They’re in the car. Karkat always looks out the window silently, his timely clockwork mind furiously working to take in every detail with care, like some kind of super-intelligent dog memorizing his way back home. Maybe he really was doing that. John wouldn’t claim to know what the troll was thinking, and probably never would. He had more weird mannerisms than anyone he’s ever met. And Karkat would say the same in reverse. Inter-species cultural relations. Bluh.
Really, the adverb “furiously” could be used to describe any of Karkat’s actions at any one time. He watches television furiously. He washes dishes furiously. He eats Cheerios furiously. He bakes cupcakes furiously. And while no one could give witness to that last example, is was generally agreed that, yes, he could very well mix up some Funfetti with just as much irritable rancor as he did everything else. Why, he could probably even paint a ceramic pony--
“Stop staring, fuckass.”
A thin little pupil glares at John through the corner of its eye. Oh, right. He corrects himself and moves his attention back to his own window.
While they were definitely “friends” (you can practically hear the quotation marks when Karkat says it) he still retains that same prickle that he had when the first met.
…No. “Prickle” was a disservice to the sheer gargantuan effort that Karkat put into his hate when he first met John. He was like a porcupine made entirely of titanium lawn-darts. Very sharp. With heat-seeking missiles and lasers and stuff. A really really pissed off porcupine.
John’s mouth screws up into a smile that he tries to fight as he thinks of aforementioned porcupine with little Karkat horns going on a tirade and indiscriminately blowing stuff up, so angry its going cross-eyed and foaming at the mouth…
“What’re these wires hanging from poles for again?”
John jumps at being interrupted mid-daydream, like Karkat had somehow invaded into his conscious. But no, it was just another Earth-related question. It wasn’t a constant stream like it used to be anymore, but the troll was certainly more than curious about the world he created.
“I think they’re for electricity and phones and stuff,” John replies, watching the telephone poles pass by through his own window, following the dip and rise of the lines between them, “and maybe the cable T.V. too.”
“So you’re saying , that if these human poles so precariously positioned at the sides of your human roads--”
He still loves using the word “human” like it’s a prefix synonymous with “retarded”.
“--Are single-handedly responsible for supplying you with power for your hi… homes, and enabling your primary means of communication?”
“Sure, I think so.”
“But they’re made of wood, for shit’s sake! And some of them are tilting, I swear to God that one’s going to topple over if the wind decides to give it a dirty look. Do they ever fall down? I shouldn’t even have to ask--”
“Yeah, they do.”
“Yeah, all the time! Usually when it rains really hard.”
Karkat gives him The Look. Equal parts loathing, disdain and pity. He’s really good at it too; John thinks he’s been practicing it all his life just for these situations.
“Jesus fuck Egbert, it’s like the feeble little play at what your planet likes to call civilization fucking enjoys failing in so many ways. Don’t get me started on your God damn Postal Service again, I don’t care how you many times you say it, there is nothing ‘cool’ about a hand-written letter, it’s fucking antiquated, and--”
“Chill out, Karkat!”
When Karkat’s jaw shuts with a sneer, John is reminded when those very bared teeth clamped around his hand when he tried to cover his mouth to quiet him during a particularly poignant rant. It hurt. A lot. He never did that again.
“Why exactly should I be cooling my subdermal tissue layer.”
“It’s just some telephone poles. They’ve always worked so I guess no-one feels like changing them. And hand-written letters are totally awesome, you just don’t know because you haven’t gotten one before.”
“They haven’t ‘always worked’ if they get knocked down ‘all the time,’ dumbass.”
“I guess not. It just doesn’t really bother anyone is all.”
The Look comes out again, but this time with a brow and mouth so perfectly straight and parallel you could balance a level on them. Karkat lets this do the talking for him for a few near physically painful moments before shrugging with irritated apathy and looking back to his window.
“Fucking disgustingly quaint, like always.”
But besides that, he doesn’t complain any further. He sets his elbow on the arm rest and holds his chin in his hand as he continues to watch the world go by. John observes him for a moment, and sees that he too is following the wave-like motion of the spans of cable, as his eyes move up and down gently with their rise and fall.
A few days later, there’s a summer thunderstorm rumbling in the sky. It’s night, and both the boys are hanging out in John’s room. He’s on his computer chatting with his friends, and Karkat is working his way through a play of certain game that reminds him of Fiduspawn. All the while, he complains about every last kink in it and explaining why their version was so much better and how humans can’t make a decent video game and blah blah blah. John can’t help but snicker, because he knows just an hour ago he was getting his butt kicked and now he’s trying to save face after needing his help. An overall normal night.
As time ticks by, the winds blow more viciously, and lightning begins to flash over the horizon. For a split second, the lights flicker off, and then back on, and the both of them instinctively look towards the ceiling.
“What the fuck was that?”
“Oh man, this doesn’t look good. I gotta turn off the computer.”
“I said, ‘what the fuck was that,’ Egbert.”
“The electricity’s probably gonna go out!” John explains as he starts to shut down his desktop, “If you leave a computer on while it does, it’ll hurt it somehow.”
“Seriously?” Karkat says as he looks out the window, as lightning dashes across the clouds, “it’s not even that bad-- Shit, if it goes out just over this, I’m going to lose so much respec--”
And then, with absolutely no ceremony, it went out. The only light left in the room is the backlit glow of Karkat’s handheld game, illuminating his exasperated face. He then snaps it shut with a vengeance.
“Yep, There it goes. My respect. Out the fucking window.”
John only laughs, getting out of his chair and pawing about in the darkness for a certain drawer in his desk. Having been staring into a glaring screen up until this unfortunate predicament, he was completely blind in his pitch black room. He opens up said drawer, full of junk, and feels around for a small flashlight.
“There we go! This‘ll do,” he says to himself as he finds it and turns it on. When he turns around, he nearly drops it.
What startles him into this, is Karkat’s eyes. They were red. And shining. Like some sort of malevolent demon-creature, or a raccoon in your trash can, they were reflecting the light from the torch.
This actually frightens John for approximately 1.8 second(s). Then his pranksters gambit kicks in.
“’The hell was that for?”
“Nothing!” John pipes, innocent as can be. He then begins to click the flashlight on and off on Karkat’s face, watching his crazy troll pupils dilate and shrink. And totally gives himself away by laughing.
Karkat realizes this immediately and goes straight for the torch, while John begins an infuriating game of keep away, holding it over his head.
“Give me that you little nooksniffer!” he says in that gravely voice of his, leaping for John’s hand, “I’m going to get that thing and then I’m going to smash your cartilage nub in with it! And I’ll laugh so hard, because it’s going to be fucking hilarious!”
“Haha! You looked like the grumpy butt of a car!”
“What was that? Because all I heard was ‘Karkat, please shove this lighting device down my chitinous wind hole!’”
The two wrestle like a couple of weasels in a wet sack, and eventually Karkat does get the flashlight. He clicks it on and off rapidly in John’s eyes as revenge and absolutely refuses to stop until he calls uncle. Even grabbing all over his face and getting a finger up his nose doesn’t deter him. He is on righteous mission of prankster justice.
“Okay okay! I give! You’ve got your claws in my shoulder!”
“You deserve it,” Karkat grumbles, giving John a solid thump on the head with the object of contention, “I’m nocturnal, my ocular nodes are sensitive.”
“But it was so cool! Your eyes were like, wooooo--”
“Is that a scientific term? I sure as fuck hope not.”
“Whatever!” John quips and snatches the flashlight back from Karkat, making for the door and leaving the room, “It was cool and I was making a cool sound,” and before Karkat even has the chance to inhale, “now let’s go find some candles.”
“Candles?” It works, at least.
“Yeah, you know, wicks, wax. You burn them.”
“No, I’m not following.”
“Seriously?” John glances back with that ‘oh man I’m so sorry you were so deprived as a child’ look, and Karkat can only roll his eyes. “They’re all over the house!“
“Egbert, there are hundreds of meaningless tchotchkes all over your dwelling. I don’t need to know about any of them. They’re collectively insignificant.”
“They’re not insignificant, they’re decorations! And you’re missing out. Candles are pretty fun.”
“As much as I was missing out on tapioca, or as much as I was missing out on your retarded monthly human videogame subscription?”
Tapioca was the one human food that Karkat had absolutely nothing bad to say about. But that was a whole ‘nother vignette to cover. As for the other…
“Hey, don’t diss the ‘bro! It‘s totally the bomb.”
“We both know you’re as easily amused as a magpie in a God damned tinfoil factory, that means absolutely nothing-- What‘re you doing?”
John is standing on his toes, trying to get to the top shelf of the cabinet he’s trudged over to. He eventually gets the tips of his fingers on the lighter resting up there, and lets out a little ‘yes!’ when he finally gets it down. He flicks it on and off experimentally a few times before he’s satisfied.
“Getting the lighter!” he says, and turns around to grab a candle off the dining room table, Karkat padding silently after him all the while. John lights it, and turns to the troll with a triumphant grin.
Karkat, as usual, is unimpressed. Nay, he is truly dismayed.
“Oh my God. When you said ‘burn’ I thought you meant figuratively. Is that fire? You are lighting this room with fire. Excuse me while I get in my time machine, go back five minutes and say hello to the remnants of fucking pre-history-- augh, get it away from me!”
“Aww, haha! Don’t be scared!”
“I am not--”
“Look, it’s harmless. See?”
John waves his hand through the little flame is that quick way so he doesn’t get burned. Karkat can’t help but, tentatively, follow his motion. It doesn’t hurt, just like he assured him.
Still, when John grins in that big toothy way of his, Karkat gives him a purposeful frown in return. But he knows the effort Karkat has to put behind that look from the certain lines creased in his face. He’s trying to frown, and that means that maybe, just maybe, he was really going to smile
He lights another candle using the one they already have, and hands it to Karkat. They take them back up to John’s room and they spend the rest of the evening playing cards, some games he already knew and a few he had to be taught. No matter how quickly he caught onto things, John always seemed to have the upper hand. This leads to a few separate games of 52 card pick-up after he wins yet another infuriating time, but it's always taken in stride. 'You're only making it longer before you beat me!' John insists, and Karkat can only grumpily acknowledge his logic.
When it’s time to go to sleep, they leave one candle in the center of the room, in case they have to get up for something during the night. Karkat lingers awake on his side of the room for a little while, watching the flicker of the flame. He’s not sure why, but the entire space seems new in the quiet half-light, strange shadows being cast around, moving and sputtering.
There is something to to be said for the pace of this world. All this forced backwardness, focus on sentimentality, refusal to modernize... It led to interesting situations. At least. And he'd never admit it out loud.
When they wake up in the morning to find all the clocks in the house blinking and insisting it was really half past three, he's vaguely disgusted with himself when he finds that he's disappointed. It would have been fun to try and make toast on the stove.