CHARACTERS: Kanaya Maryam/Rose Lalonde
WORD COUNT: 2,762
SUMMARY: Kanaya never intended to become a selfish creature, but she wants to sit out in the sun on the same side of the fence as Rose. They don't have to talk, or even look at one another; she can kneel in the grass, fingers wrapped around stubborn weeds, while Rose sits a way off, reading or writing or even knitting, the both of them simply contented by the other's presence.
NOTES: AO3 version. Wrote this in ninety minutes to see if I could!
Kanaya's next-door neighbour is always stopping by at the worst possible times.
Rose comes down the garden path, and without fail, Kanaya always has one foot out the door, ready to attend to her other duties, to ensure that the rest of the trolls are in one piece on this strange, sunny planet. Duties that she sorely wishes she was irresponsible and callous enough to shirk, but she's never been one to neglect the important things, even though it means missing Rose. They exchange faltering smiles, nothing needing to be said anymore, and Rose nods her head in a greeting and goodbye at the same time, slowly making her way back to her own abode. The first few times it happened, Kanaya grasped desperately at the few seconds she could spare, did her best to entice Rose into conversation about something, anything, the weather, but Rose excused herself each time without fail, claiming she understood that Kanaya must be busy.
Rose always comes over at a bad time, and Kanaya knows why she does it. It's so that she has a ready-made excuse, not necessarily manifested from her own desire, to leave and return to her own dwelling, to keep their meetings brief, stilted. They're neighbours. They're expected to see each other, and Kanaya supposes that Rose would simply prefer if nothing but a nod and a wave and a how are you ever came of their interactions. Kanaya doesn't hold it against her, because she knows that her own wanting shouldn't sway Rose's freedom to dictate their friendship as she deems most appropriate.
The game has been over for sweeps, but the trolls haven't long since been on Earth. There was trouble with the Veil, with the crumbled remnants of their own universe creating a trail of dust and fog that made it seem for the longest time that they would never get anywhere; and yet here they are on a planet they placed the stars around, which over time slowly feels like something echoing home. Rose is nineteen now, a number that still seems ridiculously large to Kanaya, no matter how she tries to settle into human terms. She always converts the number in the back of her head, knows that she's closer to nine sweeps than eight, and that she is, in actuality, marginally younger that her.
On the long, dry summer days that begin to feel like they'll perpetually surround her, Kanaya catches glimpses of Rose over the fence as she turns the soil in her back garden, glimpses of Rose through the kitchen window as she stands at the sink, washing dirt from vegetables she herself has grown. Rose seems happy in those moments, whether she's sat at her table writing, or lounging out in her garden, laptop at her side, regaling John with tales of how she's restocking on vitamin D at his behest. There's a lot she wants from Rose, and she goes to no lengths to lie to herself, to play it down. She doesn't delude herself, either.
She knows what Rose wants, what she needs, and that doesn't stretch beyond poorly timed conversations that are never allowed to bear fruit. Kanaya supposes that Rose thinks she's being polite, that she's getting another chore out of the way. More often than not, Kanaya wishes she wouldn't stop by at all, because things would probably be easier for her that way. The embers of hope that grow warm in her chest whenever she sees Rose walk down the garden path could finally be put out, emitting a great hiss and sizzle as if doused by the cool waters of reality.
Kanaya has spoken to the others about this. To Dave, mostly, though she immediately regretted doing so; he spoke in bizarre metaphors that Kanaya didn't understand and perhaps weren't supposed to hold any tangible meaning in the first place, but she had been lead to believe that so-called sibling relationships were important on Earth. Kanaya left that conversation with the knowledge that Rose's heart was like the human delicacy of ice cream, which she's since learnt melts into a thick, unappetising substance if removed from the cooling unit for too long.
She still isn't entirely sure of what he was getting at, nor does she understand the slight behind Rose becoming a crazy cat lady. Rose doesn't even own a single cat, so his point is null and void, so far as she's concerned.
And despite all of that, despite knowing that it can only end in another heartbreak for her, Kanaya still wants so much. She'll never ask for it, but at times she fears that her desire for the small, simple things affects Rose in her day-to-day life; that she's possessed her, somehow, changed her.
Kanaya never intended to become a selfish creature, but she wants to sit out in the sun on the same side of the fence as Rose. They don't have to talk, or even look at one another; she can kneel in the grass, fingers wrapped around stubborn weeds, while Rose sits a way off, reading or writing or even knitting, the both of them simply contented by the other's presence. She wants for them to work in the sun and come to the conclusion that it's time to retire indoors at the exact same moment, and she wants them to be out only short hours later, wandering the city's streets in the warm evening air, paths only made interesting because they walk them together, hand-in-hand.
When it rains, she wants to stay inside with Rose. She wants to lie on a floor that's long since become a workspace and pour over half-formed sketches of dresses and shirts and long scarves she's designed. She wants Rose's brutal honesty on the blueprints of her creations, wants her to make her opinions count, to weigh in on what she sees and add her own additions, her own amendments. She wants to sit at her sewing machine and stitch intricate patters onto the hem of her creations, wants to make things because Rose likes them, wants to design more and more clothing for Rose, because there's nothing out there that has been made just for her, has had enough care poured into every crease and hemline to deserve to be worn by her.
She wants Rose to make fun of her. To analyse her need to pour so much attention into every detail, to obsess over how clean her lines are, how long or short each shirt or sleeve is; to laugh at her because she cares, because she understands how much this all means to Kanaya.
If she somehow become both brave and foolish enough to say this all to Rose, there'd still be things beneath the surface, things she could never adequately voice, could never express beyond a squeeze of her hand. She wants to be with someone who's been changed as she has. Someone who understands what it's like to suddenly be in new skin, to have power beyond their design, but still know that it's all alright. It doesn't change them, even through a soft glow that never lets a room go entirely dark, or a charcoal-black film that makes it seem like flesh is stone and the underneath is just as jagged.
Kanaya's become acquainted with human beds. She knows how they work. She wants to be under the covers with Rose, for them to be close and warm, to be able to wrap her arms tightly around her and not have to worry about channelling any part of her energy into standing, into keeping Rose upright. She wants to feel Rose lean into her, to feel her chest rise and fall in soft, gentle exhalations, feet bumping together as they both shift this way and that to keep the blankets wrapped around them. She wants to fall asleep with her head in her lap and with Rose's hand rested against the back of her neck, fingers entwined in her short hair, in an act that seems too natural and commonplace that the sensation spreads from the land of the waking into the depths of her dreams.
She wants to wake in the morning and make a tent of the covers, and although the sun's long since risen as they too should have, she wants to spend endless hours talking about wizards and rainbow drinkers and make up impromptu stories together that they'll never tell anyone else.
(There are other things she wants too, but she rarely even dares to think them too loudly. Kanaya wants to see the way their skin contrasts for herself, wants to feel Rose's body tense beneath her fingertips as she kisses her mouth, wants to count the number of differences between humans and trolls, to account for them in everything she does. She wants, wants, wants, and sometimes, she's scared that it might consume her.)
Kanaya learns to live with it. Human romance is far too complicated in its simplicity, and she accepts that she shouldn't try to meddle in concepts she doesn't fully grasp. They have the flushed quadrant, or something close to it, and that seems to be all. If a matesprit is all that Rose gets, a single partner that she has to choose above all others, then Kanaya can understand why she'd be fussy. Why she'd take her time in making her decision, because she certainly deserves the best this world has to offer her. Rose is a beautiful being, one incomparable to any other human or troll, and who may well be part-thesaurus. Kanaya can be happy in the knowledge that Rose will eventually make the choice to make herself happy, and her own life is hardly empty without any reddened romance. She has her friends, a home, a beautiful garden, and they are all safe for the first time in sweeps.
She shouldn't be allowed to ever ask for anything more, but one day Rose stops by, and Kanaya realises that she's never asked for anything that was purely her own. Perhaps that's been the problem all along.
“Rose,” Kanaya says, closing the door behind her as she steps out into the sun. For once, she has nowhere she needs to be, nobody who requires her assistance. She's simply going out for a walk, though Rose can't be expected to know that much just from looking at her. “Whenever you arrive, it seems that I am always just leaving.”
“So you are,” Rose replies flatly, but then doesn't turn and leave as Kanaya expects her to. She brings up a hand, rubbing the bridge of her nose with the back of it, squinting through the bright midday light.
“Is there a problem?” Kanaya asks, because as a rule, people come to her when they have problems, not when they wish to celebrate.
“I see. Have I done something?” Kanaya doesn't know why it's the first thing to cross her mind and leave her lips, because she has no reason to feel like the guilty party. All she's ever done is want and want without acting on it. Surely that can't cause the problem here.
“No. Yes. Actually— it's me, mostly,” Rose says, and it's strange to see her talk herself in circles like that. Not all of her self-confidence is genuine in its verbosity, but Rose has always been certain in what she says, fluid enough in the cognitive process behind her words that her long, winding speeches can never be considered to be a ramble as her own are. “Generally speaking, when one finds themselves in a routine, whether it's one that they've subconsciously manufactured or one that's been born of the environment around them, they find it easy to convince themselves that it's wholly natural, and not partly, if not entirely, fabricated out of any repressed uncertainties, or conjured up in the first place to act as a defence mechanism of sorts. It also becomes startling easy to disassociate yourself from the situation, apparently, and speak in general terms, as if reciting from the rippling pages of Self-Analysis For Those In Denial.”
Rose pauses at this point, and Kanaya nods in what she deems to be the right place, as if she understands more than a word of what Rose has just told her.
“I have noted, of late, that the contents of my diary – a diary that you will deny having any knowledge of after this conversation – consist of elegantly long-winded paragraphs that boil down to 'Visited Kanaya today; she was on her way out again' for each and every date. It seems evident, then, that I have made my visitations somehow fall in with your routine of running errands for some particular purpose. Keep in mind that I was unaware that I was doing this, so it most likely can't be considered creepy. But the reason, that I still find myself stalling on now: I need an excuse to leave. To back away.”
Kanaya nods again. She figured that much out herself long ago, but hearing it from Rose makes her feel as if she isn't up for a walk after all. Again Kanaya nods, mostly to herself, but then is drawn back into the there and then when she realises that Rose wants her to say something.
“Yes, Rose, that seems like a rather unanimous decision to reach. I am glad that you felt comfortable enough to discuss a matter pertaining to the two of us to my face, as opposed to through the indifferent strokes of a keyboard that are rife with the anxiety born between each instant message received. The best way to alleviate these issues is to do so quickly, so please understand that I do not expect you to visit my hive even though we are neighbours, and I will not bother you with surprise visits or anything of that nature.”
And then in an instant, Rose has the utmost horror-stricken look across her face, and Kanaya genuinely wonders whether she's inadvertently just recited the process of troll reproduction to her. She feels her face glow ever brighter under Rose's gaze, and cannot help but feel that she's done something very, very wrong here.
“Oh, for fuck's sake, Kanaya,” Rose says, and Kanaya can't help but notice that she still manages to sound perfectly ladylike through her coarse language.
“Rose, I must admit that you are confusing me even more so than when you usually discuss your human psychology.”
Rose takes a deep breath, throws her hands in the air, and then turns her back, marching down the path. Kanaya watches her leave, blinks hard, and does not yet have clarity of mind to begin to take in the bizarre nature of the situation. Kanaya considers calling out a goodbye, spends too long wondering whether it would be classed as a passive-aggressive act, and by the time her lips part, Rose has already turned on her heels. She storms back and stands in front of Kanaya with such a look across her face that leads her to believe that she's currently contending with an aneurysm.
“—would you like to go for a walk?”
Out of all the things Rose has said thus far today, this one confuses Kanaya the most. She can't even think up a reply, as if walking is suddenly an alien concept that she's not yet been acquainted with. As if she can't remember how to lift one foot and place it in front of the other. She's getting her hopes up again. She wants too much and Rose's heart is made of ice cream, and they really have been out in the sun for a long time now. Kanaya glows brighter still, feeling that she's trying to put the sun out of business.
In the end, all that she can do is reach out and take Rose's hand in her own. There are too many questions to ask, and the only way to get the answer that she really needs is to do something as brazen as this. She feels Rose's skin soft against her own, and as her heart pounds harshly against the inside of her chest, she wonders if it's even something that's supposed to happen to the undead. Rose doesn't pull away. Her glaze flickers to the side and then back to meet Kanaya's, and oh, her face is coloured a lovely, subtle shade of red.
“Very much so,” Kanaya says, finally breathing out a smile, “In fact, I can think of nothing else I want more.”