Karkat was all of seven sweeps old before he found out his guardian’s biggest secret.
It was close to three in the morning, and the streets of the city were hot and damp and oppressive after the evening’s thunderstorms. He was currently being dragged along the street amidst the steam and puddles by his guardian, who was in the middle of an impressive tirade.
“ – it’s not even a decent hour for a fucking kid to be out – for any fucking body to be out – and I’m pretty fucking sure it’s illegal anyway and you were fucking dumb enough to go to the fucking Felt’s casino and pay them actual money for what? Some fruity shitty drinks and a chance with your little fucking girlfriend? At the fucking Felt’s casino? It’s like you’re fucking deaf or something, or you were born goddamn yesterday, I mean, fuckitall, Karkat the Felt –”
Karkat was more than happy to let him go on for a while like that. Slick was always in a better mood after he had a decent shout about life’s indignities, which made him easier to deal with later. And, Karkat was willing to admit, he did have a point about it being the Felt’s casino, but it’s where Terezi was . . .
Never mind that the legal age to be on the casino floor was nine sweeps. Karkat doubted that point would really hit Slick’s radar ever. He might mention it, sure, but the fact that Karkat had been willingly handing money over to ‘those smug fucking green assholes’ would outweigh any other offenses.
He zoned out. Slick was still going strong. Really the man was an artist with profanity – when Karkat had watched A Christmas Story with John years ago John really hadn’t understood why Karkat thought that line was so funny. Then he’d met Slick and when they’d watched the movie next year they’d howled with laughter until their stomachs ached(1).
Perhaps because of these combined events – Slick waxing obscene about life, The Felt and everything, and Karkat nodding dumbly as he was dragged along by the elbow – neither of them noticed the delivery truck. Not, at least, until the horn blared and bathed the two of them in butter yellow headlights. Not until it was too late.
Well this isn’t how I’d die, given the fucking choice, Karkat thought, before the grill pulverized two sets of internal organs.
Shitty truck, to explode like that after hitting us, was his next thought.
I shouldn’t be having a next thought, was the third thought.
He opened his eyes.
A purple glow was fading from the delivery truck, which was in a melting, flaming heap in the middle of the road. The driver was presumably dead, since there was no conceivable way he could have survived that.
A purple glow was also fading from Slick’s hand. And Slick was hugging Karkat close to him, eye squeezed shut.
Karkat looked up at him, the pieces slotting into place. “Did you just . . .” He looked from his guardian, back to the truck, and back to his guardian. “So when were you planning on telling me you’re a fucking wizard?”
The hold went from a protective hug to support as the man sagged into Karkat. “I wasn’t,” he panted. “I fucking hate doing that.”
“What, blowing up trucks with magic?” He half-carried his guardian over to the sidewalk, the man staggering along with him moderately well, considering he was apparently only half-awake. “I’d imagine it’s fairly fucking draining, yeah.”
Slick prodded him. “Language.”
Karkat propped him up against a wall and slid to the sidewalk next to him. They watched the truck burn. “Why didn’t you just jump?”
Slick pulled his hat off and ran a hand through his hair. “You wouldn’t have made it.”
Karkat smirked then, which evolved into a big grin that threatened to split his face in half. He leaned into Slick’s shoulder and nudged him. “Awww. You’d fucking miss me.”
“I never said that.”
“I’d be a pretty piss-poor guardian if I fucking killed you.” He swatted at Karkat with his hat. “Knock it off.”
“D’you go to Hogwarts to learn that trick?”
The man leaned his head back against the brickwork. “Allow me to fucking rethink the previous sentence.”
The sidewalk was wet. The bricks were wet. Karkat sat there for a few more minutes, and then leaned into Slick. “We gonna sleep here or what?”
“Fuck no.” Karkat jumped up and helped Spades to his feet. He swayed for a second and then started back off, toward home. Karkat fell into step next to him, and chose to ignore Slick using him for support. “It’s been too long since I did that shit.”
“Next time maybe warm up before using your freaky wizard powers?”
“Heh. Shut up.”
Karkat’s looked back up at Slick, face twisted thoughtfully. At length he muttered, “Well thanks for going all Albus Dumbledore to save me.”
“Call me Dumbledore again and I’ll fucking kill you.”
They walked the rest of the way home in silence and parted ways in the front hall, Slick staggering off to his room and Karkat trudging up the stairs to the welcoming, gelatinous embrace of his recuperacoon.
As he sunk into the sopor and closed his eyes he reflected that maybe he’d learned more than one secret about Spades Slick thanks to that delivery truck and its unfortunate driver.
The first was that Spades Slick did, genuinely, somewhere in the dark recesses of his presumably-extant heart, like Karkat a great deal.
He liked Karkat enough to save his life and thus reveal secret two: Spades Slick was a wizard.
And that, Karkat decided as his eyes shut, was totally awesome.
(1) The Actual Line: “Now, I had heard [fuck] at least ten times a day from my old man. He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master.”