CHARACTERS: All the trolls, all the kids; main focus on John Egbert, Karkat Vantas, Vriska Serket/Kanaya Maryam/Rose Lalonde
WORD COUNT: 16,482
SUMMARY: Five years after the game's over and done with, everyone's settled down on the newly recreated Earth. The universe itself seems to bend its will to make life easier for them, and there are absolutely no gaps to slip through. Everything's fine.
NOTES: AO3 version. part one | part two
13th April, 2014.
John turns eighteen.
It's not the milestone it should be. Conquering thirteen had been an accomplishment in and of itself, and he recalls that birthday intimately, with the sort of stark clarity he'd probably be better off without. The birthdays that followed only served to pull him further from the end of the game, rather than push him on in his life, but John doesn't mind it so much. He's in one piece. They're all in one piece, somehow; he accepts that fact, and he doesn't question the truth of their reality, lest his wonderings cause it to come apart at the seams. The Earth they live on now is young, a mirror image of what it once was, and he knows that barely anyone realises just how fragile it really is.
That said, birthdays aren't really events that solicit such deep, winding tunnels of thought. Not when John's surrounded by presents, at any rate, wrapped up in boxes of every colour under the sun. He sets them out in a bright, cheery circle around him, and for much of the morning fidgets excitedly, never sure where to start. Deciding that examination's the best way to go about it, he picks up each gift and tries to discern from the size, shape, weight and sender what it could possibly be. Naturally, his guesses all venture into the realm of the absurd, and are layered in so many in-jokes and dated references that depending on his company, they'd either stare at him blankly or howl with laughter. John likes to imagine the latter happening, no matter who's hypothetically sitting with him.
Eventually, when his stomach rumbles, demanding breakfast, he decides he should hurry and open one or two of the boxes before darting off to his kitchen. The first box he picks up is a deep magenta one with a rather fetching jade lid, if he says so himself, and he barely needs to check the tag to see who it's from. He does regardless, because Rose's biting humour always tickles him in a way she probably doesn't intend it to, and Kanaya's little annotations make him smile. John finds himself smiling a lot, these days, beyond the force-fed cheer of his birthday. No matter what they've lost to get this far, what they have seems infinitely more valuable, and he couldn't ask for anything more than to see his friends happy. Rose especially; for a while, it was almost as if she was taking her self-scathing remarks about the embittered qualities of her coal-black heart seriously. Still, John's a smart boy. He'd never tell any of his friends that them being happy is enough to make him happy throughout his birthday and the other three-hundred and sixty-four days of the year, because they'd only bicker and squabble on purpose. The trolls, mostly, though he notes that they've all picked up a fair few bad habits from one another.
Having examined every angle of the immaculately well-presented box, John presses his palms to the sides, slowly easing the lid off with his fingertips. The box caves insignificantly between his hands as air escapes, and when the lid falls onto the carpeted floor with a silent bump, he ever so slowly peers over the edge of the box, as if what's inside may well blind him. A touch dramatic, perhaps, but he's been friends with Vriska for a long time now. That's his excuse.
Inside is a neatly folded selection of clothing, all hand-made, all unique. John chuckles happily, though he had absolutely no doubt that it wouldn't contain anything else, and begins examining the contents. One scarf two months too late to put to good use, a pair of similarly tardy gloves, a pale blue shirt with the Heir of Breath symbol carefully embroidered on, and a set of socks. Comedy socks, he assumes, what with the slimes stitched all over them, but something tells him that he's going to wear them as completely seriously as an eighteen year-old male can wear hand-made socks given to him by the interspecies couple next door. The shirt, he decides, holding it at arms' length in order to get a really good look at it, will definitely have to make an appearance at his birthday meal tonight.
With the items of clothing placed back in their box and the beginnings of a thank you card currently running through his head, John vaguely pays heed to the fact that his stomach is rumbling, in so far as making the effort to tell himself that, no, he can't smell bacon from the kitchen. The grill isn't even on.
Opening the first present acts as a catalyst, and from there on out, he has to open just one more, in order to sate the foreign feeling of greed rippling through him. He picks up the grey box next, not bothering to be quite as delicate with it as he was with Rose and Kanaya's joint gift. The box looks like it's been kicked around a fair amount.
Lid discarded, John peers in, only to find a note.
HEY, JOHN. DON'T TELL ME YOU REALLY THOUGHT THERE WAS A GIFT IN HERE.
A GIFT IN THIS FUCKING BOX THAT WEIGHS ABOUT AS MUCH AS THE GRAND TOTAL OF ALL THE FUCKS I GIVE ON THIS PARTICULAR DAY.
THERE ARE EVEN FEWER FUCKS THAN USUAL. IT'S LIKE WE'RE IN NEGATIVE FUCK-GIVING TERRITORY.
AND IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING, BECAUSE I BET YOU HAVE A THIS SWARMY SMILE SLOWLY SPREADING ACROSS YOUR FACE AS YOUR THINK PAN GRADUALLY GRINDS ITS WAY TO THE WRONG FUCKING CONCLUSION.
NO. NEGATIVE FUCK-GIVING DOESN'T REVERT ITSELF INTO TACTILE FUCK-GIVING
IT JUST MEANS I'VE ENTERED A GLORIOUS DIMENSION WHERE FUCK-GIVING IS FROWNED UPON AND VIEWED AS A CAPITAL OFFENCE.
SERIOUSLY, GIVE A FUCK HERE AND YOU'LL BE CULLED.
NO MORE, AND I QUOTE, “BIRTHDAYS” FOR YOU, JOHN.
BECAUSE REALLY, WHAT COULD BE IN A BOX THIS LIGHT? MONEY? MOVIE TICKETS FOR A TORTUOUSLY BROMANTIC EVENING WHILE YOU DROOL OVER NIC CAGE, DESPITE YOUR LACK OF “HOMOSEXUALITY”?
NOTHING FOR YOU
YOU MISSED YOUR EIGHTH WRIGGLING DAY. YOU HAVE TO LIVE WITH THAT NOW.
HAPPY DAY THAT WOULD BE COMPLETELY REGULAR EXCEPT FOR THE PART WHERE YOU MANAGED TO PISS ME OFF EVEN MORE, FUCKASS.
John reads the note with the sort of curiosity etched into his furrowed brow that should be reserved for divulging in literary analysis, rubs his chin thoughtfully, and then breaks out into laughter. Karkat is still Karkat, even if he is now stranded on a planet where the excessive hours of sunlight make his blood boil all the more. John likes to tell himself that Karkat does care, seeing as how he actually went to the effort of writing the note, boxing it up, and getting it to him on the appropriate day, in spite of apparently being rather stingy with the quantity of fucks he was willing to part with.
Still, the mention of Wriggling Days does catch him off-guard. He spends a lot of time with Karkat, these days. Probably more so than with anyone else, when he really thinks about it. Despite that, he doesn't remember Karkat once bringing up a Wriggling Day, whether it was his own or when John's would fall. Though they all live on Earth now, the trolls have never got out of the habit of measuring their ages in Sweeps, and John doesn't recall one single instance of such an event being celebrated. He quickly shakes it off, though, deciding that he's too hungry to properly ponder it. It's just a cultural difference, he decides; he doubts the trolls are that big on party-hats and unadulterated merriment.
The fact that they've all agreed to meet up for a meal means a lot to him. He makes his way into the kitchen, new scarf having found its lopsided way around his neck, and amuses himself with the thought of just how badly things could end tonight.
Secretly, he's hoping for a full-out food fight.
John's gift from Gamzee turned out to be nothing more than an empty Faygo bottle. He regards it with some measure of curiosity, wondering if there's something to it that he just doesn't get, but ultimately decides that it belongs in the trash.
When Gamzee turns up an hour and a half late to John's birthday celebration in his recently transformed dining room, he's armed with a dopey smile, an apology, and, slightly worryingly, a pie. He apologises for sending him some sort of motherfucking useless empty bottle, best friend's best friend, and then flops down in one of three empty chairs. John, still in the doorway, holds the pie between his hands like he's been giving an grenade sans the pin, and after daring to sniff the pastry-encrusted madness, witnesses a miracle unfold in the form of the pie landing face-down in the trash, poignantly on top of the Faygo bottle.
John doesn't mind the fact that Gamzee's late. He's in far too good of a mood for anything inconsequential like time to matter, and besides, Sollux and Eridan are still missing. The table is hidden by an assortment of troll and human delicacies alike, the former of which John remains a respectful distance from, and he seats himself back at the head of the table. To his right is Karkat, who, for an amusing twenty minutes, Terezi had put on a convincing show of believing was a piñata, and he sits with his arms folded, grumbling as if he has every right to sulk on a birthday that isn't his own. Rose and Kanaya sit to his left, with Vriska placed pointedly between the two of them, but other than that, nobody sticks to their unofficially assigned seats. Dave provides the music, naturally, and the room is a frenzy of chatter and ironically rhythmless dance moves. Jade runs in circles around the table every ten minutes or so and throws her arms around John's shoulders, explaining that she needs to wish him happy birthday like this at least eighteen times. Vriska chimes in that eighteen is quite a good number to have chosen, and John can't help but marvel at how wonderfully bizarre it all is.
There they all are, sat under the same roof, getting along as well as a selection of two races plied with a pitcher of alcohol could ever hope to. They aren't fighting anymore, whether it's against unrelenting forces, each other, or themselves. The only conflict these days revolves around arguments regarding who's borrowed what video game, and as involved as they tend to get, they don't matter. They're safe, all of them, and they have a home, even if it isn't what they planned on. John slumps back in his chair, watching everything unfold around him as a bright, brilliant blur.
Tavros and Aradia have great fun with the non-Karkat shaped piñata, opting to attack it with their horns, as opposed to the provided sticks. A good thing they're so innovative, really, seeing as Equius systematically broke every stick upon trying to hand them out to the party guests. He now sits next to Nepeta with a blank expression as she makes quaint little patterns on a paper plate with the finger food and attempts to get him to try something new. Opposite them, Gamzee seems to have salvaged his pie from the trash and is happily gorging himself, while Feferi glubs happily, holding out a block of jelly like a set of binoculars through which to view everyone. Whenever John goes for too long without saying anything, Vriska force-feeds him cake, and he scrunches up his face every time, ending up with more of the icing smeared across his nose than in his mouth.
It's nice. It's like they're a family. A once murderous and meddling-across-time-and-space family, yes, but John supposes that no household is perfect.
He can't do anything but smile, watching his birthday fly into the early hours of the morning. He really can't remember the last time they were all together like this.
The house next to John's originally belonged to Rose and Rose alone, but has long since become something of a shared dwelling. It's the biggest house by far out of the ones the universe spat out for them, as if realising that it owed them one, after all that they'd been through. There are a lot of allowances stitched into the fabric of their new reality that make life liveable for them; they are provided for, by some cosmic force or another, and none of the neighbours have ever found it the slightest bit odd that children would be allowed to live unsupervised. The trolls are another matter altogether. It's as if people simply turn a blind eye on them.
There are a number of materials that can be sourced from this new Earth that shouldn't rightly exist within the perimeters of the new dimension, either. Sopor slime serves as one of these naturally occurring oddities, found bubbling like a spring in the woods not twenty minutes away from their neighbourhood. Luckily, nobody outside of their group has ever found reason to stumble across it.
A year and a half ago, when everything fell into place and Rose's house was no longer just Rose's house, an oversized recuperacoon was placed into one of the bedroom, and liberally filled with the slime. Kanaya and Vriska still make use of it from time to time, when they absolutely need to, but it seems that the natural tempo of life on Earth is a lot better for their psyches than the Alternian atmosphere ever was. They sleep comfortably most nights, not needing the sedatives to assuage any dark corners of their minds. Once, in an attempt to be multicultural, Rose tried out the recuperacoon at Vriska's prompting, and quickly learnt that it had a rather different effect on human minds.
It's something they don't talk about any more. Rose doesn't think that there's much to be said for the screaming, anyway.
Two days after the cheerful racket that was John's birthday celebration, Kanaya retires from her garden as the sun begins to set. There are grass stains on her practical, easily-replaced, but rather fine looking gardening attire, and her hands smell of freshly turned soil and lavender clippings. It's not a bad life at all, she thinks, humming happily to herself as she washes her hands and forearms at the kitchen sink. It's quiet all throughout the house, which either means that Vriska or Rose or both are out, or they're having one of those days where they decide to get along. They may have found themselves neatly confined to the blackest quadrant, but sometimes, Kanaya thinks there's more to it. An effect of the less complex human ideas of relationships wearing off on Vriska, perhaps, or maybe it's difficult to put a label on absolutely everything.
They argue for hours, make up in minutes, and seem to have a knack for calming one another down. Amongst the shouting, the hate, the feigned resentment, they never fail to make room for Kanaya between them. It shouldn't work, but it does.
Changing out of her gardening clothes and into something light and breezy for the pleasant spring afternoon, Kanaya heads quickly and quietly upstairs. There in the master bedroom, (that is: the room containing the mattress-bound bed) lies Rose, a book in one hand, and a sleeping mess of Vriska Serket sprawled all over her. Like most of the trolls, Vriska spends the bright, sunny days in a permanent state of dreaming, though it seems that she couldn't pass up the chance to irritate Rose in the form of an arm draped across her stomach, even whilst unconscious. Kanaya smiles over at Rose, who makes the grand gesture of looking up from her page in the book, and seats herself on the edge of the bed.
When Rose shows no sign of moving and Kanaya grows tired of running her fingertips through her short blonde hair, she lets herself slide down the bed next to her, one hand placed against her hip, just below Vriska's arm. Rose smiles, leaning in for a kiss, not willing to raise her voice for a greeting, lest she wake Vriska and have to deal with her usual mid-afternoon grumpiness. Kanaya sinks into the kiss, moving to wrap her arm tightly around the both of them, and Vriska grumbles, twisting her head in her sleep and very nearly jutting one of her horns into the back of Rose's head.
Kanaya laughs silently. They really are a ridiculous trio, and this point is only proven further when Vriska stirs from her sleep. Upon seeing Rose tangling her arms around Kanaya's back, book long since discarded, she immediately leans over Rose, one hand planted against the side of her face, in order to press a kiss against Kanaya's lips that's entirely out of touch with the whole mood of the room.
“Good afternoon, Vriska,” Kanaya murmurs against her lips, reaching down with to ease Vriska's hand away from Rose's face. “It's wonderful to see that your affections upon waking aren't born entirely of jealousy.”
“Oh, man, it's only afternoon?” Vriska moves back a fraction of an inch, blinking heavily, tongue running across her own lips as if she's only just now registering the kiss. “Laaaaaaaame. If you two weren't getting all flushed next to me like a pair of inconsiderate wrigglers, I wouldn't have woken up until evening!”
She huffs, and then huffs all the more when Rose loosens her grip on Kanaya, in order to push her off of her. Vriska falls back, uses one hand to brush her hair out of her face, and then immediately retaliates, teeth latching onto Rose's ear.
“Afternooooooooon, Rose,” Vriska mumbles through an intolerable grin, and Rose only pays her heed in the form of rolling her eyes.
“How ludicrously quaint, that the three of us are here together. Truly, I had thought you lost to a Venus-fly trap, Kanaya,” Rose says, reaching up to take hold of one of Vriska's horns to tug her away. Vriska only clings on tighter. “And Vriska, I had thought you out at sea, increasing you pirate-themed bravado by untold quantities. Rather, I had hoped, but I've never been the luckiest girl in the recreated world.”
Sensing that their playful bickering could quickly get out of hand, Kanaya takes hold of Vriska's jaw, severs her hold on Rose's ear, and with the two safely split, hooks a leg over Rose so that she can land against the mattress with a thud between them. Vriska hisses, digs her chin in between Kanaya's shoulder blades as she wraps her arms around her waist, and Kanaya turns her attention back to the more even tempered of her matesprits.
“What materials have you been expanding your literary horizons with today, Rose?”
Rose, now flat on her back, glances away from Kanaya without moving her head, looking as if she's debating between a biting sarcastic reply and not answering at all. The latter will never work, because Vriska wouldn't hesitate to hop off the bed and scoop the book up from the floor. She's never had the most orthodox taste in reading materials, even if Kanaya would never slight her for her taste in wizard-related literature, and so she succinctly sums it up in one word.
“Oh? Does that mean you're working on your fifth novel?” Kanaya's face lights up a little as she asks the question. She greatly enjoyed Rose's first four books; the third especially, when she first introduced vampires into the magical mysteries that keep Rose's bank account comfortably full.
“I suppose so, yes.”
Rose buries her face into Kanaya's shoulder, and Kanaya can feel the warmth radiate off her. She may not be the most open of people, and she may be reclusive enough to make John worry, but Kanaya knows that she's alright. She's happy here with her and Vriska, happy in her own home, with her novels and her wizard statues lining the shelves of the room guests aren't permitted in.
John spends a lot of his spare time wandering the neighbourhood.
There's always someone to stop by on, whether or not he initially intends to impose himself on any of his friends, and even if he sticks to himself, it's nice to just be outside. Everyone's so close to him, and he doesn't have to worry about missing them crop up online due to conflicting time zones and timelines; it's probably quicker to run up to his front door than go through all the hassle of signing onto the computer. These days, Karkat is his go-to guy. Not that he and Dave are anything less than friends still, but they have grown apart a little. It's only natural, with all the years that have come and gone.
When he's out aimlessly wandering the streets, hands in his pockets, he thinks back on everything that led to this point. He only thinks of the positive aspects, like the way the trolls have managed to adapt to their new home, and how they've made more of what they have than he ever expected them to. John doesn't think about the game anymore, doesn't think about how close they came to losing it all; most of the time, his thoughts are fixed firmly on the present. Reflecting on the past in too much detail gives him a splitting headache, and Rose diligently pats him on the shoulder, telling him not strain himself. There are some things that are only supposed to be comprehended by the gods of the furthest rings.
Today, there's a reason behind his wanderings. He keeps thinking about a conversation he had with Tavros at his birthday party, about how funny it was that Feferi was more than content to live on land, with only a pool in her backyard to remind her of her old life. John had giggled about it a fair amount, and made a few references to The Little Mermaid that Tavros could only answer uhhh to, but now, he has a plan. Quite a spectacular plan, if he does say so himself.
The thing is, as nice as their neighbourhood is, sometimes John wants to get away. He can't remember the last time he left their little suburban town, and it'd be nice to stretch his legs somewhere. Namely the beach, which he thinks Feferi would definitely be up for. With Feferi on his side, it won't take much to convince Eridan to tag along, and then everything should fall into place. He can just imagine them now, sitting out on the beach at night, cooking burgers and/or the troll equivalent over an open barbecue on the beach, listening to tinny music through Dave's speakers until the sun threatens to come back up.
He's smiling still as she reaches Feferi's front door, bracing him for the amount of glubbing that's about to come his way. With a hop up onto her doorstep, he raps against the door with the back of his fist, prods the doorbell a few times for good measure, and three minutes later he's still standing there, waiting for her to answer.
She never does. He tries the bell about ten minutes later, and then pulls himself up so that he can peek over the garden fence, but she's not in the pool, either. In fact, it's been covered over, and there's dirt caught in the creases, like it hasn't been touched in weeks. John frowns, momentarily concerned, but his worry is immediately clouded over by the much more pleasing thought of Feferi spending her time splashing around in her bathtub. In a swimsuit, naturally. He wouldn't like to get too inappropriate.
Deciding that he might as well attend to a few chores while he's out, John stops by at the local convenience store, arms himself with two nondescript blue bags full of microwavable meals and diet soda to balance it out, and picks up a cheap second-hand version of the game he's wanted for-absolutely-ever. Excellent. He's incredibly pleased with himself, and he hooks his arms through the handles of the bags, so that he can stare at the back of the game case and read the blurb he's looked at online a thousand times before as he walks. Distracted thus, he doesn't notice the ever-intimidating loom of Equius' shadow suddenly hanging over him.
It's not until Nepeta pounces that he snaps back into the here and now, greeting her with a shaky, hearty hello as he almost topples backwards, soda bottle breaking free of the stretched-out confines of the plastic bag and rolling across the pavement. Equius offers to pick the bottle up for him, but John quickly regathers his senses and makes a dive for it. He'd hate to see a poor, innocent soda bottle crushed in two by a none-too gentle giant.
“Hey, guys. What's up?” he asks, free of Nepeta's grasp, arms crossed over his chest to keep hold of all his shopping. The wind tugs at the bag that's now there more for decoration than actual practical use, threatening to rip it from his arms.
“We require supplies,” Equius says with a slight nod towards John's shopping. “What are you doing out so late?”
“Oh, I was going to visit Fef!”
Equius furrows his brow more than usual, and looks to Nepeta. Nepeta mirrors the expression in an endearing way that only Nepeta's capable of, and John gets the feeling that it's one of those looks that only couples with a certain kind of moirallegence can comprehend.
“Huh?” John finds himself asking, not sure what to do with the stunned silence. Before any other words leave his mouth, Nepeta's erupted into a fit of laughter, and even Equius can't suppress a slight smile.
“Oh, John! You pawlways were a strange human. Are you really going to prowl all the way to the beach?”
He can only blink in confusion at this, wondering how Nepeta knew about his fantastic plan to take Feferi down to the coast. Maybe he'd brought it up at his party after one too many handfuls of force-fed cake; maybe he'd come up with the plan even earlier than he believed he had. Either way, he can only put on a show of not understanding for so long, before Equius and Nepeta tire of garnering amusement on his behalf, and continue their trek to the shops with a wave.
“Whoa, that was weird,” he mutters to himself with a shake of his head, reshuffling his shopping in his arms, slowly making his way back home.
Once he reaches the back door and his goods are safely stashed away in his porch, he pauses, looking out into the night at the town spread out before him. It's not quite pitch black yet, and the world presents itself in a swirl of navy blue, street lights flickering with an almost surreal glove; John removes his glasses, wipes them on his shirt, and then puts them back on so that he can admire his neighbourhood without the lights being blurred by a patter of fingerprints.
He starts to think that he hasn't been completely with it, lately. His mind keeps wandering, and he finds roadblocks in his own memories. Everything jumbles and churns and clatters, like his washing machine when he forgets to check the pockets of his pants for spare change, and his headaches are becoming more frequent, more severe. It probably just calls for a new pair of glasses and an amended sleep schedule, he thinks. Perhaps he could even make a move to get a job, in order to give him some sort of normalcy in his life. He's eighteen now, after all. He can't keep staying up into the early hours of the morning just because the majority of his friends shrink away at the sight of sunlight, because it's making him lose a grip on things.
More than anything, he can't believe that he considered going to knock on Feferi's door. She hasn't lived in the neighbourhood for years now; as accustomed to life on Earth as she could become, she'd concluded that dwelling on land just wasn't for her. She'd been out at sea for a long time now, near enough impossible to contact, except for when she deigned make herself known.
It was the reason she hadn't been able to make it to any of his birthday parties for the past three years.
It's eight at night on a Monday, and Vriska's freaking out. She's only been awake for twenty minutes, but a yawn-ridden argument with Rose has turned into something much more. Kanaya had been standing at the oven, carefully reading the recipe for the evening's dinner-slash-breakfast, and ignored the light-hearted bickering going on between Vriska and Rose behind her as best she could. It was a sort of tradition; if Vriska wasn't taking out the grouchiness caused by waking on Rose, then something was very wrong indeed.
Rose hadn't even risen to the challenge of verbally knocking the wind out of Vriska's sails as she was typically wont to. Maybe it was the lethargy behind Rose's retorts that had done it, or maybe the laid back argument was only a catalyst, but right now, Kanaya isn't really concerned with the hows and whys of Vriska's sudden freak-out. She's torn through the kitchen like a storm, found the accuracy within her rage to knock the saucepan off the stove and dent the freezer door, and now she stands on the work surfaces, shoulders hunched so that her horns don't catch on the ceiling.
“Fuck,” she spits out through grit teeth, and the plate she's picked up lands on the floor in hundred tiny pieces. Kanaya winces. It's certainly not the first time this has happened, but it never gets easier. Not even a little. “Fuuuuuuuuck this. Fuck this goddamn stupid planet with its twelve hours of sunlight all day, eeeeeeeevery day, fuck the lack of dark seasons, and fuck yoooooooou!”
A bottle containing olive oil is her next victim. It isn't immediately clear whether the elongated you in Vriska's sentence refers to herself or Rose, and Kanaya gets the impression that it doesn't matter in the least. She doubts that Vriska knows who she's angry at or why, and though a pepper pot flies across the kitchen and shatters against the wall behind the table, Rose still doesn't get to her feet. Sat there, Rose watches Vriska grasp at her chest and hiss as if in agony, and Kanaya contemplates the necessity of placing herself between Vriska and Rose, to protect them both.
In the end, she doesn't move. She doesn't want to provoke Vriska any more, and in the past, through her nonsense ramblings, Vriska's never had the clarity to harm either of them. There's a first time for everything, Kanaya tells herself, but only allows herself to move in very small steps towards Vriska. Vriska either fails to react to her drawing near or is so far gone that she doesn't notice the movement from the corner of her eye. She's still screaming and cursing and shouting by the time Kanaya reaches the counter and puts a hand against her leg. Vriska doesn't really hate this world. Doesn't hate being here. Kanaya knows that as well as she does. It's just that Vriska's own mind has always placed a particularly large amount of stress on her, and Kanaya can't remember the last time she spent the day in the recuperacoon.
That's all she needs, Kanaya tells herself, slowly easing Vriska down from the work top, so that she's sat on the edge. Vriska grasps at her chest still, heaving out sobs though she doesn't cry, and Kanaya strokes her hair, knowing that she would't be Vriska without a flurry of dramatics now and again. Just when it seems that she's calmed her down, Vriska abruptly pushes her away, words very clearly aimed at Rose, now.
“This is all your fault, you ridiculous witch,” Vriska seethes, and the addressing her directly is enough to get Rose to her feet. “If you'd actually stop reading those retarded wizard books and listen to me for more than five minutes, Lalonde, then— then I...”
Vriska trails off, brow furrowed, because Rose is before her in an instant, hands pressed against the sides of her face. Kanaya sees Vriska set her jaw, steps forward to move them away from one another, but Rose shoots her a look that forces Kanaya to keep out of it. Rose always had more luck with Vriska when she's in these moods than she ever has. There's just something about Rose that tells her she'll always be more comfortable with baring herself to Vriska, because Vriska has already confessed to hating her as much as is actually possible for any creature, troll and human alike. Nothing she can do can make herself sink any lower in Vriska's eyes.
Kanaya's told Rose before that nothing could damage her opinion of her. She knows that Rose believes her, but it doesn't make it any easier for her to accept it.
“Come now, Vriska. Were you not hatched from an egg created in an incestuous slurry, then I would put down your seemingly unrelated but rather ardent hatred of my indulging a good bulk of my time on wizard novels as father issues. As it stands, my diagnosis rests somewhere between 'attention starved' and 'literally starved.' Unless you'd like to sit on the couch and discuss the deep, dark secrets of your heart that beats black for me, I suggest that you calm yourself at once, and wait for dinner to soften your perpetually intolerable demeanour.”
Vriska scowls. Rose refuses to break eye contact with her. Reaching up, Vriska withdraws both hands from her chest, and wraps her fingers around Rose's wrists. Again, Kanaya considers intervening, and again she remains perfectly still. She sees Vriska's eyelids flutter to almost a complete close, sees her glance at her for half a second, before letting her forehead fall to Rose's shoulder.
They murmur amongst themselves. They know Kanaya can hear them clearly enough, but still they murmur.
“You should tell her, Lalonde,” Vriska says, hands falling to her side.
“All in due time, Serket,” Rose replies, patting the back of her head. The embrace, if it could rightly be considered as such, lingers for half a second longer, and then Rose has pulled away, and is reaching down to pick up their newly ruined dinner.
Not knowing what else to say on the matter, Kanaya opts for a subject change. She knows that she could never get away with rambling with both Vriska and Rose in the same room.
“Oh, dear. In cases like these, I believe the only viable solution is to rummage through the cutlery drawer for a menu and order takeout.”
They sit back at the table as if nothing's happened, each with a cup of tea, awaiting their approaching pizza. Vriska is back to being her old self, in that she squabbles over the choice of toppings when they order, and then she does an awful lot of guessing.
She guesses that she's sorry for freaking out like that. She guesses that she'll replace the plate, the olive oil, whatever else she shattered in her spate of anger. She guesses that she's feeling better now, and maybe she was just hungry all along.
An hour and a pizza with every topping under the sun on its face later, and it's as if none of it ever happened. Kanaya could very well believe that she imagined it all, if not for the broken shards of china and glass littering the floor, and she happily relishes in the normalcy of the rest of the night. As normal as things get when one of your matesprits is a human and the other is Vriska, she supposes. It's a wonderful, lazy sort of atmosphere, the kind that staves off even boredom, and Kanaya even manages to talk Vriska into letting her do her hair. Any night that involves dragging a brush through Vriska's hair is considered an excellent one by Kanaya's standards, though she does believe that a garden rake might do a better job than the paltry hairbrush she's picked up. She's fairly certain the handle nearly breaks off.
Rose mocks Vriska as she scowls through the whole process, and Kanaya finds herself trying to remember what it was the two of them were muttering about earlier. Probably some sort of kismesis business, she concludes, which really isn't any of her concern. With Vriska's hair in plaits and Rose thoroughly delighted by the outcome, Kanaya relaxes against the sofa, head on Rose's lap, knees tucked up behind her.
She really can't imagine things being any other way.
Karkat, it turns out, is quite keen on John's new game.
He's knocking on his front door the moment he opens the box, as if he somehow had prior knowledge of his purchase, which John knows to be ridiculous. Karkat's experience with video games of the human variety is severely limited, as they all go to great lengths to avoid any game that requires so much as a hint of internet connectivity, even if it's just to upload scores. John came across a copy of World of Warcraft the week before and felt his mouth run dry. Rose later informed him that he was spending too much time with Vriska, moirail or not, and that her flair for the dramatics was slowly washing over him, and could only lead to him indulging in low-budge productions of Hamlet, as acted by men wearing their mother's tights for that extra added bit of realism.
“Why the fuck did they call it the Ocarina of Time?” Karkat grumbles, arms folded across his chest while John takes his turn. He somehow managed to lose all three hearts before reaching the Deku Tree. “I bet the ridiculous human production team was like 'oh, shit, we've spend all this time sticking polygons together, and now our collective human think pan is utterly drained of inspiration! Let's just name the game after the first fucking item in our inventory that sounds adequately pretentious, and not give a flying fairy-ridden fuck that it doesn't tell you anything about it!'”
“Hahaha, Karkat, the Ccarina of Time's a very important item! The whole plot revolves around it. You've gotta wait until we actually get the ocarina before you start troll-bitching about our silly human titles,” John says sagely, tongue poking out the corner of his mouth as he pours the required amount of concentration into the game to land himself another blue rupee. “What would you guys call it, anyway?”
“What would I call it? I'd call it I'll Get Back To You John When We're More Than Half An Hour In.”
Three dungenous, an ascent to adulthood and two temples later, and Karkat does just that. It takes the the better part of eight hours to get that far, and they play almost consistently, only pausing to break for gamer-snacks (read: anything that can be heated up in the microwave) and to stretch their legs (read: walking from the living room to the kitchen to obtain the aforementioned gamer-snacks). John lies with his legs up against the back of the sofa and his head handing upside down as Karkat plays, steadily decreasing in the ranks of suckitude, occasionally making the effort to gloat over the fact that the ocarina is useful after all.
“Fine. Fine,” Karkat says through grit teeth, mood only darkened by absolute frustration that is the Water Temple. “I admit that maybe, for once, my brilliant troll intellect didn't allow me to pre-emptively ascertain the exact use of the universe's most unpopular musical instrument in a game about hitting horrorterrors with a variety of sharp and/or heavy objects! If you'd ever bothered to attend school or at least used Google, you'd know a title that short and pretentious should be deemed as false advertising. I thought Zelda and Link were going to start up a fucking happy-go-lucky hippie band and spread joy to all their fellow Hylians. Goddamn it, if we were on Alternian and this was a movie, you can bet your pale pink skin that this would be called A Story Of A Young Fairy Boy Who Later Discovers That He's Just a Normal Person By The World's Relative Standards and Embarks On A Great Adventure Through Various Dungeons With Weapons To Be Salvaged That Are All Suspiciously Useful Against The Boss; His Childhood Friend Never Ages, Thus Eschewing Any Chances Of The Flushed Quadrant Coming Into Effect, And The Girl On The Ranch Isn't Romantically Viable, But At Least She Isn't An Anthropomorphic Fish; Also, Ranch-Girl's Father Sleeps A Lot, Dogs Occasionally Follow You Around, Grave Robbing Is An Acceptable Pastime, And Link Needn't Ask Permission To Destroy What May Well Be Antique Fairly Heirlooms In Strangers' Houses; Chicken Abuse Is The Highest Form Of Cruelty; He Also Plays A Stubby Flute From Time To Time.”
“Dude,” John says, blinking heavily. “Do you need a drink after that? How dry is your mouth?”
Karkat frowns, snatching the soda can from John when offered. “This is why we didn't recite movie titles back on Alternia.”
They keep on playing for a little longer, until they're both utterly burnt-out from overdoing it. They keep the game running in the background until cries of Hey, listen! threaten to shattered their collective sanity, at which point John lazily uses the remote to shut off the television. He'll turn off the console whenever it occurs to him to get to his feet. Picking at the remnants of a needlessly large plate of nachos they shared, John looks at Karkat with a questioning smile he can't see, as he's too busy staring out of the window into the black of the night.
John doesn't say anything, and simply waits for him to speak up of his own accord.
“Not that I'm concerned with your feelings or their situation in any way, but what do you think about Vriska, Rose and Kanaya?” Karkat asks with a frown. Well, with more of a frown than usual. “I'm the fucking master of breaking down the quadrants into manageable segments that won't cause your human sponges to erupt like Mt. Too Dense To Get It going volcanic after remaining dormant for five hundred years, and I still don't get it. Just for the record.”
It's a fair question. John can't say that he understands it entirely either, but he's long since come to the conclusion that he doesn't necessarily have to grasp the ins and outs of the situation in order for his friends to be happy. He knows they've taken a rocky road to get to where they are now, and John still has a difficult time wondering how they can fit their lives together like that without jealousy and misunderstandings causing it all to crumble at the edges, but they've certainly worked for what they have.
“I guess... I'm okay with it!” John says, grinning from ear-to-ear. “They're all happy, and whatever they have works for them, so it's all cool by me!”
Karkat rolls his eyes. “Not what I'm getting at, John.”
It very much seems to John to be what Karkat was getting at, but he doesn't say as much. There are only so many times he can call Karkat out on something before he goes off on a furious tangent, and John really does want to know what he's trying to hint at. It must be serious, if Karkat isn't explicitly getting at his point straight off the bat.
“What are you getting at?” John asks, tucking his knees up against his chest.
“You and Vriska,” Karkat begins, not really dedicating himself to the conversation as well he might. He crinkles an empty can in his hand. “You used to like each other, right?
John's tempted to say something about of course they like each other, they're moirails, but he knows that's not what Karkat's getting at. The corner of his mouth tugs downwards, and he searches his memory for any vague recollection of what Karkat might be talking about.
“I... haha, you've really lost me, Karkat! C'mon, stop messing around.”
“I'm not fucking messing around! I accidentally read one of your conversations, and it was completely awkward and sad.”
“Um. What conversation?” John's too confused to find the energy to become indignant over Karkat supposedly reading his private conversations with Vriska.
Karkat growls, opens his mouth to reply, and then promptly shuts it, looking lost.
“I don't fucking know, okay? It was just a hunch I got,” he snaps, not believing it himself. “God, maybe I subjected myself to one of your shitty soap opera story lines and had messed up dreams based on it. Ha fucking ha, John and Vriska, not able to keep it in their species! Will my imagination ever fail to impress?”
John decides to leave it at that. It's clear he's stressed himself out. John suggests that they take a break from both video games and the land of the waking, and Karkat agrees, though he doesn't drag himself back to the house he shares with Terezi. Up the stairs he goes, and John hears the patter of his footsteps through the hallway concluded by the sound of the spare room's door slam behind him. Sleep sounds like a fantastic idea right around now, but before he can drag himself upstairs, John notices his laptop flashing away in the corner.
terminallyCapricious [TC] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
TC: wHaT bE uP wItH mY bEsT fRiEnD, bEsT fRiEnD?
EB: um. are you looking for karkat?
EB: because he's sleeping at the moment.
TC: wHoA mOtHeRfUcKeR dOn'T jOkE wItH mE.
TC: mY bEsT fRiEnD nEvEr SlEePs.
EB: uhh ok.
EB: he obviously does because he's dreaming troll dreams in my spare room right now.
EB: but i guess you know better than me!
TC: Aw DoN't Be BrEaKiNg Up My WhImSy BeSt FrIeNd'S bEsT fRiEnD.
EB: i'll do my best not to damage any whimsy throughout this conversation, haha.
EB: do you want me to pass on a message?
TC: hAhA wElL i'Ve HeArD oF wOrSe IdEaS.
TC: yOu TeLl My BeSt FrIeNd
TC: My InVeRtEbRoThEr
TC: ThAt ThIs MoThErFuCkEr Is MoViNg On.
TC: It JuSt FeElS rIgHt In ThIs PuRpLe-BeAtInG hEaRt Of MiNe.
TC: YoU kNoW?
EB: for the purposes of this conversation....
EB: i guess that i do!
EB: are you saying you're going somewhere or?
TC: yEaH mY bRoThEr FrOm A nOn-EgG lAyInG mOtHeR.
TC: i Be GeTtTiNg My MoVe On.
TC: GoInG tO sOaK uP sOmE sAlTy SeAsIdE bReEzeS.
TC: iNhAlE tHe MiRaClEs Of ThIs MoThErFuCkIn NeW uNiVeRsE tHaT wAs MaDe JuSt FoR uS.
EB: you're going to the beach?
EB: that's cool! maybe you'll see fef.
TC: hOlD uP oNe MoThErFuCkIn MoMeNt.
TC: HoW dO yOu KnOw ShE's NoT wItH mY fElLoW hOmEtRoLlS ErIdAn AnD sOlLuX?
EB: you mean because they moved away a few months ago?
EB: you think they're all living together?
TC: tHaT's WhAt I'm SaYiNg.
EB: uhh ok
EB: i'll make sure to tell karkat this all. good luck with everything gamzee!
TC: OnE mOrE tHiNg.
TC: YoU tElL mY bEsT fRiEnD tHaT i'M nOt TaKiNg ThE pIeS.
EB: I don't even know what that means.....
TC: yOu KnOw WhAt iT mEaNs
EB: i really don't!
EB: but karkat should get it so it's ok.
EB: just a troll thing right?
TC: YoU kNoW wHaT iT MeAnS
TC: hOnK :o)
EB: i get it.
TC: hAhAhAhAhAh, MoThErFuCkEr.
TC: you know what it means.
terminallyCapricious [TC] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
Well, that settles it. John definitely needs sleep now.