There were many things that he hated about his meager and rather short life on the planet. He hated water, for within it dwelled the purest of their race and their rulers. If you were born on land, then you were royally fucked to begin with. Never mind the fact that land dwellers simply were not permitted to learn how to swim; fine way for the shitty violet bloods on the spectrum to protect their sorry selves.
Second, he hated the stupid spectrum in general. It was stupid, having the ruling class be as such because of some stupid chance birth. Don't even get him started on how unlucky he was because of this probability factor coming into play. Your entire life was determined at birth, more or less. When you hit age, they prick your finger and BAM. Instant job classification. All those with amazing powers and abilities have the chance to be more useful to nobility. The rest? Well... Shit jobs. That was what.
Third, he hated humans. Oh did he hate humans with the passion of one thousand burning suns. All trolls did, really. Humans were a weak race, one that raised their own. No claws. No fangs. No horns. Humans didn't have shit going for them and yet they kept populating and spreading over the planet like a plague of parasites. They reeked and were pathetic beings that were better off culled than allowed to live and thrive. They were good for one thing - food.
So what did all of these things have in common? Well, that would be because Karkat Vantas currently had to deal with his top three most hated things all at once. The sky had been leaking on and off for days, making the trail of humans harder to follow. Their stupid tracks from their caravans were washed away in the wake of the spring showers - showers that were currently dripping on his head. With every drop Karkat twitched, his notorious rage slowly consuming every fiber of his being.
He didn't want to be out here, scouting like all those that had his lot in life did. Karkat was supposed to be someone. A leader. Instead, he got jilted in the spectrum at birth and now had to fucking pay the price. Out of the twelve colors and shades that they took, he didn't even roll a respectable one! The only reason he was even allowed to live was for fucking sport, as he could see. Oh, look at Karkat Vantas - Let's see how long he can last in the harshest condition on the planet with the worst team of hunters ever!
A growl escaped his throat at the thought. His head of the unit sent him out alone, for starters. It was probably a way to procure his death. There was a rust blood in the group, and yet that douche bag didn't send him. Only Karkat. If that wasn't a death sentence, he didn't know what was. The only thing that really filled him with any sort of relief from his self-loathing was the fact that he proved that moron wrong. Karkat wasn't going to die out here in the middle of bum fuck nowhere.
The cliff side wasn't entire an easy scale either. His unit was more or less at the base, having followed a mountain trail most of the way. Now the troll was being forced to proceed with much caution, not wanting to slip on any loose stones or rocks, lest he alert potential humans to his presence. With another growl, he looked to the sky. The clouds did not look too friendly off in the distance. However, he pressed on. Going back to the leader of the unit with nothing to show for it was just asking to be culled.
For a brief moment, Karkat thought his luck was starting to turn for the best. There, amongst some caverns worn away into the rock face, were those infuriating humans. They had picked a good spot to hide; being up this high in the rain surely would wash away their trail. The caravan was covered on three sides with ugly gray cliff sides, almost a mini valley tucked away from view. It wouldn't be easy getting to them, but it was definitely doable. Karkat considered for a moment if he should spy a bit longer, or retreat.
With his hood pulled forward, he decided to wait a moment longer; he at least needed a headcount. It wouldn't do any of them any good if this caravan held too few in number to take back. He would also have to scope the area for weapons or traps, as well. One little mistake wouldn't be just the end of him, but for the others he hunted with as well.
Fucking humans... He thought, to no one but himself.
There weren't many things that he hated about his particularly harsh lifestyle. He didn't really mind the hard labor – nearly every boy was expected to pull the weight of a man the moment they hit twelve years, and he was no different. He didn't so much mind the constant travel, always on his feet or in a wagon. He didn't mind how he was never able to stay in one place for more than a week, or how he completely failed at learning how to use firearms or crossbows, or even the rain that threatened to make him catch a cold as evening approached.
As far as John Egbert was concerned, life was actually pretty good; he had three of the best friends anyone could ask for. Dave was an apprenticed blacksmith, learning to forge some of the best swords he'd ever seen. Jade was learning medicine, and even invented a way to keep certain herbs growing while spending days in a covered wagon. Rose was quite skilled with a needle, always making sure everyone had warm scarves by the time winter rolled around. His dad was chieftain, brave and strong and inventive, even if he preferred to stay in the kitchen with the cooks rather than the battlefield. But his caravan even housed an experienced elder to lead them through even the harshest of terrain – and thanks to that, it had been nearly twelve years since they felt the pain of bloodshed, or the unnerving cruelty of confrontation with any troll.
John was... well, John wasn't sure what he was yet. He knew he had to train to become the next chieftain, and even some of the others called him the heir in a sort of joking tone. ‘Prince John, oh righteous Heir of the Egbert dynasty!’ Dave would mock, but it was all in good fun. Even though his dad was an important man, really everyone in the caravan was a priceless comrade, and a trusted friend. Since years had passed and little battle skills were necessary (though they did constantly train), the title of chieftain remained more of a figurehead. They did a little bit of everything. And one of those things included foraging, usually left for the fleet of foot and smaller members. John actually fit the job description pretty well, so that was a role he revisited often.
Though today, the rain was proving to be a bit of a problem. It was a godsend considering it helped veil their tracks in case there were any prying eyes around, but right now, it was making him shiver. He hoped he wouldn't catch a cold after this. Rubbing his arms and slinging the basket over his shoulder, John continued up the mountain trail, searching for bits of purple and blue along the cliff side. An important medicinal herb to cure fevers only grew in the gray rocks of this particular mountain range – a tiny purple-blue flower that was easy to miss, for it blended in so well with the rocks. But John was going to get enough today to make sure no one would fall victim to a fever for months. Years, even! He'll stockpile so much, even his children's children won't have to worry about climbing up these steep mountain cliffs.
The troll furiously made mental notes about everything he observed. If there was one redeeming quality to Karkat, it was his ability to memorize information, and how much he was able to gain from just watching for a few moments. Give him a few hours watching a 'herd', and often he could find the weakest spot.
It would be enough for an attack, anyway. There were plenty of humans to make this raid worthwhile. This group did have weapons, and Vantas would be certain to relay that information. All in all, it should appease the snooty blue blood that was leading this band of hunters. Finally, after months of tracking this particular caravan down, they'd have him. Maybe then the unit would be able to take a break in a city. Unlikely, but Karkat did so love to cling to hope.
As he started to slide down to make his descent, he heard footsteps. From the sound, the troll guessed human. There weren’t any other hunting groups assigned to this area, as far as he was aware. Certainly it had not been long enough for that snooty blue blood to have sent the rust or orange ones after him-- so all that remained was human.
"Shit," he hissed, taking cover. The storm brewing overhead let out a crack of thunder. He didn't have long to make it back...
John winced at the bright flash of lightning, nearly jumping out of his skin at the rumbling roll of thunder. Ohhh no, this wasn't good! He stayed out far too long, hadn't he? With a nervous glance back down the trail he'd taken, the young sixteen year old boy gulped nervously. Ugh, he hated storms! There's no way he'd be able to make it all the way back before those clouds moved in. When did they get so dark, anyway? From the light of the sunset, he could have sworn they were normal white clouds - but now that they were practically above him, he could see that no, those were definitely storm clouds; angry ones at that. Another clap of thunder made him shiver, and he started running back. Taking a detour, he climbed over a few cliff faces, remembering the staggering wall of rocks farther to the east. If there were any good footholds, he'd be able to make it down back to the caravan a lot faster.
The rain started up again, heavier than the showers the past few days. Noo, why did it have to start raining now? There's no way he'd be able to make it down that cliff without slipping and falling to his untimely death. John whimpered out loud in frustration, staggering a bit on his feet as he shuffled backwards, looking around for any sort of shelter.
He could probably just huddle under one of those scraggly trees and hope the rain-- wait, what was that? John hurried along a rather narrow pathway, a few rocks slipping past his feet as he moved in haste. After another few minutes of enduring the onslaught of rain that threatened to become a full blown downpour, the boy slunk into a crevasse, breathing a sigh of relief.
Not that his rest lasted all that long. Another bright flash made John's skip crawl, and he let out a rather pitiful noise before scampering further into the cave. Nooo, he hated hated storms! There weren't very many things he disliked, but thunder and lightning was definitely one of them. He remembered Dave making fun of the way he'd cling to his dad until he was nearly fourteen every time thunder rolled in the distance. He'd generally get a smack from Rose, considering it wasn't like John was the only person around to be unnerved by storms.
He waited until the sound of feet scrambling across rock tickled his ears no more. Finally Karkat stirred from his hiding spot. Lighting crashed into the forest below, causing the troll to cringe. It hurt his ears and the rain came down harder. This made him more irritable than ever. The humans wouldn't move in this, but neither could they. By the time they got up here, everything would have shifted around.
With another growl, Karkat staggered to his feet as the winds started to howl. They picked up, nearly knocking him off of his feet. With his claws, he dug into a jagged hole in the rock. It anchored him there as he tried to maneuver through this blasted storm. He cursed, rather loudly. Damn the weather. Damn that blue blood. Damn those humans!
Right about then, he realized his luck would never be grand. Karkat turned to look over his shoulder, to see how he could safely scale down. A bright flash of white filled his vision; the thundering, sick crack followed soon after and the force of the lightning knocked him loose from his hold. Karkat rolled against the surface of one of the ledges, uncaring of the rocks jabbing into his side.
His ears were ringing, almost useless as his hands covered them. Karkat curled up, writhing around; anything to make the vicious sound stop assaulting his ears. When his eyes flew open, he saw nothing but white. He cursed again for his rotten luck, hoping that this new problem was only temporary.
It took a minute for the pain in his head to subside enough that he could stand. His eyes were useless, and there happened to be a dull ache in his head - even his ears still faintly rang from the impact. Karkat did consider himself lucky that the bolt of lightning struck in front of him, instead of on his actual person. Now it would just be harder to proceed. There was no hope now that he could reach the other trolls.
They would certainly kill him as soon as his information was relayed. No, Karkat Vantas would need a place to shelter him from the storm, give him time to recover and heal.
Cautiously, Karkat felt around him. He knew of Pyrope and her ability to scent out her surroundings to see, but unfortunately, he did not have such a gift-- or curse. Grumbling and cursing all the way, Karkat felt for footholds and places for his claws. Scaling back up that side, he hefted his being over another edge and onto a path and from there he continued to feel around, stumbling all the while.
The only time he paused was because he picked up a familiar scent, though it was more nostalgic than anything else. A cave. With the troll being soaked to the bone and shivering from the harsh winds, Karkat had no choice but to proceed, uneasy. A young grub's trials in the caves left all trolls with little desire to return to them.
This time, Karkat was going in even more handicapped than before. Back, back, he walked. Further into darkness, though he could not see it. It was a bad sign, considering his foot caught on a stray rock. With his balance lost, Karkat tipped over and hit the cave floor. Hard.
Though the troll's resounding curse should have echoed off the cavern walls, a quite different sound returned to his ears. A startled, almost strangled yelp from farther down the pitch blackness echoed back, followed by a thump, the trickling of smaller rocks, and shuffling of fabric on the cold, uneven floor.
"Wh-who's there?!" The voice demanded, almost drowned out by another clap of thunder.
"None of your fucking concern," he bit out, automatically.
Then he froze. No one should have been in here; this wasn't where they were camped out at, Karkat knew that for a fact. A human? No, the caravan wasn't too far from here. Anyone could have made it back there in time. Troll, maybe. It wasn't impossible. Either this idiot was from his group - Karkat didn't keep track of them now - or there were other reasons that Karkat decided he didn't give two fucks about.
Karkat's harsh reply was met with silence at first, followed by an uneasy laugh. "Uh... were you told to come up this mountain too?" The voice - obviously a boy's - asked, the shuffling of feet following him.
John breathed an inward sigh of relief. It must have been someone from the caravan. Good thing it wasn't a bear or something! Or a troll, but a troll would just kill him, not talk. Do trolls even speak their language? Probably not, it was probably some weird alien-sounding language.
"Gee, no shit!" Karkat huffed, feeling his way around. He really did hate caves, and he hated them even more when he was unable to fucking see.
"And just what the fuck are you doing here, anyway?"
Wow, this guy had a mouth on him! He wondered for a moment if he was from the same caravan, if this was the person that ended up being a bad influence on Jade. Dad wasn't happy when she started learning how to swear like a sailor.
John could tell the poison in the other's voice was harmless, though. In fact, if he wasn't mistaken, this stranger sounded... well, as uneasy as he was. Maybe this guy didn't like storms either? "I was sent out a few hours ago to look for herbs and stuff, and-"
The boy's words were cut off by another bright flash and crack of thunder, shaking the small cave for a few good, long seconds. When John started to speak again, he sounded considerably more timid and nervous. "And... uh... I had no idea it'd start storming!"
Karkat paused with the crack of lighting, nearly losing balance because of it. With another huff, he hefted himself off of the ground, and felt around for the wall. This was so ridiculous, finding herbs and shit? Probably just a troll that decided to live out in the middle of nowhere. Solidary fuckasses and their backass ways of living...
Wait. That didn't make sense. He said he was sent out, right? That meant he had to be part of a unit of some sort. Who would be searching for that shit all the way out here? Augh. He wasn't going to think on that too much-- what he needed to concentrate on was resting, and hoping his eyesight would return in a few hours.
"Are you stupid? It's been drizzling on and off for a few goddamn days now," he grumbled, grunting along the wall as he searched the voice out. "Just looking up would tell you it was going to storm!"
John huffed at that, blindly getting to his own feet. He searched for a place to sit, but the cave had a rough, uneven floor. It was rather hard to feel around for a spot that could possibly prove anything but awkward to rest on. "It just kinda snuck up on me is all... wait, why are you here then? You wouldn't be in here if you knew a storm was coming, would you?" He giggled.
"I was in the process of hunting, obviously," Came another snort with a reply. "Scouting, you could say."
Finally, a surface that he could sit down on without having to worry about a rock going up his ass. Grunting, he lowered himself to the ground, plopping down.
"Ohh," John marveled for a minute. Hunting! He'd never been good at hunting. He could hardly wield a gun or a crossbow or even a sword. The only think he really could use was a switchblade, and even then he only used it to carve or cut up food. He was handy with just about anything, unless it was used against something. Not that it stopped him from dropping his hammer on Dave's foot six times to this day.
But wait, John didn't think his caravan sent any scouts out this late in the day. They have a few sentries around, but he was pretty sure none this far up the mountain. "Are you, um, from the same group as me?" As if this guy was supposed to know where John came from.
God, this guy sounded like this one moron he knew-- the one with the stuttering problem and no fucking back bone. He rolled his eyes, leaning against the cave wall. "Of course not. I know everyone in my shitty group and we don't have a giggling moron."
As if to spite the troll, his response was another good-natured giggle. "Hehe, you're pretty funny!" He commented, taking another few steps forward, carefully taping each foot in front of him before putting his weight on it. So many jagged rocks around! He wished he had the foresight to bring a lamp with him. But it wasn't like he was planning on being out here when the sun went down...
So this guy must be from another caravan! That was pretty cool, he hadn’t met many people outside of his own group. There had been brief times where they'd cross paths and do some quick trades, but it was bad luck for two caravans to stay together long. Well, that was the saying at least - he remembered Dad telling him it was really just because two groups congregating tend to be louder and bigger than a single group, and therefore much easier for trolls to spot. There's strength in numbers, but that only works so much until it becomes impossible to hide. He'd heard of caravans splitting apart because of that, growing too populated too quickly.
John wanted to ask about possible trading, but he wasn't sure it was his place to ask. Dad was always the one to approve that sort of thing; not to mention they had a particularly troubling problem as well. The elder had said for the past few days, he was seeing signs of them being followed. It could just be paranoia, but.... John knew it may be a bit too risky for two caravans to commence trading under such possibly dangerous conditions. It wouldn't go over well.
In the midst of his though, the boy's foot caught on something and he yelped loudly, falling roughly to the ground. Oww, not again!
Karkat growled, but otherwise ignored the other. He had no interest in talking to another living being; most of the other trolls he knew were complete fuckasses. Some of them were pussies, and other were just hiveshit maggots. It seemed to him that the higher on the spectrum one went, the more insane they were. That meant that Karkat Vantas wanted nothing to do with them.
He already had two best friends that were pretty much fucking insane in their own right. The troll didn't need to add another to the list.
The sounds of the other boy shuffling around was lost on him. Karkat was far too busy trying to rub at his eyes in irritation. This was the worst thing that ever happened, except the day they ran the blood tests and the like. The only thing that brought him out of his thoughts and utter self-loathing was the yelp and the sudden pressure on his leg.
No sooner did Karkat jump a bit, and his lap was full of a warm body. Did that fuckass not see he was sitting here!? A different scent wafted over his direction, distracting him from his momentary rage. It was clean, crisp, and something else Karkat just wasn't quite familiar with. He blinked and his rage returned.
"What the fucking shit are you doing!? Can't you see I was sitting here?"
"Wahh, sorry!" John exclaimed, squirming to get out of the stranger's lap. How embarrassing! But what a rude guy - of course he couldn't see in this pitch black cave. He couldn't even see his own hand two inches in front of his face; how did this person expect him to see a leg on the floor?
The boy sighed once he scooted himself backwards, finding the floor there level enough to relax on. "Sorry dude. I didn't hurt you or anything, did I?"
"What am I, two? Like a failure of a fall like that could hurt me," he ground out, rubbing at his temples. God this was a really shitty moment. What a pitiful troll, to be worrying about that shit.
That earned another small laugh from John. "Your social skills could use some work. Why are you so grumpy?"
"Why are you such a giggly, bubbly, thing?" he countered, maintaining his harsh tone.
There was a pause of silence. Maybe Karkat actually offended him enough to shut him up?
"Hmm," No, it was pretty obvious John was just pondering the question. "I dunno dude. I guess because life's no fun if you can't smile every now and then. Shit could always be worse."
"Shit always is worse, fuckass," the troll huffed, leaning his head back against the wall. There was another crash of lighting outside the cave entrance, but he didn't care. It would continue on for a few hours, at least.
John cringed at the lightning again. Oh god, that one was close! The boy sat there for a little while, arms tucked in close to his stomach as he bit his lip nervously. "Not true." He grinned as much as he could. "You're alive, aren't you? Whatever happens, as long as you're alive, you can make things better."
"Aren't you just a little optimistic shitstain," he grumbled and paused. "Afraid of the lightning, too?"
"Hehe, you could tell?" John offered in a smaller voice, nervous as hell but still somehow as cheerful as he sounded from the beginning. "It's kind of embarrassing... I mean I'm sixteen already, and it still scares me."
"It is pretty pathetic," Karkat agreed. "It's your fucking tone that gives shit like that away."
As if to rub salt in the wound, another crash of thunder made John jump, and his voice rose a few octaves. "I-it's not pathetic! Lightning is scary. And it's loud, and it starts fires!"
Karkat snickered. He didn't see it, but he could tell what the other kid was doing. Very pathetic, indeed. "A lot of other shit starts fires too. This is fucking natural and necessary, you know."
"I guess..." John trailed off, thinking about that for a moment. It was true, if forests weren't burned down periodically, they'd have malnourished soil. "Still scary, you know? I don't want to get hurt or die or something."
"You can't die from a single lightning strike. Injured, yeah, but death? Who told you shit like that?"
"It can happen! My friend told me, and she reads a lot and stuff so...." John bit his lip again. "I mean yeah, she also said it doesn't always kill, but.... it has to hurt, right? That's not fun either."
"It wouldn't matter if you're not out playing in this shit! Holy shit, you're sixteen and yet act like such a little whining brat. It's embarrassing," Karkat groaned.
John frowned, fingers digging into his tunic with unease. "I know it's stupid, dude. Don't have to rub it in..." Yeah, he felt pretty insecure about it. Why did this guy have to be so mean?
"Then get over it. You're here in a goddamn cave. Like it's going to hurt you here... Use that matter between your ears."
Matter between his ears? John raised both hands to rub two fingers behind each ear, wondering if... oh, he meant his brain! He giggled out loud. This guy sure was funny, even if he was a bit rude.
The boy stretched his arms and legs a bit, trying to calm himself down enough to relax. This guy was right, there's no reason for him to be so tense and scared while he was safe in this cave.
The conversational silence stretched on for a little while. Rain still poured outside the entrance, some of it blowing in from the harsh winds. With the lighting and thunder raging outside, the sound echoed through the cave. It intensified the sounds of the storm, yet Karkat's ear twitched more from what was not being said than the actual noise of what was going on beyond the stone.
Water started to drip in the cave, little droplets being picked up here and there by Karkat. Great. Either there was another entrance somewhere, or it was raining hard enough to cause water to get in. Just what Karkat wanted. If that wasn't enough, he started to feel the dampness on his head.
With a little growl, he pushed himself away. He hated water, and what he hated more was when he was getting water all over himself. "Fucking shit..."
The human boy certainly noticed it too. Of course water would be able to make it through here somehow, how else would all those stalagmites have formed on the floor? He was pretty sure his foot was in a tiny stream down the center of the cave now, too. It was only a few inches across, but he really hoped it wouldn't get bigger. A few drops hit his head while he sat there in silence, trying to think of other things and not concentrate on the storm.
John perked up upon hearing the stranger's voice again. "Huh? You alright?"
"Fucking fine," he bit out, scooting away further. It was just enough for his hand to hit a nice patch of cold water. "Shit!"
"Well either something's bothering you, or you have to take a massive dump." John snorted. This guy sure liked the word "shit", didn't he? "Both of which are kind of troubling."
"Where are you so I can punch you in the face for making such an awful joke?" he hissed. "What's really troubling is being stuck here with you!"
"Aww, I know you don't mean that!" John laughed. "Isn't it better to have someone to hang with while you wait for the storm to pass?"
"I do mean that. Do I seem like the kind of person that would be lying to you?" Karkat sighed. "Fuck, man, I don't even know you and I'm growing to dislike you."
"Well I dunno, you still never told me what got your panties all in a wad a second ago." John mused.
"...And why would I tell you that, if you were hypothetically correct. WHICH YOU'RE NOT."
"Haha, I think you're protesting a little too much dude!" The boy giggled some more. "Come on, it's okay, you can tell me. Are you really afraid of the lightning too?"
"Like hell I am afraid of lighting, you little shit head..." Another growl, deep in his throat came out before he could stop it, not that he wanted to.
Yeah, John was pretty sure it was just more thunder or something when he heard that growl. Wasn't like a person could make a sound like that! "Oh, okay then," was the simple reply. He wasn't going to pry if he was that uncomfortable with something.
"So you DO know how to just shut your trap," he commented, relieved.
"Well duh." The boy replied, running a hand through hair, feeling a few solitary droplets. "If there was someone who couldn't ever stop talking, it'd be soooo annoying."
Karkat said nothing. Maybe then that kid would get the awkward silence that signified he was that annoying type of person. The stream of water, however, seemed to be getting a little bigger. With that coming to the forefront of his mind, the troll stood up, feeling his way to find a drier spot.
"Hm?" John pondered aloud, trying to look in the direction he heard the stranger get up and move - but he still couldn't see a damn thing.
"Yeah, I hope we don't get too wet." He added, tapping his foot to feel that the stream got a bit bigger. It splashed a little more now. "Not as bad as outside though, huh?"
"That's why I'm trying to move further in!" Karkat huffed. He knew this guy would be close by. In fact, the troll nudged him with a boot. Move out of the way or go with him. He didn't care.
"Whoa, hey!" John jumped a bit, dragging his feet in closer to his chest to give the other guy more room. "Why are you in such a rush? A little water won't kill you."
"Have you ever been dumped in the ocean? In a lake? You try feeling the sensation of water bearing down on you from all sides and into your lungs. See how well you goddamn like the water then, huh? Now get out of the way, I can't see worth shit in here because I'm fucking blind as a goddamn bat for now!"
He instantly felt a blush creep on his face. God, he let his temper get the better of him again. Karkat always said the most stupid or incriminating shit when he went on a rampage. If one word of that was going to be used against him, he swore he would rip this guy's throat out and leave it at that. No one had to know...
"Oh...." John replied quietly, a bit of a change from his usual responses. Silently, he got to his feet, doing his best to back up and try to give this guy some room.
The troll still continued to feel his way, a hand on the other boy’s shoulder to help him at least know where the brat was. Karkat cringed at the contact, hoping that no more questions were asked and that a culling would happen swiftly, if it were to happen. When nothing did occur, he moved on briskly.
It wasn't too much farther down, but the fact it was dry was good enough for him. Karkat was perhaps five feet away from the stanger. Grumbling, swearing, and more grumbling, the troll sat down. Finally!
John stayed silent even as he felt a hand on his shoulder, obviously not at all concerned with the contact; he didn't even flinch. He followed the stranger, and waited until he heard the footsteps stop to reach out and feel the walls around him. At one point a hand lightly brushed against Karkat's cheek, the contact followed up with a slightly embarrassed laugh. "Oh, there you are!"
He had heard the footfalls, but what did Karkat care? If the other wanted to be smart and avoid the water, then good for him. Wasn't any of his business. What was his business was the sudden contact on his cheek. Karkat jerked away, looking (more like glaring) in the direction that the other boy should be. It didn't matter if Karkat could see him or not, he knew that annoyance was there.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Just trying to find a place to sit," The human replied, sitting himself down next to Karkat without a second thought. For a hopeful minute it almost seemed like John would fall into another peaceful silence, but...
"So... water, huh?" Though he couldn't be seen, the smile was evident in his voice.
Karkat was hoping for silence after the stranger sat down. Too bad luck was against him. The universe appeared to be against him, really, trying to find all of the ways to make his life shitty and near unbearable. When the boy spoke again, Karkat just plunged head first into a face palm combo.
"I have a weapon and I'm not afraid to fucking use it if you ever mention that shit, got it?"
John giggled, shuffling a bit in the darkness. There was still some water leaking in, hitting the top of his head every now and then. He's heard some silly things before, but this was.... well, this was really silly! At least lightning could hurt someone, but little water droplets were completely harmless.
Still, for some reason, he didn't bring up any of that. A few moments later, there was a hand beside Karkat's head again, poking a spot next to his ear - before the weight of a soft cloth settled down over his hair, even covering his horns. "There."
That wasn't what he was expecting. Honestly, Karkat was about to tear into him for giggling at the legitimate fear. What land troll didn't fear water even slightly? The dumb ones or sea obsessed ones, that was who. Yet to feel something cover his head? Well... That was a sort of compassion he never experienced before, save from his Lusus.
"I had a hood, you know," he commented. Well, it was true, but wet material on his horns? Ew!
"Oh, really?" John replied back, feeling his cheeks heat up a bit with embarrassment. "Sorry, I just thought... you know, you wouldn't like the water hitting your head." There wasn't any sort of mocking tone in his voice - just pure sincerity.
"I don't, and I guess the hood is pretty fucking wet anyway," Karkat amended, pulling his knees to his chest. Alright, maybe the twerp wasn't so bad. That was just the closest he would get to saying thank you.
John just smiled, settling back against the rocky wall behind them. There was still some thunder and cool wind coming into the cave, but it wasn't quite as loud before. He found himself flinching less and less as the minutes ticked by.
"You know, it's kind of funny." The human boy offered, after another brief silence. "At first I was regretting coming up this mountain to get stuck in a storm. But now I'm kinda glad I did, cause I got to meet you."
"That is the sappiest thing I have ever heard, worse than any novel I've read," Karkat snorted. His romance novels were pretty corny at times, but that could have been read directly from one of them.
"Besides, after the storm passes, chances are we won't even see each other again. How the hell could you be glad for that?"
"Oh, you like to read too?" Karkat's last statement seemed to go right over John's head. "I haven't met anyone else that likes to read novels, aside from one of my friends. Everyone else says it's a waste of time, but I think it's fun."
"When I have the time to," he admitted with a nod. "Most of the assholes I know say it's a fucking waste too. I say they don't know shit."
"Haha, I think maybe some of them just don't know how to read, and they're jealous!" John chuckled. "Hey, have you seen any of Nic Cage's books? They're my favorites! I've read most of his books multiple times."
Wasn't that a human author? He might have read one or two human books in his entire lifetime and only because he confiscated them. Alright, so maybe he kept them in cases of emergencies. The troll community had no idea how humans were able to publish their shit, but in the end, they were too busy trying to hunt humans, rather than squash out their culture. Maybe this dipshit did the same.
"No, can't say I have."
"Ohmygosh, there's this one book called Con-Air, that... ohh wait, I shouldn't spoil it! Ohh, but it's such a good book, you have to read it if you can find it." John smiled bright enough that it almost lit the entire cave. He paused for a moment, wondering if this would sound weird to a total stranger - a stranger he couldn't even see, but he really didn't want to pass this chance up.
"Um, I could let you borrow my copy if you like. If you came to this mountain, that means you have to be camped out close by! We could meet tomorrow somewhere and...." The boy giggled sheepishly, scratching at his head. "Wow, I must sound like a total dork. I guess there aren't many guys my age to talk to around here.”
"You sure you want to do that?" Karkat asked. "What if we leave before I can get it back to you?"
It wasn't as though he was particularly interested, but well. The truth was, it had been a while since he had any fresh material. Karkat wasn't going to be able to get a new novel until at least after his unit delivered that caravan, or even a few humans from it...
"Oh, I guess that's a possibility..." John bit his lip nervously, pondering that for a moment. He'd feel pretty sad if he lost that book, but it wasn't like it was the only one out there, right? There were print numbers on it. "But, I think it makes me happier knowing I could help someone else experience that story, y'know? Even if I don't get it back. Besides, I'm sure I'll run across another copy someday if that's the case."
He didn't want to outright say it. He was also a little excited about being able to meet someone new, to get to know them and exchange stories. Plus, even though this guy had quite a mouth on him, he kind of already liked him. Then again, John Egbert liked pretty much anyone he ever met. But still!
His cheerful thoughts were interrupted by another crash of thunder - closer than they had been for a while. It startled him, and he latched onto Karkat's shoulder and shivered until it died down.
Karkat mulled over the idea. This brat seemed pretty sad about the idea of losing his book. Well, there was always the option of asking Captor to track this kid down later. It couldn't be that hard to find someone on Alternia. Then Karkat could simply find a way to get it back to him. Or he might not take the risk over human material.
"How long around you morons sticking around this area for?" Well, there was a chance that Karkat could read it all in a day or two.
Then came the crash and something clinging to him. Karkat tensed, not liking the fact that someone was touching him. Touching was a bad thing. He leaned away a bit. "Hey, fuckass..."
John blinked and released a breath he didn't know he was holding. "O-oh, sorry." He stuttered, letting go of Karkat's sleeve with embarrassment. "That thunder kinda startled me."
The storm did seem to be dying down though. Even if that last bolt of lightning was close, the majority of the ominous rumbling was now far enough in the distance to be at least partially drowned out by the downpour.
He rolled his eyes. Yeah, he knew. "Answer the question."
"Oh!" John straightened up. "We should be in the area for.... another six days. That’s the plan, anyway."
"Six days? Shit, I could read it in two," Karkat quipped.
"Whoaa, really? That's so fast!" The boy sounded amazed. "You sound like Rose - she can read these huge books in no time flat. I have no idea how you can read that fast, dude."
"I read a lot growing up, ok? Some shitstains would go out and play stupid games, and I preferred to stay in," he huffed. Jealous, actually. He wanted to do stupid FLARP sessions, but his blood... So Karkat always resigned himself to just reading.
"Oh, I get you." John nodded even though he knew the other couldn't see the gesture. "But.... wasn't it hard to meet others that way?"
"I liked the fucking silence, okay?" he snapped.
"You didn't get lonely?" John asked timidly, voice a bit more quiet than before.
"I wasn't always alone," Karkat grumbled, thinking about his Lusus. "I do have friends. Those are actual things, you know. Most of them are assholes, but that happens."
"Haha, your friends are assholes?" John giggled. He wasn't quite sure if that meant they were mean, or if this guy was just being defensive; probably the latter. He probably had some pretty awesome friends and was just too 'cool' to admit it. Dave was like that most of the time.
"That's what I said!"
They were assholes, too. His best friend growing up was probably Sollux—no, definitely Sollux. That guy was just a bipolar fuckass whose mood went through more changes than the guy had bees. There was a lot of black flirtation, Karkat recalled. Then they'd both end up pitying each other and then flipping and flopping all over. Which was fine. Best friends were really the way to go, anyway.
"Sorry, you just kind of sound like one my friends." The boy grinned. "He calls us all lame and stuff, but he really likes us. He just has to be the cool kid and won't admit it out loud."
"I don't like cool shits, kid," Karkat growled.
"Ohh, really? Guess you wouldn't like my best bro, then. He's like, the coolest guy ever." John retorted with pride. "Chill like ice. Or something."
Karkat huffed and leaned more against the wall. The rain wasn't coming down as hard now, but damned if he wanted to go out in that. It would be a few hours before it dwindled down.
Another hour slowly passed as John continued to chat, going on and on even with minimal responses from Karkat. He talked about a few of the books he read (but not Con-Air, no matter how much he wanted to), and about a few of the sights he saw over the past few weeks. There was a magnificent canyon to the west, though he remembered seeing an even bigger one when he was smaller. There was a really cool tree he came across a few days ago that had winding roots, and looked like something alien. He talked about how sometimes he stares up at the clouds to find shapes in them, how awesome his friends were, and little else to be spared. But the thunder would come back every now and then, successfully shutting John up for a while to give Karkat a bit of silence. Though sometimes John would stay quiet, just because he was anxious to see if his new friend (could he be so forward to call him that already?) would add anything to the conversation, and he did at times. As the night went on, John decided that yes, this guy was a really cool guy. He was pretty nice too, if you ignored how much he cursed. But there was something else John picked up on - something a little.... sad. Every once and a while it just seemed like, to him, this stranger would sound a little melancholy. Maybe he had something he was keeping to himself? John decided not to pry. Besides, he could just be imagining it. He probably was - this guy was pretty cool himself. He doubted there was much that honestly bothered him. You know, besides water.
Once the moons started rising higher into the sky, the rain finally started to die down to a drizzle. The thunder was practically gone, and the winds were calmer. "....You think it's over?" John asked, getting to his feet slowly.
This guy was way too excited, Karkat decided. It sort of reminded him a bit of Sollux's former fling, that one explorer chick. He never met her personally, but man did Captor rant and rave about her. Then one day, he just up and told him not to talk about it and that he didn't need to hear about her or from her anymore. Karkat vaguely wondered, while the kid was off on a tangent, what could have happened to break up an obviously pity party like that....
Perhaps he would ask Captor about it once the change was given to him. That was several years ago. Surely a wound like that would have healed by now. If not... Eh.
What the other, the stranger, went on and on about, only stirred partial interest in Karkat's tastes. He complained since the boy only read like actiony books. Where was the romance? The drama? The deep, intricate twists and turns of the story lines? Karkat always did prefer those types over others, not that he didn't read other genres. What Karkat did like, not that he would ever admit to it, was the fact he did have someone to talk to about novels. Not many other trolls bothered to read like he did.
By the time the storm faded into the background, and the rain barely detectable to his ear, Karkat lost track of the time. He turned to the other teen, a bit sad to see this come to an end. The other would leave and Karkat would need to stay a bit longer. Then he scratched that thought under a blunt: "Of fucking course it's over. You have ears."
"Yeah," John frowned a bit, stretching his arms and legs. He really was pretty tired and he couldn't wait to go lay in some dry sheets, and have some dinner. But he was also kind of sad to go already...
"Hey, um... you want to try seeing each other again tomorrow?" The boy asked in a timidly hopeful tone. "I mean, I still want to let you borrow Con-Air, and.... it was fun hanging out with you."
"It wasn't a complete waste of an evening, as far as shitty events go," Karkat admitted with a nod. "Sure, I guess. It would have to be at sunset, though. I am going to have so much shit to get done."
"Haha yeah, same here." John smiled. "But sunset sounds perfect! But, hm.... this cave wouldn't be the best place to meet, would it?"
"Probably not, no. And I doubt you want to fucking climb down the entire thing either," Karkat mused. "I didn't get around to checking the other side."
“Yeah, me neither." John pondered silently for a moment, fidgeting a bit like a kid half his age with pent up excitement to spend more time with his new friend. In daylight, too!
"Oh!" He finally piped up, remembering the trail his caravan took to get to this valley. "A bit farther south... right down this mountain range," He's motioning in the general direction, poking Karkat in his side accidentally. "There's a pass, where a river carved away the rocks. There's this awesome waterfall! I know you don't like water, but we could use that as a point of reference, right? We don't have to go swimming if you don't want to, hehe~"
A waterfall... Well he didn't see it before, but that didn't mean anything. It was a decent point to meet up at. Easy to spot. "All right. Fine."
"Cool!" John sounded absolutely giddy. He took a few steps back towards the entrance he came through, before remembering that his new friend came from the opposite direction. They had to part ways now.
"I can't wait to see you again!" He smiled, reaching forward until his fingers found Karkat's arm. Then, without any prior warning, he leaned in and gave the other boy a quick hug (a bro-hug, Dave called them) before going back to slowly making his way further down the cave. He resisted the urge to turn and wave - because honestly, when would he start to remember that neither of them could see anything right now?
Karkat didn't even get the chance to answer. At first, he thought he heard foot steps going away. However, those weren't near enough to be at the entrance already, right? His pondering was sliced through with the sensation of a warm hand on his arm. Karkat tensed, and then the hug came.
To his embarrassment, his cheeks warmed, and he made an incoherent sound. Stuttering, really. A hug. A freaking hug. No one just randomly hugged each other like that. Humans did, not trolls. Well, trolls only did for particular reasons! Then, before Karkat could recover, the other was gone. Shit! He didn't even get a name.
The troll sighed, still tingling from the embrace. It felt... Weird. He wasn't sure he liked this feeling for a person he hardly knew. Ah well. It wasn't like they wouldn't be meeting again, anyway.