Hoping we could trade like just for tonight
I could borrow your heart you could borrow mine
not much for collateral, tattered and battle-scarred
but I can promise you solemn I’ll be back for it tomorrow
I only need yours this evening
so I can call an old friend
and I can tell him that we’re finally even
-Dessa - Mineshaft 2
You barely even notice your phone buzzing in your pocket until Karkat elbows you and tells you to answer the fucking thing, so you fumble it up out and hit answer, just as the screen dims again. It lights up again a second later as whatever motherfucker who’s trying to get your attention calls you right back, and you answer it this time, leaning back with it pressed tight up against your face.
“Yo, who’s this?”
You don’t need his name. The sound of his voice dumps ice water down your spine and you shudder, honest to god shudder like a ghost just walked over your grave, so hard it nearly flips the phone out of the cradle of your shoulder. Karkat’s not paying any attention and that’s good, that’s great, because you don’t even know what the fuck is your face doing and you don’t want to explain it to him.
“What,” you strangle out, your voice flat and strange to your own ears. What does he want? Why, after all these years, is this asshole calling you up and greeting you like it hasn’t even been a day, like he just saw you an hour ago and he’s calling to talk you up before you two fall asleep - you remember hearing his breathing slow and turn into soft, deep snoring, remember the dim triumph at staying up longer, remember that being what carried you off into dream land - like it just isn’t no thing?
“Hey, whoa,” he says, obviously taken aback. You don’t know if he ever heard you dull and flat like you got to being after that whole fucking mess that was you two. Heard you happy and heard you screaming in his motherfucking face spit-flying furious, but never the way you feel now, like someone scooped up everything inside your chest with two big hands and threw it out. “I was just calling to, well. Fuck.” He sighs and you can imagine him running a hand through his hair, mussing up all those soft blond little strands, tickling them against the edges of his ears and flopping them onto his forehead. It occurs to you that you haven’t even seen this brother’s face since, fuck, freshman year?
“None of that’s gonna be happening.” It’s not really funny, it’s pretty fucking stupid in fact, but you feel a sick little giggle trying to escape. You’re shaking. You jam the one hand harder against the phone, smashing your ear flat into your skull, and slide the other into your jacket so Karkat can’t see. “What are you motherfucking wanting?”
The sudden sharpness of your voice has Karkat’s eyes flicking sidelong towards you, but you just keep looking ahead. None of his fucking business, really, except for how it was.
“Man, I want to talk to you. Okay?” It comes out strange, coated all in sorry like he used to be way back after he knew he’d really made you mad, but there’s none of that petulant whine that used to make you want to smash his nose in. No butIdidn’tdoanything. You’re an ant hair away from just hanging this shit up and maybe changing your number, but you hold it. “Can we do that? Without any yelling or any bullshit like that?”
The old fuck you snap bubbles up behind your teeth and you swallow it back, grimacing. “What do you want to get your chat on to me about, exactly?”
Except you know, don’t you? How could you not? There’s only one thing this particular brother would be calling you up about so many years later, after so long of never even having to think about his face except in dreams. Sometimes you wake up from them crying and sometimes aching but always fucking pissed, with the need to go hit something until someone bleeds burning out your marrow. You’ve got hate in you for this motherfucker like you didn’t even know existed until he showed you the truth of it, perfect fucking loathing shaped exactly like his face, like his lips on you, like the way his fingernails felt scraping over your hipbones, like the way he made your heart swell like to motherfucking explode.
You bet he’s thinking the same thing. You just bet running through that perfect little blond head is all kinds of thoughts about how things used to be, how your skin used to taste and the noises you used to make for him, the way you sounded screaming for him, screaming all up at him. You wonder if he’s still got the scars from it, if they healed more even for him than for you or if his heart has those big stiff patches that fucking catch now and then, when he least expects it.
He tells you anyway, though, in that slow voice of his like he doesn’t have nothing but all the time in the world. “How things went between us, dude. How it ended. That shit blew up like the best nuclear test anyone ever did, like you could see that fucker all the way from Russia, Putin called up the President to ask Sarah Palin if she could stop with the fireworks, please. You remember that, right? I wanna talk about it.”
You have to just get real quiet for a second before you can say anything. Yes you do, of course you do, does he think you don’t? Does he think any part of you could ever forget the way he made you feel dizzy sick in fucking love and then like your heart was going to up and fucking explode from how hard you were hating at him?
“I don’t think there’s even anything to be motherfucking talking about. Pretty sure we talked out all that shit what there was to be discussing back when everything happened. Pretty sure I told you I never wanted to get a glimpse of your motherfucking face in my eyes ever again. You got something else to say?”
As far as you’re concerned, everything that needed to be said was already said six years ago, when it was all still fresh. Before any of it had even scabbed over, when you could still pour out the blood on him proper, when it flowed instead of a sludgy little weak trickle. Then you went and ripped that shit all open again and bled it right back out on him just when it had started stopping to hurt, and you learned your motherfucking lesson from that, didn’t you? You got straight up motherfucking hard-ass schooled on that, and for all your best brother squawks on about what a fucking idiot you are, you haven’t repeated that mistake.
Then he’s quiet for so long you wonder if maybe he hung up, almost start to hope he has, and then he says in this small little hangdog fucking voice that comes up all thick like it hurts to be saying or like maybe the shape of the words just isn’t even motherfucking familiar to him, “I’m sorry.”
You throw your phone across the room. You hurl that motherfucker like it’s a snake that bit you and Karkat’s staring and you don’t even care, you can’t even hear him asking what the everloving fuck is wrong with you, Gamzee, that cost three hundred dollars because your head is pounding too hard. Your heart’s up in your skull now and it’s pounding out a frantic arrhythmic panic beat to drown out everything else.
You could’ve handled him asking to get back together, or trying to dig at you, or just bitching like he used to about how he didn’t do no wrong shit to you, none of that awful mess you tore up out yourself and laid nice and neat at his doorstep because that shit was his, that was his bad. You could’ve handled him trying to smarm his way back into you like he wasn’t even trying, like he didn’t even care. You know he does care and you always took a vicious satisfaction in knowing you were hurting him to when you said you leave me the motherfuck alone.
Your phone is making tinny static that’s almost words, all the way over facedown against the far wall. After a long minute you make your legs unfold and carry you over to it, feeling as stiff and staggering as if you woke up drunk sleeping over the arm of the couch. You watch your hand reach out and curl around it and lift it up, feel it press against your face, and you wonder who’s doing what kind of voodoo on you to make you do anything but hang the fuck up.
“--zee? Gamzee? Hello, Ground Control to Major Tom?”
“Dropped my phone,” you hear yourself say. You head back into your room so you don’t have to watch Karkat staring at you. “What was that noise I heard you making?”
“Jeez, are you gonna make me say it again? Want me to just come over there and get on my knees and grovel for you? Maybe strip down to a little loin cloth and let you give me fifty lashes while I kiss your feet and weep out apologies?” You don’t say anything to this, and after a second he says it again. “I said I’m sorry.”
“Not that I’m not wicked appreciative of the sentiment, but where the fuck is this coming from?”
“I was just thinking about it, you know, how everything went, and I talked to John some...” You tune out a little there, the thought that he never listened to you rising like a bad moon. John’s a good motherfucker though, a solid guy, and you like him okay and you figure maybe he’s done you a favor here, as much as it makes you grit your teeth. It isn’t like you haven’t wanted this for motherfucking years. “...and he kinda made me think about some shit, and fuck man, you know I’m not good at all this sappy feelings bullshit, okay? I’m just sorry. I’m sorry I acted like a dick and things ended the way they did, and I thought maybe I could say something and maybe we could actually see each other again.”
You must start to make a noise because he puts in real quick like, “No, no, just as bros. You were pretty chill and I kinda like shooting the shit with you. So, yeah, that’s why I wanted to talk. I guess if you wanna talk more about it we can meet up or something, but. Yeah. I’m sorry.” Another thirty seconds of silence and he’s butting in again, all small and anxious underneath his big boy swagger, “We cool?”
You close your eyes and lay back on your bed, jacket hitching up under your back. You remember his body warm against yours, the way he sounded when you made him laugh, the way his lips felt against your neck, all warm and soft and just a little wet, the way his hair smelled when you turned your nose into it and held him against you.
You remember his hands on your wrists and how then a switch in you flipped and it wasn’t good anymore. How he was huge and heavy on top of you, Sisyphus’ fucking boulder, someone else holding you down, and then he was him again but you were saying stop and you were saying get off me and you were saying please. You remember how he leaned in and kissed your mouth to make you quiet up and didn’t stop.
The parts that remember want to let him in again, but you figure after all this he’s scarred them up so much there’s not room for him in there with everything else.
“No. Don’t motherfucking call me again.” Before he can say anything, you hang up and then turn your phone off and then just for good fucking measure you put it on the other side of the bed before you get up and leave the room.
“Who the fuck was that?” is the first thing out of Karkat’s mouth as soon as he sees you. He’s up on his knees with his stomach against the couch, arms crossed on the back of it, scowling at your door. You smile at him and ruffle his hair as you sit down.
“Nothing, brother. Just some motherfucker I don’t want to be talking to no more.”