After that little incident, things don’t return to usual quickly. Rose avoids you for a while, claiming to be busy writing and you don’t get a chance to touch her again for a few days, let alone her neck, and nor do you get a chance to be rightfully furious at her for leaving you in such a state. It took you at least ten minutes to calm down, during which time Rose had locked herself in the spare room she’d taken over as her study, creating a desk from a coffee table she’d dragged in there and a beanbag. She hadn’t emerged since except to collapse next to you at four in the morning when you were asleep, then rise early in the morning before you got up to return to the study.

Concern eventually won out over anger and you left food outside the door. She knew you would.

A day or two later, she emerges from the study. You’re in the kitchen, washing dishes, wondering whether to start cooking her breakfast and bring it upstairs in order to lure her out with the smell, and then throw a bag over her to forcibly drag her out of the study. Naturally, you then realise how utterly ludicrous it is to be even considering doing that to your matespirit, and have to fight off a groan of exasperation at the situation you’ve found yourself in. Exasperation, because if you think about it too hard you might cry.

All you really want to know is exactly why this keeps happening. Trying to think of when it started doesn’t help – as far as you can remember, it’s always been this way, since you became first matespirits on the meteor. Back then you always seemed to meet after a particularly stressful day, when research wasn’t quite going as it should or Karkat and Dave were arguing and you were both tired and frustrated. Even with the dream bubbles, three years is a long time for a teenage girl to spend in the company of the same people, day in, day out. Rose never said a bad word about her situation but she didn’t have to. She expressed it in her behaviour towards you.

Often, she would give you no warning at all. Rose would simply burst into your room at a random time of the day – the concepts of day and night sort of lost meaning on the meteor - letting the door slam into the wall before locking it behind her and turning to you. Nearly always, there would be an inexplicable furrow in her brow, her face worn and tired; then she would grip you by the horns and crush your lips together, fingers flying over buttons and clasps and undressing both of you in record time. What she lacked in finesse, she made up for with sheer speed.

It was always rough, and always too fast for your liking.

And yet - you feel awful for even thinking it considering how obviously distressed Rose was - those were some of your favourite moments with her because for once, you knew what Rose was feeling, even if you didn’t know exactly why. You could see the lust and anxiety and upset in her eyes, feel her desperation in her kisses, feel her arousal on your soaked fingertips until she grabbed your hands out from between your legs, pinned your arms above your head and palmed your bulge.

That’s how it happened. Every time.

With a sick jolt, it truly hits you  exactly how long this whole thing has been going on for. Protected by the general turmoil of your memories of the game, when you recalled those memories you’d managed to completely forget that Rose has always taken control of the situation, and always tried to direct your attention elsewhere when you tried to touch her. Not that she always succeeded, of course, because you’re just as determined, but often she would tell you ‘It’s fine, I’ve already finished.’ You naively believed her, partly because your knowledge of human anatomy wasn’t quite as up to scratch at the time, and also because she always seemed to time it so there was barely enough time to get through one round, let alone two, before both of your attentions were needed elsewhere.  

And now, you think, your thoughts unravelling rapidly in a panic, maybe you didn’t try hard enough; maybe, now, Rose thinks you don’t want to touch her. Maybe that’s why she’s acting this way. Maybe the whole thing was secretly a test of your desire for her, which you failed. Maybe she’s angry at you  for your adolescent immaturity, and trying to subtly clue you in to what’s wrong using her own passive-aggressive style of revenge, as perfected in interaction with her mother/lusus. It certainly seems like something she would do.

Oh no. You put your face in your hands, groaning. You are the worst matespirit. It is you.

A clatter from the doorway interrupts your self-loathing, making you jerk your head up. Rose shuffles into the kitchen with bare feet and rumpled clothes, one hand trying to smooth out tangles in her hair (you still have her headband). She freezes when she sees you, halting in the doorway, and you see a flash of guilt cross her face.

Or perhaps she is simply hungry. One never quite knows with Rose.

Either way, she stares at you, and you stare back with one fang worrying your bottom lip, until you let out a sigh and turn to the sink again.

You hold your breath as her footsteps sound on the tiled floors, slowly coming closer. For a moment your skin prickles in anticipation; then, you suddenly feel the press of her front against your back as she wraps her arms around your waist. Her cheek rubs between your shoulder-blades and she inhales deeply, squeezing.

‘Hello,’ you say, a tad awkwardly, gripping the edge of the counter.

‘Hi.’

There’s a silence. She sniffs into it, her hold on you tightening.

‘What would you like for breakfast?’ you say eventually. She lets out a long, drawn out breath that warms your skin through your shirt.

‘Oh, Kanaya,’ she says quietly.

‘Oh, Rose…’ you reply, imitating her tone. It’s a thing you do.

You like to imagine you feel her smiling. One of her hands detaches to grasp your fingers as you reach up for a cupboard, pulling them both down to rest against your chest and entwine your fingers together. As always, you marvel at the difference in size, of which Rose has always been self-conscious. She once told you that considering the nature of your relationship, larger hands or at least longer fingers would be beneficial. You told her you’ve never had any complaints.

She shifts and mumbles words into your back. It’s an oddly pleasant sensation, feeling her lips move over you through your clothes, but you have no idea what she just said. ‘Do you think you might repeat that?’

She sighs deeply, her thumb stroking along your collarbone. ‘I said that I am not sure how you put up with me, Kanaya,’ she whispers to your spine, slightly louder. ‘Your patience is saint-like.’

It’s the first time she’s ever made direct reference to her behaviour. If that is indeed what she is doing. ‘… Perhaps,’ you reply, unsure what to say.

Her voice drops even lower, nearing inaudible, but your ears are fairly sensitive. ‘It’s appreciated. I hope you know that.’

You brush your lips over her knuckles. In response, she stands on tip-toes and kisses you on the cheek. You know this to be her version of an apology. To your surprise, she doesn’t pull away when she’s done but hides her face in the material of your shirt, arms slipping down your body to wrap around your hips from behind.

If you didn’t know Rose any better, you’d say she was feeling… needy. However, you do know Rose a little better than that, so you believe the correct terminology to be “Somewhat Despondent And Maybe Even Feeling A Little Guilty And Therefore In Need Of Rare Physical Assurance From Her Matespirit Also Known As Cuddles After Which She Will Pretend They Did Not Happen”. There’s a fine line between the two things. Not that you would ever dream of describing Rose as such out loud.

You turn around, arms coming up under the armpits and hands curved over her shoulders. Rose’s head bows, resting her forehead on your clavicle, the highest point it reaches. This kind of consoling petting is normally reserved for paler relationships among trolls, whereas you know humans to use it with both their concupiscent and platonic relationships. You hadn’t even realised when you started adopting these behaviours from Rose, who can be very cuddly when the mood strikes her. As of late, the mood has not struck quite so often.

This morning, however, she lets you hold her. Welcomes it, even, drawing her arms around your neck. The skin of her forearms is cold on the back of your neck, sending a shiver down your back.

‘Kanaya,’ she says, then trails off.

You kiss her temple, nose the light tufts of her hair, waiting.

She takes a deep breath, but then shakes her head, apparently giving up on what she was about to say. Instead she lifts her chin upwards, hinting at a kiss. When you acquiesce, Rose immediately deepens it; a fang nicks her tongue when it slips into your mouth and you suck on the slight bleed greedily and swallow her moan. Blood might not be a necessity to survive these days in the way it used to be, but old habits die hard you suppose.

The kiss slows to a stop as quickly as it started. She gives you a weary smile, another brief kiss, and detaches from your arms to go sit at the table.

‘Pancakes, then?’ Never mind that you already started making the mixture half an hour ago.

Rose rests her head atop her arms. ‘You’re a darling,’ she tells you with a small smile.

‘Yes. Don’t forget it.’

Never.’

As you start making them for her, Rose turns her forehead into her wrists and speaks into the table. ‘Do you think it would be possible to make writer’s block my kismesis?’

‘That depends. Do you feel there is a mutual hatred and overwhelming desire to destroy the other between you and the writer’s block?’

‘Maybe,’ Rose replies. ‘It certainly wishes to destroy me.’

You smile at her petulant tone, audible even though her voice is muffled. ‘So melodramatic. It is a wonder you are not writing for those human television shows where everyone seems to cheat on their matespirit and kill one another instead of your novels.’ Rose tilts her head so just the top part of her face is exposed, and raises an eyebrow questioningly over the top of her arms. ‘The ones named after ablution products.’

‘Soaps,’ she corrects. You shrug. ‘I knew allowing you to watch Desperate Housewives was a bad idea.’

‘On the contrary, I believe it was a fantastic idea.’ It has been very informative.

‘I shudder to even imagine. Although, at this rate, my writing might as well be suited for that show.’ Rose groans loudly, as though trying to drown her own thoughts out, and lets her head drop back on her arms. You leave her to make noises to herself while you focus on her breakfast. She only emerges when you eventually tip pancakes onto her plate.

Sliding into the chair opposite her, one of her bare, freezing feet bumps yours beneath the table and her lip twitches up in a mute apology, while she’s busy squirting syrup on her pancakes. You watch her eat with the usual fascination – Rose is so graceful when eating, which is surprising considering the amount she can put away sometimes. You suppose it must come from living most of her childhood with someone whose cooking skills weren’t exactly gourmet. At any rate, she always seems pleased with your cooking.

‘Are you enjoying watching me?’ she asks suddenly, drawing you from your reverie.

‘I always enjoy watching you.’

‘I had noticed.’ She licks the prongs her fork free of syrup, and smirks widely when your eyes follow the movement of her tongue. ‘Really, Kanaya. I never thought you so easy.’

‘I was merely questioning the hygiene of licking the fork in such a manner,’ you shoot back haughtily.

‘Considering that I’m using this fork to eat, I imagine it’s no less hygienic than that.’ Her lips creep up in a teasing smile. ‘You must have faith in our dishwasher, Kanaya, or all hell will break loose!’

You roll your eyes. ‘Well, I didn’t say I questioned it for long.’

‘Of course not, of course not.’

Things are silent after that besides the sounds of her chewing and the scrape of her knife on the plate as she continues to painstakingly cut her breakfast into even sized chunks with surgical precision before popping them into her mouth one a time. You idly read the nutritional numbers on the back of the syrup bottle as you think, careful not to give her to pleasure of continuing to watch her.

Even with the events of the other day still hanging over the two of you, you’re beginning to think that now might actually be a good time to try and speak to Rose about it properly. Reluctant as you are to actually discuss this topic for real, after so many years,enough is surely enough. It’s difficult to try and imagine Rose’s reaction, as her responses to things can be extremely unpredictable. For the most part, you imagine that she will try to direct the conversation away in some fashion.

‘Is everything okay?’

Once again, Rose’s voice alerts you to your surroundings. She’s staring at you from across the table, fairly concerned by your silence judging by her tiny frown. Not that you blame her, since Rose’s eating times are probably the only times of the day you can ramble at her freely and she won’t try (hard) to stop you, beyond giving you the odd quirk of an eyebrow or an exasperated smile. She loves her food too much to try and waste her time with it interrupting you. There’s no reason to break tradition. Placated with tasty (if you say so yourself) food, you hope she will be more amenable to the discussion.

‘Well, actually,’ you begin, fiddling with your fingers. ‘There is something I wish to talk about.’

Rose’s face remains impassive around her last mouthful of pancake. She chews thoroughly for a whole minute before answering, licking her lips. ‘Yes, you seemed rather thoughtful, so I assumed you were waiting to ask me something.’

‘I was, and I’m still not sure whether this is the right time, or if it is appropriate to be asking you about it at all. But Rose, you see –’

‘Yes Kanaya, of course I’ll marry you!’ she cries, throwing her hands up in the air in an overly dramatic gesture full of snarky horsehit, fighting giggles.

‘Not now, please, Rose,’ you say irritably. You know about marriage from the television. It always seems to end in murder or infidelity. 

‘Sorry, sorry.’

‘If you could, I’d really like a straight answer from you for once, please.’

‘Well, then, please ask me a “straight” question.’ You can see she’s fighting a laugh again, although you’re not sure why this time.

Rose.

She stifles her final chuckles and puts on a serious face . ‘Alright, alright. I’m listening. What is it?’

‘It’s simple, really. I just want you to explain to me, why.’

‘Why what?’

‘Why did you do it? Why do you do it at all, for that matter.’

Naturally, given your deliberately vague questions, Rose blinks at you in confusion, smile all gone now. ‘You’ll have to be a little more specific for my sleep-deprived mind, I’m afraid.’

You and Rose can spend hours talking around any kind of subject and never actually saying a word about the actual topic. You’re doing exactly that again, and once again the fear rises in your chest as to what sort of answer you might receive; however, you simply decide to push forward regardless. The best course of action right now would be to eliminate all ambiguity from the situation – to lay everything out in front of the two of you Because you really don’t think you could take anymore days of Rose hiding from you in the study.

‘I’m speaking, of course, about what happened a few days ago.’ Your words are measured, careful. ‘When you just left the room – left me - and then proceeded to lock yourself away in the study.’

‘Ah, that.’ Rose puts her fork down vertically across the plate, making sure to line it up directly with her knife. ‘I’d forgotten I hadn’t explained it to you.’ She joins her fingers together, pointing the index fingers and pressing them into the bottom of her chin. ‘You see, I suddenly had a burst of inspiration that had to be taken care of. You know how it is. I’m sorry it was so abrupt.’

‘A burst of inspiration,’ you repeat slowly.

‘Yes. It just this morning ran out, which why I came out. Plus, I was a little hungry,’ she adds sheepishly. ‘Not that I don’t appreciate the food you left out for me, of course, but often by the time I’d gotten to it, it had gone cold.’

‘You could have come down; I would have made you something else or heated up what I had already made.’

She shrugs, averting her gaze from you. No witty retort? This surprises you and only confirms your suspicions about why Rose stayed away. You don’t doubt that Rose did have some sort of writing epiphany, holed away in that room for hours, and probably did come out because she was hungry. Somehow, though, you don’t believe for one second that she had such an epiphany while sitting in your lap and biting your neck, and certainly not timed conveniently enough for her to deliver a snarky one-liner about it before leaving. Unless she’s writing a book about your sexual frustration. And who would read a story like that?

‘The thing is, Rose…’ You falter and clear your throat. You can’t seem to look at her properly, instead staring down at your lap and playing with a scratch in the table. ‘This sort of situation has occurred all too often lately – for longer than I thought actually, as I realised earlier – for me to think you simply had a “burst of inspiration” at the time that might have caused you to leave.’

‘What sort of situation?’ You glance up briefly. The corners of her mouth have drooped into a thin line on her face.  Obviously, she knows where this conversation is going, and is clearly unhappy about it. You’re not happy about it either, but force yourself to continue reluctantly.

You bite your lip for a moment, saying in a single breath: ‘The situation wherein you have been avoiding my presence when our time together looks to be becoming more intimate, and the more long-term situation where you have determinedly avoided me touching you at all in such a manner, save a few rare occasions, often culminating in the other, aforementioned situation.’

‘Kanaya.’ She pushes her plate away, frowning over the table at you. You’re amazed she understood any of that. ‘What on Earth are you talking about? I do not avoid your presence in “intimate situations”, and certainly do allow you to touch me, and kiss me. I allow no one else to do that. Or did you forget this morning, and the other day?’

‘No, I haven’t forgotten them. I also haven’t forgotten that during both times you stopped before they could progress.’

‘I have already explained what happened the other day, and this morning, I was too hungry. You know me and food.’

You nod. You should’ve expected excuses. ‘And what are your reasons for the other times?’

‘Clearly, your libido is much more active than mine,’ Rose shoots back with a lofty shrug. ‘So it is hardly my fault that you imagine every kiss or hug or handhold leads to sex and inevitably, must be disappointed.’

The way she somehow makes that sound like an insult wounds you, especially since she was the one that used to come to you.  ‘I don’t think it’s a crime to desire my matespirit, Rose,’ you snap. Standing, you snatch up her plate, practically dropping it into the sink and wrenching the tap on. Her carefully arranged cutlery slides off the edge of the plate with a clatter.

‘I can’t say I know what you’re suggesting by bringing this up.’ Her tone is icy, sending warning prickles up your spine. ‘Perhaps, that I’m not in love with you? That I’m being unfaithful? Or simply that I’m frigid?’

You whirl to face her in disbelief. ‘How exactly are you deriving these assumptions from what I’m saying?’

‘Kanaya, dear, it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going.’

‘It isn’t going anywhere. I simply wanted to talk to you about this issue, but apparently that isn’t going to happen without your usual verbal attacks…’

‘There is no issue to discuss, Kanaya,’ she snaps, practically snarling at you, making you reel back. This is not what you intended to get out of this talk, not at all. Suddenly things are flying way out of your control before you can get a handle on them, a veritable torrent of confusing emotions unleashed in Rose despite you simply poking at the dam with a stick. She’s never spoken to you this way, ever, even in your worst arguments, which are admittedly few. Perhaps this is why.

‘If that’s what you think, then I give your intelligence far too much credit,’ you respond, as evenly as you can.

‘You give my intelligence too much credit?’ she says incredulously. ‘May I remind you, I am not the one inciting an argument about nothing at all.’

This incenses you. ‘It is hardly “nothing at all”, Rose! You are feigning ignorance and pretending nothing is happening – like you always do!’

‘Okay, wait. Just calm down.’ Rose raises her hands up to you, palms outwards, a patronising display of reassurance - as though somehow you are the one being unreasonable. ‘This is getting out of control.’

I cannot believe you are asking me to calm down,’ you say angrily. ‘If anyone needs to, it would be you, considering the hostile manner in which you’ve been speaking to me.’

Rose sighs heavily and presses her fingers to her brow as though you are a particularly troubling child asking her stupid questions. ‘Okay, look. I am honestly too tired to argue with you right now.’ You fight the urge to tell her that there would not be an argument if she hadn’t reacted so badly in her attempt to bury her head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening. ‘I’m sorry if I have upset you somehow or made you believe I don’t want you, other than my disappearance for the last few days which again, I’m sorry for. I assure you I didn’t mean to, and hope you’ll forgive me.’

She looks at you with a determinedly blank expression, her eyes large and too bright.

You’ve known Rose too long to keeping pretending you can fall for this shit, to keep rolling over and let it be swept under the rug.

‘God fucking damnit, Rose!’

Your outburst seems to surprise her; she jumps in her seat, turning alarmed eyes over to you. Maybe she’s just shocked because you said “God” instead of “Gog” by accident. You really have known her too long.

‘Why do you always do this?’ you shout, gripping the roots of your horns in your fury. ‘You are one of the most frustrating individuals, human or troll, that I have ever had the misfortune of meeting and caring about.’

‘I don’t know why you’re getting upset, Kanaya.’ Again, that maddening, icy tone, spelling danger.

Yes, you do, which is precisely the point! You know exactly what I’m talking about, yet you still retreat into this glacial shell built from sarcastic defences and denial, meticulously chosen words to deflect my questions and make me believe nothing is wrong. And what is worse, I allow you to get away with it. I honestly don’t know who is more messed up in this situation.’

Rose is a shrunken figure in her chair, glaring at you, cheeks scarlet; a cornered animal, hunched over and ready to lash out, waiting for the right moment. But you’re on a roll and do not allow her a second to talk back.

‘I am trying to have an honest talk with you, for once in our lives, but it seems that I am being blocked by walls on every level. Within minutes of me bringing the topic up you immediately became defensive, and antagonistic, not to mention unnecessarily rude towards me. So Rose, please inform me: why can’t we deal with this issue together, like a normal, functional couple might? Not that I have any idea of what a normal and functional couple might do, given who my matespirit is.’

To your horror, your voice is cracking slightly as you speak, but you blink back tears regardless. Rose has turned away from you now, and her fists are clenched on the table in front of you. Her shoulders are a rigid line, arms pressed to her sides.

You’re not done.

‘I’m beginning to think that it is truly impossible to have a sincere conversation with you.’ You shake your head. ‘I honestly wonder why I even try, sometimes.’

Finally Rose cuts in, her voice tight and rough, ‘Then, I ask: why bother?’

That snaps you out of it. ‘What?’

‘I know that you heard me.’ She says it flatly, but you can hear her voice trembling minutely beneath it all. ‘If you don’t know why you bother dealing with me, then don’t bother at all. That’s the simplest solution, after all.

You shake your head in disgust at her exaggerated response. ‘You are not a wriggler, Rose, so don’t act like one.’

‘Hm,’ says Rose, pretending to think. She puts a finger to her chin, finally turning back to you – her eyes are glassy and red-rimmed. ‘Calling me immature in a round-about way. That’s a new insult from you, although not entirely original in a general sense. Might I suggest looking for some new material?’

It’s a weak retort from Rose. You aren’t going to wait until she regains her ability to deliver cutting insults; you’ve had enough of this. Of her.

‘Thanks for the breakfast!’ Rose calls after you in a falsely cheery voice as you storm out.

You have to storm back in briefly to get your laptop – husktop, fuck human words right now - from the countertop.

Rose says nothing to you this time, but you feel her eyes on you as you leave a second time, and hear her sniff behind you.

**

GA: She Is Just So

GA: Urrgh

CG: SERIOUSLY, REMIND ME AGAIN WHY THE FUCK SHE’S YOUR MATESPIRIT?

GA: Karkat That Is An Incredibly Stupid Question And Not Really Helpful At All

CG: HEY, I’M NOT YOUR MOIRAIL, WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU WANT ME TO DO OR SAY?

GA: I Honestly Have No Clue Im Not Even Sure Why I Am Trying To Discuss This With You

GA: You Were The Only One Online I Suppose

GA: But Something Along The Lines of Useful Advice Or Thoughtful Questions Would Be Nice Maybe

CG: I JUST ASKED YOU A THOUGHTFUL QUESTION, BUT I’LL REPEAT IT AGAIN ANYWAY IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: WHY THE FUCK IS SHE YOUR MATESPIRIT?

GA: And I Told You That Was A Stupid Question

GA: I Am Flushed For Her And She Is Flushed For Me

GA: Presumably

CG: HUH, YEAH, THAT WORD’S KIND OF THE CLINCHER, ISN’T IT. “PRESUMABLY”. YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW FOR SURE BECAUSE SHE’S SO GODDAMN SECRETIVE AND MYSTERIOUS ABOUT HER EMOTIONS FOR NO FUCKING REASON. LOOK WHAT SHE’S TURNED YOU INTO.

GA: Look You Dont Know Rose

GA: She Cant Really Help It

GA: This Is Simply How She Deals With Things

CG: WHY ARE YOU MAKING EXCUSES FOR HER? YOU WERE ANGRY AT HER JUST A LITTLE WHILE AGO FOR THIS.

GA: I Was Not Making Excuses Merely Pointing Out As Someone With Intimate Knowledge Of Rose That She Is Not So Bad As You Make Out

CG: INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE. HA. SURE, DOESN’T REALLY SOUND LIKE THAT FROM WHERE I’M SITTING.

GA: Karkat That Was A Very Low Blow

CG: SORRY. I SHOULDN’T HAVE SAID THAT.

GA: I Accept Your Apology

GA: However

GA: You May Have A Point

CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

GA: About My Consistent Defending Of Her Actions And Making Excuses For Her

GA: Im Not Sure I Seem To Constantly Fall Into A Habit Of Doing That Regardless Of Whether Her Actions Hurt Me

CG: THAT’S MESSED UP, KANAYA. YOU SHOULDN’T BE LETTING HER GET AWAY WITH ALL THIS SHIT.

GA: Yes I Know That Okay

GA: And It Is Partially My Fault For Allowing It To Go On For This Long

GA: But I Wont Any Longer

CG: ROSE NEEDS A GODDAMN MOIRAIL.

GA: Maybe

GA: Is That Even A Thing That Humans Can Do

GA: I Have No Idea I Find Human Relationships So Confusing And Yet I Am In One

CG: IF SHE CAN INSERT HERSELF INTO YOUR RED QUADRANT AND SCREW THINGS UP SO BADLY, THEN SHE’S PROBABLY CAPABLE OF PALE FEELINGS SOMEHOW. IF SHE’S CAPABLE OF FEELINGS AT ALL.

CG: SIGNS POINT TO NO.

GA: Im Not Sure How To Respond To That

GA: Quadrant Discussions Aside Though

GA: Do You Have Any Suggestions As I Am Just Not Sure How To Approach The Situations Now

CG: WHAT’S SHE DOING RIGHT NOW?

GA: I Have No Clue I Have Not Seen Her In A Few Hours

GA: Presumably She Is Still Downstairs

CG: WELL THEN I DO HAVE A COUPLE OF SUGGESTIONS.

GA: Really

GA: What Are They

CG: GO DOWN THERE AND TEAR THAT ASSHOLE A NEW ASSHOLE.

GA: …

GA: And The Other Suggestions

CG: THEY SORT OF RUN ALONG THE SAME LINES, BUT WITH MORE CHAINSAW ACTION.

GA: Those Are Truly Inspiring Ideas Karkat

GA: Tell Me How Are All Of Your Quadrants Still Not Filled

CG: HEY, DON’T PULL THAT LALONDE SARCASM CRAP ON ME. GOG, YOU’RE EVEN STARTING TO TALK LIKE HER.

GA: Yes Okay We Will Deal With The Issue Of My Picking Up Verbal Habits From Rose At A Later Stage Karkat But Can We Please Focus On The Problem At Hand Here First

CG: UGH FINE.

CG: JUST GO FUCKING TALK TO HER AGAIN. ONLY THIS TIME KEEP YOUR ACROBATIC FLIPS OFF THE HANDLE TO A MINIMUM, NOT THAT I BLAME YOU FOR DOING THAT, SINCE I WOULD’VE DONE THAT YEARS AGO, BELIEVE ME.

CG: STAY CALM AND USE SOOTHING VOICES.

CG: FUCK, USE TRANQUILISERS.

GA: Karkat

CG: AND WHEN YOU GET HER WHERE YOU WANT HER, TIE HER UP AND CHUCK HER INTO A RIVER.

GA: Karkat If You Arent Going To Be Serious Im Going To Leave

CG: I *WAS* SERIOUS.

Finally closing your husktop, you lean back in your chair, letting out a long sigh and massaging your temples.

Maybe speaking to Karkat was a bad idea. If anything, it just riled you up further, although you know he meant well. He’s never had a lot of patience for Rose even before you got together – as much as he has patience for anyone – but his protective streak seems to lash out where you are concerned, meaning any negative emotions felt by you as a result of Rose’s actions result in you holding him back from delivering a scathing verbal attack to Rose, which is rarely received well. You’re surprised he held back this much, actually. Maybe he’s finally accepting the two of you.

Or  Maybe he knows as well as you do, that this all could’ve been avoided if you’d spoken up before. They all knew it; Karkat, Dave, Jade, John. All of them encouraged you to speak to her yet you avoided doing so, prolonging the inevitable to save yourself getting hurt. And yet here you are anyway: hurt, and exhausted. And also, a little thirsty.

Actually, you’re really thirsty.

Should you try and venture downstairs and get a drink? You haven’t heard Rose stomping around the house for quite a while, so she’s probably either left the house or is hiding away in the study again. You decide to risk it. Staying up here all day isn’t doing anything for you and Rose. As always, the stairs squeak loudly as you go downstairs, making you wince. Stairs are so inconvenient.

To your surprise though, you find Rose asleep on the couch in the living room. A shirt of yours that you left downstairs to sew a button back on at some point is on the floor nearby, while before it was on the table. You don’t like to assume, but part of you thinks she might have been holding it at some point. Or maybe she was considering  destroying it. You don’t know.

You don’t try and wake her, but instead head back upstairs silently, having forgotten your drink. Karkat is still online, thankfully.

GA: Shes Asleep

CG: WHAT.

GA: Rose

GA: She Was Up All Night Writing So I Assume Thats Why Shes Tired

GA: In Fact That Might Be The Reason Why She Was So Testy This Morning

CG: OH, WELL, THAT EXPLAINS EVERYTHING.

CG: KANAYA, SHE GETS AWAY WITH ENOUGH SHIT WITHOUT YOU ADDING TO IT.

CG: KANAYA?

GA: Sorry

GA: Its Just

GA: Youre Right

CG: WAIT.

CG: WHAT?

GA: I Do Let Her Get Away With Everything And Im Not Going To Anymore

-- grimAuxilitarix [GA] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 11:30 --

=> Be Rose.

Of course, you woke up as soon as Kanaya came downstairs. The floorboards are ridiculously creaky, and you’re always a little too tuned into Kanaya’s movements anyway. This has been especially true over the last few days, where you’ve had one ear trained for every footstep on the landing for any sign of Kanaya, in case she might suddenly decide to break down the door and kidnap you. She never did, of course, and never once even tried to come in. For two people that talk so much and also draw comfort from the company of the other when you aren’t talking, you’ve spent an awful lot of time apart, avoiding each other in the last week or so.

When she comes in, you feel her eyes on you, but you – cowardly you - don’t dare move or open your eyes. She must see the shirt on the floor, which only minutes before you were hugging to your chest like a scared little child. Which you are, really. You wanted to hurl it away from you as soon as you knew she was coming, but with your aim, it only landed a few feet away from you. Just as you were about to jump for it, her footsteps clattered in the hallway and it’s too late;  you had to fling yourself back against the couch cushions and pretend to be asleep.

After a moment you hear her leave, and allow your body to relax a little, letting out a deep sigh and rolling onto your back.

Out of the corner of your eye you can still see that shirt, sitting there innocent as anything and tormenting you. After a moment, you lean forward from the couch to snatch it up with one hand. Your quarry caught, you nestle into the familiar smell of Kanaya in the material.

It seems like important people to you always become simply a scent to you. Like perfume, caught in the fabric of a blood-stained pink scarf in the hands of a thirteen year old.

Your heart twinges - more like seizes in your chest, really - at the idea that Kanaya might one day just be a scent on a piece of clothing to you, and that the reality of that is closer than you could’ve imagined.

There’s no doubt in your mind that you should really be upstairs, apologising. You’re not stupid, after all, just really, really terrible at showing your emotions. She doesn’t deserve your rudeness. She doesn’t deserve you avoiding her. And she definitely doesn’t deserve the way you’ve been treating her. How you’ve treated her for a long time, longer than you’d care to admit even in the privacy of your own thoughts: like a punching bag for your explosive emotions, one that will take and take and take all of your shit and never say a word, never question your motives. But Kanaya’s a person – troll, rather - and she deserves better.

Kanaya deserves an explanation.

The trouble is, you don’t want to give it to her.

At all. You just want to lie on the couch forever, face buried deep into the smell of her, and wait for things to pass by and fix themselves on their own somehow. You won’t bother getting up to eat or drink. What’s the point when all you do is mess up? Instead you’ll just lie here until you from starvation, your body becoming stiff against the couch cushions. Kanaya will eventually come down and see your withered, emaciated body and fall to her knees sobbing, clutching you to her chest and weeping that she wished she hadn’t said anything, that she’s sorry. But you won’t hear her. You’ll be dead.

God, you’re so immature. Sometimes you think you haven’t grown at all since ending the game, or indeed since starting it. You might be taller, curvier, and yes, possessing breasts is a lovely thing, but emotionally, you’re still in the 13-year-old mentality you had when you met her.

You groan and bury your face in the crook of your elbow. It’s been five years. You’ve been with Kanaya for three of them. You have treated her like shit for all of them.

You are the worst matespirit. It is you.

And if you’re ever going to make it any better, you need to go apologise to her.

=> Rose: Suck it up and go apologise.

You really, really don’t want to do that.

=> Rose: Do it anyway.

Yeah, yeah. You’re going.

You fetch your phone on the way, logging into Pesterchum as you take slow steps towards the stairs.

Inwardly you’re groaning at your own cowardice, but you reassure yourself by saying you’re just trying to clear the air before you really apologise.

-- tentacleTherapist [TT] began pestering grimAuxiliatrix [GA] [EB] at 11:25 –-

TT: Hi.

GA: Rose

GA: Why Are You Online I Just Went Downstairs And You Were Asleep

TT: I wasn’t.

GA: Why Were You Pretending

TT: I wasn’t ready to talk to you.

GA: Yet Here We Are And I Presume That We Are Talking Are We Not Let Me Check

GA: Yes It Seems We Are In Fact Having A Conversation If The Words Appearing On The Screen Are Anything To Go By

GA: However I Am Not Seeing The Set Of Words Appearing On The Screen Which I Want To Right Now

GA: In Case That Wasnt Clear I Mean An Apology

You wince. As much as Kanaya might claim that it’s a “human” thing, she does get more and more sarcastic when she’s upset – and not in the teasing, throwing-your-words-back-at-you-in-a-clever-way she usually performs it, but clumsily, yet undoubtedly passive-aggressive. She probably picked that up from you.

TT: I knew what you meant.

GA: And

GA: Im Waiting

TT: And… I’m getting to it. Give me a moment.

GA: Okay

GA: Your Moment Is Up

GA: Come To Think Of It It Is Pretty To Low To Be Trying To Apologise To Me Over A Chat Client

GA: The Least I Deserve Is A Face To Face One Don’t You Think

TT: Yes, you’re right.

GA: I Am

GA: I Mean Yes I Am

TT: Kanaya, you don’t use punctuation. I wouldn’t have been able to tell that was meant to be a question.

GA: Yes Well My Typing Quirk Is Hardly The Topic Of Discussion

GA: After All A Whole Minute Has Passed And I Do Not See Any Sign Of You In My Room Nor You On Your Knees Begging For Forgiveness And Giving Me A Heartfelt Apology At Which I Will Laugh Scornfully

TT: Wow, you really are angry at me.

GA: Did You Think That I Wouldnt Be

TT: No, I did. But I’ve never seen you so upset. It’s really hammering it home how much I fucked up. How much I keep fucking up.

GA: Good

GA: It Has Recently Been Pointed Out To Me That I Have Fallen Into A Habit Of Allowing You To Get Away With Things And Upsetting Me For A Little Too Long

GA: So It Is Good You Are Aware Of Your Mistakes

GA: I Guess

TT: I’m so sorry, Kanaya.

GA: Mm Well I Would Prefer To Hear It From Your Lips But That Is A Start I Suppose

TT: I honestly didn’t mean for this to happen; I didn’t realise I was hurting you.

GA: Are You Serious Rose

GA: How Could You Not Know

TT: Alright, so I knew a little bit – but I was too wrapped up in my own problems, too selfish to care. It’s been like this for so long, I almost started to think you didn’t mind.

GA: Excuse My Language But That Is Pretty Much Hoofbeast Shit

GA: How Would I Not Mind Rose You Were Avoiding Sex With Me At Every Turn And When It Happened I Was Not Allowed To Touch You At All

TT: I know! I know what I did, what I’ve been doing. It was stupid and it was cowardly of me. I feel awful enough, Kanaya. I’ve let you down so much and taken you for granted when I shouldn’t have.

TT: Please, I just want to fix this, in any way that I can.

GA: Are You Crying

TT: How did you know?

GA: I Can Hear You Sniffling Rather Loudly Outside The Door

TT: Oh.

GA: If You Dont Mind Rose I Have Changed My Mind

GA: I Dont Think I Want To Let You In Here Just Yet

TT: Thouht you wanted a face-to-face apology

TT: *Thought

GA: I Do But If I See You Crying I Will Cave Much Faster In Response To Your Apology Than I Wish To And Potentially Allow You To Drop The Discussion For Another Time If Only To Stop You Looking So Forlorn

GA: It Appears Your Tears Have A Frustrating Effect On My Resolve In That They Dissolve It Completely

GA: And I Would Like To Keep My Resolve For Just A Little Longer In Order To Get To The Bottom Of This

GA: So If You Could Temporarily Move To Another Room Where I Cannot Hear You That Would Be Lovely Thank You

GA: We Can Still Chat Here

TT: Okay. I’ve moved.

GA: Great

GA: Rose I Am Not That Angry With You Anymore I Just Want You To Know

TT: You’re not?

GA: No

GA: Frankly I Just Want To Know Why This Whole Mess Was Even A Thing

GA: That Is The Part I Could Never Get My Head Around

GA: Trying To Find A Logical Reason Why You Might Act The Way You Did Towards Me

GA: I Even Asked Your Friends And Brother For Advice And They Had No Idea What Was Happening Either

TT: You did what??

GA: If That You Did What With The Double Question Marks Came From A Place Of Annoyance Somehow I Dont Think You Are In A Position To Question My Actions

GA: Considering How Asking The Source Has Turned Out Rather Badly For Me

TT: Point taken, I suppose.

GA: For A Long Time Now I Have Been Left Only To My Imagination To Provide Reasons As To Why You Respond To My Touch In Such A Way

GA: Among Many Explanations The One My Mind Unfortunately Kept Coming Back To Was That Your Feelings For Me Were Not In The Red Quadrant At All

GA: And Secretly You Had Paler Feelings For Me But Feared Telling Me Somehow

TT: No!

TT: No, that’s not it at all.

TT: Kanaya, I love you. I’m flushed for you. I pity you. I could use every love analogy under the sun from both of our species to describe how I feel for you, but we’re short on time here.

GA: Then Why Did It Happen

TT: I…

TT: I don’t know.

GA: More Hoofbeast Shit You Simply Dont Want To Tell Me

TT: Perhaps.

TT: Or perhaps I’m reluctant to get into a conversation about my lingering teenage insecurities about sex, my control issues, and my general inability to express my emotions over this chat client, where I will not be able to cling to you in desperation or bury my face into your neck as I spill my heart to you, or feel your soothing fingers in my hair or stroking over my shaking shoulders to calm me as I finally stop being such a douchebag.

GA: Urrgh

GA: Rose Lalonde You Truly Drive Me Insane Sometimes

GA: Just Get In Here Already