disclaimer: disclaimed.
dedication: to Viki.
notes: why is writing so hard

title: for the days when your brain dribbles out of your ears
summary: Rose Lalonde Is A Smack-Talking Eldritch Horror As Told By Dave Strider and John Egbert and Although Jade Harley Was Not Consulted She Would Probably Agree With Us Just Saying. — beta kids.

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Maybe it's because you're French.

It's probably because you're French, actually, but there's only so much heritage you can use as denial before you have to accept the fact that your mother was right about you. You're a pretty girl with pretty hair and pretty eyes, and the boys only like you because you're pale and sweet-looking. They all seem to be under the delusion that your temper must match your cotton-candy exterior.

You don't know where they got that idea. Strider was probably involved.

(Strider is always involved.)

You shiver, feel a little sick when they smile at you with their big eyes, their big teeth. They are large, and you are small, and they look like they want to eat you whole.

But size doesn't always pertain to danger, and you hold your words softly in your mouth like a flower. You tuck knitting needles behind your back, cold cream-coloured steel solid under your touch, and you think of each and every one of them with those big eyes gouged out, those big teeth split open in a red-mouthed smile.

Sometimes, you think you are a little bit morbid.

You stop worrying about it.

You don't love purple. You don't even like it that much, not really. But it matches your eyes, and you know how to make yourself look like a wraith if you so choose. No one ever suspects the innocent-eyed blonde girl in purple lace; maybe they'd suspect Jade, with her long dark hair and her double-barreled guns, or maybe Strider hid behind dark shades and the slick steel shine of a blade, or maybe even John, built like a brick house with a sledgehammer over his shoulder. People see the danger in your friends. They see the uncanny.

But not you. You are thin to near gauntness, the sharp planes of your cheekbones like daggers against your skin. When you shower, water pools in the hollows of your throat, your collarbones, in between your fingers. You are a kindness in your insincerity.

You paint your lips dark, dark plum, and you smile at the mirror with all your teeth. They ache in your mouth—they are not as sharp as you are used to, not as lethal. You press your tongue to your gums, expecting your grip on your human form to slip through your fingers; the horrorterrors still hiss at you, in the night when the world sleeps and the dark things that live behind the thin veneer of the sky try to push through.

These are the nights you climb into bed with John or Strider.

(If Jade were here, you would climb into her bed and press yourself into the soft solid weight of her. Jade is your opposite, your compliment; she is hard muscle packed under sweet girl flesh, and she always keeps you in one piece. Even though she isn't here, sometimes you climb in anyway just to smell the perfume that still lingers in her sheets.)

John does not begrudge you anything. He opens his arms no matter how late it is, and you sink into him without fear. If you do begin to gurgle and snarl, he smoothes it away; there are no horrorterrors that can't be swept away on the wind.

And John is warm in a way that Strider is not. You appreciate this. When you kiss him, you leave deep purple stains across his chin and his neck.

He rumbles laughter, and then he rocks you to sleep.

"Hey, sis."

You don't look up. You are wholly concentrated on the periwinkle yarn in your lap. It's John's Christmas present, and has been for years. It's almost nine feet long now; one foot for every year the game has left you hollow. You're twenty-two and you wear your flawless skin and your purple eyes, purple mouth, with pride.

"Siiiiiiiis," he says again, dragging out the vowel in the middle to grate over your eardrums. "What, you don't got time for your dear old ectosib?"

"Dave," you say, sweet like marzipan, bitter like cyanide, all almonds on your tongue, "I am busy."

He flops down next to you, stupid sunglasses barely hanging on to the tip of his nose. You've had that conversation, called him a coward and a few other choice words which left great deep gouge wounds on his soul. He had been just as kind in his retribution. But for better or worse (and usually, it is for worse), well, you and Strider are siblings.

And nine years is a very long time.

But you lean against him, your shoulder blades clipping into his chest when you wedge yourself up into the crook of his arm. Your elbows are sharp like knives when you dig them into his sides. He grunts into your hair, and it is as undignified as anything you have ever heard out of his mouth. You can't help the way your lips curl up.

Riling your brother up is always one of the best parts of your day.

(Sometimes you want to dig your pretty teeth into his pretty neck, bite down hard and rip him to shreds. It would be easy. It would almost be pleasant. Your stomach nearly upends itself at the mere thought—you hate him, sometimes, but you can't live without him. You know that. John knows that. Everyone knows that.)

His arms comes up around your neck, tugs you up and over until you're on the other side of the couch, the frothy skirt of your dress pulled up high around your thighs.

You make no comment aloud, but you do make sure to jab with the free knitting needle you keep under the pillow extra hard.

You don't help him clean up when he's bleeding all over the place. Honestly, Strider, you think, smug, you should know better.

From the way he grimaces, you know that he gets it.

(Or, at least, you hope he does.)

They sit you down on a Wednesday.

They have their serious faces on.

Already, you can tell that this is going to go downhill and no one is going to be happy ever. You fight hysterics, the cream of your cashmere sweater barely hiding the trembling of your shoulders as you gulp for air as silently as you can. You are Rose Lalonde, and you are better than this.

You fold your hands in your lap, and you smile at them with your dark lips pressed together.

"What is it, boys?"

"Rose," John says. His bunny teeth are ridiculous. You want to break his nose. "First of all, we love you."

You wait for the SYKE with a sleepy kind of apathy, but it never comes. John just stares at you, big and brick-warm like the wind across the desert in summer. His hands are calloused when he reaches for you, and he does reach—touches your shoulder, your wrists, your fingers. His hands are thick-knuckles, man's hands; you know he was a child, once, but you can't remember it anymore.

"And?" you say. You raise an eyebrow.

(It took you five and a half months in the dream bubbles to master that trick. You had never been so pleased with yourself in your life.)

"And," your brother cuts John off just as he opens his mouth. "We're worried as fuck."

"That," you tell them both with your nose stuck in the air, "is a blatant lie, brother dear."

He snorts. "Well, yeah."

John hobbles his chair an inch closer to her. It scratches against the floor, and you remember Poe, remember The Tell-Tale Heart, pounding away beneath the floorboards. Come out, you think, come out!

John is the least of your worries.

"Rose," John says, and his voice is a little quieter now, gruff-low in the throat. "Rosie-Rosie-Rose."

"If you turn my name into a rhyme, I will make your life a misery," you inform him. Your name is your benediction. Your name is your prayer. Your name is your—

John holds your face in his hands, and just like that, the chatter that's been caught in your jaw stills. He grins at you, wide and toothy and bright as a cloudless sky. You fold into him, a falling house of cards against the white-and-black checkerboard landscape on the back of your eyelids, and allow him to wrap you up.

You see your brother out of the corner of your eye. You can't read his face.

It must be because you're French, you think distantly. Your mother was wrong about you.

You close your eyes, and then you let John carry you upstairs to bed.

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fin.

notes2: ugh.