From the outside, the building was utterly unprepossessing. It was nearly identical to everything else on the block, a squat structure made of ugly plascrete, pre-fabricated and dropped onto the street as-is. Probably a hundred sweeps ago, judging by the weathering. A faded sign by the door proclaimed it to be a respitel; small respite blocks for rent by the hour or the day, for those who had to come into the city on business and needed somewhere to stay.
Absolutely nothing about its appearance justified the tight knot of apprehension that swam in Eridan's gastric sac, like he'd swallowed a whole school of cuttlefish and they were squirming around inside him. He stood there in the street, staring at it and fighting with himself. He'd come this far under the power of sheer desperate determination, but he couldn't make himself take those last few steps to the door.
This was, without a doubt, the single most pathetic and depraved thing he'd ever done in his life. And considering his history that was fucking saying something. But he hadn't actually done it, yet. He could still back out, still turn around and walk away and pretend the thought had never, ever crossed his mind.
And go back to what? He had, at best, maybe a perigee left before the Imperial Drone came for him, and he had not a goddamned drop to show for ten sweeps of searching for a concupiscent quadrantmate. This was his last chance, so he just had to troll up and fucking do it.
No matter how shameful it was.
Taking a deep breath, Eridan squared his shoulders and marched up to the door like the fucking royalty that he was. He would at least damned well keep his pride through this, even if it was only a facade.
Inside the door was a computer interface. Well, that made sense; nobody coming here would want a desk clerk seeing them, maybe remembering them. And also who the hell would want that job? The soundproofing was pretty decent, but Eridan could fear faint keening and warbles from the hallway beyond the locked inner door. It made him flush, and once again he had to struggle with himself. Did he really want to do this?
He had no choice, damn it. He was out of time, and out of options.
The machine blinked 'no vacancy' on the screen - well, 'no va a cy', actually, because some of the pixels on the screen weren't working. With a shaking hand Eridan reach out and punched in a code he'd been given when he'd made his arrangements and payment through the anonymous middle man he'd contacted online. For a horrible moment nothing happened, and he thought maybe it had been a scam... and then the machine beeped and spat out a strip of plastic.
A keycard, for room twelve judging by the number stamped on it. Trembling now with both nerves and the first hints of twisted anticipation, Eridan made his way down the hall to the door with the number twelve on it, and used his card to unlock it.
The light from the hall was just enough to let him see... another door? For a moment Eridan was confused, until the first door swung shut and left him in total darkness, too lightless even for troll night vision to penetrate. Then he understood. The whole point of this exercise was the anonymity, for his protection - and also for whoever else he'd be meeting here. There would be no lights, but if the light from the hall got into the room, they might see each other's faces. So there was a second door, like an airlock on a ship but to prevent the light from leaking in, not the air from leaking out.
After all, while paying for pailing was a perfectly legal thing to do most of the time, presenting the Imperial Drone with a bucket filled by someone not actually your quadrant was not. In fact, it was so illegal it was considered treason, and it came with an automatic culling sentence. Not just for you, but for anyone who was in any of your quadrants. Most people weren't willing to risk being caught at it.
Eridan pushed open the inner door to find blackness just as complete on the other side. He thought he was alone, until a deep, harsh voice spoke up from a few feet away. "It's about fucking time," the stranger snapped. "You're so late I thought the drones would get here first! I'd have given up and left, but it's not like you can demand your money back, and this shit is ridiculously expensive."
Stung, mostly because he knew he deserved the other troll's anger, Eridan couldn't stop himself from retorting. "Like you got any use for the money, since you'd be dead if you left here without a fuckin bucket."
The words hung between them, the silence heavy with the implications contained in just a few simple words. Eridan swallowed hard, and forced himself to mellow his tone. "Look, neither of us'd be here if we weren't upright desperate. We both want the same thing, so let's just... do this an then we can go home an pretend it didn't happen."
"Yeah," the stranger replied, sighing so heavily Eridan swore he could feel the gust of air from across the tiny room. The one word held complex overtones of the same shame and despair that Eridan was feeling, mixed with... grief? Something deeper than just sadness, anyway, though Eridan wasn't sure why.
He surprised himself with a jolt of pity towards the owner of the voice, a troll he'd never even seen. The fact was, whatever circumstances had driven him to this point, his mere presence here meant he was among the most pitiful trolls Eridan had ever known.
A hand touched his chest, unexpected in the darkness, and Eridan jumped. The other troll hissed and jerked his hand back, like he was equally surprised by Eridan's reaction. Despite himself, Eridan had to chuckle. "Okay, we're both freakin out and no mistake, right? But this don't gotta be a horrible thing, I guess. We can at least make each other feel good, can't we? We're both pretty pathetic just for bein here..."
"Shut your flapping wordhole before I stuff something in it to shut it for you," the other troll exclaimed. "I will fucking seal it shut permanently if I have to, you're embarrassing yourself and you're horrifying me. This is not about pity. It is not about anything except the god damned pail that neither of us is apparently capable of filling on our own in the normal way, and while I agree that makes us both pretty fucking pathetic, don't even think you can use that as an excuse to hit on me!"
Chastised, Eridan felt his shoulders droop. "Sorry," he murmured, because he didn't know what else to say. "I'm just... tryin to make it a little less awful than it could be."
"Yeah, fine, whatever," the other said grudgingly. "I just want to get it the fuck over with." Again the hand came out of the darkness, but this time Eridan was ready for it, and he didn't jump. The stranger slid his hand up to find Eridan's shoulder, and then muttered under his breath, "Shit, you're tall. Damn it."
When Eridan reached out in turn, he encountered the other troll's shoulder about in line with his upper chest, confirming his suspicion that the other must be short. "Sorry," he said, not very sincerely. "Can't help bein tall. Skinny as a fuckin twig, if that makes you feel any better."
It ought to - the shoulder he grasped was solid, and when he slid his hand down over the other's chest he felt sculpted muscle, even through the heavy sweater. This was the body of a serious warrior, someone who fought with a blade of some kind, probably. A Cavalreaper, or maybe even a Threshecutioner. Eridan couldn't stop himself from giving an appreciative chirp, and he heard the other make an embarrassed little grunt in response. "Nice," he commented, just to see if he could embarrass the other more.
"Oh my god, shut up already," the other said, but the words held much less bite this time. He was exploring Eridan in turn, hands sliding beneath the hem of his sweater and running up his chest beneath, claws raking lightly over bare skin. Eridan shuddered, both with reluctant pleasure and a tingling fear.
Should he try to stop the other troll from going further? He could insist that the other only touch him below the waist, that they keep it as impersonal as possible. That would contradict what he'd just said about making it as pleasant as they could, though...
Then it was too late, as the other's hands reached the sides of his ribs, and found the edges of his gills. Eridan shivered with a warble, and the other froze with his clawtips just barely touching the sensitive organs.
"Oh, my god," he said again, hardly more than a shocked whisper. "You're a sea dweller. Seriously? In this dive?"
"I got my reasons for bein here, same as you," Eridan told him, his voice just a little shaky. "If you don't want me askin about yours, don't ask about mine."
"Fair enough," the other said, and resumed his exploration. But his hands were unexpectedly gentle as he feathered his fingers over the gills, careful not to catch the delicate flesh with his claws. Eridan heaved a sigh of relief. He hadn't been sure how his assigned partner would take the discovery, or whether he would even understand how gentle he had to be with the gills.
In return he reached for the other's shirt, pushing it up until the other lifted his arms to allow Eridan to yank it off completely. Then he was tugging at Eridan's shirt just as insistently, and Eridan bent enough to let the other pull it over his head. That left them standing just a little closer together than before, and Eridan could feel the heat coming off the other's bare chest. A lowblood then - well, he had to be lower than Eridan, but this must be someone right at the bottom of the spectrum to be giving off this much heat. A rust blood?
Not that it mattered, he reminded himself. This was literally his last chance.
He slid his hands up the other's chest to catch his jaw, tilting his face up. For a moment the other resisted him, made a sound like he was upset by the gesture, but then he gave in and melted against Eridan as their mouths met.
Eridan hadn't exactly had a lot of practice at kissing, and he was pretty sure the other hadn't, either. The stranger kissed like he was performing for a romcom, or maybe a porno... all wide open mouth and thrusting tongue, wet and messy and not actually that pleasant. When they parted, Eridan debated whether he should say something.
The other beat him to it, snorting in what sounded like amused disgust. "Well, that certainly didn't feel like I should enjoy it as much as they always do in the movies. So much for that theory. Try that again?"
Chuckling, Eridan slid his thumbs along the other's jaw and leaned down. The second attempt was still awkward, but much less messy than the first. They experimented, nibbling at each other's lips and rubbing them together to enjoy the slick slide of flesh against flesh. The other chirped breathlessly, and Eridan answered him with a chirp of his own, getting into it.
They continued that way for a while, getting better and bolder as they learned each other's sensitive spots. The other discovered that ghosting his claws just along the edges of Eridan's gills made him warble and shudder and go all weak-kneed. In return Eridan quickly learned that biting the other's lower lip, not quite hard enough to draw blood, would cause him to gasp and grind his hips up against Eridan's.
When they broke the kiss, they moved on to tasting other areas. The other was just as fascinated by Eridan's face fins as he was by the gills, and Eridan was completely fine with that. The feel of the other's hot mouth trailing over the edges of the frill was exquisite. He licked and nibbled his way along the strong column of the other's throat, then did his own exploration of the land dweller's pointed ear.
Then Eridan got overeager and bit down just a little too hard, causing a hot spill of blood to wash over his tongue. The other hissed and jerked away from him, claws suddenly digging in dangerously hard at the edges of his gills. "Don't," the other said, a low warning growl under his words. "No bloodshed. Nothing that can identify us."
"You know I'm a sea dweller, so you know I gotta be a purple," Eridan objected. "Ain't like I could be a fuckin tyrian, is it? An I can tell you're a brown or maybe a rust, you're too fuckin warm for anythin else. There's a million and one a you out there, I won't be able to identify you just from fuckin that."
"No bloodshed," the other insisted.
Eridan debated pointing out that when he left he was almost certainly going to have stains from the other's genetic material on his body, because it wasn't as if there was any way for them to clean up properly after this. But he could tell from the tone that the other wasn't going to budge on the issue without a big fight, and it just wasn't worth the effort. If it made him feel better to have that extra little bit of anonymity, who was Eridan to argue?
"Okay, no bloodshed, I'll go easy," Eridan agreed. "Uh... you don't gotta be so careful a me, though. I wouldn't mind a little roughness. Just a little."
He felt the other's shoulders relax. "Yeah, I can do that," he said, and there was relief and gratitude in his voice. He followed it up by sinking his fangs into the fringe of Eridan's fin, the spark of pleasure/pain making Eridan warble again.
The other reached for the front of his pants, and Eridan's breath caught in his windtube. He wanted to protest that they were going too fast, but it wasn't as if they had time to wine and dine each other. They had a limited amount of time in the room, and Eridan had wasted a good chunk of that with his hesitation out front. And there was exactly one reason they were both here, there was no sense in beating around the bush. He should just be grateful the other was willing to indulge him with a little foreplay, first.
"You know, gettin back into the right clothes is gonna be upright interestin," he commented as he let the other push his pants down over his hips. He surprised a brief laugh out of his partner.
"At least we'll know if we put the wrong thing on," the other retorted. "I'd be tripping over your pants and have the sleeves dangling over my hands."
"Assumin you could pull em on in the first fuckin place," Eridan said. "I think you'd be burstin the fuckin seams, and it ain't from fat." He ran an appreciative hand over the other's muscled chest again, ending with a quick flick of his wrist that undid the button at the top of the other's pants. That won him a strangled little chirp, and he smirked in the darkness.
They both kicked off their shoes and stepped out of their pants, and that left them pretty much naked to each other. The other was growling again, but though the sound was aggressive, Eridan didn't sense any menace from it. He flattened his palms against Eridan's chest and pushed him back two steps until they hit the wall.
With half-hearted effort Eridan struggled, trying to take control, but it was like arguing with a brick fucking wall. Short or not, the other troll wasn't budging an inch. He probably outweighed Eridan by half as much again, all of it muscle. Eridan didn't actually mind, exactly, he just thought he ought to make it clear that he wasn't a total pushover.
The other was biting him again, sinking his teeth into the meaty part of Eridan's shoulder. He didn't have any particularly prominent fangs, just a row of sharp little knives that drew a string of helplessly needy sounds from Eridan.
Eridan clawed at his chest, remembering just in time to keep the touch gentle so he wouldn't risk drawing blood. The other shuddered and warbled in a high-pitched, breathy way. The sound made Eridan pause, not entirely certain it had been a noise of pleasure, but the other continued touching him as if nothing was wrong.
Catching him by the hips, Eridan drew him closer. He'd expected to find the other's bulge at least halfway out already, as Eridan's was. Instead he was surprised and dismayed to feel nothing but the smooth protrusion of bone that protected it. The other troll made that breathy noise again, and Eridan felt something warm and wet drop onto his shoulder.
And he realized the other troll was crying.
Softly, yes - not sobbing or even sniffling, just a trickle of tears accompanied by that occasional hitched breath. Startled, Eridan lifted his hand and brushed his thumb over the other's cheek, just to confirm it. Sure enough he encountered warm moisture there, and an instant later the other cursed under his breath and reached up to scrub at his face with the back of one hand.
"Shit," the other said, a little hoarsely. "Don't fucking mind me. I'm fine. Just... this isn't... it's not how I always pictured it going, you know? My f-first time, I mean."
Again a surge of pity swept through Eridan, though it didn't really catch him by surprise this time. That comment earlier about the movies had told him that he was probably dealing with a romantic at heart, someone who would have cherished dreams of how their quadrants would play out. Not the sort of person who ever imagined they'd end up in a sordid place like this, cheapening the act by paying to do it with a total stranger they couldn't even see.
"I know," he agreed, just as softly. "Me, either. But we ain't gonna get all that far if you can't get into it. Is there anythin I can do?"
"No. I don't know," the other shook his head. "Just keep doing what you've been doing, it's good, I just... need to get over myself."
"It ain't really the sorta thing you oughta be able to do easily," Eridan said, a little sadly. "Here, let's try this instead."
He pushed a little, and this time the other let him, stepping back and turning when Eridan's hand on his shoulder tugged at him. They ended up against the side wall with Eridan leaning over him, lower bodies close enough for Eridan to feel his heat but not actually touching. "What are you... oh," the other said as Eridan lowered his mouth and scraped his teeth over the ridge of his ear, too light to draw blood but hard enough to be felt in such a sensitive spot.
The way the other troll chirped and shuddered told Eridan that it wasn't a dislike of pain that made him ask for no bloodshed. Maybe it really was for the added anonymity, and he just hadn't realized that Eridan would see his genetic material anyway. Most trolls liked biting and clawing, since their thick skin made it hard to really feel anything less. That, combined with nerves and distaste for the situation, was probably the reason the other wasn't aroused enough yet.
Well, there were ways to give stimulation without drawing blood. Eridan slid one hand up into the other's hair, winding the thick, wiry strands of it around his fingers. It was long enough for him to get a solid grip on it, thankfully. He tugged, hard, pulling the other's head back at an angle that would strain his neck.
That won him a gasp, followed by a choked warble that in no way sounded upset. Eridan smirked and let up the pressure a bit, so the other troll would be able to breathe easily. He followed that up with repeated sharp yanks, however, each time drawing a tiny chirp from his partner. At the same time he ran his mouth down the side of the other's throat, teasing with the hint of fang.
"I'm gonna make you feel so fuckin good," he murmured, figuring that a romantic might appreciate being seduced a little, even worshipped. He continued to lick and nibble his way across the skin, working his hand higher into the other's hair, tugging with every inch he moved. "I'll make you glad you decided to come here tonight, because you couldn't a gotten it this good anywhere else, you'll see."
"Like you're such a... fucking expert," the other taunted him, but his words were breathy and this time Eridan was sure it wasn't due to silent tears.
"You're an open fuckin book, I can read you by your gasps and moans," Eridan told him, laughing softly. "All I gotta do is keep doin what makes you warble loudest. Simple enough." He suited actions to words, nibbling at the sharp edge of the other's collarbone and sliding his hand higher still, then pulling to increase the volume of the sounds he was getting. It worked, too.
Finally he felt the first tentative squirm of the other's bulge against his, and he chirped encouragement. "Yeah, that's it. Feels fuckin good, don't it?" His own voice was starting to get high and tight, he realized, blushing a bit. Well, that just meant they were both enjoying it, and that was a good thing.
He rocked his hips against the other's, rubbing their bulges together until they tangled around each other, drawing soft keens from both of them. "Oh, god," the other said, rather faintly. "That's fucking... fuck."
"Yeah, it is," Eridan agreed, chuckling again at the lack of eloquence. Not that he could blame the other troll, not at all. It really was mind-blowing, far better than anything he'd ever experienced, like molten lava running through his groin.
They shifted against each other, thrusting and grinding, trying to find the best position for the friction they needed. Eridan keened again as he felt his bulge slide into the other's nook, and a moment later his own nook was being penetrated as well. If he'd thought it felt good before, that was nothing compared to how good it was with the other's bulge squirming and rubbing inside him. Suddenly there wasn't enough oxygen in the room, and Eridan had to pant hard for breath, gills flaring as if that would help him despite not being in the water.
Or maybe it was just a subconscious invitation to the other troll, enticing him to run his hands along the sensitive organs again, because that was exactly what the other did and Eridan's knees went weak. He keened and warbled, trembling against the other with the force of the sensations coursing through him. He'd have been embarrassed, except the other was shaking just as hard against him.
There were no convenient gills for Eridan to play with, so he went for the next best thing, sliding his hand up higher still, heading for the base of the other troll's horns. "No, wait, don't," the other blurted out, sounding panicked.
"Shh, it's okay, I ain't gonna feel up your horns enough to identify you," Eridan assured him. "Just gonna ghost the base is all."
"Don't," the other insisted, starting to buck against him like he was trying to get free. Eridan hesitated, not wanting to push the limits.
And then the other troll's squirming accomplished exactly what he'd been objecting to - a toss of his head pushed his horn right under Eridan's hand. It wasn't hard to tell why he'd been objecting. He barely had any horns, just little rounded nubs that Eridan couldn't help but feel the whole shape of.
They both froze, breathing heavily, even their bulges going still. Eridan felt like someone had punched him in the gills, and knocked all the air out of him. He knew those horns.
"Fuck it," the other troll wheezed. "Damn it all. I guess it doesn't matter, it's not like you're ever going to see me again..."
"KAR?" Eridan blurted out, interrupting him. The deep voice had thrown him off; he hadn't spoken to Karkat in real life since they were just six sweeps old, but now the swearing and speech patterns seemed glaringly familiar. Not to mention the utter, absolute paranoia about his blood colour.
"What... how did you..." Karkat stammered, startled. Then his tone of voice changed from surprise to outright shock. "Eridan? You are shitting me. You are absolutely shitting me. What the ever-pitying fuck are you doing here?"
"Same fuckin thing you are, obwiously," Eridan retorted.
"Aha, there's the fucking accent," Karkat snorted. "You've lost most of it, and I guess you just didn't say anything that triggered it before this, or I'd have recognized you earlier." He hesitated, and his voice softened. "After all this time, you still haven't gotten over her? Or even found a kismesis?"
Eridan blushed again, and he was grateful that it was too dark for Karkat to see him. "I'm ower her. At least, I ain't still chasin after her. But that don't mean I found anyone else what measured up. To... to either of 'em."
"I wondered if you would ever admit that to yourself," Karkat said, sighing. "At the end you were acting more like you wanted him dead."
"At the end I kinda did, but I wasn't exactly thinkin straight," Eridan admitted. He paused, and a flutter of hope flared in his vascular system. "Kar... maybe this is a good thing. I mean, maybe this is us gettin a second chance."
"No, it is not a good thing," Karkat said, going tense against him. "It is such a phenomenally bad thing, the sheer mass of 'fuck my life' is approaching the critical point where it will become a black fucking hole of 'let's make Karkat's life as miserable as fucking possible'. They'll be sending scientists to study the phenomenon for centuries to come. Damn it, I was willing to risk a total stranger's life for this, but not a fucking friend's."
He started to squirm, like he was trying to pull away. The motion reminded both of their bodies just what they'd been in the middle of, and Eridan gasped as he felt Karkat's bulge move within him again. Karkat was keening softly, trembling against him and clutching at Eridan's shoulders like that was the only thing keeping him upright. Hell, it probably was.
"What do you mean, risk my life?" Eridan fought to still himself again. It was difficult; now that he'd been reminded, his body just wanted to rut up against Karkat, demanding that he sate the growing ache in his groin. "I'm riskin my own life bein here, it's got nothin to do with you... you really still think a me as a friend?" he asked, hating how tiny his voice sounded.
He hadn't spoken to any of the others in sweeps, not since the game had ended and they'd rebuilt their world, assuming nobody would have anything pleasant to say to the one who'd betrayed them and destroyed their hope. Considering what Karkat had said to him in that memo, he'd have thought their friendship was severed for good.
"You socially retarded grubfucker, this is not about your god damned insecurities," Karkat raged at him, struggling harder despite the way it made both of them warble and shudder. "Let me go! You can't do this with me, you don't understand, it's dangerous. Go find someone else!"
"If I could... oh god, Kar, stop squirmin... if I could find somebody else I wouldn't be here in the first fuckin place!"
"You've got money to burn, you can buy another session here," Karkat insisted. "With someone else, someone safe. I'm a fucking mutant-blood you brine-sucking bulge-licker. I think the genetic material will probably mix with your colour and not be so fucking obvious, but I don't know for sure and if the drones spot it they'll cull you so fast and so hard you'll die a week before they even come for you. And it will be all my fucking fault!"
"Mutant..." Eridan choked on the words as Karkat bucked his hips particularly hard, sending lances of exquisite pleasure running through him. He grabbed at the other troll's waist and dug his claws in a little, threatening to break the skin, holding him still. Karkat subsided, both of them panting hard, but Eridan could tell from the tension in his body that he wasn't giving up yet, just regrouping.
Eridan's mind was racing, connecting the dots and coming up with a different conclusion than his original picture of this troll. "I thought you were just a fanatic, crazy cultist who insisted on hidin his colour in the name a 'equality' or whatewer hoofbeastshit. But it ain't that simple, is it? You're not just a beliewer. You're him, the Second fucking Coming."
That caught the other troll completely by surprise. Karkat gasped and went rigid. "You... you know about the Sufferer?" he squeaked, like he couldn't believe his ears.
"Hello, fuckin historian, remember?" Eridan said, snorting. "I knew from the first time I ewer saw your symbol you were a follower. I just didn't think... fuck, this explains ewerythin." Suddenly so much about Karkat made sense. Including why he would be here, in this place, when Eridan could think of probably half a dozen trolls who would be happy to jump into a concupiscent quadrant with him.
This time the surge of pity was nearly overwhelming, so much so that Eridan gasped a little with it. He'd been happy to take advantage of Karkat's obsessive need to give romantic advice when they were kids, but taking advantage was all he'd really been doing. He hadn't pitied Karkat; he'd had a moirail, even if he'd been secretly flushed for her, and he'd only known Karkat as a wall of grey capslock on the screen.
But now he knew the reason for the grey text that spoke of soul-deep paranoia to hide his blood colour, and he knew the source of the rage that prompted the constant capslock. If Karkat hadn't been a friend, if they hadn't been through so much together, Eridan would have been repulsed and even horrified. As it was, how could he feel anything but the deepest, sincerest pity?
Ironically, he was pretty sure if he showed even the tiniest scrap of pity or even sympathy, Karkat would probably bolt for good. Eridan was going to have to handle this very, very carefully.
Making his voice as gentle as he knew how, he coaxed, "We're here now, Kar - and frankly I don't know about you, but I don't think I'll be getting my body to let go a yours any time soon. You can't afford to do this again, I'm sure. So why don't you just relax an lemme make you feel good? I think we can both enjoy this a lot fuckin more now that we know we're doin it with someone we like and trust. You can take your pail and take your chances with it, and I'll come back later."
"I..." Karkat was still trembling, but slowly his wire-taut muscles began to relax. "I... yeah. I guess. Okay. You don't... you don't mind? Even... knowing?"
Eridan couldn't remember ever hearing their illustrious leader sound so small and uncertain. He had to fight off another surge of pity as he gathered Karkat into a proper embrace. "I don't mind at all," he said honestly. "Least I can fuckin do for an old friend. And it ain't like I'm gettin nothin outta the bargain, right? Relax, Kar. Lemme make us both feel amazin."
"Again, like you're any kind of fucking expert?" Karkat said, but he finally stopped pushing against Eridan's shoulders and let him close the distance between them properly.
Grinding his hips down against Karkat's, Eridan concentrated on moving his bulge. The helpless keen he got from Karkat in response was enough to get his blood racing again. He leaned in to kiss Karkat, and this time he didn't have to be careful of his fangs. Karkat made a muffled sound of protest at the first taste of blood, but then moaned and melted against him as it sank in that he didn't need to hide.
That was more than sufficient permission for Eridan to rake his claws down over the other troll's muscled chest, again marvelling at the exquisite definition the sweeps had added. Karkat had always been stocky and muscular, but he hadn't been ripped when they were only six. There wasn't as much scarring as he'd have expected from someone with Karkat's fighting experience, but then he supposed that made sense. Karkat would have bent over backwards to ensure that he never spilled blood in front of anyone else. Probably the few scars that were there had all come from the game session. Terezi must have known, but she'd obviously kept her silence.
Karkat mewled and squirmed beneath the touch, arching up to encourage Eridan to claw a little harder. He was happy to oblige, especially since that made Karkat's bulge writhe inside him in a way that pressed up against all the right spots. Eridan was panting again, gills flaring against Karkat's gentle fingers, making him shudder.
The body against his was exactly the same as it had been a few minutes before. Karkat's inexpert touches hadn't gotten any more practiced. Yet somehow it felt like an entirely different experience. There was warmth in Eridan's chest that complemented the heat in his groin, making both feel more intense. This was Karkat, a troll he knew and, yes, deeply pitied. It wasn't at all the same thing as pailing a stranger.
Maybe there was something to the insistence of the drones on only having genetic material from a quadranted pair. Maybe it really did make a difference to the quality.
"You feel so good," Eridan moaned, rutting against him. "Oh god, Kar, so fuckin good. So much better." How could he possibly think about coming back here a second time to do this with a total stranger, now that he knew how it was supposed to feel?
"I know," Karkat said, and his voice was choked. Eridan suspected he might be crying again, but he decided not to call the other troll on it. It would only embarrass him. "I know, god, it's not even... not even the same thing."
The little flutter of hope rekindled itself once more. If Karkat felt that things were different, better, now that he knew it was Eridan he was pailing... didn't that mean he had to have some form of concupiscent feelings towards Eridan, as well? If he could just get the stubborn little fuckass to admit it...
Pressure was building inside him, pushing aside all other considerations. Eridan felt like his windtube was rattling with the force of his keen as he rushed towards completion. Karkat felt so good inside him, and so good to be inside. "Kar," he said urgently. "Kar, I'm... I'm gonna..."
"Yeah," Karkat breathed out, sounding no less affected than Eridan. "Yeah, do it, fuck. F-fill me..."
The quivering attempt at dirty talk might have been the single hottest thing Eridan had ever heard in his life. It pushed him past the breaking point, and he came with a sharp cry, bulge writhing as the build up of genetic material pulsed out of him and into Karkat's nook.
He could only imagine what that felt like. Karkat was making the oddest little noises, like pleasure on the edge of discomfort, but the way his hips were rocking up against Eridan's was no kind of discouragement.
And then he didn't have to imagine it, because he was feeling it, as Karkat released with a keen of his own. Eridan gasped as he felt the flow of material inside him, searing his nook with the full warmth of a lowblood's body. The heat seemed to reach so deep he swore he felt it touch his soul, and he knew he was well and truly lost.
They collapsed back against the wall, and Eridan suspected the only thing keeping him on his feet was Karkat's strong body beneath him. The other troll was clinging to him tightly, arms wrapped around Eridan's torso and hand clutching at his shoulders so hard his claws were probably drawing blood. Karkat had his face buried against the hollow of Eridan's throat, and he could feel the heat of the other troll's breath gusting over his bare chest. It felt good, right, in a way that nothing really had since the day Feferi had dumped him.
He didn't really feel it when Karkat pulled out of his nook, though he certainly noticed the loss of warmth when he withdrew from Karkat. The material in his holding sac made him feel uncomfortably full, but he didn't dare try to empty it into a bucket here in the dark. If he missed and spilled any, he'd be royally fucked and not in the good way. Because, he realized guiltily, he had absolutely no intention of keeping his half-promise to return and pail somebody else later.
Knowing what the real thing felt like, he had a sneaking suspicion that the half-assed, cheapened version wasn't going to be enough to get him off, anyway.
"That was amazing," Eridan rasped when he had the breath to speak. "Kar, you were fuckin amazing."
"Not half bad yourself," Karkat acknowledged grudgingly. Coming from him, that was high praise. "Now let's get out of here before our time is up and someone comes to kick us out."
"Could we... maybe go for dinner or somethin?" Eridan asked hesitantly. "I mean the whole anonymity thing is well an truly fucked at this point, an... I'd like to know what you been up to, these last sweeps. My treat."
There was a long moment of silence, and then Karkat sighed. "Yeah, why not," he agreed, to Eridan's delight. "Things seriously cannot get any more awkward than they already are, and catching up sounds like a better plan for the rest of my night than going back to my hive to brood and wait for the fucking drone."
They dressed hastily, if somewhat clumsily - Karkat did indeed end up pulling Eridan's sweater on at first, and Eridan had to hunt through the tiny space three times before he finally found his left shoe. He wasn't entirely certain that both of the socks he was wearing were his own, but he figured they could let that slide.
He supposed that normally one participant would leave the room first, and the other would follow after their unknown partner had enough time to get away from the building and out of sight. Certainly there was only enough room for one of them to stand in the 'light-lock' at a time, so Eridan went through first and waited on the other side for Karkat to emerge.
When he did appear, Eridan couldn't help but stare for a moment. Karkat wasn't attractive in the stereotypical ideal of troll beauty - Eridan fit that trope, like most highbloods, being tall and lean. But Karkat's solid features had a certain appeal to them, and nobody could argue that his muscled body wasn't hot.
Catching the other troll's chin on his clawtips, Eridan tilted his head up enough to let him get a good look at Karkat's eyes. He blinked to find they were a perfectly normal, brownish rust sort of colour. "How..."
"Contact lenses, grubtard," Karkat muttered, rolling his eyes. "And Sollux hacked my ID chip for me, to make it say I'd already been confirmed as a rust blood. Now if I can just pass the fucking pail test, I might actually survive to make it into adulthood, much to my shock."
Again the rush of emotion hit him, and this time Eridan just couldn't contain it. "You are the most pitiful fuckin thing," he blurted out, shaking his head. "Oh my god, Kar, when I think about ewerythin you musta been through, it just... fuckin kills me."
Karkat's eyes narrowed, and he jerked his head out of Eridan's grasp so he could take a step back. "Eridan," he said, voice low and with the start of a warning growl to it.
Quickly Eridan plunged ahead, desperate to get the words out before Karkat could reject them. "C'mon, Kar, you're the one who beliewes in the idea of fuckin fated quadrants, or you sure used to. How could it get any more fated than this? I mean, what're the fuckin odds of us meetin here, like this? Bein assigned to each other?"
That made Karkat pause, and look uncertain. "I don't know, I have no idea how many desperate losers are forced to sink this low - though from the sounds of it, quite a few," he admitted with a grimace as a particularly strident keen pierced the walls from a room nearby. "But you had better fucking mean it, Eridan. I'm not fucking around when it comes to my quadrants, you should know that. Are you really over Feferi?"
"I said I was, an I meant it," Eridan assured him, meeting his eyes squarely. "An also like I told you, I just ain't found anyone what could measure up. Until now."
To his surprise and delight a dull red flush spread over Karkat's cheeks for a moment, though the other troll quelled the reflex quickly. "You sound like something out of a fucking romcom," he protested, but he couldn't quite hide the shyly pleased expression that kept trying to show itself on his face.
"That was the fuckin idea, since I know how obsessed you are with the fuckin things," Eridan teased him, smiling back. "Now, how about that dinner? An maybe we could hit the theatre, since we're talkin about films."
"Are you suggesting we go on a date, Ampora?" Karkat asked him, raising an eyebrow.
"That's exactly what I'm fuckin sayin," Eridan said, refusing to be flustered. "Maybe we're doin things a bit backward, but it ain't too late to start treatin you properly. Is it?"
"No," Karkat said slowly, like he couldn't believe his own words. "I guess it's not. Don't think I'm going to make it easy for you, grubfucker. This once was desperation, but you're going to have to do some serious fucking wooing if you expect to ever get me to the pail again. Tonight's activities to the contrary, I am not that kind of fucking troll."
"I think I can manage that," Eridan said happily. Just the idea of having someone to shower his time and attention on made him feel upright giddy. The thought of it being Karkat made him want to dance with glee.
They could have the argument later about whether Eridan would need to find someone else to pail to provide material for the drones. That only came once a sweep anyway, and by the next time around he might very well have managed to find a kismesis. Right now, he refused to allow any worries about it to interfere with his joy in finally, finally filling his flushed quadrant.
Eridan wasn't sure whether he reached for Karkat, Karkat reached for him, or they just met in the middle. But when they turned to walk out of the seedy 'respitel' they did it hand in hand, fingers twined together and near identical shy little smiles on their faces.