carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
CG: HEY. I HAVE SOMETHING IMPORTANT TO TELL YOU.
CG: SOMETHING SO AMAZING THAT IT WILL BLOW YOUR TINY LITTLE MIND STRAIGHT OUT OF THIS SOLAR SYSTEM. YOU’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO RECOVER IT.
CG: THOUGH HONESTLY, THAT WOULDN’T BE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE FROM NOW.
EB: okay karkat, whatever you say.
CG: HEY, SHITSTAIN, BELIEVE ME FOR ONCE. I’M BEING SERIOUS HERE.
EB: if you’re so serious about it, then just spit it out already!
CG: UGH, FINE. YOU DON’T KNOW HOW TO PROPERLY SET UP SUSPENSE. NEVER BE A DIRECTOR. YOU’D MAKE THE STUDIO GO BANKRUPT AFTER YOUR FIRST FLOP OF A MOVIE THAT ONLY SOMEONE IN A COMA WOULD ENJOY.
EB: you’re getting off-track.
CG: …YEAH. I KIND OF AM.
CG: ANYWAYS, YOUR WRI
CG: IS NEXT WEEK. LUCKILY FOR YOU, I HAVE MANAGED TO TEAR MYSELF AWAY FROM MY VERY BUSY LIFE TO COME DOWN TO WHERE YOU LIVE FOR THE DAY TO DELIVER YOUR BIRTHDAY GIFT. I DON’T TRUST THE TICKING TIME BOMB YOU CALL THE POSTAL SYSTEM TO SAFELY DELIVER IT TO YOU.
EB: no way, that’s awesome! does this mean i’ll finally be able to see what you look like? oh man, i’m already excited. i’ve wanted to meet you for so long.
CG: WELL, YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO WAIT LONGER. LIKE I SAID, I AM A FUCKING *BUSY* INDIVIDUAL. THE FESTERING PUSTULES I CALL CO-WORKERS ARE ALWAYS DEMANDING THAT *I* FIX THEIR HIDEOUS MISTAKES.
CG: *~*ALL THE GODDAMN TIME.*~*
CG: I CAN’T MAKE ROOM IN MY SCHEDULE TO ENTERTAIN YOUR PUNY ATTENTION SPAN. I HAVE TO ENTERTAIN THEM FIRST. THEY PAY ME. YOU DON’T.
EB: come oooooooon, karkat. :( can’t even make time in your “busy life” to see your very own boyfriend in person, even though you’re coming down here anyways?
EB: are you hiding something?
EB: are you secretly a 50 year old man who lives in his mother’s basement?
EB: you’ve never even sent me pictures of yourself.
CG: I’M NOT HIDING ANYTHING, GOD. STOP JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOUR SPASTIC, TAINTCHAFING BRAIN WANTS TO.
CG: I’M JUST INCREDIBLY FUCKING BUSY, OKAY? DO YOU THINK I JUST SIT AROUND ON MY ASS ALL DAY WHILE GOD PISSES DOWN MONEY RIGHT ONTO MY HEAD?
CG: I HAVE BILLS TO PAY. BILLS TO PAY THAT LET ME TALK TO YOU. IT’S ALREADY GOING TO BE ENOUGH OF A DENT IN MY WALLET TO SPEND THE TIME AND MONEY REQUIRED TO TRAVEL DOWN TO TO THE HOVEL YOU LIVE IN. I DON’T NEED TO WASTE EVEN MORE TIME.
EB: to be honest, your plan is pretty dumb. why take the time out of your “busy schedule” to come all the way down here just to drop off a stupid package? why can’t you just mail it like you did last year? the postal system really isn’t that bad.
EB: secondly, if you do come, it wouldn’t hurt you just to stop by and say hi, right?
EB: please come by?
CG: NO. FUCK YOU.
EB: you could do that if you came and actually met me, dumbass.
CG: I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT.
EB: ugh, fine. just know that you are breaking my heart.
EB: look at it. that’s a broken heart just waiting to happen.
EB: it’s two whole keys away from being a slash.
CG: YOU ARE AN UNBELIEVABLE MORON. YOU SET A NEW LOW FOR THE HUMAN RACE EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH ANOTHER LIVING THING. I CAN FEEL MY OWN BRAIN CELLS COMMITTING SUICIDE EACH TIME I THINK OF YOU.
CG: JOHN EGBERT, YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL IDIOT. I LOVE YOU.
EB: oh look, my heart is magically mending itself! <3
EB: jk haha. i was just messing with you the entire time. still, it’d be really cool if you would come visit.
EB: visit visit, not drop some stuff off and then leave visit.
CG: MAYBE I CAN SPARE SOME TIME TO SEE YOU AND DOOM MYSELF TO AN ETERNITY OF NEVER BEING ABLE TO GET YOU OUT OF MY MIND.
CG: BUT ON ONE CONDITION.
CG: YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE ME.
EB: how is that even going to work.
CG: IT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY FUCKING SIMPLE, WHAT A NOVELTY.
CG: I’LL COME TO YOUR HOUSE, AND WHEN YOU OPEN THE DOOR, YOU’RE GOING TO WEAR A BLINDFOLD. IF YOU ARE NOT, I AM GOING TO SCREAM, RIP MY HAIR OUT OF MY SKULL AND SHOVE IT DOWN YOUR THROAT BEFORE ABSCONDING BACK TO THE FESTERING PIT OF DESPAIR I CALL HOME.
CG: BUT IF YOU ARE, I GUESS YOU CAN…INVITE ME IN. OR SOMETHING.
CG: THE MORE I LOOK BACK AT THIS, THE MORE I REALIZE HOW FUCKING CREEPY IT IS.
CG: YOU KNOW WHAT, JUST FORGET I EVER SAID ANYTHING. I’M SORRY I EVER MENTIONED IT. PAST ME IS THE MOST UNBELIEVABLY IDIOTIC FUCKWAD TO EVER BE EXPELLED FROM THE UNIVERSE’S CONSTANTLY UNDULATING, WRITHING ASSHOLE.
CG: ERASE IT FROM YOUR MEMORY.
EB: i’ll admit that what you’re asking is pretty weird…
EB: okay, REALLY weird.
EB: and pretty shady, too!
CG: YES, EGBERT, I GET THE POINT. NO NEED TO RUB MY NOSE IN IT.
EB: but i do want to meet you. really badly. and i’m willing to do pretty much anything just to be able to.
EB: you don’t even know, man. how much i want to see you.
EB: to kiss you, if you’d let me.
CG: THAT IS SO RIDICULOUSLY ROMANTIC, I THINK MY HEART IS GOING TO EXPLODE.
CG: THIS IS WHY I LOVE YOU. (:B
EB: love you too. :)
EB: now, how are we going to make this work?
CG: I HAVE NO FUCKING CLUE. WE SHOULD JUST GO WITH MY DAZZLING PLAN OF ERASING THIS PAINFUL INCIDENT FROM EXISTENCE. IT WILL DIE WITH THIS CHAT.
EB: nope, too late! we are going to do this. somehow.
EB: actually, i think i have an idea…
Long ago, when you first started talking to people on the internet, your Dad warned you never to give out your personal information. Your full name, address, and phone number were things that needed to be guarded and kept safe. There were creeps lurking out there, just waiting to trap innocent people like you.
You wonder what he’d say if he ever found out what you’re doing right now.
It’s more like a game, actually. Karkat is going to come to your town, and leave clues around town for you to find him. It’s kind of like hide and go seek got clubbed in the head by a scavenger hunt, except Karkat will also be texting you the entire time to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Your prize for winning (which you totally will win, duh) might not be the kiss you want, but it will definitely be an awesome birthday gift. Karkat always gives you the best presents.
You shut the door to your apartment and jam the key in the lock twice, just to make sure it’s fully locked. You used to think you lived in a nice, safe neighborhood, until the old couple down the street were robbed three times in one week. Really, how ridiculous is that?
Your phone vibrates inside of your pocket, and you pull it out to see a text message from your favorite person. You smile as you read it.
THE FIRST FEW CLUES ARE IN PLACE. YOU BETTER START SEARCHING BEFORE SOME FUCKWIT COMES IN AND MESSES UP MY CLUES.
You text him back a quick ok! as you hop down the steps two at a time. Sometimes, living on the third floor really sucks, but hey, at least you get a nice workout every day! Your legs are so ripped.
A few minutes later your feet firmly land on the sidewalk, and you scan around the area for any clues. Sure enough, a small, folded-up piece of paper sticks out of a bush, practically waving you over. You untangle it from the prickly branches, and unfold it.
The inside of the note is covered in a rough, messy scrawl, written so hard that you can see the indents in the paper. The letters swoop and merge into each other, as if they couldn’t possibly be written fast enough.
It reads: IF YOU’RE READING THIS, THEN YOU FOUND THE FIRST CLUE. I WASN’T SURE IF YOU WOULD. A PARTY IS IN ORDER. WE’LL BUY CONE HATS AND STREAMERS, AND I’LL SIGH IN DISGUST AS YOU SHOVE SEVERAL DOZEN SUGARY CONCOCTIONS DOWN YOUR THROAT. NOW, GO TO THE CONVENIENCE STORE. THERE, THE MOOBEASTS WILL SHOW YOU THE WAY.
You slip the note into your pocket and roll your eyes. It doesn’t happen very often, but sometimes Karkat uses the weirdest words to refer to things. Once, he went to go take a shower and called it an ablution trap. You’re not even sure what ablution means.
Another time, you broke your leg and ended up in the hospital, and when you im’ed him about it, he sent you what was basically an entire essay on how you were downright shithive maggots, how he was worried out of his think-pan the entire time.
You’re pretty sure that all of the weird terminology that occasionally slips out is just A Karkat Thing. The more you think about it, the more you realize that he does a lot of dorky Karkat Things, but it’s pretty endearing in your eyes.
Besides, there must be a good reason for all of his secrecy.
At least you have a pretty good idea as to what moobeast means. The convenience store just down the street sells chocolate milk cartons with cows on it, so he must be referring to that.
On the way there, you pass by a small group of adults who looked to be just a few years older than you. You pass by them fairly quickly, but a burst of a yellow so bright it almost glows catches your eye. You glance over, and see one of the guys in the group wearing a black t-shirt with two giant yellow ovals decorating the front. In the center of each oval is a multicolored circle, starting at a deep maroon and spanning most of the color spectrum before ending in a weird pinkish-purple. Beneath the circles, in big, blocky, white text is a simple sentence.
They see when you don’t.
They pass by without a single glance in your direction, and you continue down the street. You enter the store, and the cashier, a young blonde girl, grins and waves at you. You come here often enough for her to recognize you, which you think is pretty cool.
You wave back, and head straight to the back of the store, where the milk cartons are kept. Sure enough, someone (Karkat, you think giddily) tampered with every single container of chocolate milk, making them all face off to the side. You follow their gaze to a shelf full of instant noodles, and search through the boxes until you find another folded-up note jammed under the plastic cover.
As you unfold it, you notice how the paper is slightly crumpled and worn, like he wanted to ball it up and throw it away, only to decide against it at the last second. Still, you read it with a careful precision, cherishing each word. You can’t contain the grin that breaks out across your face. The scrawl is just as messy as before, with thick lines melding the words together.
THIS IS GOING TO TAKE A LONG LONGER THAN I EXPECTED. WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS? I DO NOT FUCKING KNOW. PAST ME IS A RAGING SHITSTAIN ON THE BACK OF THE DIAPER BELONGING TO THE WORLD’S UGLIEST BABY. GOOD THING I TOOK THE DAY OFF FROM WORK. NOW, GO TO THE PLACE THAT REEKS OF YOUR OBNOXIOUSLY KIND DAD AND SEARCH THE SEATS FOR A CHANGE.
Oh man, this is getting good. Karkat is so good at this game. You should tell him.
One sent text message later, you’re walking out of the store, huge grin still in place. Just as you push the door open, the cashier calls out to you.
“John, nothing was messed up or broken back there, right?” She asks nervously.
You turn back to see her looking towards where you just came from with an anxious frown. “The milk cartons were all turned slightly, but no, everything was fine.”
She sighs in relief, slumping against the counter. “Good. It’s just that some weirdo came in here earlier and practically ran to the back of the store. I heard a lot of rustling, but I was too scared to go back there and check it out…” she admits.
You smile even wider, and she raises an eyebrow at you. “Really? What did he look like?” You ask. Wow, when did you get close enough to rest your hands on the counter?
She startles. “Um, I don’t know, sorry!” She squeaks out, backing away. She raises her hands in the air. “They were wearing a hood. I couldn’t see their face.”
Once, when you were ten, you stabbed a balloon with a fork and then jumped on it. The air rushed out of the thing so fast the holes ripped huge gashes all over the balloon. The rubber never recovered. You imagine that’s what your heart did just now, the hope rushing out so fast it left you feeling like an empty scrap.
“Oh. Okay. Thanks, though.” You say, trying to hide your disappointment. You give her a half-hearted smile and leave the store.
There’s a chance that who she saw wasn’t Karkat, but really, that’s a load of bullshit. That was probably Karkat, and maybe this is one of his Karkat Things.
Maybe he’s one of those people who’s horribly allergic to the sun. Maybe he’s some terrible burn victim.
There has to be a good reason for this.
That doesn’t stop you from wanting to know what it is.
You sit down on a nearby bench and unfold the note to read it again. A place that would reek of your Dad? So...what are places that would remind you of your Dad.
More importantly, what are places that would remind Karkat of your Dad.
The first word that pops into your head is cake. Of course. There’s a bakery just down the street. He must be talking about that.
When you get to the bakery, you’re pleasantly relieved to see that it’s nearly empty. It makes your task a lot easier, actually. If today was a busy day, they’d probably kick you out for lifting up the seat cushions. Just in case they care, you make sure to make up a good lie to fool them. You lost your credit card last night after you ate here. You ordered a lemon meringue pie. It’s the perfect cover up.
Your name is John Egbert, and you are the world’s best liar.
You like this bakery for a number of reasons, not just because it reminded you of home. Yeah, whenever you walked in here your mind automatically went back to countless summer days spent chatting with friends on the internet (you met Karkat one of those days, you recall) as your Dad baked cake after cake in the kitchen. No matter how hard you tried, the smell always managed to invade your room and make everything smell like frosting and vanilla.
There’s about three dollars worth of spare change underneath a dingy seat by the window, so you figure that must be what he meant in his note. You dig a little deeper, and your fingers brush against another small piece of paper. Perfect.
This one, like the previous two, has Karkat going off on some random tangent before actually giving you the clue.
Like the notes, your day ends up repeating the same general pattern: walk across town to some random store, find his note, and receive an occasional text from Karkat about something or other. An unpleasant ache settles in your legs after a few hours, but you force yourself to keep going. You’re going to get that gift (and if you can, you’re going to steal a glance at Karkat as well, hehehe).
He leads you to all sorts of places. Highlights include a small, hole in the wall boutique (at least, you think that’s what it’s supposed to be called…) that you had never noticed before. The note there was slipped into a small plastic baggie meant for holding spare buttons. Most of that note was spent ranting about how Karkat’s close friend Kanaya could make better clothes than half of the things in the fucking store. He also sent you to the dingiest fast food place you had never wanted to step foot in, and some crappy little walk-in clinic. The note there was inside of a grand piano. You’re not entirely sure how Karkat managed to get it in there without anyone noticing him. He refused to tell you how when you asked.
Though your favorite part has to be when his notes led you to the local toy store. Instead of searching the stuffed animal aisle like he hinted you to, you ended up in an aisle covered in military soldiers, cars, robots, and dinosaurs.
It was like a trip down memory lane. You found an almost exact replica of the toy set you used to play with when you were a kid. It was from a fairly popular brand starring the most generic, buff, gritty action hero possible. His name was Commander Murray, you remember, and the he was the absolute best at “wiping out hordes of nasty gray scum.”
That’s actually on the back of the box. You read it aloud to yourself.
“But what’s this? Commander Murray may have defeated the horde of bloodthirsty trolls, but their barbaric animals have come seeking revenge! Help him defeat the vicious seagoat, and save humanity from trollkind once and for all!” You read, waves of nostalgia crashing over you. You used to spend hours cooped up in your room playing with these toys. You’d create the best stories, filled with action, adventure, and the tiniest bit of romance. Even if the romantic interest always ended up being Batman.
You make sure to buy the toy set, especially since it was only ten bucks. The only downside is that you have to carry it around with you all day, but that’s a small price to pay.
Your crazy scavenger hunt goes on long after the sun sets, but you’re not any closer to finding him or getting your gift than you were in the morning. The stores are all closing, and he’s running out of places to take you to.
After a little while, it hits you. You’re not getting anywhere with this game. He’s going to drop off your gift and then leave if you keep this up. You need to take matters into your own hands.
But how? You have no clue. Damn it. You need to figure out something, and fast.
You’re jolted out of your thoughts by a light tap on your shoulder. You jump and whip around, ready to punch your assaulter in the face, but you stop when you see a police badge winking at you in the dull streetlight.
“Hey kid, you should be getting home soon. Word on the street is that some freak’s been prowling around town,” he warns you. You resist the urge to glare at him, both because you haven’t been considered a kid in a few years, and because of his attitude.
“Yeah, I was just on my way back,” you lie as you stand up. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll make sure to keep an eye out for this guy.”
“That’s the spirit, kid. I’d tell you what he looks like, but no one’s been able to see his face. All we know is that the guy’s covered head to toe in gray and black.” He gives you a brief nod before turning and walking away. You blink, but you run his words over one last time in your head, and just like that, an idea comes to fruition.
You quickly formulate what has to be the best plan ever to exist. Karkat’s never going to know what hit him. You practically sprint back to your apartment to set everything up. It doesn’t take long, and when you finish, you decide to go back to where you originally were when you first came up with the plan.
You plop down on the curb, plastic bag straps still firmly wrapped around your hand, and fumble your phone out of your pocket, scattering Karkat’s notes all across the ground. Panic rips through you and you shove them back into your pocket with an urgent speed. Once you accomplish that task, you send Karkat a text covered in his own medicine.
you’ve been leading me around all day, but we’re not getting anywhere, karkat. i think it’s time to step it up a notch, don’t you think? home is where the heart is, right? but where do you keep the key? personally, i hold it to my name. you insist on keeping me in the dark, but if you want in my heart, you better be in my house. :)
You send the message before regret can well up inside of your brain, but the moment you see a little box telling you that it was safely sent, your higher thinking returns to you. Man, you are so stupid! So. Stupid. You are not good at this riddle thing at all. Karkat’s going to laugh, and then he’s going to leave.
Didn’t you set up this entire game because Karkat was being all weird about seeing you face to face? Doesn’t this ring practically every warning bell there is?
The answer is yes to both of those, but you find yourself giving less and less of a shit with each passing second. You’ve known Karkat for years, and you trust him more than a good 90% of the people you’ve ever spoken to face to face. You love him a lot, and you know, without a doubt, that he wouldn’t hurt you on purpose. He wouldn’t hurt anyone on purpose.
If only you didn’t word that riddle like such an idiot. Jeez.
Your phone vibrates a few minutes later, and you almost whoop in joy at what Karkat sends back to you.
…OKAY. I’LL GO, BUT IF YOU TURN ON THE FUCKING LIGHTS I’M NOT GOING TO SCUTTLE AWAY LIKE A SCARED LITTLE COCKROACH. I AM GOING TO LEAP STRAIGHT AT YOU AND GOUGE OUT YOUR EYES BEFORE LEAPING OUT THE WINDOW TO FALL TO MY GORY, SHAMEFUL DEATH.
okay, whatever you say, karkat! see you soon! (except not really, hehehe.)
The air whooshes out of you in a large sigh of relief. You didn’t think he’d actually agree to it!
You attempt to waste a few minutes fiddling with the packaging of your toyset, but all you accomplish is making yourself feel immature for buying a playset for little kids. Well, that, and even more impatient. You don’t want to wait, but you know you need to for Karkat to feel safe. It’s really a small sacrifice.
Finally, you shove the plastic container back into its bag and leave to return home. The walk back goes by at an impossible pace, crawling by on its stomach and speeding right past you at the exact same time. The anxiety and apprehension building up inside of you makes you want to stop and abandon the whole idea, but the excitement only pushes you to walk faster. It’s all a blur that doesn’t pass by fast enough, and by the time you manage to pull yourself out of your own torrent of thoughts, you’ve cleared the stairs leading up to your apartment. You look at your own door, decorated with a simple blue sign that has your name on it.
You originally wanted to draw on it, but that only ended in three separate sheets of paper losing their lives for a stupid cause. Feeling another wave of anxiety wash over you, you pull out your phone and text Karkat to ask if he’s here yet. The light from the small screen lights up the small area brighter than the dim, dying bulbs ahead. His reply is instantaneous.
WHAT, DID YOU THINK YOUR RIDDLE WAS TOO HARD FOR ME? IS THAT HOW MUCH YOU UNDERESTIMATE MY INTELLIGENCE? YOUR RIDDLE WAS SO MIND-BENDINGLY IDIOTIC THAT I LOST BRAIN CELLS ATTEMPTING TO UNDERSTAND WHY YOU WOULD SEND ME SOMETHING THAT SIMPLE.
Another text quickly follows the one he sent you.
…NO, I DIDN’T ENTER YOUR HOUSE. THAT’S CREEPY AS FUCK, AND I’VE ALREADY USED UP MY FUCKING ‘PROWL AROUND TOWN LIKE A STARVING LION WHILE MOTHERS USHER THEIR CHILDREN AWAY FROM YOU’ POINTS FOR THE DAY. I’M PRETTY CLOSE BY, THOUGH. I STILL NEED TO DROP OFF YOUR GIFT.
are you sure you can’t just hand deliver it to me? i’m outside my apartment right now. all of the other apartments on this floor are empty, so it’s not like anyone but me would see you if you came up here.
JOHN, REMEMBER WHY WE DECIDED TO PLAY THIS USELESS WASTE OF TIME YOU TRY TO PASS OFF AS A GAME? SO YOU WOULDN’T SEE ME. GIVING UP NOW WOULD DEFEAT THE PURPOSE AND MAKE THIS ENTIRE EXCURSION USELESS.
oh, come on. i know you’re the weirdo who’s been going around town all day trying to be secretive. karkat, you are not some super spy. you are not agent 007. stop trying to be james bond. it doesn’t suit you. you’re wearing a giant coat and a mask. how am i going to see your face through that? just get up here already, you big dummy.
I DON’T WANT TO TAKE THE CHANCE.
you are being a big idiot who is scared of stupid things. get up here already.
YOU KNOW WHAT? FUCK THIS. FUCK YOU. I’M LEAVING.
we both know that you’re lying. i love you a lot, karkat. like, a lot a lot. you can trust me that i’m not going to force you into showing me what you look like. you don’t even have to talk to me. we can text each other the entire time. please come up here.
SOMETIMES, I HATE YOU SO MUCH.
yeah, that must be why i can hear your footsteps coming up the stairs right now.
You pat your hair down, and try to give yourself a quick once over. You hop from foot to foot nervously, but catch yourself and stop. Time seems to slow down, and you’re pretty sure your mind is playing tricks on you when the footsteps slow down as they get louder.
Your heart hammers away in your chest, and you can’t seem to get enough air into your lungs. Your knees lock up, and when a dull gray hood enters your view, you nearly pass out. The footsteps get louder, and you’re finally treated to seeing a person covered head to toe by a dingy gray coat standing awkwardly in front of you. Worn black gloves hold a colorfully wrapped box, and a featureless black mask obscures their features from your view. You can’t even tell where the outline of their nose is.
They pull out their phone. Your heart skips several beats, and your emotions are in such a confused blur that you don’t even know what to feel right now. Your mind has utterly shorted out on you. Your phone buzzes in your hand.
WILL YOU SHUT YOUR JAW ALREADY? IT’S MAKING ME NERVOUS.
Suddenly you can think again, but the only thought in your head is that Karkat is here. Karkat is right here, with you, just a few feet away. You’ve dreamt of this moment, imagined it occurring a million different ways, but you never thought it would actually happen. Each heartbeat pushes pure joy through your body, making you feel weightless. You feel like you could fly right now, free and unattached to the earth.
You walk towards him, carefully measuring each step in order to not scare him off, but when your arms open to give him a hug, he deftly dodges it, ducking out of the way.
There’s a reason for that, there has to be. It’s not your fault.
You frown, but it quickly morphs into a smile when your eyes land on the box in his hands. You point to yourself, silently asking if it’s your gift, and he nods. You smile wider.
He lifts a foot up, but hesitates, and sets it back down where it was. His face tilts down toward the bag in your hands.
oh man, it is so cool. i’ll show you later. how about you come inside?
He looks down at his phone, and you swear you hear a low buzz. It must be your stupid heater. It always makes weird sounds.
He shakes his head, but you unlock the door and open it anyways. You jerk your head towards it, and he shakes his head no again.
You think you know why he’s saying no. It’s not that he doesn’t trust you (coming all the way out here just to do…whatever you spent your entire day doing is proof enough), but it’s that he doesn’t think he deserves to, despite the fact that he totally does. Karkat is the complete opposite of a killer or a creep; he has his fair share of insecurities and problems, but seriously, the guy gets queasy when he gets a papercut. Even if he didn’t love you, he would never hurt you. He’s not a very stabby kind of guy.
You walk over to him until you’re just a few inches apart. You can’t make out a single feature of his face or body, outside of the facts that he’s slightly shorter than you and bundled up in about 50 layers of clothing. Your hand reaches out to grab his to drag him inside, but he snatches it away and backs up a few steps, trying to distance himself.
He’s so close, but he continues to put wall after wall up against you. Yet you keep a goofy smile on your face, and send him a quick text. He doesn’t need to know that ow, that hurt. It’s not really his fault, anyways. Just you being stupid.
what, are you afraid i booby trapped my apartment? because i didn’t. now, follow me, and allow me to give you the grand tour. hehehe. ;)
He looks up from his phone, and you show him that yes, you winking looks just as ridiculous in person as it does through text. You think you hear him snort, but it sounds like something pre-recorded for a crappy sitcom, so you’re not any closer to finding out what he sounds like.
This time when you walk inside, he follows you in, trailing behind at a safe distance and carefully stepping through the minefield that he thinks is your apartment. It’s a bit messy, with a few empty soda cans here and there, but otherwise it’s very nice! He’s just overreacting.
Your apartment is pretty small, so it only takes a few minutes to show him everything. You show him everything, and when you ramble excitedly, he doesn’t point it out. You make sure to introduce him to Casey, who likes him a lot! The little salamander crawled right up to the wall of her cage and watched him as he walked by. You are so glad she approves of him.
Once the tour is completed, you guide him over to the single couch in your tiny excuse of a living room. You plop down on it, sighing in relief at finally being able to take your feet off of the ground, and he perches on the edge a foot or so away.
WOW, THIS ISN’T NEARLY AS MUCH OF A SHITHEAP AS I ORIGINALLY THOUGHT IT WOULD BE. CONGRATULATIONS ON BEING ABLE TO SOMEWHAT PICK UP AFTER YOURSELF.
You laugh at the message. You feel like your heart is going to burst inside of your chest.
i’m not THAT bad. i can be responsible from time to time!
You glance over at him, and your eyes settle on the small package tucked into his side.
hey, when are you going to give me my present? you hyped it up all day, but now it’s right there and not in my hands. the place is here. the time is now. besides, it’s getting really late.
Karkat reads the message, notices the time, and his body goes tense, head swiveling over in your direction.
HA HA, SO FUNNY. I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU YOUR GIFT RIGHT BEFORE I LEAVE, BECAUSE I DON’T WANT TO BE HERE TO SEE YOUR FRAGILE HOPES CRUSHED IN ONE FELL SWOOP. SPEAKING OF WHICH, I’VE OVERSTAYED MY WELCOME. HAPPY BIRTHDAY.
He gets up, and carefully hands you your present. Your hands wrap around it, and you feel the slight tremble in his own through the thin material. He turns and one foot, but as he’s halfway through your front door and out of your life, you send him a message that makes him freeze in place.
before you go, can i tell you how happy i am that i finally got to meet you? because i really am. have you ever read one of those sappy books where the main character describes their heart pounding and their entire body feeling lighter when they see their love interest? that is me right now. i am the teenage girl, and you are the mysterious boy i am destined to be with. i love you so much.
…GOD, JOHN. HOW THE FUCK DO YOU EVEN COME UP WITH THIS BULLSHIT. THAT IS THE SAPPIEST PIECE OF SHIT I HAVE EVER READ. I LOVE YOU TOO. SO FUCKING MUCH IT HURTS.
glad to know we feel the same!
DO YOU STILL WANT THAT GOODNIGHT KISS?
Your cheeks hurt from smiling too much, and your heart feels like it’s going to burst. You wonder if he feels the same.
yes. oh god yes. please. do i have to go get a stupid blindfold?
NO, BUT YOU DO HAVE TO CLOSE YOUR EYES AND YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF. GOT IT?
You feel like you’re going to faint from the waves of joy rolling over you. You’re going to get sucked out to sea and you will never be heard from again. You can’t even name some of the emotions flowing through you, but you do know that you never want them to stop.
i can work with that.
You squeeze your eyes shut and force yourself to keep breathing. You want to hold your breath in anticipation, but decide against it. Cloth shifts. You hear breath, coming out in shaky gasps, but you’re not entirely sure if it’s you or Karkat. His footsteps are barely audible, muffled by your crappy carpeting. His breath rushes against your lips, coming out in short, warm puffs.
You wait patiently, fighting valiantly against your urge to close the distance yourself. Your patience wins out, and he pushes forward those last few inches until his lips meet yours.
The first thing you notice are the feel of his lips against yours, so thin and rough it’s almost unnatural. The second thing you notice is that Karkat kisses you with such a gentle hesitancy that you feel your heart melt inside of your chest. He’s eager, and you can tell he wants this just as much as you do, but he’s too scared to deepen it. You don’t push him, no matter how much you’d love for it to stop being such a chaste peck. He kisses you again and again, soft little touches so comfortable and natural it’s like coming home to a warm house and a hot dinner after a hard day’s work.
He finally pulls away, but you don’t dare to move until your phone buzzes in your hand. You open your eyes to read his message, and over the top of your phone you see that he’s back to being a shapeless mass of gray and black, standing a few feet away from you.
THERE. YOU GOT YOUR FUCKING GOODNIGHT KISS. HAPPY?
overjoyed, actually. before you go, do you still want me to show you what i bought earlier?
He looks over his shoulder at the bag sitting on your coffee table.
MIGHT AS WELL REAFFIRM MY SUSPICION THAT YOU HAVE THE SHITTIEST TASTE EVER RECORDED.
says the guy who likes almost every movie i stream with him.
He follows you back over to the couch, still not nearly as relaxed as you are when you flop down on it. You eagerly snatch the bag off the table, nearly ripping the bag in the process. You pull it off and cast the plastic aside, proudly displaying the clear box.
Karkat freezes, and even though the layers of clothing, you can see his entire body tense up. It makes your eyebrows crease in worry. He raises a shaking hand and points at the pure white seagoat.
huh, don’t they have commander murray toys where you live? they’re all over the place.
His hands shake so badly he drops his phone twice while trying to text you. He scrabbles around the couch just to pick it up.
LTE ME SEEW THAT.,
The thing that surprises you most about the typos is that there aren’t more of them. You’re really worried about him, but you don’t really understand why he’s so worked up over a stupid toy set. You’re pretty sure that he’s going to get even more upset so matter what you do, so you hand over the box, hoping that this is the option that will hurt him less.
His hands grasp the box so tightly the plastic squeezes and distorts, spilling up and away from his grip. He stares at it for what feels like an eternity, and all you can do is watch, waiting to see what he will do next.
He practically jumps off the couch, and you’re texting him, asking him what’s wrong, just as quickly as he’s storming out of your apartment. He reads it as he wrenches open the door. You hear that same buzz, low and threatening, that you heard earlier. The heater’s not even on, you realize. It isn’t what’s making that sound…
“John.” Karkat’s voice is deep and rough, with that same buzz as a constant undercurrent. “Do you really want to know what the fucking matter is.” His words are slurred together despite speaking slowly and with a careful precision, as if his tongue can’t properly form the syllables. He has an extremely heavy accent that warps his words into something that only vaguely resembles English. It sounds inhuman. You try not to let your shock be heard in your voice, but it doesn’t stop you from stuttering. “Y-yeah. I do.”
He stops in place. “Are you not fucking hearing my voice right now.” He growls in a dead monotone. You never imagined he would sound like this. His voice bounces around the walls, flying everywhere. “Do you secretly have a hearing aid that translate the verbal garbage I spew out of my mouth into perfect English and simply never told me? Because this sure as hell isn’t what a normal human sounds like.”
“W-well no, but I don’t know, maybe it’s a medical conditio-“
“-what, do you think I somehow burnt out my vocal cords in a freak accident that occurred when I was 12? Have you really been dense enough to ignore every single little sign I accidentally dropped while blundering my way into this relationship?” You can barely understand what he’s saying. The buzz has gotten louder, a deep growl that sends shivers up and down your spine. You stay silent.
He barks out a laugh, but it’s only a strangled rumble deep in his chest, like a cicada chirping as it dies. He shakes his head. “I. I can’t,” he barks. “God. I fucking can’t do this. I don’t even know what the fuck my emotions are trying to do.” He covers his face with his hands, gloved fingers that are too long, too flat and almost paddle-like in shape stretching to the to the top of his forehead, past where his hood hangs down. It’s subtle, but you can see it when you stare for long enough. It makes your heart race in anxiety. You’re not sure if you can think straight.
It’s all too much.
“Are you mad at me? Because if you’re mad at me, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong,” you babble. A cold sweat runs down your back, and your entire body seizes up and spasms in response. It’s pure fear dripping down your skin; fear that has no purpose or even a good reason to exist. It’s just blind panic, you tell yourself.
“Of course you fucking didn’t!” The rumbling rises with his voice, making the windows shake. “You of all people should know that I am the living embodiment of the shittiest things ever conceived conveniently packaged into one, hard-to-care for grub munching idiot! I’ve been keeping what is definitely a deal-breaking secret from my best friend slash boyfriend of the last, oh, I don’t know, how long have we been dating? Three years, maybe four? And we’ve been friends for at least twice that long, but I could never bring myself to fucking tell you what is essentially the most important thing about myself, despite all of those hours you’ve spent prying every single tidbit of information about my life out of me!” He’s snarling and buzzing, and you’re not even able to understand the last half of his rant. All you hear are consonants jammed into places they don’t belong and strange sounds you could never imitate.
“Karkat, breathe. Calm down. Please.” You say, slowly, trying to keep a handle on the situation unfolding. You don’t know what to do at all. You’re just trying to run damage control, and it’s not working at all. He exhales, and sinks down to the ground. His breath doesn’t steady out, but rushes straight into a gasping hiccup, catching in his throat.
You rush to his side and kneel down by him. Your mind is a jumbled haze and all you can fear is your own fear and panic threatening to make you a hyperventilating mess, but what’s important right now is Karkat. You have to be strong for him, even as each piece slides into place. Both of you can’t lose your grip right now. You force yourself to stay strong.
“Karkat, you need to calm down.” You gently touch his arm only to find out that he’s shaking, tremors pulsing through his entire body.
“I fucked up, I am the shittiest, biggest shitty fuck up failure, god John, I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry, this is all my fault.” You discover that his accent is ten times stronger when he’s crying. You can only see the side of his dull hood from where you are, but you imagine that he looks like a wreck right now.
“Karkat, please, shut up,” you grate out between clenched teeth. You’re almost on the verge of panicking, but you force yourself to hold it together. “Please, just, please shut up.” Your forehead collides with his arm, cushioned by the several layers of fabric. You feel like you’re going to lose it yourself, but at least it’s starting to make sense.
You plant a kiss to his arm and hope he feels it. “I-I get it.” You murmur. “You’re a troll, right?”
He sniffles, having apparently heard you. “Y-yeah. Not even a regular troll. No, I’m a fucking mutant with candy sludge running through my veins. I’m leaving now, let me just collect my heaping disgrace of a body up off of the floor.” He says quietly. “I should have fucking told you, but I couldn’t, because I’m a pathetic coward who deserves to be killed in the most brutal way possible.”
He shifts, but you wrap your arms around him like a vice grip before he can leave. Your panic spikes, but you think this is the right thing to do. This is what you want to do. You don’t want him to leave. “No.”
“John, what are you not understanding. I am a troll. Your children are taught to kill my kind and our caretakers through overpriced, unrealistic action figures,” he says, speaking as clearly as he can, being extremely mindful of his accent as he carefully enunciates every word.
“Can I see you?” The words rush out without asking your brain for permission. You don’t take them back. “Actually see your face and your body and what you look like?”
“Are you a moron?”
“Guess so. Can I?”
He hiccup-sobs again, and you release him, only to gently prod him into a standing position. He looks down at you. “Why are you not telling me to get out?” He sounds so little and scared, just like a child.
“And you call me the moron!” You huff. “Because I fell in love with you when you were insulting gray text on a screen. I don’t think I’m going to fall out of love any time soon. Even if you’re a…troll.” It’s still so hard to believe. You think you may be in denial.
That makes him sob harder, but it quickly dies down into small sniffles. He hesitates as his hands touch the edge of his hood, and you smile up at him, hoping to reassure him. It works, thankfully. He flips down the dingy hood, and his fingers quickly work his mask over and off of his head as you stand up.
You’ve heard people describe eyes as being as wide as dinner plates before, but you always thought that was a stupid thing to say until now. His eyes are downright enormous, and they’re not orbs so much as crazy glow in the dark frisbees, glowing the brightest neon yellow you’ve ever seen. Blood red - literally blood red, as in you cut your finger last week cooking and it was the exact same shade as this - irises surround inky pupils, contracted to small pinpricks in the dim light. There’s a collection of dusty pink gunk gathered around them, leading to dried, sticky trails running down his long face. It’s gross and part of you wants to look away, but there’s a hurt in his expression that’s so hopeless and heartbroken your heart swells with pity.
You rake your eyes over the rest of his face. His hair and eyebrows are wiry, sticking out of rough gray skin in stubborn clumps, like a black bramble patch. His eyebrows aren’t in much better shape. Two nubby, bumpy horns jut out near the top of his forehead, breaking out of his skin like hills rising past the horizon.
“Whoa, dude, you’re like Voldemort. No nose.” You say as you finally notice his (lack of) a nose. There’s absolutely nothing there, only two tiny slits for nostrils. His ears appear to be the opposite, as they’re gnarled strips of flesh hanging down out of the sides of his face. They look like they’ve been shred to bits, but there’s no scar tissue.
“Yeah, what the fuck do you think they based him off of, dipshit,” he murmurs, the words softened by the whisper of his rough voice. You watch his mouth as it clumsily forms the words, too-thin lips trying to carefully maneuver around dental nightmare sticking out of his mouth. You spot a few teeth overlapping. It’s really gross just to look at, and all you can wonder is how he managed to kiss you so tenderly without his mouth slicing yours apart.
You stand up to drag your fingers along his flat cheekbones, tracing them down to the sharp point his jaw ends in. His skin is impossibly rough and incredibly hard under your touch, almost like a chalky exoskeleton. He tries to flinch away, but you keep him in place. Your hand travels up to his hair, trailing through matted, coarse clumps of tangles. You try touching his horn, but he bats you away. Instead your hands head lower, trailing down his neck and marveling at how the skin is much rougher and thicker here. There’s no Adam’s apple to speak of, just a smooth expanse of not-quite-hide and not-quite-shell.
So many questions race through your mind, but the one that manages to get through the pack is, “can I see what the rest of your body looks like?” You blurt out, a deep blush spreading over your face as you realize what you just said. He turns red as well, shaking his head frantically.
“No, of course not! It’s not safe here. What if someone walks in? It’s barely legal for me to even be in this city. Did that ever cross your mind?” He snaps, but you can tell by the way that he wraps his arms around himself that he’s just insecure of what you’ll think.
Though he has a point. Trolls don’t live anywhere near here. He’s the first one you’ve ever seen outside of television and the internet.
You bolt the door shut and check the blinds on your windows to make sure that they’re fully closed. Once you feel secure, you walk back to him. “I, uh, shouldn’t have said that,” you mutter, starting to feel guilty. “You don’t have to. I’m just curious.”
He goes quiet, bright eyes darting away from you to focus on the floor. “…it’s better than what I said to start this whole shitfest,” he admits, smiling softly. “I guess I can humor you, but only the shirt comes off. Okay?”
You let your grin speak for you as he wriggles out of his coat, letting it drop down to the floor. You watch him with curiosity, finally feeling the panic start to fade away as acceptance moves in. Underneath his coat is a giant sweater than reduces his torso to a formless heap. When he shucks that off, you see bumps and ridges all lining his arms. He pauses, and as his hands are grasping the bottom of his shirt, they let go. He steels his resolve, and flings the clothing off in a single motion.
You’re left speechless at what you see. Little things that you didn’t notice before stand out in full detail now, like how his arms are too long for his body, hanging down past his thighs, and how his hands are bigger than any human hand you’ve ever seen, with wide, paddle-like fingers that stretch on and on. His entire torso is thicker than anywhere else, as if plated with armor. It looks heavier higher up on his chest. Black nubs stick out of his sides, little ridges that end in sharp points curling around him. Bony, long shoulders stick straight out, ending in ridges and points that rise out of his skin. His arms are skinny, packed with long, lean muscle that flexes just under the skin.
You place your hand on his chest, right where you imagine his heart to be. It’s very faint, but you can feel a steady pulse running through his body. Just like you. He may be a troll, but he’s still Karkat.
You look back at his face, back at his eyes that are too big and his teeth that are too sharp, and instead of feeling fear or horror, you grin, because you’re a loser in love with a big, scary troll (except he’s shorter than you, ha). He’s not beautiful in any conventional sense, but you wouldn’t want to change him.
“Why are you smiling like that?” He asks, folding his arms and scowling. His teeth jut even further out of his mouth when he does that.
You wrap your arms around his neck, careful to mind his shoulders. “Because I love you.”
“Is your brain broken? Why the fuck are you not disgusted? Do you have some sick, socially unacceptable fetish for trolls?”
You shake your head. “Nope! Only for you!”
He groans, the sound turning into a low buzz at the end, and buries his face in your neck. “You’re stupid. This is bad. You’re going to be ostracized from society if anyone ever finds out,” he mutters.
You laugh. “Who says they need to?” The smile on your face quickly falters. “I know I can’t be seen around you. Hell, you can’t even be seen in this town. But. We’ve made it work for this long. We can make it work longer.”
You hear him sniffle, but before he can break out into more tears, he worms his way out of your grasp. “It’s getting late. I need to get back home before morning. You need to sleep as well. Don’t you have work tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but I can always call in sick.”
“It’s a wonder your employers haven’t had the bright idea to fire you yet,” he says as you help him pick up the pile of clothing he left on the ground.
He gives you a weak smack on the arm, sharp claws lightly running over the fabric of your shirt. He pulls away like he accidentally lit you on fire, and before he can start worrying if he fucked up your shirt, you kiss him. You’re careful of his giant teeth, but it’s still pleasant even if you have to maneuver around them.
He pushes you away to tug on his clothes. He slips his coat and gloves back on, but before he slides the featureless mask over his face, you stop him. “Hey, can you do something for me?”
He looks at your curiously. “What is it. I don’t have all night.”
“One last goodnight kiss?” You ask.
“God, you are so fucking demanding,” he groans, but the words are affectionate and you can see the smile trying to fight its way through his scowl. He presses his lips against yours, kissing you slowly. You savor the feeling.
It’s far too soon when he pulls away and slides the black fabric over his face. If you stare hard enough, you can see a faint yellow glow through the mask, but no one would ever be able to tell under the city’s streetlights.
“Goodnight, Karkat,” you murmur softly. “It was great to finally meet you.”
“It was good to meet you too, John. Happy birthday, and goodnight.”
With that, he turns and leaves, gently shutting the door behind him. You peek out the window to watch him scurry away from your apartment and down the stairs until he disappears out of view.
When he’s finally gone, you turn back to the package still on your couch. You pass by it, but ultimately decide not to open it. Instead you head to your room, shrug off your clothes, and climb into bed, letting a warm feeling seep through your entire body.
That night, you don’t dream.
You don’t need to.