Chapter 1: Prologue
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Arrays of vibrantly colored liquids swamp the ground, in every shade in the spectrum, and some besides. To the casual observer, it is a quaint sight, ridiculously childish, especially as it clashes with the dark scenery that looms overhead.
In the eyes of the ten kids who have to walk tread over the liquid, it is a nauseating reminder of the friends that they had been looking forward to reuniting with.
Their leader reaches behind him and offers a comforting hand to one of his grieving teammates.
Determined not to break, choking back her bitter tears, she turns away from him and marches on ahead, urging the others along without making a sound. She doesn’t want the others to see her weakness, even as she averts her eyes from a crimson smear on the wall beside her.
The weeping girl doesn’t immediately respond to her name. There is so much she has to say, but the words are stuck in her throat.
‘What do you even want me to say at this point?’
‘Is it even worth it to continue?’
‘Oh, come on, I didn’t really mean that. Is it too much to ask just to leave me alone for one moment?’
And most of all,
‘Do you really think they’re… gone?’
She falters just a moment, but her friends don’t waste a second. The first one to get to her is a winged orange knight, who simply rests a comforting hand on her shoulder. She smiles just a second before shrugging him off.
They continue the dark corridor as one unit, trying not to lose their grip on the slick floor.
“How can there be this much blood,” one of the females standing behind Jade muses, making Jade’s stomach roll. She almost turns around to yell at her, but then comes to her senses. This is no time for fighting amongst themselves.
It might just because someone pointed it out, but suddenly the rich smell of the trolls’ metallic blood is almost unbearable now, and some of them turn away to gag quietly.
That is their background noise: some stifled dry heaving, some wet sobs, the shuffling of cautious feet. And even more faint, a chorus of deafening silence, the pure tangible horror weighing down on their shoulders, impossible to ignore. It steadily grows louder as they realize just how real their situation is, what all the blood swimming before their eyes really means.
Jade puts one hand to her ear, trying to block the beating of the new white noise, but realizes that she is merely tuning in to the sound of her own heart breaking.
“Wait,” someone breaks the horrible silence, “Can you hear that?”
Reluctantly, the leading girl lets her hand drop back down to her side, dog ears perked to catch the sound her ally had pointed out.
It is a voice, a long, drawn out scream that Jade recognizes. It is her friend, her patron troll, her Karkat.
“Come on,” she shouts, and not waiting to see if they are following, she darts down the hall, following his voice, as if he were the beacon of light to her weathered ship on choppy waters, darting at a speed that is inhuman, godly, until she’s not even sure if her feet are touching the ground at all.
She sees him in the distance and is suddenly beside him in an instant, leaping through time and space to reach him before she has the chance to register the danger.
Here is her monochrome troll, splattered with red, bleeding way too much red, and it’s so wrong, so blasphemous. She can’t tell if he’s whole, or if bits of him are missing, smudged out by mutant blood.
His mouth is moving, screaming at her, but she doesn’t hear him. She doesn’t care if there is a horror monster beast behind her, about to take her life for her mishap. She doesn’t care if that particular beast is Jack Noir, the Condesce, or even Lord English himself. She only has enough time to register that Karkat is still alive, if not for much longer.
She doesn’t consider that he is the danger, as he lets out a howl that is not human nor troll, and that he has his sickle aimed at her chest, that his eyes are mysteriously blotted out, not as if his eye sockets are empty, but rather as if they don’t exist any longer, and she’s seeing right past them into the night sky.
Jade freezes, unable to fight or flee, unable to register what she’s seeing; he’s the Karkat she knows, and yet he isn’t, as if he’s already dead, and she’s arrived too late. But he’s still animated, moving his arm to stab at her, even if his motions are not his own. Ironically, tragically, a memory of watching a badly funded zombie movie with her brother, so long ago, when they were still young (when they were still happy) pops into her mind, and she breaks.
His sickle pierces right into her chest, and it’s not a clean cut. It has to slice through skin, muscles, bones… and Jade feels its passing through each level, pressing pain, as its hooked end catches around her heart.
‘Perhaps,’ Jade thinks serenely, ‘Something traditionally poetic and sappy should go here. Those lengths, to which you strive, Karkat, were never really required. I may die so you may survive, Karkat, if it’s what you have desired. Yet for as long as a part of me continues to endure, let it be known that my heart was already yours…? No, that doesn’t sound right. Not enough cheese.’
Jade smiles and thinks of what her brother would have to say about her final thoughts, and waits for the pain to end, for reality to drift away.
She allows her body to abruptly lose all the tension that normally keeps her upright, and is pleasantly surprised when she feels strong, heated arms circle around her waist, helping her decent to the ground as a clawed hand cradles the back of her head.
“Jade,” she hears.
It’s that impossibly scratchy, guttural voice she secretly adores as much as she genuinely scorns. She wonders why his tone has become so affectionate.
He didn’t snap back to his senses, did he? To have him watch as she faded away, knowing fully well that she had perished by his careless, possessed hands… The very notion sent a new wave of feeling and anger through Jade, and it felt suspiciously like coming back to life.
In fact, her whole body was continuing to spasm in agony. Part of her heart had been torn out. Shouldn’t she be dead by now?
Oh, right. Having her heart spooned out of her by a giant hook at the hands of her temporarily haunted troll patron was neither just nor heroic. Jade grimaces, and comes back to her senses all at once. She feels air rush back into her lungs, tastes the blood on her lips, and hears the screams of her friends.
“Jade,” Karkat sobs, “Jade, you have to wake up.”
‘Don’t be silly, stupid. I’m already conscious again. And besides, I was dead, not asleep,’ Jade replies, or tries too, but all that comes out is, “Uhhh…”
She stares at the face of the distraught alien staring at her, and realizes that her earlier comparison to zombie slasher films was not as far off as she had thought. One of Karkat’s horns was missing, completely ripped from his skull, and his hair was so matted with blood she couldn’t even say for sure if he still had most of his hair or not. At least his eyes had grown back.
Jade starts to feel dizzy and weightless, and very, very confused. What was even going on? How had she gotten here in the first place? This was all starting to feel kind of like a dream.
“Jade, for the love of fuck, just wake up already!”
Karkat hadn’t lost his horn, hadn’t had been torn up and zombified. He was here, in front of her, whole, shaking her to get her to wake up.
The world around Jade shifts, and she remembers who she is and what’s she’s doing.
“Where did Lord English go?” She asks Karkat, who’s already sighing in relief and pulling her back onto her feet.
“He escaped into another dream bubble while you were busy taking the longest fucking snooze in paradox space over here,” Karkat snarls. Her other teammates are standing behind him, some of them in the process of waking up as well.
“That didn’t feel like a regular dream bubble,” Jade tries to explain herself, “It wasn’t a memory of the past at all! You were bleeding to death, and then you attacked—”
Karkat puts up a hand, physically stopping Jade from her rant. “Yeah, I know, I was there, too,” he snaps, “Maybe it was one of the doomed timelines or something. Lord English just keeps fucking up all the timelines to keep us from following him.”
“Well, it’s working,” Davesprite points out, and rushes to Jade’s other side, offering her his support.
“Well, we don’t have any time to waste then,” Jade interrupts them both, and wipes away the tears that are lingering on her cheeks angrily.
“Are you absolutely sure you want to go through with this?”
They are standing on the edge of the world, the tall figure and the smaller one. He is offering her everything, for the price of everything.
Did you like it? Hate it? If you hated it, what was wrong? Was the characterization off? Was it too rushed? Did you find it just plain boring? Let me know how I can improve!
Chapter 2: Chapter One
Or, In Which The Young Mutant Blood Troll Karkat Vantas Wakes Up On Alternia After Playing A Long Apocalyptic Video Game And Doesn't Remember Winning; Has Somewhat Of A Mental Breakdown, Flips Out At His Friend, And Watches A Movie; His Movie Is Then Interrupted; Socially Inappropriate Palesmut In An Inappropriate Public Space Follows.
Alright, this is the very first chapter. I imagine this story taking place in 2014, which is why the characters are all aged up. I also imagine that the trolls are one year older than the beta kids, who in turn are one year older than the alpha kids.
Something isn’t right. The realization starts like an itch, in the back of your thinking pan. But the feeling of the sopor slime against your skin is intoxicating, and— No wait, that’s definitely not a word you would want to use. You let out a grumble, half-heartedly because you’re still mostly asleep, and twist in your recuperacoon and oh. This position is even more comfortable. Who cares what words you use to describe this feeling? All you want is to sleep and have the feeling continue.
Then you hear the familiar ding that you associate with Trollian. Damn, who would troll you at this hour?
You snarl something predictably ornery but unintelligible, even to your own auditory openings, in the general direction of your husktop. There’s no way you’re waking up now. You can feel the fading light from the sun on your eyelids, and know that it isn’t even night yet.
And besides, you have the impression that you haven’t gotten the chance to sleep in forever… which, you realize, is kind of an odd thought to have. After all, yesterday you did nothing but…
Wait, fuck, what HAD you done yesterday?
Now the itching is starting to become an uncomfortable sensation in you digestive organ. You once heard Jade refer to a sensation like this as “butterflies”, whatever those were. You didn’t much see the point of such creatures, and even less reason for them to be allowed to fly around in anyone’s innards.
Another beep from his husktop goes largely unnoticed as you feel your breath hitch. Wait, what was that about Jade?
And then it comes back to you in one, huge, terrible rush.
The other kids.
The light peeking underneath your curtains is dim, but it blinds you momentarily as you hurriedly scramble out of you recuperacoon and towards your husktop, not even stopping to change your clothes or at least wipe some of the sopor slime off of yourself.
This is not happening. This is so not fucking happening.
As soon as you can get yourself logged into Trollian (it took you a couple of times to remember your password), you do nothing but just sit and stare mutely at your ChumpRoll.
Where was John and Jade and Strider and the others’ trolltag or pesterchum tag or whatever? They were NOT THERE, and you know now that that’s not okay, but before you can start hyperventilating, you realize that Sollux has sent you another message.
Feeling numb, you click on twinArmageddons’ trolltag and stare at the yellow text.
TA: KK ii thiink we 2hould talk
TA: ii guess youre 2tiill 2leepiin
TA: a2 2oon a2 you wake up me22age me
CG: YEAH SO I’M AWAKE NOW.
TA: oh hey
CG: OH HEY. JUST LIKE THAT, SO CASUAL WE ARE. HEY THERE. HERE I AM, JUST GETTING UP FROM MY SLEEP AND THE SUN IS JUST BARELY SETTING AND WOW IT FEELS LIKE IT’S GOING TO BE A GOOD NIGHT. LOOK THE CHIRPBEASTS ARE STILL SINGING. IT’S A FUCKING DAYDREAM UP IN HERE.
TA: ii take iit that you remember the game then
CG: THE GAME? WHAT GAME? OH, DO YOU PERHAPS MEAN THE GAME THAT WE STARTED PLAYING TWO SWEEPS AGO, ON MY SIXTH WIGGLING DAY. MY MEMORY’S A BIT FOGGY SO FORGIVE ME BUT THAT WAS THE ONE THAT BLEW UP OUR WHOLE FUCKING PLANET AND THREW US INTO PARADOX SPACE WHERE WE MET A WEIRD ALIEN SPECIES CALLED HUMANS AND THEN I WAS THE LEADER OF THE GROUP BUT MANAGED TO SCREW IT ALL UP BY GIVING THE UNIVERSE CANCER, RIGHT?
CG: AND THEN, OH YEAH, WASN’T THERE SOMETHING ABOUT YOU DYING, YOU MESSED UP FUCK? YEAH, YEAH, I REMEMBER THAT PART. AND THEN THERE WAS THE PART WHERE MY BEST FRIEND WENT ON A MURDERING SPREE BECAUSE HE THOUGHT HE WAS THESE TWO SCARY-ASS SUBJUGGLATING CLOWN MESSIAHS.
CG: GODDAMMIT SOLLUX WE ONLY SPENT A GOOD CHUNK OF OUR ADOLESCENT LIVES TRYING TO WIN THIS GAME, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT WOULD STICK IN MY MIND? I MEAN, YOU WERE EVEN DEAD FOR THE LAST SWEEP OR SO, I DON’T KNOW, TIME KIND OF GOT ALL MUSHED UP TOGETHER. SO I GUESS MAYBE WE WEREN’T EVEN IN THERE THAT LONG AT ALL. BUT HOW CAN I SAY FOR SURE? I BARELY REMEMBER THAT GAME. IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S BEEN A HUGE FUCKING DEAL OR ANYTHING.
TA: ok good
CG: WOW YOU SEEM ALL SHADES OF CALM SO I GUESS I’M JUST FLIPPING MY SHIT AGAIN LIKE I ALWAYS DO. WHOOPS, THERE GOES THE SHIT; I REALLY HAVE TO STOP DOING THAT. I’M GUESSING THAT YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON, OR ARE JUST HAVING ONE OF YOUR REALLY BAD MOOD SWINGS WHERE YOU CAN BARELY TYPE COMPLETE SENTENCES BUT SINCE THE SECOND SENARIO WOULD BE REALLY FUCKING INCONVINENT I’LL GO AHEAD AND BE THE STUPID-ASS OPTIMISTIC AND ASSUME THE BETTER OPTION EVEN THOUGH I DON’T KNOW WHY I’D DARE SINCE NOTHING EVER’S GONE MY WAY BEFORE, WHY WOULD TODAY BE ANY FUCKING DIFFERENT?
CG: OH WAIT, I FORGOT, TODAY’S THE HAPPY DAY REMINISCENT OF A SHITTY MUSICAL NUMBER WHERE WE ALL HUG AND CRY WITH SUCH FUCKING JOY BECAUSE WE’RE ALIVE AND OUT OF THE GAME, FOR NO APPARENT REASON. SO I’LL ONLY ASK THIS ONE, AND IF YOU WANT YOU CAN PRETEND I’M TYPING IT WITH THE MOST SERENE AND UNASSUMING LOOK ON MY FACE, AND DAMMIT SOLLUX I JUST WANT A QUICK AND EASY ANSWER.
CG: WHY THE FUCK ARE WE BACK ON ALTERNIA?
TA: ii dont know
TA: ii thought youd be the one who knew
CG: FUCK SOLLUX WHY THE FUCKING HELL WOULD I KNOW?
TA: liike you poiinted out ii diied halfway through the game
TA: do you remember wiinniing
CG: OH GOD NO. I MEAN, I DON’T KNOW. WHAT THE FUCK? I REMEMBER THE MIDDLE OF THE GAME, AND THE BEGINNING, TOO, BUT IT’S A LITTLE FOGGIER… I MEAN, I REMEMBER… THERE WAS BLOOD AND SCREAMING AND I THINK JACK DIED.
CG: OR WHAT THAT THE WHITE JAC—ER PM.
TA: who2 PM
CG: SHE WAS ONE OF THE EXILES OR SOMETHING. A PROSPITIAN CARAPACE, EXCEPT SHE BECAME A FUCKING FLYING DEMON DOG LIKE JACK AND THEN THEY WERE FIGHTING. AND WE HAD THE NEW KIDS THERE TOO.
TA: new kiid2
CG: YEAH, LIKE THEIR LUSII, ER, ANCESTORS? I DON’T FUCKING KNOW, HUMAN BIOLOGY IS WEIRD AS SHIT. BUT YEAH THEY WERE JOHN’S GRANDMOTHER AND JADE’S GRANDFATHER AND ROSE’S MOTHER AND DAVE’S BRO—OH GOD IT WAS FUCKING HELL TRYING TO DIRECT TWO STRIDERS. I REMEMBER THAT. I REMEMBER WISHING THAT I WOULD HAVE AN ANURISM FROM IRONY ABUSE OR WHATEVER IT IS THAT THEY’RE ALWAYS LAYING DOWN THEIR “SICK FIRES” ABOUT, AND THEN GAMZEE WOULD JOIN AND GOD WAS HE TERRIBLE I JUST WANTED TO PROJECTILE VOMIT EVERY TIME HE TRIED TO IMMITATE THEM. AND DAMMIT WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?
CG: IS THIS A DREAM BUBBLE? BECAUSE IT SURE AS HELL DOESN’T FEEL LIKE A FUCKING DREAM BUBBLE, AND I’D KNOW THAT BECAUSE I LOATHE THOSE FUCKERS WITH A PASSION. BUT IS THAT IT? IS IT OVER? JUST CONGRATS YOU WON THE GAME LET’S DROP YOU BACK ONTO YOUR PLANET AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED WITH ALL YOUR MEMORIES EXCEPT YOU’VE LOST TWO SWEEPS, YOU LEFT AS A KID AND CAME BACK NEARLY AN ADULT AND HELL IF I CARE WHERE YOU GO FROM HERE.
TA: yeah ii gue22 you have a poiint
TA: 2omething2 kiinda fii2hy here
CG: NO. GOD NO. SOLLUX I AM A SECOND AWAY FROM TEARING OUT MY HAIR FROM ITS ROOTS AND DROWNING IN MY OWN BILE AND IF YOU START USING FISH PUNS ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT I’LL JUST CULL MYSELF HERE.
CG: REST IN PEACE KARKAT VANTAS. YOU WERE ONE FUCKED UP WASTE OF SPACE.
TA: 2crew you
TA: ju2t calm the fuck down vanta2
TA: damn ii forgot ju2t how obnoxiiou2 you are
TA: 2oon the other2 will 2tart wakiing up and then we can take a count of how many other2 remember the game, and iif any of them know what happened
CG: WHAT? YOU THINK THAT THE OTHERS WON’T EVEN FUCKING REMEMBER THE GAME? WILL THEY HAVE FAKE MEMORIES OF LIVING A COMPLETELY NONEVENTFUL LIFE ON THIS GODFORSAKEN PLANET FOR THE LAST TWO SWEEPS?
TA: actually ii checked and iit2 almo2t been three 2weep2
CG: JUST… FUCK.
CG: THAT’D MAKE US EIGHT GOING ON NINE. OH WOW. I TOTALLY SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING LIKE EVERY OTHER HUGE NEON SIGN FLASHING IN MY EYES THAT SIGNALLED THAT DANGER WAS COMING, BUT NO, FUCK NO, I’M JUST GOING TO LET IT FLY OVER MY THINK PAN. WHY DID I THINK THE UNIVERSE WAS BETTER THAN THIS?
TA: not all of u2 are 2tiill eiight
TA: ii diid the math thii2 morniing and KN ED and FF are already nine
CG: OH FUCK. SOME OF US ARE ALREADY ADULTS? THIS JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER. MAYBE I SHOULD JUST SAVE THE UNIVERSE THE TROUBLE AND HANG MYSELF RIGHT NOW. BUT ITS UNLIKELY THAT EVEN DEATH WILL BE ABLE TO PROTECT ME FROM THE TORTURE THAT APPARENTLY IS MY BIRTHRIGHT.
TA: ok 2hiit 2hut your biitchiing for one moment and try making 2ome sen2e
TA: even though ii know iim 2o goiing to regret a2kiing you thii2
TA: what the hell are you 2quealiing about now
CG: OH NOTHING IMPORTANT, JUST THE FACT THAT THE GAME ENDED AND THREW ME BACK INTO MY LIFE, WITHOUT ANY WARNINGS, AT THE EXACT TIME WHERE IT WOULD ENSURE MY CULLING. NINE SWEEPS IS THE AGE THAT TROLLS ARE EXAMINED BY THE IMPERIAL DRONES FOR GENETIC MERIT YOU FORGETFUL ASS.
CG: AND NOW THAT MY EYES ARE STARTING TO TURN BRIGHT CRIMSON RED THERE’S REALLY NO WAY I WON’T BE CULLED.
CG: DON’T TELL YOU DON’T FUCKING REMEMBER? I’M A MUTANT.
CG: ACTUALLY NOW THAT I THINK ABOUT IT, YOU HAVE YOUR OWN MUTATION, SO YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO GET CULLED, TOO. OR AT LEAST THEY’LL TURN YOU INTO A SLAVE.
TA: oh that
TA: we dont have to worry about that
CG: OH WONDERFUL. JUST LIKE THAT, MY WORRY IS GONE JUST LIKE MAGIC.
TA: why do you have to be 2uch a fuckiing drama queen
TA: ii wa2 worriied about that two but ii looked iit up and youre not on the culliing lii2t
TA: ii dont know iif iit wa2 an error or what
TA: but iit doesnt really matter anyhow because the condesce is dead
CG: HOLY SHIT.
TA: yeah you can 2ay that again
TA: not that iim complaiiniing or anythiing though
TA: now the drone2 are iin control but only temporarily
TA: a2 2oon a2 FF turn2 ten 2he ii2 offiiciially the heiire22
TA: iin fact ii thiink that the drone2 are already takiing order2 from FF anyway becau2e a lot ha2 changed 2iince the condesce diied
TA: new law2 that no drone iin iit2 riight miind would ever want two 2upport
TA: liike a law that forbid2 a drone from automatiically conviictiing a pea2antblood criimiinal
TA: even ru2tblood2 liike AA are allowed two hire legii2lacerator2 and plead theiir ca2e iin court now
TA: mutantblood2 are 2tiill culled on 2iight though
TA: even FF can only do 2o much before 2he ii2 offiiciially crowned
TA: but you have two admiit that 2he2 done a lot already
CG: YEAH, I GET IT. YOUR NEW SQUEEZE IS THE PINACLE OF WOMANHOOD, THE SHINING EXAMPLE OF ALL THAT IS JUST, AND EVERY OTHER TROLL SHOULD ASPIRE TO BE LIKE HER, AND OF COURSE FAIL BECAUSE SHE IS PERFECTION ITSELF AND CANNOT BE DUPLICATED. I WOULD BOW TO YOUR DARLING SWEETHEART PRINCESS AND LICK THE SALT WATER OFF OF HER FEET BUT ALAS I AM TOO UNWORTHY TO DO EVEN THAT.
TA: for the love of fuck you iin2ufferable priick
TA: 2hut your 2eedflap about FF
TA: hone2tly you 2ound liike youre jealou2 or 2omethiing
CG: EW, FUCK NO. MY QUADRANTS MAY BE MORE FUCKED UP THAN GAMZEE’S SOPOR-INCRUSTED THINK PAN, BUT THEY’RE NOT IN SO MUCH NEED OF DIRE ASSISTANCE THAT THEY WOULD BE ENRICHED BY YOU WIGGLING YOUR LISPING SKIN-AND-BONES-BECAUSE-I-NEVER-EAT-ANYTHING-BECAUSE-I’M-ALWAYS-GLUED-TO-MY-HUSKTOP-LIKE-A-RAINBOW-DRINKER-THAT-FEEDS-OFF-OF-THE-LIGHT-OF-COMPUTER-MONITORS ASS INTO THEM.
TA: wow KK calliing the kettle black much
TA: at lea2t iim actually good wiith computer2
CG: FUCK YOU. BELIEVE IT OR NOT CAPTOR, YOU’RE NOT THE KING OF PROGRAMMING AND TECHNOLOGY OKAY? AND I’M NOT AS BAD AS YOU’D THINK, EITHER.
TA: oh really
TA: ii fiind that very hard two beliieve for 2ome rea2on
TA: but oh yeah
TA: 2peakiing of the half brain-dead clown
TA: have the two of you fiinally realiized how dii2gu2tiingly and obviiou2ly neon pale you were for one another yet
TA: have a lot of cliché feeliing2 jam2 wiith one another liike iin your dumb moviie2
CG: OH, GO FUCK YOURSELF.
CG: BUT YEAH WE DID, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR ASKING, EVEN THOUGH IT ISN’T EVEN ANY OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS.
TA: iit2 about fuckiing tiime
TA: but anyway back two the iimportant conver2atiion
TA: before we can get any more 2iidetracked and 2tart exchangiing romantiic adviice liike a couple of wriiggler2 ju2t learniing what a jam actually feel2 liike
CG: YES. GOD NO, LET’S NOT DO THAT.
TA: yeah wouldnt want two make your new palemate jealou2 now would we
TA: 2o yep
TA: it 2eem2 liike youve been pardoned by the heiire22 her2elf
TA: 2o congrat2
CG: PARDONED? WELL I SUPPOSED THAT PIECE OF SHIT GAME WAS GOOD FOR SOMETHING. GOOD GOING KARKAT, YOU SCREWED UP AND MESSED UP YOUR SESSION AND THEN GAVE YOUR UNIVERSE CANCER BUT HEY YOU STILL WON THE GAME SO WE’LL LET YOU LIVE OUT THE REST OF YOUR MISERABLE EXISTANCE.
CG: WELL THE UNIVERSE CAN SHOVE THAT LITTLE GIFT OF THEIRS UP THE NOOK, ASSUMING THAT A GIANT UNIVERSE-FROG HAS A NOOK.
TA: hey at lea2t you wont get culled
TA: iif were goiing two 2urviive were goiing two have two take any liittle ble22iing the uniiver2e grant2 u2
CG: WHOA FUCK WHY ARE YOU IN SUCH A GOOD MOOD?
TA: ii wa2 dead
TA: and now im not
CG: OKAY YEAH I CAN GET THAT. CONGRADULATIONS ON YOUR COMPLETELY UNEXPLAINED AND DUBIOUS YET STILL GLORIOUS RETURN TO THIS CRAPSACK WORLD, DOUCHE.
TA: thank2 a22hole
CG: SO WE CAN ASSUME THE OTHERS ARE ALIVE NOW TOO?
TA: ii wouldnt a22ume anythiing ju2t yet
TA: but 2eeiing a2 they 2tiill have theiir trolliian acount2 that would make the mo2t 2en2e
CG: WAIT DOES THAT MEAN…
CG: DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE LUSII ARE ALIVE AGAIN, TOO?
You pull away from your husktop and perk your ears, listening for the sound of scuttling feet or clacking pinchers, or… anything. But all you hear is the beep of Trollian. Damn Sollux, doesn’t he realize that what you’d obviously be doing?
A few minutes pass, and again nothing. You almost stand up to walk downstairs, to see if it’s true, but you’re too nervous. And that’s stupid, because you’re Karkat, you don’t get nervous, but…
The beeps of Trollian increase in frequency, and their insistence rubs you the wrong way. “What the fuck do you want, Captor,” you snarl out loud as you swirl back to look at the large wall of mustard yellow text he’s sent you.
TA: waiit no
TA: theyre aliive but theyre not here
TA: KK are you there
TA: dammiit KK dont tell me you went lookiing for your lu2u2
TA: and no iim not calliing you a wriigler or anythiing of the 2ort 2o dont even 2tart wiith the whole charade of flyiing off the handle every tiime you a22ume 2omeone wa2 que2tiioniing your nonexii2tant honor
TA: liike 2eriiou2ly you have wor2e 2elf e2teem than ii do and 2tiill are able to take offen2e to everythiing liike ED doe2
TA: iit2 fuckiing annoyiing
TA: no 2eriiou2ly KK get your a22 back here
TA: your lu2u2 ii2nt even there and you would know that iif you took a 2econd two actually thiink iin2tead of beiing the mu2hy 2ap you alway2 are
TA: KK youre eiight 2weep2 old
TA: you dont need a lu2u2 anymore
Oh. That was kind of obvious. You feel the blood rush to your cheeks, but you’re less embarrassed by your blunder and more embarrassed by… damn, is your blood pusher aching?
Maybe Sollux is right. Maybe you do have the think pan of a wriggler.
Before he can become any more freaked out, and work himself into a frenzy like you know he sometimes does, you type a response.
CG: OH YEAH. YOU’RE RIGHT. WE’RE NEARLY ADULT TROLLS NOW.
CG: HE MUST HAVE GONE OFF TO PICK A NEW WIGGLER FROM THE MOST RECENT BATCH DOWN UNDERGROUND.
TA: KK ii…
CG: FUCK NO. DON’T START. FORGET ABOUT IT, OKAY?
CG: WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? ALTHOUGH I DON’T SUPPOSE THEY CAN BE CALLED KIDS ANYMORE THEY ABOUT THE SAME AGE AS US. I THINK. DAMN TIME IS SO CONFUSING.
TA: that ii have no iidea about
TA: theyre probably back on theiir own planet
CG: OH GREAT. JUST FUCKING GREAT. I SUPPOSE THAT IT’S PROBABLY POINTLESS TO ASK YOU BUT WHAT THE HELL. EVEN THOUGH YOU’VE BEEN DEAD FOR A SWEEP OR TWO YOU SEEM TO HAVE MORE OF A CLUE OF WHAT’S GOING ON THAN I DO. SO HERE GOES NOTHING. ANY IDEA WHAT WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING?
CG: YOU KNOW, HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO FIX THIS?
TA: fiix what
TA: KK we won the game
TA: now we liive our live2
CG: WHAT? JUST LIKE THAT? IT’S THAT FUCKING SIMPLE? JUST, OH HEY, NOW WE’RE BACK TO OUR REGULAR SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING.
CG: LIKE WHAT, ARE THEY EXPECTING US TO JUST PICK UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF AND
CG: YOU KNOW WHAT? I CAN’T EVEN DO THIS RIGHT NOW. I CAN’T GO ON A LENGTHY RANT ABOUT HOW UNFAIR LIFE IS BEING. I CAN’T. I CAN’T THINK ABOUT THIS RIGHT NOW. THIS IS SO NOT FUCKING OKAY IN SO MANY WAYS.
CG: SERIOUSLY, SOLLUX, HOW CAN I FIX THIS? WHAT DO I DO NOW?
TA: fiir2t off calm down youre embarra22iing me
TA: 2econd ii gue22 well fiigure that out once everyone ii2 awake and on trolliian
TA: untiil then watch one of your 2hiitty moviie2 or 2omethiing
TA: download a new one even
TA: iim 2ure theyve come up wiith many new 2hiitty romantiic crap for you to dii22olve your thiink pan with
CG: WOW OK.
CG: WHATEVER, I’M DONE WITH THE WHOLE BEING A LEADER AND TAKING CHARGE OF EVERYTHING THING ANYWAY. IT’S NOT LIKE I’VE EVER BEEN REALLY GOOD AT IT. I GUESS I’LL LISTEN TO MR. NOOKSPITTLE FOR BRAINS FOR A CHANGE. POINT ME IN ANY DIRECTION AND THERE I’LL BE. I’LL BE YOUR SLAVE OR WHATEVER.
TA: KK ju2t go and watch one of your 2hiitty moviie2 already
CG: OKAY FINE.
You pause just a moment before pulling away from your husktop. The impression that you had about something being wrong has now become a chorus of holyfucknodon’tlethisbetrue in your blood-pusher. You feel completely hollow. There’s something —instinct maybe—that’s telling you that you’re in danger. The game can’t just be over that easy, it says.
And what sort of reward is this anyway? Sure, you may have everything you’ve ever wanted before you started the game (namely too not get culled when you grew up), but now… it doesn’t feel like enough. How can the universe expect you to go back to your old life? Without John and Jade? Hell, you even miss the Striders and their lame-ass rap battles. How do you even know that they remember you? What if they don’t? What if you never talk to any of them again and—
Damn, you realize too late, the humans infected you with their disease called friendship.
But no, you don’t want to think about that. Maybe Sollux is right, you just need to unwind with one of your old favorite movies.
You feel like you still have the weight of the universe on your shoulder as you stand up and sluggishly make your way to your collection of movies. You can hardly read the titles, but you don’t know why – oh, no, that’s wrong, you know why – but no you’re not thinking about that. Besides, you’ve memorized your collection by heart. It’s all organized alphabetically, and you could find your favorite even if you had your eyes burnt out of their sockets.
It’s The Movie Which Is Fictitious But Based Off Of The Story Of the Sufferer And His Final Days And How His Love With The Disciple Spanned Past All Four Quadrants Into A Love That Was More Than Pity And Hate Combined But Even Though Their Love Was True It Could Not Save Him Except That In This Case It Takes Place In A Modern Troll Society And Their Genders Are Reversed. Troll Meg Ryan plays the role of the gender-bent Sufferer stand-in, and honestly, you can’t imagine anyone else in that part. You don’t care what anyone says. Troll Meg Ryan is a wonderful actress.
You pop the movie in and sit down, but when the beginning credits start to roll you realize you’re barely even watching. Your vision is kind of going liquid red, and the movie hasn’t even started.
This is your all-time favorite movie, you love how their romance starts off pale and then becomes pitch black, and somehow also red, and after that ashen, and they’re both austispicing for each other somehow and it’s not weird and it just works, but then that just reminds you of Jade.
You close your eyes, because you don’t need to watch the movie to know what’s happening, you’ve seen it so often that even two, no three sweeps later you still recall every detail. But it’s just a background anyway to your own internal monologue.
Jade Harley, your austispice, is probably never going to see you again. Maybe she doesn’t even remember you. Maybe… she doesn’t even really exist anymore.
You attempt to shut your eyes even tighter, but that doesn’t work, it’s impossible, and no no you can’t do this, you can’t think like that. Your amazing Jade, the one who yells at you whenever she knows you’re starting to doubt yourself, who calls you a fuckass because she’s picked up the habit of swearing from you, you rubbed off on her, you mean that much to her. But she never really means it, and only says it when you need to hear it, and god she means so much more to you than you do to her, but you don’t care anymore like you used to. As long as she keeps austispicing, and you know how tiring it is for her, and you used to be afraid she’d stop, but she never did.
Jade, who looks so much like John, and no you think to yourself, don’t think about John, whom at first you hated and then thought maybe you pitied, but you weren’t sure whether it was flushed or pale, until one day he introduced you to this thing he calls “bromance”. It’s not a quadrant trolls have, this “bromance” thing, it’s a human thing and from what you hear has probably has nothing to do with romance, but it’s enough for you just to have him in your life.
“Wow you’re pathetic,” you scoff at yourself. But inside you don’t care. Inside you’re still ice cold, and not the cold that Dave ironically raps about, but a real, deadening cold.
And, surprise, surprise, it’s all your fault that you’re in this predicament. What did you say when your kind first started trolling the humans? There were to be absolutely, positively no cross-species sloppy make-outs. No quadrants were to be filled with the aliens. But you ignored your own warnings, and you fell hard for them both, those buck-toothed bastards.
You’re so caught up in your self-hatred that you don’t register the ringing of your hive’s telecommunications device until after its second cycle.
Slowly you relax yourself out of the tight fetal position you’ve taken.
Who would be trying to reach you through the old-fashioned hive telecom device? Everyone that you generally speak with uses Trollian. You glance at your husktop to see if you accidentally toned out a new message, but no luck there.
Cautiously you pick up, after to take a moment to pause your place in the movie (Were you already at that scene already?) and bark into the device a quick, “What?”
“Karkles, you’re needed.”
Terezi’s familiar cackling, manic voice does things to your insides that are reminiscent of your favorite sappy romcoms… when it doesn’t make you seethe with black hatred. But right now the affect is the more positive, calming one, and for a second you forget to speak.
And then her words register. Damn, not another crisis already? But really, what were you expecting?
“What’s wrong now? Because if we’re about to face a second apocalypse let me start my saying that I no longer do that kind of shit. Not before the sun’s set, anyhow.”
Gamzee. Just like that, suddenly you’re shaking with anticipation, the numbness is gone. “Where is he?” You keep it short and simple. If he needs you, you’re there.
“He’s down at the penitent hive down on Equate Drive. Don’t worry, he hasn’t hurt anyone or himself yet, but he’s in a hysterical state and I’m afraid there’s not much that the Chief can do for him until he’s proven himself to be able to function in a civilized manner.”
You don’t think. You are only capable of action. “I’ll be there,” you say and hang up without further conversation.
You’ve already run down four blocks, but you show no sign of stopping as you reach the penitent hive. A few executive drones stand outside, and usually the sight of them makes your mutant blood run cold, but today you’re not going to put up with that crap.
Rushing past them, you go inside and come face to face with Terezi Pyrope, in… a deputy executantor costume. Well, that’s definitely not the weirdest thing you’ve come across today. You push it to the back of your mind and give Terezi a hug. It’s so nice having someone you know there, in the flesh, but… something doesn’t feel right. She isn’t hugging you back.
You realize that there are eyes of an older troll on you.
Very few adult trolls are allowed to stay on the planet, and this one is just barely young enough to be allowed to stay, but even so, he’s still must be at least eleven or twelve. He’s a teal blood, like Terezi, and from the looks of it extremely powerful.
You disentangle yourself from your friend, remembering that hugs are something generally reserved for matesprits and moirails… and Terezi was neither to you. At least, she wasn’t your matesprit anymore.
The humans have really messed you up, in more ways than one.
“Where’s Gamzee?” You hiss, not at Terezi, just in general, at yourself, maybe. You hope that she’ll be able to figure out the difference.
“Follow me,” Terezi responds neutrally, and leads you down a maze of corridors.
You hear Gamzee before you see him – it’s impossible not to. He’s screaming, and you feel a flood of pale pity so strong it momentarily enrages you beyond thought. Gamzee, your Gamzee, is here and he’s in pain, you can hear it in his voice.
“HONK! Honk honk motherfucker,” he’s chanting, “I’ll kill you, oh I’ll kill you all. YOU HEAR ME, I’LL KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!”
It feels like you can’t get to him fast enough, until you’re face to face with him, but there are bars separating you from him, from his claws and his dilated, manic eyes, and you’re not scared of him, not at all, you just want to get your arms around him. You want to hold him even when you realize that his body is still covered in sopor slime.
You don’t even have to ask Terezi. She grabs a ring of keys and begins unlocking the door.
“Do you think that’s the best course of action?” The adult troll is saying, but before he can reach over to stop Terezi, she’s exchanging some sort of look with him, and he backs down.
The door opens just wide enough for your slim body to slip inside, and you almost collide with Gamzee but he’s backing up now. Even when he’s out of his mind, he’s hesitant to hurt you. But that doesn’t stop his screaming.
“BEST FRIEND! THERE YOU ARE! I’ve been waiting, oh I’VE BEEN WAITING MOTHERFUCKER,” and he’s snarling at you, but you can tell it’s mostly for show because he’s still backing away.
“Shoosh,” you say, “shoosh, Gamzee, my palemate, shoosh.”
Gamzee looks absolutely rabid but he has tears in his eyes when he looks at you, and you’re taking his hands, and he doesn’t even try to claw you, he isn’t that far gone. “I’m trying to fight it,” he tells you, in a whisper, but still, it’s him, even as he adds, “BUT IT’S SO HARD! HONK I JUST WANT TO PAINT THE WALLS! with your blood.”
“I understand, it’s all going to be okay,” you say, and then, “Come here,” as you reach a hand out to pap him on the cheek.
Every time this happens, it gets easier to calm him down, now that his episodes have spread father and farther apart from one another. You gently take Gamzee into your arms, and he is almost a head taller than you, so he has to crumble upon himself to make it work. Your fingers work their magic into his hair and that’s the final straw.
He’s putty in your arms now, sobbing quietly, letting out a baleful honk now and again.
“That should do it,” you hear Terezi say triumphantly to the adult, the Chief you believe, and he mutters something, but she talks over him, “I’ll pay for his bail. Karkat, you stay there with Gamzee while we finish the filing bit.”
You might have let out a statement of gratitude, but you’re not sure. All you care about is making Gamzee feel better, taking all of the darkness in his soul away and replacing it with all your pale pity for him, until he’s warm and tender and happy. You don’t care that the other inmates can see you, that the public displays of affection that you’re showing Gamzee is considered socially inappropriate. You’re tightening your fingers in his hair, and pressing your forehead to his.
It’s only when he stops sobbing and starts making that other sound that you feel assured that he’s okay. Nepeta convinced the kids to call the unique sound that trolls make purring, but it’s not really purring at all. It’s more like clicking, and for each troll it’s different; Gamzee sounds like fingers across a keyboard, all soft but high-pitched, which is surprising because of his deep voice.
In the other cells, the trolls are squirming in their discomfort. You can hear them, their whispers of pointed inquiries. Trolls never click in public, it’s too intimate for that, but you let the whiners squabble amongst themselves. You didn’t give a single fuck about them.
You put your mouth near his ear, and you tell him, “I’m so worried, Gamzee.” And now this was getting downright pornographic, pale-wise. Sharing emotions and feelings is one of the most cherished gestures of moirallegiance, and it is exactly what Gamzee needs: to know that you still trusted him, to show him that you need him as much as he needs you.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he returns, “I woke up alone, and covered in sopor, and I didn’t know where anyone was. Honk. I was confused. I’m sorry.”
“I’m confused, too,” you breathe into his ear, nearly just mouthing it, because you don’t want the other trolls to overhear these confessions, “I feel like the game really hasn’t ended, it can’t be over, my life is never that easy.”
“I don’t like sleeping without you, it’s cold as bitchtits,” he admits, and even blushes deep purple, but he doesn’t need to; you know that about him already.
“I don’t like feeling like I’ve let you down,” you return, “If I was there… I’m sorry.”
Gamzee shakes his head so gently that it almost doesn’t move, and he puts his own mouth up to your ear and he says, “No, I’m sorry, Karkat. I want to be strong for you.”
You can’t help yourself; that makes your perpetual frown lessen up at the edges. Someone who wasn’t you might even call it a smile. “You are always so strong,” you assure him, “That’s why I have to be there for you… for the few times you can’t be strong anymore. I want to carry your burden when it becomes too much for you to bear.”
Pale-flirting used to never be right up your alley, but now with a good mix of practice and some rather raunchy scenes from your, um, more provocative romcoms, you’re now a master at it.
“You’re the best palemate a bro could motherfucking ask for,” he sighs into your neck, and you very nearly swoon. He was made for you and you for him.
And then you hear Terezi clearing her throat behind you, but at least she doesn’t sound embarrassed.
“Gamzee can get cleaned up in the washroom down the hall before he leaves,” she offers, not mentioning the bail she had to pay. But, then again, you didn’t expect her too. Crazy as she was, Terezi was a troll who could be counted on to always be loyal to her friends.
“Thanks,” you say, and you don’t specify what. She only nods in response.
Terezi points out to Gamzee where the washroom is, and after stealing another hug from you, he saunters off, looking somehow taller than before.
“We’ll wait for you outside,” Terezi calls to him, and then turns around without another word and leads you out through the maze. It’s hard for you to ignore how formal she’s being towards you. You’ve seen many sides of Terezi: manic, cruel, endearing, childish… but never this. For a moment you consider the fact that maybe she doesn’t remember the game.
The two of you get outside, and she motions for you to sit down beside her on the bench.
“Thanks,” you say again, because you’re not really sure what else to say. Hey, do you remember that game we played where all our friends died and it was my fault?
Thankfully, you don’t need to. Typical Terezi, she jumps right in and brings it up first. “Sollux told me that you remember sgrub,” she says casually, which just about chills you to the bone. Terezi is anything but a casual troll. “I can’t believe it’s over.”
You can’t believe how cold she is, but you tell yourself that maybe it’s just because she’s upset. “You’re the deputy chief,” you change the subject.
“Yeah,” she agrees, “I remember bits of the other life, too… the one that didn’t happen but everyone but us remembers. It’s only a seasonal job, more of an internship, so that I can have experience under my belt for when I become a legislacerator.”
She says it all so simply, so matter-of-fact. And that’s when you realize why. She’s more than just upset. She’s downright pissed off.
“You don’t like being here, either, huh?” You chuckle, but its humorless, “At least someone else is taking this seriously. Sollux thinks it’s all grubsauce and sopor slime. Er.”
Terezi hums but says nothing. Her anger is almost palatable now… and you can’t taste things the way that she can. You reach over and put a hand over hers, and she doesn’t do anything, so you assume that the gesture was accepted. You’re constantly confused by this troll, who can be so silly one minute and then so wise and calculated the next. You’re not sure which persona vexes you more, but no matter what, you have never wished harm upon her… at least, not from another party.
You’ve got two quadrants happily filled already, which is more than you ever thought that you would have, but maybe you could consider a third. With Terezi, you don’t matter if it’s black or red.
Except… it would have to be black this time. Her red quadrant is already being filled.
And then it hits you, why she’s so fucking outraged. You take your hand away from hers and whisper, “You miss Dave.” She doesn’t support or argue the claim, and she doesn’t need to. You should have known. Ever since she had first seen, well smelt, the douche, she’s been seeing hearts like the world was ending. Well technically it was, but still…
“It’s not just Dave,” she finally says, “All the kids. They were our friends. Now where are they?”
Well, then. Terezi gets the golden medal for asking the question that you want answered most. You don’t reply, because there’s nothing left for you to say on that matter.
Then she sighs and clicks her tongue. “Gamzee isn’t safe where he is,” she tells you, “In this world, he never went sober. He’s never killed anyone. He’s insane; of course, everyone knew that’s where he was heading, but if his neighbors start believing he’s a threat to their safety…”
The guilt throbs, deep as a knife wound. And God knows you know only too well what that feels like.
“The two of you are moirails,” Terezi continues, “So no one can argue if you stay at his place, or he stays at yours.”
Oh. So that’s what Terezi was getting at. You swallow shallowly and nod. “Don’t worry about it,” you hurry to reassure her, “I won’t let Gamzee out of my sight.”
It’s a good thing that at least one of you is able to think coherently through the anger and grief.
Chapter 3: Chapter Two
Or, in which Dave Strider wakes up back on earth, trades ironic quips with his former brother, ecto-father, and brother once more, has a conversation with John discussing Nic Cage and boners, and proceeds to his highly ironic new career as a lowlife flipping patties; Includes one or more not so chill freak outs, a conversation trying to explain the difference between homosexuals and homoromantics and whether the sentiment of pale love applies to human relationships, and various jokes made at the expense of an absent lover.
Now that we know what's going on with Karkat back on Alternia, it's time to check in on the humans back on earth. This chapter was fun to write, if a bit difficult.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
You’re Dave Strider. Nothing pushes your buttons, because you’re the king of chill. So when you wake up and the first thing you see when you open your eyes is the ceiling of your bedroom, you’re not surprised. You’ve woken up to this sight too many times to count before, even if it’s been a while. Sure, it’s strange, since it’s been years since you’ve been home, but whatever. You’ve been through stranger.
Well what the hell does everyone want you to do? Completely lose your shit, jump out of your bed and start demanding answers? That’s not your style.
No, you just reach for your shades, put them on, and wait for something to make sense.
So… you won the game. That much is pretty clear. Except maybe the game was a dream, because honestly that sounds far more likely.
Nah, that game was far too vivid to be just a dream, you decide. You can still feel the ghost of a nasty wound on your arm where you were sliced by an enemy’s sword, and hell, your imagination isn’t that good. Also, even though you often deny it, you have a terrible memory, Bro’s even joked that you have early onset Alzheimer’s. You never remember your dreams.
“Sup,” you hear.
You tilt your head to the side, and see your brother, or rather your ecto-father/son, standing in the doorway. He’s almost a whole year younger than you, or maybe a little more than a year. Time shit is so confusing, and besides, it doesn’t matter. When you first met Dirk you were disappointed; this wasn’t the guy who raised you. But it both irked and reassured you when you found out that, younger or not, Dirk was still an inch or two taller than you.
“How was the game?” You ask bluntly. You hope he remembers the game, and that you aren’t going crazy, but then again he might just assume that you were making an ironic inquiry about some sport that you don’t give two flying fucks about.
“We must have won, since we’re home now and all,” he answers, which settles that.
Dirk leans against the wall and stares at your timetables, admiring them, as you climb out of bed and pull on a shirt. You pause for a moment to figure out how you want to best word your curiosity, and then finally blurt out, “Well, give me the lowdown dude.”
He shrugs and replies, “Jane and John are back in good ol’ Stepford suburbia, Jake and Jade are fending for themselves on Nim’s Island, and Roxy and Rose now share their old gingerbread house in the middle of the forest.” Dirk pauses. “No, wait, weak,” he corrects himself.
You decide to help him out. “They’re waiting for Hamlet on the side of the road to give him cryptic but annoyingly vague advice about his future.”
“They’re attempting to make a feminist Frankenstein in their old mansion on the edge of the cliff.”
“They’re playing witchcraft with a chemistry set they made out of Roxy’s storage room of liquor, too drunk off their asses to recognize the dangers.”
Dirk nods at that one. “They’re probably in danger right now,” he adds.
“You can’t just leave those girls alone for five minutes, man, I’m telling you. They’re the distressed damsels from every bad action movie, and we’re the only guys with enough patience and good heart to save them from their own stupidity.”
“They’re probably signaling us at this very moment, or they would be if they weren’t too smashed to handle that task.”
“Roxy’s probably fumbling with a flashlight of all things, all hell why ain’t this working?”
“Rose’s probably trying to correct Roxy’s grammar, all hell why isn’t, not hell why ain’t.”
“Hell why ain’t, Roxy keeps saying, laughing her ass off because she’s never heard Rose say ain’t before, except you know, the last time they got crashed.”
“Somehow it just gets funnier each time though.”
“Way funnier each time, Rose even makes a graph to chart the exact slope of the increase in hilarity, passive-aggressively,” you finish, and then snort, “If they heard we had said any of that, we’d be dead.”
“So dead,” your bro agrees, “eight feet under the dirt dead.”
“Pushing up daisies dead, dude. Worse than flower food, even. We’d be the daises, man.”
Dirk nods appreciatively, but manages to make it look like he’s doing it somberly, as if already mourning the loss of your decomposed body. “We totally have to tell them now,” he snorts. He holds out his fist to you, and you give him the necessary fist-bump.
“Obviously,” you agree.
“Anyway,” Dirk veers back onto the original conversation, “I checked our own records. You’re eighteen and employed fulltime and I’m a senior in high school part-time and employed part-time.”
“So… I’m the stereotypical orphaned high school dropout, looking out for my brother who’s too old to be put into foster homes and too cool to care,” you summarize, “And every day I give you the same speech about the dangers of quitting school, no man, hold out and go to college, continue on where I fell behind, that whole spiel?”
“More or less,” he sighs, “The others are already up. I’ve been chatting with Jake for a while on pesterchum, but he doesn’t know much more than we do. The world seems like an exact copy of the one that your generation lived in, minus the Betty Crocker products.”
Fair enough. You were sure someone had said something about your game being the start of the creation of a new world, but hey, you liked this one just fine anyhow.
“And what about the trolls,” you add, “are they still freaky insectoid aliens? Have we woken up in some freaky-ass sci-fi Avatar-esque world where our two species have integrated? History books filled with stories about the troll or human liberation revolution and how it was this huge fucking deal but now they have troll appreciation month in every school or something? Dude please tell me I will get the opportunity to wear a tee to support finding a cure for some weird alien cancer.”
But Dirk doesn’t smirk or even twitch an eyebrow back. He only says, “They’re not here.”
What the hell is he talking about? “They’re not here? Like, did they all die in the final battle or something? Because I have a hard time believing that Karkles would have let anyone kill him, not before complaining to everyone about it first. Hell, he would have written an entire why-my-death-is-unfair speech, forced everyone to listen to the whole twenty hour address as he slowly bled to death on the stage. And as for Terezi… damn that bitch will never die. She’ll be feeding off the blood of innocent children and magically staying young forever even though there’s no sort of logical connection between youth and blood-drinking.”
“I mean, nobody knows where they are. Their pesterchum accounts are gone.”
You just stand there and stare at him, running a hand through your hair, which you assume is still messy from your nap. You’re just as chill as ever, you could sink the Titanic if it came your way, but somehow the word ‘gone’ does something to your stomach and your lungs. It’s not like any out of control emotions or anything like that, you just feel like inside your stomach there was a rubber band and it just kind of… snapped. It snapped and you didn’t even know it was pulled back in the first place.
You realize you haven’t spoken or even acknowledged that your brother said anything. You kind of really don’t care. It’s not because you’re pissed or anything; if anything that rubber band snapping did the opposite, it made you anti-pissed.
“Dave, no one knows where the trolls went,” Dirk explains to you, and you almost yell at him, just out of habit, because damn him you already know that, you don’t need him talking to you like you’re a two-year-old, but you’re way past caring anyhow. “We don’t know if they survived or not because no one can really remember the details of the battle. Do you?”
You’re afraid if you answer him sincerely you’ll start to thaw, so instead you smirk and retort, “Dude, when was the last time I was able to remember something that you couldn’t?”
Dirk snorts, but like your smirk, it lacks humor.
“Okay,” you say, “So we won then. And the trolls either disappeared or got magically turned into humans or something.”
“Or something,” Dirk agrees, “Your ecto-sister is currently making a list of all the most conceivable possibilities, based on our experiences of the game and how it works. John thought that our prize was supposed to be a new world, one we’d share with the trolls, but I guess that was just a theory. And, as it appears, a disproven theory.”
“One down,” you retort, “A very dozen more to go.”
You both just stand there for a few moments, and you realize you had let some heat creep into your tone. Dirk doesn’t comment on it, but he’s definitely noticed it, you can tell. The truth is that the shades that both Dirk and you wear don’t really do jack shit to cover up your true emotions. But that’s just fine, because you have both perfected the poker face (though that’s never worked on the trolls, those super-sensitive freaks), and anyway, the shades are only for irony’s sake.
“I’m going to chat with John,” you inform your brother, and you flash step past him before you can see what his reaction was to that.
Thankfully, John is online, probably being pestered by everyone else, too.
TG: hey i bet youre real tired of this question by now
TG: but what the fuck is going on
EB: hey dave! uh gosh that is a really good question.
EB: and yeah i’m starting to get tired of it. i’m asking it a lot myself.
TG: so you dont know shit
EB: no not yet.
EB: have you noticed any weird time stuff going on?
TG: uh no
TG: and its about fucking time too
TG: excuse the pun because that was so not fucking intended you dont even know
TG: like that pun was so not invited into the conversation im going to have to call up security to escort it the fuck out
TG: im done with time shenanigans and time warps and even time puns
TG: like seriously gtfo
TG: were so over with that ive already signed the divorce papers that shit is in the past
EB: time is in the past now.
TG: you know what i mean
EB: alright. well tell me if you do.
EB: because i’ve noticed that i can still do the windy thing.
EB: well not as strong as i used to be but i can still like summon a breeze so that’s useful.
TG: dude not to be all disrespecting your windy thing
TG: cuz your windy thing is the shit
TG: one day i want to bro fist bump the windy thing so it knows how badass it is
TG: but how the hell is that useful
TG: or even a relevant change of conversation
EB: well i was thinking that maybe i’m not the only one who kept their god tier powers.
EB: that way rose might still have her seer powers.
EB: and then she might be able to figure out what’s going on.
TG: sounds legit
TG: fine ill let you know if i see any dead daves around
EB: well not awesome but…
TG: also could i ask something else
EB: you just did!
TG: dude shut up that was the lamest burn
TG: you remember what bambis mom said
TG: if youre not going to make an effort to prank me good dont bother pranking me at all
EB: hey i thought it was good.
EB: also that was thumpers mom you forgetful douche.
TG: dude whatever
TG: you also still snicker anytime anyone says duty like doody
TG: not to hate on you but your sense of humor is still the age of a first grader
TG: its just been stuck in this never ending state of unconsciousness all wrapped up in a cocoon waiting for someone like me to come and take it under my wing and
TG: no dammit a bird pun
TG: theyre everywhere egbert theyre trying to make me one of those asshole uncles who use lame puns all the time
TG: dude speaking of
TG: where the hell is davesprite
TG: is he still a thing that exists or did he go poof into thin air
TG: caw caw whoosh
TG: complete silence crickets chirp
EB: i think so.
EB: sorry dave.
TG: i guess we should hold a ceremony for him or something
TG: but oh yeah
TG: i had a question
TG: what the hell do we do now
TG: are we just supposed to pretend that the game never happened
TG: start nuclear families and have 2.5 kids each
EB: that’s another excellent question.
EB: i think yeah.
EB: yeah that’s what we’re supposed to be doing now.
EB: except that might be kind of difficult.
TG: well no shit
TG: we only just escaped a game where weve been spending the last five years fighting to survive the goddamn motherfucking apocalypse
EB: yeah i realize that it’s going to take a lot of getting used to.
EB: i just got the best idea.
TG: dude plz dont hold your ideas back
TG: lay them on me im dying to hear these epiphanies and bask in the beauty of your wit
EB: ok here it is.
EB: i checked with my dad.
EB: speaking of him he is really confused because he thinks jane and i are both his children.
EB: which i guess we are but it used to be that my dad and jane’s dad were different versions of my dad even though they were actually both the same in most ways.
TG: oh yeah
TG: so jane is like your sister now
EB: i guess so.
EB: it’s just so hard to think of her like that.
EB: because technically she’s my grandmother… or, wait, no.
EB: my mother?
EB: which would kind of make my dad my half-brother now that i think about it.
TG: dude i know
TG: we have the most fucked up family tree
TG: those hillbillies that get married to their first cousins and have lots of inbred genetically defected children have nothing on us
TG: theyre so jealous of how fucked up our families are they just cant stand it
EB: uhg i didn’t need to think about it like that.
EB: anyway they’ve been baking nonstop since they both got here.
EB: except jane is still upset because betty crocker doesn’t exist anymore, homicidal monster alien chick notwithstanding.
TG: dude i feel so bad for your dad and jane
TG: but were getting off topic
TG: seriously dont leave me hanging with this awesome idea of yours
TG: im trembling in all my eagerness
TG: if you get off topic again i think i might just die from the anticipation
EB: oh right!
EB: well i checked with my dad.
EB: and summer vacation starts in a week.
EB: we could all meet up at either my house or someone else’s and just hang out.
TG: hey thats not a bad plan
TG: but i dont think we should use dirks and my apartment
TG: its way too small and cramped
EB: i wonder if jade’s island is tropical.
EB: plus it’s also jake’s island too I just remembered.
EB: damn this will get a lot of getting used to.
TG: tell me something i dont know man
EB: well i’ll go ask jade if she wouldn’t mind sharing her island with us for a while.
EB: that sure would be one nice vacation.
TG: hell yes
TG: dirk and ill bring our speedos
EB: do you actually own speedos?
TG: john do you doubt the extents of where striders will go for ironys sake
EB: i shouldn’t have even asked.
TG: no you shouldnt have
TG: but uh yeah
TG: that actually sounds like a good idea egbert
TG: i guess until then we just
TG: live day by day
TG: ill have to take some time off of work
TG: damn right i have a job now
TG: i wonder if i have to be there right now
EB: i sure hope not! except i wouldn’t put it past you to be late for your first day of work.
TG: its not my first day of work
TG: well not to them anyhow
TG: ugh stupid time shenanigans again will they ever not be a part of my life
EB: i thought that you got divorced.
TG: dude i tried but that bitch just keeps trying to get back together with me
TG: its like she isnt satisfied with all the alimony the state forces me to pay her anymore cuz all she really wants is a hot slice of strider ass
TG: no amount of money can buy that
EB: so i guess you have to figure out the whole work situation now?
TG: fuck it i just survived the apocalypse
TG: i can play hooky if i want to
EB: well i can’t argue with that logic.
TG: dude lets just completely kick back and ignore the world today
TG: we can do the whole figuring out what the hell sort of world we came back to thing later
TG: i mean damn we just saved the world
TG: it can kiss my smuppet ass if it thinks that im going to actually do anything remotely productive today
TG: i declare it national non productive day
EB: that sounds like lots of fun!
EB: what should we do first?
TG: dude it doesnt even matter just as long as it doesnt use more than two brain cells
TG: we can even co-watch one of your crappy movies on livestream or something
TG: and not just for the ironic old times sake shit either
TG: dude i want you to melt my brain with all your crappy b movies until im brain damaged with saliva dribbling down my chin
TG: thats how non productive i want to be today
EB: oh my god!
EB: does that mean you’ll watch con air with me?
TG: hell yes
TG: bring it on
TG: lets get ourselves nic cage boners
TG: and then share a really awkward but somehow also tender moment that neither of us will ever talk about again
TG: because that would just ruin the moment
EB: i am so feeling it already.
TG: the boner or the awkwardness
EB: man shut up!
EB: oh man this is going to be so cool.
EB: you’re going to be so into it. you’re going to be converted into the nic cage cult. i am going to make you like con air if it’s the last thing i do.
TG: man i am so ready for this
TG: lets get all gay for nic cage
EB: i am not gay for nic cage.
EB: it’s called hero worship. now wait a moment while i get the movie.
TG: alright but whatever you do dont leave me in suspense
EB: got it!
EB: oh snap! sorry dave.
TG: what you grabbed the wrong one or something
EB: rose just send me the file.
EB: i asked her to make a list of all the most likely scenarios about what happened.
EB: sorry man i should really talk to her.
TG: sure dude i can wait
EB: then i still have to ask jade about the island vacation.
EB: damn there’s so much to do.
EB: maybe i can just do it after the movie.
TG: nah dude forget about it
EB: …are you sure?
TG: yeah no big deal
TG: i guess even though we saved the world you still have a lot of leader stuff to take care of
TG: plus i suppose playing hooky from my job isnt the best idea
TG: have to provide for my bro now and whatnot
EB: man i feel so bad.
EB: can i take a rain check?
TG: yeah man no problem
TG: finding the trolls is pretty important shit to deal with
TG: who knows they could be in a government facility somewhere being probed by half-crazed scientists
TG: man terezi would so get off of that
EB: gosh i hope not!
EB: but seriously man once this is all sorted out we’ll have a nic cage marathon.
EB: and don’t worry too much about terezi and the others dave.
EB: i’m sure they can fend for themselves.
TG: im not worried
TG: trust me ive spent enough time with terezi to platonically pity the fool who tries to fuck with her
EB: yeah but still!
EB: i can imagine they might be a little disoriented.
TG: well i guess ill talk to you later john
EB: also sorry if i touched a sensitive subject even though you wouldn’t tell me if i did.
EB: and also i guess…
EB: good luck at your job.
You sign off and just sit in your chair for a moment until you no longer want to take one of your jars of preserved animals and smash it through your computer screen… because, damn, that would be such an uncool thing to do.
Did John hit a sensitive spot? Hey, like he said, you’d never admit it if he had.
When you turn around you realize that Dirk is in the room with you. He’s giving you that look, and fuck no; you’re not having this conversation with him again.
“I’m not in love with John,” you spell it out, slowly. And no, you’re not being defensive; you’re just sick and tired of trying to ram this very simple fact into your brother’s skull. Rose would say that Dirk is projecting his feelings for Jake into your relationship with John. You’d just say your brother can be kind of an ass sometimes.
Dirk sighs. “I’m not saying you’re in love with John,” he answers.
“And no, this has nothing to do with words like homo-romantic or emotional incest transference or any other sort of the sick psycho-babble Rose reads,” you cut him off before he can start lecturing you again, “No, I was not scarred by your weird smuppets growing up, I do not have an irrational fear of homosexuality, I’m perfectly okay with the idea of you and Jake bumping your hairy ugly testicles together, and of Rose and Kanaya having lesbian sex and using plastic dicks.”
Bro, or Dirk – whatever you don’t care right now to be politically correct – cuts you off this time. “I’m not saying any of that. Look, I just think you’re kind of, I don’t know, dependent on him.”
You are losing your chill so fast it burns you. “Oh great, now I’m one of the desperate housewives, huh? Yeah, that’s me to a T. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that John is my best friend or anything; no that would be too easy, we all have to just to the conclusion that I want into his pants.”
“Dude you’re taking this way out of proportion,” he says, “Rose says that this is normal. I mean John was the leader, so obviously we were all kind of dependent on him.”
“Yeah, so why am I any different from anyone else?”
Dirk frowns. You hate losing your cool like this, in front of him, but damn it the world just barely came back and you’ve been fighting for five years, and you’ve had this argument too many times to count, and you just want a second to relax.
“You’re emotionally tied to him,” Dirk finally says, “More than the rest of us. And yeah, it’s not sexual or anything, but… I don’t know, maybe this is that troll thing? The pale love?”
You’re literally seeing red for a moment.
“Dude!” You seethe, spit, anything, this is so not cool, “We. Are. Not. Trolls. Fuck the quadrants, fuck them and leave the weird troll bucket out of this because we’re humans, goddammit and we don’t have pale love or black love or what the fuck ever love. John is my friend. Not my moirail. I don’t have moirails or matesprits or whatever else. Because I’m a human.”
“What about Terezi?”
Whoa. The dick just went there. He went there and now he can’t go back, so the only thing you can do is to meet him halfway.
“What about Terezi? What the fuck about Terezi or any of the trolls, for that matter? They’re coming back, asshole. They’ll come back because Terezi still wants to try to lick my eyes one of these days and she isn’t going to go anywhere until she gets exactly what she fucking wants. Because that’s the type of crazed fucked up lunatic she is. There is no planet, no dumbass dimension where that bitch will not find me just so that she can make unworldly tongue love with my eyeballs.”
The room goes silent, and dude you’re fucked up, but you
“That’s not what I meant,” Dirk finally says, and somehow he sounds like he’s apologizing, “I meant, isn’t she your matesprit or something?”
“No. She’s my girlfriend.”
There, is he happy? You’ve said it out loud and suddenly the heat of the anger is gone, leaving behind a burn that feels like acid churning in your stomach. You’ve said it, and now you can’t make it untrue anymore. Terezi is your fucking girlfriend and you don’t know if she even fucking exists anymore.
“I’m going to work,” you add and abscond the hell out of your shared apartment, because shit you know you’re going to have to apologize, you just don’t want to do it now.
Because you are Dave fucking Strider and you have officially lost your shit.
It turns out that you work at a fast food chain, flipping burgers. As soon as you walk into the door your irony meter goes off the fucking deep end. You already have your uniform on, because fuck it, you have a uniform you are required to wear to your crappy job, and if you have to dress like a tool you might as well rock the shit out of the whole situation.
By the time you enter, most of your cool has come back, and you are starting to realize that, yeah, you’re going to have to apologize to your bro for flipping out at him like that. But you push that to the back of your mind; you can deal with that later.
“Sup co-minimum wage losers,” you greet the people in the kitchen all at once, and are pleased when none of them look taken aback.
One of the guys in the back is giving you an expectant look, so you assume that you’re going to be working with him today. You nod at him and swing on over, and inwardly smirk when his first reaction is to hold out his hand for a first bump.
“What up, Strider?” He asks, and you grant him his wish by knocking your knuckles to his.
“Oh, saving the world from the apocalypse in my pajamas and then riding to work on a flaming meteor from the bowels of intergalactic space, just making it to work in the nick of time,” you answer, “You know, it’s the same old shit.”
He nods, obviously used to your bullshit.
You’re not sure exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, so you just follow his lead, mirroring his actions. He doesn’t say anything, so either you’re doing something right or he’s used to you sucking at doing your job. But, in any case, your career isn’t that important. Right now you kind of just want to figure out more about the world you’ve been dumped into.
Maybe, you hope, Terezi and the others are human?
“Dude,” you say to your coworker, “Do you know if I have a girlfriend?” You’re aware how enormously stupid that sounds, but hey, maybe he’ll think you’re being ironic?
It’s not him but a girl on the other side of the room that answers… with a hoot.
“Yeah right,” she laughs at you, “Mr. Dave Strider, the king of bachelorhood? So what’s the name of the newest whore you’ve managed to take advantage of?” Whoa. Okay then.
Alright, that’s settled, you suppose. Terezi is certainly not your human girlfriend. So… where is she?
Another girl joins in with the mocking, speaking loud enough for the whole fucking room to hear her, “Man I can hardly imagine the type of girl that could rope Strider into a committed relationship. If I ever met her, I’d give her a big high-five… or a slap to get the crazy out of her.”
“Anyone who dares to agree to go steady with Dave has to be crazy,” the first girl agrees heartily enough, “Or maybe they’d just be really brave.”
A third girl adds, “I’d like to meet that girl, if she even exists."
This time you surprise everyone when you let out a roar of laughter and answer, “Fuck, so would I.” Maybe it’s because you sound kind of like you’ve just had a lobotomy and had the remainder of your mixed-up brains come leaking out of your nose.
But shit, that’s kind of how you feel at the moment, so let them think whatever the fuck they want.
Wow, the Striders are so hard to write! I sure hope I did a good job. Can I trust you guys to tell me if I didn't?
Chapter 4: Chapter Three
Or, In which several internet conversations between both the trolls and the humans help bring the audience up to speed on several different character's current emotional states; featuring one rekindled love, one lost romance, talk of politics and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, numerous puns of both the feline and aquatic nature, and some fore-shadowing of future problems.
Sorry for the long time it took to write this short chapter! I was fighting with the CSS spreadsheets, but I finally figured out to make them work.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
--ectoBiologist [EB] began pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
EB: hey jade are you there?
GG: oh hey john
GG: whats up
EB: well i just had the best idea
EB: the very best idea.
EB: and i need to ask you something.
GG: oh ok
GG: what is it
EB: well i’ve been thinking
EB: since it’s almost summer and everything
EB: and since were all kind of still recovering from sburb
EB: we should all get together! :D
GG: oh thats a good idea john
EB: yeah it’ll be so much fun.
EB: just like old times
EB: except better because we never met in real life before the game.
EB: jade are you ok?
EB: you seem kind of
GG: im fine
EB: oh really convincing jade.
EB: i believed that one hundred percent.
EB: this is my convinced face. >:?
GG: thats strange
GG: your convinced face looks a whole lot like terezis confused face
EB: well would you look at that.
EB: it does.
EB: now why would my face resemble terezi’s confused face?
EB: this truly is a grade a mystery we have on our hands.
GG: so it would appear
EB: you’re avoiding the issue.
GG: im not avoiding anything
EB: yes you are. D:
EB: cmon jade i’m your twin brother remember?
EB: and even before that you were one of my best friends so you can tell me anything.
EB: you can even pretend i’m rose and that i’ll reply to everything you say with a wall of psychological babble that really means nothing at all but instead hides my genuine concern.
EB: i promise i won’t laugh.
EB: well maybe a little bit depending on what on it is.
EB: but if it helps i won’t laugh too much.
GG: its not anything like that…
GG: you said that dave couldnt find davesprite anywhere right?
EB: oh god right
EB: jade i’m really sorry.
EB: i knew you loved him.
EB: god i wish i was there because words can’t really express how awful i feel.
EB: sorry i can’t be there.
GG: its fine john
EB: no its not!
EB: just imagine that i’m hugging you?
EB: it’s not much but…
GG: so hes really gone
GG: like truly forever gone?
GG: but he could always be where the trolls are right?
GG: maybe maybe
EB: jade i
EB: i uh
EB: i have to tell you something but you have to promise that you won’t tell dave that i told you.
GG: i promise
EB: dave told me that he kind of recalls being davesprite
EB: so i guess that they kind of merged together.
EB: do you remember being jadesprite?
GG: i didnt think so…
GG: oh wait
GG: no i think i do
GG: oh noooo D:
EB: oh wait dammit.
EB: i wasn’t supposed to tell you that.
EB: oh stupid stupid stupid
EB: jade i’m so sorry!!
EB: god i am such an idiot
GG: oh noooooo what am i going to dooooooo?
EB: it’s okay jade it’ll all work out somehow.
GG: how can it??
GG: this means dave remembers being my boyfriend!!!
GG: do you think he….????
GG: but no he loves terezi
GG: uhg no this is almost worse than davesprite disappearing forever
GG: except no it isnt
GG: nothings worse than that but
GG: no no no no no no no!!!!
EB: wow you have every right to beat me up right now.
EB: i really shouldn’t have told you that.
GG: no its fine
GG: im sorry john
GG: i have to go now
EB: no wait jade don’t go!!
GG: im okay i just need some alone time ok?
--gardenGnostic [GG] has gone offline--
EB: no jade
EB: stop before you go
EB: jade are you still there?
EB: wow i am such a fucking idiot!!!
--ectoBiologist [EB] ceased pestering gardenGnostic [GG]--
--arsenicCatnip [AC] began trolling centaursTesticle [CT]--
AC: :33 - eq!!
AC: :33 - eq are you online yet or what
CT: D-> Nepeta
AC: :33 - equius!!
AC: :33 -*ac makes a l33ping bound from her the depths of her cave to land in the lap of her meowrail*
CT: D-> Nepeta I
AC: :33 - *ac hugs her meowrail oh so tightly and says with her two mouths that she will never efur let him go again*
AC: :33 - *and she purrs and purrs*
CT: D-> Nepeta please I
AC: :33 - *ac tells you that she luvs you*
CT: D-> Nepeta I am so sorry
AC: :33 - equius?
CT: D-> I am a most terrible person
CT: D-> A most dreadful despicable person
CT: D-> I am not worthy of even your backward glance, let alone these pale affections
AC: :// - what
CT: D-> I would completely understand if you wanted to conc100d our moirallegiance
AC: :// - whatefur are you talking about equius
CT: D-> I claim all responsibility for your premature demise
CT: D-> I might as well have taken my own hooves to your throat
CT: D-> I am tr001ly unfit as your palemate and you much deserve better than me
AC: :// - wait just one goddamn second!
CT: D-> Nepeta I
CT: D-> I suppose I no longer reserve the right to lecture you on your behoovure
CT: D-> Urk *behavior
CT: D-> But I would be most approved if you would refrain from such 100d language
CT: D-> That is a suggestion and not an order
AC: :// - equius SHUT UP
CT: D-> Er
CT: D-> Is that an order
AC: :// - you bet your sorry horsey flank it is
CT: D-> Oh right
CT: D-> Sorry I will refrain from typing any longer
CT: D-> Until you order otherwise
AC: :// - good
AC: :// - equius open your ears and listen well
AC: :// - furstly
AC: :// - i don’t want anyone else fur my pale quadrant!!
AC: :// - you are the only one in the whole universe fur me i would trust to be my meowrail
AC: :// - secondly
AC: :// - my death was NOT YOUR FAULT
AC: :// - i went after gamzee s33king revenge
CT: D-> Um
AC: :// - i thought you were shutting up
CT: D-> Yes but
CT: D-> And I beg forgiveness for interrupting you
CT: D-> I have one request
AC: :// - yes what is it
CT: D-> Would you please refrain from mentioning that f001lish e%cuse for a highb100d’s name
CT: D-> It disgusts me
AC: :// - oh right
AC: :// - fine i will
AC: :// - in any case my point is that my death was my fault as much as it was yours
CT: D-> But
CT: D-> Wait no interrupting
CT: D-> My apologies
AC: :// - and if you efur leave me i will hunt you down like a wounded hoofbeast beclaws you are my meowrail and no one elses!
AC: :// - my felines for you are STRONGER than thr33 thousand hoofbeasts
AC: :// - i lost you once and if you make me repeat the experience then that would be the cruelest thing that you could efur do to me
AC: :// - am i making myself clear
CT: D-> I
CT: D-> Um may I speak now
AC: :// - maybe
AC: :// - as long as you’re not going to say something stupid
CT: D-> Urk well
CT: D-> All I wanted to say is this
CT: D-> If you still will have me
CT: D-> Which by now I have gathered is the case
CT: D-> Then it is my dearest wish that we continue our moirallegiance
CT: D-> I hope that was an intelligent enough of a reply
AC: :// - *ac finds your reply to be…*
AC: :33 - acceptable
AC: :33 - i luv you equius
CT: D-> And I love you as well
CT: D-> And may I say
CT: D-> I never knew that you could be so…
CT: D-> FORCEFUL
AC: :33 - h33 h33
AC: :33 - me neither!
CT: D-> However
CT: D-> And I do not wish to induce your scorn once more
CT: D-> I do still feel in my heart the most terrible sorts of regret for what has happened to you
AC: :33 - *ac perks up her floppy but still furrocious ears and smiles wide enough so that ct can s33 her sharp canine t33th*
AC: :33 - *ac says to her meowrail that it sounds like he n33ds…*
AC: :33 - *a felines jam!*
CT: D-> Urk
AC: :33 - c’mon equius you know you want to
CT: D-> I
CT: D-> Oh fine
CT: D-> If we must have a feelings jam
CT: D-> May I suggest a change of location
AC: :33 - *ac cocks her head to indicate her curiosity*
CT: D-> What I am saying is
CT: D-> Would you like to join me at my hive
--arsenicCatnip [AC] ceased trolling centaursTesticle [CT]--
--cuttlefishCuller [CC] began trolling twinArmageddons [TA]--
CC: )(—EY TH—ER—E grumpy gills!
CC: )(ow have you been?
TA: hey FF
TA: iim grumpy giill2 now huh
CC: WHAL—E you )(ave been a little bit distant lately…
CC: Not )(aving one of your down swings are you?
CC: Do I need to wade over there and cuttle you until you feel all betta?
TA: ehehe no that2 not nece22ary
CC: Would you like me to do it anywave?
TA: a2 niice a2 that would be
TA: we cant
TA: dont forget that were 2tiill niine ca2te2 apart on the hemo2pectrum
TA: iif you came two my hiive iit miight arou2e 2u2piiciion
TA: and before you mentiion iit the 2ame works vi2e ver2a 2o that wouldnt be acceptable either
CC: But Sollux!
CC: I’m practically the baroness now!
CC: And I alwaves told mys)(ell that the very first thing I would do as baroness would be to eliminate the outraygeously stupid )(emospectrum, and to do that, I need to set an example for my people.
CC: W)(at betta example can I set than to let t)(e ot)(ers sea )(ow I trout you like an equal?
TA: the key word in there ii2 practiically
TA: youre not the barone22 yet FF and you wont be untiil you turn ten 2weep2
CC: I suppose you’re right.
CC: I just )(ate wading because everyone else is too much of a doofis)( to realize just )(ow CULLS)(IT INSAN—E the )(emospectrum is.
TA: yeah ii know what you mean
CC: I guess t)(at just diving in and turning everfin upside down overnig)(t wouldn’t be t)(e best course of action…
CC: I )(ave to be DIPLOMATIC if I want to induce c)(ange.
CC: Glub glub! 38D
CC: I just sometimes eel like I’m knot doing enoug)(, you know?
CC: As if I’m being s)(ellfish by wading, and all the w)(ile ot)(er trolls could be getting culled as I do not)(fin but glub all day, and I cod )(ave been saving t)(em instead.
TA: dont be riidiiculou2 FF
TA: look at how much youve done already
TA: and be2iide2 youre liike the lea2t 2elfii2h per2on ii know
TA: iif anythiing you need two learn how two be a liittle more 2elfi2h
CC: )(—E )(—E )(—E!
CC: T)(anks for saying so, Sollux, but you know I codn’t do t)(at!
CC: I’m t)(e )(eiress now, or I’m PRACTICALLY T)( —E )( —EIR—ESS anywave, Mister Semantics, and I )(ave a responsibility to protect my people.
TA: and you wiill
TA: FF ii may be a liittle biia2ed iin 2ayiing 2o
TA: but ii know you wiill be the be2t heiire22 alterniia ha2 ever 2een
CC: O)( Sollux you are s)(rimpy the CUT—EST T)(ING sometimes.
CC: Would you believe it, I’m blus)(ing from the tip of my )(orns all the wave down to the bottom of my fins!
TA: ii mean iit FF
CC: I know!
CC: And t)(at makes it even betta.
CC: O)(! I guess I )(ave more PRACTICALLY )(--EIR—ESS stuff to take care of
TA: ok FF iill talk two you later
--cuttlefishCuller [CC] ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA]--
--gutsyGumshoe [GG] began pestering tipsyGnostalgic [TG]--
GG: Roxy are you there yet?
GG: It says you are been online all day, but you won’t answer my messages.
GG: Are you alright?
TG: My apologies, but Roxy is unable to talk at this moment, and unless things improve drastically within the next few hours, I doubt that she will be available for idle chitchat with lifelong friends for quite some time.
TG: I estimate perhaps a couple of days at tops.
GG: Rose? Is that you?
TG: Wait, hang on for a moment. Let me change my chumhandle.
--tipsyGnostalgic [TG] changed their chumhandle to tentacleTherapist [TT]--
TT: Hopefully this will be less confusing for you.
GG: Um, thanks?
GG: But what were you saying about Roxy being unavailable?
GG: Is she sick?
TT: If by sick you mean she has come down with an illness that confides her to her bed, then no. If, however, by sick you mean the physical act of vomiting up every last drop of alcohol that she has consumed since last night, then yes, that would be an apt description.
GG: Oh no!
GG: That’s terrible.
TT: Yes, terrible would be an accurate adjective to label Roxy’s present emotional state.
GG: Wait, is she upset?
GG: Come to think of it, that would make sense.
GG: I’ve never heard of her drinking so much to excess that she was physically sick before.
GG: Gee! I wonder what’s wrong?
TT: To be honest, I am unsurprised if a bit vexed by Roxy’s recent behavior.
GG: What do you mean?
TT: After the traumatic experiences that we have just been through, it’s quite common and expected that some of us would experience signs of post-traumatic stress, i.e., feeling worthless, loss of sleep, self-destructive behavior, and etcetera.
GG: Oh good God.
GG: Forgive my language, but I’m very worried. :(
GG: You don’t think… Roxy is going to hurt herself now?
TT: If the sounds of her regurgitation I hear are half as bad as they appear to be, I would say that she is doing herself quite a deal of harm right now.
TT: But I would encourage you not to worry too much.
TT: Though I haven’t known Roxy as long as you have, I believe I understand her well enough to say this with conviction: She isn’t idiotic enough to allow this self-harm that she has brought upon herself to last for much longer. I give it a week at most, and even that is a stretch. By the time she comes to her senses, I predict no long-lasting damage will be done.
GG: That’s sure a relief to hear.
GG: But just the same, I would feel a lot better if I knew someone was looking out for her.
GG: Could you, Rose?
GG: I know well that Roxy is no idiot, but if you’re right, and she is suffering from ptsd, she might not be in the right mind.
TT: That is an excellent point.
TT: But rest assured, I fully intended to keep a close watch on her even before you asked it of me. She is, after all, my sister now.
GG: Oh good.
GG: Thank you so very much, Rose! :B
GG: Oh, and when Roxy is feeling better, could you let her know I’d like to talk to her?
TT: Of course.
GG: Thanks again.
GG: Bye Rose!
TT: Goodbye, Jane.
--gutsyGumshoe [GG] pestering tentacleTherapist [TT]--
Oh, if anyone knows any easier ways to deal with the CSS, let me know!
Chapter 5: Chapter Four
Or, In which Vriska Serket takes matters into her own hands, contacting their leader Karkat through their race's primary form of communication, and using various roundabout methods to manipulate him into following her orders; includes not so light-hearted banter, various accounts of vowels and punctuation marks being repeated eightfold, and some dirty talk used to humiliate and further manipulate.
Alright, I think I've finally found a much easier way for format these stupid pesterlogs. Anywho, I'm kind of nervous about continuing this story given the newest plot twists in homestuck, wondering how I'm going to fit everything together. Will I add the new characters? Who knows?
Alright, so it’s been exactly eighty-eight hours since you woke back up on your home planet of Alternia, completely alive and kicking. For obvious reasons, eighty-eight is one of your lucky numbers, which means it’s time for your turn to do something. After all, out of all the trolls, you were the first one to settle comfortably into your new life.
It was surprisingly easy to do. As soon as you woke up, alive and in your respiteblock, you took a walk around and listened in to the thoughts of your neighbors, surprised at how much your powers had grown over the sweeps you were dead.
You learned a lot of things about yourself. You learned that your lusus had been sentenced to death not too long ago, after a complaint by one Terezi Pyrope had been made about its unlawful eating habits. You learned that everyone knew of the rivalry that had sprung up between you and Terezi following the execution, even though they all thought that Terezi’s pleading was the only thing that had saved you from the same fate as your spidermom.
You learned that the casualty rate around your lawnring hadn’t decreased since spidermom’s death, and that everyone suspected that you were still killing in order to spite Terezi. You learned that no one you came across wanted anything to do with you.
It’s exactly the sort of life that you would have wanted had you never been sucked into that game of sgrub, and you absolutely abhor it. Why?
Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s really booooooooring.
Actually, okay, the idea of having a flirtatious blackrom with Terezi isn’t boring at all. You can think of so many ways to completely piss that bitch off, and how exciting it would be to have her come after you, trying to embody justice in all its hypocritical glory.
But the problem is that you don’t have a rivalry with Terezi anymore. And, to be completely honest, you never really did. At least, the person that you are right now has never had a rivalry with Terezi that extended past FLARPing. You could probably provoke a rivalry with Terezi if you wanted to, but after what happened in the veil, you’re too afraid she only pities you now.
Are you disappointed to be back on Alternia? Of course you are. But you’re certainly not upset like the others are right now.
This is because you are Vriska Serket, descendant of Mindfang, and you have luck on your side. But then again, luck doesn’t really do anything. So you have something that’s even better than luck. And that is a Brilliant Plan.
Yes, you have a Brilliant Plan, and now that it’s been exactly eighty-eight hours, you’re finally ready to initiate Stage One.
Well, to be perfectly honest you only have one stage to the Brilliant Plan so far, and that’s Figure Out Where the Humans Are. Only then will you be able to figure out what the other stages need to be. But you’re not worried in the slightest. Why would you be? You know John is out there somewhere, that silly but adorable alien kid. You know he must be out there because he promised to take you on a human date, well okay maybe you were the one who promised yourself that he would take you out, but it’s practically the same principal, and John would never break a promise to you, even a promise that he didn’t actually make just yet.
And yeah, okay you did actually go on a date with him, but that was when you were still dead, and even then it was a different, dream-bubble John, so it was a fake date. Fakey fake, just like Tavros’ precious Pupa Pan, and you didn’t lose your life just to go on a fake date.
You hop onto your husktop and see that Karkat is on. Perfect! Of course, this isn’t a particularly astonishing development. The sun may be already up, but for the last three days he’s been talking nonstop with all the other trolls, frantically trying to bring them all up on the things that had happened in the game after their deaths.
You click on his trolltag and start to type.
AG: Hiiiiiiii loser.
AG: We have some important things to discuss!!!!!!!!
CG: OH MY GOD VRISKA. OF ALL THE DUMBASSES IN THIS GODAWFUL WORLD YOU ARE THE VERY LAST ONE THAT I WANT TO ATTEMPT TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH.
AG: You haven’t even heard what I have to say yet. ::::(
CG: I THOUGHT WHAT YOU SAID TO ME EARLIER WAS, AND LET ME SCROLL UP TO SEE EXACTLY WHAT IT WAS THAT YOU TYPED SO THAT I CAN GET IT RIGHT,
CG: “LOOK LET’S JUST SKIP THE AWWWWWWWWKWARD HUGGING AND CRYING AND ALSO THE PART WHERE YOU TELL ME WHAT YOU WERE UP TO WHILE I WAS DEAD 8ECAUSE I REALLY DON’T CARE. L8TER LOSER.”
CG: SO AS YOU CAN SEE, SINCE YOU DON’T NEED MY HELP OR AWKWARD HUGS, WE DON’T REALLY HAVE TO TALK TO EACH OTHER AGAIN. LIKE EVER AGAIN.
AG: Oh geeeeeeeez.
AG: I’m not here to talk about any of that 8oring stuff, so don’t go getting your panties in all a twist. I’m here to discuss my 8rilliant Plan with you.
CG: VRISKA I AM TOO TIRED TO TRULY EXPRESS HOW VERY MUCH I CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS RIGHT NOW. BUT TO GIVE YOU SOME FRAME OF REFERENCE CONSIDER THIS FACT. I WOULD RATHER LISTEN TO EQUIUS TELL ME ABOUT HIS OBSCENE HOOFBEAST DRAWINGS AND THE ARTISTIC SYMBOLISM OF THEIR RIDICIOUSLY OVERSIZED BULGES THAN TO ATTEMPT TO DUMB MYSELF DOWN TO THE LEVEL OF IDIOCY IT WORK TAKE TO UNDERSTAND EXACTLY WHAT THE FUCK IS SPEWING FROM YOUR MOUTH.
AG: Man, what did I ever do to you?
CG: SHALL I LIST YOUR OFFENSES CHRONOLOGICALLY OR ALPHABETICALLY?
CG: LET US TAKE A GOOD LONG GODDAMN LOOK AT THEM, SHALL WE? BESIDES THE FACT THAT YOUR ANTICS CONSTANTLY PUT ALL OF US IN DANGER, USING YOUR MIND-POWERS AND YOUR MANIPULATIVE PERSONALITY TO USE THE REST OF US LIKE CHESS PIECES FOR YOUR OWN SICK TWISTED ENJOYMENT, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS OF TAVROS AND ARADIA, KILLING THE FIRST IN A FLIRTATION THAT WOULD BE CONSIDERED ABUSIVE EVEN IN OUR TROLL SOCIETY, AND KILLING THE SECOND THROUGH HER OWN BEST FRIEND, SOLLUX, WHO YOU MADE HER MURDERER. YOU ARE ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR BLINDING TEREZI BY USING TAVROS’ ABILITY TO COMMUNE WITH ANIMALS TO GET HER LUSUS TO COAX HER INTO LOOKING INTO THE SUN. YOU FORCED THE HUMAN KIDS TO FALL ASLEEP AT INCONVINIENT TIMES, PUTTING NOT ONLY THEM BUT THE GAME SESSION AND BY EXTENTION THE WHOLE FUCKING UNIVERSE IN DANGER.
CG: AND IF WE GO BACK ANY FURTHER IN TIME, LET’S SEE, OH YES. YOU ABDUCTED COUNTLESS OTHER TROLLS AND SACRIFIED THEM TO YOUR LUSUS. AND IF THE RUMORS ON THE STREET ARE CORRECT, YOU CONTINUE TO ROUTINELY MURDER IN ORDER TO SPITE THE GOVERNMENT THAT SENTENCED YOUR LUSUS TO DEATH.
CG: YOU ARE POSSIBLY THE MOST PSYCHOTIC AND UNBREARABLE BITCH TO EVER LIVE IN ANY UNIVERSE AND ARE FUCKED UP EVEN BY ALTERNIAN STANDERS. AND THAT IS
AG: Daaaaaaaam Karkat.
AG: You’re such a 8oooooooore.
AG: 8ut alright then. I guess you can’t take that stick out of your ass long enough to hear what I have to say right now. I guess I’ll troll you l8ter when you’re ready.
AG: Even though it’s a real shame we have to w8 that much longer to figure out where John is.
AG: Until you’re done 8eing a 8ore, I guess.
CG: LOOK I EVEN MADE EIGHT U’S IN THERE.
CG: COME BACK AND TALK TO ME. WHAT THE HELL YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT? DO YOU KNOW WHERE THEY ARE? HOW THE FUCK DID YOU FIGURE IT OUT?
CG: VRISKA I KNOW YOU’RE THERE SO DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE NOT. I KNOW YOU ONLY TYPED THAT LAST MESSAGE IN ORDER TO PERK MY INTEREST. WELL FUCK ME, BECAUSE I’M FALLING RIGHT FOR YOUR TRAP. YOU’VE GOT ME CURIOUS AS NEPETA’S LUSUS. I’M STUCK IN YOUR SPIDERWEB, OKAY? JUST RESPOND ALREADY!
AG: Damn that was waaaaaaaay too easy. >::::)
AG: Geez Karkat desper8 much? Are you really that eager to get your hands on John’s 8lackrom 8ucket? I feel almost em8arrassed for you.
CG: FUCK WHAT NOW?!
AG: And yes John did tell me about your ridiculous h8crush on him.
AG: It’s so sad it’s almost pitiful.
CG: WHAT? NO. THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING WAY THAT I AM GOING TO GRACE THAT IDIOTIC ASSUMPTION WITH A RESPONSE.
CG: WHAT FEELINGS I MAY OR MAY NOT HAVE EVER FELT FOR ANY OF THE HUMANS IS NONE OF YOUR GODDAMN BUSINESS, NOR DOES IT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH ANY FUCKING THING THAT IS OF ANY SORT OF IMPORTANCE RIGHT NOW.
AG: No need to 8e so defensive, Karkat. :::;)
AG: And I would argue that our feelings for the humans have a8solutely everything to do with what we’re a8out to talk about.
CG: AND WHAT THE HELL ARE WE GOING TO TALK ABOUT? SORRY I WAS TOO BUSY BEING VIOLENTLY SICK ALL OVER MY KEYBOARD TO REALIZE THAT YOU WERE STILL TYPING YOUR NONSENSICAL PSYCHOTIC RAMBLINGS.
AG: My 8rilliant Plan of course!!!!!!!!
AG: It seems that only Gamzee, Kanaya, Terezi and you are at all concerned a8out where the humans are and what horri8le terrors they may be facing.
AG: Well except me. I’m also very trou8led.
CG: YEAH I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY SOLLUX AND THE OTHERS DON’T SEEM TO GIVE TWO FLYING FUCKS ABOUT WHERE THEY COULD HAVE GONE. WE WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO GET OUR WORLD BACK, DAMN IT ALL TO HELL! IS NO ONE ELSE HERE WONDERING WHY EVERYTHING JUST RESET ITSELF BACK TO NORMAL?
AG: Well of course they’re not.
AG: As Equius would say, it’s 8est not to look a gift hoof8east in the mouth. They’re not dead after all, so it’s only perfectly reasona8le that they’re pleased.
CG: THEN PLEASE DO TELL ME WHAT THE FUCK MAKES YOU SO MUCH BETTER THAN EVERYONE ELSE? BECAUSE THE LAST TIME I CHECKED, THE TROLL OF FUCKING CHARITY YOU ARE NOT. IN FACT, WHEN IT COMES TO FEELING CONCERN AND PITY FOR OTHERS YOU ARE THE ABSOLUTELY WORST TROLL TO CALL FOR HELP. YOU WOULD BE THE LAST ONE ON MY WHO TO CALL WHEN I NEED SOMEONE TO OFFER ASSISTANCE LIST. YOU ARE SO IMMUNE TO EMPATHY THAT BLACK HATRED SEEPS INTO EVEN YOUR REDROMS, AS EVIDENT IN YOUR FAILED MATESPRITSHIP WITH TAVROS.
CG: SHIT, WHAT’S IN THIS FOR YOU?
AG: Whoa calm down. >::::(
AG: This is my point, Karkat. Sollux and the others can’t make themselves care about where the humans are 8ecause they don’t HAVE feelings a8out the humans.
AG: Most of them died 8efore ever meeting them.
AG: And the others only ever 8riefly talked to the humans through their computers. They never formed 8onds with the kids like we did!!!!!!!!
AG: That’s why I made a plan.
AG: A most 8rilliant Plan. We must put together an emergency meeting and invite all of the trolls. May8e have it at your moirail’s house? I’m sure that his would have the most room, him 8eing a high8lood and all.
AG: It is then that we will convince the others how important the humans’ safety is.
AG: We must com8ine all of our talents and com8 through the universe until we find where the humans are.
AG: I h8 to say it 8ut we need them.
CG: VRISKA, YOU…
CG: SHIT, YOU’RE REALLY FLUSHED FOR JOHN AREN’T YOU?
CG: EVERYTHING THAT YOU JUST SAID THERE. IT ACTUALLY MADE SOME SORT OF SENSE, WHICH ALMOST MAKES ME WANT TO BELIEVE THAT YOU’RE NOT REALLY VRISKA AT ALL, ANNOYING EIGHT TYPING QUIRK OR NOT. AT LEAST THAT’S EASIER TO BELIEVE THAN THE IDEA OF YOU ACTUALLY COMING OFF AS BEING PRACTICAL. AW, FUCK IT ALL, I THINK I’M CONSIDERING YOUR IDEA.
AG: My 8rilliant Plan.
CG: YEAH THAT. YOUR BRILLIANT PLAN IS IN THE PROCESS OF BEING CONSIDERED, AND DAMN I’M SO GOING TO REGRET THIS LATER.
CG: OKAY FINE. LET’S HAVE OURSELVES AN EMERGENCY MEETING.
AG: Don’t sound so gr8ful. >::::/
AG: 8elieve me, you would never 8een a8le to come up with such a 8rilliant plan yourself.
CG: OKAY FINE. I’LL GIVE YOU THAT ONE IF ONLY BECAUSE I AM. SHIT I’M JUST TOO TIRED TO ARGUE WITH A RAVING LUNATIC ANY LONGER. BUT TRUST ME, SPIDERBITCH; I’LL BE KEEPING A GOOD FUCKING CLOSE EYE ON YOU.
AG: For what????????
CG: FOR ALTERNATIVE MOTIVES. YOU’RE LIKE THE QUEEN OF ALTERNATIVE MOTIVES. EVEN YOUR ALTERNATIVE MOTIVES HAVE MOTIVES. AND I SWEAR, IF YOU HURT JOHN, IF YOU ARE THE CAUSE OF ONE TEAR THAT HE SHEDS, AND IF HE SHEDS THAT TEAR FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN PURE BLAZING HAPPINESS AND JOY I WILL PERSONALLY HUNT YOU DOWN AND RIP YOU LIMB FROM LIMB. I’LL EVEN CUT YOU INTO EXACTLY SEVEN PIECES, JUST IN ORDER TO COMPLETELY FUCK WITH YOU.
AG: Honestly Karkat it almost sounds likes you pity John now……..
CG: SCREW YOU VRISKA.
AG: 8luh, whateeeeeeeever.
AG: See you l8ter at the 8rilliant emergency meeting, courtesy of one 8rilliant Vriska Serket. You can thank me then.
You quickly log off, cackling at how easy it was to manipulate him. How easily he succumbs to his emotions! But you make a mental note to watch him, also. You weren’t previously aware that Karkat’s feelings for John had shifted into the redrom category, and even though you’re positive that John is going to choose you over him, you still have to watch out for the grumpy troll to make sure that he doesn’t try anything stupid.
In hindsight, you guess you should have anticipated this, though. You don’t need a cue ball to tell you how irresistible John is, nor how pathetic Karkat is. The stupid troll can’t even maintain strong black feelings for somebody! That’s where he and Terezi fell through, after all.
Well, Stage One of the Brilliant Plan is completed. Now all you have to do is sit back and wait.
Chapter 6: Chapter Five
Or, In which the first part Rose Lalonde contemplates the nature of the world that they have been placed into, the possible locations of their alien friends, and the strength of her own mentality; and in which the second part Rose and her new sister make a trip into town for passports; features various heartfelt talks, a secret being revealed, and an interaction with an obnoxiously snobbish woman.
Thank you everyone who has commented, given me kudos, or read this story! I hope you're having as much fun reading this as I am writing it. Speaking of fun, I had a lot of fun writing the Lalonde sisters. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Rose and Roxy?
As always, let me know if you don't like anything.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
This isn’t what you wanted, but when has that ever meant anything?
You know very well that the world does as it pleases. You used to think that everything that happened was an entirely independent event, but now you’re of the opinion that perhaps life is more of a domino effect, to use an overused but accurate metaphor. Everything is connected to one another, and even the most seemingly meaningless occurrence could allude to something that has happened prior, or that will eventually come to pass.
So when the world dropped you back into your previous life, making it appear as if the game had never happened, you don’t really have a choice but to allow it, do you?
Focusing on things that you have no control over is a pointless exercise, so instead you force yourself to become pointedly aware of the present. You allow yourself to feel the wind in your hair, the texture of bark from the branches of the trees you are griping to, the tall grass tangled around your ankles and the sensation of the wet fabric of your skirt where the morning dew has left it damp and sticky.
You are wading through a field, and although you are not submerged in water, you really do feel like you are wading through the grass. The way the cool pre-sunrise breeze makes the field ripple is very akin to waves in the ocean, and the shortage of light makes it easier for the imagination to believe.
Actually, you’ve never liked the ocean, but it’s better than the alternative. This used to be your private spot, the place you could go where mother couldn’t reach you because she didn’t know that this area, just beyond a patch of pine trees in the forest that surrounds your home, exists. Long ago, when you were only thirteen, you filled this place up with your thoughts and dreams, with everything that you knew to be Rose Lalonde. But it has since been invaded.
You know you should leave before the sun comes up, and the marks of the invader become too clear to ignore. The green grass, the green leaves in the trees, the green mountains that are just on the edge of the horizon… there isn’t a spot you can look at that won’t remind you of her.
If you were prone to poetry – and maybe you are, but only in private – you would comment on the karmic justice that has been done to you. You were the one who allowed her to become part of who you are, so it’s only fair that she seeps into places you subconsciously view as an extension of the inner depths of your personality.
What you should do is forget that the game ever happened. It’s the only obvious course of action, after all. It is, technically, in the past. If it weren’t for your memories, it might as well have never happened. Of course, it hasn’t slipped your mind that you might have just imagined the last five years.
However, if you begin doubting your own sanity, you might as well just throw in the towel now. If the game never happened… well, there are just too many variables, then.
Besides, it’s highly unlikely – but not improbable, your mind whispers –that all eight of you have the same delusional memories of the last five years. You’ve even questioned Roxy extensively, to try to find any inconsistencies between her memories of the game and yours. More than once over the last few days you’ve found yourself wishing that you had found some. More than once over the last few days you’ve found yourself experiencing intense guilt for wishing that you had found some.
And as for any news regarding the trolls? You are quite aware that your friends share a similar hope that the trolls were returned to your new planet with you. You wouldn’t say that they were delusional for imagining that something like that had occurred. After all, to say such a thing would be beyond cruel. It doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t believe it.
You went through the entire list of probable – and even the non-probable – locations of the trolls.
The conclusion you came to is that they simply do not exist anymore, at least in your universe. Sadly, you came to this decision not through logic, but through pure intuition. Maybe John was right when he said that your seer powers might have followed you into this new life, but in any case you’re more than a hundred percent positive that Kanaya no longer exists on any pane where you will be able to reach her. If you did, she’d be already be invading your personal space with her corporeal form.
However, it would be, you grudgingly admit, a welcome invasion.
Unlike the unwelcome beeping of your cellphone, signaling that once again, someone is in need of your intellectual musings.
You pull it out and glare at the obnoxious bright pink text of your ecto-mother.
TG: hey you up yet
TT: I am indeed. I hope that you had slept soundly.
TG: i didnt get a wonk of sleep
TG: wait no i meant wonk ;3
TT: Roxy, I would never judge you, but am I correct to jump to the conclusion that you have already started drinking?
TG: i mean yeah ive been driking
TG: but i havent started drinking
TG: what i mean to say is that when i siad i didnt get a wink of sleep
TG: i was acualy
TT: You mean to say that you spend the entire prior evening sipping your alcoholic beverages instead of sleeping.
TG: i tried to sleep but it didnt happen
TG: too much on my mind i guess
TT: I see. In that case, you should spend today trying to catch up on your sleep. Besides, I think that it would probably be for the best if I alone were to head to the State Office to pick up our passports.
TT: Although I’m not sure if I can receive your passport for you, seeing as you are still considered a minor. Also, if I am remembering correctly (and I seldom have holes in my memory), all first time passport owners must pick up their passport in person. So even if you were not considered a minor, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference.
TG: damn was that today
TG: i forgot we were planning on doing that
TT: We should reschedule then. Perhaps tomorrow you would be feeling more up to a trip out into the city for our passports?
TG: rose im so sorry i forgot
TT: There’s no need to apologize. Having gone through quite a bit of trauma over the last few years, it is only expected that some of us might be experiencing symptoms of depression and feel the need to drown out our sorrows with vodka and martinis. You can’t be strong all of the time, Roxy. It’s understandable to be weak, especially in difficult times such as this.
TG: thanks for the support
TG: no wait that was right before
TG: but are you sure?
TG: i can like
TG: wait until im hungover
TG: and we wont have to put if off until tommorrow
TT: If you don’t mind, I would like to help? I believe the correct spelling that you are looking for is “tomorrow”.
TT: Back to the original topic, I don’t believe that is necessary. The State Office will still be there if we postpone the trip one day. I only hoped to go as quickly as possible, to get it out of the way. I detest the feeling of knowing that there is a chore I have yet to do.
TT: However, forcing you to come along with me while you are so obviously distressed would prove to be an unpleasant experience for you.
TG: well in that case
TG: im sure a bit of coffee and a cold shower would do the trick
TT: Roxy, I won’t ask you to do that for me. My insistent desire to accomplish this errand is surely understandable, considering the events of the last few years. The game forced us to multi-task, and I believe it has imprinted upon me a need to undertake as many tasks as possible, as quickly as possible, so that I could have more time free for future obligations. Whether or not my feelings are understandable, however, doesn’t change the fact that we have now returned to our world.
TT: The necessity to get our passports is not nearly as dire as my mind would like to make it out to be. In fact, it’s not actually a requirement at all, though I would certainly be loath to miss out a chance to see my friends again.
TT: I do appreciate the sentiment, however. Thank you for your considerate offer, Roxy.
TG: sometimes i woner
TG: if ill ever get used to chatting w/ you
TT: My apologies. Were my responses too long-winded for you to read in your inebriated state? I will try to restrict myself to simple sentences then.
TG: no i meen
TG: ackully no nvm
TG: fuck it
TG: im going to bed and ill massage you when i get up
TG: message not massage
TT: Of course. Try to get a lot of rest, and let me know if you need me for anything.
TT: Goodbye and goodnight dear mother/daughter.
You let out a long, steady breath and run a hand through your bangs. Since the first meeting with Roxy, it’s been obvious that she was not your mother, despite sharing her genes. She was simply an altogether different person. Does this mean nurture is more influential than nature? You allow yourself a moment to imagine publishing a book in order to prove this, humoring yourself because the whole idea was hilarious. What proof did you have?
None. You have no proof that Roxy had ever been anyone else but Roxy.
Before, you thought that your mother was living on in Roxy, through their shared DNA, but this was a false ideology. It is yourself who carries her memory with you, and now it’s with you that she will die.
My, my. Depressing verse is never a good sign. You decide it’s best to return home, to Roxy. According to the memory of everyone outside of your circle of friends, this is the world you have lived in since the day of your birth. It’s about time that you become acquainted with this new life; after all, you are nothing if not an accommodating guest.
Roxy is uncharacteristically quiet the next day as the two of you walk down the winding road towards downtown. It’s a long walk, but you don’t have many alternative choices; you never had a chance to learn how to drive, and although you are in possession of both a car and a legal license, you’re not suicidal enough to try out either yet.
Speaking of which. You gingerly finger your identification papers through the fabric of your jean pocket (don’t think about clothing fabric, how nimble fingers would have to be to sew the pieces together, like little green-hued nails loving working through each individual stitch) and suppress a frown.
A few days ago, you had discovered a small slip of black paper tacked to a clipboard in your mother’s old study, right next to where you know the family safe was hidden.
Call it your intuition, call it a remnant of your seer powers, or call it a draft from the open window… but although there was nothing out of the ordinary about this piece of paper, the sight of it gave you cold chills from your toes to the hairs on your neck. You carefully pulled the thin thumbtack out and raised this note to your face.
When you saw the familiar white text, your first instinctive reflex was to tear it to miniscule shreds, toss it in the fireplace, let it serve out the rest of its miserable existence as smoke… and yet. To say you were curious would be amusingly understated, and so you swallowed your distaste, and sweeping your eyes over the creature’s easy identifiable handwriting, you allowed Doc Scratch’s post-humorous message to seep into your mind.
Congratulations on your successful session. Inside your family safe you will find all the documentation to prove your legal citizenship. The lock's code is sburb.
What nerve, to appear so considerate and thoughtful, to be painfully, transparently condescending! The flash of anger at remembering these words was only a fraction of the rage you had fallen into shortly after reading it the first time (though it should be pointed out that you only did read the note once, as you immediately carried through with your original threat of turning it into kindling). That didn’t seem to matter, for as if the words had been supernaturally burned into your mind, they remained always at the edge of your thoughts, taunting you with their meaning.
Your hatred cut so deep that you were honestly surprised when you checked in a near mirror as to see whether you had gone grimdark that the answer was no.
For the next few hours you had gone on a little bit of a scavenger hunt thorough the house, half-excepting various other black notes waiting for yours truly, giving you helpful tips such as “this food will expire on such and such a date”, or “the keys to this car are resting in the top drawer below the lamp in the living room”, as though they were sticky-noted do-to lists from an annoyingly distant relative… like, say, your mother. Your scavenger hunt turned out to be more of a wild goose chase, however, but it seemed worth the effort to avoid the chance of Roxy having to stumble upon anything that would remind her of mister nearly omniscient.
As to where you even got all these documents, Roxy hadn’t asked and you hadn’t told her. You assumed she either had her own crackpot theories or she just didn’t care.
Considering the oddly detached mood she’s been in for the past couple of days, which began shortly after a particularly shameful incident with liquor that neither of you will speak of again, (though you can’t help but remember; she did ruin one of your favorite skirts, and no matter how many times you washed it to get the odor out, you will never be able to bleach the image of her regurgitating all over your lap from your memory) you would feel fairly comfortable favoring the latter case.
And so that brings you back to the present situation: Roxy’s unusual silence.
Her silence is not merely restricted to her speaking, although that is a huge part of it. The first impression you got of Roxy back when you had your first conversation with her is that she is a loud person. She was the type of person who would always be heard clearly when she spoke; even when she was whispering. It wasn’t just her voice, though. It was the way she moved her arms to emphasize the meaning behind her words, the emotion in her expression, the excited movement of her body. Everything she did, everything she touched, it was the same: banging and clanging, shuffling her feet and chewing her gum. That Roxy was a person of noise.
This Roxy is so devoid of noise that you are starting to get uncomfortable (and you are a person who is never uncomfortable with silence).
You regretfully remember the promise you made to Jane. Well, you did have a long walk ahead of you. It wouldn’t hurt you to attempt to reconnect with this new sibling of yours, however futile that attempt may prove to be. Clearing your throat, (although not audibly; god what a horrible impression that would make) you inquire as innocently as possible, “So how many times would I have to ask you ‘what’s wrong’ in order to get an honest answer?”
Rather predictably, she murmurs, “I’m fine.”
“Hmm, I see,” you reply, “May I ask that, if you feel you must make such blatant lies, you do so in a more convincing fashion? It feels like you are insulting my intelligence otherwise.”
This seems to have more of an effect on her. “That’s an incredibly shitty thing to say to someone who’s upset,” Roxy retorts back.
“Ah,” you smoothly return, “So you are upset, then?”
Roxy shoots you a glare that is perhaps only a four-hearted, but that doesn’t stop her from nearly yelling, “Don’t play your reverse-psychology shit with me, sis.” You make an amused note of the way she emphasizes the word ‘sis’ as though it is a cruel insult. “You know I’m upset, and I know you know I’m upset. What I don’t know is how any of this is supposed to make me feel better.”
“Roxy, must we play this game?” You ask her honestly, and you cannot resist the urge to lift an eyebrow at her angry expression. “Must I fuss and badger you the whole way there, or can we just skip to the part where you share your feelings with me and I comfort you? Because here’s something else you know. You know me well enough by now to know that when I say I am perfectly capable and willing to continue this charade all the way downtown, I mean every word of it.”
Her grimace affirms this nicely. She then looks away from you, but you don’t push her any more.
“I can’t believe we’ve won,” she finally says, vaguely.
There are many ways to take this statement. Does she mean this in a literal way, meaning that she truly does not believe that the game has been won? Or is it a more abstract disbelief, a bit of disorient that she’s feeling being back in the real world? And what about the word ‘can’t’? Does she mean to say that she is emotionally incapable of belief, or is not allowing herself to believe?
You wait for her to elaborate, and she does. “It’s Calliope,” she finally blurts.
Whatever you were expecting, it wasn’t this. “The female cherub,” you say numbly in order to cover up your confusion.
As soon as she begins explaining, it all comes out in a rush, the noise that had been mysteriously absent from her breaking from the proverbial dam. “I made her a promise, back when we still talked, before Caliborn took over her body. She gave me her name, because… because she wanted me to find her, or find Caliborn rather, and wake her up. You see, when her name is called, or when Caliborn hears her names, she’s supposed to wake up, and take back her body, I guess? It was the only way she was going to be able to survive, she said. She gave me this job to do, and I… I never even got the chance. I promised her I’d save her. I gave her my word! But, I don’t even remember facing Lord English, but if we won, if he’s dead… then she’s dead, too. She’s dead forever.”
You stop, because Roxy has burst into tears, not a cinematic show of glistening feminine tears trickling down her cheeks, but angry sobs that quiver through her entire body, snot and tears making her face wet and gross, the sound of her heart breaking echoing in her throat.
“Calliope is dead, Rose, and it’s all my fault!”
You’re fairly sure this isn’t how you’re supposed to comfort someone, you think, as you wrap your arms around her shoulders awkwardly. It’s not like you’ve ever done this sort of thing before in order to draw reference from, but it feels wrong. Still, you’re quite sure that you’re not making anything worse for Roxy, even if you’re not really doing much to help, either.
It feels like she’s falling apart and it’s your job to hold her together, so you squeeze her tightly, but she just keeps crying, and it almost sounds as if she’s screaming herself hoarse.
“Hush,” you say, because you think that’s what you’re supposed to say, “Hush, Roxy.”
“And I was the only one who knew,” she continues, “Nobody even knew her name until I let it slip that one time. But I didn’t want anyone else to wake her up. Isn’t that selfish? What if I had died? What if I wasn’t given the chance, but someone else from our session was? I gambled her life away, Rose, and I lost. I lost and now Calliope will never have anyone kiss her.”
You listen to her and nod. “I understand,” you offer uncomfortably. What else can you say that she would believe?
“Do you miss her, Rose?” Roxy asks suddenly, to your distress. It’s not like Roxy even has to say the name; and you hate that as much as you are glad that Roxy refrained from using it. She looks at you, wide-eyed and expectant.
A queer thought floats through your mind: Is this what having a sister feels like?
“Every waking second of every day, and every fraction of a second within those seconds,” you answer in a bitterly honest tone, because anything else you could say would be either a dishonorable lie or a weak defensive comeback. You like to believe that you’re above resorting to either.
“I do, too,” Roxy says very simply, and just like that, she seems to have enough strength to pull herself back together. “Let’s go,” she says bluntly.
To your surprise, she takes your hand. And she doesn’t let go of it until you’ve reached the State Office.
The woman behind the desk looks so boringly well-ordered, her spine so straight, that you have to stifle a smirk at how cliché she is. You’re quite sure your brother (either or your brothers, actually, seeing as Dirk probably counts as your sibling now as well) would say something to the extent of how badly she needs to get laid. However, you would never say such a thing yourself. You may imply such a thing, but you would never say it.
She looks down her long nose at you and your sister and signs, actually sighs, “Yes?”
“My sister and I would like to get passports,” you reply as pleasantly as possible, although it comes off fake enough for you to hear Roxy snicker quietly behind you.
“I see,” the lady (Mrs. Brown, her nameplate reads; by the gods, even her name is bland) grumbles, “Is this your first time?”
“Yes, it is.”
“I see,” she says again, “And how old would you two young ladies be?”
You almost want to check your birth certificate for a second in order to clarify, but you’re fairly sure you remember your exact current age. How odd would it be for her to find that you had not been familiar with how old you were? “I’m eighteen and my sister is seventeen.”
“I see.” (Is that all she ever says?) She presses her lips together thoughtfully. “Your sister is a minor,” she explains slowly, as if she thinks you’re mentally deficient, “She will need both parents present in order to receive a passport.”
Before you can stop her, Roxy shouts, “What?!”
You give a fake smile to bland Mrs. Brown and push Roxy behind you. “I will be acting as her custodian,” you explain evenly, glad that you had prepared for this very event, “for I am legally her guardian. I have the paperwork that proves it.”
How gruesome it was to find within the bundle of paperwork Doc Scratch left for you two death certificates belonging to two people who had perhaps never existed.
Rowan and Rita Lalonde they read, and you pretend to look grief-stricken as you hand them and the paper that claims you as Roxy’s legal guardian over to the woman. For a moment, you allow yourself to ponder the possibly that maybe there had once been a Rowan and Rita, who had raised their daughters Rose and Roxy. Would their spirits be miserable to learn that their offspring had no memories of them?
It is a thought that leads down an odd and unwelcome road of other thoughts, so you push it to the back of your mind as Mrs. Brown listlessly reads over the documents, as if searching for signs of forgeries.
Roxy, however, is still put off by the whole thing. “That’s absolutely ridiculous,” she complains to you in a whisper that you’re quite sure Mrs. Brown can hear clearly, “What about people who have no parents, or whose parents were separated or something! What about single parents? That’s discrimination.”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Brown looks back up, acting as if she hasn’t heard, but you can tell from the strained twist of her lips that she has.
You hush Roxy again, and explain quickly, “My sister has had a really hard week.”
“That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a terrible rule!” You can see Roxy, no matter how strong she is being, is still raw with pain. You’re afraid of having her cry here in the State Office, with Mrs. Brown watching apathetically from her desk.
“No, it doesn’t,” you agree, “However, while I am empathetic to your opinion and respectful of your right to express it, I also feel obligated to point out that our current time and location may not be the best place to do so, considering that our sole audience is responsible for whether or not we walk out here today with passports. But if you feel as though you cannot hold your tongue for one more moment, I certainly am in no place to tell you otherwise.”
Roxy gives you an amused look. “I bet you think you’re real smart,” she snorts, but your words have seemed to have the intended effect on her.
Mrs. Brown clears her throat rudely, interrupting your sisterly bonding. She hands you back the papers indifferently, and she adds in an almost gleeful tone, “You still have to fill out a passport application,” as if it’s her job to make sure as few people as possible receive passports successfully.
She gives you each a form, and then leans back in her chair to return to her previous work.
Roxy and you move to a small table in the corner of the room, where a few pens lay, chained so that neither of you can steal them. Roxy notices this at the same time you do, and you share a smirk before getting down to business.
It’s a slow, boring process, filling out the application (or Form DS-11, as it states at the top), stopping occasionally to look at an ID or birth certificate in order to fill out each section correctly.
“This… is… so… boring,” Roxy begins to sing softly, and because it’s Roxy, her words echo.
At last the deed is done, and you pile Roxy’s on top of yours so that you may return it to Mrs. Brown in an orderly manner.
She looks up and gives you a strange look, as if she’s already forgotten who you are.
“Here,” Roxy says, grabbing the two applications from you and placing them on the tall desk. Mrs. Brown eyes them with her dull eyes.
“I will need both your birth certificates,” she tells you flatly, “They will be returned to you through the mail the same time as your passports.” Mrs. Brown holds out her hand, and you obligingly place the certificates onto her palm. “Thank you,” she says, insincerely.
“Thanks,” Roxy and you repeat simultaneously, just as insincerely.
You fold up the rest of the documents and place them back into your pocket. Roxy waits for you as you do so, still being oddly quiet, but you know she’s going to need time to heal.
Still, she holds your hand all the way home.
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Chapter 7: Chapter Six
Or, In which Gamzee Makara decides to use his culinary skills for the dual purposes of baking treats for the upcoming reunion with his formerly deceased friends and also bonding with his two best bros, both of which he has romantic feelings for; one of these relationships being consummated and the other being possibly reciprocated; includes various mentions of foods, especially sweets and pastries, some declarations of pale devotions, reveals about the relationship statuses of offstage characters, and Karkat's romantic advice.
Here's another chapter! Lots of fluff in this one, as a warning. Also, more relationships are being added to the tags as new chapters come out.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
For the very first time, your wondrous moirail Karkat is at your hive. You’ve waited to have him here with you for sweeps, even since you first met the overly ornery troll when the two of you were only five. Since the first time you clicked on his trolltag and started typing a greeting, and he beat you to it, informing you that “LET ME JUST TELL YOU RIGHT HERE AND NOW THAT IF YOU INTEND TO SCREW WITH ME I WILL BLOCK YOU FASTER THAN YOU CAN INHALE. MY NAME IS KARKAT, NO I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU MY BLOOD COLOR, AND I ALWAYS SPEAK MY MIND. EITHER LEARN TO DEAL WITH IT OR YOU CAN SUCK MY BULGE FOR ALL THE FUCKS I GIVE” you were completely horns over heals for who you now know is your fated palemate.
Everything about him, from his fiery temper to his colorful vocabulary, have forced you to the pity him to no end. He needs so much help; you’ve always known that he has. You’ve wanted to get him in a feelings jam forever, wanted him to open up and share his innermost fears. You’ve wanted to see what sorts of sounds he made when you raked your claws through his hair, around his horns, and down the length of his neck and back.
You are absolutely sure that no one has ever been paler for a motherfucker than you are for Karkat right now, especially when he’s looking you right in the eye.
“Alright,” Karkat says to you, “Flour, eggs, sugar… did I forget anything?”
You tear away from his eyes for just a moment, those vivid eyes with the irises that have become an intense crimson color, to stare at the pile of groceries lying on the kitchen counter that he has just bought for you. “Nah, motherfucker,” you reply, “You got everything perfect, just like always. Hey bro, how much do you think I should make to feed twelve trolls?”
You see him snort at your ‘perfect’ comment. “I’ve never been good at baking, you fucking know that,” he retorts. But his tone is soft, in a sharp comparison to his words. It’s always like this between you two; it’s like your own unique type of pale flirting.
“I’ll just motherfucking wing it then,” you decide with a throaty laugh.
Karkat just nods, looking somewhat distracted. He helps you unpack the rest of the groceries, sometimes brushing against you gently, as if seeking comfort.
You don’t have to ask him why he’s stressed. In only a couple of hours, at Vriska’s suggestion, the two of you will be hosting an emergency meeting, and Karkat doesn’t need to tell you how important it is that all of the trolls are on the same page. Your moirail isn’t the only one who formed a bond with the humans, after all.
But Karkat has told you more than once not to think about Dave, so you don’t.
“Don’t you motherfucking get your mind all messed up over this, palemate,” you remind him, “You’re going to have all that bitching tension go right to your shoulders, and that never did a bro any good. Do we need to have a jamming session and just get our motherfucking chill on?”
He looks over at you again, and sighs. “No, I’m just fucking fine,” he murmurs, “Look, just focus on making some cakes or whatever for our guests. Um, I mean, your guests.”
Mutant red color rushes to his cheeks, and you just have to smile as wide as fuck at him. “Man, wouldn’t that just be the motherfucking bomb?” You ask him, and yeah that just makes him blush all the harder, “You and me, living together, maybe with our future matesprits?”
Karkat frowns suddenly, and you realize that you’ve messed up bad. “Karkat,” you say.
“No, forget it,” he hisses, and turns away from you. You know that he is flushed for Terezi, and maybe also for John? He switches between the two, having red feelings for one and black for the other, sometimes you have a hard time keeping up with him, but you do know that he’d probably take either in any quadrant.
Time to change the subject, you guess. “Hey,” you pipe up, “Um, I have some news.”
Karkat shifts his tired gaze to you. Man, when did the two of you get so old? You’re not even the age of adults yet, not officially, but there’s something in his face that makes him look wiser than any of the few mature trolls you’ve ever met.
“Tavros messaged me earlier,” you announce happily, “He’s coming over to help me bake.”
There it is: the slightest suggestion of a smile curling up on the side of his face. “Oh? Are we expecting this to turn into a sappy romcom moment?” As your moirail, naturally Karkat knows all about your flushed feelings for your second best bro.
“Dude, you’re the motherfucking expert on sappy romcoms,” you remind him and give him a good-natured slap on the back. He stumbles; you really have to learn to control all this new strength you’ve developing as you become an adult troll. “Sorry, bro,” you quickly apologize, “I didn’t mean to go and hit you so motherfucking hard there. But seriously, bro, should I be expecting this to be a red moment that’ll put your bitching movies to shame? Like, miracles ahoy? Like honk honk, motherfucker.” You then proceed to give him your best wink, which he snorts at.
Karkat then puts on his contemplative face, which is a motherfucking miracle if you’ve ever seen one. You have this theory that his second favorite thing to do, besides bitching at his friends about how much he hates giving romantic advice, is actually giving romantic advice. And because you two are so tight, Karkat tends to skip the first step with you, which allows him to put all his energy into the advice-giving.
“Well, how should I know,” Karkat admits, “It’s kind of fucking hard to give a good opinion on things when you don’t know all of the fucking details.”
That’s his own special way of saying ‘spill’, and you do.
“Man, he messaged me for the first time today,” you start off by explaining, “I was so motherfucking jittery, you know? It’s been such a long time since we last shot the breeze together. And you know, he was all up and asking about the incident, I thought he was going to hate me, but nah, Tavbro’s too gentle for black emotions. But dude, soon we were laying down our sick rhymes, just like we used to. The motherfucker’s gotten good in the sweeps we’re been apart, too. Maybe he’s been practicing in the dream bubbles, I don’t motherfucking know, but he’s got a sharp tongue now, sweet as bitchtits, dude. He just went and blew me out of the water. We started on about the meeting and, well I just motherfucking went for it, I asked him if he’d like to come and get his bake on with me.”
You pause and wait for your palebro’s reaction, and yeah he looks happy for you, but you can tell he’s also kind of worried.
“That sounds great, Gamzee,” he finally says, “You’re sure he doesn’t hold anything against you?”
This is the subject you’d really like to avoid yourself. But when it comes to moirallegiance, there isn’t really skirting around any subject. “Man, I doubt it,” you answer because you know you can’t avoid his crimson red gaze, “He didn’t say anything of that sort, nothing at all, it was all questions and asking me my side of things. It was a sad subject, bro, and I didn’t like talking about it much, so I asked to change the motherfucking conversation to another topic and he did.”
Karkat’s eyes are staring you down now, trying to dissect you, and you look straight back into them, because you have nothing to hide, not from him. “He even said he was real motherfucking excited to see me again, expect with more uh’s and, hah, some different wording,” you add.
“Well, good, he better not hold it against you, it’s not like it’s your fucking fault,” Karkat scoffs, and then changes his tone, “Um. Well, in that case, I guess we could be looking at a definite flushed experience here. Do you think he knows how you feel about him? Before… before the game, did you ever let him know that you were red for him?”
You feel purple color rush to your cheeks, and you hope that your face paint covers it up. “Well, uh,” you mumble, “Dude, there was this one time I went and maybe suggested that I wouldn’t mind it if the two of us just went and motherfucking, um, made out a little.”
This time you do turn from Karkat’s scrutiny, because you can only imagine the look he’s making, and even though you consider all of his expressions to be miracles, something is telling you that maybe you don’t want to see this particular one. But somehow it doesn’t matter if you can see it or not, because you can feel his eyes, just STARING at you.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Karkat’s voice rises, “Oh come on! Shit, Gamzee, was I the only half of this moirallegiance to receive a goddamn think pan?”
You think to yourself that perhaps he shouldn’t be so surprised, seeing as palemates such as the two of you traditionally have personality strengths and weaknesses that complement one another, and since he obviously got all the brains when it came to romance, surely he can’t expect you to have any such talent in that regard, but you’ll be culled before you interrupt one of your bro’s rants.
“Has all that sopor slime you used to devour as a wiggler completely rotted away the entirety of your common sense? Were you too busy being such a bulge-munching disgrace to intelligence that you forgot how to use your central cranium? Where was the subtly in that? Where was the fucking delicate and half-veiled flirtation?” Karkat is starting to turn red from all his yelling and you wince impulsively. “Do you not even get the concept of romance? Is that shit too heavy and complex for you in all your goddamn simplicity that it just flies over your horns?”
He then lets out a huge huff, which means he’s deflating, or at least getting ready for another round of hurling his colorful insults at you.
You decide to distract him in the best way you know how. “Well then, motherfucker,” you laugh, and he seems to soften at your light tone, “you best be teaching me the ways of the romcom then, huh?” Some part of you believes that Karkat fears a day when his name-calling will cut deeper than he expected it to and drive you away. Well, that’s too motherfucking bad for him, because you’d never go and leave your best bro in the dark.
Karkat pauses before replying. “Yeah right, I don’t have that much time for that sort of shit,” he finally answers, “It’d probably take over a dozen fucking sweeps to schoolfeed you properly. Sometimes I swear it’s like you were raised by Nepeta’s fucked up meowbeast lusus.”
You laugh at that. “Nah, motherfucker, but I don’t want to be putting you out of your way. Any little tip you can give me bro would be a motherfucking miracle.”
“You want a tip? Don’t fuck things up, dipshit,” Karkat retorts. Then the sharp angles of your palemate’s face soften just the smallest bit, going from the piercing edges of a knife to a jagged broken piece of glass. “Look,” he sighs, “just be your own sick fuck self, okay? You have a sort of, I don’t fucking know, some sort of naïve, oh my god just kill me now… you have some charm about you. It’s kind of hard not to pity you; you’re just the most pathetic nookstain in this fucked up thing we call life.”
He looks away from you, clearly embarrassed. You think it’s so cute that, even a sweep or two after you’ve been moirails, he still gets choked up about his feelings for you.
“Man, just come over here,” you demand, laughing, “You’re pretty motherfucking pitiful, too, bro.”
When he doesn’t move right away, you reach over and pull him into your arms. At first he tenses up as if to complain, but then he seems to remember that the two of you are alone. There’s no one around that he needs to put his grouchy face on for. He melts against your chest and even before you can get your fingers into his hair, he starts his clicking.
You just adore the sounds he makes when he finally relaxes. You’re sure that not even Karkat realizes just how tense he always is, his boney shoulders always squared, the knots in his back taunt, the creases in his face born of his scowling making him appear almost sickly. Whenever he actually allows himself to release all of that tension, he almost becomes a different person. It always happens in the same order. First his muscles will just melt like liquid, and he’ll become so heavy that he’ll need you to help hold him up. And then, as his face buries itself into your shoulder, his breath hot and sticky, and his neck will start pulsating in a steady rhythm to match the chirps resonating in his throat.
Just like when he talks, Karkat’s clicks are loud and angry, sharp little notes that he aims right at you, and that pierce your heart with each new beat.
You smile and squeeze him, amused when he makes a loud ticking sound in protest.
“Bro, just motherfucking enjoy it,” you advise him, “You know you want to. Just snuggle up; let’s get this pale pity-fest motherfucking started.” You rake a claw skillfully down the back of his head to further persuade him, and yeah, that does the trick.
Karkat just sinks right into you, and you reach down to pick him up and place him down on the counter, brushing away the groceries, so that he’s the taller troll for once.
You nuzzle your noses together, and kick start your own clicking, to mix with his in a way that’s almost harmonious. It’s so cheesy, right out of your palemate’s sappiest fantasies, and you know that’s just the way he likes it, from the way it always make him grin from ear to ear, putting all his sharp little teeth on display for the world to see.
“Fuck, Gamzee, I’m so pale for you,” Karkat mouths, and there’s something so motherfucking pitiful and lovable about the way that he can’t even say the words out loud, how that alien red color splatters itself across his cheeks.
“Right back at you, palebro,” you chuckle, except it comes out broken and weird over the sound of all the chirping that’s going on in your chest.
All the blushing only makes the red in his eyes stand out, and you brush his cheek with the back of your knuckle, to see if you can’t make them an even darker color. He leans into your touch and his clicks become louder and fiercer. It makes you wonder if they’re trying to escape his small frame, by the way they’re making his body lurch with each escalating note.
He reaches up his own hand to tangle his fingers into your bangs, which he’s always nagging you about (do you ever fucking brush your hair, asshole?), and tugs on them playfully. “Tell me about all your stupid feelings,” he growls at you in an almost flirtatious way, “about Tavros and why you think he wouldn’t like you, and I’ll tell you how backwards and wrong you are, and why you should never fucking feel that way about yourself, ever.”
Who are you to deny such a sincere request from your bro? “Man, I just can’t get over the guilt,” you admit, though it’s kind of hard to talk when you’re chirping so much, “I never meant to motherfucking hurt anybody, I don’t even really know why I even did any of that stuff, and now Tavbro is going to have to face me, knowing everything I did. What if he looks at me and he sees a monster?”
Karkat leans over and slides his cheek against yours, clicking right into your ear, as he says, “There’s no fucking way. The way I heard it, Tavros forgave Vriska, and she’s about the most fucked up bitch that ever existed. What you did wasn’t your fault, Gamzee.”
“I motherfucking killed people, bro,” you argue, “I took Equius and Nepeta’s life, and drew pictures on the wall with their blood, all with the same bitching expression on my face.”
Karkat winces; he doesn’t like to remember the details any more than you do.
“I shot Equius in the leg with an arrow, I strangled him to death and asked him to motherfucking smile at me when I culled him,” you remind Karkat, and now the room is silent. Neither one of you is making happy pale noises anymore. “I played with Nepeta before I laid down the final blow.”
“Stop, Gamzee,” Karkat begs gently.
But now you can’t stop. It needs to be said. “I hurt them, because I went out of my motherfucking mind. HONK. And who knows if I’ll go and do it again?” You see the edges of his eyes fill with tears the same odd color as his blood – a color so low it’s not even the hemospectrum… a color that the subjugators would do anything to use for their nauseating finger-paint.
“I can’t even motherfucking trust myself,” you snarl at him, “I CAN’T TRUST MYSELF WITH YOU, CAN I? who says I won’t kill Tavros when he comes over?”
“I can say that,” Karkat answers, and he grabs your face in between his hands, “Shoosh.”
You close your eyes so that you won’t have to face his gentle expression, because you don’t deserve it, if the smallest things still set you off. But you can’t ignore the feel of his fingers tracing the lines of your jaw, or the softness of his voice as he talks to you in a way that reaches right into your soul.
“I will be in the other room,” he promises, “Far away enough to give you privacy, but close enough to come to your aid if you need me.” And then his clicking starts up again, hesitantly at first, as if inviting you to join him. “Gamzee, you’ll be fine, okay? You’ve been doing so much better, and you haven’t any accidents in over a sweep. Just remember the other day when we woke back up on Alternia? You were as confused as the rest of us, but you didn’t hurt anyone.”
He slips his hands over your shoulders and rubs his fingers into your back, pulling himself closer to you, something that you’ve used to by now. He does it to show you how much he trusts you.
You let your forehead rest against his, but you still stubbornly refuse to open your eyes.
“Listen to me, Gamzee,” he practically purrs, and though this is so unlike the Karkat everyone else knows, it isn’t a stranger to you, “I will always be here for you. You never have to worry about that side of you coming back. It may not be dead, maybe it will never truly go away, but it doesn’t stand a chance of making a comeback. It’ll have to fuck with me first.”
Slowly, you raise a hand to his head, and let it fall, giving him a half-hearted pap. “Bro, why do you even put up with me?” You ask him gently.
“If you have to ask, you’re an even bigger fuckass moron than I could ever have conceived.”
You purposely don’t say anything in response, and have to fight a smile when you hear him let out a huge sigh, aimed directly at you. It hits, but fails to wound.
“Because, you bulge-munching waste of space, if you have failed to notice, I’m so fucking pale for you that I could just hang myself right now from the sheer amount of clichéd feelings that are constantly spewing from my blood-pusher like some seriously clogged load gaper.”
“I love you, too, bro,” you laugh at him, and yeah, you reward him by clicking again.
You no longer need to look at him to know that he’s as red as Terezi’s favorite colored chalk. But you lean back to see it anyway, and yeah he looks so pitiful when he’s flustered like this.
“You’re a jackass,” he says under his breath, and tilts his head down to give you a couple of chaste kisses.
With your palemate here, cupping your face in his gentle clawed hands, giving you sloppy, happy smooches all over your face, mouthing inaudible words of conciliatory devotion from your hairline down to your jawline, you know you’re going to be okay.
Still, by the time your Tavbro is about to arrive, you’re all jittery again. Even Karkat rubbing a comforting thumb over the back of your hand does little to calm you.
The eventual knock on the front door nearly makes you physically sick with the nervous anticipation of it, of him, of the closely approaching evening that you know you absolutely cannot fuck up. It’s not until the second knock, quieter and more hesitant than the first, that it registers that it would probably be in your best interest to go over and open the motherfucking door.
“Go,” Karkat urges you, letting go of your hand before giving it a last encouraging squeeze.
“Right,” you answer, as if that just occurred to you, and make the frighteningly short trek to the front door of your hive.
Slowly, so slowly, as if reminding yourself that you could go back, pretend you’re not home and you didn’t invite him over, before realizing that’s a really fucking stupid idea, and enough overthinking this, Makara. With a last deep breath, you turn the handle and pull the door open.
And there he is, all five feet and seven inches of him. He’s a lot burlier than you remember, though, making you think for a second of his ancestor. It almost looks like your awkward, scrawny runt of a best bro went and finally grew into those long bronco horns of his, even though they’re still way too big compared to his head.
Who is this dashingly handsome young man standing in front of you? Tavros had always been cute as a button, of course, but now it’s different. He’s motherfucking… gorgeous. He’s more built than you are, and the strong lines of his arm and chest muscles are evident even through his large baggy black tee. He’s miraculously radiant, spine and shoulders straight and squared, more attractive than any troll you’ve ever laid your eyes on.
“H-hi,” you find yourself stuttering in his presence, you can’t even help it, you feel like you don’t even know this guy, but somehow you’re redder than you’ve ever been for him.
“Um, hey, to you, too,” he replies, and thank the motherfucking (don’t say messiahs) gods, because he still sounds like Tav, at the very least. That heated umber color that you used to spent hours of your pubescent life day-dreaming about fills his cheeks, making it extremely hard not to focus all your attention on the masculine lines of his cheekbones.
“Hey there Tavros,” Karkat cuts in, before you can completely humiliate yourself (what a good palebro you have), “You’ve… uh, you grew up.”
“Oh yeah,” Tavros laughs all awkward; “I’m still, eh, getting used to it, I guess?”
Karkat’s lips twist as he eyes Tavros’ insanely large horns and body girth (he better not be getting his envy on, you think, because you love his nubbly little horns, and besides, Karkat ain’t no slouch in the muscle department, neither, not compared to your scrawny self). But all he says out loud is, “Well, I’m glad you’re alive.”
Tavros laughs again, a little less self-consciously this time, and agrees, “Yeah, I am, too.”
And then Tavros pauses, the air becoming heavy and intense. This moment is just pregnant with meaning, and you think you all recognize this. Very quietly, giving you the impression that he cares more about the answer than he dares reveal, asks, “So, Karkat, are you going to be, joining us, in the nutrition block, while we make snacks for the meeting?”
“Oh. No,” Karkat answers, and you know he’s saying even more than that, underneath it all, giving Tavros permission for… something. You don’t know what.
Tavros nods, which isn’t very telling about what’s going on here, and Karkat adds quickly, “I’ll be in the other block, on my husktop. I have some last minute business to attend to.” The vagueness of this also has meaning, and you’re overwhelmed with a sudden sense of dream-like dizziness, like there are layers to what’s being said, and it’s your job to submerge yourself in this, sink down into the deepest layer and comprehend its true significance.
Which ain’t something you’d be particularly good at, but you decide to give it your best shot.
“Let’s go get our motherfucking bake on, yeah?” You speak up hopefully, half-expecting him to refuse even though he already agreed earlier.
Tavros turns his attention back to you shyly. “Yeah, that sounds fun,” he says.
You remember that this is the first time he’s ever been at your hive, so you have to lead him to your kitchen (wait, what did he call it, nutrition block? What funny low-blood slang, you think), exchanging one last tender pale look with your moirail before he nods and leaves to give the two of you privacy.
An almost unbearable sense of urgency settles in your lower digestive tract, and you have to swallow hard to suppress the queasy flip-flops that are threatening to empty you of everything you’ve eaten so far today. It shouldn’t be so hard, you tell yourself, bonding with Tavros. Once, you very much believed that the two of you were the best bros in all of Alternia.
But that was sweeps ago, before the game, before he died, before you lost your mind and had to be shoosh-papped back into compliancy. It was only a little under three sweeps, three meager sweeps, but it feels like it’s been far longer. You were a different person then, and so was he.
“We’re going to have to, like, get to motherfucking re- get to know one another,” you realize out loud, surprising yourself with the truth of it all, and Tavros only looks shocked for a second before nodding.
“A lot has, um, happened,” he adds in a timid voice.
“That’s putting it motherfucking lightly, bro,” you laugh back, and are pleasantly astonished when he laughs along with you.
The laughter takes its sweet time trailing off as Tavros watches you take out the ingredients, leaving the room with an atmosphere that is comfortable and sweet. You also dig out the printed out papers of various recipes, far more than you’ll actually end up using, leaving the rest open-ended. Spontaneous, in your opinion, was in the same vein as romantic.
“Help a motherfucker out, bro,” you encourage him, and smile as he leans forward with an eagerness to offer his assistance, “I just can’t all up and decide on what to make. There are just so many choices, you dig? Ain’t enough ingredients to make all of them, nice as that would be.”
Tavros is dangerously close to making your blood-pusher burst with excitement with the proximity of his body to yours when he moves to look at the text.
“Ooh, yum, that one sounds good,” he says, pointing at a black and white picture of some motherfucking prettified blonde brownies, “especially if we, um, added some, mixed nuts, or something, to them.”
“Man, that sounds bitchtits insane tasty,” you agree, “I was thinking of trying my hand at these mini crepes. See the ones here, with all these apples and cinnamon?”
Tavros glances over at that one. “Terezi will really, ha, like those, you know, because of all the red.”
“Fuck yeah!” Except you kind of don’t want to think about her right now, because she’s been weirdly rude to you, treating you like you were some squashed bug under her hand and she was looking to wash you off, ever since you made your black intensions towards her matesprit public. You don’t want to be all dissing her though, on account of her being your palebro’s intended flushcrush or black crush or whatever, but still, hearing her name is a definate buzzkill to your mood.
Just like the miracle brother he is, Tavbro seems to recognize your faltering enthusiasm immediately, and places a gentle finger on your elbow, way too light a touch to be considered a pale solicitation, and asks you, “Are you, uh, alright?”
You consider lying to him, but you decide that a lie be a pretty shitty pillar with which to build your renewed friendship off of, so instead you say, “It’s just… having her mentioned, I guess. We haven’t been on the best of terms ever since Dave and I had a sort of caliginous fling. It was a real failure all around. He didn’t swing that way, he said.”
“Oh yeah,” Tavros replies, “I remember that, from when I trolled the humans, before. I did some research on their, uh, human sexualities.”
You frown, remembering when Karkat had warned you about the human “homosexuality” taboo, but that hadn’t seemed to have mattered in the case of Rose and Kanaya, and besides, Dave had been blatantly black-flirting with you ever since you decided to come out of seclusion and join the rest of them. He had been practically shameless, actually – and through it all, he still claimed to have nothing but platonic feelings for you. It was maddening.
“It’s motherfucking weird,” you tell Tavros, “only being attracted to one gender and shit. I can’t tell how them humans can deal with something like that getting in the way of romance.” You shift your attention back to the moment at hand, and murmur contemplatively, “I wonder if we’d have enough time to make some tiramisu for everybody.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” he blushes and looks away, “I think I kind of, I don’t know, understand it. The human sexuality thing, I mean. Not the tiramisu. That does sound nice, though. But, it’s like, blackrom for me. Everybody thinks I’m, well, wrong, that I have to be somehow less complete, because I can’t hate anybody. But, maybe it’s not about being b-broken.” His words pitch, stutter, sound ashamed. “Maybe some humans, and trolls, are just like that, and it’s not wrong or bad, but just… different. Different, and maybe less common, but just as normal.”
You had never motherfucking thought about it that way, and you tell him so. He’s a genius like that, you think, not for the first time.
He looks adorably relieved by your reaction. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out with you and Dave,” he adds, “He was perfectly hateable, I think, if you’re into black stuff, which, um, you are. I couldn’t hate him, but I can see, well, why you might.”
“Hey,” a sudden thought occurs to you, “maybe you’re a caliginous asexual? I think that was one of the things that Kankri went on about, from Beforus.”
“Kankri? Um, that was Karkat’s ancestor, right?”
You nod. “Yeah, and he had whole lots of things to say about repressed minorities, except I was only half-listening, because, well, even though he’s cute and noisy as Karbro, he kind of makes things more confusing than they ought to be, and it’s kind of hard to follow. But yeah. Maybe that’s what you can be called, Tavbro: a caliginous asexual.” You thought that would cheer him up, now that he had a term he could use to up and define himself with, but he only looks more dejected.
“Um, actually, I don’t think I want to be called anything, except, uh, Tavros, if that’s okay with you,” he says in what seems to be a hurt tone.
Hurt is definitely not a thing you want Tavros to be. “Hell, motherfucker, you can call yourself whatever shit you want to,” you quickly reassure him, “It ain’t up to me to be deciding that for you. I mean, what’s with a name, anyway? It’s just whatever you motherfucking decide it is. And if a name don’t fit, there’s no reason for you to be wearing it.”
“That is, yeah, what I was thinking,” Tavros smiles again, and it’s like the most beautiful miracle.
Just for a moment, you think about kissing him, and it startles you. It’s not the fact that you thought about kissing him, because you do that a lot, maybe more than a motherfucker rightly should, but because this time you actually considered doing it, and that’s a whole different thing altogether. And hell, you’d love to kiss the fuck out of this endearing motherfucker, but it’s a good thing you didn’t. It would have been hells of leagues away from subtly, for one, and then Karkat would take it upon himself to lecture you on romantic etiquette again.
The urge dissipates, though, leaving you feeling empty but also, somehow, satisfied. The two of you turn your attention to picking out recipes, some unspoken but undeniable agreement strengthening the frayed remnants of your old friendship.
Before long, a paper on some different flavors of no-bake cookies catches your eye. “What about this one?” You hold it out to Tavros.
“Definitely that one,” he agrees with a toothy grin that’s somehow terribly dorky, “Which flavors?”
“Man,” you drawl, “I would just about kill for some peanut butter ones.”
Tavros flushes darkly and flinches; you realize just how stupid you are too late. Still, you wonder vaguely whether his reaction was more to the word “kill”, or to the half-veiled flirtation. Maybe both? Why do things have to be so motherfucking complicated and shit?
“Uh,” Tavros stutters awkwardly, but then seems to pull himself together. “I second that idea, and maybe, we could also try some pumpkin spice ones?”
“Yeah! Wicked idea, brother!”
The two of you pick out a couple of more recipes each, and decide at the same time that it’s time to start the actual cooking. For a few minutes there’s nothing but wordless shuffling around, getting everything prepared and in its proper order.
“So,” Tavros speaks up conversationally, “You and Dave didn’t, uh, work out, which I’m still sorry about, but, if you didn’t mind, could I ask about other… q-quadrants? You and Karkat are…”
“The palest of palebros,” you announce proudly.
Tavros nods. “That’s what I heard,” he tells you, “but, I thought it might be, rude, to just assume, without confirming it.”
“Yeah, we are. It’s a miracle, really, but that’s the only quadrant I have filled. Not that having only one filled is bad or anything, though. It’s the quality of the relationship that counts, I feel. And if Karbro and I are anything to go by, it’s motherfucking perfect. It’s a bit hard sometimes, though, ‘cause Karkat’s got his auspistice and all.”
“He does? With who?”
“Dogsis,” you answer with a laugh, “I don’t know if you ever got to know her or not. Her name’s Jade, and usually she’s this pretty chill girl, but damn, she’s real good at putting an ashen foot down when it counts. Karkat’s lucky to have her.”
“Jade?” Tavros blinks, eyes lighting up with recognition.
So he does know Jade, then. “Yeah! I take it you talked with her?” That’s cool; you can see the two of them getting along.
He nods, and then frowns with a look of confusion. “Wait,” he says, “I thought Karkat banned cross-species relationships? Or was that only for the, um, concupiscent quadrants? He got kind of mad at Dave, when he started flirting with Ter— Um. His former matesprit.”
You wave your hand as if shooing away his train of thought before he got all up and guilty as shit about things you know he didn’t mean to say. You’d always thought that was a pretty chill thing to do when you were having a conversation. “Nah. I mean, yeah, at first he was all for that, but he kind of opened up to the idea later… or something.” The exact details are kind of vague to you; it wasn’t exactly your favorite period of the past. “Which was all shades of helpful, because later on Kansis and Rose got their flushed thing going.”
“Yeah, they are the type of flush sisters right out of one of Karbro’s romcoms. Don’t even understand what they’re going on about half the time, but shit, the way they talk, it’s like they’re got their own motherfucking language all to themselves, you know? It’s like, most of what they’re saying ain’t even important as how they say it, somehow, like a dance with words or something. Man, I don’t even know the details, but it must have been written in the stars or something. Miracles everywhere.”
“Oh,” Tavros sucks in a breath, “Oh, wow.”
Your fang digs into your bottom lip as you watch him anxiously. Did he understand what you were all up and getting at there? Were you being too obvious or too vague?
“Then Dave and Ter got their thing going,” you continue quickly, trying to fill the sudden silence, desperate to drown out all the worry cluttering up your think pan, “Not too long after, actually. Seemed like every motherfucker was hooking up with someone or other. Karbro and I were already moirails at that point, come to think of it.”
You’ve run out of things to say. You busy yourself with cooking, unable to think of any way to get around the obvious new step of the conversation: Where are your human brother and sisters even at? Will you see them again? And what the ever-loving fuck happens if you don’t?
“What about, uh, John and J-Jade?”
“Hmm?” You blink, caught off guard by the question. “You mean about their quadrants? Well, Jade’s got her ashen thing with Karbro, like I all mentioned beforehand, but I don’t think John is with anybody. Just between you and me, I think my palebro has got a motherfucking crush on him. Not sure if it’s redrom or blackrom through. I think that’s it, though, for them, unless something’s slipped my mind.”
Tavros clears his throat and says, “I do hope that, uh, we’re able to find the humans. It’d be, terrible, to have everyone lose their, uh, lovers.”
“Shit,” you croak, almost as a reflex, “That’d be no good, bro. That’d be no good at all. I can’t even wrapped my goddamn think pan around it, I don’t even want to. As much as I love my palemate, I just don’t think I could be both his conciliator and a facilitator for him and another brother, you know? And Karkat’s too stubborn to let anyone replace Jade, so that wouldn’t even be a choice.”
“I bet Jade’s, really good,” Tavros agrees sympathetically, “at, um, being an auspistice.”
You grin. “Hell yeah she is! Has a miracle finger at keeping Karkat in line, like she was hatched for the job or something. Or, born, I suppose. All that freaky human reproduction shit. With any luck, we’ll be able to put all of our noggins together and figure out how to get them back. I mean, it just would be no fair… to have our quadrants all nicely filled like the imperial drones wanted, and then to have the rug all pulled out from underneath our feet like that.”
Wait, had you sounded a little too angry when you said that? You check Tavros’ face quickly, looking for any hint of fear. But Tavros is nodding at you.
“Yes, it would be,” Tavros says, “No fair, I meant. I’d hate to lose the humans, especially without getting the chance, to know them… better.”
“When you say better,” you press, and he blushes.
“Well, uh, yes, um…”
Wagging your eyebrows, you press further, “So… are we thinking about a certain motherfucker in question here?”
“Uh, yes, J-Jade, I think,” Tavros blurts, “Jade.”
“Dogsis? Nice!” See, what did you say about thinking the two of them would get along? “Man, I was just about to go and suggest that!”
“You… y-you were?”
“No pulling your leg, brother,” you insist sincerely, “Man, you’d two would be the cutest pair of pale motherfuckers in paradox space. Just imagine: cute thing one and cute thing two, winning awards for being the absolute cuddliest dude and dudette moirails. Watch out Karbro, looks like you and I are going to be having some tough competition.” You laugh, and can’t help but letting a honk or two out as well, out of habit. You think Tavros won’t mind too much.
Except that he looks like he does. “Uh, wait…”
You perk your ears and listen like a good motherfucker. Hopefully you won’t say anything else that offends him, because damn, that’s about the last thing you want your good bro to be.
He twists the glob of dough he’s been working on in his hands, and refuses to meet your gaze. His shoulders look so motherfucking tense, it just about makes your veins ache with the need to touch him, just once, and make him feel handsome and confident, just like you know he is, deep down.
“It’s just, that, uh… I kind of wanted something, ahem, more flushed, with… Jade.”
Flushed. He feels flushed for Jade.
You kind of expect your blood-pusher to explode, or maybe to shatter like glass. Instead, it feels like it’s falling, descending quickly through your suddenly empty insides. Vertigo washes over you await the impending impact. The air suddenly feels too thin, too motherfucking thin, you’re going to suffocate, you’re going to black out and hurt someone, you’re going to do something, you have to do something, because you’re just falling and falling and waiting to crash.
What do you do? What do you say? How can you take this clusterfuck of a misunderstanding and pick up the pieces of your heart so you don’t die from the pain?
Wanting nothing more than to cry, to rip something apart (but not Tavbro, never your Tavbro), to rush into the other block where Karkat is waiting and have him hold you so you don’t have to worry about trying not to fall apart… you don’t. You lean against the counter so you don’t lose your balance and force a smile on your face, a great big terrible one that feels so fake that you almost wince.
“Sounds nice, bro,” you say simply.
It isn’t convincing at all, and you know he doesn’t believe you. But… he doesn’t say anything about it. He gives you a smile as fake as your own. He knows you’re flushed for him… how could he not? But he’s not flushed for you. He’s flushed for her.
“Let’s hurry it up,” it’s the only thing you can think of to say, “We wouldn’t want the guests arriving with nothing to eat, would we?”
The force of the impact between blood organ and bottom of gut leaves you dizzy and sore but still, somehow, mercifully, miraculously, sane.
It's kind of odd how the last chapter was mostly sad and yet ended on a happy note, and how this one is kind of the opposite. Poor Gamzee!
The next chapter is going to be the actual meeting, and that one will probably take a long time to write, because I'm planning on it being fairly long. However, (I hope) it will be worth waiting for!
Chapter 8: Chapter Seven
Or, In which Aradia Megido is a witness to the emergency meeting suggested by Vriska and carried out by Karkat at his moirail's hive; features many romantic ndrangles, miscommunications, speeches, and Kanaya being a badass.
Yay! It's finally the meeting.
You decide to arrive early to the emergency meeting. You’ve never been to Gamzee’s hive before, so you’re surprised at how large it is. So this is how highbloods live?
Equius probably lives just as grandly, you realize, and that thought just makes your blood boil. You bet he would love to show off how superior his hive is to you, somehow believing in his nonexistent thinking pan that it would actually impress you instead of making you want to pluck his eyeballs out and shove them down his nutrition tube.
At least Gamzee is modest about having a supposedly greater blood color, despite being even higher on the hemospectrum than Equius. So when you knock at his door, it doesn’t surprise you when Gamzee himself opens it, not sending Karkat or anyone else who’s already there to do it for him.
“Hey, Aradia, what’s up?” Gamzee welcomes you in his usual laidback manner, “It’s been so motherfucking long. I’ve missed you, sis.” He wraps his lengthy arms around you and squeezes.
Well, what the hell? You return the hug because you’re not afraid of Gamzee at all. Karkat already went around and messaged everyone about how they were moirails now and how everything was peachy and no one should treat Gamzee any different than they did before the game. It was kind of endearing, to see your crabby former friendleader get so romantic and protective about someone. Moirallegiance is such a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
But that line of thinking is ahead of its time right now. You came to this meeting because you are on a mission, and you can’t start going off on a mushy-gooey tangent about your current love interest.
“I’ve missed you, too,” you admit, and then swiftly change the subject, “Who’s already here?”
“Just you, me, Karkat, and Tavros right now,” Gamzee answers, his wide juggalo grin neatly showing off all of his sharp troll teeth, “All the other motherfuckers will be here later. And then we can get the real party started. I’ll be a real miracle, sis, having all of us motherfuckers together again. Oh, and Tavros and I made some bitching snacks, too.”
Karkat appears behind his moirail, gives you a tired look, and says simply, “Hey Aradia.”
“Hey Karkat,” you return, bouncing into the hive as soon as Gamzee moves his massive form out of the way. His growth spurt over the last few sweeps has left him a height that almost lets his horns scratch the ceiling. You’re sure that it’s a common enough highblood trait, because all the purple bloods you’ve ever seen (admittedly not many) have been monstrously tall like this. It’s funny, though, because usually they’re also somewhat muscled like Equius, whereas Gamzee is as boney as a skeleton.
“Aradia!” Tavros lights up when he sees you, and comes running over. As old FLARPing partners, the two of you were once quite close friends, and it appears that the many sweeps that have passed in between now and then haven’t made things as awkward between you as they should have.
You run over to embrace him, and it’s so weird and yet also so refreshing that you no longer have to bend down to wrap your arms around him. He’s finally got his real legs back.
“It’s been forever,” Tavros says, and you nod because you feel the same way, too.
You don’t let go of him for a long time, because you know he doesn’t mind like most trolls would, and also because you think he really needs it. His hands are pressed against your back, and he doesn’t make any attempt to move away, so you think your intuition was right.
Finally, the two of you separate, and yeah it’s a little awkward because Karkat is glaring at you, and also because Tavros looks awkward, but that’s just how he always is. But you don’t really care at all, because at least all of you are alive. And you know you are starting to sound like a broken record from all the times you’ve thought that to yourself over the last few days, but it hasn’t stopped being true yet.
“Alright,” Karkat speaks up, clearing his throat. Sometimes you get the impression that Karkat is really uncomfortable with silence, which is why he always speaks so loud. “We have four trolls down, eight fucking more to go. I guess now we just stand around and stare at one another awkwardly until they arrive, or also we can try to force Gamzee’s mystery “miracle snacks” down our windpipes and hope to God that no one gets violently sick all over the floor.”
Gamzee perked up, obviously liking that second option. He grabbed a plate stacked with what appeared to be shortbread cookies, with various dubious-looking globs of something or other stuffed into their mid-sections, which either had caved in for all of them, or had been purposely shaped that way.
You grab one, because whether or not they didn’t exactly look edible, you know that Gamzee has mastered the culinary arts, and you trust him not to give you food poisoning.
It tastes… like a cookie with some sugary blueberry/cranberry paste in the middle. Yum!
You give Gamzee a thumb’s up to show your approval and he laughs. “Motherfucking good, huh,” he asks, “Tavbro helped me make them. Here, try this one here.” He grabs another tray of food and hands you something that appears to be two almond cookies stacked on top one another, with a layer of some rather nauseating-looking brown and purple paste inside. “I call it the PB and J cookie,” he adds, and ah, that’s exactly what it looks like.
Obediently, you try that one as well, and it’s just as delicious as the first. “Tasty,” you comment, “The two of you work really well together.”
To your surprise, this makes Tavros’ face go as brown as the peanut butter you’re licking at.
But to inquiry about whatever he’s blushing about would only make the atmosphere in the room that more awkward, so you make a mental note to figure out what’s going on between Tavros and Gamzee at a later time.
Actually, as the room lapses into silence, you’re not sure anything could make it more awkward. Gamzee, of course, is the only one who seems unaffected by the situation. You start to think about something that you can all discuss, but nothing comes to mind. But then again, there really is nothing to say. There is only one subject on your mind that you want to chat about, and you’re sure the others feel the same way. No amount of small talk will be able to convince anyone any different.
As Karkat said, now all the four of you can do is wait.
The other trolls arrive slowly; first Terezi, and the look on her face is so fierce that you don’t even move to greet her, and then Equius and Nepeta arrive together, hand in hand. Vriska is the eighth to enter the hive, unsurprisingly, and you kind of wonder how she did that. Kanaya appears almost right after Vriska does, and although you had heard she was a rainbow drinker, you nearly flinch when you see her. She glows, for heaven’s sake!
By now the tension in the room has dissipated, and people are catching up with one another, all except for Kanaya and Vriska, who are avoiding one another, and Terezi, who’s avoiding everyone. At first you almost try to skirt around Equius, because this is seriously not the time for his bullshit, but then he looks over at you and nods, and you realize you can’t hide from him like some sort of wriggler.
“Good to see you alive again, I guess,” you say to him in greeting, and Nepeta nearly tackles you to the ground in a hug. You have to laugh at that, “Hi, Nepeta.”
Equius huffs, and oh great, he’s already starting to sweat, and replies, “Hello Aradia. It’s good that I caught you. I hope that you might explain to me the necessity for this meeting? Everyone else that I have asked have given me… the most perplexing responses.”
Oh great. Do you honestly have to think for the both of you? “Equius, everyone is concerned about why we have returned to our home planet. Don’t you remember sgrub?”
Nepeta leans onto her moirail’s arm and blinks her huge now green eyes at you. “But I thought we won the game,” she purrs, “Isn’t that why we’re alive again? Shouldn’t we be happy and celebrating that we’re purrfectly safe and sound, and back with all our furriends?”
“If we really won the game, then where did the humans go?” You point out to them, “If we really won, then why does no one seem to remember winning?”
“What do you mean, nobody remempurrs winning?” Nepeta gasps.
“Well, I’ve talked with Karkat and the others,” you explain, “And none of them have any recollection of a last battle. Don’t you think it’s odd, that even if we did in fact win and their memories were erased, where did all the other players go? We lost our own session. That means we weren’t supposed to be able to get our planet back. So what happened?”
Equius frowns at you, in that way that makes your heart seethe with hatred because he thinks he can talk to you like he knows better than you do, like you’re still just a young grub that needs to be taught everything when really it’s the other way around. “It’s best not to look a gift horsebe—”
“Uhg,” you cut him off with a loud groan, “Shut up with your stupid idioms already. Nobody wants to listen to you speak.”
Nepeta steps in between the two of you, obviously wanting to stop the inevitable fight, and addresses Equius as she says, “You have to admit, Eq, it is mighty suspicious. And I would be very sad if anything had happened to the humans. They were so nice, don’t you think? In fact, I really thought that I was becoming furriends with the one named Jade!”
This time, it’s Nepeta that Equius is frowning at. Sometimes you wonder why Nepeta even puts up with him. The way he treats her can be downright despicable at times. You would never be so bossy to someone you were pale for.
“Just think about it,” you snarl at Equius, and abscond before you can do anything else. That man pisses you off to no end, and you’d really like nothing more than to goad him into a fight, but this is neither the time nor the place for that sort of nonsense. The humans are counting on you, if they even still exist any longer. But you’re sure they do because otherwise where the hell would they be, anyway? In any case, black flirtation can be saved for later.
You rejoin Tavros in the corner of the block. He seems to be watching Vriska with a mournful look on his face. The idea kind of makes your blood boil.
“Do you still have feelings for her?” You decide just to ask him bluntly.
He just about jumps out of his skin, and then blushes when he realizes you caught him staring.
“Uh, well, maybe,” he answers you, but low under his breath so no one can overhear the two of you speaking, “Except, the thing is, I’m not really sure, what perhaps it is I feel, towards her. Black didn’t really, uh, work out, all that well, so maybe I’m still flushed for her, but, I don’t know, not for sure. I didn’t mind it so much when it was ashen, our relationship, I mean, but, I don’t think Kanaya really wants to be our auspistice any longer, which is kind of sad.”
You nod. “You just want her in any quadrant then, huh?”
“Uh! Well, uh, maybe, I don’t know, that kind of makes me sound, a little bit, desperate,” Tavros stutters, blushing even deeper.
“It’s nothing to feel ashamed about,” you remind him, placing a hand on his wrist, “When you truly care about someone, it’s only right that you’d be willing to have them be a part of your life no matter what. It’s really sweet that you want her to be in the quadrant that is the best fit for her!”
“Oh, when you put it that way, it does sound… nice,” Tavros grins at you sheepishly, but his newfound good mood doesn’t last more than a couple of seconds. “It’s just, I don’t actually think, that she wants me in any quadrant, now. She hasn’t really spoken, at all, with me ever since we came back, from the dead, I guess, it’s kind of, um, disheartening.”
Well you’ve never been one to be disheartened, and so you tell Tavros, “Don’t you worry! I’m sure everything will turn out just fine.”
Tavros looks at you, intrigued. “Oh, do the dead still, um, talk to you?”
“Actually, they’ve been really quiet,” you admit, which is kind of frightening because it leaves you blind in a way that you’ve never been before, but you won’t dwell on that type of thinking, “But I have this feeling that everything will be okay.”
“Oh, okay. Then I’m sure, that maybe, things will be okay.”
You smile at him and nudge him, and that coaxes out a smile back from him. Then the two of you lapse into a comfortable silence as both of you return to your own thoughts.
Three more trolls have yet to arrive, and as fate would have it, one of them is the troll you most want to see. Having Sollux alive and standing in front of you again is the only thing that you would ask the universe for, and you’re so anxious you can hardly stand still.
At last, another knock comes at the door, and you bounce over quickly as Gamzee opens it.
But it’s only Eridan, looking like his usual, pain-in-the-ass self. “W-well, hello Gamz,” he speaks with that wavy accent of his, which, even after getting used to, still manages to sound ridiculous, “I’m sorry that I’m late. I hope you didn’t get started w-without me.”
Vriska’s laugh is so loud it cuts through all conversation. “Like we would wait for you,” she chortles at him, “but lucky for you, you’re not nearly as fashionably late as you probably planned on being. That was your intention, wasn’t it? You wanted to be the last troll to the party and make a huge entrance? Better luck next time.”
Eridan starts to sputter back a retort, but Vriska has already turned away, ignoring him. You almost feel bad for the sea-dweller, and then think better of it.
He did blind Sollux, after all.
You slink off back to the corner with Tavros and glare at nothing in particular. Now, only Feferi and Sollux are left and—
Oh no. What if they’re coming together? You never thought of that before, but now it’s starting to make sense. You had heard that the two of them had become quite friendly lately, but you never even considered the fact that maybe they were filling a quadrant.
And just then, as if to justify your fears, a final knock comes at the door, and Sollux and Feferi stroll in—
And they’re holding hands! You think you can actually hear the shattering sound that your heart makes when you realize that your dear Sollux is…
Well, it only makes sense, you quickly remind yourself. It wasn’t as if the two of you were ever officially a thing, and after you died, obviously he was allowed to move on. And what troll could resist Feferi? She was the heiress, for goodness sake! She was an honest-to-goodness princess! Everything about Feferi practically screamed royalty and class. Plus with her long tresses of especially soft sea-dweller hair that brushed the ground as she walked, her friendly smiles and slender swimmer physique… what could Sollux do but surrender to her charms?
Now you just feel stupid for not figuring it out sooner.
But you are determined to be a good sport, so you trek over to where they are and smile. It seems like Sollux was looking for you, too, because as soon as he catches sight of you, he grins from ear to ear. “Hi AA,” he greets you, “Long time no thee.”
“Hey,” Feferi adds, and you notice that she grips Sollux’s hand even tighter, “Isn’t this reel EXCITING? All week, I just couldn’t wait to come here and sea everybody again.” But even as she talks, she’s not looking at you. Her eyes are sweeping the room, and it’s hard to tell what she’s thinking because they’re hidden behind those goggles of hers.
“How hath life been treating you?” Sollux asks you.
“Oh, wonderful,” you reply, “It’s so nice to be alive again. Well, alive again for the second time. I really hope that was my last time dying. I’m kind of getting really sick of it, you know?”
Sollux chortles at that, that adorable little “ehehe” that he likes to do.
You kind of wish Sollux would hug you, but he doesn’t, so you start to feel kind of awkward again. This wasn’t how you wanted this to go.
“Um,” you start, and mentally kick yourself for sounding like Tavros, because there’s no need to feel this weird, it’s still Sollux, “well, you’re the last two to arrive, so we can probably start the meeting pretty soon! Gamzee and Tavros made snacks, also, if you—”
Out of the blue, Feferi suddenly growls low and feral. “There he is!” She hisses at Sollux, pointing with her arm. You follow her finger, and realize she’s pointing at…
Eridan. Of course. This is another thing you should have seen coming.
Feferi’s trident unsheathes from her strife specibus, and before you can blink, she’s charging across the room at her ex-moirail, letting out an ancient Alternian battle cry.
“Feferi, no,” you lung after her, but something grabs you from behind.
You look over your shoulder at Sollux, and as soon as you see the flicker of red and blue energy dancing behind his shades you recognize the all-too-familiar feel of psionic energy being wrapped around your shoulders and waist.
“Thorry,” is all Sollux says.
“What are you doing?!” You scream back at him, “Don’t you understand why we’re here? This isn’t the time for grudge matches! Let me go! Sollux!”
Sollux gives you an apologetic look. “No can do, AA.”
You hear a scream, and turn to see that Eridan is now in a fighting stance of his own, his Ahab Crosshairs pointed straight at the Heiress’ face. The two are circling one another, both with fangs bared. They growl at one another, low warning sounds to try to provoke the other into making a first move. Eridan is the one who complies. He lunges forward as if to shoot, but Feferi leaps out of the way before he can even pull the trigger. But instead of fighting back, Feferi just continues to circle Eridan, snarling and obviously searching for an easy weak point. You realize with terror that this is no matter of black flirtation. They mean to kill one another.
The whole room is quiet, stunned by the display of the fighting of two powerful sea-dwellers.
Feferi moves next, slicing at Eridan as she screams a long wordless vowel that has no meaning but to convey her purely platonic hatred and rage. She catches him across his flank, not deep enough to be lethal, but enough to make him bleed violet.
It must hurt, but Eridan does nothing but dodge out of the way, stabbing his harpoon at Feferi half-heartedly, just to force her to stumble back.
“Feferi, no, stop,” you hear yourself beg, “It isn’t worth it.”
You round on Sollux again, and snap, “Sollux, let me go! This isn’t the game anymore! You can’t let them kill each other! We just came back to life, dammit!”
Surprisingly, Sollux’s face melts into a miserable expression. “Thith ith FF’s right,” he tries to explain to you, but you have no idea what he’s on about. Feferi is going to kill Eridan. Can’t he see that? And yeah, Eridan was kind of a jackass, and he betrayed everyone, but that was sweeps ago, and besides, you have more important problems right now!
Thankfully, you’re not the only troll in the room who seems to know this.
“What the ever-loving fuck are the two of you nook-spittle-for-brains doing?!” You turn again to see your former leader jump in between the two sparring royals. “You two are going to settle the fuck down right now. We are so not going to even start this!”
Feferi gets right into his face. “This isn’t your concern,” she says, her voice all void of mortality.
And then, honest to God, she shoves him out of the way, literally tearing her claws into his shoulder, yanking him up, and throwing him half-way across the room.
Almost frozen, you watch as Karkat skids and tumbles across the floor.
“Fuck,” he swears, putting up a hand to instinctively cover up the color of his mutated blood, even though everyone in the hive has already seen it.
Then, a loud sound just blares around the respiteblock, resonating off the walls and shaking the ceiling, so obnoxiously piercing that it makes your auditory openings ring. You curse, but you can’t even hear yourself, and wonder what the hell that was.
And then, so quickly, but it feels so slow, it clicks.
What you had heard was a honk.
Gamzee leaps over his moirail’s body, and thunders another piercing honk at Feferi. His back is bent, his eyes wild, and with a wince you realize he doesn’t even look like a troll anymore.
He slashes at the princess, but she blocks it with her trident, if rather clumsily. She backs up, Gamzee approaching her from the front, and Eridan from the side. But even Eridan looks scared, because the ancestry of the Grand Highblood is all too easy to see now, showing through the young troll’s vicious smile, which despite turning his lips upwards, has nothing to do with joy.
“Gamzee…” Karkat’s voice is eerily quiet, but you hear him very clearly, of account of how deadly silent everyone has gotten.
Everyone in the respiteblock is afraid now, you notice. They’re all watching Gamzee, the Bard of Rage, move almost agonizingly slow towards Feferi, a feral rumble of a growl coming from his throat. When Feferi holds up her trident again in self-defense, Gamzee hisses through his clenched fangs, the whistling sound coming out almost terrifyingly, grotesquely, ironically… humorous.
Karkat moves to stand up, but he’s still on the ground, wounded and sore, and too slow.
Gamzee shoots forward, as quick as an arrow let loose from its bow, right at Feferi. He leaps right on top of her, his talon-like fingers digging into her neck.
“No!” Sollux, Eridan, Karkat and Tavros all scream as one.
They all rush forward towards the out-of-control troll, but because of his close proximity, Tavros is the one who gets to Gamzee first. He reaches out and touches his friend’s arm.
Fast enough to give Tavros whiplash, Gamzee responds immediately to the touch, hurling Tavros backwards as he lets out an almost startled whine. You watch in horror, still held back by Sollux, as your friend’s body soars through the air and crashes with a loud, fierce snap into a table, knocking it and all the food on it over onto the floor.
“Gamzee, no!” Karkat screeches, a sound of heartbreak. Out of the corner of your eye, you see him rush to his moirail in a blur of gray, but you’re no longer watching them.
“Let me go,” you command Sollux, your voice nostalgically robotic.
But your demand is unneeded. Sollux is already rushing towards Feferi, who has retreated into a corner, clutching her bleeding neck.
You rush to Tavros, kneeling down beside him. He’s flailing, and you have a sudden flashback to when you found him like this, so many sweeps ago, after Vriska had forced him off that cliff. Murky tears are in his eyes and he’s screaming and you don’t even listen to the words he’s saying.
“Stay still,” you demand, “Let me see if you’ve broken something.”
He does as he’s told, but he continues his nonsensical babbling, gripping to your shirt with his claws like a newborn wriggler, talking so fast he starts cutting his tongue on his teeth.
You only have a little bit of medical knowledge, but you milk it for all it’s worth. You start with his feet and work up, poking and prodding gingerly to see if he has any serious injuries. Tuning out his voice starts becoming harder and harder as it rises in volume.
“What?” You ask, realizing that he’s been talking to you.
“I’m not p-paralyzed again, am I?” Tavros sobs and chokes, his eyes so filled with translucent brown tears that you can’t even see them. “Aradia, p-please tell me I, that I’m not…”
Your heart wrenches. But no, there’s no way the universe is that cruel.
“Can you feel this?” You ask, rolling up a pant leg and digging a claw furiously into his skin. You don’t even try to be gentle; that isn’t what he wants. For a millisecond you almost thing that yes, yes he’s paralyzed because he’s not responding. Then you realize you haven’t even seen the blood start to pool out yet, it’s as if time had frozen, and then his brown blood IS actually spilling, pooling around your finger, which is still dug into his leg.
“Ow, fuck!” Time unfreezes itself and Tavros yelps and it’s the best thing you’ve ever heard. You press your face into his little fluff of Mohawk and cry.
Then crying becomes laughing and the two of you are pulling back and smiling at one another.
It’s almost funny, you think, how some of the most important moments in your life can happen and be over with within mere seconds.
But, you quickly learn, the moment isn’t over yet.
“—oosh, Gamzee, shoosh, calm down,” you start to become aware of Karkat’s voice as he almost violently shooshpaps his pale-love back into compliancy. By the frantic tone, you suspect that maybe it’s a losing battle.
“This is unacceptable,” another voice, which you easily recognize as belonging to Equius, cuts in, “I was assured that the highblood’s lunacy was no longer an issue of safety.”
“Equius,” Karkat’s pleading is almost a pitiful whimper, “This isn’t the time.”
You and Tavros both glance over, to get a better picture of the terrible scene taking place in the middle of the respiteblock.
Gamzee is still tense, holding his offensive position, but now Karkat has his hands dug into the fabric on one of his moirail’s sleeves. It’s not nearly enough to hold Gamzee back physically, but somehow just Karkat’s presence is helping to keep him grounded.
Equius is approaching them from the side, his own moirail standing under his arm, looking uncertain but determined to be involved somehow.
Feferi and Eridan are still watching one another out of the corner of their eyes, but have seized their battle for the moment being. Sollux is standing over Feferi, but is keeping a safe distance away from her, his glasses in his hands, apparently ready to intervene if he needs to.
All the other trolls have backed up against the walls, watching with the almost instinctual savage fascination that has always drawn your species to violence.
“Your blatant lies have exposed you for the traitor you are,” Equius snarls as he takes another step towards Karkat, “Gamzee is obviously too dangerous to be allowed to continue living. I believe that your feelings for him have clouded your judgment, lowblood, and I insist that you allow me to execute him before he causes any more trouble.”
“Equius!” Nepeta squeals, and takes his hand swiftly.
Karkat whirls on Equius, still holding Gamzee in place. “Are you out of your fucking mind,” he sneers, nearly quivering like a rabid beast, “You have got to be shitting me right now. No one is going to get fucking culled today! Equius, back the fuck off or I swear to God that I will personally make you a noose out of one of your own disgustingly sweaty used towels, and I will end your life so quickly that you won’t even have time to enjoy it. So go back to being creepy and useless for one flying shit of a moment while I calm Gamzee the fuck down. That’s a fucking order, all for free, just for you. You can even get off on it if that’s what tickles your fucked-up, repentant ass.”
Red is starting to mist up the edges of your vision, as Equius takes another, determined step. “I’m afraid that I cannot submit to you,” he says firmly, “but you are no longer my leader, Karkat. I am currently eight sweeps, but I will be turning nine shortly, the age of an adult troll, and besides, you no longer have any authority over me. I must act for the best of all the underage trolls in the area, including you, by eradicating the highblood, who unfortunately is a disgrace of his position. For safety to be insured, Gamzee must die. It is now clear to everyone in the respiteblock that he has neither the stability nor the grace to be able to function within society. Please, understand me Karkat, when I tell you that eradicating him at this point would be an act of mercy. It gives me no pleasure to admit thus.”
“Like hell it does!”
It takes you a moment to realize that the last speaker was you.
Equius is watching you now, and the anger that drove you to interrupt comes right back. It’s about time that you give that bastard a piece of your mind. “Are you really so eager to cheat on me? It’s so refreshing to know that our blackrom means so much to you. Or are you really so embarrassed to be sharing a quadrant with a “peasantblood”? Everything about you disgusts me!”
“Aradia, that’s not what’s going on,” he tries to defend himself, but you can tell he’s lying, because the blue is rushing to his face faster than his beloved hooved muscle beasts, “I am trying to protect the interests of our friends, mainly to have a safe place where we can discuss important matters.”
“Like hell that’s what you’re thinking about!” You can see right through his little charade; you doubt there is a being in the entire universe more loathsome than this man. “I heard how they found your body after your murder. They said that there was a smile on your face! It’s nauseating, imagining that you were aroused just by the thought of having your life taken by a man higher on the hemospectrum than you. I bet you were really happy knowing that he was finally acting the part appropriate for his position! Did you beg him to kill you slower… to make it more painful?”
You pause, but only long enough to hear him stutter incoherently to your accusations, unable to deny the claims that are being made against him.
“Do you know the vilest thing about you, Equius? It’s not your insane obsession with a blood caste system that is a complete bygone, nor the long list of all your sexual vices, which include every single disturbing fetish known to Alternia. It’s not even the fact that your entire body reeks of testosterone and overly musky body odor, which makes you smell like a horse, or the fact that you probably took that last comment as a compliment. It’s the fact that somehow in your screwed up cranium you believe that you’re supposed to hate me, because of my low station, and love Gamzee, because of his high station. But do you? No, you can’t even do that right, and it kills you. It absolutely fucking kills you. The only reason you think you hate me is because that’s how you think it should be, but deep down, it’s you that you hate, for actually having red feelings for a “rustblood”. You’re not black for me. No, you are black for Gamzee. Don’t try to deny it! You are as black as oil for Gamzee, so of course you just about jump in joy at the chance to finally get your slimy over-sized fingers on him.
“And you know what the worse part about this all is? You’re too busy sweating to even attempt to make a half-convincing argument against me.” You’re right, too. He’s using his own shirt to wipe the perspiration off of his forehead, and it makes you want to vomit.
Nepeta takes a cautious step towards you. “Aradia,” she murmurs, “Purrhaps it’s not my place but I feel that I mewst remind you that this isn’t the best time.”
“No! No, I am tired of waiting for this to resolve itself,” you cut over her, “I am at the end of my rope, and I’m sick of our blackrom being one-sided. If you’re not strong enough to make yourself hate me, Equius, I’ll just have to do it myself.”
You skip formality and go straight for his beefy, sweaty throat.
Nepeta leaps right back at you, letting out a warning hiss that sends a jolt of apprehension down your spine. Cute and small as she is, being the shortest of all the trolls, she is nevertheless threatening, and you would like to avoid a fight with her. There’s a high chance that she’s not just bluffing, either; her claws have already been unsheathed from her specibus.
“I don’t want to hurt you, but I am murr than willing to fight you to purrtect my meowrail,” Nepeta says, her voice as gravelly as the growl rumbling in her chest.
“This isn’t your fight!” You remind her, but you only keep one eye on her. The other you keep focused on your kismesis, daring him to make another move at Gamzee. All he has to do is take one more step forward, and you will beat him so hard he’ll never be able to hate anyone more than he will loathe and despise you. You’ll remind him why he’s supposed to be black for you and only you.
Nepeta lets out another, louder hiss, and you snap your attention back to her. “Weren’t you the one who purrposed that we stop fighting in the first place?” She talks to persuade you, as if to try to bring you out of some sort of blind rage. “Try to think clearly, Aradia!”
“I am thinking clearly! And right now, I’m thinking I want to snap Equius’ head clear off his neck.” Okay, so maybe that won’t help your argument any, but you like the way your words make said man flinch.
“What the fuck has gotten into everybody today?” That’s Karkat, and he sounds even more pissed-off than usual, apparently too shocked at seeing perfectly normal troll behavior to go off one of his sarcastic rants. “Gamzee, no, calm down!”
Gamzee reacts to his moirail’s stress like a fire does to being doused in gasoline.
“FUCK ALL THESE MOTHERFUCKERS,” he trills, his voice so high it’s painful just to pick out what he’s trying to say, “I’m the MOTHERFUCKING HIGHBLOOD HONK honk and they call all DIE! I want to… I want to… I MOTHERFUCKING WANT TO cull them all!”
“Gamzee, shoosh, don’t talk like that.”
“Karkat, I beseech you, allow me to settle this properly,” your kismesis practically begs, and the needy, lustful desperation in his voice nearly triggers your gag reflex.
You taunt Nepeta, who still stands in your way. “Get out of the way, pussy-cat, or fight me.”
You almost consider the oldest of desperate black flirtations, which is to beat up a kismesis’ moirail, but though you hate Equius with a nauseating, burning passion, you have no quarrel with his palemate.
“I would never abandon my meowrail,” Nepeta returns, “So I guess I’ll fight.”
Now she’s calling your bluff, and this gives you pause. You can tell that the whole room is very quickly about to turn into a bloodbath. Do you really want to beat the crap out of Equius? Of course you do. But are you willing to gamble the one chance you have at getting the humans back? There’s no question there. There was never a reason to ask at all.
Wordlessly, you back off. Normally, this would be the most shameful of moves, but Nepeta understands. She gives you a grateful nod and uncoils from her strife stance.
“God, someone, tell me what the fuck I ever did to deserve this,” you hear Karkat say.
Vriska, of all people, steps forward to answer him. “Well, you were the one who thought it was a good idea to bring us all together in the first place,” she laughed, “Even though I was the one who came up with the plan, you still went along with it. And on top of that, you actually believed that everyone could get together in peace. You’ve been around the humans waaay too long, Karkat.”
She pauses like the drama diva she is, waiting for everyone to have their eyes and ears trained on her, before she continues, “What did you expect, after all? There’s a reason that trolls generally only communicate via the computer… especially now that some of us are already nine, or turning nine soon. As adult trolls, we are going to be leaving Alternia soon, off to conquer distant planets in the name of our people, each alone save for the trolls from the quadrants we have managed to fill. Unfortunately, because of that game, none of us have filled up as many quadrants as we should have by this age, which is why it’s only natural for us to fight amongst ourselves until we all settle comfortably into stable relationships with one another.
“So, as you can plainly see, Karkat, we are a race of instinct, of anger and bloodlust,” Vriska is very near preaching at this point, “Why, it’s only expected for us to fall to our oldest of dispositions, carry on the most customary of troll traditions, the same behaviors that have been specially bred into our kind as to prepare us for sgrub in the first place. What are we, but a pack of beasts that will cling to any old ritual if it helps us to feel more at ease?”
Terezi, who has been oddly distant through this entire charade, steps forward. “And what do you mean by all that? What’s the point in painting such a biased opinion of the limitations of our self-control? I don’t think I have to remind you that you’re certainly one to talk!”
Vriska gives her full attention to her former scourge sister. “What? Are you saying I’m calling the kettle black, just because of my instinctive drive to take the lives of my neighbors, in some sort of vengeful spite against your treacherous murder of my lusus? Ha! As if I give a shit about any of that. Do I have to be the one to remind you that the Vriska who committed those crimes wasn’t me? Oh, I’m sure that if we had never entered sgrub, that’s exactly what would have happened, but as for the alpha Vriska, the one who did go through that game, and fought and died beside all of you… well, my hands are clean.”
“Clean?” That was Eridan, and he turns from his stare-down with Feferi to snarl at Vriska. “Oh that’s a laugh,” he sneers, “Wris, you’re just as guilty as I am… an’ Gamz, too. You may not have killed the trolls that liwed here on Alternia, but you killed many in the game. So don’t go tryin’ to make yourself sound more ciwilized or anythin’, ‘cause you’re not. W-what I w-want to know-w is, w-why do Gamz an’ I get the third degree, w-while Wris gets to w-walk aw-way scotch free. Out of all of us, I w-would say that Wris is the most hateful.” He points his harpoon gun at Vriska and adds, “perhaps the tw-wo of us should fight an’ see who the w-worthier one to continue liwin’ is.”
You feel the air crackling with Sollux’s psionic energy, and turn to look at him.
“Alright, firtht of all,” he speaks low, but his the echoes of his words carry in an almost supernatural way, “You do not get a chance to live, period. There ith no thenario where you get to thurive until adulthood. Thecond of all, I can’t believe that you’re actually tho dethperate that you’re actually thtill trying to ignite thome long-dead rivalry with your ex-kithmethith. In anyone hath the right to take your life, it’th FF or me. What happened between you, FF and I hath nothing to do with her. Honethtly, ED, you’re tho pathetic, and not even in a likable way.”
Vriska lets out a loud hoot. “Oh wow, now that’s calling the kettle black,” she chortles, “and I’m talking about caliginous black. Sollux, I didn’t know you wanted Eridan in your quadrants so badly… and even after he took your girlfriend’s life… wow, that’s tragic.”
“It’th nothing like that!”
“Oh, yeah,” Vriska continues to taunt him, “I’m sure it isn’t. Is that why you let Feferi go after him instead of taking him on yourself? Are you too afraid that your black feelings will come back? Are you afraid you’ll become like Equius over there, getting off on taking Eridan’s life?”
Sollux’s face goes nearly golden. “Thcrew you, Vrithka,” he snaps back at her, “Thtop getting involved in thingth that are none of your buthineth!”
“I do believe that you’re the first person that would willing take Eridan in a quadrant who was turned down by him,” Vriska doesn’t heed his warning, and just plows right on, “Ever stop to wonder what that says about you, Sollux?”
“I thaid shut up!” Sollux’s red and blue energy lashes out at her, lashing her across the torso like you’ve seen troll Indiana Jones’ whip do, and sending her flying into the wall.
She lands on her feet, albeit shakily, but to your surprise, she doesn’t move to fight back.
“See,” she says instead, turning to Karkat, “This is exactly what I was talking about. It seems that some trolls just don’t have the restraint I do. Maybe spending the last couple of sweeps in that stupid game rotted out whatever was left of our civility. Congratulations, Doc Scratch, we have now become exactly what you’ve always wanted us to be: fighting machines, devoid of all rational thought, beasts that act on intuition and emotion alone. We can’t even gather in a room together for one afternoon before we start clawing at one another in a frantic attempt to fill as many quadrants as we can.”
This… gives you pause. You glance over at Equius and his moirail. Were you seriously about to consider fighting Nepeta just to get your obnoxious high-blooded kismesis’ attention?
You think the other trolls are thinking similar things; they are all avoiding each other’s eyes.
“That was… revoltingly out of character for you,” Terezi notes, baring her teeth at the other troll, “Now why are you suddenly the troll saint of peaceful communication? I don’t believe for one second that you don’t have some sort of alternative motive for bringing us all here.”
Vriska grins back at her. “My, my,” she coos, “What is this? Do I have two trolls with smoldering black feelings for me now? Aren’t I just Miss Popular?”
“This has nothing to do with romance or quadrants,” Terezi returns, “This is about upholding justice, and knowing you far too well to be duped into thinking that you have all our best interests in your blood-pumping organ. If it was really your idea to have all of us here, then surely you mean to manipulate us all into one of your nefarious campaigns, one of which serve little purpose other than to humiliate all of us, just so that you can best satisfy your own selfish needs?”
For this entire spectacle, Kanaya has been standing in the background, thoughtfully surveying the room and listening to the different threads of disagreements. Now, she steps forward between Vriska and Terezi, her glowing skin almost too bright to look upon.
“Terezi, let Vriska talk,” Kanaya advises, “Give her a moment to explain herself, and if her explanations are unsatisfactory, then you can have your way with her.”
It seems that Terezi finds this acceptable, and so she steps back.
Vriska steps forward once more, smiling with all her spider fangs. “I’d admit it; I have my reasons for wanting everyone here,” she begins, her voice smooth and dangerous, “but, that’s nothing for anyone to worry about. What I want is one and the same as what you want, Terezi.”
That was apparently the wrong thing to say. Terezi springs at Vriska, snarling, “And what do you know of what I want?” Kanaya barely manages to catch her in time before her claws tear anything.
The tension in the room is so thick now that you can feel it against your skin, almost like goose-bumps.
In the background, you can hear that Gamzee is still honking, but they’re gradually becoming more half-hearted, less aggressive and more remorseful. Karkat’s shooshing, on the other hand, has only increased in tempo, and it does quite a bit to alleviate the stress knot in your stomach.
Besides the two of them, though, the block is surprisingly silent. However, instead of being a comfort, it only makes everything seem that more edgy.
“Okay,” Kanaya finally speaks again, “This is how everything is going to work. We’re going to have a meeting, just like we planned on. No one is getting culled. Vriska, Eridan, and Gamzee are all responsible for murder. However, each and every one of them has already died for their crimes. Culling them again at this point will be regarded as murder. Is that right, Karkat?”
Karkat pulls halfway out of Gamzee’s embrace to give Kanaya an affirming nod.
“Therefore, I declare all three of them to be forgiven of their crimes. Now, the four of us who survived the game will conduct the meeting in the middle of the block. Everyone else, please stand in a semi-circle in front of us. Um… perhaps Gamzee will prefer to sit out, if he is still feeling off?” She now looks over at Gamzee, whose face is covered by his hair. You think it’s probably out of shame.
“I, uh, he can come stand with me,” Tavros volunteers, to everyone’s surprise. Well, except for yours. You always knew Tavros was stronger than the others make him out to be.
A look of relief spreads over Karkat’s face. “Gamzee,” he coos, in a voice thick with so many pale undertones that you almost feel like you’re invading on something private, “Do you want to go stand by Tavros? You can always join us in the middle later if you feel up to it.” He leans his face into that mass of unruly hair and listens to his moirail’s murmured answer. “Yeah, that sounds great, Gamzee,” Karkat replies to whatever Gamzee said, “And yeah, I… pity you, too, you shitty nook-stain of a moirail.”
Slowly, the two detangle themselves from one another. Gamzee ambles over to stand beside Tavros, but otherwise makes no indication that he acknowledges the other troll. Karkat is already in the middle of the block, so he waits for Kanaya and Terezi to join him. Kanaya moves first.
“Terezi, if you would,” Karkat says.
She makes a small nod and joins the other two. “Alright,” she starts barking out orders almost as if it’s become second nature to her, “Feferi and Sollux, go stand by Aradia. Equius and Nepeta, join Eridan on his side of the room. Vriska, stay away from Tavros. Take a place in between Equius and Aradia.”
You feel your blood-pusher pick up speed as Sollux and his new matesprit move towards you, but you try not to let it show in your face. Instead, you give them a friendly nod.
“Good,” Karkat acknowledges everyone following Terezi’s commands with a distinctly Karkat-like snort, “Well, wasn’t that lots of fun? How about we skip the drama about trying to tear each other’s heads off part next time? Does that sound like an easy request to all of you? Am I asking for too fucking much here or something when I expect that you’ll all conduct yourselves like decent wrigglers instead of shitting everything up again? Yes? Good. Let’s move on before I get another fucking migraine.
“Um… okay. Rules… it looks like we’re going to need some rules, because everyone here has lost all but their last shred of sanity and rational thought. So here are the rules. Also, please take into consideration, if any of you have enough of a think pan left to be able to consider anything at all, that anyone who breaks any of the rules can suck my nook.”
Kanaya takes a tube of lipstick out of her pocket and adds, “And if that isn’t enough to convince everyone,” she adds, “Anyone who refuses to suck his nook can kiss my chainsaw.”
No one responds, which seems satisfactory enough for them.
“Rule number one,” Karkat spits, “Fucking no fucking culling anyone. I know we already went over this, but here’s another gentle reminder. From now on, we all are the best of buddies. Imagine we’re still in the game. If one of us dies, the whole game is lost, and we all fucking die. So do yourself a favor and respect each other’s right to live. I am not shitting about this. If any one of us loses their life, even if it isn’t at the hands of one of us, you will all be held responsible. Got it? For the love of whatever godforsaken deity that you might still have made the mistake of believing in, despite the fact that the whole fucking universe seems to have it in for us, don’t break this rule.”
“Rule number two,” Kanaya continues, “Only one of us can talk at a time. For the most part, Terezi, Karkat and I will be the only speakers. If anyone else has something to say, raise your hand. We may or not call on you to voice your opinions.”
Tentatively, Nepeta raises her hands into the air.
Karkat sighs. “What is it, Nepeta?”
“Not that I am purrtesting, beclaws I think it’s pawsitively adorable, but why are we raising our paws when we wish to speak?”
“It’s a human tradition,” Kanaya explains eagerly, “in order to keep peace within a group. They will have a designated speaker, or leader of the conversation, while everyone else will only raise their hands if and when they have something to contribute. Also, you need only raise one hand.”
Sollux raises one of his hands and lisps, “You guyth have thpent way too much time with the humanth.”
“Also,” Karkat adds, interrupting Sollux before he can say anything more, “you have to wait until one of us calls your name before speaking. Wait your time, Sollux, and next time try to think of something to say that’s actually somewhat fucking constructive, if that’s even possible.” He pauses a moment, and then adds thoughtfully, “Last rule is this. We need to stay on topic. Therefore, whenever you are allowed a moment to speak, say it quickly as possible. Is everyone okay with this, even though I don’t know why I’m even asking, it’s not like I’m giving you a chance in hell to argue. Don’t speak; just nod your head if you understand the shit I’m saying.”
You nod, and as you glance around the room, you notice that everyone else does, too, although some seem a bit more hesitant about it than others. Equius, you also notice, has begun to perspire all over again, but you put that out of your mind quickly.
“Well would you look at that,” Karkat growls, “It seems that you haven’t all turned into bulge-munching zombies… no offense to the real undead troll in the immediate area.”
Terezi coughs, indicating that she’d like to have her turn. Karkat nods at her, and she moves to stand in front of him. “Before any of you ask any questions,” she says, “I just want to say that I know exactly what it is you all want to ask. You all want to know why we’re even having a meeting in the first place. After all, we’re come back from the dead, are alive and out of the game. I guess this is where we pat ourselves on the backs and say congratulations?”
You hope you’re not the only one who’s confused.
“It’s another human thing, okay?” Karkat snaps angrily, “Will you stop looking at us like we’re the ones who lost our minds? We spent sweeps fighting beside one another. It was so fucking inevitable that we would have our cultures rub off on one another that I’m only mildly surprised that my bulge-licker of a past self didn’t even see it coming like the obvious course of action that it was.”
“Culture exchanges aside,” Terezi continues, her voice so cold you almost want to wonder whether or not if it’s really her at all, “we have a more pressing problem at the moment. We may have won the game, but our human partners are nowhere in sight.”
Sollux raises his hand, and after a huff, Karkat calls his name. “Okay, tho what? They’re probably back on their own planet, thafe and thound.”
“Hey, ass-wipe,” Karkat retorts, “Thanks for that wonderful yet obvious first conclusion to jump to. But if you don’t remember, we were the ones who created Earth in the first fucking place, through sgrub. And so what I really want to know, fuckass, is whether or not they even exist if the game reset itself as if it never even fucking happened.”
You look at your old friend, and he frowns. “Well, when you put it like that,” he finally answers, “there ith no real way to know. My betht gueth would be that they do exitht. Either way, it’th not like we’re likely to thee them again—”
“Okay, see, this is my fucking problem,” Karkat cuts him off sharply, “That’s not a possibility. I refuse to accept that that is an actual fucking possibility. The humans have to exist, and we have to find them.”
In your peripheral vision, you see Equius raise his hand cautiously.
“Yes, sweat-stain,” Karkat fixes your kismesis with a glare that almost stirs up envy within you, but then you remind yourself that that’s just the way Karkat looks at anyone who pisses him off, “Do you actually have something to contribute, or are you going to be useless as per usual?”
“First of all, I would like to say that I believe the name-calling is unnecessarily lewd,” Equius replies with his customary dictation, “And secondly, I have a question to propose.”
“The game is over, yes? In that case, I do not see why we would consider finding the humans as an essential course of action. If they do exist, it stands to reason that they are safe and back on their home planet, and do not require our assistance. Nor do we have any more need of their assistance. What I mean to say, or rather, my question is this: Why must we seek the humans?”
That’s the big question, isn’t it? You know the answer already, and you also know that there’s a fifty-fifty chance that the other trolls just won’t understand. Anxiously, you hold your breath.
Karkat, Kanaya and Terezi glance at one another, as if not sure if they want to answer.
“Look, it’s like this,” Kanaya finally says, “The humans… well, we fought beside them. They may be safe and sound, but then again, they might not be. It’s only customary that we make an effort to know for certain whether or not they’re even…” She stops, becoming uncharacteristically choked.
“It wasn’t supposed to fucking end like this, okay?” Karkat picks up where she left off, becoming angry where she became somber, “We were supposed to create a new world with the humans. We didn’t even get a chance to choose our prize. Or if we did, I don’t remember shit about it. And that’s another thing. I don’t even know for certain we even won! It was so quick, it’s almost as if… it was way too fucking easy, is what it was! And what sort of fucking shit of a prize is this, anyway? Are we just going to continue where we left off, pretending that sgrub never even fucking happened? That we never even met the humans at all? I don’t know about the rest of you, but there’s no way in troll hell or human hell that I’m ever going to just lay back like some sort of fucking corpse and let the universe decide whatever the fuck it wants to do with me.
“I had you all come here with the hope that maybe, just fucking maybe, one of you would platonically pity me enough to help me track down those bastard humans and figure out what we’re supposed to be doing now. Yeah, I said it. Fuck me, okay? Just fuck me because I’m practically begging you guys. Fuck my honor and all my self-esteem. This is what the game has done to me. This is what the game has done to all of us. You guys may have come back to life, all shiny and new, but we didn’t. We had to keep on fighting while you guys slept the nights and days away in your own fucking dream bubbles. We beat the game and we came out triumphant. Triumphant and so fucking tired and feeling like shit. Judge me if that’s what tickles your fancy, but you know what? I don’t give a fuck. The amounts of fucks I give is equivalent to the amount of humanity the universe possesses, which is to say not one little fucking drop of humanity. So pick your jaws up off the floor, stop gaping at me like I’ve whipped my bone bulge out for the whole fucking world to see, and open up your auditory openings.
“As much as you don’t want to admit it, shit just isn’t right. This can’t be the end, because I fucking survived and I fucking beat that shit-stain of a game, and I demand a proper repayment for wasting three sweeps of my life saving the fuck out of all of your ungrateful asses. Call me weak, but I want a world where the humans exist, and where they exist somewhere in the general radius where I can fucking find them whenever I fucking feel like it. That’s what I want, and until that’s what’s served to me on a silver fucking platter, I’m going to just keep fighting like we’re still in the game.”
He’s still breathing too fast, as if he’s going to continue his rant, when Terezi puts a hand on his shoulder and almost smirks at him. “Yeah, what Karkles said.”
You see Gamzee move slowly from beside Tavros to go stand at Karkat’s other shoulder, giving his moirail a few reassuring paps. Karkat instantly relaxes, which made his expression change from a fiery indignation to a painfully wretched one.
This time it’s Vriska who raises her hand. “Vriska?” Kanaya asks.
“I thought I just as well make it understood to the trolls who already haven’t put the obvious together yet,” she spoke to the room in her usual superior manner, “As if it wasn’t clear as day already, but whatever, some people are just plain dense. Because really, we can continue making obscene speeches for the rest of eternity, or we can just tell everyone exactly what they need to know. I’m with the party that votes laying out the truth here and now. So here it is.
“The reason Karkat, Terezi, Gamzee and Kanaya want to find the humans is because they’ve all filled quadrants with them,” Vriska finishes.
There, it was out in the open at last.
You peek out from under your bangs to watch the reactions of the other trolls. All of them have the same expression, humorously enough. They all looked shocked, especially Equius, whose face was already started to morph from surprise to outrage.
“Holy shit,” Sollux is the first one to respond, “You have got to be thitting me right now. Karkat, what about that whole lecture on troll/human thloppy make-outh you gave?”
Karkat flushes, his cheeks filling with a faint crimson color at the accusation, but he stands his ground and barks back, “Yeah, I made it very clear there was going to be no cross-species romance, but when was the last time that someone actually fucking listened to me? But just like the cultural exchanges were pretty much so totally fucking evident that a wriggler could see them coming—”
“Tho wath thalvia exchangeth?” Sollux retorts bitterly.
“It wasn’t all about the concupiscent quadrants!” Karkat corrects him quickly, “For instance, Jade’s my auspistice. Believe it or not, it was essentially unavoidable that we would create romantic bonds with the humans. After spending every fucking second of every fucking day together, we had to find some way to find a balance within the group.”
“Jade’th seriously your authpithtice? Between you and who?”
You have to admit; you’re pretty curious, too. You glance at Terezi and Kanaya, but you doubt that Karkat has ashen feelings for either of them. It can’t be Gamzee, either. Maybe it’s one of the humans?
“Uh,” Karkat stammers, “Well… Jade auspistices between my future and past selves.”
This is a shocking new development. You wonder how that works out for him. You’re not the only one, because Sollux asks, “What the hell? That’th the motht thupid thing I’ve ever heard. She can’t authpithtice between two people who are ethentially the thame fucking person. How doeth that even work? Do you really hate yourthelf that much? KK, do you have any idea how—”
“How pathetic and utterly depraved that sounds? Yes, I think I have a bit of a fucking clue how much of a pathetic little shit I am for being in an ashen relationship with myself. Thank you, Sollux, for reminding me of what an utter and complete failure I am.”
Terezi steps in front of Karkat. “Yes, let’s all feel bad for poor little Karkles and wait for him to get into another argument with himself, because that’s exactly what we need to happen. What was the third rule we set up again? Oh yes, keep your responses quick and on topic. In other words, shut your mouth unless it’s to stick your tongue up Karkles’ nook. Thank you.”
Sollux frowns but backs off.
Feferi raises her own hand daintily into the air and waits to be called on. When she is, she asks in that trilling royal voice of hers, “I would like to know, if all of the humans have successfully filled quadrants, and if so, with whom?”
“Ooh, yes, I’d like to know that, too,” Nepeta cries, “I need to update my shipping chart!”
Equius shoots his moirail a look for refusing to raise her hand before speaking, and she instantly apologizes meekly.
“That is completely off topic,” Karkat growls.
Kanaya shakes her head. “No,” she argues, “I think it’s their right to know. Because we have all known one another for so long, it is quite possible that we may fill more quadrants among the twelve of us, especially now when filling quadrants is crucial to our successful shift into adulthood. If they wish to fill these quadrants with us, they should know which ones are already being filled.”
Karkat frowned at her, but nodded agreeably.
“Well, there are eight humans,” Kanaya starts, “The four that you have all met, and four others, whom we were introduced to later. Although the new humans were charming, we were not around them long enough to fill quadrants with them. However, when it came to Rose, Jade, John and Dave, the four of us became very attached with them. Rose, for instance, is my matesprit.”
“I knew it!” Nepeta squeals, and quickly squeaks, “Oh, sorry!”
“And her brother, the delicious coolkid Dave, is my matesprit,” Terezi adds, and a faint smile starts to perk up the sides of her lips.
“And, as previously mentioned, Jade is my auspistice,” Karkat finishes, “And I don’t fucking give a shit if you don’t think it’s a legitimate ashen relationship, okay? It is to me, and it is to Jade, and if you have a different opinion you can just go fuck yourself.”
Feferi nods. “And what about the last one, the leader… John? Did Gamzee fill his quadrant?”
Karkat winces. “Er, no, Gamzee has black feelings for Dave, but, uh, apparently humans don’t have caliginous feelings. So, the two of them are not in any quadrant, per se. As for John… he and I have a peculiar human relationship, called… bromance.”
That sounds rather interesting! You’ve never heard of any such thing. Perhaps you will ask Dave about it the next time you see him.
Sollux raises his hand and says, “I thought humanth had a one-quadrant thythtem.”
“They do,” Karkat snarls, “But apparently their one quadrant is rather complex. Except… bromance isn’t a type of romantic quadrant. It’s more of a type of… friendship, I think.”
“Oh, groth,” Sollux gags, and you hear some of the other trolls follow suit.
Karkat puffs up. “Okay, look, you ignorant lisping bulge-licker: to humans, friendship isn’t a fucking disease! It’s more like, I don’t know… an emotion or something. Except, no, it’s not an emotion. Look, it’s like a relationship, but a non-romantic one! But in their weird-ass human society, non-romantic relationships are held in even higher regard than romantic ones. I know it sounds backwards as shit, but that’s just the way they do it, okay?”
“Okay, fine, don’t flip your shit over it, geez,” Sollux scoffed, “Alright, tho your John’th… friend. But he ithn’t in anyone’th quadrant?”
“Not in so many words, no,” Vriska takes over the conversation quickly, “But I’m eighty-eight percent positive that John is my intended matesprit! Actually, I’m a hundred and eighty-eight percent positive that he and I will end up in the reddest flushed relationship in troll history.”
Karkat whirls on her angrily, “And what makes you so fucking certain?”
“Because,” Vriska’s confidence only seems to increase under your leader troll’s heated gaze, “while I was in the dream-bubbles, John took me out on this thing called a date. These human dates, he explained to me, are something that you only do when you want to develop a matespritship with somebody special! Let me tell you, after I showed John my awesome prowess with this whole human dating thing, he was totally flushed for me. And don’t look at me like that; I know it was a fake date, with a fake John. But that doesn’t matter, does it? If it happened once, it can happen again.”
You have to agree with the truth to her statement. You are also quite jealous. Now you wish a doomed Dave had taken you out on a date in the dream-bubbles as well. Do humans go on dates with those they want to develop a moirallegiance with? Considering they don’t have that quadrant, probably not, but you could improvise! You could even give it a cute name, like a pale date!
“Just fucking fantastic,” Karkat growls, “John’s going to be filling a quadrant with the spider-bitch now. Or he most likely will if he wanted to before. So yeah, we’re filling a total of four quadrants between the five of us.”
That sounds like the perfect time for you to make your own move. Well, you decide, it’s now or never. Before you can have any second thoughts, you raise a hand into the air.
Karkat looks at you quizzically, “Yes, Aradia?”
“I just want to let you know that I support you. I… also would like to fill a quadrant with one of the humans.” There. It’s finally out in the open. You don’t dare to glance at Equius or Sollux.
Unsurprisingly, Karkat looks taken aback. “With who?”
“Well,” you say, unsure of how to best put this, “Even though I only knew him a short while, linearly speaking, Dave and I did a lot of time-traveling together and… I found him to be really pitiful. He seems so collected on the surface, but underneath that I could tell that he had a lot of emotions that he wouldn’t show. The long and short of it is… I wanted to ask him if he’d ever consider being my moirail.”
“You’re kidding? You also want to fill a quadrant with Dave motherfucking Strider?”
You ignore Karkat’s comment; it’s not even really directed at you specifically. Instead, you meet Terezi’s gaze. Or, rather, you look at her glasses while she sniffs in your direction. If you want to be Dave’s moirail, you need Terezi’s approval. After all, it’s with Terezi that you’ll hypothetically be sharing Dave’s attentions with.
To your relief, she regards you with favorable amusement. The two of you haven’t really talked ever since you were FLARPing rivals, but that feels like it was another life. Therefore it’s good to know that she seems to believe that you’d be a good pale match for her matesprit. It’s important for trolls who share a mutual quadrant member to be on good terms and be accepting of one another relationships, to establish stability.
Once, you had explained this fragile trust to Dave, the kind that was essential between a person’s two redrom interests. A troll’s – or in this case a human’s – matesprit has to trust that the moirail is adequately taking care of their beloved’s emotional needs, lest their own matespritship start to roam into the pale quadrant. This also works the same way for the moirail, who counts on the matesprit to take care of their mutual love interest’s romantic needs. It is the type of balance amongst the quadrants that keeps things as uncomplicated as possible.
Or, at least it keeps things as uncomplicated as troll romance can get. You have to admit to not really understanding it yourself half the time.
Kanaya motions that you and Vriska join them in the middle of the room. You eagerly cooperate, and turn around to face the rest of the trolls. You instantly understand the significance of this. Just a second before, you made your intentions aware to everyone in the block whose side you support. Now, however, you’re making it visually clear where you stand. It’s a subtle but important difference.
This new position also forces you to look into the faces of the trolls who have yet to be convinced. Sollux is staring at you, his brows wrinkled as if in pain. Equius’ face is turning blue. Well, at least he hates you again, you suppose. Eridan looks pissed as all hell, and Feferi, and Nepeta just looked confused.
And Tavros looks… well, that’s interesting.
He and Gamzee seem to be in the middle of an intense, private conversation. Gamzee nods and gives Tavros an encouraging push on the shoulder. Tavros bites his lip, and then steps forward.
“Me, too,” he says.
Karkat looks at Tavros as if he just proclaimed that he wanted to tap dance for everyone. “What, you want to get into Strider’s pants, too?”
“Oh! No, not that, at all,” Tavros splutters, his face warm. “I just meant that, uh, I wanted to court, one of the humans, too. Jade, specifically.”
Things are getting rather curious indeed. Karkat looks personally scandalized by this revelation. As far as you knew, Karkat didn’t have any romantic inclinations towards Tavros. Maybe Karkat felt something not so ashen towards Jade? “I don’t take it we are talking about the pale quadrant here?”
“No, I was thinking, the flushed quadrant,” Tavros replies.
Gamzee steps up behind Tavros, which seems to silence whatever it was Karkat was just about to say. “Guess he’s on our side now too, bro. Miracles.”
At least he’s talking miracles again. The whole room seems to exhale simultaneously.
You give Tavros a beaming smile and he returns it sheepishly as he comes over to stand beside you. Gamzee ambles over to Karkat.
“Okay… So this is what is going to happen,” Karkat says as long as he has all the eyes trained on him again, “We are going to figure out the humans’ location. Sollux, you are going to look through all the government files and see if you can find any information about a race, maybe on a distant planet that the adults have conquered or something. Kanaya and the sea-dwellers are already technically adult trolls, so you guys can ask around the other adults. Feferi and Eridan, especially: see if any of the royals know anything. Everyone else, try to find evidence that sgrub actually happened. See if anything is different from before we started playing the game, such as, hey, Tavros getting his legs back. But I mean, something with how our society is run, something that affects all trolls and whatnot. Of course, report to me via Trollian if any of you come up with anything that’s actually of any fucking importance. Understood?”
Sollux steps forward. “Excuthe me,” he snorts, “Unleth you haven’t noticed, KK, you’re not the leader anymore. You can’t jutht bothh uth around.”
Behind you, Kanaya casually twists her lipstick tube, changing it into its more lethal form.
“What, KN? Are you going to thlice me in half?” Sollux leers at her, and you feel your heart begin to ache, “I’m thorry for the loth of your potential matethprith and moirailth and whatever, but I don’t want to fill a quadrant with a human, tho it’th not my problem. And honethtly, you should have theen thith coming. Who knowth if humanth and trollth are even compatible?”
“I agree with Sollux,” Equius backs him up, “It is regrettable that you have to be separated from your preferred quadrant mates. However, now that the game is won and given us all a second chance at life, it seems extremely impolite for us to take it for granted. There is an extremely high probability that the humans don’t exist anymore. And even if they do, like Sollux stated, it is even more unlikely that the kids would be able to settle comfortably into our quadrant system. The best course of action would be to seek out new prospective quadrant mates.”
Sometimes it’s weird how what a person says can feel like arrows to the heart. You wince, and close your eyes as if to make the words disappear.
It’s also strange how that made the weight on your shoulders dissipate. You feel a strange kinship with Karkat and the other trolls standing behind you. Perhaps this is what the humans were talking about when they introduced you to that thing called friendship?
“Alright, try to use your goddamn neglected think pans for one minute while I tell you all how this is going to fucking go,” Karkat continues, “Fine. Do whatever the hell you want. I’m not your leader anymore. I’m not the leader of shit anymore. I won’t force you to do anything. But I will rip out my own innards and shove them down my chute tube, effectively choking myself to death on my own fucked-up mutant blood and half-digested food before I roll over like a brain-dead lump of hoofbeast manure and play the universe’s bitch, settling into this new human-less world. Jade is possibly the most vexatious carbon-based life-form that has ever been conceived into this cancerous world, and that buck-toothed bastard came right out of the most clichéd, trope-overdosed ashen romcom-based wet dream that I have ever had the misfortune to meet. I am aware I have fucked up most everything up in my life, but this time I want to do something right for at least one fucking time. I am going to find her and the other kids, with or without the help of my shitty friends, and I am going to sweep her off her fragile but somewhat pleasingly designed human feet in the most ashen gesture of love until her stupid air-filled cranium spins off her neck—”
“Karkles stop, you’re going to suffocate,” Terezi finally stops him, but her voice is strangely affectionate underneath the snark, “They get your point.”
“Right,” Kanaya agrees. She puts away her chainsaw, but still the tension in her body suggests that she’s ready to take it out again at short notice, “Well, I think we all need a little time to let all of this settle in. Karkat, shall we conclude the meeting?”
Karkat’s eyes are rimmed with red, his face half covered with Gamzee’s hair. He is being smothered with his palemate’s shooshes and paps. Finally, Karkat nods. “Yeah. Fucking whatever.”