EPILOGUE TWO

Chapter

4

Rose’s eyes flutter open to the sound of a heart monitor and the sight of a featureless white ceiling. Fluorescent lights, diaphanous curtains, everything crisp and clean.

A hospital?

Wait, this doesn’t seem right, she thinks. When she closed her eyes, she was dramatically lingering about her bedroom at home. She’d just taken a handful of pills, and said goodbye to...

ROSE: John!

She shoots up in bed, tugging the IV taped under her elbow. Kanaya is sitting at her bedside, hemming a sundress. She thins her lips and gives Rose a half-lidded look.

KANAYA: “John”

KANAYA: I See

KANAYA: Is There Something I Should Know

This is the sort of joke that would have gone over better if it had not been made at this exact moment. With all the distance between them lately, Kanaya’s jab lands like a rock plunging into a stagnant pond.

Instinctively, Rose raises her hand to her forehead, but there’s no pain there. Her head is the clearest it’s been in months.

ROSE: Kanaya, what...

ROSE: What happened?

Kanaya throws her sewing project aside and sweeps in close, wrapping a cool palm around Rose’s arm. Her voice quakes but retains most of its porcelain decorum.

KANAYA: I Came Home And Found You Passed Out In Front Of The Load Gaper

KANAYA: Your Skin Was Freezing And You Were Barely Breathing

ROSE: Oh.

KANAYA: The Doctor Said That Your Heart Rate Dropped Below Thirty Beats Per Minute

KANAYA: Which As I Understand It Is Somewhat Dire

ROSE: I see.

KANAYA: How Are You Feeling

Rose considers this for a very long time, eyes fixed on the window at the other end of the room. The night is dying behind the thin, pale curtain. She can barely see the moon.

ROSE: I feel...

She looks back to Kanaya, eyes wide and bright.

ROSE: Kanaya, I feel... fine.

It’s been such a long time since she’s felt anywhere in the same ballpark as “fine” that it’s almost an out-of-body experience to say the word. She feels giddy.

KANAYA: No Headaches

ROSE: No headaches, no visions. Nothing at all. I...

ROSE: Wait.

ROSE: Is John ok?

ROSE: Where is he? Did he leave?

KANAYA: Leave

KANAYA: Oh No Johns Fine

KANAYA: He Didnt Go Anywhere

KANAYA: Except I Suppose To Leave His House For Once

KANAYA: Multiple Days In A Row Even

Rose shuts her eyes and takes a deep breath. For some reason, she’s never felt so relieved in her life. She thinks about what she was about to send John off to do, and her feelings of grim urgency surrounding the matter. And yet, for the life of her, she can’t bring herself to care about whatever it was she felt was so direly important about his decision. All that matters to her now is that he’s safe, in good health, and spending time with those he cares about. And apparently, due to a perfectly inexplicable turn of events, so is she.

The door to the room creaks open, and in slips a smiling carapacian in blue scrubs. Rose listens to Kanaya ask fretful questions about her condition. The nurse responds by tapping her clipboard in a musical rhythm.

Rose opens her eyes. She stares at the knob of her wrist and frowns. She’s not sure why this sensation should be concerning. It’s not like her memory is slipping away. She remembers the conversation she had with John this morning quite clearly. As she does the previous years of declining health, and troubled, obsessive thoughts about canon, dissipation, and other such abstractions. What’s slipping away instead is the feeling that any of it mattered at all. Was she insane to be so consumed by such lofty concerns, and is she only beginning to experience clarity today, for the first time in ages?

When the nurse leaves, Kanaya puts a hand over the wrist that she is so preoccupied with.

KANAYA: Is Something Wrong

ROSE: It just seems like all of this is happening so quickly.

ROSE: Even... abruptly.

KANAYA: Oh Im Sorry Would You Prefer For Your Consciousness To Continue To Disintegrate

ROSE: Don’t be ridiculous, Kanaya.

ROSE: What I would prefer...

ROSE: ...is to be here, with you.

ROSE: Really here with you.

ROSE: For the first time in a long time.

Kanaya tips her face away from the light to hide it in the curve of her shoulder. Rose reaches out and takes her wife’s hands in her own. They’re colder than she remembers.

ROSE: Are you crying?

KANAYA: Since When Have I Been Known To Cry

ROSE: Quite often, actually. But usually because you’re angry.

KANAYA: Well

KANAYA: Im Not Angry

ROSE: It was hard on you, wasn’t it?

ROSE: My illness? Combined with all your duties to the Mother Grub, the pressures of the changing political situation...

ROSE: With all that on your mind, it can’t have been pleasant to have to come home and take care of me as well.

ROSE: I can see now that it was all terribly unfair to you.

KANAYA: It Was Nobodys Fault Rose So Please Dont Take Any Undue Responsibility Onto Your Shoulders

ROSE: Since when have I been known to do such a thing?

Kanaya’s lips twitch into a smile and she laughs, sadly. Her laughter forces the tears out. They drip down her perfectly made-up face in thick trails.

KANAYA: I Really Did Think I Had Lost You

KANAYA: Its Not That I Thought You Would Die

KANAYA: It Was That You Felt So Far Away

KANAYA: What You Were Going Through Was Something That I Could Not Possibly Understand No Matter How Patient I Was Or How Deeply I Loved You

KANAYA: There Was A Feeling I Couldnt Shake That Something Terrible Was Going To Happen To Us

KANAYA: Something That Neither Of Us Could Stop

KANAYA: A Powerful Outside Force That Would Take You Away From Me

KANAYA: And I Couldnt Stop Myself From Thinking That Maybe

KANAYA: Maybe That It Would Be For The Best

ROSE: Kanaya...

KANAYA: I Can Now See That This Is Completely Ridiculous

Kanaya laughs again. Gaily this time, as if some terrible, dark weight has been lifted from her shoulders. She lets out a thin, shaky breath afterward. It’s like the noise fills the room back up with oxygen. Rose hadn’t realized that she’d held her breath at all; the shadow hanging over Kanaya’s thoughts was hanging over hers as well. But now that she’s said it aloud, the darkness dissipates without ever materializing into its true shape.

Rose uses the hem of her hospital gown to wipe the tears off Kanaya’s face.

ROSE: It really is. Honestly, Kanaya, I’ve never heard such a ridiculous thing in my life.

KANAYA: You Are Talking To Me As If I Am A Pupa Again

ROSE: I’m sorry.

KANAYA: No Do Not Apologize It Has Been A Very Long Time Since Youve Had The Energy To Use Such A Condescending Tone Of Voice

KANAYA: And As You Know Its One Of The Things About You I Find Most Adorable

ROSE: I can imagine how adorable I’ve been, drifting around the house like a sweaty, drugged-up ghost.

KANAYA: While You Know How I Feel About The Careless Imbibing Of Human Intoxicants

KANAYA: You Were Still Very Adorable

KANAYA: Not To Be Trite But There Is Nothing That Could Make You Not Beautiful To Me

ROSE: What a relief, considering that we are both going to be young and magically fit literally forever.

Kanaya presses a snotty, uncharacteristically imperfect kiss to the back of Rose’s hand, right beneath where she wears her wedding ring.

KANAYA: If You Would Have Me Forever

ROSE: Who else?

ROSE: There’s no one who understands me like you, Kanaya. No one who looks at me the way you do. No one who brings me back down to earth with ceaseless, brutal honestly like you.

ROSE: I have no idea what’d I’d do without you.

KANAYA: You Would Probably Do Just Fine

ROSE: Yes, but I’d be very unhappy.

They smile at each other as the first rays of the sunrise peek through the blinds.

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