You are Rose Lalonde, and John has come to you for advice.
“Because you know you love it when people come to you for advice, Rose. Don’t even deny it! I can see that little twinkle in your eye right now,” he says, pointing at what you assume must be said twinkle.
“You’ve caught me.” You hold your hands up in mock defeat as a wry smile crosses your face. “Now what is the problem for which you require my expertise? Are you feeling some form of emotional or mental distress? Shall I pull out my notepad?”
John glances off to the side, chewing on his lower lip for a moment as he considers his question. You wait patiently. No need to rush him – that would just be more likely to cause him to back out of whatever it is he’s seeking your guidance for.
“Uh, well. No. Not really.” He looks up at you, his brow furrowed slightly. “It’s just... you know how the trolls don’t really get our human… uh, sexuality?” He mutters this last word, embarrassed to say it.
“Ah, because their culture does not have any sense of gender preference. I am quite aware of that, yes. Why do you ask?” You have a feeling you know. John is not as subtle as he might believe.
“Oh.” He acts as though he’s surprised you would even think of asking. “Uh, I guess I’m just wondering, then. If that means that our – what’d you call it? Gender preference?” You nod. “Yeah. If that doesn’t apply to them? Because it’s a human thing and not an alien thing?”
You quirk your lips slightly. “So you’re curious as to whether or not liking a male troll would make you homosexual?”
“Yes! Er, yeah, sort of. Also if liking a girl troll is still heterosexual, too. Because they’re aliens, so it… sort of isn’t the same, right?”
“Well, I suppose that would be true if they were a more androgynous species,” you explain. “However, they appear to hold very similar cultural standards of gender to humans, including secondary and tertiary sex differences. You could not easily mistake Kanaya for a boy, just as there is very little chance that Karkat could be misconstrued as female.” You raise your eyebrows at him. “So to be attracted to a female troll would still make you straight, and vice versa.”
“Oh…” He scratches the back of his neck, avoiding your eyes. “Guess I lied then…”
You raise your eyebrows. “About what?”
John jumps now, as though suddenly realizing what he let slip. “Oh, nothing!” he says quickly. “Uh, thanks Rose!” And he leaves you be.
You shake your head and smile.
You are Jade Harley and you are being glared at by an ornery troll. You simply glare right back. You may not be nearly as opposed to Karkat’s presence as you were when he was just a wall of capslocked gray text to you, but that does not mean that you will take his bad behavior lying down.
“Jade,” he growls at you. You would growl back, but you’re pretty sure that his growling is his natural tone, and you don’t want to insult him. Not unless he’s insulted you first.
“Yes, Karkat?” You decide to go with a sweet voice to compensate his growling.
He continues to glare at you for a moment, his eyes narrowing suspiciously, as though he’s sizing you up. “OK, what I’m about to ask you is going to be embarrassing and demeaning for the both of us, but just bear with me, because I don’t see any other fucking way I can get this accomplished.”
You raise your eyebrows, your glare breaking as your curiosity takes over. This is coming from the same troll who told you that you needed to finish making out with yourself – in comparison, you don’t know what could be classified as “embarrassing and demeaning.” You’re almost not sure if you want to find out, but you just can’t help yourself.
“What is it?” you ask. Karkat breaks his glare, looking away as his cheeks flush red.
“I- I want you to watch a romantic comedy with me.”
You have to bite down hard on your lip so that you do not collapse into giggles. What comes out instead is a series of embarrassing snorts, which does not help Karkat’s bashfulness. He starts up his glare again, and you quickly try to calm yourself down enough to give him a straight answer.
“Why?” you ask, barely forcing the word out before you have to cover your mouth with your hand. He narrows his eyes at you before answering.
“I want to understand you humans better so I can be a better leader, and the first way to do that is to try and wrap my infinitely superior think pan around your idiotic human romance. The quickest way to do that is to force myself to watch your pathetic human cinema, even if doing so will make me want to gouge my eyes out with one of your ridiculous three-pronged eating utensils.”
You finally feel the need to laugh at Karkat diminish, and you remove your hand from your mouth so you can try to communicate with him on more rational terms. “I’m not actually that good with movies,” you explain. “Maybe you could ask John though? He loves movies, so I’m sure he would have some good romantic comedies!”
By the look on Karkat’s face when you mention this, it as though you have suggested he strip off all of his clothing and go dunk himself into a vat of boiling liquid. You have to restrain yourself from laughing again.
“But if you insist, I guess I can dig something up…”
You are Kanaya Maryam and you are not entirely sure why this hum- John has sought you out. He tracks you down while you are working on stitching a scarf up for Rose, pulling up a chair so that he can sit across from you.
“Hey Kanaya!” he greets, grinning his usual buck-toothed grin at you. “Mind if I sit here and watch for a bit?”
“I suppose not,” you respond, glancing up at him with your eyebrows raised. “Though I’m afraid that I won’t be doing much of interest.”
“That’s alright. I just kind of want to get away from something,” he assures you, and then he sits and watches.
It quickly becomes clear to you, however, that John Egbert is incapable of watching quietly, and he frequently interrupts you to start chatting and asking questions. Who is that scarf for? How did you learn to sew? Does having horns make it harder to be fashionable? Then, finally, he asks a question so out of the blue that you nearly drop everything you’re doing.
“How do you tell whether somebody is in hate with you or in love with you?”
You simply stare at him for a moment, unsure of how to respond. John picks up on this quickly, and he elaborates. “Just, I know that trolls have quadrants and that you have your hate crushes and your hate dates along with your normal crushes and normal dates. And I just want to know the difference, I guess? Like, how do you know if you’ve gone on a hate date instead of a… a love-date, I guess?”
You continue to work. “I’m not the expert on affairs of romance, I’m afraid, unless you’re looking for an auspitice. Have you tried asking Karkat? He has shared with me many theories on the matter that you might find enlightening.” You pause again, glancing up to read John’s expression. He avoids your gaze.
“I think that would kind of defeat the purpose,” he mutters. You raise your eyebrows, tempted to ask, but you don’t wish to meddle. If this does involve Karkat, then he will tell you later. You don’t want to accidentally get roped into yet another auspitice relationship by trying to console John, who you hardly know.
“I suppose I’ll do my best then to explain then. Having never been involved in a kismesissitude or a real matespritship, I cannot offer you much in the way of personal experience. However, the general idea behind them is pity versus hatred. Thus, I believe a flushed date would involve attempts to make yourself and your partner weaker and more open towards one another, so that pity is easier to come by. This is what I’ve read in novels at least.”
John is listening earnestly, nodding quickly. “Right. And what about a hate date? What are those like?”
You ponder over this a bit. You’ve never found blackrom quite as interesting as redrom, but you suppose you can still gather up an answer. You were once moirails with Vriska, after all, who never seemed at a lack for blackrom prospects. “Well, from what I know, they tend to be rather violent. A kismesissitude is a potent rivalry, after all, so I believe they typically involve a lot of threats and fighting.”
John’s face falls. “Threats?” he repeats. You feel oddly as though you’ve let him down, and you backpeddle.
“Not to say that threats are necessary for blackrom, of course. And I suppose there might be some trolls who would use threats for a matesprit as well, depending on how they choose to express themselves.” John still doesn’t seem convinced. “Though I wouldn’t say that it’s a true ‘hate date’ unless at least one injury is inflicted. If not, it is more likely that it is simply a rather aggressive flushed date.”
John rubs at his wrist, which you notice is lightly bandaged. “What if it’s on accident?” He sounds cautiously hopeful.
“Then I think that can safely be regarded as an accident and not a true intention of hatred.”
A grin suddenly breaks out across John’s face, and he envelops you in a sudden hug that you neither wanted nor expected. Still, you can’t help but smile – he’s a little infectious. “Thank you Kanaya! You’re the best!” He then releases you from the hug and nearly skips off, leaving you behind in your chair. You simply sit there for a moment, in a small bit of shock from the sudden contact.
It occurs to you that you’ve dropped your scarf.
You are Terezi Pyrope and you may be blind, but that doesn’t mean you are stupid. Karkat has been acting strangely recently, and as a self-declared legisclarator, you feel it is your duty to investigate the matter.
This is not terribly difficult to accomplish, luckily. Karkat is quiet about whatever it is that’s bothering him – of course he is, he’s Karkat – but his body language practically screams his secrets at you. Your “brave leader” is anything but subtle.
You are on reconnaissance today, which means finding out where Karkat is and carefully bumping into him all day so that you can keep tabs on him. So far things have been rather uninteresting (probably because he’s been trying to get you off his tail) but you can smell that you’ve got him cornered now. He’s been hiding out at Jade’s place for an awfully long time, and once he comes out, you’ll be able to catch him at… whatever it is he’s doing.
Finally, you hear the door slide open, and you shift into casual strolling mode, which entails you darting into Karkat’s path as quickly as possible. As predicted, he doesn’t see you coming and bumps right into you. You get a scent of something oddly… sweet?
“Terezi, what the fuck are you doin-“
“What are those things you’re holding, Karkat?” You shove your nose closer to the weird scent, and find yourself with a noseful of flowers. Probably human flowers, as you don’t recognize them, but you were never much into gardening to begin with.
“None of your business,” he growls, which just means that you have to make it your business.
“Oh, but they smell so delicious, Karkat! What are they for?” He’s trying to walk away from you now, but you keep in step with him, grinning all the while. “Are you going to eat them? Oh, or did Jade give them to you as some sort of weird human mating ritual?” You sniff closely and – yes! There it is. That slightest tinge of red that flushes beneath the gray sheet of his cheeks. He’s embarrassed.
Still, he grunts out a “No.” But of course this doesn’t fool you in the slightest.
“You smell of deceit!” you declare, pointing an accusatory finger in his face. “I can smell when you’re lying, so don’t even try it!”
“I know, Terezi! You could probably smell a fucking grammatical error out of a dictionary!” You can sense him tense up next to you, and he makes a movement as though to throw his arms up in exasperation, but he seems to think better of it, given the bundle of plants in his arms. “Anyways, all I did was pick up these plants from Jade because I wanted to figure out how human gardening works, alright? So I’m going to put these in a patch of dirt, fucking nurture them until they grow into trees, and then single handedly solve all of our problems through botany.”
He makes wild gestures with his hands as he explains this plan to you, and one of the flowers slips out and falls to the ground. Curiously, you pick it up. Bright red, an absolutely intoxicating scent.
“Alright, Karkat. Go back to your room and plant your silly little garden. Just let me see when you have more of these beautiful red flowers.”
“Fuck no,” he spits at you, though you can tell by his solid gray skin that he is much more comfortable now that you’ve settled on his gardening story. “If I give too many of these to you you’ll probably just overdose on the smell.”
“Spoil sport.” You stick out your lower lip in a way that is very much unlike you, and stop walking, allowing Karkat to continue on to “garden.”
You don’t believe his story for a second, of course. He was too eager to let you make fun of his gardening, too eager to change the subject from “human mating ritual.” Besides, if he’s aiming to go home, he’s headed the wrong way. It all smells of a lie, a not-so-clever deception, but you let him run with it.
You suppose can allow Karkat to keep his secrets for now.