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Black Tie

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When John walks into Kanaya's studio, she puts up a hand, and he freezes obediently, standing in the doorway.

"I have some clothing in the back that you should take after the ceremony is over. I decided they were not inventive enough for this season, but I did not want to take them apart. They will not look as good on you as they would on a model, but that is to be expected," she says, putting her hand down and turning back to her sketching table. He finishes coming into the room, Karkat glowering behind him, and sits down in one of the swiveling stools she has peppered around the room.

"What, you're making clothes to his measurements but not to mine?" Karkat challenges her.

She glances up, gives Karkat a once-over, then says, "You already know that you are shorter than most of my models, human or troll."

Karkat makes a low, chittering noise of dissatisfaction and glowers his way over to another swiveling stool.

Kanaya goes back to her sketching for a few minutes, the room completely silent except for the sound of air in the vents, and then she throws down her pencil and smiles up at John.

"Let me get your suit," she says, sweeping off into the depths of the back rooms.

John turns to Karkat and grins. "It's really nice of Kanaya to make everyone's suits and stuff for them!"

"She's doing it to bulk up her fashion portfolio so she can enhance her reputation, hornfucker."

"Yeah, but, it's her commitment ceremony. She's probably overworked and doing this too must be really hard!"

Karkat stares at him in what is clearly complete incomprehension at his idiocy. John grins wider. He loves that look; it makes him want to laugh and grab Karkat and smother him with kisses.

"Here it is," Kanaya announces, emerging from a different room than the one she went into. She's brandishing a suit, on hangers, and a dress shirt so white it nearly glows.

"Um," John says, casting about for a place to change.

"There is no need to be squeamish," Kanaya says. "I have seen many men wearing little clothing. It is part of the job. And I think Karkat would not object." She disappears again into the depths of her storage.

John stares, helplessly, at the waist-to-ceiling windows that cover one whole wall of the room, and which face out on an office building on the other side of the street, before mustering his courage and taking off his t-shirt.

Karkat stands up and goes to fiddle with the designs on Kanaya's sketch table. John stares at his own belt.

"Have you forgotten how to operate a lower thoracic osseous gap clothing cinch?" Karkat snipes, and John grins, a little embarrassed, and throws on the dress shirt before changing out of his jeans as quickly as he can. The pants – fit. Comfortably, even, and he shrugs on the vest and the jacket without feeling restricted like he expected.

Kanaya rustles, probably deliberately, and he turns to see her offering a richly blue tie.

He looks at it. "Um."

"Fucking put it on," Karkat says, from the table.

So John does.

"Here are your cufflinks," Kanaya adds, her palm stretched out.

"Wow," John says, "I don't think I've ever used cufflinks before. These are pretty cool, though!" They are blue, the same shade as the tie, with the sweeping wind imagery of Breath. They are oddly heavy, cool but warming in his hand.

"You already have shoes that match this suit," Kanaya says, "so I have not provided any. Karkat, please wait a moment."

Karkat, now seated on a stool in front of the table, frowns at her without malice and then looks at John.

"What do you think?" John asks, fiddling with the cufflinks and finally managing to get the left one fastened.

"You're going to lean over a rotating breeze-creating device, get your fashion noose caught in it, and die of oxygen deprivation, which is so fucking ironic that Strider will shoot genetic material whenever he thinks of it for the next ten sweeps, which is pretty unfortunate because Tavros will have to nullify their ironically-filed registry in order to protect their ironically-created wrigglers."

John grins. "You're just hoping you'll get to adopt Hasa."

Karkat makes a noise best expressed with keyboard smashing and says, "Jesus fuck no; I have been covered in wrigglers before and I am happy to say that I am comfortable in my complete lack of interest in grubs, human children, or immature beasts of any kind."

"They're bringing the kids to the ceremony. I bet Hasa'll be in a cute little dress," John points out, but is rescued from Karkat's adorable shouting response by Kanaya emerging from the closet carrying a… light grey suit.

John can practically see the words forming in Karkat's brain, even before they reach his mouth.

"What the fuck is that? No. No fucking way. I am not fucking wearing –"

Kanaya sighs. "Please try it on. It is made to your measurements, so I will at least be able to check the fit."

Karkat grabs it out of her hands and stalks into the other room, radiating fury. John tries not to think about trying to kiss him into stillness and turns to Kanaya.

"Um, does this fit right?" he asks.

She reaches up to his neck, adjusts the tie briefly, and then says, "I think you will be among the best-dressed males there."

"Thanks to you!" John laughs. "Are you really doing everyone's clothes?"

She shakes her head. "No. Only for myself, Rose, and the brides' companions."

John thinks about it for a moment. "That's still a lot of work."

"I am used to such things." She turns her head and projects, "Karkat, must I go find you?"

From the other room, there is a probably-obscene grumble, and then Karkat steps out.

He looks – the suit is pale grey, lighter than his skin, and his tie is utterly black, to match his hair and his fingernails, and God, God it's as though Kanaya drew a line around his throat to say attention goes here, and then Karkat throws a shock of bright red cloth in Kanaya's face and says, "Fuck you and the fucking ceremony that means you get to fucking dress me up like a troll-shaped child's toy, Maryam."

"It matches your eyes," Kanaya says quietly, as Karkat's chest heaves, and she takes his hand and pins in his cufflinks.

John coughs, and grins, and when Karkat turns that glare on him John just says, "Show me."

Karkat shifts, slow as aeons, away from Kanaya, and John can feel his smile freezing, changing somewhere into something different, he doesn't know what. Karkat reaches, almost reflexively, to the top of his head where he habitually keeps the sunglasses that hide his eyes when he goes out in public, and it makes the silver at his cuffs flicker red.

"Nice," John says, reaching out to catch Karkat's hand and look at the cufflinks, which have Karkat's symbol painted in red into engraved grooves in the metal. John's mouth is halfway there before Karkat pulls away, and John realizes, belatedly, that there are near-white pinstripes in the fabric of the suit.

"I know you have a square of grey cloth in this fucking place," Karkat says to Kanaya, voice still graveled and sharp but not nearly as loud, so John counts that as Karkat being almost okay.

"I will find find one," Kanaya says, and she slips past them into the darkness of the back rooms.

Karkat reaches over to the drawing table to take his sunglasses back, and John only realizes then that Karkat's hands are shaking.

"I think it looks good," he says diffidently. "I mean, I'm not a fashion maven or anything, like Kanaya. But it suits you." He pauses, then tries to stifle the grin into his hand.

Karkat gives him a mildly irritated look and perches the sunglasses on the top of his head, his cufflinks flickering again, and this time when John catches Karkat's wrist he does kiss them, the metal cold against his lips, and he smiles as he nudges the cuff aside and kisses the bare skin of Karkat's wrist.

"You are," John says, "hilarious."

"Why are you doing this in public," Karkat says, and John grins up at him.

"Because I want everyone to know that you're secretly," John begins, but he doesn't get to finish telling Karkat what he secretly is because Kanaya reappears, looking a bit green in the cheeks, with a square of dark grey silk in her hand.

She folds it up and tucks it in the suit pocket, looks Karkat over, and then taps the knot of his tie. "I have a tie in a color to match the square. Take this tie off."

John watches, helplessly, as Karkat tucks a finger into the knot of the tie and wiggles it loose. It makes him relaxed and charming, and then he catches John's eye and grins, all sharp saliva-slick teeth, and suddenly he isn't a troll dressed up in clothing for his moirail's commitment ceremony, he's a villain and a monster and John's partnersprit, restrained violence and rage, and suddenly they're kissing, messy and deep and wonderful. John cuts his lip on one of Karkat's teeth and licks at it, leans down to the loosened neck of Karkat's shirt to push aside the severe black line of the tie and the cutting crisp whiteness of the shirt so he can lick at Karkat's neck. It's comforting and warm, and Karkat holds him there for just a second before he gathers John up and mutters, "That's the most hotly desperately pathetic thing you've done all fucking year, Egbert," before taking one step away.

Kanaya clears her throat from the doorway, which now that John thinks about it is really a weirdly human gesture, since it sounds more like chirruping than actual throat-clearing. She's really totally green now.

"This is the other tie," she says, holding it out, though she's standing more than an arm's-length away from Karkat.

Karkat finishes pulling out the knot on the black tie, holds it out, then, after a moment, carefully takes it back.

"I'm taking both," he says. "I'll decide which to wear later."

Kanaya jumps a little when Karkat takes the grey one from her hand, but she covers it up with, "Would you like to change back?"

Karkat gives John a momentary horrified look that easily translates to boner oh god no not getting undressed here now, and John jumps in, "They're so comfy we want to wear them home."

John wasn't sure it was possible to for Kanaya to get more green. "Okay!" she squeaks. "I will find you a bag to put your clothes in! So you can take them home! Yes!"

She absconds. John looks up to find Karkat looking helpless and aroused, and John says, smiling and trying to look innocent at it, "It doesn't make much sense to carry two ties when you have a whole neck to put one on."