It had been three days since the incident with Egbert, and Karkat was dead set to ignore it on a level that was leaps and bounds above any sort of obstinacy that John thought he had mustered with his petty cessation of contact. Three days which somehow slipped into a week, and by that time Karkat could nearly visualize his resolve deteriorating. It wasn't the lack of communication itself, hell, under normal circumstances there wasn't a being more stubborn than Karkat Vantas, and if he wanted to ignore someone, then damn it, his existence would be wiped clean out of their radar for however long he deigned necessary. It didn't matter what had caused the sudden avoidance or that the question of matespritship was polluting the atmosphere more than the carbon dioxide that had ruined Earth's ozone layer. And he didn't want it to matter, but that was becoming impossible. And the reason it mattered, the reason weakening Karkat's resolve to ignore John to oblivion, the reason Karkat had shut himself inside his hive for a week was growing inside his internal incubation chambers.
The fact was unavoidable. Karkat Vantas was pregnant.
Karkat Vantas stood alone in his respiteblock. He would be pacing, but that would look fucking stupid. Also, he had already done that for a good half hour and it hadn't helped a damn thing. The glow from his husktop was inviting. He really ought to have closed it, but of course he hadn't, and now here he was, trying not to give in to the eerie dull radiance that was beckoning him.
John would answer, he knew it. Would he? Probably, that weak little lump of flesh. He would answer because he'd actually already messaged Karkat two days ago. He'd answer and be all complacent about the fact that Karkat had caved. No, he wouldn't. But Karkat wouldn't give him the chance. And besides, that thing. That thing inside him. What could he even say about that? He had to tell John, didn't he?
Of course not. And to prove this, Karkat scurried over to his recuperacoon which was sort of messy from when he had climbed out of it this morning. He should really clean the sopor off the outside; it could almost be considered an eyesore. Not that he really cared, and at the moment he couldn't even feel disgusted with his lack of tidiness. This was possibly because most of his senses were riddled with that awful faint blue glow. It seemed to brighten each day. There was only a matter of time before he conceded. It was pointless to try and pretend otherwise. He might not be the most social, but eventually they would find out. Eventually someone would show up at his hive, and then the secret would be blazoned to anything with a semi-operating think pan. It would be better if he outed it by his own will. Though, even knowing that didn't make anything any easier.
A window cropped up on the screen of the husktop, which admittedly Karkat had turned to stare at yet again. He had been anticipating it really; otherwise, what kind of sad fuck would he be for just standing around and pretending not to care? Still, that didn't stop his bladder based vascular system, lifted by soaring hopes, from incorrectly lodging itself into his throat. Just one flash of the Trollian icon could do this to him? He could strangle himself if it weren't for that thing inside him. That thing which he strangely felt an overwhelming instinct to protect.
That physical self-violence was reconstituted in the way he brought himself to the husktop only to have his hopes instantaneously deflated. The message wasn't from John. Just that dipshit Sollux.
He faced a conundrum.
Confront his feelings about John.
Continue the delusion a little longer and respond to said dipshit.
Of course he chose the latter.
twinArmageddons [TA] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]
[TA]: kk are you there?
[TA]: iit2 been liike a week.
[TA]: 2hould ii 2end for the coroner?
carcinoGeneticist [CG] returned from idle
[CG]: FUCK YOU AND FUCK EVERY SENTINENT BEING IN THE ENTIRE GOD DAMN MULTIVERSE.
[TA]: and ii thought your liitle 2abbatiical from ciiviiliizatiion would have iimproved your mood.
[TA]: what2 wrong now?
[CG]: I'LL HAVE YOU KNOW I'M DOWNRIGHT CHEERFUL. IN FACT THEY COULD PRODUCE A NEW TYPE OF CLEAN ENERGY JUST ON THE SHEER FORCE OF JUBILATION BURNING THROUGH MY CHITINOUS BODY CAVITY RIGHT NOW. I MIGHT EVEN GO SO FAR AS TO DESCRIBE MYSELF AS CHIPPER.
[TA]: alriight cut the bull2hiit.
[CG]: WHAT ISN'T WRONG?
[TA]: ii dont know that2 probably why ii a2ked.
[TA]: two fiind out, ii mean.
[CG]: I JUST...
[CG]: FUCK I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SAY IT.
If he could just mention it, even passingly, Sollux would take the hint. He might not realize to what extent the issue was...alright that was sort of a crucial item here too. Karkat didn't want to go into telling John without first having some kind of other opinion behind him. Sollux was typically pretty calm, and he worked under a crazy amount of pressure every time he got into hacking, which was often. That and the fact that he and Karkat were friends had a major impact on the deciding factors behind letting him know first. If he could just bring himself to admit it.
[TA]: okay 2o.
[TA]: what the fuck wa2 ii 2uppo2ed two get out of that?
[CG]: ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
[TA]: doe2 thii2 have 2omethiing two do wiith the john human?
[CG]: WHAT CHEMICAL MISFIRING IN YOUR THINK PAN WOULD LEAD YOU TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT JOHN HUMAN?
[TA]: ii dont know, maybe becau2e he wa2 the la2t per2on you were wiith before you dii2appeared for a week?
[TA]: and al2o becau2e youre liike matespriit2 or 2omethiing.
[CG]: WE ARE NOT.
[TA]: whatever there ii2 defiiniitely 2omethiing goiing on there even iif you dont want two 2ay.
[CG]: FINE. MAYBE IT HAS SOMETHING TO DO WITH HIM.
[CG]: OR EVERYTHING.
[CG]: SHUT UP.
[TA]: iim ju2t tryiing two be helpful or 2ome 2hiit.
[TA]: 2o you can 2piill now or 2hould ii ju2t come back iin another week?
[CG]: ALRIGHT FINE.
[CG]: I'M JUST GOING TO SAY IT, AND YOU CAN CONSIDER THIS YOUR FIRST AND LAST WARNING.
He paused. Forced his claws to click against the keyboard. It was torture to tap out each individual letter. Pressing each key was like contantly pricking his fingers on a pin. For that reason, he didn't have the desire to drag it out any longer. He'd figured out something in the last week; this secret was one even he couldn't keep to himself. He didn't have a choice in that, but he did have a choice of when to let the others know.
[CG]: JOHN’S DNA AND MY DNA HAVE BEEN RECOMBINED.
[TA]: are you 2ayiing that...
[TA]: there2 been a conceptiion of off2priing,
[TA]: between you and the john human?
[TA]: what the actual fuck kk?
[TA]: ii2 thii2 a joke??
[CG]: THAT'S WHY I HAVEN'T BEEN ABLE TO LEAVE MY HIVE ONCE I SENSED IT,I KNEW I COULDN'T HAVE ANYONE ELSE PERCEIVING THAT CHANGE.
[TA]: you guy2 diidnt even u2e a bucket?!!?!?
[TA]: you mean the off2priing ii2 actually iin2iide of you??
[TA]: how ii2 that even po22iible?
[CG]: SHUT YOUR PHLEGM-COATED OVERACTIVE PROTEIN CHUTE. I AM NOT GOING INTO MORE DETAIL THAN THAT. FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK, THIS SHIT'S PRIVATE. ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW IS, YES, THERE IS SOME KIND OF MUTANT HYBRID CURRENTLY RESIDING WITHIN MY BODY, AND IT WOULD BE GREAT IF YOU COULD FUCKING TELL ME WHAT THE HELL I'M SUPPOSED TO DO NOW.
[TA]: oh god...
[TA]: ii cant even.
[TA]: what diid john 2ay?
[TA]: you diidnt tell him?
[TA]: youve got two iit2 half hii2.
[CG]: AND HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO BROACH THIS SUBJECT? HE FINALLY DECIDED I'M WORTHY OF CONTACT AGAIN SOMETIME TWO NIGHTS AGO AND I COULDN’T EVEN BRING MYSELF TO RESPOND WITH SOME MEANLINGLESS CONVERSATIONAL GARBAGE.
[TA]: ju2t tell hiim.
[CG]: I WILL EVENTUALLY.
[TA]: do iit now.
[TA]: obviiou2ly youve been puttiing iit off for a whiile.
[CG]: YOU THINK? LET ME JUST TAKE THE TIME TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT BRILLIANT DEDUCTION RIGHT THERE, CREDIT TO SOLLUX CAPTOR, EVERYONE.
[TA]: yeah, yeah.
[TA]: tell hiim riight now.
[TA]: and then tell me how iit went after.
[TA]: maybe iill have fiigured 2omethiing out by then.
[TA]: holy 2hiit...
[CG]: WELL UNLESS YOUR REASONING SKILLS IMPROVE TENFOLD WITHIN THAT TIME PERIOD, LOOKS LIKE I'M SHIT OUT OF LUCK.
[CG]: BUT, OKAY, I WILL TELL THE GOOD FOR NOTHING DOUCHE.
[CG]: I WAS GOING TO ANYWAY.
[TA]: of cour2e you were.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA]
Karkat blinked at the screen, closing the window with Sollux. He felt no incentive to strike up a conversation with John right now, though the reassurance to do so was what he had been seeking. He'd rather go curl up inside his recuperacoon and sleep another week or two. Of course, in all fairness, Sollux was probably right. It was half John's, and not only that, but Karkat had never really even considered how John might be affected by all of this. It wasn't likely that both of them were hosting recombinant parasites, but maybe there had been other side effects for John too. And Karkat hadn't even thought to check. Maybe that was why John hadn't contacted him. Maybe...or maybe Karkat was just looking for an excuse to mentally forgive John enough in order to message him. That was probably the most likely cause. Nonetheless, Karkat allowed this thought to take hold of him until he was genuinely worried about John's present welfare.
Here went nothing. He was going to tell John. He was going to tell John and hoped that John didn't have a matching parasite in whatever human organ usually contained offspring. It was debatable whether he was more anxious or more indignant to have to notify John of the news. If John hadn't--okay, he was just stalling now. There was no contest, he was actually scared out of his mind for what John might say.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling ectoBiologist [EB]
[CG]: ARE YOU OKAY?
[CG]: IT IS OF THE UTMOST IMPERATIVE MATTER THAT YOU ANSWER ME RIGHT NOW.
[EB]: sorry i was in another window!
[EB]: it's nice finally hearing from you.
[CG]: YOUR KEYBOARD WASN'T BROKEN AS FAR AS I CAN TELL.
[EB]: hehe, no! i didn't mean it like that, jesus. but, i guess you're right...i've just been kind of caught up in things.
[CG]: I'M SURE WHATEVER SENSELESS HUMAN DRUDGERIES PLAGUING YOU WERE RANKED AT SUCH AN EXTREME LEVEL OF IMPORTANCE THAT YOUR THINK PAN WAS COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED.
[EB]: is this your way of saying you missed me?
[CG]: IN NO WAY WAS THAT EVEN A STRAY SUBCONCIOUS INTENTION IN THE MEANING OF MY LAST SENTENCE.
[EB]: i missed you too!!
[EB]: and you're right, i really should have put more effort into making time to talk to you.
[EB]: i've been thinking a lot about what happened...
[EB]: uh, what?
[CG]: JUST SHUT YOUR PROTEIN CHUTE FOR THE EQUIVALENT OF AN EARTH MINUTE OKAY?
[CG]: I CAN'T TALK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW.
Of course John wanted to discuss their relationship that wasn't a relationship, and now of all times. Karkat should have been expecting this, though with everything else on his mind, he hadn't. He didn't want to go there anyway, not in addition to the information he really needed to reveal.
[CG]: THERE'S SOMETHING I HAVE TO TELL YOU, REGARDING THAT. BUT IT'S NOT...
[CG]: SHIT. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT.
[EB]: karkat...i won't be upset or anything. i guess i kind of know where this is going.
[CG]: HA. HA. HA HA.
[CG]: DON'T MAKE ME TYPE THE LAUGHTER WHICH I AM PRETENDING TO GENERATE. YOU ARE UTTERLY CLUELESS AS TO WHERE THIS IS GOING.
[EB]: okay then maybe you should tell me?
[CG]: YOU'RE GOING TO WISH YOU HADN'T PRYED THIS FROM ME SO SOON.
[CG]: IN FACT, LET'S JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO PAUSE AND REFLECT UPON THE PLEASANTRY THAT ACCOMPANIES THE STATE OF PURE IGNORANCE IN WHICH YOU ARE CURRENTLY RESIDING RIGHT NOW.
[CG]: BECAUSE I'M ABOUT TO PUSH YOU OVER THE EDGE OF 'THINGS YOU NEVER WANTED TO KNOW' CANYON.
[EB]: would you just fucking tell me already?
Alright, he could do this. He'd told Sollux, hadn't he? And it was a fact. A fact he was going to deliver as painlessly as if he were stating the weather. And like the weather, neither of them could really do anything to change what is was. How John would react was less important than letting him know.
[CG]: MY INTERNAL INCUBATION CHAMBERS ARE CONTAINING OUR GENETIC OFFSPRING.
John didn't respond right away, which created the most horrifying moment probably in Karkat's life span since he'd first sensed something inside him. It might have only been one dull human minute, but in that minute Karkat went through every possible negative response John could return. What if he didn't even respond at all? He glued his eyes to the screen, waiting, holding his breath, and he started a little when the next message popped up.
[EB]: .......you're pregnant?!
[CG]: WHAT THE FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?
[EB]: damn it, karkat. this isn't funny.
[CG]: EGBERT, I AM BEING COMPLETELY HONEST RIGHT NOW. I KNOW IT IS HARD FOR YOU TO CONCEPTUALIZE, BUT TRY.
[EB]: you're not a female! i should know! ugh, this doesn't make any sense.
[CG]: ARE YOU SAYING ONLY FEMALE HUMANS CAN BEAR GRUBS?
[EB]: you've got to be pulling my leg. hahaha! you got me karkat! i was really getting worked up there for a second!!
Did John really not believe him? Was it so difficult to accept as true, or did he simply not want it to be true? Karkat could feel his levels of epinephrine spiking as he considered both outcomes.
[CG]: ARE YOU...
[CG]: REJECTING THE PRODUCT OF OUR RECOMBINED DNA?
[EB]: is this for real? all joking aside.
[CG]: I WAS NEVER JOKING.
[EB]: holy shit!
[CG]: I'M IMPRESSED AT THE PROFUNDITY OF YOUR REACTION.
[EB]: can we stop with the sarcasm while i'm still trying to figure out what's going on here?
[CG]: I TOLD YOU WHAT'S GOING ON, PLAIN AND SIMPLE.
[EB]: you're carrying our child?
[EB]: oh my god. this is...wow. this is unbelievable!
[CG]: ARE YOU ANGRY?
[EB]: no! no! oh god, i hope i'm not coming off that way. no, just incredibly shocked! and confused!
John wasn't rejecting it. At least he didn't seem to be. One of the many knots in Karkat's digestive pouch loosened in relief. Maybe not everything would go to ruin after all. He wished he could just savor this moment before the rest of the things they needed to determine caught up with him.
[CG]: WELCOME TO THIS ENTIRE LAST WEEK OF MINE.
[EB]: karkat, i'm so sorry. i should have made a better effort to contact you! i had no idea that this...! well, i guess it was a dick move either way but still...you knew this whole time? since...conception?
[CG]: NOT EXACTLY. I NOTICED WHEN MY BODY STARTED REACTING TO THE CONCEPTION BY PRODUCING NEW HORMONES.
[EB]: and i didn't even get to make you breakfast or anything!
[CG]: IT DOESN'T MATTER.
[EB]: yes it does! if i were you i would have been panicking all week about it.
[EB]: i guess you want to know my opinion of all of this.
[EB]: i mean, i can't say how accurate it is since i feel like this is going to take a while to completely sink in but...
[CG]: THAT WOULD BE NICE.
[EB]: i guess...hell, i don't know.
[CG]: IT'S OKAY. I'VE HAD LONGER TO THINK ABOUT IT.
[EB]: is it okay if i come over right now? i just...really need to see you.
[CG]: WELL I'M SURE AS HELL NOT GOING ANYWHERE LIKE THIS.
[EB]: so see you in a few minutes?
[CG]: SEE YOU.
The amount of anticipation Karkat felt in the next few minutes was worse than the summation of dread he had felt all week. Egbert was coming, so what? But he couldn't even pretend this was insignificant anymore. This was something bigger than solely his and John's tepid relationship.
He was used to waiting though; he didn't need to fidget or perform any nervous habits. Time kept pushing him ever forward, ever closer to the inevitable encounter with his possible matesprit. He was hoping John didn't expect to detect any signs of the zygote with his own insufficient human senses. Then again, John's plans were barely clearer than inscrutable to him. Fuck, he didn't have a clue what he was going to do himself. Incubating the little worm was one thing. It was an entirely different game to care for it. It didn't help that trolls weren't supposed to know their lineage. Trolls weren't designed to nurture and raise, and there was none of his kind to ask for advice. It certainly didn't help that his lusus wasn't around anymore. And that was even without factoring in any influence of John.
And speaking of the bucktoothed disaster, he arrived at the door out of breath, his hair wild, and his eyes wide open and magnified even more behind his glasses. Karkat drew a short breath and let him inside. It wasn't an unfamiliar situation, yet this time Karkat felt frozen. Unlike all the other times he had been unsure of himself, he knew this time actually counted for something. Doing the wrong thing here had the potential to reap some nasty consequences, and god damn if he didn't already have enough of those.
"Karkat!" John exclaimed, somehow managing to sound positive. Despite the out of place serious look clouding his expression, John didn't appear too stressed out. At least that was a good sign.
Although, John's proactivity made Karkat want to punch him in the face. Hard.
Well, wasn't it just like him to come running to the rescue? No contact for a week and then suddenly he gets the news, drops everything, and faces the challenge head first. It made Karkat's feelings twist beneath his skin. That stupid thoughtless bastard. That stupid thoughtless wonderful bastard.
"Close the door," Karkat commanded, before John had even stepped inside. Why had he agreed to this? It was difficult enough to even look at John without feeling steeped in a superficial rage.
Well, there hadn't been anything concrete between them. And now they were inextricably linked by the morula propagating itself within Karkat's body. It was as if Karkat was now obliged to comply with John, at least, to mind his own behavior. An unspoken contract which dictated that in order to make this work, they had to get along. Invisible rules, formed with the zygote, which were already driving Karkat mad. He was a leader, and he was supposed to make the rules instead falling under their decree. Just the mere idea of something directing how he should act made him want to do the exact opposite. Yet he knew he couldn't. He'd already had his chance to lack control, and he had taken it. Now it was time to step up to responsibility, and he'd be damned if he couldn't. Even if it meant he had to tone down the shield of aggression that was so familiar to him.
John ducked inside, closing the door behind him as he did so, not once taking his eyes off Karkat. It was almost comical that Egbert kept glancing down at Karkat's stomach, as if he expected Karkat to be showing already. Though Karkat was trying his best not to glare at the pathetic human in front of him, he was still surprised when John reached out and strung their hands together. As if this were a moment for which they had both been waiting.
Well it wasn't, and Karkat yanked his hands away roughly. Did Egbert think he was going to be comforting with his sentimental hand holding? It wasn't his hand to hold, and they weren't even matesprits. He had no claim to it, no reason to make any physical contact Karkat, especially now. Hadn't he glutted himself enough already? There was more pressing business for undertaking and now wasn't the time to try and figure out whatever mess was between them.
"Are you okay?" John asked, his blue eyes intense behind his ridiculous ocular frames. By now Karkat had noticed a few things in the normal human speech pattern and this question seemed to crop up a lot. So much in fact, that it didn't appear to hold much significance.
"Does your definition of okay include my body hosting a developing offspring?" Karkat growled. He fleetingly noticed that he hadn't labeled it with any sort of possessive pronoun. Mine, yours, ours...what did it matter? That thing probably knew how to leech nutrients and grow on its own. What they needed to divvy up was the responsibility. Now that was something he could trust himself to say without stuttering. Your...responsibility.
"Not really. I barely know that much about human pregnancy, let alone...Well, I just meant, it doesn't hurt or anything, does it?" The poor blue-eyed sap actually looked worried. Isn't that how it always goes? Sure, you can worry your damn ass off now. It's already too late, and it didn't take any extensive knowledge in copulation for Karkat to know that much.
"That's just fucking great. You don't even know how your own reproductive cycles work. I'm not going to be totally alone here in figuring out what the fuck is going to happen to me."
"Karkat, you'll never be alone, I'll always--"
No, stop. Why did John keep steering the conversation in this direction? Was Karkat giving some kind of unintentional cue for John to bring up all their mushy feelings for each other? No. Hell no. He had to interrupt.
"Egbert, can we pretend that you were any kind of leader to your troupe of misfit earth adolescents long enough to formulate a plan as to what we're going to do about this thing?"
How was it so hard to stay on track here? This was a pretty big deal, and maybe that was it. Neither of them had ever experienced something like it before, how were they supposed to know where to start? Was there even a starting point? Well, that was probably something they were way past by now.
"Shit. Okay, I'm sorry. I just don't know how much we can actually plan right now. We don't even know if it's going to live that long..." John was grimacing like he didn't like the sound of his words. Whatever he was trying to say, it was coming out all wrong.
"Of course it's going to live!" Karkat snapped. If there was one thing at all that Karkat was sure about, it was his undeniable urge to have this thing survive. He didn't understand why he felt that way, he just knew that whatever it was needed his protection, and of course he was going to give it. It was instinctual, he supposed, since keeping this thing would most likely only exacerbate everything else. Nonetheless, there were distinct lines drawn between the rest of the shit going on in his life and the life of this parasite inside of him, and the parasite was taking priority. It had to live, that wasn't even a question or a fully articulated thought in his think pan.
John looked a little surprised at Karkat's outburst. It had been loud, even for the most easily irritated troll of all. Not only that, but Karkat actually seemed genuinely angry. Right, well this was difficult for both of them. John could do to be a little more sensitive, after all he didn't have to carry the mutant hybrid for the next...oh God. How long would the term even last?
"Okay, okay, you're right. Calm down," John tried, though he could tell it was just pissing Karkat off even more. "We have a lot of things to think about, and not everything's going to come together all at once. We've got to do it in stages, and you're right, it's better not to put this off, especially since we don't really know how long the term is going to be."
At this John hesitated. Karkat was looking at him, scowling, expectantly, as if he were waiting for John to go on. Sure, there were a lot of other things John wanted to say, needed to say, and probably eventually would say at one time or another. However, there was the trick of saying it without causing offense, and that was an issue of its own.
Formatting this was a nightmare. I can't handle simple HTML. Luckily the next chapter wont have a chatlog, but I'm leaving tomorrow and won't be back until Wednesday, so it probably won't be up until then.
I almost got this up yesterday, but it looks like I'm an hour and a half late. Can't win 'em all, I guess.
John leaned against the wall, since apparently Karkat wasn't keen to moving out of the foyer anytime soon. Not that the physical stress of standing could compare at all to his current level of mental stress.
"I just. Okay, with humans...First of all only female humans can get pregnant. And then they have to see this doctor about it, and go to the hospital and stuff..." Wow, he sounded stupid. It sounded like he had no idea what he was talking about and was just running his mouth in the hopes that some of the words would fall together to make sense. Well, it was hardly his fault that he wasn't an expert on pregnancy! He wouldn't have imagined in a million years that Karkat, a male, would be able to conceive.
Neither of them were ready to be parents, neither of them had planned on it, and yet here they were taking it on anyway.
"Well, is there something equivalent for that with trolls?"
It didn't help that John had a billion more disorganized questions pulverizing what was already a viscous mush in his head. He didn't really know why he had chosen this one first, it sort of just bubbled out of his mouth. But whatever, getting things squared away was what Karkat seemed intent on doing. Even as he was giving John a disapproving glare for leaning on the wall.
"Let me make something perfectly clear to you. Trolls don't carry larvae. They use buckets." Karkat could feel his mutant blood bunching up in the veins of his face. He was probably bright red right now. It didn't matter. This was something John needed to understand or at least be familiar with. He exhaled in hopes of releasing some of the pressure due to the utter shame it was to openly discuss these things, but it didn't help. On a trite note, he did feel a bit less enraged.
"That night...what we did," and that was the only concession Karkat was willing to give to acknowledging the questionable relationship between them, "That's pretty much taboo in troll culture. There are some...complications with troll birth, I don't fucking know, it's not something we have the displeasure of hearing about because no one is so caught up in their own idiocy to risk getting culled. Look, when we reproduce we do it through the use of buckets. Any concupiscent pleasure has a bucket involved. That's part of the reason why it's a disgrace for a grub to know the identity of its ancestors. Only the most indecorous scum would forego the use of a bucket."
"Oh man," John wasn’t sure if that meant he was supposed to feel ashamed. He didn’t, but he did feel a little embarrassed, and he was pointedly looking anywhere that wasn't the pregnant troll. "So you're saying, it was wrong by troll standards?"
"I'm saying it doesn't fucking matter. Shit went down, and we can't change it so there's no point in eroding your face with tears about it. But now you know some context. Trolls don't know jack shit about reproduction. Half the time, pailing day is a surprise," Karkat forced himself to say, though he wasn't addressing all of it. In fact there were a lot of corners they were cutting. What was he being so shy about?
"I don't really understand," John said quietly. He still wasn't looking at Karkat, and now his entire face was flushed. What a great sign of his emotional maturity.
"I am going to spell it out for you, just this once okay? And this is the extent of my knowledge. Each troll has its own bucket. When trolls in a concupiscent quadrant engage in activities of carnal nature, each uses its pail. This separates their genetic material so there is no chance offspring. On pailing day, as I've told you before, the imperial drones come to collect the genetic material of all of the reproductively mature and viable trolls. These filial pails are then presented to the mother grub who combines everything and finally produces the offspring in the form of eggs. Now in our case, we mated without use of a bucket. There's nothing else to really say about that, hopefully you aren’t entirely mindless and can remember because you were there. I have no fucking clue what happens after that, what's going to happen to me, or even how the troll reproductive system works naturally."
It wasn't so bad, listing it all so clinically like that. It took the personal edge to an objective and almost hypothetical level. The pressure in Karkat's head eased a little more. Facts were facts, and they were safe. Even if they sucked, they just were.
John still didn't look very comforted. On the contrary, he looked even more uncomfortable, and he had stopped leaning against the wall halfway through Karkat's explanation. There was some human display of emotion on his face that was unrecognizable to the troll. At this point Karkat remembered his hospitality, or maybe it was pure chance, who could really say, and offered John to sit down.
They walked silently through the hive. There were so many things that needed to be said that it was unnerving. They were wasting so much time circling around actual issues that it was driving Karkat insane, although he knew he was entirely guilty of it. He needed to stop being such a sensitive wiggler. John stopped in the culinaryblock for a glass of water, and Karkat seated himself at the table. He wasn't going to let himself to continue to tiptoe around it anymore. He was going to be direct and---oh fuck, when did John sit down next to him?
"Karkat...?" That soft tone and the slight tilt of his voice meant danger. It meant addressing things other than the wiggler, things of which Karkat wanted no part.
"We're not talking about that," he snapped.
John looked confused. "What? I didn't even say anything?"
"I know what you were thinking, damn it, and I'm not talking about that now."
John idly pushed his glass of water back on forth on the table. It was leaving a trail of water which was effective in being irksome. Karkat glowered until John stopped.
"How are we going to raise it if we can't even talk about it?" John asked. His expression was genuinely serious. Who was being direct now? Karkat felt like a hypocrite. Even worse, he immediately threw himself into overanalyzing that 'we'. We are going to raise it? What did that mean? And was that topic off limits, or was it just borderline enough to explore it further?
John was right, Karkat was being tactless trying to avoid certain things. Everything was connected and would be brought up eventually. But...not now...
Karkat decided it could be borderline if he kept it that way. It was just a case of semantics, right? "What do you mean we're going to raise it?"
John suddenly looked distraught. "I know you want to...you want it to survive. I just assumed you'd want to keep it..."
"Well of course I'm going to keep it." He felt indignant. He sounded indignant. He sounded like a total jackass who was unable to stop berating John for two seconds in order to actually get somewhere with their plans. He should have stressed the we in his last question.
John frowned. "You don't want me to be a part of its life?" He looked down at the annoying little beads of water on the table. Maybe they were beginning to annoy him too. Or maybe he was making shapes out of them; it was hard to tell exactly what he was thinking. "I know right now I have no idea how to be a father, but don't you think I could rise to the occasion?"
It was amazing the extent to which this human was dense. Karkat bit back a caustic remark, though he wasn't sure why. His guard was completely up, even more so now that John was fiddling with the line that separated things concerning the wiggler and things concerning their relationship. One thing at a time!
"Probably," Karkat muttered. It was pointless to be snappy with John when they both needed the other's cooperation to get things done. However, Karkat's first line of defense was anger. The stress itself was enough cause for him to be less than polite, let alone that it was naturally his disposition. He defaulted to working things out with yelling matches. That wasn't going to cut it now. He had to at least stay neutral.
"Then what is it? You don't trust I'd be around?" There were a lot of things in John's voice Karkat didn't feel like acknowledging. He just stared at those vile crystalline drops of water on his table and pretended he couldn't feel the thrumming of his bladder based vascular system. It was a lot more difficult than he thought to keep himself from going off on a tangent.
Instead of responding, he shrugged. He knew it was almost equivalent to saying "No". He also knew that it would hurt John, which he both wanted and didn't want. In all truth, he knew he could trust John to be there. It wasn't that. What really got him was how much he wanted John to be there. It was dependence. Karkat didn’t need to rely on anyone other than himself. He trusted John, but not enough to give John the power to break that trust, to let Karkat down.
"Of course I would be there! I'd be there twenty-four seven if you let me. We could...I mean, I guess we really should consider moving in together anyway."
What did he just say?
Karkat froze. He really hadn't expected Egbert to say that. The thought hadn't crossed Karkat's mind at all. Immediately he felt stupid. Here John was, worrying about being a good father and whether or not they should move in together, while the majority of Karkat's thoughts in the past week were concerned about how the other trolls would tag him as even more of a freak outcast than before. Well, that and how he was going to tell John.
Moving in together? Why? Was it solely for the sake of the grub, or did it signify the cementation of their relationship as matesprits? For trolls, moving in together after pailing certainly was a declaration of matespritship. But humans had to fuck everything up with their manual grub incubation. Human matesprits probably lived together, but parents also needed to live together since they raised their young. And matesprits were parents, but were parents necessarily matesprits? It was too damn confusing.
If John had really wanted Karkat living with him, why hadn't he asked sooner? It was only because of the wiggler, and Karkat wasn't going to give in to the obligation that they force their relationship to mesh with some antiquated human set of values. The only problem was that Karkat knew he could deal with whenever the humans found out. He wasn't so sure about what might happen on his side of town.
John sighed, frustrated with his inability to fit what he wanted to say through Karkat's criteria. Not about them, just about the wiggler. Well, that was pretty fucking hard to discern when both those things were so inextricably linked. If he didn't feel a little at fault for all of this, no way would he be putting up with this self censorship bullshit! Then again, he wasn't the pregant one here. It was hard to imagine just how frightening that would be, especially for someone with no knowledge of the subject. It was the least he could do to cut Karkat some slack. "I'd feel safer if I were with you. We don't know anything about this or how it's going to go...it seems like a really shitty idea for you to be alone. Maybe trolls senses are more acute than humans, and you'll know what's going on, but if there is a problem I think it's my responsibility to be there."
John was being so annoyingly selfless, offering his hive. Like he was doing everything right from the book of unplanned interspecies impregnation. Plans were being formed. Certain topics were being ignored just enough so Karkat wouldn't have a panic attack on the spot. It was too much. It wasn't perfect, but it was the best Karkat could have hoped for. His guard was still up, but at least it wasn't swathed in red anymore. And maybe John had a point when it came to safety.
"When the other trolls find out, there is an uncanny probability that things are going to get hiveshit maggots over here. And if it will yield a higher chance that the offspring survives to its first wiggling day--"
"You’re welcome to stay as long as you want," John cut in.
Karkat’s eyes widened. So he was really doing this. They were really going to be together as some kind of parental unit, or some thing Karkat was still content with not identifying.
"Is that the custom for human lusii? To live together?" He might as well know the asnwer. If he was going to do this--go live with the humans--he might as well start brushing up on their lunatic social codes.
"Yeah, usually," John chuckled. He looked considerably less grim than he had during the rest of their conversation. Well, yeah, at least they'd finally nailed down one thing in this gigantic torrent of limitless variables. Baby steps. "Do you really think you'll have a problem with the other trolls?"
"Who the fuck knows?" replied Karkat. They probably would. Those damn blue bloods took issue with everything, and he wasn't exactly their favorite troll in the first place. If he went with John, it was possible that he could keep them from finding out a little longer.
John seemed to accept this answer. He looked at Karkat and smiled like he was satisfied with the amount of progress they'd made. Karkat knew that look. It was the same one that had gotten him into this situation.
"What?" he asked skeptically.
"It's nothing," John assured. Then it was back to business, and everything was as okay as it was going to get again. "Anyway, whenever you want to move in is fine. I'll help you get your things together...um, speaking of that there are a lot of things we're going to have to get for the baby, and there's the economics of everything..."
For someone that had fallen into the lap of parenthood unexpectedly, John seemed to have no trouble pulling things together. It almost convinced Karkat that maybe, somehow, they had some chance in successfully pulling this thing off.
*More complaints about formatting chatlogs* It was worse this time though because I'm not home so I had to do it on my unreliable laptop. Anyway, next chapter is the last chatlog for a long, long time, which I'm thrilled about. It's kind of any important one too, and kind of long (I'm having nightmares about formatting it already). I'm definitely going to wait until I get back home to tackle that though, so that would probably be Monday. *Sigh* If only they weren't so necessary...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Although Karkat had made it clear that trolls had no knowledge of internal incubation, Karkat would rather rely on trolls than whatever doctor John thought he should see. It had been two days since their long talk, yet John had visited both days after that. They ended up beginning to pack up Karkat's things, because the sooner he got out of there was probably the better. However there was one thing Karkat didn't want to overlook, and it was that very reason for which Karkat was trolling Tavros.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] began pestering adiosToreador [AT]
[CG]: TAVROS. RESPOND NOW.
[AT]: oH, hEY KARKAT, i HAVEN'T HEARD FROM YOU IN A WHILE,
Okay, okay, Karkat got it by now. Was everyone going to get on his case for being a little less vocal than usual? He didn't have time to mince words today, John was coming over soon. Hopefully Tavros wouldn't spend too much time bumbling around with his speech so they could get straight to the point.
[CG]: YEAH, LOOK, I HAVE MORE PRESSING MATTERS.
[AT]: iS THERE SOMETHING THAT YOU NEED?
[CG]: TELL ME EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT FIDUSPAWN.
[AT]: yOU WANT TO KNOW ABOUT FIDUSPAWN?
[AT]: i THOUGHT YOU SAID IT WAS A GAME, fOR GIRLS,
Barely a few moments in, and Tavros was already digressing. Karkat pinched the skin on his forehead in frustration. He really would not be doing this if he didn't think there was at least some valuable information he could extract from the faltering troll. And since his options were already limited as it was, he didn't have the freedom to be passing up an opportunity to try and gain some more understanding of his predicament.
[CG]: WRONG. I SAID FLARP WAS A GAME FOR GIRLS. CAN WE JUST CUT TO THE FUCKING CHASE ALREADY? THE POINT OF THE GAME IS BREEDING THOSE DISTURBING LITTLE CREATURES, RIGHT?
[AT]: yEAH! iT IS,
[AT]: i GUESS I WILL TELL YOU, aBOUT FIDUSPAWN, eVEN THOUGH I'M NOT REALLY SURE WHY YOU'RE SUDDENLY INTERESTED,
[AT]: bECAUSE IT SEEMED LIKE, bEFORE, yOU NEVER WANTED TO PLAY,
[AT]: aND I GOT THE IMPRESSION YOU THOUGHT IT WAS, a WASTE OF TIME,
[CG]: FUCK WHAT I SAID BEFORE. LISTEN TO WHAT I AM TELLING YOU NOW. I NEED TO KNOW HOW IT WORKS.
[CG]: DAMN IT NITRAM, THIS IS CRUCIAL. I CAN'T BE WAITING AROUND ALL DAY. CAN YOU TRY TO PRETEND YOUR THINK PAN IS AT LEAST HALF FULL AND GET ON WITH THE FACTS?
[AT]: oKAY, sURE,
[AT]: wELL YOU START WITH A HAND OF CARDS,
[AT]: tHEN, yOU THROW AN OOGONIBOMB, wHICH, cONTAINS A FIDUSUCKER,
[AT]: tHE FIDUSUCKER LATCHES ONTO THE HOST PLUSH,
[AT]: uH, wELL, aFTER IT'S DONE, iT WILL, rEMOVE ITSELF AND CRAWL AWAY,
[AT]: sO THE HOST PLUSH CAN GIVE WAY TO THE FIDUSPAWN,
[AT]: i THOUGHT YOU WANTED TO KNOW, aBOUT FIDUSPAWN,
Great, well now Karkat knew how to play Fiduspawn, not that he had been looking for a walkthrough on that. Fiduspawn was about breeding, right? Surely Tavros had some basic concept of how things went in that area, and he'd glossed right over it! He was probably sitting at his husktop giggling and going all bronze like an idiot. Apparently Karkat was going to have to be more specific with what information he was trying to extract.
[CG]: FOR THE LOVE OF FUCK, YOU SKIMMED RIGHT OVER THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.
[AT]: bUT I DIDN'T EVEN FINISH EXPLAINING,,,
[AT]: wHAT PART DID YOU THINK WAS INSUFFICIENT?
[AT]: i WILL TRY TO, dESCRIBE IT BETTER, sO YOU UNDERSTAND,
[CG]: I UNDERSTAND PERFECTLY FINE, BUT YOU LEFT SOMETHING OUT.
[CG]: HOW DOES THE TRANSFER OF DNA WORK?
[AT]: uHH, kARKAT,
[AT]: i FEEL KIND OF UNCOMFORTABLE, aNSWERING THAT,
[CG]: WHAT FOR?
[CG]: OH MY FUCKING GOD. DO YOU THINK I'M GETTING SOME KIND OF AUTOEROGENOUS PLEASURE OUT OF THIS?
[CG]: TRUST ME, THE ONLY THING I'M GETTING OUT OF THIS IS A SHIT TON OF DISGUST. I MAY HAVE LOST MY APPETITE FOR THE NEXT TWELVE SOLAR SWEEPS SOLELY BECAUSE OF THIS CONVERSATION WHICH I AM FORCING MYSELF TROUGH.
Did Tavros think that Karkat was red flirting with him??? No. No. Oh, God, that was so wrong that Karkat didn't even want to consider that Tavros was misconstruing him that much. Alright, so discussing the tranfer of genetic material was a more perverse topic, but Karkat could hardly tell him the reasoning behind his need to know.
[AT]: bUT YOU SAID YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT FIDUSPAWN,
[AT]: i'M CONFUSED,,,
[CG]: I NEVER EXPRESSED A DESIRE TO LEARN ABOUT THIS MORONIC GRUB CARD GAME. IF YOU COULD READ PROPERLY YOU WOULD KNOW THAT I SAID I NEEDED TO KNOW.
[CG]: NEED IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO WANT.
[CG]: JUST GET ON WITH IT ALREADY.
[AT]: i DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND WHY IT WOULD BE NECESSARY, uH, tO KNOW HOW FIDUSPAWN WORKS,
[AT]: bUT, iF YOU'RE SURE, i GUESS I'LL TRY TO BE MORE,,,dETAILED,
[AT]: tHE FIDUSUCKER ATTACHES ITSELF TO THE MOUTH OF THE HOST PLUSH,
[AT]: aND,,,oH GOD, i CAN'T BELIEVE I'M WRITING THIS OUT,
[AT]: tHIS IS SO EMBARRASSING,
[CG]: HURRY THE HELL UP. THE LONGER YOU DRAG IT OUT, THE MORE TIME YOU SPEND SHAMING YOURSELF.
[AT]: i KNOW,
[AT]: oKAY, tHEN THE FIDUSUCKER TRANSFERS IT'S, uH, gENETIC MATERIAL TO THE HOST PLUSH THROUGH IT'S PROTEIN CHUTE,
Well, that certainly wasn't how it had gone with John. So trolls didn't reproduce like Fiduspawn. That was sort of comforting in the fact that the wiggler wouldn't be bursting out of Karkat's fluid filled body cavity anytime soon. Then again, he hadn't learned anything either.
[CG]: DAMN IT.
[AT]: wHAT NOW,
[CG]: THAT ISN'T THE SAME.
[AT]: wHAT ISN'T THE SAME?
[CG]: I MEAN THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
[AT]: dID YOU TRY PLAYING FIDUSPAWN ON YOUR OWN?
[CG]: NO. I'D RATHER RIP MY AURICULAR SPONGE CLOTS OUT OF MY HEAD THAN BE CAUGHT PLAYING FIDUSPAWN.
[CG]: I JUST HAVE ONE MORE QUESTION ABOUT IT THOUGH, BEFORE I WRITE THIS DISCUSSION OFF AS TOTALLY WORTHLESS.
[AT]: mAYBE IF YOU COULD TELL ME, tHE REASON WHY YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FIDUSPAWN,
[AT]: bECAUSE THAT MIGHT HELP ME UNDERSTAND HOW TO, uH, eXPLAIN IT BETTER TO YOU,
[AT] oR AT LEAST IN A WAY THAT IS BENEFICIAL TO YOU,
[CG]: I CAN'T TELL YOU.
[AT]: oH, uH, iS IT A SECRET?
[CG]: DID I TIP YOU OFF BY SAYING I COULDN'T TELL YOU? BECAUSE THAT USUALLY CONSTITUTES AS SOMETHING THAT IS SECRET.
[AT]: yEAH, sORRY,
[AT]: bUT, i THINK IT MIGHT BE HELPFUL TO TELL ME,
[AT]: i PROMISE I WON'T TELL ANYONE,
[CG]: LET ME THINK ABOUT THAT.
[CG]: NO FUCKING WAY.
[CG]: NOW I JUST NEED TO KNOW HOW LONG THE GESTATION PERIOD OF THE FIDUSPAWN IS.
[AT]: uH, uSUALLY A COUPLE OF SECONDS, sOMETIMES A MINUTE OR SO,
carcinoGeneticist [CG] has ceased pestering adiosToreador [AT]
Well that had been a complete and utter waste of time. He should have known there wasn't a single trace of anything valuable in Fiduspawn. It had been foolish of him to try and think it would be anything like regular breeding. It was a game for grubs, how realistic could it be?
Karkat closed his husktop with a bit of displaced frustration. So he was still at square one, after all that. Unless he was about to go into labor right now, a week late, he hadn't gained any clue as to what was happening to him. Maybe John was right about seeing whatever offspring specialist he had mentioned. No, fuck it, Karkat Vantas wasn't going to a human for help.
There was still one hope for him, and it was in the form of Kanaya Maryam. But Karkat didn't feel like destroying that hope also today so he abstained from reopening his husktop. Besides, John should be arriving any time now to start moving a few of Karkat's things. They had boxed up most of the things that Karkat would need. Unfortunately, some of the things, like his recuperacoon were too big to move. The idea of sleeping in a human bed was entirely revolting. Karkat wasn't even sure he could feel sleepy without sopor slime.
Those things were hardly anything more than petty trifles though, and he only bothered to fix his attention on them to distract himself from what was really glaringly wrong with his life.
The other trolls, save for Sollux, didn't know. That was good, but it wouldn't last forever. Karkat didn't want to think about what was going to happen when they found out, and they would sooner or later. They were already suspicious why he hadn't left his house in a week and a half. Either one of them would come to see him, or they would figure it out with he moved in with John. That would cause an uproar on its own, a troll moving in with a human. It just wouldn't do without reason. And that's when they would find out. So it was inevitable, and all Karkat could do was wait and hope the only real threats were verbal.
He had no idea how the human community would react, and he didn't really give a shit. Humans were weak. Trolls could be a much bigger headache if it came down to that. And that was another thing Karkat didn't want to think about. What could he do if they decided to settle things with violence? He had to be careful now; he couldn't risk the life inside him. Yet he could hardly send John in his place. Maybe they would be civil about it. Or maybe he had to stop thinking like a wiggler and face the facts. If it came to violence, well, he would simply have to play a better mental game.
After that thought passed, Karkat was again abandoned to the great mass of unresolved items in his life. There were too many of them to have any organization, too many to even give him the hope of sorting through. It was difficult enough to stay focused on what things were coming up presently, let alone things in the far off future. It was here where Karkat, suspended in the infuriatingly unclear tasks ahead, noticed John's arrival.
"You're here," was all he said. It irked him that he couldn't have thought of a more astute observation than that, especially since John had clearly been standing there for a minute or so.
"I knocked, and the door was open...and you were expecting me...?" John stepped closer, his eyebrows drawn together in concern.
Karkat nearly flinched. It was odd seeing John worried all the time, and it was annoying that he was worrying for Karkat's sake. The troll was perfectly capable of worrying for himself, and he didn't need John's pity.
"Let's just start moving the boxes," he said quickly, before John could ask if he were okay.
Most of the boxes were already by the door, and John somehow lifted them with ease. He was stronger than he looked, Karkat noted. Easily underestimated. That might be an asset later.
"So, I guess you'll be ready by tomorrow..."
It wasn't a guess, it was a question. Would Karkat be able to leave tomorrow? Why the hell not. It wasn't like he was so attached to this place anyway. He wasn't looking forward to living in a human hive, but he could deal. Location of residency was on the bottom of his list of problems.
"Yeah. And don't expect me to be all emotional and shit. Good riddance to this place." As usual Karkat tweaked his indifference into contempt. It was just easier for him to mask everything in negativity.
John smiled. "That's one of the last things I'd expect from you, getting all teary-eyed and reminiscent."
He jabbed the corner of the box he was carrying into Karkat's arm playfully, and ow, great idea, that fucking hurt. Karkat scowled and responded by picking up two more boxes. Instantly John stopped him.
"Wait, that's too heavy. Don't strain yourself." He attempted to curl his arm around the top box and stack it on the one he was carrying. It took every nerve of control if Karkat's spinal crevice to not jerk away and send all that shit flying. What did that John human think he was doing? Karkat wasn't debilitated or weak because of his condition. He was still perfectly capable of carrying an extra box.
"I can do it myself," he shouted indignantly, creasing his face in frustration.
John let go of Karkat's boxes and stepped away. "Okay, sorry. Just don't overdo it. Maybe not now, but you have to be careful about certain things."
Karkat nearly snorted with laughter. There was being careful, and then there was being coddled. And there was no way he was giving up his independence so soon.
By the way, I don't think anyone has caught what the title, Johnkat+1, is referencing. At least, no one has mentioned it yet? It was sort of an unintentional pun. I'm a little curious to see if anyone noticed.
In the last couple weeks I've been forced into a few situations where I end up talking to expectant fathers...it's really weird (and I say forced because I'm not the kind of person to go up to strangers and talk to them). But they're so adorable, oh my gosh!! If I could capture a tenth of that, I'd be set.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
John paced about his room, looking for answers in the floor, the ceiling, the shitty movie posters plastered over his wall, anything. He couldn't keep still, which was a good portion of the reason he had been putting it off for so long. No matter how much he tried to reason with himself, so far he hadn't been able to do it. He'd even lessened the caliber of difficulty of the task by resigning himself to doing it over instant message, and yet he was still raking his bedroom floor with his feet, searching for ways to get out of this.
There was no denying it, or changing it, only hiding it, and that was going pretty damn well so far but...he couldn't keep doing it forever. Especially after Karkat moved in...especially after Karkat began to show...they'd figure it out. He ought to just man up and spit it out already.
He gripped the back of his desk chair and sat down. It would be...just like ripping off a bandage. He just had to get it over with once and then the worst would be over, they could probably all laugh about this later, etc.
Shaking fingers hovered over the keyboard. Bracing himself with a deep breath, John clicked on Rose's chumhandle. Telling her would probably be beneficial anyway, she would know what to do. Rose always knew what to do. If Rose didn't know what to do...
Oh God, he was typing it. He didn't know how the hell he was supposed to inform someone of this, so he absolved all of his attention into staring at the keyboard. It was bad enough to be typing it; he didn't need to see those words up on the screen too.
Holding his breath and closing his eyes, he pressed the enter key. There, that wasn't so bad, was it?? He sighed, which allowed for the tightness in his chest to ease slightly. Besides, when had Rose ever been anything but understanding? She had been very resourceful in assisting him to figure out his sexuality. Obviously this situation was nothing like that, but...
Before he could get himself worked up again, he looked up at the screen. She should have responded by now...she should have--but she hadn't.
To John's horror, the response text wasn't purple. Hell, even green would have been fine. But it was a sickening blood red. Shit.
John panicked. How had he managed to fuck that one up?! Frantically he dragged his mouse across the screen and moved the IM window to the side. Behind it was the window he had opened for Rose...apparently Dave had sent him a message while he was typing, and the only thing that had been truncated from the message he had sent to Dave was "rose".
His thoughts raced into bedlam. Fuck, fuck, fuck! He hadn't even wanted to tell Rose and now what was Dave going to think?! He had not mentally prepped for this! What was he even supposed to say??
Respond, damn it. He would have to own up eventually, and why continue to put it off? It was better to start practicing that responsibility thing now before there was a baby crawling around.
[EB]: ...karkat is pregnant.
[TG]: shit egbert you struck me as a safe sex kind of guy
[TG]: learn something new every day i guess
He wasn't taking it seriously. John gnawed on his lip, half in relief and half in dread. Now that he thought about it, the curt way he stated it seemed hard to take seriously. It probably didn't help that if someone were going to joke about this, it would be him. Convincing Dave would be more of a challenge than he had thought.
[EB]: dave, i'm being serious here.
[EB]: like actually, completely, one hundred percent serious.
[TG]: is this a really fucked up way of trying to gloat that you finally got laid
Ugh. John frowned at the screen. Dave was never going to take him seriously! Under normal circumstances maybe John could have understood how improbable it seemed, but presently he was just frustrated. His plan to break it to Rose had failed, and now he had to deal with Dave's shenanigans.
[EB]: dave, i know this seems absurd, but that's exactly why i wouldn't joke about it. if i were trying to trick you, i'd make it at least a little bit believable, don't you think?
[TG]: egbert if i fell for this id never forgive myself
[TG]: but nice try
[TG]: you deserve a hearty round of applause for that one
"Dave, you idiot," John muttered to himself, closing out of the window. It was a lost cause anyhow. Dave obviously could not be derailed from thinking this was some lame joke. Guess he was just going to have to wait for the baby shower.
John refocused on the window he had initially opened for Rose, when a message from her appeared.
[TT]: Hello, John. What is this I hear about your insemination of Vantas?
Embarrassingly enough, reading that made John blush. He brought his hands to his face subconsciously, as if he could douse the red with his hands. Leave it to Rose to be all clinical about it. He couldn't tell if she were joking or not, but he knew he'd have an easier time gaining her faith.
[EB]: i guess dave told you.
[EB]: i meant to send that to you first, actually. i thought you might understand better.
[TT]: If we are conspiring to pull one over my dearest brother, then don't worry. I have made no compromising comments as of yet.
[EB]: what? damn it, no! this isn't a joke!!
Rose didn't believe him. Now what was he going to do? Karkat wasn't exactly showing, and who knew when he would or even if he ever would. John thoroughly considered smashing his face against the keyboard. At least Rose would have plenty to say about that.
[TT]: I know Dave is gullible, but do you honestly think you can fool me as well?
[TT]: And by such a crass improvisation. I would have thought you held a higher opinion of my intellect than that.
That keyboard was looking more and more attractive.
[EB]: rose, look, i promise i am not lying. i swear on my life!
[TT]: You swear on your life?
[EB]: yes, i swear on my life that karkat vantas is pregnant and that i am the father!
[TT]: If this is truly not a joke, you have some serious explaining to do.
Finally she believed him! For a while there he had been worried that no one would ever believe him. And while that wasn't so bad now, it would be substantially awkward after Karkat moved in. On second thought, maybe she was just humoring him, but even that was better than the flat out denial he'd received from Dave.
Meanwhile, Dave's window had popped up again and was flashing wildly behind Rose's. Yeah, no way was John going to attempt to go there again. At least he was getting somewhere with Rose.
[EB]: it is not a joke, i promise i wouldn't joke about this. i need you to believe me because i really need help.
[TT]: So it seems.
[TT]: Sorry, that was thoughtless of me. So you and Karkat have...copulated?
[EB]: if that is what i think it means, then yes.
[TT]: I'm sorry, this is quite a shock.
[TT]: I suppose the first thing that comes to mind is, are you keeping it?
[EB]: karkat seemed pretty adamant about that.
[TT]: You know, raising a child, an infant even, is a lot of hard work. You have to make a lot of sacrifices. To name a few things, they cost quite a lot of money, they will cry and scream and defecate, they need constant monitoring and care, not to mention if this thing survives on it's own...who even knows what it will require? Normal parents don't get much sleep the first year, let alone parents of a hybrid human-troll species.
[TT]: That is assuming of course that you are going to help Karkat out with this, and I believe that would necessitate moving in with him.
[TT]: And these are just a few things for which you will need to prepare.
He'd thought about most of these things already, though seeing it listed like that was reassuring and daunting at once. There were a lot of factors involved with taking care of a baby, probably more than he'd realized in the past few days, probably more than Rose could think of from the top of her head. Still, whatever he missed, hopefully Rose could be there to fill in the gaps.
[EB]: i...i know. i know it is not going to be like the babies on diaper commercials where everyone is smiling and happy.
[EB]: then again, i am not claiming i know how difficult it's going to be either. i can't know that. like you said, in this case, there are a lot more unknowns.
[EB]: but karkat wants it, and you know what? so do i. and by making that choice, we agree that it's our responsibility to take care of it.
[EB]: i don't know what taking this on will entail, but i know it is my duty as a father to step up and meet whatever challenge i face.
[EB]: i know there's no way in hell it's going to be perfect, but i can't let that discourage me. all i can do is try, and that's exactly what i plan to do.
[EB]: try my best, learn from my mistakes, and raise my child.
[TT]: I am surprised yet again, John. That was very passionate.
[TT]: I know that with your determinism, you will stay true to your word to try your best.
[TT]: However, my concern lies in that there are more factors in play here than just your attitude.
[TT]: Are you sure you can get along with Karkat? Remember, many couples get along just fine until they try to raise kids and find their parenting styles are incompatible.
Karkat...Karkat was...another story. Karkat had the most pressure on him, and John could tell that he was feeling forced to make a lot of decisions that he hadn't been ready to face yet. It wasn't just about the baby. They had been at that odd point where they were just about to define their relationship, which had taken longer to get to because of the strange circumstances surrounding what term to use. Boyfriends? Matesprits? And how do you bring something like that up? Now it seemed useless to be choosy about words, but...they never actually had. And now Karkat was more than reluctant to talk about it because as much as he wanted their relationship to remain separate from the issue of the child, those things were kind of irrefutably connected.
[EB]: i guess i am supposed to be past the point where talking about me and karkat is really embarrassing?
[TT]: I don't see how anything can surpass the news of his pregnancy in terms of blush worthy topics.
[EB]: yeah, but that's true and kind of undeniable. i don't really know what's up with our relationship, if that's even what it is.
[TT]: That's a major red flag. You definitely need to clarify things with him as soon as possible.
[EB]: i know! it's just, i don't want to upset him more right now.
[TT]: If you don't establish clear boundaries, it's almost inevitable that you will upset him a lot more in the future.
[EB]: yeah, i just gotta time it right...
[TT]: Sooner would be ideal.
[EB]: i know, i know.
[TT]: Are you okay?
[EB]: i'm okay. i just get nervous when i think about it like, wow, i don't know how to care for an infant!
[EB]: i am going to learn everything i can, do everything by the book, it's just still kind of...
[TT]: In a positive or negative way?
[EB]: i see some negative aspects, potential issues, but as a whole it is definitely something positive.
And also completely terrifying. It was great he was going to be a father, well...he still wasn't so sure that idea had completely sunk into his mind yet. More on his mind were the things that he didn't know, things he might not know up until the day of its birth. It had come as a real shock to find out that Karkat was carrying his child, even thinking that still sounded weird! Try as he might though, there was still a little part of him that was excited. Nervous-excited, but the excitement was there nonetheless.
[TT]: You're coping extremely well.
[EB]: haha, i don't know if you're being sarcastic or not, but i just want to take everything as it comes. i am not trying to come off like i'm overlooking possible problems, i just don't see the point in dwelling.
[TT]: You are optimistic by nature, John.
[EB]: thanks? most of the problems are just because of how unknown everything is. a new species is a whole different ballgame.
[TT]: And in regards to Karkat? Surely you have an idea of what to expect from him?
[EB]: yeah. hehehe.
[TT]: I won't press for more details in that area unless necessary.
[EB]: whoa, thanks i guess.
[TT]: Don't mention it.
[TT]: By the way, in a moment I'm going to have to focus all of my attention on pacifying Dave. It's kind of inevitable that he know now.
[EB]: i know, i was going to tell him eventually. just not like this.
[EB]: it's probably better that you do it anyway, he didn't really believe me.
[TT]: There are many factors at play when it comes to my brother, all of which I shall spare you the technicalities.
[TT]: I trust your own kin took it well enough?
[EB]: i haven't told jade! i wanted to tell you first, since i thought you'd be the most calm...
[TT]: Actually, I was talking about your father, but thank you for the compliment. I hope I met your expectations.
[EB]: well nothing's been going as expected lately, so i'd say this was pretty damn close.
[EB]: and...yeah. about my dad...
[TT]: You have yet to inform him?
[EB]: rose, you know how he was about homosexuals. this isn't even homospecies!
[TT]: John, I don't think that word means what you think it does.
Telling his father wasn't something John was looking forward to doing. It wasn't that he expected his father to be mad or upset. Actually, his dad had been really accepting when John had told him about his interest in men. It was just, well, a little awkward whenever it came up. Like he knew his dad didn't judge him about it, or think less of him, or anything along those lines. His dad just didn't really understand the concept, so it was a little hard for him to wrap his mind around, and damn, if he thought that was different...How many cakes was John going to rack up after his dad learned about this?
[EB]: whatever! you know what i mean.
[TT]: He is a troll and you are a human. Well, you won't know until you find out, will you?
[EB]: yeah, but i didn't know today would be everyone finds out day.
[TT]: Perhaps it is better this way. The fates twine a mysterious skein for us to unravel.
[TT]: In any case, I must be going. If you need me in that time, of course feel free to message me. I'll do what I can to try and ameliorate things.
[EB]: thanks...he'll take it okay, right?
[TT]: Of course, after the initial shock subsides.
[TT]: John...you do know you are not alone in this, right?
[EB]: heh. well of course not, i have karkat.
[TT]: Sorry, I was referring to 'you' as in the plural, meaning you and Karkat as a unit. Is it premature for that still?
[EB]: oh my god, rose. don't use words like premature.
[TT]: Right, that was a slip on my part. What I meant was that you have us for help and support. And let's not try and pretend you're not going to need it.
[EB]: no kidding. but yeah, thanks again. wow, i feel like i've been saying that a lot.
[TT]: It's understandable.
[TT]: And now, to engorge myself in red text.
[TT]: Take care, John.
[EB]: you too!
tentacleTherapist [TT] has ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]
With that conversation out of the way, John slouched in his computer chair. He'd been a live wire throughout that exchange, now he just felt like that wire had been torn from him. All the high strung energy was gone. Rose and Dave knew, and this had been accomplished with minimal freaking out. Admittedly, most of the freaking out had been done by him. Though he hadn't expected it to go quite like this, it had turned out a little better in the end. He still had to tell Jade, but she wasn't even home right now. He might send her a message later so she could see it when she got the chance. He definitely wasn't going to tell his father anytime soon. John was certain that he was not ready for that chat to happen just yet. For the most part, right now, things were stable, and John intended to keep them that way.
Rose is so awesome!!! And really, between Karkat, who knows absolutely nothing about pregnancy, and John, who isn't that much better off, they're going to need her. Also, John is not going to talk to his Dad for a while about this...you might think I have forgotten, but don't worry!
My desktop isn't working, so I had a bit of an issue getting this chapter up...I had to go to the public library and...(I will spare you the details). In retrospect, it really could have gone much worse. Anyway, this is a cutaway chapter (away from the main action). It's basically just setting up the next chapter.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everything in Rose’s house had a place, even the dust particles which gathered on the many items that never moved out of their designated spot. It was organized to the point immaculacy, and every time Dave was seated uncomfortably next to the white and pink coffee table, he couldn’t help but feel unnerved. Rose’s entire house was so put together that it gave off the impression they were inside of a doll house instead of a home where someone lived. The only consolation Dave had was that he knew this was all a farce, and that Rose was actually a very messy individual. The reason most of the house was so strikingly neat was because Rose spent most of her time in the house in her room, and that area was a complete mess. Of course, she never let anyone in there, and Dave had only seen it himself a handful of times. Still, each visit to her house came with the unsettling feeling that he was disturbing a museum display or something of the sort.
In any case, Rose had made them tea and dispensed it between two china cups which were resting on the table on those horrible lace doilies that she’d probably knitted herself. Dave hadn’t remembered asking for tea, in fact, he distinctly remembered that he hadn’t asked for it. What was tea without prepackaged ramen to accompany it? Sitting here next to Rose, sipping from a cup plastered with kitten decals was approaching tea party territory a little too quickly for Dave’s taste, but certain things had to be ignored because there were more imminent matters at hand.
Rose took the initiative to kick off what would probably be one of the weirdest conversations in Dave’s life by clearing her throat as she set down her teacup back on the lace spiderweb. “So Vantas is pregnant.”
At this point, Dave felt very fortunate that he rarely was expressive with his emotions. He wasn’t exactly sure what he was supposed to express with a statement like that. Of course he’d always expected that out of the four of them, John would be the most likely to start a family with two point five kids and a dog, but somehow Dave had never pictured it like this. He’d known that John was seeing Karkat, but it wasn’t exactly the most candid relationship, and no way in hell would Dave have ever expected Karkat to get pregnant. To be able to get pregnant, even. It was really fucking bizarre to say the least.
“I’m not sure I want my weekly visit to your home showcase to be centered on John and Karkat’s Frankenstein baby experiment,” Dave shot back dully. He knew it was useless and that Rose would steer the conversation right back to fruitcake central no matter how much he resisted. Besides, he was a little curious himself, and she had all the details. Leave it to her to have actually believed John when he revealed that he was now an expectant father.
“Nonsense, of course you do,” Rose returned, completely seeing past his hesitancy towards the subject. “We’re John’s friends and so this absolutely concerns us. It’s time to step it up. If nothing else, what are friends for than to support each other in times of need?”
Dave just picked up his teacup and examined the dark liquid inside before taking a drink and setting it back down. He didn’t really know what he could say to that, so he said nothing. She was right that they should be there for John, but what were they supposed to do?
“I’ve talked with him quite a bit, and already I see many prominent quandaries taking shape,” she paused, this time waiting for Dave to say something in response.
“Yeah, okay, lay them on me. What has sprung a leak in John’s life that we can go around patching up? I’m all about helping my best bro out, I just don’t see how much we can do this early in the game.” Of course Dave would be there for John, but did that mean jumping down his throat before he got the chance to figure it all out himself?
“Well, for one, he hasn’t told his father. He’ll need assistance with that, probably, but I’ll aid him there. The other major issue right now seems to be that he doesn’t know how this will affect his relationship with Karkat, which by the way, he doesn’t have a clear idea about in the first place. Now I have informed him it is imperative that he discuss this right away, but I’m not so sure I got through to him.”
“So you want me to tell him to have a heart to heart with Vantas?” Dave asked. “That is really what you think I am capable of doing. Convincing others to get all touchy-feely.” She was recruiting him, that's what this was all about, wasn't it? They were going to form Team Meddle with John's Life. Dave really didn't want to be a part of that. What the hell did he know about the road to fatherhood? Nothing. Rose just wanted an underling to help carry out whatever she had in mind. And yeah, he knew she had good intentions, but at the same time he wasn't about to sell his soul without first knowing the cost.
“You may phrase it however you desire, but it is my wish that he understands the importance of this task, and I have confidence in you that you can at least reinforce this notion,” she went on, stopping to pour herself more tea. The steam curled past her face as she lifted the cup to her mouth. Reinforce, huh? Of course she knew just how to present it as a challenge to him. He could do more than just reinforce the idea. He could be very convincing if he chose. And she knew that too, but she was always a few steps ahead, always trying to pull her reverse psycho-bullshit and make him comply with her plans. Well, there was a limit to how far Dave was willing to go to win her ridiculous mind games.
“I’ll suggest it to him, but I’m not going to get all mother hen on him. It’s his life, he probably knows the ins and outs of it better than we do,” Dave stated.
“I don’t doubt that. Clearly he is the most familiar with the situation, and we can only work off what he tells us. However, I think you would agree that with the unexpected coming of their child they will be forced to make some decisions for which they were not yet ready, and I believe we can soften that blow. It appears to me that John wants to take this very seriously, though he seems unrealistically enthusiastic. I’m not sure he understands all of the things involved with parenthood.”
Dave bit the inside of his cheek to keep from sighing. Rose was loving every minute of this, he could tell. Personally, he didn’t think they needed to be so aggressive. If John needed their help, they would be there for him and do what they could. There wasn’t a lot they could plan right now that wouldn’t be based off speculation.
He let her go on a bit more, sipping at his tea, which was getting cold, and nodding every now and then. God damn, he really needed to talk to John before his only source of information was the Rose channel. Finally, about ten minutes after he’d finished his tea, he decided to derail her from her excited jabbering with a mostly offhand question. “So if Karkat is preggers, does that mean he’s going to get tits?”
Rose put her teacup down and gave him a disapproving look. “Dave, that’s hardly—"
“It’s a legitimate question,” he said, resting his arm on the coffee table next to his empty cup. Maybe he should have saved this question for John, but Rose’s reaction was pretty satisfying too.
She rolled her eyes. “Though I can’t say for sure, I would highly doubt that. I’m sure you’ve noticed this, but the female trolls happen to develop breasts while the males do not. Therefore, I would conclude that Karkat would not be capable of suddenly developing as well.”
Dave smirked, and Rose seemed to accept that he was done listening to her drone on and on about it. She offered him more tea, but he refused.
“At least promise me you will talk to him, or ideally, visit him sometime soon.” she said exasperatedly.
“I would have anyway. But…” He met her stare through his shades. “I guess I can mention a few things about him getting his priorities in order.”
I really hope my desktop starts working soon...
Dave was sitting on John's kitchen counter which John was unsuccessfully trying to clean. The dude was beside himself with primping and neatening his already tidy home for the coming of his...well, fuck. Was baby daddy an accurate term here? In any case, all he needed was an apron and maybe some fishnets and the scenario might have been fitting. That is, if Dave disregarded the fact all this work was to impress the male mother of his best bro's demon spawn.
Watching John scrub at invisible blemishes on the spotless counter, Dave hoped John didn't have the crazed notion that this might make the troll feel at home or anything. This was a classic case of lost cause. No way would Karkat ever feel at home in a human dwelling, and forget about him ever coming close to saying so.
"So when does this whole Addams family assemble?" he asked lackadaisically, pressing his hands to the smooth cool countertop. John sure had polished it up nicely. It felt like glass against his calloused palms.
"Don't call us that!" John protested, spraying counter cleaner dangerously close to where Dave was sitting. A few seconds later and John was jabbing a soggy paper towel against Dave's thigh, urging him to move.
Dave gracefully leapt off the counter like the badass ninja that he was. Alright, he stood up rather uninspiredly, but it wasn't like there was anyone aside from Egbert to notice his spectacular form anyway. Besides, said overwrought friend was already having his way with the place on the counter that Dave had just vacated.
"Hopefully trolls aren't allergic to all this cleaning shit. I mean, it's pretty brutal on most humans, isn't it?" Dave observed. He wasn't sure if he was kidding or being a prick, or if there were actually a distinct line between the two like he insisted. It didn't matter much though because John nearly dropped the bottle of counter cleaner on the floor when he heard that.
"Oh my God, you're right!" he exclaimed. Suddenly he was eyeing the counter cleaner as if it were poison. He set it on the floor--the floor for crying out loud--and rushed to the sink with a fresh paper towel.
"Calm down bro, it was a joke. For all Vantas's bragging, their kind ought to be able to survive nuclear warfare."
It was obvious John wasn’t listening though, as he rinsed the paper towel with water and began wiping down the counters again.
Dave would have sighed, except that was a sign of exasperation which had no place to belong in his level of cool. After some thought, he decided on a different approach. Rose was probably covering all the doom and gloom anyway, and Dave needed to find a way in this fucked up family circle, really it was so fucked up it was probably an oval, or else he'd be stuck hearing everything through her scientific filter.
"Dave, John and Karkat have copulated."
Yeah, wasn't that a lovely way to put it?
Dave watched John finish with the counters, pause as if he were searching for something else out of place, find it, and go off to dust the cabinets or something.
"It's not like Karkat hasn't been here before. He knows not to expect much," Dave remarked, thinking twice about sitting on the counter again. God forbid his pants were bathed in a troll retro-virus or something.
"Wow, thanks," John frowned. What else could he possibly find out of place? No shit, if he kept this up, he might win the housewife of the year award. And how was he supposed to explain that to the troll carrying his child?
"And what I mean by that is, he'll be so taken by your dorky charm that he'll ignore what a shithole this place is." Well, it wasn't like Dave to just hand out compliments. If he went all sweet as frosting now, that would probably be just as alarming as if he were to be entirely straightforward.
"Yeah, yeah," John said, but he smirked. Well, that was a good sign. But was it good enough to mark the entrance of John into a talking mood? The guy wasn't exactly a fortress to break down. In fact, compared to Dave, John was an open book with yellowing dog-eared pages.
"You really like him don't you?" It was a bit more pointed than Dave would have liked, but if he wasn't going to be allowed to sit down until this was over with, why not speed it up a bit?
"Of course I do," John responded quietly. His gaze was turned down to the nearly spotless paper towel in his hands, not that it hid the fact that his eyes had lit up like he'd won the lottery.
"So when's the wedding?" Dave somehow motivated himself to walk over to where John had finally stopped the obsessive cleaning. Oh, the look on his face said it all. He had it bad.
"Don't be ridiculous," John murmured, like it was actually a far off speculation that he might want to wed the parent of his offspring. He was still fixated on that damn dishtowel, which was ridiculous in itself because there was nothing interesting in its slightly less than boring diamond shaped indentations. He was doing a shitty job of trying to hide what he really felt, and Dave didn't see the point. As far as he was concerned, hiding emotion was his thing, not John's. Besides, Karkat was pregnant! For God's sake, did John really expect that to be something private?
"I was being completely serious, dude." John had a lot of things to worry about, and Dave understood that. Probably not perfectly, but wouldn't it be a lot easier if he were clued in? He was pretty sure this was one of the main things bros were for, helping each other out after knocking someone up.
"It's not even legal," John retorted, finally looking up. He seemed a little annoyed by the sudden interrogation, and he probably had some entitlement to that. Still, Dave was going to help John figure this out even without an invitation. He was worried about the legality of human-troll marriage? There were more obvious concerns on the freshly polished table right now. He met John's irritated stare with a blank look, which resulted in John looking away and--Jesus, he even had a faint tinge of pink creeping across his face. "Don't even say it. Don't even go there. I know it probably wasn't legal for us to..."
"Look at it this way, there's no law against it," Dave supplied. Damn, he was being altruistic today. But John probably needed it. Not because he had a fragile little glass heart, but because this was actually some confusing shit that honestly neither of them was adequately prepared to take on. Unfortunately John didn't have a choice in the matter, but he still deserved support. It was a very delicate thing that could only be handled by the smoothest of operators. Although by that logic, as soon as Karkat arrived, everything was going to hell in a hand basket.
"Is it something you'd be interested in?" Dave prompted.
John shrugged, and Dave could already see a faint outline of the problem. John had faith in society to decide what was moral and what was not. It wasn't that he couldn't think for his own, no, because obviously John's opinions could deviate from those of the general populace without hitch. Seriously, John had no trouble defending his horrible taste in film no matter how many people disagreed. The thing that got to John the most was trusting that laws actually represented ethical decisions. John could care less about being mistaken, or even incorrect, but unethical was something else entirely. "I don't even know if we're a thing. I think we are, but..."
"But it's Karkat?" And Karkat wasn't the type to dump out his feelings unless they were loud and irate. He was probably just as hard to read as Dave, and even less willing to be cooperative.
"But I don't know how to bring it up," John corrected him. That made sense to Dave. He and Karkat were alike in the sense that they didn't need anyone poking around their feelings. Dangerous territory, right there. It wasn't generally the best idea to ask someone actively hiding their emotions to bring them all to light. Especially when hidden behind anger. That, and Karkat was a hell of a lot more obstinate. He'd never had a brother to put him in his place.
"You know that's like the first thing you have to work out. Soon as he sets foot in the door, set that shit straight." Well, maybe not right away, but Dave doubted John would follow his advice to the tee anyway, if at all. Their relationship was kind of an essential piece of the issue, and if that wasn't settled then they didn't stand a chance at anything else.
John gave him a sheepish look, like he wasn't even really considering it. So he was afraid to upset Karkat, yet he didn't seem to realize just how vital it was to define what was between them. Dave wasn't going to force it down his throat. He just hoped that John would have enough sense to figure that out on his own.
So in the next chapter John and Karkat will finally move in together. Oh, and does anyone know why the end notes on chapter one appear after every chapter??? Is it just me? It's really kind of annoying.
Okay, this chapter is kind of long, but...! The reason is sort of because I won't be home for the next two weeks, and I expect to be really busy in those two weeks. So, I'm not sure when or even if I will be able to update this in that time. Anyway, when I get back I will try to post very soon! We're finally moving out of the introduction phase...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
At least all the boxes were inside, though none unpacked. Where to put them indeed. Humans had a roundabout way of doing everything, and Karkat was almost positive he did not want to know how they went about organizing their possessions. John would probably show him tomorrow anyway, whether he asked for it or not. Upon arriving, he had remained mostly silent while trying to think of something to say that didn't sound remarkably hostile. It was probably in accordance with human law to give some sort of thanks or gracious acknowledgement of John's hospitality, but Karkat failed to see the importance of such trite formalities. If John didn't want to take him in, he didn't have to. He wasn't doing Karkat any favors. It was because of their--
No. Karkat quickly withdrew his train of thought from that path. It was enough to simply leave it at the facts. They had moved in together because overall it was more convenient and probably safer.
Speaking of safety, none of the trolls had suspected a thing. The moving had gone almost effortlessly, and unfortunately the time to rip the bandage off reality was approaching. He would have to notify them before they found out. Beat them to the punch and maybe that would subdue them for a bit. There was no telling how they would react. There was virtually no precedent to any of this. And who better than Karkat to expect the very worst?
It was the first night sleeping in John's house as...well, a resident more or less. The human scent still hadn't dulled his olfactory senses enough to go unnoticed, especially as he was lying on the couch. First of all, lying down to go to sleep was fucking outlandish in the first place, let alone pressing his face against the fabric which was releasing even more of John’s odor. It was hard enough to sleep without sopor, lying down, lacking his recuperacoon, and in a human hive, without having to bring the way John smelled into things. He was right upstairs too, that moron, probably conked out without so much a single conscious thought plaguing his human think pan. From what Karkat knew of John's room, his bed, which was the sleep apparatus, was considerably warmer and softer and maybe could substitute for sopor. It had the last time, when they were both sweaty and Karkat was so exhausted because nothing had prepared him for that sort of physical activity and--damn it! This was not fucking helping.
He flipped petulantly, trying to find a comfortable position and only succeeding in pushing more human stench from the cushions. He shouldn't have been so stubborn and condescending earlier. He should have admitted that, yes he was scared out of his mind to be in a barely familiar setting where he was supposed to play family. He had no clue how family dynamics even worked, let alone if he could handle being part of one! All he had were instincts, and they weren't answering his questions.
He tossed again, and folded his hands under his head. His eyes flickered closed, replacing the scene of John's living block furniture with just John. John upstairs, sleeping in that almost adequately comfortable bed which he had offered to share. Maybe Karkat could just go up there and wake him up and tell him he changed his mind...
It wasn't happening, and he was a little reluctant to fall asleep anyway. Sleep without sopor risked experiencing horrorterrors. Besides, it wasn't like he was alone. He was never alone anymore. Without thinking, his hand moved to rest on his stomach. It was still flat, unnoticeably different, even to himself. Yet he could still feel it in there, feel its presence. At least...at least there was that.
He was about to turn over one more time when suddenly there was a noise. A very loud rattling noise that vibrated through his veins and spooked him on a more basic level. Immediately he sprung to his feet, claws bared. Though he could see nearly perfectly in the dark, nothing seemed out of place. Then at once--again! It was coming from the culinary block. Fear pounded behind every contraction of his bladder based vascular system as he quickly traced the source to the big cooling containment unit. There was something in there...there was some horrific abomination in the cold chamber. Karkat tensed, all muscles prepped and ready to spring.
How had it gotten in there? Not only that but what about John? He needed to be protected from whatever this monstrosity was. It really was a miracle he was still alive after living alone all these years. Karkat must have stayed rooted to that spot for another twenty minutes, like he were waiting for the creature to burst out and attack. It never did, but at the end of that twenty minutes he heard the sound again and this time, without hesitation, he brought his claws to the door of the freezer and swiped it clean off.
Shards of ice shattered everywhere, even a few bags of frozen vegetables and other nasty looking human nourishment items were strewn across the floor. The thing, where was it? Had it escaped? At first glance it hadn't looked like there was anything moving in what was left of the ice box. He looked around the room, crouching low. Where had it gone, where had it--?
"Karkat, are you alright?!" John's voice called, and his footsteps thundered down stairs.
"John." Karkat was beside him in an instant, his eyes literally glowing in the dark as he scanned the culinary block meticulously. He had one hand on John's shoulder, gripped tightly as if he were going to fling John out of harm's way. "I heard something from the cold containment unit, and it must have escaped when I attacked."
"You...huh?" John wondered if he were still half asleep and delusional. Somehow, out of all the ways he'd imagined their first night living together, none of them had come close to him staring at the remains of his slaughtered freezer laid out on the kitchen floor interspered with some accompanying frozen foods. The only thing even keeping him sure that he was awake was Karkat's nails piercing through his pajama shirt and partially his skin.
"John, are you listening?" Karkat asked, sounding annoyed and impatient. Fuck this, John wasn't even conscious enough to understand the urgency of the situation. Karkat had heard it, whatever it was, and it had been loud and menacing. There was no mistaking a threat, and it had been rattling around like bag of broken bones. They had been lucky to get a warning, but they were not going to pass up its arrogance and wait around for it to come for them. Sure, Karkat could take it easily, but John, who didn't even realize there was danger...
John felt Karkat begin to tug at his shoulder, pulling him away from the mess. Damn it, he really had to wake up fast and...Karkat heard a loud noise from the freezer? Did that mean...he knew about the ice machine, right?
"Karkat, wait," John said, holding his ground in the little patch of light from the doorless freezer. Of course this didn't stop Karkat, so John had to pry Karkat's claws out of his shirt with both of his hands. "Karkat, it's okay, I think I know what it was."
Karkat gave him a look which was clearly visible since his eyes were glowing, and his face was a little highlighted by the dim freezer light. John knew what it meant though. Karkat was worried about him. Karkat thought he was being a dumbass, but nonetheless...John was worth protecting. It wasn't like he hadn't known that before, at least to some extent...but still. It made him crack a smile. Maybe it was because he was sleep deprived, but wow, thinking about it tickled him to his toes.
John now pulled Karkat over to where the busted freezer door was splayed across the ground. It finally hit him that, damn, his freezer was missing a door and all the food inside was going to go to waste. Not only that, but obviously he would have to replace the door somehow. This was really an inopportune time for one of his kitchen appliances to go to pieces, especially as he was beginning to find out just how much a baby would cost.
He squeezed Karkat's hands. It had been an accident, and that was that. Maybe it was a good thing he was only half awake after all. Would he really have been this calm in the morning? Karkat didn't need to slice the door in half out of defense...or offense. Okay, there was no point in overthinking it. He just needed to inform Karkat of what the sound was so that nothing like this would happen in the future. Well, he could only hope.
John crouched down next to what was left of the top half of the door, and Karkat followed suit. John gestured to the broken plastic that had once been the ice bin.
"Okay see this?" he picked up a stray half-melted ice cube and dropped it in. In made a clanking sound as it struck the remaining plastic before bouncing out. "The freezer makes ice, but a lot more of it. And then the ice falls into this bin all at once, so it's loud. I'm guessing that's what you heard."
Karkat's eyes were narrowed into little slices of moon. John almost laughed at how skeptically Karkat was staring at the broken freezer door, except the fact that it was destroyed removed enough comedic value that he didn't. And also it was late. Funny how he kept mentioning how tired he was. Leaving Karkat to glare at the broken ice bin, John got up and turned the freezer off. No point in wasting electricity. He began moving what things could survive to the refrigerator. Other things that were a complete loss, like ice cream, he left on the counter. Ah, well. He never really cared much for sweets anyway.
By the time John had finished, or gave up anyway, Karkat had dragged the pieces of the door off to the side of the room and swept up the rest of the stray fragments. He was standing there looking almost guilty or sorry or something, but it was hard to tell because he was frowning and without the light of the freezer it was dark again.
"Don't worry about it," John said, stepping closer to see Karkat more clearly. Remorseful. He looked remorseful. Wow, John really must have missed a lot of sleep to think Karkat looked remorseful! He was so screwed for work tomorrow. "I'll clean the rest of it up in the morning. We should be getting back to sleep now, it's really late."
Oddly Karkat wasn't saying anything. That wasn't a good sign. Karkat always had something to say. He wasn't the type to be afraid to share his opinion on anything. Even if it were to justify his actions! Even if it were to express how much he had fucked up! But...nothing.
John turned, ready to make his way back up to his room, but it unsettled him how still Karkat was. He knew Karkat wasn't raving like a banshee all the time, and he'd witnessed other facets of Karkat's personality. Not this...this was unusual, and he couldn't just leave Karkat alone in the kitchen without making sure everything was okay. He didn't really see why things wouldn't be okay, it was just an accident after all, yet nothing else came to mind.
"Karkat? Are you...?" Well shit, he couldn't ask Karkat if he were okay. If there were a trigger to setting him off and never getting to the bottom of his unfamiliar silence, that question would be it. Of course Karkat was always fine, even if he weren't. He didn't need anyone inquiring about his welfare or asking about his health, he could do everything by his fucking self and if he received any help it would just be a hindrance. Or so he claimed. "Are you not tired?" John finished lamely.
"Of course not. How the fuck am I supposed to sleep without sopor?" Karkat grumbled. There was no real anger behind his sentences. If anything, he just sounded peeved at himself.
John brushed it off because he felt a lot more tired now that the time between him standing here and him climbing back in bed seemed unobstructed, and also because this was not even antagonistic by Karkat's standards. Still, that didn't mean John was going to wait around forever while Karkat pretended that he was acting normally. Nothing was wrong, at least nothing that he was apparently willing to admit, and John was either too sleepy or too wise to challenge Karkat's brand of stubborn.
"Well, I'm going back to sleep now, so goodnight. I'll see you in the morning, and try not to wreck any other household equipment while I'm asleep, okay?" John laughed a little. He hoped his light tone was enough to give Karkat the message that whatever was bugging him was fine and that this whole incident wasn't worth losing sleep over.
John turned and started to head out of the kitchen, only to be halted by Karkat's voice. "Wait." He turned and looked at Karkat and his glowing yellow eyes with huge dark spots where his pupils were. This was almost irritating. He was willing to let everything go if that's what Karkat wanted, but it seemed like Karkat couldn't decide whether he wanted to bring it up or let it die.
"Do you want me to stay up with you?" John asked, trying one last approach. Seriously, he wasn't a mind reader, and Karkat wasn't exactly an open book. In fact, Karkat was the most tightly glued shut and locked with barbed wire and lasers and heaven knows what else kind of tome that John had ever encountered.
"No," Karkat said sharply, but he took a step towards John anyway, his narrowed moonbeam gaze unwavering.
Oh. Oh! John suddenly understood. Karkat wanted to sleep with him! Well, no...he felt his face heat against the cool rims of his glasses as those thoughts tumbled gracelessly through his head. It wasn't that Karkat wanted to sleep with him, just with him in the same bed...next to him! Though if it were to go in that direction, John probably wouldn't discourage it. Even though that would do nothing to help stabilize or define whatever the hell their relationship was at this point. Yeah, he should bring that up. Sometime, but not now.
Karkat took another inquisitive step forward, eyes still cynical, ready to deny everything if John called him out. Of course Karkat couldn't just want this for himself. He had to be invited, convinced. Like both of them didn't know the unspoken questions being raised right now. Besides, no matter how accommodating he was, John wasn't going to beg.
"Okay, well I'm gonna go up now. There's room next to me if you want." He had phrased it pretty damn objectively, but there it was, the invitation Karkat was seeking. He wasn't sure it was justification enough and was surprised when Karkat nodded and threw in a noncommittal, "Whatever."
This time as he made his way to his room, he heard Karkat padding softly behind him. During the day Karkat stomped around like it was everyone's business, but now his footfalls were light enough to dissolve into the darkness. Maybe it was because he was pretending this wasn't happening, or maybe because...who knew? John was tired.
Finally they got to John's room. Immediately it was all too reminiscent for Karkat, seeing as the only other time he'd been in here was the night that caused him to conceive. He nearly stumbled past the doorway, the muscles in his legs felt like they were locking up. His mind was flaring up with warnings for him to get out, but for once he made a good effort of ignoring it. Still, that didn't make things any less difficult as he tripped over one particularly blinding memory on his way to John's bed. It was a damn good thing humans couldn't see in the dark, because his blush felt like a rash over every surface of his skin. John didn't even miss a beat as he clambered into bed, leaving Karkat ample space on the other side. John remained sitting up, waiting, looking at Karkat expectantly even if he could only see a faint dark outline with two bright sparks for eyes.
Karkat approached his allotted side. It was weird even getting onto this stupid sleep apparatus, and last time he hadn't really been analyzing the proper way for entering a bed. He hoisted one leg up and pressed his knee against the mattress, then sort of sprang so the rest of him made it on there as well. This caused the whole bed to shake and creak, and John to laugh for some idiotic reason or another.
Karkat burned. The memory of last time, the degradation of basically admitting he wanted to sleep near John, everything, it was just so embarrassing. Trolls never slept together in either sense of the phrase, and while the more carnal implications had come instinctively, he had no idea what to do in the literal situation. He felt like a flaming paper, curling up and dying; he lied down and pulled himself into a tight ball on the edge of the bed.
John shuffled around next to him, presumably removing his glasses and getting into a lying position himself. By the tension of the bed and the distribution of their weights, Karkat could tell that at least John wasn't crossing the invisible line drawn down the center of the mattress. Somehow that both helped and didn't help relieve some of his anxiety.
"You don't have to be so close to that side," John said, his voice muffled by something, a pillow maybe.
God, they were already in the same bed, what more did John want?! The real problem was that Karkat wanted it too, and that scared him. He knew it wasn't exactly a secret, but that didn't mean he trusted himself to answer. He would keep up this facade of repulsion as long as he wanted because...because it was the only familiar thing he had at the moment.
John didn't press the subject. He either understood or he had drifted off to sleep. Karkat relaxed a little, but still could not sleep. He didn't want to be here, he didn't want any of this. He wanted to be home, he didn't want to be carrying a mutant child. He...admittedly had a lot of confusing feelings for John, but this sure as hell wasn't doing anything but exacerbating that. It was hard enough to take romance on his own terms, let alone being thrown into...this quandrantless nightmare. He had been thrown into a human relationship. He was expected to be a father!
Fuck. He felt physically ill. He wanted to inch his way back into John, but he would not surrender to that. He didn't need John in order to feel alright. He could put everything out of his mind and...
And really fucking wish this wasn't happening.
Ice machines are so scary! A couple weeks ago my friend and I were staying at another friend's house, and we were walking through the kitchen and the ice machine went off, and we both jumped! Of course we knew what it was, but imagine not having that technology, or having a different, less clunky technology to produce ice! It would be terrifying! So...poor Karkat. Poor John too, he needs a new freezer now.
No way was he waking up after John. That simply was not going to happen. If one of them were going to have to wake up to an empty bed, it sure as hell wasn't going to be Karkat. There wasn't much cause for concern seeing as he was up most of the night anyway, the lingering worry of waking up second having punctured more holes in his fitful sleep. It was probably one of the worst nights he'd had in a couple sweeps, and maybe he should have just tried staying up for an extended period instead of forcing himself to rest. When he was tired enough he would sleep, that was something he'd learned a long time ago. Still, something about last night...He hadn't freaked out! How was he supposed to know about the ice machine? Damn frivolous human technology.
About an hour or so before the sun rose, Karkat was already wide awake and out of bed. He wasn't sure what to do. Now it seemed stupid that he and John hadn't discussed how a typical human morning went, not that he would have asked even if he had thought of it. As the hour slowly passed in the dark silence before the dawn, Karkat seated himself at John's desk and stared out the window, though there was not much to see at this hour. It was funny how the humans unanimously seemed to have some understanding that the world was to shut off during the lightless hours of the day. And yeah, maybe that was an overgeneralization, but in comparison to a cluster of hives, it was a graveyard on this side of town. Everything about humans and their neighborhoods was weird. But now it was kind of hard to top the oddity that was growing inside him. More things he didn't want to think about.
Would he ever be used to this? He didn't even know how to make a hypothetical answer to that, so he just ground it back into the fleshy walls of his think pan and pretended to look back out at the opaque black horizon. There were no stars, or if there were, maybe they were being blocked by that huge ass tree in the yard. Last time Karkat had left John's house after staying the night, he must have left about now. If only he'd known.
When in the fuck was John going to wake up?
The sky eventually lightened by its own accord at some hideously slow pace. By the time the first rays of sun martyred their ways through the tree branches, John was stirring, surfacing from sleep, and then his alarm went off. Karkat observed as John sleepily draped an arm over the annoying time keeping device to shut off the alarm and then equally as drowsily hauled himself into a sitting position. He blinked his uncovered eyes, which were out of focus from either his atrocious vision or just general grogginess and squinted. He looked sort of surprised, or at least, it was evident on his face that he hadn't expected Karkat to be in the chair.
"Good morning," John said, his voice still serene from all the continuous shut-eye he'd been able to secure. He reached for his glasses and put them on, blinking again to readjust his eyes to actually being able to see. "Did you sleep well?"
Karkat didn't know how to answer. Was he supposed to say good morning back? John hadn't really given Karkat much of an opportunity to respond. Whatever, tiding someone with 'good morning' was just a useless filler phrase anyway. That's why John had followed it up instantly with a real question. "Not in the least," responded Karkat acerbically. He could have elaborated for quite a while on the poor and primitive quality of John's sleeping habitation, but he didn't. Despite his pride being ground raw from all of John's charity, even that wouldn't cause him to be entirely ungrateful.
"Oh." John's voice was slow and thick with sleep. It was astounding how long it was taking for him to wake up. He was such an easy target, and wasn't the point of waking up to be on guard? Karkat would never understand how the human race had survived so many sweeps without being culled. "I could try to find some sopor after work today."
"It's fine, I'll deal with it," Karkat snapped. John hadn't even been fully conscious for a minute and Karkat’s mood was already on the decline, though he knew that was veritably connected to the strange desire he had to climb back in the unappealing sleep apparatus with John. Karkat was overthinking this. It wasn't a big deal. If he wanted to, he could! In fact, he was entitled!
Except, damn it, John had already pulled himself out of bed and was loading his arms up with whatever cheap human attire his work dictated he wear. "Okay well," John yawned over an armful of rayon, "I'm going to go get changed. You can meet me in the kitchen and I'll make breakfast."
When Karkat didn't respond, John disappeared into the bathroom. Like Karkat really wanted whatever human gruel John was going to hash together in his half-awake state. His digestive pouch wasn't having any of his spite though. He was hungry, and he was going to eat, no matter how demeaning he felt it was to have someone cook for him. Grudgingly, he wrenched himself from the chair onto the light stained floor. Apparently in the last ten minutes or so, the sun had kicked into overdrive and hauled the entire day along with it. He shuffled over the mottled sunlit floor into the hallway. Maybe this wasn't as painfully awkward as he was making it out to be. Maybe he could afford to ease up a little.
He picked up his husktop from the living block before settling into the culinary block. His imagination was getting to him, he could almost feel a difference in its weight. There must be a thousand fucking messages on there from Sollux, and hopefully no one else. Seating himself at the table, he flipped open the husktop with a dull sense of apprehension. As expected, Sollux had been spamming up his Trollian client for hours.
And then there was one message from Vriska.
The next chapter is sort of short I guess.
So this is just a general announcement that doesn't relate to the story, but I just want to make sure everyone realizes that copying and pasting someone's written work is never a good idea (unless of course you have the author's permission!). I know you guys wouldn't do that, but plagiarism is a serious issue that causes a lot of problems for everyone. So let's all treat each other with respect and try to avoid those things. Anyway, I didn't mean to go all parental, so I now return to Johnkat and their baby problems. <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Vriska. She was being her usual nosy self, poking into business that didn’t concern her and trying to hold all the cards. Well she wasn’t getting anything out of Karkat. He didn’t know if she’d already noticed that he was missing, or if she were just checking up on him with extremely ill timing. However, he wasn’t about to respond to any of her messages either. No way was he going to risk falling into one of her mind games. As much as he hated to admit it, she knew her way around words. The other Alternians didn’t need to know about his little secret just yet.
Except, if there were one troll Karkat couldn’t afford to overlook during his hybrid offspring’s gestation, it was Kanaya. She was a jade blood, and as such her lusus had been the mother grub that had given birth to their generation. It was a bit of a long shot, maybe, but Kanaya was also keeper of the Matriorb, which would hatch into the next mother grub. Surely she had to know something more than the rest of the gray skinned dolts when it came to the obstetrics.
She’d have to care for the thing while it was incubating its progeny, right?
It was probably best to just get this damn thing over with.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling grimAuxiliatrix [GA]
[GA]: Hello Karkat
[GA]: It Has Been Quite A While Since Anyone Has Heard From You
[GA]: Are You In Good Health
[CG]: WELL I HAVEN'T KEELED OVER DEAD YET SO I GUESS I'M IN A FAIRLY STABLE CONDITION OF HEALTH AS OF RIGHT NOW, BUT WHO KNOWS. LISTEN. THERE'S SOMETHING I AM HOPING YOU CAN HELP ME WITH. SO DON'T LET ME DOWN.
[GA]: Oh I See
[GA]: I Shall Do My Best To Abstain From Disappointing You
[GA]: Though I Must Point Out This Is Awfully Sudden
[GA]: I Assume It Pertains To Your Recent Disappearance Though
[CG]: IS IT REALLY THAT BIG OF A DEAL IF I WANT TO TAKE A BRIEF SABBATICAL FROM FORCING MYSELF INTO INTERACTIONS WHICH ARE BOUND TO GIVE ME DAILY MIGRAINES? BUT WHATEVER, YOU'RE PROBABLY THE ONLY ONE COMPETENT ENOUGH TO FIGURE THIS OUT, AND I'D REALLY APPRECIATE ANY INPUT AT THIS POINT.
[GA]: I Might Be Able To If You Should Ever Inform Me Of That Which Requires Aid
[CG]: THE PRODUCT OF MY AND JOHN'S RECOMBINED GENETIC MATERIAL HAS FORMED A MORULA WITHIN MY INTERNAL INCUBATION CHAMBERS.
Ironically, it was becoming easier for Karkat to admit that little tidbit to others. After telling John, it had been simple to tell Tavros. Though he cared a little more what Kanaya thought of him than Tavros, it still was nothing in comparison to the dread he’d felt before telling the father of his wiggler that he was in fact the father of his wiggler. Anyway, he needed her advice, and there was no point in being cagey about it.
[GA]: Oh My
[CG]: YOU DON'T HAVE ANY MORE IDEA WHAT TO DO THAN ME?
[GA]: Karkat Please
[GA]: This Is Not Something That Permits One Brashly Stating The First Notion To Appear In The Think Pan
[CG]: DAMN IT, YOU'RE RIGHT.
[GA]: If I Were Left With An Adequate Period Of Time To Siphon Through This News I Might Serve As A More Reliable Source
[CG]: OKAY, I'LL LET YOU THINK ABOUT IT.
[GA]: Thank You And Hopefully Later You Will Find Me In A Position Better Suited For Giving Advice
[CG]: AND DON'T TELL ANYONE ABOUT THIS.
[GA]: Of Course Not
carcinoGeneticist [CG] ceased trolling grimAuxiliatrix [GA]
He’d been almost curt with her. It definitely wasn’t his usual multi-lined spam of gray text that he sent forth to everyone else when he had something to say. Then again, Kanaya was his last hope. He didn’t want to push her into denying that she had any knowledge about his predicament. If maybe there was just one parallel that could be drawn, he’d take it. Otherwise, it looked like he might have to be following the advice of the humans.
I fixed my desktop! (How long has that been?? Quite a while...) Anyway, this chapter is really short like I said it would be. Next chapter should be back to normal (though really, all of these chapters are pretty inconsistent with length >.>;). I meant to post this yesterday, but my internet was spotty for some reason. It's so much better to post from my desktop though (even though it was a chatlog...8luh).
I think I'm going to delete the end notes for chapter one because they appear at the end of every chapter, and it has really been annoying me. Actually, I might just add them to the beginning notes of that chapter. So if they disappear, I didn't figure out how to contain them to only the end notes of chapter one, I just moved them.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
There was something wrong with John's ablution trap. It really shouldn't have surprised Karkat since there was some warped feature to all of the human's devices as he was quickly realizing. He stood there half-dressed in the ablution block of John's hive, dumbfounded at how many different levers and handles humans needed to control their plumbing. It was so unnecessarily complicated, and to his chagrin he could not decipher how to make it function. There was one main handle on the middle of the wall which seemed the most obvious as some kind of control device, but no matter which way Karkat twisted it, there was no result. It frustrated him to no end. He could hear the water faintly swishing through the pipes behind the walls. Surely this handle controlled the outlet which would release the water. He attempted to turn it once more until the metal creaked in protest. Damn it, he couldn't break John's ablution trap too.
There was only one option, storm into the last place John was spotted and demand that he work the malfunctioning ablution trap. Karkat then proceeded to do so and found John in what was referred to as the living room. He was lying on his stomach on the couch, reading a newspaper that was draped over the arm. He looked up as Karkat stomped in because it was near impossible to ignore the clamor Karkat was creating.
As soon as John glanced up, he flushed deeply. His whole face and a good portion of his neck blossomed with red.
"Oh...Karkat...?" He sounded a little confused, but by now he was already smiling and scrambling to sit up straight.
"How the fuck do you get that damn ablution trap to work?" Karkat intoned with much irritation. Did Egbert really think he was being subtle with his arousal? It wasn’t like Karkat had walked out here only half dressed on purpose.
"The..." his eyes widened with understanding. "Oh...."
He got up, laughing to himself like he had pulled off one of his lame jokes. Was this one of those? Sabotage the ablution trap? But it didn't seem likely. He would have taken credit immediately.
Karkat followed John back into the ablution block.
"Alright, see this thing here?" John asked, pointing to the handle Karkat had been wrestling with earlier.
"I tried that, genius. It didn't work."
John just shook his head. He turned it counterclockwise, just as Karkat had, but then...! Then he pulled towards himself, and the handle came out of the wall a bit. Simultaneously, water poured down from the ablutionspout. Hot mist rose from the steady streams of water, akin to the embarrassment Karkat felt for not figuring it out.
Pull it out of the wall...really?
John flashed what could aptly be called a toothy smile. He looked smug, and he had every right to be. Karkat waited for whatever comment the human was about to deign witty enough to say. At least then the troll could shoot him down with a real insult and maybe feel a little better about his lapse in critical thinking.
The stinging wit, or John's softer version of it, never came. He said something else. Something much worse. Something for which Karkat hadn't prepared.
"You know if you need help figuring anything else out, we could just save water and shower together."
Karkat balked. What did Egbert think this was, an invitation to pail?! As if Karkat had invented the pretext of not knowing how to work the unwieldy contraption in hopes of carnal delight?
They still hadn't even mentioned what was going on between them! Obviously there was something, but what had changed since they’d moved in together? Later, Karkat's think pan echoed with the word later. Was it later already? Fuck if it was!
"Get out, Egbert!" Karkat demanded, shoving his hand against John. There was no real force behind the aggression. John stumbled back a bit but not much. Even after a moment, Karkat's hand was still on John's chest, taught lines running across the fabric where the claws grasped.
The wire framed lenses magnified John's eyes, or maybe they widened of their own accord. They both knew he wasn't surprised because of the shove. It was more because of what Karkat was shoving away.
One moment too long passed before John apologized needlessly. It was absurd. He had no fault to be forgiven. Yet Karkat said nothing and unclenched his fist from the clean cotton covering John's chest. The implications of the situation emulsified into a thick mass in Karkat's protein chute. Truthfully the troll wanted to make amends, but it seemed an empty gesture without being prepared for the discussion that he was so desperately avoiding. He didn’t know what he really wanted to say without hating how dependent and needy it would sound. And he wasn’t either of those things. He wouldn’t let John get the wrong idea. But how long was he going to try and ignore it?
Mechanically Karkat grasped the handle of the door. Began to close the door until it obscured John from his sight. Kept pushing until John was swept to the other side of the enclosed ablution block.
He finished undressing and stepped into the water which was uncomfortably warm against his skin. He shivered and noticed his hair was standing on end. Brushing it down with the streaming water, he stepped directly under the ablutionspout. The water soaked his hair and weighed his head down. He relaxed his shoulders and let his head hang. The weightiest of his thoughts collected there, beading together like the threads of water. He gripped his claws tightly into the palms of his fists and tried not acknowledge that the water at his feet ran pink.
Karkat shouldn't be taking hot showers while pregnant! (Well, it's not advised). He'll find that out later though.
This chapter was kind of long so I split it into two. I won't be home for most of the day tomorrow, so hopefully I can post the rest of it on Wednesday. <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Since the time frame surrounding the gestation period was less than a murky estimate, they had both settled on preparing things as early as possible. To Karkat's surprise, John was facing the whole thing with a generous amount of alacrity. He bounded up the stairs of the human establishment that Rose had recommended as if he were in training for a marathon. Karkat stamped next to him, keeping pace of course, but nonetheless huffy. Things were moving way too fast, and though he had agreed to this, it seemed like a lot of decisions were suddenly being made for him. Sure, the humans had more knowledge about what embryo incubation entailed, but why did that mean he had to continually follow their lead? At least he had been able to stop John from inviting Rose to tag along. Actually, she had offered, and with substantial conviction, but Karkat overruled. It was bad enough the troll had to suffer through a day of exposure to the commercial human market, and he didn't need Rose and her presumptuous verbiage to provoke his inevitable headache.
The door opened automatically, not that it impressed Karkat any. John waited expectantly in the doorframe, the sunlight causing the rims of his glasses and his eyes to glint congruously. He looked pretty ecstatic about being here, like shopping at this store was some rite of passage that every parent waited to complete. Well, it was the happiest that he'd looked in a few days now, and that left Karkat feeling a little more comfortable about submerging himself in alien commerce.
They walked through the door together. Karkat was in a rare good mood, probably because Rose hadn't tagged along. He didn't refuse when John conspicuously brushed up against him, and even less surreptitiously wound their hands together. It felt secure, like the link would help them decimate the task of shopping for nursery supplies.
The aisles expanded before them. Karkat would have never imagined that human grubs needed so many contraptions just to maintain homeostasis. For this reason, he hoped that whatever was inside him inherited the sturdier troll genetic makeup so that all of this would just be a superfluous precaution. Otherwise, he would have to worry about breaking the wiggler, and that hadn't occurred to him previously.
Before he could mentally captchalogue the bulk of items in his field of vision, a threat in the form of an aggravating saleswoman crept up to them. As she eyed them with a feral manner, ready for the hunt of their stupid human money, her eyes paused on Karkat and narrowed. What was a troll doing in a human establishment? The question was practically written across her too bony face. Well, it was a public venue so there wasn't too much she could do. Her eyes flickered over the knot of John and Karkat's hands. She straightened and smiled, but Karkat could sense her disgust. Scowling, he already foresaw something negative materializing.
"Welcome!" she intoned sweetly, "Will you need any assistance in finding your purchases?" She transferred her gaze from John to Karkat while she talked, spending equal time memorizing their faces yet still settling on Karkat’s.
Karkat was beyond hoping that John would turn her down, which of course he didn't. "Sure," he accepted cheerily. He rummaged through his pocket for the list of supplies they had put together by suggestions from Rose and a few pregnancy websites.
"Uh...well, we definitely need to get the basics out of the way. So maybe like...a bassinet, receiving blankets, a crib..." he continued reading from the list. Karkat did not quite understand the human barter system, but he could see the value surmounting in the woman's ocular receptors. Her lips stretched tighter over her already forced smile. She stepped off to the side to drag over a cart which she pushed into John. John had to let go of Karkat's hand to grab hold of the wheeled metal basket.
She clasped her hands together, baring her teeth, ready for the kill. Now she seemed far less interested in Karkat, other then to occasionally glance at him with distrust.
"Right this way," she cooed, leading them down aisles of unfamiliar human wiggler paraphernalia. All the while she prattled on about various sales and promotions and mailing lists that John could sign up for if he wanted better discounts. If Karkat had to choose between listening to her rehearsed sales pitches and watching Con Air, he might just have to join John and Vriska in the Nic Cage fan club. They eventually reached a row full of topless cages that humans trapped their wigglers in at night. "Now according to this list, you already have one picked out...it looks...very sturdy..." She took a key from her pocket and unlocked a cabinet under where the cages were on display. She pulled out a long thin cardboard box.
"Is it in pieces?" Karkat asked, overcoming his dislike of the woman enough to address her.
She tilted her head and giggled. "Well yes, it's much more convenient for transportation that way. There are instructions inside on how to assemble it correctly. Are you going to help?"
"Help? You think he has any chance of puzzling it out on his own?" Karkat scoffed.
The woman laughed again, almost with a genuine inflection this time as she placed the box in the cart. It was too long and the end stuck out, but she resumed directing them down the aisle as if this were normal. Maybe it was normal, who was Karkat to judge? Though he thought it was pretty stupid to make a cart that didn't adequately contain its products.
"That's nice of you to be so helpful," she said, arriving to a selection of folded white cloths. Some of them had juvenile patterns of animals or nature, but most looked unremarkably identical. She scanned the list that she had completely pilfered from John at some point and added the correct type of sheets to the cart.
"Well, he is the mother of our child," John laughed.
Karkat would have glared at him except the woman drew his attention away because she was having some sort of spasm. Her eyelids were fluttering like a wounded butterfly, and there was a strangled gagging sound coming from her protein chute.
"Whoa! Are you okay?" John asked, approaching the woman as if to steady her.
She put a hand to her forehead and slouched forward as if she had a huge migraine tearing its way through her skull. Then she backed away from John, putting out her other hand like she was pushing him back. "Just a minute," she was saying, "I'll be right back." And then she quickly fled the scene.
"Jeez, what was that all about? I hope she's okay," John mused, mostly to himself since they both knew Karkat couldn't care less. He looked over at the unsympathetic troll and smiled helplessly, shrugging his shoulders. "I guess we're on our own for now."
Karkat frowned. He had a sinking feeling in his digestive pouch. Something seemed amiss and it was more than just being around all these fucking humans and their God damn infant containment units. He sidled over to John, his eyes flicking up and down the aisle, looking for danger. He couldn't see any immediate threat, but that didn't take away from the feeling that something bad was going to happen.
John was oblivious. Apparently in his world, salesclerks suddenly dropped out of commission all the time. He kept pushing the cart past aisles, pausing to stare at the list and then check to see if any of the objects they needed were listed under the aisle number. Despite the supposed organized labeling system, it was still damn near impossible to find any of the things Rose thought vital.
They were in the aisle with the crib mattresses when another sales associate pounced on them. This woman was wearing a different uniform than the previous workers Karkat had tried to ignore while they were parading around the rest of the store. Karkat assumed this uniform was to distinguish her rank as higher or something. She impeded their way at the end of the aisle. "I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
Ha. Con Air.
I made my deadline (barely, but it's still Wednesday here)! Okay, I'm going to try to put up the next chapter sometime at the end of this week. Next week I might not be able to post at all because school is finally starting for me. I guess I'll see what happens, but I'll probably be updating this a lot less frequently than I have been able to over the summer.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
John's brow immediately creased, his face a tableau of bewilderment. "What? Why? What's going on? Is something wrong?" He was looking around like he expected to see someone ransacking the diaper bags from the shelves.
"I'm afraid we can't have you in our store. It might cause a disturbance," she said. Her voice was slippery. She was trying to get the words out of her mouth without actually saying them. There was a strange combination of perplexity and determination on her face, and she wasn't looking at Karkat at all.
"What do you mean a disturbance?" John asked, an indignant tone creeping into his voice, "There aren't even that many people here, and there isn't anyone in this aisle."
She pursed her lips. "Some customers feel uncomfortable being around your...situation, and we can't have that."
"We're customers! What about our comfort?" John shouted.
She took a step forward, menacingly, her hand on the pager clipped to her belt. Instinctively Karkat stepped in front of John, putting himself between them. Not that she noticed. No, she was still doing her damn best to pretend Karkat wasn't there. "I am asking you to leave quietly and peacefully before I have to get the authorities involved," she asserted firmly.
"What about our cart?" John asked, managing to sound incredulous and pissed at the same time.
She started to say something, but Karkat cut her off. "I’ve been waiting to leave this festering pus wound since the minute we made the mistake of walking through the door. As far as I can tell, we don't need these pathetic excuses for human offspring care devices anyway."
The woman waited, not giving the slightest acknowledgement to Karkat. It was infuriating enough that she was pretending he didn't exist, yeah, but Karkat was more confused than anything. He still didn't exactly understand what was happening. Humans didn’t even have a caste system, at least not to his knowledge, so being thrown out seemed extremely random.
John glared at her defiantly, and then bowed his head. "Okay, fine, whatever. We'll go." He abandoned the shopping cart and waited for Karkat. The woman was still watching them intently as they left in case they made a break for the teething rings. What the hell had they done to make her so suspicious? Was it the first saleswoman who was too incompetent to even make it through her commission? Karkat would never understand these insular human customs.
Karkat exited right behind John, who for once was the more furious of the two. John marched purposefully across the parking lot, tore the door to his car open, and slammed it behind him after he got in. Nothing was adding up. Okay they got kicked out for some unknown reason, big fucking deal. Humans were all senseless and self-destructive, what else was new? If anything, Karkat felt more exasperated than angry. Was he really going to have to deal with this nonsense for an indeterminate amount of time?
Even as he got in the car, his thoughts were still fairly muddled. What was he supposed to say? Was he supposed to try and calm John? Well, that would probably be a hell of a lot easier if he knew the reasoning behind their impromptu departure.
"What happened?" he asked, shutting the car door. John hadn't even started the engine; he just stared ahead, his gaze fixed somewhere between the events in the store and the fact that the cleanliness of his windshield was utterly despicable.
Karkat had rarely experienced silent fury before. Trolls argued and settled things with violence unless one party was willing to back down. Everything was founded on creating fear in the opponent, even mind games often ended with some sort of bloodshed. It was odd to see someone walk away from a situation still seething with untapped anger. Even more peculiar was that Karkat somehow already knew that revenge wasn’t going to be part of the plan. Humans could just screw each other over and have that be the end of it. That was never the case with the Alternians.
John sighed and shook his head. Moments later, he turned and flashed the most contrived smile that Karkat had ever seen. And what was the point of pretending that he wasn’t outraged when clearly his expression was strained? "It doesn't even matter, okay?"
This was ridiculous. Of course it mattered. John didn't just roast over insignificant happenings. Whatever reason they'd been asked to leave had really gotten to him. And if he thought he was going to hide it and protect Karkat’s sensitive feelings or some shit, he was just all around wrong. "Just fucking tell me. If your savage human etiquette made any sense, I'd already know. What's the--"
"Karkat, please," John interjected. His false cheerful mien had already faded. He started the car, trying to end the conversation right there.
"John, you better tell me. I have as much a right to know than every brain-dead human in there that heard and understood whatever moronic cultural code this is." Karkat grabbed the steering wheel, disabling John from driving away.
"That's dangerous!" John exclaimed, though the gearshift was still in park. His blue eyes sparked with a harsh intensity that matched the level of anger he'd shown earlier. He was withholding something, and that wasn't right.
John's reluctance only fueled Karkat's temper. "I know you are probably incapable of understanding the dire state--"
"It's because you're a troll!" John slammed both of his hands against the wheel.
Karkat was surprised by the outburst, enough to let his hand drop. Why was John so upset? It still didn’t make any sense. Well, obviously Karkat was a troll. Maybe this was just one of those hang ups like homosexuality or incest that the trolls never quite grasped. He really shouldn’t have pressed John like that. It wasn’t like he’d ever understand the stupid human ways, so why did he have to be a huge douche about it? Evidently whatever happened had upset John enough without Karkat making it worse by yelling at him.
He was fighting with himself. Trying to formulate the words. Trying to forget his pride for a moment and apologize. But John spoke first.
"It's because you're a troll, and I'm a human." His stare was firmly locked on that nothingness now, the nonsensical point behind his chilling words.
A few more moments passed. Karkat could almost hear the tightness in John's chest just because of the forced way he was breathing.
Finally it registered. They had a problem with him simply being a troll. Being a different species and cavorting with a human. Not that Karkat was about to pretend that trolls wouldn’t have a problem with them too. That’s why he was hiding it, wasn’t he? Even he himself had pretended to have a problem with interspecies relations a long time ago. He wished he hadn't brought it up at all. What other reason would there have even been? He was an incapacitated slime-sucking fool for not realizing. Still. It wasn't any of those humans’ business what he and John were trying to do. Whatever they were trying to do...
"I'm sorry," Karkat muttered.
John shook his head, responding with something that was supposed to be reassuring. But John’s reply only sounded empty and spun the questions around Karkat's head with its hollow gravity. The accompanying dizziness went well with the increased level of bile in Karkat's digestive pouch.
"It's no big deal," John said without any meaning behind his words. His voice was so devoid of any feeling that Karkat could not think of a single thing to say. The car ride home was unbearably quiet with all the obvious issues working together to unstitch the seams of the unnatural silence.
So, it's been mentioned that the trolls and humans live almost completely segregated from one another, each group having their own portion of the town. This will be explained more later, but the issues and effects caused from living separate start here. As if they didn't already have enough problems >.>;
Unbeknownst to John, Karkat had been dodging a multitude of messages each morning on his husktop from trolls who had suddenly taken an interest in his disappearance. Not that Karkat had ever been an active member of the community, in fact, it wasn't surprising at all for him to shut himself up in his hive for a week or two. But by now it was completely undeniable that his absence was more than just being unsociable, and rather that his hive was actually vacant. His lawn ring was an overgrown mess, and every few days the growing stack of mail in his post receptacle would vanish. Sollux was sort of nervous that the others might catch him emptying whatever letters had piled up in there, and Karkat eventually told him to forget about it. In time the truth would come out, and it wasn't worth having Sollux assailed with a bunch of intruding inquiries. One particular blue blood was determined to get to the bottom of the disappearance of the lame gray texted troll, if not to satisfy her own curiosity as much as win gossip points and possibly a blackmail opportunity. Said troll was Vriska Serket, who just happened to be somewhat friends with John Egbert. It took her longer than she would have liked to have admit to realize the connection, but once her other options were exhausted, the answer was obvious. If Karkat were missing, why shouldn't she ask his pseudo-boyfriend about his current location? And yes, she'd used the human term boyfriend, not only in the pejorative troll fashion, but because whatever John and Karkat had going wasn't close to fitting properly into any of the quadrants. Finally, one quick conversation with John and she would be able to reach the conclusion of her investigation and reveal the delicious truth that was just dying to be spread.
arachnidsGrip [AG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]
[AG]: Heeeeeeeey, John. Anything interesting going on l8ly?
[AG]: I haven't heard from you in a while.
[EB]: oh, hey vriska!
[EB]: yeah sorry, things have been really hectic.
[EB]: it feels kind of like the last time i talked to you was forever ago.
[AG]: I'm not really surprised to hear that from you. Not all of us can have such iron-willed patience, you know?
[EB]: i am kind of learning that the hard way! but it's okay because i have a feeling i am really going to need it in the future.
[AG]: Did something happen? You know you can tell me, I would be glad to hear you out.
[EB]: i don't know. have you talked to karkat recently?
Had she? Well of course not. That was the whole purpose of this conversation, wasn’t it? But she couldn’t tell John that, not just yet anyway. First she had to find out whether he knew what she knew, or in other words, determine if he knew Karkat’s location, and if he did, find out whether or not the mystery behind the seemingly ablooded troll’s disappearance was a supposed to be a secret. And also, if he did know what was going on with Karkat, but didn’t know that she didn’t already know, then she would have to trick him into dishing the dirt. Yeah, it was a lot to handle, but luckily someone with her prime organizational skills would have no trouble keeping everything straight. John, though sweet and her friend, was her last resort, and certain personal curiosities came well before interpersonal loyalties.
[EB]: what? is that a no?
[AG]: I mean.
[AG]: You know he doesn't live on this side of town anymore. It's not like I can just drop 8y.
It was a risk to say that Karkat wasn’t living there. Honestly, she had no idea if that were true. It certainly didn’t seem like there was any form of life that had been around the hive for a few weeks now. She supposed Karkat could be taking an extreme retreat from the outside world, but the fact that John had mentioned Karkat’s name all on his own accord was enough to tip her off that he knew something.
[AG]: I'd send him a message, 8ut you know how he is, always guarded and 8ellicose.
[EB]: oh man, i know. i feel kind of bad for admitting this, but it's sort of been a challenge for us.
[AG]: Is that accur8?
[EB]: i don't mean to be putting down his crabbiness or anything. it's just kind of insane how long it’s been and we still haven't even talked about it! i just feel like there would be a lot less tension if we stopped tiptoeing around the elephant in the room.
[AG]: And what would you say to him?
[EB]: i don't have it rehearsed or anything.
[AG]: May8e you should, that way when you find out where he is, you can tell him easier.
[EB]: hahaha, i know where he is. right now he's in my living room.
[AG]: No kidding! Of course I meant when you find out where his head is, you know, metaphorically or whatever.
So they were living together. This was even better than she’d imagined. It kind of made sense too, Karkat was too pathetic to ever properly maintain an authentic quadrant relation. He’d sure proven that several sweeps ago…
In all reality, John could probably do a lot better. Even if he were only a weak human, he seemed promising enough. Why go through all the trouble with Karkat? Maybe she should just tell him now, but notwithstanding he would find out soon enough. Anyway, human relationships worked differently, and hopefully Karkat could deal with one. For John’s sake anyway.
[EB]: isn't that what i would be finding out if we talked about it?
[AG]: I guess you could think a8out it that way too.
[AG]: Anyway, how has is 8een with Karkat in your hive all this time?
[EB]: his company is cool at times, and other times it's obvious that it was still kind of early in our relationship to move in together.
[EB]: it's worse because he refuses to talk about it!
[EB]: but most of the time we're distracted trying to make sense of his pregnancy.
[AG]: W8, I just, uh........
Pregnancy was an unfamiliar term to Vriska. After a quick search on the internet, she was floored. Not only had John and Karkat moved in together, but Karkat........They had mated! The thought of it was repulsive and intriguing at once, but she had to be careful what she said to John. She still had to keep up the pretense that she knew all of this already. And wow, this new bit of information was even juicier than she could have ever hoped. She could probably even make a pretty Alternian coin with something like this. Just wait until the others found out!
[EB]: are you multitasking again? you and your dozens of irons in the fire.
[AG]: Something like that. 8ut I swear I was listening completely! Tell me more, I'm here to help.
[EB]: i don't know, it's getting a little personal.
[EB]: i still need to figure out how to go about it. i've been so indecisive lately.
[AG]: Yeah, Karkat can be kind of tough to crack.
[EB]: it's not even that because i get that, it's just how he is. this is more like...something i have to overcome.
[EB]: oh, shit, i think karkat just yelled something about the stove! see you around.
ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering arachnidsGrip [AG]
Well now, hadn't that been an enlightening conversation? Vriska pushed her seat away from the desk and let the information settle in her think pan. So, Karkat had moved in with John, and that wasn't even the best part! Karkat was pregnant! It made her cheeks tinge blue to even think about it, but what she could do with this information...What to do with it? That was the question.
She pulled herself back to the keyboard, mind racing. The other trolls would inevitably find out. Obviously, John was doing a shitty job of hiding it, if he had even been trying to hide it at all. Besides, the higher ups had informants, didn't they?
She really should know this, but those meetings dragged on for so long, and they were so booooooring! If she ousted the information now, before everyone else knew, maybe they'd start paying a little more attention to her. Sure, she could go to them with the information directly, but it would be so much harder to deny her with everyone else buzzing how she had known first. Not only that, but they might find a little incentive to appease her from revealing any other secrets she happened to find out.
It was settled. She'd planned on telling everyone anyway, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Though at least now she had some sort of justification for doing it. Vriska Serket, gossip queen as of now, and who knew what else later? She opened up Trollian and started typing.
John had rushed down to make sure Karkat hadn't decimated the stove, and really, after the incident with the freezer and the shower, he had reason to be concerned. After the relief of a century that Karkat wasn't actually trying to cook on his own, they both heard Karkat's husktop ping repeatedly with chat notifications from its place on the kitchen table.
"What the fuck?" Karkat grumbled. It was an off time for any of the trolls to be chatting him up, especially with the frenzied rate at which the messages seemed to be coming in. John heaved himself on the counter and watched as Karkat made his way to the husktop, opened it, and literally went ashen.
"What's wrong?" John asked. He was already getting used to asking this question, and that in itself was slightly disturbing.
"They all...fuck. They all know. How do they all know?" Karkat hissed. He turned off the sound to his husktop which he shut firmly.
John just waited as Karkat stalked back to lean against the counter. He looked up at John, eyes bright and pupils thin. John should have ascertained that the secret was out when he talked with Vriska. Somehow she had known that they were living together. Maybe he should have asked her how she’d found out. Actually, now that he thought about, he might have said a little too much…
"They all know what's going on..." Karkat hoisted himself onto the counter next to John without looking at him or touching him. He sounded angry, but sort of accepting too. He had known this was bound to happen eventually. They both had.
So, everyone knew now. Humans and trolls alike. Word was out. It was all going to start now. No more preventing it or beating around the bush, and weren't they good at that? John had his answer before he even looked at his possible boyfriend-troll-whatever...Exactly. That would probably catch up with them too one of these days.
So now, what was the game plan? All John could think was, be careful, but what did that really mean? Other than being a vague idea that sounded good, John wasn't sure. Maybe they were supposed to find out what to be careful about? Maybe...Maybe Karkat should really look at those messages and see how the trolls were reacting. After all, the humans didn't like it, but other than barring them from most public places, they really hadn't taken any action against them. And hopefully the trolls wouldn't either because it wasn't like the humans were about to offer any protection.
The Alternians and the humans had lived peacefully in conjunction for quite some time now, and this had the potential to screw it up. It was already putting a big glaring question on the separate but equal stance they had lived with all these years. Sure, trolls were allowed over in human territory, and likewise humans in troll territory. Sure, sometimes they comingled, and some of them worked together, and some of them had friends from the other side. But for the most part, humans lived on one side and trolls on the other. Now not only were John and Karkat challenging that, their offspring was like a giant ‘fuck you’ to the traditions of the two cultures that had been in place for the last however many years. It was dangerous to be some kind of maverick let alone while pregnant!
So with any luck, if they left everyone alone, everyone would leave them alone. They weren't trying to be proactive or activists or anything.
They were just trying to coexist, and they were a much better example of harmonious living then what two distinct factions of town demonstrated. At least, that's how John saw it anyway.
Karkat interrupted his thoughts. "They're going to do whatever idea they can patch together from the collective mind vomit the Alternian government chucks out as regulation. And even after then, every individual troll will be so focused on injecting more of their conscious shitstream into the amorphous pile of nonsense, that we still won't have anything to worry about. "
John shrugged. "You would know better than me."
Karkat drew his teeth across his bottom lip, and John didn't want to label the action as apprehensive because the thought of Karkat being anxious was hardly uplifting.
"Now, can we please get back to you showing me how this damn human baking device functions?"
John nodded, rolling his eyes slightly. "Yeah, come on. It's called the stove, and you're going to kick yourself once you find out how easy it is to work."
Karkat just scoffed as John went on to explain how to use the stove appropriately. Sadly, John had more certainty in Karkat's ability to cohesively use this appliance on his own than he did in their future.
The Alternians are on Earth, which will become clearer and more properly explained later. Anyway, I'm starting school this week so I don't know when I'll be updating, but hopefully soon. <3
Everyone keep in mind that mailboxes are usually set in concrete.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They were returning from Rose's house, in as good a mood as possible for having to get all their baby supplies from a third party. As the car approached the house, something was off, and sure enough Karkat was the first to notice.
They were still far enough away that John couldn't place it. He squinted, which was unnecessary because in less than fifteen more seconds he was pulling into the driveway. As soon as his back wheels passed the sidewalk, he parked and sprung out of the car. Where was the mailbox?! He circled around the passenger side where there was now a deep puncture in his lawn. It looked like someone had ripped it right out of the ground and--he looked around--apparently stolen it. The fact that anyone had the physical strength to do this was as astounding as it was unsettling. What reason on Earth would someone have to steal his entire mailbox, and not only that but what else was this individual capable of doing? He turned around to see Karkat getting out of the car behind him, and suddenly the first part of his question was already answered.
"What are you doing?" Karkat asked, "I wasn't talking about the mail receptacle." One of his claws pointed toward the house.
It was the door. John fell ill at the sight of it. Scrawled across the otherwise pristine white paint on the front door was a nasty black smear spelling out animal fucker.
"What? What does it mean? John? John, what's wrong?" The urgency was rising in Karkat's voice. John didn't know what expression was on his face, but if it were even a fraction of how horrified he felt...horrified, ashamed, fearful...then it was no wonder Karkat was reacting this way.
The colors of the scene bled away until the whole world consisted of the black scribble on the white door. John blanched, the blood in his face completely drained away. He looked hollow, like his structure was going to crumple inwards at any moment. Karkat was beside him swiftly, not knowing what to do, not caring to think about it. Instinctively he put an arm around John's waist to steady him. John didn't respond to the contact at all, he seemed stamped to the ground, more stationary than text on a page.
"John? John?!" Karkat's voice didn't seem to be audible to John. He hadn't even taken his eyes off the damn door, that word.
Karkat glared at the writing. It didn't make sense why it should have such a heavy impact on John. If he had to find a troll equivalent, it would probably be grub fucker, and though in the right context insulting, it honestly was not worthy of turning John into paper. He wasn't that flappable.
The wind picked up and John seemed to snap out of it. Blue sleeves threaded around Karkat, bringing them together. Karkat was tongue-tied as his face seemed to catch all the color that John's had lost. He could find no discernible reason for why John was suddenly being so affectionate. What about the missing mail receptacle and the vandalism? The clangor of someone's wind chimes smothered his thoughts as John placed several tiny kisses on Karkat's burning cheek. What...? Why...? The pressure in Karkat's chest was suffocating. Sure, no one was around, but even the idea of being so intimate in a public setting was sort of perplexing.
"John?" Karkat asked again, his voice riddled with uncertainty. Just what was going on anyway? John was acting like it was his fault, like he was apologizing for something. And it wasn't? The words didn't hold any meaning for Karkat, and even if they were directed towards him, he didn't care. He'd heard his share of swears and used even more. How could one poorly crafted calumnious comment affect John so much? Animal fucker. If John thought Karkat would be upset over such a shoddy attempt at slander...why would John think that? He knew Karkat had thicker skin than that.
"Karkat, I'm sorry. I'll clean it up and then..." John paused. He was trickling his fingers though the hair at the nape of Karkat's neck. Why the sudden pity? Why was he being so damn sweet? All signs pointed to the utter lunacy written on the door being directed at Karkat. But...what was the big deal?
"Who cares if some mentally underdeveloped earth-trotter thinks it's funny to call me an animal fucker? Who cares if they really believe that? It's bullshit that we're stuck with clean-up, but considering the effort they put into developing their message, I can't see the process of removing it as incredibly physically taxing work." The skin John's fingers kept glancing across pricked with heat. Damn humans for pissing him off, and damn John for being so tender out of nowhere.
"Explain to me what is so wrong," Karkat continued. John sighed and one of his hands dropped to Karkat's back. Karkat tensed as John dragged his fingers soothingly along his spinal column. Here was the line where even Karkat's mass of confusion couldn't stop him from squirming and trying to break John's grip, but John wasn't letting this go. Apparently he was determined to provide a comforting embrace, regardless of whether Karkat understood why or not. As Karkat struggled, John's clasp seemed to tighten, with only one arm pressed against Karkat's back and the other still attending to his neck. It wasn't like John to do this, naturally leading Karkat's pulse to spike. The bewilderment had marched into concern's territory with only a few beats of his bladder based vascular system.
"John...what the fuck?" Karkat's voice was charcoal, dark and soft.
"It's about you."
Well...sure, Karkat had guessed that much. He still didn't get it. So what? This wasn't the first time he'd even had hate thrown his way. It wasn't even the first time he'd been jeered at with John around, and all those times John had never acted like this. Karkat kept trying to push away from John, though less and less actively as he let his thoughts spiral into possibilities that would explain the difference in John's behavior.
"Karkat," John said, his voice louder this time. And then his arms went slack, and that's when Karkat really froze. The loose grip was alarmingly wrong. He wanted John to lock him in his arms again. The lack of pressure was much worse.
He wrapped his other arm around John's waist, finally completing the circuit. Squeezing John didn't have any affect, nor did copying the little patterns John had been tracing over his dorsal plane.
"Explain," he mouthed, and apparently his voice worked too. He wasn't sure if they were synched up, or what, but he had sounded too hoarse for anything to be normal. The wind chimes were ringing again in the background, ringing in his head, and for a second, the cacophonous ringing was all he heard before John opened his mouth again.
"Let's go inside, okay?" John asked, though it seemed more like a statement. He stepped away from Karkat's tentative hold, but meshed their hands together. Karkat let his skittering heart do the talking as he fell into a silent stride with John towards the front door. Even up close, Karkat still didn't see it. Even taken literally, it seemed kind of juvenile. Karkat could barely tolerate most humans, let alone earthbeasts. It was a pretty desperate jab, really.
John closed the door behind them and sighed. "Just, stay here a second. I want to make sure they didn't break in anywhere else."
Karkat nodded in silent affirmation. If John hadn't been so fazed by this, Karkat probably wouldn't have even considered waiting around to get the all clear.
What...? He searched his memory of human customs, slang, something.
John returned quickly, looking a little less stressed, but still visibly flustered nonetheless. He started to lead Karkat down the hallway, but Karkat halted him with a light touch on the shoulder.
John turned to face him. He looked so God damn sad. Why?
Then John was hugging him again. "I'm really sorry, Karkat."
Karkat eagerly returned the warm hold. "For what?" he murmured right next to John's ear. "Why are you so upset over it? What does it mean to you?"
He could feel John's breath curling down his neck with each of John's words. "It's...it's me. They mean that I'm the animal fucker..."
John's answer didn't settle the tangle of nerves that his lack of comprehension was causing. Yeah, it wasn't the most welcoming thing to come home to, but John had been called worse. "I told you, those humans are insignificant--"
"Karkat." John drew away just enough to look him dead in the eye.
What? Could he get to the damn point already? Obviously there was something that Karkat was missing. It was frustrating to try and force himself through backwards human logic and still end up clueless.
"They mean that you are the animal."
Judging by the way John had suddenly pulled him back closer, he had a feeling his face had changed involuntarily.
It wasn't so much being likened to an earthbeast. But in conjunction with John...it was demeaning, yeah but, something else. They were equally self-aware beings with the same basic needs and both capable of the same thoughts, goals, ambitions. They were from different species with different strengths and weaknesses, but either had the capacity to support the other. Either had the right to make his own decisions. Here and there Karkat had made a derisive comment about the human race, he'd probably called them inferior at some point. Even so, he'd never considered the humans to be...animals. Never considered them that far down the food chain. Never thought that John wasn't conscious enough to be giving his consent. And for the humans to think that about Karkat...
"Shit. Shit, shit, shit," John was muttering to himself while watching the emotions filter across Karkat's face. He leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. "It doesn't matter. You said yourself it doesn't matter--"
"You...do you think I'm an animal?" Karkat asked, dumbfounded.
"No way! You're a troll--"
"And are trolls animals?"
John blinked. Something had caused him to think about this one a little longer. What the hell, what did he have to consider?
What had caused the rupture of his fluid responses?
"No, it's just--"
"What, are there conditions?"
"No, listen! There is some mythology about creatures called trolls that are nothing like your race, and yours just happened to be called the same thing, and that is probably what those idiots were thinking of when they wrote that."
Karkat failed to see how this was any consolation. "And what? I'm just supposed to accept that the reason everyone on this side of town looks at me with hatred and disgust is because not a single one of their unmotivated asses can be troubled with separating fact from fiction?"
"No, this completely sucks!" John exclaimed, "You are entitled to be angry over it."
But Karkat wasn't really angry. The graffiti was irksome and apparently the mindset of his neighbors was just as reprehensible, but as he had told John, he didn't really care for their opinions of him. The problem was that the word was a wedge between John and him.
They weren't on spectacular terms with each other anyway, let alone with giving John some silly notion that Karkat wasn't even on the same level of sentience. John wouldn't think that, and sure he probably was disregarding it now, but that didn't matter. Now it had crossed his mind. Now there was another crease in their relationship which was already crumpled enough.
"Come on, tell me what nooksucking dumbfucks they are," John prompted, coiling his arms tighter around Karkat. By now he'd noticed Karkat wasn't acting mad. It felt out of place, and he could sense that this had much more of a profound effect on Karkat that a blow to his incorrigible pride.
Karkat didn't respond. He leaned into John more, and didn't say anything because this wasn't really happening. Going to John for reassurance. They were supposed to be a team. They were supposed to be pulling each other closer to the goal. Karkat didn't want to be the dead weight dragging them backwards. How much time did they have to sit around and comb through all their viscous little feelings when the opposing force was wasting no time in making their moves?
He needed it though. He needed to know that John hadn't and wouldn't ever think that way about the trolls. He needed to know that whatever way John cared about him was based off Karkat as an individual, not Karkat the troll or anything else.
John craned his neck and kissed the yellow tip of one of Karkat's horns. He really wished Karkat hadn't seen it first. Or at all. But then there was the question of whether this was going to happen again, and what to do about it. He just wanted things to go smoothly and why was that so fucking difficult? He'd done more worrying over their safety than the actual parenting aspect. The most imminent things had to take priority.
Karkat stayed still, letting John hold him without putting up a fight for once. These humans and their confounded notions of being the only intelligent life forms to inhabit the universe. This was no different than their trip to the infant merchandise outlet.
"It's because you're a troll and I'm a human."
So John had said, and now, finally, Karkat understood. The humans didn't even find him worthy of...of being classified above a stupid earthbeast. No wonder they thought John was a freak. No wonder they'd gotten kicked out, no wonder John was already getting shit about it at work. Karkat was finally piercing through the typical human perspective, and it was awful.
"Hey, why don't we watch a romcom tonight? Okay?" John asked, his words buzzing into Karkat's skull via his horn. The vibrations made Karkat antsy. He shifted in the loop of John's arms, pulling away a little. John's expression was completely indiscernible, not that John could much pinpoint his own feelings either.
"You know, Karkat, I..."
John nearly feel Karkat's anticipation for the end of that sentence. So, they both knew what he was getting at, and suddenly he couldn't finish saying it. Why? It's not like it was too soon anymore. It wasn't even like they didn't have that thing between them to some degree. Maybe they just didn't need words like that.
"Let's just watch the movie. I'm sure it's going to suck anyway," Karkat said eventually, breaking the unvoiced tension. He finally wriggled free from John, though he caught hold of John's wrist. As he turned to pull John down the hallway with him, John noticed that the corner of Karkat’s mouth was turned up slightly.
It wasn't words that gave their relationship a meaning. Words didn't even exist to describe their future child, let alone what was going on between them. What made all the difference were things like that small twitch of Karkat's mouth that couldn't even be counted as a smile.
So, school is actually going to be insane this year which means less time for me to write/edit/misc. But, even if the time between the chapters starts becoming longer, it's not because I've lost interest!!
John went through a specific fixed action pattern each morning. Triggered upon waking up, he would throw himself out of bed, somehow make it to the dresser, pick out his clothes for the day while still half asleep, then hobble off to the bathroom to change. Later he would meet Karkat in the kitchen to make breakfast, after which he would leave for work. Usually Karkat didn't wait around for John before heading to the kitchen, but he did not normally need to use the ablution block before breakfast either.
Today, standing at the small ablution trap, or as John called it, the sink, there was something astray. Unlike all the other times he'd washed his hands in the porcelain basin, there was some black residue coating the inside. Upon further inspection, it seemed to be little snippets of John's hair. He pressed the little bundle of thin strands between his thumb and index finger before flicking it back into the sink. He guessed it made sense that John would have to cut his hair since it never really seemed to change in length.
Karkat hadn't even thought about cutting his own hair since before he'd got here. It didn't matter much though. No matter how calm and collected he was when he started, he'd always get frustrated with how long it was taking somewhere in the middle of his haircut and then...there was a reason his hair was as wild and uneven as it was. He should really take a stab at it again sometime soon, though he wouldn't make such a big fucking mess.
"John," Karkat called, because he knew John had waited for him even though he'd expressly advised against it.
In a few seconds, John poked his head around the ablution block door. "What's up, Karkat?" He looked almost completely awake by now, and he stepped through the doorframe.
Karkat pointed to this sink. "What's this shit?"
John rolled his eyes and broke into a smile. "I just cut my hair and I guess I didn't clean all of it up. Didn't know you were such a neat freak, Vantas."
Damn, John was an asshole sometimes. Look at that smug little slope to his lips, like he was just reveling in the fact Karkat still had some boxes he hadn't unpacked which were clogging up the hallway. He'd get around to dismantling their contents eventually! It was just that everything needed a specific place, and it took so long that it was really too daunting a task to take on without a clear block of time free, and with this spontaneous moron around, how was Karkat ever supposed to focus enough to do that?
"At least I don't leave discarded scalp excretions in the ablution basin. Its function, in case you hadn't realized, is for washing." He turned the knob of the sink, and the water streamed out, pooling a little in the bottom. Some of the black wisps were washed down the drain, yet most were stuck to the steeper sides where the water didn't reach.
Meanwhile, John chuckled softly and was inching his way behind Karkat like he was going to put his arms around him from behind or something.
Karkat rolled his shoulder back. That was the only sign of encouragement John was getting.
"Excretions? You make it sound like I left shit in the sink. Like actual, literal shit." John responded, amused. He'd taken the hint and tied his arms around Karkat's waist like a God damn ribbon. It was kind of weird, looking in the mirror and seeing their reflection like this. With John all draped around him, and okay maybe Karkat was leaning the slightest bit. It wasn't so bad. Actually, it was kind of nice, in an awe-inspiring sort of way.
Maybe one of these times when John put his arms around Karkat, the troll would learn to stop feeling like his nervous system was going into overdrive. Assuming of course that this thing between them worked out. And assuming that Karkat wanted that feeling to go away.
"Besides," John added, talking very close to Karkat's ear, "Since sinks are usually in front of mirrors, and it’s easier to shave or cut your hair in front of a mirror, humans have factored the hair thing into their design. The oils in my hair are helping to clean the sink." He rested his chin on Karkat's shoulder, looking so self-assured.
"What? Really?" Karkat asked, suddenly scrutinizing the hair-encrusted white. Did it look whiter where the hair was, or was that just a trick of contrast? He couldn't exactly tell, but it seemed too stupid for John to be making up. "That's ridiculous. Humans are weird."
John just laughed, though Karkat had no idea why. "Come on, let's get breakfast."
After John had left for work Karkat began work of his own, and no that didn't involve unpacking! He logged into his husktop, and opened his browser, waiting for the homepage to load. Sollux messaged him approximately at this time because they typically worked together, coding and admittedly hacking sometimes for some stupid high blood council. Actually, it wasn't just some council, it was The Council. The whole governing body of the Alternian side of town. And Karkat couldn't have hated working for them more, but work was work.
Of course, instead of the program they were supposed to be writing, Sollux was trolling him about what was going on over in human territory. Karkat gave minimalist and brief answers. It wasn't any of Sollux's business, and to be perfectly honest Karkat didn’t know all of the answers yet.
It really was taking a long time to log in today for some reason. He'd typed in his password ages ago, and he didn't want to refresh the page and have to start over. Damn security freaks. He was forced to idly chat with Sollux until an error page loaded up.
Wait, what? Did he type in his username wrong or something? He typed it in again and waited. Even Sollux was waiting by now. They really needed to get to business.
Error. Account not found.
Well, that couldn’t be a good sign. The server wasn’t down because Sollux had gotten in fine. So it appeared that the council had taken issue with him.
Just then, a message popped up from the number one hemospectrum acolyte himself, Equius Zahhak.
centaursTesticle [CT] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]
[CT]: D--> Hello, Karkat
[CG]: DO I EVEN WANT TO KNOW WHY CAN'T I LOG IN?
[CT]: D--> I must bear you the news that your account has been terminated
[CG]: TERMINATED? WHAT DO YOU MEAN TERMINATED? WHAT, ALL THE SUDDEN YOU JUST FELT LIKE HAVING A RAFFLE TO SEE WHICH EMPLOYEE WOULD BE SUBJECTED TO YOUR STUPID HIERARCHY TRAINING AGAIN? IS THAT IT? WAS I THE LUCKY WINNER TODAY?
[CT]: D--> Oh, it was not by random chance at all
[CT]: D--> I also feel the need to point out that the purpose of this action is not a mere display of our dominance
[CT]: D--> Or the submissiveness of our workers
[CT]: D--> Nor is it a lesson to you
[CG]: SO WHAT THEN? YOU'RE JUST GETTING RID OF ME FOR THE HELL OF IT?
[CG]: DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG IT'S GOING TO TAKE SOLLUX ON HIS OWN TO CODE THOSE LAST FEW PROGRAMS WE WERE ASSSIGNED?
[CT]: D--> Yes, we realize that your termination is a great loss to our team
[CT]: D--> Though it was a necessary disciplinary action in light of recent events
[CG]: WHAT RECENT EVENTS?
[CT]: D--> Well, for one, it has come to our attention you are no longer residing on Alternian property
[CG]: I DON'T REMEMBER THAT BEING A STIPULATION ON MY CONTRACT. I WORK FROM MY HUSKTOP ANYWAY, WHAT DOES IT MATTER WHERE I'M LIVING? I COULD BE STATIONED ON THE COLD AND BROKEN REMAINS OF ALTERNIA'S LAST MOON AND IT WOULDN’T CHANGE A THING.
[CT]: D--> You come into contact with legislative secrets too often to risk exposing those to a human
[CT]: D--> And speaking of humans, we know what caused you to leave
[CT]: D--> We know that you are living with John Egbert and that you are incubating his progeny
[CT]: D--> That type of behavior is unacceptable and we cannot have someone so vile and deviant reflecting negatively on our image
[CG]: IT'S NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS. IF YOU'D ALL JUST KEEP YOUR CARTILAGE NUBS OUT OF IT, YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ME RUINING YOUR REPUTATION, WHICH BY THE WAY ISN'T AS CRYSTAL CLEAR AS YOU ARE MAKING IT OUT TO BE.
[CT]: D--> Perhaps it is not, but do you see why it w001d be unwise to keep you around
[CG]: IT WOULD BE UNWISE OF YOU TO KEEP LISTENING TO WHATEVER BABBLING SKULL CAPPED AZURE FANATIC IS CALLING THE SHOTS. I KNOW YOU'RE JUST THE MESSENGER, BUT THIS IS INSANE.
[CT]: D--> As you said my job is just to inform you. I'm afraid my opinion has no relevance in this conversation
[CG]: FINE, SIDE WITH THEM. THIS IS GREAT, I'VE PISSED OFF THE HIGHBLOODS. WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO, EXILE ME? BECAUSE I THINK THEY MISSED THAT OPPORTUNITY A LONG TIME AGO.
[CT]: D--> You have not provoked their rage entirely. As always you have a chance to gain their amnesty
[CT]: D--> If you come back to Alternian soil, we can begin to find a proper solution
[CG]: I DON'T NEED THEIR CLEMENCY. WHAT HAVE THEY TO OFFER ME EXCEPT BEING AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN? GUESS WHAT, LIVING IN THE HUMAN CLUSTER IS A LATERAL STEP. I'M AN OUTCAST NO MATTER WHERE I GO, AND AT LEAST THESE WEAK FLESH LUMPS FEAR ME.
[CT]: D--> Is that so? We have reports of certain disturbances involving you and the humans in public instances
[CT]: D--> It w001d be a shame if that were to escalate
[CT]: D--> If you return, we can surely keep a close watch over you and your wiggler
[CG]: YOU'D LIKE THAT WOULDN'T YOU? SNOOPING THROUGH MY SHIT WITH SOME MORALLY JUSTIFIED EXCUSE. AND I'M NOT LETTING ANY OF YOU NEAR MY WIGGLER. IT WILL HAVE ALL THE PROTECTION IT NEEDS FROM ME, I DON'T NEED A FUCK TON OF BLUEBLOODS WAITING AROUND TO SEE IF IT PUPITATES.
[CT]: D--> Although you refuse now, the offer will remain open
[CG]: YEAH, WELL NO THANKS.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] has blocked centaursTesticle [CT]
Blocking him was worthless, and Equius could easily make Sollux lift it, but that had probably been the end of their conversation anyway. Karkat had nothing to say to him. Of course he wasn't going to consider their offer. They would make it seem like he was some kind of charity case, all the while serving whatever clandestine motives they really had. Karkat wasn't going to fall for that. He knew how they worked, and he knew how they went about doing it. He'd created enough accidental viruses for them to keep certain establishments in line, to keep the humans out of their interworkings. They wouldn't make an overt move, and they wouldn't let their motivation show.
twinArmageddons [TA] has unblocked centaursTesticle [CT]
[TA]: sorry kk.
It was a little surprising that Zahhak had more to say. He could have gotten to the point a bit quicker, if he really had all that much information to spew. Or was he just going to start issuing threats now? Well, bring it on. Karkat anxiously tapped his claws against the keyboard. If the council had been operating by the written law of their planet, the consequences would have been much greater than losing his job.
[CT]: D--> I just thought I'd mention one last thing
[CG]: OH YEAH, AND WHAT IS THAT?
[CT]: D--> Right now, you're not worth our time
[CT]: D--> So don't make us put you on our radar
centaursTesticle [CT] ceased trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG]
He came back for that? Seriously? What was that supposed to mean? Karkat shut his husktop. It wasn't like he had a real purpose to be on it now anyway. So the bluebloods were ignoring him? Well obviously that was a load of bullshit.
They'd taken enough interest in him to cut him from their payroll. What was he supposed to do now? He looked around the empty human hive and sighed.
At least now he had time to unpack those boxes.
I'm really excited for the next chapter~It's possibly my favorite so far, hehehe. But everyone else will like the chapter after that even better<3 So here's hoping I have more time to get those up! :D
Librarian. This was human speak for a thousand sweep old woman with more wrinkles in her face than crumpled aluminum foil. Karkat had heard John refer to Dave as stone-faced before, but obviously he hadn't been thinking of this woman at the time. Her face was so craggy and eroded it was like she scrubbed it with steel wool every morning. The weathered skin under her eyebrows was actually sagging over her eyes a little so Karkat couldn't tell if she were glaring at him like every other stinking human in this hellish literary cesspit, or if she naturally gave off a disapproving vibe.
She couldn't be all that bad though, considering she hadn't kicked him out yet and even allowed him to use the card catalogue. Compared to these other carbon bags, this ferociously ancient lady was a saint. Anyway, though John had only dragged him here so they could get books on how to be adequate caretakers, Karkat had some research he wanted to do on his own. Namely this research involved trolls and human's opinions of them prior to the arrival of the Alternians. He was almost done with some ridiculous account entitled Three Billy Goats Gruff when he heard John's phone go off on the other side of the library.
Oh, so that was what the librarian looked like when she was angry.
John dropped the book which he was already majorly embarrassed to be holding--Pregnancy and You--and fumbled through his pocket for his phone. It wasn't even ringing or anything; it was just a text notification! Really, it didn't seem that bad of a disturbance for him to receive some of the hateful looks being sent his way. He picked up the book and crammed it back on the shelf, probably screwing up the Dewey Decimal system in the process, which earned him another sneer from the methuselan librarian. He flashed her a goofy smile, switched his phone to silent, and ducked behind another bookshelf to read the message out of sight. It was from Jade.
gardenGnostic [GG] began pestering ectoBiologist [EB]
[GG]: sorry my internets been in and out all week here!
[GG]: but ive come back to a dozen messages and exactly what is going on with you and karkat?!?! :o
[GG]: is this some sort of prank??? i mean i wouldnt have even considered it but even rose...
[EB]: jade! oh man.
[EB]: i don't know what you've heard from dave and rose, but there is a good chance it is actually true.
[GG]: john you cant be serious!
[GG]: karkat is PREGNANT?!?!
[EB]: well, yeah.
[GG]: but that doesn't make any sense! hes a guy!!
[EB]: wow, can we really not get into that right now or possibly ever?
[GG]: gross!!!! D:
[GG]: i mean, i knew you were seeing him but this is crazy
[GG]: i go away for one measly month and you get him knocked up!!!
[EB]: we didn't exactly plan this, jeez. you'll be back soon, right?
[GG]: yeah in a few days
[EB]: did you have fun visiting the old island?
[GG]: dont try and change the subject to my childhood vacations here with grandpa!
[GG]: but yeah it was nice
[GG]: sorry ive been kind of freaking out on you its just, this news is a lot to handle!!
[EB]: to be honest, you've taken it better than most people.
[EB]: anyway, i kind of have to go! i'm at the library looking for parenting books and shit like that.
[GG]: oh my god
[GG]: i just realized
[GG]: youre going to be a father!
[GG]: like it just hit me
[EB]: i don't think it's really hit me yet...
[GG]: well ill let you go but we have a lot to talk about when i get back
[GG]: A LOT!!!
[EB]: gosh, i am sure looking forward to that!
[EB]: until then.
gardenGnostic [GG] has ceased pestering ectoBiologist [EB]
Placing his phone back in his pocket, John hit the shelves once more. Surviving the First Year--that looked promising. Out of the corner of his eye, John could see Karkat still sitting at a table across the library. He had a stack of books next to him, and it looked like he was halfway through reading Where the Wild Things Are. There was a little girl standing on a chair next to him, peering over his shoulder. John snorted. Karkat must be thrilled about that. He watched as the little girl's eyes followed Karkat's hand turn the page, and she even leaned a little closer to him.
It would have been adorable if some obnoxious portly woman didn't knock into John and cause him to drop his book again. She didn't even apologize, or stop to help him. What the hell? The aisle was plenty wide enough for her to get through without being so rude.
John crouched to pick up the book and returned to watching the girl, who was apparently unfazed by the fact that Karkat was a troll. He turned another page and now she seemed to gain more courage. She must only be eight or nine, and yet there she was tapping on his shoulder like she didn't notice his teeth or gray skin. She'd actually overcome something impossible for most of the adult humans who had encountered Karkat. Maybe she'd just never noticed it in the first place.
Karkat turned to look at her, and his expression was hilarious. He had minimal experience talking to humans, let alone a child. John was torn between seeing how it played out and interrupting. Karkat knew not to curse in front of children, right...?
They were talking now, it seemed like the chat had something to do with the book in Karkat’s hands. The girl kept pointing at it, and finally Karkat handed it over. Well, who knew Karkat could communicate with children without making them cry? John was sort of surprised and a little proud too. Like wow, maybe Karkat was actually good with kids. Wouldn't that be something?
Of course, it couldn't last though. The stout woman that had all but pushed John over was coming up to the table quickly. She looked angry, and oh, it was her daughter. She tore the book out of the girl's hand and slammed it on the table, quickly drawing the half lidded gaze of the librarian and also the anxious looks of some of the patrons. The girl was twisting and trying to break free from where her mother had grabbed her wrist, but to no avail. The mother literally pulled the child off the chair, knocking it over in the process. She headed for the reference desk with her daughter still screaming and crying.
John could hear the angry woman from where he was standing, and he was pretty sure everyone in the whole damn library could hear her because she was actually yelling at the librarian. She wanted Karkat gone.
The wizened old librarian only shook her head. John couldn't hear what the librarian was saying, but from the half of the argument he could hear, it was obvious they were disagreeing. By now, a lot of the people had cleared out of the library, or hidden themselves between the shelves.
John put back the books he probably wouldn't be able to check out and started to walk over to Karkat, who was just ignoring everything and had gone back to reading. If they were going to throw him out, it would be the most stupid and unfair decision. He wasn't making the disturbance here. Though, no matter how unjust it was, that hadn't stopped it from happening before, and it would be foolish to think that it would not happen again.
Right before John passed the reference desk, the woman picked up her daughter and stomped out of the library vehemently. John paused, still not sure of the outcome. Had they actually avoided being kicked out of a public establishment for once? It was too good to be true. He decided to tempt fate by going up to the reference desk.
"Um, excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear some of that," John began hesitantly. He was so sure that the librarian was going to ask them to leave anyway, before any more people tried to complain.
"I'm sorry about that. Would you like a free bookmark? I realize that woman was being awfully vociferous, but luckily we settled it without much more than a small dispute." The librarian looked at him from eyes that were embedded in years of crinkled flesh.
"Oh, no, it's fine," John replied, refusing the colorful bookmark the librarian had offered. He had like six of them now anyway, he was pretty sure the librarians shoved them in all of the books that got checked out. "I, um, I mean...We don't have to leave do we? He nodded towards Karkat.
The old woman smiled at him, took his hand that had been resting on the counter, and placed a bookmark in it. "Why, don't be ridiculous. Neither of you were making an uproar. The library is a public place, and as such, all kinds are welcome. As long as you don't talk too loudly or use a cellphone indoors of course."
John broke into a smile. A real, giddy, bucktoothed grin, which was becoming scarce these days. "Really? You mean it?" And when she nodded. "Thank you so much!"
It was kind of sad how unbelievable John found the situation. Not getting thrown out of somewhere because Karkat was a troll. Being able to pretend that for once Karkat's rights mattered just as much as John's, or any other patron in the building.
The sheer equality was euphoric. John bounded back to the section of books about infants, practically bursting with glee. Someone had finally recognized Karkat for something other than a troll. Someone human had actually viewed Karkat as an individual!
When he got back to the shelves, the book he had been looking through was missing, though that wasn't enough to quash his spirit. As small a victory as this was, things were still looking up!
"Were you looking for this?" One of the volunteers who was shelving books asked him, "It was misfiled."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I put it back in a hurry. But thanks," he took the book from her.
"Is this your first?" she asked, smiling kindly. She looked genuinely interested. God, why was everyone here so nice?
"Uh, yeah," John shrugged sheepishly. He wondered if it were just because of his age, or if there were something about him that screamed new father. Maybe after the first one, people stopped checking out books about pregnancy and what to expect.
Yeah, that made sense.
"Why isn't your wife here with you?" she asked, picking up a book from the cart beside her and stowing it in its proper position on the shelf. Her tone was good natured enough, and John knew she meant it more as a conversation starter than anything else.
"Oh, we're not married," John replied. He felt a little awkward, but at the same time thrilled. This was the first normal exchange he'd had about his impending fatherhood.
Then again, she obviously didn't know that he was with Karkat. Or that Karkat was a male.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to assume," she said quickly.
"No, no, it's fine, but thanks for the book." John thought he'd better not push his luck and got out of there before she could ask him even more questions about his not-wife. Today was too good of a day to risk finding out her prejudice. Instead he went back to where Karkat was still reading silently.
"Hey, are you ready to go? I got some books that might be useful that we can read later."
"Yeah, sure, just about done with this shit anyway," Karkat said, closing some fairy tale book by the Grimm Brothers. He followed John to the checkout counter where the volunteer signing out their books threw Karkat a suspicious glance. Karkat noticed, but didn't bother to scowl at her since for some reason John was over the moon. Weird. He wasn't even usually this cheerful on a good day, and the books he'd chosen didn't seem to indicate anything remotely exciting.
As they walked through the parking lot, John beamed at him. Karkat couldn't help but smile back a little. Briefly, but still. He was allowed to be pleased over the fact that John was actually happy, and that for once one of their public excursions had gone without turning into an utter fiasco.
"What are you so happy about?" Karkat asked. The human was absolutely radiant. It was a wonder that his steps weren't making sparks upon contact with the pavement. And Karkat would be damned if it wasn't the tiniest bit contagious. At least, that was the cause on which he put the blame as he veered a little closer to John so that their shoulders touched.
"Come on!" John exclaimed, as if it were obvious, "We didn't get thrown out, and that lady was going nuts!"
"That's quite the accomplishment on our part," Karkat quipped sarcastically.
John rolled his eyes. "I'm surprised you didn't get up and curse her out." He bumped his shoulder playfully against Karkat's. They were playing around. There was actually a light mood for once. This was nice. Why couldn't they always have this?
"She didn't need my help to make an idiot of herself." Karkat retorted.
They got to the car, and John stashed the books in the back. Karkat started around to the passenger side, but John stopped him. There was a complacent look in his blue eyes.
"John, do not suggest to me that we do something of a profane nature in this asphalt gilded vehicle nest."
John laughed. Karkat made it sound like he was angling for something much less innocent than a kiss. He took Karkat's hand, which was probably exhibitionistic enough by Karkat's standards. "It's not like anyone's even out here."
Karkat smirked. "If you really can’t contain your pathetic human urges for the three grubfucking minutes it would take for us to return to your hive, at least placate yourself until we get in the car."
I've been meaning to post this all week, I just---time!! I don't have any! Wow but I've literally been waiting forever to post this, I don't even know why. I guess it's a nice break from all of the negative things that have been accumulating in previous chapters. And Karkat talking to the little girl--the idea is so cute to me--he seems like he has the type of personality where adults would find him hostile, but all the children would really get along with him, even though it would be a little awkward for him at first. I digress. Anyway, I still am really excited about the next couple chapters! <3 (By the way there is something that John said to Jade which will kind of be ironic in the following chapters, although it's kind of subtle...I always want to spoil things, but I know I shouldn't! :x)
I think I have a lot of things to say in this note which means I'll forget half of what I meant to put here...I guess I should get the clerical things out of the way first. Sorry this chapter is really late! I had midterms for the past three weeks, and lots of excuses~~Anyway, I can't really say anything about this chapter until next chapter because they go hand in hand, so that leads me to something else wonderful~I just wanted to thank everyone for their support and feedback. It really makes me so happy and also bewildered and very humbled. I mean, even coming onto AE03 makes me feel so grateful and also determined to keep going, and I hope we can all continue to enjoy this together. There is a lot more to come, but I felt like I needed to express my gratitude now. So, thank you very much~<3
The rain was dense and relentless when John came home. His actions were static; he only fumbled a moment at the door to find his keys. It proved to be a more difficult task, what with the only light coming from the smattering of lightning here and there. The keys, slick and cold from the rain, slipped through his fingers as he tried opening the door. Eventually he made it inside, closed the door behind him, peeled off his waterlogged shoes. The power was out, or at least that was what he gathered when he flicked the light switch and nothing happened. Without the hum of any electrical appliance, the house was eerily silent. Where was Karkat in this dark, damp, inaudible world?
John began to shuffle down the hallway, his soggy socks dragging like snails and probably leaving behind similar water marks. It was too early for Karkat to have gone to sleep, especially considering his nocturnal tendencies. John reached the living room where he saw Karkat balled up on the couch. Karkat's eyes were faintly iridescent. Of course, he could see in the dark to some degree. By now, he had obviously sensed John's presence since the footsteps alone had been bombs in the stifled quiet.
Lightning flashed outside so mutely it was almost gentle. The light bent its way through the blinds to cast an irregular striped pattern on Karkat's face. Maybe it was just the sudden contrast of light and dark, but Karkat looked worried. Back in the dark again, and of course Karkat's face was shadowed over. John treaded forward, slapping irregular pieces from the silence with his moist footsteps.
Karkat finally looked up. His eyes flickered. The glow in them seemed to brighten now that his gaze was trained on something. He let his knees down from his chest. His feet contacted the ground wordlessly. John noticed that his hands were on his stomach. Three months in and he was just starting to show, just a little. Sure, it was on both of their minds all the time, but for Karkat it was that much more inescapable.
John sat next to Karkat, hip to hip. It wasn't like Karkat to allow himself to look worried. Maybe he thought John's sight was just that poor in the dark, or maybe...Well, there was still no point in being direct about it. Worries, fears, all of these things had to be pulled from him.
"I'm home," John said, matching the volume of his voice to the dull thud of rain outside. It was a little after the fact, yes, but it was a start.
"I noticed," Karkat replied, his tone equally low. Surprisingly to John, he shifted so that he was leaning on John's shoulder instead of the arm of the couch. Their arms twisted around each other, their hands finding solace in each other's grasp. Compared to John's rain cooled body, Karkat was so warm.
Lightning exploded again outside, flashing like the paparazzi invading their privacy. It had an odd effect, illuminating everything in the room for a second, then darkness. John's eyes pricked at the too quick discrepancy. He kept his vision fixed on the dull glow of Karkat's eyes, for a second it was all he could see.
Karkat made some small noise in his throat which was almost entirely drowned out by the delayed sound of thunder. It didn't take the attention away from Karkat's squirming next to him though. John took the hint. If there was one thing essential to understanding Karkat, it was learning to read his body cues.
John let go of Karkat's hand to wrap his arm around Karkat’s waist, looped his other free arm under Karkat's knees, and pulled Karkat into his lap. God, he was so warm. Instantly, Karkat curled into him, wrapping his arms around John's chest and resting his head on John's shoulder. His wild hair tickled John's face at each of Karkat's slight movements. Just his breathing was enough to direct little ripples of heat throughout John's body.
If Karkat hadn't been holding him so tight John could have floated up and burst into a thousand pieces; he still might do that, Karkat included. But the pressure of Karkat's arms around him and Karkat's weight in his lap and the warmth sloughing off the remaining moisture from the rain kept him grounded. It was moments like these when John felt his chest opening and his heart push through to prod against Karkat's until they were both beating synchronized together.
He lowered his face into Karkat's mess of hair and kissed the top of his lover's head. Karkat responded by nuzzling into John's neck and murmuring something too quiet for John to hear, but damn, he could feel the vibrations from Karkat's voice on his neck and it was intoxicating.
"What was that?" he asked into Karkat's hair. He skated his hands over Karkat's back, feeling the smooth contortions of muscle beneath Karkat's shirt, and the graduating softness as he neared Karkat's hips.
"Nothing," Karkat muttered, loud enough for both of them to hear. Light stained his face for a second, and left behind only a pair of scintillating yellow eyes fixed on John.
Of course it was something, but at least they were getting somewhere. Whether or not that had anything to do with what Karkat was worrying about, John wasn't sure.
Karkat extended his hand to John's face, and pulled him closer. John completed the action by leaning in the rest of the way, pressing their lips together, kissing him gently. He was going for just a simple peck, but it was obvious Karkat wanted more. The grip on John's jaw skirted around the back of his neck, pulling him, holding him in place as Karkat deepened the kiss. John was breathless within seconds, ever surprised that Karkat knew how to make him react so intensely.
When they pulled away, it was too soon. John would have rather suffocated than stopped that kiss. He wanted to squeeze Karkat so tightly in his arms, but he had to be careful. He settled for his current loose embrace. He kissed Karkat again, slower this time, gentler, more thoughtful. Karkat responded by stitching his claws through John's hair. It tickled so much it was maddening.
When John stopped again he was dizzy, and he doubted it was from lack of oxygen. Karkat's eyes were half closed now, dim little orange slices radiating from under his dark lashes. He sighed and lightly drew his claws over John's scalp, bringing his palm back to cup John's face again.
"You know, we could..." John didn't finish his sentence. He didn't need to. The intent was clear enough and hanging heavy in the atmosphere between them. Whatever minimal space was between them.
"I know," Karkat returned noncommittally. His hand dropped from John's face to John's stomach, where it slowly began to make its way upwards.
Well damn, that was the wrong direction. John exhaled slowly, trying to keep his composure. Karkat just had to insist on being such a tease, and John still didn't know if he had been given the all clear.
Karkat continued swathing his hand up and down John's torso, only ever dipping his claws slightly below John's navel. John bit his lip unconsciously, which triggered Karkat to kiss John again and free John's lip with his tongue. John followed suit until Karkat couldn't tell which space was his and which was John's and why they were beginning and ending in the same place, mixing, coalescing. His eyes fell closed as he let himself be encompassed by John.
I know it's been a long time since the last time I updated, and I'm sorry!! I've been so busy studying, and finals are next week and the week after that. I'm convinced all my notes at the beginning of the chapter are going to turn into excuses for why I haven't posted in a timely fashion.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Karkat resurfaced, John was lying behind him, their bodies practically pasted together with dried sweat and the like. John had his arm draped over Karkat's, both of their hands resting on his stomach. It wasn't often that Karkat was in a cuddling mood, and John planned to take advantage of every second for as long as it lasted. Years ago, John had first thought that it was some troll propriety thing to abstain from physical contact, but gradually he had come to find that it was just a Karkat thing. Karkat was forever pushing himself to be so extremely independent to the point where he was isolated from everyone else. If he could just do everything on his own, he would finally be accepted as strong, brave, powerful, something like that. Not that it wasn't already in Karkat's disposition to be extremely opinionated and stubborn, but there were certain times he forced the issue.
Anyway, enough of that. Karkat was warm, his temperature always a bit above the just noticeable difference. He was playing with John's fingers because holding hands was too idle for him. Their breathing was impressively rhythmic. John nosed his way through Karkat's coarse hair to nestle into his neck. Maybe they could stay like this for a while with their minds wiped blank of any outside obligations besides keeping close.
"John." Karkat was speaking from a vulnerable point. His voice wasn't brittle, flimsy or weak. It didn't shake, and over his cold lifeless corpse if Karkat Vantas would ever sound whiny. No, Karkat always spoke with conviction. In reality, his voice did not sound amazingly different from any other time that he'd called his lover's name. Without any real reason, John smiled into Karkat's shoulder. Maybe he knew the nubby-horned troll too well already, but then again he had predicted this conversation earlier.
"Yes?" John asked. He felt the need to speak softly since he was so close to Karkat's ear even though his voice was most likely muffled against the gray skin.
"I can't do this."
It was the first time Karkat was voicing his doubts. Sure he'd implied it, and heavily, that neither of them were competent enough to bring up offspring. Still, most of the things Karkat said were pessimistic. John had started to think Karkat didn't even believe half of the things he said, and that he just said them to be negative.
"What makes you think you can't?" John didn't bother with the 'we.' Karkat didn't think in first person plural, it simply wasn't done or acceptable by his standards. It would be worse to try and be progressive about that now, and they were having such a nice night...
"Because I don't know a God damn thing about it. Not a single being on this whole stinking planet does," Karkat went on.
John chuckled into Karkat's hair. "Like you would ask for help, even if everyone knew what to do in this situation."
Karkat shifted, and John loosened his grip so that the troll could turn so they were face to face. Immediately John brought his hand to cup the alien's cheek. Funny that what was alien was actually one of the most familiar things in the world to him. Karkat's eyes seemed to spark through his lashes between each blink. He clutched at John’s shoulder and curled in as close as he could. John's smile widened as he felt the tiny slope to Karkat's stomach pushed up against him. Whatever it turned out to be, it was half his. Half his and half Karkat's. That was pretty damn great, and he felt...proud.
"Besides, what's wrong with not knowing? Some surprises are good," John murmured. If Karkat needed examples, John could certainly name a few. At the moment, he could probably name a whole list.
"Because planning requires knowing. If I don't know, then I can't put forth the utmost care in order to prevent stupid little fuckups from happening. I am not all that enthused about playing a fouled up game of dominoes in which each shitty event leads to another," Karkat stated, his voice rising a bit, "This is the most important thing I've ever done so far, and there cannot be any room for trivial errors."
He was dedicated to say the least. A perfectionist about the things that mattered to him, and this...obviously this mattered immensely. That kind of attitude was troubling however. There was no possible way they were going to get through this without error, and that kind of mindset was as delusional as it was fabricated. He wanted to take control of the things even he knew he couldn't.
"That's what we're doing now, preparing, as much as we can. Even if we knew what we were doing, we'd probably still make some mistakes. Accidents happen no matter how much you prepare or expect the outcome."
Karkat's pupils flicked up to John's face. "Well maybe you would make a mistake," he said snidely.
Ouch. Okay, that's what John got for using 'we'. He should have been paying closer attention to his word choice.
Then Karkat continued in a softer tone, "So you're saying there's nothing we can do."
There it was. Some sort of concession that they were a team in this. Best to pretend not to notice and hope that Karkat didn't sense the divergence of their breathing. "I'm saying we're doing all we can."
"Just--" Whatever Karkat had been about to say blended into a hiss as the lights flickered and then came on. "Ow, Jesus fuck." Karkat pulled away from John, jamming his palms into his eyes. The downside to having troll night vision was super sensitivity to the fluctuation in light.
John dug his elbow into the cushions of the couch as he propped himself up. "Looks like the power is back," he noted.
"No shit," growled Karkat, still rubbing his eyes.
John tried to help Karkat sit up, but apparently whatever moment they had been sharing was shattered by the sudden return of the lights, so of course Karkat was having none of that. He blindly sank his claws into the cloth and heaved himself up. It sounded like something ripped, but maybe if John didn't look then it wouldn't actually be there in the morning.
John chuckled at the sight of Karkat. His hands still scrabbling over his eyes, but not just that, everything. His ruddy gray skin that was fluorescent in the light, the softer shape to his once angular features, the contrast of his messy black hair against said gray skin. Well, it was really messy now...
"I'll go turn them off," John announced, getting up, "It's got to be late anyway."
Karkat didn't say anything and just continued shading his eyes and muttering curses to himself. Of course the lights had to miraculously recover right now. There seemed no basis for it, the rain was still falling steadily outside, and as far as he could tell, nothing had really changed.
Had he gone about it incorrectly? He ought to have gotten to the heart of the matter quicker...Any of them, really. Somewhere within his time here, the scale had tipped so that it was more frustrating to have to live without particular terms of endearment. Terms and conditions, honestly, because so far they still had nothing in that department.
Little shivers branched out from the unexpected prod at his lower back. "What?" John asked curiously. Karkat Vantas reaching out to someone? Maybe the power coming back on hadn't ruined the moment after all.
But it proved to be impossible. His protein chute felt gummy, and he did not know how to broach a topic that he had so actively forbidden before.
"Nothing, hurry the hell up," Karkat grumbled finally, letting go.
"Okay," John said pleasantly. He couldn't help it. It was a nice night after all.
The human crossed the room and turned off the lights. The storm hadn't eased up, though now there was much less lightning to paint cracks over the walls. Across the room, Karkat was still sitting. In the dark, his eyes were shining little orbs again. John probably could have bounded over and kissed right under their luminescent glow, if he didn't know any better. He settled for stating, "It's about time to turn it in for the night."
Karkat rose, shuffled over, paused, then latched onto John's arm. Damn it, he had already been cesspool of sappy sentiments tonight, he really didn't have much more to lose.
John smiled and kissed the top of his head which elicited a solid, "Fuck you." Even so, they managed to make it to bed without Karkat pulling away or tearing off one of John's limbs or even threatening to.
As John surrendered to sleep, his wildest, best, and most beautiful dreams lay with him, bundled up in his arms.
Karkat starts to open up before John, who would have thought?
I didn't realize it had been so long! I'm on winter break and I decided that I would write a lot now so that I would only have to edit/post when I go back to school. I think this might be easier for me, especially since I'm taking 19 credits next term, and if all goes well, I'll have no life outside of studying. So, even if it seems like I haven't been working on this much, I promise I really have~<3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Washing himself with only tepid water was probably one of the shittier aspects of being expectant. John had read in one of those stupid books he'd gotten from the library that the hot water could increase internal body temperature, which was linked to birth defects or something. This book was also published in the 1970s and intended for human audiences. But why risk it, right? No matter what he did, Karkat couldn't catch a break. As he shifted around in the ablution trap trying to scrub at his shoulders, he felt the water puddled at his feet swish and slosh. He'd been noticing recently that before he was done showering, more and more of the water would be retained. So, something was wrong with the drain, what else was new? Apparently Karkat's old nemesis with John's household appliances wasn't over yet. And just when he'd thought he'd finally sorted out how to work everything. Hell, he'd been able to cook himself lunch most days now, yesterday he'd even made John dinner.
Speaking of John, and Karkat's severe rivalry with appliances, the drain suddenly deciding not to work anymore was coming at a really inconvenient time. Ever since the big storm which had knocked the power out about a week ago, Karkat had been unabashedly...well, horny. It was bad enough he was trapped inside this human hive all day with absolutely nothing to do besides arrange the ridiculous so-called nursery. It was even worse though that while he was doing all of this, his mind was somewhere else. He'd pretty much been jumping John everyday as soon as he got home.
According to John, this change was due to the variation of his hormones. Technicality aside, it was a nuisance to be turned on all the damn time. Especially when the drain was blocked and he would probably leave a nice red ring of discharge around the ablution trap if he tried to alleviate himself. It would be easier to clean up now than if he'd still been producing genetic material, but the act itself wasn't really worth it. There was no comparison to when he was actually with John, and he'd probably be just as aroused in an hour or so anyway.
Well, the nursery wasn't the only thing to occupy his time. Sometimes he chatted with Kanaya or Tavros regarding theories as to what was happening to him. Kanaya usually took the lead in these conversations, and at first Karkat had found it weird Tavros was so interested at all. It probably had something to do with that really stupid Fiduspawn conversation they'd had back when Karkat first moved in with John. Whatever, despite Tavros being spineless and always qualifying his ideas with "maybe" or "I could be wrong," he still had some interesting points. It wasn't like Karkat entirely trusted those dusty old books to tell him what was going on with his body. Karkat talked to Sollux too of course, sometimes about the wiggler, and sometimes about what schemes the blue bloods were planning. It was never overtly stated, but Karkat had a feeling Sollux was stockpiling information of the blue bloods for a greater purpose than just because he had an impressive memory.
Other than that, there wasn't much. He could go out if he wanted, but why would he want to? He'd rather be stuck here than walking around getting dirty looks. He wasn't allowed in any stores, and it sort of made him want to fight back, but he knew he had to live here. He wasn't about to do something stupid and be forced to move back to slum where he used to live.
In troll society, the blue bloods made sure to live all along the outskirts of the community, so they would be the first thing the humans saw and dealt with. The blood castes were assigned living quarters in ascending order from there to the deepest part of the residential area. The center of the troll community was the worst place to live, and of course, since Karkat never registered his blood color, he had to live there by default. It was the bullseye of stupid troll tradition, and Karkat didn't miss that part of his old life one bit.
The rest of his day he spent doing menial tasks like watering the flowerbeds or something. Tending to John's heavily neglected garden helped him calm down each day after he heard the mail carrier knock on the door. Logically, if the mail carrier were going to walk all the way to the door in the first place, it seemed reasonable that John's mail would be there when Karkat answered. Of course, the only thing that was ever waiting on the doorstep was a complaint slip that the mailbox was still missing, and that the post office would continue to hold the mail until this issue was resolved. Ironically, the post office would probably be the first to know when the solution to the problem arrived because John had bought a new mailbox online. Standard shipping fees were easily more manageable than actually going into a store.
Anyway, poking around the garden also gave Karkat another conversational point with Kanaya. Everyone else seemed unaware of this, but nonstop talk of his future and the wiggler became less than enthralling. Kanaya seemed to understand, or maybe it was just her extreme enthusiasm for gardening that allowed for their conversation to stray. With her help, and the inordinate amount of free time he had, John's lawn ring was looking almost presentable.
The point being, at least Kanaya could keep him from going stir crazy.
I know this chapter is kind of short, and certainly less exciting than the previous two, but...(It's so hard for me not to spoil things, so I will just stop there).
I feel like I've been editing this chapter f-o-r-e-v-e-r! (And, I guess that's because I have). Every time I try to work on it, something gets in the way, usually something school related. I'm right in the middle of midterms now, and they'll last another 4 weeks...then I'll have one week before two weeks of finals...So it has been very hectic, but I'm sorry anyway! Thank you for bearing with me~<3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The time passed so slowly during the day that it was almost painful. If he wasn't careful, Karkat would end up talking to the plants, or the birds, or the sunlight, or himself--whatever would listen. And he didn't even really want to be heard. Distracted, maybe. Of course he had John, but they were kind of in the same predicament and sharing the same wounds. It'd been so long, and so many of their conversations ended up delving deeper into that infection. Well, he'd ask Kanaya if talking to plants was something she did too, but even looking at his husktop gave him a headache.
Since he had nothing better to do, Karkat decided to make dinner for John again. Hard to believe how much he actually liked stir-frying vegetables or whatever John bought at the grocery store on the weekends. Even if he only liked it because it was something to kill time.
It was finished before John got home which either meant that John was late or that Karkat had been so outrageously bored today that he'd started a bit too early. John was usually punctual on his way home, he'd even been a little early most of the days this week. Whether that was coincidental or something else, Karkat didn't spend too much time picking at the issue. He had plenty of other ways to make his face go red. For example, the steam from the expertly stir-fried vegetables tickled his skin as he put a lid over it and reduced the flame. Neither of them were picky eaters, but hopefully it wasn't going to be overcooked.
Fifteen minutes later and he heard John at the door. Karkat suspiciously lifted the lid on the skillet, hoping he'd managed to preserve the meal at least to an edible degree. It looked alright, if not a little soggy. They'd deal.
The cold of the outside seemed to have stuck to John in a way that did more than lower the average temperature of the room. His jacket tumbled onto the counter without much reserve, yet his eyes never wavered from the heavy gray garment. A quiet click signaled that the stove was off, and Karkat slowly made his way over to John. There, in the human's face were the lines that could practically be rearranged into words telling the whole story. And those same lines wound their way down his neck, keeping his shoulders straight and tight, drawing his arms into taut slashes at his side, and ultimately manifesting into frustrated scribbles where he tensed at the hint of touch.
First they'd written all over the door, and now, without ink, they'd scrawled all over John too.
How utterly despicable it was that these people claimed to be human when obviously their malicious intent seemed to violate their own self-imposed morals. John always seemed so appalled that trolls could be so cruel and violent with their own kind. At least they were open and frank about it. Didn't he realize humans cut each other off in the same way?
It was still sick.
Slinging his arms around John, Karkat found himself the recipient of one of the most light and insubstantial kisses, stretched like gossamer across his neck. The contact, despite how minimal, was too frigid to provoke anything else than a shiver. The chill wasn't a deterrent though, if anything he wanted to sponge it off with his palms cupped around the human's soft skin. Surely he could absorb the cold with no problem, he was nearly bitter enough to be numb anyway.
As always, these transactions were in silence. John was past the point of surprise to be so smoothly tucked away in Karkat's arms. If the situation were in reverse, he would never have coordinated it to fit together so nicely. Every time he had tried to do this for Karkat, he'd been pushed away, at least for a little while, and regarded as overly sentimental. It wasn't, not in John's opinion, and the support and heat of Karkat's hold dissolved any question he had about that.
"What happened?" Karkat asked, concerned. Quite honestly, he was fairly alarmed. So far, when had John actually been this defeated about something? He always had such a damn plucky 'where there's a will, there's a way' attitude about him. He acknowledged things were unfair, but nothing had him down for long. Nothing had ever made him slump forward in resignation. This wasn't the indignation he'd shown after getting kicked out of stores, or the pity he'd had when the front door had been vandalized, or the uncertainty he'd expressed when they'd been talking about how maybe they weren't fit to be parents. There was a different weight to him now, like he had one less reason to carry himself properly, like the constricting force of hopelessness had finally slithered past his indefatigable exterior. He was coated in a sort of passive acceptance, and that was terrifying.
There had to be some sanctuary for them, somewhere away from every opposing outside force, even if it was only in the consolation they could offer each other. Karkat resolved to bring this comfort to John. He transferred one of his hands to pat John's cheek, his gray thumb sweeping against the familiar skin.
"I got fired," John admitted, capturing Karkat's hand and dragging it back to kiss his wrist. "I guess I'm a little late because I had to pack up my things. Were you waiting for me long?"
So, that was it. First Karkat, then John. No source of income and a money sucking leech on the way was a substantial reason to be sullen, and--
Hey, wait! Karkat was supposed to be the one comforting John, not the other way around. What did John think he was doing just bypassing all the pale refuge Karkat was providing and--damn it that was a little farther than his wrist now!
"No, not really," Karkat answered, shimmying his wrist out of John's grasp to settle his hand around the base of John's neck. Even in his radial disarray of hormones, Karkat couldn't switch from pale to red so quickly as was natural for the human.
"I can't say I didn't see it coming," John sighed, relaxing some of the muscles in his neck and letting his head rest in Karkat's hand. "I've been getting dirty looks for a couple weeks now. They were just looking for any reason to get rid of me."
"Well they're fucking idiots," Karkat returned, tipping John's head forward. They locked eyes just long enough for Karkat to catch a glimpse of John's embarrassment. Losing his job must have been pretty emasculating. How damn ironic.
He suppressed that thought almost instantly though. They had enough to handle without that issue as well, like the fact how that sentence had been uttered far too frequently as of late. The mail carrier was an idiot, the neighbors were idiots, the old woman that would rather cross the street twice than walk across their sidewalk and the little boy who let his dog shit on their lawn--all idiots. To acknowledge that this behavior was as unwarranted as bigoted didn't serve to make either of them feel better. No matter how many sweeping generalizations Karkat made about the ignorance of the human race, there was no comfort in the thought that he was actually right, especially when the only cooperation they had from the humans was in the form of John's three friends. Three. Out of how many? And one was his sister. No, it wasn't comforting at all to actually think about it like that.
"I know," sounded John's voice, wrinkled by the fabric at Karkat's shoulder. Of course he did. The both did. Continuing the conversation on this topic would only be redundant. Why waste their breath? "Hey, can we just...watch a really shitty movie tonight? I think I'd like some commentary from Karkat, movie critic extraordinaire."
"Shitty by my standards or yours?" Karkat questioned, following the path of the veins in John's neck with his claws. John's blood looked far from red through his skin, but Karkat knew better. They were the same on the inside, and it was a shame that apparently neither humans nor trolls examined their copious amounts of mind vomit to be able to put that together.
"Ha." John pretended to laugh as he tilted his head so his lips were against Karkat's collar. Instead of his words bunching up in Karkat's shirt, now he squashed them against the gray skin. The sensation must have felt weird because Karkat curled in his shoulders as John spoke. "Very funny, smartass. I meant something shitty to both our standards."
The suggestion was comforting, in a way. At least this should take John's mind off things, and hopefully lighten up the dead weight that seemed propped up against the troll. Tomorrow would be brutal. Could they at least have this night?
"I can't even imagine what debauched stock footage you are going to pull out of the load gaper for us to watch tonight," Karkat muttered.
He practically felt the face that John made. "I guess I'll just have to surprise you then."
Finally John wiggled separate from Karkat. "Anyway let's eat before whatever nice dinner you made me gets cold."
Nice, right. Karkat wasn't sure if that was meant to be a cut on his cooking skills or what, but he nearly hoped so. Lame jokes suited John much more than the strange apathy he'd been exhibiting. He...he couldn't give up over this...right?
The stove held Karkat's attention far more than necessary as he removed the frying pan. He didn't want to see John reaching into the cupboards with his shoulders slouched and his movements dulled. He didn't want to think about how impossible it was to imagine going through this without John. He didn't want to think about how unpleasant those thoughts, no matter how fleeting, made him feel.
"Oh, and speaking of whatever movie I'm going to fish out of the toilet and plumbing and all that, I've noticed that the drain in the shower hasn't been working."
Karkat looked up from the vegetables he was scraping onto the plates. John was giving him a look. That look.
"Yeah, so...?" He turned back to the stir-fry. Desiccated vegetables made a lot more sense.
"So I finally realized that's why every day when I come home you've been--"
"Oh my God, John."
"We just had a very pale moment. Literally not more than half an instant ago."
"Does that mean you're not in the mood?"
Karkat jabbed John's plate into his stomach, lightly, but with enough force to elicit an unattractive gulp of air from John.
"Keep it in your pants until after the movie."
So I think the other reason I took so long to edit this chapter was that this chapter had to bridge the past few chapters (which were starting to become uplifting?) with the next chapter (where something "bad" happens). I'm not sure if I should really call it bad because...it's really necessary. There's been one underlying issue in particular since chapter 1 that will finally be addressed. Anyway, I do have the next chapter written! Unfortunately, it may take a while before I post it because of school, so sorry in advance for the delay.
Karkat drew back from the nicked wooden bars of the cage--or crib as John fondly called it--that was to contain their mutated spawn. Merely from assembly, he could tell the structure was deficient in both safety and stability. The wood itself was so flimsy that it could be easily snapped in half along the grain, and if John didn’t think a grub could chew its way out in less than half an hour then he was actually insane.
The assembly instructions for this wooden monstrosity made about as much sense as any of the self-righteous humans that they had to deal with on an increasingly frequent basis. To top it off, the building directions on the reverse side of the page seemed much longer and more detailed, although they supposedly the same but translated in French.
Not much time had passed before they were lying crumpled and forgotten on the floor. Even if he had looked at the diagrams, he doubted they would have elucidated the construction process any more.
He should have known this was going to be a terrible day when he woke up with a migraine. The sheets had rustled too loudly, the bed creaked, and of course John didn’t have the decency to open and close the dresser drawers with a little less force. If he’d been quick about getting up and heading out, maybe Karkat could have willed himself back to sleep, but ten more minutes of listening to the water run as John brushed his teeth or the various clicks and shudders of doors opening and closing, and he knew that he might as well start his day already.
He realized that John wasn’t purposely making a racket, and it was just the contrast to everything else in the house being so quiet. Granted, it was still hard not to feel resentful when he knew all this noise meant John was getting ready to leave him to yet another day in solitary confinement.
Then John would come home from an unsuccessful day at “job hunting” or whatever the hell he was doing that allowed him the privilege to leave the house, and Karkat would have to be the one to console him. As if botching an interview was somehow worse than spending every waking minute trapped within the fence that bordered John’s property.
He took a step back from the parallel slatted prison to admire his handiwork. Of course he had built the thing to its optimal function, but that wasn't enough to cover his dissatisfaction with its appearance. This was merely a toy in comparison to the wonderful home his lusus had created for him. Additionally, he was frustrated about how challenging the construction process had been in general. If humans could do this with no problem, why couldn’t he? Yet there was now a pretty substantial dent in the drywall behind the crib that John wasn't going to be happy about.
John. His freedom to leave made Karkat feel jealous. Despite losing his job, John never spent much more time at home, not when he could scavenge for supplies or meet up with Rose or something. It all seemed pointless to Karkat though, especially since the whole damn town was carousing with the scandal of their hybrid offspring. No one would knowingly let John into their shop, not that deviant, bestial, animal fucking...
Karkat realized he had been gripping the railing too tightly. He removed his hand, and a small crack shivered through the wood. How brilliant.
Except it wasn’t, because it was infuriating. Everything. He should have pulled the pillow over his face and gone back to sleep when he had the chance, or at least suffocated himself trying. Just the sight of that small jagged line zipping through the wood cast him back to the thoughts that had given him the headache in the first place.
It was all so useless. Nothing they could do would be enough. They were wasting their time. Pretending like these human products would be effective, pretending that they weren't from the very people who wanted their wiggler dead. Pretending like their progeny would be “normal,” and by that of course he meant “human” enough because over here he was the freakish one. All of their work would be fruitless when the only fruit he was going to bear would be poisonous.
The front grate of the crib cracked easily as he tore it from the frame and slammed it into the floor, which of course garnered a nice scratch from the impact. Everything about this side of town was so fragile and weak. It couldn't handle him, and it certainly wouldn't be able to handle whatever was inside him either.
They were such a lost cause that even Karkat's stubbornness had lost its tenacity. There was nothing to do, nobody that he cared enough to spite. He just wanted everything to be over, but at the same time he knew there was no end to this. When the humans calmed down, the trolls would easily take their place.
The Alternian council was a joke. Their governing system had always been shit poor anyway, which he knew from having dealt with it so many times. He didn't need their false protection or conditional help. They weren't going to trap him into meeting their demands or standards. So far they seemed to be lying low, but he knew they were waiting to see if it would actually survive. Doubtlessly they'd be after his offspring just as much as the humans, though for different reasons.
And then he’d have to make a move. And then he’d have to cut himself off from the last ties to his culture, and even if it sucked, he’d rather be with something familiar than surrounded with people that wanted him back on his sanctioned space of land.
The thought pricked him all the way down the interior lining of his ventral body cavity. Thousands of sharp fiery needles that boiled his somatic cells with each ruthless prod. Living like this in a human hive was pure stupidity, but what choice did he have? He wished he could break the stupid social constructs as easily as he could tear apart the crib frame with his hands. Waves of heat writhed through his digestive track, twisting his organ systems into searing knots. He held the backing of the crib and pulled until the knots were free and the wood snapped. The human infant containment unit promptly crumbled in front of him.
Placing his hands over his stomach, he lowered himself to the floor amidst the carnage of what he'd spent the last four hours trying to complete. He'd ruined it, and what did it even matter because he was only helping this inevitable disaster along further. He was so fed up with everything that his frustration was damn near tangible, worse than the splinters in his fingers and worse than the hammering in his head.
He couldn't do anything, and he sat similarly immobilized, staring so furiously fixed on the broken heap of wood in front of him like it had destroyed itself. He stayed still, perfectly still, and didn't even notice because he was so damn angry that he was actually dizzy.
He didn't move when he heard John return. He didn't want to talk to John right now. He didn’t want John to know that he felt pathetic and ignored because John wouldn’t understand. The most opening up Karkat had done in front of John was of his seedflap. And Karkat shouldn’t have let it go for that long, because now he still didn’t know what role John held in his life. Maybe it wasn’t as significant as he hoped.
Then again, it was tempting to sink his teeth into an argument which he knew he could win. One way or another, he would have some damn control over his life. So he stayed put, lodged in the debris like a kettle boiling sedentary on the stove.
John called out for him and presumably upon finding him nowhere else, thought to check the nursery. By now Karkat has solidified his frustration and anger enough to displace it on someone else. Besides, if there was one person who needed to know of Karkat’s strength and self-sufficiency, it was John.
The most murderous scowl he could summon rose to Karkat's features. Yet, he still couldn't move from his spot on the floor. He waited, catatonically, half dreading and half anticipating the sound of John's footsteps closing in.
"Karkat? Are you okay? What happened?" John asked, dumbfounded.
It was as if John's obnoxious tinny voice, which was brimming with disgusting things like worry and pity, was just the catalyst Karkat needed to unfreeze. Pity? Sympathy? Worry? Only weaklings garnered such attention, and why did John have to view Karkat as weak? Why did he treat him as an incapacitated mind drubbing fool?
Karkat turned to face him sharply, baring his teeth with every acidic word he bit off. "It's none of your goddamn business, Egbert. So get the fuck out before the rest of this respite block implodes from the gravity of the sheer vacancy in your think pan."
John slipped through confusion to offense. "What?" His expression vacillated between the two emotions, as he looked around the room. From the bewilderment on his face it was very clear that he would probably give Karkat the benefit of the doubt, and this thought only served to make Karkat more livid.
"My wiggler doesn't need any of these worthless human excuses for an offspring rearing device. You think we can just trap it and feed it twice a day until we can train it to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ but I can tell you right now that your inane sugar coated ideas are farther from the truth than your city’s township building is from troll county."
John was quick to pluck out the underlying meaning. "You mean you did this? You did this on purpose?" He looked around the room in disbelief. "What the hell? Why?”
Even now, Karkat still wasn't used to seeing John mad about something, and it was frightening and thrilling at once. Here was the challenge he had been seeking, his chance to take control. There was no way Karkat Vantas would ever lose a yelling match.
"Open your ganderbulbs, John. Sooner or later the bills are going to start piling up, and the day this thing tears its way out of my body will be the day it tears a hole in our already diminishing finances. But that’s not even the worst of it. What did you think you could do, raise it like a human and try to civilize it? I can’t even leave the house, and you think we could send our child out there? All they see is a fucking mutant monster with two mentally unstable filial guardians who think that reading outdated books is a valid way to prepare for a job that neither of them was ever suited to do. What kind of life could it even have?"
John seemed caught between listening and deciding whether the scene in front of him was real and not imagined. It can’t be, he seemed to be thinking, and he kept turning around like he might find one corner of the room that was normal. Like once he found that one corner, everything else would suddenly be as it was before he left this morning. "What are you talking about? You're the one who wanted to keep it in the first place, and what? Now you're suddenly giving up?"
"Of course not! But that doesn't change--"
"Karkat, just...stop..." John's tone was something Karkat couldn't identify. Somehow he sounded on the cusp between absolutely enraged and pleading. This was the point where Karkat knew he ought to drop the issue.
Any other day he would have.
"No, I won't stop. Not so long as you choose to flounce around the land of make believe and fairy tales."
John had knelt by the shattered crib, turning over shards of splintered wood that would never fit together again. Looking up, he noticed the dent. "The wall!" he cried. "What the fuck did you do to the wall? God damn it, Karkat! You have to take this seriously!"
"Seriously? In case you haven’t noticed, I can’t really afford to take a personal day. I can’t just leave my troubles and the little dust mite at the door and--"
"And so you thought you'd just destroy everything we worked so hard to do?"
"I thought I'd start by giving you a reality check that's been long overdue since the first time I fucking told you about the damn abomination."
"I'm doing everything I can for you! I didn't have to let you live here, I didn't have to do any of this. I could have just left it all up to you!"
"Don’t think you’re some kind of excellent benefactor, raising me up from the piles of my own nitrogenous excrement. I may not be the most creative individual on this God forsaken planet, but I honestly can’t imagine a worse scenario than the one I’m in every fucking day, even if you hadn’t decided to step up. "
"If you think you're better off alone then go."
Karkat blinked. Compared to the rest of their shouting, John had said that almost quietly. Karkat had succeeded in genuinely pissing him off. John's eyes were charged under a creased brow, and even his hair which was usually standing up anyway, seemed to be bristling. His voice returned to shouting for his next few words.
"Get the fuck out of my house!"
The fire, the undulating heat and pricking rage and heavy expanse of frustration that were spreading fever throughout every tissue in Karkat's body all suddenly compacted into one last flickering globule in his chest that instantaneously extinguished. There was no more fury or anger burrowing through him, only the scorched hollow tunnels that had formed in the process.
John turned back to the frame of the crib, gathering more loose parts and examining them like he could make sense of what happened, like he could fix what was so irreparably broken.
Was he serious? It didn't even matter. Karkat wasn't going to be cowed. The blazing passion within him was gone, and John had...And John...
And he didn't need John! That was what he had been saying, wasn't it? He would be better on his own. Fuck all these humans.
Leaving was the best suggestion John had come up with since Karkat had moved in.
Karkat rose and left the room, not looking back once. He wasn't going to--didn't need to.
He looked back.
John hadn't followed, not that Karkat had been hoping for that. He exited the house. Still no John. No reprieve. Nothing.
Something was starting to fill those rage-wrought tunnels within him, and this time it was cold and slow. He had to get out of here before he drowned in whatever it was.
His hive was a far walk, and he wasn’t sure that he would be welcome back. Under normal conditions Karkat would have marched all the back there alone, but under these circumstances he was unwilling to take that risk. Instead he walked into the human town. Ironically he had to go further towards the thing he hated in order to get away from it. The people on the street all stared but avoided him, and he was glad. Even so, he tried his best to look menacing and grit his teeth. The red streaks down his face only added to the effect.
His chitinous windhole felt like its lining was being peeled back, and he didn't know why it hurt so much. Didn't know what the hell he felt so shitty for. Didn't really understand what had happened, or why he had left, or why John had asked him to.
Why John hadn't followed him...
Finally he reached the library. Out of every place he’d been to on human territory, apparently this was still safe. He went straight for the computers in the back. Someone would have to come get him. It was useless to pretend the list of possibilities wasn't already limited, and even out of those the answer seemed inevitable. Karkat logged into his Trollian account for the first time in probably a week and hastily typed out a message to the honey-texted troll that he knew would respond instantly.
This chapter...I don't know if it's the events that actually occur or what...In any case, I didn't want to make anybody wait any longer. I think a lot of things finally culminated here, like the absolute lack of communication between Karkat and John (which has been next to nonexistent since...chapter 1 basically). This is probably their lowest point...but it had to happen this way. Anyway, the good news is that this chapter marks the end of the first third of this entire fanfiction! I promise I'll get through it, however slowly. Actually I predicted to be farther along by now, but I underestimated how much work I would have this term. And speaking of school, next week and the week after I have finals, so I'll probably be pretty quiet during that time. I feel absolutely horrible about dragging this out so much (remember in the summer when I was updating this twice a week? T.T) but I don't have much of a choice. A few people have asked whether I've given up writing this, and I can assure you that will never be the case! I will finish this, no matter what, though I'm sure many people will hate me for the time it takes (you should also hate me for this chapter, and for leaving you with this chapter). But, I promise things will get better! So thank you for being understanding, and I will fight on! <3
After four solid moon cycles of nothing but human food, Karkat's digestive track had gone weak. The thought of eating was enough to make him gag, and he could hardly keep down water. Every morning since Sollux had shepherded him back to the bifurcated hive had turned out the same. Karkat would wake up feeling entirely nauseated, wrench himself out of the recuperacoon, and drip red sopor all the way to the ablution block where he would proceed to vomit the contents of his digestive pouch. Meanwhile, Sollux would still be asleep in the blue sopor, or if he happened to be awakened by Karkat's retching, he'd get up and greet Karkat with a grouchy "Good morning" once Karkat was done dry-heaving.
And yes, to be perfectly candid about it, Karkat was staying with Sollux for the time being. His own hive was visible from Sollux's, and yeah, his lawn ring was as atrocious as the Gemini had warned him. He could have very well returned except Sollux had convinced him to stay the first night, and then after that Kanaya had pointed out how it would be better if he wasn't alone during this time. It wasn’t hard to determine the cause of their sudden over-cautiousness. Neither had seen him since well before he had moved in with John. Now there was an obvious protrusion at his abdomen, and although Karkat didn't feel like he was on the brink of labor, he remained wary. He’d brushed up on enough Fiduspawn to have a legitimate fear that it might happen instantaneously, which coincidentally was Tavros’s prediction. Seeing as how none of them knew how the troll reproductive system functioned, any guess was as good as the next. Karkat was willing to choke down his pride if it meant extra safety for the wiggler.
Of the few days Karkat had spent here, John had stopped by on every single one of them. Karkat didn't really feel like dealing with him, especially since he was already feeling ill most of the time. Sollux certainly wasn't entertaining the company of a human, so on each of these occasions John had just waited outside for an hour or sometimes more. Thinking about that only made Karkat feel worse.
He shouldn’t have left, despite how much he didn’t want to be there. He didn’t want to be here either. In fact, he wasn’t sure there was anywhere in particular where he wanted to be. Sometimes he wished he could just hand over the creepy-crawly spawn to John and drop off the face of the Earth. He couldn’t because it was impossible, but he kept thinking about it anyway.
When the Alternians had first arrived on the Earth, a few sweeps after the destruction of their planet, the humans had thrown a whole bunch of money into space exploration. This idea seemed absurd to Karkat, considering the humans couldn’t be all that observant if they hadn’t been aware of the trolls until their descent into the stratosphere. Of course, they hadn’t found anything, and eventually the missions stopped as both the funds and interest died down. If they ever started it up again though, Karkat would be the first to sign up.
Except, he probably wouldn’t want to be in space either. There would probably be a whole mess of idiotic humans going along with him anyway. They’d talk to him like they knew more about space than he did because they were always doing that—pretending they knew all about something when they didn’t really even understand its most basic concepts.
He was just sick of it all. Sick and tired. He could fall asleep almost anywhere now, without the aid of sopor. Oddly, he hadn't had any horrorterrors since conception, and he was hoping that maybe there was a benefit to being a parasite host, even if it was in the form of getting good sound sleep.
During the day, when he wasn't sleeping or avoiding John, he quickly lapsed into a dreary niche of boredom. He didn't have any of his things with him, and he should have thought of that before he had stormed out of John's house so rapidly. The only positive Karkat saw in leaving his belongings behind at John's house was that he wouldn’t be tempted to check the messages on his husktop. He wasn’t sure if the blue bloods were going to return his employment, but he was more uncertain whether he even wanted it back. He knew that they were aware of his return though. Vriska had accompanied John to Sollux’s hive about two days ago.
He should get this over with…
He didn't want to listen to whatever John wanted to tell him because it was probably an unwarranted apology which Karkat himself was liable to return. And from that point, he could see the scenario going in two directions. Either they would both apologize and say a bunch of bullshit to pacify each other for the time being and avoid the issue once again—which didn’t seem too unrealistic since they’d kept it going this long anyway--or they would actually commit to finding the heart of the matter, which sounded tiring and complex.
Then there was the sticking point that was his own ego. He knew he was wrong, John probably knew that he was wrong, and hell—John probably even knew that Karkat knew he was wrong. Even so, admitting as much wasn't something he was prepared for yet. He'd told John that they were better off apart, now he sort of had to make sure that was true. If he tried to talk to John now, he knew he would try and rely on that fact that John understood him. And then he wouldn’t apologize.
And then they would be back to square fucking one, building on top of every ‘silent understanding’ between them with another excuse like ‘But he understands me, so we must be on the same page.’
John deserved a real apology anyway.
Later, they'd talk about it later, he'd always thought they'd have time. Well it was too late now. How difficult would it have been to set aside a few minutes to straighten everything out? He couldn’t do that simple task, and even now—even now—he was making excuses to avoid it. Part of him wished John would lose interest and stop showing up. He’d said that he didn’t have to help Karkat with this. That might be for the best. Karkat couldn’t pull his own life together, how could he be responsible for that of another? And why should he drag John down with them?
Additionally, John’s words had stung. Sure, they had both lost their tempers over something stupid. A lot of stressful things had been piling up and finally exceeded their limits. Theoretically, it shouldn’t be hard to let go of things that John probably never meant to say in the first place. In practice, nothing was that easy.
One question perfectly captured Karkat’s struggles to forgive and forget. What had he actually left? John had never used the human term boyfriends to describe them, and likewise Karkat had never classified them as matesprits. They acted the part, but never bothered labeling it. So if anyone had asked Karkat if he had a matesprit, wouldn't his answer be no? It couldn't be yes. And if there wasn’t a clear ‘yes’, then there wasn't a relationship between them to have been broken. Not officially anyway.
I hope to post another chapter on Thursday, if all goes according to plan!
Just as a heads up, Karkat is not in the best shape in this chapter. I guess these last few chapters have been kind of heavy, but things will start to look up next chapter (good things happen, I promise). Unfortunately I start school again next week, and the next chapter is longer than average so I'm not sure when I'l be able to post it.
Some amount of days later, and…well, he was losing track of the days he spent here. That was probably a bad sign, but why should he take notice when he couldn’t be bothered to separate one span of twenty four hours from the next?
He’d gone quiet lately. He still couldn’t talk about it, the only thing on his mind. It filled him so completely that if he opened his mouth, the words would come tumbling out. But Sollux was doing the polite thing and not mentioning something that might be potentially embarrassing, and Karkat wasn’t even supposed to want to talk about it. Get over it already.
But he couldn’t, he really couldn’t. Every time he heard John’s footsteps retracing their tracks to Sollux’s door, he was caught in their hollow echo. And then something terrible would seize him, and he would turn, slow as the day becomes night, and tread lightly back to Sollux’s respite block. Sometimes he paced, other times he just stared at the recuperacoon. More often than not he would climb inside and think horrible things. Horrible, repetitive things.
He was immobilized for quite some time, staring furiously at the red gel. If only it would come alive and attack him. It had to. It had to be the one to instigate any harm that came to him—he couldn’t do it himself. He had to be there for the baby.
He had to be there. He had to keep his head above the viscous slime.
The footsteps would retreat, then Sollux would enter the room sometime later. His face would be drawn tight with worry. Even the most hermit-like of all trolls thought Karkat was spending too much time alone.
Probably a bad sign.
It was because of this that Karkat finally decided to use Sollux’s husktop and check out what he had been missing online. Nothing much of interest, no flagged messages from the council. Regardless, it kept him sane. He never thought he would enjoy discussing the intricacies of Fiduspawn, or the difference in thread weight.
Eventually he confided to Kanaya. She was so calm, so comforting. He kept her words like little stones in his pocket. He only felt them when he thought about them. When he needed them. When the footsteps stomped all over his chest and he couldn’t breathe, they were there.
They reminded him that his real fear wasn’t John, or even seeing John.
They reminded him that he was brave because he faced his real fear in the mirror every God damn day.
Today was unremarkable from the others.
There was a dull thud on the door, the sound of defeat after maybe ten minutes of rapid knocking. John was sorry, he was so sorry, Karkat didn't need to hear it in words, he heard it in every rap on the door. That did nothing to change his mind about going to answer it. He looked across the living block to where Sollux was lying on his stomach under the table, completely absorbed in whatever he was tapping out into his husktop. Either he'd grown accustomed to the sound of the door, or he simply didn't care enough to acknowledge it. He'd never been crazy about humans; it was unlikely he was suddenly going to take pity on Karkat's...whatever the hell. They couldn't even be ex-matesprits since they hadn't been matesprits in the first place. God fucking damn it, the father of his wiggler. Why did everything have to be so stupid and convoluted at the same time? His disgust with the situation was punctuated with more knocking. If only John would just take the hint and leave, Karkat could maybe feel a little less guilty about leaving him out there. About leaving in general.
Jesus Christ, John had been the one to tell him to get out! If he didn't want that to happen...he should have...Well. How many times had Karkat blown up in anger and said things he didn't mean? Just...It was just that Karkat really sort of wanted to go back? He did and he didn’t. He couldn’t make up his mind. So John could stand out there all day, and it wouldn't change a thing. Hopefully that relentless knocking would stop, so he could just forget about it entirely.
"Sollux," Karkat began.
Before he could even say anything else, Sollux responded with, "I know it's John. I'm not answering the door to your problems. It's bad enough there's a human in my lawn ring. You can't seriously expect me to go shoo him away for you."
"It's your damn door," Karkat muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Sollux to hear.
"He's your damn boyfriend," Sollux countered, without so much as flinching his attention from the screen. Thanks to Vriska, the term 'boyfriend' was now derogatory slang for invalid matesprits. To some extent, it was true. That didn't mean Karkat had to like the word.
Anyway, it didn't look like Sollux was getting up anytime soon. He'd already declared he wasn't getting himself into this mess, like that was something he could just so easily decide. Maybe Karkat wished he wasn't in this mess either, in fact, he'd wished that quite a lot recently.
The knocking persisted for about an hour, during which time Karkat took to drag himself off to Sollux's respite block. He noticed as he got up that Sollux was staring at his abdominal area, but it was really too weird for him to even make a snide comment about that. At least Sollux didn't say anything either.
Karkat relocated to Sollux's respite block and powered on the husktop on the desk. After logging into his own Trollian account, the familiar swarm of messages greeted him. Today's top post belonged to a troll whose teal text Karkat felt like blocking each time it popped up. He never could, and today was not the day he was dealing with her. He couldn't even deal with John, and almost half of his mind wanted to. Later wasn't even a term floating around his mind. In this case, there was just never.
She'd been, well, his first matesprit or something. They'd never really defined their relationship either; nice to know Karkat hadn't changed a bit. Anyway, it'd been confusing back then, whether they were really matesprits or kismesis, and he could only swing back and forth so many times before she got fed up with his indecisive antics. He didn't really know, had he wanted her as both? At least with John, that sort of thing mattered less. He could always claim he was going with the catch-all human type of relationship instead of labeling their relationship with a proper quadrant. Not that he’d done that. And would he even want to openly embrace some human term? It probably didn't matter now.
He opened up a new window and started conversing with Kanaya. Lately, she'd been dropping hints about her steady hand and immense sewing skills. Karkat had a good idea what she was getting at, but he didn't want to agree to it just yet. The thought of her standing over his full form with a chainsaw dripping his blood--red blood--was enough for him to act like he was missing all her cues. Obviously she wouldn't use her chainsaw to do the extraction, and she was probably the best candidate to do the job, but it was a little more than difficult to get used to the idea of someone slicing him open.
But even with the cesarean threat lying dormant between them, Kanaya was still the most level headed. She didn't have all the answers, but what she could tell him was usually soothing. She had been the one to deduce that if trolls and humans were reproductively compatible, that their gestation periods were probably similar. She'd been the one to calm him down, and while he hadn't been ready to talk about the fight, he knew he could trust her to listen.
The offer was still there. He wasn't sure he wanted to take it. This situation was really reminiscent of one where he had certain feelings for a particular troll whose lapse into sopor had caused the creation of the blue blooded council in the first place. Anyway, most of this was speculation, and he wasn't sure he could handle a palemate right now. Until then, Kanaya was still a great friend that took his mind off the knocking that had started again.