John, Prince of Prospit and heir to the throne, is utterly insufferable.
He's constantly upbeat even in the face of looming war, and goes out of his way to treat everyone like equals without coming off as patronising. As far as Karkat can tell, his oversized buckteeth don't serve any evolutionary purpose, and the faulty genes that make him squint through even the thickest rimmed glasses should've been culled out of the royal bloodline long ago. John's had years upon years of training and yet he still swings his sword like a wiggler that's yet to pupate and actually obtain arms, plays his piano to audiences of hundreds who cheer and applaud even when he hits the wrong notes (which admittedly doesn't happen often), and purposely forgets his place in order to help Karkat clear the table after dinner.
He also happens to be Karkat's best friend in the whole damn world.
Karkat had been a meagre five sweeps old when he'd been captured and caged by Skaia's Highbloods, and had been shipped off to the King of Prospit in the guise of a gift sent to mock him. There was a note attached to the irons around his throat, suggesting that the King's children might enjoy the spectacle of seeing a mutant blood fight to the death. Prospit had long since had a policy of treating all trolls, regardless of caste, with the same amount of respect as they did the human citizens, and most of the bordering kingdoms just couldn't comprehend how a society could expect to thrive when brown bloods were treated as well as blue bloods. Some of the trolls in Prospit themselves had a hard time adapting to the sudden change the King had ushered in, but the lowbloods eventually relished under his rule and the blue and purple bloods that couldn't handle it had packed up and left quickly enough. Those that remained felt they should be entitled to praise for deigning to treat lowbloods as equals, and the lowbloods never quite accepted that they wouldn't be culled for setting a foot out of line.
Back in Skaia, Karkat had done his best to keep out of trouble and avoided spilling any of his brightly coloured blood, and felt that his time had come when the Highbloods put him in chains. The King had sat rubbing his chin when Karkat was delivered to him, considered the note around his neck, and after a deep inhalation of his pipe, said he supposed that there were odd jobs around the castle that always needed doing. When Karkat did nothing but blink up at him, the King asked whether he'd like to earn himself a small wage and have quarters of his own to retire to, and Karkat supposed that scrubbing floors was better than being tossed into gladiatorial matches.
As it turned out, most of his duties consisted of baking cakes, which he had no natural talent for but learnt to throw the ingredients together like no one else in the kingdom, and cleaning up after the Prince and Princess.
From the moment Prince John had seen the new servant, he'd immediately attached himself to him. Other than his sister, there wasn't anyone else around the castle the same age as the Prince, and so he'd decided that most of Karkat's duties should involve, in his own words, exploring secret passageways and having fun with him. Karkat's first impression was that the Prince was too dense to realise he was a troll, mutant-blooded, and his inferior in every regard.
Karkat tolerates him, puts up with his lopsided grins and entirely inappropriate hair-ruffles, because John's going to be his King one day. Somehow, Karkat successfully manages to keep out of trouble for almost four sweeps. There was the unfortunate incident of not checking who was around when he started off on one of his patented rants, the result of which mostly consisted of Princess Jade deciding that fuckass was her new favourite word, but other than a few broken plates and sugarless cakes, he's kept himself on the current King's good side.
After close to four sweeps of rolling his eyes and lecturing John every time he strings a bow and it flings back and almost takes his eye out, of constantly complaining to the King's seamstress about John's endlessly frustrating habit of always remembering his Wriggling Day and the anniversary of when he started working in the castle, of John dragging him out onto the roof of the stables and then falling asleep against his shoulder when he forgets why they're up there in the first place and instead decides to stare up at the stars, disaster strikes.
And not just any sort of disaster. A disaster of the matrimonial type.
Karkat's not stressed. He's not panicking. He understands that this is just the way things go with these humans, and that he's been vaguely aware of what's been going on between Prospit and Derse over the last few sweeps. The Kingdoms were at war for the longest time, until the current monarch was crowned and very slowly began to adopt Prospit's views on the trolls. It's an odd sort of Kingdom, ruled over by a Queen, after the King abdicated the throne and was never seen from again. (That was the official line, anyway. Most of the servants in Derse's court are well aware that the former King now wanders around dressed as a Jester for irony's sake, and word spreads at formal events.)
It's just something that's going to happen to ensure that Prospit and Derse are forever entwined, so long as the bloodline that starts with Prince John and Princess Rose lives on. Karkat accepts that much for the Princess' first two visits, and then finds himself grinding his misshapen teeth together at the mere thought of her. Karkat would like to say that she's a great number of repugnant and vile things, but nothing comes to mind; he knows nothing about her, and she keeps herself to herself. She's been polite enough when he's seen her around the castle, but there's something underneath veil of etiquette that tells Karkat she'd very much like to comment in a high, snappy voice on everything she sees, taking on various shades of insincerity she does so. And if he's being objective about it, she's not bad looking. For a human. Her skin's paler than even John's and her light hair makes her look washed out, but John probably couldn't do much better for himself.
Karkat tries to make his peace with the situation, because he couldn't expect to hold onto John as his best friend for his entire life, as reluctant as he is to admit that the bond between them is very much mutual. And John, he seems as obliviously happy about this as he does everything else, even seems to be looking forward to his wedding day. Karkat grudgingly decides that there's no point in being selfish and attempting to derail this whole poorly constructed marriage, until Rose leaves for a second time and John grabs hold of his wrist, tugging him out of the castle.
Protesting as habit deems he must, Karkat swipes at the Prince's hands, but eventually refrains from doing him any bodily harm when he realises it might catch the attention of the guards. They're lucky to have escaped the confines of the castle without at least two or three of them tagging along, and so Karkat leads the way in order to protect his liege, knowing without asking where they're going. It's always the same place, the littering of stables by the lake in the castle's vast acres of open land. John lights a lantern and makes his way inside, pets the muzzle of his sandy-brown horse Casey, and Karkat waits diligently for him outside all the while, arms folded across his chest as if he possibly has anywhere more important to be.
John's exhausted from a day spent entertaining their royal guests and showing his fiancée around the expansive keep, and he's still in the finest of his long blue robes. They match his eyes, and Karkat hates the way he notices that. They don't climb up the hay bales and help one another clamber up onto the stable roofs as they usually would, and instead make their way over to the edge of the lake. John sits down on a flat-topped rock, and Karkat sits in the dirt, knees pulled to his chest. They left the lantern at the stables, because the moonlight hits the surface of the lake and bathes them other in an otherworldly glow. It's all so clichéd that Karkat disgusts himself by playing into it, by glancing over at John from the corner of his eye and noticing how damn white his front two teeth look in the dead of night.
“When I'm King,” John begins, stretching out his arms and legs like he's just yawned. “I'll make you a Knight! I think you'd like that.”
Karkat's never said anything about his nagging desire to take up the sword, and he doesn't bother asking John how the hell he knows. It's obvious enough when he steps in during John's sword practise and shows him how to swing the blade in a way that won't cost him an arm or a leg, much to his instructor's irritation. Karkat rolls his eyes like John's somehow suggested that he doesn't believe he's capable of it.
“Of course I'd like it. What's not to like about a life that doesn't involve constantly baking cakes for His Royal Highness, your goddamn dad? I mean, shit, John. Do you even know where all those cakes go? You haven't eaten one since you were six, and the help doesn't exactly get to gorge themselves on sickening sugary temptation.”
“Sweeps or years?”
“Haha, that sounds about right! I keep telling dad that nobody needs that much cake, not even Jade, but he never listens. He just says baking is one of the foundations our Kingdom was built upon, and so I should relish in the frostingy goodness. Or something,” John says, looking oddly pensive, like he's considering the role baked goods will play when Prospit is his. “Anyway, you can be a Knight. My Knight! That way, I won't have to worry about you sulking over washing up the plates and refusing to talk to me when I try helping you out.”
Karkat wants to ask John why the fuck he'd help him out in the first place, but he's asked him that question hundreds of times over the last handful of sweeps, and he's never got a satisfying answer. He sighs, resting his chin on his propped up knees. It's not that John doesn't realise Karkat is a troll, a mutant-blood, a servant; it's just that he spectacularly manages to not give anything in the way of a flying fuck.
“Oh, that will go down well. Get the bright-red blooded baker to spontaneously take up a sword with no prior training and let him stand around the King, even though he's constantly angry about something. Seriously, John, I think there are rules against that,” Karkat spits out, though he'd very much like to accept the offer that must be a joke at his expense, even if John doesn't play pranks on people that way. Besides, enthusiasm just isn't his forté. He'll leave the flailing and high-pitched shrieking to John.
“I'll change the rules,” John says, suddenly throwing his hands up high towards the night sky, like he himself has just scattered the stars there. From a political point of view, Karkat supposes that's the power the peasants are led to believe their monarch holds over them.
“You'll change the rules for me? John, you're going to be a fucking appalling King.”
“I know,” John says after a moment, and when Karkat glances his way, he sees that his characteristic grin has momentarily faded, “So that's why I'll change the rules to have you by my side. I think you'd be better at this whole leadership deal than me!”
For a moment, Karkat is almost overwhelmed by the sickening urge to comfort John. He wants to point out that he's only a lowly servant whose education has barely extended beyond reading, and that John has spent sweeps upon sweeps being trained for this one singular purpose. He's had the best tutors and a great example to learn from, and Karkat wants to tell him that he's probably going to do better than the both of them believe he will, as long as he doesn't let himself be influenced by Derse's so-called Prince too much. Of course, Karkat swallows back the urge like it's bile and says nothing of the sort, because no amount of moonlight and atmosphere, like the two of them by the lake are the only ones in an empty world, is going to turn him mushy.
Instead, curiosity gets the better of him, and he asks: “What about Rose? She'll be there to support you, right?”
He winces when the question falls outs from between his lips and erects itself as a monument to awkwardness between them. It's then that he realises that he just plain doesn't want to know anything about Rose, especially in relation to John, and Karkat's done his best all day to avoid overhearing what he's certain are awkward confessions of a first love, and oh, Princess Rose, I'd love you even if this wasn't an arranged marriage that we have no choice but to go through in the name of continued peace. You could be a farmer's daughter with boils under your arms and I'd still ask for your hand in marriage! Karkat grimaces for a moment, worried by how much that sounds like John. In his head, at least. He has this habit of thinking he speaks far more literally than he does and doesn't understand the bluntness of his own words.
“Rose is nice!” John says, and it's not exactly the answer Karkat was looking for. Karkat picks up a loose stone and skims it across the lake's surface. “She seems really smart and pretty. And it's so easy to talk to her. It's just like being with Jade, only I don't already know everything about her and where she's from.”
Karkat's picked up another stone to try beating the seven jumps the last one successfully completed, and physically has to restrain himself from tossing it directly at John's forehead. While he might not be an expert in the bizarre phenomenon that is the human family tree, and still has trouble remembering how the hell second cousins and great aunts tie into things, he knows enough about siblings to conclude that what John's said is very, very wrong. A man should never, ever compare his future wife to his sister, as far as human taboo goes; that isn't the rousing speech of a man in love.
With a sigh, Karkat scowls deeply. This means he actually has to do something, because he can no longer convince himself that John's going to live happily ever after with the Princess. He's going to have to put his neck on the line and risk exile, not execution, because Prospit doesn't practise the latter, and do something as extreme as own up to his own feelings. Hands clenched into fists at the thought, he looks up at John, and then falls back on the grass, defeated.
Maybe he'll save that for a last resort.
Karkat visits his moirail five times in as many days, under the guise that he needs his clothing patched up. At the end of his fifth visit, Kanaya admits that she cottoned onto something being wrong when he first turned up, because he'd never had any qualms about wearing tattered clothing before, and had wanted to see how long it took him to admit that there was something troubling him. Of course, even her patience isn't unlimited, and so she buckled, letting him regale her with the whole sordid tale of his heart's torment. Well, he gives her the abridged version, at any rate. There's no point denying any flushed aspirations around Kanaya, because not only is she a master tailor, but she's also a master meddler.
Once he's told her the gist of it, like she's somehow going to be able to call off the wedding, Kanaya hmms and haas to herself, and then asks Karkat how she can help him out. This much, at least, he's got all worked out. Kanaya's been chosen to design the Princess' wedding dress, because there's no one else in either Kingdom who compares to her. Karkat sometimes asks her what she's doing with such a low down moirail, and she always hushes him, never feeding into his bouts of self-deprecation. He always deflates a little when she doesn't fuel the fires of his personal rage.
The plan is this: Kanaya makes small talk with the Princess, or whatever the hell she does when she's measuring someone up, and finds out how she feels about John. Karkat doesn't know what the point in this all is, exactly, but he supposes he has to start somewhere. If Rose has fallen for John's gormless charms, then Karkat knows that it's really no good, and he'll have as good an excuse as any to give up.
Karkat sits in Kanaya's block, trying not to drown in a sea of satin sashes and floral-patterned pillows, waiting impatiently for her to get back from her meeting with the Princess. She's fifteen minutes late already and Karkat's imagining all sorts of disasters unravelling, including the Princess weeping onto Kanaya's shoulder, overcome by her unstirred love for the Prince of Prospit. Karkat grinds his train of thought to a screeching half, brow knitting together. He vaguely wonders if he's actually ever met any girls in his life.
Half an hour later than they agreed to meet, Kanaya bursts into her block, a whirlwind of burning jade skin and rushed apologies, and Karkat's first thought is: well, fuck. He shuffles over on her sofa that she insists on calling a chaise longue to make room for her, expecting the worst. Maybe his methods were too obvious after all. Maybe Princess Rose saw right through his cunning plan to get her to admit that her feelings for John are rooted in loyalty to her land and nothing more.
“Karkat, I know this will stay between the two of us, and so there is something I must tell you: that woman is a witch,” Kanaya says in a strained whisper, like any eavesdroppers could actually hear anything through the layers of brightly coloured fabrics pinned to all of the walls. “With her words, I mean. I am not suggesting that the Princess of Derse possesses any sort of supernatural or otherwise wicked influence.”
“Cut to the fucking chase and just tell me you didn't find out what I sent you there for,” Karkat snaps, like it was his influence that got her to Derse's Princess, rather than the King's.
“That's not what I'm saying. If you'd allow me to get to the point. Well, I did eventually ask the Princess what you requested of me, hoping to sound like I was merely curious, if not a little jealous. To which the Princess informed me that she'd much rather enter into wedlock with the Princess of Prospit. Which I naturally assumed was a joke, and she asked what I thought was so amusing. Whatever it was that I foolishly forced out of my protein chute in order to quell what might have been her anger only caused her to say more and more, and—” Kanaya pauses, here, head in her hands. “It's never a comfortable position to be in when you're on your knees in front of said argumentative Princess attempting to measure her in seam.”
Before Kanaya has the necessary time to despair into the cradle of her palms, Karkat grabs told of the end of one of her horns, pulling her head back.
“No,” he declares loudly, authoritatively. Kanaya's brow furrows in confusion, and he cuts her off before she can fire any of her incessant questions his way. “This isn't about you, Kanaya. This ridiculous situation is between me, the Prince of Absolutely Fuckall, and John, Prince Of The Fucking Air We Breathe. I've grudgingly admitted my potential romantic escapades to you, and so we're focusing on my pathetic, flushed feelings here. If you're going to start stroking your bulge over the Princess of Ruining My Miserable Existence, then that's something that has to happen off-stage.”
“Karkat.” Kanaya frowns, unimpressed. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“You know exactly what I mean. You've seen all the goddamn romantic plays with me, haven't you?”
Kanaya nods very slowly. Karkat spends his wages on tickets to the theatre, to spend long hours on his feet with the rest of the peasantry, awaiting the upcoming play, and not much else. Kanaya's been dragged along to one production of A tale in which two lususes are constantly warring; a young male troll is pining for a woman who doesn't pity him back, and considers killing himself until he meets another lady troll a few days later; to add conflict to the story, the two star-crossed trolls are the wards of the aforementioned lususes; they sneak around when being upfront would probably solve all of their problems; numerous people are run through with swords; the young troll girl sends her lover a letter; the troll girl pretends to be dead; the troll boy thinks she's truly dead, having not received the aforementioned letter; distraught, the boy troll finally kills himself; the troll girl wakes up; the troll girl finds her matesprit's body and kills herself too many.
“Okay. Whatever the fuck unravels between you and the Princess who's turned you bright green, it has to stay in the background. It's not important. We're not going to dwell on that, because my problem is the fucking iceberg that towers over your one-oared rowing boat. You've earnt yourself a respectable role within the castle. Your potentially doomed tale of pity isn't as fucking unlikely as mine. So calm your horns, Maryam, and let me focus on my problems.”
Kanaya opens her mouth as if to protest, and Karkat can practically see the gears whirring away in her think pan. He knows exactly what she's thinking. She's thinking that she wasn't considering any such thing until he went to great lengths to spell it out for her, and Karkat wants to slap himself.
He was far too eager to get the starring role in his own doomed, unrequited romance that he's gone ahead and put thoughts in Kanaya's head, and now she's going to spend the next perigee sat at her desk, chin in her palm, sighing wistfully as she sketches out designs for the Princess's dress. Karkat grumbles to himself under his breath, because even if it's ridiculous, it's still a thousand times more productive than anything he's been doing. If he takes Kanaya's report at face value then it doesn't sound as if Princess Rose is as enthralled by the prospect of marriage as she could be, and though it's the result he was hoping for, Karkat doesn't know what he's going to do with the information.
It's hardly as if he can approach her at the table of the great hall and, under the guise of reaching out to collect up the dirty plates, ask her if she wouldn't mind finding herself another husband-to-be. The more he desperately tries to piece a plan of actual worth together, the more he realises that this is something that is going to happen, something that's going to keep a lot of people safe for sweeps to come. He can't believe how selfish John has made him. God, he hates him sometimes, the way he just appears from nowhere and drapes himself all over him, like they're both the result of the same incestuous slurry.
Karkat slumps against Kanaya's shoulder with a sigh, and tells her that much. She tells him that no, of course he doesn't hate his Prince, and Karkat can't stand the way she's always right about these things.
Karkat's next plan involves a grapple hook attached to the chandelier in the great hall, uncooked cake mix, two tablespoons of diuretic, a tube of horn polish and a ball of yarn, but luckily for all parties involve, the Dersite royal family heads back to their own Kingdom before Karkat can properly iron all the kinks out. The Prince and the Princess leave several days before their mother for a reason Karkat's certain is to do with politics, because there's still a fair amount of territory the Kingdoms are squabbling over. John bids Princess Rose farewell with a bashful smile and presents her with a handful of pink and white flowers that he picked himself, and god, he hasn't even bothered to cut the fucking roots off. Karkat can't stand how obliviously sentimental he's being.
With the visiting royals gone, much of the excitement that was buzzing through the castle dies down. Life goes back to normal. For a while, Karkat allows himself to imagine that the worst is already over and that the monotony they're back to is going to last forever. It's easy to go back to thinking of John as an insufferable moron when there's no purple-clad Princess around to remind him that he's about to be shackled down by the unshakable bonds of marriage. When reality hits, as its often wont to, Karkat thinks that it can't all possibly be as bad as he's making it out to be. If the Witch of Derse holds no love for Prospit's Prince then surely their marriage will all be for show. Karkat will be John's Knight, loyal at his side, and then maybe one fateful night— no, he can't even entertain such thoughts.
It's the kind of supposedly romantic drivel he'd expect from a seedy play performed in the back of a dingy little bar that acts as an abattoir by day, and Karkat just knows the lead's wearing a set of pantaloons he borrowed from his mother. Not that he's ever stumbled upon any of these plays by accident or otherwise, of course.
He spends an inordinate amount of time grumbling about things, as if The Vast Sulk that builds up in his system will tear the universe into tiny, unrecognisable pieces and then slot itself back together in a way that suits him. But if that's going to happen, he wants Prince John out of every one of his quadrants, especially those of a scarlet persuasion. Sometimes Karkat goes so far as to wish that he could at least be black for John, but he knows that would be even harder on him. John would grin and say something absurd like You keep saying you hate me, so here's a new sword to make up for whatever it was I did! and never return his fiery hatemance.
Sitting in the corner of his bed, back against the wall, Karkat pulls a hefty quilt up and over himself. It's one that Kanaya made him upon establishing their moirallegence. Each square has some weapon or another embroidered onto it, because he's going to be a great warrior one day, except for the two in the top right corner than depict their respective symbols, joined together by a pale diamond. God, she's so sappy. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the more Karkat thinks about it, the more he wishes that she'd hurry up and get back to the castle already. She's been gone for two days, sent on a quest to Derse to make arrangements for the maid-of-honour's dress, and no, Karkat didn't fail to notice the way she spent an hour longer than usual getting ready and wore a new dress for the occasion. Perhaps Kanaya will prove herself to be the greatest moirail who's ever lived and run off with Princess Rose into the sunset holding hands, or whatever it is flighty broads do.
He doesn't sleep much that night, half consumed by forcing his brain to come up with yet another brilliant plan, half idly wondering exactly what his Knight's armour would look like. He tosses and turns on the bed, no longer thinking that trying to sleep in such a way is so painfully human, because the truth of the matter is ever since coming to Prospit, he doesn't need to use his cocoon more than two or three times a week.
Dawn breaks, and he still doesn't have a master plan. What happens next, however, he later becomes quite adamant about being part of his plan all along, because he refuses to admit to just how astronomically badly he spontaneously fucks up.
Without necessarily meaning to, he's avoided John for the last few days. To his way of thinking, he's turning his ever-growing frustration at the situation into productivity by keeping busy, but he can't very well ignore the Prince when he tackles him into one of the supplyblocks he'd been fishing around in for a mop and slams the door shut behind them. It's one of the troll supplyblocks, thank god, because Karkat doesn't want to think too deeply about the buckets piled up in the one the humans use. He grumbles under his breath as John pushes him inside, almost trips over his own feet, and swears to god that someone with senses less honed than his would've mistaken the Prince for an attacker and instinctively thwacked him around the head with the business end of the mop.
Actually, Karkat kind of regrets not doing that, but John has his arms around his shoulders and the moment's kind of been and gone.
John is all smiles in the dusty sunlight that filters in the one narrow window, and Karkat's curiosity would be piqued if John wasn't always all unerasable smiles. Karkat drops his mop to the floor, doesn't feel that it clatters against the stone tiles loudly enough, and folds his arms across his chest. That's the default position assumed when John's latched onto him. To John, it must read I don't want you spreading your fucking friendship disease all over me, but what Karkat's really saying with the defensive gesture is I'm irreversibly flushed for an idiot who acts like it's Christmas every day, get your unintentional torture the hell away from me.
“I bet you're wondering why I'm here!” John says when Karkat doesn't buckle and ask him why he's there. Karkat just shakes his head. It's John's castle, after all. He has every right to be wherever the hell he wants. “Well, I won't keep you in suspense. I'm here to ask you a question!”
“If you're looking for your riding boots again, they're in the stables, and yes, I've scrubbed them. I've scrubbed them so fucking well that they couldn't be cleaner if your dad's legislator used her freakishly long tongue to tend to the dirt-encrusted leather.”
John laughs, bumping the side of his head against Karkat's temple. Karkat keeps a straight face, glances at him out of the corner of his eye, and can tell that John's in two minds about this; he desperately wants Karkat to have to keep guessing, but at the same time, he can't hold himself back for much longer.
“What I really came for was to ask if you'd be my best man! Haha, after all these sweeps I know where you put my boots, Karkat.”
He says it like it's nothing. Like he wants to know what's for lunch, or what the weather was like yesterday afternoon. Karkat regrets throwing the broom to the ground. He needs something to wring his hands around.
His reply comes quickly, clearly, and though anger may well be Karkat's trademark, there's something absolutely furious in the way he speaks the word. He jerks his shoulders back, throwing John's arm off him, and there's not enough space in the supplyblock to get away from him. John's stood right in front of the door and he doesn't want to have to push past him, doesn't want to have to look at him, because he can't believe how goddamn insensitive the Prince is being.
“What... ?” John asks, trying to laugh at what he probably hopes is a joke, but unable to completely mask the worry in his voice. “You don't have to worry about any of the things you're usually busy fretting over! My dad's already given me permission to ask you, and we'll get Kanaya to make you a new outfit, so you'll fit right in.”
Karkat furrows his brow, swinging out one leg. He immediately regrets it when his toes come into contact with the stone wall, but he's far to set on being stern to hiss out in pain. As much as Karkat claims it irritates him when Prince John acts like they're on the same level, it's even worse when he makes it clear that he knows there are worlds between them. How he insinuates that someone like Karkat needs permission for it to be known that he's part of his life, and that there's something wrong with how he dresses, with what he owns and can afford. That he should drown himself in finery for a day just to be seen with him.
“Listen, John, forget it. I said no, okay? So don't do that godforsaken thing where you look like someone's kicked an infant woofbeast in the side because its adorable levels became intolerable and somehow manage to change my mind,” Karkat begins, and can feel John's eyes on him, uncertain of where all this is leading. Karkat wishes he could say that he knew. “You're the Prince of this whole fucking Kingdom, and soon enough you'll marry the Princess. And after that? Shit, after that you're the King, and while all these big changes in your life are going on, do you know what happens to me? Nothing. Absolute bulge-bumping fuckall. I'm a servant now. I'll be a servant in ten sweeps, and the sooner you realise that the better.”
John says nothing in reply, and Karkat knows he's said too much. Hands clenched into fists at his side, he tries to keep his eyes down, finally pushing past Karkat in order to get to the door. He's just about to grab the handle when John seizes hold of his wrist, stopping him in his tracks.
“Is this about Princess Rose?” John asks, “Because I was going to say something earlier. I mean, I know you like to pretend that you don't like anyone, but you really seem to have something against her!”
Karkat tries to pull his arm free, but John isn't letting him worm his way out of this one that easily.
“It's not her I have a problem with. Sure, she seems completely stuck-up and full of herself, but other than Jade, what Princess isn't? I'm just stick of wading waist-deep in the layer of scum spread over the political battlefield that's Prospit and Derse barely being able to hold back from throttling the ever-loving fuck out of one another, and then acting like throwing two goddamn wigglers together is going to solve everyone's problem.”
“For the love of— I'm only going to say this once, John, so I hope your auricular sponge clots are clear. You don't love her! I am the fucking master of romance, John, troll and human alike, so don't try telling me otherwise. I've been to every play that's toured through the Kingdom, some so many times that I know the whole damn script off by heart and back to front, so I know the signs when I see them. You can delude yourself all you want, and I sincerely hope that the lie makes you happy for a long, long time, because you're going to rip off one of your arms just to beat yourself over the head with it when you realise how monumentally you've fucked up.”
There's a clammy sort of silence in the air when his speech draws to a close, but Karkat thinks he might just be sweating. He lets himself look up at John then, sees his brow knitted together in confusion, lips slightly parted, unable to say anything in response. Karkat knows he's right, knows that he's hit a nerve, and then hates himself for making John look so unapologetically bruised by what he's said. His blood pounds in his ears, and Karkat doesn't know what to say next, what to do, but John's very slowly releasing his grip on his wrist and pulling away.
It suddenly occurs to him that he could kiss the Prince.
They're painfully close. They've been close before, but this is different. There's so much unidentifiable tension rife between them that Karkat thinks it might really work. Thinks it might finally knock some sense into John.
He leans in. He gets close, close enough for his nose to bump against John's, but can't bring himself to do it. Like a pathetic wiggler he backs away, even though he's already gone far enough to make his intentions perfectly clear, and completing the motion couldn't do much more to mess things up further.
John's still blinking in confusion moments after Karkat's stepped back, brain busy trying to process what the hell just happened. All of a sudden he lets out a strained startled noise and hops back, like Karkat's moved back closer towards him.
“It doesn't matter whether I love Rose or not,” John says, scratching the back of his neck, still refusing to either confirm or deny it. “It's about something bigger than me. That's what my dad's always taught me. This is about Prospit, and I thought you'd understand that. Y'know, as my best friend.”
John doesn't wait for a reply, which is probably for the best, considering that Karkat doesn't have one to give him. He can only stare at the Prince as he glances around the supplyblock like he has a concussion and suddenly can't remember what he's doing there, or where there even is, and then leaves without a goodbye, door closing behind him.
Godfuckingdammit, Karkat thinks. John's going to make a great King, and he's going to be miserable for it.
The Princess of Derse goes shithive maggots.
The official line is that she's come down with an illness, serious but not fatal, and so the wedding arrangements have to be postponed. Karkat happens to have an inside source in the form of Kanaya who arrives back a few days after the Princess loses it, and tells him the whole sordid tale. Everyone in Prospit knows that Dersites have a natural propensity towards black magic, but apparently the Princess took her dabbling a little too far, fuelled on by the stress of the upcoming wedding. Or at least Kanaya assumes it was the stress that did it, because it's always hard to tell with these humans and their layers upon layers of sludgy sarcasm, and Karkat tells her that he hopes to god nothing happened between the two of them. If he has to be miserable, then Kanaya sure as hell has to be as well.
The Queen of Derse comes to Prospit to talk matters over with the King, and John leaves for Derse almost immediately, to ensure that Princess Grimdark hasn't shoved her magic wands into her eye sockets. Karkat grabs a shovel, digs a hole, and buries the whole notion of coming up with a plan to fix things, and decides it's for the best that he just doesn't try any more. So much for becoming a Knight, for being the leader of something; he's left that all behind him, lost his best friend in the process, but he supposes it's good to get his head out of the clouds. He has to keep in mind that he was hatched so low that he wasn't even on the hemospectrum, and so getting to call himself a servant should be more than he ever hoped for in life.
He works longer shifts. He doesn't care when the sun beats down on his back, or how often he has to use his sleeve to wipe the sweat from his brow. He doesn't think about Prince John, doesn't think about the deranged Princess, and certainly doesn't think about them together in any sense of the word. He goes to his his favourite play, the one with the very long and intricate title, and doesn't feel any better for it.
Three weeks later and Prince John finally returns. The Queen of Derse is still at the castle, and Karkat can't believe how much wine the woman gets through at dinner. There's little wondering to be done about why her husband left her in favour of a Jester's costume. As soon as John returns, he's dragged into all manner of meetings; discussing bringing the wedding back forward now that everything's been sorted, Karkat assumes. He can safely say that he has absolutely no desire to see John, unlike Kanaya who's rather eager to track him down, concerned for the Princess's safety.
His ploy to brazenly ignore the Prince last for approximately three days, at which point John manages to track him down, despite the fact that Karkat's done his best to confine himself to work in the cellars. The place is full of great barrels of wine from all sorts of years and Kingdoms, and the Queen of Derse has already made Karkat give her a tour and picked out her favourites; if the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, then Karkat feels even worse for John. Or he would, if he felt bad for him at all in the first place, because he's not holding onto so much as a drop of sympathy for him. It's all unmitigated anger now, and though Karkat knows he should probably be aiming his rage at himself, there's just so much of it that it bounces right off his horns and fires directly for John.
Karkat refuses to make eye contact, as if that'll make the Prince disappear, hunches his back, and leans over, continuing to work on the leaky valve he's been fixing. He can hear the fluttering of John's obscenely long blue cape behind him, which probably means that John's rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet and playfully swooshing it around him. Karkat can just picture the idiotic grin slapped across his face. John taps him on the shoulder, and although Karkat knew it was coming, he starts, dropping his spanner to the ground. A clatter rings out through the room as metal meets stone, and when the ringing fades away, it's replaced by the sound of John's laughter.
“What?” Karkat demands as he finally spins around, not looking as threatening as he'd like to without something to clutch in his hand. “—Your Highness.”
John sighs loudly at that, and Karkat can't believe that he's managed to lead him down the passive-aggressive route. He got out of the habit of referring to John by his title three sweeps ago. Now would be an excellent time to apologise for what he said, even though he can't remember it all clearly. He was seeing red even more than usual at the time, and vaguely remembers something about suggesting John tear his own arm off, but that's where his recollection ends. Karkat can tell plainly enough that whatever he said wasn't nice, and though John's stood in front of him smiling, it's clear that his words really must've stung.
Karkat's hands tighten into fists, and he prepares himself to apologise like nobody's ever apologised before. In his head, it goes something like this: Hey, Prince Fuckass, I'm sorry that you somehow managed to make me so pathetically flushed for you, and that's why I said those stupid things. Also, let's never mention that non-kiss again. Ever. He shudders without meaning to, having purposely blocked the non-kiss out of his mind until that very moment. There's absolutely no way he can write it off as being something else, because not even John is that dense, and if he'd actually managed to go through with it he at least could've played it off as being done in the heat of the moment. When Karkat actually opens his mouth to apologise, it comes out like this:
“Yeah!” John says, grasping onto the strands of what could be an actual conversation. He's never been offended by people pointing out the obvious. “And I've got something to tell you. But you have to promise that you won't tell anyone else until there's an official anouncement, okay?”
“I swear to every troll and human god combined,” Karkat begins very slowly, worryingly calmly, “If you've got the Princess pregnant, I'm going to drink every last drop of wine in this cellar until my mind fucking packs up and leaves and I have absolutely no recollection of ever having met you.”
John laughs at that. He laughs and then he cringes, mind wandering somewhere he probably doesn't want it to. Reaching out, he places both hands on Karkat's shoulders, back to being excited, and Karkat wonders how out of line it would be to shrug him off. Seeing as they're no longer best friends, and Prince John is just Prince John to him.
Just as Karkat's about to tell John the suspense is killing him, John blurts it out all in one breath.
“My dad's going to marry the the Queen of Derse! How cool is that?”
Karkat blinks heavily, slowly, and then John's flickering in front of him like the images scrawled across one side of a flipbook. The gears in his head slowly turn and his think pan gradually warms up, and then he can't believe how utterly obvious it's been along. He has absolutely no right to call himself an expert on romance, as if the disaster with John hasn't proven that much already, but then something even more important occurs to him. If the King marries the Queen of Derse, then that binds the Kingdoms together in a state of peace. There'd be no reason whatsoever for John to marry Princess Witchface, other than the obvious tenants of love.
“That's—” he furrows his brow, desperate not to get his hopes up, but it's such a foreign feeling that he's not certain how to suppress it. “Pretty fucking cool, yeah. Your dad's been alone for a long time. So you and the Princess... ?”
Karkat probably should've been patient and not tacked that last part on straight away, but then he's standing there gesticulating randomly with his hands, and there's no way to take it back. When John awkwardly scratches the back of his neck rather than declare that the wedding's off, Karkat feels his heart sink into gut, and then wishes someone would cut his suffering short. They could throw him back into the brooding caverns, let the beasts in there ground him to a pulp, and then allow the Mother Grub to use the slurry left behind to make something worthwhile out of him.
“Princess Rose is really, really nice!” John says a little too energetically. Karkat thinks he should add a few more words to his vocabulary, because he uses the same descriptors to praise his breakfast each morning. “But our marriage won't really do the Kingdoms any good now, y'know? And with my dad marrying her mom, I'll get another sister and a brother out of it, and I think that might be better than a wife.”
That's all Karkat can say, because he's just realising that John's hands are still on his shoulders and that the whole of his attention is on him, and after countless torturous perigees, he finally isn't throwing himself into a loveless marriage. He's looking at Karkat like he wants something from him, but Karkat can't even begin to process the utter relief he feels. Bringing up a hand, he claps it firmly against the back of one of John's and gives him a slight nod, and John seems to understand this is Karkat doing his best to apologise.
They've been looking at one another in the silence for an uncomfortably long time, and Karkat suddenly remembers the spanner on the floor. Kneeling down, he scoops it up, and then begins wiping the grimy metal with an old rag tucked into the waist of his pants.
“Listen, I've got to—” Karkat begins, words still not coming to him as they should. He jerks a thumb over at the leaking barrel, John nods in understanding one too many times, and with a wave he's gone, cape swooshing behind him.
“This is a fucking disaster.”
Karkat's back in Kanaya's block, because as much as he complains about the ever-changing drapery and cushion piles, it's a hell of a lot nicer than the self-styled dive he calls a respiteblock. Besides, sometimes a troll needs a pile of something to curl up in, even in the mannequins Kanaya has scattered around her room are ridiculously disturbing. Especially when he comes into the dark block a little tired, sees what he assumes to be Kanaya's silhouette at the window, starts ranting at her, and then quickly finds that she has no face. But prerequisite complaining aside, there he is, flopped back against a cushion pile while Kanaya sits in an armchair, carefully pushing a pulling a needle through some piece of fabric. Karkat can't even pretend to feign interest.
“I thought this was what you wanted, Karkat,” she says, glancing over at him, “Prince John is no longer marrying Rose, the Kingdom isn't in any immediate danger, and so to me it seems like your plan has come together suspiciously well.”
Karkat tosses the cushion that's rested against his chest and covering much of his mouth to the side so that he can properly scowl at Kanaya, but she misses the no doubt intimidating expression he fires across the room. She's turned to the side, running her fingers across a few odd squares of material she's pinned on one of the mannequins, and Karkat can't really snap at her to pay more attention to him. He can only imagine how much she must have on her plate what with the wedding plans changing so drastically, and everything she's made up until this point having to be scrapped.
“That wasn't my fucking plan, Kanaya. It wasn't even a plan. It was a stack of coincidences and lucky breaks thrown on top of one another like a pile of good luck that's not good luck at all, because it was only making up for my shitty luck in the first place. Everything's back to how it was. I didn't do anything!” Karkat grumbles, wondering why he's spending his evening in Kanaya's block, rather than down at the closest tavern. “And don't think I didn't notice the way you're apparently on first name basis with the Wicked Witch of Derse.”
Ignoring his remark except for to point out that Princess Rose is no longer marrying John and thus Karkat has no reason to be spiteful in her general direction, Kanaya goes off on a tangent about how it's such a shame that she never got to complete her dress, and maybe she should have it delivered to Derse anyway, so that the Princess could see her progress. Karkat stares at her blankly the whole time, her fashion-minded rambling going in one auricular sponge clot and out the other, and though some part of him is certain that he should be fretting about how dangerous the supposedly grimdark Princess could truly be, John's told him that she “got better,” and so he's taking that at face value. He's in no mood to be doling out advice about other people's love life.
The goal, he knows he'd tell Kanaya if she asked for help, is to be as much of a fuck-up as possible around her and make yourself miserable.
“Kanaya,” he says sternly when he realises that she's still talking about dresses. “Maryam.”
Kanaya shakes her head a little, looking up from the ream of fabric now cradled in her arms, and it takes her a moment to remember that they're supposed to be discussing his problem. The one that she doesn't consider to be a problem at all, because she just doesn't understand how anticlimactic this all is. It's like he isn't even a part of his own story, because everything's happened off-stage without his influence, and that's not how things should pan out for one of the great leaders of the future.
“I understand what your problem is. You wanted to swoop Prince John off his feet like a Knight in shining armour, didn't you?”
Karkat growls under his breath, throwing a cushion right at her forehead.
“Shining? My armour would've been glowing so goddamn brightly that it would've put your trashy rainbow drinkers to shame.”
With a roll of her eyes, Kanaya puts the fabric down on the top of her desk, picks up the cushion, and fluffs it up before returning it to the pile. Karkat glowers up at her, brow furrowing all the more when she leans over and kisses his forehead, causing him to sink further into the pile.
“There's still time to dramatically win the Prince over, Karkat,” she says fondly, and for a moment, he almost manages to believe her. “And my novels are anything but trashy.”
The royal wedding is to be held in Prospit rather than Derse. Officials claim it's because of the more favourable weather at that time of year in the heart of Prospit, but Karkat gets the sneaking suspicion that it's because the Queen's depleted so much of the wine cellar that she couldn't find her way back to Derse if someone slung her over their shoulder and dropped her off in her own castle. Karkat's just as busy as everyone else seems to be, charged with putting together a twelve tier wedding cake, and when he offers his congratulations to the King, the King tells him not to skimp on the icing.
Princess Rose and Prince Dave come to stay in the castle two weeks before the day itself, and despite the Princess now sporting a layer of ash over her skin (a side effect of the medication she was on, the people are assured), there's something about her that pisses him off a whole lot less. Of course, he still has to battle away the instinctive urge to launch one of the cakes her way whenever he sees her talking to John, but Kanaya tells him he's being silly, and that she's of absolutely no threat to him anymore. Kanaya, who should be infinitely stressed with the amount she's expected to make, seems to glide through the whole situation with a soft smile, and Karkat doesn't want to know what's going on there.
He thinks he and John might be friends again, but with how busy they both are their avoidance of each other could either be purpose or accidental, and Karkat knows he can't get too annoyed with John. After all, it's hardly as if he's made any effort to approach him. What they need is to discuss the non-kiss, get it out in the open and over and done with, and then Karkat can stop nervously glancing over his shoulder every time he hears footsteps down the corridor, hoping against hope that it's not John.
It never is. He's almost disappointed, and mostly in himself. Now that everything's gone back to some semblance of normalcy and a dozen nonsense plans aren't gnawing their way into his think pan, Karkat becomes the biggest coward to ever set foot in the castle. He acts like he has all the time in the world, like John's never going to find another suitor, someone else's hand to take; it's as if he can only acknowledge his own feelings when he's caught up in the centre of a train wreck, about to lose everything.
When he's done for yet another long day and clouds of flour and icing sugar are dusted against the black of his shirt, Karkat washes his hands over and over, though he never manages to get all of the batter out from under his nails. He perpetually smells of egg yolk and yeast and strawberries, and decides that what he really needs, other than a long soak in the ablation trap, is some fresh air. Hands shoved into his pockets, Karkat makes his way out of the castle, and the guards at the door tower over him but don't do much but glance down out of the corner of their eyes. Karkat tries not to look back, tries not to look at the royal crest branded onto the front of their armour, the great staves in their hands, swords hanging at their sides, but he can't help it. He's jealous.
Getting away from the castle that's slowly serving as a reminder of everything he'll never have seems like a good idea. Across the fields he goes, and in the dim evening light the lake reflects the sky as a milky shade of grey. He doesn't quite get that far, though. He reaches the stables, decides that's far enough, and then tosses a few bales on top of one another, heaving himself up onto the roof. A few of the burnt red tiles are loose under his feet, and he makes a mental note to repair them when all the marriage nonsense is over and done with. In the centre of the roof the slope comes to an abrupt halt, and flattens out just enough to comfortably sit perched on.
Karkat slouches forwards, bony elbows digging into his knees, chin rested in his hands, and thinks about much of nothing. He's sick to death of going over everything in his mind, tired of always coming to the same conclusion: the biggest problem he now faces is his own stubborn determination to never really work to make himself happy. Or constantly infuriated by John's needlessly endearing behaviour, which is as close to happy as he thinks he could ever manage. There are big problems, there are odds stacked against him and threatening tumble and crush him like a dozen logs set loose down a hillside, but he's making them out to be greater excuses than they truly are.
He squints, staring over at the castle. He's never been exactly certain of how far away the stable is from the main keep, but it can't be much more than half a mile. Karkat squints harder when he just about makes out the shape of something or someone moving through the field in what looks like could result in a head-on collision with the stable, and after thirty seconds of straining his eyes, the dot in the distance becomes a blue blur.
Karkat leaps to his feet, tugs on his hair, and decides that Kanaya is the worst moirail to ever be trusted with somebody's diamond-shaped affections, because she's never there for him when he really needs her, and then genuinely considers jumping down the other side of the roof. He could hide out behind the stable until John gets close, dart around the other side when the Prince inevitably tries to track him down, and then bolt back to the castle. Or, even better, he could throw himself in the lake and hold his breath until John gets tired of looking.
In the end, Karkat tries to imagine what Kanaya would have him do, and very reluctantly sits back down. He adds his own twist into waiting for John, though, and puts his back towards both him and the castle as he glares out at the lake, pretending that he hasn't already seen him from a distance. When he hears John begin to climb the hay bales after what feels like a lifetime, Karkat resists the temptation to immediate look around, and shoddily feigns surprise when John sits down next to him.
Karkat looks to John, waiting for him to say something, and supposes that it's fairly impressive how he always manages to sneak out of the castle without any of the guards following him. He's never thought to ask how he does it because he's never needed to make himself invisible to pass the guards, but images of John abseiling down one of the towers flood into his think pan.
“You're coming to the wedding, right?” John asks. His voice sounds far away, words needlessly elongated, like there's something else on his mind. Karkat wants to tell him to be careful, because John never knows when two whole thoughts are going to collide, but just shrugs, though the gesture isn't in any way related to his actual answer.
“Of course I am. I made the fucking twelve-tier cake that barely even fits into the north tower, John. I'm going to be watching it every goddamn minute of the day, and I'm going to make sure that every last guest gorges themselves on at least one slice,” Karkat says with a huff, though he'd never admit to being proud of his cake. Cakes are just something to stuff your face with, not something to take pride in, or at least that's how his personal motto's always gone.
John nods a little, knees pulled to his chest as he perches on the flat slab running across the centre of the roof, staring out at the lake. There's a lot they could be talking about now. Karkat could ask him how he's holding up, and how he really feels about his dad remarrying. He knows that John's mother's been dead for a long, long time, and he himself was about four sweeps too late to have ever met her, and he doesn't get the feeling that it's the thought of a new mother that's gnawing away at him. It will certainly do a lot to change his life, now that the soon to be joint territory of Prospit and Derse has just expanded under his feet, and though Karkat doesn't know exactly how it'll work because he's not privy to such information, he's sure working out an agreement between the next two rulers will be a headache in and of itself.
They could talk about what John's going to wear, because he always gets excited whenever Kanaya patches together a new outfit for him, and they could discuss the speech John is going to have to make at the ceremony, but neither of them say anything. Karkat wants to apologise, desperately, for what he doesn't know; for being nothing more than a servant, he supposes, like this situation would be any less of a disaster if he'd earnt himself a respectable title.
“You're still going to make me a Knight, aren't you?” Karkat asks, trying to sound amused by the prospect and failing spectacularly.
John hums questioningly like he hasn't been listening, looks to Karkat, and then picks up on what he's saying a stilted second later.
“You know it. No matter what happens with my dad and Rose's mom, I still think I'm going to need your help in the future!”
Karkat thinks he might want to try kissing John again. The only reason he doesn't lean in is because he might panic the Prince and cause him to tumble backwards off the stable roof. (Also: he's a complete coward.)
He goes to say something more, to thank him or to brush him off completely, acting like it was a given all along, but then John keeps on rambling, fingers drumming against his kneecaps to an uneasy rhythm.
“I was kind of disappointed the other day. When we were in the cellar, I mean. I got the feeling that you were still mad at me, and maybe I was kind of mad at you...” John begins strongly, but he soon trails off. “But I thought you might try to, umm. Do that thing again.”
Karkat raises an eyebrow.
“That thing!” John says enthusiastically, like Karkat's just brought up the word his brain has blanked on. He brings his hands up, fingers spreading out from his fists like fireworks, and Karkat wonders if it would fucking kill him just to say the words I thought you were going to kiss me.
Karkat smiles thickly, well aware that now is the perfect time to shuffle away from John, but only shakes his head slowly.
“Don't say it. Don't fucking say it, John, because then you can't take it back. Yeah, okay, I'll admit that maybe I might have been tempted to do a thing that I shouldn't. But that's the exact problem here: I shouldn't do it. Not because you almost just got married, and not because I'm not—” Karkat abruptly stops, growls under his breath and murmurs out the word flushed before continuing, “But because you're the Prince and I'm your dad's charity case. I'm not even worth anything among the trolls. Seriously, I know Prospit likes to act as if all trolls were coloured equal, but I should've been culled the moment I crawled out of my shell, so god only knows how I'm still here.”
He thinks it's quite a convincing speech. It might be short and lacking any extended metaphors that usually only confuse John, but there's a lot of conviction behind it that should shut John right up. John furrows his brow, pushes his glasses back up his nose with one finger, and laughs a little so that Karkat can see all of his blunt white human teeth.
“Haha, Karkat, you're always getting so down on yourself. You're not worthless! You're my best friend,” John says, and then bumps their foreheads together like it somehow proves his point. Karkat thinks it's just a shame that his horns are so nubby, because that would've taught John to think twice about getting so close to him. “And you're going to be my Knight one day, right?”
Karkat looks at John, really looks at him, and can just make out his own reflection in his square lenses. He looks like a goddamn wiggler, wide red eyes betraying him. That's fucking it, he decides. He's going to do it. He's going to kiss the Prince right now.
He gathers up the anger he's been directly at himself for the past few weeks and bundles it up in his chest, trying to convert it into courage. There's only so long they can sit for with their faces too close together before it just becomes weird, and just as Karkat leans in to kiss John, John decides to beat him to the punch. Their noses get in the way and their teeth scrape together, and Karkat swears under his breath, knowing that it can't get much worse than this. There's no need to hold back.
He leans in, kissing John as properly as he can manage to with so many nerves bundled up between them. His arms suddenly feel heavy at his sides, and though he's pictured this scene many times before, he just can't figure out what to do with them. Eventually, Karkat lifts one hand and places it on John's shoulder, which prompts John to throw his arms around his waist. Karkat holds the kiss for long enough to show John that he really means it, and when he glances at the Prince, his face is a distressingly bright shade of red, and his glasses are askew.
Karkat doubts his own face looks much better, sans the eye wear.
“Okay,” he says slowly, “That was fucking weird and probably socially unacceptable on so many levels that it outdid the cake.”
John tries to sigh, tries to make it sound like he's frustrated with Karkat, but ruins the whole attempt when he throws himself against him, head resting against his shoulder, body slack against Karkat's. Karkat stares at the top of John's head, frozen up like John's never attached himself to him before, but then decides that they've already gone far enough, and that it won't make much difference whether he props his chin on the top of his head or not.
“Weird's not a bad thing is it?” John asks, but doesn't give Karkat a chance to reply. “Because this kind of feels weird to me too, but I think it would be weirder if we didn't do this. Whenever I was in Derse with Rose, we were made to go to all these silly formal events, and I kept thinking 'Wow, I wish Karkat was with me!' Even though you probably would've hated it all, except for the plays. I guess I just wanted you around.”
John's so unapologetically sweet that Karkat's torn between punching him in the shoulder and kissing the top of his head. He settles for wrapping an arm around his shoulders. They're going to have a hell of a lot to talk about after this, Karkat knows that much, and this is probably only going to cause problems for the both of them, but for now, he doesn't feel much of an urge to speak up. He's comfortable to sit in silence for a few moments, and it's probably for the best that he doesn't bring up any weighty issues. Before he knows it, John is squirming against him, arm hooked his knees while the other remained wrapped around his back, and then John's lifting him up, far too quickly for Karkat to begin figuring out how to react.
Being in the absurd and frankly embarrassing cradle of John's arms, Karkat suddenly realises how high up they are. One graceless flail from him and the Prince is going to stumble, and then they're both be sliding down the slanted rooftop, taking loose tiles out with him. Karkat seethes through grit teeth, clinging to the collar of John's shirt. Because it's intimidating, not because he's worried that John's going to drop him.
“What the living fuck do you think you're doing, you unprecedented fuckass!?” Karkat demands, apparently having decide that if they're going to kiss, then he can let John know what he really thinks of him, too.
“I'm a Prince! This is what Princes do!” John says gleefully, though he's a little distracted by trying to keep Karkat supported. “Don't tell me there isn't a troll Prince Charming!”
Karkat wants to tell him that there's absolutely nothing charming about his oversized teeth, his goofy grin, or the way his nose crinkles to keep his ridiculous glasses in place, much less the bridal hold he's currently got him in, but all of Karkat's protests come out in the form of kisses that are angry until they actually press against John's lips. That successfully shuts them both up, and then he's kissing John to distract himself from the entirely pathetic situation he's got himself caught up in, heart pounding against his ribs purely because they're so high up.
Between kisses, when John's arms begin to ache and he decides to put Karkat down, resulting in both of them nearly losing their balance, Karkat can't help but grimly reflect on what a terrible moirail he is.
He's going to owe Kanaya and whole night of eating ice cream together over some serious romantic advice, but for now, he decides to douse his own problems in the bright blue of John's cape as his arms wrap around the Prince, fingers tangling in the fabric, leaving crumbs and smudges of cake mix behind.