Your name is Sollux Captor, and you have no idea what you're doing here.
You're not really one for crowds. Or loud noises, or people in general, really, and you'd normally do anything in your power to avoid a situation in which these elements are present. For god's sake, you chose your major with every intent of walling yourself up with your data tables and the number of a good Chinese delivery place for the rest of your life; comp-sci kids are not known for their gregarious nature.
So how it came to pass that you found yourself slouching along the back wall of some god-forsake club-turned-venue – a club, come on, this was tipping the scales of predictable post-adolescent behavior past 'cliché' and straight into 'nauseating' – trying to block out the bass pounding a hole through your skull as some go nowhere local band played like the rent depended on it, well. It was anyone's guess. Chances were good it had something to do with a flick of red curls and wide hazel eyes, though it is possible you simply succumbed to peer pressure. You didn't want to be the one loser that stuck around the dorm while everyone else went out.
Well, you did. But not while she's in town.
She complicates things.
“Hey, shitmuncher,” Karkat greets you. He has to scream over the music to be heard, and you cringe, but all is forgiven as a drink transfers from his hand to yours. “You look like you're passing a fucking kidney stone.”
“Not my scene,” you respond, your voice already raw from communication at this volume. “You're going to tell me you're having fun?”
He shoots you a look so sour your jaw almost tingles. “No, I fucking live for this. What could possibly be better than being crammed nose to ass with three thousand sweaty examples of America's failing education system in a fucking dilapidated warehouse to the dulcet tones of Nobody Cares, Stop Recording Terrible Music? It's like fucking Hanukkah for me.”
You slug back a mouthful of whatever he handed you. It turns out to be nothing more interesting than cheap beer, but you're parched, and it might make it easier to tolerate his endless ravings. Your name is Sollux Captor, and you are always thinking ahead.
“I wouldn't have come if someone didn't need to keep an eye on Tweedles Dee and Dickbag,” he was informing you with a gesture in the direction of the bar, where you could just make out the forms of Gamzee and Tavros, who, to their credit, seemed to be having a great time. Tavros was coming unglued in a full body laughing fit, and Gamzee appeared to have a set of straws jammed up his nose. “Fucking morons. I don't get it. They could just as easily be idiots in the privacy of their own home.”
“Except the RA would skin us all alive.”
Karkat makes a face. “Probably. She's too damn happy for her own good. Have you seen the way she smiles? Something's not right there. But getting back on the topic of your terminal case of petulant wall-hugging hipster douche, I am here in a strictly supervisory capacity. The fuck is your problem?”
You shrug, nursing your drink and wondering the same exact thing. “Not very good at the club thing, I guess.”
“Then why the hell did you come?”
“I detected an opportunity to make your night more miserable than it might otherwise have been.”
“Mission accomplished,” Karkat grumps. “Everyone make way for Sollux fucking Captor, tactical genius and gargantuan pain in my ass. Don't play RISK with this bastard.”
A smile almost quirks at your lips. Absently, your eyes scan the pulsing crowd in front of you. It seems more like one uniform beast than dozens of individuals with hopes and dreams and likes and dislikes; hive mind, you think. You wonder that it's like, being so connected to so many at once. You wonder if you'd like it or hate it.
“It's Aradia, isn't it?”
You look back down, ripped from your half-reverie. Karkat's trying to look flatly irritated, but you can see the eagerness flashing in his eyes. That means he's getting nosy.
“Aradia. Tavros' friend? Loud, invading our personal space this week, six fucking feet of hair? Kind of hard to miss, shitsponge. You dragged your pale, cave-dwelling ass into respectable company – and you should know I use that phrase with alarming looseness – for the chance to stare at her like the creepy, romanticized, 'misunderstood' stalker protagonist in a late 90s rom-com, didn't you?”
You have never wanted to throttle your diminutive suitemate more than you do in this moment.
“Shut the fuck up,” is the most eloquent answer you can come up with, and Karkat splays a hand across his chest.
“You wound me. What a great fucking comeback. I'm definitely convinced there's nothing going on there now. You should go dance with her or something.”
You are staring at him so incredulously you are pretty sure he can see your mismatched eyes over your glasses. Karkat snorts.
“Or fucking don't, whatever. Follow a girl to a dance club and lurk in the shadows rather than engaging in the socially acceptable activity of choice, which, in this case, I am pretty sure is dancing. That's the way to seem well-adjusted.”
“KK, can you do me a favor?” you ask, words dripping with a dangerous amicability. “Imagine the most grisly death you can think of, okay? Now, go try that.”
He rolls his eyes, calls you something creatively offensive and leaves you to your self-imposed isolation. Karkat's an asshole, but there's a note of truth to his words. You have a gift for cutting yourself off. Even when you try to participate, you sabotage yourself like it's a goddamn Olympic sport, and you're dead set on bringing home the gold. Karkat doesn't know why you came, and neither do you. You don't know why you keep pretending you could ever be something you're not.
In the crowd, something catches your eye. It's a seething, uniform mass of bodies all flowing into each other, into one cohesive being, except for a flick of red curls. Except for one graceful set of limbs and one high, ringing laugh you can almost hear over the music. She stands out. She manages to be part of the beast without being swallowed by it. She confuses you.
You've never seen anyone dance like this girl. She dances like she's desperate. You can't tell if she's celebrating or mourning, screaming for joy or just to confirm she still can. She's the dead center of the room, like the pulse of the place echoes through her, and you wonder if she's okay. If she's more like them or like you. Her hair is heavy with sweat, wild with frizz, even as it tangles and flies about her form. Her spine arches. Her hips twist. She catches the light, all of it, and the room moves around her, cognizant of her grace – reverent of it. You wonder if there's room for anyone else in her life, or if all that grace takes up everything she has.
You sip your drink, feeling the cold clench of loneliness curling around your gut. You'll spend the night exactly where you are, watching, hating yourself, hating them, aching for something you can't put words to, and in a couple of hours your group will stagger home. Everything will seem thunderously loud in the comparative silence. Gamzee and Tavros will still be laughing, locked into their own world as they are, and it will wash over the rest of you, comforting and irksome in turn. Karkat will be too tired to talk much and Aradia's words will be soft, cracking things, small and rough and valuable, and you will strain to catch them all through the buzz of exhaustion in your flesh. You will pray for them to be directed at you and clutch at each one like a rare, fleeting thing, marveling at how different she is when it's quiet. Those wide hazel eyes will train on yours, softened with lassitude, and you will wonder what the hell is happening to you.
She is wild, too sharp and too bright, dangerous and not your type at all and you would follow her anywhere.
Your name is Sollux Captor, and you are in deep, deep shit.