Nepeta had always been a pretty easy kid to raise. She was happy, kind, empathetic, caring, and had definitely picked up on her fathers manners. It was honestly lucky that a guy as, well, on edge as Pickle Inspector ended up with such a pleasant child. If he had one like Dick's, that broke everything, or like Clubs Deuce's, that screamed all the time? He'd have lost it ages ago. But as it was, aside from the odd emotional meltdowns that all children have, Nepeta was a lovely child to raise.
But then she discovered boys.
At first it was just kind of cute. She'd do up little charts to show which of her friends she thought would go well together, draw cute pictures, it was really sweet. But then the Inspector noticed she was excluding herself from all the pictures. There was never a single one of her, never a pairing including herself. But then there was never one including Slick's boy either.
He'd deduced her attraction to Karkat ages ago, and had written it off as a little crush. Not a big deal, not an issue. She and Karkat were friends, and as unpleasant as he was, he was always somewhat polite to her. The Inspector saw no problem. Then came the day Nepeta slammed the door on her way in. The Inspector flinched at the sudden, loud noise, rising from his seat.
“Nepeta, you shouldn't-”
“I need to dye my hair!” She blurted out, suddenly, and the Inspector was taken aback for a moment, because she was yelling, and she'd interrupted him. Nepeta never did either of those things. She knew better. He began to wring his hands.
“N-Nepeta, that was-”
“Rude, I know.” She was clearly set to go on an all out rant, out of breath from having ran home, bright red hair surely a mess where she kept it under her hat and cat ears. “I know, but this is impurrtant, daddy, please!” The Inspector took a deep breath, hands squeezing together for a still moment, before resuming twisting around each other.
“W-why on earth would you- you want to dye your hair? I-it's a lovely shade of r-red-” He was at a loss. Nepeta had always seemed to be so happy with herself before, had always beamed when Kanaya had complimented her freckles and ginger hair. She was just plain adorable, she knew she was, why would she- “Has someone been teasing you?” He asked suddenly, almost sternly. Nepeta just seemed exasperated.
“No- No, no one's been teasing me. Look, can't you just...” She gestured vaguely, but the Inspector needed to get to the bottom of this. If someone was making fun of his daughter...
“You can dye your hair.” He conceded, but cut off her joy promptly. “If you t-t-tell me what's brought this on so suddenly.” She deflated at that. She didn't want to tell him, but she knew he could tell if she lied. She took off her hat, wringing it in her hands nervously. It was quiet for a very long moment, Nepeta picking over the words in her head, and the Inspector waiting patiently. Finally, after a long while, she spoke, too quietly to hear.
“Karkat hates the colour red!” She blurted, loud and clear, her hat twisted in her hands and looking on the verge of tears. “He- He said so, during lunch today. Someone said they liked his eyes, and he started yelling about how much he hated the colour red and how awful it was and-” She sniffled, looking away, obviously trying to maintain her composure. She hadn't gotten that from him. That was from spending time with the Megido girl. The Inspector sighed, stepped forward and pulling her into a hug. She returned it immediately. Nepeta was an affectionate child, and usually required such gestures when she was upset.
“You know h-he's sensitive about his... condition.” He was sure dealing with other children was hard enough without something like albinism for them to target. “He was probably just speaking out of frustration.”
“I wanna dye it.” She insisted, voice thick with tears. “He hates it. I don't want him to hate me.” The Inspector sighed, and assured her Karkat wouldn't hate her, but after she had calmed down he took her out to buy some dye anyway. He wasn't sure it was entirely responsible to let a 9 year old dye her hair, but she was smiling again.
Three years later, a similar scene. Slammed door, emotionally distressed pre-teen, cap pulled tight over long, messy hair. It was getting down past her mid-back now, and was impossibly tangled. She and Aradia had been growing it out together, a ploy to keep Droog from cutting Aradia's off (“But Nepeta gets to grow her hair out!”).
“I need a hair cut!” She announced immediately. The Inspector looked up from his crossword puzzle with a vaguely confused look.
“Yes, I know, I've been s-saying so for months now.” Well, no, he hadn't. If Nepeta wanted her hair obscenely long, that was her choice. He just wished it wasn't so hard to re-dye at such a length. “Why the ch-change of heart?” Unlike those years ago, Nepeta was more composed. She crossed her arms, leaned her weight on one leg. A confident stance, learned from Serket. The Inspector wanted to chew at his nails, but was trying to break the habit, knowing how Droog hated it.
“I'm sick of it.” She shrugged. “It's heavy, it's in the way, I want it gone.” The tone wasn't her own either. Also Serket's, he guessed. Nepeta was a confident child, but not as obnoxiously so as she was trying to seem. The Inspector was not moved, but instead very bothered by his daughters behavior.
“N-nepeta you can c-cut your hair if you w-w-want to I ju-just-"” What was the right way to say this? “I want t-to make sure you want to- that you're not d-doing this because someone m-made you think you h-have to.” The disarmed her, relaxed her stance, made her act a little more like herself. The Inspector finally cracked and started chewing at his thumbnail.
“I know, daddy, and I appreciate that, but I purromise that this is what I want. It gets all over the tables when a draw, it gets caught in trees when we play in the woods, I need something more practical.” The Inspector didn't quite buy it, but if this was what she really wanted... He sighed, and stood from his seat, heading to the phone to call in an appointment. It wasn't a fancy salon or anything, he couldn't afford that, but they did better than he would.
It wasn't until they were actually there, and she got it cut, that he figured out the real reason. She'd gotten it done just like Terezi's.
The rest of 12 was just as hard, just as heart-breaking. Nepeta didn't let her infatuation control her life. Didn't change who she was, didn't stop doing things she liked or start doing things she didn't. But it was very obvious she wanted Karkat to like her back, and what youngster doesn't wish that their crush would notice them? However, around the age of 13, Nepeta seemed to have a sort of realization.
“Daddy, can I go to the movies tonight?” She asked when she came home one Friday afternoon. The Inspector was pouring over his most recent case files, trying to piece together what had happened. It was obviously Droog's work, so nothing to be done about it, but he needed to know he could solve it. He knew it was rude, but he didn't look up when he answered.
“With whom?” He asked, flipping a page, listening as she dropped her bag off against the wall and headed to the kitchen to unpack whatever was left in her lunch bag.
“Karkat!” Okay, that made him look up.
“K-k-k-kkkkk-” Remember to breathe, Inspector. “Karkat?” It came out as little more than a squeak, and he wet his lips nervously, twisting his hands around each other.
“Yeah!” God, she was positively glowing.
“As a-a d-d-d-date?” Oh no. Ooooh no. It would be great if the feelings were reciprocated, that'd be amazing, but- But holy shit. Holy shit he could not have the safe sex talk, and then the break up situation, the fallout whenever Karkat decided to date someone else afterwards, oh god what if that idiot boy knocked her up-
“Oh no, just as friends!” The Inspectors heart attack came to an abrupt halt.
“A-as friends? But... just the two of you?” That was... a bit suspicious.
“Uh huh! There's this new romcom out, and none of our other friends liked them, so after school I caught up with him and asked if he wanted to go see it with me! Now, I did mention that it could be a date if he wanted it to be. He said he didn't like me like that, which I knew, so I just said that's fine, did he want to go as furiends anyway, and he did!” She... sounded so genuinely happy about that. About him telling her that he didn't like her.
“And you're... really okay with that?” The Inspector was completely at a loss.
“Of course! I realized, I like spending time with him anyway, so why do I need to be dating him to enjoy his company? We can be friends, we can hang out. It'd be amazing if we dated, but I can be happy without that, and he clearly is. So as long as we're both happy, what does it matter?” She was done putting everything away, and closed the final cupboard with her last word. “The movie starts at 6, and I promise I'll be home by curfew!”
She ran off to her room, and Pickle Inspector was still speechless half an hour later.
God, Nepeta was an easy kid to raise.