Still Breathing

Chapter 9

Songe d'Automne


If anyone gets the reference to the chapter title, you are welcome to hit me heheh


Hope and Jade where both seeing how far they could hang over the edge. And Gamzee's amusement came from the fact that the pair's children were the ones trying to get them to come back and be adults.

The ship had not yet set off from port. They had said their good-byes to Gliese, Jose, and Luan at the edge of town, then the group had gone in. They were able to get their tickets to the cruise line and even had been wired enough money to get everyone some 'luggage'. So they didn't go on board with hardly anything. Hope and Jade had gone nuts, buying everyone clothing. Even the kids. For the moment no one was going to make a big deal out of the fact that the young trolls were not likely to bare their marks much during this trip. If there were any other trolls on this cruise but for them then a simple 'we lost our luggage and had to make due' works well enough if anyone got nosy. Plus, it would help hide Feferi. The grubs they couldn't do much about other than set them up a little nursery.

Vierge shot out to the railing himself looking ashen. They hadn't even set sail and pretty much from the start it was obvious that even the mild rocking in port was a bit much for the land troll. The poor guy seemed to be destined to spend this trip in the bathroom praying to the porcelain goddess.

Beleza on the other hand found the workout room and was already enjoying flexing her muscles and intimidating the casual humans passing by.

Feferi decided to join Jade and Hope hanging off the rail, much to Eridan's added frustration. Gamzee chuckled and glanced to the balcony next door. Anna was perched on her Lusus' back, who was just laying flat as he could on the balcony enjoying the sea air. Below they could see hopping in and out of the water Eridan's lusus. Who was attracting the attention of a lot of children and a few adults who from both land and the boat were pointing out the giant albino seahorse.

Among their group they had a small segment of rooms all next to each other on the ship so they would be able to see each other from their balconies. Splitting up they put the children and grubs in one room.

With Vierge sick, the room he was going to share with the grubs Jade ended up taking over, and he would share instead with Beleza, since it was obvious there was no way he was going to be up to Grubsitting. Sirius shared the largest suite with the children. And the remaining pair of rooms was split between Gamzee and Hope and Karkat and Nepeta.

Speaking of Karkat and Nepeta, Gamzee watched the pair together as they currently tried to figure out why the chairs on their balcony seemed to be of the opinion that no one needed to sit on them and refused to be put into the correct positioning to allow for them to be used. Karkat was getting frustrated enough to threaten to just throw them overboard while Nepeta was keeping him calmed down.

Gamzee levered himself to his feet and using his long limbs to his advantage he leaned across the barrier of the divided between the two balconies and hit the switch he'd noticed on the side of the chairs.

It fell right into position.

Nepeta snorted and he was happy she was actually smiling at him. He swore he could almost see the tail she use to have bare twitch behind her with amusement. Karkat on the other hand had more than a few words to yell at Gamzee, which admittedly did end with a begrudging 'thanks'.

"I guess the thing we should decide then." Jade said turning so she could snag up her son and cuddle him. "Should we try and stay in our rooms this whole trip, or enjoy the cruise?"

Karkat sat in his nearly fixed folding chair and thought about it. "Part of me says we should just stay put, but at the same time, that is hardly going to help. If we spread out we will have a better chance of spotting trouble before it becomes so, and gives us a better cover."

It was Feferi who nodded holding one of the grubs up so it could look at the gulls around the shore as the last of the passengers were being loaded along with the luggage and other things being shipped with the cruise who spoke up "Well I know from what I heard as we came in, there is a lot of stuff on this boat aimed for kids. If we hide in our rooms the whole trip people are going to wonder. They saw us come on board."

Hope nodded as she perched up on the rail and hooked her legs in the rails to keep from falling off. "Long as we keep someone around to keep an eye on the real little ones and poor Vierge, I don't see why we can't enjoy the cruise. I've never been on one before!" she grinned. And this was one of the really fancy lines. With the waterpark on the deck and a 24 hour movie theater.

Karkat nodded "So when we go out and about, make sure to not be alone. Keep an eye out." He sighed "we likely can't go carrying weapons, no matter how they don't look like one." He commented when Anna held up her juggling pin and then the girl pouted at him. The pin might have looked like a colorful toy but it was large, and heavy. Plus the bits of colorful splashes on it were not paint.

Gamzee for his part crashed back into his chair and put his hands behind his head "I just plan on keeping my chill on right motherfucking here." He admitted. He was doing better, but he still felt on edge and the idea of moving through a crowd of humans who were going to stare, poke, ask questions.

No thank you.

He didn't need a weapon to take off someone's head after all. He was perfectly capable of it with his own two hands.

He would be happier if Hope chose to stay with him as well, but he understood she needed a chance to roam and get use to being in her own head again. It wasn't fair of him to try and keep her trapped. Even if it was for love or pity or whatever word someone wanted to use.

She wasn't his. Not like a toy or pet. She was his on a more primal level and that was never going to be taken even if she did wander around looking at shiny things for sale from the shop windows.

Maybe he would wander, but later, and it would be with the idea of finding one of those pretty shinies to give to Hope.

For now, he could just get his chill on and keep an eye on the jade blood, make sure the guy didn't go toppling over the edge of the boat as he alternated between feeding fish below and trying to drown himself in the toilet.

Feferi dropped the mutant seadweller on his lap and he blinked down at it, which was blowing happy giggling bubbles at the little empress.

"Then you can watch the grubs!"

"hey now!" he complained.

Hope snickered "Well, Sirius will likely help you Gamzee, afterall, he's not really going to be able to go wandering around the ship on his own. Most people still think Lusus are just animals and not elder trolls."

Gamzee sank back and stared down at the grub. Part of him felt the little red fellow was wrong and should just get dropped over the edge, or smacked with a club, but the Empress was attached. It sort of reminded him of Karkat with its small horns and red blood, but it had the gills and fins of a water dweller.

It was likely just going to die anyway when it pupated. Karkat was a rare case of a mutant surviving to adult hood. Most didn't. And not just because they tended to be culled if they got spotted either.

The little thing turned to stare up at him with a rather widen eyed gaze that gave him no clues as to what was going through its little head.

Then suddenly it broke into an adorably cute slightly gapped toothy grin, stuck out its tongue at him and rolled onto its little back to wave claws.

Hope watched Gamzee melt about then, a lopsided grin coming to his face as he started to tickle the little grub. The little yellow blood made a hopping motion and after a moment floated itself up from the group to join its best friend on Gamzee's lap.

Gamzee snorted at the little yellow blood's spunk and could only shake his head as the grub shook hair from its face, it had such a dandelion mop on its head and then it tackled the red blood who cooed back and soon Gamzee had to make sure that they didn't fall off his lap.

With that settled the others sorted themselves out and waited for the ship to leave port.

They all agreed that until they were in open ocean none of them felt safe enough to leave the confines of their rooms.


"You know, this is really nice. It's been awhile." Jade was saying to Hope as the two of them walked along the mall, bright colorful window displays of clothing, jewelry and signs calling out services on either side of them. Food was all served in one area, or you could order it brought to you in various places as room service. So there wasn't much call for food shops on the ship.

Hope grinned, she understood what Jade was meaning. It was nice to be able to do something without children. Without shadows of lumbering trolls growling at anyone getting too close.

It was just, nice to do now and then.

For Hope though, it was also nicer to be in her own head. She knew she was going to be considered odd still, when she goes still, staring off, because she isn't really 'in residence'. When she's talking to the other Mothergrubs. Let alone learning to work with the odd 'connection' thing she was doing. It felt strange, walking down just this hall. She knew that the shop keeper over here was getting off at the next port and there was a strong possibility he would either end up hit by a car, or meet the love of his life. That this guy over here was going to propose to his girlfriend, that this woman who was smiling so big had serviced several bouts of cancer and her biggest battle was yet to come.

"Hope?" she blinked and came back to herself. Looking at Jade who sighed and touched her shoulder "We gotta work on your focus"

"Oh, sorry. Just, a lot going on."

Jade tilted her head "So, what was it? Talking to the Mothers again?"

Hope shook her head "They showed me something of what it is I do, what made me able to share the lusus bond with Tavros and talk to Sirius. Its, kind of like I'm always connected. Like a modem I guess you could say, but before I didn't really pay much attention to it, sort of blocked it out. Very likely because our culture told me to since you know, psychic power doesn't exist and all that. But now, the Mothers help me well, not go crazy and I just can't block it anymore. I sort of see a mix of things, what is, was, and might be."


"Not quite the same really, its, more like the connections that all humans share, the sort of collective conscience you might say? Most people sort of put into it and never realize, they don't get nothing back except during times when something big is going to happen. Like, you know how some days it just seems everyone's lost their ever loving mind and no one can figure out why? Its because something that could happen somewhere and hasn't yet is sort of leaving a signature and a lot of people are starting to feel it. Sometimes, whatever all that energy was going towards ends up burning itself out and nothing happens, sometimes it's like maybe a big happy event, or it happens so far away that no one in that area knew. Sometimes… Planes crash into towers and hundreds die." Jade shuddered at the way Hope said that, knowing what she did about where Hope had been born. The other young woman had been just, factual about it.

"So now, I just sort of feel it all the time. I can't really turn it off anymore, or ignore it. I get, little things mostly. As I pass close to a person I feel the sort of, I guess energy as it were, that they are putting into it. Life, death, love, hate, all of it. Just sort of joining the rest and I get little snippets. Sometimes just a feeling, like that woman is in love, but I can't see with whom. That person has a secret, that man over there is going to get a huge surprise from his daughter soon." She pointed out various people as they walked by. And then one old couple she stopped and stared at, a sadness in her gaze "He will be saying goodbye soon and she will be joining the collective." She said softly.

Jade paused and reached over squeezing Hope's hand. The young woman sighed and rubbed her face with her free hand.

"I have to say, I rather like how you put that." Jade said suddenly.

Hope blinked and looked at her friend. She really was going to have to refigure out how to feel more than a sort of vague whatever and do more than just blink in surprise when people say something to her. "Oh?" she managed.

"Joining the Collective." She said to Hope grinning "It sort of gives credence to all those near death experiences with the tunnel and meeting loved ones. Because, they are somewhere then."

Hope smiled "At least, part of them is, and from what I can well, See, over time they just sort of, return again. Different. Its like overtime they blend with everything else that has died and all those emotions we have ourselves fed into that space and just.. come back. Maybe they are a mix of pieces of an ancient tree, a famous war general, a new mom's joy, and a kitten."

"Pieces huh? So thus why like twenty people might remember being Cleopatra?"

"Well, yeah actually. We are all connected to that collective, so we all give and take from it. And well, if something happens and we get disconnected from it." She shook her head "… we die."


Hope nodded "I.. think, I could likely help kinda 'plug' someone back in if I caught it, but, I don't know really. I'm not sure what it is I do at all, other than I feel everyone around me now and periodically get little flashes of stuff."

Like this vague growing unease. She could tell everyone was feeling it to one degree or another. That guy was keeping his family close to himself, this woman was just jittering with nerves and panic. This old man was being surly and griping at everyone. It was like it was building to something, something big and local. Which meant it was going to happen on the ship -if- it happened at all.

But she didn't get any flashes or hints as to what it could be.

Which was unnerving. More so than how she might have felt before all of this. Where she would have just felt a little uneasy and shrugged it off as maybe remnants of a bad dream.

"Hope, you are going glassy eyed again." Jade poked her and Hope shook her head, collecting herself again.


"So, what about the trolls? Do they have the same thing?" Jade asked, figuring to change the subject a little.

Hope shook her head "Its not like ours. Trolls are highly independent, so for them it is more of a grouping of small bubbles. Each holding the slowly loosening memories of the troll, and they kind of start crashing into eachother, blending over time, sometimes really long periods of time. They are still all connected to their home, but now, their home too is a kind of bubble and it all just attached to the survivors, and came here."

Jade blinked "What that mean then?"

"They are slowly being absorbed into the Collective."

Jade was the one that blinked this time though suddenly she gave a huge grin "Resistance is futile." She did her best Borg impersonation from the old Startrek series.

Hope giggled. "Yeah, rather like that. What is all boils down to though is that we are very likely to start seeing just, an explosion, of life here. As it all mixes and finds new forms to take."

"Huh, that doesn't sound so bad."

"Well, bacteria that make you sick is also life." Hope responded.

Jade made a face "So it's not likely to all be good things then?"

With a shrug of her shoulders the younger woman reached up to push her hair from her face "Well, its change really. Just, new. We'll adjust, or all go collectively insane together. It depends upon the things that happen and how we all handle them in the next few years. Good or bad, our lives have been merged with the Trolls and there is no changing it now."

The dark haired woman nodded "True, well I'm tired of all this depressing talk. " They were paused and Jade looked over the listing of movies "Oh hey! They got an Expendables marathon!" and Hope found herself drug to watch corning action movies. As they were going in the pair bumped into a young man carrying a few boxes.

"Oopsies! Hey now, watch it!" there was a vague accent, possibly British isles. Messy black hair and rimmed glasses, the young man was dressed as one of the employees of the cruise line. With khakis and a sort of 'explorer' appearance. His name tag said 'Hi I'm Jake, let me take you on an adventure!'

"Sorry" Hope said and then blinked, glancing at Jade.

She looked utterly smitten.

A sort of weird feeling, like something could go multiple ways, could get messy, or just fade out to nothing.

Wow, that was entirely helpful. Hope thought sarcastically to herself.

The young man blinked at them, and then grinned widely at Jade. "Sorry myself, I really should be paying more attention. Well, I should get going, Ms Jannings would really like these delivered to her rooms. Top of the day to you and enjoy your movie! Ladies?" he tipped an imaginary hat to them and trotted off.

Jade watched him go, and Hope waved a hand in front of the woman's face.

When Jade caught the smirking expression of the other girl she made a rude sound and flipped her off. Hope started giggling.

"Oh stop that! He had a nice ass ok?"

Hope just cackled more as they went into the theater for their film.


"there are so many balls" Feferi's voice was small and filled with such utter joy. Beside her Ana was utterly speechless. The two girls staring in a fascinated wonder at the swimming pool sized ball pit. The walls around the edges padded and there were even trampolines hidden among the balls. Children currently flipping themselves into it, or sliding from slides as they crawled through tubes, and dropping from netting above the pit from low hanging 'bridges'.

It was a magical sight and both the young Empress and her juggalo were staring in wonder and awe.

"Miracles" it was Tavros who spoke finally and all the children burst into giggles.

"Common guys! This way!" Eric said and led the way into the pit.

For a moment there was quiet. All the other children in the play area stopping to stare at the new comers.

Eridan drew back a bit and seemed to try and disappear into his oversized shirt he'd fallen in love with on the shore, it was covered in seahorses. Tavros touched his arm and grinned at him. He tried to hesitantly smile back.

After a long moment the children took in the sight of the aliens and then did as children would do.

They went back to playing.

Eric looked back at his friends "What are we waiting for? ATTACK!" and cannonball into the pit of bright and colorful plastic balls.

Feferi was still giggling as she dove after him. Anna close on her heals and after a moment of tugging, Tav got Eri to join them.

Supervising adults looked on, and grinned as it wasn't long before the new children got all the children involved in a game that seemed to involve mixes of pirates and tag with a touch of hide and seek.


End notes: Right so, here we go! More exciting things on the way. Just pardon the fact that my personal life is more than a little insane.