“I hate you,” He hissed in his torn, bleeding ear.
John panted in reply, his mouth set in a snarl that was unbearably arousing. “Same to you, ‘fuckass’,” He returned in his most mocking tone.
This was not the first time Karkat and John had spit venom at each other in person. It happened the moment John flew towards his “buddy”- ha, that was laughable now- when the humans met the trolls in the Veil. The sight of John did it for him; it had across all those sweeps of John’s life Karkat had watched. Unbearable hatred flooded through his body, fueled by every little thing the human did and was. How John never feared his maker, how he was “not a homosexual”, how he could fly when Karkat never got to, how his eyes were so blue…
It all condensed into Karkat squeezing his fist so tight his gray knuckles went white, then socking John in his face as he came in for a hug. All the other trolls and kids stood around shell-shocked during their own first encounters by this unexpected punch. Karkat began to stalk off, raging with so much hatred he could not bear to be anywhere near that boy when something shoved him against the ground, sending him skidding along the surface of the roof. It was the windy thing. He turned to face John, whose face was contorted with betrayal and shame.
“What was that for, Karkat?” He yelled from across the roof.
“For existing,” Karkat sneered, storming towards John. He bunched John’s stupid, stupid hoodie’s collar in his hands. “Or did you never believe me when I told you I hated you?”
John flushed. “Hate? I wasn’t the one constantly chatting you up you in the middle of important parts of your session!” He mimicked Karkat’s hold and seized the troll by his collar as well, snarling at the inch Karkat had in height over him.
“You-“ Karkat reared his arm back to punch John again. Suddenly those meddling broads both jumped in to constrain their respective friend.
“Why are you fighting already, boys?” Rose sighed as though this was just a stupid inconvenience, but the flicker in her eyes revealed that this troubled her.
“You all must be exhausted.” Kanaya gestured towards the door downstairs. “Please sleep, You will feel better in the morning.”
“Y-yeah… Morning.” John coughed and turned around to be steered away by Rose. But as he did, he made sure to turn around and glare sharply, with all the pain he could muster, at Karkat.
It sent pleasurable shivers down Karkat’s spine.
The laboratory in the veil didn’t have any beds or rooms for the kids. Until something better could be found, the four of them were spread out between the dead troll’s rooms, lying on makeshift beds of Kanaya’s stray fabrics that they all rounded up and formed some decent piles with. Karkat had not helped.
John Egbert lied over his fabric-sheets with his hands behind his head. He was seething.
John was never angry. He was easily frustrated by Betty Crocker cake and when his dad used to irritate him, maybe when he couldn’t understand the things his sarcastic and future-seeing friends would say, but Karkat was different. He was a crazy cursing guy with insanely convoluted metaphors, but he was funny. John had always been sure he meant well. That they were friends. But now…
He gripped his blankets and grinded his teeth. He never in a million years would have thought Karkat actually hated him. Karkat had specifically said he had never hated him. Yet, when John had flown toward him for a hug, Karkat’s face twisted in anger and he slugged him. And that wasn’t a normal troll-thing, based on the horrified looks of the other trolls. John scrunched up his face, trying to push the memory away. How humiliating. He had tried to HUG him. The thought now made him want to just to go back in time and tell himself not to try. He had been just what everyone always said he was: a naïve, “derpy” IDIOT…
Sleep was going to be impossible with this writhing in his mind. John jumped out of the fabric pile and paced the room in an attempt to realign his thoughts so he could stop thinking about Karkat Vantas. He opened his door and left the room to go exploring, maybe find the computer lab and waste his time online. Did they have internet in paradox space? John mulled that over in his head as he wandered the halls- certainly not even thinking about that foul-mouthed troll, not one bit- until he approached a corner was light splashed across the floor from its other side. He rounded it, finding its source behind an ajar door into what looked like a computer lab. He heard the clacking sound of a keyboard. Someone else was up.
“Hello…?” John tentatively called as he squeezed through the doorway. The typing stopped. John stood in the room, trying to make out the silhouette by the computer light. A nauseating feeling in his gut told him who it was already.
“What are you doing up?” Karkat asked him. The troll’s voice was weird, John noticed yet again, guttural and sounding like it clawed its way out of his throat. Husky.
John did not answer. He couldn’t quite yet. All he could keep seeing was Karkat’s fist curving towards his nose. Chat logs they had in the past flitted through his mind, now with Karkat’s voice to put them to. He saw himself driving Karkat into the ground with the windy thing, overlayed with all the memories of his so-called-buddy’s cursing and helping and trying so hard to troll him.
“Don’t answer me then, sit back and plunge your head in your own waste sphincter for all I care.” He turned back to the computer like John was just a tiny annoyance. But he wasn’t fooling anyone, not with how his back had stiffened and his knuckles were raised and tensed.
“Know-it-all, orb-rubbing wriggler who thinks he’s got the high ground because he’s a few steps ahead on this timeline…” Karkat spat at his computer. John walked slowly behind him, peeking at a chat log between Karkat and… himself?
FCG: I’M TELLING YOU TO JUST STOP NOW. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW MUCH YOU’RE EMBARRASSING US. JUST STOP.
CCG: I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SELF-RIGHTOUS FUCKER. LET’S ALL LAUGH AT HOW YOU TRY AND ACT ALL HIGH AND MIGHTY, AS THOUGH NOTHING IN THE PAST IS WORTH A SHIT, BLUH BLUH BLUH. YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW INFURIATING HIS FACE IS. I HATE HIM. I DON’T EVEN HAVE WORDS FOR HOW MUCH I HATE HIM.
FCG: I’M DONE HERE. LOOK, YOU’LL GET OVER IT. IT’S
FCG: IT’S NOT LIKE THAT.
FCG: I’LL JUST SIT HERE WAITING FOR YOU SQUIRMING DUMB-ASS TO BECOME ME AND GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF OUR NOOK.
Karkat cursed again and pushed away from his computer, only to find John hovering right behind him.
“What the FUCK are you reading over my shoulder for? Get the hell out of here!” Karkat’s face was contorted with ferociously. It was unbelievable for John to see. He never thought Karkat could ever have been this… Angry at him in real life.
“Oh, shut up,” John sneered, with all the contempt he could muster. He had never sneered before.
“You’ve got a problem, fuckass?”
That word did it.
A huge gust of wind slammed Karkat against the wall.
“Don’t you call me that,” John warned him. His lip was quivering.
Karkat grunted and pushed off the wall when the wind stopped. He stomped towards John heavily. He saw the boy’s face and the way John’s mouth was trembling and his brow furrowed. There was mostly anger, but the betrayal and grief was screaming in every contour.
“Did I hurt your feelings, hm? Do you not like being called a ‘fuckass’?” Karkat took another step forward with every word until they were nose to nose. “Is your damp and underused think pan hurting from the mean scary troll’s insult?” Karkat was taunting him. As if HE- KARKAT, of all people- was the level-headed one.
It infuriated John. He thrust his arms outward and sent Karkat flying again, harder this time.
“Fuck, John!” Karkat shouted after his head smacked the floor. Without a second spared, John was on him, kneeling with a knee on each side of Karkat’s hips and his fist pulling the troll’s head up by the hair.
“I never thought you meant it the way you obviously do.” John lowered his eyelids and dropped his voice dangerously. “It’s mean.”
Karkat’s face was boiling red with fury from being knocked down by John. He was going to explode any moment.
“So it was okay before? Did you LIKE it when I insulted you? Do you like it when I call you a ‘fuckass’, John?”
“AAAAAAARGH!” John reared his fist back and punched Karkat in the cheek. John was surprised to see blood come out of Karkat’s nose. He had never thought one small punch would be all it took to make someone bleed.
Karkat coughed few droplets of blood scattered on the floor next to his mouth. John let go and sprang to his feet.
“K-Karkat,” John took two steps backwards, away from the troll boy on the ground. “Oh, shit, I- I’m-” He was lost at that sentence. What could he say?
“Fuck you, John,” Karkat cursed as he stood up, wiping his nose and mouth with the inside of his hand, “What are you gonna apologize or something? Don’t fucking bother, that’s not what we’re here for. I’d lose every drop of respect I might have had for you somewhere in the crevices of my abdominal cavity if you try to.”
John grimaced. “I wasn’t going to.” He tilted his head, curiosity getting the better of him despite how much he did not want to give Karkat the satisfaction. “What ARE we here for, as you implied, then?”
Karkat’s snarl curved upward, so his grimace had the effects of a particularly nasty smile.
“Beating the shit out of each other, of course.”
“I don’t want to beat the shit out of you, Karkat,” John grumbled. But did he? The memory of Karkat punching while he had tried to hug him… The humiliation bubbled up again.
“And why not?!” Karkat shouted, blood flicking out of his mouth, “Is there a single grub fisting reason you don’t want to hit me? Or are you still in denial about us not being your stupid human ‘friends’?” Karkat stomped towards John. Karkat was seething under the surface, despite the sneers he tried to sneer coolly out and the even tone of his voice that was rising by the word. He was losing control the more he looked at the human.
He stopped in front of John, mere inches from his face. The tension was screaming at him to lash out, scratch John, make him hurt, but he was not going to break it. Not until John took the bait.
John whispered something.
“Huh? What shit are you spewing now?”
“I said, ‘nevermind’,” John replied softly. It was empty of anger, quiet and calm. And it was tearing Karkat up.
“You don’t give a flyin- OOF!” John punched him hard in the gut. With a sickening gasp, Karkat stumbled backwards.
“Nevermind: I do want to beat the shit out of you.”
Karkat growled and flew at John nails first. He tried to claw John’s face with them, but John dodged; they only grazed his neck. Karkat cursed. He had wanted to cut John, feel the soft pink flesh give way, taste his blood…
John zigzagged towards Karkat, who had not expected the human to be so fast. He swiped; Karkat ducked. He sprung at John’s ankles, taking him down. John’s head hit the floor and he cried out. It was a pleasing sound.
“Satsified?” John looked up at Karkat, who had a darkly triumphant expression on his face.
“Nowhere near. You?”
“Yeah, right.” John kicked his legs away and sprang back his feet nimbly. He raised his fists like a boxer. “Come at me, bro,” he chuckled.
This was not good; John was starting to not take this seriously. He was looming dangerously close to thinking this fight might be just for fun. After all, that’s what he was used to: Karkat attempting to hurt him with trolling and then end up bring all fun and game-beating shit. But this was serious. This was pure, unadulterated hatred. Despite what that stupid nagging voice in the back of Karkat’s head about the adulterated quality of this hatred might be.
Karkat swiped again. This time, he did not miss. His claws raked down John’s face, leaving red, bloodied streaks across the lower half of John’s face. His lips were soft. The flesh gave more easily and bled more heavily than the rest of his jaw.
“You weren’t taking this shit seriously. Get your spongy thinkpan in here!” He ran at him, throwing punches that John avoided on his agile feet. Their steps were almost in perfect time as Karkat charged forward and John lithely danced backwards. John was driven into the long computer tabletop in the back of the room. He was cornered. Thinking fast, he placed both his hands on the table top and twisted around, throwing his legs up to jump onto it. Karkat recoiled away from John’s feet as they flipped over his head. John landed on the bureau, knocking a computer monitor on its side with a crash.
He glared down at Karkat. In the split second he had before another blow came, he let out a snort of laughter. It made Karkat even more furious, which thrilled John.
Karkat reached out to claw John again, but the boy had leaped to the side, landing next to another computer and just out of reach.
“What the hell are you laughing for?” He snarled, trying desperately to land a hit while John kept jumping away.
“It’s just… We’re matching.” John pointed at his mouth, where blood was dripping out of the claw marks. Karkat spat, spewing red droplets from when John had punched his face. They were the same color and everything…
“So-“ He lunged- “Fucking-“ His arms were almost around John’s middle- “What?!” With a crash, Karkat toppled John. He fell off the counter, Karkat’s arms still clutching his torso, and slammed against the desk. The human slumped-
“Don’t you DARE pass out on me, Egbert!”
Karkat wasted no time. He stood over John, with his feet planted on each side of his waist. He yanked him up by the green collar of the outfit Vriska gave him. A ripping sound- Karkat had torn it pulling John up so hard. He almost fell away from the tattered fabric, but Karkat grabbed him by the scalp and held him there. With his other hand, Karkat traced the scratch marks on John’s chin, fingertips gentle, almost tender.
“You’re so fucking soft,” He murmured, bending over to speak directly in John’s ear, “I’ve seen you crush imps, wreck ogres with no problem. Don’t tell me you’re going easy on me.”
“AAAAAARRRRRGHHHHH!” A captcha card deployed. John wrapped his fingers around the Wrinklefucker hammer that appeared out of his strife specious and heaved it, one-armed, at Karkat. Contact; it hit the troll and sent his body into a computer chair on the opposite wall.
“You think I’m going easy? You think I’m soft?” John’s chest was heaving as he stared at Karkat, eyes flaming. This was John pushed past the edge of control. “Watch me pummel you! You’ll be begging for mercy.” He twisted and rammed the hammer hard into Karkat’s side, who cried out at the pitiless attacks. “I want to make you bleed, Karkat.”
Karkat licked his lips, tasting the remnants of the little bit he had been made to bleed already. With his uninjured arm, Karkat seized a sickle from his strife specious. He flipped backwards, onto the chair, then sprang off it at John. He drove the sickle down and caught John’s ear. It tore the rim of it, spraying blood on to both of them. John winced and threw a hand to it, but admirably did not make a noise of pain. Karkat licked his sickle. The human’s blood had a coppery, metallic tang.
“Who’s making who bleed, fuckass?”
He forgot to late- that word set John off again, whacking him furiously with the hammer. Karkat blocked as many as he could with the sickle, but the attacks were coming faster and faster now, aided by the wind behind John. He thrust- a gust from his hammer sent all the computers along the far table flying, but Karkat had slipped under his arm and behind him. John’s back was tense, seized up in anger. His shoulder jutted out at a severe angle, powerful. The hateful rage projected at every joint roused Karkat even more. Some carnal instinct in him made him cast his sickle away and sent him at John’s body. He dug his claws into him, through the torn green fabric and piercing the skin through the black t-shirt underneath. He was growling like some savage animal as he clawed away, trying to sink his claws into more skin.
John wrenched back and struck Karkat. He smacked his face, then wheeled around while the troll was trying to stand straight and scratched Karkat. He punched under his chin and followed up with a kick to the same place. Karkat coughed up a lot more blood this time. John shivered. There was no denying he was pleased by the sight.
“Ruthless,” Karkat choked out. He hobbled as he tried to stand straight. His hand was raised to his chin while blood dripped down to it from his mouth and nose.
“You asked for it.” John felt a distant twinge of guilt. He was John, after all. But he suppressed it at the sight of Karkat so weakened. Karkat hurt… he could not get enough of it.
“This is payback for humiliating me.”
Karkat laughed through coughs of blood.
“’Humiliating’ you? Are you fucking serious?” He was smiling with savage ecstasy as he staggered up to John. Slightly fearful, the human took a defensive step back. “All this time, what’s been bugging you most is not so much the fact that I hit you, but that I embarrassed you?”
“You betrayed me!” John’s hands squeezed his hammer. “I was going to h-h- fucking-hug you and you-“
“I didn’t betray you. You were just deluding yourself about this ‘friend’ thing the whole time.”
Karkat was lying. He had betrayed John. They had been friends. But seeing John in person- flying up to him all happy and carefree- reminded Karkat of why he had hated John so much in the first place when he had watched his life. Meeting him reminded Karkat and, with that, he punched him, shattering their friendship and pulling back the raw, unbearable hatred.
“Damn you!” John charged. Karkat zipped to the side. Just as John drove his hammer down, Karkat quickly tore the computer table now empty of monitors up, shielding his body behind it. He hopped out from behind the shield and over John. He rolled to his sickle and snatched it up, landing on his knee and opposite elbow.
John switched the hand his hammer was in and lunged again, clashing with the sickle. Their blows were evenly matched as they strained against each other. The weapons quivered in their tense, shaking hands, neither of the two relenting in the slightest to let the other’s blow come down.
Karkat won. He shoved hard and sent John toppling to the floor. He dropped down on top of him and threw the hammer out of arms reach. He heard something crash- which was probably the Wrinklefucker going through a monitor- but did not look up to check. He stared down at John underneath his body who looked furious as hell yet also slightly frightened. It was a nice view. He pinned John’s wrists on either side of his head with his own hands. He could see every bead of sweat on John’s brow as the human breathed heavily through a hard-set mouth.
“I hate you,” He hissed in his torn, bleeding ear.
John panted in reply, his mouth set in a snarl that was unbearably arousing. “Same to you, ‘fuckass’,” He returned in his most mocking tone.
Karkat lifted his head and looked down into cracked glasses. The troll was still wild with fury, yet unable to move. He was taking in all the tension between him and John, both breathing heavily into the empty space between their bodies.
Slowly, ever so slowly, he lowered his head towards John’s. When he was barely a centimeter away, he opened his mouth. John held his breath.
Karkat’s teeth gently bit John’s lower lip. He gradually, deliberately pulled upward, just to the point where it would hurt. He traced the edge of it with his tongue, tasting more of John’s red blood.
“God, Karkat…” John breathed from under him, sending prickles down Karkat’s spine. He hated it. He hated HIM. Didn’t he?
John arched his back, and Karkat became very aware of the fact that their hips were too close. The heat between them was overwhelming…
“Fuck!” The both shouted at the same time. They both sprang apart to opposite ends of the room, gasping, wide-eyed at each other, wondering what the fuck had just happened.
“You-!” They both started, then cut off. Karkat couldn’t tell if his face was hot with anger or something else, something unnamable.
Abandoning their attempts at words, they both charged at each other barehanded. Karkat took a fistful of John’s hair and jerked his head back while John was pulling Karkat’s shirt so hard it was ripping, the threads breaking loudly. Karkat prodded John onward, pushing him into a wall. He pinned John between the cold metal sheet and his own gray body. He shook John’s head around by the hair his hand was still gripping. John struggled against him, stomping the troll’s feet with all him might.
“Ow, shit! Quit it, Egbert!”
“Let me go, you asshole! This is definitely not fair!” John clamped his teeth down on Karkat’s neck. Karkat winced, giving John enough to slip out and get around to Karkat’s back. He grabbed the troll’s arms and pulled them behind Karkat’s back, then rammed the boy forward with a knee into the wall. His face hit it with an “OOF!”
“You don’t like it either, do you?” John snarled. He put his chin on Karkat’s shoulder and bit down on the opposite side of his neck from before.
Karkat could not stop himself before he let out a strangled whimper. Fuck- the bite actually felt good. He quickly snapped his head back. His skull hit the bridge of John’s nose and caused a satisfying yelp from the human as pay back. John hunched, doubled over, and panted between hacking coughs aimed at the floor. His glasses slipped off the bridge of his nose and hit the ground with a soft tinkling noise. Karkat stiffly walked up to him, the damaged arm limp at his side. He deliberately crushed John’s glasses with a foot and, with the other, kicked John over at the chest. The boy fell backwards and his knees hit the floor, glowering at Karkat.
“…So what are you going to do to me?”
Karkat blinked. He had not thought this far ahead. All he had thought when John walked in the computer lab was that he just wanted to fight him. He had wanted to scratch him, pull his hair, punch him, slam him against a wall, cause as much destruction as possible with him. He could not put a name to this wanting. It was beyond kismessitude and plain old rivalry. This was pure violence, living in the trashing, the pain caused, and the moans and groans that came out of that.
But maybe that was his mind rambling in his exhaustion. His eyes were starting to lose focus. The room was getting blurrier and his legs more like spoor slime. He could not even feel the pain in his neck and arm or anywhere else, nor did he notice when he fell to his knees in front of John. They stared at each other, tired, angry eye to tired, angry eye. Their eyes closed and their heads came closer. They both rested their heads against the other’s shoulder, on the brink of losing consciousness.
“I think…” John’s whisper began to fade. It was almost too soft to hear. Karkat had to strain the last of his energy to focus on it. “I think I do like it when you call me ‘fuckass”.”
“I hate you, fuckass.”
Morning would probably be horrible. Jade might breeze into the computer room early in the paradox-space morning. She could stop with a gasp, seeing the room in absolute ruins, most of the monitors thrown on the ground or completely obliterated. See would likely see tables on their sides, chairs flung far from their places. Karkat and John’s weapons would be on the floor, speckled with red droplets. In the center of the room would be the two boys, covered in blood, their shirts in tatters, and leaned forward against one another, fast asleep.
She would run out as quietly as possible, perhaps, and wake her other friends and maybe a troll or two. Together, the humans could take their unconscious friend and the trolls theirs to each’s respective room, complaining and making remarks as little as possible (which would not be very little at all, considering who the friends all were) until each of the boys were tucked in or slimed down.
The trolls with psychic powers and computer prowess would get to work trying to repair the devastated lab, vowing to kill the boys when they were fully rested and hopefully less battle-crazed. The other humans would get together perchance and try and determine if this was the strange alien “blackrom”, their friend going off the deep end, or something beyond that.
If the above is assumed to be true, then the human boy and the troll boy would both awaken around the same time the next day with the memories of the previous night back in full force.
And they would be desperate to get to the other once more.