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A Beautiful Date In The Candlelight Next To These Weird Chess Monsters

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You’re sitting in the common room of the meteor, your back against the arm of the couch and your feet tucked under Kanaya’s legs as she types furiously on her phone. You suppose it’s called her mobile huskdevice? You’re not sure, so you settle on calling it her “troll phone.” 

As you’re not typically one to be intrusive, you haven’t read the text going up your companion’s screen. (Is “companion” the right word? Is “girlfriend?” “Matesprit?” Should you ask?) However, you are awfully close to her, and you can occasionally see she is alternating between windows with red and grey text. You are suspicious of what would require Kanaya, your brother, and his shoutiest friend to all be in cahoots, but you haven’t pushed it.  

Kanaya’s typing slows down, and stops. When you place your knitting in your lap for a moment’s rest, she grabs your hand. 

KANAYA: My Darling
KANAYA: I Will Return Shortly

She kisses the back of your hand and winks, which on anyone else would be silly, but on her it’s just dashing. She is getting up and leaving, though, which is not very dashing. You’d grown used to her warmth and presence as you knit and she embroidered, but something in her conversation with Dave and Karkat must have drawn her attention. Hmm. 

You’ve all been on the meteor a few months, and for you it has been a dream. Interspersed with dream bubbles, of course. You’d flitted around Kanaya for a while before your first “official” date, during which you were only mildly tipsy. Smashing one’s drink glass out of one’s hand does not remove the alcohol one has already consumed, Vriska , but it certainly meant one couldn’t become more inebriated as time went on. You had wandered the halls hand-in-hand with Kanaya, meandering up to the roof before she had kissed you senseless under the twinkling lights of passing bubbles. 

You think you saw a dead Vriska holding hands with a dead Kanaya flip you off in one of the bubbles, but you also don’t really give a fuck about most iterations of Vriska, jealous and dead or otherwise. 

Regardless of your slight animosity towards your travelling companion, however, you do share an aspect, and the places your and her understanding brush up against each other are certainly something to think about.  In fact, you think as you start another row of your knitting, it’s something to occupy one’s thoughts with. Your knitting needles clack reassuringly in your hands as you turn your cerebral locomotive towards just that topic. 

The nature of the Light aspect is an intriguing one.  You thought you had an amount of understanding of what Light meant as you blasted your way through the game: literal, eye-piercing Light, and the best and most useful knowledge for your team’s progression. You even used that very conception to guide the meteor when Sollux pushed you towards the new session. To what you know is the new session. 

Vriska, however, throws a bit of a wrench in your understanding of your shared aspect. She’s been treating her powers as sheerly based on luck and fortune alone, even though you know for a fact both of you were burned by the same type of opaque spherical knowledge-revealing device. You’d never considered that you were specifically discerning the most fortuitous path because your powers also played into luck, and not just because you possessed “the best” knowledge. 

This does bode well for your upcoming battle with Bec Noir, though. Terezi has let you all know about a timeline where Vriska went to battle Bec in which she was able to defeat him, but the rest of the meteor had perished. If one god tier Light player could take him down, surely the addition of another Light player to point out the most fortuitous path that she could clearly see would only be a boon. Yes, even without your needle crafting abilities and bloodthirsty ferocity you would be a formidable foe. Bec Noir had better watch out. 


You quite literally jump into the air as Vriska vaults over the back of the couch and lands on the cushion next to you.  Instead of dropping back down next to her, you decide to just hover a foot above the couch, because you’re a god, and you can do that. It also puts the top of your head about level with the top of Vriska’s horns as she slouches. She’s not exactly happy to have to look up at you as you continue adding rows to the sweater you’re knitting out of fluffy purple yarn you alchemized a few weeks ago. 

You only have the neck right now, but you intend to give it to whatever version of your mother that you meet in the new session. The large, fluffy ball is still resting on the ground next to the couch, and it spins a little as you tug some more yarn loose. 

Vriska has apparently gotten more agitated as you ignored her for the last thirty seconds. 

My, that’s a new record for her. 

She pokes your leg with a long nail. 

VRISKA: Hey. Lalonde.

You look up from your knitting and make eye contact.

VRISKA: I h8ve a question.

She actually looks a little uncomfortable: her brow creases a bit, and she breaks the eye contact. Maybe that explains her newfound patience with being ignored. 

You set your needles in your lap. 

ROSE: Really? Of what nature?

You catch her eye as she looks back up at you.

She sighs.

VRISKA: How much d8d you end up talking to Doc Scratch during your session?

You inhale sharply. Well. Not exactly what you were expecting. You quickly flip through your mental stock of what you know about Vriska’s relationship with the white-texted entity that plagued you during your session.

ROSE: Kanaya told me he pestered a few trolls and spurred on the events that maimed you and Terezi.
ROSE: This included the use and destruction of an artifact similar to the white cue ball I used to contact the horrorterrors after my mother’s....
ROSE: Untimely demise.
ROSE: Terezi also told me he was Alternia’s First Guardian, similar to Bec on my planet.
ROSE: In my conversations with him, he was unnervingly paternalistic, patronizing and grating, and his actions seemed tailored to some unknown cause that only hurt yourself and your compatriots.
ROSE: My assessment: He was a creepy old man with far too much power, like most creepy old men.

Vriska sighed, and nodded.

VRISKA: I hadn’t had much chance to interact with adults, but we’d all heard stories of what kinds of trolls to watch out for when we ascended in the military.
VRISKA: Hell, I knew from Mindfang’s journals how adults 8ehaved.
VRISKA: He was really something else, though.

She stares off into the room, brow still furrowed. You give her a moment before interrupting her stare off into the middle distance.

ROSE: Why do you ask about my experiences with him?
VRISKA: I just thought...
VRISKA: May8e you knew how to feel about things that you...
VRISKA: That you did 8ecause the advice he gave you made it seem like a good idea.

She really struggled to finish that thought, her hands wringing in her lap. Did Terezi put her up to this? No, she probably wouldn’t even want to bring this up in front of Terezi.

But Vriska was waiting for an answer, and you had to think of one.  To give yourself some time to come up with a response, you lowered yourself to the couch and pulled a little of the new yarn slack into your lap.  You put the end of one of your needles in your mouth and gnawed at the end a little as you thought.  Not a habit you liked to indulge, but. It was a tough question. 

Whether it was at the urging of or in spite of things that were said to you, you certainly feel now that you were a little out of your depth when dealing with the rancid old cueball that had been trying to (and succeeded in) manipulating you during the session. You somehow know with certainty that you are outside his grasp right now, and likely will remain so, but the idea of his impact on your life continuing sends a chill down your spine. You think for a moment more. 

ROSE: Regardless of the influence of said creepy old man on what I did a few scant months ago, I do still have to take responsibility for it, somewhat.
ROSE: I don’t really believe that I am all that much different such a short time later, but I certainly have had plenty of time to think about it.
ROSE: I wish I could be of more reassurance, but I don’t yet feel like I did much wrong.
ROSE: When I questioned the game and sought to rip it apart, when I dove into the depths of what the horrorterrors had to offer and died for the trouble...
ROSE: None of that exactly had ill effects on my progress to where we are now.
ROSE: To my life? Certainly. But to my persistence towards my goals? Not at all, not when my goals ended up serving to assist the session far more than I thought I ever would.
ROSE: You’ll forgive me for telling you I have some idea of what actions you’re referring to, and I am sorry for what happened to you, but I personally don’t feel I have much to regret from what I ended up doing.

You spare a glance at Vriska after you finish. She’s looking at her feet, which she’s tucked up into her lap. Her long limbs are crossed lotus-style, backs of her feet on the tops of her thighs. She’s still slouching, despite it probably being far more comfortable not to while in that position.

After a moment, she nods, and scoffs a bit.

VRISKA: Of C8URSE you feel good about the h8nd that you were dealt.
VRISKA: I was never a8le to steal his luck for myself, and I NEVER felt good about what I did under his “guiding hand.”
VRISKA: Not after, at least.
VRISKA: But I knew him for YEARS, and you only h8d to deal with h8m for a d8y.

She grumbles a little more, but it’s not really directed at you, or at least you don’t think it is. It’s probably hard not to grumble when thinking about the nature of things she’s had to do in her life, from what she's said before.

ROSE: What do you want, to be able to blame him for it?
ROSE: Because I think you and I both know as bad as it felt when you sat in the wreckage of it, you did want to do it before you realized how awful it was to deal with the consequences.

Vriska sighs.

VRISKA: Not in the mood to pull punches, Lalonde?

You shrug, and she rolls her eyes.

VRISKA: Figures.
VRISKA: No, I don’t really want to 8lame him for it.
VRISKA: I definitely have to take responsi8ility for things, too.
VRISKA: If that means that people h8 me forever, I guess I’ll have to deal with that.
VRISKA: What I don’t want to deal with is feeling 8ad about that forever.
VRISKA: I did shitty things 8ecause someone shitty told me it was actually okay to do, 8ut that doesn’t change the fact that I did them.

Remarkably astute. You didn’t expect her to be both candid about her actions and seemingly aware that they have permanent consequences. But then again, she’s never seemed unintelligent, just belligerent. Maybe it really only has taken a little time away from almost anything she’s ever known to push her towards being a slightly better person.

You think about some things you do regret: not learning more of your planet’s mystery from Jaspers, not talking to Jade and John more before you lost them for three years, a lot of how your relationship with your mother happened with the revelation that she may have been more genuine in her actions than you thought… Yes. There’s a lot you could say you wish you had done, even if you feel you’re lacking in things you wish you hadn’t.

ROSE: Maybe that’s the point.

Vriska jumps, but you continue.

ROSE: Maybe we have to sit with the things we’ve done to know better for next time.
ROSE: That’s actually part of our domain, the knowing.
ROSE: “Our domain” being the aspect you, I, and your amusing ancestress share.
ROSE: If we know what could go wrong in the worst ways, we can try to make sure it doesn’t happen that way again.
VRISKA: We’re in charge of ****kn8wing things?****
ROSE: Light is fortune and knowledge, exposition and luck.
ROSE: When I Saw our path here, I didn’t just pick the most fortuitous route, although that had a lot to do with it. I also knew that the path we were forging was the correct path.

The words come almost unbidden, but as you say them you know them to be true.

ROSE: Because I can See knowledge, I can just know things if I use my powers. I’m surprised you can’t steal the knowledge of things for yourself.

Vriska chews a piece of her hair, looking a little miffed at the end of your sentence.

VRISKA: Alr8, Lalonde. Your game powers giving you an a8ility certainly means it’s proooooooo8a8ly tied in with our Aspect.
VRISKA: But how do you know it isn’t part of your Seer powers, which are allegedly to Know things anyways?

She points a talon-tipped finger at you, and you pull your yarn out of the way instinctively. She smirks.

You’ve already thought about this, of course. After listening to Aranea talk about classes and aspects for a while in the dream bubbles, you’d penned your thoughts in your journal on the distinction between your class and your aspect, happy for the chance to think about it for a moment outside the confines of the session itself. Being resurrected and given the power to guide yourself and your friends to your new destination gave you a bit more of an appreciation for what kind of power you wield, and you aim to understand it well enough to weaponize it by the time you arrive in the new session.

You arrange your face to try to look as smug as Vriska does right now.

ROSE: Your dear young Mindfang explained it to me well enough on one of my visits to the dream bubbles.
ROSE: What your class lends to your powers is based on a verb or an action - in my case, to know, and in your case, to steal. We can use it in different ways, whether we allow our Aspect to act through us or grasp it to use it ourselves, but the Aspect itself acts as a noun - knowledge.
ROSE: To be obtuse and a little reductive, I quite literally know knowledge, in the same way Terezi knows outcome and logic or Karkat’s detestable sweatered relative supposedly knows social bonds.
ROSE: Or at least, that his best form would grow to know them and use his knowledge to benefit others.

Your face screws up a little as Kankri’s visage is summoned, unbidden, to the forefront of your imagination, but you clear him away with a small shudder. Before you lose the image, though, it morphs into an older, more weathered young man. A tattered cloak shrouds his shoulders, but you can see laugh lines around his eyes, and lean, hard-earned muscles. Two ways a life could have gone.

ROSE: I have been given a combination that seems, to me, a bit on the nose, but thus far it has been to my advantage.

Vriska rolls her eyes.

VRISKA: Okay, 8rag much. Leave it to you to turn a simple question into a way to puff yourself up.

She stretches her long limbs before you can answer her hypocritical statement, reaching far above your head and straightening her legs.

VRISKA: Aaaaaaaanyways, where’s your m8sprit? Weren’t she and you hanging out in here together?

It was only moments after Kanaya left that Vriska jumped onto your seat, so she had either been extremely quick in sneaking in after she left, or she hadn’t heard enough juicy details when Kanaya left while she was hiding somewhere in the room. Signs pointed to the latter. You sigh internally and answer the question anyways.

ROSE: It seems she left to go talk to Karkat about something. Hopefully his clothes.
ROSE: Why?

You smile placidly, and Vriska huffs.

VRISKA: Just wanted to talk to her myself, thaaaaaaaat’s all.

She looks away from you, but you see a crinkle in her eyebrows. Interesting.

ROSE: Does this have anything to do with why you’ve been pranking my...
ROSE: Why you’ve been pranking Kanaya and myself while we’ve been spending time together?

Vriska starts and looks at you, then smooths out her facial expression.

VRISKA: Wh-No, I defin8ly w8sn’t t8lking about th8t.
VRISKA: Listen, Terezi and I just like to use her Mind powers and my luck powers for just.....
VRISKA: Really good pr8nks, you know?

She looks down at her hands, then up at you, and grins uneasily.

VRISKA: Pranks are fuuuuuuun........?

Trailing off, she sees you aren’t smiling, and stops.

VRISKA: Okay, fine, it’s not that nice for you guys, fine. Fine fine fine finef8nef8nef8ne.

She pulls out her phone to look at the screen. It buzzes a few times in her hand after what must have been an initial alert.

VRISKA: Oh, speak of the devil, Terezi wants me to come hang with her.
VRISKA: Catch you later, Laloser.

She all but sprints out the door while looking down at her phone and tapping out a message in return, and you are alone again.

Wow, that was an intense ten minutes.

You resume your knitting. Just a few more rows and you’ll have finished the front part of the body, and can begin sewing the back. You let the clickety-clack of your needles in your hands take over your mind, and rest your racing thoughts for a moment.

You’re about twenty rows into the back panel when Kanaya returns, a little out of breath, but radiant as always. She isn’t literally radiant at the moment, her rainbowdrinker luminescence dormant under the surface of her skin for the time being, but, still. You think she is gorgeous.

KANAYA: Rose My Dear
KANAYA: I Am Sorry To Keep You Waiting
KANAYA: I Had Pressing Matters To Attend To
KANAYA: But I Hope To Make It Up To You This Evening

She is also incredible. As always.

Kanaya hurries across the room towards you and seats herself on the couch next to you gently, then takes your hand in hers, but doesn’t meet your eyes. Her chest has stopped heaving as much after a moment of respite, and she takes a long breath.

KANAYA: I Know We Have Had A Difficult Time Getting Moments Truly To Ourselves
KANAYA: So I Have Enlisted The Help Of Our Two Resident Knights To Reign In Vriska And Terezi
KANAYA: Actually It Was Their Idea
KANAYA: But Far From It Be I To Say No To Removing Those Two From My Hair When Last Time They Put Something Foul Smelling Into It
KANAYA: Anyways
KANAYA: My Darling Rose
KANAYA: Sweeter Than The Flowers I So Dutifully Tended In Years Now Past
KANAYA: Would You Care To Join Me For A Dinner This Evening

Finally, she makes eye contact, and you smile as warmly as you can as you let go of your knitting and place your other hand over hers.

ROSE: Kanaya, that sounds fantastic. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do tonight.

You look up at her, ready to say more, but she beams (smiling and lighting up), and lets go of your hands to jump to her feet.

KANAYA: Wonderful
KANAYA: I Shall Return For You In A Few Hours Time
KANAYA: I Must Prepare My Wardrobe For The Evening
KANAYA: Adieu My Darling Rose
KANAYA: I Will See You Soon

She is already out of the room before you can say anything else. Drat.

Your needles have slipped out of a few stitches, and you carefully pick them back up with the appropriate needles before stabbing them into the fluffy ball of yarn. You think that’s all the knitting you’re going to be doing in this room for the time being. While you won’t take nearly as long as Kanaya will to get ready, it’s nice to get a change of scenery when you’re trapped in a relatively small area.

Well, that’s not entirely true. The meteor is actually rather large, but you and your crewmates tend to stick to a few areas that you’ve cleared out and decorated. It’s homey in here, and dank and creepy out there, so why leave?

That being said, you’re itching to explore and see more. On rare occasions when Vriska and Karkat and Dave are playing terrible video games on a mashup Earth-Alternian console they alchemized, you can steal Terezi away to scout out new safe zones on the meteor. Terezi has been banned from video games after Karkat claimed that her licking the screen left behind spit that was “BLOCKING HIS VIEW OF THE SCREEN,” and you occasionally need to hang out with someone who isn’t your girlfriend. (Yes, you think you’ve decided that’s a thing you can call her in your head.)

The two of you have found a few unnerving rooms in the meteor so far, including a room full of test tubes containing the mutant fetuses of what would never become Battlefield fodder, and walkways suspended in air over drops that extended deep into the meteor.

Even though you knew you could fly out of the depths should you fall, it rattled you nonetheless. Terezi didn’t comment on it if she noticed when she led you down the narrow pathways.

You shake your head and break yourself away from the memory before you get too caught up in remembering the inky depths.

Before your steps take you all the way to the doorway, you see Terezi sprint down the hallway past the opening to the common area, Dave’s weird doll trailing behind her by a long plush arm dressed in… Was that Karkat’s sweater?

Terezi’s footsteps fade and you reach the door. You See a blur of red coming down the hall towards you and step out of the doorframe.

Seconds later, Dave flies past you, parallel to the floor like a superhero, with Karkat riding his back. Karkat isn’t wearing a shirt, confirming your guess as to the source of Cal’s new getup.

Fantastic, you think to yourself, and head down the hall in the opposite direction of the chase.

You wander for a bit, turning away whenever you hear loud yells and cackling, and find yourself on the rooftop. Dream bubbles zip by in the distance, none close enough to encompass your temporary home for a while. You can neither see nor See any coming within the next few days. It’s a shame; they break up the monotony. Settling down on the roof, you gaze up at the inky blackness, ready to ponder something new.

However, you are not left to think for long before the trap door bangs open and Vriska emerges. Unlike earlier when she sought you out, she starts at your presence on the roof and makes an aborted motion to leave, then pauses. With another jerky motion, she changes direction again before striding towards you.

She doesn’t say anything, just walks up and plops herself down on the metal roof next to you. She splays her legs haphazardly and leans back on her palms, staring up and ignoring you from the distance of six scant inches.

You decide to indulge her, resting your hands on your crossed legs and staring up in silence as well. Far away, the size of your pinky nail should you hold your hand up to the dismal sky, a bubble spins. Its iridescence reflects some unknown light - emanating from what’s inside the bubble, perhaps? You already know it won’t come near you, but seeing it drift pass with no hope of connection makes something settle heavily to the bottom of your chest. Ever since that dream you had where you thought you saw someone familiar floating towards you…

VRISKA: Hey Lal8nde.
VRISKA: Do you think we’re gonna see that 8u88le?

The sound of her voice shakes you from your reverie.

ROSE: No, we won’t connect with another bubble for a few days. Our path will take us away from this bubble, and a few others we’ll pass close enough to peer into, but no visits for another little while.
ROSE: I must say, I am disappointed.

She shrugs.

VRISKA: I’m not.
VRISKA: Honestly, I’m getting a little sick of dealing with these two-8it knockoffs, 8oth the alt-selves AND the dancestors.
VRISKA: May8e I want to frolic on a memory of my own plan8 without seeing the gh8st of some fucking Sollux with more hair than Nepeta 8efore Equius got to her mats and tangles.
VRISKA: Man, that was an adventure. I thought the days he tried to get her to take a bath were bad, but one day he had to get me to help hold her down to comb the mats out!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: 8eing Equius’ neigh8or has its good times and its hilarious times.
VRISKA: I guess I’m not his neigh8or anymore, am I?

Vriska is quiet for a moment. You hazard a glance at her, moving only your eyes, but she stares forward, motionless.

VRISKA: May8e I’d 8e okay with seeing Equius again.
VRISKA: He was a creepy motherfucker, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t often hang out with him voluntarily. All the horse dong art, you know how it is.
ROSE: I... really don’t?
VRISKA: Just. It was a lot, and there was a lot of it.
VRISKA: 8ut he put my arm 8ack tog8ther after....
VRISKA: ....after I l8st 8t.
VRISKA: And when we were younger, we learned some hardware construction together, 8efore I started working on doomsday devices and he specialized in fancy ro8otics stuff.
VRISKA: I can’t 8elieve I’m saying this, 8ut I miss him.

She’s quiet again. You feel a need to insert something into the space she’s left, something to relate to her over.

ROSE: I miss my cat.

Vriska starts, but you can see out of your peripheral vision that she relaxes after and looks back up. So do you.

ROSE: I didn’t really have any neighbors where we lived, so Jaspers and I spent almost all of my free time together. I was devastated when he died, and solving the mystery of his disappearance and postmortem discovery when I was in the game really just reopened that wound.
ROSE: He couldn’t talk, not until I prototyped him at the start of this game, but he was my closest childhood confidant anyways.
ROSE: I...
ROSE: I don’t really know what to do when I feel bad about it.
ROSE: I finally alchemized something truly alcoholic and it did work for a moment...
VRISKA: That stuff you were drinking 8efore your first d8 with Kanaya?
ROSE: Yes.
VRISKA: Didn’t that m8ke you really dum8????????
ROSE: One might even say the point was to experience life from the perspective of someone whose intellect was somewhat dulled, yes.
VRISKA: Okay, 8ut like.

You pause for a moment to collect your thoughts. There are a lot of reasons why one might indulge in a soporific or other intoxicant, but you want to make sure you give what you believe to be the truth for yourself.

ROSE: When I was growing up, my mother escaped more with each passing year into alcoholism.
ROSE: After my experiences in the game, I can only now assume that it was because she knew the end of the world was coming, and could share it with no one. She turned to drinking because there was no one left she could tell of what she knew was coming.
ROSE: Here, there are plenty of us who know what is coming at the end of our journey, and enough people to talk about it with, but I still don’t really feel much of a desire to share.
ROSE: Present interactions excepted, for reasons unknown; possibly because I feel a little caught off guard, and possibly because you are also feeling unusually candid this afternoon as well.
ROSE: Mostly, I just didn’t want to have to think for a little while, because thinking is exhausting.
ROSE: I can feel all of our plans and ideas for how to confront Bec Noir in the new session swirling around my head, even when I’m trying to spend time with Kanaya, even when I’m staring at my ceiling at night and I can’t fall asleep.
ROSE: Even when doing something so innocuous as knitting or so attention-grabbing as mediating between Karkat and Dave the whispers of what I Know is to come haunts me the same way the voices of the horrorterrors once touched the edges of my mind.
ROSE: Sometimes my powers now don’t seem that far removed from those I wielded as a rapier of the Ancient Ones because of how they threaten to become all I am.
ROSE: Can you blame me for wanting to escape that?

You aren’t expecting much of an answer. It seems pretty clear to you that your ascension has been both a blessing and a curse, and you feel it worthy of praise that you have only once so far indulged in your family’s habit.

VRISKA: I know EXACTLY what you’re talking a8out, and let me tell you, I never EVER wanted to slurp the sopor out of my ‘cupracoon or go down to Lowtown to get something illegal and designer to escape it, even when it was hell!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: I can control the mind of almost anyone I meet, and I HAD TO for YEARS just 8ecause I was s8ddled with the worst lusus 8nyone could ever h8ve!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: It would have 8een so, S8 easy for me to just let it go, just slide into some sleep and esc8pe and let good ol’ Spidermom eat me up inst8d of everyone Terezi and Eridan and I ever 8eat in FLARP.
VRISKA: I pro8a8ly would have deserved that!!!!!!!
VRISKA: 8ut do you know what?!?!?!?!?

She jumps up and points a finger at you.

VRISKA: I didn’t!!!!!!!!
VRISKA: And n8ther will you!!!!!!!!

You don’t say anything, but you do look up at her.

She’s still holding her finger out, and it’s shaking a little.

You wait.

She points.

You wait.

ROSE: Something.
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!
VRISKA: !!!!!!!!

Vriska spins around and kicks at the air sharply. She trips, somersaults in midair, and rights herself with her feet an inch off the ground. Her wings fly out unbidden at the apex of her flip, and she hovers now, cobalt stardust fluttering to her feet and skittering across the smooth metal.

ROSE: I...
ROSE: I’m sorry, it seems that I offended you.
ROSE: It certainly wasn’t what I meant to do.
ROSE: I didn’t think you’d have a personal reason to ask me to stop.

Vriska crosses her legs and puts her elbows on her knees. She drifts back down to the ground next to you, and her wings flap a few times before folding up and disappearing.

VRISKA: Thanks.
VRISKA: It wasn’t just that, 8ut.
VRISKA: It’s pretty import8nt.
ROSE: What else was it?
VRISKA: Weeeeeeeell........
VRISKA: ...Kanaya used to 8e my moirail.
VRISKA: I don’t know if she’s ever told you, 8ut it was 8efore the game. We 8roke up, and it was pretty 8ad and really messy.
VRISKA: I thought she’d 8e happy to 8e rid of me, since she seemed sick of meddling, 8ut........
VRISKA: She didn’t really talk to me for a while after that.
VRISKA: I just really wanted her to have a chance to have something nice, with someone who didn’t h8 themselves so much they needed to 8e fixed like me.
VRISKA: Don’t fuck this up, Rose.

With that, she gets up, and starts to walk away.

ROSE: Wait.

She stops, but doesn’t turn back to you.

ROSE: Thank you.
ROSE: I’ll try my hardest not to hurt her.
ROSE: I...
ROSE: I really, deeply care about her.
ROSE: And I desperately don’t want to hurt her.

Vriska stays still for a moment, still not facing you.

VRISKA: That works for me.

She takes the last few steps to the trapdoor in strides almost longer than she can manage, even with her legs, and drops soundlessly through the hole. 

Two Vriskaltercations in one day. What was Paradox Space coming to?

You stand up and do some calisthenics under the indifferent stars, getting your blood flowing and trying to vent off a little frustration and pent-up energy.  You don’t usually care to work your body this much, but the looming battle weighs heavily on your mind. It feels good to move around a little, anyways. 

Once enough time has passed that you think Vriska must have left the hallway you want to go down, you prepare to return. Reaching for a leaf of your sylladex, you swap out your god tier robes for a black shift Kanaya made you. It’s nothing fancy, but the neckline is flattering, and Kanaya made sure to include pockets “Large Enough To Hold Any Of Your Ridiculously Sized Novels,” so it’s extremely functional. It will also do until your Seer outfit is clean again, which should take about three hours by your count. You could wear it as it slowly becomes clean again, but. You are still sweating. It would be a little like sitting in a bathtub long past the point it became human stew after a long day of gardening. You would be cleaner, but not clean, per se. 

You drop down the ladder, catch yourself before you hit the ground, then fly down the hallway. One of the first orders of business on the meteor had been to install a large bathroom, and you make your way there to use one of the shower stalls. 

The bathroom is, for all intents and purposes, a unisex locker room. Each of you has a large cubby you use to store toiletries, and there’s a communal wardrobifier with copies of some basic clothes for everyone. The toilet and shower stalls, on the left and right sides respectively, all have floor-to-ceiling doors, and there’s a big curtain between the entrance, the open space in the middle, and the curtained-off area to the right where the showers start. It’s about as comfortable and private as a repurposed ectogenetic laboratory gets, all things considered. 

You grab your things and start to shower off. Kanaya must have been here already and left - the scent of her shampoo lingers in the slightly-steamy air. The higher blood the troll, the hotter their showers tend to be. Maybe it’s something to do with literally being cold-blooded? At any rate, Dave and Terezi had to spend quite a lot of time hooking up the water heater to allow for temperatures that would most certainly hurt a human to accommodate the troll girls, and you are always extremely careful when turning the water on and towards the hotter temperatures. 

Some of your alchemizing experiments have been tailored toward producing more palatable soap and bath products. You left most of your supplies on the house that is currently on the Prospitian ship universes and causalities away, and most everyone else was in the same shape, at least regarding a lack of bath products. You retrieve a bottle from the shelf caulked into the stall, this one alchemized out of some similarly-conjured fruit and some two-in-one body wash Dave for some ungodly reason had in his sylladex. The unfortunate bottle would go on to be the starting point of your experiments, the first of which was to create one bottle of shampoo and one of conditioner.  You aren’t an animal.  

This shampoo smells of limes with just a little bit of mint. It’s perfect. 

As you lather up your hair and scrub behind your ears, your thoughts return to Kanaya. She clearly wants to spend time with you tonight, and went out of her way to tell you. She also seems to be avoiding you, which is not a terribly good sign to you. 

You thought that she’d somewhat recovered from her shyness, especially after you kissed her on your second date. It would have been the first, but you had been feeling a bit under the weather after Vriska’s intervention, and you didn’t want to spoil Kanaya’s mood by breathing alcoholic fumes directly into her soft, bow-shaped lips. 

She beat you to it, though, and she didn’t seem to mind when you got your comeuppance on the next date. Neither had you. 

Where were you? Right. Kanaya has been disappearing. She must be planning something; you doubt it could be anything else. That doesn’t mean you don’t feel a pang in your heart every time you’ve turned to tell her something today and she hasn’t been there. 

You haven’t gotten to experience this before - that feeling of contentment when you’re near someone else and their presence alone warms your inside. The moment when you relaxed just a bit further than you thought possible for you when her hand touched the back of your neck, the part of your heart that had melted the first time you saw her smile. It was new, and unusual, and not at all unwelcome even to your blackened, cynical heart. 

It might even end up being love. 

You let yourself sit in this feeling for the amount of time it takes to wash the soap out, fail to shake it for another minute and just stand under the spray before you finally move on to conditioning your hair. It won’t do to wash the oil completely out of your hair when you want it to be soft. For. Your girlfriend. 

You do something that absolutely cannot be described as a “squee” for a few moments before you finally wrestle your emotions under control and rinse the excess conditioner out. After a final soap-off, you get out and scrub your towel through your hair. There’s a massive hot air vent you could turn on if you wanted to air dry, but it’s horribly loud, and one in three times that you use it, the air it expels smells faintly of formaldehyde.  You don’t want to run the risk of smelling like one of Dave’s preserved oddities that he has been instructed to keep in his room. 

Throwing on a pair of loose-fitting pajama pants and a soft shirt with your squiddle adorning the chest, you once again take off and fly through the meteor halls. A few turns later, and you arrive at your door. 

Your room is adorned somewhat like its counterpart left behind on a world you may not see again. There are bookshelves full of books you hope to read, knitting projects scattered around your chest full of supplies, and you hung a mirror above your bed where your window used to be. It reflects the light of the orange lantern you placed over the bare bulb that illuminated the room. You also strung some fairy lights your alchemical keyshamshing experiments had yielded around the room, winding in and out of fabric Kanaya draped from certain points of your ceiling. It’s… Pleasant. You made it into a place you enjoy spending time. 

Now inside your room, you can access your entire wardrobifier inventory.  The long weeks to experiment and time spent with a fashion designer mean you have ample choices for outfits, but this now seems to your doom, as you can’t decide on what would flatter you most. You flick between options, combining images on the screen to try and create an outfit. This shirt with that skirt, or these pants with this top… Or a dress… 

You finally settle on a pair of high-waisted black slacks and a loose, flowing jade blouse. It’s sappy as fuck , as your brother would say, to wear your girlfriend’s blood color in this manner, but you have never been good at subtlety. You find a pair of black heels that you can walk in comfortably, and hold your hair back from falling over your face with a black rose hair clip rather than your usual headband. You swipe a hand over the wardrobifier screen, and the entire left door panel turns into a mirror. 

You’re surprised to find that you look… Older than you thought you would. You haven’t even turned fourteen yet, for crying out loud. No, older isn’t the right word. The girl staring back in the mirror at you is certainly young, but she looks surer than you thought you did. It’s nice to look confident, even if you’re positive your heart is beating so hard it’s going to break the incredible piece of technology you’re staring into. Kanaya has planned something for your date tonight , and you are extremely nervous about it.

Okay, deep breaths Lalonde. You can do this. Shaking your head, you lift off the ground a little, taking your weight off your heels. They actually hurt more than you want, but Kanaya is a foot taller than you and you want the height advantage. Fuck, you’re going to have to talk to Kanaya without putting your tiny little heeled foot in your mouth. Okay. Alright. Down to the common area. 

You zip back down to the carpeted computer room, accidentally brushing a hand through the jpeg artifacts floating around the poster Dave has installed in the hallway outside. They tingle the tiniest bit, and you shudder. It’s revolting, the kinds of things that boy believed were art. 

Crossing the threshold, you find the room quiet and still. There are the echoes of laughter through the vents, so your meteoric companions are nearby, but for a moment you have this place to yourself. 

Like every other room you’ve been in for the past hour and a half. 

With a sigh, you seat yourself on one of the floor cushions, wrinkles be damned. When will your girlfriend return from the war?

As soon as that thought crosses your mind, you hear footsteps pattering down the hall, then the muffling of feet hitting carpet. You look up. 

Kanaya has breathlessly swept into the room, skin glowing. Her hair is covered with a lavender scarf, and she’s wrapped in long bands of similarly-shaded silk. Some layers are opaque, others sheer, and still others are embroidered with what look to be tiny circles, almost like...bubbles? As she takes her last few steps towards you, one of her feet comes out from under the scarves, and you see she’s wearing jade flats with beads sewn into the toes in a delicate pattern. She has golden rings adorning her fingers and horns, chains connecting the two. You find yourself slowly rising to your feet to meet her as she walks over to you, and you take her hands. 

ROSE: I missed you.
ROSE: I mean.
ROSE: I was waiting for you.
KANAYA: My Apologies
KANAYA: I Did Not Mean To Make You Wait For So Long
KANAYA: Im Sorry
KANAYA: I Had A Little Trouble Winding All This Fabric Around Me If Im Being Honest
KANAYA: It Was A Grand Idea In Both Concept And Execution
KANAYA: But I Made It Work
ROSE: You absolutely do.

You smile at her as warmly as you possibly can. The two of you stand there for a moment, before you both blush and break eye contact. Kanaya lets go of one of your hands, but keeps the other, and lifts it above your head so she can twirl you around. You spin on the tip of your toe and if you giggle a little, well, she won’t tell anyone.

KANAYA: I Adore This Outfit
KANAYA: Especially The Bit Where You Are Wearing My Color
KANAYA: It Is A Little Forward But I Am Not Complaining
ROSE: I figured as much, but you showed up wearing lavender.
ROSE: It seems my calculation was not in error.

Kanaya flushes jade, which turns the light emanating from her head the same color. It is adorable, even if your opinion is a little biased.

KANAYA: I Have Prepared Something For You
ROSE: I suspected.
ROSE: Lead the way, my lady.

Your girlfriend continues to blush, but leads you down the hall. Your shoes clack on the floor as you walk next to her, holding her hand. She runs a little cooler than you, between her blood and her undeath, but her hand slowly warms to the same temperature as yours as the two of you wander deeper into the meteor.

Eventually, long after the sounds of your compatriots through the vents faded out, you come to a door very similar to many other doors you have passed on your walk here. Marking it out from the rest is a soft glow escaping through the gap between the door and the ground. Kanaya stops and rests a hand against the smooth metal, then turns to you.

KANAYA: Alright
KANAYA: We Have Arrived
KANAYA: I Had To Ask Dave About A Few Things So I Pray He Was Sincere In His Answers
ROSE: You know, I wasn’t expecting anything you said tonight to fill me with trepidation, but I must say that sentence actually does.
KANAYA: Dave Is Not Quite As Bad As I Originally Thought
KANAYA: I Have Found Him To Be Rather Sincere For All His Smokescreens And Hedging
KANAYA: Besides
KANAYA: He And Karkat Are Currently Keeping Team Scourge Occupied
KANAYA: So They Do Not Quote Prank Unquote Us While We Are Enjoying Our Date
ROSE: I mean this most sincerely, but if you say so.

Kanaya opens the door and gestures for you to enter. A pale glow washes over you as your footsteps are muffled by ornate carpet. There are long panels of intricately patterned fabric draped from the edges of the ceiling, hiding the flat grey metal you know must be underneath. A few very tall test tubes full of intubated experiments remain, but there’s fabric draped over them as well. In the center of the room, a small, low table sits surrounded by cushions fashioned out of the same fabrics as the drapes. The warm light is emanating from a large, three-wick candle on the table. Two place settings rest on either side of the candle. You remove your shoes at the door (the carpets’ shag is a bit too thick for your heels, sadly) and slowly pad to the table. Kanaya also removes her flats before arranging herself in front of one of the place settings. You mirror her, sitting cross-legged, and smile.

ROSE: So, what did you need to ask Dave for help with?
KANAYA: Actually I Wanted To Ask Him About This

Kanaya reaches out and plucks something small and white from her folded napkin. It looks like a key to her fetch modus. Your suspicions are confirmed when she mimes inserting it into an invisible lock, and two covered dishes appear on top of the plates in front of each of you. She smiles.

KANAYA: I Am Glad To See This Moment Was Considered Fortuitous
KANAYA: I Hope This Meal Is To Your Liking

You both take off the lids to reveal what looks to be spaghetti. It’s topped with tomato sauce, a few meatballs, and…. Rainbow sprinkles?

You place the plate lid off to the side, amusement surely evident by the involuntary raising of your eyebrows, and Kanaya meets your eyes.

KANAYA: Which Part Was The Prank Part
KANAYA: Karkat Did Not Have Any Input On Which Part Was The Prank Part And So I Had To Assume That All Of It Was Genuine

You are unable to contain your laughter and try to hide it behind your hand, but are unsuccessful.

ROSE: I am so sorry - *snrk* - That is just one of the funniest things I have ever seen.
KANAYA: What Do You Mean
ROSE: I had forgotten.
ROSE: A year or two ago, Dave and I stayed up late one night in the summer. There was a thunderstorm at my house and an incredible heat wave at his.
ROSE: Neither of us could sleep, and so we talked about things that would cheer us up.
ROSE: I remember Dave telling me that when he was able to get enough time alone in his and his brother’s shared apartment, he would make himself spaghetti with meatballs, and top it with sprinkles.
ROSE: He had started doing it whenever he got the chance when he was young, and for some odd reason he just likes it.
ROSE: I think he was being completely genuine, but he’s also a very strange person.

Kanaya is silent for a moment.

KANAYA: So That Explains Why A Sweet Dessert Topping Not Unlike Sugar Coated Grubs But With Less Larva Was The Final Ingredient In This Recipe
ROSE: Yes, it appears so.
ROSE: However, it’s not enough to stop me from enjoying this meal.
ROSE: Not in the least because you were sparing with the sprinkles
KANAYA: I Had My Doubts
KANAYA: It Seems As Though They Were Not In Fact Unfounded
ROSE: You continue to prove yourself level-headed and wise.
KANAYA: Miss Lalonde I Must Say If You Continue To Compliment Me In Such A Manner I Will Be Forced To Assume That You Have Intentions Towards Me
ROSE: Oh, heavens, we can’t be having that. I will be sure to only be truthful in my actions towards you, so any leaps in logic you make will be founded solely on the facts.
KANAYA: How Considerate Of You

She winks, and you laugh again.

The spaghetti isn’t nearly as bad as “pasta with sprinkles” sounds, and with the addition of some parmesan you alchemized earlier in the week, it’s even better. Both of you eat in content silence for a moment or two, before you work up the nerve to ask a question.

ROSE: I was wondering, after conversing with Karkat about his Alternian romance novels and romantic comedies, if you could tell me a bit about the pale quadrant.
ROSE: I understand the red well enough, and the pitch seems simple to extrapolate. Karkat also mentioned you may have strong opinions about the ashen quadrant, and so I thought to begin with the pale.
KANAYA: Where To Begin On This
KANAYA: On Alternia The Function Of A Moirail Is Largely One Way
KANAYA: One Troll Has The Role Of Calming And Placating The Other More Imposing Or Dangerous Troll
KANAYA: And For A Long Time I Believed
KANAYA: I Believed A Few Things I Now Think Are False

She places her fork on the side of her plate and wipes her mouth delicately with her napkin before continuing.

KANAYA: That This One Way Relationship Was Right Because It Was Common
KANAYA: That If Someone Did Not Feel The Same Way As You In The Flushed Sense It Was Preferable To Try To Keep Them From Harm Rather Than Abandon Them Entirely
KANAYA: After A Particularly Unpleasant Series Of Events Occurred I Was Shaken Of The Latter Of These Beliefs And I Have Shattered The Former After Contemplation And Discussion With My Friends
KANAYA: I Am As Of Yet Unsure If And Or When I Will Pursue Another Serious Pale Relationship
KANAYA: Especially Given The Status Of My Species
KANAYA: But I Do Hope That A Future Moirallegiance I Am Able To Participate In Is Not Of The Same Nature As My Past Escapades
ROSE: You had a crush on Vriska?

Kanaya glows almost blindingly for a moment before the light calms. It doesn’t completely fade, and jade paints her cheekbones. She won’t meet your eyes.

KANAYA: How Did You Know I Had A Past With Vriska
ROSE: She told me, apropos of nothing, when I ran into her on the roof this afternoon.
ROSE: I will admit I did not mean to blurt that out, but. It took me a little by surprise.
KANAYA: You Know What
KANAYA: It Does Sound Like Something She Would Do Without Thinking Very Hard About It
KANAYA: She Is Not Unintelligent But Her Impulsiveness Can Sometimes Counteract It
KANAYA: If What I Say Sounds Fond Please Be Aware She Is Still Somewhat My Friend But She Has Also Hurt Or Murdered Some Of My Other Friends
KANAYA: So My Feelings Right Now Are Mixed
ROSE: Karkat and Dave did catch me up on what occurred leading up to the decision to put your capricious friend in that refrigerator.
KANAYA: That Night Gamzee Did Much To Instill Terror And Fear In Us For Which He Is Currently Interned In Your Compatriot’s Refrigerated Rationbox
KANAYA: Then Three Others Including Myself Fell At The Hands Of Eridan
KANAYA: And I Will Never Forget Making Sure He Was Aware Of My Displeasure
KANAYA: Vriska Is Charitably Guilty Just Of Murdering Tavros For Reasons We Can Only Guess At
KANAYA: But I Must Say Although It Is How It Would Have Happened On Alternia It Does Not Sit Particularly Well In My Stomach That We Have Let His Death Slide

She sighs.

KANAYA: I Am Confident In Vriska’s Ability To Help Us Coordinate A Successful Assault Against Bec Noir
KANAYA: With You And Terezi And Her At The Helm Surely We Will Be Able To Follow The Most Beneficial Path To The Best Possible Victory
KANAYA: But I Am Not Sure That She Is A Person I Enjoy Spending Close Personal Time With Anymore
KANAYA: Does That Make Sense

Kanaya still hasn’t made eye contact with you, so you take a moment to collect your thoughts.

ROSE: Yes. It does to me.
ROSE: The more I hear about Alternia, the less charitably inclined I am towards whoever set its social frameworks in such a way as they were.
ROSE: It doesn’t sound like a very cheerful place to grow up.
KANAYA: There Were Many Things About My Upbringing That Were Not What I Would Deem To Be Cheerful No
KANAYA: The Undead Hordes That Plagued My Doorstep
KANAYA: Very Rarely Seeing Another Troll Or Even Another Living Being Save My Lusus
KANAYA: But I Also Was Not Subject To As Many Of The Unpleasant Happenings Many Of My Cohorts Have Been Through
KANAYA: I Count Myself Both Lucky And Unlucky In These Regards
ROSE: What was your lusus like?
KANAYA: She Was Very Patient And Kind And A Little Mysterious In What She Would Tell Me
KANAYA: I Learned A Lot From Her And She Was A Constant Source Of Support And Inspiration
KANAYA: The Day She Died I
KANAYA: I Was Not Particularly Enthused To Carry Out My Last Duty
KANAYA: But I Did And Yet My Efforts Were Thwarted So Soon After By Mister Ampora
KANAYA: May He Rot In Pieces In A Bubble Far From Here
KANAYA: What About You
KANAYA: What Was Your Human Mom Lusus Like

Wow. What a question and what a way to follow that statement. You sit back on your pillow and shove a large fork-full of spaghetti into your face. Kanaya finally looks at you and you attempt to smile with your mouth full of pasta. A piece hangs out of your mouth and hits your chin. She laughs behind her hand this time, and you blush. Eventually, you finish your thought process and your food.

ROSE: There... are a lot of things I could say about my mother.
ROSE: Just before I entered the game, I utilized a passage that led off my property to what I presume was the laboratory that overshadowed the house I grew up in. The room I found myself in showed evidence of a woman who was incredibly intelligent, and talented, and who had a rather childish side she felt the need to hide.
ROSE: Later, I found that she had entered with me, and seemingly knew quite a lot about the game. Karkat’s account of what it took to ectobiologically produce the members of your session, and what surely must have been how John made us in the Veil, reminded me of what I saw in that lab.
ROSE: When I was growing up, she was aloof, seemingly caught between mania and depression as she would go through odd spending sprees, clean and rearrange the house on a whim, or lock herself in her room and not come out for days.
ROSE: Actually. Now that I say that, she probably was in her lab during that time.
ROSE: Did you know when I went in what I thought was her room, it was just a massive liquor hoard? No wonder her real bedroom was in the lab if she had that much alcohol in her room.
ROSE: I guess she was literally saving up for the end of the world?
ROSE: Not that it did ended up doing her much good.
ROSE: I always thought she was just a crazy old bitch, but now I don’t really know.

You sigh. This has been an incredibly rousing topic of conversation you set the two of you to following.

KANAYA: Did You Not Say That We Will Be Seeing Some Alternate Versions Of Your Lusus Mother In The Same Way We Have Met Younger Versions Of Our Alternian Ancestors In The Dreambubbles
KANAYA: Do You Think This Will Afford You Some Way Of Seeing What Your Relationship With Her May Have Been Like Were You To Meet Her On An Equal Playing Field
ROSE: You have now tapped into my racing thoughts about thirty percent of the time when I am not thoroughly distracted, if I am to be candid.
ROSE: I do very much want to find out what that version of my mother is like.
ROSE: Hell, apparently I am also related to Dave and his brother, who is actually his father, and thus I have not one but TWO parental first impressions to make upon our arrival.
ROSE: The second I have my apprehensions and worries about based on what Dave said, but also some hopes.
ROSE: After all, he and I seem to have turned out alright so far.
KANAYA: I May Be Biased In Some Regard In Your Case
KANAYA: But I Agree

You blush for the second time in almost as many minutes. She got you again. 

The rest of the meal and conversation are both pleasant.  After the pasta, Kanaya reveals some very light and crunchy cookies she alchemized that were both chocolatey and a little spicy. You feel as though you are glowing as much as Kanaya does, right down through your skin and bones to your nerves. Finally, when you finish and can no longer bear sitting on the floor to talk any longer, the two of you rise and begin the walk back to the common area.  

If you get “lost” a few times on the way back, well. You didn’t exactly specify a time you would be returning. 

Eventually, the two of you stroll hand-in-hand back into the corridor everyone’s rooms and the common area lie off of. 

Before you can get all the way to the SBAHJ poster, you see the entrance to the room Dave and Karkat have turned into a home cinema. The door is ajar, and flicking blue light emanates from within.  It’s quiet, and you don’t think anyone is inside any longer. 

As you approach, you find your assumption to be true: everyone has left, and the room is a mess. There’s what looks to be grubcorn all over the upturned giant dragon plushies, and the air smells a lot like beef jerky. One of the plushies near the front is torn open, and it looks like someone or a couple of someones have been sitting inside of its gutted stomach. 

You turn to look at Kanaya, and both of you roll your eyes before continuing down the hallway. 

Later that evening when you are curled up in bed, you think that you had a much better time than you might have been led to believe by your earlier encounters with Vriska. If Karkat’s definition of blackrom is to be believed, you may have been flirting with not one, but two dangerous women for the entirety of the day. 

And to top it all off, before Kanaya left you at your room, she kissed you goodnight hard enough that her fangs nicked your lips, and she blushed and hurried off. 

Now that is something you, Rose Lalonde, supernatural woman enthusiast, can work with.