Being pale for Gamzee is a lot like being flushed for Terezi- it is frustrating, embarrassing, and Karkat’s extensive knowledge of romcoms has completely failed him. Karkat was pale for the clown-faced asshole for a full sweep before the game, and now that they are actually moirails (the notion makes his bloodpusher flutter, which is completely ridiculous and sappy), he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself.
Karkat has been, at one point or another, a little bit pale for most of his friends, but Gamzee has always been so, so easy to pity, even with the magnificent fucking rainbow of complicated emotions that came with it. An absentee lusus, a head full of sopor, and flushed feelings for Tavros Nitram, of all people- it was enough to make Karkat want to hold him tight and never let go.
Gamzee off sopor is…different. Karkat realizes that he is pale for a homicidal maniac, of course- genocidal, even, considering that he killed one sixth of the only trolls left in the universe –but after all this time, it is incredibly hard to stop.
They’re in Karkat’s respiteblock, cuddled close on a pile of movies. It’s uncomfortable, but the horn pile is in Gamzee’s block and he refuses to let Karkat in. So they’re in Karkat’s makeshift pile, plastic cases digging into their sides, but they’re only inches apart and Karkat is wiping a stray streak of greasepaint from Gamzee’s neck, and he realizes- not for the first time –that this is one of the few bright spots in his bleak shitstain of an existence.
“-and the humans are even more unbearable in person, Strider is going to turn me into a wreck, and I don’t care what past me said about interspecies sloppy make-outs, if Rose and Kanaya don’t work out their feelings now I am going to fucking scream-”
Gamzee runs a hand through Karkat’s hair, long fingers easing out the tangles. Karkat goes quiet, watching his moirail’s face. Gamzee on sopor never seemed to focus on anything, but his sobriety gives him a quiet intensity that, cliché as it sounds, sends a shiver down Karkat’s spine.
“You can come back, you know,” he says. “I mean, hanging out with the humans isn’t terrible all the time, and I know Kanaya kicked you in the bulge and wanted to hunt you down with her chainsaw, but I’m the leader, so I could tell them all not to kill you.”
Gamzee chuckles softly. “Nah, bro. I ain’t too keen on this motherfuckin’ crowd.”
It’s funny- not really –how Gamzee’s words are the same as when he was on sopor, but the way he speaks has changed. There’s a growl in his voice and a smirk on his face, like he knows exactly what he’s doing at every moment, never confused, never bored, never at a loss.
(Karkat might compare it to the faces of soldiers he’s seen in news reports about the Alternian Empire conquering another planet, faces content to follow command. But he’s never seen the face of a true believer. He doesn’t recognize the expression of a messiah.)
“You ever seen a miracle, brother?”
Karkat scoffs. “Fuck no, asshat.”
Gamzee fixes him with a pitying look. “So sad you ain’t a believer. Cuts me like a blade, bro. But man, for a while, I didn’t think there was any miracles. I thought I’d been up and lied to. But now I know. I know that there are miracles, little brother. They just don’t look the way you’d think.”
Gamzee has not offered a word of advice or pale camaraderie during any of their feelings jams over the past half sweep. Karkat doesn’t really notice, as he gets too caught up in the strange combination of pity and fear that comes with another monologue about miracles. He hates to acknowledge that yes, he is still afraid of Gamzee, just a little bit. The talk of miracles shouldn’t frighten him; it should remind him of good old high Gamzee, whose main interests included rapping and slamming Faygo. But paired with this voice (he sounds like an adult before his time), it brings back too many memories of when everything went to shit. Karkat half expects a declaration that the dark carnival has begun anew.
But he has to remember that this is his Gamzee, the one who doesn’t kill people anymore, the one who doesn’t chucklevoodoo his friends. He has to remember so Gamzee remembers too.
He carefully places an arm over Gamzee’s side. Gamzee smiles and pulls Karkat close to his chest. Karkat fits so well in Gamzee’s arms. He presses his face to Gamzee’s shirt, breathing in the faint smell of fresh paint and old blood.