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All Relative in This Time Sink

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“You should go talk to him.”

Terezi picks up a card as she speaks, pauses, then licks it from top to bottom. The stickiness doesn’t bother her when she adds it to her hand, carefully tugging the cards apart that began to meld together.

Dave’s cards, while not spit-soaked, are wrinkled and bent from use and one too many licks from his playing partner. He fiddles with them for a second before discarding and drawing two replacements. Only then does he look up and raise an eyebrow in silent question. She jerks her head slightly toward her shoulder. There, on the other end of the lab, an angry ball of hair is huddled over a computer. The ball shifts and Karkat’s head tilts slightly in their direction, as if acutely aware that they are discussing him. Their eyes meet for a second through sunglasses and thick hair before Karkat quickly turns back to his computer. Even on the other side of the lab Dave can hear the loud click click of his nails against the keys.

Terezi is practically eating one of her cards as she watches the exchange.

“Why should I?” Dave finally asks. “Don’t get me wrong, babe, as much as I love having my ears blown out by Mr.I-Have-Volume-Issues—”

“I still don’t understand why you call me a human infant.” Terezi interjects, throwing down her hand. “Two kings in a kismesis!”

“Flush.” Every card is laid out in hearts.

“Dave, you’re not cheating are you?” Terezi squints, chewing her lip now that her jack of diamonds is out of reach. He can see she’s almost completely licked away the face of the card.

“Nah, TZ, cheating ain’t my style.” He holds up his hands and jerks his sleeves down for good measure, not that the action matters much to a blind girl. “Besides, you’d smell the lie and deceit on me if I did. My cool kid façade would be lost to the great Terezi Pyrope, best legislacerator on this whole damn barren rock. You practically tried and hung me for that one pocket ace, remember?”

She smiles fondly, all teeth, but only says, “I’m the only legislacerator on the asteroid.”

“Of course. Not much room for competition when you’re taking names and hanging toys.”

“They’re scalemates, not toys!”

Dave makes a noise of assent and gathers Terezi’s cards first, wiping them on his God Tier pajamas before scooping up the rest. Thankfully, it’s his turn to shuffle. Whenever Terezi shuffles most of the cards end up half way across the room, and Dave knows it’s only because she likes screwing with him. She does that a lot.

The sound of the cards scraping together almost drowns out the consistent sound of Karkat’s typing across the room. An angry noise makes him pause and look up. Dave swears he sees a glimpse of blue on the screen before Karkat shifts, trying to cloak the screen with his body as if he knows Dave is looking. There’s a weird lump in Dave’s throat that won’t go away.

“He’s talking to him almost every day now.” Her voice startles him, and he knows she knows because she smiles. Or maybe she doesn’t know and she’s just smiling to screw with his head, again.

“Yup.” Dave goes back to shuffling, ignoring the click click of the keyboard. “So he is.”

“And?”

“And what?” His mouth gets away from him. “There is no ‘and’ here, babe. ‘And’ took the first rocket off this crazy asteroid and let all of us stranded, just sitting here like douches thinking ‘Oh hey way to go And, yeah, that was nice of you to leave us here –‘“

“For once cut the cool kid bull shit, Dave.” It doesn’t sound nearly as cutting as it should be, considering she’s laughing while she talks. He doesn’t know what she finds so funny until she hisses, quietly, “You’re jealous. You’re jealous because Karkat is occupying all the time of your precious moirail. You’ve barely said a word about John in months.”

“’Months’ is relative in this time sink,” Dave grumbles, but Terezi ignores him.

She shows every single yellowed tooth when she asks, “How do you plea?”

“Fuck that shit. John can talk to who he wants.”

“That isn’t a plea, Dave, that’s an excuse.” Snatching the deck mid-shuffle from Dave, scattering cards on the ground in the process, Terezi draws herself a new hand. Very meticulously she sniffs each card before adding it to her hand while Dave gathers the spilt cards and shoves them at the bottom of the deck.

“You can’t say it doesn’t make your sweet cherry blood boil just a little,” she continues, nibbling on a nail, “knowing John cares more about keeping in touch with Karkat than talking to you.”

Dave talks while he draws his hand. “One, you’re my favorite weird lady alien TZ but sometimes it’s really creepy how you make me sound like some kind of jelly filled doughnut or something. Two, I don’t care. If you could see my face right now then you would know that this is the face of not caring. I don’t care.” He’s very careful to enunciate that last sentence.

Her lips curl, stretching her lips impossibly thin and baring her teeth. She sets down her hand and leans right into his personal bubble. Far too used to her invasions, he doesn’t even try to lean away whenever she gets right up in his face and sniffs.

She’s positively bursting with barely contained joy when she leans back. “Liar,” she hisses, and cackles loud enough that Karkat turns around to stare at them.

“What the ever loving fuck are you two dipshits doing over there?” he yells louder than necessary.

“Aw man nothing,” Dave replies smoothly, aware that Terezi is still cackling at him. “Terezi just told me the best joke ever. Wanna hear it? Ready? Your quadrants. Wasn’t that just hilarious?”

“Dave! That was mean!” Terezi’s admonishment has no edge to it, given she’s still cackling.

Karkat visibly bristles. When he bares his teeth it’s different from when Terezi does it. There’s nothing amused in his features. Those teeth are a threat, a show of aggression. If they were on Alternia – or hell, if Terezi wasn’t in the room – Dave doesn’t doubt that Karkat would be on him in a second, teeth sunk in his neck, and nails leaving sharp cuts on his skin.

“Fuck you on your shitty sword, Strider,” Karkat snarls, flipping him off before turning back to his computer. A flurry of typing follows. There’s no doubt in Dave’s mind that he’s off to tell John on him, and the knowledge that John will probably take his side later makes him frown as he looks back at his cards.

“Tell me again,” he begins, looking at Terezi over the top of his glasses, “Why the fuck should I talk to him?”

She’s right there, right up in his face again. That smile won’t leave. She taps her nails on his cheek, and Dave stills lest she accidentally slice his skin open because holy fuck how does she keep them that sharp?

“Because, Dave, you both have some things you need to get off your chest. How are you going to ever do that if you do nothing but shout obscenities at each other from opposite sides of the room? You’ve been frustrated with each other before you even set foot on this asteroid, and it’s only gotten so, so much worse just because you both are so stubborn. After all –“ She’s right by his ear. “- He may have taken your moirail, but you’ve taken his matesprit. You both certainly have some bargaining to do.”

It raises goose bumps when she kisses right under his ear, something weirdly gentle coming from her. “I thought you said that was never official?” he murmurs, licking his dry lips.

She shrugs by way of answer, and then she’s no longer right there. She’s sitting on her heels and examining her cards intently. Terezi discards one card, and draws another. They exchange a look, both wearing their own interpretations of a poker face.

(She won’t quit smiling; he won’t do anything but frown.)

And Dave folds.

——

CG: I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY YOU INSIST ON CALLING THAT FUCKING DOUCHEBAG YOUR BEST FRIEND.
CG: HE IS NOTHING BUT A SELF-ABSORBED BULGESUCKER. DO YOU UNDERSTAND HOW INSUFFERABLE IT IS BEING STUCK HERE WITH HIM? HE IS PRACTICALLY RUBBING HIS FLUSHED RELATIONSHIP WITH TEREZI IN MY FACE LIKE -
CG: OH FUCK HE ISN’T
CG: OH FUCK HE IS
EB: ?
EB: what’s going on karkat?
CG: HOLD YOUR HOOFBEASTS FOR ONE SECOND. HE’S COMING OVER HERE.
CG: SHIT I DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH HIM JOHN. I LITERALLY FEEL LIKE GOUGING MY EYES OUT WHEN I LOOK AT HIM. OR MAYBE I CAN REACH PAST HIS SHITTY FILM SHADES AND GOUGE HIS EYES OUT. IT’S NOT LIKE HE’S USING THEM. SERIOUSLY CAN HE EVEN SEE ANYTHING WHEN HE’S WEARING THOSE? OBVIOUSLY HE CAN’T SEE HIS REFLECTION OTHERWISE HE’D KNOW HOW MUCH OF A HOLLYWOOD DOUCHEBAG HE LOOKS LIKE.
CG: WHY IS HE STILL COMING OVER HERE?
EB: okay one those shades are totally rad
EB: second, just calm down and quit being a drama queen :B
EB: i’m sure whatever he has to say won’t be that bad!
CG: WHATEVER HELPS YOU SLEEP IN YOUR SOPORLESS POD TONIGHT. BRB.

“Hey.”

Just the sound of Dave Strider’s voice makes Karkat want to slam his head into the nearest solid object. He wants to perform this action over and over again until he suffers from a concussion, passes out, and thus doesn’t have to listen to that gritty Texan drawl. Of course, maybe he’ll just claw his own ears off and save himself some brain damage instead.

Karkat minimizes his Trollian window, but doesn’t meet him face-to-face. Instead he watches Dave’s reflection in his computer terminal’s screen. His nails tap a rhythm on the keyboard. Tap tap tap, over and over and louder proportional to how close Dave is. Wisely, he stops out of arms reach, and Karkat makes himself still.

“We need to talk,” Dave says.

“No.” And that’s all Karkat has to say on the matter.

“Terezi said –“

“I don’t fucking care, get lost.” It’s a lie. He cares so much and it makes him burn from the inside. Across the room he hears her as she plays cards with herself, letting out little giggles. The urge to scratch his ears off is intense now but instead his nails strike up a rhythm again, harder than before. He’s leaving dents in the keys – the clicking is louder.

“Look, you’re pissed –“ Karkat snorts at that understatement of the century. “-and I get it, but you’re the one who keeps acting like you’ve got a metaphorical stick up your ass. Grow the fuck up and let’s sort this out.”

That makes Karkat whirl around. “What the hell? Look, open your audial flaps and focus because I’m only going to say this once – I’m not the one with a fucking issue, douchebag.”

“What –“

“Shut up, I’m talking -”

“That’s all you ever do!“

“Jegus fuck are you really so incompetent that you can’t follow such a simple order that even a wriggler could understand? Is your brain that miniscule?”

The tapping as stopped. Karkat’s hand is pressing the keys down, leaving imprints in his skin. Karkat doesn’t even notice.

Dave throws up his arms, the most expression Karkat has ever gotten out of him. “Oh holy fuck you’re not going to go off on some ridiculously extended metaphor to make a point are you?”

There’s a loud cracking noise as Karkat digs his nails into the keyboard, deep into the circuitry and wires.

“I’ll extend my metaphors however the fuck I want!”

“Does that even make sense? Geez and you’re saying I have a small brain or whatever.”

The noise Karkat makes is distinctly troll, something angry from deep inside that slurs into his words. “Why the fuck does Terezi even spend all her time with you? You’re hardly a respectable matesprit for her! You don’t even know the first thing about what the hell you’re doing.“

It’s Dave’s turn to raise his voice. Karkat feels a pang of victory when Dave’s face flushes red. “Hey don’t bring her into this! You’re just throwing a fit because she’s all red for me.”

“See, that’s what the fuck I mean! You don’t even know what that means, do you? She fucking pities you, you dense fuckass! She thinks you’re pathetic, someone to be sympathized! Can you get that through your fucking thinkpan or do I need to spell it out for you?” Karkat snaps and pushes Dave hard enough to make him stumble. “You’re just a sad little kid who’s lost his brother and is losing his moirail!”

There’s not even a second to dodge. Dave’s fist connects firmly with Karkat’s jaw, hard enough to send him reeling to the floor. Blood drips from his split lip and Karkat feels it gathering in his mouth, making him cough and gag. Dave moves in close and Karkat quickly lashes out, kicking him firmly in the shin before tackling him, returning the favor with a deafening crack when Dave’s nose breaks.

“You really have no fucking idea what you’re getting yourself into. The fucking implications.” Karkat’s lip is split and he spits blood when he talks.

“If it means I can hit you again I don’t fucking care about the implications.” This time Karkat’s quick to dodge the obvious punch, but doesn’t expect the leg hooked in his, sending him to the floor. He drags Dave down with him by a fist full of his pajamas.

Silently biting the heads off the jacks, Terezi watches with a smile as a silent spectator.

—-

“So, are you boys done venting your black flirtations?”

Terezi kneels down between Dave and Karkat. Both have dried blood on their faces. Dave’s knuckles are bruised and his nose is still bleeding. Karkat has a vicious bruise on his jaw and eye. Blood speckles the floor, a bright red against the cool-colored metal. Terezi can’t quit smiling, and Dave notices bits of cardstock stuck between her fangs.

“Yeah,” Karkat grumbles, licking his lower lip.

Dave makes a little noise. “That’s what that was? Well fuck and here I thought you just liked punching me.” Dave reaches up and patted his nose, cringing as he tries to press the cartilage into place. Karkat’s claws scrape against the floor as he tries to lazily swat at Dave.

The sight is absolutely adorable. Leaning over, Terezi kisses the corner of Karkat’s lips and the tip of Dave’s nose. Her lips have bits of red on them when she pulls away. “If I leave you here, do you promise to not kill each other? I’d rather not clean up another body,” she says, only half joking.

Snorting, Karkat waves a hand in dismissal. “You know it isn’t that kind of hate.”

Dave looks up at Terezi, and he sees it in her eyes. There’s that little spark when things go her way. “You planned this.” It isn’t a question.

She shrugs as she stands, tapping Dave’s leg with her cane. It automatically jerks, making him hiss. “I had a hunch.”

“Certainly did a damn good job provoking me over a hunch.”

“It was worth the risk,” she says, her lips curling up into that laughing smile. “After all, you two can’t be jealous over me if you’re romancing each other. That’d be fairly hypocritical, don’t you think?”

“Fuck no am I sharing anything with him, kismesis or not.” Karkat turns his scowl her direction. “That’s not how red quadrants work and you know it.”

“Yeah what he – wait when the everloving hell did I agree to be your kismesis?”

“When you punched me and proved yourself to be the only one strong enough to be worthy of my hatred.”

Even as they snipe back and forth she is appreciative that they hold back just enough that she doesn’t have to auspitize. Admittedly she was uncertain how it would all play out, with how volatile both the boys act, but she’s pleasantly surprised her risk paid off as well as it did. It’s not perfect, Terezi decides while her two knights bicker, but they were talking (if in a loose sense of the word) and it was a start. They would get used to it if they both wanted her red quadrant that badly.

Speaking of red quadrants…

Letting the boys verbally exhaust themselves, she slinks over to her computer and pulls up her Trollian.

John will probably be excited to know he can stop avoiding his best bro.