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Captors and Keepers

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Ordinarily, Sollux Captor found himself falling asleep between three and five in the morning, but the night previous he had somehow lost consciousness without realizing it at about 1:30. He had fallen asleep while waiting for his soiled blanket as well as just about every other piece of clothing he owned was in the laundry room across the hall from his dorm room. Thanks to this stunning lack of foresight, he was asleep on a bare mattress in just a pair of jeans, ignorant to any chill of the room in his unconscious state.

A thrumming began in jeans that abruptly served to render him awake.

Groggily, he blinked his heterochromatic eyes as he lifted his hips and dug about through his pocket. He had left his cell phone in his pocket as he slept and it was currently buzzing against his leg.

He slid his phone open and laid on his back, answering without looking at the caller ID, "Hello?"

"Sollux? Sollux honey, it's me. Are you okay? You haven't returned my calls."

It was his mother. Of course it was.

He had come to expect her calls at least twice a week; as she had done so since his arrival on campus for summer classes back in June. "Hmm?" He thought for a moment, "Oh right, from two days ago. Sorry 'bout that."

He hoped he didn't sound as tired as he felt.

“It's been longer than that; my god, for all I knew my sweet baby boy could have been lying dead in a ditch for days! You never pick up when I call, you never answer my emails..."

He chuckled at her theatrics, “You don’t know how to e-mail, mom, you sure you did it right? Never got anything from you."

"I used the school e-mail address on your forms. I'm looking at my e-mail page right now and it says it was received. Ess-captor-at-mountainside-university-dot-ee-dee-yew."

"It’s just MSU.com, mom. Also you forgot the number 2 in there. It's CaptorS2. Some shmuck with that email got whatever cat pictures you forwarded me. I don't check the school email anyway; you have to use my personal one. Or you could just text me on my phone since you seem to like the phone machine so much."

An exasperated sigh emerged. "I just don't understand all these gadgets. Anyway, why don't you ever return my calls? I call you at night so I won't bother you in class, but you never pick up, so I call you in the morning...you're still in bed, aren't you?"

Sollux replied without missing a beat, "Nope. Just got out of the shower."

"Fine! Lie to your mother, see if I care." Sollux could hear her grumble in Yiddish and did his best to repress a chuckle, lest he incur more wrath from her. "So tell me what's going on? How's Aradia doing? Her parents send their best, by the way, I ran into them at CVS just the other day."

Shit, he hadn’t talked to Aradia since she’d gone on that date with her roommate’s friend. He didn’t even know what she was doing, "Last I checked I think she has a boyfriend or whatever. He's rich and handsome and looks like Indiana Jones or something."

"Sweet little Aradia? That's fantastic! I heard she was doing well, but a rich boy? Wonder if he's a doctor....oh, how about that Tarmac boy you said you hung out with over the summer?"

"Karkat. He's ok, he's the RA for the hall so he just bitches about every single thing about the building including me."

"Language, Sollux!” She chastised, “He needs a nice girl. How about you, find any nice girls for yourself?"

At that question, Sollux’s mind flooded with vivid details of the night prior; he had fooled around (putting it mildly) with the annoying bastard he shared a joint bathroom with. His annoying, CROSSDRESSING bastard of a suitemate. Shit.

There are things no mother needs to know.

There are probably things no mother wants to know.

He cleared his throat, hopefully saving face, "Yep. One's a lesbian though, so that means nothing to you."

"Tch. Better get on it, then, or Karpat and the lesbian will take up all the nice girls. Try to find one who's going into medicine."
Sollux remembered that Feferi was a nursing student. Given that most of her interactions involved alcohol or a fit of giggles like bubbles up the side of an aquarium. Or Squirtle’s bubblebeam attack. He tried to imagine her in a serious, medical setting; test tube and syringe in hand with her giant, pink framed glasses. He couldn’t handle it and found himself laughing, "I know a nursing student."

"Good. Marry her.”

Sollux stared at the ceiling, eyebrows furrowed, “Shouldn’t she get a say in this?”

“Get yourself a good wife with a good job, and work hard yourself so you'll never have to feel the pain of raising a child on your own on a pittance, knowing your precious baby deserves so much more."

The sheer awkwardness of that entire statement was enough to make Sollux lift the phone and sigh away from the mouthpiece. He'd been hearing variations of this rant ever since his damn Bar Mitzvah and even before then. Work hard, work hard, and then work hard some goddamn more, "Mom, you know it's all I fucking do. I'm paying my own way through here, remember?"

"I know, honey, I know, and thank god you're getting a good education...though, since you brought up the topic...another 'envelope' came for you today."

"Oh." He hated having to bring up this kind of talk with his mother, "Open it, take out $500 for you and you know the rest."

"I thought you'd say that. I'll send it out first class in the morning. Clean envelope, just like last time. Sollux...I don't like this. It seems pretty shady; you're freelance, I get that, but you'd think a kosher business would have direct deposit or something..."

"Trust me, I know all about online intel and this is just a lot more secure than any bank." That was a lie. "I was the one who insisted on cash only."

Thankfully that was the truth. It was bad enough that he was sitting in his wreck of a dorm room with a load of damp laundry most likely wrinkled all to hell because he fell asleep before he changed it over; he didn't want to be a completely shitty son.

Her voice dropped down to a whisper. "Is this...because of taxes? Because honey, if it's coming down to you declaring income OR going to school, I'll pull more overtime for you. I'm your mother, you know I will."

He chuckled nervously, "Mom, you just told me to work hard. That's what I'm doing. Don't worry about me, I'm apeshit bananas at this stuff. I'll be fine."

"Language! And I know, honey, but I'm your mother. If I'm not worried about you that probably means I'm dead, so thank god I'm still worrying, eh? Now, you give Aradia my best, okay? And for the love of god, call me next week so I don't find myself scanning obituaries and police reports to make sure you're not in them."

"I don't even leave my room except for class. And this place is literally in the middle of the woods on a mountain, what's the worst that can happen? Last I checked there were no gangs in the woods."

"Honey, it's still Jersey."

Sollux rolled his eyes so hard back into his head that they sharply ached, "I'll talk to you later."

"Fine, love you honey. Be good."

Too late.

"You too."

He ended the call, dropped his phone, and then cracked his neck. He looked about his room briefly, contemplating how accustomed he'd grown to his dorm since coming here in June. He thought on his room back home as he'd last seen it before leaving; a corner nook with bare walls, a bed roughly the same size as the one he was currently sitting on, and a wooden desk with little on it since he was bringing his laptop, all of his computer games, and the lamp his mother insisted on lightning after dark.

All things considered, it wasn’t too different than home at school.

He realized then that he still tasted like Eridan, which was a really, really strange thought. Although it made sense considering not twelve hours ago the guy had his tongue down his throat, but still. That was...

Sollux didn't even really know how to describe it, especially since he had nothing to compare it to before. He shook his head and placed his feet on the cold, tile floor, he had to get his laundry.

He slid on his blue and red sunglasses and used the deadbolt in his door as a doorstop as he walked across the hallway. Just as he'd thought, his clothes were still in the washer, beginning to dry into a coiled, lumpy mass.

He yanked out a shirt; black and wrinkled with one red and one blue sleeve and slid it on. It was less damp than the other clothes from being on the top of the load. He pulled out everything else and shoved it into the dryer beside it. He set the cycle on high, just so he wouldn’t have to come back out another extra time.

As he opened the door to the laundry room, he noticed a familiar dark-haired figure in striped blue pants and a violet coat walking down the hallway in the opposite direction.

Shit!

He opened his door quickly once again and shut it, not wanting to put up with any possible or potential shit from Eridan. At least not now. Or… damn, he didn’t even know when he’d want to think about this again. He leaned against his door. At least this meant the bathroom was free and he could shower without worrying about scorecards on how amazing the night before was.

Sollux felt a migraine coming on, rubbing the outer edge of his eye socket as he trudged toward the bathroom door.

It was locked.

Goddammit.

==>

Eridan hummed to himself as he left his room and headed across the hallway and down the stairs; feeling light of step, loose of gait, perfect in dress, and victorious in all things.

Karkat was mid-yawn when Eridan greeted him. His disheveled head lifted partway, somewhat drowsy looking considering the time of day. He was clad in an old jacket and jeans, clearly not out to impress right then.

He waved as he saw Karkat, stretching a little. "Hey Kar, how's it goin'? Lookin' bitey as usual."

"Bitey? Is that really the best fucking attribute you happen to notice-" He cut himself off midsentence, an actual question on his mind, "Wait, pleasantries aside, and even though I’m going to regret the fuck out of asking, my curiosity has ousted my self-preservation instincts in regards to my own sanity enough where I actually have to ask, what did you get up to last night?"

"Got laid, good an' proper," Eridan grinned, starting off towards the parking lot. "Here, c'mon, coffee's on me today. Wanna walk or should I drive?"

Karkat's cheek twitched slightly before he sighed with a shake of his head, "Whatever's good for you, I'm not looking a gift horse in its stinking tooth-lined hay-hole in spite of whatever I'm subjecting myself to by just not walking away."

"What? I get a good piece, you get free coffee, ain't that how this friendship works? Though I can't go promisin' I'll pay up every single time I get mine in, but what can I say? I feel like celebratin'. I tell you, Kar, things is lookin' up!"

"Yeah well, once your booty call crashes and burns like a derailed train in the land of condoms and bad ideas, leaving a smoldering husk of woe and youtube-worthy flip-outs, go get Fef or something to ante up for you because I don't have the means to console you in whatever way you deem necessary. I don’t do manicures and I’m so broke I need to get a receipt for tax purposes any time I throw a penny in a wishing well."

Eridan turned, pity across his face. "Such a pessimist, you are. Can't a guy just get his rocks off without you waitin', popcorn in hand, for things to turn to shit? Nah, this ain't goin' to go to pot so easy; a good time was had by all involved, an' I got a feelin' I can play with this one a good month or maybe more if I play my cards right. I know this, Kar, I can feel it in my bones. No strings, no worries, just a fun times an' good fucks."

Karkat looked skyward, mind sloughing through the questionable options of who this mystery lay was, "Is this that model of yours from a couple weeks ago?"

"That guy? Naw, wasn't him. Eq wasn't up for another go, shame though it may a been. I got ideas this one’s goin’ to be game to play again."

Baffled, Karkat's face wrinkled further, "Do you even know anyone else? I'm almost positive you wouldn't pull the bait-and-switch on a guy in drag just because you're bored or anything."

"Is this a guessin' game? Is that what we're doin' here?" Eridan snickered. "I can hear the gears tickin' 'round, tryin' to figure anybody you ever heard me make mention a durin' our li'l discourses. You want a hint? Care to buy a vowel?"

"Wait? I know them?" He froze in place for a second, "It's not Nepeta is it? Last I checked you weren't into anime and desperation."

Eridan quirked a brow. "No...? Honestly I'm a li'l surprised you'd go there so quick. I mean, she's a cute li'l thing an' all, but she ain't exactly my type, is she?"

Karkat snorted, "Well Sollux isn’t into guys and he fucking hates you."

Eridan snickered. "Don't blow out any neurons, Kar, you ain't got any can spare."

Karkat furrowed his brow, "Feferi? Did she finally come back around? Because, unlikely as that is, I’m honestly at a loss for anybody otherwise."

"You an' I both know the likelihood a that ever happenin', Kar."

"Well then I'm shit out of luck. You gonna tell me or am I going to pop a synapse waiting in anticipation?"

"Maybe I'll tell you if you're good." They turned a corner, "You poppin' synapses hasn't stopped bein’ funny in all the time I known you. How about you? Anythin' new goin' on in the land a rage an' romcoms?"

Karkat shrugged, "Not much, Kanaya tried to get me to watch some British comedy and either the stream was shit or I just couldn’t understand a fucking thing they were saying. How can I immerse myself into a narrative under such viewer-hostile conditions? So we put on Much Ado About Nothing. There, clean, easy, understandable; Kanaya got her craving for something British satisfied and I was able to bask in the unholy greatness of both The Bard and proper fucking romance."

"Always liked that one," Eridan smiled, nodding his approval. "There's just somethin' about the chemistry a rivals that makes me smile, you know?"

"Well that's a huge focal point of the romcom oeuvre, isn't it? It's meant to amplify the juxtaposition between two characters that seem entirely out of place with the other, watch them bounce off each other and holy shit on a shingle you slept with Sollux, didn't you?"

Eridan smirked, not stopping as he walked. "I ain't 'slept with' so much as 'fucked into a happy stupor' but you got the gist a it."

"Sollux? You mean-- wait, WHAT?? You WHAT?" Karkat's eyebrows twitched at the unbidden visual that imposed itself into his mind, "Eugh…You... what did you somehow set your fucking bed on fire? Because last I checked, that's what happens when you rub two sticks together long enough."

"Got hot enough it might well a been a fire hazard," Eridan laughed, "An' believe me, there was rubbin' a all sorts goin' on. Mind you, for a scrawny li'l thing he sure got some meat on him if you know where to look, heh."

Karkat shoved his hands over his ears and screamed, "I don't want to think about him or his meat anywhere! You just couldn't keep it in your pants, could you? YOU DID THIS TO ME ON PURPOSE!"

Eridan turned, confused. He held his hands up to pacify Karkat, "Kar, what's the big fuckin' deal? He's a pretty hot guy an' I went for it, an' he accepted. Anyways, I thought you was straight? Look, if there's somethin' goin' on that I'm steppin' on, say the word an' I'll cut him loose nice an' easy, but I ain't heard any indication anybody had designs on him but me."

"Dammit Eridan I'm not gay! And even if I was, I wouldn't go for some ugly motherfucker like Sollux Captor of all fucking people, I mean look at him! He practically rattles when he walks and has the self-esteem of a bulimic fifteen-year-old gymnast!”

Eridan rolled his eyes, sliding his hands back into his pockets. "Granted, he's bony as a sack a crowbars, but he got it goin' on just as I like 'em. Anyway, if you ain't into him then I'm stumped where the problem here is. I was a proper gentleman, I saw to it he got his. Good times were had by all, you know?"

"OH GOD. Eridan, bro, dude, compatriot of mine for some god forsaken reason, you could fuck three horses in a goddamn cornfield in July but I don't want to hear about you nailing my best friend, ok?!"

Eridan looked affronted as they reached the coffee shop. "An' there's a fine slap in the face if ever there was. Here you an' me been pals for years, an' I'm so easily replaced after a summer away? I mean, if it was Kan I'd not complain, but I thought we was tight, Kar."

"Yeah well, I've known Kanaya longer than you and suddenly the two of you are giggling about boobies and watching Twilight or whatever the fuck it is you guys do until fuck-all o’clock in the morning." Karkat opened the door and turned back, "Besides, you suck at video games."

Eridan slung an arm around Karkat's shoulder, "Aw, my bitey li'l strained metaphor factory been feelin' neglected? Don't you worry, Kar, you an' me is always goin' to be close. Now, what're you havin'? I hear tell this place got some new blend they're toutin'."

"Tch.” Karkat shrugged Eridan’s arm off, “So, what? Are you guys planning on expending all of your energy on fucking to keep from fighting? It didn’t work on How I Met Your Mother and it sure as hell isn’t going to work in a college dorm, where hormones and bad attitudes waft through the air like espers."

"Like I said, I'm thinkin' maybe a steady bang for a while. Ain't exactly romance, but lemme hear your two bits on it: how long after a hook-up does a proper bloke wait 'fore goin' back for seconds?"

"Like I would know! I don't abuse my authority over the hallway to get what I want out of any skirt that catches my eye! You're the only dickhead who'd figure out any kind of fucked up pre-and-post-coital protocol for making my begrudging best friend your personal boner-holster."

"It's an unusual situation!" said Eridan as the guy ahead of them finished his order. He turned to the barista, "Caramel latte with whip cream an' chocolate shavin's, an' toss in a shot a espresso, I need the caffeine. Kar, what's yours?"

Karkat turned to the poor sap in front of him and quickly barked, "Something black and as dark as the bottom of the fucking coffee pot and I don't even care if it's entirely liquid or not now Eridan if I hear any details about this stupid affair or whatever out of you I swear I'll bury you so deep the seeds of infinite darkness couldn't reach your decaying flesh and the weeds that would flower from your corpse would come out black, are we clear?"

Eridan handed his card to the cashier. "Kar, I'm not marryin' the guy, I'm just fuckin' him."

Karkat shook his head, "I’m still fucking flabbergasted as to how you got THAT far. What’d you do? Hold his computer hostage?"

"I offered him a kiss, an' he accepted. Then I offered him more, an' he accepted that too," Eridan shrugged, waiting for his coffee. "I only coerce the ones that obviously get off on bein' coerced. You know me, man, I ain't so low as to try an' fuck someone who ain't into it."

"Yeah, yeah. Whoops, there’s my mental self-preservation kicking in, bringing with it a bright and shiny new change of topic. Nepeta wants me to watch some anime about some 10 year old in high school and somehow there's cats involved. I have no idea how the fuck to say no loud enough for her to understand."

"Then either you learn, Kar, or you got a lot a smilin' an' noddin' in your future."

Both cups arrived and each young man took a sip.

Karkat’s impatience for caffeine was evident in how fast he burned his tongue, “FUCK!”

Eridan failed to repress a laugh at Karkat's expense. Oral injuries to those closest to him aside, today was shaping up to be a good day.