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24 Hours (and a mix tape)

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You can sense there's going to be trouble the second you hear that sinister laugh, "H3H3H3H3H3," getting louder. Christ, you swear you can hear the 3's. Your next hint is the skinny shadow gracing your door.

"Stop lurking like some shitty nineties cartoon villain about to spring your dastardly trap, and just get in here already." Terezi gladly does so, her grin growing wider by the second. Grabbing a chair, she scooches up close to your desk.

"What makes you think I don't have a dastardly trap to spring, Dave?" Her red glasses glint nefariously in the fading sunlight filtering in from your third floor windows. The evil villain look works surprisingly well for her, but you decide it would probably be better not to tell her this. "I happen to have many-"

"If your next words are 'irons in the fire' this conversation ends here," you say. Terezi may be one of your best friends, but she's been acting dodgy lately, and you are 200% sure that you aren't going to like whatever the fuck she and the other whackjobs you work with have been planning. In the last week alone you've heard Vantas flipping out 4 times, which isn't unusual for the guy, but seriously, his office is two floors below you, and at this point things are just getting ridiculous.

Instead of frowning at you, she smiles so hard that you're afraid her pointy teeth are going to shatter. "Let's forget about my irons for a second and talk about my proposition for you instead, coolkid."

"You know I appreciate your acknowledgement of my ascension to the god tiers of cool, but c'mon, the word 'kid' doesn't really apply to me anymore."

"Gog, Dave, just shut up for a second! Can you stop talking about yourself for long enough that I can segue into a topic that will result in us talking about you? We will both win this way, I promise. Also, 'cooladult' sounds really stupid." Now she's frowning. You suppose you've left yourself in suspense long enough. Time to find out what crazy shenanigans you're about to be irreversibly embroiled in.

"Alright, I'll bite. What's your proposition?"

Her smile returns in full force. "Well, Mr. Strider, as I'm sure you know, the annual faculty retreat is coming up soon, so we've been brainstorming some fundraising ideas. We finally agreed in the last meeting to use Nepeta's idea, but we're going to need some volunteers. And that's where you come in!"

You raise an eyebrow. That explanation wasn't suspiciously vague at all. "What do you want me to volunteer to do?" 

"It's quite simple. We want you to be one of our bachelors for the 1st Annual Sburb College Sexy Singles Charity Auction!"

You resist the urge to facepalm. Of course it had to be something like this; Nepeta was involved. "So you want me to sell my body for this school? Is that what we've come to? Professors by day, prostitutes by night? And what the fuck is a 'Sexy Single'? The word 'bachelor' isn't good enough?" 

"Calm down, there isn't any sex involved. We'll set up some strict guidelines so that things don't get creepy. Anyway, not everyone is being advertised as a date. We could sell you as a 'bro' instead, but that wouldn't be as much fun! Also, yeah, the name is kind of dumb, but we'll have bachelorettes as well, so we tried to keep it gender neutral."

You raise your other eyebrow. "I don't see why I have to be involved in this." You're not sure why you need to raise money for this stupid retreat; it's pretty much the biggest waste of time you've ever had the honor to be a part of. The only enjoyable part is the last day, when everyone gets totally smashed and burns things in a bonfire like they're preteens at summer camp. The more you think about it, the more confident you are that this is not a thing that people at legitimate universities do, but you are honestly not surprised anymore by any of the shit that goes down at Sburb. They hired you, after all.

"Daaaaaaaave, everyone has noticed how incredibly...unattached you are. You haven't even been out since that totally ill-advised thing you had with-" You hold out your hand to stop Terezi before she finishes that sentence. No one needs to reminded of the ill-advised thing. Behind your shades, you narrow your eyes. You've noticed that she's been drawing out her vowels a little longer than usual. Looks like a certain someone has been rubbing off on her, you think to yourself in a way that is definitely not suggestive at all.

She continues, "We all just think that this would be a good opportunity for you to let everyone know how eligible you are! And to make us some money, of course. It'll be harmless, I swear." Her grin says otherwise, and you know you're screwed when she finishes with, "Oh, and if you decline to help us, then I guess photos of your ill-advised thing might just find their way into the student paper!"

"There's no way you have pictures of that. You were as drunk as Roxy on a day that ends in 'y'." 

"You're right, I don't. But do you really want to bet that Vriska doesn't?" No, you do not. One does not simply bet against Vriska Serket. You decide not to consider the implications of them being in cahoots with each other. You're sure it'll end in another revenge/makeout cycle by the end of next week.

"Blackmail, Terezi? This trap of yours really was pretty dastardly. Well played. I didn't think the law could stoop so low."

"The prosecution does what it has to, coolkid. It's all in the name of justice. So, do you accept the offer?" You can't see where the justice is in letting you be sold off to some random creep with too much cash, but what the hell. It might not be too bad, and if it is, well, you guess your friends will have a good laugh at your expense later on. It'll be better than having them laugh at any extremely incriminating photos that may or may not exist.

"Okay, Ms. Prosecutor, I'll take the gig. I've just got to entertain some weirdo for a day, right?" You can handle a no-commitment deal. No strings attached, like a puppet cut down in its prime, its proboscis drooping like the wilted flower of a teenager after prom. You should really stay away from the puppet similes. They get weird, fast.

"Excellent! I'll tell the committee. You won't regret this, Dave!" And as she leaves your room with another cackle, you wonder if she could be right. Maybe for once, something good will come out of the infinite hijinks these idiots get up to.

No, it'll probably suck. 

Chapter Text

Every Friday, at around 8:15, you stop in at the neighborhood bakery, Prankster Pastries, to get a pumpkin muffin for Jade, and a whole load of sugary bullshit for the department office. You are literally the entire music department, so the administration originally stuck you with the art guys for the sake of convenience. Even though they're a collection of sugar-high psychopaths, they let you have the darkroom and a photography class, so they're not so bad. Anyhow, since you were newest to the group, The Mayor (who is actually pretty awesome) declared you Official Pastry Fetcher, which was a job you learned to take seriously after that one encounter with pie-withdrawal Gamzee. You won't admit this to anybody, but it was simultaneously hilarious and fucking terrifying.

Unfortunately, about four months ago, Sopor Sweets unexpectedly shut down, possibly due to health code violations, and possibly because they were lacing their goods with drugs. Who knows. In any case, The Mayor told you to get out there and find a new bakery before Gamzee snapped again and started painting with Nepeta's blood instead of oils.

Your epic quest ended about 5 minutes after you left your apartment, bringing you to a little shop with blue awnings and what looked like...clowns? Okay, so that wasn't really a good sign, but you didn't care about the baker's poor decorating sense; you just needed some goddamn pie.

Which was what you got. Right in the face. Seriously, the second you walked through the door, some jokester pegged you in the face with a cream pie. As you stood there with whipped cream falling off your shades, the bastard just laughed at you. 

"Haha, oh man, sorry about that! My Prankster's Gambit would have dropped so low if I let that chance go by! No hard feelings, right?" Crazy Pie Guy handed you a roll of paper towels, still giggling to himself. What even just happened to you.

"Is this old-timey vaudeville shit part of your bakery's shtick? You just pie every unsuspecting sucker who walks in?" you asked as you wiped down your face. It would explain the creepy clowns all over the place.

Crazy Pie Guy took your discarded paper towels from you and tossed them in the trash. "No, that's just me. I mean, Jane probably would've enjoyed it too, but then again, she doesn't like it when I waste food. But I just get so bored working here! Gotta get my entertainment somewhere." You adjusted your shades and watched him take his place back behind the pastry counter. He reminded you a lot of Jade, what with the dorky buckteeth and glasses.

"So are we done with the grade-school pranks now, or am I gonna find a banana peel underfoot when I start walking?"

"No more tricks, I promise. What can I get you?"

The glass display on the left was filled with perfectly flaky pies and cakes piled high with frosting. On the right were more modest looking cookies and muffins, and the occasional mini tart. "Hell if I know. You got any recommendations?"

He blinked at you before leaning in conspiratorially. "No. In fact, I recommend that you stop eating sweets. Get out while you can. Get out before the Batterwitch sinks her claws into your sweet, juicy flesh. " By the end, Crazy Pie Guy had begun to hiss like a deranged cat. You stepped back to distance yourself from his contagious insanity. Was every bakery in this town secretly a drug den? As you backed away, he stopped with the creepy whispers. "No, no, I'm just kidding! I mean, personally I think cakes are basically the worst, but don't worry, you can buy whatever you want. Look, I'll even give you a free muffin."

Crazy Pie Guy looked earnestly apologetic, and you could feel yourself succumbing to his huge bunny eyes. He wasn't any more off-the-charts ludicrous than your coworkers, so you weren't going to hold a little obsessive pastry hate against him. "Uh, okay, I guess you can just get me two of those pies over there and a dozen cookies. Oh, and a pumpkin muffin." He started to fill up a cake box with your requested items. You didn't really want to ask, but the question slipped out anyway. "Why do you work in a bakery if you hate cakes so much?"

His laugh was nice and normal, especially in comparison with that of your favorite razor-toothed she-demon. "Well, I needed a job, and my cousin needed some help around the shop, so I've been working here while secretly trying to undermine her business! I figured that once the bakery started losing customers, she'd finally open up the joke shop she's wanted to for so long! Don't tell her, though!" You just stared at him. Things had once again oscillated into the "abnormal" range.

"I seriously have no idea, first of all, if you're telling the truth or if this is another joke, and second of all, if I should like report you to someone." You took the boxes he handed over to you, a little wary that they were rigged somehow.

"Don't worry, I'm pretty sure Jane's onto me by now! I probably won't even be working here the next time you come back. Your total's $23.95, by the way." He grinned at you as you handed over the money, and you couldn't do anything other than shake your head.

"Good luck with the subterfuge, I guess," you told him as you walked out the door. Apparently it wasn't only the school that attracted the most ridiculous people you'd ever met; it was this entire town. You decided that you would come here again the next week, if Gamzee hadn't killed you, to see if this lunatic had been fired yet.


Eleven trips and four months later, he's still somehow employed. You think Jane must either be a saint or just as absurd as her cousin, but as you enter the shop today at 8:12, and Crazy Pie Guy gives you that stupid bucktoothed smile, you can kind of understand why it might be hard to hate him.

Chapter Text

Unsurprisingly, Crazy Pie Guy has a name. Like, he isn't just some anonymous weirdo who sprouted out of some whipped cream like Aphrodite from the seafoam in order to ruin the lives of cake-lovers everywhere. Of course, he didn't make it easy for you to learn it. On your second trip, when you discovered that his cousin hadn't given him the boot yet, you decided to inquire after his name, since you were probably going to be returning pretty regularly. The sweets had really gone over well with the rest of the department, so you found yourself reorganizing your Friday routine to fit in a trip to this bakery.

Anyway, after you asked, he paused for a second to think. "You know what? I'll make you a deal." He reached around the cash register to pick up a little blue frequent buyer's card and scribbled a "J" into the first square. "Every time you come and buy something over $15, I'll give you a letter of my name. Then, after your tenth purchase you'll get a free personalized dessert, and you'll know my name!"

"That is the stupidest fucking plan." You snatched the card from him anyway to examine it, before handing it back to him. "And you owe me another letter. I'm buying another two pies and a dozen cookies today."

The smug twerp just grinned back at you, before scrawling down an "O". "Want me to just pick for you again? And do you want a pumpkin muffin this time too?"

You were impressed that he remembered, since you'd only been in once before, but you didn't let it show. "Uh, yeah. To both."

Another eight weeks of basically this situation recurring over and over again, with, admittedly, some pretty interesting small talk, and you finally got the bastard's name and your free dessert. John Egbert, and an apple pie. It was delicious; the pie, not his name, which was just as dorktastic as you expected. But now that you know it, you use it every chance you get, like today.

"John Egbert," you intone after kicking the door in.

"Dave Strider, please stop kicking the door. It's made of glass. Seriously, man, have some decorum." John already has two bakery boxes all done up for you, complete with ribbons on top. Nepeta likes stealing the ribbons and tying them into Gamzee's hair. He doesn't seem to mind, he just ambles around his classes with cute blue bows in his loose curls.

You have mixed feelings about the prepared box. On the one hand, it means you're a regular now, and that it'll be less trouble for you; on the other hand, you don't really have a reason to stay and chat. Not that you want to or anything, it's just that Egbert is in serious need of artistic and cultural rehabilitation from the devastating mess of shit he finds entertaining, and who better to school him than Professor Strider, chair of the Sburb College Music Department and faculty co-advisor to the Sburb College Chalk Club? You and Terezi just call it SC3 for short.

It seems that John Egbert isn't going to let you just waltz out without some conversation anyway, so you were worrying  thinking too hard for no reason.

"So, Dave, guess what I just found out?" He's smiling the same way he was after he hit you in the face with creamy delicious and okay, that was kind of an awkward turn of phrase, just call it pie, Strider. It was pie. Yes.

"You're adopted? There's no way that you're an actual human being. You must have been grown in a lab and then raised in a perfect suburban household with a picket fence, as an alien sleeper agent ready to activate at the sight of fresh baked goods and kill everyone within 200 miles."

"That's actually fairly accurate! But no, not what I had in mind. No, this concerns you, Dave."

You? Awww dammit. He's gotta mean the-

Yep, John pulls, from behind the counter, a flashy poster announcing the stupid bachelor auction that you got roped into yesterday. "How the hell did you even get this?" You eye him suspiciously. The town is pretty small, but you've never discussed having mutual acquaintances, although that could be because you hate talking about your coworkers. You did bring Jade that one time, but she shouldn't know about this yet. So, how?

"Let's just say that I've got some reliable sources who are in the know!"

"Sources of what? Shitty college advertisements? Poorly designed flyers? Excruciatingly terrible typesetting and font choices?"

"Okay, okay, cool it with your hipster rage or whatever it is you've got going on over there, and explain this to me." He waves the paper around in front of your face until you rip it out of his hands. The first thing you see is, ugh, the words SEXY SINGLES plastered across the top, and god, you hate that fucking name. There's a short blurb on the side including a description and details about the event. Nowhere does it mention your name, however.

"What's there to say? This has nothing to do with me."

He pulls a face at you that no grown man should really make. You try not to reach out and squash his cheeks in. "No way, you're not weaseling out of this, Dave. My inside source has told me all about your impending participation in this awesome event."

"Fine, this might be a thing that is happening in the all-too-near future. Why do you care? And who the hell told you?"

"Welllll, maybe I'm interested in attending! Like my friend said, it'll be the op-perch-tuna-ty of a lifetime! Or, okay, maybe not a lifetime, and more like, a thing that might be kind of fun, but whatever! I'll probably go." He's babbling out something else, but you're not paying attention any more. You heard that fish pun. That leaves two possible culprits, and since Ampora hates your guts and would never willingly bring you up in conversation - it's not your fault that every time you're in a room together you end up having what Captor calls a "douche-off" - that means it's got to be Peixes. Interesting. 

"How do you know Feferi Peixes?" Feferi is the unofficial queen of the school; half of the buildings on campus were built from her family's money. You don't know her too well, but you've heard that she's okay, if a little bossy. She is, if you recall correctly, also on the faculty event funding committee, which would explain why she knows the participants. 

"Oh, you figured it out! I sit in on Feferi's bio lectures sometimes. Jane also knows her for some reason, but I never remember how. But yeah, we were getting coffee after her class yesterday, and she explained it to me. You didn't tell me you were single, Dave!" John's eyebrows are doing some weird thing now and you press the palm of your hand to his forehead to make him stop.

"Stop that, you stooge. And of course I'm single; just cause I've got all sorts of ladies and dudes up in my grill doesn't mean that any of them are worth my time."

"Uh, so instead you signed up for a bachelor charity auction?? I don't think you're really thinking these decisions through." He tries to raise one eyebrow to undoubtedly express his skepticism, but you just push harder.

"Maybe I'm doing it for the irony."

"Wow, okay, that seems like a totally legitimate reason to get landed with some weirdo for a whole day. But whatever floats your boat, I guess!"

You finally remove you hand from his face in order to pay for your pies. "Well, you'll just have to come and see for yourself which choice babe gets a date with the flawless Dave Strider, won't you?"

"I think I might just do exactly that." He hands you your bakery boxes and you stroll on out of there, with another kick to the door for good measure. What idiot would install a door that swings both ways in a bakery? John's indignant squawk when he hears your foot meet the glass is a nice start for the rest of the day. Time to go annoy Harley.

Chapter Text

You used to quasi-date Jade Harley, back in the day. It's just kind of a thing that happened. It's certainly not a thing anymore, no matter what Karkat thinks; you and Jade are strictly bros now. The broest of bros. This was probably always true, which was why a romantic relationship didn't really pan out.

You met Jade on your first day of work at Sburb, although "met" might not be the word for it. In fact, you had tripped over her legs when you turned the corner around some hedges, because she had, of course, fallen asleep right in the middle of gardening and left her limbs sticking out, ready to lead some poor sap to his untimely death by blunt force trauma via marble angel. Luckily, you were not that sap, and flashstepped the fuck away from the creepy angel statue before one of its wings drove through your face. Everyone hates those fucking angels.

After you failed to die, it hit you that maybe she was actually the dead person in this stupid situation, what with being curled up in the bushes and all, so you scratched gently at her cheek with a branch, which resulted in some minor flailing and ended with Jade punching herself awake. You wish you had had your camera with you to document that momentous occasion, because it will never not be hilarious. Feeling a little bad about it (but not by much, since she was instrumental in your almost-death), you offered to buy her lunch, but then she had to show you where the dining hall was, and you both got sidetracked by some weird-ass frat hazing/processional thing happening on the quad, and had to run away from the campus cops before they caught you guys shooting rubber bands at students' hats. Your first day, and you were already on the lam.

To make a long story short, you and Jade hung out together a lot after that, because Harley's pretty fly for an island chick, and you shared common interests like music and being confused by snow. It started to get a little heavy, eventually. One day, after getting crappy takeout from some seedy joint downtown, the two of you wound up making out on your couch for about five minutes before giving up, because it just wasn't really working. You don't know why, since Jade's cute and enthusiastic and smells nice, but neither of you could get into it. 

"Uh, wow, maybe I'm just totally off my game. Sorry if you were expecting to deflower me or something." You flattened down your hair and fixed your skewed glasses. Out of the corner of your eye, you could see Jade do the same.

She shrugged back with a grin, before nudging you with her shoulder and shifting back into the cushions. "It's not a big deal, Dave! We're still friends. Makeouts were just an optional bonus!"

"Oh. So we're cool, then?"

"We're soooo cooool, Dave. The coolest. No one else even comes close to how chill we are!" She held out her hand for a fistbump, just like you taught her. You gladly returned it.

"We'd give 'em brainfreeze just by being in the same room."

"Yeah! Now, come on, show me some of your 'phat rhymes' and 'ill rhythms' and stuff. Bro." So you guys had an impromptu jam session, which was more awesome than any R-rated activities anyway. And thus ended the brief romantic hiccup in your friendship. To this day, the two of you continue to sail the good ship S.S. Bro through the turbulent waters of finals and budget cuts and Karkat's ten weekly rants.

--

On your way to Jade's office, which is on the top floor of Peixes Hall, you swing by the administrative center to do some drive-by wingmanning. Recently you've seen The Mayor lurking around the mailroom in the morning, even when you know for a fact that he's receiving zilch from the good old postal service. A little subtle inquiry and some hiding in the shadows of mailboxes revealed the whole picture: the poor guy's got it bad for the cute delivery lady. Ever since you've found out, you try and help the dude by giving him a few cookies to share with her during his awkward attempts at conversation. You have no idea if this is useful or not, but he always looks so grateful that you can't stop now.

With your task at the mailroom completed, you hop onto the elevator, because there's no way you're climbing 4 flights of stairs to see Harley. The elevator's a little old and wonky though, and it's times like these when you wish Zahhak would put his brains to use and build a fucking transporter pad or something instead of sweating all over his creepy sexbots. Jade swears that his robots are actually really cool, but there's no way she can convince you there isn't some sort of weird repressed fetish thing happening there. The jury is still out on whether he and Nepeta are friends in spite of or because of their respective bizarro secret hobbies.

When you exit the elevator, which pulls to a stop with an anguished groan, you can already hear Karkat's dulcet tones gracing the department hallways. Vantas has been pissier than usual, and you know you're probably about to make his day worse. And indeed, when you lean into Jade's doorway, she waves back with a smile and her boyfriend twitches violently.

He spins around and jabs you in the chest, which is a little endearing, because he has to aim his finger upward to do it. The guy's sorta short. 

"Out," he snaps.

"...that's it? I waited a whole week, trembling in anticipation, struggling to make it through the long hours of yesterday night, for this? You don't think I'm worth the time anymore, Karkat, is that what you're trying to say? Cosmo told me this would happen some day, that the fiery burn of our romance wouldn't last on just passion alone, but I didn't take it seriously. I never realized we'd have to rekindle our love so soon," you tell him, clasping his pointing hand desperately between your own and holding it to your chest. "Can you feel that? It's my heart, and each pulse is for-"

"Sweet syphilis-infected maggots on a cracker, let go of my fucking hand, Strider, or I swear I will waterboard you with your own blood. I don't have time for your mindwarpingly overblown fuckery right now." He wrenches his hand back and tries to shoo you away with a flapping motion, like you're a three-legged dog hounding him for scraps of food or something: he's got that look of pity mixed with disgust and a little confusion on his face. This is why Karkat is simultaneously your most and least favorite of all of Jade's boyfriends. What a crazy dude.

"Yeah, this might come as a surprise to you, but sometimes I do come here to talk to Harley. My schedule doesn't actually revolve around ruining your day." Normally you'd drag the charade out, but today you want him out of your hair as quickly as possible.

Karkat narrows his eyes in suspicion. You rarely let him off this easy, and he isn't sure if he should meddle or accept the temporary truce. Jade decides for him.

"Jeez, Karkat, get going already! You're going to be late for class at this rate, fuckass!!" She sends him off with a shove and a kiss to the cheek. He walks out of her office backwards, still glaring at you, nose scrunched up in distaste.

When he's finally gone, you lean super casually against Jade's desk and wait for her to finish shuffling some papers away. "What's up, Dave," she asks while pulling another rubber band out from her drawer and twisting it around her ring finger.

"Who says there's anything up? What, a guy can't just visit his good pal without wanting her pocket-sized boyfriend hanging around?"

Jade is utterly unimpressed. "You can't trick me, you're definitely up to something weird. Yesterday you ran away when I tried to talk to you! You looked me in the eye and then covered your face with the school paper and everything. What the heck??"

Well, okay, you did do that, but that was because just as you were thinking about asking her for this embarrassing favor, she appeared before you had mentally steeled yourself, so you beat a strategic retreat.

"So yeah, maybe there's a possibility I need a favor. I mean, we're talking grade-school, small time, chump change stuff here. It's no big deal if you can't follow through." Maybe if you play it cool it'll be less humiliating.

Jade's suddenly opaque glasses glint in the sunlight as she looks up at you with a smile, like she's some sort of conniving, kawaii gakuen stuco president from right out of the animes or something. Wow, do you need to stop watching bootlegged DVDs at five in the morning.

"Heheheh, I don't know, Dave. I'm pretty busy! You might have to ask someone else, sorry!!" She's onto you, that wench.

"Look, I'll make it up to you. You know me, I'm good for it. I'm an upstanding citizen. A man of the people, made for the people, by the people," you wheedle. Jade shakes her head solemnly, packing things into her bag for class. Damn. Time to pull out the big guns. Literally. "Okay, fine, I'll be a part of that weird community battle sports team you wanted. One whole season's worth of games next semester, as long as you agree to do this one thing, and don't ask any questions."

She perks up at that, almost like a dog listening for the grind of a can opener. "Actually, maybe I can help after all!" She sticks her hand out and you shake it firmly. "Good doing business with you, Mr. Strider," she says.

"Same to you. I'll text you the details later. Actually, I'll even send them to you over your social medium of choice," you say, as the two of you walk out of her office.

Jade locks her door. "You're a gentleman and a scholar, Dave. But there's no need! You just need me to bid on you at the singles auction if no one else does, or if you don't want to be won by a creep, right?"

What. The. Fuck. How does she always already know these things?! You jump back and hiss, drawing crosses and pentacles and interrobangs in the air. "Back, back, demonic devilbeast witch." Jade just pats you on the head fondly and heads for the elevator. "No, but seriously, stop being so cagey. How did you know that?" you shout.

Her giggle as she closes the elevator door on you is all you get out of her.

Chapter Text

Doomsday finds you in Felt Theater wearing your coolest brick red time jammies. Backstage, people are rushing around, trying to make last-minute adjustments to their intros and appearances. You're just trying to avoid Nepeta's grasp. That woman is stealth as fuck, so your hiding spots are getting increasingly stupid.

"Dave, what the hell are you doing to Tallcircle City?"

You peek out from behind the Can Town backdrop to see your sister standing around all dolled up like she's got a hot date. You are like 76% sure that can't be correct, which means you're both here for the same reason.

"Wait, you got blackmailed into this too? What shit does Nepeta have on you? What haven't you been telling me?"

Roxy just laughs at you. "You dumbass, did you ever think that maybe I actually want to go on a date? Do you know the last guy I slept with and how long ago that was?"

"Fuck no, and don't you dare tell me. Like I want to know what you've got going on under the sheets. Keep it PG for fuck's sake; there could be innocent minds out there, you pervert."

"Look, a girl has needs, okay? Anyway, Terezi was looking for you; she says you're up sixth, after Rufioh."

"Why is she setting me up to fail? I mean, I'm not too shabby in the anything department, but no one looks good compared to Rufioh. Sounds like a conspiracy."

"At least you're not following up after Jake. He's last for a reason."

"Yeah, I don't know if I buy into the whole English Mystique. I mean, he's a nice guy, don't get me wrong, but he's pretty oblivious and he thinks shorts are appropriate workplace attire. Also his taste in movies is shittier than John's. I wasn't sure it was possible, but English has blown my expectations out of the water."

"Okay, most of that's true, but he's like a primo babe, and he's fun. People like fun!" True. Are you fun? Has your understanding of fun become so warped that it no longer contains any meaning? You just don't know. These are the deep philosophical questions that plague you when you lie awake at night.

"How much do you think he'll rake in?" This is another one of those questions.

Roxy backs away with her arms in an X. "Psh, as if I'm gonna tell you that. The betting pool's still open right now; I'm not letting you horn in on my bid. I'm saving up my, ah, 'side income' to get a new Gameboy. You will not ruin this for me." Damn. What a cheapskate. It's as if you didn't come from the same womb or something.

(Actually, you didn't. The two of you are step-siblings.)

"Fine, but when I'm literally showering in cash thanks to Jake English, don't come crying to me, cause I'll be too busy rubbing Benjamin Franklin all over my chest."

"I am both kinda grossed out and jealous at the same time, so I'm just gonna go. Also, Nepeta wants to talk to you."

"Nepeta?"

"Why, Dave, how serendipitous it is seeing you here," comes a voice from behind you. You certainly do not flip out like a wimp. That would be absurd.

Nepeta's hand clamps down onto your shoulder and using your own body to propel her upwards, she attacks your hair with a comb. "Cool it, pouncilor. You're gonna rip out my shining golden locks and then no one will ever be able to love me. A boy's hair is his life."

"Then why does yours look like shit? Dave, you're about to go onstage and you look like you got mauled by a raccoon on your way here. I'm onto you! You're trying to sabotage your chances to throw off all the bets, but if you think I'll let you get away with that, you're as dumb as you look."

"Hey, I caught that."

Pulling out a final snag, Nepeta tosses the comb somewhere, and shoves you toward a costume rack. "Now get out of these silly pajamas and put on that suit over there!"

Man, all your plans are falling through today. But the suit does look good, so you change while Vriska starts telling the audience to "Shut the hell up! We're about to start."

By the time you've cleaned up, the third victim of the night is already on stage. The others are milling around in the wings, waiting for Vriska's summoning intro. You sidle up next to Feferi, who smiles sunnily at you. "You look great, Professor Strider!"

"Thanks. Same to you; that skirt's really working for you. I didn't know you were taking part in this."

"Well, as one of the coordinators, it's only fair! Besides, I think it'll shore-ly be fun!"

"That makes one of us."

"Oh, quit your glubbing. Just watch, I bet you'll enjoy yourshellf much more than you expected to! Now shush, I want to hear what's going on out there!"

You turn your attention back to the stage in time to see Equius rubbing nervously at his temples as he goes off to meet a tall woman with dimples who's currently paying Terezi.

"Alright, let's move on to our next bachelorette. She's quirky, she's tipsy, and she can school your ass in the fighter game of your choice if she hasn't passed out on the porch, she's the Comp Sci department's very own Roxy Strider!" Vriska steps aside as Roxy hops out onto center stage. Her hair's got extra flip in it today, and she's rocking her purple dress. You stand proudly watching your older sister giggle into Vriska's microphone like you're some old woman at her grandkid's graduation, but whatever. Striders are hot, everyone else can go suck it.

"Heyyyy, I'm Roxy, and I looooove science and wizards. If you pick me, I'm pretty much up for anything! I can show you a good time, no matter what you're into, ifyaknowwhaddamean." She shoots an exaggerated wink at the audience and they cheer back at her.

"Okay, with that charming hook, let's get the bidding started! Do I hear $20?"

The numbers climb quickly, until someone shouts out "$200!"

The crowd starts buzzing; that's a pretty large sum to be dropping at a pointless event like this. It's odd, but you think you recognize that voice...

Vriska shrugs, shouting out, "Do I hear $201? Anyone?"

"$205?" calls a tentative voice from a gangly looking kid near the front. Roxy smiles at him and he waves back bravely.

"$230," shouts back that same voice from before and other kid shrinks back. His pockets aren't deep enough, it seems. This time, you are certain you know who that is.

So is Vriska. With a raised eyebrow, she calls him out on it. "Look, not to be judgmental or anything, but don't you already have a boyfriend, Sollux?"

The crowd gasps. So does Feferi.

"It's none of your fucking business, but if you really must know, I figured this was the best way to pin LL down and get her to finally grade some fucking projects," Sollux yells back from the crowd. The murmurs die down a little and you shake your head. Four people in and it's already turning into a circus. You notice that Roxy is suddenly texting furiously away on stage.

"Ooookay, well, do I hear $231? No? Going once, going twice..."

"$235!" and what the fuck, that's Ampora's unmistakable accent.

"...are you honestly bidding against your own boyfriend so that he can't make his co-worker grade some ~ATH projects?" The crowd freaks out again. Vriska looks like she's stuck between glee and exasperation; you hate to say it, but you're kinda feeling the same way. Everyone at this school is a nutcase.

"Look, Rox said she'd hook me up with some VIP passes for COTLcon if I helped her out, okay? I mean, a guy like me knows a prime opportunity when he sees one!" You and Feferi peek out from behind the curtains; Sollux is looking pretty murderous.

"$240, you fucking douchebag, you're sleeping on the couch for the rest of the year."

"$250, and look, Sol, it's nothin' personal, you have to understand. I swear to god that when we get back from the con I'll make it up to you."

"$255, sorry, I misspoke earlier. You're sleeping on the couch for the rest of your fucking life."

"Okay, this is goin' to take forever at this rate, so $300, and I promise that- ack!" Sollux tackles Eridan to the ground and then the crowd swallows them up so you can't see the ensuing fight. You would say that they're easily the most ridiculous couple you know, but then you think about any one of the other couples you know, and realize it's probably a pretty close race. Roxy hangs out with them way too much, though.

"I'm going to assume no one else is gonna bid? Going once, twice, gone, to the tool with the purple hair. Okay, get off my stage, you troublemaker." Roxy fistpumps and skips over to Terezi, who's cackling at the commotion on the floor.

To your right, you see Rufioh preparing to go up, so you pull out your phone to confirm that Jade knows the plan. She texts back a smiley, so you figure that you're probably good to go. After that debacle with Roxy, you're fairly certain that things might get weird if Jade bids on you, but fuck it, that's probably still better than entertaining some psycho. But now that you're in this nice suit, you may as well go out there looking your best. Using your phone camera, you mess around with your hair a bit, trying to nail that tousled look, but mostly you just fuck up what good Nepeta did.

"Dave! I think you're about to get called!" Feferi whispers to you.

"Rufioh's done? How much did he go for?"

"UGH, I don't want to talk about it. You should go ask Terezi later. I can't believe my guess was that far off!"

"I didn't think you were that hard up for cash, what with the donating thousands of dollars per year to the school and the gold tiara and shit."

"Well, you're right, but that's not the point! Anyway, get out there!"

Vriska coughs into the microphone as she waves Rufioh off the stage. "Wow, some lucky guy's got a hell of a date in his future! Anyway, now for an abrupt change in pace, here's Sburb's resident king of cool, if cool is a synonym for 'good-looking but kind of a dick,' Dave Strider! I've heard rumors that he might even take off his signature glasses and make eye-contact with his date! Isn't that exciting." She sounds as enthused about you as ever. That's your cue, so you walk over and take the microphone from her.

"Hey, I'm Dave. I like birds, apple juice, and phat rhymes. I can promise you the coolest day of your life, and if not that, then at least a pretty rad mix tape." There's not much else to say. You definitely haven't planned a date yet, so this will have to do.

Vriska rolls her eyes and takes her microphone back. "You heard the guy. For one swell day with this dude, do I hear $20?"

A peppy girl with blue pigtails throws her hand up first, then some dude in a slouchy hat near the back. Before you know it, you're at $104, which isn't too bad. Currently, the highest bidder is a serious-looking gal in business casual; she doesn't look like she'll try and steal your kidney, so Jade hasn't made any moves.

Just as things look like they're about to wind down, an older guy in the corner calls out in his rickety voice, "$115." It's pretty dark where he's sitting, so you can't really see anything but the massive amount of facial hair he's got going on, which isn't necessarily unattractive. But you're not sure you're a fan of the greasy wifebeater. And his mullet looks kind of stringy and he has a hook hand? What???

You look back at Serious Girl, but she shrugs. Sorry, bro, her cool gray eyes seem to be saying. Dammit, you and Serious Girl could've had something great. Vriska's fishing for a higher bid, so you frantically search out Jade in the crowd, but when you finally spot her, she and Karkat are doubled over laughing.

Worst friends ever.

You finally catch Jade's attention, but it's too late. You've been sold off to Cap'n Mullet for less than Roxy's pink N64 is worth. But worse than that is the betrayal at the hands of your best bro. Your heart grows cold, heavy. The light in Jade's eyes seems suddenly barren and cruel. You can never trust her again.

"Get off the goddamn stage, Strider." Vriska gives you a soft kick to the behind and you stumble down to Terezi, who waits for you with the widest grin you've ever had the displeasure of seeing on her face.

"Don't even start with me, t-z. Since the fuzz will never find my body, after I'm inevitably murdered and eaten, it's your job to make a life-sized puppet of me to put in the coffin for people to cry over at my funeral. I've got spare shades locked in my desk for special occasions like this."

"Don't worry, Dave. I'll get Jade's cool grad student to make you a robot corpse. Now go meet your Prince Charming. He already paid while you were zoning out, so he's waiting outside the auditorium for you. Have fun!"

Hahaha, laugh it up, Terezi. Guess who's not coming to her rescue next time she gets stuck in a broken elevator with a sober juggalo.

You slip through a side door out to the empty lobby of the theater, where a few people are hanging around, making phone calls or stretching their legs. Your future murderer is leaning on a column, somehow juggling four hackysacks even with his hook hand, and you're impressed, despite yourself. When you get closer you notice that his mustache and yeti eyebrows are actually part of a beaglepuss, but then he's falling over laughing at you, so you just stop where you are and wonder at what point your life became America's favorite sitcom.

"S-sorry, it's just...your face, pfffhahahaha!" And there he goes again, shaking with weird fake old man laughter. When he finally stands up straight, and pulls off his novelty glasses, you recognize the blue-eyed bastard, even with the unenviable hair.

"John Egbert, I'm going to make sure you never laugh again. Say goodbye to your vocal cords, buddy. You'll have a very promising career as a mime, I'm sure."

"Aw, c'mon Dave, at least wait til the end of the date! I paid good money for 'the coolest day of my life'! You better deliver, man, or I'm going to hijack all your student evaluations and make sure the administration thinks you're actually a Finnish spy."

"You're playing a dangerous game, dude. I'm sure Jane would love to hear that you've been adding a 'special ingredient' to her recipes. There's already been one bakery drug bust in this town, another one's not out of the question."

John's eyes narrow at you from behind his actual glasses, and he raises his hook threateningly. "It seems we'll have to call a truce then. Okay, I'll settle for a mediocre date, then. I mean, it's my fault for setting my expectations too high."

"Hey, wait, don't go thinking that I couldn't plan a kickass date if I wanted to. You're just not worth it."

"Dude, a hundred bucks isn't enough to warrant a top tier date? Do I have to throw in another free muffin?"

Okay, now that you know you probably won't get sold on the black market, you realize that it would make you a total ass if you didn't put in some effort. Besides, you know John. He's a pretty nice guy, coming over here to support your fundraiser and everything, which is more than you can say about some backstabbing furries you know. And maybe you do want to keep up your good reputation in his eyes; you'd hate to have to find a new bakery to frequent.

"Nah, man, I was kidding. I wouldn't shortchange you like that. You'll get your hells of awesome date and a personalized mix from yours truly. Try to contain your elation."

"Hmmm, I don't know about the mix. You can just skip that if you want. Your taste in music is a little..."

"Wow, you ungrateful swine, never mind. Your entire date is going to consist of sitting in on my History of American Music lectures until you can pass the final. This will be my one good deed for the world: eradicating the tragic collusion of misinformation that John Egbert calls 'good taste'. They'll put up a statue in my honor after I die. 'Here fell heroic Sir Dave Strider, in his last stand against the Egbertian onslaught.' In fact, they should give me a national holiday. Fuck Columbus. What'd that asshole ever do for this country?"

"Why are you a knight? The U.S. doesn't have knights."

"I'm part of the secret underground Order of Shut the Fuck Up."

John laughs and pulls his fake mullet off, stuffing as much of it as possible into his jeans pocket. "You really are kind of a dick. Is that part of the charm? Is this how you get people to like you?"

"Worked well enough on you. And like you're one to talk, Mr. Assault The Customers With Pie."

"That was once! And I guess you're right. I did sign up for a date with you for some reason. Anyway, it's getting kind of late, so just send me the details later, okay? Do you have my phone number?"

"Uh, no." You hand him your phone and he uses it to text his own phone, before adding himself in as a new contact. He gives the phone back to you and waves goodbye with a smile.

"I'll see you next week! Don't stand me up, Strider!" And with that, he's out the glass door, jogging to the parking lot.

You look at your "Sent" messages. The latest says:

To: John Egbert

boy golly, i'm so chuffed about going on a date with a hunk like you, i can barely stop swooning!

A second later, you receive a text in return:

From: John Egbert

haha, it's no big deal, dave! i like your enthusiasm. :)

Welp, looks like you've officially got a date with a dork. You wipe the smile off your face when you see Feferi coming out; better not let her see you having fun, or she'll gloat. Actually, it would be a good idea to avoid all your female friends and colleagues for a while, or they'll gloat you to death. And it'd be a damn shame if you died before your date.