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It turns out Vantas is into computers as well although by the way he talks you get the sense he kind of more wants to be into computers than he actually is. You’ll have a class together when school actually starts. Hey, check this shit out, you think, you might actually have made the beginnings of an actual friendship, based on the fact that he swears even more than you do and you both fucking hate Eridan Ampora.

(Based on that last criterion you are friends with everybody else in the universe, of course.)

You tell him about the bedcurtains and he doesn’t believe you so when you get back to Gresley you have to show him. He marvels at them. They are definitely marvelous in the simplest sense of the word. Also he’s obviously impressed by your various machines and your collection of monitors, which is kind of nice, you gotta admit.

“I got no idea where he is,” you’re saying. “He was at that meeting thing and he looked like he was going to puke all over the floor--dude is like on a crazy number of meds, I dunno what’s up with that--and he was super rude at me. I’d say stick around in case he shows back up here so you can yell at him in person, but I can’t guarantee satisfaction, you know?”

“Fuck it,” says Vantas. “I gotta go check on how Gamzee’s doing, he was pretty unhappy about this whole bullshit episode. Understandably. Violet Prince has a goddamn nasty way with words.”

He runs his hands through his crazy hair, further crazing it. “--Hey. You want to come with? Reassure Gamz that verbal beatdowns are in the offing?”

Whoa. Yeah, this is like...this could actually end up being something like friendship. Shit is all touching and after-school-special, man. “...Yeah, why not. I basically have nothing to do anyway other than not go to that...what the fuck was it, tug of war match? Seriously tug of war?”

“Fuck that in the ear,” he says succinctly. “C’mon, come meet my roommate, he’s like the fucking polar opposite of yours.”

Several hours later you have a new respect for the number of times it is possible to use the word motherfucker in any given sentence, a kind of horrified admiration for Karkat’s ability to spin massively complicated metaphorical sentence structures out of thin air while maintaining syntax and grammar and cursing like a sailor, and a truly wonderful high. Karkat doesn’t exactly relax under the influence of Gamzee’s magnificent weed so much as mellow slightly; the difference is minute but noticeable if you look closely. You personally just find everything fucking hilarious, which it is.

Their room is totally unlike yours; they have a double facing the woods behind the dorm, tucked away behind the stairwell, which is why you can get away with smoking in the room. You’re still not convinced it’s a really smart thing to do, given St. G’s dire warnings, but on the other hand who cares.

Gamzee’s side is totally taken up with horrible posters and hanging lamps and christmas lights; Karkat just has a really nifty batik bedspread hanging on the wall and a shitload of books, it’s practically ascetic by comparison. It’s interesting watching them, you think in the happy haze: they’re so totally different that you’d have thought they would never get along but somehow it works. And you want to punch Ampora even more now that you’ve met the kid he verbally shit all over, because Gamzee is fucking sweet. You don’t even mean that sarcastically, he genuinely is a sweet kid, even if he has horrible taste in music; he’s generous, interested in other people, kind in the way that you personally could never manage (or want) to be.

He’s talking about exploring the campus. “--so then I was getting my motherfucking ramble on, you know, checking out this wicked fucking fairyland forest shit we got all up in our backyard, chilling with my little birdbros and squirrelsisters and shit, and I up and come upon a motherfucking miracle. Straight-up miracle it was. Some dude with a wicked inspiration kicking in his mind all up and built a fucking spiral little house right there in the motherfucking woods. All these branches being like standing in the motherfucking ground all close to each other and shit, like arranged, round in a big and most righteous spiral with a motherfucking firepit in the very fucking middle.”

You try to picture this. “In the woods back here? Behind our dorm?”

Gamzee nods, messy hair flopping. “In our very backyard, Solbro. It’s like some motherfucker just up and knew a brother needed a place to get his serenity on, you know? Get his mind serene. That miracle spiralhouse shit is all up and mad serene.”

“He fucking needed it after Violet Prince did his thing,” Karkat says, but without a great deal of vitriol. Gamzee nods again, and you feel awful that your roommate was shitty to him, even if it has nothing at all to do with you and you couldn’t have stopped him anyway had you even known about it. Fuck. You’re getting all maudlin.

“I’m gonna explain to him just how much he sucks,” you say. “With gestures. Possibly a powerpoint to back up the data. What a douche.”

“Chill, bro,” Gamzee says, reaching a long arm over to pat your knee inexpertly. “Don’t be getting your harsh on. Purple haired motherfucker all up and got his own shit to be dealing with.”

Karkat makes a noise like an irritated teakettle and prods Gamzee with his foot. “Stop being so damn nice. Wait, okay, no, don’t. It’s kind of bizarrely awesome.”

“Whatever you say, best bro,” his roommate drawls, apparently content with the universe. Comfortable silence stretches out until somebody’s stomach growls, and it is totally not yours because that is bullshit and lies. Gamzee chuckles.

“Wicked herb’s all giving me the munchies too, Solbro. Time for a brother to up and get his eat on.”

“Ugh,” says Karkat. “I haven’t yet come up with words sufficient to describe how much I fucking hate the tent. The tent is distilled evil, polymerized and extruded in sheets and heatsealed together to form panels of green fucking plastic hate. --You got your ID, Gamzee?”

“Right here, best bro.” Gamzee fishes around in one of the cavernous pockets of his pants--which have doodles in Sharpie all over them--and comes up with the card. “I am all kinds of motherfucking set.”

You’ve come down enough now not to be giggling at everything, which is probably for the best, but you’re still pleasantly high, and when Gamzee wonders aloud on the way over how the goddamn tent all up and stays up like that, it’s a miracle or what, you agree that although the tent itself sucks rancid wildebeest dong it is kind of a bitchtits wicked feat of engineering.

It feels...yeah, okay it feels great cause you’re fucked up right now, but it feels good to have people to walk to dinner with. And you resolve to start your how-long-can-I-go-without-actual-food experiment later, because they have some actually edible shit to choose from and you are seriously in the throes of the munchies. Oh, hey, look, they have the good kind of institutional pizza!

Gamzee is wandering around piling shit on his tray with a look of blissful serenity until Karkat retrieves him and gets him to go swipe his card and find somewhere to sit. You think it’s kind of adorable how Gamzee follows him around like a tall gangly baby duckling following a short growly dude. Wait. That got away from you.

You pile a couple of donuts on your tray for dessert and go to join them. All around you the white noise of hundreds of people talking over one another settles into a comfortable background and the three of you talk about stupid funny shit while you scarf down pizza like it’s really not bad pizza at all. You talk about how you’re going to get a look at the computer science labs tomorrow when they have their open sessions; Karkat says he’ll come too since that’s his minor. (His major is biology, which you think doesn’t fit him all that well, but hey, you don’t actually have to declare for a while yet.) Gamzee says he’s gonna check out the motherfucking theater. You almost warn him that he’s likely to run into Ampora again, but why bring that asshole up when he’s not really germane to the conversation?

“I’m gonna get more coffee, you guys want me to bring anything back?” you ask. You’re being social. It would shock the hell out of people at home. Then again you’re also still somewhat under the influence.

“If they got any of that fake chocolate mousse shit left can you grab me some?” You grin. Earlier it had come out that Karkat is an admirer of the fine art of the chocolatier just as you are.

It’s weird to realize that you’re actually something close to happy.

Then you catch sight of Ampora and actual reality comes back. He’s sitting by himself, of course, wearing his grey Armani jacket and a scarf you haven’t seen yet (it’s purple). On his tray is a small plate of....what looks to you like plain macaroni. No cheese, no sauce, nothing. Just...plain boiled pasta. And a roll of Tums. It’s half-empty.

The fuck is his deal, you wonder. He’s drinking milk instead of soda or coffee or whatever a normal person has with dinner. And he’s got his phone out and he’s busy texting away while he pokes at the macaroni and occasionally eats a bit of it. Whoever “Fef” is, he or she--you’re guessing she, for some reason--either has the patience of a sedated saint or has got some kind of auto-response thing programmed to deal with him and his flaily ranting. There’s an idea, you think, removing your attention from your fucked-up roommate and returning it to the task of fetching coffee and dessert. You wonder if you could manage to get the algorithms sophisticated enough to get close to passing the Turing test, although honestly chatbots and people tend to sound pretty similar over text message.

Karkat glowers at you when you get back, but you’re pretty sure it’s the kind of glower that translates as benign. “What took you?”

“Nothing. What did you call Ampora? Violet Prince? I like that, it’s official. VP is over there on his lonesome eating plain macaroni with no cheese and textbitching at top speed on his stupid purple phone.”

“Wow, that’s boring. For a guy who dresses that flamboyant.”

“Wait, wait,” you say, settling down at the table, “no, it’s ironic, it has to be. Everything he fucking does is ironic, or it’s sophisticated, I can’t figure out which it’s supposed to be.”

“Sounds like a brother got some heavy motherfucking shit on his brain,” Gamzee says.

“He’s got some heavy motherfucking hair gel on his brain,” you say, but amiably, and take a bite of your donut. It occurs to you that maybe his stomach is still bothering him, and then you hope to fucking Christ he doesn’t have some kind of virus because if he does you are not going near your room until everything has been lysoled within an inch of its existence. You are not going to catch stomach flu. You are just not. It is not a thing which is going to happen.

He leaves before you do, and as he passes your table carrying his tray you can see he’s barely eaten any of his pathetic excuse for dinner. You hold your breath until he’s well past you, in case any germs are following him about.

The three of you wander back slowly to Gresley, mostly because why hurry and slightly because you don’t want to follow him too closely. Karkat’s cigarette glows and fades angrily in the gathering dust: he smokes the way he seems to do everything else, intensely. “You want us to come get you for breakfast?” he asks, abruptly, and something in your chest goes very warm.

“Sure,” you say casually, but inside you’re kind of making a really dumb goofy face. “I’m gonna need coffee in me before I face the terrifying reality of their computer labs. I bet they’re all running fucking Gateways with glass-bottle monitors, man.”

Karkat laughs his rattly cracked laugh. “Fuck you, Captor, I’m gonna have nightmares now. Mice with no goddamn scroll wheels.”

“The horror,” you agree, and you’re smiling. It feels good. (You know yourself well enough to be aware that it’s not going to last, that soon enough the world will be fucking horrible again, it’s just an amusing side effect of your brain straight-up hating you, but right now you’re on the upside and that is just fine with you.)

He and Gamzee leave you at the door of your room with promises to come get you before they leave in the morning, and you let yourself in with considerable trepidation to find--fuck, yeah, he’s there.

He’s also apparently going out. The Armani jacket is neatly hung back in his closet, a black suit jacket spread on the bed, and he’s tying a cobalt-blue silk tie in the mirror, which means he has to step back smartly when you unlock the door so as to avoid being hit in the face. You expect him to go off on a tirade, but he just looks at you as if you are a clot of drain-hair and exhales audibly as you go past.

Ugh. “Ampora, you don’t have the flu, right?”

“What?”

“You aren’t gonna get me sick? Cause if you’re contagious...”

“What the fuck are you talking about, Captor?” He looks at you in the mirror, straightening his tie with little irritable gestures. His shirt is...blue, too, not purple, a much lighter shade than the tie, and he shrugs into his jacket.

“You looked like you were seriously about to puke earlier and you’re, like, chewing on tums like they taste good or something, and what’s with all the dramamine and shit?”

“None a your fuckin business is what’s with it,” he snaps, pale. “I do not have the Christin flu, so you can rest your goddamn line a inquiry, an also fuck you, leave me alone.”

You do the DeGrasse Tyson hands again. Such a badass we have over here. Without further conversation you settle at your desk and call up the program you’re working on. It is not lost on you that Ampora takes at least four more pills from various bottles, probably more than that, before he gives his eyeliner a finishing touch and takes himself off with a trademark doorslam.

There’s being a douchelord and there’s being a douchelord who’s actually swerving close to fucking himself up profoundly. You have a little experience in the world of taking a whole fuckton of pills, but the shit you took wasn’t over-the-counter antacids and motion-sickness meds. This is also why you have experience with the world of fifteen-minute checks and institutional pizza.

You don’t know for sure but you are betting, betting really hard, that wherever he’s going tonight he’s gonna get drunk again, too.

Fuck. You point your attention firmly at your work and you are so not your awful roommate’s keeper. You’re glad when AA pesters you.

-- apocalypseArisen (AA) began pestering twinArmageddons (TA) ! --

AA: hey s0llux
AA: did y0u get in tr0uble earlier 0r what
TA: nope not really
TA: ra ii2 actually not a douche
TA: how2 2hiit goiing over iin janbrewerland
AA: ugh d0nt remind me, i hate that the pr0gram i really wanted and g0t int0 had t0 be in ariz0na
AA: tell me ab0ut anningley, is it tiny and claustr0ph0bic
TA: no actually iit2 kiind of pretty. and there2 2ome awe2ome woodland2 and 2hiit two walk around iin. speakiing of whiich ii made friiend2 aa, you 2hould be 2uper proud of me.
AA: way t0 g0! 0n y0ur sec0nd day even!
TA: ii know, iit2 fuckiing weiird.
TA: 2o okay, douchebag roommate apparently went off on thi2 kiind of adorable juggalo kiid for liiterally no rea2on
TA: ii wa2nt there but ii can iimagiine iit
TA: all telliing hiim he 2ucked and 2hould liike never open hii2 mouth agaiin
TA: hii2 roommate, thii2 guy karkat, came up two me and told me about iit and wa2 liike can you pa22 along a me22age that ampora 2hould go fuck hiim2elf forever. he wa2 way more eloquent about iit than that, dude ii2 crazy fuckiing good wiith word2.
AA: im having a hard time picturing a kid wh0 is a juggal0 but als0 kind 0f ad0rable
TA: ii know but iit2 true. 2hut up and let me fiinii2h the 2tory.
TA: anyway ii wa2 liike 2ure ii would be happy two pa22 along that me22age good 2iir becau2e 2eriiou2ly fuck that guy and hii2 purple bedcurtaiin2.
TA: and he diidnt beliieve me about the bedcurtaiin2. 2o ii took hiim back two the room and 2howed hiim, and then he wa2 liike dude come meet my roommate you can be all rea22uriing that verbal beatdown2 are on the way.
AA: this is ad0rable all right, s0llux. 0u0
AA: n0 that l00ks stupid
AA: i need a smiley em0tic0n
TA: pff iit doe2 look 2tupiid
TA: 2o ii go two their room and meet gamzee who ii2 2eriiou2ly a niice guy even iif he doe2 2ay motherfucker all the time and have the wor2t ta2te iin mu2iic. liike you would have two be a 2uper twin turbo champiion douche to 2ay mean 2hiit two hiim. we hung out and then walked over two diinner together, iit wa2 kiind of awe2ome.
AA: ok just this once i will forgo the zeros and just say :3 :3 :3
TA: that ii2 a lot of :3s aa
TA: al2o :3 :3 :3 riight back at you
AA: y0u r0ck and i am super glad y0u have s0me c00l pe0ple t0 hang 0ut with. that makes me feel better ab0ut being all the way acr0ss the c0untry.
AA: n0t by much but hey.
AA: i g0tta g0 but email me m0re ab0ut everything 0k? i want t0 kn0w all the things.
TA: wiill do. take care.

-- apocalypseArisen (AA) ceased pestering twinArmageddons (TA) ! --