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-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --

CG: NO.
CG: OH MY FUCKING GOD NO.
CG: JUST.
CG: FUCK THIS.
CG: IT IS BULLSHIT.
CG: THIS.
CG: IS.
CG: COMPLETE.
CG: BULLSHIT.
CG: JOHN.
CG: WAKE THE FUCK BACK UP.
CG: RIGHT FUCKING NOW.
CG: YOU DON’T GET TO FUCKING DIE.
CG: YOU DON’T GET TO RUIN EVERYTHING
CG: SINGLEHANDEDLY OPEN UP THE VALVE ON A SPEWING TORRENT OF RANCID BLACK DIARRHEA ON YOURSELF AND US AND EVERYONE
CG: AND THEN DIE.
CG: THAT IS JUST FUCKING SICK.
CG: YOU ARE A SICK FREAK OF NATURE AND YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO DIE.
CG: NOT. FUCKING. ALLOWED.
CG: I DON’T GIVE A GLITTERING THREE-EYED FUCK IF YOU JUST GOT A SWORD RUN THROUGH YOU, YOU GET YOUR SQUISHY PINK NOOK UP AND AWAKE RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.
CG: ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME, BULGEBITE?
CG: GET THE FUCK UP.
CG: WAKE UP!

-- ectoBiologist [EB] is now an idle chum! --

CG: OH GOD.
CG: OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD OH MY FUCKING GOD.
CG: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU.
CG: WAKE UP!
CG: YOU FUCKING MISERABLE SHITSMEAR!
CG: DON’T FUCKING DIE!
CG: JOHN
CG: OH GOD
CG: OH
CG: GOD

You waste more than six minutes on this tomfoolery. Then you remember that you just saw him—just talked to him!—a couple of hours ahead in the timeline. Of course he isn’t dead. You feel like a big fat idiot for even thinking he was.

It isn’t your fault. Not for being so fucking terrifi—well, so fucking jarred. It was the blood. Bright red blood. Glaringly red. It still freaks you the hell out every time, despite it not even being yours—you thought he was maybe pulling some kind of joke. That was right up this kid’s bulge, right? With the stupid ass jokes which weren’t funny?

The fireflies descended.

You needed a second to overcome the fact that your fingers had turned to claws of ice—a few more to overcome the powerful shaking that gripped you. And then you screamed. Not literally, you weren’t going to make a jackass of yourself in front of the rest of your teammates, but you screamed at him via text. It was close enough. Maybe if you screamed enough it’d quell the taste of bile welling up in the back of your throat.

And then you came back to your senses and felt like a big, fat, bulgesucking idiot.

And now? You are just straight-up pissed off. That is pretty much your reaction to everything, actually.

A light graze of fingers against your shoulder sets your twitch reaction off—your fist swings around before the rest of you does. A girlish voice yelps.

You gasp. “Oh fuck Kanaya that was you. Shit.”

She laughs haltingly, rubbing her arm. “It didn’t hurt that much. I just wish you would learn not to do that.”

Your head is fucking reeling right now. You can’t think straight, let alone hold a coherent conversation. “Can you—just—do me a damn favor and piss off right now? I’m not in the fucking mood—”

“That was… actually partly the reason I meant to talk to you,” she admits. “You looked… a little tense.”

“Well you know what? I am upset, okay? And the dead last fucking thing I need right now is a meddling meddler who meddles a lot coming between me and myself, okay?”

The remark stings her. “And here I thought you arguing with your future selves was awkward,” she manages to quip all the same.

“God damn it you know what I mean.”

“Yes,” she says. “I know exactly what you mean.”

Her hand comes to light on your shoulder again, and this time you welcome it. It soothes you, for a moment. She just has that innate quality. If you believed in miracles like the clown asshole, you would call her a miracle worker. You don’t, and she’s not. A more appropriate descriptor would be… an anchor. One you’ve long needed.

“Nobody…” You hesitate. “Nobody saw that, did they?”

“No. Everyone is busy pursuing their own odd plans,” she says. “And you’re lucky nobody saw this either.” With her finger, she swats away a droplet of moisture from your cheek. Crimson.

You start. “Fuck, Kanaya, get out...!”

“All right, all right.” She doesn’t. “Just—please, for your sake, do not allow yourself to be carried away… caring too much. It is a waste of your time and your stamina and your… feelings.”

“What the hell gave you the impression that I cared?” Your fuse goes off again. “I was doing the exact opposite of caring. I did not give a shit. I was and am utterly failing to give a shit. Do you see me sitting here in a twisted constipated knot of lack-of-giving-a-shitness?”

Ceding the last word to you, she only laughs dimly as she retreats.

You don’t give a shit. You never have and never will give a shit about this puny disgrace to his puny disgrace of a species, outside the area of his completely fucking your life over. Yeah, that is one good reason to give a shit, but other than that? He’s a maggot. Not worth your time or emotion.

You glare angrily at the pool of crimson that continues to bloom on the screen. God, how you hate it. You hate it so much. Look at him lying there. All bleeding out and impudent.

Anyway, you reason, he has a dreamself, right? Even if it isn’t active yet—you can’t remember if he told you whether it was active not. It had better be active after all this bullshit. Even if it’s not, well, all he needs to do is get smooched, right? That’s how it all came out the last time you saw that happen… son of a fuck. You are pretty sure you just openly cringed. Yeah, you don’t want to have to watch that twice.

You waste another six minutes sitting there watching the screen waiting for a passing necrophiliac to traipse by and plant one on the dumb dead nookstain.

You drum your fingers on the spacebar.

Come on, jackass.

Time moves so agonizingly slow you can hear the blood bubble through your own veins. Thin and red. Spilling.

Fucking hell, if you watch any longer, he might start to rot before your very eyes. Good luck getting kissed like that, jackass.

You are going to skip to the end. Or at least a part where he is not obviously dead. You should have just done that in the first place. But you are an idiot. Past you is an idiot. And so, most likely, is future you. Five seconds from now you will be as much of an idiot as you were five seconds ago.

Regardless.

You skip ahead, and there he is, lazily a-strollin’ o’er a field of spinning gears as embers float up in his wake, with a big fat herp of a blunt-toothed grin on his derp of a face. Almost as if he didn’t even notice he just died. You want to fucking throttle him.

You start trolling him and you can’t even find the words. Just. Rage. Endless fiery torrents of it. Hot fire surges through you and your fingers shake.

-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --

CG: YOU
CG: KNOW
CG: THAT YOU ARE A WORTHLESS PIECE OF SHIT
CG: DON'T YOU?
EB: oh hi karkat!

So. Much. Rage.

CG: YES. “HI.”
CG: NOOKSUCK.
EB: it's been awhile huh?
EB: maybe not from your end i guess.
EB: unless you are back to trolling me turn-ways now?
CG: WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN.
EB: well i just now noticed that you didn't react when i called you by name.
EB: which karkat am i talking to now, late-past-karkat or early-future-karkat?
EB: by that i mean the karkat who talked to me later in my past or the one who is talking to me earlier in my future.
CG: WHAT IN THE HELL ARE THOSE BULLSHIT DISTINCTIONS EVEN SUPPOSED TO SIGNIFY.
CG: THEY MEAN NOTHING.
CG: YOU HAVE NO GRASP OF THE TEMPORAL MECHANICS OF THIS AT ALL.
CG: STOP TRYING TO ACT LIKE YOU UNDERSTAND SHIT ABOUT SHIT WHEN YOU DON'T ACTUALLY KNOW SHIT.
EB: haha, wow, you are really mad today! who peed in your cornflakes this morning?
EB: although, are you really madder than usual? maybe that was the wrong question to ask just now.
CG: NO, JOHN, THAT WAS IN FACT THE CORRECT QUESTION TO ASK.
CG: YOU MAY CLING TO THAT MISERABLE SCRAP OF CORRECTNESS IN THE STEAMING PILE OF FAILURE THAT IS YOUR LIFE.
CG: THE ANSWER IS YOU, JOHN.
CG: YOU WERE THE ONE WHO DECIDED TO URINATE INTO MY MORNING BOWL OF TOASTED CORN PRODUCT.
CG: YOU ARE THE CORNFLAKE-PISSER.
CG: IT IS YOU.
EB: um okay?
CG: NO, JOHN.
CG: IT IS NOT.
CG: FUCKING.
CG: OKAY.
EB: hey, are you all right?
CG: OH MY FUCKING GOD.
CG: DID YOU NOT NOTICE THAT YOU JUST GOT FUCKING KILLED?

He just sort of stands there staring at the screen like an antlerbeast in headlights for a moment and you want to just punch the pathetic blunt teeth right out of his fucking face. Everything he does is stupid.

You feel something foul begin to bubble up in your veins. Rich and thick and black as tar. Something you thought you’d long put to rest.

EB: oh.
EB: ... oh!
CG: YES. OH.
CG: YOUR DELAYED REACTION THERE WAS SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL, BY THE WAY.
CG: A GLIMMERING EXAMPLE OF EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.
EB: oh, you saw that, huh?
CG: GLAD I DON'T NEED TO SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU AFTER ALL.
EB: yeah. i guess that was not really my best moment.
EB: you didn't need to worry though! i just fused with my dreamself, that was all.
EB: i guess that, all things considered, it was pretty easy!
EB: and now i guess i'm like jesus or something?
EB: i forget if i told you who that is already. so scratch that.
EB: anyway, i guess that made me the official heir of breath or something now!
EB: with the official duds and everything!
EB: behold my robes! haha!

Hate.

So. Much. Hate.

CG: YOU KNOW
CG: YOU COULD AT LEAST HAVE THE DECENCY TO ACT LIKE IT HURT.
EB: but...
EB: it didn't hurt! i was asleep.
CG: HOW IN THE SWEET PROLAPSED FUCK DO YOU SLEEP THROUGH A SWORD GETTING RUN THROUGH YOU?
EB: you don't feel real-world things when you're asleep.
EB: er, waking world things.
EB: it's science or something. i read it in an article!
CG: I HOPE YOU REALIZE YOU ARE A FUCKING WASTE OF FLESH.
EB: sorry if i scared you or something.
CG: SCARED?
CG: DON'T FUCKING PROJECT ON ME.
CG: I AM THE OPPOSITE OF SCARED.
CG: BUT APPARENTLY SOMEBODY NEEDS TO LOOK AFTER YOUR DUMB BUMBLING ASS AND THAT LUCKLESS SON OF A BITCH IS ME.
CG: YOU ARE A DEFORMED DIAPER-SHITTING GRUB, AND I AM THE NURSEGROWTH WHO HAS TO WATCH YOU FLAIL ABOUT UNTIL YOU SELF-ABORT.
CG: THAT IS US, JOHN. THAT IS OUR GREASY STAIN OF A RELATIONSHIP.
EB: heh, i didn't know you cared, karkat!
CG: I. DO. NOT. CARE.
CG: HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO FUCKING EXPLAIN THAT TODAY.
CG: WHAT A HELL OF AN EGO YOU HAVE
CG: TO PRESUME THAT YOU ARE EVEN WORTH CARING ABOUT.
CG: YOU ARE WORTHLESS.
CG: YOUR ENTIRE EXISTENCE IS INHERENTLY WITHOUT VALUE.
CG: INHERENTLY HATEABLE.
CG: YOU WERE BORN TO BE HATED AND WILL DIE HATED.
CG: ALSO YOU ARE ADOPTED.
EB: gosh karkat, are you coming on to me?

You sit there and gape.

How does he—how the fuck does he even understand what that is? What in the fuck is he trying to play at?

Fuck fuck fuck. Every single fuck. All of the fucks.

Just—

EB: hey are you even still there?
EB: haha, i was just joking!
EB: it was funny!
EB: right?
CG: WHY WOULD YOU EVEN THINK THAT?
CG: JUST
CG: WHAT IN THE HELL?
CG: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?
EB: is this that blackrom thing you are always talking about?
CG: WHAT THE FUCK OH GOD NO IT IS NOT.
CG: WHY WOULD YOU EVEN PURSUE THAT TRAIN OF THOUGHT?
CG: YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT KIND OF THING.
CG: STOP ACTING LIKE YOU DO.
EB: okay so what is it then?
CG: QUITE SIMPLY? IT IS ME CHASTISING YOU FOR YOUR UTTER FAILURE OF AN EXISTENCE. THAT'S WHAT.
EB: funny...

He doesn't respond for a while. He needs a moment to dispatch an imp that has been creeping behind him. He does so nigh-effortlessly, despite the imp's unholy space-warping powers. You can feel the veins in your eyeballs throb.

EB: i don't feel like a failure!
EB: i actually feel pretty rad!
CG: YOUR FEELINGS ARE LIARS.
CG: FEELINGS ARE BULLSHIT.
CG: YOU ARE STILL THE SAME WITHERED BULGEPIPE YOU WERE BEFORE YOU LET A DOG-DEMON STAB YOU THROUGH YOUR VENTRAL PLATE.
CG: AND NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE THAT.
CG: GOOD JOB.
EB: hey. karkat.
CG: FUCKING. WHAT.
EB: i'm really sorry.
For the second time in as many minutes, you sit there and gape like an idiot.

What is wrong with this kid?

Who the fuck apologizes for dying?

EB: for scaring you like that, I mean.
EB: i really didn't mean to frighten you.
EB: i'm okay. i promise.
CG: STUPID PIECE OF SHIT.
CG: WHAT THE FUCK HAVE YOU GOT TO APOLOGIZE FOR?
CG: YOU DIED PAINLESSLY.

He doesn’t respond to that right away. When he does, he chooses his response (more accurately lack thereof) quite delicately.

EB: ...
CG: SLEEPING LIKE A WIGGLER.
CG: NOT A THING TO FEEL BUT SWEET DREAMS.
CG: I HAVE TO SAY, YOU PRETTY MUCH LUCKED OUT IN THE DEATH DEPARTMENT.
CG: AND THEN YOU ASCENDED, EXACTLY THE WAY YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO.
CG: YOU SOLVED THE MYSTERY.
CG: YOU DESERVE A GOD DAMN MEDAL.
EB: uh.
CG: I'M NOT EVEN BEING INSINCERE.
CG: YOU DID IT.
CG: YOU FIGURED OUT WHAT PRETTY MUCH EVERY OTHER JERK DIDN'T.
CG: UP TO AND INCLUDING MYSELF.
EB: but...
EB: i didn't really figure it out, though...
EB: i had help. from one of your friends, even!
CG: ALL THE SAME.

It’s perfectly warm in the facility, but you’re shivering. So is he.

CG: YOU'RE SOME KIND OF DEITY NOW.
CG: DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR THAT. BE PROUD OF YOURSELF.
CG: I MEAN THAT, NOOKSTAIN.
EB: um.
EB: thank you?
EB: and.
EB: well.
CG: SPIT IT OUT ALREADY.
EB: uh.
EB: i guess i get a feeling that…
EB: this is kind of... really sensitive for you?
EB: i dunno.
CG: NO. YES.
CG: I MEANT YES. EXACTLY. NOW YOU ARE GETTING IT.
CG: WITH THAT IN MIND, LET’S PUT THIS DISCUSSION OUT BACK AND SHOOT IT.
CG: FORGET IT EVER HAPPENED.
CG: DELETE THIS LOG.
CG: WHILE YOU'RE AT IT, DELETE THE LAST LOG TOO.
CG: YOU MIGHT NOT'VE SEEN IT YET. IF YOU VALUE YOUR HEAD IT'LL STAY THAT WAY.
CG: GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE.
EB: hey wait a second!

-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB] --

You’re still staring at the screen as you close the chat, and he just stands there kind of dumbfounded. Fuck him. Fuck his stupid eyeballs right out of his face with a rusty drill. And twofold for yourself. God. Dammit. All the shit you thought you’d gotten over and there it was, bare-ass naked streaking through the whole conversation. Look at how transparent you are. You are so transparent you wrap right around again to being opaquely dense. And all for what?

Your entire existence is inherently without value. You are the failure. It is you.

You slump back. Somebody touches you and you don’t even care. You sink into the touch as it begins to knead away the stress that has seized your neck.

“Fuck,” you lament, “why am I the most humiliating pile of shit that ever rolled out of the mother grub’s cloaca?”

“It is hard, Karkat,” Kanaya tells you, tones of pity warming her voice. Her tender fingers brush away the sting in your eye. “Being a kid and growing up.”

It is hard.

And nobody understands.