Sollux Captor calls Dave up right after classes start in August and says, "We're looking for a DJ to do an Ayem night at Matt's next month. You interested?"
"How much?" Dave asks, trying to resist beating his head against the desk at his E&M homework set.
"Fifty for a ten-to-two set."
"Sure. You want it all Alternian, I bet."
"If you want to talk that shit try Eridan."
"That hipster asshole? I'd sooner get tentacle raped by the Sunrise Lake Monster."
"Nepeta could arrange that," Sollux says, and hangs up before Dave can school him properly.
Dave got into this sort of peripheral relationship with Ayem-Seht-Ayem, the Alternian Student Alliance (ASA was taken by the Asians ages ago, and 'troll' is not politically correct these days), halfway through his freshman year when he took a comp-sci class with Sollux. Sollux wasn't the first Alternian Dave had seen in real life, but he was the first one Dave actually got to know at all, and the short of it is: Sollux is a complete nerd; being Alternian has nothing to do with it.
(He also has this weird fetish for duality and was dating both girls in a pair of identical twins, but that's totally his own business.)
There're about twenty Alternians of various points on the hemospectrum on campus; Dave hasn't met all of them, and doesn't really care.
The thing is, is that the kid on duty at Matt's, the campus dance club, the night of the set, is an Alternian student Dave has never seen before.
Dave manages to haul his gear into the building with a dolly, and is waiting for the elevator, when this kid in a wheelchair with huge bull horns and a ring septum piercing rolls up and says, "Dave Strider?"
"Tavros Nitram. I'm managing Matt's tonight. If you need any help just ask." And he offers his hand to shake, which is one of the saddest things ever, Dave thinks, because handshaking isn't a thing that Alternians raised on Alternia do.
So Dave shakes his hand. What else is he going to do? Tell an Alternian kid how to negotiate fucking Alternian-American identity?
"You a freshman, then?" Dave asks, while the elevator sinks slowly towards the basement and Matt's. Tavros managed to cram his wheelchair into the corner somehow, despite the dolly with the turntables and the mixer and the crates of vinyls and everything.
"Yeah," Tavros says, and grins up at him, open and so sadly, adorably freshman. "I'm sort of new to everything."
"Where you living?"
"Central dorm, Two South. 'Cause it's, um, close to the elevator..."
Dave nods, pushes his sunglasses up.
"What year are you?"
"Sophomore," Dave says, as the elevator dings. He waits for Tavros to wheel himself out of the elevator before trying to negotiate getting the dolly out.
"What are you thinking of playing?"
"Alternian. It's an Ayem night."
"There's, um, a lot of Alternian music out there," Tavros says, very quietly.
"Is there?" Dave asks in the most obnoxious tone possible, looking down at his equipment but keeping an eye on Tavros, who wiggles his nose in disappointment. It makes the ring in his nose shift, and for a moment he looks like a bull trying to chew a bite of grass with a rock in.
"Do you, um, need any help?"
"Stick around. Might at least have the company."
He's in the middle of making sure the jacks are all plugged in right when Aradia, this year's Ayem president, wafts down the stairs. She's a cool girl, a little steampunk, sort of quiet.
"Hi, Tavros," she says, smiling (smiling? Aradia never smiles) gently at Tavros, "Is Dave intimidating you?"
"A little," Tavros replies, at the same time as Dave says, "I don't intimidate people; they've naturally evolved to have the fear of Strider in them."
Aradia smiles again, this time at both of them. "Do you have everything you need?"
"Think so. You expecting a lot of attendance?"
"I'm not sure. I know most of the members of Ayem Seht Ayem will be here for at least a little while, but I don't know about anyone else."
"Okay," Dave says.
The music starts at ten, but nobody's unfashionable enough to come then – they're all pregaming, probably – so Tavros hangs around and Dave does some pop by Katyar Gerry and Daqam, adjusting the sound levels and having fun.
He talks with Tavros a little, too. Turns out Tavros is thinking of an English major; he's into children's literature in a big way. He's not actually a member of Ayem, but he's on friendly terms with most of the members.
"It's not an Alternian solidarity thing," Tavros says earnestly. "We're just, um, easy to spot, and even when you don't like someone, there's this temptation to think, 'well, maybe I should see if I can dislike them more,' you know...? In a way that humans, um, usually don't, um, do. Can I say that? Or is that speciesist?"
"It's true," Dave says. He throws on a nice little graphic tune all about sexing up a kismesis. Give me all your violence all your hate.
Tavros tilts his head; the lighting flickers off an ear piercing that Dave hadn't noticed before. He kind of wants to take it in his teeth and move it around, feel Tavros's skin shift with the pull. "But romance is cultural, too, I mean, Kanaya Maryam, she's in this red thing with a human girl, and that's working. So there are probably humans who, um, feel blackrom."
I'll send it back I swear
"And Alternians who only do love?" Dave asks.
Guts and guns and teeth and starless night
Dave lets that line of conversation end there.
I'll see your scabs tomorrow, know I put them there.
A couple of human kids come in, drunk, around eleven; that's the beginning of things, and Tavros goes to his post near the door not long after. It's still pretty quiet until twelve-thirty, when people finally, finally start coming in, so Dave throws on some decent Alternian hip-hop and has a grand time until about one-thirty, when he slips in this Alternian military piece, somewhere between a bagpipe band, African drumming, and the Red Army Choir. It's mostly about the glory of conquest, but nobody listens to the lyrics anyway so he gets away with it.
Tavros turns around (narrowly missing slamming one of his horns into someone's stomach) and stares at him.
So Dave pretends to ignore him, puts on the Alternian version of a Lady Gaga number, watches people frolic, and then puts in a piece by an underground Alternian rap group that happens to be in seven-eight time, just to watch drunk people try to use their wrong numbers of feet.
Tavros actually turns his chair around.
After that Dave winds things down, starts packing up once nearly everyone is gone.
"Do you need any help?" Aradia asks, skin shining with sweat from dancing in the close quarters of Matt's, hand-in-hand with a musclebeastly guy rumored to be the one who ripped the sink out of the wall in Lagrop dorm.
"I'll just borrow Tavros here," Dave says, unplugging some cables while his computer shuts down.
Aradia looks over at Tavros. "Are you okay with that?"
Tavros nods. He still looks sort of shell-shocked.
Aradia slips up the stairs, her boyfriend-matesprit-hookup-whatever clomping and making them shake.
There's a moment of silence, and then Tavros bursts out, "You played Clockwork Dayslicer." He's leaning forward in his seat, terribly earnest and, yep, there's a ring in the other ear too. There is basically no question at this point that Dave would really like to make out with him.
"'Course I did. Sollux didn't call me because I was going to go straight through all Alternian Top 40 in order all night."
"Oh my god," Tavros says, and ventilates in a hyperlike way for a little bit. This is about the time that Dave, just having put his turntables back in their coffin, starts humming what sounds like "Baby Got Back" except for an extra few beats halfway through the first verse, the song in question being not "Baby Got Back" but instead "Baby Got Rack," a paean to enormous horns.
Tavros goes orange. Dave feels distressingly suffused with pity.
Tavros locks up Matt's and helps him maneuver the dolly out of Central dorm, and then they keep chatting all the way to Jegitt dorm, which is where Dave lives. And then it's just easy to keep talking music as they ride the elevator up to Dave's little closet dorm room, easy to clear some space on the floor for Tavros between milk crates full of vinyls and piles of dirty clothes.
Tavros is actually pretty knowledgeable about Alternian funk, rap, and hip-hop, and every time he slips in the Alternian accent on the song titles or band names, Dave wants to kiss it out of his mouth, listen to his voice shake as Dave licks at his piercings.
Somewhere around three in the morning, he stands up, puts a hand on one of the armrests on Tavros's chair, leans over. Gets just-this-close to kissing, just enough space that Tavros can turn away if he doesn't want it, but he just reaches up to pull Dave in, overeager and messy and adorable.
His septum ring is pressed into Dave's cheek, skin-warm, and when they break away to breathe, Dave says, "Where else are you pierced?"
Tavros licks his lips. "Um. Why don't you find out?" His smile is sort of shaky, which makes the go slow siren in Dave's brain go off.
Dave keeps his grin to himself, sucks a line of probably-won't-hickey down Tavros's neck, and is about to start taking Tavros's t-shirt off when the neckline shifts and he sees the glitter of metal at the base of Tavros's throat.
"Is this one healed?"
"Good." And he licks at it, plays with the edges, drinks in the taste and texture of the metal against Tavros's skin while Tavros moans, clutching at his shoulders, and then Tavros pulls him up, kisses him again, breathlessly, before murmuring, Hold on.
"Um, I really, um, appreciate everything, but I have nine AM class on Fridays, and, it's three, and I need to sleep, um, I'm sorry."
"No," Dave says, trying to squish the way his dick is going But all that metal! And I bet he has nipple piercings! And the bros with me aren't meant to be blue! "It's cool. Sorry." He pushes his sunglasses back up.
"Are you, um, doing anything, tomorrow?" Tavros asks. His cheeks are orange, and – okay, wow, so is his neck, Strider note to self be more chill about him.
"I was going to work on a physics homework set," Dave says, "but it's E&M, and I think I can imagine a few practical experiments on the subject." Bad pickup lines said in ironic seriousness are cool. Dave is cool. Things are all right.
"Oh," Tavros says, overwhelmed, so Dave shooes him out of the room and goes to bed and tries to be cool enough not to wonder what Tavros's neck is going to look like tomorrow, what the metal of his earrings will taste like in Dave's mouth.