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
Gamzee always was a strange one, even by troll standards. Karkat's told him that it's best to ignore most of what Gamzee says, and to just be grateful that he becomes distracted by shiny objects for days on end, but John's always been a little unsettled by him. It's the face paint, he concludes. It just doesn't look right outside of a seven year-old's birthday party. Still, there's relief to be found in the fact that Gamzee is as harmless as he is gormless.
None of that stops John from having an uncomfortable night's rest, though. His sleep is a dreamless one, endlessly elongated by its emptiness, stretched out beyond the limitations of his mind. John doesn't feel as if he's in bed, so much as he's in some cavity of his own head, which is as ridiculous as it is unnerving. At some point he concludes that a dream without a dream is as disturbing as any nightmare, even if he never lands on any lost battlefield or orbiting moon. When he finally wakes up, uncertain of whether it's night or morning or neither, he feels as if he has been sleeping for half a lifetime, and his body is only wrought with tension for it. He stretches his arms over his head, hears his bones crack and creak, and only hopes that there's something within easy reach for breakfast.
He's starving. His stomach rumbles angrily, and he drags himself from out of his bed, guided more by hunger than sight as he makes his way down the stairs. There are sounds of life filling the house from the vague direction of the kitchen. Nothing like birds singing beyond the windows, unfortunately. More along the lines of Karkat grumbling and swearing under his breath as he searches the cupboards for a bowl that's actually clean, only succeeding in catching the side of his head against jutting out corners. John tries not to laugh as he makes his way in.
“Good morning, sunshine,” John says, dropping himself off on one of the chairs around the table. This is John-language for make me something while you're at it, and Karkat sneers at the mere suggestion. “The clean bowls are under the sink, by the way.”
“Oh my god,” Karkat snaps, cringing when he opens the fridge, only to be greeted by a box of fresh eggs. He's not willing to put that much effort into breakfast. “Who keeps their fucking clean bowls under the sink, other than a neurologically dim human fuckwit called John? Oh, that's right! Nobody, because the underside of the sink leaks like a recuperacoon that's seen one too many pails in its lifetime!”
John rolls his eyes fondly, hopping up to hunt out a box of cereal. He finds three unopened boxes in the first cupboard he opens, grins, and relishes in the fact that he won't be going hungry today.
“Haha, Karkat, keep calm! There's a board between the pipes and the plates. Anyway, as much as I hate to interrupt one of your rants, I can tell that your heart's just not in it this morning. It's okay, though. Nobody expects you to play at the top of your game when you're this hungry,” John says with a wise nod, taking two bowls from a rather blank-faced Karkat. “And before you keep on yelling at me, there's something I have to tell you.”
“No,” Karkat says flatly, voice rising over the gentle ring of cereal tumbling into a bowl. He holds out a hand, silencing John, and doesn't explain his reasoning until he's sat down with his breakfast. “Before you start rambling on at me about whatever dream you just had and asking me to analyse the alignments of the planets and explain it all to you, no. I have something to tell you, and seeing as I was trusted to deliver the message, it must be a thousand times more important than your inconsequential beastshit.”
Well, when Karkat puts it like that, John doesn't have much choice but to shut up and listen to him. His willingness to hold back his own information certainly isn't inspired by his current task of shovelling cereal into his mouth. Wiping a drop of milk from the corner of his mouth, he nods for Karkat to continue.
“Thank you,” Karkat says, pointing his spoon at John for good measures, “And by thank you, don't think I'm offering any gratitude whatsoever. I was always going to fucking say this. Anyway, moving on, before this derails like one of your human soap operas; Gamzee's gone. He told me last night. My “best” fucking “friend” – note the air-quotes that feebly attempt to captivate my rage – got up in the middle of the night, and went down to the beach. I bet he's there now, staring at the moon like a wriggler who's caught its first glimpse of natural light.”
John frowns. He swings back on two legs of his chair, in order to glance out of the window. It isn't night, and the moon's long since gone to visit the other half of the planet, but John doesn't say anything. Karkat's obviously hurting in one way or another because of this sudden departure, and John would hate to break up his masking of a pity party. Beyond that, it just doesn't feel right. It feels all too familiar, actually, but John can't put his finger on why. Maybe Gamzee was always destined to wander away, to live out his days on Earth as he did back on his home planet. He expected this. That's all. Gamzee's never been terribly unpredictable.
When John doesn't speak up, Karkat scowls, and thrusts his spoon into his cereal so hard that the bowl sounds as if it may well have cracked and a tidal wave of milk splashes over a two-day old newspaper that's covering the pizza stains on the table top.
“Well, lovely weather, isn't it?” Karkat says, biting his spoon as he takes a mouthful of cereal. He pretends that it doesn't hurt. “What the fuck could I possibly be welling at! It definitely couldn't be the atmosphere of vaguely suspenseful uncertainty that you've forebodingly thrown up into the air with the news you're about to lay down on me.”
“Oh!” John's mouthing the word in realisation before he actually understands what Karkat's talking about. He did have something to share, didn't he? It's just that it's so difficult to remember right now; he's still in a daze from waking, and the few mouthfuls of cereal he's managed to secure thus far haven't done much to get his brain back on track. He glances around the room, glances through the doorway to the crack of the living room that he can just about see, and his laptop conveniently placed on the edge of the sofa. That was it. “Equius and Nepeta spoke to me last night.”
“After I'd rested my nook on your ridiculously foamy human bed?”
“Yup! I was just about to subject myself to the horrific comfort of a springy mattress when they sent me a message.”
“Both of them? That wouldn't surprise me. They do fucking everything together. It's hard to believe that their quadrant is so fucking pale.”
“Those two are so close. It's great! Just like you and me.”
“I'm not your moirail, fuckass.”
John sighs dramatically and brings the back of his hand to his forehead, as if he's about to faint from the unbridled cruelty of Karkat's revelation.
“But seriously, it was just Equius talking to me. Through Nepeta's account! I was so confused at first. Green font and arrows just don't go together properly. I thought Nepeta was trying to start up some strange roleplay with me.”
That earns the brief crack of a smile from Karkat. John decides to go with it.
“It was all like, pew pew, meow!”
“Arrows don't go pew pew, idiot,” Karkat says, back to frowning.
“What do they do, then?”
“I don't fucking now. Their dulcet tones have never graced my ears, because Equius has never once managed to fire one of the goddamn things. But if I had to guess, I'd say they woosh.”
“Woosh woosh, meow!”
Karkat looks anything but impressed. The spoon clinks against his teeth with every mouthful of cereal he takes, and John wisely opts to keep the conversation flowing.
“Okay, that's enough screwing around, Karkat! What I was trying to tell you was that Equius and Nepeta have decided to move on. Somewhere outside of the neighbourhood. I'm not sure where, but it seems like they had it all sorted out.”
Karkat just nods, seeming to deal with the news surprisingly easily. John sinks into his chair a little, disheartened that he's not going to be prompted to speak about it any more. There's a lot he wants to say, because it really is a shame that they're moving out. He's going to miss them a whole lot. There was nothing quite like going out for a midnight stroll and finding Equius and Nepeta sat out in their garden behind their white picket fence, hosting a tea party under the soft moonlight. They always had such a nice house, too, with all the outside walls decorated in Nepeta's own style, unfortunate combinations displayed loudly on the shipping wall for the whole world to see.
They don't have much more to say over breakfast. Karkat finishes up his cereal and heads back to the living room, setting the Nintendo 64 straight back up. John peeks his head in as Karkat debates between the green, red and blue tunics for a spate of heart-container hunting, and he grabs his laptop before heading back upstairs. He places it on his desk, turns it on, and then busies himself with showering. When he comes back, hair damp enough to stick to his face but not nearly long enough to justify the purchase of a hair-dryer, he sits in front of his laptop, fingers restless. He feels like he should be talking to somebody, but he has no conversations open, and nobody seems to be online.
Instead, he dedicates his time to glancing around his room and admiring his rather fine collection of posters, infinitely glad that he was able to painstakingly wash off the mindless imps' graffiti. Still feeling that he should be doing something more today, he glances back at his laptop, and sees that a little icon in the corner of his screen has been flashing for a while.
arachnidsGrip [AG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
AG: Heeeeeeeey John. <>
AG: I know you're in!
AG: John, this is really quite rude now.
EB: ooooh vriska!
EB: sorry, i was distracted. you know how spacey i get.
EB: what's up?
AG: I hope you know that I'm very tempted to leave you haaaaaaaanging, John!
AG: 8ut I won't, 8ecause I'm such a gr8 friend.
AG: And not much is up. I guess I'm just woooooooondering if you'll remem8er this.
EB: huh? remember what?
AG: You won't 8elieve me. You never do!
EB: of course i'll believe you vriska! you're one of my best friends and i trust you 800%.
AG: Hahahahahahahaha, so smooth. :::;)
AG: 8ut I a8solutely won't 8e convinced to tell you this time.
AG: It's just now worth it!
EB: not worth what? i hate to say it but i think you've lost me vriska.
AG: I know. 8ut........
AG: I'm not going to make you or anything.
AG: 8ut you are free to look out your window.
EB: what will that accomplish?
AG: It might help you remem8er.
AG: You will 8e a8le to see me.
AG: If you want.
EB: uh ok.
AG: Are you doing it? Can you see me.
EB: wait, vriska, what the hell?
EB: you're in your garden. i can see you. how are you talking to me now?
AG: That's my serket.
AG: Wave to me.
EB: ok, ok! i'm waving. boy do i feel crazy now.
AG: You'll get used to it.
AG: Am I waving 8ack?
AG: I 8et I'm waving 8ack.
EB: you're waving back.
EB: vriska, you've got to tell me what's going on.
EB: i'm really starting to freak out here.
EB: rose? is rose using your account?
AG: Like I'd ever let Lalonde use my husktop.
EB: tell me. please.
AG: Am I still waving, John? ::::)
EB: you're still waving at me.
EB: great? how is this great? you're talking to me when i can see that you're clearly not and aaaaah.
AG: It's ok.
AG: You definitely won't remem8er any of this.
AG: So it's ok if I drive you insane for a little while.
EB: vriska i don't think this is very moirail-y behaviour!! </>
AG: Fuck you, John.
AG: If you really wanted to see me, you woooooooould.
EB: what?? i really don't understand what i've done wrong here.
EB: you just said yourself that you're trying to screw with me.
AG: Good8ye, John.
EB: don't do that thing where you just sign off after getting the last word!
arachnidsGrip [AG] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
This time, it's not Vriska causing a racket.
Rose isn't doing so well. She gets like this, from time to time, and Kanaya's never quite figured out how to comfort her. Rose always seats herself in some dark corner of the house, hands gripping the side of her head, fingers spread out like roots trying to gouge their way into tough soil. The silence she confines herself in is deafening, and seems to creep across all the walls of her house, like damp spreading at a mile a minute. Her stone-grey skin burns black, and when it cannot hope to hold that much energy, it leaps off of her in thick pyres of smoke.
It's a horrific sight, but harmless to anyone in the immediate vicinity. The fumes can't even be inhaled. Vriska rather helpfully tries to drive a fork into Rose's shoulder to provoke some sort of reaction, and Rose only moves to grab the misused cutlery, metal bending in her fist. Kanaya does her best to separate the two of them, but Vriska refuses to be moved and Rose suddenly doesn't want to let her out of her sight. Vriska kneels down, hands in front of her to prove that she's not wielding any lethal forms of stainless steel, and then she leans in close, seemingly undeterred when Rose takes a rough grip of her collar.
Kanaya decides to stay out of it for now. She finds herself staying out of a lot of things, lately.
Rose hisses something in a tongue that Kanaya can't discern, and though she knows that Vriska doesn't understand it, either, that doesn't stop her from answering. Vriska wraps her fingers around the collar of Rose's shirt, mirroring her actions, and with her forehead rested against Rose's, a horrible grin spreads across her face.
“It won't take loooooooong, Lalonde. She'll figure it out sooner or later.”
Vriska's eyes dart across Rose's face, looking for some sign of recognition. When she doesn't earn one, she simply lets go of Rose, tears herself from her grip, and lets her fall back against the wall behind her with a thud.
Kanaya watches Vriska walk away, watches her casually make her way to the living room as if there isn't a single thing wrong in their household or, indeed, the world, and only once she's out of sight does she allow herself to sit next to Rose. It's the best she can do, just being there for her, with her. After a tense moment where Kanaya convinces herself that Rose really never will seek solace from her again, Rose finally lets out a heavy breath and slumps against her side. Kanaya's heart lunges, and she wraps an arm around Rose's shoulders, neither holding her too close or too lightly. She wants her to know that she has her, now and whenever else she may need her, but she needs to know that she's free to break away too, if space is what she needs.
Kanaya doesn't believe that it is, but she wants her to know that the option is available to her in spite of all that.
She becomes a little more responsive, after that. Kanaya manages to convince Rose to let her take her upstairs, and runs a warm bath for her. The black continues to peel off her in sheets, but the water remains clear around her, and once she's finally in bed, Rose falls asleep without any of the convincing and reassuring that Kanaya was certain she was going to have to do. She sits there for longer than she can keep track of, fingertips brushing across the nape of Rose's neck as she breathes in and out shallowly, not disturbed by any dark dreams that Kanaya expected to plague her.
When she can sit there for no longer, fearing that she'll eventually be moved to wake Rose, Kanaya makes her way back downstairs. Restless, she idly tidies up the living room, though the only mess that's been made in there belongs entirely to Vriska, and then sets out to find the culprit in question.
It doesn't take long. There's Vriska, stood out in the garden, waving up at John. It's hard to tell from such a distance and through two panes of glass, one of which has the sun reflected against it, but it almost looks as if John is rather distressed. They keep on waving and waving at each other without rhyme or reason, and when Vriska eventually breaks it all off and promptly turns on her heels, it doesn't look as if she has any more of an idea of what's going on than John does. Hands shoved in her pockets, Vriska smiles at her, and makes her way back into the house.
Kanaya leaves the hallway, meets Vriska by the back door, and in an instant Vriska has her arms around her waist, playfully affectionate. Smiling softly into her hair, Kanaya kisses the top of her head, knowing that this is Vriska's way of trying to ease things for her. Without Vriska's outbursts an Rose's dark spells, there'd be no problems in their household, no real tension between them, and Kanaya knows she has to consider herself endlessly lucky because of that. They work together because there's nothing else for them, and apart, things just don't seem to work out.
She feels Vriska draw in a deep breath, nose pressed to the side of her neck, and she murmurs, “Are you hungry?” against her skin.
Pleasantly puzzled, because Vriska's never been one to ask such a question when it vaguely implies that she'll go to the effort of making food for them both, Kanaya pulls away a little, hooking a finger beneath her chin. Vriska scrunches up her face, as if suddenly offended by the prospect of physical contact, and Kanaya reaches up to press her other thumb to her nose, as if to silent any future complaints from her.
“I suppose I could do with something to eat,” Kanaya says, and Vriska's arms travel up from around her waist, fingers coming to wrap around her wrists. “Why, are you going to surprise me and make adequate use of the kitchen?”
Vriska turns her head sharply to the side, and Kanaya can already see the dark clouds of a bad mood settle in over her expression. She can't pinpoint what she's done to irritate Vriska this time, but it certainly seems to be something she's taken to heart. Vriska takes a step backwards, and then another, and Kanaya can only follow, until she inadvertently has her pinned against the wall. She keeps a firm hold on her wrists, though Kanaya very much gets the feeling that she should be the one pinning Vriska's arms to the wall.
“I said, are you huuuuuuuungry, Maryam? It must've been a loooooooong time, right? It's okay. I understand. You can go ahead and feed.”
Kanaya blinks once, twice, tries to step back, but Vriska doesn't let go of her.
“Vriska. I can't say that what you're talking about is a subject that I currently comprehend. Perhaps you could make yourself clearer, if it is not too much effort on your part.”
Huffing loudly, Vriska releases her hold on one of her wrists, though Kanaya doesn't feel as if she can bring herself to lift her own arm. Vriska's fingers travel up her back, pressing through her shirt and into her skin like the footsteps of spiders, and don't stop their ascent until they're tangled in her hair. Kanaya grits her teeth as Vriska roughly pulls her face to her neck, and that's enough to finally get to lift her hand and place it firmly against Vriska's hip, as if she doesn't already have her at a disadvantage by pressing her flat against the wall.
“Rainbow drinkers, Kanayaaaaaaaa. That's what you're into, right?” Vriska says, giving her hair tug for good measures. It doesn't hurt.
There's relief to be found in those words. Suddenly, it all starts making sense again; Vriska never did grow out of the habit of roleplaying. It's all a game, in that case, and Vriska's only trying to keep her on her toes by subjugating her into a role she expects she's dying to take on. Relaxing somewhat, Kanaya's eyes flutter to a close, and she very gently brushes her lips back and forth across the hollow of Vriska's neck.
“I understand how it is now. If you wish to roleplay with me, then I suppose I can spare you a few minutes out of my busy schedule,” Kanaya says with a grin, already leading the steadily unravelling situation.
“Who's playing?” Vriska grunts, and then hisses when Kanaya places her first bite against her neck, all too lightly.
She squirms against the wall, but Kanaya doesn't take that as a sign to back down. She knows how Vriska gets with her little games, and if anything, it's only an invitation to keep on going. Vriska releases her other wrist, and immediately Kanaya has both hands rested on Vriska's hips, teeth working in soft, gentle grazes against her throat. She hears Vriska's breath catch in her throat, hears her breathing slowly become heavier, and when it seems that Vriska's acclimatised herself to the current treatment of her neck, Kanaya digs her teeth in deep without any prior warning. She clamps down with her mouth, careful not to press too hard, but hard enough none the less, and Vriska's hips buck under her hands, legs somehow coming to wrap around her waist in the process.
Kanaya keeps her pinned to the wall with her own hips, lest Vriska come toppling down, leaving bruising bites as she tilts her head this way and that, never once lingering in one spot for too long. Vriska moans, and the sound comes out horribly frustrated. Kanaya can't do anything but grin. Grin, that is, until Vriska tires of Kanaya's mouth persistently wandering, twists both hands in her hair, absolutely refusing to let her break away. It takes Kanaya two seconds too long to process all that's happened, and before she knows it, she's bitten too hard; her teeth puncher Vriska's soft grey skin, and she howls, head tilted back.
It doesn't matter how quickly Kanaya pulls away. The damage is done. Vriska's blood rushes into her mouth, warm and coppery, as brilliant against her tongue as it is in the light, and that's not all that she takes from Vriska. Her head pounds all of a sudden, bright lights burning into the backs of her eyes and causing bile to rise up in her throat, and at some point, she loses hold of Vriska. Stepping back, doubled over, she grips at the top of her head, feeling the white-hot pain surge down to the tips of her horns.
“I changed my mind. Goddammit, I changed my fucking mind!” Vriska's shouting hysterically in the background, voice steady rising. “I'm absolutely allowed to do that. I take it back!”
John's wandering the streets again. He came across Kanaya less than an hour ago; a rather distressed looking Kanaya, shaken up for a reason he couldn't place. When asked what was wrong, she simply shook her head, looking more as if she couldn't bring herself to tell him, rather than simply not wanting to open up. But that's alright, he supposes. She has Rose and Vriska to take care of her, and he has faith in at least half of the aforementioned duo doing a good job of it.
She did say one thing to him, though. Or rather, she passed on a message. Find the history of your last conversation with Vriska, she'd said, or words to that effect. Kanaya had left him feeling rather bemused, but John doesn't put too much thought into it, doesn't consider it as anything other than Kanaya just being Kanaya.
He keeps on walking.
grimAuxiliatrix [GA] began trolling tentacleTherapist [TT]
GA: Hello Rose
TT: You realize that we do, in fact, live in the same dwelling, don't you? It'd be much more effective if you came upstairs and spoke to me in person.
GA: Of Course I Know That Much Thank You For Questioning My Intelligence Though
GA: But Somehow I Get The Feeling That Your Way Of Doing Things Wouldnt Work
GA: Yes Oh Is Correct
GA: I Feel As If I Need To Be Here And I Cant Really Explain Why
GA: Its Like Im Waiting For Deja Vu To Happen Which Is A Very Flawed Way Of Describing Something
GA: Deja Vu Is A Unique Phenomenon Because You Only Feel It For A Split Second In The Exact Moment It Occurs
GA: But Regardless Of Any Logical Black Holes In My Expression That Is How I Feel
GA: Like This Is All Predetermined
GA: I Have Never Been Good With Explaining How I Feel Outside Of My Own Think Pan
TT: You're rambling.
TT: What did you contact me for, Kanaya? I'm afraid I'm not gracious enough to pretend that you just so happened to see me online and longed for the days of yore.
TT: The days of yore were also the days of trolling.
GA: Yes Rose Thats Correct I Did Contact You For A Reason That Is Very Well Observed
GA: I Would Like To Ask You A Question
GA: I Would Like It Even More If You Gave Me A Straight Answer
TT: You're going to ask me a lot of questions.
TT: I think you can work out most of the answers for yourself by talking things through.
TT: You're good at that.
GA: Once Again I Am Going To Say Thank You And Not Really Mean It
TT: What's the question, Kanaya? Your hesitation is leaking from your fingertips, through the circuits of your laptop, after which it catches a free ride on our wifi, reverberates through my own keyboard, thus becoming palpable.
GA: Rose Thats Not How Technology Works
GA: Although I Suppose The Thought Of My Fears And Apprehension Causing Your Husktop To Tremble Does Provide Certain Amusing Mental Images
GA: Haha I Guess
TT: Amusing Mental Images (they sound much more poignant with your trademark Added Emphasis) that seem to provide you with yet another excuse to avoid the subject. Are you absolutely certain you wish to delve into the depths of this conversation?
TT: You mentioned black holes earlier. Think of your asking as an event horizon. I'm on one side, watching you perpetually tumble towards the black hole, for as long as my eyes will remain transfixed, and yet you gravitate closer and closer to becoming a singularity.
TT: I suppose the crushing gravity represents the weight of the answers you seek, in this extended metaphor.
GA: That Sounds Like A Gruesome Way To Go Perhaps You Could Use That In Your Next Book
GA: Anyway Yeah Sure
GA: I Will Go Into The Event Horizon
GA: I Guess Im Already There So Things Cant Get Worse I Know That Even If I Had A Hypothetical Rope Around My Waist It Wouldnt Work
TT: Ask me the question.
GA: When Did We Meet
TT: When did we meet?
GA: No Thats Not It
GA: Did We Meet
TT: That's a better question.
GA: Better But Not Perfect Right
GA: Not A Question That Youll Be Prepared To Answer I Expect
TT: I'll answer it in a while. Why don't you tell me what you think, Kanaya?
GA: Oh Wow You Really Have This Psychologist Act Down To An Art
GA: I Think That
GA: I Think That There Are Other Questions I Would Much Rather Have An Answer To
TT: And I can't convince you to come upstairs?
TT: Then I'll answer. Take your time, Kanaya.
GA: You Keep Calling Me By My Name I Dont Think Thats A Thing Thats Really Done Online Consistently
TT: I like your name. I have no ulterior motives in using it.
GA: Okay Thank You
GA: I Meant That One
GA: I Guess My Question Is That Assuming It Doesnt Matter If We Actually Met Or Not
GA: Is Any Of This Real
TT: If it doesn't matter whether we met or not, should it matter if any of it can be deemed as “real” or not? It's an empty term. What's real differs between individuals over the course of their lives, and something doesn't necessarily have to be tactile to be true to a person.
GA: Answering My Question With A Question
GA: Then You Still Owe Me An Answer
GA: Hmm Let Me Think
GA: How Long Have We Been Here
TT: Do you really want to waste your answer on that question? Time is relative, etc, etc. Whether we've been here for five years, five months, five seconds, or whether time hasn't started yet at all, doesn't seem like a very valid way to categorise our feelings. One could feel as much in five minutes as another could in five decades.
TT: That's the part your'e concerned with, isn't it?
GA: Yes Is That Selfish
TT: I don't think it's selfish.
GA: I Think Ive Figured Out By This Point That You And Vriska Have Known Something Was Awry For A Long Time Now
GA: Its Why You Kept Whispering Amongst Yourselves
GA: And Im Going To Guess That You Considered Telling Me The Truth Whatever That Is
GA: But Vriska Didnt Want To
GA: This Isnt A Question I Already Know The Answer Its Real To Me
TT: Then this isn't an answer. It's just an elaboration.
TT: Vriska didn't want you to know. She had her reasons, and I decided that she was right, loathe though I am to admit it. The less you know, the more chance we had of keeping up this painfully domestic charade.
TT: I'm going to ask a question now.
GA: Okay Go Ahead
TT: Why do you pathologically believe that you don't deserve happiness?
TT: You play the role of ensuring that everyone around you remains in a constant state of productive bliss absurdly well, but I can tell you don't believe that Vriska and I did this for you.
GA: Because Vriska Didnt Want Me To Know About This
GA: In Her Words She Would Say You Two Were In Cahoots
TT: I understood the truth of the matter because of the slime. Our shattered reality made itself known to Vriska... I have no idea how or why. Because she's Vriska, I suppose.
TT: Vriska does, believe it or not, possess a conscience. She didn't want you to remember all the bad things she'd done. She didn't mean to bring everything up to the surface like that. Or rather, she doesn't know what she wants. The only reason she's so hell-bent on John remembering is because she never did anything to hurt him.
GA: Except Troll Him
GA: Oh And Trick Him Into Being Murdered I Guess
TT: I guess.
TT: Are you going to continue avoiding my question?
GA: I Do Not Think I Dont Deserve Happiness I Suppose I Always Assumed It Was Never Intended For Me
GA: Kind Of Like How Karkat Was Never Destined To Have Low Blood Pressure
TT: And by assuming as much you very nearly chased it away.
TT: It was real to me, Kanaya. It was real to Vriska as well.
TT: We met. It might not be in the way we'd planned on, the the way we hoped for, but we met. You can walk upstairs any time you like and find me in our room.
TT: It doesn't matter whether it was five years or five seconds.
TT: Oh, for fuck's sake. I'm getting sentimental now, and it's breeding a whole host of anxieties inside of me. Can we please assume that I'm now offering you a string of less than symbols complimented by the three key?
GA: Of Course We Can Rose I Am Also Getting Sentimental
GA: This Is The Part Where You Say That My Husktop Will Short Circuit If I Become Much More Emotional Isnt It
TT: You can assume that if you want.
TT: So what have you learnt, Kanaya?
GA: We Have Been Here For An Undetermined Amount of Time
GA: Both Yourself And Vriska Overcame A Torrent Of Denial And Realised This Wasn't Real
GA: Even If This All That Is Us Being Together Is Real To You
GA: And We Did Meet But Not Like We Were Supposed To
GA: Rose I Thought Of My Question
TT: You're sure?
GA: Im Sure
TT: Then I have little choice but to answer you.
GA: Are We Asleep
TT: Are you going to come upstairs now?
GA: Yes I Think I Will See You In A Moment Rose
grimAuxiliatrix [GA] ceased trolling tentacleTherapist [TT]
John stands in front of a house that would be like any other house in his neighbourhood, if not for one small addition on the side of the building. Beneath a fresh, thin coat of white paint, he can see the vague outline of images scrawled up the side of the building. He can't make out what they are, exactly, other than the faint outlines of what could pass as people, and he can't imagine how they got there. Graffiti, most likely.
He shakes his head, moving on. He doesn't think too deeply about it, because there are other things to ponder. Things like the way he's been out for at least three hours and not a single car has past him by. Things like the way he looks all around him, and no matter where he stands, he always seems to be in the centre of town. The town is a valley, and its walls rise up all around him, framed by rolling hills and inconsistent scatterings of trees. John knocks on every door he passes, and yet nobody answers.
He wishes that Dave and Jade hadn't left so many months ago. He wishes that they were here to laugh at him, to tell him that it all makes perfect sense. He knows that isn't going to happen, though. There's something very wrong with this town.
He's been aware of it for much longer that he's let on.
ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering arachnidsGrip [AG]
EB: heeeeeeeey vriska!
EB: guess what i got a copy of.
EB: i know that you'll never guess, because it's not a troll game.
EB: haha, looks like it was actually pretty stupid of me to ask you to guess.
EB: i'm just rambling because you're not here.
EB: i hope. you're not ignoring me riiiiiiiight?
EB: it's totally cool if you're busy, don't worry about it. i've got karkat here to bug me anyway.
EB: the game's called zelda by the way. if rose and kanaya can spare you for an hour or so maybe we can play it together.
EB: ok you can probably guess what that oh was for but i'll explain anyway.
EB: that was me realizing i could see you out of the window and waving.
EB: still waving!
EB: basically, this is kind of weird.
EB: difficult to type too.
EB: we can stop waving any time you want.
EB: looks like kanaya needs you after all.
EB: bye, vriska!
ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering arachnidsGrip [AG]
John's birthday was his first clue. He could only conjure up memories of the four preceding it in very vague, overly joyous terms; a general feeling of happiness, of being together, of everything he would've wanted, everything he could've asked for. It was beyond perfect. It was manufactured, if not by his mind then by somebody close to him. His second clue was the world itself.
It was made for them in more ways than one. They took everything that the world had to offer and never sacrificed anything for it beyond their guardians. Everyone else was there, and everyone was intact, whole, and reality bowed to their every demand. Sopor slime festering naturally in the dense woodland. Trolls living in human society without anyone raising so much as an eyebrow. John knows that he really was naïve to ever believe any of it, but that naïvety had kept him in one piece. It had given them all five more years in a heartbeat, five years that they never truly had. It wasn't supposed to happen this way, but John finds that he can't resent his dreams, his subconscious, whatever this is, for all that's unfolded before him.
He can't say that he understands it, either. Not completely. There are too many twists and turns, too many dark pathways that he doesn't have the heart to wander down. He accepts it at face-value, and knows that Rose holds enough of the truth in the palm of her hand to help him fill in the blanks. She's the only one who came into this universe still marred, skin stained a permanent shade of stone, as if to remind them all that it did come at a price. She's continued to cling to the darkness as much as it's bound itself to her throughout this whole thing. This universe made up of empty houses.
John smiles up at the starless night sky, hands dug into his pockets. It's of little surprise to him that everyone else has faded away into obscurity, into their own facetious happy endings; he never got to know enough of the trolls well enough to so much as imagine them up. John doesn't think any of them were ever here.
Not until he comes across Aradia, at least. She crosses him in the street, the only soul in an imaginary world, and doesn't even seem to see him. He keeps walking. He hears her continue on her way to nowhere and then, for reasons he can't discern, suddenly stops. One more step, two more, and then five; Aradia stops. For a moment, it's like time stops, as well. It's like the foundations of the world he'll never walk upon stop crumbling all around him.
“You have to be okay with it, John,” she says, voice soft, melodic. He closes his eyes, afraid that there'll be nothing in front of them when his eyelids flutter to an open again, but unable to resist the warm, sinking feeling that knots itself in his chest. If he ever believed a single thing in his life, it's encapsulated in that moment; he believes that Aradia really might be right. “It's all you can do.”
Her footsteps pick up once again, and when he dares to glance over his shoulder again, she isn't there. Logically, he's been looking in the opposite direction for so very long that she could well have turned a turned and disappeared into another part of the neighbourhood. John supposes that he'll never know.
Shoulders hunched and gaze fixed on the cracked paving beneath his feet, John makes his way back home.
It's all there is for it.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
CG: I DON'T CARE WHERE YOU ARE.
CG: I DON'T CARE IF YOU'RE CURRENTLY ENGAGED IN AN ACT OF HUMAN HEROISM THAT YOU WILL THEN TALK ABOUT FOR YEARS TO COME, AS IF NO ONE ALIVE, TROLL OR HUMAN, HAS EVER UNDERTAKEN A TASK GREATER THAN RETRIEVING A KITTEN FROM A TREE.
GC: BY THE WAY, IF WE HAD KITTENS ON ALTERNIA, SUCH A DISPLAY OF WEAKNESS WOULD BE COMPLETE AND UTTER JUSTIFICATION TO THEN CONSUME SAID KITTEN IN A MANNER BEFITTING OF A HUMAN EVER INCREASING IN MASS WITH HIS SWEATY PALMS WRAPPED AROUND THE DELICACY OF YOUR UNIVERSE ONLY KNOWN AS THE “BURGER.”
CG: THE FUCKING POINT IS THAT YOU NEED TO GET THE FUCK BACK HERE AND ANSWER ME, JOHN.
CG: I NEED YOU.
CG: ARGH FUCK.
CG: THAT WASN'T AN INVITATION TO BREAK OUT INTO ONE OF YOUR INSIPID POWER BALLADS. IN FACT, LET ME GET THIS THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO WANDER BACK TO YOUR COMPUTER AND GRACE ME WITH YOUR PRESENCE. BY THE WAY, YOU ARE RIDICULOUSLY UNDESERVING OF THE BIPEDAL FRAME I GAVE YOU.
CG: NEED YOU IN MY ARMS
CG: NEED YOU TO HOLD
CG: FUCK, I DON'T KNOW THE REST. I DON'T THINK I'VE ACTUALLY EVER HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. BUT STILL, THE VAGUE OUTLINES OF THE NOTES HAUNT ME, LIKE THE BOUT OF SLOPPY INTERSPECIES MAKEOUTS I ONCE HEARD THROUGH THE WALLS, A MEMORY THAT I ALONE HAVE BARED THE BURDEN OF FOR ALL THESE YEARS.
CG: WELL, FUCK, I JUST TOLD YOU. THAT'S A WEIGHT OFF MY SHOULDERS. MAYBE I'LL BE ABLE TO LOOK KANAYA AND ROSE IN THE FACE AGAIN.
CG: MY POINT IS THAT MY FEIGNED INTEREST IN YOUR PATHETIC EXCUSE FOR EARTH CINEMA AND THE UNFORTUNATE SOUNDTRACKS THAT FOLLOW TAKE UP VALUABLE SPACE IN MY THINK PAN. I ESTIMATE THAT THOSE SINGLE TWO LINES OF SONG COST ME MY EARLIEST MEMORIES OF WRIGGLING ON MY BELLY IN AN ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE THE SCORCHING ALTERNIAN SUN.
CG: NOT THAT I'D KNOW, BECAUSE I DON'T FUCKING REMEMBER.
CG: THANKS, FUCKASS.
EB: oh, ewwwww karkat! did you really need to tell me that about kanaya an rose?
CG: WHAT? I'D THINK EVEN SOMEONE WITH YOUR INTELLECT WOULD BE ABLE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THEY GET UP TO.
EB: i'm very happy in my current state of denial, actually.
EB: my friends, especially rose, only do two things: hold hands and hug each other.
EB: oh any maybe on anniversaries i guess they can tenderly touch each other's faces.
CG: JOHN, YOU'RE SO UNCHALLENGEDLY ROMANTIC THAT I DON'T KNOW HOW MY SWOONOMETER HASN'T SHATTERED, LEAVING A THOUSAND TINY SHARDS OF GLASS TO FLUTTER TO THE GROUND AND CEREMONIOUSLY LAND IN THE SHAPE OF A <3.
CG: I SHOULD PROBABLY POINT OUT THAT IN THIS EXAMPLE, THE SWOONOMETER IS MADE OF GLASS, SOMEWHAT LIKE AN OLD THERMOMETER.
EB: hehe. it just comes naturally to me!
EB: anyway. what did you need me for?
EB: other than to hold?
CG: FUCK YOU, EGBERT.
CG: WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?
EB: walking around the neighbourhood. it doesn't seem as if that should be of the utmost importance right now, though!
CG: WHAT NEIGHBOURHOOD?
CG: LOOK OUT THE WINDOW.
EB: karkat, this is very disconcerting.
CG: NO SHIT.
EB: you're messaging me about terezi, aren't you? i'm sorry if she's gone.
CG: THE FUNNY THING IS.
CG: AND BY FUNNY, I MEAN I'M ABOUT TO TEAR MY OWN FUCKING HORNS OFF SO THAT I CAN STAB THEM THROUGH MY EYES, JUST BECAUSE I MIGHT FEEL BETTER THAT WAY.
CG: ONLY THING IS, MY HORNS ARE TOO FUCKING NUBBY TO DO MUCH IN THE WAY OF STABBING. SO IT'D BE MORE OF A SLOW, MUSHY GRIND, IF ANYTHING.
CG: SO THE “FUNNY” THING IS, I DON'T FUCKING REMEMBER HER BEING HERE AT ALL. NONE OF HER STUFF IS IN OUR HOUSE. MY HOUSE, I GUESS.
EB: i know i'm not terezi, so it's not the same, but you should come over while you still can. i've already invited rose, kanaya and vriska. we should all be together one last time!
CG: LAST TIME.
CG: FIRST TIME.
CG: FUCK YOU.
EB: is that a yes?
carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
John's house stands as an island in the void.
Those who remain in the ever narrowing world find their way there before it's too late, before there are no longer any roads to take, any solid ground to stand upon. The house trembles with the anticipation of deconstruction, and it floats and sinks in the black, turning this way and then that, making no difference to the few inside. They are together and yet they are nowhere near each other, never able to focus on the other parties for long, never able to conjure up any words. It's not so bad, John decides. In a situation like this, there isn't anything that can be said to make things easier. They could only hope to voice their regrets, and the time for regrets has long since past.
They are in bubbles within a bubble. Karkat sits on the floor, knees tucked to his chest, arms around them. He has his back to the others, to Rose, Kanaya and Vriska sat on the sofa, intertwined, but almost unaware of each other. Rose lets down her walls for this one and only instance, and indulges in what she would label as a public display of affection. Public Display of Affection, she always said it, as if was a disorder in and of itself, and the mere thought of it made her shiver with as much repulsion as it did unfamiliarity. Now she sits next to Kanaya, leant against her, paying no heed to the obvious implications of separation anxiety made in the brazen gesture, and remains calm, even with Vriska's head rested in her lap. She lays across the sofa dressed in bright orange, legs hooked over one arm, and now and again Kanaya reaches down, brushing loose strands of hair from her face.
It's nice. In spite of the circumstances, he's glad to see Rose get a chance at this. A chance not only to love, but to allow herself to be loved in return. To that end, John doesn't think it matters whether any of this is real or not, and finds himself stood in the centre of the room, not quite certain of where he fits in. He looks to Vriska and then to Karkat, and eventually places himself between them, back coming to rest against Karkat's. Karkat grumbles as he's wont to, and John feels him tense behind him, but he makes no other protest. He doesn't try to squirm away, doesn't try to push him back.
Looking back to Vriska, John reaches out a fist, and she mimics the gesture, lightly bumping her fists against his. John grins, laughs, and then maybe even says bunp. He's not sure. All that he knows is that he's waiting, and that he can see dark through the windows where his garden is no more, dark through the doorway where his kitchen's been torn apart.
He's never considered himself overly patient, but he's done this before. He's sat and waited for the end of the world, and sometimes he's even fought against it. John doesn't know whether he's relieved that there's no need to struggle against the inevitability now, or ashamed that he doesn't even consider the prospect of going out kicking and screaming, of giving oblivion a damn hard job of dragging him down into the void.
Either way, it is as it is. There's no way to change any of it. They played a game and they lost, despite all that they tried in order to turn the tables in their favour, despite visits from the future, the past, dreams, visions, godhood; none of it should matter, because they've all been dead for a very, very long time. He sees the dank blue stain spread from the centre of Vriska's sun, sees her eyes turn blank and beautiful and hollow, and then doesn't dare to look down at his own hands, to turn and face Karkat.
On an unknown day of a non-existent month in a meaningless year, John sits in his living room, surrounded by fifteen boxes, each one white, each one identical to the last. He doesn't move, but he does reach out with his fingertips and toes to draw close the ones that aren't too far from him; he opens the boxes one by one, finds them as empty as he remembered them to be, and watches them crumble to a fine, white sand, lost between his fingertips to the void below.
It won't be long now.
He thinks, briefly, that he might get to see his dad again, even if it is only for a stolen, fragile moment like this. John doesn't think he'd mind that. There's so much that he has to tell him, so much that he could never find the time or motivation to share with him; most of it he's sure he knows, because he's his dad, and that means he knows everything, but there are things John needs to tell him in his own words. Eyes closed now, unable to look around him, he wonders what the others would want, and then imagines that he's right, that they'll get what they deserve, finally.
It's not such a bad way to go. It might even be considered merciful, in some circles. John knows without seeing that the walls have evaporated and the ceilings have gone the way of the floors, and all at once, he realises that he can't feel Karkat pressed against him any more. He cracks open an eye, and he doesn't see Vriska, doesn't see Kanaya or Rose. It's just him alone, floating in the last dregs of a memory long since past its expiration date, floating, sinking, tumbling, drifting.
It doesn't take long.
It doesn't take anything at all.