For those not in the know, Musical Thrones was my second Homestuck fanfic, and the first to hit the internet, put on the MSPA forums on September 8th, 2010. It was a Theoryfic: covering what I had thought was going to happen in the upcoming canon, namely after this late August update, wherein Terezi gets instructions to exile Jack. Unfortunately, I decided to write the whole thing instead of just the first chapter, and was completely jossed by these updates at the start of September, where Terezi communicates her plan to Karkat. My theory was that she wouldn't communicate her plans to Karkat, who was quite attached to Jack at the time, and that that would tear the entire group apart. Not just the two of them: everyone else as well, the disorder cascading down from the collapsing powerbase as a result of the Trolls' natural confrontational instincts, with a few notable figures (Karkat, Feferi as the heiress, Eridan as other nobility, and Vriska seeing a good opportunity) cycling control of the group and punting one another out like a game of musical chairs. After all, remember that this was just a few days before Aradia skipped ahead, and I recognized that the story would need conflict if it was going to carry through to the end of the Sgrub session (so did Hussie, so he just skipped the whole block, providing him with a good place to hide information as well).
Unfortunately, the fic just isn't that good. In fact, the fic is frankly quite bad. Its most notable flaw is that it dangles: I never intended to conclude it. I just wanted to spell out what I figured would occur in the first hours of the collapse of command. Second, it lacks direction: the fic opens with Terezi and Karkat but is actually about Feferi, and the final scene just jumps to Vriska, Tavros and Eridan for some reason? And Terezi and Karkat don't do anything even in the shots they're on-camera? Since the fic covers only the body of what I was predicting, it was all set up, and so probably couldn't have had a central character except under forced circumstances… though that would still have been better. Third: like Patcheye, Musical Thrones represents a grand failure on my part to actually communicate my intent. The interesting part about the collapse of command theory is the impact, not the politics. The first chapter lights the fuse and the last chapter hints at the impact, and frankly, that's the exact same problem Patcheye had in 6300 less words: the problem was introduced, the problem was completely ignored, except when it was briefly hinted at towards the end. Utter failure. I'm not sure why it happened (for Thrones, that is. I know why it happened for Patcheye but that's a subject for another day). I've grown a lot as an author since 2010, but the thing is… I really think I should have been better than this.
I would have left the fic to rot, but I recently chose to revive a scene from it for A Hand in Holding Hands. Also, I had recently been commenting to the Hands fans about the way I write Feferi, and that interpretation originates in this fic. I decided that these two factors warranted a cautious re-release of Musical Thrones. Indeed, if you plan on reading A Hand in Holding Hands and don't want to be spoiled, I advise you just plain up and go read it now, because no good can come from reading this dross first. In fact, I'm just going to talk about Hands openly throughout the commentary, since I did lift a whole scene and beyond that, there's still a year and a half to look over.
But I do mean that thing about the cautious release: I have no intention of letting this fic be an ugly boil on my library, nor do I want to invest the time that would be required to fix the fic while retaining all the parts present (the easiest way to fix the fic would be to cut out every chapter but the first and last, and replace the middle with no more than two pages of transition). To this end, I'm providing extensive commentary. Want to read it? Skip ahead to the next chapter which contains commentary in-line with the fic. Don't? Stay here. Be wary, though. I've barely edited the fic, to fix only the most extraneous typos and grammatical mistakes, for the sake of preserving the fic in its current, horrible form, and for the sake of saving me from having to edit two copies of the same fic if I notice any mistakes later on.
As a bonus feature, at the end of this commentary, I'll be providing a summary of my original Homestuck fic, written on paper and since lost or tossed, I can't remember which. As you'll see in time, it's not something I could have written up in the first place.
Near the end of Fanfic Thread 2, nextian suggested we provide DVD Commentary for a fic. It's a year and a half later, nextian, but your suggestion was not forgotten. I was just really, really slow about it.
Karkat presided from atop an awkward throne, bubbling soper behind and the guilty-accused afore, grinning like an idiot. She had made a point of stressing that she was going to "represent herself," which tried Karkat's thin patience as he had not in any honesty intended to let her have any defence at all. As she continued to ramble so persuasively on the point that there was no actual crime committed in this instance, he lost his temper for the umpteenth, but first decisive, time.
"Why?" he demanded, slamming his fist down on the recouperacoon beside his leg. A stuffed dragon, cyan, tapped against the window on its roof-hanged rope, which Karkat felt added favourably to the milieu, while a pack of computers chimed away unanswered in the corner, which he felt did not. That was the most of it: while they were not alone, the others present were tucked in safely in bed, any dragon not already having been sent to its sentence had been stolen by imps, and all about them there was only graffiti and fluorescence wrapped about them in the carpets and the furniture; a sombre court scene on the wall struck out at the eyes with shock-red lances. All, from floor to ceiling and in between, was overwritten with a hundred white-chalk iterations of the genetic letters "R", "O", "A" and "r", as only befit the respiteblock of the Seer of Mind.
He jumped to his feet and stood straight in her face and made sure she felt the distance. "Why? Were you both sitting around pretending it was the good old days when you were vigilantes feeding post-grubs to a six-storey spider when you went, I don't know, 'H3Y VR1SK4, L3TS G3T R1D OF THE ONLY GUY THAT L1K3S US 1N TH1S WHOL3 PL4C3!'"
"Oh my god, you are so terrible at that."
"Oh, oh, or maybe: 'Terezi, how a8ought we do something so stratos-fucking-pherically moronic that it'll torque Karkat's nu8 like it's a8out to 8e torn off until Derse comes to finish us off or the Reckoning throws Pulse and Haze on top the White King's rotting corpse?'"
"I'm serious, you're just absolutely terrible," she said, grin as broad as ever, her teeth as filthy as the rest of her and all of them with such limited access to hygiene in The Medium. "It's all a8out the inflection, YOU KNOW WH4T 1 M3AN? But yeah, I can really see why you think this is all about you, Karkat. I mean, besides the ego thing. She reached up with her can and pushed him away directly between the eyes. "You two must have been half-way through your letters."
"'DEAR LUSUS,' yours starts. SEE THE INFLECTION, KARKAT, YOU BRING IT FROM THE DIAPHRAM. Or 'Dear Parents, or Possibly Giant Sgrub Cloning Machine,' for him.' 'I just met the most wonderful boy!' you both say. 'HE JUST MAKES ME FEEL SO…'" And she wriggled with theatric pleasure, concluding with a demure smile, short stretch of her arms and punctuating girlish grunt and squeal. "Oh," she said, "and then he would have probably added, 'PS: I may have exiled the Queen, destabilised the government and left us defenceless us to Prospit. Hugs!, Jack.'"
Karkat weighed the pros and cons of strangling her with characteristic introspection. "You…" his fingers brushed aside her hair as they inched towards her neck. "Um, excuse me, let's just backtrack a bit to, oh I don't know, when YOU were the one that broke the Black Ring? If anyone should be taking a fucking bow for 'exposing them to Prospit' it's the top-hat wearing fucking ringmaster here…"
"Oh you silly, stupid boy." Ignoring his hands, she reached up through his grasp to pat him on the cheek. "Of course it was me, but that's not funny." And then she began to laugh and he had to step back, fists clenching and unclenching, unsure how to even take the first step from there onto semi-solid ground. He paced a touch, checking on the recouperacoon. Gamzee tossed in his sleep, makeup running off the just-submerged corner of his jaw, muttering something about "bats." Feferi lay across from him, head in arms folded on the far edge, in a prime example of the communal living conditions they had been forced to adopt in the name of strength in numbers. She was having no nightmares, in fact, a smile crept up on her sleeping face and she looked fist to burst. All in all, Karkat felt it was for the better that she faced the wall.
The prosecution took the opening and continued her tangential case. "But seriously, how could it not be all about you? With you as our big scary leader, well! Every plan falling into place, every relationship fixed up nice like it's some grub jigsaw to you. And well," she took a step to close the gap between them, and leaned coquettishly towards him. "Well let's just say I missed your dulcet tones. Why, you just radiate authority these days!"
She cupped her hand again on his cheek. His fists showed him brace himself. Here comes the jab, and god knows he had a cutter ready for it to take her back down to size. To his surprise, she leaned to his ear and spoke in a whisper: "What do you say we wrap up this little trial so you can have the prosecution to your chambers for a short… recess?"
His eyes shot wide, his face fell a mile in terror, and she felt it and broke away with echoing peals of insane laughter. "Oh my god, your face! heheh3h3…" She clutched at her sides. "…H4H4H4H4H4!" He stared agape. "That's it! That's all I needed. I'm guilty, put me away, I can't take it anymore!"
Karkat's expression was quite the opposite. He watched her laugh for a while until she took a break to look up and check the damage, which was substantial. "…don't do that."
"Why?" she said, with a dark undertone in her voice, "SOR3 M3MOR13S?"
Karkat knew more than well enough that he had to change the subject, immediately. "Where's Vriska?"
"Oh, excuse me, Your Tyranny, but I'm only allowed to answer questions that implicate myself. If you want me to implicate someone else, you'll need evidence."
Karkat wished he had something to snap or break but ultimately there was nothing he could do to vent his anger without backing down from her. "I saw Vriska there, how's that for evidence?"
She laughed again. "Oh yeah. Well, hell if I know. She's probably off hiding, honeymooning with Tavros and celebrating whatever who-knows relationship they have on that big pile of boondollars she got for kicking your ass."
She was not even going to afford him the luxury of fuming to himself that time: "I have to tell you, that was the best thing I saw all day. There was the funniest thing, the worst thing, and the best thing, all in a row. Very tidy."
Karkat's thoughts were all over, he needed time to regroup, but he could have done anything better in the entire world than to bid for time by asking: "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Well," she said, hand stroking her chin, and then, with the casual tone of one recounting a funny story throughout, she recalled: "first you started swinging your curvy little stick at me, and first I was confused, and then you were shouting, and you clipped my leg, and I hit the ground." He barred his teeth at her, but she pretended not to notice. "So you've all left me upset, hurt – emotionally and bleeding – and there's this squeezing… uh… crushing feeling, like, in my chest? Because I didn't know why you're attacking me, you know, uh... you dipshit? Now I know, I know, that doesn't sound like the funniest part of my day but bear with me."
He held up a hand in front of her face, not that she seemed to notice that either, though perhaps more legitimately. He interrupted her all the same. "Oh, no, now that's where you're wrong. This is already hilarious. You didn't know what was going on? I catch both of you just seconds after you stuffed an unconscious Jack Noir into a shuttle on autopilot and you expected me to what, break into applause?"
"But then," she said, pushing aside his hand with a spread of her arms and cutting him off before he could say more, "But then, when you had me down and you could see my face, you're all like 'I thought you were an imp,' with this like, totally devastated tone in your voice?" He couldn't help it, he actually growled at her, but he knew it wasn't half going to be enough to shut her up. "And then I got it! It was all just a mistake, and you never meant to attack me and it was funny!" She clapped her hands once, and then leaned forward with her shark-grin leering at him. "And then, ooh, and then, you locked me up and went to try to catch Vriska, and that pain, you know, in my chest? Came back, squeezed really, really hard? And then…" She make a spreading gesture with her hand. "Nothing! And that was the worst part of my day. So glad you asked, by the way."
"Hey!" he snapped, pointing a finger in her face. "What do you… where do you get off with… HOW DO YOU THINK I WAS FEELING WH—"
"And then," she finished, rocking on the balls of her feet. "Then she kicked your ass." Karkat shut up just to stare at her in astonishment, and realized all at once that he had completely forgotten with whom he was dealing, and what she was capable of. "See?" she said, and counted off: "Funniest, worst, best."
"You can't honestly have expected me to just let you get away with that," he said, in what passed for him as a hushed voice, something closer to a normal speaking tone.
She shrugged, her tone slipping a touch as honesty slipped between the cracks in an emotional surge. "I was trusting you to trust me. I trust my ears and nose and tongue to see for me…" At that point it had occurred to her that she had not meant to say any of that out loud, without obfuscation or misdirection. She wrapped up quickly: "...I thought I could trust you, too."
"All you had to do was tell me," he muttered. "Email, write all over one of my memos, fuck! 'H3Y K4RK4T IM GONN4 GO RU1N 3V3RYTH1NG YOUVE B33N WORK1NG FOR M4YB3 W3 SHOULD H4V3 A L1TTLE T4LK 4BOUT 1T.'"
There it was. The perfect opening. All she had to do now was to hit him back at just the right angle and he would collapse under the weight of his own ego, though the cost was high. In leaving himself vulnerable he had struck a blow of his own. She could not argue with his actual point. It was true, all she should have done was to talk to him, have let herself be open for just a few minutes, and it would have been a better day. But it was too late for that now, and she had never, never gotten into an argument she intended to lose, not even when the other Troll was right.
"Everything you've been working for? That's funny, last I saw there were twelve of us. And that's the real joke, Karkat, you still think this is all about you. Well I've got news for you: you're a petty, whiny grub."
"Oh, big words," he replied, "coming from—"
"You're a self-absorbed rage case—" they were talking at once "—with so little charm and charisma that you couldn't lead Gamzee to a fireworks display!"
She had only raised her voice a few levels. He, on the other hand, was spitting, almost frothing with every word she poured on, as his fists trembled. "…uppity little do-nothing so obsessed with her fantasy future that she doesn't recognize real emotion when it reaches out and and—"
"And through all of this it's become," she laughed derisively, "pretty obvious that if anyone dies before this is over the only one responsible would be you!"
So he hit her. The swing she had expected, in fact it was the very target of her goading, but neither of them actually expected him to connect. His fist cut across her right cheek in spite of her best efforts. She was already fast and every rung of the echeladder put her hand in the way all the faster, but she had underestimated just how much one got to climb for exiling the Black Queen. All the same, she caught his arm a second too late, seizing him by the arm, fluid despite the injury. They stood in tableau for a good while, both shocked dead by what they had see clear-coming, until Terezi reached up with her free hand and lowered her shades, meeting his eyes with two blasted pupils drowned in milky jaundice. Karkat tried not to meet those eyes. He remembered when he last had, hands sweaty, surrounded in a field of blast-shattered grist and everything right in the world. But now, while her face spoke a cold-stunned mix of emotion, her eyes stared vacant and he could not look at them. Not after the punch, now that they had crossed all bounds of Pity.
Softly, she whispered, "…I win."
She twisted his arm at an angle it did not want to go and he fell with a cry to his knees as she began to laugh, at first so hysterical in victory – having provoked him to a blind lunge off the precipice of ordered debate – that she had need to catch her breath. When she had finished she repaid him across the face with a backhand and he had to brace himself to keep from hitting the ground. Her laughter returned, now throaty and dark, from manic before to purely intentional. She took ahold of her cane off the loop of her wrist and pressed it to his chest until he lay upon the floor with her looking down from above. Foot replaced cane, the latter striking to the floor aside his ear and bearing her weight, and a triumphant grin of off-stained teeth replaced the laughs, leaving them in a heavy silence.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" he shouted to break it, which made her laugh all over again.
She smiled even broader. "Tit for tat, Karkat, and what the hell is wrong with you? Where's the Karkat I used to know, or did he go snoozing off home to Alternia tucked next to your better half? Besides, can't a girl have a L1TTLE FUN, K4RK4T?" She leaned slightly forward, the weight on her foot pressing down on his chest. "You got to get up and play His Tyranny for little old me, but I think it's time to stop being who we're not. If you wasn't honest with myself, I'd jUsT gO cRaZy!"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean you're no judge, Karkat. You stood up there just waiting for the evidence to match your conclusion. Any grub can do that. If you were a real judge you'd have hit me with the sentence before you locked eyes on me but you just don't have the horns for command."
Karkat scowled and picked at the side of his head. "I'm sorry, say that last part again, I think I had some 'you're a fucking bitch' stuck in my ear." He pointed his finger into her face and shouted: "I can damn well do anything I want and there's nothing you can—"
"THEN GET UP HERE!" she said in her mimic of his Trollian voice, stepping off his chest and clasping the hand he had been using to gesture. She crouched down low and he felt her breath on his face. "Get up here, and show me you actually deserve to sit there and call me a traitor, you wriggling coward!"
And she stood up and jerked his arm, tossing him one-handed such that she caught him again behind the neck, just as he gripped her had by the back of the head and they pulled one another into a kiss of spades. Lips locked and grips tightened, most of his weight on hers and hers heavily weighted onto her cane. His free hand grabbed up and clutched at her side, a free-flow of energy jumping hot between them as a dry voice in the back of Karkat's mind growled over coursing hormones and blinding emotion.
"So good to see," it said, "that this is how you put up with the crooks… that banish your friends to crazy barren ash-worlds. Just saying. Oh no, by all means, carry on."
Karkat did his best to ignore the voice and pulled back, just enough, his lips a hair's breadth from hers and only far enough to say: "Terezi…"
"I hoped that was what you wanted…" she cooed back past a malicious smile.
"Oh yeah, all of it," he said, gently stroking one of her horns with the tip of his finger.
She cracked another smile. "All of it? You wanted to kiss me and," she said, squeezing the back of his neck, "get dipped like a girl while doing it?"
"No," he whispered. He nuzzled his way up her face, tracing a line along her jaw with his nose. "I wanted to kiss you… after you were guilty and grovelling for mercy at my feet."
She raised an eyebrow, knowing him too well to be surprised by his tone, but before she could finish saying "Like hell—" Karkat had his right arm off from gripping the side of her t-shirt to knock away the cane as he simultaneously kicked out a leg, and he pulled her crashing to the ground. His arm caught the fall; hers did not, and she shouted aloud in pain. Groaning, she curled to one side inadvertently to coddle it, rolling up into his side in an awful mockery of matesprit closeness. He could not help it: it was his turn to laugh. She was right. Being honest was liberating.
"Is this how it's going to be, you big expert?" she asked into her arm once they had had a chance to rest. Her hair had fallen across her face and she pushed some of it aside with her now only good hand. She captchalogued her glasses as she did, looking up to his eyes as best she could with her own. A teal bruise was beginning to flower along her face where he had first hit her, and no doubt he was developing his own. "You and me just…" she rolled away, onto her back just beside him, "…fighting to see who gets to be in charge and never really winning till… till hell, Karkat, whenever this goes?"
"Sure, I mean, whenever you want, you just throw a fist my way, I'll block it, we'll make a big mess of the place, how's that sound? But most kismets play mind games, I figure you'll like that."
"As for your coy little 'whenever this goes,' you're way too much of a huge bitch for me to imagine I'd start gunning for someone else, if that's what you're panicked about. Give me some credit."
"Good," she whispered, and then in either honest speed or reckless disregard for her the arm on which she rolled, she went roundabout and slammed her fist just off the side of his nose.
He cried out as she calmly stepped over, straddled his legs and checked her leg for injuries of her own – a teal scrape and nothing worse. She lay down, settling her elbows on his chest and waited for him to calm down and scowl at her again. "Just a warning," she said, head cupped in her hands, "I play mean."
He rubbed his face furiously with his sleeve to clean up blood that wasn't there. "Thank god, if you didn't play mean I'd think you were sick."
She traced a finger along his cheek with a frown. "God I missed you."
He reached up and pulled her down to him, no preposterous lifting stunt in their way, hands free to hold, teeth to bite; a chance to do what kismets do, before they know better.