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New Ways to Fall Apart

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You aren't hiding. You came down here for the sunshine, for as long as sunshine is still a thing that you can find on this meteor. You meant to sleep, but you couldn't make yourself be still. You're not used to your new skin, and you don't know where you stand with anybody at all.

Your friend killed you and you killed your friend. The girl you were never pale for is a mess of cerulean blood on the roof. The boy you were beginning to be pale for is smeared with indigo from his moirail. You don't fit the glow of your skin, your teeth hurt and you are jangled all through you. And you're still not sure it was a good idea for you to come with the others instead of staying behind at the Green Sun.

Rose asked you not to stay behind. You wish ... you wish you could tell what she meant. You wish she would say what she meant, you wish ...

You bite your lip, trying to quiet your slip-sliding thoughts.

The down here that you have retreated to is a long bay reached by a flight of stairs, with a window all along one wall through which the light of the receding Green Sun floods. It's not like Alternian sun: it prickles your skin in a way that is subtly wrong. But it's much better than the cold and the dark, and you are standing on tiptoes just below the glass, all of you inclined towards the light that falls full on your face and arms and body.

Somebody's foot scuffs on the stairs behind you, and you nearly whirl about in a roar of chainsaw.

You stop yourself in time. You turn in a sane and measured way.

Rose hesitates for a bare moment before she continues her descent. She's still wearing her god tier ensemble, but she's pushed back the hood. There is something a little blind in her movements, the care she gives to her steps. She looks small, on the wide stairs. She didn't look small when she had a sun the size of two universes at her back.

"I thought you would be with Dave," you blurt. That wasn't a greeting; you should have greeted her. You are an idiot. You still don't know how to talk to her, after everything.

Rose tugs at her hood. "Dave and I," she says, "very recently forced one another to confront the upsetting extent of what we will do to save one another's lives. We proceeded to travel through the furthest ring on a shared suicide mission, we held hands as we died, and we saw one another reborn as gods." Her voice, still oddly sweet and alien to you, is not quite level. "I think, at this point, that if we don't spend some time apart to regroup we will begin clawing at one another's faces with our fingernails."

"Oh."

Rose has reached the bottom of the staircase, and now she's holding onto the edge of the banister as if keeping herself in place. "Anyway," she says, "I felt like I had to talk to you. But ... I may have been mistaken."

You are trying not to hope. Sometimes you think that all you really want from Rose is a few moments of unmistakable sincerity; something for you to calibrate the Snarky Horseshitometer against. You need to stop wanting that, maybe.

"Why do you need to talk to me."

Rose opens her mouth and closes it again. She looks at the window behind you and says awkwardly, "You weren't exaggerating about your predilection for direct sunlight."

You turn your head to glance over your shoulder. "I am I suppose trying to store as much light within me as I can before we are more deeply in darkness."

She blinks. "Can you do that?"

"I'm not sure to be perfectly honest. This incarnation is too new for me to regard with certainty what its capabilities may be. I have only the guidance of certain literature frequently regarded as staggeringly incorrect in all its aspects." You are babbling. "Though I myself have found these books beautiful and moving."

Slowly, Rose says, "I won't pretend I haven't put together certain clues. Are you talking about becoming a vampire, Kanaya?"

"Yes, that is what Jade called it," you say, relieved. You finally take a couple of steps towards her, because you feel as though one of you ought to be closing the distance; it's not usual, surely, to conduct a conversation across eight or ten feet of space if there is nothing between you.

Rose has a queerly blank expression, as though what you said rocked her even though she guessed it. "Jade didn't tell me that had happened."

"Didn't she." You are confused.

Rose bites her lip. "I suppose because I didn't ask her about you."

"Didn't you." It's only an illusion that you can get more comfort from the sunlight on your shoulders if you are nearer the glass, but you find yourself taking a small step backwards all the same.

"I didn't want to talk to you, you see."

Oh, you take it back. If this is what Rose Lalonde's sincerity is like, you don't want it after all. "Is ... this a conversation it's necessary to have," you manage to ask. "Because I'd rather not, if my wishes were considered. And. Because I am not in a very good state of mind right now. The last several hours have been difficult."

Rose ducks her head. "Well, I convinced myself it was necessary, but I am not ..." She makes a face at her hands. "I think there has been a kind of wave threatening to break over and submerge me, since I ... rose up. Even on that first high of nigh-omniscience, I felt as though it was rushing forward somewhere in the dark behind my eyes. Levees will break, millions will perish." She looks up, dropping her hand and flicking her fingers as though banishing the image. "You see what I mean about spending too much time with Dave. I think I should have waited before coming to find you, actually. I'm not making much sense. But I couldn't sleep until –" She bites her lip, breaking off.

Now you are simply confused. You feel as though you are rocking under the buffets of the wave she appears to be employing as a simile.

"Why did you want to talk to me."

"I wanted to apologise for not contacting you after the blackout. I believe I was too embarrassed." Her voice is steady and her chin a little raised.

"Embarrassed." You dig one of your fangs into your bottom lip. "That doesn't appear to me to be a very compelling reason."

Rose gives a breathless huff of laughter. She folds herself down to sit on the bottom step of the staircase. "But you warned me about the horrorterrors," she says. "You told me, dog."

You wait a long moment in case she feels like explaining that cryptic observation. Then you approach again, cautiously, and sit down on the step a foot away from her.

"What would I have said to you?" She looks at you and away. She is still twisting her fingers together, and for a moment you allow yourself to be helplessly transfixed by her hands, the half-moons of her fingernails that are not like claws at all. You swallow and look away.

"You might have said 'Hello I am not dead,'" you say. You try to keep your voice even, but you can hear the hurt in it.

"I would have had to add the postscript, 'But I will be soon.' I was planning a suicide mission, you know. A real one, since I had lost my extra life. At least, I believed in good faith that that was what I was doing."

"I would still have liked to know." You curl your arms around your knees. "I still don't really understand what happened. I was glad to see you alive, but I would have liked to understand. I only learned a little from Jade."

She jerks her head to look at you, her eyes wide. "Oh," she says. "I failed to prepare for – I should have realised this subject –" She drags in a breath and lets it out. "Kanaya, what did you do when – when your mother died?"

Oh. "I think I've explained that we don't have human mothers the way that you do. But I had a guardian who filled that role for me. I called her Mother sometimes."

"But she died."

You swallow. "Yes. Twice. I knew that she would, the first time, and I knew how to fulfil my duty towards her. I cut open her belly and retrieved the Matriorb."

"The one that Eridan destroyed."

You hunch in on yourself. "Yes that one."

"What about the second time?"

"She was a sprite, then," you explain. "And we didn't know whether a sprite could expect to have a lifespan beyond the game. But as it turned out that didn't matter. All of our sprites died before the game was completed." You duck your head. "Sorry, I'm rambling. When she died the second time, I ... I wept."

"I summoned down the powers of endless darkness and let them in. I didn't cry. But. It didn't. It didn't make it go away." She has ducked her head again, and you can't see her face.

"Rose."

She wraps her arms around her knees and meets your eyes. "I don't know what to do with this kind of, of sadness," she says. "I think ... I think I'm doing it wrong, bro."

She draws in a breath that shakes, and repeats, "I think ..." and then she's crying.

It is shockingly sudden. Her crying is an ill-formed, desperate thing. At first you think it is tearless, and then you realise her tears are transparent.

You are almost numbed with the rush of your own responses. Seeing Rose fall apart is unspeakably awful, and it is exhilaratingly what you wanted, and you don't know how to parse the fact that she trusted you enough to be this weak for you. Your voice has vanished entirely.

You reach out to lay one hand on her arm. A shudder runs through her, but she doesn't pull her arm away. Her body is shaking.

"I apologise," you think she says. It's hard to be sure, because her voice is thick and stuttery through the sobs. "This is ... a ... a terrible ..." display, you think is what she meant the final word to be, but it is unrecognisable.

You are terrified.

You swallow. You move closer and put your arms around her. She leans into you, almost drunken in the way she falls against your chest. She is probably getting transparent human tears and mucal residue on your dress. The top of her head is amazingly smooth, that impossible pale hair like a soft cap without horns to disarray it. You're shaking.

You're not equipped for this. You've talked Vriska through attacks of homicidal megalomania and inarticulate self-hatred, and you weren't all that successful at it, but at least you felt capable of being caring and reasonable. You were a voice of calm. But you can't control your reactions and thoughts right now, you can't keep your own stupid hurt and desire and feelings at a safe remove where a comforter's feelings should be. Not when you are so newly reborn that your skin still tingles. Not when Rose is melting in pale blue ice all over your arms.

You have been dry mouthed and scraped raw with wanting this girl. Your teeth are aching. You can't even comprehend what appropriate reactions are, let alone regulate yourself to follow them.

You bend your head over Rose's messy wet face and touch your tongue to her cheek.

Her tears are a watery salt-sweet.

Rose hiccups, suspended between sobs. She is still shivering when she turns her face towards yours. Her pupils are blown, the violet of her irises bright and swimming. You lean down to nose at her cheek, lick at the tears on her thin skin again.

Rose is watching you with her eyes wide, from no distance at all away. She takes a shaky breath. "I ... have never been comforted in this way before," she says, her voice still thick and wobbly. "Is this customary."

"I don't believe so." You swallow. You should pull back; you are being weird. "I don't really know what I'm doing. I apologise if I am odd or out of line."

"No," Rose says, "please don't apologise for the first. And I will undertake to ... let you know if you are the second."

She goes up onto her knees and twists in your arms, her own arms coming up and curling about your neck. She leans in. You cannot keep yourself from licking the tears from her mouth this time, because she promised she would stop you if you were too weird.

She doesn't stop you. She makes a hiccupy sound and her mouth falls open a little, letting you lick her bottom lip and run your tongue over her teeth. You pull back again, and this time she follows you, and her mouth is on yours and you're kissing.

This should not be as shocking as it is, but for a moment you are half-stunned. The kiss is off-centre and unpractised, and it steals every bit of your breath.

She's the one to pull back then, her eyes searching yours. You let out a small hiss of loss and sway towards her again, but she puts a hand on your mouth.

Her eyes are dark. She draws in an unsteady breath. "Kanaya, you ... you have to tell me if I am out of line too."

You shake your head, trying to clear it. Your horns feel shivery and sensitive against your hair, and seem somehow as though they are making your head heavier. "What do you mean," you say, against her hand.

She shivers and takes her hand back, curling her fingertips. "It seems as though ... as though your new state is disorienting. And perhaps inclining you to things that would not be your choice otherwise. I don't want to take advantage of you licking my mouth because you are unused to your new hungers, Kanaya."

She looks very serious. You are fixated on the sound of her voice saying the words licking my mouth. "I – okay," you say. "But that isn't what's happening. I don't want that to be unclear."

She nods, fast and a little jerky. Her face is stained with her transparent tears, and her movements are still a little too uncoordinated. She is still a mess, even though her eyes are calmer now. You're still a mess yourself, and you don't think the chaos in your bloodpusher cavity will settle into true serenity soon.

But you're glad all the same, somewhere deep where you would keep sunlight if that was a thing you could actually do.

"Rose?" you say. "I'm glad I didn't stay behind."

There was tension in her you weren't even aware of. You don't feel it until she relaxes against you.

There is tension melting out of you too, bit by bit. You rest your hand over her hair, careful and still awkward.

You think you will be able to sleep now.