Actions

Work Header

Tangle

Chapter Text

There was a smashed keyboard on the floor. Sollux grimaced at it. Some of those keys were hard to come by, with all these idiots tearing shit apart all the time. He figured he was up to a 5 crucial-component-loss per hour now. He blamed himself for letting Gamzee help untangle the network cables earlier, though. He should have known that Gamzee would end up wrapping himself in the cords, donning them like some technological strait-jacket, before he whimsically wandered off into the lab, only to reemerge hours later without a cord in sight and with no recollection of where they might have gone. It was so obvious that he would do that. Stupid, Sollux. Stupid. 

He approached the mess, ignoring the fever pitch of noise around him. He could see a "G" near the crevice between the wall and the floor, balancing precipitously on the edge. An “enter” key was dangerously close to Vriska’s feet. He knew how prone she was to stepping on things, and then relieving her anger at the inanimate object by hurling it at a nearby wall. He would have to work fast. Sollux reached down to pick up the largest chunk of molested technology, when a heavy crunch snapped him out of his mission.

"Stop throwing things!" Tavros cried. He was clumsily rushing away from the scene on his monstrous new metal appendages. Made of heavy metal with noisy joints and a bright, reflective surface, the robotic legs lacked any semblance of grace from the start, and now attached to the body of a terribly uncoordinated individual such as Tavros, they seemed to be more of a cruel trick from Equius rather than a gift for Tavros. One of the metal hooves had smashed directly into the largest intact piece Sollux had hoped to salvage. The clattering reverberations went unheard in the cacophony of arguments filling the room. 

Sollux landed on his rear as his hand recoiled from nearly meeting its end in a mess of crushing technology. Tavros continued to flee, unaware of the damage he had caused. An "F6" key was lodged in the underside of his foot. Sollux frowned.

“What ancient, vengeful god’s bowl of morning grain pellets did I piss into to deserve such an unjust death?” Karkat asked dramatically from the other side of the central room.

“If I have to ask you to stop talking like that again,” said Equius, posing in front of Nepeta who was cowering slightly, “This conversation will get quite messy.”

“I don’t even know how the electrical impulses from your shriveled braincenter are strong enough to expand and contract your airsacs! You should be suffocating from your own stupidity!”

Terezi was laughing from her seat as she listened to the spectacle. Terezi was always laughing, though. The sound had become background noise to most of the trolls by this point. Sollux stood up and walked to the sidelines. He certainly wasn’t going to watch Karkat’s most recent meltdown from behind the aggressing strongman. 

Equius only stared back at Karkat. The argument wasn't even between them, but he had stepped in to stand up for Nepeta. She had become a bit on edge lately, afraid of the predictions that they were soon to meet their end, and had tried to distract Karkat when he began to show signs of another meltdown regarding it. However, Karkat apparently wasn’t the type to employ role-playing as a means of therapy. She promptly received the pointy end of a highly energized rant-stick concerning her own death.

Equius’ dreaded entrance into the fight was enough to prompt a keyboard to sail through the air toward the duo. He easily smashed it down mid-air in a show of force against the assailant, sending keys and pieces flying toward the remaining Trolls, who all began yelling at Karkat.

"All of you are so insane, oh my god!" Karkat's hands were on his head as though he had to hold in the incredulity. "You WOULD side with ignoring reality in favor of playing in a Troll-sized litter box, Zahak! I guess I forgot for a second how you are the creepiest, musclebeast-schlong-loving, robot-punching, dead-girl-fondling shitstain here!”

"If you want to fight, Vantas, we can fight." Equius said with his chest puffed out slightly.

"No way, dude!" Karkat held his hands up in front of him, recoiling. "I wouldn’t touch you if my fucking life depended on it! I could be falling into a fucking black hole and if your hand was the only thing I could grab onto to save my life, I would propel myself away from you with my own vomit into the fucking hole of death behind me!” 

Gamzee laughed from his terminal's chair. Karkat's eyes darted to him. "Don’t you say a word! You know you are the pick of the fucking insanity crop here!”

“Aw, dude--” Gamzee began, smiling at what he no doubt perceived as a friendly jab from his friendliest friend in the room full of friends.

“NO MORE WORDS,” Karkat commanded, pointing at him, as though that alone would control the … well, easily controllable and slightly-touched Troll. 

“Oh, you are an absolute delight,” Vriska said, taking a step away from her terminal and narrowly missing the enter key that was poised to embed itself in her foot. “We should put on a show. One night only! Karkat Vantas flips the fuck out!”

“One night only would be a relief,” Equius said, staring down Karkat from his defensive position. “I think this show has run its course.”

“Think of the boondollars we would rake in from all the masochists!” Vriska continued. “And once he’s let out all his hot gas, we could put Sollux up to gleefully absorb the crowd’s insults! A sadist's paradise, too!”

Sollux made no attempt to rebuff the girl. He wasn’t about to enter the fray over something so trivial, and, he thought, so true.

“N-No, we should!” Nepeta perked up from behind her dangerously strong bodyguard. “We should put on a show! I mean, not for the weirdo masochists or anything, but if we put on a big show it would make everyone feel better!”

“Nepeta,” Equius began, refusing to look away from Karkat, as though he presented some sort of realistic threat.

“I’ll make it fun” she went on, “that way people won’t be all ‘BLARRR why is that dude so angry he is totally bumming me out!’ they’ll be like ‘Oh my gosh this is the most intense story ever, I wonder what’s going to happen to the adorable cubs, will they find their way home before dinner?!’ It will be a really fun distraction and everyone totally needs to be cheered up around here!” 

“Aw yeah,” said Gamzee, “Tavros and I can have a part too. You know we got the illest rhymes this side of the motherfuckin’ Medium.”

“OK, PLEASE,” Karkat yelled, “PLEASE STOP. PLEASE STOP GIVING ME MORE REASONS TO HATE YOU ALL.” 

“The motherfuckin Makara, all up in this bitch,” Gamzee began, pumping his head to a beat no one else heard, “Shit’s so tight, you know he gettin’ rich—“

“WHOA!” Vriska interrupted, “You stop that right now. I really don’t want to have to take Karkat’s side in anything, even if it’s being disgusted by your shitty rap!” 

“WOW,” Karkat continued. “MAYBE I’M ALREADY DEAD AND THIS IS TROLL-HEAVEN? THAT’S JUST ABOUT THE ONLY THING THAT WOULD EXPLAIN THESE AWESOME PEOPLE I’M SURROUNDED BY.”

“Calm yourself,” Equius said in his most commanding voice. “We don’t need your attitude right now.”

Karkat’s eyes were wide. “ATTITUDE? YOU THINK THIS IS ATTITUDE? THIS IS ME HATING YOUR BLUE GUTS. WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE AND THE LAST THING I AM GOING TO SEE IS YOUR MUSCLEBEAST MILK MOUSTACHE. THAT IS BASICALLY WORSE THAN THE ACTUAL DYING PART.”

“Stop saying that!” Nepeta pleaded, covering her ears, her cheeriness gone in an instant. “Stop talking about how we’re going to die! You don’t know that!”

“Think about it,” Karkat said. “It’s like the ULTIMATE ROLEPLAY. You’ll be a dead cat’s carcass for all eternity!”

“Karkat!” Equius yelled as Nepeta looked to the ground, a sad expression forming on her face. “I already said we don’t need your attitude right now! Back off before I have to make you!”

Karkat let out a frustrated growl. “SERIOUSLY? FUCK YOU,” he yelled back at Equius. ”FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU," he repeated as he looked at Gamzee and Vriska, passing over the entire room, “FUCK YOU AND YOU, FUCK YOU IN THE CORNER, FUCK YOU, AND FUCK ESPECIALLY YOU," he said at Terezi, who was still laughing at him. 

He let out one final anguished groan, his hands pulling at his face in typical, elaborated melodrama, and stormed out of the central room. Though he was always angry, Sollux worried that this outburst had more to it than usual. Nepeta didn’t normally receive such directly harsh words. There was something else going on, and Sollux thought he knew what it was. 

A welcome quiet rose back up, and suddenly Terezi's laughter became noticeable. A few loud metal clangs came from the door opposite the one Karkat had steamrolled out of.

"Did he leave?” Tavros asked.

"Yeah." Vriska said, sighing. "He left. What a moron. Good thing we're all gonna die and we don't have to listen his bullshit anymore, right guys?!"

No one responded. Vriska's sarcasm was also wearing thin as the trolls' collective futures grew dimmer. 

"Oh, fuck you all," she moaned, rolling her eyes. She turned to walk back to her terminal, stepping directly on the enter key. Sollux reached out toward it feebly, far too late. “SHIT!” she cried, hopping around in a manner all-too-familiar. “FUCK. WHAT THE HELL?! MOTHER—ARRGH!” She ripped it away from her foot and threw it violently at the wall. It bounced and disappeared behind a nearby terminal. Sollux frowned and let his arm drop back to his side.

Slowly but surely the remaining trolls turned their attentions back to various activities. Tavros came out of hiding, clanging all the way to Nepeta, who was looking depressingly pathetic as she stared at the ground. Tavros put a hand on her shoulder and directed her to Gamzee’s terminal, no doubt to discuss and expand upon his alleged sick rhymes. Vriska scowled at them. Equius went through his ritual to calm himself down from bracing for a fight. He rubbed his muscles. Sollux thought he could see him whispering to his biceps.

“A role-playing rap battle!” He overheard Tavros cheer. 

“Oh shit yeah my brother!”

Nepeta resumed her usual glowing as she was welcomed into the horrific display of personality defects. My, what a wonderful time to leave.

Sollux turned his own attention back to the keyboard on the ground. Someone else could deal with it, he figured. It was a lost cause. He glanced around the room, noting each of his friend's activities. They were all occupied, or at least didn't seem to notice him. Sollux quietly walked toward the exit, entering the silent corridors of the meteor's lab, leaving behind Terezi’s now-echoing laughter and the sound of three Trolls awkwardly attempting to rhyme. 

----

The hallways echoed his footsteps softly. The silence of the labs always bothered him, and he was certain he wasn't alone in his sentiment. All the trolls gathered in the central room not out of camaraderie, but because being alone in this place, with the burden of your impending death upon you, was simply too much to handle. Often Karkat's rants were a welcome distraction. When they focused on the truth of their plight, however...

It wasn't a long walk to the empty room Karkat frequently visited. It was a bit of a relief to Sollux to see Karkat there, in the same spot he often disappeared to these days when angry. It was almost like a constant in his life. That was nice. 

Karkat was staring out into the Veil through a large, plate-glass window. It had become difficult for any of them to see the beauty there anymore. Sollux approached without hesitation and sat down cross-legged next to him, following his gaze out into space. Karkat exhaled a long, quiet growl, as if to indicate that yes, he was still angry, and had clearly come there to cool off. 

"What do you want? Are you going to plead with me to stop being morbid and go apologize for hurting the freak show’s feelings?"

“Of course not."

"You could easily defect to the fucking psycho team of insanity at any second, you know. You’re pretty fucked up too. You’re like a ticking time bomb of neuroses waiting to go off in my face.”

Sollux only nodded, still watching the neighboring meteors outside. Karkat stared at him intently for a moment, waiting for a retort. When none came, he grunted angrily and turned back to the window. 

The two trolls sat side by side, looking out into the beyond, in silence. It was a long time before either of them spoke again.

"OK, fine!” Karkat threw his hands up. “Since you’re so desperate for me to, I’ll ask! Why did you follow me here, Sollux?"

Sollux shrugged. "You're easy to figure out."

Karkat stared at him, mouth agape, as though the insanity of Sollux’s statement spoke for itself. Apparently it didn’t. "What?! You figured me out? What the hell does that mean?! You can't even figure your own shit out!"

Sollux let out a short laugh. “That's true. I guess it's always easier to just figure other people out, that way you don’t have to face up to your own problems.”

Even though he couldn’t see it, Sollux was sure he was rolling his eyes. “Yeah, Sollux, you must have me all figured out since you clearly knew that I walked all the way over here just so you’d follow and I could listen to you babble on about incredibly stupid shit. Wow you are so talented. I can barely contain my awe. "

Sollux turned to face him for the first time. They were surprisingly close. Karkat's angry expression fell away at the confrontation. He blinked and turned back to the window, slightly embarrassed. 

"You're not always angry, KK," Sollux stated, "even though it seems like it. It's easy to be angry, though. And I think easy can be good -- especially during bullshit times like these."

Karkat was still looking through the window. He remained silent, but scrunched his up face to express his distaste for the conversation.

"I mean, I know you really do get angry a lot, but I also know that a lot of those times you're just covering up for some other emotion that you don’t have the guts to own up to."

"Oh, my god! Are you really going to talk to me about emotions?!" Karkat snapped. "Jegus, Sollux, you're going to stink up the whole lab with this hypocrisy. Yes, let’s talk about emotions with the most stable person ever!"

"Just because I'm fucked up doesn’t mean that you’re not, shitpirate!" It was an unintended snap. Sollux had a lot of those.

Karkat sighed dramatically. "So then what did you follow me out here to say exactly? Please tell me before I fucking die of anticipation and interest!"

"I didn't come out to say anything!” Sollux yelled. He bit his tongue hard, trying to remain calm. “ ... I’m just explaining how I knew to come out here."

Karkat stared at him with an exasperated expression. "You are so lame."

Sollux turned his attention away from his friend, struggling to regain his composure. “You’re scared."

Karkat’s hair seemed to stand up on end as his eyes went wide. "What?! I’m not scared!"

The outburst did little to break Sollux' gaze into the Veil. Karkat continued to stare at him, eyes wide with anger. His words hung in the silent room. The bifurcated troll at his side seemed to ignore him, and finally Karkat turned away, his face predictably angry. As they sat there, Karkat's expression relaxed slowly, until his eyes fell to the ground in front of him, listless.

"How do you deal with it, then?" He asked, his voice heavy with frustration. 

"I don't," was Sollux's response. “Obviously!” He snorted a bit, thinking over his own words, but his slight smile melted away when Karkat didn’t respond to the humor. Steadying his gaze once more, Sollux took a deep breath. "I guess when I see you take it so hard, it makes it hard to get wrapped up in my own emotions. When I’m left to my own devices I start going crazy over it. Focusing on something else has always helped even me out."

"Well that's great for you; I am really so unbearably happy that I could be of some service to you! WOW! SO glad that my suffering makes this all more tolerable for you! If only I really was scared, then I would really be helping you, huh? Well I’m really sorry, Sollux, but I’m not!”

"I am."

Karkat opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came. He turned away. The room fell silent once more as the two Trolls sat by each other, slowly thinking over their own demise. 

Sollux was the first to speak. "Like I said, you're not that difficult to figure out."

Karkat emphatically let out what seemed like his last burst of energy. "OK! So you figured me out! Congratulations! I will arrange to have a fucking ticker-tape parade for you back on Alternia -- Oh wait, our home planet is fucking dead and we are on a meteor waiting for our own unjust deaths. Wow, Sollux, why the hell did you follow me out here, just to bug the shit out of me!?"

Sollux shook his head, trying his best not to give into Karkat's taunts. "Look, your personality is annoying. I mean, you are basically a huge sphincter independent of any sort of digestive tract yet you still manage to spew out excrement at every available opportunity.” Karkat let his head loll slightly, trying to emphasize his annoyance with Sollux’ words. “But,” he continued, “it's not like your feelings matter any less than anyone else's, even if you do think that covering them up with anger all the time is the best way to cope."

Karkat’s body language returned to neutral at his friend’s words. He had no response. Karkat’s anger had finally been worn down to listless frustration.

"I don't want to die, either," Sollux said softly. "I think it's acceptable to be scared right now."

"I'm not ... " Karkat's hands dropped limply to his lap. He stared down into them, tired. He looked sick, exhausted. Sollux watched his friend’s predicable façade change into something he had never seen. He looked upset. Anxiety began to take him over. What did he just say? Karkat was never upset – yet he had managed to make his perpetually-ornery friend sad for what may have been the first time in his life. He was just trying to be helpful, and look at what he had done! Way to go. So stupid!

"Well … I mean … things could still be OK ..." Sollux said, struggling to contain the negative emotions that rose up inside. " … We don't know what's going to happen." What a failure. He raised his hand to Karkat’s shoulder, wondering if he could somehow comfort him. Karkat only stared into his lap blankly. Sollux's hand returned to the ground and he clenched his eyes shut, trying to work through the voices inside. Look what you did. How can you be so pathetic? 

"Sorry," Sollux managed to say in a voice that was barely audible over his own internal chastising. "I just … I didn't want you to be out here alone, OK?! I know when you have so much pent up anxiety that it comes out as anger! I just—I figured you were upset over all this bullshit; but I didn't mean to make you feel worse! Damnit! I can’t believe -- I’m such a --”

Sollux’s hands were fists, pushing into the ground between his legs. His eyes were still closed as he leaned forward, internally berating himself for his perceived digression. His emotions threatened to spiral out of control. He had been relatively stable up until then, able to focus on Karkat’s anger. But now he could only hear his own words, an attempt to comfort his friend, making him feel worse. Of course they were going to die! What was he thinking?! Don’t make it worse! He fought the urge to yell out, or to act out physically against the feelings that were rising up inside him. Stupid, stupid, such an idiot, you are the worst fucking grub-licking imbecile in the universe. Lying and lying, making him feel worse. You're like a fucking disease or a boil and a fucking infected wound on someone's genitalia, bubbling up and dripping out bloody pus and ---

Sollux thoughts ceased immediately as he was nearly toppled over sideways by a heavy, Karkat-sized weight. His friend had thrown himself onto his shoulder, limply draping his arms over Sollux and burying his face into the back of his neck. Sollux' hands came halfway up and stopped, motionless, unsure of where to go or what to do. He felt his face grow hot. All his thoughts had disappeared, replaced with utter blankness. Should he move? What ... what was he supposed to do? Every muscle in his body was tense. His mind raced to focus on a word or a thought or a course of action, but everything had come to a stand-still.

Slowly the sensation of Karkat’s pulse built up from where he was pressing his chest into Sollux’s shoulder. He could hear his breath clear as day, just below his ear. It was then that Sollux realized he had been holding his. He wanted to exhale, but that would be revealing that he hadn’t been before. He tried to let his breath out slowly and casually. It was ragged. 

"I'm sorry," Karkat murmured from behind him. 

"D-Don't worry about it," Sollux replied, far too quickly, as he struggled to breathe in a way that didn't draw attention to his nervousness, while still desperately needing more air than he was allowing himself. He felt Karkat's arms wrap around his side. Sollux stopped breathing once more. Shit, he was going to die of asphyxiation while trying to comfort his friend over his fears of dying. 

Karkat's voice came up once more, slightly muffled as he was buried into his back. "Sollux. Why aren't you breathing?"

Sollux exhaled sharply and began to pant, inhaling short and desperate puffs of air. 

"Wow, you are an idiot."

Sollux couldn’t help but smile as his breathing returned to normal. Karkat remained in place, squeezing slightly harder. Without the usual internal debate that so constantly plagued Sollux, he brought his hands up to the arm that crossed his chest, touching it tentatively, as though any slight movement could shatter the scene. When his excessively gentle touch caused no immediate recoiling or breakage, he let himself slowly grab onto the arm, squeezing it back as best he could from his passive position.

“I don’t … really want to die,” Karkat said, wearily. “I mean, at least not like this. What a lame death. There won’t be any blaze of glory and no one’s even left on Alternia to remember us.”

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, KK,”

“Yeah, I guess the details of our deaths and the level of pain and torment we’ll experience before it’s finally over is still up for debate. I’m so glad the universe is still refusing to show all its cards – it would really ruin the last surprise we’ll ever have.”

Sollux knew all that he had seen and heard before, and the many days and nights that visions of his end had plagued him. He even remembered the bittersweet satisfaction he felt when the other Trolls finally agreed with his apocalyptic vision. But something was different now – he didn’t want to believe it anymore. He didn’t want to give it credibility. He wanted to believe a lie.

“I mean … maybe we won’t die, you know?”

Karkat let go of Sollux’s side and pulled back until he was looking him in the face, leaning into him and confronting him closely. “Bullshit! You fucking describe it to us all the time! You’re a fucking doomsday clock, always chiming away with depressing predictions about our inevitable end!”

“I’m not always right!” Sollux snarled back, the emotional rollercoaster apparently starting up once more. “I fuck things up all the god damn time and you know it!”

“That’s ALSO bullshit! You’re always right and I hate it!” 

“I’m not always right, you’re just ALWAYS WRONG. There’s a difference!”

“Shut up!”

The two glared at each other. Slowly Sollux realized how close they were in this new, confrontational position. He also noticed an unusual pressure on his leg. Karkat’s hand was pressing into his thigh to give him balance. His thigh. Oh. Oh no. His body tensed once more and his breathing stopped, as though Karkat’s vision was suddenly based on movement, and if he stayed still, he wouldn’t notice the awkward position they were in.

Karkat’s expression changed slightly as the situation no doubt occurred to him as well. Sollux could hear him swallow hard. His eyes narrowed. “You’re… You’re all yellow,” He said accusingly.

Sollux exhaled sharply. “YOUR HAND is on MY thigh!”

“YOU are … YOU’RE NOT MOVING AWAY!”

“What?! NEITHER ARE YOU!”

“I WAS HERE WAY BEFORE YOU. YOU SAT THERE, NOT ME!”

“THAT’S SERIOUSLY YOUR ARGUMENT?!”

“YES. SHUT UP.”

“Y-YOU SHUT UP. I DIDN’T SAY ANYTHING. YOU COULD MOVE AWAY IF YOU WANTED!”

“SO COULD YOU.”

They stared angrily at each other, remaining in place. Even Sollux’ emotional instability was irrationally unstable. He couldn’t choose a random feeling to stick to. He didn’t want to be the first one to move away. Surely that was competitiveness and nothing more. Were they testing each other? Was he losing?! Karkat’s face was flushed as well, and his lips were pursed tightly in concentration, visibly fighting with Sollux to not be the first to move. Competition. He is competing with you! That’s all. You made him upset. So stupid. Who cares what you do, we’re going to die soon anyway. Why won’t he move away? Is he really doing this? WHY IS HIS HAND STILL THERE? Breathe! DON’T BREATHE HE’LL KNOW YOU’RE NERVOUS. He can smell fear. HE IS LIKE A SCENTHOUND, SEEKING WEAK SPOTS FOR WHICH TO SKILLESSLY ATTACK WITH LITTLE NUBBY TEETH. 

They were closer now. ARE YOU MOVING CLOSER? I think he’s moving closer. The hand is still there. WHY IS THE HAND STILL THERE? OH GOD what if somebody walked in?! WHAT ARE YOU DOING, IDIOT? When Aradia came over that one time – DON’T THINK ABOUT ARADIA THIS IS NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL. Of course it is, except you probably won’t get bonked in the head by horns this time. Look at those tiny horns. Those tiny, harmless horns. DON’T LOOK AT THE HORNS, OH MY GOD. They were closer still. WHO WAS MOVING THEM? Is this seriously happening?

“YOU’RE THINKING CRAZY THINGS AREN’T YOU?” Karkat snapped.

“YOU’RE THE CRAZY ONE,” Sollux accused. “I mean, NO! I’m not thinking crazy things!”

“OK FINE. THEN DO IT!”

“Y … YOU DO IT.”

“YOU’RE THE ONE WHO CAME IN HERE!”

“YOU’RE THE ONE … WHO …”

“WHY DO YOU KEEP LOOKING AT MY HORNS LIKE THAT?!”

“S-SHUT UP.”

“YOU … SHUT UP.”

The argument stopped abruptly. In the momentary silence they broke eye contact but kept their position static. Karkat stared at the ceiling. Sollux looked to the window. They came together slowly, staring away from each other the entire time. 

Though part of Sollux knew he was moving closer of his own volition, half of his brain continued to shout insults at him. KNOCK IT OFF! I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE WHAT YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING TO DO HERE. IT IS LITERALLY TOO MUCH FOR ME TO HANDLE RIGHT NOW, YOUR DEGENERATE BEHAVIOR. YOU REALLY THINK THIS IS OK? HE IS OBVIOUSLY JOKING; I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU’RE SO STUPID. DO YOU SERIOUSLY BELIEVE THIS RIGHT NOW? He snarled internally at the voice, telling it to shut the hell up. The voice only continued to mock him. With something akin to anger, Sollux rebelliously launched himself the few centimeters that remained between them. Off-center and dryly, their lips met. 

The connection was intensely awful. When they pulled back after only a split second, both had similar expression of confusion.

“Wow,” Sollux said. “That was … terrible.”

“What?!” Karkat was glowing so brightly he was nearly generating heat.

“You have no idea how to kiss someone!”

Karkat sputtered. “Y-You—What?!”

“I thought you’d at least have some idea from all those stupid fucking movies you watch!”

“Shut the hell up, fuck … wad! How much experience do YOU have?!”

“Clearly more than you!”

“Oh right, I forgot you used to get all mushy over the dead girl.” Karkat waved his hands around mockingly. “Ooh, Aradia, I love not-touching your freaky ghost body. Maybe we can not-hold-hands later and hollowly talk about all the things that we don’t care about anymore!”

Sollux grew hot as well. “SHUT THE FUCK UP, KARKAT, YOU DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT ARADIA OR ANYTHING THAT HAPPENED WITH US!” 

Karkat remained angry, though there may have been a slight tinge of regret on his face. “You brought it up!”

“I DID NOT. I JUST SAID YOU SUCK, BECAUSE YOU DO.”

YOUR SUCKAGE IS A UNIVERSAL CONSTANT. TROLL SCIENCTISTS USE IT TO MEASURE HOW FAST SHIT FALLS INTO A BLACK HOLE. ‘IS THE FORCE STRONGER THAN A CAPTOR?’ ‘OH MY NO, NOTHING SUCKS THAT STRONGLY!’”

“STOP TRYING TO IGNORE HOW BADLY YOU SUCK, KARKAT!”

“I—I DON’T SUCK! YOU suck. You suck stronger than a … black –“

“MY GOD, QUIT TALKING ABOUT BLACK HOLES, THAT IS LIKE THE FOURTH TIME TODAY YOU’VE REFERENCED THEM.”

“I’M SORRY WE’RE STARING OUT INTO SPACE AND I AM CONSTANTLY REMINDED OF YOUR SUCKAGE BY ALL THE THINGS OUT HERE THAT SUCK.”

Sollux’s occasional urge to rebelliously do the opposite of what his brain told him was usually, though he refused to think about it long enough to really acknowledge it, a good excuse for him to do things he would otherwise be too insecure to do. If he ever let himself pay attention to it, he would probably consider it a double-edged sword of self-indulgence and self-hatred. Yes. Obviously it would be double-edged.

He placed both hands on the sides of Karkat’s face, squeezing him slightly harder than he was sure was comfortable. Karkat’s cheeks squished up against his nose and his lips involuntarily opened in a ridiculous fish-like manner. He dragged Karkat’s face to his, rationalizing his action internally by thinking of how he had to show his friend up. Yes. That was clearly the only reason! His brain could just CHILL OUT FOR A MINUTE while he took care of this unfinished business.

Sollux forcefully brought his lips to meet Karkat’s, pulling him closer as he pushed himself toward him. He ignored the instantaneous sensation that went up his spine as they met properly, repeating a mantra of not-sucking and being-way-better-than-Karkat in his head. So much better, he thought. Superior in every way! Karkat was the one who sucked, not him.

Their connection softened. Sollux’s death-grip on Karkat’s face relaxed as he could feel him sink into a more natural position, returning the example Sollux was forcefully offering with his lips. He felt a hand brush his side as Karkat tried to find balance in the position Sollux had dragged him into. 

Sollux’s grip lessened even more as he leaned forward, pressing into his friend. OK, YOU TOTALLY SHOWED HIM UP WHICH IS ALL YOU WANTED TO DO SO ANYTIME YOU WANT TO STOP IS COOL. I MEAN UNLESS THIS IS OK, BUT, LIKE, JUST TO SHOW HIM UP I MEAN. AFTER ALL HE’S ONLY THERE BECAUSE YOU FORCED THIS POSITION ON HIM, YOU KNOW. I-IDIOT. 

The hand now brushed past Sollux’s ear, touching the side of his face lightly. His stomach flipped and his body involuntarily moved forward even more, nearly pushing Karkat over. Suddenly his brain sparked.

He broke the connection quickly and awkwardly as he realized he had relaxed into it a good deal more than he convinced himself he would. Karkat was ready to meet his petrified gaze with wide, confused eyes.

They stared at each other for a moment.

“OK that’s enough of that!” Karkat’s voice was unnecessarily loud as he turned away.

“Yeah, OK, time to do some programming I think!” So was Sollux’s. 

“Yeah totally I have a lot of work to do. There is so much trolling left to do I mean wow.”

“Yeah I know. Let’s get a move on ‘cause we are both immensely busy people.”

“I know; I am SO BUSY.”

“So much shit on my plate over here!”

“My plate is OVERFLOWING with shit!”

“I know it’s actually a little bit disgusting, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.”

They looked at each other sheepishly. Sollux wasn’t sure what to do. Had he gone too far? Did he ruin everything? Was he going to have to be the one to ask if they were still friends for once?

“Uh …” Karkat uneasily looked to the ground as he hunted down something to fill the silence. “Do you … do you wanna go throw some dice on Vriska’s floor later and wait for her to flip her shit when she steps on them?”

Sollux put on his best serious face as he considered the proposition. “Oh. Yeah. I’m almost done working on that fake 8-ball that always tells you that you’re a huge bitch, too.”

“Good. That is excellent.”

Most excellent.” 

“Well then good day to you sir,” Karkat said as he stood.

“Yes, indeed.” Sollux stood and adjusted his sunglasses.

“Perchance I will see you in the common area where we commonly gather for … common activities.”

“Yes, and perchance I will ignore your newly acquired and highly retarded manner of speaking.”

“… I would appreciate that.”

They glanced at each other again. Karkat was still flushed. Sollux was grateful for his sunglasses, which hid his equally wide-eyed stare. Karkat nodded at him, some sort of spontaneous gesture he no doubt felt adequately summarized and added much manliness their conversation. Sollux returned it. Karkat turned away first and walked out of the room, his eyes still wide and his face still flushed. 

YOU’RE NOT BREATHING AGAIN! Sollux exhaled and began panting once more. His heart began beating fast as Karkat disappeared and the emotions swept back over him in a heavy wave. 

Oh god, what the hell just happened?! SERIOUSLY DUDE! R-Right? I KNOW! Now what? SHIT. I mean … that was so weird. Y-YEAH TOTALLY. JUST WEIRD. NOTHING ELSE. Just plain old fashioned weird. NOTHING BUT WEIRDNESS TO SEE HERE. Nope.

His brain seemed to be in agreement for the first time. It was an unusual feeling, to have one solid train of thought coursing through him. Even if it was denial. 

Sollux sat down where they had been before, waiting for his heart to slow and the color to drain from his face. His stomach remained tight. He felt dizzy. 

The meteors outside were all that watched him as he sat, exhaling a ragged sigh. He shouldn’t have broken it off so soon. There wasn’t that much time left. Sollux rolled his eyes at his own thoughts. 

He remained in the room, alone, staring out into the Veil for a long time.

Chapter Text

For some reason that was currently escaping him, Sollux was tiptoeing through the hallways. His bare feet stepped delicately over the cold, metallic floor of the lab as though at any moment it may creak and send a wave of his friends crashing down upon him in immediate response. He could almost imagine them building strength out in the ocean of their collective antagonism, waiting to form up into a giant crest to come barreling down upon him, washing him up upon some sort of shore of embarrassment.

Sollux was not very good with metaphors.

He crept around the last corner he had to travel past, eyeing every shadowed corner, imagining in one of the less-rational portions of his brain that one of his friends could be lying in wait in even the tiniest sliver of darkness. Terezi might be flattened up against a wall, her blind superpowers waiting for a waft of his anxiety to hit her nose before she re-inflated to a proper size and attacked. This was something that obviously could happen.

He had already come up with nearly two dozen excuses for why he was creeping along the hallways at night, long after everyone had retired to their makeshift respiteblocks. He had over-thought it so much that he worried he would end up mashing several of them together into something completely incomprehensible. "I couldn't fall asleep so I was just going to go pee because I was thirsty and my dream woke me up about computers making too much noise in the next room and it was cold."

His fears were unfounded. The lab would have been completely silent if it wasn't for the loud snoring that came from Tavros' room, the last one he had to pass. Equius could give him the ability to walk, but it seemed that no one could cure his inability to breathe properly.

Karkat's door was set apart from the others. He had claimed no less than five separate rooms, alleging that his status as leader allowed him to demand such great privacy and separation. No one really knew why a leader would require so much privacy in the first place, but the lab was spacious and rooms were hardly a commodity, so no one had said anything.

Sollux hadn't decided if he should knock. It might betray his location to the Trolls that he still imagined to be lurking in the shadows. However, barging in might cause a raucous so loud as to betray his location to the entire universe. He glanced around the dark, empty hallways once more before he slowly and silently turned the doorknob and stepped into the room.

Karkat was staring at him. "What are you doing, Sollux?"

He stopped mid-step. "O-Oh. H-Hey."

Karkat was sitting up in the small room's strange, cushioned slab, his lower half covered by the light material that had been laid out over them. "Hi."

He had not prepared for this obvious series of potential events. "I was ... I couldn't sleep ... so ... I had to ... pee."

The other Troll's flat expression was visible even in the dim light of the room's only window. "Okay. Well, how 'bout you don't pee in here?"

Sollux sighed and relaxed his body, closing the door behind him quietly. "Sorry. I couldn't sleep. Too much to think about. I figured I'd see if you were awake, too."

"I haven't slept in a fucking solar sweep," Karkat said, frowning. "These fucking things are horrible."

"I know," Sollux was relieved that Karkat hadn't yet jumped on him for showing up in his room, unannounced. He walked to the slab and sat down on the edge, examining it. "What kind of fucked up species wants to lie on some flat slab of stuffing all night?"

"Yeah, and I'm sure it's hard for you to not have a red and blue one to choose from."

"Shut up."

There was a lapse in their conversation, and Sollux felt his anxiety rise up. Neither of them had spoken about their encounter earlier in the day, and had opted to avoid each other instead.

Karkat was clearly on the same page as him. "OK, I have been thinking about this all day," he put on his best serious face, which usually amused Sollux. "I propose that … we never talk about what happened earlier ever again."

Sollux considered the proposition. He wasn't sure what else they could do about it, anyway. " … Okay."

"Great."

"Yeah. Great." He had uneasily stumbled toward Karkat's room for a variety of reasons, and finding closure on their awkward encounter was definitely one of them. It may not have been his first choice, but he was glad for the opportunity to move on.

They looked in opposite directions. Karkat shifted uncomfortably in his spot. "So … did you see when Terezi was fucking with Nepeta earlier?"

"Oh yeah!" his voice sounded more enthusiastic than he intended. "Whacking her with her cane while pretending it was part of some role play…"

"Yeah!" Karkat was a little too eager to change the subject as well. "That was pretty funny. She couldn't tell her to stop because she'd be breaking character."

Sollux nodded. "Equius tried to intervene; I think it was after you left. He tried to grab the cane mid-strike but she was too fast for him and he ended up tripping and falling over like a fucking tree."

Karkat let out a particularly forced laugh. "Oh man. That is hilarious."

"Yeah. Then she whacked him when he was on the ground."

"Terezi can actually be pretty great, at least when you're not at the receiving end of her attacks. Or … of her attention at all, really."

"Hah … Yeah."

They both looked down uncomfortably as silence crept back into the room.

"Yeah … " Karkat rubbed the back of his neck.

Sollux scratched his nose. "… Yeah."

Karkat coughed.

"Did you … did you ever finish trolling that kid?" Sollux asked awkwardly, eager for any sort of distraction.

"The Heir? No, he is still a plump little groundfruit ripe for some serious trolling."

Silence again. Sollux felt anxiety creep back into the pit of his stomach.

"KK … this is weird."

"WELL IT'S YOUR FAULT!" he snarled.

Sollux shot up in his seat at the abrupt accusation, anger appearing instantly. "What?! Since when?!"

"You were the INSTIGATOR!"

"Y-You! YOU instigated!"

"I HAVE NEVER INSTIGATED IN MY LIFE."

Sollux slammed a hand onto the soft bedslab as his annoyance rose. "YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL INSTIGATOR AND ANTAGONIZER!"

"HOW ARE THOSE RELATED?"

"I DON'T KNOW, BUT YOU ARE BOTH OF THEM ALWAYS."

They glared at each other.

"OK," Karkat said with contrived finality, "This is clearly not going to work. We need a better solution. I suggest expelling you into space."

Sollux was eager to attack his friend as well. "I suggest letting you exist of your own volition without me to always watch out for you until you fuck up everything like always!"

"What?"

"I am saying you are completely helpless on your own and I'm always getting you out of your own shit!"

"You DIED once. How am I the one who's always getting into shit?!"

"Why do you always bring up ancient history?!"

"THIS WAS A FEW DAYS AGO, SOLLUX!" Karkat waved his arms around dramatically. A thought visibly occurred to him and he sunk back, eyeing Sollux with disgust. "Come to think of it … I never told you that I saw Feferi rub her slimy gills all over your face! Oh god I can't BELIEVE I forgot about that! I need to go wash myself FOREVER."

Sollux shot an accusatory finger into his face as he pulled out his ace in the hole. "GAMZEE TOLD ME YOU CRIED."

Karkat's jaw dropped. "WHAT?! W-WELL -- MAYBE I WAS ONLY CRYING BECAUSE I WAS SO DISGUSTED BY SEEING THAT FISHY RETARD LAP UP YOUR DISGUSTING MUSTARD BLOOD!"

"YEAH, DOESN'T IT UPSET YOU HOW MANY GIRLS ARE AFTER ME ALL THE TIME WHEN ALL YOU HAVE IS GAMZEE TRYING TO TOUCH YOUR FACE?"

"NO. I MEAN, YES THAT BUGS ME, BUT HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY USE THE FACT THAT A DEAD GIRL AND A FUCKING FISH ARE AFTER YOUR GNARLED LITTLE BULGE TO MAKE ME JEALOUS?"

"IT'S BETTER THAN …" Sollux struggled to come up with a retort as he began to notice how silly his charges were becoming. "WHATEVER IT IS … THAT YOU HAVE."

Karkat only glowered back at him.

Sollux glared at the floor. "This is stupid. I'm tired of yelling."

"I say we go with my suggestion of flinging you into space."

He shot his friend an angry look.

"What?" Karkat looked genuinely surprised at the reaction. "You know it would solve a lot of problems!"

Sollux sighed; his fluctuating emotions were draining. "OK … we can't talk about it … and we certainly can't NOT talk about it. What are we supposed to do?"

"Maybe we should go back to when we only interacted through Trollian. Things were much easier to manipulate then. Logs could be deleted."

"We can't be social retards forever, Karkat."

"Why not?!" he cried. "We're about to die! I think it's perfectly reasonable to think that we can maintain this for the rest of our lives, considering their truncated length!"

Sollux couldn't help but growl at his friend's annoying response. "You know, with all those shitty romance movies you watch, you'd think you'd know how to handle something like this!"

"This is COMPLETELY different!"

Though Sollux was tired of the subject already, he couldn't help how his frustration forced him to continue it. "HOW?!"

"Well, this isn't romance."

Sollux stared at him. "What?"

"I mean … it falls into the REALM of romance but that's not what it was! It's not like I'm gonna … you know, DO something about it."

"What?" he repeated.

"Well, why would I?" Karkat closed his eyes and began to speak in a voice that feigned intelligence. "I am an impartial third party observer of the romantic endeavors taken on by our people. If I become involved then my status as an expert becomes jeopardized as bias may set in."

Sollux nearly pulled on his hair. "ARE YOU SHITTING ME RIGHT NOW?"

"I wouldn't expect you to know anything about being a scholar."

He sputtered incomprehensibly, a sense of rejection nowhere to be found in his current state of shock. "Bu—I –What?! WHY did you let me do ANYTHING AT ALL THEN?!"

"If you're the instigator then I'm not endangering my academic duties," he said simply.

This time Sollux did pull. Hard. "OH MY GOD."

"What?"

"I can't believe you are REALLY going to be like this!"

Karkat crossed his arms defiantly, and a bit childishly. "It's just how it is."

Sollux tried to calm himself, though with his friend's dismissal of their earlier encounter and his annoying superiority it proved quite difficult. "So anyone in the world could jump on you RIGHT NOW and have their way with you and as long as you didn't initiate it, you wouldn't consider it real romance?"

"I would simply be observing a natural phenomenon," was his smug response. "Well, wait. No, it couldn't be ANYONE. I do have standards!"

Sollux attempted to set fire to his friend by means of his intense stare. "You are the absolute fucking worst."

"Oh, whatever!"

Sollux felt as though he might bite through his tongue. "Fine. So, it was all just a natural phenomenon that you do not object to because you are so god damned impartial! FINE!"

"Hey, I SAID that there are some people I would object to! THAT WAS A COMPLIMENT."

"OH OKAY, THANKS KK."

He frowned. "You are so pissy sometimes. I basically just admitted that I was OK with what happened! That was practically an emotional fucking breakthrough. Way to be a god damned nooklicker, Sollux, fucking up my fucking emotional blossoming!"

He had to forcibly deny the urge to split his friend in half via his particularly useful system of emotion-based psionic violence. "What are you expecting me to do, exactly?! Am I supposed to be your instigator again, so you can hide behind the WORST FUCKING EXCUSE I'VE EVER HEARD?"

Karkat looked surprised. "What? It's—It's not an excuse!"

"GEE SOLLUX, I SURE DIDN'T MIND YOU EMOTING ALL OVER ME LIKE THAT BUT TURNS OUT I WAS MERELY OBSERVING YOUR FLUSHED BEHAVIOR UP CLOSE AND DIDN'T ACTUALLY MEAN ANY OF THAT ISN'T THAT FUNNY HA HA HA."

"Flushed?! I—I SAID that there are some people I would—"

"HA HA HA HA."

"Stop … stop being such a little grub!"

He felt as though he had reached an emotion beyond the spectrum of anger. "If you can't own up to it then FINE, that's FINE, Karkat. But don't insult me with your flimsy fucking excuses!"

"It's not an excuse! I am owning up to it! I am owning up SO FUCKING HARD. Oh my GOD I cannot BELIEVE how hard I am owning right now!"

"You know, I think normally I would feel pretty shitty about this. I think normally I'd consider it a PRETTY BIG SLIGHT. PRETTY HIGH ON THE FUCKING REJECTION SCALE. But, whatever. I'm not going to be your 'instigator' to save you the hassle of having to stick your neck out and risk real emotional repercussions. You are a fucking slime sucking idiot and I can't understand why I ever spent even a MODICUM of emotion on you."

"W-Well … I don't need you to be my instigator! I mean, I don't WANT you to be my instigator!"

"Good!" he snarled. "'Cause we're about to fucking die and I would HATE TO WASTE ANY MORE OF MY PRECIOUS TIME ON YOU."

Karkat looked uncomfortable. "Good … I feel the same way."

Sollux was beyond noticing. "I can't BELIEVE I was your … your stupid INSTIGATOR. FUCK. I am a blistering fucking herpe deep in the crook of the devgil himself but at least I have the sense to be done with you FOR GOOD. You're an idiot and I hope you sit here alone and feel sorry for yourself all night!"

"I have nothing to feel sorry for, you – you just don't understand! Also YOU'RE the idiot, I was COMPLIMENTING you on how—"

"IT'S NOT A COMPLIMENT."

"You're no emotional fucking expert, Captor, why the fuck are you—"

"I SAID I'M DONE." Sollux stood up, his hands balled up into fists, squeezing them together tightly. He looked to Karkat with finality. "CLEARLY I MADE A MISTAKE IN BEING YOUR STUPID INSTIGATOR ONCE, BUT I PROMISE I WON'T MAKE IT AGAIN."

"Sollux—"

"SHUT UP KARKAT, JEGUS CHRIGST JUST STOP TALKING FOR ONCE IN YOUR MISERABLE LIFE."

"But—"

Sollux turned away from him again and stepped towards the door, his intense anger still drowning out the obvious and impending sense of rejection and insecurity that hovered just beyond his periphery.

"H-Hey!" Karkat dove forward grabbed Sollux by the arm before he could take another step, pulling his body halfway out from under the blankets. Sollux reeled back at the touch, mistaking it for aggression and dragging Karkat further away from the slab until he was hovering over the ground. Karkat's legs tangled in the bedslab's loose fabric as he tried to find balance. His fingers dug into Sollux's arm and before either could make an adjustment to avoid the impending crash, Karkat tumbled face first toward the ground, one hand still clinging to Sollux's elbow, pulling him down along with him.

"God damnit," Sollux cried as he was dragged down onto a knee, Karkat writhing about next to him. "You fucking spaz!"

Karkat's legs were fully wrapped in the sheet now, and he began clawing desperately at Sollux, attempting to escape from the white cocoon that had enveloped his legs. "What the fuck is this stuff?!" he yelled as he knocked Sollux over onto his back, one hand crushing down on his face. His restrained legs splayed around dramatically, kicking Sollux in various locations.

"What the fuck are you doing?!" he cried as he tried to block the incoming attacks.

"Auuughh!!" Karkat wasn't paying attention to his friend, and pawed at his face once more as he tried to regain his balance and wriggle free of the fabric.

"OK, YOU ARE PUNCHING ME IN THE FACE NOW AND I AM ABOUT TO MURDER YOU," Sollux yelled. Karkat was nonresponsive as he continued to struggle, cursing and waving his various appendages around. Finally, Sollux shoved the wriggling mass next to him as hard as he could.

"Augh!" Karkat rolled away from the shove and came to a stop on his back, his legs wrapped together even tighter than before. With the remnants of his energy he clawed at the material one last time, cursing. He quickly gave up and fell back to the floor, staring up. He exhaled wearily. "I ... I fell."

"WHAT? REALLY? IS THAT WHAT HAPPENED HERE?"

" ... Sorry."

Sollux sighed angrily and adjusted his glasses, making sure they were still intact. "It's like babysitting a mentally handicapped grub with you sometimes, KK."

Karkat only looked to the ceiling, silent and pitiful, as Sollux glared down at him angrily. Finally he sighed once more and rolled his eyes. He still felt sorry for his friend, after all was said and done.

"Okay, stay still; I'll undo another one of your ridiculous messes for you, but then I'm done. For good."

" … I'm sorry."

Sollux ignored him and looked to the tangled bed sheets, examining them for an edge. He briefly considered pulling at it sharply, sending his friend rolling away across the floor. It would be the least of potential revenge tactics he could partake in, considering how much he had been put through.

Karkat slowly hoisted himself up on his arms, looking sad and pathetic with his legs wrapped together. "I'm not going to unfurl you across the floor," he said, assuming Karkat was privy to the more devious thoughts he was having. "Despite how hilarious and well-deserved it would be."

As he reached toward the sheet, a hand grabbed him by the wrist, stopping him mid-air.

"KK, I swear, despite how much I hate you I am just trying to help."

Still he was silent. Sollux looked up to him, noticing the odd response. Karkat was flushed. Despite the slight connection, Sollux felt as though the heat emanating from his cheeks passed through them like an electrical current. Yellow-tinged blood rushed to Sollux's face in response.

"Sorry," he said again.

Though his brain stopped functioning under Karkat's unsure expression, Sollux continued to speak. "Why are you – I'm just trying to – I'm going to leave—" He felt like a headless cluckbeast.

Karkat gave a small tug, swallowing visibly and pulling him closer. Their gazes were locked in mutual fear and uncertainty. As it usually happened when Karkat surprised him in such a way, Sollux's mind was blank, emotions taking over for rational thought. His former anger seemed crushed in immediate anxiety. He fought the urge to continue talking, even nonsensically, to avoid the uncomfortable situation. Perhaps he should say something about Karkat being an idiot? He seemed to recall feeling that quite strongly just a few seconds ago.

Sollux attempted to open his mouth to speak, his non-functioning system of cogent thought convincing him that he should fill the silent room with loud, unnecessary words. No sound came from him except a loud, quick heartbeat that rose up to his ears and filled his senses.

In the back of his mind, drowned out by a complex array of conflicting and confusing emotions and the inability to focus on anything rational or coherent, flashed a reminder that he couldn't let himself do this again.

This time, however, Karkat tugged on his wrist once more, his expression mirroring Sollux's uncertainty. Sollux was pulled forward and they both instinctually closed the gap between them, Karkat pulling the wrist past him as they connected.

Karkat pushed into him roughly and desperately, his lips still awkwardly struggling to find the best position. Sollux no longer cared. He pressed back, nearly knocking them both over from his position above. Karkat gripped Sollux's arm tightly, pulling him closer.

The jumbled thoughts continued to flow through Sollux without reason, his heart beating so fast and loud that he worried he would wake the entire lab with the incessant pounding. Karkat's body was tense against him. In the few microseconds they had been connected, one thought managed to take shape in his mind. I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM GIVING IN SO FUCKING QUICKLY.

They simultaneously broke the connection for a moment, barely separating past the tips of their noses, as they exchanged a close, worried look. Karkat's expression was still one of frantic uncertainty. The tightness in Sollux's stomach was nearly unbearable. He wondered if his entire body was shaking from his intense anxiety. It was mildly comforting, though it translated to very little in his racing mind, that Karkat was equally and visibly nervous as well.

He shouldn't be doing this, Sollux thought. He was so angry, so utterly done with his friend for once. He would end up saying something horrible once this was over, Sollux knew that. He knew this had to be a mistake, a stupid misunderstanding, putting himself on the line again just to face Karkat's harsh words once more. How could he be so stupid? So easily manipulated? So stupid. Everything was stupid. Stupid Karkat and stupid emotions. He couldn't do this again. He couldn't make the same exact mistake twice!

"Sol-"

Sollux flung himself forward as he tried to speak, kissing him once more, both out of a desire for the connection and a desire to keep his friend from saying anything else that might ruin the moment. It was an effective method, and Karkat brought his free hand to the back of his head, pulling him closer.

God damnit, he thought as his mind began to settle, relaxing into the surprisingly reciprocated connection.

When they finally parted once more, Karkat looked void of all possible annoying responses. Sollux welcomed the blankness, though it meant he was left to his own thoughts. Karkat's expression was unreadable. He stared at Sollux blankly for a moment before breaking into a more familiar expression of unnecessary anger. Sollux's stomach wrung itself as he braced for the callous denial.

"OK, I WILL CLAIM INSTIGATORSHIP FOR THIS IF WE CAN JUST FORGET EVERYTHING I JUST SAID."

Sollux blinked at the unusual response. " … Okay."

They remained still until Karkat began to look uncomfortable once more. "Do you hate me now?"

Sollux was barely able to process the words. "Really? … Shut up."

"I'm sorry," he said, looking away. "but … do you … what if you … I guess … maybe … stayed here. Instead of going back to your room. Because it's … late. And someone might see you in the hall. I mean, if you want."

Sollux frowned. "That's a terrible reason, but … yeah, OK."

He was still avoiding eye contact. "Cool."

The situation hit Sollux hard and he dropped his head down, sighing heavily. "Oh my god I cannot BELIEVE how fucking easily I give into you sometimes."

"Well, I am basically a fucking expert on romance."

Sollux shot him a look. Karkat turned flush once more.

"OK, sorry, I will shut up now."

 

-------

 

Sollux barely remembered falling asleep. While it was true that they argued incessantly and pointlessly for quite some time, wrestling and struggling against each other in a way that satisfied their dual needs to drain out their remaining frustration with each other and the now- unspoken desire for some sort of physical connection, they eventually came to a position of rest.

Karkat fell asleep with one hand on Sollux's face, mid-sentence, as he tried to push his head away to stop him from his unending listing of all the stupid shit that proved he was a better programmer than Karkat. Sollux followed suit, his mouth gaping open, drooling onto the slab as he drifted off trying to put to words just how badly Karkat sucked.

Though they were splayed out gawkily, limbs twisted and bodies stacked in a position that should have been uncomfortable, they both passed out, sleeping heavily for the first time since they had arrived in the Medium.

After an unknown amount of time, Sollux blearily opened one eye as one of Karkat's fingers began approaching a nostril. He grumbled sleepily as he tried to bat the hand away. Karkat mumbled a few nonsense words, refusing to move. Sollux forced his eyes open fully to try and find a better place for the hand. As his eyes adjusted to the room and his vision focused slightly, he thought he could see the outline of a figure standing next to the bed. He blinked furiously and as the outline refused to dissipate he shot up, jostling Karkat violently from their entwined position.

"Oh, hey bro," was Gamzee's voice. "I didn't know you were here."

"What—What—" Sollux stared at the other Troll, his brain refusing to make the proper connections.

Karkat tried to sit up, half asleep, to smack at Sollux. "Fucking … stop moving."

"Aw shit man, I'm sorry I had to fuckin' wake you up like this."

Karkat's eyes fluttered open slowly, and as he turned to face the uninvited voice, Sollux could see the muscles in his face tighten. He shot up as well.

"What … What the FUCK ARE YOU DOING IN HERE?!"

Gamzee laughed. "Shit bro, I really fuckin' didn't mean to get you all riled!"

Karkat's eyes were bulging. "GET – GET OUT OF MY ROOM!"

Sollux's usual insecurity was once again masked by a stronger emotion: utter shock.

"Haha, I'm real motherfuckin' sorry! I just thought you might be awake. I was hell of all caught up in thinkin' about shit and wanted to come over to rap with you. I guess my man Sollux beat me to it."

Karkat turned to face Sollux, his mouth hanging open.

Sollux wasn't sure how to respond, but Karkat's desperate expression was begging him to do the talking. "I'm not – I didn't – I didn't come to … we're not – I mean, I was just … I had to pee, and so I ended up –"

Gamzee laughed once more, waving a hand at him as though to dismiss the pathetic excuse. "Shit brother, you know it's all good in the hood. I just thought our little Karkles here seemed all on edge lately so I wanted to be there for him like a real bro, but you're way better at doin' that for him than me! This is exactly what we were hopin' would happen, after all!"

Karkat continued to boggle, his mind visibly racing to try and decide which aspect of Gamzee's insanity to comment on first. "K-Karkles?!"

Gamzee looked off into the distance, ignoring him. "I mean, when I was talkin' to Tavros earlier we were all 'shit dude, is there any way we can help them relax and just do what they clearly want to be doin'?'"

Sollux could no longer speak. Luckily, Karkat was there for him. "WHAT?!"

"Nepeta had some ideas, 'cause that little juggalette is just the bomb-ass shitnasty at all this romance shit! But then you guys both seemed all motherfuckin' twisted up and shit today so we didn't know what to do. That's when I asked Terezi, 'cause she seems to have you down fuckin' pat!"

Sollux briefly wondered how Karkat hadn't imploded yet. "OH MY GOD."

"She said it wouldn't be any fuckin' use to talk to you all straight up and shit, but I was all 'Nah, Karkat is fuckin golden, I bet if I just approached him all straight and shit, he'd respect that."

"MAKARA WE HAVE MADE IT THROUGH A FUCKING LOT LATELY, I REALLY WOULD HATE TO HAVE TO DISMEMBER YOUR FUCKING GRUESOME BODY AFTER SO MANY NEAR DEATH ENCOUNTERS JUST TO THROW YOUR SICK LITTLE PAINTED BITS OUT INTO THE FUCKING BLEAKNESS OF SPACE."

"Haha, wow bro, you really went from all chill to fuckin' crazy at fuckin' light speed, there! Vriska said you would probably flip the fuck out if I asked you all directly, but she doesn't really think you do much other than that anyway! That's when Eridan was like--"

"GET OUT."

"Hey bro, it's cool! No need to get all worked up and shit, I'll leave you two alone! Everyone's gonna be real motherfuckin' happy when I tell them about this tomorrow, though! Feferi said she'd even fuckin' throw you a bomb-ass party if you guys ever finally fessed up!"

"Oh my god," Karkat fell backwards onto the slab, covering his eyes with his hands.

"Sorry again, my brothers. Get some fuckin' sleep, yeah?" Gamzee waved, smiling. Karkat let his arms fall to his sides as he stared up at the ceiling vacantly, his mouth still open. Sollux hadn't moved in some time. Gamzee turned to walk happily to the door, casting one final, fatherly look back at them as he shut it behind him.

Sollux exhaled loudly once they were alone. Karkat was silent. His mouth was still open.

He wasn't sure where to start. There was too much information. Too much. He was overloaded yet again. Finally one thought came through, and Sollux looked down to Karkat. "Nothing ever really works out in our favor, does it?"

He snapped his jaw shut, his eyes narrowing in anger as he thought over the question. "No. No it doesn't. Everything sucks. Also I hate it."

Sollux sighed wearily and fell back onto the slab as well, looking up to the ceiling along with Karkat. "Well … I don't hate you, KK."

The other troll echoed his sigh. "I don't hate you either, I guess."

"So what should we do?"

"Murder them. All of them."

"Okay."

"But first, maybe we should sleep more. To build up strength."

"Yeah, we'll need a lot of strength for all the murdering."

"Indeed."

Sollux couldn't help but laugh. Karkat growled and grabbed him by the arm, forcibly twisting and contorting his body around. He plopped himself down on top once a suitably entangled position was found. "Shut up."

Sollux struggled to bring his face out from being buried in the soft slab, finding cool air at last. They fell asleep once more in the horribly malformed position.