John does not know how to censor his mind.
Karkat takes refuge in this when the diadems are on. He's a soldier first, born and bred and trained, and he categorizes all of John's careless thoughts like precious stones. His mindhive is by now a well-organized repository of facts, sensations, and ridiculous alien conceptions of food and voicetone and social customs. Karkat’s lucky combat and sarcasm seem universal topics. Reduces the cross-referencing.
But, fuck, fuck, this is less intel and more necessity. He's blind, and Karkat never bothered with Terezi’s strange conflations of hornsense and tonguesense (as if he’d need to know how to use them together; he never thought he would be stupid enough to lose his sight). So now, led around with hands shackled and horns blazing, he must rely on John to keep him still and steady as John borrows Karkat’s horns and Karkat borrows his blue eyes.
Of course it's another subjugation tactic, of course Karkat would not have practiced hard enough for this, losing a sense upon which he relied so heavily and making up for it with stretching his psi. He can feel pain pinging in the center of his think pan and Karkat quickly builds solid walls around the sensation so it doesn't bleed over the communication diadems. He can't show any weakness.
(yes right and also conveniently avoid giving stupid softpink alien unnecessary hurt, yes of course, ‘no weakness’)
In the time it takes to secure the ache, off goes John again, thoughts wandering somewhere away from watching where he walks. Karkat strains to reanchor himself in John's mind, hears the echo of John mumbling words at something vaguely Rose-shaped -- thick lavender casing around dark cold steel -- and finds John's strange too-bright vision fading matte-grey to transparent.
A little panic rises and Karkat bats it away. Fucking humans, he hates them. Karkat tries to take satisfaction in the memory of hot squelching innards he'd ripped out, but he can't, he can't. He remembers how they paralyzed him after, dug a knife in his horn to see if it sang, strung him tight and trapped to the torture platform, flayed his leg open to slice his hard-earned muscle out. They'd talked in their ugly voices to each other, so calm the entire time, slice after slice, his blood dripping slow over the sides of his leg. The chemicals keeping his limbs still hadn't dulled the pain, just kept him from being able to scream--
Hey pay attention! he thinks at John, horns straining to place everything around him . Karkat's bloodpusher shoves hard at his thorax walls. It'd be just like John, just like him to try and fuck with Karkat's patience and resolve, taking away the diadems' secondhand ghost vision (and thank fuck it keeps working, his stupid 'piggyback' borrowing works). Even with the odd spectrum-shifted colors John sees, Karkat feels their absence swift and sharp.
The instant he notices Karkat's pestering, John's mind sloshes over with regret, ughfucksorry. His ghost vision brightens and defines and clarifies. John can't possibly know his subconscious apologizes with friendly concept markers swirling around some of the pathways and rooms: 'doclalonde hallway,' 'nanite repairshop,' 'bone-seeing wing,' 'Karkat lab.'
Oh fuck oh fuck ohfuckohfuck. Karkat's limbs ache and tense. No matter how deeply he buries himself in the remnants of Gamzee's smell and his strong arms, Karkat can't drown out how easy it would be for the other humans to take him back there, back to dissect him alive, to poison and carve. Just one show of disobedience (no, won’t, baa is me) and they could rip him away from being able to see what’s left of his lusus.
Karkat is so mad, so angry (scared frightened), his cool is barely being kept, and once lost, he knows they'll step in, oh hey you can't control your alien-shaped useless-companion miniature lion thing, we need to control him ourselves so noble. They'll smile, 'relieve' John of the burden, and then back Karkat goes, back to serrated knives and restraints and machines that blinded and nauseated. Oh, fuck, they'd hurt so much (it hurt so much, more than they'd ever practiced for).
And stupid John, stupid fucking John with his protection complex and platonic pity (how! how is that even a thing?) couldn't say or do anything to change it. His tenuous ally, useless. This only worked if Karkat stayed sheeplike, and it was so much energy to keep docile, complacent.
You're not going to flip your shit anyway, are you? John asks, with an image of a cartoon Karkat gnashing his teeth and yelling garbled crash-phonemes at the bewildered guards.
(and a muted image of Karkat really trying to break the handcuffs, shredding his wrists to bloody ribbons, down to bone, throwing himself back at the guardians behind them, teeth too small and John too slow even with his strange enhanced cloneperson reflexes to stop them from instantly firing, and the horrorgriefrage at seeing Karkat's corpse hit the ground , no, don't flip any shits)
John's body sways closer. Be all civil and calm and nice, John thinks in a veil of quiet stoicism, all polite nods and Rosehuman smiles, it'll piss him off even more. In John's mind's eye, Noir's head pops off with a satisfying sound (hot plant leaves in water? loud whistling; what a strange brain this John Egbert has, strange and open, too, too open, so stupid).
Karkat snorts, can't help it. Yeah good idea, prisoner piss off the alien with the gun and the grudge. Karkat sends John an extra wave of derision for that one -- possibly unnoticeable, this is his operating emotion dealing with the dumb trusting alienhuman, after all.
John reacts hard and casually fast, and Karkat's blindsided by a huge rush of defense/offense no, the same black symbols (lettering, must be; strange smooth looped letters they use) on the familiar white sheet of tree pulp John thinks of when he thinks in absolutes, a resounding sensation of refusal.
Pff you're (mine) my prisoner he can fuck off.
And fuck, fuck, fuck, Karkat slams his hivemind door shut.
He feels John's tiny thoughtfingers scrabble for purchase and cling like he always does when Karkat shuts the flow down, and Karkat smooths the outer wall of the psychic block as much as possible, no cracks no crags to catch on. No, no, keep the stupid pink flesh dumbfuck out.
John can't censor his mind, and he is so stupid, Karkat must be surrounded by idiot aliens with no awareness of their own thoughts and feelings and motivations, how do any of them survive to maturity to reproduce? They must all be emotionally stunted mudbucketed grubbrains. How could he not -- how can he not realize what he's thinking?
Because John's -- his 'mine' -- because it hadn't felt like 'mine to play with or feed or stroke' like a pet, or 'mine to hurt now and ask questions later,' or even 'mine I found you first,' but:
mine, my equal, my obligation/trust, to protect to advocate for to bite their hands as hard as I can (you shall not pass), they will/must burn through me first, they will not (never) have you (deepheart warrior), you are (better important) mine.
Karkat feels his whole body bloom hot, hot in the core of him, up through his horns and deep in his gut, spread out like viscera gossamer threads, burning through to the tips of his claws. He wants to stop breathing to catch the sensation further, guide John's butterfly feelings into its own glass box to file away to keep and study later, when he can, when this is over. He wants to lash out and shake John until he can explain himself.
He wants to cling with all ten talons tighter tightest tight to John's hands because this is the place where they hurt him over and over and over with sharp knives and bright lights and John, who claims him (warrior, my equal), John is here, John saved him when he had buried himself incredibly deep underneath the lowest levels of his mind, to become absent so the heavy, constant pain would turn to engine buzz. John somehow found him, got him out.
He heard John through his mindhive walls when nothing should have sounded. Stupid John, with his mind too loud and open, too full of easy feelings.
Karkat screams wordless at the silence, but the heat continues, swelling up his neck and under the blindcloth. He feels himself start to pant.
you are (better important) mine
John calls his name through the wall. I didn't mean like creepy slavething mine! John projects a Karkat in metal undergarments, a scribble of red over it, negation. Responsible-for-you mine?
In the flesh, John’s fingers press warm and steady on his arm, kneading. His grip adjusts (does John know he's doing this?) and more completely curls around tense muscle. His thumb strokes once over his skin. Ghost echoes of the first wave of warmth tingle up Karkat’s shoulder. Karkat shoves the mindwall shut even more.
Karkat. Karkaaaaaat. John sighs and trains his eyes forward. More helpful phantom signs appear, with visions and sensations attached. Karkat tries to roll his neck without being seen. He needs more air. He’s so fucking warm even in the artificial chill of the endless hallways. He can’t be flushed for this idiot alien. He can’t.
John’s mind settles like a gentle weight against Karkat’s. It doesn’t press or shove, no knife edge to cut its way in. Instead, John waits while Karkat’s blasphemous pity burns itself out to coal, waits steady and solid, sorry for offending (hurting? frustrating? you are your own alienpersonthing!) but sure that if he’s patient long enough Karkat will bring the wall down.
And fuck everything, yes, Karkat will. He will, damn him. It is weakness, undistilled, ready to let almost anyone in his brain , having gone so long without other trolls bumping against his psi, without even the frightening prickle of Gamzee’s chucklevoodoos, after so long without the echoes of his lusus in his mind.
(And oh, Crabdad, he’d see him soon. What state was he in? How badly hurt? His mind aches to reach out to John’s (to anyone’s?) to feel what’s left of Crabdad, and, yes, how well John knows Karkat’s patterns, needs; he would bring down the wall.)
Even now, he feels his mind curl to contour against the shape of John’s, curve to press and accommodate, and Karkat doesn’t want to straighten it back or sever the stream. He doesn’t want to stop hearing his name called singsong with soft pebblethrows to ping his notice. He doesn’t want to stop borrowing John’s strange bright-colored vision and clear highblood eyes. Karkat knows John is more than just ‘alien ally,’ he is soft flesh resilience, living weapon , defender (burn through me first), who can only see how they will work together and help both sides to end this war, when Karkat can only see how this will cause his people pain. Where the other walking lanky monsters strive constant for their edge, he knows, knows intimately John means him zero harm. John touches his mind nightbreeze light and constant, hasn’t pushed since they crashed, hasn’t hurt him or stolen his thoughts. If it weren’t for the damn flirting (and mothergrub help him he almost doesn’t want that to stop, either), he’d be surprised to be told this was the blue alien he fought for perigees.
Fuck, John is the blue alien he's fought for perigees, the same one who brought him down, made him crash, maimed and cracked the carapace through and scooped up the innards of his lususdadship to smear all over their faces, who shoved himself in Karkat’s mind and in his mouth. John thinks differently now, Karkat knows, he doesn’t think the same of Karkat as he does of ‘Cancer the Red,’ gives Karkat his own name and feelings separate from his ship, but Karkat still is the same. He is the Cancer alien, he is the same killer, the one who gutted John’s scientist men, the same species he’s sworn to murder and defeat. Karkat feels his body cool. John can’t keep the parts of Karkat separated forever. He knows once they see Crabdad things could change.
A kernel of anxiety bubbles up and Karkat feels himself block it off from John before he realizes he’s still safe behind the mindwall. He sighs inside himself. How quickly he has trained his brain (deepheart warrior) to protect these things from John (you lie, you lie , to protect John from them -- shut up shutup, no weakness).
It’s probably time. Too much energy to keep the wall smooth and solid for so long. If he wants to see Crabdad anyway, he’ll need to use John’s eyes even more than before.
...whatever, Karkat sends, dissolving the mindwall to feel John’s mind slowly seeping in. John brightens (hiagain brainbuddy!), gently taps into hornsense and stretches to feel his people around him. Karkat thickens the barrier around his anxiety even more. He hates and thrills to wallow in how comfortable this sits, John’s easy presence like a balm (focus, Vantas, we’ll get to Crabdad and then you’ll see things change; no simple pity when he remembers how you almost killed him and others that he loved).
Karkat feels his body straighten and the last of the flush calm. Yes, focus. First we see how Crabdad is and then we go from there.