Actions

Work Header

Any Club That Would Have Me As A Member

Work Text:

Karkat: Auspisticize==>

You do not want to auspisticize.

You particularly do not want to auspisticize for Eridan Fucking Ampora, because you do not want to be in any quadrant with Eridan Fucking Ampora, ever. Because you have a half-functioning cell somewhere in your think-pan, and that is more than enough to process “Eridan + quadrant = run screaming as fast as your legs can take you.”

And yet, here you are, with one hand on his heaving chest, his face screwed up in a snarl like the one that shows up in your daymares. Standing between him and the rattling roar of a chainsaw.

You really don’t want to auspisticize for Kanaya. You like Kanaya, always have. She’s too kind to set your teeth on edge with spite, too sensible to make you scream with rage at her incompetence. There was just never anything there to feel black about.

At least, not until this moment. Because apparently, “you are the last twelve members of your race in existence” is, somehow, not a good enough reason for her to realize that maybe you’re all worth more alive than dead. Even you. Even Eridan Fucking Ampora, who had better put down the fucking rifle before you shove it up his waste chute. No, for some reason, she's decided to ignore the decision you thought you all made together about bringing your friends back, and that the day you pilot the meteor into your new universe, the second Roxy hands off the working Matriorb, the instant that varied genetic contributions might make a difference to your future, that’s the right time to ignore all the sense you ever imagined she might have and play Whack-A-Troll with one of the more self-centered and dangerous people left standing.

“Are,” you growl, “you. Both so brain-dead that you have nothing better to do than replays? Seriously?”

“Karkat,” Kanaya shouts politely over the chainsaw, “please step out of the way.”

You glare. “How about not? How about you think for half a second, you nook-sniffing slurry-soaked fuckheads?” You step forward, right towards that fucking chainsaw, so close you can feel the wind of its blades on your face, but you don’t look at it, don’t take your eyes off of hers, bright in her glowing white face. “Kanaya, turn it off. Now.”

You’d like to think she’s swayed by your commanding presence, but that’s Past Karkat’s delusion of grandeur—you’re pretty sure she just doesn’t want to get your mutant blood all over her skirt. Or her gears. She frowns prettily, and then everything goes quiet, chainsaw turned to lipstick with a pop of transformation. Now all you can hear is Eridan trying to pretend he’s not hyperventilating behind you, your own heart thudding in your ears. She glares at him over your shoulder, and you are not having that, you don’t even think about it before you’re grabbing her by the frilly neck of her shirt. “Look at me, idiot, I’m talking to you, not that waste of breath back there.” You think you hear Eridan complaining about that behind you, and you spare half a second’s turn to snarl at him, “Don’t start with me.”

“He killed the Matriorb,” Kanaya hisses. Her glow is so bright this close up. “He destroyed the only hope we had left. I’m not letting him do it again.”

“Awwww, for fuck’s sake, Kan, you think I didn’t learn anythin from all that time dead?”

And, oh God, fucking hipster, he still thinks he can come out of this with dignity. Like he’s put-upon, like he’s the one in the right here. You cannot stand these shitheads, you cannot believe that out of all the trolls in all of Alternia, this is what you end up with, this is your fucking pantheon. “You didn’t learn to shut the fuck up when I tell you to!”

“Oh, c’mon, Kar...”

“No.” You grab him with your other hand, holding them both still just through the force of your hatred. “Kanaya, you are not killing one of the only living trolls. I don’t care what he did, you need his fucking genes, and what kind of squalling festering jadeblood are you that that doesn’t occur to you?” You shake her, and some of the killing glow goes out of her, though she looks perfectly ready to argue, fucking pedant. “And Eridan, you have a kismesis. I don’t care if Sollux is a skinny honey-smeared husktop accessory, he’s yours, and if you think you two get to pollute every single dream-bubble we come across with your terrible shit-colored shared slurry and then step out on him, you’re more clueless than I thought you were. Do you understand me?” They both start to complain, so you just shake them again. “Do you understand me?!”

They look at you. They look at each other. “It's not that easy,” Kanaya says. “His genes won’t compensate for genocide. And I don’t see any sign that he’s changed.”

“Not like you gave me a chance or anythin,” Eridan sulks, but sulking is calmer than snarling. “Not like you care enough to ask me whether I’m plannin to do that kind of thing again, or whether maybe I had reasons before.”

“What possible reason—“

“Hey!” This time you shake them hard, hard enough to rattle them, knock them into each other, and they try to jerk away, and you’re just not letting them. “You’re going to calm down, now. And you’re going to stay calm, period, if I have to shake sense into you every single time from now until we die. You fucking bulgesores.”

Eridan puts a hand on your hand, where you’ve grabbed him by the fucking pretentious hipster scarf. “You really mean that, Kar?” He looks at you, and he has the audacity to fucking wink.

“You—“ you start, and then you look at your life. And your choices. You’re standing there, one of them in each hand, both of them staring at you in some combination of annoyance and awe. You look exactly like Troll Julia Roberts in In Which A Young Blueblood, Despite Interference from A Cast of Zany Conquered Aliens and the Strong Objections of Her Intendeds, Manages to Fill Her Ashen Quadrant, Featuring Three Scenes of Conciliation, One Interrupted Pailing, Two Interrupted Murders, and the Disintegration of Fifty-Three Alien Extras. You’ve even got that classic auspistismirk going. And it’s true, you realize. These people piss you off so much that you can’t imagine letting them go about killing each other without even noticing how much it annoys you. Fuckheads.

So that’s it. Ash at first fight.

Fuck your life.

************************************************************************************

Karkat: Accept your new status with grace and dignity.==>

“Fucking Eridan?” you growl. Again. You may have mentioned this a few times before.

“Shoosh?” Gamzee offers, not looking like he expects it to be any more effective this time. He managed to get you into a pile of balloon animals and programming manuals, in a comfortable corner of your shared room on the meteor, where you’re all camping out while you work on programming the new universe.

“I am calm,” you say. “Why wouldn’t I be calm? Just because I’m now in charge of two people who have already both managed to kill each other, and show no sign of learning anything from it except how very much fun it was and what a wonderful idea it would be to do it again? That’s great.”

Gamzee looks faintly reproachful. “Ain’t it all up and being a new world, best friend? I’d hate to think we all just as hot-headed and stone-cold as we was.”

You shrug, not wanting to trouble stillish waters. “You already had your apocalypse. You had... all kinds of reasons.” Which you and he have gone into, and they make as much sense to you as you think they can, for all that you need to take fifteen steps off the path of rational thought just to start to follow the leaps of logic. “Eridan just had ‘being an insecure asshole with no fucking impulse control.’ Which, guess what, he still has! And Kanaya—don’t even ask me what’s going on with her. Except that, oh hey, you do have to ask me, because now I’m the one who’s going to be getting it out!”

John, perched on a contained wisp of the breeze, rolls his eyes. “Jeez, we know, Karkat, you said.” He flips upside down, stupid godhood god-hood flapping underneath him. “If you hate it this much, why don’t you break up with them?”

You growl at him. “This is what it’s come to? This is the kind of joke my life has become? I’ve got John Egbert giving me advice on quadrants? Maybe I should test whether we can die or not.”

He laughs, because he’s a wriggler-panned simpleton. Probably the god thereof. “But seriously, Karkat, you’re acting like this is destiny or something. It’s not like you have to date them. I mean, you stopped Kanaya from killing Eridan, and that’s great, but why do you think you’ll have to keep doing it? Couldn’t you let someone else auspicize them, if you really don’t want to?”

“Auspisticize, you useless airhead.”

“He ain’t wrong, though,” Gamzee says. It took some fast talking, but he seems to have accepted that a “co-palhoncho” is not the same thing as a moirail, though he’d probably be easier with it if John could ease off with the “friend-hugs.” “If it ain’t what your blood-pusher is singing to you, then it ain’t.”

You wrap an arm around yourself, half-shrug. “Mmh.”

Gamzee studies you, eyes half-lidded and puzzled. “That ain’t one a them real communicative sorts of ‘mm’s.”

You shrug away. “I can’t,” you say. “Who else would want to auspisticize those two lunatics? How many of us wouldn’t just let Kanaya slice and dice Eridan?”

“We wouldn’t,” John says. “The humans, I mean—we’re not going to let our nice new universe get all messed up with murder, right away! Even if Eridan is kind of... well... a douchecanoe. But that’s not a reason to kill someone!”

Your aliens are so weird. “You can’t auspisticize everyone, just the eight of you.”

John does math in his head for a moment. “No, we could. It wouldn’t be that hard, actually—that’s the quadrant where it’s okay to have more than one, right? If we each took one of you, in any combination, then there’d only be four of you who weren’t covered, and the odds of the two who need to be auspisticized both being among those four at any one time are only about 11%, and probably one of us would be free to swap in those times.” He grins. “We got you.”

“You do not,” you snarl. “It’s not like it’s just a matter of telling people to be nice or you’ll look at them with infant barkbeast eyes. These are trolls you’re talking about, they’re more dangerous than you think.”

A quick huff of wind is all the warning you get before the breeze is bearing you up to John’s level. Gamzee honks in angry dismay. “Dude,” John says, “you think we’re not?”

You roll your eyes, and make stupid swimming motions through the air to get to Gamzee and pap him before he takes too much exception to being airborne. “I think you couldn’t get up a good blackrom if your life depended on it, Egbert. Or everyone else’s. Besides—what happened to not being a ‘homosexual’?”

John shrugs, and lets you down. “It’s platonic, right?”

“Shut your stupid alien mouth before your entire human brain falls out of it,” you say, because you have had enough of explaining quadrants to John Egbert.

He shrugs, taking it as his due. He and Gamzee both fall silent, looking at you as you grumpily settle back down into the pile. “You’re not going to auspisticize Kanaya and Eridan,” you tell him. “You wouldn’t know how. It’s going to take... technique. Work. Knowing them. They’re not that simple. Eridan’s a hot mess, God, he’d be pathetic if he weren’t so convinced that he’s right. And now that he’s been lurking around as a ghost, he thinks he’s had these huge fucking epiphanies, and he’s more evolved, and it’s exactly the same self-serving bullshit as when he was talking about killing all the land-dwellers, but he won’t admit it, he thinks he’s grown as a person, which means he’s going to think he’s even more justified in whatever needy self-important fuckwittery he comes up with.” You grind your teeth. “And Kanaya—God, don’t get me started, how does someone so composed turn into such a raving nutjob just from being killed? I don’t think she even understands what her being a rainbow-drinker really means, and it’s not like her tentacular human matesprit’s going to actually know. Just because she’s holding it together around everyone else doesn’t mean she’s ever going to have enough peace of mind near Eridan to forget about the hole he blew through her.” And there’s an image that just keeps running through your head, whenever you’re around the two of them—the spark of a wand, the squelch of innards, the smell of it. And the determination, burning cold and fierce, that you will not just stand there staring, not ever again. “They’re both acting like such thoughtless fucking wrigglers, and they’re both better than that, if they would just think for half a second, but no, it’s rifles and chainsaws all the way. Fuckheads.”

You look up after a moment of silence, and now John and Gamzee aren’t looking at you at all, they’re looking at each other, agreeing on some opinion they haven’t deigned to share. “What?”

They hesitate, then John just goes for it. “Gee, Karkat, it sounds like you don’t want to get out of this quadrant at all. Like, you’ve really got feelings for them.”

You are struck dumb by the stupidity. Gamzee takes this as a cue to put in his hopelessly cock-eyed boat-propelling tool. “True facts.”

Fuck your life so hard.

************************************************************************************

Karkat: Have more important things to deal with. ==>

Well, you do. You’re still the leader of these hapless fuckwits, because Jane and John keep insisting for their own inscrutable human reasons that they don’t want the job, and Feferi’s done Empressing. And you’ve got this entire new universe to design, now that John’s reality-altering and Roxy’s hacking have wrested control from the game and given you a shot at something not horribly disease-ridden and terrible. Which goes fine for a while, with Terezi and Rose’s Seeing letting you know when you're going horribly off-track—carefully, calmly, not letting yourselves fuck up too badly. That lasts approximately half a committee meeting (and you’ll admit that if you ever find out who pointed Equius at that thrice-cursed human Robert’s Rules of Order, genetic diversity be damned, you’ll cull them yourself) before Vriska declares it “8oriiiiiiiing,” steals the access codes, and goes off to make her own additions to the new universe. And then it’s a free-for-all, everyone claiming an area for themselves and just making whatever the hell they felt like, whether or not it makes any fucking sense with what everyone else is doing. Even people like Tavros, who, probably just to make your life harder, actually did grow as a person while he was dead, so now he’s all fucking assertive, which would be some kind of real-life miracle, but not when he’s asserting what he wants instead of what you want. (You suppose that the new creatures he’s designing are interesting enough, and you’ll agree that he and Nepeta are collaborating peaceably enough on designing the big predators. But still.) So now “being the leader” actually consists of “running around cleaning up everyone else’s messes” instead of getting to design anything yourself.

(All right, you’re proud of the fact that everything in the new universe has color-changing blood. They’re cold-blooded in cold climates, hot-blooded in hot ones, and they unconsciously adjust it to be more comfortable, or when their emotions shift. You’re pleased with that, and you’re pleased with the fact that Sollux and Roxy both like it enough to make that part of the code pretty much unhackable, no matter how hard Equius and Eridan try. You think Equius mostly just keeps trying because he likes getting so apoplectically aroused by it, anyway, but that is the silicon Strider’s problem, and emphatically not yours. Ew.)

You all still haven’t decided whether you want to make up a new race of sentient beings, or just populate the place with your own offspring. Although the frighteningly high rate of interspecies relationships is making those offspring seem less and less likely, unless you find some way to make crossbreeds, and there is plenty of debate about whether that’s a good idea. It’s one of those areas where no-one’s done anything to be too firmly on one side or the other—no-one’s actually started to program people, the humans have managed to avoid spawning, and of course, until the Matriorb’s properly gestated, there’s not much that you all can do with the gallons of slurry everyone keeps producing, buckets or not. You’re not sure what’s going to happen, there, but you’re all right with everyone keeping the uneasy peace and just making clouds and fish and things.

And of course, no sooner are you stupid enough to think that, but it’s wrecked five ways from fourth perigee.

golgothasTerror responded to memo “FOR FUCKS SAKE COORDINATE YOU SHITHEADS.”
GT: I say was anyone planning on warning us about the tsunamis?
CG: WHAT.
GT: Well we were running around exploring on artanooine and all of a sudden theres a bally great wave and its entirely underwater. We had quite a time finding something to float on! *wrings water out of his shirt*
AC: {ac is too wet and upset to role-play!} :33 Our poor little sandserpents! They’ll drown!
CG: ARTANOOINE IS THE DESERT-Y ONE. WHAT THE FUCK IS IT DOING WITH A TSUNAMI?
GT: So far mostly splashing.
GC: 1T'S NOT JUST 4RT4NOO1N3. B1RUK4WOOD H4S GOTT3N W3TT3R BY 4BOUT 4 THOUS4NDFOLD. 1T W4S... SURPR1S1NG!
GG: Is that 1,000fold or 4,000fold?
GC: 1T 1S W4Y TOO MUCH FOR TH3 FOR3STS, TH4T'S HOW MUCH 1T 1S! > : (
TT: Actually, all the planets we’ve created now seem to be covered in oceans.
CG: WHAT THE SHIT. WHAT IS THE POINT OF MAKING ALL THE PLANETS OCEANS? WE ALREADY HAVE AN OCEAN-Y PLANET, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH TEN OF THEM?
CG: WHAT, NO-ONE’S GOING TO MAKE A JOKE ABOUT THAT?
CG: GOOD.
CG: ALL RIGHT, WHICH OF YOU NOOKSTAINS IS DOING THIS?
CC: W)(ale... not me.
CC: And I )(ate to say it, but I can only t)(ink of ON—E ot)(er person w)(o would benefit...
CC: 38(
CG: OH FUCKING HELL.
CG: ALL RIGHT, I WILL GO TALK TO HIM. AND BY TALK I AM PRETTY SURE I MEAN BEAT THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF WITH HIS STUPID FUCKING RIFLE, BUT WE’LL SEE. FEFERI, GET SOLLUX MOVING ON UNDOING THIS. TELL HIM TO WAKE UP ROXY IF HE HAS TO, I DON’T CARE IF IT’S HER OFF-SHIFT.
CG: ROSE, MAKE SURE THE DAMN MATRIORB IS SAFE AND DRY!
CG: ... UM, BUT MAYBE YOU COULD NOT TELL YOUR MATESPRIT WHY RIGHT AWAY.
TT: You’re right, that is one of the options available to me.
CG: OH GOD, SUCK MY BULGE.
TT: ...as is that, I suppose.
CG: ASDFAEWTKHJ JUST TRY NOT TO FUCK ANYTHING UP WHILE I’M GONE.

carcinoGeneticist has signed off

************************************************************************************

Karkat: Hurry ==>

All right, you’re hurrying. Because if you don’t get to him before she does, and she realizes that he put the matriorb at risk again, you’re going to be out a quadrant pretty damn quickly. You’re going to assume he just wasn’t thinking about that.

You’d like to assume he just wasn’t thinking at all. But you know him better than that. He’s got a plan, you would bet boonbucks on it, and it’s a terrible plan, and he is so proud of it you could just spit.

You call Jade, and it’s not awkward at all, because you have a reason to call her—space powers are still the best way of figuring out where in your new universe someone is, and getting there fast—and it’s got nothing to do with any incredibly awkward dates that may or may not have happened last perigee, so that makes things easier. She sends you off to what used to be a perfectly nice mountainous planet, which is now an ocean with rocky little islands sticking out here and there, slippery with melting snow and ice. You decaptchalogue a motorized water-craft and head in the direction Jade pointed out, cutting the engine rocking on a perfectly unmarked bit of ocean, just like all the rest of them all over the planet.

You don’t know if he’s paying attention to what’s going on at the surface of the water, which is why you borrowed some of Vriska’s explosives before you left. It’s not a very large bomb you drop over the side, probably won’t even singe him, what with him being underwater and all. It falls in with a plop, and then there’s a vwoosh of compressed air rising to the surface, and then there’s a wwhat the hell, Kar?! of soaked and bedraggled hipster, glaring at you with water droplets all over his stupid glasses.

“That’s my question,” you growl. “What are you thinking, you useless empty-panned self-centered excuse for a— get back up here when I’m yelling at you.”

Your crabtop pings.

caligulasAquarium [CA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

CA: wwhy do you expect i’m gonna just swwim up there an listen to you bitch kar
CA: wwhat am I supposed ta get out a that
CG: OH, I DON’T KNOW, MAYBE HALF A CLUE? LIKE ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU CAN’T JUST GO DROWNING EVERYONE ELSE’S WORLDS WITHOUT THEM BEING JUST A LITTLE BIT ANNOYED. LIKE ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE MIGHT BE SOME REPERCUSSIONS FOR THIS SORT OF SHIT, YOU IDIOT.
CA:...
CA: it’s not like they wwere takin any a my suggestions seriously anyway
CA: evveryone ELSE just goes off an does wwhatevver the hell they wwant but im supposed ta be held up ta some kind a different standard
CA: wwhat’s the deal wwith that
CG: EVERYONE ELSE ISN’T GOING AROUND DESTROYING OTHER PEOPLE’S WORK. WELL, EQUIUS SOMETIMES, BUT I DON’T THINK THAT’S ON PURPOSE.
CG: IS THAT THE STANDARD YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT BEING HELD TO? IS THAT THE THING THAT’S SO UNBELIEVABLY DIFFICULT TO DO THAT IT’S BEYOND YOUR CAPACITIES?
CA: oh fuck off kar
CA: like you evven care wwhat my capacities are
CG: WHAT’S THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN.

...
CA: just that youre no different from the rest a them
CA: you flat out PROPOSITIONED me ash but you cant evven be bothered to come do some mediatin up close an personal
CA: so caught up in bein the leader o the entire fuckin UNIVVERSE that you think you can just let your quandrants rot
CA: like wwe’re gonna be so GRATEFUL to be solicited ONCE that that’s all you gotta do to keep us in line
CA: fuck that
CG: ...ARE YOU SAYING THAT YOU FLOODED NINE PLANETS AND DROWNED EVERY LAND-DWELLING CREATURE, PLANT, GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURE, AND CITY JUST TO *BLACKFLIRT *, ERIDAN?
CG: WITH * ME *???
CA: an kan
CG: FUCKHEAD.
CG: YOU * DID * REMEMBER THAT THIS COULD DROWN THE MATRIORB.
CA: a course i did im not an idiot
CA: no matter wwhat you all think
CG: WE DON’T THINK YOU’RE AN IDIOT, YOU IDIOT. WE KNOW HOW SMART YOU ARE.
CG: THAT’S WHY IT’S SO BULGE-CHAFINGLY FRUSTRATING THAT YOU DON’T SPEND A SINGLE OUNCE OF THAT STRATEGIC CLEVERNESS ON GIVING HALF A THOUGHT TO HOW OTHER PEOPLE FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOU DO.
CG: WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?
CA: i knoww howw youre all goin to feel about this
CA: youre goin to wwhine an carp an complain about howw im totally out of control an crazy an deservve ta die for it
CA: an nevver evven ask yourselvves wwhether i had reasons
CA: or the right to it
CA: because all a you wwant ta pretend that the hemospectrums a useless bunch a nonsense wwe left behind us in our old univverse
CA: and you look at me an eq like wwere so utterly despicable an beneath all a you
CA: like just because fef an gamz dont care about centuries a tradition it wwasnt there for a reason
CA: an it didnt mean anything an its got nothin good or noble or wworth keepin to it
CA: an you dont care evven a little bit about the fact that wwe care about it an howw it makes US feel to see you cast it awway wwithout evven thinkin
CA: because you think wwere crazy an depravved an too dumb to evven THINK about wwhether wwe might have a point
CA: like it doesnt matter at all wwhether wwere happy in your new color-shifting blood univverse
CA: that wwas REAL CUTE kar
CA: wway to just spit in my face there
CA: did YOU givve half a thought to howw I wwas gonna feel about that?
CA: or did you just figure it didnt matter wwhat a crazy genocidal seadwweller wwanted
CG:...I
CG: AH, FUCK, ERIDAN. YOU’RE RIGHT, I KNEW IT WOULD MAKE YOU MISERABLE. AND I DID IT ANYWAY.
CG: AND I DON’T WANT TO MAKE YOU MISERABLE.
CG: BUT JEGUS... IF WE KEPT THE HEMOCASTE SYSTEM, I SHOULD BE DEAD. AND SO SHOULD ALL THE HUMANS.
CA: nah i mean its a neww univverse its not a mutation if half of evveryones got it
CA: wwe could just fit redbloods right under rustbloods
CA: WWERE not gonna cull YOU kar wwhat do you take us for
CG:... WELL, AT THE MOMENT, I TAKE YOU FOR A GUY WHO BROUGHT ABOUT HIS OWN PERSONAL RECKONING TO AN ENTIRE SOLAR SYSTEM BECAUSE HE DIDN’T THINK MUCH OF LAND-DWELLERS.
CG: SO YOU TELL ME, NOOKWIPE.
CA: the solar systems fine
CA: its got plenty a space for all the fish an wwhales an seawweed anyone could evver wwant
CG: OH SUFFERING HUMAN SAINTS OF PATIENCE.
CG: I HAVE TO CALL ON THEM BECAUSE YOU HAVE USED UP EVERY SINGLE OUNCE OF TOLERANCE ANY TROLL DEITY MIGHT EVER HAVE MANAGED TO SECRETE FROM THEIR MOST SWOLLEN PUTTING-UP-WITH-THIS-SHIT-GLANDS.
CG: ERIDAN, YOU UNBELIEVABLE WASTE OF MY BREATH.
CG:... SIGH.
CG: LOOK.
CG: THE HEMOCASTES WERE REALLY GOOD TO YOU. YOU HAD YOUR ANCESTOR, AND HIS HISTORY, AND A PURPOSE, AND REASONS TO BE NOBLE, AND TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF. YOU KNEW WHERE YOU FIT IN THE WORLD, AND YOU KNEW THAT YOU HAD INHERENT SKILLS AND TALENTS THAT WOULD KEEP YOU THERE, AND LET YOU GO OUT AND CONQUER, AND BE RESPECTED FOR IT.
CG: AND YOU LOSE ALL OF THAT WHEN YOU’RE STUCK WITH US, BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE WE JUST THREW ALL THAT AWAY OUT OF ENVY AND RESENTMENT.
CG: THAT’S HOW YOU FEEL, RIGHT?

With a splash, the lightning-bolt horns break the surface of the water, followed by the rest of Eridan’s head. He meets your eyes, reluctant, uneasy. “Right?” you say.

He shrugs, his whole arms coming out of the water with the movement. “More or less,” he admits. “But if you knoww that, wwhy aren’t you actin like it?”

And the thing is, you have to actually say this next part out loud, because he doesn’t know it. And you could almost pity him for that, except for the way that it just taints and ruins everything about him that could be strong and actually noble, and that makes you grind your teeth, even as you try to say it straightforwardly. “Because you can understand someone without agreeing with them.”

He frowns at you. “Yeah, a course,” he says, but you can just tell that he’s just responding to your tone of voice, that he understands that you just said something you think someone would have to be pan-fried not to understand, and so there’s not a chance he’s going to let on that he doesn’t.

Fuck your life forever, you’re going to try to explain this now, aren’t you? “Like,” you say, “even though you don’t agree with me about making blood-color shift, you know why I did it, right?”

He glares at you, but there’s something just lost in his eyes, and Christing Sufferer, you cannot stand this side of him, the way he’s just broken, right down the middle, well before Kanaya cut him in half. So obnoxious, the way he doesn’t know. “Because you don’t like the hemospectrum,” he says. “Obviously.”

“Right,” you say, and push one more step. “Do you know why I don’t like the hemospectrum?”

He leans back in the waves, flips the wet scarf over his shoulder with an impatient sigh. “Because you’re a mutant,” he drawls, “so you don’t get to be on it.” And then there’s that little flickering glance at you, to see if he’s right, because he doesn’t know. Stupid, broken, defective grub. “Wwhy are you wwasting my time wwith this, Kar?”

You rub your eyes. “I don’t even know.” Because what are you thinking? Do you think you’re going to fix him? Do you think he even wants to be fixed, or that he’d admit it if he did? “Because I can’t auspisticize between you and every single troll alive. And I wouldn’t have to if you could just understand this shit.”

He sniffs. “So much for not thinkin I’m an idiot.”

You have had enough. “Well, about this, you fucking are, Eridan! I don’t like the hemospectrum because I ‘don’t get to be on it’? Seriously? Not because maybe I might have some feelings about the hemocastes meaning that I should have been culled before I even got out of the brooding caverns? Not because it meant I spent my entire life hiding in my house in case someone found out my blood-color? Not because I always knew I could never do anything worthwhile, for no other reason than that? None of that occurred to you?”

He gives you a withering look of scorn. Or, you think that’s what it’s meant to be, anyway, but you swear his eyes are violet-tinged, tear-wet, not just water-wet. “Wwhy bother? You’vve got it all memorized perfectly wwell, I’d hate to interrupt the performance.”

You look at him, and where flushed feelings would burn, and black ones scorch, ash just... crumbles. You hate this about him, you hate it so much, but you don’t hate him, not all of him—just this. Just this one part of him, the part that takes someone who could actually be brave and dashing and everything he wants to be, and makes him into a lonely, bitter, uncontrollable freak. Who has no-one to stop him because he can’t pity a moirail, not really, he couldn’t understand them well enough to really pity them. Who can’t pity a matesprit, because he can’t value someone else more than himself, not enough to want to preserve their essence because he knows they won’t be able to protect themselves forever. Who can barely hang onto a kismesitude with Sollux, and only because his erraticness is balanced by Sollux’ obsessive need for order, and because Sollux isn’t going to give up on hating the person who blinded him and killed his matesprit. But who knows what’ll happen if and when it really sinks in for Sollux that he can see fine, that his matesprit is alive and well, and that he has more interesting things to think about than a prancing poseur who will never really understand their differences enough to use them as a balance? He could be so much more than this, except for this one stupid, stupid fucking thing that holds him back, and that he won’t even think about letting go of. Fuckhead.

You reach out of the boat to thwack him upside the head—not hard enough to knock him underwater, but hard enough to sting, classic auspistice flirting. “Listen to me,” you say, and there’s pure grey love in your voice, pure ashen hate, so deep it surprises you. “Everyone is not ignoring you, you self-important shithead. They’re interested in their own stuff, they’re not trying to spite you. They’d be perfectly happy to look at something you come up with if you showed it to them, like everyone else is doing with the birds and mountains and chronology and so forth. Which you could have fucking tried instead of just making everyone look at you by trying to destroy everything. Including the future of our species again, very creative there, good job.”

He glares at you. “Wwhat’s the point of having trolls without the hemocaste? It’s wwhat wwe are. Wwithout it, wwhy not just let the humans take over the neww univverse—wwhat’s the difference?”

“Excellent question,” you growl. “Really intriguing subject of a debate. Why don’t you fucking fix what you broke, and we can all go back to the meteor and talk about it, instead of you deciding on your own?”

He grumbles, but that’s the moment that the problem’s taken out of his hands, because Sollux and Roxy seem to have figured out how to change the code, and the ocean disappears. Not just recedes, it actually vanishes, and you hear the dingggg in the back of your head that tells you Dave and Aradia have folded the past hour into a second as far as your planets are concerned, un-drowning all the wildlife in the process. Of course, that means that you, your boat, and your fucking quadrant-mate, bereft of water, are now floating in the air miles above the ground. Eridan lets out a truly indignant squawk and claws for the boat, right as you captchalogue it and decaptchalogue the rocket and step aboard. You reach out, grab his flailing arm, and there’s a moment when he’s suspended above the rocky crevasse below, looking up at you.

So grey. Everything you feel for him—grey as your skin, grey as the sky here. “Gotcha,” you say. “I’m not letting you die, fuckstick.”

He rolls his eyes. “Some auspistice you’d be if you did,” he says. But his hand clamps tight around your wrist as you haul him up onto the rocket with you, claws digging into your skin a little, because he might hate you for seeing the parts of him that ruin him, but he’s not letting go.

************************************************************************************

Karkat: Attend to the other lobe of your club. ==>

Artanooine is restored, not a sign of the waves that covered it “half an hour” ago. You’ve deposited Eridan in your room on the meteor, with firm orders to sit the fuck still and think about what he’s done, and a very complicated lock on the door. You shuffle through the sand, panting under the new, non-toxic sun. You’re gambling that Kanaya will stay with the ‘orb until she’s sure it’s fine, and that that’ll give you enough time to get to her. You’re a little worried about the timing, though.

It turns out you didn’t have to be—she’s sitting next to the gestating orb, legs crossed under her skirt, frowning. The cave is gently lit by her glow, flickering over the sandy floor when she moves, and she doesn’t look up when you stumble through the entranceway. “Rose said you thought she’d agree not to tell me things.” A breath. “And that you were worried about me.”

You shrug, not that she sees it. “Yeah.”

“As you can see,” she says, “I’m fine.”

“Good,” you say. “Are you going to stay that way?”

She still doesn’t look at you, but her voice gets pointed, fangier. “I don’t know, Karkat. Do you think that someone is going to destroy the future of our species again? Because I think then I might be something other than fine.”

You thump down next to her, suddenly just tired of the whole thing. “God dammit, Kanaya.” You realize that you should have something else to say, something full of properly auspisticely sparks and venom, but you can’t summon the energy. Why does she have to be like this?

She catches your mood, looks over at you for the first time. “That was human understatement,” she offers, an apology. “Dave suggested that I might want to diversify my rhetoric.”

That doesn’t help. “Kanaya,” you say, because she’s your friend, you can talk to her about this sort of thing, “I don’t like hating you."

She goes still. “Do you want to stop being quadranted with me?”

“No,” you say immediately, and then think about it further. You wouldn’t dream of breaking up her and Rose, you have a moirail, and if you liked hating her, you wouldn’t have this problem in the first place. And you don’t need an auspistice of your own right now, for all her reputed prowess. “It’s not that. I just get sick of you pulling this extremist shit. You’re better than this. You know it.”

“Mm.” She reaches out to pet the orb, running gentle fingers over its pliant spikes. “Thank you, Karkat. I’m ash for you, too.”

You grumble, not sure how you feel about that. “Yeah?” Which is just so romantic, great job, you, you are the smoothest.

She hesitates, then reaches out and punches you in the arm, hard enough to bruise. “How could I not be? You were my friend, and now here you are, pointing out my failings and my irrationality. Your judgment is too good for me to dismiss you, but I can’t stop wanting to wipe that... that—“

“Self-centered pretentious genocidal coward?”

“Thank you. –off the face of the planet. Whichever planet. I don’t care.” She shivers. “This lobe of the club is weird. I always picture myself as the auspistice. I knew in theory that I could feel black, but the reality is so...” She looks down, her glow flickering. “Intense. Powerful. Horribly, horribly freeing. I don’t like how much I like it.”

You sigh, not sure if you’ll ever get to feel like that. But that’s not really the point right now. “Are you seriously complaining about being a normal, healthy troll? Is that what I’m hearing right now?”

She rolls her eyes at you. “I thought you were worried about my perverse rainbow-drinker bloodlusts.”

You stumble over your own assumptions. “Fuck. I don’t know. I guess you’re... well, why are you so determined to kill him, then?”

“His winning personality?” But she pauses, thinks about it. “I... liked killing him. I was so surprised by how much I liked it. It felt... very, very good. I guess I want to know whether it would feel the same way again?”

“That is an unbelievably fucked-up piece of nonsense,” you explain. “Even if it does, what are you going to do with that information? There’s only twenty-two of us left— do you want to keep killing people?”

“No!” she says. “Just him.”

You press the point. “Even if it did feel that good to kill him again—awful as he is, I don’t like the idea of you hurting him that much just for you to enjoy it. That’s not you. You were saving all our lives last time. This would just be murder. For fun.”

“Yes,” she says, and there’s a glimmer of longing in her eyes. Then she sighs, letting go. “But you won’t let me do it, will you?”

“A world of fuck no.”

She nods. “And deep down, I know that I would be... less, if you did let me. I know that. But I can’t stop myself.” She meets your eyes, face shining, full of the sweetest hate you’ve ever seen. “Not without you.”

You swallow. “I’ll stop you,” you promise. “I won’t let that happen, Kanaya. I won’t let you do something we’d regret like that. I’ll stop you.” You punch her, her arm no more yielding than the stone walls around you. “Always.”

“That is very annoying of you,” she says, soft and sharp and sincere. “You have no right to stop me.”

“I’m your auspistice,” you say. “I have all the rights.”

She sniffs. “If you say so.”

************************************************************************************

Karkat: Keep auspisticizing. ==>

You suppose you’d better, if you’re stuck with these two losers. Which you seem to be. Kanaya wants to stay in the cave for a while, so you head back to the meteor to let Eridan out of your room. Well, after you deal with the fact that he’s taken the opportunity of being left there to draw huge purple ocean waves all over the maps of your worlds you keep on the walls. “You irredeemable shitstain,” you say, “you’re supposed to piss off Kanaya, not me.”

He smirks at you. “I’vve got no idea wwhat you mean,” he says. “You said I should share my creations wwith all a you.”

You thwap him on the arm, and he snaps and preens. “Shut your mouth,” you tell him. “Please. I’m begging you. Just stop talking. I swear, I will pay you, I will tell you fish puns, I will invent new kinds of gem-stones for you to put on your ridiculously overwrought neckpiece if you will stop saying stupid fucking shit.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Somethin botherin you, Kar?”

“Your face,” you say, because you are too tired to come up with something clever. “Get out, Eridan. I’m not your lusus.”

His face falls. “Oh. Wwell. Guess I may as wwell.” He heads towards the door, pauses in the doorway. “Kan’s back on Artanooine, right? Thinks she wwants some company?”

You put a hand over your eyes. “Oh dear cancer-frog of creation, if you were any more transparent we could use you as a viewing port. I am not ditching you two, okay? I still hate you. I’m just tired.”

“Yeah?”

Eridan. Fucking. Ampora. In your quadrants. God, what did you do that was so wrong you got stuck with this insecure hopeless loser? Surely even you don’t deserve this. You march up to him, reach up (and who said he had permission to get this tall?) and haul him down by the fucking scarf, his eyes wide behind his glasses, just inches from yours. “Eridan Fucking Ampora, I have been spending all day dealing with your shit, and I swear to everything anyone has ever held holy, if you do one more thing tonight, I will break into your hive and feed your hair-gel to the cuttlefish. I will set your husktop to do nothing but show you a constant loop of Human Con Air. I will rip out your thoracic struts and eat your bile-gland and shrink all your skinny jeans.” You glare into his eyes, and he gulps. “I cannot stand one more second of your conceited, contrary, horribly confused bullshit tonight. My think-pan will literally explode. Are we clear on this?”

He snarls, and there’s something so obnoxiously satisfied about it. “Can’t take a joke at all, can you?”

You growl, shove him away toward the door. He adjusts his scarf, sniffs, and departs. You sigh, sit down at your desk, and find yourself going over your phrasing, and smiling. You spend so much time yelling at people, there’s something odd about realizing you’ve found two who appreciate it.

 

Karkat: Get trolled. ==>

grimAuxilliatrix [GA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]

carcinoGeneticist is idle!
GA: I Am Sorry, Karkat
GA: But This Cannot Continue
GA: It’s Just Not Responsible Of Me To Leave This Danger Out There
GA: So I Have Asked Eridan To Meet Me On Sharyedale
GA: On The Landing Plain
GA: This Evening, At Sunset
GA: So That We May Settle This Once And For All
GA: Please Do Not Interfere
GA: This Is How It Needs To Happen
GA: I Apologize For Wasting Your Time

grimAuxilliatrix is idle!
...
carcinoGeneticist is no longer idle!
CG: YEAH, YEAH, >3o TO YOU, TOO.

Well, fuck that. You cross your arms over your chest and stare, because Gamzee’s not much for formality (like how Dirk’s not much for facial expressions), and so you’ve never been asked out on an actual date date before. You’ve thought about it, maybe once or twice—where would you go? What would you say? Would you wear, you know, something different? Do you own any clothing that would make you look any better, enough to make up for the stupid tiny horns and the stupid scowly face and... yeah, okay, maybe thinking about it isn’t the most useful thing you ever do. Possibly. Except that now it is, because here you are, and Kanaya just asked you out, and if anyone was ever going to notice the defects in your sartorial sense... Not that you have to look particularly good for someone in a conciliatory quadrant, it’s all about quelling bloodlust, not inciting it, not that you think you particularly could do that, as has been made remarkably apparent by your utter failure in any concupiscent quadrant of any kind, and the fact that you seem to believe for some reason that this quadrant would be any different is obviously just your own inherent denial of the reality which is staring you in the face with the fact that you have been asked out on a real date a really real date for real and you have no idea what the fuck to even think about, you idiotic arrogant excuse for a—

Pap.

You jump, because you had forgotten Gamzee was there. Not that you jump very far, not with his big hand on your face. “What’s the what, best friend?” He looks over your shoulder at your screen, and turns to smirk in your direction.

“Grnnargrrgh,” you explain.

He seems to disagree. “You all up and trying to overthink this, ain’t you?” he says, and paps you again.

“That makes it really hard to think,” you complain.

He sighs. “Nah, I reckon you’re thinking just fine. It’s the worrying that it sends all slantwise.”

You growl, and it does not come out as a purr, it doesn’t. “Oh, so you want me to calmly go fuck everything up forever and get everyone killed again? Is that what you think is a better idea?”

He shrugs. “Shoosh.”

You don’t want to shoosh. “But it’s important,” you say. “What if I can’t do it? What if they—“ and all you can remember is Kanaya’s blood pooling under her corpse, Feferi glassy-eyed on the horn pile, Sollux sliding down the wall, the smell of ozone and offal and just standing there, frozen, watching everything turn to shit so fast that you can’t even believe it’s happening, can’t even move to stop it because it’s already happened, just fucking staring...

“Shooooosh,” Gamzee murmurs, and if there’s a reddish smear on his hand on your face, you’re going to assume that it’s some new kind of make-up, because dammit. “This is a new universe, remember? You ain’t gonna let that happen again.”

You shake your head. “But...”

“Hey,” Gamzee says, and then he’s turned around to face you, big lazy eyes strangely focused. “Karkat. It ain’t like they don’t want you to stop them. It’s not like they ain’t scared of what would happen, if you wasn’t there.”

“Hoofbeastshit.”

He looks wounded. “Best friend, you think I’d be up and settling down for anyone but you? You got the knowing of it.”

He seems to think that that meant something. “What?”

He tries again. “The knowing of how it could be, if we was different from what we are. You know?” You glare incomprehension. “If we was something better. Ain’t no-one got the knowing of that like you do. Not the humans—they ain’t never seen how bad it can be. And none of us. Just you.”

You look at your moirail, think about everything he came back from. Think about how you can try as hard as you want, but you can’t actually tell yourself that it would have happened if you hadn’t been there. So. Well.

You sigh. “All right. Fine. Don’t strain yourself, you colossal clown mess.” You take a deep breath. “Get your hands off me. I’ve got a date to get ready for.”

**************************************************************************************

Karkat: Find your place in the club. ==>

The landing plain on Sharyedale is pretty enough at sunset, you have to admit. All right, gorgeous. It’s apparently based on something on Earth somewhere—golden grasses blowing in a gentle salt-smelling breeze, white cliffs leading down to rhythmic, crashing surf. The sky is bright, orange and pink clouds surrounding the sun sinking down into the ocean, perfectly backlighting Kanaya’s dusky dress, glinting off of Eridan’s rings. They’re facing off, faces twisted in snarls, and you don’t think you’re imagining the tiny quivers of relief when you land between them. “What the fuck is wrong with you people?”

Eridan waves his wand. “She wwon’t back off! She doesn’t care wwhat I’vve been through, all she cares about is her stupid revvenge! Again!”

Kanaya hasn’t even got her chainsaw out yet, she’s still just shining and snarling. “Nothing has changed about him! You see it, Karkat? He’s no different from how he ever was, he’s no less a threat!”

And Gamzee was right. It is easy, when you let yourself. “He fucking well is,” you say, “because I’m standing right here.” And to him, and God, he really does look ridiculous when he snarls, “And she knows she’d have to go through me to get to you, revenge or not.” They circle you, and your pulse speeds up, but they’re keeping you between them. “Sit the fuck down, you horrible, impulsive assholes!”

Eridan growls. “Wwhy?”

You hold up the picnic hamper, and wave it at them threateningly. “Because otherwise, neither of you get to eat any of the dinner I spent minutes slaving over a hot appearifier to make. Sit down. Now.”

Eridan looks half-tempted. Kanaya doesn’t. “I’m a jadeblood,” she hisses. “I protect the Mother Grub, in all her forms. Her enemies are my prey. Rightfully.”

Pan-squished caste-bound fanatic. “You pan-squished caste-bound fanatic,” you say, as long as you’re having a confession scene here and getting everything out in the open. “Chute-munching grub-fodder, you sound just like him.”

They both turn to you, too shocked to keep their attention on each other. “I do not sound like him,” Kanaya says, utterly offended. “Do I?”

You roll your eyes. “Yes. Yes, you do. Next you’ll be wwavvin your fuckin scarf around, see if you don’t.”

She glares at you, and if she’s amused, she’s not admitting it. Not out loud, anyway. He has no such feeling. “That wwas uncalled for, Kar! She wwishes she wwere high-caste enough to have half a chance to sound like me!”

“Shut,” you suggest, “up. This, this is what I’m talking about. Do you know what? I don’t give a miniscule smear of shit what color your blood is, either of you. Kanaya, you’re a jadeblood? Fine, then be a jadeblood! And shut up your fucking instincts for just the half a second it’ll take you to actually think about what kind of new race you want to raise! Eridan, you want to be a highblood? Fine, be a highblood! Be aristocratic and long-lived and strong and fucking well earn that respect that you want everyone to give you, instead of spending all your time whining about not getting it! And the two of you just...” you pause for breath, but not really to think about what to say, because the words are coming, easy as standing here with them.

“Just stop trying to go back and relive the past. This is a new universe, you understand me? Do you understand what that word means? ‘New’? It means that we have a fucking chance to do better. And I don’t care if you’re not comfortable with that, either of you. I don’t care how scary all this has been, and I don’t care how much you want to be in control of what happens next, you’re not. I am. And I am going to make sure that what we do with this universe is as unfucked as it possibly can be, and if either of you gets in my way, I am going to set fire to your wardrobifier.

“This is a new fucking universe, and you will fucking well overcome your fears and your instincts if I need to throttle you both. Biology is not fucking destiny, we write biology here. Got it?”

They blink at you. “I’m not scared,” Eridan says.

“I am,” Kanaya says. She steps back, arranges the skirt of her dress neatly, and sits on the grass. “This is a very big universe we have, here. And we have not done well, in the past, at working together.”

Eridan sniffs. “Wwell, if you think you can’t do it, I don’t see anythin wrong with you sittin back an lettin someone else.”

You go up and thwap him upside the head. “Not you, nookwipe. Not just you, anyway.” And give him a look—does he want to challenge your authority, here? Does he want to question you?

For half a moment, you’re worried that he does, and you don’t know how sickle-kind would work against rifle-kind, and if you need to find out... But then he sighs, put-upon and persecuted, and sinks to the ground, wrinkling his nose at the grass crackling underneath him.

They’re both sitting there, glaring at you. And you spread out a blanket, and a food-surface-covering-cloth, between them, and let yourself look smug. “That’s right,” you say. “You two are just hopeless. Let someone with half a bit of sense deal with you.”

You wonder, for a moment—are they going to accept that? Are you someone with half a bit of sense? Do they think so? Eridan’s so headstrong, and Kanaya’s always been the one to give you advice, who do you think you are to try to hold them like this?

And then you see them settle, tension going out of their shoulders. The heat fades from their glares, and there’s something soft, there, grey and gently crumbling. And light, almost weightless—you know it won’t last, the slightest puff of disruption will blow it away, and you’ll have to do this all over again. But you’ll be there then, too, there to curb the flame, there to keep them both safe.

You let out a breath that you’ve been holding ever since the meteor. “All right, then,” you say to your quadrantmates. “Eat your dinners. And shut up.”

They won’t. Well, they’ll eat, and they’ll even like it, but they won’t stop sniping at each other. Irritating bastards.

That’s all right, too.