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He isn’t back by the time you wake up--you got some solid work done on your program and went to bed around four, so waking up at eight hurts but you’re gonna have to get used to it if you want to make it to any of your classes on time. He isn’t back by the time you’ve hauled your ass to the showers and done your teeth and caught up on what’s happened on the internet since you went to sleep. He isn’t back when Karkat and Gamzee--you’re already thinking of them as KK and GZ, it’s dumb--show up to collect you for breakfast.

In fact you’re just the teeniest bit worried about Violet Prince. VP. There’s an undeniable flicker of something like relief when you pass him coming down the front steps; you have to admit that he’s rocking the walk of shame pretty well, considering. His tie is straight and his suit is as pristine as it had been the night before, but he does not look like a dude who is feeling his best and most perky. Where, you wonder, is the party at, and how come he gets to go party every night with people who warrant a suit like that?

And then he gives you that special look of I hate you go die which he’s apparently reserved for Sollux Captor alone, and you roll your eyes and walk past him without acknowledging his presence. Tent breakfast awaits and...holy fuck, they have those little derpy muffins you liked so much. Those muffins and the pizza were pretty much the only good things about your time in the Facility. Which is a thought you aren’t interested in following right now.

You amuse Gamzee by making a couple of the muffins--they’re like a quarter the size of real ones, they’re fucking adorable--do a dance along the edge of the table, and you catch a weird expression on Karkat’s face just for a moment, a kind of fondness you wouldn’t expect to see on a kid your age.

It’s kinda sad that mass-produced Sysco breakfast baked goods can make anybody smile as hugely as Gamzee is smiling, but you do not point this out. "So it’s the computer lab horrors until what, like noon, and then...they had that boat ride thing, right? Do I need to go hide somewhere until they quit looking for people to jolly into it?"

Karkat dumps more sugar into his coffee. "Fucking computer-lab tomb raiding. Yeah, they have the magical mystery tour around the lake thing where you get on the boat and it chugs across the lake and bangs into the other side and then turns around and comes back again. There you go, lake. It’s supposed to be an Experience according to the orientation packet. I would really like to meet whatever shithead is responsible for writing that drivel, just to ask them, you know, were you born that obnoxiously, cheerily stupid or did you have to get a fucking masters degree in it."

"Shit, you think they’d let an amateur idiot write their copy? That has to be professional, man. Uncertified fuckwits need not apply."

It’s rewarding, making Karkat laugh. Gamzee joins in, too, and you feel that weird warmth in your chest again just for a second.

As it turns out the computer labs are relatively up to date. None of it’s as good as the shit you have except the design lab, which is of course all Mac all the time and nobody has yet gotten better at displays than them. You drool a little over a particularly gorgeous monitor.

Figuratively.

The guy who’s leading this workshop or tour or whatever it is explains some basic shit about the curriculum which you already know perfectly well because you read about the comp sci major before you got here, like a person who isn’t cataclysmically retarded. You zone out and it’s only when KK’s elbow and your ribs get acquainted that you realize you’ve been wondering again where the fuck VP gets off to every night.

Heh. Gets off to. Also, ew, ew, ew.

"You know if there are like big clandestine freshman parties or something going on?" you ask him as the guide drones on about electives. "Like, ones you dress up to go to?"

"The fuck? Where would that even happen?"

"I dunno, but VP goes somewhere every night and comes back in the morning looking more like ass than ever."

Karkat frowns. Dude has an impressive set of frown lines. He’s about to say something but then the guy leading the session tells you to get logged in so he can walk you through the student portal, what the fuck, anybody who needs instruction in that shouldn’t be allowed near a computer in the first place. Fucking sigh, you can tell you are surrounded by intellectual giants up in here. This is going to be an insanely boring hour. And you can’t pull out your phone and screw around with texting people because the dude is going to notice.

Unless, shit, why not? You open up one of the other browsers (thank God it looks like they don’t default to IE at least) and log into one of your gmail accounts. Anningley does the basic firstname.lastname at domain email layout, so you’re pretty confident in guessing Karkat’s address. You send him an email:

FROM> twinArmageddons@gmail.com
TO> karkat.vantas@anningley.edu

hey kk. ii am liiterally goiing two diie of boredom iif ii cant talk two 2omebody.

p2. the email ii2 comiing from iin2iide the hou2e.

Because he’s logged into the student portal he gets an alert and the opening of your message appears on his screen; you watch sidelong as he frowns at it and then frowns more and then looks over at you with a you are fucking insane glower. You think it’s the good kind. You hope.

He types rapidly.

FROM> carcinoGeneticist@gmail.com
TO >twinArmageddons@gmail.com

SUBJECT> YOU TYPE LIKE A GODDAMN RETARD

WHAT THE FUCK, CAPTOR, ARE YOU TWELVE OR SOMETHING?

You grin and reply:

iit2 iironiic.

It doesn’t surprise you that he types in allcaps, or in grey. Your own weird mustardy-yellow color was originally the result of a dare, but you’ve had it for so long that it would feel strange and wrong to use any other text color. Even if it does make long emails hard to read. So what. Life is fucking difficult, get over it.

2o where do you thiink vp ii2 goiing all dolled up pretty iin hii2 be2t black dre22?

I CANNOT FUCKING GET OVER THIS, YOU ARE THE BIGGEST MORON I HAVE EVER MET, THAT’S AMAZING.

WITH REGARDS TO VIOLET PRINCE PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THIS WORLD BE IT VANISHINGLY SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT PLEASE TELL ME YOU MEAN THE DRESS PART FIGURATIVELY.

ehehehehe cap2lock ii2 cruii2e control for cool, kk. you are the coole2t, iit ii2 you.

ii am tempted two tell you in graphiic detaiil all about hii2 couture gown2 and lacy liingeriie but ii thiink ii miight barf. no. he wa2 weariing that 2uiit he had on thii2 morniing when we met hiim on the 2tep2. walk of fuckiing 2hame, man.

UGH, FUCK. I’D ALMOST APPLAUD HIM FOR THE BRAZEN GODDAMN EFFRONTERY OF GOING OUT AND GETTING HAMMERED AND POSSIBLY ENGAGING IN BEHAVIOR I DO NOT WANT TO CONTEMPLATE OR THERE WILL BE BARF, WHILE HE’S A FRESHMAN DURING ORIENTATION WEEK. I MEAN. DUDE DOESN’T EVEN WAIT UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS TO GET HIS UPSETTING MACK ON? IS HE TOTALLY DESPERATE OR DOES HE JUST WANT TO GET HIS ASS KICKED OUT OF THIS PLACE AS SOON AS PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE?

that ii2 an excellent que2tiion. ii wa2 thiinkiing more iin term2 of logii2tiic2 liike where even would you have a party when the only people on campu2 are fre2hmen under 2upervii2iion of liike a miilliion ra2 and 2tudent leader2?

FUCK IF I KNOW. I AM INSANELY BRILLIANT IN MANY WAYS BUT LOCATING SHITTY PARTY VENUES IS NOT AMONG THEM. GAMZEE MIGHT HAVE INSIGHTS IF HE IS NOT ALREADY TOO FUCKED UP TO HOLD CIVIL CONVERSATION WITHOUT TALKING TO AIR MOLECULES. SHIT, LECTURE GUY IS COMING, LOOK BUSY.

You close the window smoothly, no hurried clickings or grabbing for the mouse. What, you were just totally exploring this online student portal, it is an unfamiliar and fascinating challenge.

As it turns out Gamzee has all the answers you could ever need and many, many that you do not want. He’s sitting on the low retaining wall by the arts and theater building and smoking--jesus fuck--a clove cigarette. He looks at one with the cosmos.

"I’m telling you, Karbro, this is some motherfucking bitchtits shit up in here," he’s saying as you light up and sit on the wall next to him. "These motherfuckers got their wicked understand on. Fucking thing of beauty."

"Gamz, walk it back a bit," Karkat sighs. "What is the topic on which these motherfuckers have their understand, and who are the motherfuckers themselves?"

"Everything, bro." He gestures with the cigarette, sending incense-smoke rising in slow coils. "The universe, man. Motherfucking universe. How a brother just gotta up and go with what his heart tells him to be doing. You gotta meet them, best bro, you up and come with me to this motherfucking miraculous gathering tonight, it will be fucking out of this world. --Hey, you too, Solbro. Gotta include a brother in this beauty shit."

"I have no idea what you just said," you tell him.

"That’s cool," he says, kindly, "I ain’t all requiring a motherfucker to up and comprehend my flow."

"Who are you talking about?" Karkat asks, and his voice isn’t all that insistent, but it is slower. Something about it gets through to Gamzee, though.

"The motherfucking theater people, bro. The theater people. They’re here."

~

You knew a kid back home who wanted to be a screenwriter, which was pretty fucking funny considering his idea of a great cinematic masterpiece was an average Nicolas Cage schlockfest. You weren’t really friends with him but he was friends with everybody, or at least he thought he was, and he’d pass out copies of his work in the hopes that people would read it. You did, sometimes, for shits and giggles.

His trademark was apparently to end scenes with what he parenthetically described as "a crazy awesome line." You would have given Gamzee an eight out of ten on the crazy awesome scale; the buildup to his mysterious revelation and the way his eyes widened and he did that hand-spreading gesture might kick it up to a nine. The theater people.

Definitely Egbertian, that moment.

Between you and Karkat you’d managed to winkle some nuggets of actual information out of Gamzee. It turned out that in fact the freshmen were not the only people on campus during orientation week; a group of students who were working on a project had asked for, and received, permission to move in a week early to get shooting done on the film part of their project while the campus wasn’t thronged with people. That explained the booze, anyway, some of them were upperclassmen or had good enough fake IDs for good supply chain management.

Gamzee had a harder time explicating what a theater party entailed. You think you get the gist of it, though, and so when your favorite person in all the world hauls himself back to your room that evening after a busy day of being a douchebag you have a pretty good idea what his plans for the night include.

He so does not look as if he’s up to it. He’s...yeah, he does not look good at all, even to your jaded eyes. You’re used to seeing the bags under those eyes and the sharp angles and hollows of bone, used to the pallor, but you guess on another person it kind of stands out more. He looks like he should be going directly to bed, without company, in fact.

You know exactly what response you’re going to get, but you say it anyway, when he’s back from his shower and getting dressed. This time it’s dark trousers with a fine deep-purple stripe to them and a kind of...you suppose you’d call it a military tunic if you were inspired to say anything other than what the fuck, Ampora. It’s black with purple trim and it fits him like a glove and if you didn’t hate the guy so goddamn much you’d tell him he looks like one of his dumb anime characters. Because he does.

"Eridan?" you try. "You really don’t look so hot, man. You sure you should be going out and partying?"

Icy purple glare. Heh, it’s like frozen Welch’s.

"Think I already expressed my opinion a your fuckin intrusive busybody bullshit, Captor," he says.

Goddamnit. "Look, seriously, you’re kind of freaking me out here with this shit--"

"Fuckin good," he hisses. He actually hisses at you. That’s new. "Go the fuck ahead an freak out, you piece a shit. This has nothin to do with you."

It looks like he’s about to add more, but he swallows hard, one hand going to his chest just at the bottom of his ribcage. Under the gross fluorescent light he’s sweating. Without saying anything further he wrenches open one of his bottles and spills another couple of tablets into his palm, doing that thing where he has to concentrate real hard on swallowing. You kind of recognize that from your migraines, when keeping anything down was challenging and even swallowing the fucking pills that sometimes knocked the headache back a bit wasn’t always possible.

Jesus Christ what is this guy’s deal.

And then he reaches into his closet and he pulls out his fucking cape and he clasps it around his throat with a gold chain like the one Victor von Doom wears.

You really just do not have any words as you watch Eridan Ampora sweep in regal violet down the Gresley first-floor left hall. It’s like...

It's like what might happen if Darth Vader and Prince had a kid and then RuPaul taught him to walk.

Goddamn.