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I Fall Forward, You Fall Flat

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CG: HEY
TA: hey.
CG: SO
TA: so?
CG: I WAS THINKING ABOUT SOME SHIT.
TA: diid iit hurt?
CG: WOW FUCK YOU WITH A FORK.
TA: eheheh.
CG: MAYBE I WON’T TELL YOU NOW.
TA: liike ii care.
CG: YOU CARE.
TA: nope.
CG: YOU CARE SO DEEPLY.
TA: nope x 2
CG: I BET YOU’RE CRYING RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT. YOU’RE WEEP-EATING A TUBE OF COOKIE DOUGH SEASONED WITH LACRIMAL GRIEF EXTRUSIONS, THAT’S HOW DEEPLY YOU CARE ABOUT NOT GETTING TO HEAR THE TOTALLY COOL THING I WAS JUST GOING TO INVITE YOU TO DO WITH ME.
TA: waiit what.
TA: what kiind of thiing?
CG: HA.
CG: HA HA HA, AND ALSO, HA.

carcinoGeneticist has ceased trolling twinArmaggedons!

twinArmaggedons has begun trolling carcinoGeneticist!

TA: no 2eriiou2ly what thiing.
CG: BEFORE I TELL YOU I JUST HAVE TO ASK
CG: DO YOU EVEN HAVE ANY IDEA HOW COMPLETELY PATHETIC YOU ARE?
CG: I MEAN IT IS SERIOUSLY UNREAL HOW EASY IT IS TO GET YOU TO DO SHIT, LIKE, YOU PRETEND TO BE THIS ENORMOUS DISAGREEABLE HARDASS BUT ALL ANYONE HAS TO DO IS KIND OF HINT THEY’D LIKE SOME SHIT DONE AND YOU’RE THERE LIKE SOME SLAVERING DESPERATE BUTLER, READY TO DISH UP A HEAPING HELPING OF HELPFUL WITH A SIDE OF KISSASS.
CG: SERIOUSLY I AM KIND OF EMBARRASSED FOR YOU.
TA: yeah yeah ii gue22 it2 ju2t my wiiniing per2onaliity ii liive to fuckiing 2erve.
TA: on that note iive been meaniing to get around to 2endiing you thii2 one giift ii made up totally 2peciial:

twinArmaggedons requests acceptance in transmitting carcinoGeneticst a file: hiirezphoto2ofmytwiinbulge2.zip

carcinoGeneticist has accepted transmission!

carcinoGeneticist has opened attachment!

carcinoGeneticist’s husktop has exploded!

TA: BOOM HEAD2HOT!!

*

Gamzee’s hive is easy enough to find: it’s the shambling wreck down at the shoreline, a few dozen leagues from Tavros’s cliff hive. When you touch down the sound of the waves sends creeps up your vertebral chute, and the gritty, chaotic feel of sand beneath your sneakers makes your skin crawl. The manic high that’s driven you here has wound down to a solemn, dense wariness. Your blood pusher’s going way faster than it should be, wound tight with nerves. This place couldn’t be more different from your bustling grassland stemcity, and you are picking up more and more regrets by the minute. By the second. The microsecond.

There’s no door. It’s not even hanging out of its frame like some of the shattered windowpanes, the crazy kid just never put a door in his doorway. You walk in, shoulders set tense, and come face to face for the first time with Karkat Vantas.

He looks at you, leaned over a bristle-ended pole cleaning device and a heap of sandy broken glass. You look at him. He’s shorter than you thought he’d be, and calmer looking. The same blunt horns from the video he’d sent you a while back, big hands, a nasty overbite and what looks like a brawler’s build under a big puffy sweater. He’s not particularly devastating looking, no big-horned sweet-scowling moviestar hatestud, though you think he’s probably cute in a pinkish way, all compact like that. You don’t care. He’s got a certain kind of character to him and there’s a banked heat in his heavy-lidded gaze that makes your bilesack twist itself into a neat knot.

He’s real.

“Grab some snacks and settle in, Tholukth,” he drawls, hiking one casual digit back over his shoulder. “We got a long night ahead of ourselves.”

With that he goes back to sweeping up his moirail’s trash.

You are so black for this kid you don’t even know what to do with yourself.

*

The video he sent was a huskfilmed grainy training recording of him using his sickles. You’d goaded him into sending it to you after a few weeks of dedicated sneering. Late mornings, sometimes, you would be tired enough to be retarded and you’d find yourself watching it again like a creeper. Even at eight sweeps he’s all broad shoulders and gangly paws, and it’s hard to tell if he’s developing at a lowblood’s early pace, or bulking up in preparation for a highblood’s massive adult size. You couldn’t tell. Maybe you’d never know.

He had a strifebot from Equius, due to ‘favors’. What favors? You didn’t know that either. He’s a secretive fuck. He even wears his sigil in gray. All your eyes are still adolescent silver, will be for a while longer, even AA’s, but the level challenge to them he slanted at the camerascreen was rebellious enough to be rust, deadly enough to be indigo.

He drew sickles. The bot unfolded, highblood huge and pointed all over. It looked like an Imperial Drone and fuck if that wasn’t not bulge-wrenchingly arrogant of him. He moved on screen like... static, like wasps, all slow slides, leisurely, measuring, and then whip-cracks of aggression. His opponent was twice his size and it heated something in you to think that that was what he might be aiming for, that he wanted to know he could hold his own against -- who? Equius himself? Gamzee? A drone itself? It’s like the whole concept of ‘out of his league’ had been dismissed as irrelevant.

He’s a close range fighter, but there’s a moment at nine minutes in when the bot grabed him by one blunt, sturdy horn and threw him at the wall. He caught it heels first and rebounded, this breathy snarl wrenching out of him, and it made something inside you stutter. Some nights you weren’t too overtired not to be completely stupid, those nights would be when you let yourself wonder if he’d bounce like that if you threw him.

Fuck, his speed and flexibility -- you’d get your hands into your pants sometimes, thinking on it, watching him circle the vast silver body all liquid gliding banked aggression -- he could stand up to you. He could be a match, give you a run for your money. You could bounce him off the fucking ceiling, maybe, hear the wet crack as he hit with the broadside of his back, the huff of pain and challenge. The moment you let him down he’d be on you like he was on that robot, those sweeping inward cuts leveled right at you and you couldn’t ever figure if you could dodge in time. Your psionics make for a shitty shield and you know you’re not that fast. Those nights with your hands inside your jeans you’d be three fingers into yourself and your bulge wrapped pleadingly around your wrist as you watched Karkat dive inside the long shining reach of the bot, hook the tip of his sickle at the top of its chestplate, wrench down. It split open like a twelfth perigee’s leaving, and you’d think of Karkat that close and dangerous to you, his breath against your throat, his sickle hooked into the collar of your shirt. He’d slit it down slow, maybe, your back against the wall, your skin slick with sweat and he’d dig those big blunt teeth into your shoulder and whisper “Give,” the blade against your stomach, the top of your jeans.

You’d think -- you’d slide your thigh up between his, your psionics shaky with heat, god, you would squeeze your bulge with your spare hand, slip a fourth finger up your nook, lost, desperate, you’d growl at him, let him know he didn’t have you just yet and he’d buck up against you a little as you teased him, maybe closed your teeth around his horn, you’d slip your fingers into his pants. Has anyone touched him yet? You would. You’d touch him all over, everywhere, till he begged for you to let him die because he couldn’t take any more.

The Karkat in the video kicked at the robot corpse, scowled, hooked the sickle in his belt. He stalked over to the huskscreen and there was this moment where he looked into the recorder, kind of searchingly, and his nose and cheeks were shiny with sweat, glowing blue-white from screen light. His mouth opened and you could see a flash of dark tongue, and then the video ended as he clicked it off.

Some nights, you made kind of a mess of your computer chair.

*

CG: SO AFTER A LONG TIME CONSIDERING WHY THE FUCK I GOT SADDLED WITH A SHITHEAD LIKE YOU FOR A FRIEND I CAME TO A CONCLUSION:
TA: iim hot as hell and ii 2hake iit liike iit aiint no thang.
CG: WHAT
CG: NO.
CG: YOU’RE HIDEOUSLY REPUGNANT AND IF ANYTHING’S BEEN UP YOUR NOOK IN THE LAST PERIGEE I WOULD LAY GOOD CREDIT ON IT BEING YOUR OWN UNWARRANTEDLY SELF-SATISFIED HEAD.
CG: MY CONCLUSION WAS THAT THE UNIVERSE DEEPLY REGRETS MY EXISTENCE AND WISHES TO DRIVE ME TO A FROTHINGLY ENMADDENED SUICIDE VIA CONTINUOUS CONTACT WITH THE ONLY KID WHO’S A BIGGER WASTE OF SPACE THAN I AM.
TA: oh 2woooon.
TA: you know ii loathe it when you talk diirty two me kk.
CG: YEAH, YEAH, AS IF YOU DON’T SPEND ENOUGH OF YOUR TIME IN FRONT OF YOUR MONITOR WITH YOUR BONE BULGE IN YOUR FILTHY FIST.
TA: ii could alway2 be pur2uaded two 2pend MORE tiime.
CG: RIGHT SO ONTO A SUBJECT THAT DOESN’T CAUSE BLOODY VOMIT TO OOZE FROM MY OCCULAR SACS, YOU’RE STILL GOOD AT COMPUTERS RIGHT, YOU’RE NOT IN ONE OF YOUR RIDICULOUS LITTLE SPATS OF SUCKING AT EVERYTHING.
TA: fuck you ii am pogo2tiick shiithiives good at computer2 all the tiime.
TA: what2 iit two you?
CG: GAMZEE’S SHIT GOT ALL TRASHED THIS WEEK
CG: THE SEADWELLERS DON’T REALLY APPRECIATE ME USING THEM FOR STRIFE PRACTICE I GUESS AND LAUNCHED A COUNTER ASSAULT. IT WAS TOTALLY FUCKING HARDCORE LEVELS OF STRIFE BUT LIKE NOW WE GOT BASICALLY FOUR WALLS AND HALF A RESPITE BLOCK LEFT TO WORK WITH AND WE USED HIS WHOLE PERIGEE’S ALLOWANCE UP ON GETTING THE SUPPORT WALLS STABILIZED.
CG: THINK YOU COULD COME OVER AND PATCH SOME TECH TYPE STUFF TOGETHER FOR HIM? I’D DO IT MYSELF BUT THERE’S SERIOUSLY JUST SPLINTERS LEFT AFTER I FIXED MYSELF MY OWN SET OF GEAR.
TA: and you’re like a22ba2ket2 terrible at computer2.
CG: ASSBASKETS IS NOT A STANDARD UNIT OF MEASUREMENT.
TA: liike hell iit ii2nt.
TA: 2o
TA: youre 2eriiou2ly cool wiith me comiing over two your moiiraiil2 hiive then.
TA: ii mean we never even met up yet before ii could be any fuckiing random axe murderer or whatever.
CG: SOLLUX I JUST GOT DONE SLAUGHTERING A BUNCH OF PISSED-OFF HIGHBLOOD SALTRIMMED SEAPAILERS AND BOY WAS THAT A FUCKING RUSH.
CG: ONE TETCHY MUSTARDBLOOD WITH DOES NOT EVEN PING MY FUCKING RADAR.
TA: wow fuck you ii am totally dangerou2 ii could probably level anyone2 hiive wiith one mii2placed 2neeze.
CG: BETTER NOT SNEEZE THEN.
CG: I’LL EXPECT YOU TOMORROW NIGHT.
TA: ii
TA: you
TA: okay.
TA: you do that then.

*

The kitchen is full of strange, heady smells, and you find the chef himself shambling around. He’s the first troll you’ve ever had to look up to and the experience is not pleasant. Weirdo clown enthusiast or not, he’s still an indigo with a long and luxurious career in Civil Administerrorism all set out ahead of him, and one of those cooking-mitted hands could crush your skull like an old chrysalis.

Instead, he hugs you. It’s like being assaulted by an amiable mountain range, you don’t know how Karkat hasn’t dented yet.

“Sup, motherfucker,” he says.

“Hi Gamzee,” you say to his shoulder. “Nice to meet you.”

“It is an upright motherfuckin’ magic trip to make your acquaintance right back, my best invertebrother,” he says, and sets you back down on your feet. “Now, what’s your pleasure?”

You try not to obviously rub your arms, and peer around the kitchen. “What’s on offer?” you ask.

“Well, Karkat set me to tucker duty and I didn’t want to let a brother down, so I just about made every good thing there was going. You like pie?”

This gives you a pause. You’ve got a sweet fang a mile long, God knows, but you’ve heard serious shit about Gamzee’s pies.

“Maybe,” you decide on.

Karkat wanders back into the kitchen.

“Have some shame to look sorry for yourselves, you disasters,” he says amiably, “I hope you’re getting along,” and reaches his arms up. Gamzee gives him a filthy monster of a hug, lifting him right off the ground. Karkat hangs like someone’s lizard lusus, and folds arms on one of Gamzee’s highblood-broad shoulders.

He blinks, slow and kind of weird, down at you. “Hey, shorty,” he says. “Crack open some pie for us? I’m gonna ruin my sterling physique at the rate this disgrace wants to shovel them into me. Sharing’d do me a fucking favor.”

“Isn’t it... he makes it with sopor, doesn’t he?”

“Sure does,” Karkat agrees. “Gives it a kick.” He licks his lips. You are deeply hung up on the flash of tongue: some inane part of your brain notes down that it’s much smaller when it’s in real life and not right up against the camera. A second, inaner part of your brain notes how it could be close up against you, if you scooted closer.

“Hang on a second,” you say, “eating sopor rots your brainpan, KK. You miss that memo, or what?”

Karkat only shrugs, loose and lazy, infuriatingly unbothered. “Excuse me for not needing mine as much as you, mister bigshot mental hygienist. You want a feathersuit for that cluckbeast pageant you’re putting on or should I just squint?”

“Wow, fuck you!” you say, too loud, shit. His eyebrows go up, and he smiles this ridiculous goofy grin, all fangs. He looks like a smug beartrap. You want to die.

“Bawk bawk,” he says. “Ba-kaw. All hail lord hacking hardass, scared of getting buzzzzed.” Then he laughs, a gorgeous raspy snigger, and fuck him if it doesn’t make you flush hot and humiliated.  You have no recourse here: if you retreat you lose, if you give in, you lose, if you flip the fucking table probably you’re going to have one pissed off indigo riding your ass out into the fucking ocean.

“I can hold my own,” you tell him, keeping your tone level and your lips away from a snarl by sheer raw willpower. You sad fuck, you might as well go down on one knee at this point. “Cut my head off and staple a recuperacoon to my gushing chutestub and I’d still patch together a better system than either of you imbeciles could manage with a manual and the Informasochists on tech support.”

“Wow, what a badass,” Karkat says, and claps his big square palms together twice. “Gamzee! Shake a blighted leg and get us some comestibles before we perish of misplaced machismo, will you?”

Gamzee ambles off to the counter, fetches a pie. By the time he comes back to you Karkat’s slouched easily in the crook of his arm, one of his own slung around the tall boy’s neck for support and the side of his face pressed right up against a hornbase. He’s ridiculously comfortable with his moirail’s space: you’d known they were a thing, everything’s been Gamzee, Gamzee, Gamzee with Karkat for half a sweep now, but knowing and seeing are entirely different things. They move like two easy joins, like shards of shell fitted back together, and you’re not sure if this roiling jealousy is on account of you’ve never been bold enough to touch Aradia like this or that Karkat hasn’t deigned to touch you yet, for all that he’s shameless enough -- grabby enough -- to go pressing a soft little kiss to his moirail’s horn right in front of you. He goes sliding like a slitherbeast down his body to the floor and when he sways on his feet Gamzee hooks him into a chair by his shirtscruff. They move like sparring partners.

That thought leads to nowhere good.  

The pie tastes like... comfort. There’s no other word for it. It’s at least half sugar and probably a quarter more other weird spices, fruit, pepper, you have no idea. And the last quarter is the blisteringly sharp tang of sopor, chemical and soothing. Just the smell of it gentles you around your raw edges, an answer to long nights and pounding headaches, lazy days spent sunk up to your chin and scrawling diagrams with your psionics because you don’t want to get up just yet. You drag your teeth along the fork tines, kind of surprised to find yourself enjoying it.

“How is it?” Karkat wants to know. He’s letting his moirail feed him right out of his hand. You don’t mean to stare but it’s distracting as fuck. You want to tell him to sit up straight and get a damn fork but you suspect he’ll only laugh at you.

Your ears are way too warm.

“Weird,” you settle on. “I’m frankly astounded that this goop is even palatable.”

“Miracles,” Gamzee says. “You just put a bit of this and a dash of that together and after a while you have yourself a motherfuckin’ partytown invitation all up and in your mouth areas, you know?”

“I figured out if you put  a few gelatinous bonemeal flavor packets in the mix it tastes less like death by torture,” Karkat says. He has his hand wrapped around Gamzee’s wrist, and sucks one long finger clean like it’s a tubular frozen fruitjuice treat. Your ears are way too warm. Gamzee crooks his fingers, wiggles them, and that’s it, there’s no way not to sit here and think about forcing Karkat’s head down between your legs by his horns. No possible way. You are fucked.

You finish your slice, since your only other real option is to rush out to the shoreline and drown yourself, and when Gamzee shoves another at you you figure fuck it and cram that down too. Maybe you’ll burn out the parts of your brain that make you such a tragic shitheap. Then you push your chair away from the table.

“Okay,” you say, and lever yourself up to your feet. Your head feels higher above the ground than it normally is when you’re not floating, but that’s probably just the effect of your braincells dying messily. You’re fine. You’re an idiot and you should have walked away, but you’re fine.

Your heels scuff weirdly against the ground, and you have to reach out and touch the kitchenblock doorframe to make sure you’re judging distance right. You feel... kind of dislocated, like someone fed out the tether that keeps you jacked tight to your body. There’s an increasing remoteness to feedback you’re getting from the world, and what does ping your brain as relevant feels louder. More intense. Dreamlike. You run your fingers up the smooth door frame, then down again, interested in the tactile feedback you’re getting. Glossy. You feel it again.

Karkat touches your side, through your shirt, and you jump. “You okay, man?” he asks. “I thought you could handle--”

You shove him away. “I was till you started groping me,” you say, aiming for snarky and winding up sloppy-mellow. Harmless and fumbling -- your tongue’s ridiculous, it comes out a spit-strangled wathhh. You wipe your mouth with the back of your arm, laughing a little, and he laughs too, leaning so close. Like you’re sharing a joke. You close your eyes, take a deep breath. In the darkness you feel yourself spinning, you think you feel the whole world spinning. Keep it together, Captor.

You stumble off ahead of him, trying to compensate finesse with speed and doing a damn good job, you figure, of not falling over. Should you be dead right now? You have no idea what kind of dose you got or whether or not your metabolism can handle it. You still have no idea whether Karkat’s a highblood like his partner or not. He’s so casual. You think of that heavy, challenging gaze flushed cerulean, ultramarine, a castemate indigo to his moirail’s eventual shade. Something powerful. Commanding.

Dangerous.

Even gone dreamy-soft as you have, the thought still churns up a harsh edge of heat inside you.

You say, more properly challenging: “Show me what’s left of his system, and I’ll start the triage.”

“Right, good,” Karkat says, for all that he couldn’t have understood more than half your hissing. He steps on your heels just once, as he brushes past you, and it’s enough to make you tingle.

*

TA: look, ii dii2liike lot2 of people. that doe2nt make kk2 partiicular flavor of aggriivatiion an iimperiial fuckiing i22ue.
TA: thii2 whole dramatiic confe22iion thiing you want me two do ii2 2tupiid.
AA: i think y0u’re being stupid
TA: yeah and ii thiink readiing that pathetiic excu2e of a rebuttal ju2t killed off a few more braiincells.
TA: chop me up and lay me tenderly acro22 your grub2alad becau2e ii thiink you ju2t turned me iintwo a vegetable.
TA: gonna just 2iit here drooliing untiill my letter plateau gum2 together
TA: vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv
AA: s0llux y0u’ve been hating 0n that b0y f0r sweeps n0w
TA: vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv have not.
AA: just g0 and tell him
TA: nothiing two tell.
AA: n0thing
TA: nothiing.
AA: n0thing at all
TA: yup.
AA: s0 all that thre2hecutiioner p0rn0logy y0u keep at the b0tt0m of y0ur recuperac00n
TA: OH MY GOD THO2E WERE PRIIVATE DATAGRUB2 II2 NOTHIING 2ACRED ANYMORE??
AA: a true adventuress knows n0 b0undaries and respects n0 limits
AA: especially when th0se limits stand between her intrepid claws and a particularly intriguing specimen 0f ‘in which a rugged yet tenderhearted male threshecuti0ner up0n being confined t0 medical regenerat0ry quarters disc0vers a galvanizing rivalry with his adjacent cellmate, a wiity and p0tentially treas0n0us technihilist, that cures him 0f his disgustingly sentimental tendencies and returns him t0 the fr0ntlines filled with new ferv0r and a variety of sexy talents including but n0t limited t0...’
TA: plea2e.
TA: 2top.
AA: s0 maybe i’ll tell him f0r you
TA: what.
AA: s0llux capt0r is a big g00shy sap and he wants t0 kick y0ur hunk rump in the least plat0nic fashi0n p0ssible
TA: oh my god and here ii thought ii had thoroughly 2ounded the va2ty depth2 of thii2 partiicular horror chasm.
AA: im g0ing t0 just c0py and paste that last sentence int0 his chatb0x 0k
TA: oh my god
AA: he will be s0 seduced
TA: oh my god no plea2e ii am begging you.
TA: woman.
TA: aradiia.
TA: my deare2t whiite liilly.
TA: archiitect of my fonde2t dream2.
TA: dont you fuckiing dare ii wiill diie.
TA: ii wiill straiight up diie.
AA: y0u’re g0ing t0 have t0 bring this up with him s0metime y0u kn0w
AA: gauge his interest
AA: maybe meet up in pers0n at least 0nce is all im asking y0u t0 d0
AA: if things g0 well y0u c0uld challenge him t0 a duel
AA: s0mething traditi0nal
TA: fuck.
TA: do you really thiink ii should iit ju2t 2eem2 liike 2uch a bad iidea for liike two miilliion rea2on2.
AA: well l00k at the very least if he’s ugly when y0u sh0w up y0u can at least get 0ver this wh0le mess with a clear c0nscience
TA: he2 not ugly, he 2ent me a viideo.
AA: welp
TA: ugh
TA: uugghh!
TA: ii am the 2orriie2t 2ack of 2hiit two ever have been bagged, arent ii?
AA: pretty much yeah
AA: vriska pr0p0sed t0 me via getting shamefully drunk and egging my hive with a rem0te c0ntr0lled cluckbeast can0n and then passing 0ut 0n my fr0nt st00p
AA: if that makes y0u feel better
TA: wow, you know what?
TA: that really doe2nt.

*

“So you and Gamzee are... close,” you say.

“You mean obscene,” he says, almost proudly. “No one ever taught Gamzee the concept of personal space, it’s shameful.” He’s... you want to say he’s wandering around the room but it’s more like prowling, fuck, how often does he spar? Even pan-pickled off the same gunk that’s making you feel like everything’s floating, he moves like a dire beast. You watch him kick the lid of a husktop across the floor to you, all economy.

“He’s your moirail,” you say with strained neutrality. “You’re allowed to touch him all you like.”

He sniggers again. That mocking rasp, god. Fuck. You want to punch him right in the mouth.

“If your flap got any tighter we could kick-start a neutronium singularity with your scandalized mutant nug,” he says. He kicks another piece of husktop at you. It smacks into your knee. It hardly hurts but even the sharp tap of it feels like a blow. It rattles you.

You close your eyes. God, you’re dizzy.

“Please,” you grit out. “Stop.”

A long moment of silence.

“Yeah, sure,” he says softly. “Should I go?”

No. Hell no. “Fuck off,” you say. “Unless you can think of anything better to do with yourself than get in my way.”

Shit.

He straightens up a little and something flashes across his face, slither-fast under the amiable sopor glaze.

“Maybe I don’t,” he says, hard and deliberate, and your bloodpusher gives a heavy wham and you feel like you could spit fire.

“What?”

He looks at you a long, long moment, all teeth and twitching fingers, and then the flash of fight just... fades out. He spreads his fingers wide and hapless. “You’re the genius here,” he says, all soft. “I’m just the clown’s rotpanned little sidekick. You want me to help, you gotta tell me what to do.”

“Right. Good.” You catch your breath. “Collect... bring me everything that looks relevant. I need husk shards, sealing tape, processing mucilage... neural strands... Shit like that.”

“Sure,” he agrees. He kicks another chunk of computer over to you. It stops just short of hitting your ass. He does it again and again, and you’re caught, fascinated, wound tight by the hiss and slide. Not a single piece touches you though each ends up within easy reach, and you’re kind of dazed by the precision. You could do this with your psionics, maybe, and with your throwing stars you’re precise down to microns. You can split the wings off a flying bee; you can char the top off a mountain. This kind of easy physical coordination? Not your gig.

This isn’t going to be as hard as it looks, once you’ve got a heap of parts in front of you. It looks like Gamzee got good quality equipment, for all that he took shit care of it and now it’s in chunks. Whoever trashed the place really did a fucking number on everything. But, then, you’ve never seen a house so close to the sea. Kid was probably asking for it. Seadwellers are all shitheads -- you wouldn’t be surprised if this was some finface’s grand overture. The idea that you’re crouching in the middle of someone else’s stupid contention makes you nauseously resentful: you’ve been blowing out Karkat’s computers for seasons and seasons and what the fuck has it got you? An invitation to tech support. Fuck your life. Fuck Gamzee’s life, and all the slimy fish ass he may or may not be tapping.  

Or Karkat’s life. The thought is a gulp of icewater down your windchute, a dash of cold poison clenching round your bloodpump. Is his moirail’s hive just a lent stage -- collateral damage? All that strife Karkat’s been clocking in his one-troll reenactment of In Which A Band Of Three Hundred Ancient Threshecutioners Hold Off The Depredations Of A Powerful Seadweller Aristocrat, Featuring... fuck, shit, who knows, is he hunting up a kismesis instead of a workout? Is he networking? You’ve seen the violet tint to the rocks around here. No one in their right fucking mind would disregard a kid who could put down that many seadwellers, even if he was a fucking greenblood or something. That Karkat is one dangerous motherfucker is a fact set down on the table for everyone to see it.

But more to the point is it any of your fucking business who he’s been crossing tongues with? Your head says Not exactly, no. Your nook says Yeah, like hell it isn’t. Black you might be for this kid, but ashen you absofuckinglutely are not. You want him for yourself: the only real question left is do you have a chance?

You might. You really might. It’s Gamzee’s house. It’s Gamzee’s beach. It could very well be Gamzee’s conflict.

And Karkat hasn’t looked at you like you’re any kind of legitimate threat once, much less taken his own shot at you. Him and his moirail, two goodlooking kids hanging around the beach doing illegal amounts of drugs and kicking aristocrats back to the oceanic curb; why the fuck would they ever give a fuck about your paltry pyrotechnics? You’re honey-mustard. You’re engine grease. Just look at you, you little hardass wannabe, you were born to fucking serve. It’s stamped into every knuckle and neuron the Mother Grub issued you.

Fuck.

No: fuck this.

You aren’t skulking off home without at least making a fucking pass.

You lay out the husk shards neat, stretch out a roll of bonding tape, and get to work patching together a rudimentary frame, watching Karkat all the while out of the corner of your eye. Really all you need to do is rig an ad-hoc system that’ll do till Gamzee’s seasonal allowance re-ups and he can order a new system. He’s indigo, it’ll probably come baked into a complimentary bacon cake or something. Class issues, what class issues? You don’t even like bacon cake.

You lose yourself in the mindnumbingly simple rhythm of of picking up shards and fitting them back together. It’ll be a bit smaller than the original device, to compensate for instability, but you’re pretty sure you can get it to run faster. Eventually you’ve got the frame down -- a classic hexbox, a little uneven along one face, but it suits the largest shard of clear monitor you’ve found. It’ll play most simple games, show 2- and 3D movies up to 36 fps, and run Trollian: it’ll do for a week or two. Then you turn to the comparatively less appealing computational innards.

“Gross,” Karkat says, as you sort through squelching neural relays, picking out the crumbs of dust and crap from the delicate noodly fronds.

You flick some purple goop at him. You’re on autopilot, thoughtless, aiming for his face but the long strand of processing slug hits his collar, wraps across his throat.

“Fucking goddamn shit!” he yelps and scrabbles at it, gagging, and you laugh and laugh until you have to hack for breath. His sudden outrage is gorgeous and you’re giddy.

You’re/ gross,” you finally gasp out.

“Your ugly face is what’s gross,” he says. He’s grinning, challenge in his eyes. You flick another slug at him and he ducks, this time, it goes right between his blunt horns. He’s in arms’ reach, now, ducking close, his fingers rubbing at his own neck, the trail of sticky purple across his skin.

Your hand kind of reaches out for him with vague intent to smear the goop farther, make it harder to clean off.

He rocks back. You claws curl on empty air.

“I’m gonna get more pie,” he says, closing up, and shambles off.

“Fuck,” you say to the empty room, and spare a long luxurious moment to bury your face in the least sticky parts of your hands. Then you pull yourself together and get out your neural knitting needles from your encryption modus. It takes three tries, which you’re going to blame on sticky fingers and a headful of gunk and not the distracting sense memory of Karkat’s breathless cursing, curled all warm and glowing under your skin.

*

He killed all your bees once. He killed them spectacularly. You stood in the wreckage of your apiary system and watched them fall right out of the air, twitch and struggle in dying spirals, bump into each other and dance out nonsense screeds of code in their death throes. The cells of larva had dissolved open, releasing slime and damp-winged wrinkled immature workers.

Triggering automatic defensive protocols had gotten you nothing but blistering welts as the sick bugs had crawled up your arms, stung you all over, and the queen herself had crawled out of the hive covered in the writhing, aggressive bodies of her own drones. It had been a complete daymare. You’d been sick, literally sick, into your loadgaper, all night, nauseous and shaky with horror and venom.

~how the fuck diid you DO THAT? you’d asked, late into the morning. You had nothing left but a kiddie-model standard allowance graphing calculator, and getting it to run even the most stripped-down version of trollian had been a bitch and a half with sting-swollen fingers and a head that still swam with nausea.

~REMEMBER THAT DEMO VIRUS I SENT YOU TWO WEEKS AGO?
~the viiru2 wa2 a complete dud iit diid 2hiitall becau2e you 2tiill cant code for bean2
~INTERESTING FACT ABOUT APIARIES: WITH A LITTLE SANDING, YOU CAN RECYCLE THE CHITIN CASES DATA GRUBS COME IN AS AD HOC MAINFRAME SCREENS FOR A FRACTION OF THE COST OF THE PREPRINTED WAX DISPOSABLES THAT HIGHBLOODS USE.
~everyone know2 that what2 your point
~INTERESTING FACT: EVERYONE KNOWS THAT.
~ANOTHER INTERESTING FACT THAT PROBABLY EVERYONE KNOWS: YOU, SOLLUX CAPTOR, ARE NOT A HIGHBLOOD.
~what ii2 your POINT?
~CHITIN HOLDS A RADIOACTIVE CHARGE
~REALLY
~REALLY
~WELL.

Something had kind of detonated inside your chest, hot and dark and boiling-mad, had spread. Your horns, your face, your shaking blistered hands, your -- god, your bulge, how fucking embarrassing. Dripping with sick and sweat over a loadgaper, texting your best friend with your bulge rasping up against the frontseam of your jeans, could you be a bigger cliche?

>you gave my bee2 cancer
~TECHNICALLY YOU GAVE YOUR BEES CANCER.
~you made me giive my own bee2 cancer
~HONESTLY I’M ONLY EMBARRASSED THAT IT TOOK ME SO LONG TO THINK OF IT.
~karkat vanta2 you gaping 2hiit2uck ii am goiing to kiilll you 2O HARD
~GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER AND STOP BEING SUCH AN ABHORRENTLY HIDEOUS. FREAK AND I MIGHT CONSIDER IT A DATE.
~A DATE TO KISS MY CHOICE ASS!
~ENJOY YOUR PREMATURE MOLT, LOSER.

“Oh, fuck,” you had moaned, and thrown your stupid fucking calculator across the room. The rest of the day was reserved for throwing up, itching off sheets of dead skin, and blowing things up with your wild excess of angry brain lasers.

“You have it so bad for that boy,” Aradia had said, when she finally showed up and took in the extent of the damage: you and your hive both.

“Shut up,” you’d agreed, then passed out.

*

Karkat eventually slouches back in, another two plates of pie in his hands. His every careful loose-kneed step makes something inside your guts squirm. You’re not sure if it’s indignation or rage or confusion or what, it just feels sick. Maybe it’s the pie. Things have gone kind of rainbow in the corners of your vision, and knitting the neuralware’s taking a lot more concentration than it feels like it should. Your vision is thronged with glimmering edges, each different shade of goo-purple vivid enough to taste in the back of your eyeballs.

He sets one plate by your knee, arms’ reach but not too close. You’re pretty sure if you trip any harder than this you’re going to turn your own pan neatly inside out, so you don’t take it, but he tears regardless into the other. Four huge bites and he’s sucking green slime from his thumb, cheeks puffed out like a nutbeast, his eyes so heavy-lidded they’re only a glitter of yellow underneath the lashes. It’s like... watching a bad case of colony collapse, is what it is. He’s sprawls back against the floor with this dreamy smile and it’s not right, it’s sick. It hurts you right through the haze to see him this loose. His bulky sweater has ridden up his abdomen, just a bit, and there’s a long pale scar-streaked crescent of gray above his pants that you could just reach over and dig claws into.

“You’re completely high right now, aren’t you,” you say. It comes out a breathy accusation, and, oh, now you get it. You’re pissed as fuck. “How much of that stuff do you even eat?

He shrugs. “Enough to bump horns with the moons,” he says, so disgustingly amiable. “Kinda the point of clogging up my feelings filter with toxic goop, you know, this headtrip. It makes everything upright fucking palatable.”

“So you’re not really this nice,” you blurt out. He pauses, looks you over, and one side of his mouth hooks up in a smirk.

“Or maybe your winning personality just isn’t doing it for me, sunshine,” he says, and wobbles back up to his feet.

You stab a needle through the cuff of one pantslegs, pin his foot to the floor, and he stumbles. Catches himself on the doorframe, and the fuck was that, are you three? You juvenile yolk-panned shithead.

“The fuck is your problem, Captor,” Karkat rasps out, and he’s just -- breathy, and his teeth, oh. You can’t do this. You consist of 99% stupidity and rising. You’re on your own feet, right in his space.

“Maybe my problem’s you,” you say, and you cock your horns back blatantly defiant. You’re not sure if you could be more explicit were you to whip out your goddamn bulge right here and now. Your power has gone slippery-weird inside of you, soggy, but you can feel a limning crackle rising around your eyelids. Your glasses cut most of the light but you can still see the sparks reflected in the narrow gloss of his eyeballs, as you press closer. You want to fight.

He only laughs again and it’s different, this time, not a snicker. It’s something jagged and gross, something that shoves you back.

He says, grinning, mirthless: “You could not handle a fraction of my fucking problem. Cut it out before you embarass yourself,” and he turns to go again.

You grab the scruff of his shirt. It’s an idiot move: you have no real arm strength and your reach means jack shit when you don’t know what to do with it. It’s born from a furious addlepan desire to get close, make him react, and it works. He turns, sweeps your ankles out from under you with one crooked foot, slams you up against the wall.

He’s warm.

You go still with confusion, lose your grip on your power entirely, you short out. You’re a psionic mustardblood, you’re base rung to an animal with your brain set to turbocharge: no one’s warmer than you, you’re fucking rocket fuel. Everyone feels at least a little cool to you. Karkat Vantas is warm as a fresh pie, fever warm, dying warm, and his breath against your face is sweet and strange and his teeth are so close to yours. His eyes are crushed closed with some private struggle and the edge of his every exhale buzzes like he’s trying so hard not to snarl.

“Feeble as fuck,” he says evenly. He takes a gulping breath, licks his lips. “You’re not in my damn league, Sollux, you could not locate my league with a map stapled to your horns, smarten the fuck up.”

“I could pop your head off like a fucking bottlecap,” you threaten. You twist against his arm, strain for your sparks, you can’t manage. Everything feels as greasy-thick as neuralware goo. You bluster, “Don’t you talk to me about leagues, I could murder your sorry ass in one hot second.”

“So do it, then! Go on, kill me dead, char me, I still won’t give a fuck. You’re still not worth my time, I mean, fuck, look at you, you’re -- some bony jumped up honeyhead who thinks he’s a deadly hardass because he can shove around a bunch of ones and zeroes, you’re nothing. Your so-called psionics? I get a bigger bang from microwaving a sac of popgrubs, you wretched fuck. There are slime molds clinging to a chollerbear’s pendulous rotten scrotum who have not achieved the same level of disturbing contemptibility that you manage to rock on a good day. You’re a filthy fucking mutant and you don’t even have the decency to dislike yourself enough for it, so all the rest of us have to churn with extra shame on your behalf. I wouldn’t be black for you if you were holding the last pail in the fucking universe.”

“Why haven’t you let me go, then?” you challenge.

He looks at you for this long unbearable moment. Then he lets you slide down the wall, and backs away. He’s struggling for calm and failing obviously. For whatever reason he’s not reciprocating it’s got nothing to do with how he isn’t blatantly aching to tear into you, and it’s thrilling to watch.

“Go home,” he says slowly. “Final warning. I’ll get Gamzee to see you out.”

You grab his arms, dig in your nails, and bring your mouths together. You have nothing left to lose, so you aggress: a final try, a suicide run. He stumbles, makes this breathy muffled growl against your lips. You stomp one of his feet, grind up hard against him, and then he rips your glasses off your snout, throws them across the room, and kisses you back. His hands cage up your face, wrench you down to his level, and he hurts you.

It’s better than you thought it would be. It makes sense. It’s nothing like the soft chastising brush of lips Aradia presses to your mouth when you won’t shut up, it does shitall to calm you, and the thing is now you know why they call it pitch, now you comprehend. You are burnt-black, you are char, you are slow unbearable heat, you are heavy everywhere he touches you. He tilts his head back beneath your assault and you are hot and sticky and real, like you’ve never been real before you had someone to define you, to measure yourself against.

He forces his way up into your face like he’s storming a keep, teeth and tongue, pain and slick invasion. You could die of this. You’d like to. He kisses you like he’s been storing it up for a long, long time. You have no idea how it’s taken you so long to get here, to do this. You should have been doing this for perigees. Sweeps. Your whole lives. You should have rolled out of your eggsac and kicked him in the face with all six feet. You feel brilliant and worthy and fierce as a solar storm he wraps his arms around you and you feel wanted.

You bite his tongue, hard and unmerciful, and taste blood.

He drops you.

“What?” you ask.

He backs up, his hand over his mouth. He puts his other hand up to ward you back, his every gesture is suddenly wary, his horns twisted away and his glare coming up through narrowed lids, he’s tense and watchful. Your move, only you have no idea what just went down and you’ve got some weird kind of situational whiplash.

You touch your mouth, the wet streak he’s left down your chin.

“No,” he says, hoarse, and catches your wrist.

His blood is stark, staring crimson.

“Oh,” you say. “Fuck.”

He runs.

*

 

TA: ok, 2o we were 2uppo2ed to crack open that new mod of TF2 liike a week ago and yet ii have reciieved a grand total of jack 2hiit radiio 2iilence from your 2orry excu2e of a handle.
TA: for a week.
TA: what the fuck kk.
TA: what the fuck.
CG: OH, RIGHT.
CG: YEAH SORRY I WAS AT GAMZEE’S.
TA: for a week.
CG: YEAH.
TA: youre alway2 at gamzee2 anymore!
CG: WELL HELLO MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE HIS SHIT IS MASSIVELY SWEET?
CG: BEACHFRONT PROPERTY AND ALL THE SASHIMI YOU CAN SASH BASICALLY. I’M GETTING BETTER AT HAND TO HAND BY THE FUCKING HOUR AROUND HERE, IT’S PRACTICALLY AN AUTHENTIC BATTLEFRONT. THOSE FLARP FUCKERS CAN TAKE THEIR CAPES AND THEIR BULLSHIT BATSTAT SYSTEM AND SHOVE THEM UP THEIR GAPING ANAL SPHINCTERS, FATAL LIVE ACTION NOT PLAYING AROUND AT ALL IS WHERE IT IS FUCKING AT.
TA: you 2eriiou2ly blew off our gamiing appoiintment to go wre2tle a bunch of gro22 a22 deadly 2eadweller2.
TA: i2 that 2ERIOU2LY what you are telliing me?
CG: IF BY WRESTLE YOU MEAN COMPLETELY DEVASTATE THEN YES YOU CAN TAKE IT AS HOLY WRIT.
CG: THE THING IS NOT ALL OF US GOT HATCHED OUT WITH A CAREER BUILT RIGHT INTO OUR MUTANT PULSING THINKSACK, OK.
CG: WE’RE GETTING OLDER AND I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASTE ON WIGGLER GAMES, THIS REAL WORLD COMBAT EXPERIENCE IS KIND OF VITAL TO NOT GETTING ASSIGNED TO THE SHITOPOLIS COLONY ON PLANET LOSER.
TA: that2 2uch bull2hiit, youre ju2t 2cared iill mop the fuckiing floor with your 2hame globe2.
CG: SOLLUX.
CG: YOU EMBARRASSMENT.
CG: IT’S A ROUND OF FUCKING TEAM FORTRESS 2, NOT THE LINCHPIN OF MY EXISTENCE. I COULD NOT POSSIBLY SUMMON LESS FUCKS ABOUT WHICH OF US WOULD BE CRYING AFTER THEIR HUMILIATING DIGITAL DEFEAT
CG: WHICH FOR THE RECORD WOULD BE YOU BECAUSE I AM MAD GOOD AT WASTING CHUMPS IN EVERY MEDIUM.
TA: that i2 2uch a liie, doe2 your lu2u2 know you go around lyiing like that?
CG: AS A MATTER OF FACT HE
CG: OH, SORRY, GAMZEE NEEDS ME FOR A THING WITH SOME STUFF.
TA: oh come ON you liiterally ju2t 2tarted talkiing two me liike two miinute2 ago, what the fuck doe2 he want wiith you?
TA: he 2pend2 all day bakiing and compo2iing heiinou2 rap2 how many feelings can he po22iibly manage to 2ave up.
CG: HAHA WOW ARE YOU JEALOUS? DID AA FINALLY REALIZE JUST HOW UTTERLY DISTURBING YOUR GREASY FACE IS TO FONDLE AND STOP PUTTING OUT OR WHAT.
TA: oh wow ok 2ee aa and ii are totally fiine.
TA: liike 2o fiine.
TA: 2he touche2 my face liike iit2 goiing out of 2tyle.
CG: GAMZEE AND I DID NOTHING BUT LIE IN A PILE OF QUALITY CINEMA AND EAT COOKIES ALL DAY YESTERDAY ON ACCOUNT OF I HAD A SPRAINED ANKLE THAT NEEDED FUSSING OVER.
CG: HE ALSO CHANGED MY BANDAGES.
CG: IT WAS
CG: AND I QUOTE:
CG: THE BEST MOTHERFUCKING PITYDATE EVER TO ALL HAVE UP AND HAPPENED.
TA: ii thiink ii ju2t barfed iin my mouth a liittle.
TA: how about we both pretend you are not grand hiigh douchelord of over2hariing,
TA: and you fuck off before you 2praiin your wrii2t from wriingiing out your 2mugne22 gland 2o damn hard.
CG: DUDE I COULD CRACK A SHELLBEAST OPEN WITH ONE GENTLE TAP, MY WRISTS ARE SO RIPPED FROM ALL THE FUCKING SMUGNESS WANKERY I GET UP TO, YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW, EXCEPT, HEY, I JUST TOLD YOU.
CG: MEDITATE UPON THIS VITAL INFORMATION.
CG: I SHALL RETURN ANON.

carcinoGeneticisthas disconnected! (message: GO FUCK YOURSELF, IT’S NOT LIKE ANYONE ELSE HAS THE PATIENCE.)

TA: fuck.
TA: ii mii22 you 2o retardedly.

 

*

You catch him out on the beach. He’s huddled in the lee of a jumble of rocks, and with his dark clothes, his grey sigil, he blends in neatly. He’s got his arms up over his head and when you stumble to a halt he looks up at you like he’s waiting for death. His eyes flash red and blue in the dim, wobbly light from your unsteady psionics and you can imagine them now saturated with mutant crimson and you are sick with a wondering, helpless frustration, rising up through your high, turning you right-side-out with sharp anger.

He’s gotten this fucking far with a death sentence hovering over his horns, he’s gotten up every single night in stark defiance of all propriety, he’s more fucked than you, defective genefucked disaster that you are, and he’s never done anything but look the universe square in the face and demanded it blink first. He’s shown you up your whole fucking life, took the freak prize and slagged it down to so much pointless dreck and you just kept on embarrassing yourself in front of him, my mutant brain this, my mutant horns that, and you never knew. You thought he was a highblood, you really, honestly did. His grace -- his arrogance -- how could he wear a freak’s precorpse with such unbearable fucking panache when yourissues drag you down into quiet self-loathing every fucking evening?

He ducks his head down between the insufficient shield of his arms, just watching you through them, like a treed meowbeast, or a caged wasp, like what he’s waiting for might be your mercy. It makes you ache with indignation and a weird kind of grief.

“I’ve seen you fight a thing the size of a drone,” you say, hoarse and unsure. “You sent me that video. You fight better hand to hand than kids twice your size and you seriously expect me to believe you’re just going to flop down like a kitten and take my deathstroke?”

He snarls, quietly, doesn’t move. His entire body is a wound spring and you don’t know what to do with your fists.

You kick a little rock at him. It skids over the wet sand, hits up against his knee.

“I surrender,” he says roughly.

“Like fuck you do!”

“Cull me or go away, Captor.”

Fight me,” you plead. “Come on.”

He doesn’t move. “You don’t want to do this,” he says thickly. “Decide. End me or leave me be. You’re not -- you’re don’t have the luxury of wasting your wiggler sweeps on a junk quadrant, Sollux, not like Gamzee does. And not a concupiscent one, you fuck. You’re rocket fuel. You’re pulped engine extract. You’re a mutant too, shitsucker. We’d both go down together. Don’t push me.”

You kick another rock at him. It hits him harder, and you see a flash of teeth in the starlight. It thrills you. You set your double horns back, claw your hands, you display.

“Do you want me?” you growl, all heat, all challenge, and he goes perfectly still.

“That’s irrelevant.”

Oh god oh fuck oh, that wasn’t a no. That was a yes.

“I don’t care,” you say, reckless, hopeful, desperate, and you go to your knees before him. You reach out. “God damn it, Karkat, do I look like I care? You’re the biggest challenge I’ve ever known, you thoughtlessly aggravating fuck, you’re a lifelong campaign. You could have liquid shit running through your vasculars and you’d still never shut up and you’d still never give in and you’d still fight like you were hatched to kick ass and I -- I would junk all my quadrants for the chance to piss you off. I’d drive off the drones for you and I’d punch your horns in after, Karkat, give me a fucking chance.”

“You asshole,” Karkat breathes. “You wretched arrogant shitheap, you don’t even know what you do to me, do you?”

You grab a rock and wing it right at his head -- it smacks off one offensively rounded horn and his breath hitches on this breathy wondering snarl.

“If I make you half as stupidly furious as you make me,” you say, buzzing with heat, with hunger, “I think I already know.”

He explodes forward, closes the distance between the two of you in a flash. One hand goes to one of your horns, another to your hip, and he twists you off your knees as neatly as a lesser kid might flip open a shellphone.  You hang on to him as you fall back against the hardpacked chilly sand, and the two of you go rolling over and over for leverage. Your only advantage in this situation is you aren’t too proud to bite him.

He pins you. You are leg-spread and quivering, mutant blood rich and boiling-warm in your mouth, and you slide one hand into his pants. You’re ready. You’re beyond ready.

“Fuck,” he hisses, hands on your horns, you have a mouthful of his throat and a handful of his bulge, he twists his hands into your shirt and hisses “I hate you so much,” and you come right in your fucking pants, gasping and wordless.

He pauses. He grinds his hips against yours. Then he bursts into mocking laughter, low and throaty and god, fuck, you shiver with rage and embarrassment. Fuck him, you’ve wanted this for how long?

“That had better just have been a prelude, hotshot,” he says, and fumbles for your zip.

“Prelude?” you get out, and give his bulge a good hard squeeze, till he squeaks, you hiss: “that was the fucking demo.

“More like the blooper reel, shitcrumb,” he says, breathless.

“More like you should suck me, puswipe,” you tell him.

“Ask nice.”

“Go to hell.”

He punches you right in the throat, then, while you’re hacking for air, he pulls your zip down.

This is the greatest night of your entire fucking life.

 

*

CG: OKAY, CRAPSACK.
CG: WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?
TA: wow, hii to you two.
TA: iim ta and iill be your randomly a22iigned hate2talliion for thii2 campaiign.
TA: niice two 2ee you catch on fa2t.
CG: ALL THAT FAIL AND YOU’VE GOT A CUTESY FUCKING QUIRK, SOMEONE CULL ME NOW.
CG: OKAY LOSER, I AM GOING TO EXPLAIN WHAT WE’RE GOING TO NEED TO ACCOMPLISH TOGETHER IN LITTLE BITE SIZED IDIOT-FRIENDLY SYLLABLES HERE.
CG: YOU DO NOT FRAG YOUR CIVS.
CG: YOU DO NOT FRAG YOUR ALLIANCE CIVS.
CG: YOU DO NOT FRAG MY CIVS.
CG: COMPRENDE?
TA: ii comprende that youre beggiing for a biig driiipy bulge iin your gna2hiing 2eedflap pronto ii2 what ii comprende.
TA: you want to wiin thii2 next round?
TA: you 2tay the fuck out of my way.
TA: who even giive2 a fuck about theiir npc power ba2e anyway.
TA: farmiing morale ii2 for chump2 who cant get a nuclear program buiilt up fa2t enough.
TA: defen2e ii2 a fuckiing lo2er2 gambiit
CG: OKAY BASICALLY EVERYTHING YOU JUST SAID WAS A DISGRACEFUL CAVALCADE OF STUPID LETTERS AND NOW I AM SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE OFF FOR HAVING PUT YOUR WORDS INTO MY VISUAL ORBS.
CG: LET’S START THIS CONVERSATION OVER FROM SCRATCH.
CG: HELLO, TA, I’LL BE YOUR RANDOMLY ASSIGNED PARTNER FOR THIS CAMPAIGN.
CG: MY NAME IS KARKAT VANTAS AND I AM A HATCHED FUCKING WINNER IF THERE EVER WAS ONE.
CG: NOW SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LET’S ROCK THIS SHIT.

*

When it’s all over, Karkat rolls off you. Sits up. Looks back down. You stay flat. You’ve got sand rubbing up in bits of you you didn’t even know you had, and you are more over all full up on stars, the sweep of the sky and the soft lazy triumph inside of you, chemical rush, afterglow, and his eyes on you. He’s all softness again, chemical sweet, lazy and loose and you are never going to be fooled by those heavy-lidded eyes again.

You are being measured. You have never been so measured.

He nods, once, decisively.

“You said you’d fight the drones for me,” he says quietly. “That’s treason, you know.”

“‘Treason,’ says the freak to the helmsblood,” you laugh. You’ve sold your whole life for a round of spectacular sex on a beach and it’s just now sinking in. You are dizzy with recklessness.

“What if blood didn’t mean anything?” Karkat asks.

“But it does,” you say. “Game over, man. Abort, abort, and save over our fucking cartridge.”

He puts a heavy hand on your heart. It’s rough-fingered, and warm as a coal.

“Retry,” he says. “Restart. Resume. I don’t play to lose, Sollux.”

“What do you play?” you ask. “Seriously, KK, be straight with me. You with your seadweller carnage and your sopor pies, the fuck are you cooking up?”

“It’s a little old-fashioned,” he says. “I dunno if you’d have heard of it.”

“Revolution,” you guess, and he grins from ear to ear.

“You in, asshole?”

“In?” you repeat, and raise your hands. Flat on your back, you give this smug shitsmear double middle fingers. “Fuck ‘in’,” you mock. “Me with my slanderous mustard flap and my mutant kismesis -- fuck the drones, fuck the aristocracy, fuck the Empire and the Condesce herself and every sorry motherfucker who thinks they got hatched with the right to tell me what to do -- the way I fucking see it, I’m ahead of you.

He leans down and kisses you breathless.

“Not for long,” he breathes right up against your tongue, and then he’s up, away, running full tilt back to the hive and whooping fit to wake every fish in the sea.

You scramble to your feet.

You race.