Chapter 1: Rose: Fix coffee machine
Her arms are elbow deep in coffee machine innards when he walks in the room. The fight for her afternoon pick-me-up was more than a little urgent, so if he gave any sign that anything was different, it flew right over her head.
As such, it's not until he's invading her comfort zone in about seven different ways that Rose thinks to look up.
"Hel...lo, John," she says, raising an eyebrow at the boy.
He looks down at her and gives a strange smile, as if only noticing her just then.
"Hi yourself, Miss Lalonde," he says lazily, resting his forearm on the wall. The three years separating the Strider-Lalondes from the Egbert-Harleys had given John a bit of an boost height-wise, with him standing at a sturdy six feet. Usually his height just underscored his unabashedly cheerful gawkiness, but today it gave him an air of...of something distinctly Un-John. And with her barely scrapping at five feet and an inch (on a good day), it almost feels like he's....well, like he's
And John Egbert most certainly does not loom.
Rose suddenly feels very small and vulnerable. She pulls her arms out of the coffee machine and folds them coolly (inwardly wincing when she feels a bit of grease soak into her top), waiting for him to say what he-
"You look stunning."
She is ashamed to say she blushes.
"I..." But his sudden brashness has left her utterly nonplussed. What on Earth? Before she can even hope at finding words, he leans down slightly, a completely alien smile on his lips.
"A dress, Miss Lalonde. I approve."
Her bashfulness melts into bemusement. "...I always wear this." She tugs the orange fabric of her sleeve. "And it's not a dress."
"W-well, yeah, I meant," and thankfully a little sliver of the John she knows shows through in his slightly nervous eyes. "It's a nice...a thing. A tunic type thing." He waves a hand vaguely at her body. "It looks good. On you." He pauses, and after a moment regains his cool air. "But then, everything looks good on you, Miss Lalonde.
She gives him a look, furrowing her brow. "John, are you feeling alright? You...you don't sound like yourself."
"Really? I feel mighty fine, Miss Lalonde. But hey," he leans in with what can only be described as a conspiratorial grin. "I am with you."
Rose unconsciously steps back. "John Egbert, just what has gotten into you? What, did you forget my first name somewhere along the line? Did the concept of personal space take a swan dive out of your fluffy little head? And...and are you smirking at me, Mr. Egbert?"
"I am, Miss Lalonde."
Cringing, Rose barely fought off the urge to facepalm. "Alright, I'll concede I deserved that one. But my question still stands: why are you acting like this?"
"Why do I need a reason to compliment a beautiful girl?"
After a long, long moment, she slackens her shoulders and snorts. "Charming, John. I didn't know brown-nosing counted as a prank."
He blinks. "What?"
"I'm impressed, your darling little Prankster's Gambit must be sky-high by now. Surely we have, dare I say, lifdoff." She smiles thinly and turns away from him. "For a moment I thought you might have been being sincere. You truly are the best there is."
"Wait, are you saying you think I'm pulling a prank on you?" He looks panicky.
"No, I'm saying I know you're pulling a prank on me. May I go?"
"N-no, wait!" Whatever had been giving him that cool attitude before has officially left the building. "No, dude, Rose! I'd never ever lie to you like that!!"
She raises a brow. "You lie to me all the time. Does 'I was wearing a funny disguise the whole time!' ring a bell?"
"Well yeah, but that's like, a small, tiny, totally un-meaningful thing!! A joke! I'd never be like 'hey you're fantastic and smart and amazing and gorgeous WHOOPS JK I got you good'!! That would just be really mean and just...terrible!"
Somehow he managed to get that all out on one breathe. Rose stares at him wearily. "And I'm to believe all that nonsense before was sincere? You sounded like a walking dime-store romance novel." His shoulders jerk at that, eyes darting a brief moment. "What is this really about John?"
It's about..." He scratches the back of his neck. "Okay, fine, I admit I was trying to act all smooth and cool before because I was nervous, because I wanted to...well, I wanted to tell you something."
"So the only way to soothe your nerves was to try and intimidate me?"
"No, no! I thought you'd think it was sexy and--"
"...and?" She raises an eyebrow at him, cautiously expectant.
"I..." His face has gone rather pink, and his eyes have the right and left pattern of a fourth-grader who just forgot his lines smack dab in the middle of the school play. "And I just...I wanted...to tell you..."
She steps forward, trying to catch his darting gaze. "Yes?"
And it is as the very gates of Heaven open. All of the tension and embarrassment of the moment drop off John's shoulders like a heavy coat. His face is the face of a man that has looked into the center of the Universe, a man who has looked into the center of the Universe and winked at what lurked there. His smile is beatific, his eyes shining with the light of the enlightened. He looks at her and practically glowswith the confidence of what he needs to say. "What I wanted...what I needed to tell you..."
Somewhere she feels a hand lift her chin to guide her gaze to his. She tries not to swallow. "...yes?"
"Is that you.." He brushes a bit of hair from her cheek. "You..." He leans in...
"You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Rose Lalonde."
She cannot believe it. He cannot believe it. No one in what passed for a universe would have believed it, had they heard it themselves. But as it stands, the only ones who hear the words leave his mouth are he and she. And while he still grasps for dear life to a smile trying to pass for cool, his eyes go wide with the look of ‘I did not just say that.’
If anyone had asked John if he thought Rose possible of releasing a snort as loud as she did, he would have said no, no, a hundred times no. The sounds she make seem far too big and unwieldy to have come from her throat, but here she is, Miss Spookypants Queen of the Books, red-faced and doubled over in laughter.
At his expense.
“I admit that that was—.”
It’s not until tears begin to pool in her eyes that’s she able to stop. John is long gone by then.
Chapter 2: Karkat: Reap Spoils
----carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]----
CG: IT ISN’T LIKE I REALLY CARE ABOUT HOW “OPERATION HEIR TO THE THORN” WENT
CG: (WHICH, BY THE WAY, I FEEL THE NEED TO REITERATE IS THE MOST SKULL-SHATTERINGLY IDIOTIC NAME YOU COULD HAVE CHOSEN FOR THIS)
CG: BUT CONSIDERING THAT THERE’S NO WAY THAT ANY EGBERTIAN ATTEMPTS AT BEING ANYTHING MORE THAN A WALKING SOCIAL CATASTROPHE COULDN’T HAVE GONE DOWN WITHOUT AT LEAST TWO SMALL-SCALE DISASTERS, AND CONSIDERING THAT I COULD USE A GOOD LAUGH
CG: LAY IT ON ME.
CG: DON’T LEAVE ANY DETAILS OUT.
EB: i don’t wanna talk about it.
CG: OH HELL NO, DON’T YOU PULL THIS BLUSHING SCHOOLGRUB ACT ON ME NOW
CG: YOU PESTER ME FOR GOD KNOWS HOW LONG FOR ACCESS TO MY COLLECTION OF ROMANTIC MATERIALS
CG: THE LAST ONE IN EXISTANCE, I FIND THE NEED TO STATE
CG: YOU SAY IT’S SOMETHING ABOUT “BOOSTING CONFIDENCE,” WHICH I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA AS TO WHAT YOU MEAN.
CG: SO NOW YOU’RE GOING TO START BEING SHY? NO. NO. NO^69.
CG: SO SPILL THOSE PALEASS HUMAN GUTS OF YOURS. NOW. I WANT TO SEE THEM GLISTEN IN THE LAMPLIGHT. STARTING:
EB: oh my god karkat, what the fuck?!
EB: look, it didn’t work, okay??
EB: so can we stop talking about romance and guts for a good amount of forever???
EB: don’t talk about my glistening insides, jesus!
CG: NO NO, I GOT THAT
CG: WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT DIDN’T WORK?
CG: THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE
EB: …i thought you said i was going to go through at least two disasters or something.
CG: WELL, YEAH, WITH YOU IT’S A GIVEN YOU’LL CAUSE A DISASTER JUST WITH THE ACT OF WAKING UP
CG: BUT YOU’RE ABLE TO FUNCTION, IN SPITE OF THAT
CG: AND WITH THE ADVICE OF THOSE MATERIALS THERE IS NO WAY IN ANY EXISTENCE YOU SHOULD HAVE FAILED.
EB: well i guess i found a made a new existence then!! the existence of fucking shit up by quoting romance novels!
EB: oh bullshit karkat! they’re cheap, stupid supermarket-grade romance novels!!
EB: she laughed at them and she laughed at me!
CG: OKAY, SO I’M NOT ENTIRELY SURE WHAT “SUPERMARKET” MEANS, BUT IN CONTEXT I CAN GUESS
CG: SO A), FUCK YOU, THEY ARE HIGH-QUALITY AND YOU ARE STUPID
CG: AND B),
CG: SORRY MAN
CG: THAT REALLY SOUNDS SHITTY
EB: not as shitty as your taste apparently!
EB: goes the dynamite!!
EB: (the dynamite is my sick burn)
CG: OH FUCK YOU, I’M TRYING TO BE SYMPATHETIC HERE
EB: well to be honest karkat, i’d prefer quality over sympathy here!
EB: that is to say…
EB: it would have been nice if your advice had actually been helpful!
CG: WELL SHIT, WHAT CAN I SAY? YOU’RE THE ONE WHO READ THE BOOKS.
CG: AND IT’S NOT LIKE THEY WERE BAD BOOKS, YOU’D HAVE TO BE TRYING REALLY HARD TO MAKE THEM BAD
EB: it must have been me, what was i thinking????
EB: check out these question marks, look how bamboozled i am!!
EB: sorry “in which a young midblood gains her big break during an interview with a charamatsic highblood, only to begin a relationship with him that fluctuates between red and black, while exploring the different types of sadistic and masochistic activities that occur on that line”!! it was me all along!
EB: i am the fuckup! it is me!
CG: HOLD THE FUCK ON
CG: ARE YOU TELLING ME THE SOURCE MATERIAL YOU GOT YOUR ROMANTIC ADVICE FROM WAS “50 SHADES OF GREENBLOOD”?
EB: no, i’m saying the ROMANCE NOVEL i got my advice from was “50 shades of greenblood”!
CG: OH GOD
CG: OH MAN
CG: JESUS I DON’T KNOW WHETHER TO CRY OR LAUGH OR
CG: LOOK, OKAY, I TAKE IT BACK. NO WONDER IT WENT SO BADLY
CG: IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT AT ALL
CG: JOHN, 50 SHADES OF GREENBLOOD WAS A LAUGHINGSTOCK BACK WHEN IT GOT PUBLISHED. IT WAS TRITE, USED OVERBLOWN LANGUAGE, AND IT’S RUMORED THAT IT ACTUALLY HAD ORIGINS IN A FANFICTION FOR AN EVEN BIGGER SPIT IN THE FACE OF ROMANTIC LITERATURE
CG: I KNOW, RIGHT? HOW THE HELL IT GOT PUBLISHED, I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND.
CG: WHEN I THINK OF “GOOD LITERATURE,” INDULGANT FANFIC IS ABOUT THE LAST PLACE MY MIND GOES.
EB: no, i
EB: explain to me:
EB: if this book was such a laughingstock
EB: then why
EB: the hell
EB: did you give it to me AS A SOURCE OF ROMANTIC ADVICE!??!?!?!??!?!?!?!?
CG: WOAH, CALM DOWN, THERE’S NO NEED TO SHOUT!!
CG: I DID NOT ‘GIVE IT TO YOU.’ WHAT I GAVE YOU WAS ACCESS TO MY COLLECTION, AND YOU HAPPENED TO FALL UPON IT AND, SOMEHOW, MISTAKE IT AS GOOD LITERATURE.
EB: then why the hell was it there??? you said you only collected the good stuff!
CG: I WISH THAT WAS THE CASE, BUT AS A CONNOISSEUR OF MY LEVEL, AND THE LEADER OF THE DREDGES OF OUR GODFORSAKEN RACE, IT IS MY DUTY TO PRESERVE AS MANY FACETS OF ALTERNIAN CULTURE AS I POSSIBLY CAN.
CG: INCLUDING THE BAD ONES, WHICH THAT BOOK DOES FALL INTO.
EB: oh that is the bulliest shit i have ever heard!!!
EB: the only thing this sad, nasty trash should fall into is a chasm, far from any sort of eyes!
EB: like the one i am currently looking at
EB: and currently calculating a sweet trajectory path towards.
CG: JOHN EGBERT YOU LISTEN TO ME, IF YOU THROW THAT BOOK
EB: i’m lifting my arm!
EB: i’m taking aim!
CG: THAT IS SUCH BULLSHIT YOU NEED THAT ARM TO TYPE DON’T YOU DARE
EB: there it goes!
----carcinoGeneticist [CG] has ceased trolling ectoBiologist [EB]----
Chapter 3: John: Throw Book
Oh come on, of course he didn't throw it. He wasn't that big of an asshole, it was just that messing with Karkat was just way too fun. Or, it usually is.
John sighs, closing his laptop and laying flat on the cold tile of the Veil. He picks the book up and lifts it above his head, frowning. Stupid thing. Why the hell did he ever think quoting it was anything close to a good idea? Cristn Graaye sounded like a grade A creep, and Rose was nothing like the weak-willed ladytroll who acted all swoony and dopey around him.
So, why did he think it would work? It had sounded weird to him, but, hey, it was a romance novel. Girls liked romance novels, and he didn't know jack squat about romancing ladies. It just seemed like the best thing was to...well, to go by the book.
He sighs and pitches the book through the air--not towards the gaping crevice, but behind him, to fall somewhere he would grudgingly retrieve and return later. Who was he kidding? He wasn't suave and charming and all confident like that guy was. He was...him. A gawky dork with buckteeth a cool, classy lady like Rose would never want to touch with a ten foot pole. Why had he ever--
Either he was better at throwing than he thought, or that book should have hit the ground a long time ago. He cranes his neck to look behind him, but--
"My my, it's been quite a while since I've seen this."
John's eyes go wide with horror at the sight before (behind?) him: an upside, slightly luminscent girl calmly thumbs through the retched tome, while an equally upside-down figure clad in orange looks on curiously.
"Just as ludicrious as I remembered," Kanaya says idly, flipping through the pages. "Now, let's see...ah yes, here it is."
John blanches, flipping himself up to a standing postion in record time. "'He gently bites and sucks me at my waist, tugging my...'" Kanaya coughs politely. "...and my hands tighten on the exquisitely carved post," John begins to run like he has never run before. "'His hands drop away, and I hear the now familiar tear of foil'--" John runs and runs. "--'and he kicks of his jeans...'"
At this point John is literally flying towards the two girls. "Kanaya--!!"
The girl nimbly steps to the right just as John comes upon her, leaving John overshooting his planned stop by a good few yards. "'You have such a captivating, sexy ass, Anatas Steele. What I wouldn't give to do to it.'" Kanaya looks at Rose, eyebrows raised. "And, well, it goes on from there. You can guess."
Rose's own brows are arched. "So he was quoting from a love scene? That seems more than a little audacious."
"I wasn't---!" The girls turn to look at John, out of breath and panting. "I--didn't--wasn't trying to be audacious---or gross." He ducks his head. "I was just trying to be...cool. Interesting, I guess. I just panicked and I couldn't think of anything else to say, and..." He looks firmly at the floor. "And I'm sorry, okay? It was dumb and gross and stupid."
There's silence between the three of them, save John's panting. The last thing he expects to break the silence is Rose stepping foward to place her hand on his shoulder. "John...there's no need to apologize. I understand now that you weren't trying to make me uncomfortable or be sleezy. It was just...you. That part of you that strives to emulate what you see as a strong character with almost baffling sincerity. I've noticed that you seem to try to do that a lot." She hesitates. "I've noticed a lot of things about you."
He looks up, just as she looks down. "Your warmth, your good humor. Your protectiveness, even if you can't voice it without a mask of jokes and ribbing. Your devotion and care towards all those near and dear to you. With character like that, you don't need to hide behind some silly book to try and make yourself cool or interesting." A light smile quirks on her lips. "Especially one tawdry as that. I swear John, of all the books you could have pulled from Karkat's collection-."
Kanaya clears her throat. "-...what I'm trying to say is, John, I should be the one apologizing. I of all people know how hard it is to be sincere and open with someone, and to have the person you're trying to open your heart to laugh in your face..." Rose shakes her head. "I'm sorry, John. I truly am."
"Y-you don't have to be! It's okay!" John straightens up and takes her hand. Taken aback, Rose looks up at him. "It...it was REALLY dumb." He laughs nervously. "I really don't know what I was thinking. I mean, pftt, all those--" He drops his voice to a bad baritone. "'Miss Lalondes' and all that. Man who WOULDN'T laugh at that?"
"Perhaps a Mr. Egbert?"
They both laugh at that. Kanaya smiles lightly, looking at the hands that neither one has released yet.
Eventually, they calm down. "So, uh..." John scratches the back of his neck. "What should we do now?"
Rose taps her lips thoughtfully. "Well...I believe you mentioned earlier that you had something you wanted to say to me. Perhaps we should procure a place to discuss these matters in private?" A pause, and a devilish smile grows on her lips. "We can talk about my 'captivating, sexy ass' all you want."
John's shoulders jump, cheeks going red. "Wh-what?! Come on, Rose, that was just the book talking-!"
"Well, that's a relief." She walks to be at his side, gently bumping her hip against his. "You're the one who fits that descriptor more aptly, I would say."
"What do you--?! What?! You're just trying to mess with me, right?"
"D-don't wink at me!"
"You never dissapoint, Mister Egbert."
---grimauxiliatrix[GA ] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]----
CG: THANK GOD, THERE YOU ARE
CG: HOW DID IT GO?
GA: I Am Pleased To Report That Any And All Romantic Kerfuffles Have Been Officially Smoothed Over
GA: Our Heir And Secondary Seers Future Looks Brighter Than The Green Sun
GA: Not That I Would Know Of Course
CG: NO NO, NOT THEM
GA: Never Fear Dearest
GA: As I Suspected John Was Indeed Pulling A Fast One On You
GA: The Book Is With Me
GA: I Hass The Carnal Material
CG: THANK GOD
CG: I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WOULD HAVE DONE IF WE HAD LOST IT
GA: Yes What A Tragedy That Would Have Been
CG: HEY DON'T LAUGH AT ME KANAYA
CG: WE BOTH KNOW IT'S A SACK OF HOOFBEAST SHIT, BUT WE NEED TO PRESERVE THESE LITERARY DISASTERS FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
GA: What Would We Do Without You
CG: MAKE THE SAME MISTAKES THIS BOOK DID, THAT'S WHAT
CG: I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE THIS GOT PUBLISHED
CG: PURPLE PROSE, BAD SEX SCENES, SHITTY DIALOGUE
CG: ZERO HATS OUT OF FIVE
GA: Indeed It Is A Slap To The Doe-Eyed Face Of Literature
GA: Shall We Give It Another Reread To Assure Its Unholy Shittiness
CG: MEET ME IN FIVE MINUTES
CG: I'LL MAKE THE POPCORN
---grimauxiliatrix[GA ] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]----