Karkat sleeps through the night, thank all the godlets. He'd been enthusiastic and energetic all day and crashed briefly in midafternoon, almost mid-mischief, but when you carry him to his pile at eight p.m. he doesn't protest very much, and he's soon curled around some unfortunately jutting puppet rears and covered warmly with blankets.
You sleep yourself, and it's weird to wake up without someone clutching you, without horns bonking your chin. You immediately have to wriggle out of bed and go check him--okay, good. Good. He's just asleep. He hasn't managed to randomly choke on anything and he's not feverish and...yeah, okay. Good.
Rubbing your eyes, you stalk out to the kitchen. Yesterday was weird as fuck; after Bro came home he'd been on and off the phone and you hadn't really wanted to interrupt, plus you had your hands full with Karkat, who had apparently decided that now he could breathe properly he was going to explore ALL of the apartment, especially the bits with sharp edges. You'd had to follow him around and scoop him up before he could get hold of any shitty anime swords or shuriken or what have you, and then console him for the lack of self-destructive toys by bouncing him up and down on your nonexistent hip--and eventually just blasting Rammstein. Little dude really got jamming to Sonne.
Bro had been out most of the night; he's home now, and when you get to the kitchen he's already draped over the table with a mug in his hands, breathing in the steam. Without a word you go help yourself to the Mister Coffee. "Shitty night?"
Bro looks up: he's...fuck, he's not wearing his shades, and his orange eyes are bright against the bags underneath. "Eh. Not so bad. You get any sleep yourself?"
"Yeah, he chilled out and actually slept for like seven fucking hours. Amazing."
He chuckles. "Yeah. When that happens you want to open a bottle of champagne. This too shall pass."
"Was I really that much of a little shit?"
"Nah. You were a kid. They're all little shits, it's like par for the course. At least you're dealing with someone who isn't gonna have to, like, get into higher education, you can just do whatever to get him what he needs without worryin' about his Future Prospects." Bro rubs at his face. "Fuck. I shouldn't a said that."
"It's cool," you say, and mean it. "I didn't...even really get what the fuck you were dealing with until, like, yesterday. It's cool."
Bro looks up at you, shadowed eyes the color of fresh tangerines, and you can't help grinning. "Yo. I appreciate you, dude. Okay?"
"...Okay," he agrees, and reaches out to swat you. "Since you're up get the fuckin' skillet hot again and put some more pancakes on, I made enough for me and that's it."
"Oh, shit, now I'm your lackey too? You and Karkles are obviously plotting." You're already measuring flour into a mixing bowl: pancakes are one thing Bro can do, and do well. He's taught you. "We got anything good to put in this?"
He looks shifty.
"...Come on, what are you hidin'?"
Shifty times a hundred, and then he hauls his carcass out the kitchen chair and goes to open a drawer in the sideboard. "One of the dudes I did work for on his album was Canadian, can you believe it? He was like, here, give this shit a taste." He hands over a tiny box of maple-sugar candy.
Which is your weakness. "Holy shit, Bro."
"I know, I know. But I figured I'd save this for some time when you needed it." He gives you that slight twist of the lips that you know is the Bro version of a broad grin.
You can't at all help beaming like a fucking moron, and open the packet and take out two of the maple leaves, four still in their little nests. "I'm being grown-up about this, notice?"
"I'm noticing. You want to put the others in a bag to stop 'em drying out."
"I know." You're crushing the maple candies and the rich smell fills your head and you are so stupidly happy, so fucking happy for no good reason at all, and when you've mixed them in with your batter you put the spoon down and go to wrap your arms around his narrow waist and hug him hard enough to elicit a grunt.
"What the--" he says, but you shake your head, still pressing your face against his shoulder, and then his arms close around you and hold you tight, almost tight enough to hurt, for a moment.
When he lets you go you feel light, stupidly light, lighter than air, and you drift back over to your bowl and go on mixing in the maple sugar and a shake or two of nutmeg before going back to making pancakes. And you can feel him watching you--for once not a judgmental kind of watching so much as a fond regard.
"I cannot be having with this," says Zahhak, looking down at the pathetic sight sitting on his exam table. Jade looks guilty as fuck, but he flicks a glance at her that seems to undo that.
"I absolutely--" he unbuttons the troll's shirt carefully--"cannot--" he slides the bell of the specialist scope up under the open shirt, over the bandages--"keep on like this. Deep breaths, please?"
There's a little spitting spark that had to hurt Zahhak, but he just carefully moves the bell of the troll stethoscope across Sollux's back. "No deep congestion, I'd say this is very likely a bad allergic reaction to Bec. Did it start when Jade brought you home?"
This earns him a blink from mismatched blank eyes and another couple of sparks, but the troll nods, after a moment, and sniffles.
"Did you know you were allergic?"
Another small nod. Jade bites her lip. "Oh, jeez, I'm sorry! I didn't know, you should've said something..."
"Be quiet, Tholluckth," Sollux says. His voice is thin, like the rest of him, and currently a wheezy, teary mess. "Thhut up, Tholluckth. Don't make noithe, Tholluckth. You're a nuithanthe, Tholluckth."
Jade makes an unhappy little noise. "Is that what they told you in your last home?"
"Well, it's rubbish." Zahhak's voice is steady, although his knuckles are bone-white and it's possible his grip on the edge of the stainless-steel table is leaving finger-dents. "You don't have to worry about them anymore, and you don't have to keep quiet about things that make you ill. --Jade, give me twenty-five mg of diphenhydramine, let's at least get him more comfortable."
She hurries to obey. Sollux wipes at his face with the hand that isn't wrapped in supportive bandages, sniffling, and winces away from the needle, squinching his eyes shut. "I know, it's not very nice, but this will be over in a moment and you'll be able to breathe better. Have you been to see a doctor before?"
"Did they give you any injections?" Zahhak is quick with the syringe, and as gentle as he can be.
Little one-shouldered shrug; he's still got his eyes tight shut.
"Well, you bore that very bravely." He caps the needle and drops it in the red sharps box; Sollux opens his eyes, looking puzzled, and then stares at his shoulder, obviously having expected much more drama and discomfort. "--All done. You ought to start feeling less miserable shortly. But I don't think you can stay with Jade if you're this allergic to dogs."
"No, no, no, pleathe," Sollux splutters, and flings himself at Jade, who catches him and hugs him tight. "Pleathe don't make me go back."
"Oh, God," says Zahhak, almost to himself, and there are in fact finger-dents in the edge of the table. "No. No, you don't have to go back to your old home, not that I feel it deserves the title of home in the slightest. You're safe, Sollux, you're not ever going to have to go back there. We just need to work out who you'll stay with, that's all."
"Not ever?" His voice is muffled in Jade's shirt.
"Not ever. I promise."
The troll seems to droop in relief, as if this concern had been a string holding him taut, and then bursts into yellow tears.
You're watching TV with Karkat curled up in your lap occasionally pointing out things to you--he seems to be getting his language on pretty fast now that he's started--when Bro wanders through on his way to the kitchen, talking on his phone. "Oh, shit, really? Poor little guy. I thought Bec was one of those weird-ass dogs that don't do allergies though, didn't you say--oh. Oh. Um."
He stops and looks over his shoulder at you and your troll.
"I dunno, Harley, it's like...we already got one, and....I'm not exactly brimmin' over with nurturing skills here or anything..."
You give him a questioning look over the top of your shades.
"Fuck," he says. "I guess I already lost control of my life, huh? Let me call you right back."
When he hangs up you intensify the look, and he just sighs. "Looks like we might be getting another housemate, kid."
Bro nods, tiredly. "He can't live with Jade, he sneezes his head off every time that gigantic hound of hers comes near, and when a psionic sneezes he tends to set fire to shit with his sparks."
You can't help a snicker at this mental image. Karkat wriggles in your lap and looks up at you, big grey eyes curious.
"What do you think, little dude?" you inquire. "Is it okay if another troll moves in with you and me and Bro? A little yellow troll who needs somewhere to live?"
"Daev and Bo and Karkat and yellow," he says, and bonks his face against your shoulder, horns nudging at your chin. "Four."