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And Only One Blanket

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At the end of the journey, as their meteoric chariot hurtles through the outer reaches of causality toward the infinitely improbable, Rose sees—Sees—a tiny wrinkle in their plan come finally into clear focus, and she says, "Oh. Oh dear."

Karkat stares at her, wild-eyed, but he has been in one of his quiet phases again—he's spent most of the journey oscillating between incandescent fury and near-catatonic dismay—and he says nothing.

"Brace yourselves," Rose says, and then she thinks of John and knows he would want somebody to say something fit for a terrible action movie, and she adds, "It's going to be a rough landing."

When the dust settles and Rose manages to drag herself up out of the convenient snowbank that stopped her fall, Kanaya says, "I remain in awe of your gift for understatement. I thought I was catching up to you, but clearly I still have much to learn."

"We each have our gifts," Rose says, and while she wasn't entirely intending that to sound lewd, neither is she sorry when Kanaya, from her smile, appears to take it that way. The things a troll can do with her tongue have quite fired Rose's imagination on their long, privacy-deprived journey.

This is neither the time nor the place. Rose brushes stray snow from her hair. "We should find shelter," she says, frowning into the distance. "In that direction, I think?"

"I can see it," Kanaya says. "A small structure, just on the far side of that stream."

"You can see that far?" Rose says; she's relying on her powers, not her actual vision.

Kanaya nods. "Not in detail, but I have my bearings."

"Let's go, then. The others...." She closes her eyes briefly. "The others are together, finding their own way out of the cold. We will all rendezvous when Jade and John arrive."

"You have read all the signs correctly so far," Kanaya says, "so I will assume you are correct now as well." Rose considers being annoyed by that for about two seconds before Kanaya takes her hand, and then they are off for a pleasant, if underdressed, romantic stroll through a really rather picturesque snowfield.

The building they come to falls somewhere on the shed-shack-cabin-cottage continuum; the threat of frostbite makes Rose disinclined to be picky. She raps briskly on the door and allows five seconds for an answer before she opens it anyway, thanks also to the sense of urgency brought on as the wind picks up.

The shack is unoccupied. A quick and businesslike inventory of its contents turns up two mugs, two bowls, two spoons, plenty of soup cans and instant cocoa mix, a healthy stack of firewood, and a bed with only one blanket. Rose frowns, suspicious.

"Something about this arrangement displeases you?" Kanaya asks. She puts down the box of cocoa mix, which she had been studying intently.

"It's too convenient," Rose says. "It's...." Oh. Of course. "Jade and John contacted us through the Fourth Wall that Jade had in her possession," Rose says as the pieces fall together with a Seer's clarity. "That seems to have contaminated our trajectory with stray narrative tropes." She steps closer, taking Kanaya's hands in hers. "Tell me, did you have this one on Alternia? After a long period of building sexual tension, two would-be lovers are isolated together, taking shelter from an inhospitable climate?"

"Deprived of all their usual methods of support," Kanaya continues for her, "and often with one of them harmed in some way—sun-sick, perhaps, or injured in saving the other from danger?"

"Exactly," Rose says. "So there they are, alone together at last, with nothing to do but keep each other warm."

Kanaya's eyes sparkle, and the elegant curve of her lips should be illegal. "How long do you suppose we have before we are rescued?"

Rose reaches for her. "Long enough."