-- caligulasAquarium [CA] has started trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
CA: sol pick up your goddamn fingers an do yourself the favvour a respondin
CA: i got a proposition for you
TA: fuck, agaiin?
TA: ii’m piickiing up my fiinger2 riight now ed
TA: ii think you know whiich one2
TA: leave me alone
CA: your fuckin shameful behavviour aside, it ain’t a romantic situation an you can sit on your fingers an swwivvel for all a the fucks i givve
CA: i got a flarp game comin up
TA: hell no
TA: drag vk iinto your 2hiitty deathwii2h, ii have thiing2 two do before ii diie
CA: listen to the wwhole thing before you go harin off sol
CA: its no casualties an vvris doesnt wwant anythin to do wwith it
CA: havvin a psionic wwould let me wwipe the floor wwith these assholes
TA: lii2ten two the 2ound of me not cariing
CA: you owwe me
TA is offline!
CA: oh fuck you sol
CA: its at one tomorroww
CA: fuckin be there
-- caligulasAquarium [CA] has ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
Despite how much you don’t want to be, you are at the FLARP site at one, nursing a migraine and a pile of regrets. Both are well-documented traits of having to deal with Eridan Ampora. He’s already there, scouting out a formation of rocks that you could not give less of a fuck about. Except, whoops, that’s incorrect because here come the other FLARP team. Critical apathy mass has been reached, prepare for a global shortage of who even cares.
The other team, apparently. You thought Eridan was a douche for the whole cape-and-ancestor-worship FLARPing, but wow, these guys take the grubcake. They’re decked out in enough jewellery to make a seadweller roll their eyes, symbols everywhere. One’s a tealblood with wide, swooping lines painted on her face and down her arms, matching the pattern of her clothes. Trying too hard to be an adult, you decide. The greenblood with her actually looks uncomfortable with the getup. Sucker bet that he’s in the same situation as you.
“About fuckin’ time you showed up,” Eridan sneers, one hand on his hip.
“Not my fault you can’t tell the time,” the tealblood sneers right back.
You have never hated your life more.
You never realised how boring FLARP could be. Whenever AA talked about it, it was all exciting adventures and finding secrets and epic battles. Now it’s you, stuck in a pile of rocks, while Eridan stalks in ever-widening circles around your base. Ahab’s Crosshairs, turned down to non-lethal sol i fuckin swwear, glows dimly, and you hope it gives away your position so this can be over and done with and you can go lock yourself back in your hivestem for another few months.
Your phone buzzes.
-- apocalypseArisen [AA] has started trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
AA: i am beginning to worry about you!
AA: youve been idle for a while
TA: iit2 cool aa
AA: 0_0 he speaks!
TA: hell ii went for the hat triick twoniight
TA: ii left the hiive2tem
AA: now im really worried
AA: who are you and what have you done with my moirail
TA: kiilled hiim for all hii2 2weet gear
AA: 0_0 the dreaded upgrade murderer
AA: i should have known
AA: but really why are you out
TA: long 2tory
TA: ed roped me iintwo a flarp game
AA: i thought we said no more flarp!
TA: yeah but ii owed hiim
TA: 2orry aa
TA: iit’2 no ca2ualtiie2 and no vk
TA: plu2 ii am liiterally hiidiing iin a piile of rock2, flarp ii2 2o lame.
AA: its not that lame!
AA: i suppose if its no casualties i can forgive you this one time
AA: and since you’re already out of your hivestem you should make the most of it
TA: yeah ii’m gettiing food after
AA: i dont mean efficiency you idiot
AA: have some fun
AA: i bet youre just sitting around and moping
AA: its more fun if you get into it and really try to win
AA: and as much of a jerkbag eridan is hes actually a good player 0u0
TA: we agreed that face look2 2tupiid
AA: your face looks stupid!!!
AA: now go have fun and stop talking to me
-- apocalypseArisen [AA] has ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
TA: wow piity you two aa
You stare at your phone for a moment before shoving it back in your pocket and sticking your head out of your rocky fort. As much as it sucks, AA is always right. You have a choice as to whether you want to sit around and sulk while trying to chat to people on your phone, which is frustrating at the best of times, or you can play FLARP.
iit’2 on, biitche2.
You are honestly surprised that psionics aren’t banned from FLARP because holy shit, this game is easy. You have the vague notion that there’s a campaign of some sort running and you should be playing a role, but fuck a bunch of that shit, you’re building. AA’s the one who can terraform, between the two of you, but it’s not exactly hard to stack up more rocks and make a shitty pulley door. You’re lazing on a rough parapet when Eridan returns from his latest scout.
For once in his life he is actually unable to speak. Then the glorious moment passes. “What the fuck, Sol, I was gone half an hour.”
“I built a better bathe,” you say. “It’th capture the bathe, right? We’re completely impregnable.”
“I can see that, on account a’ how I can’t get in!” Eridan gestures at the pit of spikes you installed. “Some a’ us can’t float in mid-air, Captor!”
You pick him up and deposit him on the other side of the spike pit, no harm done. And maybe watching him squawk was fun. “I’m thtill conthidering a drawbridge,” you inform him. “I don’t really have the mechanicth to build one out here.”
He’s already inside your rock fort, confronted by the stairs - which at least you did remember- “There are floors,” he says.
“Hell yeth there are floorth, we can collapth the thtairth if we need a latht thtand.” You follow him up, floating because picking up your legs requires effort.
He stops to look at you. With the only light coming from his rifle and your psionics, he looks... different. None of you have moulted yet, even KK isn’t near moulting, but Eridan looks like he’s halfway there in this light, sharp cheekbones with deep shadows, glasses reflecting your blue-red dimly. His mouth is drawn tight, his posture just as strict.
He actually cares about this, you realise with a sinking feeling, slouching deeper and folding your arms across your chest in preparation for what’s to come. He likes pretending to be Dualscar and sinking into his fake little world where he’s king, because one world apparently isn’t enough.
“Can it, ED. AA told me to have fun, tho I’m having fun.”
“You coulda said no,” Eridan points out.
Something stops you from pulling the clearly-you’ve-never-had-a-moirail card. Since his messy thing with Feferi blew up, it’s been the perfect knife to get him off your back, but...
Fuck, you were enjoying doing something constructive that wasn’t fighting with lines of code for once and you’re not letting go of it just yet.
“Yeah, but I didn’t,” you say, and reach out to shove him up the steps. “Move your gluteth, ED, before the other team murder uth.”
As soon as you shove him he’s just an eight-sweep-old pupa again, dressed in a too-large cape and playing a game for girls, as KK puts it. You think you like it better that way.
The tealblood comes to scope out your fort when Eridan’s off searching for theirs. You spare a moment of platonic pity for the greenblood, who is definitely playing the role of Guy Roped Into This Shit and doesn’t even have a rad base to make up for it.
“Hey!” you call out, and wave from the top of your fort, because nobody can actually make you take this seriously. If you want battlements, you can have some fucking battlements.
Her head snaps up and her eyes narrow. “You don’t want to be here,” she says. “I’ll give you twenty bucks to surrender the fort.”
You punt her a few metres away. Twenty bucks? For your fort? You will rot in a helmsblock before you sell out your fort for twenty bucks. “You know, ED’th probably making the thame offer to your guy,” you call out to her. “And have you theen the shit he wearth? He can afford a dethent bribe.”
She races off and you recline on your battlements, full of smug. You’re starting to see why FLARP is so popular.
Eridan comes back ten minutes later, well into a game of Angry Cawbeasts. He’s even more smug than you, straightening his cape in the most theatrical manner possible as he waits expectantly for you to ask him why he’s so full of himself all of a sudden.
“Tho you bribe the greenblood or what?”
He’s startled for a second, then surprises you with a smile. “Sol, I didn’t take you for a tactician.”
You roll your eyes before realising that he can’t tell. Then you roll them again and take extra pleasure in knowing he can’t tell.
“But no, I didn’t bribe him.” He leans on the parapet next to you. “I decided to pull a covert mission an’ disable their base.”
“You w-” you get out, before an explosion to the east interrupts you. Eridan’s smile turns sharp and pleased, and you reach out and shake him. His fucking doomsday machines, how could you forget? “You idiot! You thaid thith wath no casualtieth!” Before he can reply, you shoot up into the air to try to get a better look. There’s a thin column of smoke rising a couple kilometres away.
Eridan shouts after you, but you ignore him. There has to be something you can- your phone buzzes again, and dread hits you in the stomach like a four-day coding bender, leaving you sick and dizzy. How are you going to explain this to AA?
-- caligulasAquarium [CA] has started trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
CA: sol you blitherin idiot
CA: i fuckin said disable their base an i meant it
CA: i used ahabs to drill dowwn an buried the bomb
CA: the most it wwould a done is givve them a scare an maybe knocked ovver some shit
CA: noww get your fuckin ass back dowwn here an help me prepare before i cull someone for real
CA: god you fuckin lowwbloods i swwear
-- caligulasAquarium [CA] has ceased trolling twinArmageddons [TA] --
You hang in mid-air and look back at the explosion site. The smoke is already clearing away. Trees are still standing, and you can’t see much damage to the surroundings from where you are.
You contemplate dropping something on Eridan. Instead you stay aloft and breathe, and watch the site. Only when you see two figures moving around do you sink back to terra firma. Eridan is waiting for you, arms folded and foot tapping as if he has a right to be angry.
“You could have killed thomeone,” you snap, skipping the niceties.
His expression goes even more sour than it was. “Some a’ us don’t waste our nights on the computer, Sol. I ain’t inexperienced with explosive devices.”
“Look at what happened to TV the latht time thomething got out of control!” you continue, as if he said nothing. Sparks are lighting up your fingertips, and you should rein yourself in, but you can’t. “And VK’s mithing an arm, and TZ’th thun-blind, and AA wath almotht killed!” You reach out and rip the cape away from his neck. “And you want to thtart it all again becauthe you can’t get over your little power fantathy and you don’t care about anyone half ath much ath you care about yourthelf!”
He snatches the cape back, stares you down deliberately, and slowly rips it in half. “Don’t you fuckin’ presume,” he says, and the tremor of anger in his voice holds you back. “Don’t you fuckin’ dare presume what my reasons for doin’ this are, Captor.” He drops the bifurcated cape. “Not carin’ about anythin’ is your problem, not mine.”
The blood pounding in your ears has faded now, and you put the pieces together. It’s embarrassing, how long it’s taken you. Even Vriska stopped FLARPing regularly sweeps ago, not long after The Incident. Eridan’s the only one who’s kept at it.
“FF?” you ask.
He shakes his head, pushes his glasses up and grinds a palm into his eyes tiredly. “Gl’bgolyb,” he says. “We’re nearin’ Ascension, there ain’t anyone else Fef can trust to feed her who wants the job. An’ someone has to keep all a’ you alive.”
Now you feel kind of awful. Sure, you haven’t been fucking around on a computer all this time, you’ve been looking for a way to get KK past the drones (if FF loses her showdown with the Condesce, you have to be realistic) and to Ascension, trying to reach out to FF’s supporters safely, and trying to keep everyone you care about from becoming a voice in your head, but Eridan’s been single-handedly gathering food for Gl’bgolyb, no easy task. And apparently it’s because he’s trying to keep you all alive.
Fuck. Sometimes you forget you’re friends with this douchebag.
“Tho their luthii are forfeit?” you ask.
“Yeah,” he says. “An’ if you’re goin’ to bitch at me about that, you can shove it, Sol, I ain’t got time to soothe your fragile fuckin’ feelin’s.”
Fear grips you suddenly. If their lusii are forfeit... “What about our luthii?”
He huffs. “I put in a bunch a’ jewellery instead, I ain’t fuckin’ heartless.”
“Alright,” you say. “Fine. We’re going to win thith and keep uth alive a while longer.” You pick up the remains of the cape and bundle it into his arms. “Then you’re going to go to KN and get her to fix thith, if FLARPing ith the only way you can get luthii. You need to keep up your foppish reputation.”
Eridan gapes at you. “Sol?”
You throw your hands in the air. “I don’t like it, but Gl’bgolyb needth food, tho fine, whatever! Get moving, ED, it’th been a while and they’re probably coming.”
“Yeah,” he says, dumbly. Then, “Fuck, yeah, get up and keep a lookout, Captor, there’s a chance they won’t come in an’ surrender to us like they damn well should.” He captchalogues his cape and gives you a firm shove. “Don’t let them shoot you in the face.”
The greenblood comes lurking not long after, taking the proceedings seriously now that it seems there’s a real possibility of losing his lusus. You feel... horrible, but Gl’bgolyb needs feeding, and there’s no way around it.
You pretend you don’t notice him, and change the colour of the sparks you’re playing with to blue. Eridan, out in the trees and unseen, starts circling to meet your intruder. You leave him to it and keep an eye out for the tealblood instead. A few minutes later, Eridan drags in the greenblood, gagged and bound.
“Theriouthly?” you say.
“If I hadn’t’a gagged him, he would’a screamed,” Eridan says.
“This game ith tho fucked up,” you say, and ungag the greenblood. “Look, jutht thurrender and tell uth where your partner ith. You’ve already lotht, tho let’th not drag it out.”
He caves. You think of Bicyclops and wince to yourself.
It doesn’t take Eridan long to hunt down the tealblood. You can see why AA said he was a good player; with Ahab’s Crosshairs in hand, his explosives, and his ability to stalk people down, you wouldn’t want to cross him in a casualty match.
She kicks and screams the whole way back, it seems from Eridan’s expression, as he drags her into your fort. He ties her up next to her partner and glowers down at them, bringing all his violetblooded holier than thou to bear.
The greenblood starts crying without noticing, tears rolling down his cheeks one by one.
“Eridan...” you say.
“It’s gotta be done, Sol.” He crouched next to the tealblood. “Now, we can do this the nice way, where you get to say goodbye an’ cull ‘em yourself, or you can make me hunt down your lusus, an’ I ain’t gonna be happy if I gotta do that.”
The tealblood nods once, jerkily.
“Right. Good.” Eridan rolls up his sleeves. “Sol, be a darlin’ an’ guard the other one while I take care a’ this.”
You expect Eridan to bitch you out when he makes it back to the fort, a black eye forming that just narrowly missed being a broken nose by the looks of it. The greenblood is long gone, heeding the wisdom of your curt advice to get the hell out.
You’re entirely surprised when Eridan slumps down against the wall to sit and closes his eyes. “Figured you’d tell him to piss off,” he says.
Tired and numb, you sit beside him, and don’t even complain when he falls over sideways and his head lands in your lap. He can’t sleep against the wall, thanks to his horns. “Why didn’t you thtop me?”
“Saved me the trouble a’ looking like a sap,” he says. “’Preciate your help, Captor.”
You lean your head back against the wall and don’t bother responding. Some time later, when you think he might have actually fallen asleep on you, you say, “Thith ith hoofbeathtshit,” out loud.
“I don’t disagree.” You look down to see Eridan looking up at you. He looks himself, now, instead of some faded imitation of his ancestor, or a scared kid playacting. There’s a long, still silence where he just looks at you, then he hesitantly reaches up and runs a thumb across your lips. It seems too tender for hate and you don’t know what to say.
The problem is solved for you when, not meeting any resistance, Eridan props himself up and kisses you. Your arms automatically go around him to support him and he presses into the kiss all the more, and in that instant you realise what it is to hate someone so thoroughly all you want to do is smother them down and follow them around to point out how stupid they’re being and all the ways they’re going to break themselves. This isn’t the screaming anger you felt at Vriska. For hate, it’s almost gentle. Insidious.
You didn’t know that falling in hate with someone else was going to feel like slicing yourself open.
Eridan pulls away from you and you don’t pull him back, for all you want to. “We gotta get Fef on the throne,” he says, as if that wasn’t a thing that just happened. “Otherwise all a’ this fuckery is gonna be nothin’.”
“You’ve got plans?” you ask.
“I got plans,” he says, and stretches luxuriantly.
You slide your hand under his shirt and rest it on his bare stomach, possessive. “So do I,” you say.
He grins at you, and at the implicit challenge. “Good,” he says, and that’s that.