Your name is JANE CROCKER, and you are torn between being shocked, horrified, and upset. Standing outside your door is a group of dirty children who look like they could use a good bath and a couple hundred hugs. As if this wasn’t bad enough, it’s made even worse by the fact that you know exactly who they are, even if you’ve never seen them before. You’re not sure what you were expecting when you invited over the players from what you had been told was the previous game, but you weren’t prepared for more than half of them to be aliens (good gracious, real aliens), or for one of them to actually be missing one of their eyes, and most of all you weren’t prepared for them all to be children.
When you had learnt that some of them would be the guardians of you and your friends, you had - wrongly you now know - assumed that the people you were meeting would be adults, or at the very least older teenagers. But they are not. The humans still have baby fat on their cheeks for Pete’s sake (the aliens on the other hand all appear a bit on the too-skinny side, but you’re not sure if that’s normal for them or not)!
They can’t be more than three or four years younger than you, which you know isn’t much, but they all look so very young and somehow it just seems wrong that they’re alone without anyone older to help them. You remember that before they had insisted that they need to help you, but now you’re wondering how they even planned to do that when you can clearly see that they’re stretched too thin. What’s worse is that they all have this haunted look to them, like they’ve been fighting a war rather than just playing a silly game. It breaks your heart a little just to look at them, and suddenly all you want to do is bring them in, wash them up, feed them, and make sure they have a comfortable night.
Neither you nor they say anything or move as you examine one another. Soon however, the manners that have been drilled into you kick back to life and you realize what a horrible host you’re being, what with not letting them in and staring at them impolitely. How rude they must think you are!
“Hi,” You say, and your voice is a bit more breathy than you had intended it to be but that’s fine because you’re not really sure how delicately you’re supposed to treat these kids, “Please come in.”
You step out of the doorway, and they hesitate before the tall gangly boy in blue (who you’re sure has to be your poppop with those looks) takes the initiative and enters, giving you a wide smile that’s a bit strained at the edges as he does. The rest follow soon after, with the aliens hanging back for a moment before following the one with the horizontal 69 on their (his?) shirt in.
Once they’re all in, you shut the door and move to where they’ve situated themselves in an awkward circle in the middle of the living room. Your step falters when you get closer and notice that the colorful fluids on their garments don’t have the right consistency for dried paint, but you manage to hold in your shocked gasp and don’t dawdle for long before you realize what you need to do and change direction. Their eyes track you as you stride past them and head into the kitchen where you retrieve a first aid kit from under the sink and continue watching you even when you start heading upstairs with a quick, “Follow me, please.”
From the corner of your eye you see them exchange looks, but once again they follow the gangly human’s lead when he starts up the stairs after you. Your trip is a short one as you make an immediate beeline into your father’s bedroom and begin shifting through his closet and dresser without any preamble. It feels a little strange to be digging through his things, but you don’t have enough clothes for all of them and you’re sure he won’t mind if he ever finds out.
The children give you a few strange looks as they shuffle into the room and find you throwing anything of your father’s that’s both comfortable and seems like it may fit them onto his bed. This mostly consists of sweaters and t-shirts though, since even with a belt you’re sure his pants are too big to even be feasible on them, and as soon as you’re done, you turn back to them and say, “I’ll be back in a moment, stay here please,” before heading to your own room. You return a few moments later with an armful of clothes and dump them onto your father’s bed with the rest of the pile.
Satisfied with your selections and the amount of variety in the clothes, you nod to yourself before taking a deep inhale and turning around. Your breath leaves you in a rush when you find the children still staring at you as if you’re some exotic creature they’re not sure is dangerous or not. You find their attention to be a little unnerving and fiddle with a few more things like making sure the first aid kit is fully stocked and that there are enough towels but all too soon there’s nothing left to do and you have to address them.
“Okay,” and you’re feeling a little nervous now that you’re not bustling around, because you’re not really sure what you’re doing, but you plow on anyway, “Well, for anyone who doesn’t know, my name is Jane Crocker -- although I probably should have introduced myself at the door, come to think of it, but oh well I suppose.
“Anyway, you’re all free to make yourselves at home and you may use whatever facilities you need. Over here is some clothing that you may borrow if you would like to wash your own and on the desk there is a first aid kit in case anyone needs it. The door across the hall is the bathroom and next to it is where the towels are kept in case anyone would like to take a shower.”
Here, you pause, trying to remember if you’ve forgotten anything, and sure enough you remember that you had been wanting to get some food into these kids, “Um, oh yes! I am just about to start making dinner as well, so if you have any allergies please tell me now.”
They blink at you owlishly in stunned silence before the younger version of your poppop speaks up. “Um,” he starts, looking a little baffled, “I’m, ah, allergic to peanuts?” He poses it like a question, so you’re not sure if he’s sincere about this or not, but you take it to heart and mentally cross out anything that would require peanuts. Skilled prankstress and notorious skeptic you may be, but allergies are never a joking matter.
“Wonderful! Anyone else? No? Any comments, questions, or concerns?” You ask, with just the slightest bit of your cheerfulness forced. Your smile dwindles a little when they all just continue to gape at you, and after a long moment you inelegantly add, “Well, um, alrighty then. Well, I guess if you think of something later on, feel free to come talk to me and… um… I’ll be heading back to the kitchen then, and I suppose you all can work out what you want to do by yourselves! Ta ta for now, then.”
With that you sweep past them and out of the room, cringing just a tad as you make your way back to your kitchen. That could have gone better, you’re certain. The problem is that you don’t know how much help they want, need or are willing to take and thus you are unsure how to handle them. You’ve never really had to take care of anyone or anything else before - well, except for reprimanding your friends over the internet whenever they do something that seems likely to be dangerous or debilitating in some way, but that doesn’t really count you’re sure.
You try to think about what your father would do in this situation, but all that you can see him doing is giving each of them a big hug before shoving cake into their faces. The thought is incredibly silly and makes you giggle a little, but it’s not exactly very helpful. Sighing heavily, you suppose the best thing to do is just make sure they have options available to them and let them come to you if they want to, even if you rather doubt that they’ll want to interact with you any more than strictly necessary.
Your return to the kitchen calms you to a degree (although it feels kind of lonely without your father there), but your nerves have still left you feeling a mite frazzled, so you immediately set to work thinking of what you should make. While baking is what you’re best at, you’re moderately well versed in other areas of cooking too, having dabbled in quite a few of them with your father whenever he found something new to try for dinner. It’s not like the two of you could live off of baked goods after all, although you may or may not have tried to at one point in time.
Mentally going through what foodstuffs you have, you decide to do a small mixture of dishes, since you don’t know what kinds of foods your guests - especially the extraterrestrial kind - can eat. A nice salad for any vegetarians and to throw in a bit of greens sounds good, along with a light chicken noodle soup and rice for any sensitive stomachs. You elect to add some pork chops as well, since you think the aliens might be strictly carnivores with teeth like those and figure a little extra meat never hurt anyone even if they aren’t. You’ll start the soup first, since it will take the longest to prepare by far, and make the salad last so it doesn’t have to sit long.
Getting the chicken set up is easy enough and doesn’t take much time, but you don’t want to start anything else for dinner too soon so before you know it you’re left with nothing to do and a long time until you will. Cooking, for you, is a relaxing hobby even though it can sometimes require hard work, but while you enjoy it immensely you often find that the lull in between can be quite dull. As such, you usually end up doing a few side projects while you wait for, well, whatever you happen to be waiting for - the chicken in this case. This time, your boredom has led you to try out the milk and honey loaf recipe your father found the other day, which you had both delighted over even if it was not your usual cup of tea, so to speak.
You take your time mixing the ingredients and taking notes on how you think the recipe could be improved both as you work and while it bakes in the oven. These ideas go into a small notebook, which is one of several that you like to brag are all full of potential recipes that you and/or your dad have come up with but for the most part are just the originals with some enhancements. It’s more a passion of yours than your father’s and usually you take it quite seriously, but now you’re doing it more as a way to take up time than to really find any way to make a smoother batter. It does this job wonderfully however and soon your watch is letting you know that it’s time to check on the bread again.
The loaf is nicely browned, and you’re just getting the bread out of the oven when your ears catch a strange, snuffling sort of sound behind you. Curious, you turn and find that it was one of the little aliens making the noise. You can tell by the bags under his eyes and rounded horns that it’s the one who had led the others into the house, even though a change of clothes and apparent shower have made him look a bit more like a drowned rat than he had before. He looks rather ridiculous in your dad’s University of Washington sweatshirt and your cupcake pajama pants, both because they clash terribly and because he’s practically swimming in them, and frankly you’re a little hard pressed to take him seriously when he bares his teeth at you for staring. You smile at the silly scene he makes, but stop rubbernecking and turn back to your work anyway.
“Hello,” you say to your guest as you set the pan onto one of the cooling trays on the counter, “Is there something you need, deary?”
The endearment slips out on accident, perhaps as a result of talking so often to the kindly uraniumUmbra, who is the only other alien you’ve ever spoken to (and you’re still just the tiniest bit doubtful that she actually is, even though you’ve clearly seen that there are aliens), but you’re not sure he really understands anyway because he responds with, “Karkat. Name iss Karkat.”
“Um,” You blink at the strange pronunciation, turning once again to face him, “okay then, Krrktt—”
“No sstupid!” He yells, starling you, before proceeding to enunciate every sound in his name with deliberate care, “Iss Karkat! K-harr-k-hah-t!”
“Like ‘car’ and ‘cat’?” And you fail to hide the incredulity in your voice, but he either doesn’t care or doesn’t notice because he’s nodding his head vigorously.
“Yess,” he says, drawing out the s and making it sound more like ‘yas’ then ‘yes’, “But with kay, not ssee.”
You’re not really sure how to reply to that, especially when he emphasizes his words with an indignant huff, his body hunched defensively even as he crosses his arms in apparent agitation. His entire manner throws you off, mostly because you’re not sure what you did to make him in such a bad mood, but also in part because as the heiress to the Crocker Empire not many people have spoken to you is such belligerent tones. He certainly isn’t at all like Umbra either, which may be the reason as to why all you can think of to say is, “Um, okay then, I’ll… be sure to remember that?”
He doesn’t do anything more than give you a short, sharp grunt, so after a moment of silence you turn back around, feeling distinctly befuddled. With the way they had all been acting before, you had sort of assumed that they would all be very withdrawn and soft spoken, but again your predictions seem to be blown out of the water. That seems to be happening a lot actually, like with Rox— actually, no, now is not the time to be start thinking about that.
Turning your attention back to your bread, you find that there’s not much to do with it anymore after you make sure that the inside of it is fully cooked, seeing as the recipe is complete. Taking a small taste of it though, you do think that a bit of something else over the top of it could help liven it up a tad. Frosting of any kind is too sweet to even think about putting on such a mild bread, but some Agave nectar (your go-to honey substitute, since you just really don’t like the taste of honey) would be fitting you decide.
A soft click-clacking of nails on the tile alerts you to the fact that your guest is approaching, but you don’t really pay it any mind as you lightly drizzle the nectar onto the loaf. Well, until you’re tackled into the counter and the bottle of Agave is nearly yanked from your hands that is. You’re shocked still for a moment as grey fingers try to pry yours open but you when you recover you don’t even think about it before your elbow is slamming back into the body behind you.
Karkat makes an “oof” sound and backs off enough that you can whip around and snarl, “What was that for?”
Your answer comes in the form of two angry, spitting hissing noises and bared teeth before he grinds out what sounds like, “I want” and lunges for the bottle in your hands again. There’s no time to think, and maybe it’s a result of being taller than most people you know, but all you do is take an instinctive step back and jerk your hand up so the bottle is high above your head. He ends up barreling into your stomach - and ow those horns actually kind of hurt! – which sends you both stumbling back into the counter.
You glare down at him as he stares up at you with those freaky yellow eyes that look too big for his head, and he appears to be a little confused until he follows the length of your arm up and sees the bottle dangling above him. He lets out an agitated chittering noise and jumps for it, but he’s tiny compared to you and doesn’t come anywhere close to it when you stand up straight again.
When he starts trying to claw at your arm you decide you’ve had enough. “Would you stop it?” you demand, and wonder of wonders it actually works somehow. Karkat freezes, his eyes getting even bigger when he cautiously looks at your face and realizes that you’re definitely not amused.
“Thank you,” you grind out when you lower your arm and he doesn’t move to try and take the bottle again, “Now would you kindly tell me why you decided to attack me?”
The alien hesitates, his eyes narrowing in suspicion as he leans away from you a little bit, but eventually he relents and says, “I want,” again as he points to the nectar. His accent is rough and thick, and it’s made even more awkward because it sounds like he’s trying to make his voice go higher than it should, but you understand him just fine either way.
The timer for the chicken goes off before you can respond though and you wince when Karkat lets out an angry shriek of “Feep!” in response to the shrill beeping. He continues to rant in gratingly high pitched tweets and twitters from the corner he tucks himself into as you turn off the timer, but when you turn back to yell at him to shut up you find yourself stopping short.
Huddled in the corner like he is, in clothes that are far too big for him, he looks very small and young, and you’re reminded that he’s most likely still a child. Weren’t you feeling sorry for him not too long ago because of how worn and devastated he looked at the door, like the whole world was on his shoulders as he led the other aliens into the house? That kind of thing doesn’t just go away, and if you look close enough you can still see that weariness clinging to him. And weren’t you just telling yourself that you’d do whatever it took to make their stay here a good one? He doesn’t look like he’s having a good time right now; he just looks like a little kid with too many teeth who’s confused and upset and angry because of it.
Despite yourself, you feel most of your anger leave you, although you’re still mildly irritated that he attacked you, and you sacrifice the chicken for a few moments as you drop into a squat in front of the alien. He stops mid-squawk, his mouth hanging open as he gawks at you in alarm, before his jaw snaps shut and his face twists into a scowl.
Ignoring that, you take and deep, calming breath and say as evenly as you can, “Look, I don’t know how it is in your culture, or how it’s been with the other humans in the – Veil was it? – but you can’t just take someone’s things if they haven’t given you permission to.”
His immediate frustration is evident even though you can’t understand the agitated words he’s squawking at you. After what seems like a rather long winded rant broken only by the random swear word you can understand, he finally exclaims, “You said to you that feel like in your house! In house when we want something we take it! But now you say that we have to get the permission before we could take something! You are stupid and your words has no sense stupid human!”
It takes you a moment to figure out what Karkat is actually saying, but when you do you realize that he does have a point, even though his rudeness is rather uncalled for. “Ok, I can see how that might be confusing, and I’m sorry for that,” you tell him sincerely, your voice getting firm as you hold out the Agave and continue, “Even still, you can’t just attack people when you want something, especially if they’re using it. You ask for it, and if they give it to you then you may have it.”
Karkat’s eyes go disturbingly wide at the sight of the bottle, and oh wow, you had assumed the black parts of their eyes were their irises but apparently they’re actually pupils because they start to dilate. The pleading expression he develops as he looks from the bottle to you and back again is largely ruined by his pointy-toothed overbite, but the imploring tone in which he lets of a series of soft canary chirps is impossible for you to ignore.
Sighing, you hesitate before handing him the bottle, feeling a little bit like you let him off too easily until you see the way his face drops in shock. He snatches the nectar from you and clutches it to his chest, as if scared that you may change your mind and take it back, and you don’t really need to be a top rate detective to realize that that’s probably something you should worry about.
However, you think to yourself as you stand with a heavy sigh and move back to the stove, there is not a lot you can do about it. You watch Karkat from the corner of your eye as you busy yourself preparing the rest of the soup, grimacing when he actually starts drinking from the bottle. It’s hard to stop yourself from telling him to cut it out, but you manage it with sheer force of will. What Karkat is doing is disgusting, yes, but you did give him the bottle, and it’s not like he’s actually doing anything wrong per se. Good thing that you had already used what you needed for the bread though…
A low, growling grunt startles you from your work, and you turn to find Karkat looking up at you. He makes the sound again even as he scrunches up his face and turns away in embarrassment, but you can do nothing but stare at him in confusion without knowing what he just said.
“What was that?” You ask cautiously after a minute goes by without any explanation.
You’re half expecting him to do something aggressive after that growl, even though it didn’t seem particularly hostile, but all he does is glower at the tile for a long moment. Finally, his mouth opens and he dithers fleetingly before he finally mutters a soft, “Thank you.”
A grin slowly creeps on to your face, pleased and oddly proud of him, and you wait until he sneaks a nervous look back at you before replying with a kindly, “You’re welcome.” He tries to hide the way he breaks into a pleased smile by scowling immediately afterwards, but you catch it anyway, and a bit more of your ire towards him melts away.
Shaking your head in amusement as you turn back to the food, you decide to forgive him. Really, you can remember throwing similar tantrums when you were younger, when you wanted something that your father had already said no to. What Karkat had done didn’t seem very different, except for the fact that he is older than six and had actually hurt you a little –which was definitely not okay – but he also looked like he had been dealing with some pretty heavy problems, and that made it easier for you to pardon. After all, you had been trained out of that with love and patience, so there’s no reason Karkat couldn’t be too given enough time.
Eventually, you fall back into a habit that came from having your father in the kitchen with you so often and begin to talk to your guest to fill the silence. You’re not sure if he’s listening, which gives you pause for a second, but he’s not complaining either so you continue to ramble on about anything that happens to cross your mind. Sure, you feel a little silly babbling as you are, but it makes the kitchen feel less empty even if Karkat doesn’t actually contribute anything more to the conversation than the odd grunt or growl-like noise because you’re constantly aware of his presence due to the way you peek at him from the corner of you eye every once in a while to see if he seems like he has something his has to add.
Your chatter slows and eventually stops when music starts to drift in from the living room. It’s neither yours nor you dad’s, since he preferred instrumental music and you aren’t much of a music fan to begin with, but it’s not very loud, so you do your best to just tune it out for the most part. Just hearing the music reminds you of your friends though, particularly one Mr. Strider, and it prompts you to make note of the time.
They really should be here by now, and although you’re sure it’s nothing since they haven’t messaged you yet and no news is supposed to be good news, you resolve to check in on them after dinner if they still haven’t shown up anyway. You’re not exactly worried, in spite of their tardiness, but it would be nice to have someone around to talk to who you actually know in addition to giving you the chance to ask them what seems to be keeping them.
Thoughts about what adventures your friends might be up to keeps your mind busy for a little while until your reverie is broken by a small, squeaky noise from Karkat. You turn to him with an inquiring hum, thinking that he perhaps wanted to say something, only to find that he had fallen asleep on the kitchen floor. You stare at him blankly for a second, before sighing – a feat you seem have been doing a lot lately. You’re… not really sure what to do with him now.