up against the wall. Your legs begin to buckle underneath you, and you’re halfway to hyperventilating before you manage to slide down to the floor. Your vision fades from the hot red of rage, darkening to a haze of pitch.

...Are we flipping black?

You are so caught up in your horrifying revelation that you don't notice Kanaya kneeling down next to you until she puts a hand on your shoulder. Your attention snaps back to the room as you flinch away from her. You immediately regret it when you see the pain in her face as she pulls her hand back, and then wonder why it would bother you if you’re going spades for her. That makes you miss having someone to talk this out with, which leaves you bristling at how she’s been acting. Except that brings you back to the hurt you saw, which would have started you spiraling into some kind of circle of recursive uncertainty if she hadn't chosen now to say something.

KANAYA: Karkat Please Tell Me What Is Happening. You Are Worrying Me And I Cannot Help You If I Do Not Know What Is Going On.

You erupt.

KARKAT: *YOU* DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON? NOW I’M REALLY WONDERING WHAT KIND OF GAME YOU’RE PLAYING HERE, MARYAM. YOU’RE THE ONE THAT’S BEEN SCREWING WITH ME FOR WEEKS, THROWING ME OFF MY GAME. IT TOOK ME A WHILE TO CATCH ON, BUT IN RETROSPECT I COULDN’T THINK OF ANYONE ELSE WHO WOULD TAUNT ME LIKE THAT.
KARKAT: I MEAN REALLY, WHO ELSE WOULD FIND A WAY TO MAKE *SEWING* INTO A JAB LIKE THAT? I DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO SEW, BUT YOU *KNEW* IT WOULD PISS ME OFF IF YOU DIDN’T LET ME TAKE CARE OF MY OWN SHIT.
KARKAT: SO WHAT IS IT? SNARE ME INTO SOME KIND OF PALE FLING SO YOU CAN CATCH ME OFF GUARD FOR SOME KIND OF OVER THE TOP CALIGINOUS PROPOSITION? THAT WOULD AT LEAST MAKE A BIT OF SENSE, EVEN IF IT SOUNDS LIKE THE START OF A TRASHY ROMCOM SCENARIO. AND FUCK ME, IT WAS EVEN STARTING TO WORK, EXCEPT HERE YOU ARE EDGING BACK OVER TO PALE.
KARKAT: SO WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE? ARE YOU JUST TRYING TO TOY WITH ME? TEAR AWAY ONE OF THE BEST THINGS TO COME OUT OF THIS PAN-ROTTING SWEEP-AND-A-HALF VOYAGE AS A PLOY TO GET ME TO HATE YOU? WAS ANY OF THAT REAL? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?

You’re not sure what you’re hoping to hear. All of the needling she's been doing is too hostile to be pale, but going black? Getting pulled around like this with no possible auspistice to rein things in is just a disaster waiting to happen and she should know that better than anyone. You feel the corners of your eyes watering, but you can’t bring yourself to care right now as you look to Kanaya some kind of response.

Her face is frozen in wide-eyed shock. Her bioluminescence must have shuddered to life at some point during your rant, because her skin’s flickering light is coloring the walls with an unearthly glow.

KANAYA: I…I Did Not Mean...I Thought…

Kanaya takes a breath, visibly trying to collect herself.

She didn't know

KANAYA: I Am Sorry Karkat. I Had Thought We Were Just Engaging In A Friendly Platonic Back And Forth While I Assisted You In A Few Domestic Matters As Thanks For Your Continued Willingness To Manage My At Times Unstable Mental State. I Had Not Intended Any Kind Of Black Overtones.
KANAYA: I Am... I Am Not Certain How We Should Proceed With This. I Cannot Tell You To Not Feel What You Are Feeling But This Has Caught Me Off Guard As Well.
KANAYA: I Know We Had A...Something Even If You Do Not Want To End Your Moirallegiance With Gamzee. And While I Did Not Intend To Express Any Caliginous Feelings For You I Can See What You Mean. All I Can Offer Is To Be Here To Help Figure Out Where We Stand And How We Feel. Do You Think That Would Be Alright?

Despite how hard she’s trying to keep herself calm, you can’t miss how upset this has made her. More than anything, that’s what makes you sure of her words, her trying to salvage things in spite of how monumentally twisted you made everything. And the more you think of it, the less your prior epiphany makes sense to you anyway. When was the last time that Kanaya came at somebody that indirectly? Her idea of subtly sniping at a person’s shortcomings is to nudge them in the head with a loadgaper. How did you get it into your thinkpan that she was playing some kind of passive-aggressive mindgames?

Your silent contemplation of your mental and emotional inadequacies must have lasted a bit longer than you thought, because Kanaya starts to awkwardly push herself back up to her feet.

KANAYA: I...I Am Sorry, I Should Go.
KARKAT: NO, WAI--

You’re stopped by the whiplash of the rapidly accelerating trainwreck that is your life suddenly running into Dave Strider’s stubborn refusal to read a room before opening his mouth.

DAVE: stop whatever it is youre doing karkat, i need you to settle some monumental shit for rose and me. we can agree that troll will smith is like any will smith in that his flow is undeniably a straight up gift from the gods, right? are we in agreement that the mans skills are a constant in any universe?
KARKAT: DAVE, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU EVEN TALKING ABOUT. NO, DON’T ANSWER THAT, I DON’T CARE.
DAVE: that hurts man, i thought you would have my back here. you cut me deep, i think i might have to swear off the rap game and write pretentious songs about being sad with titles longer than their chorus. okay i won’t be that drastic, can’t hold back the rhymes, that would be like trying to claim will smith has a subpar flow. you just cant do that in any kind of good conscience.
KARKAT: I’LL SAY IT SLOWLY SO THAT YOU CAN GET IT THROUGH YOUR THICK, HUMAN THINKPAN. FUCK. OFF. KANAYA AND I ARE IN THE MIDDLE OF DEALING WITH SOME HEAVY, EMOTIONALLY CHARGED SUBJECTS, AND WE DON’T NEED A SPECTATOR RAMBLING ON ABOUT INANE BULLSHIT.
DAVE: oh shit is this one of your weird quadrant bullshit things? which one is it? it cant be hearts cause of rose and i dont hear any powertools so it cant be spades. is this some kinda diamond thing? what was it, maury-allegiance?
KARKAT: AS A MATTER OF FACT WE ARE DISCUSSING ISSUES WITH OUR MOIRALLEGIANCE. NOW SCRAM BEFORE I TAKE MY BLUNTEST, SHITTIEST SICKLE AND JAM IT SO FAR UP YOUR WASTECHUTE YOU CAN TASTE THE ARTIFACT GRIST.

Dave slowly backs out of the room, his palms raised in mock surrender. Sighing, you turn to face Kanaya again. Given how things were going before you were interrupted, you’re surprised to find her still standing there. You catch her trying to pull her arm away from her face before you can tell that she was wiping at her eyes. You opened your mouth to somebody you had feelings for and fucked things up, and if you were smart you would keep your mouth shut for once to stop things from getting worse. But looking at her, you know you have to do something. You have to try to make things right.

KARKAT: KANAYA, I--
KANAYA: Did You Mean What You Just Said To Dave?

You’re caught off guard by the question. It takes you a second before you realize what she’s talking about. “Our moirallegiance”, that’s what you had told Dave. You were so busy trying to get that asshole to leave that you didn’t really think about what you were saying. Is that really what this is to you? You don’t really need to think to answer that, but the words seize in your throat. You can’t get yourself to spit it out, like you’re afraid she’ll throw every denial you’ve made back in your face if you don’t find the perfect words to explain yourself. You know better, she won’t do that to you, but you still can't get yourself to just say it. Of COURSE now is when you decide to take your own advice and keep your mouth shut. Still, you have to do something, or else she'll think your silence is an answer. You doubt you'll get a second Dave Ex Machina to bail you out again.

The only thing you can think to do leaves you feeling childish, like you’re being a performative wiggler doing something they think all moirails do with each other to show everyone how pale they are for each other. You offer her your hand, first two fingers outstretched in a V, inviting her to finish the shape.

She smiles fondly at you, blinking back renewed tears, and lifts her hand to mirror yours briefly before crushing you in a hug. Her strength leaves your ribs aching, but you hold her as tightly as you can manage anyway. She finally lets you go, and for a moment you both just stand there, teary-eyed and smiling. Kanaya is the first to break the silence.

KANAYA: I Just Had A Thought. You Said That You Do Not Know How To Sew But Expressed Particular Offense To My Attempts To Repair Your Clothing. How Would You Feel About Having A Sewing Night Every So Often? I Can Teach You The Basics So That You Can Mend Your Own Clothing And If Either Of Us Are Particularly Troubled We Are Both There For An Impromptu Pile And Feelings Jam. In Fact I Can Go Get My Sewing Kit Right Now If You Would Like To Talk Anything Out. We Are Apparently Long Overdue For A Proper Feelings Jam.
KARKAT: FUCK. YES. THAT SOUNDS AMAZING. JUST DON’T BE SURPRISED IF I THROW MY MOVIE ON IN THE BACKGROUND, OKAY? I WILL NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT HOW GOOD HIS "FLOW" MIGHT BE, BUT TROLL WILL SMITH MAKES AN EXCELLENT RELATIONSHIP CONSULTANT.

She gives you a small chuckle and a fond smile as she goes to leave. She pauses in the door for a second before turning back to you.

KANAYA: ...Does This Mean That I Have Permission To Kill Gamzee Now?
KARKAT: KANAYA, IF I SO MUCH AS THINK THAT YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE OUT YOUR CHAINSAW THEN I SWEAR I WILL PAP YOU SO HARD YOUR ANCESTOR WILL FEEL IT
KANAYA: ...
KARKAT: ...THAT TURN OF PHRASE IS A LOT MORE AWKWARD NOW THAT I’VE ACTUALLY MET PORRIM. IGNORE THAT, JUST DON’T GO CLOWNHUNTING, OKAY?
KANAYA: Darn.