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In Full Clarity

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It's past midnight.

You are not used to feeling like this. Well, okay. You are not used to feeling a lot of shit other than various interesting flavors of self-loathing and loathing for others, with interspersed moments of fervid excited super-happiness. It’s annoying but you’re used to it and whatever cocktail the various asshole doctors have you on now mostly blunts both the highs and the lows. You’ve learned to deal with the side effects for the most part, and only at the very heights of your upswings do you really honestly think you can do without the drugs.

This is what’s called progress.

Ampora is fucked up on something and you are seriously not in the least sure what to do about it--he’s made it pretty clear he’s not interested in telling your ass anything about his situation, but you’re honest to God considering going and finding your hulking RA and telling him about Ampora’s funky habit of downing handfuls of meds like Skittles and also staying out all night. Which sounds dumb when you think about it but...he really had looked sick when he'd left.

Fuck.

You know perfectly well in his position you would fucking loathe anybody who went all happy-assholing off to tell on yoooou to some authority figure, cause this is exactly what landed you in the Facility, and....fuck.

You can’t deal with this. Instinctively you go and fire up your computer and hope to hell AA is online. She’s...yeah, she’s logged on but she’s away.

No, really, fuck.

You have a go anyway.

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

TA: aa
TA: iif youre there ii need to talk two you
TA: iit2 kiind of iimportant

Nothing.

Fuck, redux.

Who else can you talk to? Honestly, is there anybody you’re even on good enough terms with to bitch about your crazy roommate and ask advice as to what the fuck to do about him?

-- carcinoGeneticist (CG) began pestering twinArmageddons (TA) ! --

CG: HEY CAPTOR.

Oh.

TA: sup kk
CG: I DON’T SUPPOSE YOU’D CONSIDER NOT CALLING ME THAT BY ANY SHRED OF A CHANCE?
TA: nope not one
CG: I FIGURED. ACT OF PUREST FUCKING OPTIMISM TO HAVE POSED THE QUESTION IN THE FIRST PLACE.
CG: LISTEN, SO GAMZEE WAS GOING TO GO OFF TO THIS ‘THEATER PARTY’ SHIT. LUCKILY HE KIND OF PASSED OUT INSTEAD AND HE’S NOW SNORING A MERRY LITTLE CHORUS WITH HIS FUCKING UGLY STUFFED PLUSH BEE CRADLED TENDERLY IN HIS ARMS.
CG: IT IS A SIGHT TO MELT THE HEART, I AM TELLING YOU.
CG: POINT IS. YOUR VIOLET PRINCE IS PROBABLY THERE.
CG: FROM WHAT GAMZ TOLD ME THIS IS NOT REALLY THE KOSHEREST OF SHIT, WERE SHIT TO BE TECHNICALLY QUALIFIED AS KOSHER IN THE FIRST PLACE.
CG:...
CG: CAPTOR ARE YOU EVEN THERE.
TA: yeah
TA: iim here
TA: tell me about the theater partiie2
CG: ARE YOU OKAY?
TA: yeah iim fiine
TA: youre riight he2 off to 2ome fuckiing party or other
TA: he ii2 actually weariing hii2 cape
TA: for 2eriiou2. he look2 liike 2ome unholy ma2hup of liike dracula and frank n. furter
TA: 2hiit ii2 banana2
CG: WOW.
CG: B A N A N A S.
CG: LISTEN. I KIND OF THINK MAYBE THOSE PARTIES ARE NOT THE BEST POSSIBLE THING FOR A BRAND NEW WET-BEHIND-EARS FRESHMAN DOUCHEBAG TO BE ATTENDING.
CG: ACCORDING TO GAMZEE THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED ‘NAKED TIME’ AT ONE A.M.
CG: ALSO BODY SHOTS AND DRAMATIC READINGS OF CHUNKS OF FUCKING SHAKESPEARE. POSSIBLY THERE IS ALSO CASUAL RECREATIONAL DRUG USE. YOUR PRINCE SHOULD BE IN HIS PURPLE ELEMENT BUT I DON’T KNOW IF HE IS ACTUALLY CAPABLE OF HANDLING THIS LEVEL OF HARDCORE THEATER SHIT.
TA: me eiither
TA: he looked liike 2hiit and death when he left. 2hiit and death iin a purple cape.
TA: pretty 2ure he2 been liike on the verge of pukiing liike every tiime ii 2ee hiim.
TA: and not ju2t cau2e he ha2 to 2ee me eiither. riim2hot.
TA: 2omethiing ii2 wrong wiith that kiid.
CG: FUCK.
CG: YOU WANT ME TO GO AFTER HIM?
TA: no
TA: man ii appreciiate iit though
TA: 2eriiou2ly you do not need two be dealiing wiith thii2 2hiit
CG: NEITHER DO YOU.
CG: KIND OF FUCKED UP TO EXPECT YOU TO RANDOMLY DEAL WITH THE BIZARRE AND SO FAR INEXPLICABLE ANTICS OF YOUR GODDAMN ROOMMATE ALL GRACEFULLY AND SHIT.
CG: TELL YOU WHAT. IF HE DOESN’T SHOW BY LIKE... I DUNNO. TWO. COME GET ME. I’LL BE AWAKE.
CG: WE CAN GO FETCH HIS STUPID PURPLE CAPE-WEARING ASS AND ADMINISTER A DOUBLE VERBAL REACHAROUND BEATDOWN THE LIKES OF WHICH HE HAS NEVER SEEN.
CG: SHIT WILL BE EPIC.
TA: ...youre on
TA: iif only becau2e ii want two 2ee you yell at hiim
TA: thiing of beauty man
TA: liike the iimmovable douche meet2 the un2toppable rage
TA: ii 2hould 2ell tiicket2
CG: OH FUCK YOU, CAPTOR.
CG: SERIOUSLY. COME FIND ME IF YOU NEED TO, OKAY?
CG: THIS SHIT IS NOT COOL.
TA: ...yeah.
TA: thank2 kk.
TA: ii mean iit.
CG: AS WELL YOU FUCKING SHOULD. OK, TALK TO YOU LATER, CAPTOR. GOOD LUCK.

-- carcinoGeneticist (CG) ceased pestering twinArmageddons (TA) ! --

You stare at the greyed-out name on your chumlist. You still have no idea what to do. As you generally end up doing in situations like this it is time to drink some sugared caffeine and go have a cigarette on the balcony while you try to make your brain work.

You can see Venus over the trees. It’s already too late to make out Jupiter, sunk beneath the skyline, but Venus glows bright as hell, brighter than any star, steady and blue-white over everything. Not for the first time you kind of wonder what the fuck is the problem with this world where you have to deal with each other and your brains actively fighting you at the same time. Your brain is only under the tenuous control of a shitload of chemicals you have to take every day. Without it you’d be...well, okay, yeah, you probably wouldn’t be. Which is fucked up. Who came up with that shit? And why?

You chain another cigarette off your first. By the time you get back inside it’s getting on for half past one in the morning, and you settle back at your desk with that weird gnawing acidy feeling in your insides that means you forgot to eat anything in the past however long. Shit, right, you should have gone to dinner.

That whole not-eating experiment thing strikes you as a super cool idea for a moment, and then you see Ampora again, pallid and sweating, hand pressed to his stomach, furiously stubbornly refusing to acknowledge a goddamn thing, and you say a bunch of naughty words and go rootling through your drawer for a couple of powerbars. Close enough to food.

After the first bite you’re suddenly super hungry, and you don’t even notice AA is online until the second time the pesterchum chime goes.

AA: s0llux?
AA: whats the matter
AA: y0u said y0u wanted t0 talk ab0ut s0mething?
AA: ...
AA: s0llux?
TA: fuck 2orry aa
TA: yeah
TA: ii kiind of do
TA: iit2 my roommate
AA: whats he d0ne n0w?
TA: iit2 kiind of 2tupiid but ii thiink he ii2 maybe iin trouble
TA: gamzee wa2 hangiing out wiith the triippy fuckiing theater people
TA: you have to thiink of them iin iitalic2. theater people.
TA: they liike exii2t out2iide the normal 2dudent populatiion or 2omethiing.
TA: apparently a bunch of them came back two campu2 early two work on 2ome project. and they are all haviing the2e crazy fuckiing partiie2 every niight.
AA: let me guess
AA: amp0ra is trying t0 get in with them
TA: yeah pretty much.
TA: whiich would be ok except that he2 kiind of obviiou2ly 2iick
TA: and the non2top partyiing ii2nt helpiing
TA: aa he2 liike takiing 2tomach med2 liike theyre candy and he looked liike fuckiing a22 and death earliier
TA: but get thii2, he put on hii2 terriible cape anyway and 2talked off 2omewhere.
TA: ii have two admiit he can 2talk wiith the be2t of them.
AA: d0 y0u kn0w where this shindig is being held
TA: no. that2 the thing. gamzee wa2 goiing two go but he ended up cra2hiing iin2tead. we dont know where the partiie2 are.
AA: in that case i suggest y0u stay where y0u are f0r right n0w.
AA: n0 sense y0u wandering all 0ver campus l00king f0r this assh0le.
AA: what time is it there?
TA: iit2 liike one thiirty.
AA: 0k
AA: thats still in the 0k d0nt panic range
AA: i suggest y0u wait for an0ther h0ur, if there’s n0 sign 0f him and y0ure genuinely w0rried g0 wake up y0ur ra. its n0t y0ur resp0nsibility t0 find him.

TA: ok.
TA: that 2ound2 rea2onable.
TA: thank2 aa. a2 u2ual.
TA: you are the be2t.
AA: i really am
AA: 0k g0nna sign 0ff and g0 study but i have my ph0ne 0n me, text me if y0u need t0.
TA: ok. thank2. 2eriiou2ly.

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

You fuck around online for a while, glancing down at the time readout on your monitors every few minutes. What the livid fuck, this is so stupid, you hate the dude, why are you all knotted up inside right now? Goddamn you kind of hate being you.

No, you just straight-up hate being you, but that is pretty much not news. You post a couple replies on some threads you’ve been watching, check out a video of a turtle trying to mate with a shoe, listen to some track one of your WoW guildmates recommended, open another Monster.

It’s fifteen past two when you have to lock the computer and go pee. You aren’t a big fan of beer--your dads let you have a little bit of wine or beer with dinner growing up, so you aren’t all looking to get fucked up immediately to taste forbidden fruit--but it can be pretty nice. Even nice beer is something you just rent. Energy drinks are way higher interest.

You haul yourself out of your chair and head down the quiet corridor to the bathroom. There are three stalls, three urinals. Showers are through the connecting door to the plantar wart factory that is your hall’s ablutorium. Some wag has scribbled a bunch of couplets on the tiled wall at eye height, and you wonder why people can never get their apostrophe misuse consistent.

You’re done, kind of dreading going back to the wait in your room, when a little unpleasant hiccuping noise catches your attention. Oh, right. Someone’s in the far stall. By the sound of it he’s probably just waiting for you to vacate the premises so he can get on with ralphing.

You’ve washed your hands and are about to get out of there because you are not interested in listening to anyone being sick when you notice the crumpled fold of royal violet cloth visible under the stall door.

“...Ampora?"

There’s another hiccup and a groan.

“Ampora, dude. You...anything remotely close to okay?"

Pause. Then a tiny "no." Tiny.

Oh, fuck. You go over to the stall door. “Fuck. You want me to, to get someone?"

“No," he says, more forcefully, but it ends in a gurgle, immediately followed by fulsome and violent sickness.

“Fuck," you say again over the noises. “Let me in, man."

“...what?" he says when he can speak.

“Let me in, I’m not going to fucking leave you here."

Silence. Another hiccup. “Don’t......don’t tell anyone."

“Pff. Tell anyone what? What happens in the guys bathroom totally stays in the guys bathroom." You realize the connotations but he just sort of hiccup-snickers, and after a moment there’s a scrabbling at the lock and the door swings open.

Shit. He looks awful. He’s the color of...well, fish bellies, a greyish-wet-white. The hair is stuck to his face in sweaty locks, his careful gel work quite undone; his eyeliner has traced black snail-trails down his cheeks. His purple-and-black outfit appears to be muddy as well as stained with sickness, and the cape...

The cape may be a lost cause.

You make a small unhappy little noise and close the door behind you. “Fuck," you say. “Ampora."

“‘s my name," he croaks, and you have to reach over to feel his gross clammy forehead. He’s warm--not scary-hot, but definitely warmer than he should be. “Wow, Captor. I feel shocking."

“No kidding?" you ask, trying to work out what to do with him. First off you flush the head. “--What did you drink? Where were you?"

“I dunno." He lets his head droop to the toilet seat, eyes mostly-closed. “Townhouses. A screwdriver."

“Just one?"

“Didn’t.....need more than one." He gulps and settles again but almost immediately he’s convulsed with another heave, the tears you cry when you’re being sick tracing more black stains down his face. You know this bit from your migraines as well, the stupid useless expulsive efforts that do nothing for anybody that just go on and on after you’ve brought everything up that you’ve ever eaten.

You also know about the whole lol-let’s-get-the-freshman-drunk thing where upperclassmen hand over a mixed drink--in one of those red solo cups, for tradition’s sake--that’s like 70:30 alcohol to mixer, relying on the kiddywinkles’ inexperience to not protest the ratio, and then stand back and watch. It’s bullshit and you can also see how it might be funny as hell--only right now, here in this little grey-painted bathroom stall with Eridan Ampora trying to turn all the way inside out, it doesn’t seem all that fucking hilarious after all.

“I bet you didn’t. Okay, look. You’re...pretty much hurled out, okay? Here’s what’s going to happen." You don’t tell people what to do except online. It feels weird in real life. “I’m gonna bring you towels and shit and you are going to have a shower, even if you gotta fucking sit on the floor, it’ll help, trust me."

He looks up at you and wow his eyes are fucking purple, you can’t see any ring around the iris to indicate it’s a contact lens, that’s...the color his eyes actually are, what the fuck. He’s staring, and after a moment or two he drops his gaze and just droops against the wall, and the tiredness hurts your chest.

Crossly you get an arm around him, he’s so light, what the hell, and you help him haul his carcass round to the showers and hie yourself back to the room for his stupid basket o’shower stuff and his Oscar Wilde bathrobe thing. And then you...wait.

You don’t even realize it but you’ve slid down the wall outside the bathroom to sit on the floor with your back braced against the cinderblocks and your face resting on the pinched fingers of your right hand.

“S..sollux?"

It’s such a tiny voice that you honest to God do not actually associate it with Ampora until you turn to see him leaning in the doorway, wrapped in his dumb dressing-gown, still grey-pale but up on his own two feet. You scramble upright.

He looks at you, miserably. You don’t exactly know why but you scowl at him, trying to look as forbidding as Vantas. “You should get to bed, man."

Small nod. You see him sway a little and, oh, why the hell not, this whole night has been batshittery incarnate, you put an arm around his shoulders to steady him and guide him back down the hall. This is the same douche who went off on Gamzee for no reason; this is the same douche who listens to his stupid fucking anime with the volume up and no headphones, this is the same douche who wears a cape.

Which makes you think, where is it? He must’ve left his shit in the bathroom. Okay. You can go fetch that. Right now the thing is to get this asshole to bed.

He doesn’t protest. You fetch him the trash can and make sure there’s a bin liner, you are so not washing that out. Or making the poor janitors do it.

By the time you get back with his cape and his gross clothes from the bathroom--which you dump straight into his hamper no questions asked--he’s settled himself almost sitting up against his huge mound of pillows and has his covers tucked tight around him. The bits you can see between his shock of purple-streaked hair and the black sheets and comforter are still a really gross shade of grey-pale. Whether he knows it or not, the effect is pretty impressive.

“You, uh..." you really do not know what to say. “You want any water or anything?"

He closes his eyes and nods a little, and okay, good, you have something to do, something concrete. God, he looks so sick. You fill his water bottle at the drinking-fountain, padding down the midnight hall, and wonder if you should be calling someone, or waking up St. G. Maybe...well, fuck, let’s see if the jerk can keep some water down first.

You think he’s asleep when you get back, and sigh, turning off your desk lamp and setting the bottle by his bed on the dresser, but he stirs a little. His eyes are very, very bright in the dim glow of your various LEDs. They glitter.

“Man," you hear yourself say. “You are really fucked up, Ampora. Like, seriously."

And immediately you regret it, because his face somehow crumples, and suddenly he is sobbing in terrible strengthless heaves. You...yeah, you remember that one too. It sucks about as bad as it looks like it does. Without even thinking about it at all you lean in to put an arm around his shoulders because you can’t not, and he is shaking all over and he stiffens when you touch him but only for a minute and then he has socked his hot face against your shoulder and is sorta kinda clinging to you and you can feel the shudders running through him like electric current. One of your hands has crept round to his back and Christ but he’s all bones, he’s skinnier than you are, the knobbles of his spine pushing under your touch like piano keys. Oh, fuck. Goddamn.

Goddamn.

“...feel like shit," he says into your shoulder.

“Yeah," you say. “Yeah, I know what you mean."