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All They Ever Were

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What does it mean to fall in love?

 

Your name is Nepeta Leijon, and you haven't the first clue.

 

You sit slumped over your desk, drumming your glittery green pencil, lost in your own thoughts. The writing prompt taunts you with its lopsided red letters up on the white board. Scribbled recklessly on your notepaper in your slanted, curly handwriting is your name and a far-from-perfect doodle of a cat, but nothing more. You say you like school when asked, but do you really? It's not as fun and easy as it was when you were younger.

 

A few years ago, the only thing on your mind was, well, nothing. Your big sister (reluctantly) let you run around at the park, despite the fact that you were eleven years old. You were practically queen of the neighborhood playground. Everything was a game, every story could be made into an adventure, and worrying about winning took out all the fun. All the kids wanted to play with you. Grade school was a breeze. Those five years were filled with silly projects that didn't require much of your attention. You never bothered to focus on one thing at a time anyway, so that was a bonus. Cut out this picture here, glue this paper there. You slacked off and giggled your way to an easy A plus.

 

But look at you now, a freshman in high school. You still play at the park on weekends, regardless of the fact that you are now fifteen. You hang out at the playground by yourself; the younger kids run away if you come near. Everything is still a game to you, but a cruel one at that. Every story, every adventure is yours alone. Nobody wants to share with you. None of the kids want to be your friend. Winning doesn't matter because you win every time; you're the only player. School's the same story. You don't belong to any clubs or cliques, and you don't participate in any team sports. You don't have any study buddies or best friends for life, and you certainly don't have a boyfriend, which you like to think that a little bit of faith and longing can change. You're failing all of your classes (except for maybe gym, which is virtually impossible to fail). And no-one is willing to help you either, so you guess it's going to stay that way. Really, the only thing you want is somebody to talk to. Anyone, really. But preferably somebody you know from school. And even more preferably, Karkat Vantas.

 

Karkat, Karkat. You mouth his name as you idly twirl your pencil between your fingers. How you wish he'd notice you. He's just so... perfect , with that unruly hair that sticks out in every which direction, with those gray-brown eyes so dark you can barely see his pupils. He scowls at everybody and is probably the most cold and detached person you've ever met, but you don't even care. Because you know he isn't really apathetic like that on the inside, he couldn't be. Nobody is, you're positive. It makes you giddy to think that you know something that others don't, even if it's something so small.

 

But to you it isn't small! To you this is huge because it's Karkat, because it's the boy of your dreams. It's the boy with the eyes like raven's wings, like two black coals smoldering, engulfed in flames. The boy with a stare colder than these frigid winter mornings, the boy that stole your heart by accidentally knocking you against a locker while storming down a hallway in blind fury...

 

Your daydreams are interrupted by the piercing drone of the bell, signaling the end of the school day. Your paper is as it was at the beginning of class, devoid of any response to the prompt. You hastily crumple it in your hands before tossing it across the room and into the recycling bin, (and missing by a lot, causing you to run over, pick it up, and place it in gently) and speeding out of the classroom without looking back once.

 

***

 

Your sneakered feet slap the cracked pavement at full force as you dash down the streets you know so well. Your school bag bounces against your hip as you run. Your short, dark hair flops by your shoulders, and your blue knit kitten hat (complete with little pointy ears) threatens to fall off. This feeling you get when you run at top speed can't be compared to anything else, except for maybe playing make believe at the park.

 

The brightly colored plastic of the playground can be seen through gaps in the leafless branches of trees, and you grin with delight, thinking of all the fun times you've spent there. You reach the fence and quickly undo the latch, almost squealing as you amble over to place your bag on one of the wooden benches. This place is the closest thing you've ever had to a home. Living in a crappy apartment with your big sister, Premna, certainly didn't count.

 

You head straight for the swing set, humming quietly to yourself as you go. You hop on the third one from the end, your favorite, and kick off as forcefully as you can. Pushing your legs forward, you sail into the sky, then back down again. Next time I could touch a cloud if I really tried, you think to yourself as you launch upwards once more.

 

You extend an arm hopefully, but the swing drops back down. You glide backwards with your eyes closed, and suddenly you have the wings of a bird, graceful and white. A few strong flaps and you're cruising through the air. People passing below you are like little bugs, small and helpless. You could crush them with ease. But you're too busy drinking in the night air, too busy leaping and diving through the hazy, star-sprinkled sky to care. And you're too consumed by your over-active imagination to notice that you've let go of the swing and truly are soaring through the night, but not for long.

 

The happiness drains out of you when you realize you're falling, and you're screaming at the top of your lungs. Time slows to a painful crawl, and your eyes grow wide. The ground is coming nearer every second and theres nothing you can do. It's all your fault, it's always your fault. It's always, always, always...

 

Theres a loud crunch as you hit the ground, and you let out a pitiful yelp as pain blossoms in your wrist. You're tumbling forwards through the bristly grass, clutching your arm and whimpering. Your cheek stings, your head is throbbing, your lips are covered in blood, and you ache everywhere. When you finally stop rolling, you curl up in a tight fetal position. Salty tears make your cuts burn as they flow from your eyes. Your loud whimpers can't be controlled. You're a complete mess: covered in dirt, leaves stuck in your tangled hair. You feel terrible. You feel worse than terrible.

 

So terrible, in fact, that you can't hear the hurried footsteps and the breathy “Oh fuck, oh fuck,” coming from above you. Somebody is shaking your shoulders and spewing foul language nervously, but you don't open your eyes. You're too ashamed to look at anybody right now.

 

But the stranger doesn't stop.

 

“Wake up!” he's shaking you harder now. “I said get the hell up! No, no, no, you can't be dead. it's just a swing set, she's not dead, she can't be...” his voice cracks and he trails off. It's a familiar voice, one you can't put your finger on but know you should be able to. It's the tone you can't recognize: concern.

 

You moan and grasp your arm again, beginning to shake. You didn't think you were dead either, but you weren't usually right. You squint a little bit and the world swims in front of you. But you force yourself to open your eyes and carefully, ever so carefully, you look up.

 

“Oh, thank God!” The stranger exclaims, sighing with relief. “Jesus fuck, I thought you were...I thought I'd just witnessed...”

 

You've sat up and you're still confused, and your eyes refuse to focus long enough for you to get a good glimpse of this person. He's anxiously rambling about something and wiping his palms on his gray jeans, inserting a “Holy shit, thank God you're not dead,” every few sentences. He's repeating himself over and over again and shaking his head. You slowly drag yourself into a sitting position.

 

And then, all of a sudden, you've been pulled into the tightest hug you've ever received. It might as well be the only hug you've ever received, and you have no idea how to react to the butterflies flitting around in your stomach. But the stranger is shaking just as hard as you are. His arms are wrapped so tightly around you that you can barely take in a breath, and you wince a little as your wrist is crushed between your two bodies. You don't care though, or at least you try not to care. You know you'll never get a chance to experience anything like this ever again, so you savor the feeling of melting into him instead.

 

And as quickly as it began, he pulls away. You cradle your arm once more, biting your lip in discomfort. Your vision is more clear, and you can see the stranger a little better now. He's mumbling an apology and wringing his hands.

 

“It's okay,” you whisper, your voice quivering. It's the first thing you've said all night. He runs his fingers through his messy black hair, and stares back at you with a pair of licorice black eyes, not speaking.

 

Your face becomes such a bright shade of red that you're thankful for the dark. Because the stranger, your rescuer, is none other than Karkat Vantas: the boy of your dreams.

 

 

Chapter Text

It's four in the god damned morning, and you've finally left the emergency room. That weird, once sulky little cat girl is now beaming with delight. She pokes the newly plastered splint on her arm and adjusts the sling anchored on her shoulder. The bone was fractured pretty badly, and she now sported quite a few large band-aids on her face and arms. Did she even give a shit? Nah.

“The fierce warrior, Nepeta, lunges in for attack!” she says just a bit too loudly. “Though her battle wounds are many, she'll never lose the will to fight!” She runs down the sidewalk giggling to herself. It's pitch dark except for the ominous glow of the street lamps. If she were to trip or something...

“If you break something else, there's no way in hell I'm going back to that hospital,” you grumble, trudging silently behind her. She obviously doesn't hear you, and even if she does, she certainly isn't going to obey.

“Stalking her prey silently, the lioness slinks through the tall grass,” she whispers. “She stops for nobody. The victim is as good as gone with Nepeta Leijon on their tail.” She crouches down, managing to keep her balance with only one free arm. Then, without any warning at all, she bounds forward. She takes huge steps as she rockets down the street, chasing whatever imaginary gazelle or rabbit might have crossed her path this time. Nepeta, you've noticed, sees things other people don't see.

Which, don't get the wrong idea, is pretty fucking annoying.

Since you found her in pieces on the muddy earth of the playground, she's caught imaginary bugs, sailed imaginary seas, and ridden imaginary steeds through the streets of imaginary kingdoms. You're constantly hearing her go on about her “latest catch” or her victory after a “long tussle with an African boar”. And it's just too much. You're embarrassed just listening to her. Maybe it would have been cool in third grade, but high school? Absolutely not. This chick was your age, and you were seriously struggling to believe that. No wonder you'd never cared to acknowledge her presence in class.

The girl pounces into the open air. “Aha! Gotcha!” she yelps, landing on her feet and squatting down. Her determined green orbs meet yours as she paws at the ground.

“What the fuck do you think you're doing?” you shout after her. “I thought you were going home.” You did not want to spend a second more with this girl than was necessary.

She cocks her head. “I don't have a home,” she says with a sad smile.

“Where the hell do you sleep, then?”

“At the playground! It's not so bad. It's nice to curl up inside the tube slide-”

“You're lying.”

“Am not!”

She had to be. Nobody actually sleeps in a tube slide at a motherfucking playground. “What about your family?”

She pauses. “I don't have one.” You give her a cold stare. “At least...not a real one. My big sister is an evil monster.”

You roll your eyes. Evil monster, your ass. Everybody fights with their siblings. “Come on, I'm taking you to your real house. Now what the fuck is your address?”

“No.” Her eyes are wide. “I don't wanna go back there.”

“What's your problem? Any house is better than a fucking tube slide!”

“Not true.”

You give up. Well, not quite. “Look. If I buy you a god damned ice cream will promise to go home to your sister?”

“Ice cream!” she giggles, taking your hand.
Fuck.

You slap her hand away quickly and scowl at her. “What the shit?” you snap. Not cool. Totally not cool. You did not like her like that, never did, never would.

Nepeta's eyes fall as she recoils her hand. “I'm sorry,” she whispers, tears threatening to spill from her eyes.

You sigh. You've had enough waterworks for one night. “Just don't do it again, okay?”

She nods. You walk to the ice cream parlor in silence.

 

***

The door to your apartment is already open just a crack when you get there. The lights are still on. You pause a second, but then slip through the open space. You made a promise. Plus, that ice cream was the most delicious thing you'd eaten in a long time.

The smell hits you first. Then Premna. Almost.

“What the fuck are you doing at my house at for in the fucking morning, you swine?” You barely dodge the incoming drinking glass as it shatters on the ugly yellow wall behind you. Premna is slouched on the couch in skimpy underwear. A man you don't recognize is kissing (more like biting, you think) her up and down her ugly pink neck. You're shaking, and you abscond quickly to your bedroom.

“Come back here, you little piece of shit.” Premna stands up quickly, leaving the stranger sprawled out on the sofa, and wobbles after you. She's drunk. And that means you're going to get hurt. Your big sister screeches and throws a flimsy pillow in your direction. It misses, and you run for the safety of your room. You turn around quickly and latch the door shut. Premna slams her knuckles into it at full force.

“Open...the fucking...door...” she growls between each pound of her fist.

“No!” you cry.

“I said OPEN IT!” She kicks the door with all her might, and you think you see it buckle.

“No, no, no.” Tears are flowing freely from your eyes.

“You slut!” She screams at you through the door. You can hear her footsteps retreating down the hallway. Relief washes over you as you sink slowly to the floor, sobbing quietly. You slip into pajamas with your mind elsewhere. Your body is numb with fear. You can't think. You drag yourself halfheartedly into bed, pulling the covers all the way over your head. At least this is better than a tube slide, you think to yourself. But it isn't. You'd rather be sleeping with your back against the cool plastic of the playground equipment than this living hell of an apartment.

If you concentrate hard enough, you can still feel Karkat's arms around your waist.

Chapter Text

After ditching your sling in your bedroom, you let your ace-bandaged right arm hang limply at your side. You yank the refrigerator door open with your left (luckily, it's your dominant hand) and peer inside in search of food. You don't really expect to find anything to eat, but you still feel discouraged when you open the door to see only a moldy apple and half a gallon of spoiled milk. Premna mooches food off of whoever she's currently dating and has no reason to buy groceries. Having a little sister obviously isn't an important enough reason to keep at least something edible in the house.

 

You guess you won't be eating breakfast again today. Or lunch. Probably not dinner either.

 

If you're lucky, somebody at school might give you a part of their lunch they don't particularly want to eat. Sometimes nice ladies at the playground give you sweets. One time, a little boy had a birthday party there and offered you a slice of cake. You gratefully accepted.

 

You were trying to get ready for school before Premna woke up, but you can hear her heavy footsteps coming towards the kitchen. If you're lucky, she'll be sober. Or at least not too hungover from last night.

 

“Mornin' assface,” she grumbles, walking into the room. Oh, thank God. She seems to be in a good mood, but sometimes it's difficult to tell.

 

“Morning Premna.” You're nervous, but you keep your voice level. You busy yourself with slipping on your red converse (laces were frustrating and annoying, so you saved up for the kind without them) and hope that she'll leave you alone.

 

You look up to see Premna standing above you. She's pretty short for 25, but still taller than you. She's a tad chubby from all the food she leaches off her boyfriend, but not at all fat. There are bags under her eyes and her dark hair hangs limply at her shoulders. You stare at her a moment and think of how beautiful she could be if she took better care of herself. Mentally, you shake your head. Premna? Beautiful? No way. She only gets guys cause of her C-cup rack.

 

“Stop looking at me like that or I'll smash your nose in,” Premna spits, turning around to go flop down on the couch.

 

“Sorry.”

 

You can practically hear her rolling her eyes as you say it. Your apology means nothing at all to her. You reach for the door to the apartment, but Premna calls after you, stopping you in your tracks.

 

“Don't come back here later, you trash. Dan is coming over.”

 

Oh. Dan. That's probably her current boyfriend, the one who you saw with Premna on the couch last night.

 

Last night. Last night, your knight in shining armor rescued you when you fell. Last night, your true love held you close when he thought you might have died. Last night, the most important person to you on earth bought you an ice cream.

“Don't worry, I won't,” you say to your older sister. You sling your book bag over your left shoulder and leave the apartment as fast as you can.

 

Maybe you'll see Karkat at school today.

 

***

 

It's lunchtime, and you have nothing to do. You're sitting slouched over at the empty end of a table where some popular kids sit. You don't have anything to eat. Hunger claws at the inside of your stomach.

 

A boy with his hat turned sideways taps you on the shoulder. You tilt your head back to look up at him, smiling. “Hi,” you say quietly.

 

“You hungry?” he asks. You nod your head quickly and smile. He smirks. That's when you realize something isn't right. “Eat up!” he shouts, and holds his tray over your head. He flips it over, dumping his chili all over you. You can feel the slop soaking through your clothing and running down the back of your t-shirt. Your hair is slathered with the meaty goop,and some drips onto your face and even your jeans. The boy bends over in laughter, and his friends join in. Some girls point and giggle along with them.

 

You cover your face with your hands and run from the table, tears flowing freely down your chili-coated cheeks. You make it to the hallway and slide into the girls' bathroom. You can't let anyone see you like this. Maybe you can clean yourself up a bit, maybe it won't stain too bad, maybe everyone who witnessed it will forget about it...

 

Why do they hate you so much?

 

You sink down to the floor, choking on your sobs with your hand covering your mouth. Maybe you'll just stay here for the rest of the day.

 

***

 

So far, it's been another average day at school. Same shitty classes, same shitty teachers, same annoying douchebags for friends. Your name is Karkat Vantas, and you don't give a single fuck about anything.

 

It's almost fourth block, and you're walking to class (Intermediate Level Computer Programming) with one of the aforementioned douchebags. It's Sollux Captor, the idiot with the annoying lisp and those dorky-ass 3-D glasses. He's rambling about something and awkwardly trying to gesticulate with an armful books, which is clearly not working.

 

“...and when I called him an emo fag to hith face, he thaid, 'You w-wanna fight me, Thol?' and he thtuttered on hith double-u jutht like he alwayth doeth. Like, that aththwipe theriouthly thought he could challenge me to a fight. Tho I thaid I'd take him on after thchool, and the fag chickened out. He actually, like, took back hith offer. What a fucking idiot, I mean he'th jutht a-”

 

“Will you shut the fuck up?” You can only handle so much of Sollux's shit at a time.

 

“Geez KK. Chill out for once. I wath only-”

 

“No, I'm this close to taking you on after school.”

 

“Fine, fine, whatever.”

 

You walk in silence until Sollux can't take it anymore. "Tho, did you hear about what happened to Nepeta Leijon at lunch today?" he babbles.

 

Fuck.

 

"Uh, no. I don't think I want to anyway." You clench your fist, but you're not quite sure why. You didn't want anything to do with Nepeta. Nope, nothing at all. You'd rather her stay out of your way. Out of your life.

 

Sollux laughs, annoying and nasally, punching you in the shoulder. "Come on, it'th hilariouth. Thome kid dumped chili all over her. She fucking cried in the middle of the cafeteria and ran away. What a lother."

 

You scowl at the floor in front of you. "I told you," you say firmly, "that I didn't want to hear about it. I don't give a fuck about Nepeta Leijon, and I don't give a fuck about whatever happened to her today. I don't give a fuck about what happens to her ever."

 

Silence again. But this time, it's broken by the sound of the girls' bathroom door swinging open. Sollux turns around.

 

"Thpeak of the devil..."

 

Nepeta emerges from the doorway, turning in the direction that you and Sollux are going. You know she can see you, and it's probably only a matter of time before she-

 

“Hi Karkat!” She comes skipping over. Literally skipping. Sollux snickers quietly, and you resist the urge to sock him upside the head.

 

“What the hell are you doing?” You can't think of anything better to say. You just wanted her to leave and Sollux to shut his fucking face.

 

“Oh, uh, you know...” She smiles and tilts her head, congealed chili clinging to her hair and shoulders.

 

“That's great. I have to get to class,” you mumble, turning.

 

“Wait, Karkat!” You stop. Oh god, what did she want from you? “I just wanted to let you know that I'm glad I got to see you today!”

 

...the fuck?

 

“Uhhh, okay. Bye.” You have no clue what kind of reply she was expecting, but you don't wait to find out. Getting to class has suddenly become the most important thing on your mind, and you're down the hall in a flash. Sollux calls after you, but you ignore him. You don't really care. You never do.

 

***

 

Today wasn’t such a great day, but at least school is finally over. By the time you reach the playground, you've almost forgotten all about what happened at lunch. You unlatch the gate just as you did last night and run inside, careful not to go near the swing set. It hurt you pretty badly, and you're not too keen to forgive it. At least you have the rest of the equipment to play with.

 

Climbing the ladder to the tallest playhouse tower of the structure would be challenging with your broken arm, so you opt for the staircase instead. The steps lead to the shorter tower, but a sloping bridge connects it to the larger one. After conquering the mighty steps, you accept the quest of scaling the bridge of terror. Four long strides and you've made it to the tallest playhouse tower. You look out over the playground and smile. Suddenly, you're Queen Nepeta, surveying your kingdom's peaceful lands.

 

Something pokes you in the arm. No, someone. A little boy stands there grinning. “What are you playing?” he asks. He must have sneaked up behind you while you were busy taking in the lovely view of your lands.

 

“Castle!” You say, and you smile back at him. “Wanna play? I'm Queen Nepeta. Welcome to my kingdom!” You make a sweeping gesture with your hand.

 

“Sure! My name is...uh...Sir Alvin! Head knight of the castle. Pleased to be of service, my queen.” He bows to you, but then give you a puzzled look. “What happened to your arm?”

 

“Oh, nothing,” you say, brushing it off. “I fell off the swings over there. Those are dangerous lands, Sir Alvin, so you must beware.”

 

“Aye!” He chirps, and then climbs down the ladder to the ground. “I'll be down here, protecting the castle from intruders.”

 

“Good idea! I can help too!”

 

“But you're the queen.”

 

“That won't keep me from defending my land. We'll fight side by side until the end!”

 

“Cool!”

 

You spend the rest of the day swinging imaginary swords, slaying imaginary dragons, and holding imaginary feasts. You barely escape death time and time again as the fight for your kingdom becomes increasingly intense. The chivalrous little boy jumps in front of you to block ferocious enemies from hurting the brave young Queen. If only Karkat were here, he could be the handsome and daring King and fight for justice by your side. Maybe he'll come play with you someday, but you have Alvin for now. You shout and laugh, climbing up and sliding down the playground over and over and over.

 

All of your troubles seem to fade away, just as the day does. Before you know it, it's grown dark. The boy faces you, a smile still on his face. “I have to leave now,” he says a bit sadly.

You nod and pat him on the head.

 

“Thanks for playing with me. I sure hope I see you again here someday!”

 

“You're welcome! I had so much fun.” He looks to the gate of the playground where a woman is standing. Probably his mother. “Well, I have to go now. Bye!”

 

“Bye bye, Sir Alvin!” you say as he slides down the slide and runs over to the gate. He turns around to wave one more time. You give him a salute, and he returns it. You see him walk away from the playground with his mom, and soon they're no longer in sight. You sigh, and continue to play on your own. It isn't quite the same, but you can't say it's not fun.

 

What you don't see is Alvin's mom yelling at him in front of their blue minivan.

 

“...She could have been trying to hurt you, Alvin! What's a teenage girl like her doing at a place for little kids? You can't trust just anyone. This is why I can't send you to the playground by yourself. You'll end up talking to strangers and getting yourself in trouble.”

 

“But Moooom, she was cool!”

 

“How do you know that? Maybe she was lying to you the whole time. Maybe she was trying to get you to like her so she could take you away. There are crazy people out there, Alvin.”

 

“She isn't like that, she was really funny and nice and-”

 

“Don't you dare talk back to me! I'm trying to protect you. Now get in the car this instant.”

 

“Fiiiiiine.”

 

You curl up inside the tube slide that night without the slightest clue that Alvin won't be returning to the playground ever again. 

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

What the hell are you doing?

 

You have no fucking clue, as usual.

 

School ended. You went home. You finished your homework and ate dinner with your family, then quickly retreated to chat online with your friends in the safety of your bedroom. Everything was normal. That is, until you made a fucking stupid decision. You hastily packed a small, gray duffel bag and left the house.

 

A quick glance at your watch says that it's 9:15. Late o' clock. The sidewalk is cracked and the buildings clustered together look like the teeth of a dentist's worst nightmare. You're in the slummy part of the city, and the only thing on your mind is how you'll probably be dead by the time the sun rises tomorrow. It's on one of the routes to school you've only taken a few times, and there's a good reason why. Kids don't belong in places like these.

 

But they do. And you're glad as hell that you're not one of them.

 

“Hey there, boy,” a raspy voice croons from behind you.“Whatcha doin' out this late, huh?” You freeze, but decide it best to get away as soon as possible. People are gross. Fucking disgusting. You want to get your ass out of this dump right now, but turning back would mean you walked through this shit hole of a neighborhood for nothing. You carry on. You have a crappy idea to pursue, and you aren't going to let a homeless bum get in your way.

 

Your destination finally comes into view, and you take time to mentally slap yourself because of how stupid this whole thing is. It's the playground. Nepeta's “house”.

 

Honestly, half of you is hoping that she'll be here. Maybe you can talk to her and make sure that the events of this morning didn't- wait, what are you saying? No, you hope Nepeta isn't here. You don't really care what happens to her. You can go home and forget about all of this and sleep under a fucking huge pile of blankets, alone. No annoying girls in sight. No run-down playgrounds, no potential rapists, no...

 

Carefully, you lift the latch to the gate. The metal is cold.

 

“Who's there?” a small voice calls from the back of the playground.

 

Great. She's here.

 

“Nobody,” you say loud enough for her to hear.

 

No answer. Then, cautiously, “Is that you, Karkat?”

 

“Uh-uh.” You brush off the questions and walk towards her voice. Whoop-de-fucking-doo, now you actually had to carry out your plan.

 

“Are you sure?”

 

“I'm pretty fucking positive.”

 

You reach the tall playhouse tower and scale the ladder in the most badass way possible. And for a 15 year old guy climbing a piece of playground equipment made for six year olds, you're pretty sure your badass meter just went ballistic. Absolutely bananas and through the roof.

 

At the top, you find her. She's curled up against the safety bars surrounding the square platform of the playhouse, laying still. At first she doesn't notice you, (how could she ignore such badassery as you fucking dominated that ladder) but eventually she gazes upwards at you, eyes wide.

 

“Why are you here?”

 

“Geez, don't sound so excited,” you snarl. She shrinks back a bit, but you sigh and plop down beside her.

 

So, what now?

 

You literally had no idea what to say next. You hate Nepeta Leijon, and you don't know what made you come here. She's annoying, she's weird. She gets in the way of everybody. You don't give two craps about her existence, not even one. She's just one of those insignificant little oddballs that apparently every high school is required to have.

 

And yet you came all this way to sit with her in a fucking playhouse.

 

“Um...hi, Karkat.” Nepeta says quietly. “I'm sorry I bothered you earlier when you were with your friend.”

 

“No, don't worry about it.” For somebody who hated this girl so much, you really didn't show it all that well.

 

“Really?”

 

“Really.”

 

More silence. There's always silence.

 

“So, uh, what are you doing out here anyway?” The words stumble from your mouth in the most unattractive way possible. Why do you suck so much at talking?

 

She does that thing where she cocks her head like a cat, dark hair draping over her round face- okay, no. Stop thinking, Karkat. “I thought I told you before. This is my home, remember?”

 

You vaguely remember her telling you something along those lines. “Oh, right.” You think for a moment. “Hang on, I thought you lived in an apartment around here.”

 

She shakes her head. “No, not really. My sister does, and she's mean. I like it better here.”

 

“Yeah, but all siblings are mean. It's inevitable.”

 

“Not like Premna.”

 

She focuses on a chip in the paint on the platform and doesn't speak anymore. What do you do? Ask more questions? Drop the issue?

 

“Okay,” you say plainly. What are you, fucking stupid?

 

She turns to look at you again, but this time her eyes are brimming with tears. Oh god, not the waterworks, not at 9:44 at night up in a motherfucking playground, not this...

 

“My sister gets drunk a lot,” Nepeta squeaks, her voice starting to crack.

 

Oh. Oh, that's not good.

 

“Sometimes,” Nepeta pauses to wipe her face on the sleeve of her jacket, “she hits me. And one time she...she...”

 

It occurs to you that she's probably never told this to anybody before. That she's been keeping this inside of her this whole time. So, why is she telling you, of all people? She's sobbing now and can't even finish her sentence, so you slowly, carefully wrap your arm around her shoulders.


Oh God, you really don't know how to be comforting.

 

“Hey, uh, Nepeta...don't cry Nepeta...it's okay, don't...” Yeah, you really have no idea what you're doing. But Nepeta doesn't seem to notice. You're sitting pretty close to her now, and she presses her snotty face into your shoulder. Truthfully, you don't really care.

 

Wait, what?

 

“You don't have to tell me if you don't want to,” you offer.

 

Nepeta sniffles and rubs her bloodshot eyes. “No, I...I'd probably feel better if I got it out.”

 

You nod, waiting for her to speak. But she doesn't and instead takes off her jacket.

 

“Nepeta, what are you...” Your voice trails off as she begins to inch up her t-shirt.

 

“What the fuck are you doing?” You jump up from your seat next to her. “That's sick! Holy shit, I can't believe a girl like you would try and-” You stop, hearing her begin to cry softly again.

 

“I-I know. They're terrible.” With one hand, she covers her tear-streaked face. The other holds up her shirt just so her bare side is showing, along with the three long scars embedded there.

 

You realize how huge of a dick you are. This girl is bawling into your shoulder and wants to get something personal off her chest, and you automatically assume she's giving you a striptease. Way to go. Way to fucking go.

 

“Uh, no! I mean, uh, they aren't bad, they're not...” your voice trails off and you return to where you were sitting before. Nepeta looks in the opposite direction, probably feeling vulnerable and embarrassed. You, of course, feel like the biggest asshole to ever grace this earth. You hate yourself more than usual today, if that's even possible.

 

“You don't have to pretend. Not right now. They're so...so...I don't know. The make me feel weak.” Nepeta prods the puckered white skin with her index finger, frowning.

 

“No,” you start, “that's not it at all. Scars make you look tough. Like a badass. You've got some pretty sick battle wounds there, Nepeta.” Maybe you can lighten the mood a bit.

 

This seems to work. Nepeta smiles and peers at you hopefully. “You...you think I'm a badass?”

 

“Yep. Probably one of the most hardcore I've ever met.” At this, Nepeta beams. She wraps her arms around your middle and squeezes you tightly, and you don't even flinch.

 

“Karkat,” she says happily, her voice muffled by your sweater, “that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.”

 

“Really?” This takes you by surprise. Had this girl ever received a compliment in her life?

 

“Mmhmm.”

 

“Well, it's true.”

 

“Thank you.”

 

“Yeah, don't mention it. Um...how did this happen, anyway?"

 

"Premna was drunk. She broke a bottle on the counter, you know, like those guys in movies do in bar brawls? Yeah, so she did that and she...slashed me. On my side. And now I have these."

 

"Oh. I see. Well, they're really not that bad."

 

"Yeah, sure they're not."

 

The two of you are quiet again. The winter night is completely silent, except for the sound of the wind blowing through the bare skeletons of trees. You lean your head back against the wall of the playhouse, closing your eyes. All is still until Nepeta whispers, “I'm glad I got to talk to you.”

 

After a pause, you whisper back, “Me too.” And it isn't a lie either. You're actually happy you came out here to see Nepeta, even though you're still not sure why.

 

***

 

You're half asleep, laying in his arms. You try concentrating on his erratic heartbeat as you lean against him with your head pressed against his chest. He smells like dandruff shampoo and cat fur. Perhaps he has a kitty you can meet someday. Maybe you can go to Karkat's house and meet his family. Maybe you can stay with him instead of Premna's house or the playground.

 

You decide against thinking frivolous things about the future as Karkart gently slips something over your ears: headphones. Some type of relaxing jazz music is playing. Through your half-lidded eyes you can see him reaching into his bag for something else. He slowly unfolds the object and drapes it around the two of you - a blanket. Everything that happened today seems like such a long time ago as you indulge in the warmth radiating off of Karkat's body.

 

I could get used to this, you think as you drift off, finally overcome with sleepiness.

Chapter Text

When you returned to your house in the early hours of the morning, there were police cars in your driveway. Your “Oh-Shit” meter reached an all time high as you walked up the steps to the front door of your house. Did you break the law recently? Did your little sister break the law recently? Did mom and dad break the law recently? You were born into a family of goody-two-shoes, (you being the the odd one out, the black sheep) so that probably wasn't the case. So what was?

You opened the door. You called out that you were home as you always did, dropping your bag on the floor. You heard a conversation going on in the other room between a very panicked someone (most likely your mother) and an unfamiliar, calm someone (the police officer, you'd bet). It stopped suddenly as they noticed your arrival.

There were some shuffling noises. There were some footsteps. Then came the yelling, of course. It wasn't the Vantas household without yelling. You braced for impact.

“KARKAT VANTAS! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN, YOUNG MAN?” Your dearest mother came storming into the entryway. And boy, did she seem just delighted to see you walk into the house at 6 AM. The dark bags under her eyes matched her messy dark hair and her frumpy gray bathrobe. She was a mess, if it wasn't blatantly obvious. She was a mess and by the look on her face, it was all your fault.

“Nice to see you too, mom,” you mumbled, staring at her blankly.

“I SAID WHERE IN GOD'S NAME HAVE YOU BEEN?”

“I was...uh...out with a friend!”

“AND YOU DIDN'T TELL ME ABOUT IT? WE THOUGHT YOU HAD BEEN KIDNAPPED, KARKAT. WE THOUGHT YOU MIGHT HAVE RUN AWAY!” She exploded into sobs. She was a drama queen. You didn't care. She probably didn't actually care either. Running away sounded like a good idea, even.

“Mrs. Vantas, please,” said the police officer as he stepped into the room. “I'd like to question your son. We can only clear this up if we have your complete cooperation.” Your mother let out a whine and nodded her head. That was as much cooperation as this guy was going to get. “Now, Mr. Vantas-”

“It's Karkat.”

“Pardon?”

“My name is Karkat.”

“Ah...alright then.” The officer glanced around awkwardly and pulled out a pen and a notepad. “Would you please tell us where you were last night and this morning? Your family has been worried sick about you.”

Yeah, right.

 

***

And that's how you got here. Your name is Karkat Vantas, and you're pretty much grounded for all eternity.

When your mom noticed you were missing, she began to “worry”. After dinner, when still you didn't show up, she “panicked” and called the police. She said she had a missing child. The fuzz was over in minutes. They were on the verge of doing a full blown search when you motherfucking sauntered though that door like you didn't spend the night at a playground.

You sit idly on your bed. Sebastian, your British Shorthair, paws at the coat you threw to the ground. Great, you just can't wait until it's covered in cat fur. Mom and dad took your laptop and gave it to your sister, Faye, for the time being, but luckily you still had your iPod smuggled into your duffel bag. You just hoped that Faye didn't find your Pesterchum account and message your “friends”. That would be almost as embarrassing as her reading your previous pesterlogs. Fuck, being grounded sucked more than a vacuum cleaner on steroids.

Actually, it sucked more than that analogy you just made.

Your shitty music is blaring in your ears. You stare at the ceiling for a very boring ten minutes. It doesn't change. You stare at Sebastian. He doesn't do much either. Then, he slips under the door and out of your room. You're bored as hell. And to top it all off, school starts at 7:30. You hate school. You hate school so much.

At least you'll get to see Nepeta.

You let yourself think it for once. You hate yourself for it, but maybe you kind of like her. Just a little bit. And in a totally platonic, totally non-romantic way. You're sure of it.

The douches you usually hang out with don't really count as friends. Sollux has an awful lisp and despite being a huge geek, his popularity rating is pretty high. Eridan is a self-loathing hipster who writes Harry Potter fanfictions in his spare time. You have no clue what kind of accent he has, but it's annoying as shit and you vow to never travel to whatever country he's from. Equius is a huge sweaty jock who doesn't talk often, but the chicks are all over him like flies on dog shit. Tavros and Gamzee are okay, but you don't know them that well. You don't know any of these guys well at all, truthfully. You're a loner and the kids you hang out with are dickheads and you'll never get a hot girl and you'll probably die a virgin and you'll...

You're thoroughly convinced that everyone hates you. Everyone except Nepeta, maybe. But you don't think she could hate anyone if she tried. She's so nice, you realize. Why can't your friends be more like Nepeta? Why can't you be more like Nepeta?

No, you don't want to be like Nepeta. She's bothersome. She's bullied every day. She has no friends. Except for you, maybe. You're her friend. You said before that you kinda liked her, didn't you? No, you take that back. You can't think. Your exhausted, your back hurts from sleeping on the floor of a playhouse tower, you keep contradicting yourself...

There's a small knock at your door. “Come in,” you grunt, taking off your headphones and putting your music on pause.

Your little sister is at the door, holding Sebastian in her arms. “Here's your kitty,” she says meekly. She walks over and places him gently at the foot of your bed.

“Thanks, Faye.”

“You're welcome,” she says. “Um, we should go to school soon. Get ready and we'll walk, okay?” Faye is in seventh grade, so the two of you walk together in the mornings. Her classes are in a different building, and you don't usually see her during the day.

“Okay,” you say, swinging your legs over the side of the bed. Faye walks towards the door, but turns around before opening it.

“Mom meant what she said, you know,” she says quietly, her back towards you.

“What?”

“That she was worried. She really was, you know. I kinda was too.” She leaves the room and closes the door behind her without waiting for an answer.

Chapter Text

 Your name is Sollux Captor, and lately, things aren't as they seem.

 

For starters, your best bro has been acting pretty fucking weird. Well, he's always like that. But it almost seems like he's...ignoring you. Of course, KK is a pretty ornery guy. You know the kid is prone to temper tantrums, but you don't see any reason for him to be giving you the cold shoulder. Is it something you said? It couldn't be. You haven't talked to the guy since yesterday at school. He didn't even send you a message on Pesterchum.

 

You remember telling him about how much you hate Eridan, which you know he doesn't mind (because nobody in their right mind likes Eridan). You mentioned that irrelevant girl, Nepeta Leijon. Some guy dumped his lunch all over her, and KK didn't even laugh when you told him about it. He got really defensive and said he didn't care. When she suddenly appeared in the hallway, he dashed off and didn't listen when you called after him.

 

You'd bet it had something to do with that chick.

 

Second, that shitstain Eridan won't leave you alone. Normally he's a huge pain in the ass, but this past week he's been an elephant sized pain in the ass. He's been deliberately coming up to you to describe (in depth) how much he despises himself, quoting his own Harry Potter fanfiction for “emphasis”. You called him a fag. He said he'd beat you up. You said you'd beat him up. He said never mind. He's such a fucking idiot it makes you want to pound your head against a wall. You can barely put your abhorrence for him into words. But you try your best, because letting Eridan know how much he repulses you is just about your favorite thing to do.

 

Third, and this was a big one, your hot cheerleader girlfriend dumped you for another one of your bros. You thought that you and Aradia had a thing going, that maybe she was the one. Apparently that wasn't the case, 'cause she left you for Equius, the sweaty football prodigy. You were pretty fucking pissed at Equius for stealing your woman, but a bro can't stay mad at a bro. You'll probably just forgive him and date one of AA's friends. That'll show her.

 

You trudge down the hallway to find none other than Eridan Ampora waiting at your locker. Your Friday morning is officially ruined.

 

“What do you want, fishbreath?” you shoot at him.

 

“Nothin',” he sighs. “I w-was just here to say hi.”

 

“Go away.” You turn to your locker and spin the dial.

 

“W-why should I?”

 

“Becauthe I fucking hate you!”

 

Eridan is quiet, but he leans against the locker next to yours. You shove your backpack into your locker and take out your books, and he still hasn't moved.

 

“You thaid 'hi'. Now go. Or do you want thomething elthe?”

 

Eridan scowls. “I'll tell you w-what I w-want, you-”

“Hey!” A teacher pokes his head out of a nearby classroom. “Keep it down out there, you hear?” He quickly shuts the door.

 

You glance around, then face Eridan, a grimace plastered across your face. “Meet me in the parking lot after thchool,” you say, jabbing your finger into his chest. “And if you don't come, I'll beat you up even worthe than if you do come. Got it?”

 

Eridan noticeably swallows. You give him the most menacing look you can muster, then walk briskly away to your first class. You can't wait until school lets out.

 

***

 

 

You watch as Karkat carefully cuts his ham and cheese sandwich into two perfect halves.

 

“You really don't have to,” you say shyly. “I mean, it is your lunch after all...”

 

“Nepeta, shut up,” he insists. “You probably haven't eaten in like, a whole fucking week. So just take the god damned sandwich half. I have a fuckton of shitty lunch meat at my house anyway.”

 

You look at Karkat. Then the sandwich. Then back to Karkat.

 

“Just take it already!” he demands, pushing it towards you on a napkin.

 

“Okay, okay!” You pick up the sandwich and bite into it cautiously. It's the most delicious thing you've eaten in days. Really, it's one of the only things you've eaten in days. “It's so yummy!” you exclaim.

 

“Don't talk with food in your mouth, sicko.”

 

You finish up your first bite. “Sorry. It's super good though! Thanks Karkat.” You smile and continue to munch on the bread.

 

“Yo KK!” A boy you recognize from yesterday walks up your lunch table. Karkat turns around, a bored look on his face.

 

“What do you want, asshat?”

 

“Nothing, shitface. I wath jutht wondering why you're thitting at the empty thide of thome prep table inthtead the usual table.”

 

“It's not empty. Me and Nepeta are here.”

 

“Heh. Yeah, I hate to break it to you KK, but it'th pretty fucking empty.” The boy walks away, quietly laughing. He sits down at a table with some other guys and a few girls.

 

“Who was that?” you inquire.

 

“The king of Douchebag Castle. Stay away from him,” Karkat warns.

 

“I thought you two were friends. I saw you walking together yesterday, remember?”

 

Karkat furrows his brow. “Oh, right. Hey, if any of those guys over there come up to you, just ignore them. And then tell me, 'cause I'll fuck them up.”

 

“Don't you hang out with them?”

 

“No, they hang out with me. They're complete imbeciles. You definitely don't want to have anything to do with them.”

 

 

***

 

 

You sit on the brick wall surrounding the parking lot, wiping your palms on your jeans nervously. Sollux treads towards you with his hands in his pockets. His nose is pink from the cold and his brown hair waves in the frigid wind. He hoists himself up next to you on the wall.

 

“Yo,” he says.

 

“Hey,” you reply. “I thought you w-were gonna beat me up.” God, you fucking hate your stupid stutter.

 

“I wath, but I'm not nearly ath mad ath I wath earlier.”

 

“Huh.”

 

“Yep.”

 

Is that it? He suddenly isn't angry? Your eyes fixate on his hair again, and you can't help but ponder how nice it looks when it sticks up in the front like that. He removes his 3-D glasses and wipes them off with the corner of his heavy winter coat. As he puts them back on, he notices you staring.

 

“What are you looking at?”

 

“Hm? Oh, nothin'. Just spaced out.” It wasn't totally a lie.

 

“Yeah, yeah, sure, sure...”

 

“Hey, Sollux?”

 

“What?”

 

“W-why do we hate each other again?”

 

Sollux shrugs. “Beatth me.”

 

“W-well, can w-we stop?”

 

“Thtop what?”

 

“All this fightin'.”

 

He thinks about it for a long, silent moment.

 

“Maybe another time,” Sollux finally says, smirking. He leans over and flicks you in the side of the head. Then, he hops off the wall and walks away casually.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

“See you at four!”

 

“Yeah. See you.”

 

Your name is Nepeta Leijon, and you've finally convinced Karkat Vantas to come play with you at the playground. This day couldn't get any better.

 

You skip down the hallway to the front doors of the school, looking over your shoulder to smile back at Karkat. He waves, then starts to walk the opposite way down the hall. Everything is fine and dandy as you step outside into the frosty afternoon. You hop down the steps of Hussington High feeling better than you have in ages.

 

That is, until you skip head first into somebody.

 

“Excuse me! I'm so sorry, I-” You take a step back and look upwards at the boy you carelessly collided with, waving your hands as if to brush away what you've just done. It's only when he reaches up to adjust the hat tilted sideways on his head and the corner of his mouth quirks upwards in a devilish sneer that you realize who it is. It's that guy who humiliated you in front of everybody at lunch.

 

Happiness drips from your face and pools around your ankles. You're screwed.

 

You whip around as fast as you can in an attempt to get the hell out of there. You sprint towards the school as fast as you can, but Hat-Boy is faster.

 

“Where do you think you're going, slut?” His tone reminds you of Premna's, but you don't have time to think. He grabs the collar of your hoodie and yanks you backwards. You fall to the ground gagging and holding your neck, but scramble to your feet quickly. Hat-Boy doesn't wait for you to get up and slugs his fist into your shoulder. You collapse downward again with a stifled cry. You don't want anyone to hear you. They'd come and cheer on your aggressor.

 

Leaning back on your elbows, you try kicking his legs out from under him. You catch him hard in the knee with your heavy snow boot, and he grunts loudly, stepping back. You're sure that won't hold him off for long, so you pull yourself up and punch him right in the gut.

 

At least you try to. He grabs your left wrist and twists it behind your head. He yanks it down fiercely as you scream and try to wriggle free of his grasp. Fuck everything, you're going to have two broken arms now. Just your luck.

 

Hat-Boy tugs and twists at your arm as you choke on your sobs and try to scratch his hand away. You bite his wrist sharply, but you can't even draw blood. He yells and slaps your face with his free hand.

 

“What's that, bitch? You think you can win against me? You think you can-”

 

The ground rumbles. Hat-Boy drops your arm. You hold yourself tightly. A figure is approaching at top speed.

 

“LEAVE. HER. ALOOOOONE!”

 

A gigantic, muscular boy in a football jersey comes barreling towards the two of you. Hat-Boy freezes in fear as the jock launches himself forwards, his perfectly groomed, shoulder-length mane billowing behind him. It's just like when you fell off the swing set. Time's been slowed to a mere shuffle. The jock skids to a halt in front of Hat-Boy, but he doesn't hurt him. Instead, he jabs a massive finger into his chest.

 

“Don't you EVER go near this girl again. EVER.” He clenches his fist, and you can see the veins popping out of his neck. Why is he so tense? Why is he protecting you if he doesn't even know you?

 

Hat-Boy nods quickly, fear showing in his eyes. He hurries out of sight.

 

“And don't come back!” The jock shouts. His muscles relax, and he turns to you.

 

“Th-Thank you?” You try, but the jock raises a hand.

 

“No, don't worry about it.” When he isn't yelling, his voice is surprisingly low and formal. “I can't believe another student would do such a thing.”

 

You shake your head. “Most people don't like me. Why did you scare him away? Who are you anyway?”

 

“My name's Equius. I just couldn't stand to see someone so gentle get hurt. I think people like you plenty, anyway.”

 

Gentle? You don't even know this guy. You also disregard the fact that he answered your questions in reverse order.

 

“Oh, do you know Karkat? I think he said he sat at your lunch table.”

 

“Yes, I know Vantas.”

 

“Are you his friend?”

 

“You could say that.”

 

“Oh, I know! You could come play with me and Karkat as a way to thank you for your help!”

 

“Um...”

 

“I'm supposed to meet him at the playground at four, but wouldn't he be surprised if you showed up too?”

 

“I guess that would be pretty surprising. I don't think I need to be thanked though.”

 

“I insist! I'm already running late because of that jerkface with the hat, and knowing Karkat he's probably getting pretty antsy waiting over there. Let's go!”

 

You snatch the sweaty hand of the boy you only met today and speed ahead, leading the way.

 

 

***

 

Where. The fuck. Is Nepeta.

 

She said she'd be here at four. It's 4:30, and you look pretty fucking stupid sitting alone on top of the playhouse tower. She doesn't have a phone, so it's not like you can text her to get her ass the fuck over here. You're going to sit and wait a few more minutes, but that's it.

 

“Kaaaaaarkaaaaaaat!” Nepeta bounds towards the gate of the playground, holding hands with...Equius Zahhak? You rub your eyes and look again. Yep, she was definitely holding his (probably sweaty and disgusting) hand in hers. Not that you had any problem with that. No way. If she decided to just pick up a boyfriend on her way to the fucking playground, that's totally fine with you. Fine with a side of normal and a dash of perfectly okay on top.

 

But, still. What the actual fuck?

 

“Look who I brought, Karkat!”

 

“A sweaty dickface?”

 

“Nope. Guess again.”

 

“No, thanks.”

 

“It's Equius!” Nepeta is now climbing up the ladder to the tower you're in, Equius close behind.

 

“Oh, silly me.”

 

The two plop down onto the platform. “Equius and I had to run all the way here to make sure you didn't get lonely. Right?”

 

“Right,” Equius says.

 

“So are you two, like, a thing now?” You question.

 

“A thing?” Nepeta wonders aloud. “No, I don't think we're a thing. Are we a thing, Equius?”

 

“I don't believe so.”

 

They have no clue what you mean.

 

“Yeaaaah. So what are we going to do? Or can I leave now?”

 

“We'll take a vote. We can play Magical Kingdom or Undersea Adventures or Horses or-”

 

Equius slowly raises his hand. “Can...can we play Horses, please?

“Karkat, are you okay with Horses?”

 

“Yeah, whatever. I'm fucking crazy about horses. Sounds peachy keen.”

 

“Ugh, party pooper.”

 

Horses turned out to be a lot more entertaining than you expected.

Chapter Text

hey kids
long story short im an unreliable procrastinator voted most likely to suck eggs in high school
id like to write another few chapters to close this story up
it's not fair that i just kinda dropped this fic srry
im sort of confused on how to go about finishing it because of the erisol story arc i barely even started but ill figure something out
thank you to akatsukichibiness for the lovely fanart
http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/204/0/b/all_they_ever_were_by_akatsukichibiness-d58dr9q.png
also thank you 2 everyone who read this wowee u guys r great
expect the next chapter by the weekend maybe?? idk
bye and thanks again <3

oh also
i dont use my deviantart much anymore so if youd like talk of say hi or something my tumblr is geromys.tumblr.com
tag something as confuother if youd like me to see it?? yeah go for it

EDIT:
it is the weekend i said i would update, but i have a virus and im not in the best condition for writing. i hope i dont upset anybody if i have to hold up writing this chapter again until next weekend...